Time to demolish Bercow-backed shanty town outside Parliament

John Bercow’s memoirs, to be published next month, are entitled Unspeakable. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

The book, says Mr Bercow, will be “candid”. If so, it will, like so many of his pronouncements in the chair, involve a wilful misunderstanding of his role. The Speaker is supposed to speak solely as empowered by the whole House. Mr Bercow spoke only for a faction within it. Any revelations about the MPs with whom he dealt will add to that factionalism and will therefore, to use a parliamentary expression, be out of order.

One of Mr Bercow’s acts, in his supervision of the parliamentary estate, was to allow a shanty town of television tents to be erected on College Green opposite…

Intolerant Labour can’t afford to become the anti-Catholic party

Fifty-nine years ago today, the first (and so far, only) Roman Catholic president of the United States was inaugurated. It was an easier journey for John F Kennedy than for many other presidents of less privileged origins, but in at least one regard, he found the going extremely tough: the question of his faith almost ended his campaign.

The issue of who President Kennedy would be taking orders from – the country or the Vatican – was raised continuously by political opponents, even before he won his party’s nomination. Only when he made his famous address to a gathering of Protestant ministers in Texas on September 6, 1960, that he believed “in an America where separation of church and state…

Trump has crushed Iran’s plans for domination

It might not seem like it at the moment, but Donald Trump’s decision to order the killing of Qassim Soleimani, Iran’s trouble-maker-in-chief, could prove to be the death knell of Tehran’s ambitions of becoming the dominant power in the Middle East.

Soleimani’s long overdue demise has, predictably, prompted numerous threats of revenge from key regime figures, with the deceased terrorist’s daughter Zainab warning that the US and its allies will face a “dark day” and leaders of the Revolutionary Guard threatening to “set ablaze” Israel.

It is questionable how effective these calls for vengeance will be for a country that cannot even properly organise the funeral arrangements for its celebrated Quds…

Has Australia become ground zero in the climate change debate?

The message from Scott Morrison, prime minister of Australia, is that the fires engulfing part of his country are traumatic but they are still a natural catastrophe – and Australians must remain calm, not leap to extremes in policy. He might be losing the PR war. Scenes of families fleeing to the ocean to escape the inferno, or of wildlife in danger, have alarmed the world. Is Australia ground zero in the climate change crisis?

One thing is inescapable: around 60 per cent of Australia’s energy output came from burning coal in 2018. Activists accuse the UK government of fiddling while the Earth burns, but coal only made up about 2 per cent of Britain’s mix, thanks to the near-fanatical observance…

Christian Aid should drop the climate rubbish

In the past year climate-related disasters have cost over £100 billion in damage. Or maybe it was 82 pence.

Okay, I made up the latter figure, but it will be no worse a guess than the former, which is implied in a report “Counting the Cost. 2019: a year of climate breakdown” published by Christian Aid. The charity has compiled estimates for damage caused by 15 severe weather incidents last year and blamed everything on climate change – disregarding the fact that we have always had storms, floods and wildfires.

Even if rising global temperatures and sea levels do exacerbate heatwaves and add to sea flooding it would be ludicrous to bung the whole bill for every adverse weather event on climate…

Now he’s got his majority, Boris is free to be the liberal PM he really wants to be

Elections can be brutal. Watching the results come in overnight, I could see the aura of power dissipate from Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Jo Swinson in front of my eyes. As the joke goes: “Knock knock.” “Who’s there?” “Jeremy.” “Jeremy who?” “That’s politics.”

But it isn’t just Boris Johnson’s political opponents who have been undermined by the shifting political sands. Another big loser last night was the ERG – whose close relationship with Boris has been used by the Tory Party’s opponents to paint the PM, unfairly, as a reactionary.

In truth, Boris’s alliance with the right of the party has been driven by necessity. During his short premiership to date, the PM has been constrained at…

Nato at 70 remains intact – but for how much longer?

Donald Trump swept into London for the Nato summit anxious to avoid being dragged into the election campaign but happy to pick a fight with anyone who gets in his way. His first target was Emmanuel Macron, whose recent comments about the alliance being “brain dead” were denounced as “very nasty”.

At least the French president’s misgivings about Nato’s future elicited an unusual encomium for the organisation from Mr Trump. “It serves a great purpose,” he said, which came as some relief to those who feared his administration was cooling to the concept of a mutual defence alliance.

But the reality is that Mr Trump is not a great fan of Nato. He does not think the Europeans pay enough towards their…

If Labour wants to help rail passengers it could start by reining in the unions

Commuting into and out of London can be a wretched enough daily experience without the trains being cancelled, delayed or crowded because of strike action by drivers. The month-long stoppage on South Western Railways by the RMT union is an imposition too far on passengers, many of whom already pay through the nose for the privilege of standing all the way into the capital.

The scenes yesterday with carriages crammed to bursting point were unacceptable. The idea that this state of affairs will continue until Christmas and beyond is outrageous. If the union wishes to make a point about the role of guards on services it can do so with a 24-hour walkout. But this action is designed to cause maximum…