Jim O’Neill looks at the shenanigans on the Tory right, the Prime Minister’s lack of judgement, and the reality of our chances of avoiding a hard Brexit.


Theresa May’s weakness and cowardice in dealing with her arch-right Brexit wing has been brought into even sharper focus by recent actions by two of the most unreconstructed Brexiteers.

Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, showed his commitment to privatisation of government services while Secretary of State for Justice by outsourcing all “minor” probation to the private sector, leaving the state Probation Officers to deal with only the most serious offenders. At that time, the Probation Officers’ Union warned that fragmentation of the service would lead to more offending, rather than less.

The Observer has now published details which show that offending has fallen in only 2 of the 21 areas. In all nineteen others offending by parolees has in fact increased. Bizarrely, as a result of the payment by result scheme dreamed up by Grayling, the nineteen failures will have their income cut by Government, ensuring that they have to make even more cuts to the service to ensure that their shareholders get paid their profits. Again, the community, not the shareholders, will lose out.

Luckily, probation is one of the areas covered by the devolution settlement and so Grayling’s introduction of the market into probation services does not affect Scotland. However, when she set up her own government, Mrs May, far from sacking Grayling, one of the leading Brexiteers, for his incompetence at Justice, actually promoted him into a post which does impact on Scotland.

When the last private providers of the East Coast Main line services, which provide the main east coast rail service between London and Scotland, collapsed, Cameron’s government allowed it to return to public control. For all the time that it remained that way it returned a profit to the public coffers, showing that Labour’s policy of returning the railways to public control is not only a good policy option but also viable.

However the Tory Party’s arch-privatisers, including Grayling, could not leave it be and they re-tendered the service. A consortium of Virgin Rail and Stagecoach won the bid, only to find that they could not make a profit. First Richard Branson announced that his company had lost over £100m and now Stagecoach have walked away having lost over £200m. Cue the return of the public sector? Not a bit of it. Grayling has decided to create a weird amalgamation between Network Rail and some as yet unannounced private sector companies to run the service, a system designed to create shambles in management. But the public won’t notice any difference in service? Yeah right.

At the same time Brexit goes from worse to worse in the Wonderland that is the Tory view of the negotiations. Theresa May’s attempt to ingratiate herself to the hard right of her party by announcing there would be no membership of the Customs Union ran up against chief negotiator Michel Barnier’s blunt statement of reality. The situation could not have been clearer in the televised portion of his talks with Brexit Secretary, David Davis, a man who is retreating further and further into his own version of reality. M. Barnier said in simple words that if Britain was not a member of the Customs Union, there would be customs barriers between Britain and Europe. Mr Davis, sitting no more than two feet from him, replied by saying that he hoped for a tariff free customs regime after Brexit. What bit of “there will be customs barriers” did Davis not understand?

Surely there is someone at the head of the Tory Party who can see the incompatibility between what the British Government think will be the outcome of any negotiations, and the reality of the statements coming from Brussels? If we are outside the Single Market, the largest free trade area in the world, and the Customs Union, our businesses will be taxed by the Community on any exports into Europe.

The only way that companies could avoid that is to move to Europe, and, given the high percentage of Scottish exporting businesses with overseas owners, this is a distinct possibility with dire consequences for the Scottish economy. However, I have no great hope in any reversal of the current Alice in Wonderland position by the Tories since they seem unable to build up the courage to challenge Theresa May, and even if they did, the fewer than 70,000 members of the Tory Party would be likely to elect a more rabid Brexiteer.

Our only hope is that such a move would detach the remainers still on the Tory Benches, as Anna Soubry MP has suggested, and the Government can be brought down.

The rest of us will just have to wait and see!

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13 thoughts on “The Tory right resurgent

  1. Jim,
    Hope this finds you well, down there in darkest Ayrshire as you are. I don’t like to pry but it sounds as if your a bit down.
    Lets get the small talk out the way. I don’t mind admitting, I do not have much time for those that are in need of our probationary services, but then, there is no doubt that one has to make allowances for the local circumstances that one finds oneself in, and knowing Ayrshire as I do, I can see why you may be preoccupied with the subject .
    Regards the ECML, if the private sector can’t make a coin out of it, my advice to government north and south is stay well clear.
    Getting back to the substantive point, i.e. your glum demeanour. Your last sentence but one sums up your mood. It appears your last hope to save us from Brexit is Tory back benchers and that at the 11th hour enough of them will see sense and stop the whole wagon train derailing into the deepest ravine.
    Jim, please comrade, hold to the cause, trust me, the answer is not the voice of reasonable conservatism, that does not exist. The answer is Jeremy Corbyn. Jeremy will come good on Europe. I know he has been a sceptic all his political life. I know he has been on both sides of the fence, and I know he has spent a good long time on the fence. But when it comes to it, JC will not let us down. Jeremy is a leader and that is what leaders do, they lead.

    1. Ermmm …. the ECML was taken back into public ownership when the original private company failed miserably and it subsequently became VERY successful. Despite this, the Tories insisted on privatising it again and a prosperous route fell into ruin …. again. The whole caboodle should be nationalised.

  2. I will say it again it never got past immigration. .Now we are being told the Japanese Ambassador told the PM on Thursday that Japanese companies will leave the UK if brexit seriously disrupts free trade with Europe .
    Japanese companies employ 142thousand people in the UK.
    I actually wonder did anybody in the brexit hierarchy actually put any thought into what would happen when we leave.
    No impact study papers or research as far as I can see.
    At least the Scottish Government have produced something .The UK government appear to be relying on it will be alright on the night .And remember this is a Conservative and Unionist Party who appear to think the dream team is PM Boris Johnson Deputy PM Michael Gove Chancellor wait for it William Rees Mogg .The Night mare team for me Scotland would be independent in the morning whether Nicola wants it or not.
    Then there is this I was admitted to Cross house hospital in 2014 a Greek locum and her team saved my life on the first night At outpatients an Asian consultant
    Gartnavel and Queen Elizabeth hospitals European staff .
    My surgery Aisian Chinese and Irish staff .Does anyone think I was or am going to ask those people go home after brexit this is home for them .
    The country cant survive without them
    What happened to all the promises of extra money for the NHS and take our country back
    As someone said at FMQS BUNKUM

  3. Your analysis is broadly correct, Jim, up until the last sentence. I very much doubt that any tory M.P. is going to go against the grain of of yhe current gory membership when they will probably be facing reselection in the next few years. The only answer is to get out from under the U.K. and play our part in reforming Europe.

    1. Gory membership should of course be read as tory membership, but is not neccessarily wrong!

  4. You would think , given the fact that Nicola has put off indieref2, that those who are so anal about independence would wake up, smell the coffee and respond to the real world rather than the fantasy world they want to inhabit. No Richard, I am not down at all, especially given the increase in membership of my local Party and the excellent talk given to our CLP by Richard Leonard last Sunday. Onwards and Upwards, comrade

  5. If you read Hothersall on Twitter you’ll find the Tory right is resurgent within Labour as well.

  6. Richard Leonard was great at our CLP he mixed well was relaxed and he told us exactly where he wants to lead the party .In front of a full house he answered dozens of questions .
    I tell you one thing unlike other leaders at Holyrood he is passionate in his beliefs .
    He fully intends to carry out our policies .
    Mike as far as Nicola goes with another Indy Ref . She believes in it unlike some of the other senior members of her party who I believe discovered it when it became fashionable .
    And some of them had made a very good living when in the Labour Party
    Jim Sillars has publicly accused the SNP leadership of not having any plan for an Indy Ref
    Look at the arguing in the National Senior NATS arguing about the timing The only declared candidate wants to do it next year .
    Pete Wishart wants to wait collumnists claiming that the deputy cannot be central Scotland based .
    The real point of the paper is the e mail letters page .
    Talk of the unionist parties yoons occupied country threatening to leave for Denmark if we don’t get Independence
    unionist press and their collumnists have joined in the name calling
    That’s what Nicola has to manage
    And they are now beginning to attack her for running a tight ship at the top only 2 people in the know for decisions
    When she gets to decision time as a leader she understands its not about holding a ref its winning it
    As leader of a Nationalist party the question is will her party let her delay yet again

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