Huts and History

Red Sky Shepherd’s Huts builds outbuildings. Among their sheds, one model offers “timber frame construction with tongue and groove interior pine walls. Each wall and floor are five layers deep (with) … a cavity filled with quality sheep’s wool insulation.” One specific hut of this type features “a corner-set wood-burning stove … (and) a pull-out double sofa bed.”

This particular hut connects the most historically disastrous British Prime Minister I can name to a really big personal dilemma. For in this hut, his publicists would have it at least, David Cameron has been writing his memoir, For the Record.

For the Record is published by Harper Collins, a subsidiary of News Corp, a Rupert Murdoch company. The book is available for pre-order just now on Amazon in the U.S. for $40.00.

I’d be interested to read Mr. Cameron’s version of events. The problem: paying a person who has done great harm. A couple of other books come to mind – those of the East German spy master Markus Wolf and O. J. Simpson.

Simpson’s 2006 If I Did It was to be published by ReganBooks, which is also an imprint of Murdoch’s HarperCollins, but universal disgust led to a court awarding royalties to the victim’s family. So that worked out okay, although it was an easy choice not to be stained by reading that book.

•••••

Cameron, for all his slack-jawed inattention, was no O.J. Simpson. To his credit, the New Statesman reports that

“Cameron is donating the £800,000 that the publisher HarperCollins paid for his book to charities for Alzheimer’s, veteran servicemen and childhood disability (his six-year-old son, Ivan, who suffered from severe epilepsy and cerebral palsy, died in 2009).

(Do not fret for the former Prime Minister. His fee for speeches about Brexit: £2000 per minute.)

Mr. Cameron’s long-delayed book drops next Thursday in the U.K., the following week in the United States. Suppose For the Record is a Brexit tell-all and a ripping good read. You reckon?

Amazon isn’t encouraging:

“In For the Record, he will explain how the governments he led transformed the UK economy while implementing a modern, compassionate agenda that included reforming education and welfare, legalizing gay marriage, honoring the UK’s commitment to overseas aid and spearheading environmental policies.”

Ehhh.

I imagine Cameron will claim to have been undermined by the current Prime Minister and Michael Gove, who is currently heading up planning for a crash out of the EU. If he does and he was, he will have been betrayed by dicey bedfellows. Dicey bedfellows who, as it happens, run the government just now.

Former P.M. Cameron will pursue a cautious book tour:

“The only events on the calendar are An Evening with David Cameron, at a yet-to-be-revealed central London location on 6 October, and an interview by the BBC’s Sophie Raworth at the Times-sponsored Cheltenham literature festival a day earlier.”

Meanwhile the U.K. parliament has been sent home by a Prime Minister eager for an unimpeded stomp across the political landscape through the upcoming weeks of party conferences. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has lost every parliamentary vote since he assumed office while withdrawing the whip (in American, that means he stripped the benefits of running on behalf of his party) from 21 party stalwarts, meaning they can’t stand as Tories in the next election, and as a result now commands a distinct minority.

You can see why Mr. Johnson might wish to send his parliamentary opponents back to the provinces. You can also see the peril to the British system of governance. The demons David Cameron unleashed with his 2016 Brexit referendum vote are circling their devilish roost.

Johnson’s boorish challenge to the parliament’s (unwritten) constitutional authority speeds up everything from the prospects for a new general election to the collapse of the confidence and supply agreement with Northern Ireland’s DUP to Scottish succession. History is revving up in the United Kingdom.

But about those memoirs: seems like the Trump tell-alls are shallow and cash-motivated. I’ve passed on them. Have I missed anything? Anyone? I’ve enjoyed two Brexit books, Tim Shipman’s All Out War and Craig Oliver’s Unleashing Demons. But what to do on Cameron’s book?

•••••

I had a dear German friend who spent her life, spanning the entire division of her country, in western Berlin. She would not countenance buying the East German spymaster Marcus Wolf’s 1999 memoir Man Without A Face (co-authored by Anne McElvoy). For Inge it was a bridge too far. Wouldn’t buy it, wouldn’t read it.

Still, conflicted, I just may enrich the bank accounts of Wolf’s estate, Cameron’s charities and Wolf’s and Cameron’s publishers, and in some kind of odd, backwards tribute to Inge, read both their memoirs together. I’ll bet Man Without a Face is not turgid. Place your bets on the Cameron book?

Quotes: On the Singapore Model

Street food stall, Singapore

For those who wish to see, critics warn about Boris Johnson’s hard-Brexit plans for free ports and mimicking the so-called “Singapore Model.” Angela Merkel warned of the danger to EU of Singapore-style UK on its border today. She said,

“But the fact remains that after the withdrawal of Britain, we have an economic competitor at our door, even if we want to keep close economic, foreign and security cooperation and friendly relations.”

Addressing the Singapore Model, an Oxfam report from last year notes that Singapore

“has no equal pay or non-discrimination laws for women; its laws on both rape and sexual harassment are inadequate; and there is no minimum wage, except for cleaners and security guard.”

Unless perhaps you are a cleaner or a security guard, I’m guessing that’s not exactly among the outcomes rank-and-file Brexiteers expect from a hard Brexit.

Quotes: “A Major National Emergency”

Most interesting to talk with a range of people in Dublin this weekend about the Republic of Ireland’s prospects in the event of a British crash out of the EU on 31 October (besides getting a crash course in hurling as Tipperary took down the good guys, Kilkenny, in the national final yesterday).

Now this morning, from the Irish Independent, “A senior Irish government source said last night ‘People might start realizing that Leo Varadkar is not engaged in project fear as he has been accused of, but actually that in 74 days we face a major national emergency if this is not resolved.'”

Banner Day for British Letters

A British Brexiteer, a man named Jacob Rees-Mogg, the MP from North East Somerset, has been known to campaign with his nanny in tow:

(“Rees-Mogg later clarified he had been driving his mother’s Mercedes Benz during canvassing – and not the Bentley that soon made him a source of public ridicule.

“The nanny bit is right,” Rees-Mogg confirmed in 2013.”)

He has written a book about his Victorian heroes. In its first week it sold 734 copies. Including the chains such as Waterstones, there are well over 1,000 bookstores in the United Kingdom.

This warms my heart, that with the publishing and promotional heft of Penguin Books, there must have been shops whose discerning readers declined to buy a single copy of the book from a politician with a voting record like this:

Quotes: Bewildering Self-Harm

Today in the Brexit saga,

“Kent is going full steam ahead with its contingency plans to prevent gridlock on its roads in the event of congestion in Dover or Calais.

Concrete barriers have already been erected on the main port artery in Kent, with a section of the London-bound M20 between junction 8 and junction 9 now operating as a 50mph contraflow for normal traffic. Work on signage will be completed over the weekend.

The coastbound section will be closed off to all but lorry traffic from next week to allow Highways England to carry out a dry run to cope with possible chaos after 11pm on 29 March.”

Also,

“Manston airport near Ramsgate is in the final stages of preparation for use as a lorry park for up to 6,000 heavy goods vehicles in the event of gridlock.

Councillors will also hear from adult social care and health officers who have plans to minimise the risk of disruption to admissions of patients to hospitals, residential care homes and the supply of fuel, medication, cleaning and sanitation products.

Schools have also been issued with Brexit guidelines warning them to think twice before closing down in the event that staff cannot make it through the gridlock.”

From UK’s emergency plans for no-deal Brexit begin to be put into action in The Guardian.

•••••

Michael Hirsh writes elsewhere today that

“Britain’s humiliation has been a powerful lesson for even the most virulent populists and nationalists within the EU, rendering the idea of full exit all but unthinkable, a new political third rail.”

That may be wishful thinking, for also today, across the channel and just up the road, comes news that Far-right Forum for Democracy wins most seats in Dutch provincial elections.

Interesting times.

Is There Anything to Be Done?

Please help.

All this time I’ve taken it on faith that the United Kingdom’s “Europe” debate has primarily been an internal Tory affair, to which the ruling party has held the rest of the country hostage. But yesterday the wider parliament, acting as the collective decision-making body for the country and comprising all the parties, failed to muster even the minimal political dexterity to stave off crashing out of the EU without an agreement.

It looks as if the entire political class is unable to govern. It looks like a shambles.

Anybody?