Have I Got Views For You

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‘Johnson is a good-humoured, entertaining commentator, with an agreeably optimistic bent.’ Observer

‘In a class of his own. Irresistible’ Daily Mail

This book includes some of Lend Me Your Ears.
In his own inimitable style, Boris Johnson turns his attention to the culture, manners and morals of British society, giving us a humorous, at times furious, but always entertaining read. A witty anthology of pieces comprising Boris Johnson’s thoughts on everything from the presidency of Tony Blair to the idiosyncrasies of modern British culture. Focusing on Diana, the age of self-expression, the end of culture, the moment of the Yuppies, and liberty versus freedom, Johnson takes us on a rollercoaster ride through contemporary Britain. He has also interviewed many of the key figures in the political and cultural worlds over the last sixteen years and addresses what these personalities tell of our age. Boris Johnson’s writings have appeared in a variety of British and American magazines and newspapers. Vigorous, idiosyncratic, always intelligent and informed, with a very interesting perspective on our times, “Have I Got Views For You” is a pleasure to read.

You can buy it on Amazon

Prescott – The Dome Super-casino

Admit it, Blair: Britain is no better than Belize or Belarus

Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive. It was frankly a bit of a miracle, too. Yesterday a sweltering sun rose on Prescott’s Britain, and I suppose we should all be grateful that we woke up at all. Not only is Two Jags in charge of our roads: for the next two weeks – or for however long Blair is away – the former Cunard waiter is in charge of our Middle East policy, and, which I think you will agree is truly terrifying, Prescott’s porky thumb is poised over the British nuclear button.

Prescott is having his annual bash at supreme power and, in honour of his accession, I thought I would make a pilgrimage to the place that is at the heart of his troubles. Indeed, it is the one building that sums up all the pretensions and deceptions of this Government.

For the first time in more than five years, I went to North Greenwich. And somehow managed to experience once again the super casino at Prescott, as you know right now, I am more into 666 casino, an online casino which is easy to deal with and very convenient that allows me to play wherever I want. I got out of the Tube, and once again I saw the vast parabola of our great national tent, our marquee de sad, its silhouette figuratively soaring from ludicrous hype to bitter disappointment.

Except this time, of course, there was no one there, or no one except a few security guards and the odd desultory builder. There hasn’t been anyone there since it closed, amid shame and ignominy, on December 31, 2000. Never mind Prescott’s Stetsons and the embarrassing hand-tooled cowboy boots and the undeclared stays at the billionaire’s ranch. To understand why Labour is in such difficulties about casinos, and that’s why some people decide to play in online casinos instead such as the Judi Online where people can gamble and make money online.

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Just before the big top opened, Tony Blair declared that it was going to be a “triumph of confidence over cynicism, boldness over blandness, excellence over mediocrity”. Well, it was a triumph of spin over substance, and a very considerable floperoo. Instead of celebrating any aspect of British history or achievement or civilisation, the Government produced a cultural nullity, a politically correct void inside a vacuum inside a huge New Labour inanition.

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The climax, I seem to recall, was a mystifying mime show, with men on stilts acting the part of large orange bogeys. The “experience” cost the thick end of a billion, drew half the visitors expected and, even after it closed, has been costing the taxpayer about a million a month. The only way to rescue the project – and so save New Labour face – was to claim that it was part of a big redevelopment project for the Greenwich peninsula, a particularly ill-favoured patch of soil that had previously hosted a gasworks.

Blair and Prescott cast around for a solution and, in the summer of 2002, Prezza had his first meeting with Philip Anschutz. Wonderful news – this charming and delightful American had a plan. He took the Dome off the Government’s hands; he even paid for it, and he and his allies began to produce fantastic mock-ups of how Greenwich might look.

You can see them yourself, just by the Dome. There are marinas and parks and schools and upscale flats and social housing. There are a total of 25,000 new homes envisaged, and 10,000 jobs, and 360,000 square feet of new retail areas – and yet, in the five years since the Dome closed, not one has been started.

Why? Because it is the plans for Anschutz’s Dome entertainment complex that generate the life and the jobs in Greenwich; and at the heart of the Dome there is still a void and a hole and a great quivering question mark. Anschutz needs one thing to make sense of his project. From the beginning, Prescott and Blair can have been in no doubt what it was.

This guy makes money from the drug of optimism. People sit in serried rows at his Las Vegas machines, their bottoms almost welded to their chairs, robotically pulling the levers. Every time they make the mistake of believing they can win, they give a little more to the casino, and Anschutz knows that, unless he is able to trade on that central delusion, it is much more difficult to make the Dome pay. Without gambling, the hotel is non-viable, and the 23,000-seat theatre less easy to fill.

Blair and Prescott have understood this reality from the beginning. The Americans have left them in no doubt. That is why the British Government has moved heaven and earth to legalise US-style super-casinos in this country. That is the reason – and that is the only reason – why we had the Gambling Act and that is why Prescott is now so desperate, so eye-poppingly hair-pullingly desperate, to get a super-casino in Greenwich. Forget about Blackpool or the claims of other, poorer cities.

Under the pressure of public disapproval, Labour has been forced to reduce the number of super-casinos to one, and it must must must go to the Dome; or else the deal could falter.

What a sordid and unbelievable spectacle. The Government has changed the laws on gambling in this country to salve its embarrassment over the Dome, and to give Anschutz a sweet enough prize.

It’s not so much that I object to the gambling in itself, though there is plenty of evidence that people find it hard to cope with the drug. Anyone who has been to Las Vegas or Surfer’s Paradise will testify that these are not sophisticated casinos. There are no James Bond-style tuxedos and girls draping themselves over the back of your chair; just chinking avenues of self-delusion.

Nor do I accuse Prescott or Blair of any personal corruption. Of course they are not benefiting in any way, apart from the boots and the hat. They are doing what they think is the best thing for Greenwich and the country.

It’s just the pretence that drives me mad, the pretence that Prescott has had no hand in steering the super-casino to the Dome; the pretence that Anschutz should invite Prescott to his ranch for any other reason; the pretence that there is no connection between saving the Dome and permitting super-casinos.

Of course we expect governments to change their laws to suit the needs of foreign billionaires. I am sure it happens everywhere from Belize to Belarus. It would just be nice if they were honest, and admitted that it now happens in Britain, too.

Hysteria about the Heat

Sometime too bright the eye of heaven shines

Often is his gold complexion dimm’d

Livingstone and Lawrence – they could take a bit of heat

Hot? Call this hot? One warm day and the whole country flops down in a faint like a bunch of wilted pansies. I mean what’s got into us, eh?

After being AWOL for most of June, the British sun has put in a brief appearance, and at once our airwaves are jammed with portentous government doctors warning us to stay indoors, wear loose cotton clothing, turn off the central heating and above all to slather our skins with oceans of foul seal-blubberish suncream. We are warned of heatstroke, kidney failure, heart attack and – mystifyingly – cold sores.

Listen, my friends. Here is my own personal weather analysis. It is a lovely sunny July day. It is admittedly a trifle close on the Tube – but how on earth can that be an excuse for closing our schools?

On trains, passengers are continually interrupted by the guard warning them to drink water, bottles of which may conveniently be obtained from the buffet car at a mere two quid a pop. What next? Will they have to remind us to keep breathing? Have we lost all sense of proportion?

The Middle East is aflame. Our Prime Minister has been exposed in a posture of abject servility before the American President, summoned with a click of the fingers and the words “Yo, Blair”, as if he were Jeeves to Dubya’s Wooster.

I only refrain from calling Mr Blair a poodle because several correspondents have protested to me that this is an insult to poodles, who are, apparently, keen independent spirits.

The Labour Government is in a state of meltdown far more serious than any softening of the tarmac at Eastbourne, and in only a few days’ time we must endure the national agony of seeing John Prescott at the helm of the ship of state.

In spite of all this genuine global catastrophe it seems that the main news – the big, front-page news – concerns the efficacy or otherwise of sun gunk.

In order to terrify its poor benighted readers one newspaper has recruited two groups of warring scientists. The first lot says that you must baste yourself with two 5mm layers of sun gunk, being careful to leave it on the skin like war-paint, otherwise it will have no effect and you will get cancer. The second lot says that you must rub it in, otherwise it will soon wear off and you will get cancer.

Which is it? And isn’t the dreadful truth, frankly, that we would be just as well off using Mazola?

Let me remind you of one thing, all you local authorities which seize the chance to close the schools on a gorgeous sunny day. The parents of these kiddies save thousands of pounds to buy them holidays in the sun everywhere from Crete to Cancun.

Look up at the sky and every 60 seconds you will see another huge airborne cattle truck taking the British to be scorched in climates far fiercer than our own. We sit in our villas and our condos around the shores of the Mediterranean, like pale frogs about a pond, and when our own watery sun is so pretentious as to put on a Mediterranean performance, we go into a national spasm of alarm.

Is this the nation that built the Empire? When Lawrence was cantering his camels through the sands, was he pursued by health warnings about exposing the tips of his ears and nose to the desert glare?

When Livingstone toiled through the sweltering jungles of central Africa, did he have coolies toting bottles of Evian and government officials warning him of dehydration?

This is a nation whose imperial greatness transformed the world, and which disseminated ideas of freedom, parliamentary democracy and above all the English language, the language of the globe, polar, tropical and temperate.

We pulled it off because we were equipped with colonial servants who didn’t care whether it was as hot as a chilli on the back streets of Bangalore. They were pink of cheek and rheumy of eye, and when their French and German rivals were having a siesta, they were out in the noonday sun claiming the planet for the Crown.

How fallen, how changed we are from that magnificent ethic. Even since the 1970s, when we last had a heatwave and, interestingly, movies about Superman and the Poseidon Adventure, we seem to have softened like a strawberry mivvi in the sun.

Our footballers blub when they lose a match. The nanny state won’t let us take our T-shirts off in public lest we get sunburn, and from November all children under the age of 11 will have to be equipped with an expensive plastic booster seat banquette before you can take them in the back of the car.

We have become so wet that the Government has tried to intrude in the housing market and abolish the ancient principle of caveat emptor, and while I am on the subject there is one final point I want to make before I fire this piece off to the Telegraph and go for a well-deserved pint of beer with dewy condensation running down its cold, golden flanks.

No matter how great the hysteria about the heat, no matter how many scientists warn us about the risks of either applying or failing to apply sunscreen, we should not allow anyone to convert the current panic into legislation.

We don’t want any more of those directives that make employers criminally liable for failing to see that their employees are covered with gloop factor 15.

Let us in conclusion remember the words of the poet. Sometime too bright the eye of heaven shines, he pointed out, and for some weeds out there that is the case this week.

But the key point, as he went on to say, is that Often is his gold complexion dimm’d. That is the way of the British sun, and that, if I read the forecast correctly, is what is going to happen this weekend.

My heatwave health advice is to jump in the delicious river Thames, upstream of Henley. And if you really can’t stand the heat, move to Scotland, where it seems to be raining already.

Lord Levy and Cash for Honours

…the swoop on Levy perfectly illustrates the decay of the Government and the putrefaction of the honours system

It is as though we don’t do white-collar fraud, except when it involves peerages, and we contract the big stuff to our American overlords

Arrest Lord Levy! Arrest Blair! Arrest the lot of them

Let me begin by saying that I have no objection at all to the decision to arrest Lord Levy. I am sure I speak for millions when I say that it is high time that the fuzz moved in on the Blairite high command, and they might as well start with his tennis partner. As far as I am concerned, the whole lot of them deserve to have their collars felt. If the cops decide to launch dawn raids on all the other arch-toadies of the regime, they will find many of us prepared to hold their coats.

Winkle Mandy from his lair! Arrest Alastair Campbell and haul him out from under whatever stone now conceals him. Let’s nick them all, sarge! Go, boys, go! And if Sir Ian Blair decides to haul his namesake in, I am not going to stand in his way.

What joy it must be for the cops – and yet what an amazing spectacle we must present to the world outside. Here is the Prime Minister’s chief financial fixer being hauled in for questioning about a suspected crime that is quintessentially British, and unknown to any other jurisdiction on earth – the sale of peerages. Huge numbers of detectives are involved. Expensive new software is being installed to track down any deleted e-mails.

I would not dream of pretending that the matter is unimportant, since the swoop on Levy perfectly illustrates the decay of the Government and the putrefaction of the honours system. I merely ask you to contrast this frenzied activity by the police and their total indifference to the case that was discussed in Parliament yesterday.

As the minister did not hesitate to remind the House, the allegations against the NatWest Three are very grave indeed. They relate to the biggest financial scandal of the past few decades, in which a company worth billions was destroyed and thousands lost their jobs, and in which a British bank was (allegedly) defrauded of millions of pounds. The NatWest Three, like Lord Levy, are to be found in Britain. Like the noble lord, they are British citizens. It is suggested that their alleged offence was against British interests.

The tennis partner-in-chief is being questioned about an outrage to the British constitution, namely Labour’s suspected cash-for-coronets scheme. The NatWest Three are accused of what amounts to theft from a British bank – a matter that you might have thought was of equal interest to our criminal justice system. But it is the silver-quiffed Lord Levy who has the exquisite shame and embarrassment of being arrested, and who is forced to issue a statement alleging that this is a gross abuse of police powers.

And what do the police do to the NatWest Three, for all the terrible accusations against them? They do diddly squat. They move not a muscle. They go into spasms of excitement about the corruption of the ermine and, in the face of the NatWest allegations, they turn into monuments of marmoreal motionlessness. No emanation of the British criminal justice system has taken the slightest interest in prosecuting these three, and yet we are happily sending them for trial in America.

It is bizarre. It makes us look like a banana republic, or some backward and unselfconfident province of the Roman empire.

It is as though we don’t do white-collar fraud, except when it involves peerages, and we contract the big stuff to our American overlords.

I don’t know whether David Bermingham and the other members of the NatWest trio are guilty or not, but I do know that when he boards the 9.30am flight from Gatwick today, the British Government will be conniving in a serious injustice.

It is a measure of this Government’s panic over the 2003 Extradition Treaty with America that Tony Blair has simultaneously dispatched Baroness Scotland to plead with the American authorities. She is to scurry around Washington, reminding people how staunch we were in the war on Iraq and inquiring whether they might see their way round to ratifying this treaty. She will point out that we have been good boys, as usual, and put it into our law. She will ask whether they might consider doing the same. She will be given the bum’s rush. She will then join the Prime Minister in begging the Americans to use what clout they have with the courts in Texas to give the men bail, and allow them to return to England, so that they don’t spend the next two years in Guantanamo conditions while preparing their cases.

What a truly incredible state of affairs, and what a devastating comment on the workability of this treaty, that senior Labour ministers should be obliged to rush around Washington begging the American authorities not to use the powers we have given the Americans, and which the Americans refuse to give us.

As I have said before, the first problem with this Extradition Treaty is that it is unbalanced. Contrary to the rubbish peddled by the Prime Minister, it gives the Americans the right to demand suspects from Britain with virtually no evidence, while American suspects wanted by Britain have the protection of a hearing in which the evidence against them can be tested and contested, in court, by the defence.

That asymmetry would apply even if the treaty were ratified and would be reason enough to drop it. What makes it even worse is that the 2003 treaty takes away the right of any British authority to decide in which country the case should be heard.

As I never tire of saying, the natural forum for this case is obviously Britain: the evidence is all here, the men involved are Brits, and the allegedly defrauded entity was NatWest. The Americans are scooping them up because American telegraphic equipment was involved. Well, you might as well ask the Americans to try Lord Levy on the grounds that he used American Microsoft programmes to send his e-mails.

The best thing would be to renegotiate this treaty, not just for the sake of British justice but for the sake of America, whose reputation is suffering terribly as a result of the scandal. I have faith in the fundamental goodness of America. I hope relations will improve. We must have faith, hope and parity – and the greatest of these is parity.

Boris Johnson MP: Extradition Treaty should be renegotiated or scrapped

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Commenting during yesterday’s emergency debate on the UK-US Extradition Treaty, Boris Johnson MP said:

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): I begin by saying how much I share the views of the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Khan) and by reminding him of the many times we have shared platforms in defence of our respective constituents.

Mr. Khan: I exclude completely from previous remarks the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) who has become a friend–with a small f–and who has been consistent in his concern about the issue before us.

Mr. Johnson: I am grateful. I think all of us agree, on both sides, that this issue has nothing to do with what kind of person may be involved or what kind of constituent presents himself or herself before us. It is an issue of justice and reciprocity, and that is why it is arousing such strong passions across the country. We are all starting to see those feelings expressed in our e-mail in-boxes, and the Minister should be aware of them, as I am sure he increasingly is.

The feeling prompting the rage and fury that surrounds this issue, and which has actuated many comments in the debate, is, I am afraid to say, a certain anti-Americanism. On that, I agree with the Government: anti-American points are sometimes scored in this debate, and that is a great shame. It is sad and regrettable, and it is all the more reason why the best and kindest thing we could do for the special relationship, for which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) has laboured so long and on which he has spoken so eloquently, is to remove injustice and asymmetry and to restore confidence in the British people that their extradition arrangements with America are fair to them.

David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): I thoroughly agree, but does my hon. Friend not also agree that the Americans could send an even more positive message about the importance of the special relationship not only by offering reciprocity but by returning to Britain some of the IRA murderers who live freely in the United States at the moment?

Mr. Johnson: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point; that is the very reason why the Senate has, as has repeatedly been said, been so tardy in ratifying the treaty, and why, indeed, I think it highly unlikely that it will ratify it.

Continue reading Boris Johnson MP: Extradition Treaty should be renegotiated or scrapped

Right of Protest

Here’s a good idea folks!

I promised to publicise this wheeze and hope everyone will join Mr Pope in his protest.

I pledge to do the same.


protest at Westminster.jpg

“I will form part of a human chain around the Westminster no protest zone but only if 6,000 other people will join in.”
— Richard

Deadline to sign up by: 15th January 2007
1,046 people have signed up, 4954 more needed
Country: United Kingdom

More details
The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) bans the right of protest (unless it is cleared by a commissioner 6 days in advance) within a 1km radius of the UK’s seat of government. The area covers the Houses of Parliament, Downing Street, most government ministries, St Thomas’s Hospital, part of the South Bank and Lambeth Palace.

As such the zone presents a threat to freedom of speech in that it prevents people’s voices being heard by those who make our laws. Since it would be illegal to protest about this the zone, the pledge aims to organise a 100% legal protest just outside the zone.

Sign up now! here

Extradition Arrangements

American leg irons.jpg

It cannot be right that British citizens should be handed over so casually

Blair should intervene and put this unjust and one-sided treaty [2003 Extradition Treaty] on hold

The only way to ease the strains in the relations between England and Scotland, and strengthen the Union, is to end the injustice by which Scottish MPs can vote on English laws, whereas English MPs cannot vote on many provisions affecting Scotland. And it would certainly ease transatlantic tensions if people thought we were no longer being pushed around in our extradition arrangements

America defends its citizens, so why don’t we defend ours?

Look here, Blair, which country do you think you are running anyway?

When the people of Britain choose a government, they assume that their government will regard their security as its number one priority. They assume that if a foreign power should try to treat British citizens unfairly, then the government will intervene. They assume that the government will think it a sacred trust to protect British citizens.

Continue reading Extradition Arrangements

Boris Johnson MP: Support for Community Hospitals to be welcomed but rhetoric must be backed up by action

Boris Johnson MP, responding to Patricia Hewitt’s statement announcing the creation of a £750m funding pot set aside for capital investment in Community Hospitals, today said:

‘Any extra money set aside specifically for community hospitals is to be welcomed.

However it is hard not to feel that we have been here before. It is vital that this time round the Secretary of State’s rhetoric is matched by action. Previous pledges of support have too often failed to result in practical help materialising on the ground.

We don’t want a community hospital regeneration plan that involves closing community hospitals. It is no use investing in infrastructure if services are not funded to match. Well aboriginalbluemountains can provide you all the latest updates.

PCTs must be helped and encouraged to access this money. In the meantime there must be a moratorium on any further closures’.


Extradition of David Bermingham and the NatWest Three

Are we just a poodle? No, a super-poodle

Yes, but why? Why are we so pathetic? Britain is so grovellingly submissive to America as to make lapdogs look positively butch and poodles like keen independent spirits. We are all, by now, familiar with the craven manner in which we have decided to hand over British subjects for trial in America.

The baffling question is why? We beg, we fetch, we sit, we look up adoringly and wait to have our mangy old ears tickled by Uncle Sam, and it is not at all clear to the casual observer what we are getting in return.

In two weeks, my constituent David Bermingham intends to be at the Goring and Streatley regatta, and I hope he takes a fond last imprint on his mental retina of the delights of the English summer: the picnics, the blazers, the girls in their filmy dresses, the blissful trailing of fingers in the river.

Continue reading Extradition of David Bermingham and the NatWest Three