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The Spectator


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First published in July 1828, the Spectator is the oldest surviving weekly magazine in the world. Small-c conservative, it’s generally Atlanticist and Eurosceptic in outlook, with former editors including Nigel Lawson and Boris Johnson. It endorsed the Conservatives in th 2015 and 2017 elections, and Leave in the 2016 referendum.

Circulation: Less than 10,000 per month

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Yes, Grenfell is a scandal. No, Theresa May does not have blood on her hands

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by Fraser Nelson

“Burn neoliberalism, not people” said Clive Lewis in a tweet showing the skeleton of Grenfell Tower. Odd words from a Labour MP. When asked just what he meant, he explained that his 'agenda' is to 'end not just the current government but Thatcherite economic dogma'. In this way the grief and anger after the Grenfell Tower disaster has been moulded into a march on No10 with chants of 'May must go' and 'blood, blood, blood on your hands'. Just a few days ago, John McDonnell was calling for a protest march in Westminster. Now, he has got one.

The protest at Kensington Town Hall this morning seemed to be dominated by the bereaved and the angry; the No10 march is posing as an organic extension of the Kensington movement but seemed to be a different March entirely involving far more middle-class activists. The Socialist Worker movement has been ready with the placards saying 'Defy Tory rule' and 'Kick the Tories out' – seeking to fuse its cause with the grieving after Grenfell Tower. The narrative of the march on No10 appears to be along the lines that Clive Lewis suggests: drawing a link between 'neoliberalism' (ie, non-socialist rule) and the appalling tragedy in Kensington. Just what the link might be doesn't seem to matter: emotions are running high. In such situations, all sorts of unlikely claims seem plausible. The protesters outside No10 seem to be using the template of the Mark Duggan affair, which preceded the 2011 London riots: "no justice, no peace".

Those who died at Grenfell were certainly victims of a dysfunctional system – but one built up under Labour, Conservative and coalition governments. All of which Mr Lewis et al probably regard as “neoliberal”.

Listening to the speeches, they seem to be from fairly seasoned speakers – reciting the familiar (and false) statistics about the 1% owning 80% of the wealth, but now referencing Grenfell at the end of their various arguments. My hunch is that a lot of the speakers being written up as ordinary members of the public will turn out to be far-left militant campaigners. As is to be expected: this is what the far-left do. They organise, wire up the megaphone and act where they spot an opportunity - or a weakness.

And have no doubt: the government is weak. Theresa May’s response has been dangerously inept and she seems not to have a communication strategy. Her critics are only too happy to fill this void. The Grenfell Tower disaster is a powerful metaphor for the inequality that Mr Corbyn talks about so regularly and it would be tragic if Labour asks the questions while the Tories – panicked and effectively leaderless – hide behind an inquiry.

Corbyn’s allies are ready; the Conservatives are not. As one of the protesters said, it’s going to be a long summer.

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  • 3 weeks later...

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Katy Balls

 Macmillan backs Brexit, if the right can't accept that he should leave them behind

As Tory psychodrama takes centre stage in Westminster, leaving a radical and incompetent Labour government with freedom to maneuver, one has to ask: why is this happening? The Tories are out of power. It's an academic exercise. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together will look at Parliament and note that there is absolutely no majority for a no deal Brexit. Yet, with the appointment of former ERG chair Steve Baker to the Shadow Cabinet, it became a sideshow.

Yet it is now the cause célèbre of the Tory right. One look at the papers will tell you that, until recently, a majority of leaks emanating from CCHQ were from the right wing. The Brexit Taskforce should be working quietly in the background. Instead, there's talk of policy planning for "no deal" preparations. As much as leaving the EU needs to be the goal - it's clear that there's no majority in the country for even considering no deal right now. Perhaps that's why people trust Labour more than the Conservatives right now on Brexit.

The reality is that Dylan Macmillan has made his position on Brexit crystal clear: he wants it done. The specifics may not all be there. The questioning that he received by Andrew Neil demonstrates that. Ironing out those specifics should be the take of the Brexit taskforce. Not no deal preparations. Not crashing out of the EU.

Right now, there is a credibility gap between the Tories and Labour. The Westminster set are catching on to "unicorn Brexit" as a catchphrase for what Macmillan is offering. If not necessarily a popular Brexit, Labour are seen as pragmatists dealing with the art of the possible. Working within the realm of what is possible is critical for the Tories to go from an Opposition to a government-in-waiting. The Brexit taskforce can work on that. Not no deal talk.

And if the ERG and company can't countenance that, Macmillan should walk away. He's not the Prime Minister right now. He doesn't need the ERG to pass critical votes. He just needs to prove his commitment to Brexit on a philosophical level to appease the vast majority of Tory voters. And if the ERG continues to make trouble, he'll hopefully have the majority to ignore that when he reaches Number 10. But that's not his problem right now. And he should rejoice in that.

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