Where’s the generalissimo?

Remember the scene from Fawlty Towers? From the episode “The Builders”?

A Devonian delivers a garden gnome to the hotel but the boss has gone to only Paignton for a weekend away with Cybil and Audrey.

Where’s the manager?

“I, manager.”

No, where’s the real manager? You know, the generalissimo?

“In Madrid”.

I recently returned from Madrid where we re-enacted this famous scene in various bars. The timing of the trip was something. Within two days of visiting the Prado it had closed its doors. As had the Real Madrid ground tour experience.

In my short stay there the confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection had increased to 800.

Of course, the Generalissimo came to power in a much more sinister manner than Fawlty taking charge of his Towers when he, Franco I mean, engaged the flirtations of Hitler and Mussolini in order to do so and not spin doctors and think tank gurus.

But what of Fawlty? The Covid-19 crisis had cut short the weekend on the golf course and the manager was back in charge of the hotel.

In true Fawlty fashion he announced that we would be engaging in a fight against the disease in a wholly different manner to the rest of the hoteliers who had held a conference to discuss a joint response.

Don’t worry about him, he’s from Barcelona

Fast forward a day or two and the herd immunity theory appeared to have been discarded as quickly as a duck surprise resembling a trifle. Or Lord Melbury. Not to mention the Duke of Buccleigh who was probably in a golden lift with Donald Trump, being both of Scottish ancestry.

Then the “last gasp” pleas for ventilators.

As subtle as the Colonel and Mrs Twitching gag: “sorry I didn’t see you down there”, followed by a drinks invitation:

Short? Or… not so short?

You might be forgiven for thinking we would be better off with a garden gnome in charge.

Across the Atlantic there were “people dying who had never died before”and evidently quotations made up that had never been said before, even in a golden lift.

Madrid was beautiful, by the way. A bit like the hotel down the road from Fawlty Towers. The one that Cybil stays in to get away from the Kipper from time to time. Not to mention Mr O’Reilly and his orally man.

Fawlty Towers never even had a lift, let alone a golden one.

Although it did have a view of the English Riviera, if only you put your glasses on and didn’t pine for the simultaneous sun and snow on the peaks of the Californian horizon. Oh, and the fresh orange juice like running water. But at least our cars need steering wheels…


Before 2018 was out I managed to visit all 28 member states of the European Union. My last, but not least, was Romania. This was my homage, my catharsis to Brexit. My two fingers, my indulgent protest. I figured that if I was to be able to speak about the European Union with any degree of authority I had to have visited its member states. So, a competition. I have taken photographs in all member states. See if you can name correctly all 28 member states, while there are 28 to name:


The never-ending (s)tory

She’s still in situ, this never-ending tory.

“Resilience” is one noun which has been used to describe her most endearing trait. That’s about right really. From collapsing props at Conference, to frogs in throat; from being frozen out of international diplomacy, to cherry cake-picking. From “strong and stable” to “calm and orderly”; from fields of wheat to tears of disappointment. From wrong calls, to no calls; from Trump to Windrush. From computer porn to Grenfell; from bungs to capitulation. She’s still there.


Pandora’s Box

Those who believe that leaving the European Union is a huge mistake were understandably overjoyed at the vast turnout to march for a second referendum on 20th October 2018. The theme of the march, quite rightly, was the coming together of those of different party politics to put the young first. The march itself was heavily populated by young protestors.

When Theresa May said that she was calling the 2017 election she referred to the fact that the country had come together but Westminster had not. She could not have been further from the truth. Indeed, since that time the country has become progressively more divided. Gradually the size of the marches has increased culminating in what would appear to be without contest the second biggest protest ever on the streets of London.

In the meantime the opposition has failed to mount any meaningful challenge to the policy of leaving the European Union. The opportunity to oppose was there but the leader of the opposition has seen fit to impose three line whips on pro-European Labour MP’s to allow the parliamentary business of Brexit to pass unopposed. He has also singularly failed to bring the government to account in successive Prime Minister’s Question Time sessions. His silence belies May’s earlier view. Some say that she could not have had an easier ride. The “meaningful vote” looks like it will be a sham in terms of its timing and scope. By the time of the vote will the country be looking at crashing out with no withdrawal agreement?

Will fear sell whatever agreement May manages to get through to Parliament?

Corbyn looks like a conduit for it based upon his past performance.

It appears that even some MP’s simply do not understand the difference between a withdrawal agreement and a trade deal. The crucial significance is that whilst the Brexit backers cite the 29th March 2019 as the end, it is in fact just the beginning.  The public continues to labour under the misapprehension that “a deal” before that date means an end, freedom from tyranny and a glorious return to the days of empire.

Sir Ivan Rodgers told Theresa May not to trigger Article 50 for very good reason. She, however, was still basking in the Conservative Party September 2016 Conference which Brexit supporters had managed to turn into a drum-banging sea of red, white and blue.

Remember that Conference now? The one in which David Davis (before his departure and around the time that he was maintaining still that there was no down-side to Brexit) was described thus by The Independent:-

Better times back then, it seems, for the former Tate & Lyle enforcer.

May even saw her vision of Brexit in those hues. Not just any old Brexit. But green did not feature in that particular Brexit vision.

Rodgers knew his onions but any half-decent estate agent would know where the problem with May’s position lay. Article 50 was never intended to be used as it was. Its primary purpose was to allow for the orderly withdrawal of states which had become “rogue”.

It had never really been envisaged that a member state would be willing or desirous of destroying its position within a 500 million + trading block. The richest one on the planet.

May would have been well-advised to consider green along with her red, white and blue Brexit. For the issue of the Irish border is not going away. Despite the insistence by some that its conundrum is soluble through technology.

Is it a pebble placed as a stumbling block on the path to the cliff-edge by pro-Europeans or a natural inhibitor for which there is no engineering solution?

In its simplest form the United Kingdom shares a land border with the European Union. Some (including European Research Group MP’s) will point to cameras along Flughafenstrasse in Basel where Switzerland joins France as evidence that this is a false hurdle to Brexit. Try looking at Flughafentrasse on Google Earth. It is a local access road. Near it is the A35 dual carriageway. The Route Douanière leads on to Flughafenstrasse. Underneath on the A35 there is something to see which very much looks like a hard border. After all, there’s a hard border between Norway and Sweden, between Montenegro and Croatia. It is an obligation as a Member State to protect the Union with a hard border, for reasons which are obvious at every level.

There is, of course, apparently one ERG member who appears to believe that all UK citizens have an automatic right to an Irish passport…

Domestically, May is stuck between the DUP and the rock of the Myth of Sisyphus. The dangerous and unyielding rock which gets heavier as you push it to the top of the hill and comes rolling down, time after time. Sounds like she needs the backstop to the backstop. With Johnson piggy-backed upon her, the poor woman must be exhausted.

On 29th October a meeting named “Brexit SOS” took place at the Great Northern Hotel in Peterborough. Gerard Batten (he’s the latest UKIP leader, by the way) gave a speech to what was termed to be a “packed room” and shared it on social media.

It is self-explanatory, as is the presence of 700,000 on the streets of London, protesting with vigour, humour, decency and energy that 46 years of European life is about to be denied them.

Here lies the Pandora’s Box and the rock all-in-one. A German CDU Parliamentarian described the march on 20th October 2018 as follows:

Tasteless though it is to stereotype and dwell on mortality there is no doubting the fact that there was a very definitive age split in voting preferences at the referendum.

This is simply not going to go away. As much as May pushes the rock the more tired she will become and the heavier the rock will get. The division between generations is an inexcusable outcome of a politician’s attempt to gamble the national interest. It is a blight to the younger generations of the nation watching and living in the shadow of May’s attempts to get the rock over the top. She should give up; and so should those resisting the marchers on 20th October 2018. Their energies and experience  can be better utilised elsewhere.

Not in some futile phoney war for blue passports and the return of sovereignty which had never been lost. Not in championing a democracy that allows hereditary peerage over a European Commission which is elected by mandated MEP’s. Or a“first past the post” primary electoral mandating prescription over proportional representation. A false war of empire versus neighbour stirred up by manipulative generals. As lost Japanese soldiers in the jungle imagining to continue to fight a campaign which they thought to still be waging years after its end, so their war should be brought to a peaceful end in the most dignified way possible.

The People’s Vote may be the only way to put some of the miserable and frightening escapees from Pandora’s Box aside. Many older voters who turned the key to the box should reflect carefully with the much-vaunted decency and fairness of their generation before taking part in the exercise to exorcise.


Tapeworms and Brexit. These nasty gut-wrenching wretches take all the nutrition out of the intake of the hosts, leaving their landlords pale, immunologically compromised and sapped of nutrition.

Easy to get rid of but difficult to countenance for the afflicted.

How did that happen to me?

Worms. Often absorbed through contamination by or ingestion of meat products unless cooked properly; trotters, minced pork meat, knuckle or gammon.

Otherwise through excrement. Handled by humans, transmitted by flies and shoes alike. Brexit.

Sound the alarm

The United Kingdom is in crisis. In danger. Economically caught in the doldrums. Inward investment tanking, sterling still at historically low levels and growth at a standstill.

Politically paralysed with the hyenas closing in. Steve Bannon as bold as brass aiming to destabilise Europe. Influencing British politics at the highest level. Feeding the ambitions so hungry for food; any food, at any price. He hones in on those who rushed to use Trump to assert their ideological atlanticism. Why wouldn’t he?

Lying has become normalised, even in the sanctity of the Mother of Parliaments. Standards of public duty plummet to each shocking record low after record low.

The state broadcaster too scared to make the biggest journalistic call of its life. To tell 17.4m people including some of its own higher representatives that they were duped, conned. Not only sold the pup but the bus in which we are all standing as it prepares to go off a cliff.

Got at, by electoral fraud. By foreign interference. Now all pay the price of their gullibility, their lack of objective understanding, their English exceptionalism, their protest vote, their dislike of immigrants, their sentimentality. Whichever multitude of influences that ticked each box which made the whole.

Stockpiling food. Not stockpiling food. Warning people. Not warning them. An MEP calling for the law of treason to be “reformed”. Preparing for the worst.

These are very bad times. Written from France which appears to be a country presently at peace with its President and World Cup victory. Power to your elbow Monsieur le Président. Tell Bannon to se faire foûtre.

A conversation with a supermarket till attendant attending university at Aix-en-Provence proved a stark reminder of what is at risk. In near perfect English:

“I love London. I would like to live there but it’s very expensive. I love Cambridge too”.

Will she still feel the same about Global Britain when she finishes her degree in English and Chinese?

#StopFascism #StopBrexit. A  #PeoplesVote must be secured.


Earlier this year I made a decision to explore and possibly restore my receding hairline. I had been feeling ill-at-ease with the mirrored image in the hotel reception in Lille on a particularly windy day. The wind tends to howl past the International Station.

My forehead would often find itself red and sore on holidays, my face mainly weathered but partly baby pink.

A trip down to Harley Street on a dank day had caused me to maybe commit to it as it appeared that I was a suitable candidate for a transplant.

Will there be blood?

Perhaps the most ridiculous question I asked of the youthful and gingerly hirsute Icelandic man who checked my scalp elasticity.

“This is a surgical procedure.”

I think that means “yes”.

If I went to have the same treatment at their clinic in Spain there would be a saving of £1,000 although I would have to fund the flights.

At first I prevaricated. Would the surgeon be GMC registered? Would he be insured if anything went wrong?

I realised that I was displaying that most British of traits. The belief that a British surgeon and clinic would somehow provide a superior service and a better result.

A brief research exercise was required.

“If you’re going to have a hair transplant the best advice I can give is for you to get straight to the Eurostar terminal or an airport and get the hell out of the country to mainland Europe or North America”

A pretty straightforward, if not brutal assessment given on a help site for the follicularly-challenged.

I even asked a Consultant Trichologist (hair expert) who recommended someone in the UK. The comments I read on the internet quickly ended that line of further enquiry.

The surgeon I was to be operated on by in Spain transpired to be a she, so there was another misconception banished; and she was German but had lived in Spain having moved to find the sun a decade or more previously.

I nervously set off for Stansted, via Cambridge. I spoke to a Spanish lady at the bus stop. The X5 was nearly an hour late due to an accident. I didn’t tell her that I was off to her nation of origin to have a hair transplant. A Romanian lady at the hotel checked me in with a smile and one of her compatriots took my food order.

Early night required. Long day tomorrow.

My self-imposed ban on Wetherspoons was not an issue at Stansted. I was nil alcohol by mouth anyway.

After the Irish and Spanish crew got me safely to Málaga I settled in at the hotel booked for me, having had an impromptu Spanish/English cross-tuition with an Argentine taxi driver who had once been to England but struggled with the roundabouts being the wrong way round.

The booking was in my name through the clinic. Did the receptionist take a glance at my hairline? Or was that my imagination?

I paid a visit to the clinic, taking care not to burn the bald bits on my forehead, thanks to the ridiculous Yankee Doodle Dandy baseball cap which I had dragged from the back of the cupboard. I knew it would be good for something one day. I had submitted myself to something ridiculous and by that stage personal appearance had well and truly taken a running jump.

Early night required. Long day tomorrow.

A long day it was indeed. In at 0845 to be welcomed with a valium, some antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.

I was having an FUT procedure.

“You do know the difference between the two procedures?”

What I am having is more invasive but the results are said to be better.

A look and a shrug to suggest maybe not. But it is more expensive. What to do? The FUE doesn’t involve being scalped Red Indian style. There’s enough in the bank. I could come back again and have a couple of days in Málaga, taking in the weather and a few San Miguels.

“Just take the valium…”.

Gowned and on the operating trolley I try not to look at the tools of the trade.

“What do you want to watch on the television?”

Oh Lord, no. I can see what’s happening in the reflection.

Valium is quite effective.

As the swabs soaked up my claret I ended up laughing nervously at the antics of Hammond, May and the one-time object of my bile Clarkson. They may be staging a pile up and inferno but I’m having a hair transplant. Against my expectations Clarkson is a remainer, so he can’t be that bad after all. It must have been stress or illness to have caused him to hit that Irish chap.

For seemingly hours on end I had holes made in the hitherto-liable-to-be-sunburned bits which were then plugged with my own hair follicles. One of the very worst things about a little knowledge of a language is the ability to understand (but maybe misinterpret). I was having a bleeding issue. A bleeding big issue.

“Oh, mucho sangre…”.

My surgeon failed to allay my concerns entirely as she gave me an adrenalin injection to stem the bleeding and the blood-stained white surgical gloves of the Spanish team inserting the grafts in my peripheral vision did not assist either.

“Your ear is filling up with blood…”.

The anaesthetic was wearing off but it’s amazing how fear takes the edge off it.

At 1830 I departed for the hotel feeling like a stuck pig. I had looked at my head in the surgeon’s mirror.

Somehow she seemed to think that it had gone very well. With 3-6 months to wait for the result we shall see. I’ll let you know.

Brexit is never very far from my mind. As I looked across the Andalucian skyline from the airport I realised that I had experienced yet another European adventure. In the hands of European experts, at the end of the Continent where the road signs start to appear in Arabic.

As I checked out with my cap the receptionist said that everything was in order. If only.

Continue reading “Trichology”

Discredited and dangerous

Former teacher and Union Representative Andy Willis sums up the state of play very succinctly in an article he has kindly allowed to be published on www.bregrexits.com. His article began as a post on social media. Andy is a member of the Facebook group Oundle Europeans.

“It’s increasingly clear that whatever the reasons were that persuaded people to vote leave in the Referendum these arguments are at best now largely discredited as a result of the progress of the negotiations with the EU; or are in fact exposed as a misdirection of the people through a flawed, likely illegal electoral process and an electoral process rendered invalid by the misuse of harvested personal data for the purpose of targeting a decisive vote winning percentage of the electorate with what can at best be seen as propaganda and at worst fake news or lies.

Potential electoral collaboration between two or more campaign groups, electoral overspending and the illegal use of personal data is argument indeed justification for a second vote to now be a priority for any government that is genuinely concerned for protecting the democracy of its people.

The situation is compounded by a “system” that is meant to operate in the interest of its citizens now thwarting any discussion of these issues and closing ranks to ensure the referendum results stands, aided and abetted by the media; most alarmingly by the BBC and a number of its leading political commentators who frankly should be much better than this.

Virtually all expert economic opinion warns of the significant danger to jobs, standards of living and the economy that Brexit represents leaving us with a situation where a minority government riven with disagreement is both incapable of any meaningful negotiation and influenced by a far right cabal of Brexit politicians whose main motives for a hard Brexit are ideologically driven and do not lie with the best interests of the people.

It’s incredible that for the first time in history we have a government working with a sure knowledge and determination to force through a political direction that it knows will do harm to the country.

With economic arguments discredited the other main trope of Farage and his like of creating an anti immigrant climate and resulting migration reductions have now been exposed as a dangerous direction in which British civilians can find themselves persecuted and deported.

It’s also clear if proof were needed that our economy and public services are heavily reliant on a determined and skilled workforce provided by the stimulation of European and wider migration to this country. As migration has fallen during the period of negotiations with the EU so too have emerged genuine recruitment issues in construction, the NHS and education to name just a few vocational areas as our economy has stalled and sits at the bottom of European and developed economies’ lists.

As Trump undermines NATO and the UN at every erratic foreign policy turn that he makes its clear too that our future security is more than ever best served within a coherent and united foreign policy bloc provided by membership of the EU.

Finally it’s the exposure of what “taking back control” really means that should pose a last worry and justification for a second People’s Vote to remain in the EU.

Politically this government has seen Brexit as an opportunity to move to the political right with a new instinct to focus power and decision making within the executive branch of government, namely the Cabinet, whilst actively looking to legislate to weaken the role of Parliament. Whether it has been the Henry VIII powers, foreign policy decisions or the very decision of Brexit and any deal the trend is to try and focus decision making away from the scrutiny of Parliament.

This is politically dangerous and I fear with the intoxication of power it would be a trend that would not be reliably redressed by a change of government.

The democracy of this country is firmly on the line at present. I never thought there would come a time when I would be so grateful to see an unelected House of Lords providing such an important check and balance of power than it is currently doing.

There is little more to say save that the time has come for brave politicians of integrity to unite across the various political divides to ignore directives from their Party leaders and to vote down in Parliament any Brexit deal and return this whole ill fated issue and decision back to the people for a second vote. The people now far better informed would finally end Brexit and avert the incalculable damage that this move would do to this country for generations to come.”

Andy Willis 10.05.2018

Twitter: @andywillis1905

Thank you for permitting this site to share your wise words Andy.

Join the march in London on 23/06/2018 for a People’s Vote #StopBrexit

If it looks like a duck…

On 16th February 2016 I e-mailed my MP Tom Pursglove, the Conservative member for Corby and East Northamptonshire. He subsequently advised me that he was “widely known for (his) Eurosceptic credentials”.

Well, there’s a bit of the Brexiteer braggadocio for a start. I have yet to come upon anybody outside the constituency to have heard of him.

I didn’t expect to turn his mind on the issue of the EU referendum but looking back at his response presents an opportunity to cast a judgment with a measure of hindsight. It also permits a chronology to be created.

On the date of his reply, 18th February 2016 (I cannot criticise his turnaround time) The Independent reported on David Cameron’s meeting due to take place that evening in which he sought to re-negotiate the terms of the UK’s membership. It was a Thursday and Political Editor Oliver Wright made the following observation:-

In the next 24 hours we should know whether the Prime Minister has succeeded in his aim of getting ‘a new deal for Britain’ that will form the basis for voters to decide whether or not they want the country to stay in the European Union.

The talks were due to carry on into Friday, 19th February.

Now, Mr Pursglove’s Register of Members’ Interests records the following declarations:-

“From 16 December 2015, Director and (until 29 April 2016) Chief Executive of Grassroots Out Ltd…; a not for profit company campaigning to get the United Kingdom out of the European Union.”

“From 11 February 2016, unremunerated Director of GO Movement Ltd; a not for profit company campaigning to the get the United Kingdom out of the European Union.”

The Register suggests two separate companies at play here, Grassroots Out Limited (Company Registration number 09917939) and GO Movement Limited (09999930).

It is reasonable to therefore assume that the “GO” in “GO Movement Limited” probably stands for “Grassroots Out”.

More than two months before writing to me my MP had set up a company which had the very objective of campaigning to get the United Kingdom out of the European Union. The fellow collaborator in this project was a certain Peter Bone, MP.

Peter Bone MP

On 29th January 2016 three further directorship appointments were made by Grassroots Out Limited.

On 11th February 2016 GO Movement Limited was incorporated with Messrs Pursglove and Bone as directors.

On the 16th February 2016 the Daily Express reported the “coming together” of a new Grassroots campaign:-

“The GO Movement is expected to kick off with a major conference in central London on Friday just hours after the Prime Minister is expected to conclude his controversial new EU deal in Brussels.”


Returning now to the roots of the grass, on 14th March 2016 Richard Tice (the subsequent co-founder of Leave.EU with Arron Banks) was appointed a director of GO Movement Limited and on the very same day a directorship held by Tice of Grassroots Out Limited was terminated. There is no Notice of Appointment of Richard Tice within the Companies House available records relating to Grassroots Out Limited at the time of writing.

On 22nd March 2016 four directors were appointed to the board of GO Movement Limited, including Mr Nigel Paul Farage and Lord David Stevens. These directorships were terminated on 15th July 2016, together with that of the said Richard Tice. Stevens was a former Conservative peer who defected to UKIP.



Farage, of course, needs no further introduction.

When Tom Pursglove MP wrote to me on 18th February 2016 he stated:-

“I was a backbench MP that was willing to give the “renegotiation” process a chance. I did so because what so many of my constituents tell me, is that  they voted for a “common market” and free trade back in 1975…”

His constituents’ memories may not be as reliable as he thought but rely on them he had to because he was not born until 1988.

Tom Pursglove MP

He carries on in the letter:-

“…in recent weeks  and months, it has become increasingly clear that none of this will be achieved through the renegotiation…”.

None of what?

“Furthermore, outside of the EU, we would be able to make laws in the UK Parliament that work in our national interest…”

Oh dear. Is that the “sovereignty” that the white paper following the referendum confirmed had never been lost (although it may have felt like it had)? Well, it fooled Mr Pursglove then, along with the others.

“…and stop sending £350 million a week to Brussels – money which we could instead invest in our public services…”.

Even his former fellow director Farage disassociated himself with this claim on the morning after the referendum.  No mention of the rebate, then?

What sort of “chance” did my MP give to the renegotiation? He and Peter Bone had formed a limited company more than two months before the renegotiation process was due to conclude, the stated aim of which would have been inevitably to defeat that process, given its constitutional objectives.

When he said “in recent weeks and monthswas this not a conscious look back at the chronology from his perspective, protecting him retrospectively from being judged as having “jumped the gun” in the rush to condemn Cameron’s renegotiation as a failure? Knowing that he had embarked upon an enterprise entirely at odds with the position of his party leader. Undermining his party leader.

When pro-Europeans complain of a far-right coup then observe the chronology and interplay between two Conservative acting Members of Parliament and other influences outside the Conservative Party. A process whereby the interests of UKIP totally overrode the objective that the leader of their own Conservative Party was setting out to achieve.

Far-right coup? As they say, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.