In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the opposition to Brexit staged protests; while the Scottish National Party sees another glimmer for independence, Sinn Féin threatens a reunification of Ireland referendum if a hard border were to return.

 

Boris Johnson has many jobs, notably trying to keep the union of Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales together whilst simultaneously leaving the European Union and defending the Conservative occupation of No.10 Downing Street. To this end his Cabinet are all singing from the same hymn sheet with remarkable harmony: leaving on 31 October is not negotiable, provisions for no-deal are being fast forwarded, although this is not the desirable outcome, a deal will be sought. Sajid Javid announced an unexpected extra £2.1billion for border forces and port infrastructure following the Associated British Ports (ABP), UK’s leading port operator, announcement that Humber was ready as a practical alternative to Dover in the event of No Deal. In the same article the ABP referenced a 2016 report authored by Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Rishi Sunak, indicating that free ports can deliver 86,000 new jobs in areas where jobs are most needed; free ports are something that Liz Truss, Trade Secretary, is already busy actioning.

In Scotland, Johnson announced new Growth Deals for Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish local communities backed by £300million of new funding. In Northern Ireland he met with the five political parties and is hoping to restore the Northern Ireland Executive government, which has been suspended for over two years due to so-far irreconcilable differences between the DUP and Sinn Féin, as soon as possible.

Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach, like the European Commission is adamant the Withdrawal Agreement cannot be reopened. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the opposition to Brexit staged some noisy protests; while the Scottish National Party sees another glimmer for independence, Sinn Féin threatens a reunification of Ireland referendum if a hard border were to return. Representative Richard Neal, from the US Congress caucus Friends of Ireland and the House Ways and Means Committee, is concerned the Good Friday Peace Agreement, which was finally ratified in 1998 and all but guarantees an open border, is in jeopardy. Neal has warned there could be difficulties about passing a US-UK trade deal if this was the case. But even the notion of a hard border has already been rejected, abandoned and shredded.

Priti Patel, Home Secretary, has announced the recruitment of 20,000 extra police officers and Johnson has put Johnny Mercer in charge of the newly created Office for Veterans Affairs.

The British media is obsessing about Boris Johnson’s chief advisor and de facto Chief of Staff. Most of these analysts, including this reporter, do not know Dominic Cummings, but when has that stopped speculation? Boris Johnson knows Cummings is a genie and a genius, Cummings does not want to be Prime Minister, he is the cerebral eminence grise with dominion in No.10 and possibly in Whitehall. Cummings is focused, ambitious, adventurous, some say impenetrable; Johnson is socially adept, Cummings cannot be bothered, anything Cummings might lack Johnson has in spades and whatever Johnson might lack Cummings has got it, together they make an impressive team.

One peep at Cummings’s blog and you know he is not just a historian and an intellectual, it tells you just how complex and sophisticated his thinking is and it suggests his mission to transform governance is based on scholarship, analysis and original thinking. In June, Cummings published his thoughts on “High Performance Government”, an essay drawing on the intelligence of physicist Michael Nielsen and tech-future wizard Bret Victor. Cummings examines the intersections of decision making and how these can improve performance and results. It is a brave exploration of the selection, education and training of people for high performance, the science of prediction, cognitive technologies and effective communication, with historical academic and geopolitical references throughout and his hypothesis could be useful for any problems to any governments, anywhere.

Cummings’ brains are compelling. He has vast and varied political experience going back to 1994; latterly he has advised Michael Gove on education and he ran the official Vote Leave campaign for the referendum in 2016; he has never been a member of a political party. It could be that Cummings is the 21st century conservative version of Jean-Paul Sartre! Cummings’ advice to “those trying to get things done in Westminster is: focus, ‘know yourself’ (face errors), think operationally, work harder than others, don’t stick to the rules, and ask yourself ‘to be or to do?’.”

 

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