SLR London Diary: Brexit cock-up and why George Osborne must get lost

LONDON — This week Simon Lincoln Reader takes aim at a Brexit cock-up which dispels any lingering doubts that Westminster is home to the British nation’s brightest and best – and bemoans how some of the UK political world’s least admired can end up pontificating from even more powerful platforms. Another priceless contribution from Simon’s cultured keyboard. – Alec Hogg

By Simon Lincoln Reader*


Simon Lincoln Reader
Simon Lincoln Reader is based in London

Reports on the Pakistani-Christian woman Asia Bibi are an indictment of our age and obsessions. Her conviction and death sentence for blasphemy was overturned recently, leading to violent protests from Islamists in that country. She wants to get out, but Britain has allegedly declined her asylum on grounds that her presence will lead to ‘domestic issues’ – which is a nice way of saying that British Muslims will get cross.

Suspend your bewilderment. This is the result of the fashionable culture of offence and its procession of takers. Ultimately these things become so abused that you lose sight of real tragedy, in this case an impoverished but brave woman who needs – and deserves – help. Thanks to Jacob Zuma’s Transnet and Eskom useful idiots like Siyabonga Gama and Brian Molefe it has become the same thing with racism: wickedly accuse anyone and everyone and eventually you strip the charge of any meaning.

Peter Tatchell, the LGBTI campaigner and surely one of the bravest men in the world, questioned why no UK feminist groups had supported Asia throughout her ordeal. Naturally he was excoriated – because the truth is that contemporary western feminism is more consistent with the intolerance of the violent protests in Pakistan than it is concerned with the rights of the persecuted.


In 2016 Barbara Hogan and I appeared on the BBC’s ‘The Documentary’ series – on the very subject of that subcontinental organised crime family who now reside in Dubai. Barbara said pretty much the same things then as she did at her appearance at the Zondo Commission this week, minus the emphasis upon Jacob Zuma – for understandable reasons. The point she made about Siyabonga Gama enjoying ANC NWC support for his candidacy of Transnet CEO in 2009 is important because the name Jeff Radebe appears. As one of Siyabonga’s supporters, obviously.

I don’t think Jeff is bent in the way that Jacob Zuma is bent, but he is – like Gwede – a representation of the ideological base impulses of the ANC. Seen this way, whether these people are honest or not is irrelevant, because the things they believe in are so naturally contentious, and so, so easy to violate.

And this makes Jeff’s chairing of the panel responsible for the selection of the new National Director of Public Prosecutions interesting. There are two proper skelms on that shortlist and my hunch is that Jeff will support one of them, not because of a conscious intention to again pervert an institution, but because I think he’s just a little bit thick, a little lost.


South Africa House London
South Africa House in London. Pic: Simon Lincoln Reader

Once every two months, a group I belong to meets to discuss the state of Brexit. Happily there are a range of views: we have both hardened Remainers and Leavers in the form of three journalists (one of whom is German), a doctor, an engineer, an advertising executive and a former staffer at DExEU. The rules: no interruptions, no personal insults and no stupid remarks, such as calling Remainers ‘weird’, which is what I like to do, and was subsequently this week made to pay for. But for the first time in a year, there was consensus: the present state of Brexit’s political management is a monumental cock-up.


The illusion of white smoke from Downing Street late on Wednesday night and Theresa May appears to croak her way through yet another statement: ‘This is the best possible deal’. Twelve hours later there’s Matt Hancock, the Conservative Health Secretary who voted to remain, protesting, ‘This is a great deal, we’re leaving the EU!’ Then there is Jacob Rees-Mogg, Chairman of the European Research Group within the Conservatives, who voted to leave, announcing, ‘This is a bad deal, this keeps us in the EU’. At 08h42 on Thursday morning, Brexit Minister Dominic Raab resigns

….and with that goes any theory that Britain is home to a more advanced species of politician. Just not true.


Watching former Chancellor George Osborne savage Theresa May is like watching Fikile Mbalula argue with Max du Preez on social media, or, even better, two Welsh dwarves nobody cares about wrestling on a small hill. Same thing when the vindictive Osborne, using his position as Editor of the London Evening Standard, has a go at Sadiq Khan, who is just as unlikeable. May’s critics will argue that this is what happens when you humiliate a man who goes on, however unqualified, to command barrels of ink – who is possessed of that kind of public school boy sadism that delights in sticking firecrackers up frog’s bottoms.

There is already enough drama emerging, and it’s being covered objectively, without any expression of vengeance, by media that is not owned by Russian oligarchs. Go away George. Go away to your 12 other jobs and your frog’s bottoms.

  • Simon Lincoln Reader lives in London.
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