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Smith Square Review – 04 August 2017

Veteran hard left winger refuses calls to resign 

No, it’s not Jeremy Corbyn facing calls to resign (at the moment), but the socialist leader of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro, the successor to Corbynite favourite Hugo Chavez, is struggling to hold together a volatile Venezuela. The most recent controversy has come about from a highly unpopular referendum. Who says the British and Venezuelans have nothing in common?

The referendum calls for the creation of a constituent assembly to reassess the country’s constitution. Maduro’s detractors claim this is an attempt to give himself tyrannical powers, and refused to take part in the referendum – which Maduro duly won. His supporters claim that reform of the constitution is necessary to pull together a divided nation.

In the meantime, rioters clash with police on the streets of Caracas in front of the world’s cameras while many go without, thanks to shortages of food and hardship. The opposition blames Maudro, Maduro blames old enemies such as the United States for waging an economic war against Venezuela. The international community, including the Holy See, has called for Maduro to end the violence.

The measured opinion of Ken Livingstone, however, is that Chavez (Maduro’s predecessor) should have killed all the oligarchs – the 200 families who he told Julia Hartley-Brewer own 80% of the wealth in Venezuela. If Chavez had done that, there wouldn’t be a problem in Venezuela. At least he didn’t mention Hitler.


Mooch Adieu about nothing

When focusing on the international, how could we resist casting our net across the pond? Catch of the day is latest Trump House casualty Anthony Scaramucci, now the shortest serving Communications Director in American history. Ten days into the post, he was fired on the morning John Kelly assumed office as new White House Chief of Staff, having threatened to ‘professionalise’ and purge 1600 Pen Av of leakers and bombastically collected the scalp of none other than Kelly’s predecessor, Reince Priebus. Quelle surprise Kelly wanted him out.

Though a member of Trump’s original transition team, unlike the majority of the incumbent artistes in the Cirque du Trump, the Mooch never had any qualms admitting he was only a recent convert. Originally a supporter of Mitt Romney’s campaign in the primaries last year, the self-professed ‘front-stabber’ once called his future boss a ‘class-divider’, and espouses damningly progressive views, namely on gay marriage and birth control.  Sacked-and-Moody’s recently purged twitter feed stood at tangible odds with the agenda of the anti-LGBT zealots that Vice-President Mike Pence has stacked the administration with. Not least among them the man arguably running the show, White House Chief Strategist and BreitBart News founder Steve Bannon.

We need not feel too mooch sympathy for the former hedge fund manager and Goldman Sachs graduand. As his cheeky farewell to the recently departed ex-Press Secretary Sean Spicer suggests, the Mooch will indeed go on to ‘be the best man he can be,’ i.e. go on to keep making mountains of dosh.  The question is, who will fill the void, and will they beat his 10-day record?


Advantage Bercow

Back at home, being an MP is by no means an easy job. Gone are the days of strolling into Parliament in the mid-afternoon in between visits to the Strangers bar (for most, anyway).

Nowadays it’s pretty relentless. Your every move is analysed on a 24-hour news cycle, social media isn’t such a nice place, and journalists have seemed to make it their life’s work to catch you out on the figures – “sorry, are you telling me you don’t know the GDP per capita of Nicaragua from 1981-1983? How can we trust you in government?”

However, some of the perks of the job surfaced this week with the publishing of the register of MP’s interests, in which they must disclose their financials – any extra salary they have earned, gifts or donations. As it turns out, being an MP gets you a few freebies.

Commons Umpire John Bercow raised the most eyebrows, receiving two tickets to the Wimbledon Royal Box worth a cool £8,500. Tom Watson, Labour deputy leader, also served an ace and got Wimbledon tickets, with Damian Collins and Nigel Adams showing their edge by getting Glastonbury tickets. We presume that they were at the very front of the Pyramind stage crowd at around 4pm on Saturday afternoon.

The Prime Minister was not exempt, receiving a discount card from a high-end shoe shop (if she’s spending £900 on a pair of leather trousers, she could probably use it), with others declaring tickets for the Grand Prix at Silverstone and a smattering of test match cricket.

It was not all scandal, however, as the register also showed that Maria Caulfield, MP for Lewes, is still taking shifts as a nurse – it must have been a hard fight beating George Osborne to the role.


Souvenir of the week

This week, Prince Philip retired from his Royal duties, ending more than 65 years of supporting the Queen in her role as head of state. However, it appears that someone at the Telegraph rather jumped the gun as the announcement was made, accidentally publishing his pre-written obituary. Calm down guys, he’s got a few years left in him yet.