Penny Mordaunt, International Development Secretary, wants us to quit UNESCO. A Number 10 spokesman says no, it won’t happen. But we’ll see. What’s clear is that it has been considered – and if it does happen then the one country that thinks metal detecting should be financially supported and that building a mile of new road over the most precious prehistoric landscape in Europe is an enhancement, will have delivered a third massive blow to its own reputation.

The political symbolism would be dire: a further retreat from the international community after Brexit and an alignment with President Trump (for benefits unspecified and perhaps undelivered). Or a convenient excuse for Britain to now resign from its treaty promises not to damage the Stonehenge landscape. If the latter it would mean stopping protective payments of £11.1 million a year to make ourselves free to spend a damaging £1.7 billion! Who knows? What IS clear is that lots is going on in private (anyone know why Spain has proposed UNESCO’s opposition to the Stonehenge tunnel be watered down? Gibraltar beware!).

But we think the most likely explanation is this: it’s a planned warning shot across the bows of UNESCO, a message saying quit opposing our Stonehenge vandalism and shaming us to the World – or we’ll resign. Like the Spanish support there’s a whiff of cheap desperation about that and it’s to be hoped UNESCO will know that and stand firm. Of course, the worst could still happen, and if it did everyone would be entitled to ask English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust: is this the grubby disaster you intended to support when you first resolved to defend the indefensible?

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Hurrah!  Making Britain great again!

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PS –

The questionable World Heritage UK (NOT UNESCO) has promptly stepped up to the plate to reiterare the Government’s denial. But we’re less convinced of their impartiality by this bit:

World Heritage UK understands that scrutiny of bodies such as UNESCO is a legitimate political duty, but we also have the utmost confidence that the economic, environmental and social benefit delivered by the UK’s 31 World Heritage Sites can be proven to withstand any such scrutiny.

What rot. On whose suggestion was that added? As we were saying, there’s all sorts of behind-the-scenes grubby desperate business going on regarding the tunnel, all of it with a cheap whiff of desperation.