Category Archives: Politics

Ouch!

“It doesn’t matter if you are middle class or not – anyone who takes class A drugs, they need to think about that supply chain that comes from Colombia, let’s say, to Chelsea and the number of lives that are destroyed along the way.”

That’s a low blow, even by the standards of a Tory leadership race. Kicking a man when they’re down is dashed unsporting, don’tcha know!

A letter to an unfriend

OK, I get it. You didn’t like the result of the referendum. Almost every day since then your news feed has had some comment about Brexit, very often making disparaging remarks about those who voted for it. You’ve been an enthusiastic supporter of those seeking to rerun the referendum because you didn’t like what happened.

I sat back and didn’t challenge any of these for the sake of keeping the peace. I even tried muting you so that I wouldn’t see your comments, but you go too far.

You came on to my wall and, in the guise of a question, compared supporting Brexit with fascism. That is an inane comparison. It is wrong and very, very offensive on several levels, not least given what the Nazis did to gay men, and I am very disappointed that you would not understand that.

You then came back on to my wall and suggested that I should be humbly grateful for gay rights that you erroneously believed were due to the EU. That is wrong and offensive.

Your comment suggests that my sexual orientation, and said pathetic gratitude, should govern how I vote. That is also wrong and also offensive.

When I explain this to you in reasonably civil terms you go off on a hissy. How dare you now try and take the moral high ground? If you were genuinely just trying to ask questions, which I very much doubt, then you are displaying a quite shocking level of ignorance about the history of Europe. I think it’s more likely that you were just continuing your relentless Facebook campaign against leaving the EU and your denigration of those who support it.

Even May understands why Brexit, or some compromise, must be delivered. There hasn’t been a government since universal suffrage that has enjoyed a majority of the popular vote. (A few have come close, but no cigar!) The referendum was a binary choice – the most powerful example of democracy – and a majority voted to leave. The fact that the politicians cannot agree on how to deliver that verdict is their failure. It is obfuscation by those calling for a further vote when they say they are being democratic, when their clear and real intention is to reverse the decision.

To be honest I don’t feel terribly strongly either way, but I voted to leave because I think we need a proper debate about our future in Europe and I was optimistic enough to hope that we would get one. Sadly, we ended up with an obtuse slanging match in which every little faction was grinding their own axe. The mere fact that Farage (an odious man for whom I hold no candle) can found a party and within six weeks capture nearly a third of the popular vote is testament to the low esteem in which the established political parties are now held.

Nobody thought this was going to be easy, but whatever solution we end up with has to have, if not enthusiastic support, then acquiescence from a real majority or the genuine resentment will continue. It’s a shame and very disappointing that you don’t seem to understand that.

My milkshake brings all the votes to the party…

(I don’t often comment on politics these days, so make the most of this one!)

We’ve seen a lot of milkshakes recently. In my day it was eggs. Although it still didn’t get you anything, unless you tried it on John Prescott, in which case you might end up with a black eye!

Earlier this week a friend of mine sent me a message on Facebook to go take a look at his newsfeed. He had resigned from the political party of which he had been a loyal member and staunch supporter for over twenty years. Brexit was a big part of that very difficult decision. He and I sit on different sides of that question, but we are still very civil to each other because we have more in common than separates us.

I have been a follower of British politics for over 45 years and for many of those I was actively involved. I now turn off the telly. Ad hominem has taken over. (For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, go Google it.) The sheer level of personal abuse now being thrown around, at both local and national level, shows the paucity of real debate. The use of chopped logic (“You voted to leave and that makes you a racist” being a particularly repugnant example) seems to prevail. The reaction of some to Thresamay’s resignation last week left me deeply saddened. I almost felt sorry for her. Almost. I lived through Thatcher’s reign and I detested her and all she stood for, but I never once doubted that she sincerely believed in what she was doing.

The referendum was a binary choice – the most powerful and direct form of democracy. The arguments put forward since then that seek to invalidate the result are red herrings. The Boris Bus £350 million claim? Nobody other than the terminally gullible seriously believed it because we’re used to politicians of all tribes making outlandish claims. (And we should not give any real credence to those still predicting dire consequences, although they do seem now to have stopped just short of the frogs and the locusts and the death of all the first born). The overspending and breach of electoral law was just a side issue. It happens more often that you’d think in elections for the UK Parliament, but only rarely gets reported and doesn’t nullify the whole result.

Then there’s those who play the numbers game – the idea that you must count all those who can’t or didn’t vote. Well, the maxim of the law is Qui Tacit Consentire – which means in this case that they can be counted either way. Not only is it facile to assume that they would all vote in one direction, to consider them as supporters for one view or another effectively renders every elected government we’ve ever had as illegitimate.

And then there’s those who want to re-run the referendum. What is the point of having a referendum if you’re just gong to have another one because you didn’t like the first result. What, then, becomes the point of voting? And what happens if the new referendum is even closer? Do we have yet another referendum to check the pulse after the first two. As for the idea that whatever deal we end up with should be put to a confirmatory vote we had members of Parliament who clearly didn’t understand what they were voting on in the indicative stages, so what chance would the Person on the Clapham Omnibus have? And, in any case, that’s not how government works. We didn’t have a referendum on the Single European Act, the Maastricht Treaty, the European Constitution or the Treaty of Lisbon.

And finally there are those that pop up every few minutes demanding a general election. Fine, but that would only take the temperature of a few hundred thousand voters in swing constituencies. And voters tend to become tribal, as a general election is not fought on a single issue.

It has become virtually impossible to have a serious debate in this country over Brexit without it turning into a slanging match. I don’t blame Cameron for getting us into this bastard shitstorm. He knew that sooner or later we would have to lance the boil of discontent around membership of the EU or one day Nigel Farage would be spitting venom across the floor at Prime Minister’s Questions. (Just let than sink in for a moment, please, Remainers!)

It is ingrained into our politics that the winner takes all. This manifests in the “yah-sucks-boo” nature of what passes for political debate, where I’m right and you’re wrong, so there, ner,ner. That has to change. A plebicite sets the broad direction and it’s then up to the politicians to make it work. Our Parliament has failed us miserably in that.

Maybe it’s time to take a tip on governance from the Vatican. Lock our MPs up in the Palace of Westminster and don’t let them out until there’s white smoke.

“I’m telling you, and you’ll listen …

… you can’t play politics with people’s jobs and with people’s services or with their homes.”

That was Neil Kinnock at the Labour Party Conference in 1985. I remember it well. It was one of the bravest things I’ve ever seen a politician do. For those that have forgotten or weren’t here, he was taking the Militant Tendency head on. They had been running Liverpool City Council, had been in dispute with the government and ended up deliberately making their workforce redundant just to  make a political point. Kinnock went after them bigly, a huge risk at the time, but got a thunderous standing ovation from the majority of his party.

Kinnock had a very serious point to make. A person elected to  government has a serious responsibility towards those who invest their lives in providing services to the taxpayer. These people are never to be used as pawns in a game of political chess or become the victims of grandstanding. Unfortunately, this is a lesson that Trump and his lickspittles need to learn. That, and the fact that he is not a dictator.

American politicians are jealous of the British Parliament because, by their standards, it’s easy to get legislation passed. Some in the UK would say it’s too easy and we end up with one day of democracy followed by five years of elected dictatorship. But the American system of federal government was designed the way it is so that power is not concentrated in one place – in other words you need to build a consensus if you are going to make major changes. If he ever understood this Trump has now completely lost sight of it.

The President makes a huge fuss about the country desperately wanting the wall – you know – the one he said Mexico would pay for? But just because he thinks it doesn’t make it so.  Well, firstly he didn’t get a majority at the polls, Hillary did, and he’s only President because of that weird-arse electoral college which is a hangover from the horse and cart days. Secondly, there’s the mid-terms and the massive change in the lower house. If that wasn’t a verdict on him and his bloody wall then nothing is. The Emperor is suddenly looking rather naked.

Trump may still genuinely believe that the wall is needed, although he makes a complete pig’s breakfast of producing any convincing or credible evidence. What he hasn’t got and never did have is any kind of mandate to build the bloody thing and much less to land the American taxpayer with the bill it.

More to the point he doesn’t have the right to play politics with people’s jobs the way he is. Both he and the Republican Senators who refuse to reopen the departments currently shut down are showing us what a bunch of cruel and uncaring bastards they really are. That they are so cavalier about the  livelihoods of so many public servants is a national disgrace and they should hang their heads in shame. But I really don’t think they have any.

Oh, no they didn’t…

Forgive that, but Brexit is turning into a right pantomime

Fascinating to watch all those who claimed that Leavers were misled and didn’t know what they were voting for demanding a people’s vote on a 500 page document that 95% of the population won’t even read let alone be able to understand.

Chump’s Major Misfire

I apologise if this blog is becoming something of a Trump-baiting exercise, but it is major-league scary that this highly ignorant and bigoted man is President. It should concern the whole world.

The Chump’s latest executive order is causing mayhem at ports across the USA and the rest of the world as people already identified as suitable to be landed there are refused boarding to aircraft or worse, they are refused entry and detained. The Governor of Washington has today issued a damning statement accusing the Chump administration of gross incompetence. Personally I think he was quite restrained and should have said “crass, blinkered, pig-ignorant and bigoted gross incompetence”.

The fact is that, popular or not, the Chump’s policy just will not work. Clearly it is a crowd-pleaser to show that he is being tough on terrorism, but it’s nett effect in that direction will amount to two fifths of five eighths of fuck all. Blanket banning muslims will only catch the people who are prepared to play by the rules. As with his wall, the policy is completely misconceived and wrongly aimed, and its detrimental effects outweigh by a country mile any limited benefits. The ones who will do you real harm won’t be travelling through JFK on a properly stamped Iranian passport!

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Rather these days “I turn the light off outside the orange door”.

A pointless vote …

Later this year we and our fellow residents of Surrey are going to be asked a rather foolish question by Surrey County Council – namely whether we want our council tax bills to rise by about 15%.

Personally, I took all of 20 nano-seconds to make my decision – and that’s before I’ve heard any of the “arguments” in favour of this absolutely mahoosive tax hike. My wages haven’t gone up by 15% so why am I being expected to cough up more? Besides which this is a Tory council, backed by a Tory MP with a Tory government. Whatever happened to the mantra that Tory candidates have spouted for generations – that the Tories are fiscally responsible and can be trusted to provide ever better public services for ever lower costs? Bilge then as it is still bilge, as way back when in the days of the unlamented poll tax they just fiddled the grant system to make places like Wandsworth and Westminster look like they were efficient. But I am getting rather a lot of schadenfreude from watching local Tories squirm about having to do the very thing of which they have been so critical for so long.

For all that, what exactly would we get for another £200 a year? Well, there’s access to the fire service, which I haven’t needed in the last 58 years, but I concede should be a publicly funded service. We don’t have any kids, so haven’t had call on the education service for several decades. We both have several computers and e-readers, so we haven’t used a library in nearly twenty years. There’s roads, I suppose, but given the pothole-ridden, dilapidated state that many of our roads are in you’d be forgiven for wondering where all the money went.

The proposed hike needs to go to a referendum following a change in the law in 2011. Judging by the online poll launched by the Sorry Error it’s not likely to succeed – to date 671 responses with 87% against the rise. Can we just take it as read and save the money?

President Chump

This might annoy some of my American friends, but it’s been a very sad week over the pond.

Much has been, and will continue to be, said about the permatanned oompa loompa now ensconced in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Perhaps we’ve been spoilt over the last eight years. Whatever you might think of Obama’s policy, you have to concede that he’s done it with style and class. I dread to think what the glossies are going to make of things if the Donald decides to impose his own distinct, and decidedly tacky, style on the White House. Of all the advice he might have been given over the years, “less is more” is definitely not something he ever understood.

More worrying than Chump having all the decorating taste of Liberace on smack is that he also has the emotional range of a hormonal teenager. Never more than about fifty feet away from him from now on will be the military aide carrying what is called the Presidential Emergency Satchel. Now, contrary to mischievous opinion, this doesn’t contain a tin of self-bronzer and a syringe of botox for Melania, but the wherewithal to blow half the planet to buggery and back. This is now in the hands of a man so immature that he acts like a playground bully.

Probably part of this emotional instability is just the inevitable result of having surrounded himself for years with yes-persons and an inability to adjust to interaction with people he can’t fire. Clearly, and worrying, the good ole USofA now has a President who would cheerfully tear up the First Amendment if he could get away with it. Alec Baldwin has had his meal ticket stamped for the next four years, or until Chump gets bored, has a heart attack or is impeached, but listen carefully for the sound of teddy bears being thrown around the Oval Office.