A Thriller with a Difference: Paperback or Download

March 1st, 2021

Sunday Blog: Royal Service: Many Questions

February 21st, 2021

The Queen is perhaps more popular now than at any time during her reign. She is loved, admired, respected, even revered all over the world. She has been there, as Queen, throughout the lifetimes of the majority of humanity.

I am not a royal watcher. I am agnostic about the monarchy. If that is what the country wants, that’s fine by me. But I do draw a line about confusion between crown and state. To many the crown is the state. To me and many millions, it is not. It is a tradition. It is part of the fabric of government, now stripped of the last vestiges of its power by parliament, without whose authority it would disappear overnight.

It is the property of one family, by inheritance rather than merit and very not by universal franchise. That family has a turbulent history of deceit and cruelty, especially to each other, making it one of the most dysfunctional families on record, a spectacle rather than an example. And yet it enjoys preferment and privilege without equal anywhere, much of it at direct cost to the taxpayer.

Its rules are archaic, possessive and spiteful. You have to belong to it like some mafia gang and woe betide you if you step out of line. All of this is to preserve the ownership of the crown by the family Windsor. They will go to any length to keep it. But that crown is not the state. That belongs to all of us. Post Covid we maybe understand that better than we ever did before.

Three cheers for Harry, Meghan, little Archie and their baby to come. As they say, service is universal.

Kier Starmer Speech: Is Labour Lost?

February 19th, 2021

There was a lot of hype in the build up for Kier Starmer’s speech as Labour leader. I cannot see why. It had little in it of real substance and nothing which was not obvious anyway. I suppose the new Recovery Bond caught attention, but it is not something which will draw millions out to vote Labour. The point is this was a routine, worthy offering from the Leader of the Opposition, who now sees the opportunity to set out an alternative to Boris’s Tory vision, in rather general terms, but with a caring undertone. There had also to be a break from the Corbyn inheritance.

The the offering was pretty typical Centre Left. Decent stuff.  The problem is Boris has already taken the Tories Centre Left and there is no room for two centre left parties in England. So Labour now looks somewhat lost. Of course Boris may be forced by the Treasury to move centre right for the Covid recovery phase and that would help Labour a lot. But if this does not happen, then the groundswell will require Labour to return to its roots as the party of the true, unambiguous Left. It has already been slaughtered in Scotland and looks rickety in Wales. In England it is confined to the cities. It is facing a daunting challenge but there is no doubt the post Covid landscape will be ideal for it to prosper on the left and from the left.

That begs the question. Kier Starmer was the right leader for the Covid crisis, but is he right for the massive reboot of society, the economy, the State and everything? We shall soon know. Labour has to show big gains in Scotland and Wales, as well as England, in the coming  regional and local elections in May. Big gains will cement his leadership for the long haul, but failure to break through will be a blow, likely to reinvigorate the Corbyn tendency.

Life After Trump? More Trump.

February 17th, 2021

Maybe using a different strategy the Democrats could have cast Trump out into political irrelevancy, maybe not. The point is they messed up, with good intentions spoiled with a rather sickly infusion of self righteousness. Let there be no mistake. Just as America is the only country in the world where the citizenry is legally armed and empowered in certain circumstances to kill without penalty, the word fight is used more than another in political campaign rhetoric by all parties and candidates.

Already, whilst what Biden says is interesting and even worthy, what Trump says, again, grabs the headlines. Trumpism has not changed America. It has instead unmasked what the Unites States, from the beginning, always was. An awkward coalition between two different visions of the future, two conflicting interpretations of freedom, two ideals for the roles and responsibilities of individuals versus the State. The conflict is part and parcel of America’s energy, but it also inhibits its ability to resolve. Anything.

During the twentieth century, Democracy was engaged in multiple defences from assaults by Autocracy, Communism, Fascism and Dictatorship and emerged battered but triumphant. But now the combination of free markets and globalisation has allowed neglect by elected politicians, together with abuse of power by  ruling elites in whose hands 90% of everything is gripped, to create a new,  far more dangerous, challenge. At the start of the twenty-first century the greatest threat to democracy, comes from democracy itself.

For it has allowed, even promoted, the very behaviors and actions which have created a groundswell of ordinary decent people who, one way or another, through no fault of their own, have become casualties of this age of top down prosperity which values assets over labour, wealth over sufficiency, power over service. Every free country, like the contagion of Covid, now has this growing cancer of resentment and discontent. In most it is scattered across the populations but in America it is concentrated in those who see their heritage reviled, their statues torn down, their faith under threat, their wellbeing diminished. This is the bedrock of what is called Trump’s base. Their champion was a terrible President, but as a showman campaigner there is nobody to touch him.

Trump has not gone away. He has survived two ill judged Impeachments. He can run again in 2024 and if he does he could win. If the issues above set out are not well on the way to being fixed by then, he will.

 

Trump Acquitted

February 14th, 2021

Everybody knew this would happen because there never were enough Republican defectors to get a guilty verdict through. Impeachment, although a legal process under the US Constitution, is always a political event. Were the Democrats right to take this path? The answer in the broad sense is surely Yes. Were the Democrats wise to go this way? The answer is surely No.

This legitimizes Trump and turns the spotlight away from his antics and back onto his campaigns. America has to move on from the Trump era, but it will not do so until the Democrats themselves move on. As for the ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan. Surely America has not, for well over a century’ been so diminished as a world influence, as under the Trump Presidency.

Think about that.

Brexit: Harder Than Promised?

February 10th, 2021

It is not frictionless trade and it is nothing like what it was declared by the government to be. Trade with the EU is free of tariffs providing all manner of conditions are met, especially rules of origin, forms are completed, certificates are in place. Delays are significant. Some trade with Northern Ireland has ground to a halt. Were it not for Covid, the government would have a lot of questions to answer.

In the end as the dust of Covid and Brexit settles, there will be one question only. Are we, or are we likely soon to become, better off? If that cannot be positively and unambiguously answered, another question will arise. Why did we do it? That will be when the game changes.

NHS Reforms: Boris Moves Further Left.

February 7th, 2021

This Blog is not a Boris fan, but make no mistake the story is far from over. The Tories now have a small lead in every opinion poll but one. This is because Labour pulled ahead a while back, when Kier Starmer  looked the more credible PM, as Boris was all over the place on both the pandemic and Brexit. Not because Labour had a set of policies to inspire voters. This is okay in normal times. Oppositions should not develop policy platforms until an election is within sight.

However governments are developing policies all the time and two of them are now working in our  government’s favour. The vaccine roll out success and the EU Article 16 blunder. The roll out was not expected to work all that well and at first it didn’t. But now it is without doubt world leading and that reflects well on Number 10. And the problems with Brexit and they are many, can now be laid readily at the door of the intransigent and bureaucratic EU.

Moreover we are getting hints and leaks about infrastructure renewal, support for business post pandemic, NHS reforms, green industries and so on, which show a  left leaning government which, if it has not stolen most of Labour’s clothes, is very happy to wear them. Boris himself has become more measured, thoughtful and cautious, or put simply, less bumbling. For the moment therefore the majority of voters appear willing to back him. In England.

But in the other nations of the UK he is not anything like as popular. So a lot could go wrong for Boris, driving voters to Starmer. At the moment that seems less likely than it was three months ago.

America and Trump: What Now?

February 5th, 2021

America has a choice before it. Not one half of the nation or the other half. But all of the United States. The choice is this. Either destroy Trump as a credible electoral force. Or Trump will destroy America as a credible modern democracy. The optimum requirement for a democracy to work, which defines it against fake democracies which are in fact either dictatorships or ungoverned spaces, is that the winner has, after winning, to govern for the nation as a whole, and the loser must accept they have lost.

Trump’s utterly preposterous assertions that widespread fraud had cost him the election, a mantra he still recites, rejected by over 60 courts in the US and every impartial observer across the world, for which he is unable to supply one piece of credible evidence, is perhaps the most ludicrous declaration by any politician in US history. It has massively damaged US credibility worldwide and empowered despots and dictators in equal measure. That he should be punished for this, together with his incitement of violence, leading to an assault on the Capitol in Washington, seems obvious.

Whether Impeachment is the way forward, it is up to America. But something has to be done. For decades America has offered the democratic model to follow. Not now. Restoring the integrity of the process is a priority.

Covid Realism: Stop Obsessing

February 3rd, 2021

Covid 19 is here to stay. Not till Easter, the summer or the autumn, but forever. The world cannot again be Covid free any more than it is ‘flu free. It is and will continue to be part of everyday life. And Death.

The combination of universal vaccination, wider understanding of the dangers posed by this type of virus informing simple counter-measures and better treatments for those struck down by it will, in the end, enable the world to move forward to a new, though different normal.

In the meanwhile we need to accept several things. Vaccination is a defence, it is not an immunity. It will reduce serious illness but it will neither eliminate the possibility, nor guarantee a free ride. The virus will mutate again and again. Vaccines will be adjusted to respond, causing the virus to mutate yet further. There will be different strains, here, there and everywhere. The world will be not be the same after this shared experience, as was the case after each of the world wars, the Black Death and other great historic events.  Indeed in many ways it might be a good deal better.

In the meanwhile we need to be measured, sensible and grown-up. We need to stop, the media needs to stop, the government needs to stop, obsessing about every detail of every Covid development, about every strain, about every opinion, about every statistic, almost to the exclusion of all else. There is other stuff out there, much of it not good and a lot of it deserving of attention which it is not getting.

There are gigantic piles of shattered lives, ruined businesses, lost jobs and social depravation, all of which are number one priorities for remedy.  This can only come from the biggest economic reconstruction in more than a hundred years and a level of national investment in housing, infrastructure and industrial regeneration, that right wing orthodoxy would in normal times regard as deranged. All of it has to be green and clean.

So if you want to obsess, you should start by obsessing about some of that.

NI Protocol Crisis.

February 3rd, 2021

The ramifications of this clumsy blunder rumble on at two levels. One is the difficulty associated with trade between NI and the rest of the UK which is far worse than promised. The other is the reputational damage to the EU itself, as a measured  international player and one on whom, in spite of having left it, the UK can rely.

The consequences are hard Brexiteers on steroids and a reinvigorated Democratic Unionist party in NI raging about the EU, complicated by the fact that this hard Brexit party leads the government in a Province which voted to Remain.

Blame flies through the air in all directions but in the end the root cause  is not the Protocol, or the EU blunder, or cross trade bureaucracy, but Brexit itself. A problem entirely of the UK’s making. An historic crime against enlightenment and unity at the scene of which the fingerprints of the Tory Party are everywhere to be found.