EU Elections UK. Beware A Sea Change

May 22nd, 2019

First of all refer to previous posts for an explanation of why tinkering with our constitution has made the government dysfunctional on the major issue of the day, Brexit, which in turn has sucked the oxygen out of  the Tory government’s ability to do anything.

Next understand the importance in democratic politics of a left, a right and a centre. A lot of rubbish is talked about governing from the centre ground. It works very well if you have a strong left and right, with positive though opposing agendas, from which the centre can pull the best bits from both and build a dynamic consensus to get things done, without ignoring the interests of the real people of both these powerful wings. But if the centre becomes an end in itself and pays no heed to either wing, it will govern only for itself, creating anger and hardship beyond its own ringfence. That will lead to populist uprising from both left and right. That is what is happening in the UK now.

Brexit, Corbyn and Farage and the SNP are all part of this and it is coming to a head in the elections on Thursday. The vote is now not about the two main parties, Labour and Conservative. It is about hitting the political class  and the establishment who ignore the people, all lined up under the Brexit Party flag, led by Farage having the time of his life.

It also is about hate for the wreckers in society and politics who clamber up the pile on slogans and false promises based upon prejudice and unicorn ideology, who are wrecking the country with the misplaced dreams. That anger is flocking to the Lib Dems, the Greens and the SNP as well as minor parties and independents. There is no clear leader, but that might be a strength, because it is a mass which has formed its own opinion, not one high on a flawed vision pedalled by a charismatic populist.

When the votes are counted there will be a dramatic outcome. You will have to understand it by doing some double think. Not to read too much into it, but also to see more in it than at first meets the eye.

America and the Middle East

May 18th, 2019

There is something odd about the current US policy in the Middle East. It pays lip service to the notion of a peace deal for Israel and the Palestinians, but its actions make that ever less likely. It is mobilising formidable forces to confront what it describes as an Iranian threat, but by scrapping the nuclear deal it demonstrated extraordinary bad faith as a treaty partner, worsening relations which had been improving. Nevertheless it is the Iranian backed militias and Russian forces which have proved decisive allies of the US in the military defeat of IS in Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia meanwhile has been in part responsible for the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen and it was Saudi cash which fired up both IS and Al Qaeda at their inception.

So what should be refined diplomacy backed up by military readiness, combined to achieve  worthy political objectives which bring lasting peace to a traumatised region, is instead an incomprehensible muddle, without any clear goals and a shocking abundance of risks. The truth may be something like this. John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, whatever they say in public, are in private hell bent on regime change in Iran and everything else to them is secondary. Trump meanwhile, with his dislike of foreign wars and an in tray full of immigration issues, a glaring failure in Venezuela, an escalating trade war with China, unfinished business with north Korea and an election coming up next year, is not so sure.

For once many will hope a more cautious Trump gets the upper hand over both the hawks in his administration, as well as his mercurial and unpredictable self.

May Premiership: The Sun Is Setting

May 17th, 2019

It seems now clear to everyone that the days of the May government are coming to an end. It is widely reported that May wants to see the first part of Brexit, the actual withdrawal, complete before she goes. This is not going to happen. The numbers are just not there to get her deal through the Commons, however and in what format it is presented, unless she can persuade the DUP and the ERG to back her to the hilt. Pigs might grow wings and fly first.

The cross party talks have failed, not because agreement was out of reach, but because the leadership of neither party could deliver enough votes to get any agreed deal through. Moreover with rampant Tory leadership candidates declaring they would tear up any agreed deal, it was impossible for Labour to sign such a thing. As they said, negotiating with the government is like dealing with a company about to go bust.

But be in no doubt. Changing Tory Prime Ministers will change nothing of substance. Most likely an ardent Brexiteer will get the job and form a Brexit cabinet, which will find itself blocked by a parliament for which there is no majority for anything, save for stopping a No Deal exit. The truth is the country is gripped in crisis and is ungovernable upon the key issue of the day because of a combination of the Fixed Term Parliament Act and the Supreme Court Ruling which put the House of Commons in the driving seat over Brexit. The combined outcome is the stripping of the executive power of the Government, the stripping of the Prime Minister’s power to call for a dissolution and the stripping of Parliament’s power to sack the government and in effect dissolve itself. Now everything has to be agreed before it can happen, which is why nothing has.

On top of that, we no longer allow the Monarch to exercise reserve powers to intervene when governance breaks down. So the Ship of State is ultimately without a functioning Captain, adrift on the high seas. Changing the Tory leader will change nothing else.

Brexit: Cross Party Talks

May 14th, 2019

It is pointless for these to continue. This blog advocated reaching across the House from the very beginning, but in doing so failed to understand the extent of the multiple interpretations of what an ideal Brexit means and the passion with which the multiple alternatives are championed by warring factions which cross party lines. Add to that the faulty DNA in the English Body Politic which makes consensus on major issues unachievable and you enter a twilight world which is now our political reality, in which governance is in a state of permanent dysfunction.

This now goes far beyond Brexit. We have to have major political reform. There must be a proportional voting system for Westminster, similar to Holyrood or the EU elections, properly defined executive powers for the prime minister, a political Head of State who can intervene in a crisis and a natural switch to smaller parties which form coalitions after election, rather than big ones which hide fractious and opposed groupings within their ranks, crippling their ability to deliver.

If the Union is to survive, there must be a separate parliament for England with a government and First Minister and a UK Parliament for the Union with a separate federal government and Prime Minister of the UK. The capital of the UK should remain London, but the government for England should move to somewhere like York.

But do not prepare for change, however obvious, because the current political class is utterly incompetent and unable to get its collective head around any of it. Just listen to anyone of them anywhere at any time.

Is the Tory Government Nearing Collapse?

May 12th, 2019

Yes is the answer. But When? That is the question. The answer, I suspect , is not long now. Gavin Williamson, for whom this blog has no time at all, thinks May should not have engaged with Corbyn. The ERG wing of her party tries to trash everything she comes up with, giving her little choice. But the reality is adversarial politics is fine with straight issues. capitalism or socialism? Public or private? Austerity or spend? Even war or peace?

But when it comes to more nuanced issues, where the choices are numerous and outcomes subject to guesswork and interpretation, building consensus is not just the best way to operate, but the only thing that works. May has come to realise this rather late, but she has got there in the end. Until a majority of MPs on all sides agree with her and support the outcome of the talks, if any, Brexit is doomed. So is the Tory party itself.

Brexit: Is Brexit Impossible To Deliver?

May 10th, 2019

The answer is Yes, so far. And in the future? The evidence suggest it will be Yes again.

Why is this? There are two threads. The first is that nobody ever really thought through what Brexit meant, nor how it could be achieved. Politicians thought in purely political terms. Many Brexit voters thought in emotional terms. There was a good deal of nostalgia for some bygone era, which having lived and worked through it, was nothing like the ideal now recalled. But absolutely nobody understood the depth of integration that 45 years of ever closer union had brought about in structural terms, covering everything from legals, business, education, science. research, medicine, trade, finance, families, ownership, domicile and travel. Plus international treaties of all kinds. And the Good Friday agreement. Topped by the potential impact on the Union of the nations of the British Isles. It is likely impossible to actually achieve full separation, since whether Britain in a member of the EU or not in formal political terms, the interdependence and inter-relationships will continue.

The second thread is this. While Remain is unambiguous and means one thing only and requires no action of any sort beyond the recall of Article 50, there are as many different interpretations of variable types of Brexit as there are stars in the sky. Mix that with an adversarial political structure, parties split on the key issue and again on interpretations of the way forward and you have a total breakdown in governance, which is structurally and functionally unable to find a sufficient degree of consensus to enact the complex legislation to give effect to the original notion.

So there you have it. Brexit is impossible unless a completely different level of compromise bursts into bloom across the entire political class. If you can see that happening, have a nice day.

GP Shortage: Radical Change Needed

May 9th, 2019

For years I have argued that the concept of general practice, based upon a Victorian understanding of the role, status and independence of what doctors did and how, is out of date and has no place in a modern world, let alone a modern NHS.  The whole thing should now be scrapped, especially the self employed contractual relationship between the doctors and the NHS.

It should be replaced with a community healthcare structure based upon neighbourhood health centres containing all the first point medical services, including fully qualified and NHS employed doctors, nurses, physios, social care, therapists of all kinds, pharmacists etc. Such centres should  be equipped to carry out tests and scans required for everyday diagnosis. Doctors must be full time, fully employed, capable of clinical leadership and when required willing to visit patients at home. Routine ailments do not require a fully qualified doctor, a suitably qualified medical ancillary of paramedic can attend to most such cases on a walk in basis.

Whist there are in the current set up some very good surgeries offering the best they can under this outdated concept, I am lucky to be registered with one of them, it is very hit and miss. The modern term is postcode lottery.We have to get serious about sorting out this retro model upon which the whole edifice of the NHS stands. It really is no longer up to the job. In truth it never was from the very inception of universal free healthcare.

Trump: The Good, The Bad and The Mixed

May 6th, 2019

This Blog is pragmatic about Trump. I oppose the State Visit, but a working visit would be fine as part of the D-Day Celebrations. I oppose him on Climate Change, Iran, the Middle East and a whole raft of social attitudes, especially his pandering to the far right. I think he has a point about trade practices which are unfair to America and NATO members paying their fair share. I like his long telephone call with Putin the other day and his tweet that America should try to get along better with both Russia and China. I also like his tweet giving Kim Jon Un encouragement and space to take advantage of the huge economic potential out there waiting if he comes in from the cold and does a nuclear deal.

Where the picture is mixed includes the economy, which  has benefited from deregulation and tax cuts in the short term, but the infrastructure and investment programmes which will ensure growth in the long term are still missing. And the plan to get rid of Maduro has misfired, maybe through an over confident and simplistic John Bolton who seems to have been in charge of the US contribution to the crisis in Venezuela. As for the Russia investigation into collusion and stuff, everybody knows the President lies and bullies and that prior to becoming the occupier of the White House he had an unusually close relationship with Russia at several levels, especially financial. But I think the Democrats need to be VERY careful about flogging this issue over and over. Polls suggest voters want to move on.

 

Local Elections: Key Points.

May 4th, 2019

Many commentators report that Tory and Labour ‘both did badly’ Not quite. Labour had a disappointment, failing to make the traditional gains of an opposition party, ending with a net loss of 82 seats. The Tory party had a disaster with a net loss of an eye popping 1335 councillors. Moreover most, but not all, of the contests were in traditional Tory heartlands. The Shires are Tory bedrocks and Labour is much thinner on the ground.

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats were triumphant, gaining an astonishing 700 seats. They won control 10 new councils, while Labour lost 6 and the lost Tories 44. The Greens did well too, adding 194 councillors across the country. Interestingly all the Brexit supporting Unionists lost seats in Northern Ireland. Not good news for the DUP and their allies.

What this all does tell you is the people are fed up with endless Brexit and the inability of the two main parties to unite individually within their own ranks and reach across the House to find a compromise solution to the Brexit impasse. The massive turn around in the fortunes of the Lib Dems, who are unambiguously against leaving the EU and in favour of going back to the people with a confirmatory ‘People’s Vote’, tells you something, if you think about it, which is very big. Very big indeed.

Finally, do not extrapolate too much from these figures into the future. Two thirds of the electorate did not vote. When the time comes for them to do so, it is Labour which traditionally gains the most from a high turnout.

 

USA 2020: Three Old White Men

May 1st, 2019

Although over a year away, the 2020 Presidential race is under way with the focus on who is to run for the Democrats. There were twenty candidates for the nomination when last I checked, some of whom looked really interesting and in tune with the  progressive agenda of the US, driven by the rising generation.

However, although Bernie Sanders has a big following among the young, he is in his seventies. Joe Biden, who has pipped Sanders to become the front runner, is in his late seventies. Meanwhile Trump is also in his seventies. It does seem very odd to me that in modern America, which still aspires to represent the cutting edge across the piece of what it takes to be a successful country in the modern world, that the current front runners to be President after 2020 are three old white men.

Let us hope that by the Nov 2020 polling day for the contest to occupy the White House, that will have changed.