Archive for July, 2018

After Brexit 2: The Social and Economic Model

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

In 1945 the post war settlement brought about the most profound re-structuring of the social model since the beginning of the industrial revolution. The well known manifestation of the Welfare State is still with us, although fraying at the edges. But then the underlying principle was for the first time the notion that the standard of living and employment of what was  known as the working class, was the driver of public policy right across the spectrum. The industrial revolution had already ended the power of land over people.

Mines and factories meant the wealth began at the base of the economy, with the miner or factory worker gaining the first shilling of the new wealth which then floated upwards to the financial sector at the summit. This was and is the basis of an industrial economy. What changed in 1945 was the expectation that the workers would receive a larger and fairer share and that it was their welfare which took priority, since it was upon them that every other aspect of the functioning of modern civilized life depended. The state was seen to have a collective responsibility not only to defend the people from threat of attack and lawlessness, but also to make available healthcare, education, higher education and social welfare services free at the point of delivery. Additionally a vast programme of public housing was spread all across the land, into every town and village.

In order to pay for all this, taxes had to be raised. The cost of all the benefits and programmes, including the military, was calculated and taxes were then set at rates to deliver the required revenue. First came the service, then came the tax at a level to pay for it.

We have now reverted to a system in which the money is generated in the financial sector at the top of the economy and fed down to the base, which has to pay for it. Taxes are set at a level the government determines, the lower the better, and services, everything, the military, health, education, law enforcement, have to be cut down to a level the resultant revenue can cover. The money is finite but the demand expands, so the service gets into greater and greater difficulty.

The rich grow ever richer while the so called working class find the going tougher and tougher and themselves working harder and longer with less and less to spare. Old fashioned family life breaks down, youth crime rises, populism and intolerance flourish. Brexit, a national trauma equivalent to defeat in war without the death and destruction, is going to bring an end to this top down model, whether the Brexit is soft or hard.

If the Brexit is soft the change will be gradual and its effects will accumulate over time. But if Brexit is a crash out, the change will be sudden and dynamic. The people will once again be back in control. The social and economic revolution will be historic. The establishment will feel the chill wind of change and experience the doleful sight of its draining power for the first time in seventy odd years. It will also have to live with the realisation that it was the author of its own misfortune.

As the old saying goes, chickens do, in the end, come home to roost.



After Brexit 1: The Quality of Government

Saturday, July 28th, 2018

This is the first of three posts which will appear in the coming days which look at issues which will arise after Brexit. The harder the Brexit, the more their conclusions will apply. Today we examine something which has become troubling.

The EU operates, once decisions have been taken, at close to a single state during their implementation. Members, through their own ministers in Council, reach decisions, but share their collective strength to organise the outcome. Decisions are reached and programmes brought into effect mostly by consensus, but sometimes by majority voting. Once out of the EU it will all be down to us. Hooray, that’s what we want, I hear you cry. Fine, I respond, but this is the price tag on what comes next.

There is now mounting evidence that neither our Westminster political structure nor our Whitehall administrative machine is any longer, in a modern world, fit for purpose. Every day there is news of yet another failure or fiasco in the public system, governing almost every discipline and service. The usual line-up of health, education, social care and Universal Credit spring at once to mind and sometimes are horrific.But there are lesser issues, like sorting out the cladding in high rise buildings, introducing smart meters, railway timetables, failures in the transport system to cope with any degree of unusual weather, hot or cold, the probation service, the Crown Prosecution Service failures in evidence disclosure. Nothing seems to work as expected or as reasonable expectations demand.

Nothing underscores this more than the Brexit shambles. Whatever you voted you would expect to proceed in a business like manner, one step at a time, piling agreement upon agreement. Instead we cannot even determine with certainty what it is we are seeking to negotiate, nor add specifics which have any chance of working or being agreed, in the key areas of difficulty. This is partly Whitehall being out of its depth. But what about Parliament? There are splits in every direction within parties, within the House, and within every proposal put forward.

So do not suppose ‘being in charge of our own laws’ will be a new dawn on the happy march to the promised Utopia. It may instead be a democratic and administrative train wreck. And the solutions may demand the dismantling of everything the ardent Brexiteers hold the most dear. It is, I believe, the biggest post Brexit danger we face. Which is why I have posted about it first.

Trump and May: As the Dust Settles

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

It is too early to make a meaningful judgement on the Trump visit and or the government’s situation after the publication of its Brexit plans and resignations. But it is possible to have a few thoughts.

The Sun Article.  If you listen to the video, this blog is in agreement with much of what Trump says, except for the bit about Boris making a good prime minister. It was an easy low key gossip over coffee or whatever. But when that is transcribed into a newspaper article and published in the middle of a spectacular function as part of a semi-state visit, it becomes politically nuclear. Trump was too close to the epicentre when it went off and it damaged him, as much as his target, May.

The Chequers Love In. Trump apologised and rowed back. May forgave. But the differences remained because they are based on practical facts of implementation, agreement and compromise, not upon rhetorical flourish. So the phrase about ‘do what you like as long as we can trade’ is an elegant way of saying go for a hard Brexit.

The Brexit White Paper. This is, as previously posted, a step forward because at last the government has staked out a detailed plan to inaugurate meaningful negotiations with the EU. It could very well be that the EU is more sympathetic to May because of her humiliation by Trump and will be a little more flexible than might otherwise have been the case. But the plan is flawed in various ways and unworkable in others, so the final version will have to made into a runner, which could end up being approved by the EU and rejected by the UK.

The Government. Is now in the process of collapse. May does not have a majority in the Commons for any Brexit plan so far advanced and will not be able to govern at all for much longer. The Tory party is not just split on Brexit but the two factions are now at war with each other. According to the latest polls the country has lost confidence in May and thinks the whole Brexit process has been mishandled. Labour is edging ahead. So even if she could win a vote of confidence with the help of the DUP, the government would be paralysed. A change of leadership is impossible in such a situation and even if it could be done, the same problems would remain. A general election is coming down the track. And it is likely to carry Corbyn into Number Ten.

Monday. All of the above will move to the inside pages compared with what is coming from the Putin Trump meeting in Helsinki. My prediction for the good news, is a cyber security pact to be negotiated covering hacking and cyber warfare. My prediction for the big drama, really explosive, is a pull back of Russian forces from Eastern Ukraine and the implementation of the Minsk agreement, in exchange for a pull back of NATO forces in the Baltic states and a reduction in US troop numbers in Europe. Crimea will stay as it is.

Oh, there is also the Piers Morgan interview with Trump, recorded on Air Force One,  to be broadcast on Monday. It will either throw the government a lifeline or drive a nail into its coffin.


Cave Rescue

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

Most people in their heart of hearts did not think it was possible. Moreover a small country simply does not have the resources to mount a rescue more complex than anything thus far attempted in cave rescue history. Yet Thailand managed not only to bring remarkable teams from every discipline you can imagine to focus on a seemingly impossible challenge,  but also to attract the best cave divers from around the world, including and especially, the UK.

The rescue unharmed of all the trapped boys and their coach is an astonishing achievement and will always rank as one of the world’s greatest rescue dramas, nail biting until the final minute, when the last of the boys and their coach finally reached the surface safely. In a world where good news is in rather short supply just now, this was a heart warming moment.

May Must Hold Her Line

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

There can hardly be a political appointment of less significance than vice-chair of the Tory party, but two of them have today resigned over May’s plan for  Brexit. It should be the Prime Minister’s aim to rid her administration, even down to such obscure levels, of hard Brexiteers who cannot support a sensible economy driven Brexit. May’s plan, which is in parts unworkable, nevertheless signals for the first time that the government has an idea what it wants and forms a jumping off point for negotiations based upon realism rather than fantasy and puts the welfare and prosperity of the people above achieving a state of ideological ecstasy.

One can only hope at this late stage in a process which for two years has gone round in circles, that negotiation will lead to compromise which is acceptable to Europe and the majority in Parliament and  the country. Whether you call it a sensible Brexit, a soft hard Brexit or a hard soft Brexit is up to you.

There are two big lessons in this idiotic Brexit saga. It was wrong to call a referendum in the first place, when nobody had worked out what Brexit meant and, having made that mistake, it was madness not to specify that a two thirds majority was required in order to effect change. As it is the country is split almost evenly between two opposing camps which are fracturing the whole fabric of our normally benign society and its long history of coherent governance. England is more divided now than it has been at any time since the Reformation. Moreover a hard Brexit, which costs jobs, savings and homes will threaten the Union itself. This is a very dangerous moment in which vice-chairs of one political party have no meaningful part to play, either one way or the other.

So How Does It Look For May Today?

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

Better. This is why. The hard line Brexiteers are in a state of shock as they see their dream crumble. They have only themselves to blame by putting ideology before planning, soundbites before programmes, dreams above reality and jingoism before judgement. They do not have a majority in the country, they do not have a majority in parliament and, crucially, they do not have a majority in the parliamentary Tory party.  The Tory party has the smallest membership of the three main political parties, fewer even than the Liberal Democrats. In a general election any time soon voters would turn away, as they always have, from supporting a party split asunder on the main issue of the day, and the Tories would go down to a defeat which would make their record loss in 1997 look a  triumph. Any attempt to ditch May and choose a new leader would trigger a general election. So May is safe.

Yesterday she fought a pitched battle for survival which lasted from the early hours to late, but she won convincingly. Boris, her protagonist in chief, tottered from the field a total wreck. The sinister Jacob Rees-Mogg withdrew to wait under the shade of the trees to see what happens next. All the key top offices of state are now held by Remainers, who accept the referendum outcome to withdraw from the EU, but will do it only on terms which do not destroy the economy of the UK, requiring a rebuild greater than even post 1945. In Parliament there is a majority for that approach, as there is in the country. Among all political party memberships right across the UK there is a majority for sensible Brexit, if Brexit happens. Except in the ageing rump membership of the Tory Party. And the brutal political fact is they no longer count.

So is May now set fair to sail through the next level of the Brexit withdrawal process?

Well that is the question. Since becoming Prime Minister she has become prone to self-harm, indecision and trying to please everybody. What happens next depends on whether she can make up her mind, fix on a course, abandon the hard Brexit wing of her party and lead the country with bold conviction. Can she do that?

You tell me.

Government? What Government?

Monday, July 9th, 2018

To describe the current state of collapse and confusion as a Cabinet crisis is to understate the case. Once again it is appropriate to reflect on Lincoln’s historic line.

A house divided against itself cannot stand.

Apply it to the fiasco at the heart of our country.

A party divided against itself cannot govern.

The Tory Party is tearing itself to pieces.

There is only one way forward. May puts country before party and governs through the majority in the House of Commons for a sensible Brexit which prioritizes the economy, jobs and the standard of living of millions. Failure to do that would make the eventual defeat of the government certain and the collapse of the whole Brexit project likely.

May: What Is She Talking About?

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

Yesterday May said at Prime Minister’s Questions the government would ensure “we are out of the customs union, that we are out of the single market, that we are out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, we are out of the Common Agricultural Policy, we are out of the Common Fisheries Policy, we bring an end to free movement, we take control of our borders, we have an independent trade policy”.

She knows very well that to achieve that list only a hard Brexit is possible. Why not have the courage to admit that, go for it and face certain defeat in the House of Commons? At least she would go down all guns blazing. But in the next breath the champion of the multiple fudge tells business they are going to get tariff free trade and open borders, so supply chains will continue to flow. And what about the air flights, the medicines and the nuclear materials, space and every other thread of modern life you can think of?

We simply cannot go on being governed by a bunch of fantasists. Time to call in the grown ups.