Archive for June, 2019

Leadership Contest: Or Row? Or Worse?

Thursday, June 27th, 2019

The unique contest between Boris and Hunt, the first when the membership outside parliament of a political party has elected a leader when that party is the government, is becoming increasingly unreal. Unreal because Hunt is making wildly optimistic assertions of his powers as a negotiator when he knows very well that the chances of the EU re-negotiating the Withdrawal Agreement are near to zero.

Yet Hunt’s optimism pales into insignificance when compared to the outlandish claims made about almost everything by Boris himself and by his campaign team. The result is that instead of a serious contest in the midst of a national crisis, this election for leader of the Tory party has become a spectacle with only tenuous links to reality. Essentially it is a row between different strands of a broken political party.

The problem is that the Tory party leads the minority government, which can no longer function as an executive because of constitutional tinkering. Neither can it be got rid of easily and with due cause, for the same reason. So we have the double blow of a busted party in a busted system. Add to that the spending and tax cutting plans of both candidates, neither of which add up for anybody with even a rudimentary grasp of simple arithmetic, and you have a state of affairs like no other in our history.

This clearly cannot go on yet nobody any longer can predict how and when it will end. We can only hope.

Ease Back on Iran

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

The history of heavy handed confrontation with the aspiration of regime change, or at least a revision of political behaviors, is one of almost complete failure. At best some sort of stand off becomes the norm and at worst a pointless war begins which goes on and on and achieves little. So it is impossible to see what on earth the Trump administration expect to achieve by their current programme of isolation, sanctions and military posturing against Iran. Among the many doubters appears to be Trump himself. Having surrounded himself with Alt Right hawks he seems to be uncertain about the direction of their policies. Failure in Venezuela has not helped. Neither has the stall in progress with North Korea.

So this blog advocates a very much more enlightened policy towards one of the world’s oldest civilisations, which if more engaged constructively, could do much to ease the chaotic tensions of the Middle East. In particular the ending of the war in Yemen is a priority. This is not to say Iran is blameless, or does not make mischief to further its ends. But we allow Saudi Arabia unlimited slack in almost every direction no matter what it does. Some of that slack would work well with Iran. Try it.

U.S. Cyber Attack

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019

If the reports of an American cyber attack on Iranian military systems are true it makes sense. The U.S. enthusiasm for deploying enormous firepower in carrier led battle fleets is awe inspiring, visible and sobering. But it is  old fashioned and might very well lead to the kind of wars without end that the Trump administration says it is keen to avoid. On the other hand disabling enemy weapons systems so that they loose operational viability is smart.

It halts the means of conflict but does so without casualties or destruction. It  demonstrates a capability which would be decisive if an armed conflict broke out or was provoked. It shows how any future war will be less about spectacular bombardment and more about hidden power projected within the cyber world.

Boris’s Bust Up

Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

Wow. It did not take long! Already Boris is embroiled in controversy. It must be said that the private lives of other people are no concern of this blog. All families and relationships have their ups and downs. To many people Boris is Boris and like Trump he is a Teflon person of whom people expect the worst, so when it happens, they discount it.

On the other hand Boris the clown and showman, who does mega ra ras at party gatherings and gets everybody fired up, is now seeking to be chosen as prime minister of a country is crisis, a Union under stress, a nation divided and a future uncertain. In those circumstances, which affect us all, a prime minister who is engaged in domestic upsets in the middle of the night which alarm neighbours, involving plates being thrown, bangs, crashes, screams and cries of ‘get off me’ could be rather worrying. Finger on the button and all that.

At the very least Hunt looks more interesting this morning.

Boris v Hunt

Friday, June 21st, 2019

As  predicted by this blog in previous posts Stewart fell, Gove had baggage to do with Boris and Hunt, the man in the neat suit who talked to the issues and answered the questions, got through to the final. Just. Rumours of votes being traded trickle through Westminster. They are probably right. Among its many qualities the Westminster village cannot boast purity or innocence. Politics in this country is cleaner than in many, but no politics anywhere is bright spanking clean.

Now we have the  hustings, which are to be open only to Tory party members to attend, but will be broadcast to the nation to follow. So it is a spectator sport for all. It is worth rubbing in the fact that never before has a membership of any political party taken time to elect a leader outside parliament, while that party was in office. The constitutional tension has been the subject of previous posts.

Yet we are where we are and the contest is thought to be a shoe in for Boris. Perhaps it is. Polling suggests it will be. Fine, so be it. But watch the man with the tidy haircut and the neat suit.


Tory Ballot: The Moment of Truth

Thursday, June 20th, 2019

By the end of today we will know whose challenge Boris will have to defeat to become Prime Minister. Yesterday saw the end of the energising campaign of Rory Stewart, brought down for the very reasons set out in my previous posts, in which I opined that his was the pragmatic realism the country needed now.

In the unlikely event of Javid the contest would have an authentic attraction representing two very different parts of our multi-cultural society. If Gove, it would be one long row between the candidates, fulled by revenge and distrust after the two fell out hours after the 2016 referendum. If Hunt, his detractors are already calling him Theresa in trousers.

This is wishful thinking. Certainly Hunt is not colourful nor a clown, but he does have a forensic grasp of detail and a realistic understanding of both the clear perils and alleged opportunities of Brexit. He answers questions with unusual candour and directness, in sharp contrast to the whimsical optimism and confusion of facts which have become Boris’s trademark. Hunt took over a foreign office in some disarray after Boris’s disastrous tenure and has proved very much better at the job. There is no reason to suppose Hunt would not make the better prime minister.

It is worth remembering that the front runner rarely wins a Tory leadership contest. Most wanted Halifax, but it was Churchill. After Eden, Butler was the favourite, but it went to Macmillan. After him, Butler was again the favourite, but it went to Home. Maudling was the next favourite, but Heath won, in the first Tory leadership election with MPs formally voting. When Thatcher challenged, Heath was expected to win, but Thatcher beat him and he never got over it. When the Iron Lady fell, it was Heseltine out ahead, but Major who finally won.

The rumours are that Boris’s people would prefer Hunt, whom they believe their man could trounce. They may be making a big mistake.


That Debate: What It Revealed

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

The format of last night’s BBC leadership debate was wrong. It was clever but it did not work. A debate without an audience becomes an argument and arguments are frustrating things to watch. Emily Maitlis did her very best, but too often everybody was shouting and nothing could be heard. Superficially Hunt, Gove and Javid scored some points and at times appeared genuine and passionate, while Johnson and Stewart fell short of their teams’ hopes. None however suffered a knockout blow.

But the overriding conclusion must be this. Here we had members of the Tory party, four in the current cabinet, so at odds about what to do and so in denial of realities that it was clear above all else that the Tory party is presently unfit to govern. Whoever is leader will make no difference to that crippling state of affairs and either we must have a general election or a second referendum to give voters a chance to express the current state of their thinking.

Brexit as originally sold by mainly Gove and Boris is undeliverable and a fantasy. What is available in any format will leave the country worse off. That much was clear last night. It is also clear from opinion polls and from both the local and EU elections that while a minority in the country want Brexit at any cost, the majority have had enough and want to end this terrible self inflicted trauma which has befallen our country.

Iran: Get Real

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

Since the days of the US hostages I have felt the West’s approach has been rather lacking in imagination when dealing with Iran. More recently there has been some divergence between the Trump administration and the EU. The US policy is a mixture of fawning over the Saudis, obeying Israel’s commands to dump the Palestinians, whilst antagonising Iran. This contrasts with a more  nuanced approach from the EU. The UK is more or less rudderless at the moment but the big Iranian issue for us is the plight of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, which is a heart rending diplomatic disaster, seemingly beyond repair. Boris Johnson’s futile and inept tenure of the Foreign Office bears most of the responsibility for this poor woman’s plight. Her own suffering is mirrored  by that of her husband and family.

Overall the reality is that Iran is an established regional power based upon a very old civilisation. It will never buckle to any approach which demands humiliating acceptance of terms imposed upon it. But it does want to become a more included member of the family of nations and that common interest can and should be the basis of negotiation towards pathway agreements leading to better understanding. There are enormous business opportunities awaiting Global Britain if we can get a government up and running which is capable of doing stuff beyond going round in circles over Brexit.

Meanwhile the Americans are gung ho for confrontation. It should come as no surprise as it is their style. It began with us in the eighteenth century. We lost. But now times have changed. The world is  smaller, but it is full of  bigger players.

Again from the Western Isles: Tories Choose.

Thursday, June 13th, 2019

Apart from the constitutional affront in the process of having members of one party electing de facto a new prime minister of a minority government, already explored at length in previous posts, the most alarming aspect of the election is the rubbish talked by the contenders. Only Rory Stewart has the brains for the job and a grasp of what is needed and he is a no hoper on three counts, whilst at the same time something of a pundit’s darling. Nobody among the mass of the voters in the country has a clue who he is, his centrist agenda is anathema to the membership of the current Tory party and the centre is an over trampled quagmire, poisoned by many good intentions, which can yield nothing now of value. The ground needs a rest and quite a long one at that.

Attlee and Wilson governed from the left and changed the whole structure of society and its values.Thatcher governed from the right (but not the far right) and achieved a lasting reform of dogma driven leftist thinking. But Blair and Cameron who both governed from the centre, quite competently and without too many upsets, changed a few things but little was of lasting value. One ended in the Crash (Brown at the helm) and one ended in Brexit.

Meanwhile the whole economic model has fallen into shocking decay and confusion with the better off getting richer almost literally by the hour and the less well off, upon whom everything in everyday life depends, grow poorer and more overworked, with the poorest plunging to depths unknown since the 1930s. Services at every level and in all spheres are starved of cash and failing to deliver on the promises made by ministers of every stripe, some of the weakest of whom now fancy themselves as prime minister.

Brexit dominates everything, but it is everything that has to be fixed.

Latest From The Western Isles

Wednesday, June 12th, 2019

Parliament has rejected the Labour led attempt to prevent a No Deal Brexit. Good. Many readers who have read previous posts will recall I rejoiced when the Supreme Court ruled the the government could not proceed with Article 50 without the approval of parliament. Well, I have changed my mind. Parliament cannot govern. It can legislate and approve or reject, but it cannot govern. Its attempt to do so over Brexit has initiated the most chaotic period of argument and confusion in our country’s democratic history. We have become an international embarrassment and this notion that parliament can somehow take control from the executive is a wild and dangerous fantasy.

If Boris or any other prime minister attempts a No Deal Brexit, the remedy is simple. A motion of no confidence to bring down that government. That is how our system works. If parliament lacks the guts or intellect to do that, then a No Deal Brexit it is. If No Deal turns out to be good, Boris, or whoever beats him to the Tory leadership, will be in Downing Street for a decade. If it turns out to be the disaster that I and millions of others believe it will be, the Tory party will be kicked out and denied power for two generations at least.