Archive for July, 2019

Boris, Brexit and the Awesome Foursome

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

Having wizzed round the Awesome Foursome, as he likes to call the four nations of the United Kingdom, Boris’s whirlwind tour has not brought much clarity, other than the fact that almost everybody everywhere is against a no deal Brexit. It is reported that Frost, the new chief negotiator for the Boris Number Ten regime, is going to Brussels to tell key officials that there will be no negotiations unless and until the EU agrees to drop the Backstop. If that is correct, since the EU seems resolute not to back down, a no deal Brexit looms, unless somebody blinks. Or parliament brings down the government.

It is perhaps worth remarking on Boris’s hyperbolic enthusiasm for, and endorsement of, the Union. The certain way to fracture it is a no deal exit on October 31st. Such would be the catastrophic impact on both parts of Ireland that under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, an international treaty involving the EU and backed by the US as sacrosanct, a vote to offer the prospect of a united Ireland would be triggered. It is near certain the Unionists would lose and Northern Ireland would cease to be a part of the UK. Then there would be a threesome, but not quite so Awesome. After that fracture, Scotland would be very likely….   More on that another day.

Campbell Spins Off Labour

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

Blair’s spin doctor supreme and guardian of the New Labour ideal of sofa government and establishment cocktails, is very unhappy about Corbyn and has been saying nasty things about the party under his leadership.

The problem however is that during the New Labour era, the working class were turned off by the pink Thatcherism it promoted. When Blair won in in 1997 he pulled 13.5 million votes. The total fell in 2001, 2005 and by 2010 it was at 8.6 million. That is 5 million votes lost by a party which had turned its back on the very people whose interests the whole Labour Movement had been founded to defend. Under Milliband the rot stopped in 2015 and a slight leftward lean gave back 700 thousand votes. But in 2017 Labour, under Corbyn,  pulled a whopping 12.8 million votes and with it May’s majority.

So Campbell’s rant is eloquent but wrong. Twenty-First century Labour is better off without him. He would be ideal for the Lib Dems. Or Boris even.

Operation Midland: A Shocking Report

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

Sir Richard Henriques does not mince his words in his article in today’s Daily Mail. If there is one thing which must strike a chill to the bone of a free democratic society, it is a police force whose integrity is open to question. At any level and in any circumstances. His detailed account not only casts doubt upon the Met’s objectivity and candour, this distinguished retired judge asserts the law has been broken. Moreover the conflicting exoneration of the processes and officers involved in the dreadful saga of operation Midland casts doubt on the investigative competence of the IOPC. There is a nagging suspicion of a whitewash. All worrying stuff.

Boris Bounce plus The Corbyn Factor

Sunday, July 28th, 2019

As expected there is a Boris bounce to give the Tories between  two and  five point leads in various opinion polls. This would not, with the Lib Dems, Brexit Party and Greens in play, give him a majority in parliament. Almost more significant, any other leader than Corbyn would give Labour a major lead and potential for an outright victory with a working majority. So should Labour set about dumping Corbyn overtly, because the covert campaign in continuous action under varying formats, since the day he was elected the first time has been, other than to destabilize the party, without effect?

First a quick look at the Boris bounce. The relief that the colourless May with her school teacher strictures has gone at last, and her fumbling government has been broken up and scattered, is felt in every corner of the land, regardless of the politics of  people feeling a dead weight has been lifted from their backs. The ebullient Boris, in a blizzard of unfinished sentences, exudes optimism and can do, of a kind not seen for, well, a very long time. The promises fly in all directions. But when the time comes to explain how everything is to be paid for, then things could turn sour. When actual details of how, when, where and with what become critical, maybe the bounce will become rolling about out of control. Or maybe Boris and his ministers will have enough, if not all, of the answers. Only in this latter scenario does Corbyn’s electoral appeal matter. If Boris continues to barnstorm only, his electoral appeal will decline. Fast. And Labour will win with or without Corbyn.

Of the two, although he lacks the glamour and panache, Corbyn is the political heavyweight. Not only did he win the leadership of his party twice, but with four times as many votes as Boris. Corbyn has built Labour into the biggest political party in Europe and won back nearly five million working class votes to the party by promoting policies which grapple head on with the dysfunction of the current economic model, the failures in public services, the inefficiency of privately owned public utility monopolies, and above all the priority of sorting out the housing mess and increasing levels of poverty at the base of the economy. This has transformed the political conversation, moved the centre ground of politics to the left and had a greater impact on the direction of political travel than  under any other politician since margaret Thatcher.

And Corbyn has done all this as Leader of the Opposition. He can pull crowds as big as Boris, often bigger. Labour now has a doorstep election army greater than all the other parties put together. Maybe it is time for him to step aside. On that question this blog is neutral. But those whose task it is to decide, need to think very carefully about what they do, where they are and why.

Political Sea Change: Will It Become An Earthquake?

Saturday, July 27th, 2019

Since the Tories formed their own majority administration in 2015, they have given the country the worst period of fumbling, bumbling, government in modern times and perhaps ever in its democratic history. There is now something approaching national despair at the spectacle of every public service malfunctioning at some level, humiliations on the international stage, Brexit chaos and a future so uncertain as to become a no go area for anyone wishing to remain sane.

The Tory party knows this. Now on their third Prime Minister in four years, they have turned to Boris the Clown. But they have chosen a Ringmaster and a pretty brutal one at that. They wake up to a cabinet bloodbath of unprecedented severity,  with more slaughter in the junior ranks. Suddenly the nation has a united government, ambitious, determined and energised. It matters not whether you like its polices or not, the fact that it is a pro-active government is the key.

A multitude of questions remain including the key questions already rehearsed in previous posts. But the change of style and tone is from one extreme to the other. The opposition parties are caught off guard and in need of immediate re-tooling to respond. Especially Labour. It must end its internal quarrels and sharpen up its act. Labour has the best policies for national renewal, but Boris and his team will steal the popular ones and adopt them as their own.

Corbyn can still win, but not unless the entire Labour movement wakes up from its self indulgent conversation with itself, in which there are several self destructive rows, and shows, as it did in 2017, that in the end it is the ordinary people and their problems who decide who governs Britain. Boris is determined they will chose him and he cunning enough to make it happen.

Labour now has the fight of its life on its hands. Since Corbyn it has pulled back nearly five million working class votes lost by the Blair government’s acceptance of Thatcherism, as a done deal. Corbyn and his team have moved far to the left and, as is always the case with a strong migration from the centre ground, the centre itself is dragged along. Thus the centre has moved to the left. Which is exactly where Boris wants to be. Not all his party do, for sure. But for the moment Boris has it firmly in his grip and it will have to roll over and do his bidding or roll away to electoral oblivion.

The potential for a political earthquake is higher than at any time since 1945.

Boris: Now The Tests Begin

Friday, July 26th, 2019

The stricken Tory party was motivated by the barnstorming performance of the new Prime Minister yesterday. He is the best crowd pleasing politician in the UK, perhaps in Europe and among the world’s top five. And so far getting elected leader of the party has  been all about pleasing crowds. Indeed it has been, and this includes the Cummings designed and grossly misleading Leave campaign, telling the crowds what they want to hear. Yesterday was no exception. Promises flew in all directions round the Commons like leaves in an autumn gale. He is reported to have made mincemeat of Corbyn. But. So very very but.

Not a single question that he did not like did Boris answer, nor was there any idea of how all his promises were to be paid for, nor how his programmes are going to be turned into legislation which can get through Parliament. So even his supporters are nervously wondering if there is indeed a plan when the moment comes where optimism, bluster and catchphrases are not enough to deliver them. Upon the answer to that question rests the answer to the real uncertainty of Boris’s historic destiny. Will he be the saviour of the Tory party by delivering most if not all, or will he destroy it because it turns out his promises are empty and his bombast just theatre?

The Clown Becomes the Ringmaster: The Programme Changes

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

Nobody saw it coming.  Within a few hours of his arriving in Number Ten in the late afternoon, the biggest cabinet massacre in modern history was complete. 17 gone in record time and replaced. Nothing like it in living memory.  The full cabinet gathered for its first meeting at 8.30 am today.

Theresa May received a standing ovation from the Commons as she exited her place for the last time as prime minister. This was deserved as she was one of the most dedicated, certainly the cleanest (from scandal) of the fifty plus we have had. She was also among worst. Her government was the worst by far. In three years it achieved next to nothing except routine details and much of even those were in confusion. Not only was her Brexit process an omnishambles almost beyond comprehension, but public services are near breaking point across the piece because of the failure of the economic model. Her Cabinet was nearer a riot than an executive body, riven with grandstanding, disagreements and enmity. She was pathologically slow at reaching a conclusion, bad at reading hidden signs pointing to better policies, a bad communicator to real people in the world outside Westminster and a terrible campaigner.

So Boris showed magnanimity when he did not sack the whole lot. He showed also that he may not be the buffoon most people, outside his circle, think he is. What happens next is not yet clear, but two things are. First, Boris is about Boris First. Holding the record as GB’s shortest serving premier will not appeal to him. So whatever he says now, he will not in fact go down in flames pursuing a cause which he deems lost. That might include a hard Brexit.  Second, whether Corbyn gets to Downing Street or not, he has in fact achieved an historic shift of the centre of British politics, which has now moved  sharply to the left. Boris has seized that ground. Thatcherism is dead and buried. Boris intends to concrete it over.

A lot of people who are celebrating a right wing coup today are in for a very nasty shock. That includes a good slice of his cabinet.

The Liberal Democrats: The Real History Makers?

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

Politics is never straightforward. Nor is is it always obvious. So while the eyes of the world are now transfixed at the spectacle, and spectacle it certainly is, of Boris the Clown becoming Boris the  Ringmaster (more about that later) it may be that history will see greater significance in the election of Jo Swinson as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

She is the first woman to be elected leader of her party. The Tories have had two women lead them. Labour none. She  comes to the fore at a moment of national political crisis, when Brexit chaos is starting to cause real damage to the economy, to Britain’s standing in the world and moreover to its power, authority and global reach. It seems that almost all the assumptions of the Brexit campaign have proved optimistic, unreal, undeliverable or pure fantasy. Some of it has been outright lies.

The Tory party is split in so many directions that it has ceased to be a party, more a perpetual argument. Labour has become so nuanced that many have become confused as to where it is headed and it has also lost control of the anti-semitism issue. But the Liberal Democrats are rising to such a level in the polls that they beat both the Tories and Labour in the local and Euro elections. They are determined and clear cut. Their flagship policy unites their party from end to end and top to bottom.

It is that the Lib Dems oppose Brexit and they want to stop it. Maybe the time is coming when they unite the majority in the country to join their crusade to rescue our country and Union from the greatest act of folly and self harm in its entire democratic history.


Saturday, July 20th, 2019

It is bad enough that the whole government is paralysed by Brexit dysfunction and a change of leadership. Add to that by using military force to seize an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar at the bidding of the United States, with whose policy on Iran we profoundly disagree, and you create inevitable problems, at a time when we are trying to help business  continue to work with Iran in spite of US sanctions. Not to mention trying to free Mrs. Zaghari Ratcliffe.

Now the Iranians have found a pretext to seize a tanker of ours. Great outrage, posturing and Cobra meetings. Once again it appears the government has misjudged the motives of the other side, failed to read the signs, blundered on and got itself in a fix. It reads like a bad TV drama where characters constantly do annoying and stupid things. The trouble is this is real. We cannot just switch it off.


Saturday, July 20th, 2019

Unlike most people on this side of the Atlantic I do see some merit in Trump. I disagree on Iran, climate change, trade wars, abortion, indeed the whole neo-con agenda. But I do like the sentiment of accepting that not all countries want to be, or should be, clones of America, that foreign wars are counter productive and that strong leaders we may not like, are generally better than ungoverned space.

However the reason I regard him now as doing more harm than good to America, is that his America First catch line is code for Trump First and the only thing he really admires and venerates above all else is himself. He knows he did not win in 2016 because he got more votes, as would be the case in all advanced democracies, but because he acquired more delegates to the electoral college by wafer thin wins in rustbelt and industrial states normally favouring Democrats.

To prepare his base for 2020 he has decided to fire up America’s faultline. Part of it is and always has been racist in its DNA.  So we end up with border walls and send them home. This provides redneck thrills and chanting crowds. But it shocks the world and diminishes America in the world beyond the Trump horizon. More to the point it shocks and appalls the vast majority of decent fair minded Americans who venerate the core values of the American Dream and understand for what giant declaration of human advancement it is that the Statue of Liberty stands.

The risk for Trump is that his disgusting gutter twitter drivel about four brilliant and brave women, American women, who disagree with him, which has caused outrage across the world, may gain him votes in the likes of Arkansas where they are not needed and lose him votes in the likes of Pennsylvania where they definitely are. If he is not careful one day his ears may burn with a chant from the crowd  ‘Send Him Home.’

Difficult. Scotland hates him and Germany would not have him.