Archive for September, 2019

Political Turmoil: Boris Brexit and Cummings

Friday, September 27th, 2019

It is now clear that  Boris and his glued on adviser, Dominic Cummings, have a plan which they believe will deliver not just Brexit, but a thumping majority in the Commons, giving five years of a new kind of post Thatcher Conservatism, based on popular social policies, an end to austerity and a tempting borrow, tax and spend programme, either in a Queen’s speech or a Manifesto, well to the left of centre.

The strategy is to foment a fierce antagonism, amounting to a passive civil war, which pits the people, with their champion Boris, against parliament and the establishment. This includes the judges and everyone that stands in their way. Brexit is the energy which drives the essential anger; the people won the referendum and voted to Leave and everyone has ganged up against them to stop that happening. So this is a battle to save democracy. What amounts to a mild dose of socialism will be the reward for winning the fight. And the bigger the anger, so it must be stoked night and day, the more likely is that victory theirs. Meaning Boris and Dom.

The fact that Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU and in Boris and Dom’s people’s democracy these two countries will be dragged out of the EU, against their democratically expressed will, into all sorts of economic difficulty by leaving, is ignored. As are the 16 million across the Union who voted to Remain.

On the other side are Labour, led by Corbyn (ha ha ha), languishing in the polls, but don’t be fooled. They are about to offer, not a mild dose of socialism, but a full whack of the real thing. And the interesting point is that they are playing to an anger of a different kind entirely. Anger against austerity, Universal Credit, housing costs, fuel costs, rip offs, fat cats, social care, the NHS, jobs, bosses earning billions, nurses forced to eat via food banks, trains that run late, child care costs, company crashes leaving people stranded with holidays ruined or new hospital builds halted half-done;  the list is long and grows longer as you think about it. As does the anger grow. Bigger and Bigger. Bigger even than Brexit.

Corbyn will offer to new economic settlement. Boris will offer Brexit at any cost. But the Lib Dems will remind everyone that Brexit was originally offered free, with bonus handouts. So that they will do the only thing that stops the whole sorry Brexit tale now and forever. They will cancel it. Well only if they win.

Yesterday one of the BBC News programmes had a leading anchor visit the constituency that had the biggest Brexit majority, 67% Leave, to sound out voter opinion. It is the kind of Labour seat Boris and Dom just have to win. There was an experiment with balls dropped into jars in the shopping mall. A jar for each of the parties. Lab, Con, LibDem, Green and the Brexit party. Willing shoppers took part, dropping  the little balls in their choice of jar showing how they planned to vote, for an hour or so. The Cons did well, Brexit not so well, the Lib Dems badly (remember a Leave on steroids constituency), but in the end it was Labour jar that had the most balls. That was a surprise. If Boris and Dom cannot win there, they cannot win full stop.

So prepare for a very big battle. But one in which people are fighting for different things. So who knows what will happen. Boris with a landslide? Corbyn in Number Ten? Or another hung parliament and back to square one?

Parliament: Shocking Scenes

Thursday, September 26th, 2019

Every political commentator is agreed. None of them have seen anything like the abuse and vitriol of Boris Johnson’s Prime Ministerial performance of yesterday evening. It has polarised parliament, united all elements of the opposition and made any prospect of compromise fade out of sight. The contempt for women and the abusive tone, stoking a fabricated contest between parliament and people, is the most destructive course possible in a time of national controversy and government crisis.

Boris Johnson is revealed as national catastrophe as big, perhaps bigger, than Brexit itself. Almost nothing he says has a foundation in fact nor a relationship with reality. His supporters in his cabinet, which is already beginning to show signs of strain, abet his headlong attack on every body and thing which crosses their path. Judges are wrong, parliament is dead, fears of female MPs at threats of rape and murder are humbug. Nothing like this has been seen before.

But in the end this is Britain. And the British don’t do this stuff. A minority certainly can be roused but not, at least on past form, a majority. The Boris camp believes a majority can be whipped into a frenzy and carry them to victory. They assert times have changed. They certainly have, but in the end the question will be, have they changed that much?

Supreme Court: A Constitutional Shift of Power.

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

Yesterday was one of the great seismic moments in the long evolution of the English structure of government, with its reach into the three other nations of the Union. It was an historic repositioning of the power balance between the Executive and Legislature. The date will live as a milestone in our country’s journey through history.

For two centuries there  has been a gradual syphoning of the power of the Monarch into the hands of the monarch’s ministers, which in turn has reduced the power of parliament and the authority of the Speakers. A strictly whipped party system reduced the role of backbenchers in the Commons to little more than legislative dogsbodies and political lobby fodder. All power lay with the prime minster, exercising the Royal Prerogative, supported by a cabinet of ministers exercising the same power within their departments. Parliament legislated but the government decided what, and what each day could and would be discussed. The prime minister decided how long each session would be and how long a parliament should exist, before dissolution and a general election.

The Supreme Court, unanimously, incisively, brutally and with no punches pulled, reinforced and enshrined in law a major restoration of the absolute sovereignty of parliament over everything and everybody, including the executive, its powers and by definition the monarchy itself. All exist because parliament allows and any attempt by any part of it to impede parliament is unconstitutional. From now on the government will do parliament’s bidding in law. The government remains the executive, but in a country owned by parliament. This will, over time, give a very different complexion to what we know as government.

History will see the decade of 2010-2020 as the period of Constitutional Change, beginning with the Fixed Term Parliament Act, followed by the Supreme Court Ruling on Article 50 and capped by the Court’s ruling over Prorogation. The backdrop will certainly be the shambolic upheaval of Brexit. The narrative might evolve in the following decade to include the break-up of the United Kingdom. If that happen the trace will go back further to the advent of Scottish and Welsh devolved government, which has been a success, encouraging a bolder appetite for independence, and power sharing in Northern Ireland which has failed, driving a final reunion of all parts of Ireland into one independent Republic.

The creation of the Supreme Court will undoubtedly be seen as critical to the authority in the public’s eye  it  enjoys as the constitutional arbiter and guardian, which is much easier to relate to than its predecessor, the Law Lords, sitting in the House of Lords. If all this comes to pass it will become the story of England, its leadership of the Union of the British Isles, the building of the British Empire, the ending of both and its return to Go.


Politics In Turmoil: Random Thoughts

Sunday, September 22nd, 2019

Wherever you look or listen, there is confusion in the in political arena on a scale not seen for many generations. This is in part due to the technological revolution giving instant communication from every citizen to every other from the palm of their hand. No longer is news and comment in the sole grip of the media. So news, rumour, opinion and protest travel fast and furiously and then often faster than politicians can think how to respond.

Into this mix we throw Brexit, Islamophobia, Antisemitism, the Union, Equality as a benchmark from which much is judged, the revival of the Socialist Left and the Far Right. There is loads more. Now Climate Change has become not only a hot topic but an economic driver. But most important of all it has become a political issue which has motivated to action and protest millions of young people across the world. Make no mistake. This will affect voting patterns and turnout. It will screw up opinion polls.

When the next general election finally comes it will be full of surprises.

The Supreme Court Meets

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

There seem to be three possible verdicts within the potential outcomes of the Supreme Court hearings.

1 This is a political issue outside the jurisdiction of the justice system which cannot rule on such a political matter.

2 The Court can adjudicate the matter, but rules that the prime minister was and is within his prerogative powers to prorogue parliament to suit his political agenda, within reasonable limits, which were not in this case breached.

3 The Court can adjudicate the matter and rules the prime minister acted improperly and the proroguing is void and of no effect.

Clearly one and two will be victories for Boris. My guess is that two is the most likely. It leaves open the ability of the Supreme Court to be a last resort, if a future government goes down a bad path. It also somewhat redresses the weakening of the Executive in favour of the Legislature, following the FTPA and the SC judgement over Article 50.

The risk is that we end up with a weak executive and a splintered parliament. There are already six parties in the Commons, seven if Sinn Fein took their seats. If the Brexit party win any we would have eight. The system was designed for two. Chaos will loom. So if the decision is number three, it will certainly be a defeat for Boris from which he might not recover. But perversely it could be a defeat for us all.

Tactical Weapons

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

The level of damage to the Saudi Oil production facilities by a fleet of drones, augmented perhaps by some small missiles, demonstrates that in the modern world of regional and local confrontations, it is the tactical weapons which count. The vast carriers, the nuclear hunter killer subs, the nuclear weapons and other strategic systems are of very little use. Moreover the massive military superiority of countries like the United States can be neutralised by simple weapons in the hands of an insurgent military of quite limited resources. There is a lesson for the so called Global Britain here. Our security will depend on our tactical capility, not on our giant aircraft carriers with their billion dollar planes.

New Frigates: This Is Good News

Friday, September 13th, 2019

The new Type 31 frigates are to be built by Babcock who designed them to be a cheaper and more compact warship than the bigger Type 26, currently in service and under construction. The important thing is that they cost £250 million each, cheap in modern terms for a fully fledged ocean going warship with cutting edge capabilities. Five are being ordered. Amidst the chaos of Brexit, hard, soft or none, the news will come as a great boost to the yards at Barrow-in-Furness, where they will be built, with significant spin off for contractors and suppliers elsewhere.

The sad state of our Royal Navy, once the premier sea force of the world and now reduced to little more than regatta numbers of vessels, will be eased by this increase in numbers. The truth is that so much resource has been taken up by the construction of the two giant Queen Elisabeth class carriers, creating together with the new Dreadnaught Trident deterrent submarines, something of a strategic strength founded on tactical weakness. That never works. Five new tactical ships is good, but we need another twenty. For Global Britain. In case you forgot.


Boris is not yet Beaten: But Soon?

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

No Prime Minister in our history has suffered such a string of humiliations and defeats in so short a time after taking office, making the Boris government the laughing stock of the much of the world. Unfortunately to many if not most of us who live under its erratic rule, it is no longer funny.

However in an era when the daily news contains more surprises than a Scandi thriller, one thing is now becoming clear. Boris is determined to survive as PM. Another thing is becoming clear to those who watch almost every line for nuance or hint. Boris is seriously rattled. Private polling reveals that the Tories could not win an election outright and it they fought one, would be back to square one at best. Still in power but as a minority government.

The massive adverse reaction to the proroguing of parliament is one serious miscalculation. The sudden unity of all the opposition parties sufficient to seize control of the parliamentary agenda, which included passing into law a bill restricting the PM’s freedom of action, came as a body blow. The ease with which the now united opposition spotted the elephant trap election plan and defeated it not once but twice, was unforeseen. The fact that the derided figure of fun, Corbyn, led the negotiations and ran rings round Downing Street, hurt.

But what has really caused a problem is the realisation that no deal is the direct opposite of a clean break. It is a costly entanglement in a thicket of trade negotiations and legal challenges which will last years and adversely affect, in a thousand different ways, every single person, business and institution in the UK. Governments who do that to their country for no valid reason other than an ideological fix, do not last.

So Boris is now desperate for a deal. The only way he can get one is to agree to a modified edition of the Irish backstop, currently known as the Ireland Only model. In other words both the Northern Ireland Protestants who back the DUP and the ERG are to be dumped. The  polls show over 50% of all the people in NI would back a United Ireland over a No Deal and all parts of agriculture, business and social institutions back the Irish Backstop.

Boris’s plan is that he survives on the support for the new deal in a U.K. parliament in which the DUP and ERG gang up to knife him. He believes everybody else would go for his touched up Ireland Only Backstop. Dublin and Brussels would love it. But Labour will demand as its price for support a referendum to confirm acceptance of those terms, with Remain as an alternative on the ballot paper. And that will be the end of Brexit. It might  also be the end of Boris. If his end does not come sooner.

Boris: Scottish Judgement

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

This is a very significant moment. Even if the UK Supreme Court finally  rules in favour of the government, it will be on a point of law rather than the issue which offends the majority of MPs and a large slice of the voting public, especially among the young. Boris has not told the truth about why he needs such a long prorogation, when three days would do. In other words everyone accepts he is a liar. That may prove a problem. Which does not go away.

Good News: Bolton Booted From White House

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

John Bolton.This super-hawk who terrifies even hawks,  should never have been appointed in the first place. Since he became NSA almost everything in US Diplomacy has failed. Iran, North Korea, Israel and the Palestinians, Afghanistan, China Trade War,  the list goes on. Promises, expectations and many, many tweets but so little actual progress anywhere.

The President knows his own day of reckoning is coming.  He must get something he has promised closed out and settled by November 2020. Or else early in that month he will have a very bad day. Getting rid of John Bolton has given him a  chance of a more joined up approach to all these many difficult issues. His backers will hope this begins to lead to results. Otherwise he will be remembered as the tweeting president who, after cutting a few regulations and fixing tax cuts for the rich, killed the economic boom he helped to create and delivered almost nothing else he had promised.

Having said that, if Trump fails to win a second term, there will be very few people in the wider world outside America who will be sorry.