Archive for November, 2020

Sunday Blog. Boris Re-Sets: Trump in Denial

Sunday, November 22nd, 2020

Boris

Following the departure of Cummings and co, many wondered whether Boris was actually capable of governing. Some, including me, were certain he was not. Over the past week nothing has happened to cause me to change my mind; the Devolution gaffe and the Priti Patel row merely served to reinforce my conviction. Yet I have to admit that I detect a sense of relief at the centre of government.

The shot of fresh air flowing into that hot house we call Number Ten, seems to be detectable even in my little village in the back of beyond. And in spite of continuing dramas and the festering scandal of contracts for friends, who have made dodgy fortunes out of pandemic panic, I think there is some sort of order beginning to appear.  A clearer plan, not just for the pandemic, but for economic recovery too. Maybe I am wrong. Brexit, or rather what form and its cost, will be the test.

Trump

The deranged lawsuits and briefings of Trump’s lawyer, now a laughing stock across the globe, added to Trump’s wild tweets about non existent electoral fraud, have shredded this controversial President’s reputation internationally. His refusal to concede and his general handling of his own failure, have damaged America’s standing abroad to the point where it has almost certainly lost forever its status as leader of the free world. The fact that America is polarised between two irreconcilable views of life, will make it unlikely that it will be able to restore its former glory.

When he takes office President-elect Biden will do as much as he can to repair the damage and America will remain the dominant economic power at least until it is overtaken by China. But the moral leadership, tarnished by flawed post cold war adventures, leading to endless wars and failed democracies, has now gone for good. The failures to deal with Covid 19 and the aging structures of some of its democratic institutions are the last straw. Too many other developed countries have done better on Covid and all of them have smoother running and fairer democratic processes.

Sunday Blog: Anglo-American Traumas

Sunday, November 15th, 2020

Both countries share democratic values and traditions, which though different in detail, are complimentary in principle. Both have sought to spread these values across the rest of the world. Added together the two economies are not just the largest in the world but by a margin. They are tied by family, culture and history. And both are suffering at the same time from two great challenges.

The first is Covid 19. Neither country has managed to contain the virus and it is still raging in both. But each has an advanced vaccine programme interlinked with the other, which gives hope that eventually the contagion will be brought to heal and allow normal life to return and the economies to recover. The trauma of Covid will pass.

But the second is potentially irreversible. Loss of faith in the viability and integrity of their democratic processes which not only affect the two oldest democracies, but threaten the viability of democracy across the world. And both have had spells of government led by neo-nationalists, good at crowd pleasing, some may say rabble rousing, in which truth and accuracy takes second place to misleading slogans and outright lies.

America is in the process of getting rid of the Trump presidency in an unbelievable spectacle of discord, as a bad loser tries to cling to the pretence he has won, undermining as it does confidence in the notion that American democracy is good and worth copying.

In England, which is the dominant nation in an increasingly unstable Union, Boris Johnson exhibits an incompetence in government that even his worst enemies never imagined could be as bad. Fights, tears and WhatsApps fly through the Downing Street air, as people who should never be invested with such a thing fight for power, while daily hundreds die from Covid 19 because of their failures. And just days away a no deal Brexit catastrophe looms.

Boris has to do better than Trump and get a grip. Otherwise a restive Tory party will send in the men and women in dark suits. Their message will be stark. His premiership will be over. Not because of an overwhelming vote by an angry people, but because through his muddled leadership, boasting, lies, bungling, U-turns and philandering, he has managed to get rid of himself.

 

 

Sunday Blog: Biden Wins: A New Beginning?

Sunday, November 8th, 2020

I am not a Trump supporter and he was clearly the wrong sort of character to be ideal for the White House. He screwed up all over the place, undermined faith in American leadership across the free world and made more enemies than friends. But not everything he said or did was bad, which is why 70 million Americans voted for him on Tuesday. And whereas in 2016 many traditional Republicans voted for him, because against their wishes he wound up as their candidate, this time everyone who voted Trump voted for him because they liked what they saw. In spite of Covid, Twitter, the Wall and the ongoing mysteries surrounding his finances and financial connections, ie Russian money.

I cannot pretend I was a Biden supporter either, because to me he was too old and yesterday’s man. My faith in the vibrance and energy of the American Dream told me that as the twenty-first century develops, surely the US could do better than a choice between two old white men, or three if you include Bernie Sanders? In the end I was wrong. Biden won, and although the margins in several states were narrow, he gained over 50% of the popular votes and four million more of them than Trump. Thus the win has straightforward legitimacy around the democratic world, where usually the winner is the candidate with the most votes.

Much is being made in the media about the fact that more Americans voted for Biden than ever before in their history. But the second in line on this roster is Trump. The shock of defeat, which he has currently refused to accept, has clearly unhinged Trump’s self esteem and clouded his judgment. Most of what he is now saying is either lies or drivel. But with his rampant base, Trumpism is baked into the American psyche and Trump, even if he storms off in a sulk, will not go far. Only a fool would bet that he will not be back.

Given those circumstances, which perhaps present an America more viscerally divided than at any time since the election of 1861, what is needed is a healing hand. And now I have no doubt at all that Joe Biden is the right man in the right place at the right time. Moreover at his side is the historic choice of the first woman Vice President-elect and the first woman of colour. Kamala Harris is an inspirational step change  for the better, after the plodding colourless Pence.

Sunday Blog: Another U-Turn

Sunday, November 1st, 2020

It is clear that the cost in political capital of Boris being unable to make timely decisions, is approaching the point when the prime minister will become politically insolvent. Up till the chaos of yesterday in Westminster, the Downing Street machine, a clunky misfiring relic of the smooth campaigning juggernaut which won the 2019 election, was insisting that the policy leaked and finally confirmed in a press briefing over two and a half hours late, was not an option as it would be a disaster for the economy.

I am not going to go once more into all the reasons why we have got here, nor to speculate where we may end up. In the present circumstances of the here and now, a mini-lockdown or circuit break or whatever this is, is the only option. But if all the boasting and promises of test and trace had come to fruition we would not be here. And until the ability to track trace and isolate is added to the ability to test, we will not get out of this. Yesterday Boris promised some new instant track and trace system, based on a new form of test giving quick results, which would be run by local health departments assisted by the army.

Let us hope this is not just another Boris dream that he and his government prove unable to deliver, in the right place and on time.