“Lies, Damned Lies and Politics” #1

Well, there’s a surprise!  Not.  A General Election has been ‘sprung’ on us, the UK, dated 8th June.  Seven weeks of lies, half-truths and the slickly manipulated media storm of professional politics.  Yeuch!  Many things really piss me off about all this, but it’s the way the manipulators assume we can’t see what they are doing that really gets me riled up.  It’s made worse for me by the fact that many people really don’t see they are being sold a crock, and don’t want to know.  Nobody will thank you for being told they are, and have been, gullible (Jeremy Corbyn please note).

At time of starting this blog, we are only 72hours into the campaign and already we see the same old staged photo-opportunity and the repetitive ‘sound bites’.  Mostly from the leader of the Conservatives, but other political parties are available.  And they know it works: just gather up a handful of enthusiastic supporters and dole out besloganned placards to be a backdrop to the leader on camera for the Six o’clock news.  The news media are complicit in this fiction too: if the camera occasionally pulled back to a wide view from time to time we’d get a more realistic picture of support and enthusiam, with ordinary folk just drifting by a knot of noisy accolytes.  But no, almost a year on from the Brexit referendum, people are shown in vox-pop interviews still mindlessly regurgitating slogans they swallowed back then.  It’s was all lies, and it’s still all lies.  Look at what they do, not what they say.  We’ve seen what they do, even with a slender majority.

Let’s be clear about this; the Conservatives have been in power for 7 (seven) years, not one.  They have already presided over the collapse of the NHS, the education system, the care system and the welfare benefits system, the evisceration of the defence establishment, the failure of the prison system and, at the same time, giving  tax bungs to the already very rich and corporate Britain.  And then there’s the immigration issue which underlay much of the support for Brexit:  may I remind you, dear reader, who was the longest ever serving Home Secretary and cabinet minister responsible for law and order, security and immigration during that time?  Yes!  It was Theresa May!  And yet TM has the brass ringed neck to say her government is about stability and experience while a vote for anyone else is sabotage and a recipe for disaster.  How very dare she??!!  She even has the gall to say that the alternative to another 5 years of Conservative governance is a coalition of chaos, a thinly veiled swipe at a possible coalition of left-wing interest between Greens, the SNP, Labour and others.  Excuse me Mrs May, but which party was it that entered a coalition with the LibDems for the first five years of this government?  Oh yes, the Conservatives! And with narrow majorities they’ve been only too glad to draw on parliamentary support from some distinctly grubby, and extreme, quarters   During that first five years they continually blamed the outgoing Labour government for having to carry out “slash and burn” austerity, which they were really loving, and given the chance have every intention of pursuing further.  Remember the “Big Society”?  Cameron’s slogan which covered the wholesale shift of state support for services onto the shoulders of those least equipped to carry it.  Thousands of police officers lost, so that the detection (clear-up) rate for crime is 16%.  More people in prison than ever before, with fewer officers to look after them.  Rehabilitation?  Forget it.  Remember the big educational opportunities of Academies and Free Schools?  Many have closed or are failing.  Never mind that idea, let’s have more Grammar schools instead. Care Homes and Care providers backing out of contracts left and right while carers on the minimum wage are run ragged from house to house.  Excellent military aircraft like the Harrier and Nimrod scrapped so we can eventually buy worse back from America.  Aircraft carriers scrapped to be replaced with another £8 billion worth – as yet to sail. “State of the art” destroyers with engines that failed and had to be replaced.  Historically low levels of house building, and even that pitiful level of completions is mostly in the private, homes for sale, sector.  Affordable housing?  What’s that?

Let’s not get into the obscenity of food banks (almost so commonplace as to be unremarkable now), the inexorable rise in homelessness, the assault on the disadvantaged and disabled, and on pensions.  Is it any wonder many of our young aspire to fame and celebrity as a way of living a better life.  And where is money going?  The “deficit” is down, but borrowing (both state and personal) is up!  Amongst other places, let’s not forget nuclear power stations and High Speed Rail (HS2).  Don’t be misled.  The people sitting round the cabinet table with TM, and their advisers, are the same people that were there under Cameron. And now they expect us to believe they disavow it all, deny any responsibility.  “It’s all going to be better now, trust us.”  Again? Really?  Who are you kidding?

I could go on, and on, but if you’re going to vote, please don’t be conned into thinking it’s about Brexit, OK?  Despite the fact that many of the pre-referendum warnings are coming true, it’s been agreed (and voted for by Labour).  It’s going to happen. If Brexit has any place in this General Election at all it is because we deparately need to rein in the hard-line “Brexit at all costs” lobby – because a cliff-edge Brexit will do nothing for anyone but the financially secure and internationally mobile.

As a natural Labour supporter I have no problem with Jeremy Corby’s policies, or his personal honesty and integrity.  Unfortunately elections in a modern so-called democracy are not won on policy or integrity.  Look no further than America for proof of that.  Who even remembers Bernie Sanders?  He gave Hilary Clinton a good run for her money but lost, and so did she.  Democratic elections, in a mature (?) democracy like ours, are won by appealing to narrow personal interests, prejudice, political ignorance and character assassination.

If the last 7 years have proved anything positive, it is the capacity for ordinary people to reach out to help others, even when increasingly under the screw themselves.  However, as I see it, other than committed supporters of Labour, there is little hope of a Labour Party fronted by Jeremy Corbyn and John Macdonald persuading enough voters to win.  I fear the hordes of politically ambivalent, opportunist, or plain stay-at-home voters, will return another right-wing coalition with the Lib-Dems.  Remember, you read it here first.






The Will of The People

Define Transparent

“obvious, explicit, unambiguous, unequivocal, clear, lucid, straightforward, plain, (as) plain as the nose on your face, apparent, unmistakable, manifest, conspicuous, patent, indisputable, self-evident;”

Funny isn’t it, that “the will of the people” is to be robustly defended….as long as it happens to support government policy? Otherwise, in my experience, the people can take their “will” and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine.


Runes, Bones and Chicken Feathers

For the third time in recent memory we have had to endure the cry of “Well, nobody saw THAT coming!”  First the UK election in 2015, then the vote for the UK to leave the EU (so called Brexit) and now the election of Donald Trump as President of the US.  The combined efforts of professional analysts, political journalists, pundits and ‘the media’ have miserably failed to call the results.

Now those same analysts journalists and pundits are bouncing from radio studio to TV studio, to press rooms, picking over the results, trying to work out (and tell us) how, or why, they got it wrong.  Frankly they may as well throw chicken bones and feathers into the air, or consult runes, or even go to a clairvoyant, because they are using the same failed and myopic filters on the information.

Having called all three elections correctly myself, my opinion is that their problem is they largely inhabit a social and intellectual ‘bubble’.  For example, in particular over Brexit and the US Presidential election, we hear a consensus developing that the electorates felt “left behind by the benefits of globalisation” and that these two seismic events represent a railing against a political establishment from which they feel alienated and do not trust.  Rubbish.  These ‘bullet point’ explanations come from the same failed perspective and, largely, the same political class.

In Britain we have suffered the consequences of failed policies, founded in the dogma of market economics.  Individuals, families, public organisations and companies have been struggling to cope with a relentless tightening of the so-called ‘austerity’ screw.  The people who cannot get access to decent housing, health care, education, jobs, do not know what globalisation is.  They were sold the simple, kitchen table, solution that if we take the pain now, and “fix the roof while the sun shines”, all will be well.  We were never told what the government’s intention was, once the deficit in public finance was resolved. It seems to have been assumed that ‘market forces’ would sort it all out.  Well, excuse me, but it was reliance on those same market forces that led us into the world-wide financial crash in 2008.

Meanwhile we, in the UK, have stumbled into the worst housing crisis in a generation; not only is there an almost total lack of new social housing, that is to say provided by the public sector for rent at affordable prices, but the private sector is building houses for sale at prices increasingly out of reach of ordinary people.  Housing is no longer a social necessity, it is an investment opportunity.  The justice system is in meltdown with more people incarcerated than ever before and a decrepit prison estate managed by a disillusioned and threadbare staff.  As an aside here, I point out that the Home Secretary presiding over this decline was until recently Theresa May, now Prime Minister.  Our social welfare and care systems are overwhelmed by predictable increasing demand and inadequate funding.  Reliance on food banks, an obscenity in any civilised society, is increasing.  Rough sleeping is increasing. Gambling is increasing.  At least 80,000 children are estimated to be living in  poverty and yet, as before the financial crash in 2008, some are making ‘progress’: the already rich, the speculators, the wide boys.  The general populace seems to have become mesmerized by the twin chants of austerity and fiscal prudence, by the sound-bite mantras of neo-liberalism, so the irony of our present situation, where our government says “more of the same will see us alright” or “we need more privatisation” does not register as the vacuous rubbish it is.  Far from being in a better place than we were in 2008, our national finances are actually worse. Our UK government has been in power now since 2010.  The people sitting round the cabinet table are individually and collectively responsible for where we are now; they can no longer blame previous administrations.

It’s time we all started to say “The Emperor has no clothes”, and stopped trying to explain away the rise of the likes of Trump, Putin, Le Pen et al as some sophisticated response to being disconnected from politics.  That is no more than a smokescreen that obscures the fact that the whole system doesn’t work.  Our society, indeed the planet as a whole, cannot be sustained on unbridled consumption and an aspiration for material advantage alone, and to try to analyse and explain away recent political upheavals in these terms is utterly futile.  It is no more than the flies arguing about ownership of the turd they feed on as it slides down the sewer to the treatment plant.

Trump Wins!

I mean no disrespect to the millions of decent, thoughtful, Democrat voters.  I fully acknowledge that I am British, observing from the outside of the process, and may be talking from my rear end, but remember this headline and the date of the post.  As I write there are still 4 days before all the votes have been cast in the 2016 US Presidential Election.  Nevertheless I feel confident in predicting a Trump win, as I did a Conservative UK election win in May and a UK ‘Brexit’ vote in June.  At the time of my Brexit prediction I also predicted Trump would win. Not only do I think he will win, I think he will win decisively – and this is why.

Hilary Clinton, her Democratic party machine and, frankly, the established Republican party, have failed to see that the political ground has shifted.  It’s like they turned up ready to play soccer when the crowd came to see baseball.  As of yesterday, Hilary Clinton is still reported to be addressing rallies with pop stars and celebrities in support: this is the old politics.  The Democrat machine ought to have seen it, given the power of Bernie Sanders’s showing in the primary rounds.  Critics of Trump all come from the position of rationale, of experience, of political and economic understanding based in education and knowledge.  Trump’s support doesn’t come from here.  It has done no good to point out the holes in his politics, his rhetoric and his character because his supporters don’t care.  A lot of them are the same. I suspect they regard the reasoned, educated warnings of disaster as just more evidence of a patronising elite.  It’s not, and never has been, intellectual: it is visceral.

That’s how we came to vote for Brexit and, if any more evidence of that were required, one has only to look at the fury, the vituperative nastiness, that has flowed since the UK High Court insisted that Parliament, not the government of the day, must vote on Brexit before it is triggered.  Despite the fact that it was a legal, and not political, decision, and one which reasserts the constitutional primacy of law over politics, the pro-Brexiteers poured scorn on the judges.  They have claimed this is an attempt to subvert the “will of the people” as expressed in a (non-binding) referendum.  In calling into play their financial backgrounds, their sexuality, and the nationality of their spouses, they blatantly played to their homophobic, nationalist and largely working class constituency.  I fear that, whatever happens on both sides of the Atlantic, we are all in for a very rough ride.  The frustration of disappointment over what Brexit, or a Trump presidency, actually delivers is fertile ground for social unrest.

Let them eat cake

I was having lunch. A sort of pseudo-tapas, served on a windswept plastic grassed first-floor bar terrace. A post-industrial makeover of something that was once useful: all chrome, glass, plastic wicker bucket seats and infra-red heating. The sort of place they add 10% “discretionary service charge”, and make you pay before you’ve had the food in case you think it’s crap…which it nearly was. You get the picture. Down in the street, lined with blinged-up monster Beemers and Mercs with blacked out windows, was the local Big Issue seller. I wondered what he thought about Dave Cameron (remember him?) and his take on The Big Society. You know, where we all take care of each other, run the libraries, buy sandwiches for the homeless guy, and save the state a fortune in welfare. And then I got to thinking about Saint Theresa May and her being a sort of political bag lady, picking over the recycling bins for anything useful that we might swallow. I thought about how the safety net of our welfare state has more holes than an ageing sex-workers tights, and how so many more of us are falling through. I wondered if Dave Cameron’s Tories (including Saint Theresa) ever really believed any of the ‘Big Society’ doctrine and, if they did, what do they think now? Are they embarrassed? Apparently Saint Theresa now believes “only the Conservatives can build a fairer Britain”. Does she think we don’t know she has spent the last 6 years voting through, and supporting, the measures that have made Britain the most divided and unfair it has been in a century? Doe she think we’ll believe “that was Dave, but this is me”? Does she think we haven’t noticed being victims of the biggest, longest running, shell game in recent British History? I don’t know about you, but I don’t think there is a pea under any of those shells. “Let them eat cake”, but add 10% service.

Are you now, or have you ever been…..?

With apologies, I reproduce, with very small substitutions and some irrelevant ommisions, part of a piece written by the late, great, American author and playwright Arthur MIller.  He was writing about the hysteria of the 1950s and the anti-Communist witch-hunting of the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee led by Senator Joseph Macarthy. For the purposes only of clarity I highlight those words that I have changed.

“I refer to the anti-Islamic rage that threatened to reach hysterical proportions and sometimes did. I can’t remember anyone calling it an ideological war, but I think now that that is what it amounted to. I suppose we rapidly passed over anything like a discussion or debate, and into something quite different, a hunt not just for subversive people, but for ideas and even a suspect language. The object was to destroy the least credibility of any and all ideas associated with Islam, whose proponents were assumed to be either knowing or unwitting agents of radical Islam.

An ideological war is like guerrilla war, since the enemy is an idea whose proponents are not in uniform but are disguised as ordinary citizens, a situation that can scare a lot of people to death. To call the atmosphere paranoid is not to say that there was nothing real in the American-Islamist stand-off. But if there was one element that lent the conflict a tone of the inauthentic and the invented, it was the swiftness with which all values were forced in months to reverse themselves.

In two years or less, with a picture finished, I was asked by a terrified Columbia to sign an anti-Islamist declaration to ward off picket lines which the rightwing American Legion was threatening to throw across the entrances of theatres showing the film. In the phone calls that followed, the air of panic was heavy. It was the first intimation of what would soon follow. I declined to make any such statement, which I found demeaning; what right had any organisation to demand anyone’s pledge of loyalty? I was sure the whole thing would soon go away; it was just too outrageous.

In 1948-51, I had the sensation of being trapped inside a perverse work of art, one of those Escher constructs in which it is impossible to make out whether a stairway is going up or down. Practically everyone I knew stood within the conventions of the political left of centre; one or two were Muslims, some were fellow-travellers, and most had had a brush with Islamic ideas or organisations. I have never been able to believe in the reality of these people being actual or putative traitors any more than I could be, yet others like them were being fired from teaching or jobs in government or large corporations. The surreality of it all never left me. We were living in an art form, a metaphor that had suddenly, incredibly, gripped the country.”

Miller was, of course talking about the way in which a paranoic cold-war America, terrified of Communism, bore down on anything which could remotely be described as politically ‘left’.  When the people doing the describing were far to the right, it wasn’t hard to find candidates to haul into court.  Hangers on to this twisted ideology used it to ruin the lives of many who were in other “un-American” or aberrant groups, like Gays, Blacks, Jews and so on.  People went to prison. Some died.  Old scores were settled.

In Britain we could easily substitute, wholesale, the word “Immigrant” but I can’t help wondering whether, should Donald Trump be elected President of the United States, we shall see the return of a 21st century version of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the USA?  Will we once again hear a phrase like “Are you now, or have you ever been…?” read out in open court?  Then it was “a Communist”; in 2017 it might be “a Muslim”.  Far fetched? I don’t know.  Chilling?  Certainly.

Postscript.  Now that Donald Trump has actually been elected my final paragraph has even more chilling resonance.

The Labour Leadership and When will the next General Election be?

I have blogged quite a lot about how the new Conservative (Tory) Party leadership would take the earliest opportunity, presented by a disorganised and fractured Labour Party, to call an early election.  I have been much exercised by the thought that Jeremy Corbyn, and the Labour Party, would be bounced into an early election they were ill-equipped to fight.  Mea culpa – I had failed to check my information.

Apparently it is still possible, but unlikely.  Here is why.  Before the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, a General Election could happen any time.  A Prime Minister could call a general election at any time within the five year period and not all Parliaments lasted the full five years.  Before 2011 a general election could be called earlier for a number of reasons. For example, the Prime Minister could decide to call an election at a time when he or she was most confident of winning the election or if a government was defeated on a confidence motion, a general election could follow.  The 2011 Act changed all that.

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 provides for general elections to be held on the first Thursday in May every five years.  The date of the last general election was 7 May 2015 so the next one would normally be on the first Thursday of May 2020.

However, there are two provisions that could trigger an election sooner:

  • if a motion of no confidence is passed in Her Majesty’s Government by a simple majority and 14 days elapses without the House passing a confidence motion in any new Government formed
  • a motion for a general election is agreed by two thirds of the total number of seats in the Commons including vacant seats (currently 434 out of 650)

In the context of an, as yet, unresolved BREXIT it is possible that Parliament will have to debate, and decide on, the negotiation to disentangle the UK from the EU.  That might easily trigger an election under either of these two provisions.  The Conservatives have quite a slender majority in Parliament.  It is possible that this majority could erode to the point where there is a minority government that consistently fails to get measures endorsed, and this might lead to an election under the second of the two provisions – although HM The Queen would first have to offer an opportunity to another grouping to form a government without an election first.

So, I admit to having to reconsider.  There actually may be time for the Labour Party to get itself together, even behind Jeremy Corbyn, in time to win the next election.  My concern remains that whoever wins the Leadership election in August 2016, a sizeable part of the party (those supporting the loser) will be disappointed and remain fractious, rebellious, .  Internal divisions may continue.  That must not happen.  It is absolutely vital that the party membership, and its Parliamentary representation, comes together to support whoever is leader – or it faces a generational period in the political wilderness.



The Fractured State of British Politics

Dangerous times. The British political system is in a state of flux.  There is a power vacuum, and therefore a power struggle, in both major political parties in the UK and therefore at the heart of governance.  There is one notable exception, The Scottish National Party, but I’ll bring them in later in this post.  However, before launching into the ‘meat’ of this post, I need to create a context for it.

Following the shock (not to me – see previous posts) referendum vote to leave the EU (Brexit), the Conservatives (Tories) broke apart.  The Prime Minister, who himself won an unexpected (not to me – see previous posts) outright victory in a general election only the year before, resigned.  The people most likely to succeed him either withdrew from the contest, or were mutually politically “assassinated” by rivals.  We now face the certainty of a female Prime Minister, as Theresa May is now the only contender.  She is an old-school right-wing Tory and we  should be afraid.

Nigel Farage, leader of The UK Independence Party (UKIP), also resigned – although I don’t think he’ll disappear entirely from right-wing politics as pressure from him, and Tories who agreed with him, was the cause of the Brexit referendum in the first place.  Power and influence can be a very addictive thing.

Meanwhile, also on the back of the Brexit vote, the Labour Party is similarly engaged in internecine “assassination” of almost Ceasarean proportions. The right-wing (Blairite / New Labour) of the party has the knives out for their leader, Jeremy Corbyn.  This coup has been brewing for a while: Corbyn, a long-time left-wing backbencher, was unexpectedly elected a year ago, in the face of opposition from the New Labourite wing, because of mass support from the ordinary membership.  Ever since they have tried to unseat him, frequently leaving Corbyn “out to dry” when, inexperienced and honest as he is, he repeatedly fell into political traps left by his rivals and the supporters of the Tory party.  They expected he would lead the party into defeat at interim local and parliamentary by-elections, but this didn’t happen: the party actually performed better.  Membership continued to grow and the knives had to be re-sheathed.  Then Brexit happened.  Corbyn was widely perceived to be, at best, equivocal in support for remaining in the EU and his rivals have sought to blame him for failure to win.  This is risible, as the Tories failed to mobilise their own pro-EU vote, but it is true that Jeremy Corbyn does not believe in the EU and it showed.

He has, so far, resisted a clamour for his head on a spike, orchestrated by adherents to the New Labour project and a right-wing media.  They choreographed a sequential resignation of his shadow cabinet and then a vote of ‘no confidence’ from the parliamentary party (PLP) which Corbyn massively lost.  In response Corbyn promoted others in place of those that had resigned, but leaving the inevitable impression that this was the “second team” – otherwise why weren’t they already in post?  It doesn’t look anything like a government in waiting.  Now a former member of his shadow cabinet, Angela Eagle, has declared she is formally challenging him (without any constitutional basis) and others are trying to stop Corbyn from even defending himself in a ballot because of the ‘no confidence’ vote of the PLP.  I don’t believe, if it comes to a ballot, that Angela Eagle will eventually stand in a final one-to-one contest: I think she is a ‘stalking horse’ and someone else (perhaps Ben Bradshaw?) will emerge from preliminary voting as a compromise anti-Corbyn ‘unity’ candidate.  If Corbyn is ousted we will see something close to civil war in the Labour Party, when his hundreds of thousands of supporting members react.

And so, to the substance of this post.  I am a (more-or-less) life-long Labour voter.  My family before me were the same, and actively so.  I’ve done my share of voting, stuffing envelopes, protesting, lying down in the road, writing letters to the media and attending meetings.  I say “more-or-less” because, when living in Scotland, and disillousioned by the rightward drift of the New Labour movement, I joined the Scottish National Party (SNP) which seemed to offer a more radical, left-leaning, vision at the ballot box.  Since returning to live in England that is no longer relevant and I re-joined the Labour Party, specifically to support Jeremy Corbyn’s candidacy for leader of the party.  Over the past few months I have become increasingly concerned by Corbyn’s apparent ineptitude, or perhaps more correctly inability, presenting a credible and authoratitive figure in public.  I say “apparent” because I have never heard him speak in public.  Those that have say he is engaging and inspirational, and I am all too aware of how a media image can be deliberately distorted.  Nevertheless I find myself, uncomfortably, aligned with his assassins, but for completely different reasons.  Unlike them I want him to succeed.  I see what he is trying to do and think his diifferent way of conducting politics, and viewing economics, is not only worthwhile but necessary.  However, from my long experience of British politics, I fear that he cannot re-shape the Labour Party in time to lead it to victory in a looming General election.  In the context of Brexit, with a new Tory leadership emerging and disarray in the Labour ranks, a General Election is almost certain before 2020 (when the next one must beheld) and one which I predict Labour will lose heavily.  If this happens it will consign the people it seeks to represent to an irreversible demolition of all that has been won by the Labour movement since 1948: the welfare state, the NHS, univeral free education, civil and workers rights etc., etc.  And this is why I feel this way:

Last week I attended a Labour party meeting, a Branch meeting of my Constituency party (in Devon).  It was well attended too, with over 20 people crammed into the living room of a former (and perhaps future) Labour candidate.  There were only 2 agenda items.  The one most had come to discuss was the “Corbyn Situation”.  The vast majority were supporters of Corbyn and spoke of the coup, and the need to support (and express support for) him.  There was a lot of talk about what he had achieved, and dismissive criticism of those who query Corbyn’s “lack of charisma”  and his ability to lead.  There was a lot of “I think that…” and “I believe most people…” without any balancing recognition that a) we move in a restricted circle and b) we are all committed Labour (or left-politics) voters.  We (or rather they) had blinkers on.  The issue, for me, is not about “charisma” but about his lack of ability to do basic things like read from notes without falling over the words.  Corbyn is not comfortable with media, with the attention of the camera, with hostile interviewers: all things that are prerequisite in 21st Century political life.  In his efforts to be “fair and decent”, he repeatedly leaves himself exposed to the political man traps of his enemies.  His performance at the dispatch box, especially in the televised weekly Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), comes across as weak.  Because he is steady in pursuing his own agenda, and calm style, he appears incapable of exploiting opportunities to score points that arise in the cut and thrust of debate.  The sound-bite delivery of news by the media feeds off that.  We may wish it were not true, may want life to be more “reasoned”, but it isn’t.  We may want our leaders to put forward detailed policies, but most voters can’t (or aren’t interested enough to) read past the headlines or the bullet points of a summary.  There was no recognition that the electorate had just voted us out of the EU largely on the basis of political ignorance, and had previously voted in a Tory government.  It is those people that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party must convince: the people who get their information from the tabloid press and a skewed media, not the already convinced.

At the meeting there seemed no understanding that “splitting” is what the Labour movement does, has always done.  There was talk about forming ‘left’ electoral alliances, especially with the Green Party.  The Green Party has one MP.  Nobody mentioned the SNP, with 56 MPs, without whose support some of the reverses claimed to have been inflicted by the Labour oppostion would never have been achieved.  Does  anyone remember the “gang of four” forming the SDLP?   On the back of the election of Margaret Thatcher, four very senior, but centrist, Labour politicians left when the party committed itself to leaving the EEC (which became the EU) and unilateral nuclear disarmament.  One of them, Roy Jenkins, had been president of the European Commission!   They formed an alliance with the Liberal Party which eventually became the Liberal Democrats.  The Labour party was out of government for 20 years.  Maybe the Labour Party will split again, maybe needs to do it, but the consequence will be a generation of unfettered Tory rule. The branch meeting never quite got to howling down dissent, although it got uncomfortably close with the chair allowing multiple interjections when contrary views were being expressed.  I left with a sinking feeling of deja vu, and the image of the “Monty Python – Life of Brian” meeting of the Popular Judean People’s Front.  Splitters!

They think it’s all over……

Well, it happened.  The UK decided by 52/48%, on a 70% turnout, to negotiate an exit from the European Union.  Normally, even in a General Election, we’d be lucky to see 60% turnout.  For European elections it’s often been in the low 30%, but the fact remains that almost a third of registered voters didn’t vote – even for something as critically important as this.

I don’t doubt that many who voted to leave think it’s a case of “job done”, and they can go back to their usual disengagement with politics: at most, ranting on social media or writing letters to the editor from “Angry of Eastbourne”.  That would be the worst of all the collateral damage that might be inflicted on the UK and the rest of Europe.  Why?  Because all over Europe there are other Euro-sceptic parties, mostly of the extreme right wing, queueing up to have referendums of their own. If we turn our backs on the political process now and hand our democracy, by default, back to activists we risk being dragged back to the 1930s.  With the exit of Great Britain, a major player and influence in the EU, the disintegration of the EU is now a distinct possibility, broken up by an alliance of right-wing interests. This morning Nigel Farage (leader of the UK Independence Party) explicitly pointed to the “opportunity” for Euro-sceptic governments to create a Europe of separate “independent sovereign states”.  A neo-imperialist Russia will be happy to pick over the bones of our ‘friends’ (and their countries) from this group. In the Euro-Security part of the Brexit/Remain debate I heard people talk about the crucial role of NATO in preventing that. Well, NATO is made up of, and part funded by, these “independent sovereign states”- but led, bankrolled and largely equipped, by America. With Trump in charge of America, a man whose global vision stops at building walls on the Mexican border and golf courses in Scotland, what price the NATO umbrella? If it doesn’t directly affect the US he’s quite likely to think (if not say and do) “It’s nothing to do with us – get on with it”.  Would he ‘face off’ against Russia? I think not.

So, I implore you to get, or stay, engaged.  Read (but don’t necessarily believe what you see) the papers, take an interest in current affairs, vote in local council elections and vote in the inevitable early General Election.  Otherwise we risk waking up one day and saying “How the hell did that happen?”

“Independence Day” – Politics as Hollywood

I wrote and posted this the day before the EU Referendum

Even as I write this, after lying awake in the small hours, I know I am wasting my time.  The EU Referendum campaign is over; I fear the “Brexiters” have won.  All that remains is for the votes to be cast and counted.  Until 21st June I had hope.  Then, at the end of a televised debate, Boris Johnson (front man of the “Leave” campaign”) claimed that today would be our ‘Independence Day’.  Much wild whooping and cheering from the audience, literally raised to its feet.  I felt the dagger.

Actually it was strongly redolent of that moment in the 1996 film “Independence Day” when President Thomas Whitmore (played by Bill Pullman) declares the human race is about to strike back at the aliens, kick ass, and free us from the grip of the invaders who have dragged us to the brink of extermination. More whooping and hollering. I shuddered. I shudder still.

Last night Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, picked up on, and repeated, the theme.  He knows a good thing when he hears one.  Actually I imagined Johnson and Farage playing the parts of Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum, inside the alien mothership, delivering the ‘nuke’ into the face of the uncomprehending invaders. Kaboom.  We are free; standing in the ruins of our civilisation but free.  Hollywood also knows a good thing when it sees one.  The aliens fight back in “Independence Day – The Resurgence”.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I imagine much the same outcome.

In some ways Hollywood parallels real life.  The studios and producers, having found a successful formula, tap into the mood of the audience and then keep doing it relentlessly until interest palls.  Then they’ll move on to create another franchise. In the case of the euphoria generated by Boris Johnson in that “Independence Day” moment, he (and his supporters) will have to keep finding something to reproduce the ‘high’ or lose his audience.  Like a casual sexual encounter, the moment of climax is all enveloping…but you are left with a bit of a mess, and someone who farts in bed.  We have to have something more substantive to make that worth enduring – or hop from bed to bed.

The point I am making, if it’s not clear already, is that once the dust has settled the hard work of building new relationships begins.  When the reality of “Independence” becomes a struggle, and doesn’t succeed as hoped, a new alien invasion will have to be confronted to reproduce that high, that unity. Boris et al have already played the external threat card so, logically, it might have to be be a threat from within.  The Resurgence.

I don’t doubt for a minute that Donald Trump and his advisers have noted what is happening.  Will he have his “Independence Day” moment?  Actually, I think he will.  President Trump, playing Randy Quaid’s leering alcoholic pilot-hero in “Independence Day”, may be looking at Putin, or anyone else, saying “All right you Alien assholes, in the words of my generation…….up yours”.

The reason for his character’s derangement – he’s been ‘violated’ by aliens. Kaboom.