What if …

Big BenWhat if the British Government was competent enough to, and capable of, managing the economy and bringing an end to austerity?

What if the same government was capable to negotiating a smooth transition from European Union membership to political and economic independence from the EU?

What if the same government could manage the NHS and its care services without thinking that ‘NHS’ was just a set of letters and instead realising that it means ‘National Health Service’?

What if the same government could solve what is often called the ‘housing crisis’ and give young people a degree of independence  and a chance living away from their parents and grandparents?

What if the same government could do something about Britain’s infrastructure and fix the potholes in all the roads?

What if the same government knew about life outside the ‘Westminster village’?

What if the same British government could find a way of operating without fighting itself?

Fat chance.

 

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Birth

THEY WERE BEDDED down quietly in the Norfolk reeds, gazing at the broad expanse of water beyond them. They weren’t talking.

“How come you’re so white?” he suddenly blurted out.

She looked out across the water, as if recalling a dream, and sighed. “It’s a long story”, his mother replied, giving him a look as if to say: ‘Why d’you ask?’

“All right, you don’t have to answer that one,” she smiled. “Anyway, you didn’t hear what I said. So I’ll tell you, if I must, so long as you keep still for a while and pay attention.”

“Please. I want to know.”

“It’s quite a story, so don’t interrupt the way you usually do.”

She looked out across the water again.

“It begins with us having to fly a long way north. It took days to get there; the journey seemed to go on forever and ever to me. And I wasn’t alone in thinking like this.

“Eventually, we saw a lake in the mountains. It was lying in a bowl of pure whiteness surrounded by reed beds.” ‘If only we could be as white, we’d be acceptable’, I thought.

“Everything was covered in snow. It was all white, except for us. We would always stand out as we were, even against the drab murkiness of the reed beds.

“Nevertheless, we decided this was the place for us, so we flew down to the lakeside, to rest up after the long journey, and settled ourselves there for the night. It was very peaceful and quiet. Almost unusually so. Almost deathly quiet. It wasn’t long before we were asleep.

“When I first woke it was dark. That didn’t bother me too much – darkness has never frightened me – and I was soon asleep again.

“The next time I woke, it was broad daylight and, as I looked around, I saw that we were all losing that greyness, the same as you have at the moment.

“You can imagine; I was quiet alarmed. Things like this didn’t happen to us.”

Her listener, paying intense attention for a change, made little or nothing of her remark.

“After a while,” she went on, “it seemed to be natural and I didn’t panic, as you might think. We were all losing our greyness, and no one was in pain, so it seemed OK to me.

“The rest of the day went off quietly. We weren’t disturbed, neither did we make a lot of noise.

“At dusk, I thought I saw a movement on the far side of the lake. The reeds parted and I fully expected to see a gamekeeper come out, with a shotgun. ‘Good heavens, I thought. What’s going to happen next!’ But no one appeared.

“Instead, I saw a black swan at the head of what looked like a flotilla of nearly all black birds. Cormorants, I guessed.

“Now I really was alarmed. This was an alien group, or at least a different species.

“Then, quite suddenly and without any warning, the whole flock took off and, wheeling round against the white, snowy mountainous backdrop, flew away and were very soon out of sight.”

Now her listener did begin to agitate. “Well, what happened next?”

His mother, puling herself together, said: “The sound of all those birds taking off had woken everybody.

“We weren’t all white, but nearly so. I suppose we didn’t know what to do.

“Then one of our number, who seemed to be in charge, rushed out of the safety of the reeds and took off, flying vaguely southwards, towards home.

“Just like sky-borne sheep, we all followed and were soon flying southwards.

“Everything went well, except that we got lost and ended up on the shores of the Black Sea, where – as you may guess – we all turned black.

“We took off, once more heading home.

“When we eventually arrived I noticed that we’d all turned white.

“Funny, that, nothing had happened during our flight.

“But there you have it. That’s why I’m white and you’re not. You haven’t yet been to the lake in the north!”

For few moments he said nothing.

“How far is it?” he blurted out. “This lake in the north.”

“Oh, not so far that you couldn’t get there. The only trouble is, I can’t remember what it’s called. Or how to get there quickly.”

“I’ll find it,” he said, full of bravado. “And, just you wait, when I come back I’ll be white as the driven snow.”

She laughed. “I hope the snow hasn’t been driven too much!”

He shuffled out of the reed bed and took off, unaware that he had been joined by several others.

Together, they flew northwards, his mother giving a sigh as if to say: ‘Hotheads.’

A while later – he didn’t know how long – he spotted a lake lying in a fold in the mountains. It was the only dark smudge on the white landscape.

‘This must be the place,’ he thought, as he swopped down to land on the surface with much splashing, leaving a small wake behind him.

Looking around, he spotted some reed beds, which must have been those his mother rested in.

“I’ll rest here a while and see if anything happens.”

He was soon asleep, and slept for the rest of that night. When he awoke it was broad daylight. He looked around to see that nothing had changed, not even the colour of his feathers had worn when he left the place he called home.

The rest of that day passed off quietly. He and his comrades made little or no noise, as if they knew something was going to happen and had to stay silent to be ready for whatever it was.

At dusk, just as his mother had before him, he thought he saw the reed beds stir on the other side of the lake. He drew breath, and then gave a start.

He was looking at a lone black swan.

He and his comrades immediately took off and, without a backward glance, set off towards home.

Back among the safety of the Norfolk reeds, he settled and blinked as he saw a small boat pass by, no doubt headed home, its grubby white sails tinged pink by the dying light of the sun.

By his side, his mother laughed quietly to herself.

“What’s so funny?” he gasped.

“You should see yourself, and all the others.”

He looked down at himself, and then at the others.

Everyone was quite white.

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More obfuscation

There hasn’t been much said about Brexit in the last couple of weeks or so,  mercifully.

But that hasn’t stopped the present administration from uttering platitudes while implementing some pretty harsh legislation.

What are we to do with them?

You only have to look into their eyes to know that, when they speak, they don’t really believe a word of what they say. They’re mouthing from pre-written texts. So, platitudes cover up a multitude of sins against the populace.

Of course, if you’re one of them, and that means an MP or just a sympathiser, you’ll be used to this and not take any notice. Politicians have been ‘economical with the truth’ ever since the phrase was first coined, and before then. And they show no signs of changing their ways.

But what do you do if you don’t like what you hear?

You can’t really turn a blind eye or deaf ear, or can you – do you?

You can’t really shrug and say “It was ever thus” and let the half-truths roll on and on. Maybe you do, and may be it was.

Perhaps the answer is: we ought to care more about what they say and do, so that they only say what they are going to do.

But that requires politicians to be honest. And it’s a very long time since I met one of those in the flesh.

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They’re at it again

It never seems to stop.

The Conservatives are still blethering on as if they’ve all read the same hymn sheet.

Mrs May seems to be singing the Anglican tune.

Boris Johnson is warbling from a High Anglican, almost Catholic, book.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, seems to constantly refer to the Methodist Hymnal.

David Davis, meanwhile, sings from whichever hymnal suits him.

I wish they would decide on a single tune, or at least the same book of hymns, so that the rest of us could make out what they do believe.

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Still at it, after all this time

You can understand 27 European leaders being at loggerheads over Britain’s terms for leaving the European Union. They’ve all got their own agendas, so they couldn’t agree.

But Britain’s Tory party?

Come on … surely they can have a party line, and stick to it.

But no. They’re still arguing among themselves over what kind of Britain they want to see outside the European Union, after years of doing so. In the last few days alone they’ve been at it again. This time, the Chancellor seems to have put his foot in it. Poor man.

Who’d be a politician, eh? You’re damned if you say one thing and damned if you say another. You’re compromising yourself at all times.

I wouldn’t do it.

Why doesn’t he shut up

It’s only days ago that Tony Blair was interviewed in The Guardian by Decca Aitkenhead, when that paper devoted a whole page to the pair of them.

What a waste of space!

He had nothing to say, other than that we should all follow our consciences. He contends that we have been bamboozled into Brexit by a government – or by the Tories if you follow his line of thought – who have no time for anything else. Not the housing crisis. Nor the poverty gap. Or the north south divide. Nor dealing with the Grenfell Tower disaster.

How obvious is all that!

The Tories have devoted no time at all to anything other than badly handling our leaving the EU, and most of the press has colluded with them in talking about it. As a result, we all think that that is all that matters.

What piffle! It’s enough that no one says that, once we leave the EU, almost everyone will be saying: “We never had it so good.” The rightwing newspapers will be crying into their cups, because when we have to deal as an independent nation with France, or Germany or the Poles, Spaniards, Portuguese or Italians, we shall get no more special treatment than if we were Ugandans or Indians. Indeed, we may get less, because we have no natural resources to trade with.

Tony Blair may have been Prime Minister, but that doesn’t give him the right to believe it’s he and he alone that occupies the moral high ground.

Why doesn’t he slink away and shut up, like any good ex-Prime Minister should?

But then, Ms Aitkenhead wouldn’t have anyone to interview.

 

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What are they up to now?

It seems not a day goes by when the British government manages to put its foot in it.

Only the other day they demonstrated how inept they are by disagreeing amongst themselves on how much it will costs Britain to leave the EU.

On top of that, they seem to think they can do what they like and no one else will pay any attention. Don’t they realise that the EU has 27 other members, all of whom have to agree with each other before anything is passed into law?

‘Arrogance’, some call it. To me, it smacks of sheer incompetence born of the idea that no one knows best expect aunty. And she doesn’t even know what day it is!

The sooner we are over all this, the better it will be. Then we shall be able to live with whatever character Britain has when it is past this muddle and confusion.

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They’re all at now

What is it with this government?

As well as seeming to be unfit to manage Britain’s exit from the European Union, they don’t seem to be able to control things in the House of Commons.

Admittedly, the place has too many bars, too many darkened corridors and too many opportunities for indiscretions. But the recent spate of stories of members propositioning young people of both sexes is little short of unreasonable, even disgraceful.

I say ‘unreasonable’ because most people expect their MPs to be above such things. It’s unreasonable to expect them all to be paragons of virtue (there are, after all, plenty of opportunities for un-virtuous behaviour) and they can’t all be whiter than white. Moreover, it’s true that such infidelities have been going on for years. So what’s new?

MPs are supposed to be sensible people. To judge by the current headlines, that’s something that should be on a wish list.

Dogs that bark in the night

A couple of days ago, as he was giving his debut address to the United Nations, Donald Trump threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” and went on to ridicule the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, by referring to him as “rocket man”.

I ask you, what kind of language is that for a President to use? It’s certainly not what Barack Obama would’ve used.

Now the North Korean Foreign Minister, Ri Yong-ho, has witheringly described Trump’s threat as “the sound of a dog barking”, referring to a Korean proverb that says that the marching goes on even when dogs bark.

In all this rhetoric, one question bothers me: did Trump mean what he said, or was he just trying to put the frighteners on Kim Jong-un?

If he meant what he said – that he would “totally destroy North Korea” – we should all be afraid; very afraid.

If he was just trying to scare Kim Jong-un into ceasing his nuclear testing, I doubt the leader of North Korea is that easily scared. Even his Foreign Minister said, in reference to  the ‘rocket man’ epithet: “I feel sorry for his aides.” He also reminded reporters that, in Korean, a dog dream is one that makes little sense.

We may feel that this is ‘an American problem’; that Trump and the North Koreans should just carry on slagging each other off until they are exhausted.

The trouble is, it isn’t. Which is why I think we should all be very afraid.

 

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Stupid names

It occurred to me today that the British Prime Minster and her Foreign Secretary have the two most ridiculous names imaginable.

‘Theresa May’ sounds like a cross between a holy mother and someone who might – just might – get things done.

Boris Johnston, on the other hand, is just plain daft. Who on earth calls their son Boris? And who has the temerity the be called Johnston, after the famous Dr?

I ask you, are the British governed by idiots are just plain crazies?

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