Category Archives: Democracy

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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Do the politicians know anything?

The more I see and hear of it, the more I’m inclined to agree with my friend in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey.

He believes Brexit (or Britain leaving the EU, to give the process its real term, not it’s media-driven nickname) is far too complex to be left to mere politicians.

All they seem to do is shout at each other from positions of emotional weakness, and listen to what they want to hear.

Tattered Jack

Take the leavers, for example. Last year, before we were asked to vote “In” or “Out”, they told us that £350 million pounds a day was being spent on the EU which they would spend on the NHS. Where’s that money today? And where’s the talk of how it will be spent when we do leave? As leave we surely will.

I was recently in hospital and all I heard from the staff were comments about the lack of funds (£350 million a day, anyone?). I heard, too, how the NHS would not work if it were not for the cleaners, caterers, health care assistants, nurses and doctors – almost all the staff you would ever meet – who were born outside the British Isles but who chose to work in this country, because there is no work for them in their native land. Most of them do not know what they’ll do if they are told they must leave. “None of the local people want to do this job” was what I heard over and over again. Watch the television if you don’t believe me.

I first heard a remark like this from a pea-packer, years ago. Interviewed on television somewhere near Boston, Lincs, she said she would gladly give up work to care for a small child she and her Polish husband had had in the UK, but “everyone who’s British who’s interviewed says ‘no’ to the job”.

Does no one want to bend their back? Do the politicians think that all they need to show us is their posturing?

David Davis, for example, looks like a fairground busker who must’ve thought you believed him when he put it about that you would “See the bearded lady!” Was he referring to Mrs May? Where is said hirsute female? Perhaps more accurately, he looks like a sharp-suited shyster who has asked us to invest in a multi-million pound enterprise, knowing all along that the enterprise isn’t worth much more than sixpence of anybody’s money.

Would you buy a secondhand car from him? I know I wouldn’t. Neither should you.

As for Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, he very nearly blew it completely when he implied that Europe could “whistle” for Britain’s due payments.

The opposition is no better. They seem to have too many of their own axes to grind.

So why not leave it all to the bureaucrats? They have nothing to lose by sticking to the facts. The politicians have everything to lose by trying to suggest that we are all like them: no matter which flag they salute.

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He’s still there

Last November it seemed almost unbelievable. This August, less than a year later, it is still unbelievable.

Donald Trump is President of the United States of America.

After all the jaw-dropping foolishness we saw during the US election, and the wicked bad-mouthing of his opponent, it seems to be beyond comprehension that The Donald is President. It seems incongruous that a man whose appeal can only be to the small-minded is in a high office once occupied by a man whose intellect was so great he seemed to think of everything before he even opened his mouth. He even made jokes, for heaven’s sakes, which seemed premeditated. What’s more, they were funny and we didn’t laugh at them out of politeness or nervousness.

True, a vote for The Donald’s chief opponent would have probably meant the retention of America’s status quo. And the election of a woman to “the highest office in the land” for  the first time. But would that have been so bad? At least, we would’ve known where we stood.

A leap into the unknown

As it is, the election of The Donald was a leap into the unknown. And I don’t mean the kind of ‘unknown’ not known by Donald Rumsfeld. I mean the kind of ‘unknown’ we are currently experiencing; the unknown that creates uncertainty.

We don’t know, for example, from one week to the next, what The Donald will say or do tomorrow.

He could say he’s going to build a wall. But nothing seems to happen.

He could say the North Koreans threaten world stability. But they still launch nuclear missiles.

He could hire me tomorrow. But next week I could be fired.

While he is still there – and he may be there until 2024 – we should all be worried. His behaviour, and his decisions, are laughable but they all have their consequences. The great communicator, Anthony Scaramucci [the Mooch], might seem like a clown. But he’s a dangerous joker, capable of making his boss look positively benign.

The transatlantic view

On this side of the ocean, we can disbelieve what we hear, even laugh at The Donald.

But I would hate to be a liberal living in America now. I might even be ashamed of my country. I certainly would not want The Donald to be my President. Not for a moment longer.

However, I do not know who might take his place.

Change was needed, of that there is no doubt. The system had become atrophied. Obama could not get anything done, because the numbers in both houses were stacked against him. Everything was a compromise. A fresh approach was needed.

Goodness knows but that Britain needs a change! The current government is the same as its predecessor, in all but personnel.

But where are the men or women who can take the places of those that are in charge? Are we to have to carry on as usual, while our current ‘leaders’ (including Valdimir Putin and co) are there?

Few of us are leaders. Most of us prefer to be led. But not by people who say one thing, do another, and turn everything into a reflection of themselves and their so-called achievements.

We all need someone else ‘there’. Someone we can trust.

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If the cap fits, wear it

Years go – long before I was a boy – the Labour Movement was associated with cloth caps and handkerchiefs. One on your head and another round your neck was all you needed. That, and a coal-blackened face.

Nowadays, Labour represents a different kind of person. One who’s probably been to university, is well–educated and wouldn’t be seen dead in a cloth cap.

Yet the Tories don’t seem to have recognised this.

Only yesterday I saw a man – suited, scowling and briefcase in hand –  who looked as if he despised the world, because it wasn’t peopled by his ‘type’.

But his ‘type’ is – to coin an election phrase of years ago – yesterday’s man.

Once the Tories wake up to the idea that the composition of Labour has changed, and that many younger people who once voted Tory now see Labour as representing the establishment, we may get a government that reflects the majority of the people and their views.

Until then, we must put up with stereotypes. And, it seems, mediocrity.

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At last, it’s all over. For now.

I’ve been waiting a long time to write that headline, or something like it. The recently held, unnecessary, ego-driven election to determine who runs the UK seems to have gone on forever; like some kind of degenerative, wasting illness that has to be endured.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve heard politicians speaking (or in some cases, barking) about almost everything, but we haven’t heard any of the detail we want to hear. For example, there’s been virtually no mention of the kind of country we can expect to be living in. None at all. At least, none that I can relate to.

Instead, we’ve heard only that we can expect ‘strong and stable leadership’ from an administration led by The Maybot, Theresa May, (what a joke that empty mantra seems now, after so many climb-downs on her part!) or one that’s ‘for the many not the few’ from ‘Jezza’ Jeremy Corbyn (at least that one sounds plausible, even though it seems to have been invented by a marketing guru).

It’s still a great shame we were not offered a No Confidence space on the ballot paper. For all that the turnout was encouraging to those that would clutch at any straw blowing in the wind, that’s where a great many Xs would’ve ended up.

After all, do we really want a government lead by a woman who looks and sounds as if she is the product of a machine? One that was made on the home counties production line, with all the small-mindedness that that implies? Do we really want to be governed by a person who, at the outset, looked like a young middle-aged woman dreaming of past glories and future triumphs but, by the end, looked like an old middle-aged woman, broken and sad, contemplating her own mortality?

Do we want a government led by a person who was once described by Ken Clarke as “bloody difficult”? By someone who refuses to debate matters on tv? By someone who tells us that ‘strong leadership’ will be needed in the now-stalled negotiations with the European Union, when we must know (unless we are all ostriches) that She Who Tells Us will not be at the negotiating table herself (just as she wasn’t in the tv debate), but that a person with the mindset of a man like David Davis, who describes Brexit as “the defining issue of our age”, will lead the team? Or might it be a member of the DUP?

Or do we want a government led by a person who, at the outset, looked like a broken old milddle-aged man not knowing what to do with retirement but now looks like a young middle-aged man rejuvenated by the thought that the even younger civil servants will do most of the heavy work, and that there are equally pressing issues, other than the dreary one of  leaving the EU, that have to be attended to?

The Conservatives made almost no mention of Britain’s housing crisis, our failing mental health provisions, or child poverty.

They didn’t even have the guts to present themselves as a team. The Supreme Leader was the only one we were asked to think about.

And now we are stuck with that thought; with her. For another five years, or for as long as it takes for her to change her mind – yet again.

Those of us who can’t abide the woman will – like my late mother who used to turn off the telly every time Mrs Thatcher hove in view – have to bear her as we bore Mrs T and survived. I guess we’ll survive Mrs M.

But will she be remembered? Margaret Thatcher

Now that the election is all over, we can only hope that she will disappear into obscurity.

I doubt there’s much hope of that. We all still recall ‘That Woman’. But Mrs May is likely to be remembered as The One That Got Away. For now.

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Vote, don’t shout

It’s been a while now since those of us who count ourselves as UK citizens first heard we were going to get a vote on staying in or leaving the European Union.

Since then and more recently, there has been a lot of shouting.

But not a lot of speaking unto truth. Even now, with less than two weeks to go, no one is telling us how things will be. They’re all willing to say – or, rather, shout – “If we stay it will be so and so”, or “If we leave it will be so and so”, but no one is prepared to tell us how it will really be after June 23.

I tend to agree with one young person who, it was reported a few days ago, said that it sounded like a lot of old men shouting at each other.

For that’s what it has been: a lot of middle-aged, if not older, people shouting at each other, here and elsewhere, in the press and on the television as well as on the radio.

People shout at each other, instead of having a rational, even quiet debate about the issues. Someone said the other day that Hillary Clinton won’t get elected because she doesn’t shout enough, and because she’s not good-looking enough.

Was Mrs Thatcher good-looking? She was glamorous, for sure, but I’m not sure if she shouted. She did, at least, sound strident.

Was Golda Meir good-looking? That depends on your point of view, but I don’t recall her shouting.

Angel Merkel is neither a hot-looking woman, nor given to shouting.

Hillary Clinton is good-looking enough for me.

But doo we have to have a good-looking person in charge of the leading nation in the Western World?

And do we have to have a voice in what’s being said, despite being “the fifth most prosperous nation in the world”, as one shouty middle-aged man put it?

Of course, we want to be taking part in the world. Who doesn’t, or wouldn’t?

But, do we have to shout about it? Can’t we just vote?

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Did you make your mark? And how?

I haven’t had much to say of late, but I have been listening.
That’s partly because I’ve been ill.
I was listening and trying to make sense of the cacophony of ideas and comment that filled cyberspace, the radio waves, television and our newspapers as we approached the UK’s general election.Big Ben
Believe me, it was hard. So much noise and so little clarity. With only a week or so to go, no one seemed to be able to predict the outcome.
Too close for comfort
Now it’s all over bar the shouting, at least until September, when The Labour Party has its conference and there’ll be plenty of noise about then.
That’s not so surprising when you think that, for years, it’s been nigh-on impossible to slip a cigarette paper between the two major parties’ policies or their leaders, whoever they may be.
Both leaders banged on before the election about reducing the budget deficit, blaming each other for its existence and the way it was handled. Yet neither seemed to have a credible solution.
Each one swore blind the NHS was safe in their hands while acknowledging it needs reform. But who knows where they might take it? Less than a month later it was deemed to be in trouble again.
And they both had our ageing population’s welfare and our children’s education right at the heart of their programmes. Where is it now?
“Vote for us from cradle to grave”, but what would we get?
Even if you turned to the minority parties, there wasn’t much on offer.
The Greens’ ideas seemed attractive, until you recalled their leader’s February “brain fade” and asked yourself if they’d be able to keep a grip on their day-to-day thinking, let alone the economy.
UKIP didn’t fare too well, unless you were a rabid anti-immigrationist or a simple-minded little Englander.
As for the Liberal Democrats, they seem to have completely lost their way since they were blinded by the bright lights of so-called power sharing as they went into coalition with the Conservatives. Their leader quit almost before he’d lost his seat.
Damaged goods
Aside from their policies, there was also the question of morality or, to be kinder, the whether of whether or not any of our currently serving MPs are fit for purpose.
Even now it’s hard to forget, and even harder to forgive, the business of MPs’ expenses. The infamous duck house enjoys legendary status. The second homes are an indelible memory.
More recently and nearer the election, we had accusations levelled at both Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw that they were willing to accept cash in hand in exchange for a word in various MPs’ ears.
Even the church, which delivered such a well-reasoned critique on the state of British politics early in the year, was accused of hypocrisy for demanding an increase in the minimum wage when it currently paid some of its people less than that.
And then there was the government’s relationship with big business. What were we to make of the half-Nelson administered – and still administered – by some of the huge corporations whose influence paralyses the politicians’ ability to effect change in almost any walk of life?
Could we, in short, have confidence in anyone or any party that entreated us for our vote?
The radical alternative
I don’t profess to have an absolute answer to any of your questions, but I do have a suggestion.
Between now and the next general election let’s try to get something on the ballot paper that allows us to express ourselves properly, rather than having to vote in a way that leaves us uncomfortable just because we’re trying to keep someone out, rather than vote as we feel.
I didn’t vote (because I was stuck in the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, too late to register for a postal vote, and too ill to be allowed out to the polling station).
But had I been able to vote I probably would have spoiled my paper by writing something like NONE OF THE ABOVE ARE SUITABLE across it.
It would then have gone into the pile marked “Spoiled papers” and been forgotten.
Let’s, next time, have a place where you can put a tick next to NO CONFIDENCE.
That way we all be able to vote as we feel, not as we’re expected to.

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What choice for the UK’s floating voter?

One hundred days to go and counting.
It’s unlikely that, when election day dawns and the real counting begins, there’ll be a hundred names on your ballot paper. But the way things are going, it wouldn’t surprise me if there were.
And how then will the floating voter vote? Faced with so much choice, with the old political certainties sundering and political dissent gaining traction, what can he or she do to prevent his or her vote sinking without trace?
The negative vote
Yesterday morning I heard a man telling the world (or at least Radio 4 listeners) that, after voting for one or another of the major parties since the day he could vote at all, he’s planning to make his mark for UKIP.
He’s doing so because, he says, the major parties are now all the same as each other. When they get into power, they spend two or three years undoing what their predecessors have done and then promise things they ultimately can’t deliver.
So this time round he’s going to vote UKIP; to cast what even he admits is a protest vote.
Why must he be left with such a negative choice?
Probably because the only alternatives are to reject the election altogether and not vote at all, or to spoil his ballot paper. Which means that his ‘vote’, along with thousands of others, would simply drown in an ocean of spoiled papers.
What a waste. Especially when there could be an intelligent alternative.
The No Confidence vote
If there was a space on the ballot paper where voters could make a mark against No Confidence, our man would have a clear way of expressing his current dissatisfaction.
What’s more, at a time when a great deal has been said about the accountability of politicians, his vote would have clear and identifiable count-ability.
It could be totted up with those of likeminded folk and declared as an accurate percentage of the nation’s preference.
As a result, the politicians would know beyond all reasonable doubt that, let’s say, 56% of the population had no confidence in any of their parties, their policies or their candidates.
And that might wake them up; get them to engage with the people. Thumbs Up 2a
My hope is that, by giving people a sensible positive choice, they would be encouraged to take part in what will be a very important election.
For me, the choice should be either vote with confidence for whoever you have confidence in, or vote No Confidence.
Whatever the outcome, we would at least know who’d voted for what. And the politicians would know where the people’s confidence lay.

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Making democracy work

It’s been Democracy Day today and, quite properly, we’ve heard a lot about the way we vote and what we vote for.
All the discussions and debates I’ve heard have made sense.
I have to say, it would have been a shame if they hadn’t. We are, after all, a civilised society and democracy is a civilised way of choosing our governments.
Major points
There are two major points that have stuck with me throughout the day.
The first is that politicians of all parties should offer us clearly defined, coherent policies that they then adhere to.
The second is that the increasing professionalisation and splintering of politics means it’s inevitable we’ll be offered a plethora of parties to choose from – many of them with no experience of government – when we get to the polling booth. Ballot Paper Cross 1
Like children in a sweet shop, we’ll be faced with a bewildering array of tempting goodies, all of them enticing but none of them guaranteed to do us any good.
Indeed, some of them may even do us serous harm.
Sharper cures
Faced with such a wide choice, and increasingly dubious about the worth of anything we’re offered, it’s little wonder people are turning away from mainstream politics.
Rather than suffer a never-ending diet of sugar-coated placebos prescribed by smart-suited spin doctors, some of us are turning to sharper cures for our current ills.
Protest has become rife. Revolution is on the rise. The clamour to be heard is mounting.
For some of us, the question now is where to turn for the kind of government we crave; fair, open, honest, honourable and humane policies that provide a solid foundation for a sound society.
True, most of the parties offer a version of this.
The disappointment for many of us is that few, if any, deliver on their promises, which leaves us disillusioned.
The sour choice
As a result, fewer and fewer of us even bother to vote.
We don’t go to the sweet shop because what’s on offer makes us sick.
Even if we did go, we’re not really able adopt a suck-it-and-see approach because, instead of giving us a second choice immediately, the current parliamentary system saddles us with a government we can’t change for five years.
So, if we are feeling sour-faced and militant enough, we trot along to the polling station and spoil our ballot papers by writing something rude across them, which makes us feel better.
The savoury alternative
The tragedy of this approach is that our votes are disregarded completely; written off as “spoiled papers” and never properly accounted for.
It’s my belief there could be an alternative for those of us who want to vote responsibly. Ballot Paper Cross 2
We should be given a box on the ballot paper where we can put a cross, not against a name or a party, but against No Confidence.
In this way, we would be able to voice our disappointment – even our disillusionment – without running the risk of our vote being, quite literally, consigned to the dustbin of history.
Moreover, all our No Confidence votes could be counted, thus sending a clear message to the politicians that – if they want to win our votes – they must give us something we can have confidence in and therefore vote for.
It’s not rocket science. It’s just democracy at work.

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