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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Cometh the hour, cometh the man

Clem Attlee

Attlee by Karsh

Several generations ago, Clement Attlee was the man. As common as muck, or so the Tories thought. Today it looks like Jeremy Corbyn is the name on everybody’s lips. As common as muck, or so many think.

Immediately after the Second World War, Attlee was elected as Prime Minister.

Who knows, but that Corbyn might be elected by the public, as Leader of the Labour Party and thus Prime Minister, immediately after the War of the Tories?

It certainly looks as if history will repeat itself.

 

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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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Leaving it all behind

I never thought I’d do it, but here I am, writing my first blog from Devon.

Leaving London after living there for more than 50 years was a wrench.

Having said that, I don’t miss the dirt, the crowds or the noise (all of which have increased over the years). Of course, I miss having galleries on my doorstep (or being able to go to one on a whim) and being able to go to the cinema without making it a planned activity based on bus timetables and what’s on. I miss living at the centre of national and international politics and debate. Big BenAnd I miss being able to shop for anything I’ve forgotten when I feel like it. I also miss some of the individuals I got to know (although many of them live, or lived, far from the centre of the action).

But, much more than generally speaking, life down here in Devon is far better than life up there in London. For one thing, the air is cleaner and it’s a great deal better to be woken by the squawk of seagulls – even though they still look bad-tempered and sound as if they’re laughing at me – or by the trilling of other birds than it is by the wail of sirens. I could do without the sound of the sea washing the pebbles clean each time it rushes out, instead of the swoosh of tyres on one of London’s wet main roads. But I can’t say I’d swap one for the other.

If I were many years younger, I would no doubt think differently. I would want  something going on all the time; clubs or discos to go to nearby, more young people my age around and willing to do much the same things. But, as an older person, the quieter life down here is just what I want. Goodness me, I can even shop in peace and buy The Guardian!

Doing what they said

Of course, I’m not the only one leaving things behind.

Donald Trump promised much in his campaign, pedalling a brand of patriotic rhetoric that got him elected to the highest office in the so-called free world. But he’s dealing in international pragmatism nowadays. Hell (as they say over there), he’s even stopped talking about building a wall.

Theresa May sat so firmly on the fence during 2016’s European referendum debate, refusing to say which side she was on, she must’ve hurt herself. It must be the reason why, today, she wears an expression of permanent pain whenever she extols what’s become known as ‘a hard Brexit’. She even has to peddle the same line as those she was supposedly against.

No, I don’t miss any of what I left behind. I can pick and choose what I want to pay attention to. I can even follow the fortunes of my favourite top-of-the-pile football club! And I will, eventually, be able to live the life I want to, once all the material things to do with moving have been sorted out.

It was a good move. Maybe even one I should’ve made some time ago. But, ‘there is a tide in the affairs of men’.

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Choice or debate

Nearly six months now and I – like so many others – remain frustrated.

Why? Because no-one has yet resolved whether we’re In or Out of the European Union. If we’re In, what role do we have? And, if we’re Out, how will we live with the rest of the world?

On the In hand, we could look forward to being part of an admittedly flawed grouping of vaguely like-minded states. Growth would be slow, but it would at least be collective. Squabbling in the group would continue, but ultimately all arguments must end, and they usually do.

On the Out hand, we don’t know what to look forward to. Will our place in the world have changed that much? Will we, the UK, be a small trading nation having to make our way in the world much as Portugal might’ve done before it became part of the European Union?

The prospects are very confusing.

And they’re not made any the less so by the seeming inability of anyone anywhere to tell us what’s going on.

I know the UK voted on June 23 to Leave, but we still Remain. But in what guise?

It seems to me that we should have had an informed debate about the future of the UK before we were asked to vote, with everyone from all walks of life being asked to contribute to the discussion. That way we would have known what we were being asked to vote on. Instead, all we heard was people arguing about what kind of Europe – and thus, by extension, what kind of world – we would be living in, without considering whether or not we wanted to be In or Out of it.

As it was, no one really debated or discussed the relative merits of the European Union before we were asked whether or not we wanted to Remain in it or Leave it. They seemed to shout at one another, brandishing facts which have since proved unsustainable. It’s only now, after we have made an ill-informed decision, that Europe’s pros and cons are being fully aired. And it’s too late. We have decided. Leave is what we shall do, whether we like it or not.

The next few years are going to be regretful, that’s for sure.

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They still don’t know what to do

Even now, some three almost four months since the UK voted, the Government still doesn’t know what to do about Europe.

The UK voted Out, that’s certain. Like people voting to die, we’ve queued up for the guillotine.

The Prime Minister either doesn’t know, or can’t know and – for sure – won’t say what’s next. She has her, no doubt, good reasons. theresa-may-19th-octoberBut it looks as if the Government is out of control; like a driverless car careering down the MI, hell-bent on getting to London without really knowing where London is.

The feeling is, someone ought to take control. Or at least be seen to take control

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It’s cold outside

People keep on asking: “What’s it going to mean?”

If I had the answer, I’d be able to make a bomb. But I don’t, so I can’t.

I was minded today to think I knew, but then Nicola Sturgeon was reported as saying the Scots might hold another referendum on whether or not they want to remain as part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. If the Scots vote to leave, it will – of course – no longer be a United Kingdom. But that’s another story.

The governmet under the premiership of Theresa May has no ideas, either. Unless, that is, it has some ideas but is keeping quiet about them.

Asking us to vote in June was akin to asking a man if he wanted to die. Of course, he voted to live – but on his terms.

Now we are all going to die, victims of a vote which casts us out of a Union which we have enjoyed without realising we were in it. Out of it we shall feel the cold like someone cast out into a wintry street without an overcoat.

I guess that’s what it’s going to mean; not being in a club and feeling cold.

 

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Sipping tea, but not talking turkey

It’s over three months since a slim majority of the British people voted to leave the European Union.

Yet nothing has happened.

Instead, we sit at the edge of the ice pool, sipping tea while the representatives of some 30 countries mill around, debating with each other, sometimes shouting and all looking for a theme to unite them.

If we’re not careful, the ice will break, we shall all sink, and that will be the end of the European project.

It’s a frightening thought, even sitting on the edge.

We really ought to get on to dry land. But, at the moment, we don’t know what that land is like and how we will fare in it. We could easily be a forgotten people who made their way onto the land by accident.

We have to know what kind of country Britain wants to be, post European Union membership, before we can offer anything useful to those who are already on dry land.

It’s time, therefore, to make our minds up; for those who would be in charge to take responsibility for being in charge.

 

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We still don’t know

Back in August I was worried we didn’t know what was going to happen to us, now that we’ve voted to leave the European Union.

Today, I still don’t know.

Like a lot of other people, I’m in the dark about what our relationship with Europe will be like. Will we be in the free trade zone, or out of it? Will just anyone be allowed to come into the UK from Europe, or will they have to prove they’re wanted? Will we have to pay to travel outside the UK?

There are so many unanswered questions, it’s as if we’re being deliberately blind-sided.

True, it would help to know who we are dealing with. So we’d better wait until after the Germans have decided on their future. Likewise the French. And anyone else who’s got an election coming up.

But should we wait until after the Americans have decided on their president? That would mean waiting until late November, at the earliest.

It seems a long way off. But then, Europe seemed a long way off at one time. It was a foreign place, the other side of a stretch of water. Now it’s only a tunnel away and we (us Brits) are part of it.

At least, I think we are.

I’d like to know, one way or the other.

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Will someone please tell us what’s going on?

It’s a few weeks since Britain was asked to vote IN or OUT of the European Union, and we were given to expect swift action following the result.

Yet nothing has happened. We are as we were before: stuck in a land of uncertainty.

All that has changed is the leadership of the Conservative Party, and thus the Prime Minister. Where once we had an Old Etonian in charge, who rolled up his sleeves and wanted to be one of the blokes, we now have a well-dressed, state-educated woman in the post, who seems to  want to be a lady.

All that has happened is that the government seems to have lurched to the right. The Prime Minister has voiced her support for grammar schools and her concern about the Chinese investment in our nuclear future, and the Transport Secretary has described as ‘militant’ those who would try to get a better deal for their members.

It seems that, if all that we see comes to pass, we shall be living in a land where the elite get all the top jobs (because they’ve been to a better school) and the rest are believed to be militant. Or, at least, malcontent.

Cameron has disappeared. Some say that June’s referendum on IN or OUT of Europe was called by him to placate the right wing of his party, and that he was convinced he and his beliefs would win. Now, it looks as if he left the job in an hurry because he didn’t want to have to clear up the mess he left behind, or be called on to deal with the big beasts of the right who would probably savage him. May was what the backbenchers would call “a safe pair of hands”, although she is best remembered for being a smart pair of shoes.Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 17.06.54

It also looks as if we don’t know where we’re going. Or with whom.

Isn’t it time someone – I don’t much mind who – told us a few truths about the future.

At present, we seem to be drifting, with a weakened currency and no political direction.

 

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