Tag Archives: politics

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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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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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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Which game next?

In the weeks since Britons were asked to vote whether they’d like to stay in or leave the European Union, we have been in a state of limbo. And that’s no place to be.

Almost as soon as the referendum result was known, David Cameron resigned. Some would say that was cowardice; others that it was the sign of a shrewd mind that knew chaos would follow a national vote called to placate his right-wing enemies.

In the meantime, the Labour Party has been going through a leadership argument, with some two or three people wanting to assume Jeremy Corbyn’s mantle as spokesman for the government’s opposition – a job he hasn’t done terribly well by anybody’s judgement.

Being in or out of the European Union will come at a price.

To stay in means having to pay our dues. But then, anyone who plays golf knows that it is better if one pays a membership fee.

Being out means that we shall have to face up to being a bit like Portugal before it joined the EU.

The best option is to tee off, if you know how to.

Being in limbo is no place to be, unless you are a dancer.

 

 

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He’s at it again

It’s hard to believe, but last week he put his foot in his mouth again.

For one who supposedly wants to be leader of his party, George Osborne is making a pretty poor go of it. And it gets worse and worse.

His Budget last week was, in itself, a bit of a mishmash of old ideas muddled with new thinking. He had trailed some of it already. Not much of it came as a surprise. He continued to favour the better-off in British society and failed to help those less able to help themselves.

As result, the present Cabinet has lost one member – Ian Duncan-Smith, for whatever reason – and may lose more before his Master, it’s chair, David Cameron, decides enough is enough and retreats to whatever ‘retirement’ he choses.

Meanwhile, George seems to think that all he has to do is grin and we’ll like him.

Personally, I’ve always been a little circumspect about people who grin too much. They seem to be hiding something else behind the façade of friendliness.

Sometimes it’s no more than politesse. At others it’s malice; it could be idiocy.

In George’s case, it seems to be a combination of the last two. He looks like a malicious idiot.

And he did it it again last week.

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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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Vote, they say. But how?

Hardly a day goes by these days without us being asked or told how to vote for some cause or another.

Last month, the residents of Scotland were asked: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” To many people’s surprise, and many others’ disappointment, they turned out in force to narrowly vote “No”.

Last week, the people of Clacton were asked to vote for a new Member of Parliament, their previously incumbent Member having defected to the UK Independence Party. The original Member got his job back, albeit under a different banner.

The other day I was asked to vote for Time Out magazine’s awards for the best best local restaurants, cafés, pubs and shops in London.

And so it goes on. We are asked to vote on anything, from the best of an obscure category to the worst of some other mysterious grouping.

As for being told how to vote politically, even former Sex Pistol, Johnny Rotten, is in on the act! He believes we should all vote, no matter how apathetic we may be about British politics. “Stand up and be counted”, he says.”Make your voice heard.”

And I agree. We should all vote.

The trouble is, many of us either don’t know who to vote for, or see the whole process as a waste of time because none of the parties, or their candidates, offer anything we can relate to.

Much of this apathy is, no doubt, due to our disillusionment with Parliament and our MPs. The expenses scandal clearly undermined people’s trust in the establishment. The differences between the parties’ policies are so slim it’s impossible to slip a cigarette paper between them. The all-too-frequent bouts of incompetence do nothing for our confidence.

As a result, many of us see politics as a waste of time and don’t bother to vote at all. Which, as Johnny Rotten would no doubt agree, is a crying shame.

A new alternative

I believe voting in Britain should be compulsory.

“Pretty radical”, I hear you say.

Well, maybe. But look at it this way.

If we were all legally obliged to vote, we might all pay more attention to what’s on offer and, instead of abdicating our responsibilities for the way our society is governed, we might actually engage with politics more positively.

Some of us, of course, will never want to vote for any political party or movement.

At present, if that’s how we think, we can always go to the polling station and write whatever we choose all over the ballot paper. “None of these candidates are suitable” or “Bollocks!” or “I’d rather go to a hen party than vote for one of these dogs” are all candidates for this style of voting.

But this is not very productive.

Under the present system, the spoiled papers are set aside and described as such: “Spoiled Ballot Papers”. They’re not counted. No one knows how many there are. They’re just a pile of waste paper and a waste of time.

The confidence trick

My suggestion is that, as well as being obliged to vote, we’re offered a space on the ballot paper where we can put a cross against “No Confidence”.

This way, we could express our disaffection. All the “No Confidence” votes would be counted, just as if they were votes for an accredited political party, and the politicians would know exactly how many people, nationwide, had given Parliament the thumbs down.

As a result, people like David Cameron and George Osborne, David Milliband and Nick Clegg, will know beyond all reasonable doubt that XX% of the population have no confidence in any of them.

It’s my belief that this will make them think.

At the present time, they don’t have to. They can simply brush aside all the spoiled papers by telling themselves that people who do that kind of thing don’t matter. “Loonies”, as David Cameron might describe them.

But, faced with the certain knowledge that a percentage of the population – which could be as high as 50% or even 60% – were actively saying “We have no confidence in any of you”, the folk in the Westminster village would have to pay attention. They would have to ask themselves: “What are we doing wrong?”

Doing the right thing

Making voting compulsory and offering people a chance to express “No Confidence” is the right way forward.

It will make people understand that we all have a responsibility for our society and how it’s governed. It will give us all a chance to express what we feel about politics, just as it will continue to give us the opportunity to support the candidates and parties we favour.

And it will ensure a properly representative turnout out major elections.

That must be better than living in a country governed by people who sometimes represent fewer than 30% of the population.

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Putin gets united

At last! A world leader who can see the wood for the trees!

And isn’t that a blessing when so many trees have been used in the great Syrian debate?

But seriously, Putin is to be congratulated.

His recent piece in the New York Times – which read like an open letter to the people of America – sets out his  argument for caution in the search for a solution to what he described as “an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country”.

He (or his talented ghost writer) presented a compelling case for the use of diplomacy rather than force, and made an interesting point when, in mild tones, he chastised President Obama for talking up “American exceptionalism”.

Putin believes it’s “extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional”, which is fine by me. We’ve seen a little too much of America wanting to set itself up as the world’s “exceptional” nation, with sometimes dire consequences.

I also think he’s right when he says: “There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. We are all different, but …. we must not forget that God created us equal.”

But perhaps the most interesting passage in his piece dwelt on the value of, and threats to, the United Nations.

“No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations”, he said.

He clearly believes the United Nations Security Council must be a key player in the resolution of the Syrian crisis, and rejects the idea of it being bypassed by “influential countries”.

I want to believe him when – speaking about the current dialogue between the United States and Russia – he says he wants to “keep this hope alive”.

And I’m very glad he supports the right united.

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Which United should we support?

For many people the answer is simple. It’s Manchester United.

Hungry for an identity that gives them sporting bragging rights, they want to align themselves with what they see as the most successful football club in the world.

Others may choose Newcastle United, Dundee United, or even Sheffield United, in the hope that – like their Manchester counterparts – they, too, will be able to walk tall, knowing their club is supremely successful.

For the politicians and leaders of the Western world, the choice is different. And maybe not so easy.

Just now, with their embroilment in Syria’s affairs – and none can fail to be embroiled, if only at a debating level – it’s either the United Nations or the United States of America.

On the one hand, we have an organisation whose stated purpose is to “maintain international peace and security” and – to that end – to “take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace”.

On the other we have the most politically and militarily powerful nation in the Western world.

We have an organisation that seems to have been cast as the world’s policeman and a nation that seems to want that role for itself.

We have a choice between what looks like the crippling impotence of the commitee-bound Nations or the terrible potency of the law-enforcement-minded States.

Tough decisions

So pity the politicians.

Unlike us, they cannot make their choice based on the colour or design of a football kit or the skill and athleticism of an individual player.

They must side with someone in the Syrian conflict – the peacemakers or the warmongers – or face the probability of being mere spectators as the situation worsens, the fighting escalates and the number of lives lost increases day-by-day.

In the meantime, the rest of us can only watch and wait, hoping that – in the light of the British Parliament’s brave decision to be guided by both the law and right-minded thinking – none of the principal players scores an own goal.

Were that to happen, we would all be losers. Even the football supporters.

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I can’t believe I agree with a Tory!

It almost pains me to say this, but I’ve found a Tory I can agree with.

He’s Ramesh Patel, who writes for the Huffington Post. Check him out at www.huffingtonpost.com.

On November 24 2012, Patel posted an item headlined: Finally! Exposed! The Deficit Myth! So, David Cameron When Are You Going to Apologise?

Aside from the proliferation of screamers and the somewhat eccentric punctuation, Patel’s argument – that Britain’s Conservative-led coalition government has been pedalling three erroneous claims about the origins of the country’s deficit – makes compelling reading.

He points out that David Cameron and George Osborne are consistently lying to the British people about the debt they say they inherited from the previous administration.

Citing statistic after statistic, Patel says they are wrong on the deficit.

Moreover, as you may guess from his livid headline, he wants Cameron to apologise.

Why?

Because he believes that Cameron is playing the blame game to depress confidence and justify austerity, which he and Osborne use as an excuse for a smaller state and thus lower taxes.

And because, by painting Labour as a party that cannot be trusted with the economy, Cameron is playing on people’s fear in a way that will get them to vote Tory at the next election.

Which where, as I expected, Patel and I part company.

For I could not vote Tory, even if the Labour party were a bunch of thieves, knaves, vagabonds and liars – which they are not.

As Patel so clearly states, it’s the Prime Minister who’s the liar. And he should apologise.

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