A ‘No Deal’ Deal

Current mainstream opinion has it that everyone is no so tired of Brexit, that most people would just vote to stay in the EU, given the option again. I am not so sure about that, but I do appreciate how the constant bickering and endless reporting of ‘non-news’ about our departure has made Mr and Mrs Average sick and tired of the whole debacle.

Now Mrs May has come back with a deal that sounds as if it was dictated to her by the EU negotiators. As well as not really getting anything we asked for, we are told we will be be paying close to £60 BILLION for the privilege of not actually being allowed to leave on any of our own terms. I can remember this figure being closer to £15 billion back in 2016, so it seems inflation is worse than I thought.

And then there is Parliament. They are unlikely to vote to accept Mrs May’s (read the EU’s) deal, as nobody on either side of the argument thinks it has even the slightest merit. That leaves us with a leaving date, and a deal that is unacceptable to all parties, especially those of us that wanted to just leave with no negotiations in the first place. They say this could bring down the government, possibly forcing a leadership challenge for the Conservatives, perhaps even a snap General Election. Neither of those possibilities will solve anything, as a new prime minister, or a new party in power, would both still be facing the prospect of that ‘no-deal’ withdrawal next year.

The Hard Right still want a Hard Brexit. At the other end of the political spectrum, the Hard Left also want a Hard Brexit. Everyone in between just wants it all to go away, and to never hear the awful made-up word Brexit again, for as long as they live. Theresa May has broken her promises, and shown obvious cowardice in the face of the EU. (For EU, read France and Germany) She reminds me of one of those ‘gentlemen’ who pays a dominatrix to cane them on the bum, whilst saying “More please, Mistress”.

But I had an idea. This could all contribute to the resurgence of a long-standing British theatrical tradition, The Farce.
I will be starting work on my new play, ‘Brexit: Too many bedroom doors’ forthwith.


A helicopter crash

On the 27th of October, a helicopter crashed outside the stadium of Manchester City football club, in England. The five people inside the aircraft were all killed instantly. They included the Thai owner of the football club, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the British pilot, Eric Swaffer, his partner Izabela, and two other Thai nationals. Sad indeed, and undoubtedly tragic.

Since the incident, the outpouring of grief has been unimaginable. It is as if a national figure, perhaps a member of the Royal Family, had been killed. Tributes to the Thai Billionaire have poured in, people have stood in tears outside the football stadium in Manchester, grown men inconsolable with grief. The crash made the national news immediately, bumping anything else into second place. Fair enough, football is popular here, and by all accounts the club owner was a nice man, caring and considerate. I feel sorry for his family, and for those of everyone who was killed in the crash.

But it went on, and on. Daily updates, headline reports, background features from Thailand, and constant interviews with supporters, pundits, sports personalities, and anyone who would stand in front of a camera. Yesterday, the BBC dedicated a large portion of its coverage to reporting on the funeral of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, live from Thailand. We were told every detail, most of the guest list, and even how expensive it was to mount such a lavish ceremony.

I was confused as to why we needed to know all this, and why the national news channel had devoted so much time and expense to reporting the aftermath of this crash. I am not remotely callous, but this is complete overkill of news about a tragic event that affected five people, and one football club. To listen to the reporters, it would be easy to imagine that there is a whole nation in mourning, and we are unlikely to ever recover from the shock of this man’s death.

Two days later, there was another tragic aircraft crash. An Indonesian passenger jet on an internal flight crashed into the sea, off the coast of Java. There were 189 people on board, including children.
And there were no survivors. That was reported on the BBC for a few minutes, just on that day.

But nobody on board owned a Premier League football club.
Nobody on board was a British citizen.
The aircraft didn’t crash in a British city.
And nobody on board was a billionaire.

189 people. All their relatives affected, loved ones left behind. Whole families destroyed.

Hardly worth reporting, was it?

Saudi Arabia, and my Conspiracy Theory

I make no apology for being interested in the whole idea of conspiracy theories. I am yet to be convinced that anyone ever walked on The Moon, and I do not believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was a ‘lone wolf’ shooter in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. So, that’s my stall set out.

For most of my life, I have watched the western powers fawn over Saudi Arabia. They act like vassals of old, paying homage to the kingdom that has the modern holy grail, oil. Despite the harsh regime, the imposition of archaic and cruel punishments, and the total disregard for the rights of women and many ordinary citizens, the west stays quiet. They are happy to condemn the Taliban, ISIS, and countries like Iran for restrictive practices, isolationism, and fundamentalist Islamic principles, yet at the same time, Saudi Arabia gets a ‘free pass’ to do whatever it wants, wherever it chooses to do it.

Recent examples include the relentless and pointless war in Yemen, and the heartless killing of helpless civilians, including many children. Then there is the murder of a dissident journalist in their consulate in Turkey. Western countries blow off a lot of hot air, but do nothing concrete in reprisal. They carry on supporting the war in Yemen, by selling arms to the unspeakably rich Saudis. Contrast this with their treatment of Russia, the Syrian leader Assad, or their past dealings with Saddam Hussein and Muammar al-Gaddafi.

Most sensible people are asking one question, “Why?” Why do the western countries tolerate this barbaric state in that region, continue to pay homage to its dictatorial royal family, and make up excuses for its appalling behaviour?

Well, I have a theory as to ‘why?’. There is a dark secret owned by Saudi Arabia, and kept in a metaphorical locked box in Riyadh. A secret that would possibly destabilise the western countries that it involves, and change the entire concept of both truth, and history. The 9/11 attacks in America.

The people who carried out those attacks, crashing planes into iconic structures in the US, were predominantly Saudi nationals. They were educated, had learned how to fly the aircraft for as long as necessary, and were well-organised too. Yet following these attacks, blame was immediately placed on Iraq and Afghanistan, despite full knowledge that the perpetrators were Saudis. This allowed the ‘allies’ to destroy Iraq, and invade Afghanistan again. It also gave rise to restrictive laws, Homeland Security, and drone attacks on anyone disliked by the west. It marked out Muslims as the enemies of civilisation, and started a war that will never end. But the Saudis got that free pass. Why?

My suggestion, and my own belief as to why, is simplicity itself. It is staring us all in the face, and you just have to be able to believe what seems to be unbelievable. The US and the Saudis colluded to orchestrate the 9/11 attacks. This gave them the justification for all that followed, and ensured that Saudi Arabia, as co-keepers of the ‘big secret’, could do whatever they liked, forever.

Before you write me off as a crazy conspiracy nut, think about it.

Falling out of love with The News

Ever since I was old enough to read, I always loved to look at the newspaper. Despite being too young at the time to fully understand what I was reading, I learned the names of political figures of the day, and how they featured in world events. General De Gaulle, Jomo Kenyatta, Archbishop Makarios, and Nikita Krushchev. Fidel Castro, John F. Kennedy, The Cuban Missile Crisis, The Berlin Wall. All those personalities and events marked my formative years, and I became a dedicated newshound very early in life.

Once the TV news started to report using longer bulletins, I was able to watch events unfold in Vietnam, Biafra, Lebanon, Egypt, and Israel. By the time I left school, I was ‘world-aware’, and devouring any news content I could get my hands (or eyes) on. I took great pride in knowing what was going on, and using the news to help with my opinions. Serious Sunday newspapers provided in-depth reports, with photographers and journalists on the front lines of any serious situation, anywhere in the world. I bought most of them, and spent hours reading about what was happening in far-flung places.

But then there was a change. It was subtle at first, but then grew in intensity. The news media stopped just reporting on what had happened, and started to tell us why they thought it had. Talking head ‘experts’ arrived, giving their opinions dressed as ‘facts’, and even as long ago as my early thirties, I began to question the veracity and validity of news reporting. Then 24-Hour rolling news arrived. I was able to watch the events of 9/11 as they happened, from the first hint that something was wrong, to the aftermath of both towers falling. By that time, broadcast opinion had replaced objective reporting completely, and I could just as easily have watched it with the sound turned off, as the headlines scrolled along the bottom of the screen.

Seventeen years later, I now question everything reported as ‘news’, and find it hard to believe anything. Clever editing of film reports, careful selection of local ‘opinion’, and the use of propaganda footage supplied by factions has made it all but impossible to trust anything.

So now I watch the local news. Tractor thefts, farming issues, coastal erosion, and village celebrations. I’m still not sure I can trust even these reports.
But at least I don’t care either way.

Media Diversions

Over the past weeks, anyone watching the TV news, or reading a newspaper, will have noticed two main stories. First and foremost, the fiasco in America concerning the appointment of a Supreme Court Judge, and the allegations of historical sexual assault that followed his nomination. This may well be very significant to people in America, and the story naturally picked up on the #metoo movement that began with the Harvey Weinstein case. I can see that it has a broader appeal, given that it allows abused women to finally speak up, and hopefully stop such things happening in the future.

But it was also the main feature on the BBC News here, every day for weeks. Not only that, but they relayed the entire hearings live, for hours on end during the afternoon. It got so that a newshound like me was wondering if anything else was happening, anywhere on Earth.

The second story that was pumped out by the media in the UK was the constant division in our political parties, caused by the Brexit arguments, alleged anti-semitism, and the circus that is the politics of Northern Ireland. Of course, we are interested in what happens with Brexit. We might also be interested in whether or not we can expect the awful Boris Johnson to become our next Prime Minister. But in the middle of Brexit squabbles, and the unforgivable actions of an unrepentant Judge in America, it seemed that little else was happening.

But it was.

The war continued in Syria. Soldiers and civilians were still dying there, and in Afghanistan. American interventions in Niger, Chad, Mali, and Somalia were all going unreported, and the Saudi/US war against rebels and civilians in Yemen continued to supply potentially horrific headlines. Things were getting no better for the Muslim minorities in Myanmar, and the flood of economic migrants to southern Europe continued unabated.

Supreme Court appointments and Brexit arguments may be worthy of the news, I don’t doubt that. But they should follow more serious world events, not lead them. If this doesn’t change, we will not only be in danger of being misinformed, as is often claimed, but uninformed, which I think is even worse.

Chequers, Brexit, and The Mess

When we voted to leave the EU, my preferred choice would have been to leave at midnight that same day. Just leave. Pull all the people out of Brussels and Strasbourg, turn our back on all the rules and regulations, and politely inform the EU that if they expected us to pay any penalties, they had better engage the services of some very tough bailiffs. We could have spent the next six months unravelling all the red tape, sorting out who could stay and go, and what would happen to the ex-pats in Europe. Bring in some ‘soft’ checkpoints in Northern Ireland, tighten up customs controls at Dover, impose a bundle of random tariffs, and allow any outstanding contracts to run their course.

Why did I think that, and why would I want such a drastic step?
Because I knew full well what would happen.

Negotiations. Backlash from Remain voters. Waffle from the weakest Conservative government in living memory. Court action to try to overturn the democratic decision of the people. Staying in, in all but name, just a watered-down version of what we had before, with less influence than the little we already had. We might as well have sent the French and Germans a note, saying something like this.

Since 2016, the so-called negotiations have proved to be the most one-sided in the history of that word. They consist of us asking for something, and the EU replying “NON!” Even the man tasked with fighting our corner, David Davis, resigned from his job when he realised he had to do it with his hands and feet tied together, and tape over his mouth.

Once the various actions designed to keep us in and overturn the vote had failed, tactics changed. We were then told the horrors awaiting the dreaded ‘No Deal Brexit’. Big business threw in the heavy guns, threatening to leave these shores if the unthinkable no deal was on the horizon. Most recently, the ‘People’s Vote’ campaign has been agitating for a vote on the outcome of the non-existent negotiations, expecting a resounding decision to Remain, after that second ballot. I wonder what they would do if we voted Leave again? Go for a third try? Then the much lauded Chequers agreement was presented by Theresa May, a leader hanging on by a thread.

The EU laughed in her face, with a resounding “NON”.

Much fear is spreading (apparently) over the prospect of a ‘No Deal’ deal. It is second only to the end of life as we know it, according to the harbingers of doom. They are obviously not old enough to remember a time before 1975, when we were not in the EU. I am, and I can tell you, it wasn’t that bad.

But trendies in Chiswick and Islington are fainting at the thought of life without being able to grate their own Parmesan, or having to pay too much for Prosciutto. They want to be able to enjoy weekends in achingly trendy European locations without bothering too much about passport control. And if all the foreigners get fed up and go home, who is going to be driving the Uber cabs? All good reasons for voting Remain, I am sure you can see that.

So, back to the beginning. I knew this would happen. We are unlikely to get any ‘deal’ worth its name, and will probably just leave with nothing, in six months time.
We might just as well have done that in 2016, and saved over two years of grief and expense.

Sport: What happened to sportsmanship?

Corruption in sport is nothing new. Boxing has often been fixed since the early days, giving us the familiar expression ‘taking a dive’. Horses and dogs were doped to slow them down, or to make them go faster. Team members and individuals took bribes to lose games or matches, and bookmakers could win or lose fortunes on the outcome of a race. Money was always involved, but never on the huge scale it represents today. Winning is all, whatever the cost. It doesn’t matter if it is an amateur contest, or the prestige of playing for a national team, fame, success, medals, or money seem to be all that matter.

Recent high-profile cases have included swimmers who took performance enhancing drugs, cyclists who did the same, as well as runners and athletes tied up in doping scandals. Now we have cricketers who have admitted to match-fixing, tampering with balls on the pitch, or deliberately playing badly for payment to do so. Football (soccer) stars who have feigned injury in the hope that their team will lose, and they will make money from payoffs or gambling, and Formula One cars with unauthorised modifications that have helped them win races.

Even in the world of Tennis, unfair play in the form of ‘gamesmanship’ has become the norm, with delayed serves, arguing with the officials’ decisions, and anything else possible to unsettle an opponent.

Second best is no longer good enough, unless it comes with a substantial paycheck to compensate for it. And what about behaviour? Cricket and rugby stars in this country attacking people in the street, or assaulting a police officer whilst drunk. Should they be trying to set a better example? I think so. Should they be banned from their sport because of that behaviour? I think they should

The spirit of sport is withering on the vine as we watch, and the corruption that began in the bad old days of Soviet-bloc hormone treatments has been exceeded by such widespread abuses, we can no longer be sure of the validity of any sport we might watch, or follow.