Time to go, I think

Brexit continues to dominate politics in the UK, and perhaps rightly so. Since the Leave vote won the referendum in 2016, so much stalling and pointless ‘negotiations’ have gone on, it seems to many of us that we will never leave. The date of the 29th of March, presumably ‘set in stone’ by Article 50, draws nearer, with no progress apparent in any of the much publicised ‘deals’.

Theresa May is looking increasingly desperate, even reaching out to opposition members of parliament for support, in the absence of any decent majority in her own party. Next week, she is odds-on to lose the vote over her ‘final deal’, in the House of Commons. That leaves just two options. A No-Deal ‘Hard’ Brexit, or her resignation, followed almost certainly by a General Election.

Labour is convinced that they could win a new election, though I’m not so sure. But one thing I am sure about is that we have a national leader who does not command the respect and confidence of the general public, and cannot rely on many of those on her own side.

It is time for this government, and its leader, to go.

Let’s face it, whatever replaces them is unlikely to be any worse.

(Fingers crossed…)

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Gunboat Diplomacy

The BBC has just reported the arrival of a British warship in Ukraine. A government defence minister has been shown driving a Ukrainian navy patrol boat, and speaking to relatives of the sailors recently detained by the Russian navy. He has said that the presence of our warship is to send a ‘message’ to the Russian government, and to show British support for the Ukrainian position in this dispute. My response is simple. Why?

The turbulent history of this now-sovereign nation is the subject of record. Part of Russia until the 1917 revolution, they attempted to create an independent country outside of the control of the Soviet Union, and failed. It was broken up, with parts under the control of Poland, The Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. After the German invasion in WW2, many Ukrainians welcomed the occupying Nazis. They fought alongside them, acted as guards in concentration camps, and carried out recorded massacres of civilians, including the deaths of 100,000 Poles in Volhynia. Following the defeat of the Germans, some supporters remained active as ‘partisans’ until as late as 1950.

Eventually, Ukraine was granted the right to be a self-governing part of the Soviet Union, retaining its language, and becoming represented in the United nations. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine sought complete independence, which it achieved in 1991. Since 2000, politics in that country have become more focused on being part of Europe, and also featured a right-wing bias, with some people openly supporting and espousing ‘Nazi-style’ ideas and policies. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, supposedly due to the overwhelming support of the people in that region. This created an international incident that continues to this day, with both sides at loggerheads over historical claims to Crimea. There has been open warfare in the Donbass region, and ongoing incidents between the two countries, with the most recent being the seizure of two Ukrainian navy vessels by the Russians.

This is all very involved, and no doubt tragic for those involved. But it is not our business. It is not up to us to support a country with a dubious government, and a recent history of supporting Extreme Right ideals. No more is it our business to issue warnings or ‘messages’ to Russia, especially when we are in no position to ever back up those feeble threats. There was a time when the appearance of a British Gunboat on a foreign shore would signal an intent. That intent, rightly or wrongly, would have been backed up by the biggest navy in the world at the time, and a huge colonial war machine that was feared by every nation on Earth. But that time has gone, and has not existed since the 1950s. And if such things have to be used at all, there are many other places where it might have more effect, or be of more use. This cynical support of Ukraine is packed with ulterior motives, none of which are remotely to do with any real concern over the fate of some sailors, or the future of Crimea.

It is high time that Britain realised that the sun has long set on our former Empire. We have enough problems to deal with at home, instead of sabre-rattling to show support of a country that may not even deserve it. As a country, we need to get over ourselves, and face facts. It isn’t 1910 anymore, and someone in the Ministry of Defence needs to check the date on a calendar.

The End of Voting

I have always voted, ever since I was old enough to do so, aged eighteen. I voted in the General Elections, and always in the Local Council elections too. In most of the places I lived, and the one where I live now, my party of choice rarely if ever won, but I carried on voting anyway. If I lived somewhere where there was no candidate that I was enthusiastic about, I voted tactically, to try to reduce the majority of the party I liked the least. I never once failed to vote, not in the forty-seven years I had the opportunity.

When other people told me that they didn’t vote, or had never voted, I would pontificate on the history of the working people’s struggle to gain the vote, along with a mention of the bitter struggle of the Suffragettes, to get that same right for women. I reminded them that people died so that they had the right to vote. If after all that they were still determined not to bother, then I would tell them that I was ashamed of them.

Some people made the claim that it made no difference which party was in power, so that was why they didn’t vote. I was quick to remind them that The National Health system that they enjoyed had only been brought in because of a Labour Government. Had the Conservatives remained in power, it would never have happened. I might also add that laws pertaining to the working week, safety conditions, and rights to holidays and weekends off, were all brought in by Labour Governments. I would assert that it made a great difference which party was in power, especially in Local Councils, who control the distribution of money for things like care of the elderly, education budgets for schools and colleges, and the provision of social housing.

I was a ‘Voting Evangelist’. God forbid anyone in my hearing mentioned that they had no interest in voting.

Then came 2016, and The EU Referendum. I voted to leave the EU, as I have mentioned many times before. To my great surprise, the Leave side won. I spent the next day in quiet contemplation of the power of the ballot box, the will of the majority, and the triumph of a well-managed voting system. But I soon became uneasy. The losers on the Remain side started to make noises about refusing to accept the result. Court cases were brought, and lost, and many leading politicians openly spouted about the fact that they did not really accept the vote was ‘informed’, based on a real knowledge of the issue. In other words, the ‘Plebs’ had won, and they were too stupid to understand the consequences.

To make matters worse, we had a Prime Minister who had been firmly convinced we should stay in the EU, and she was now charged with taking us out. So the machinations began, behind closed doors in Brussels, or other European cities. Two years later, the so-called ‘best deal’ was presented, which amounts to us staying in the EU in all but our name on the paperwork. Mrs May went to Europe, and came back with their deal, already written down in a sealed envelope, presumably. Nobody likes or wants that deal, not even most of her own party. But it is being presented by her as the only deal on the table, and when she was told that it was not the deal the Leave voters wanted when they voted in the referendum, she may just as well have shrugged and said “So what?”, for all she cared.

So after a life time of voting, I can finally see that if I ever vote for something that does not suit those in power, it will be overturned. Not in a bombastic fashion that might actually cause disgruntled workers or revolutionaries to take to the streets, but in a superior, ‘We know better than you’ manner. Slyly showing us, with a knowing smile, that they will get their way, whatever the actual vote might have been.

That’s it then, I’m done with voting. Sorry to the Suffragettes, and everyone else that fought valiant struggles to get the vote for all adults over the age of eighteen. It might have been worth your trouble for a hundred years or so, but now it has become pointless, in this deceptive modern age.

Please feel free to turn in your graves.

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 Leicester 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 Leicester, 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.