A Busy Week In British Politics
It is only Thursday, but a lot has been happening this week. Mrs May’s attempt to get her pathetic Brexit ‘Deal’ through parliament was voted down with the biggest defeat ever seen in our political history. It’s important to note that. Ever since modern parliamentary democracy has existed in Britain, no government has ever suffered a defeat of anything like this margin. That fact alone should make this week historically memorable. Last night, the government survived a vote of no confidence. No surprise there, as most members of parliament put their jobs and careers before any principles.
But even that overwhelming rejection failed to impress the hapless Prime Minister to do the decent thing, and resign. Rarely has a leader enjoyed less popularity in their own party, and failed so completely in their negotiations with both the EU, the Opposition parties, and their own dissenters. Despite claiming to have worked hard to achieve the best possible deal for leaving the EU, it is apparent to anyone with a functioning brain that all Mrs May has done has been to return from Europe with the deal offered by the other member states, on their own terms, and a ‘take it or leave it’ basis.
I actually feel embarrassed that she doesn’t have sufficient honour to resign, and feels no shame in hanging on to her job, in the middle of this awful mess she has engineered.
Meanwhile, the opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has been making speeches this morning. This former radical, one-time committed Socialist and reformer, now seems intent on one thing. Becoming the Prime Minister. He has gone back on many of his previous statements and promises, by now suggesting that ‘everything is on the table’, in the event of a Labour win in the election that is not actually happening, except in his mind. He refuses to rule out a second referendum, or the much-lauded ‘People’s Vote’, (same thing, different name) and reprises his own demand of remaining in the European Customs Union at all costs.
So, anyone who wants to really leave the EU has no leadership to look to. Both May and Corbyn were firm Remainers in 2016, and both have broken promises to abide by the will of the people, and ensure that Brexit happens when it should, deal or not. The disgruntled Remain voters have wasted two years using their best efforts to overturn the vote, that very ‘will of the people’ they love to crow about., and they now embrace the ideas that demand a ‘second try’, in the sure hope of getting what they wanted in 2016, which was Britain to stay as a member state of the EU.
We hear a lot about how Leave voters were misled. They were confused, lied to even. They didn’t want to leave with no deal, and most of them would now change their minds, and vote Remain. This is exactly what all this stalling, propaganda, and behind the scenes machinations have been about, for the last two years and more. Sowing the seeds of doubt, reassuring the leaders of EU nations that we won’t actually leave the EU, even if it says so ‘on the tin’. Disregarding that ‘will of the people’, because they have no respect for the people that had that will, and consider them to be inferior beings, unable to understand politics, and make up their own minds. It started on the day the result was announced in 2016, and has gone on unabated every day since.
Things always change, after votes and elections. But that doesn’t mean we get another go, at least not until the elected body has completed its term of office. I was unhappy that the Conservatives scraped through the last election. But can I get another one please? Can I change the result of the last one, because I don’t respect those who voted for it? Of course not. Like it or not, that is the system we live under.
At least it was supposed to be.
The UK Election: The Post-Mortem
So what are we to make of our election results?
Theresa May made some wrong moves, and threw away one of the biggest leads in decades.
The tax on property, to allow for social care in later life.
Not attending any televised debates.
Underestimating the UK electorate.
What about Jeremy Corbyn, written off, before the election?
He came across as sincere and passionate.
He said things that people wanted to hear.
He attracted the votes from disillusioned elderly people, and first-time young voters.
Many people believed his Socialist rhetoric.
He secured his position as leader of the opposition Labour Party.
UKIP all but disappeared from the political scene, and their leader resigned. So much for the far right, in UK politics.
The Liberals had some gains, but nothing remotely significant.
Situation normal for them, after the fuss has died down.
Scotland rejected the second independence referendum, and the Nationalist path, with a loss of 30% of Nationalist seats.
Theresa May is unlikely to ride out this storm, and almost certain to either resign, or be ousted.
The knives are out in Westminster, and the sides are forming. She is in neither camp.
Corbyn cannot form a government, but a second election in the short term looks very likely.
That was one hell of a day, in British politics!
Trump and May and Corbyn
Well 2016 was a year wasn’t it?
So we started 2017 with a US President that apparently nobody wanted, a British Prime Minister who got her job more or less by default, and a Labour Party leader whose own colleagues continue to try to depose. Add to that the rise of the Right across Europe, the squabbling over Brexit and the referendum continuing, and the media-inspired panic about Russia’s intentions and China flexing its muscles. It is looking as if this year is going to be an unmitigated disaster for the world, and will change everything as we know it.
Or will it?
Like it or not, Trump was elected. I don’t like him, but I had little time for Sanders or Clinton either. He has started to do exactly what he said he would do, much to the consternation of those who never believed he would go through with it. So he sends silly tweets, and shows off about the numbers who attended his inauguration. He isn’t very statesmanlike, and still looks somewhat surprised that he is really the president. No surprises there. He may not be allowed to get many of his policies past Congress, but at least he is trying to deliver what he promised, whether we like it or not.
Theresa may won the leadership election and stepped in after Cameron chickened out and left the game like a spoilt child, taking his ball home. Her party was never elected on the basis of her being its leader, and she was firmly against leaving the EU in the past. Yet she stepped up, got on with the job, knuckled down to negotaiting with the EU, and even going so far as to hold hands with Trump, hoping for a beneficial trade deal. Now that’s dedication. I would never vote for her party unless I had senile dementia, but given the alternatives at the moment, she has got to be the best of a bad bunch.
Jeremy Corbyn continues to behave with great dignity, despite so many of his so-called colleagues and former friends doing everything but stick a real knife into his back. That bunch of Tony Blair wannabees are more interested in personal power, than in the integrity of their own, supposedly Socialist, party. But the membership, the real people, those without any political influence, they still believe in him. Unless the whole constitution of the party is changed by the plotters within, they are likely to keep him in charge, so that we might continue to see real policies like nationalisation of industries, free university education, and a properly funded health service. Because once he has gone, you can bet your life his successors will be getting out their neutral coloured ties, and matching them with nice blue suits, as they water down everything to appeal to the confused middle classes.
So what am I saying?
In short, just let them get on with it. ‘Special Relationship’ or not, America is a foreign country. Just because some of them sound a bit like us, and they use an approximation of our language, doesn’t make their business our business. Let Trump rise or fall doing what he said he would do, and history will judge him.
As for Prime Minister May, she seems to be doing well enough, at least for a Conservative. I didn’t want her government, but I am stuck with it. So leave her alone to get on with what we voted for, getting us out of the EU.
And whatever you think of Corbyn, the Labour Party would be a grey place without him in it, and the policies would be hard to separate from those of the government. Besides, the members voted for him, so he should stay. That’s democracy, isn’t it?
Or is Democracy only good when you get what you want?
Leave him alone now
After this morning’s post on this blog about the Labour leadership, I have just watched the results of the election live on the BBC News.
Jeremy Corbyn not only won by a huge margin, he increased his majority since the previous election in 2015. It could not have been more decisive. He then made a very good speech about unification in the party, and all the members working together in the future.
A soon as the applause died down, the BBC political reporters were circling like vultures on a carcass. They sought opinion from disgruntled Corbyn opponents, and then tried to get his supporters to agree that this would cause further division in the Labour Party. What should have pertinent and possibly interesting questions degenerated into a veiled attack on Corbyn once again, attempting to put words into the mouths of those being interviewed.
I watched this with growing discomfort. Supposedly impartial BBC journalists kept asking people’s opinions, until they got the responses they were looking for, rather than reporting what those interviewed were actually saying. One brief report from a Corbyn supporters rally was soon curtailed, as they did not receive the negative answers that they were looking for.
I do not necessarily support Corbyn, and I am not a member of his party (or any other). But I am just tired of the media, and in this instance the BBC, attempting to create division and to invent news, instead of reporting the facts.
The man has won. And he has won convincingly, despite your failed campaigns to derail him.
Now let him get on with his job, and leave him alone.
Having it both ways
The past week has seen a return to the issue of the Labour Party leadership on many News and Current Affairs features here. Most pundits are predicting that Jeremy Corbyn will be re-elected by the party members, and that he is set to defeat his nondescript opponent, the former pharmaceutical company lobbyist, Owen Smith. Corbyn’s enemies are lining up to bad mouth him, in advance of his probable win.
Many of his fellow Labour members in parliament appear on round table discussions or late-night news programmes, telling anyone who will listen that they will not serve in his cabinet, and are unlikely to support his policies.
The main argument against Corbyn, from both his spiteful colleagues, and the media commentators, is that a party with him in charge is not electable. They claim that the Labour Party will split into yet more factions, and by the time of the next election in 2020, will lose more seats, and cease to be an opposition in all but name. They also claim that the British public does not want further nationalisation of industry, higher taxes to pay for improvements in the NHS, or to see an end to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Those in his party who oppose Corbyn, many of them Blairites and crypto-Tories, are stalking the chat shows like harbingers of doom, foretelling the end of Labour as we know it.
Many of these individuals, and the political reporters they are so keen to talk to, are the same people who claimed that UKIP brought about the vote to leave the EU, and that the voters are so keen to embrace their policies, that they will no longer vote for the Labour Party, and change to UKIP instead. They blame Corbyn for anything they can think of, including the vote to leave. This argument seems desperate to my way of thinking. UKIP has only one MP in parliament, and less than 40,000 members in the party. The former leader, Nigel Farage, remains as an MEP in Europe for the time being, alongside twenty or so other UKIP MEPs who will all be out of a job after Britain leaves the EU. They have around 500 elected local council officers, out of a total of many thousands around the UK, and overall control of only one council in the entire country.
This does not tie in with the level of influence and power that Labour dissidents claim for this minor party of protest voters that will ruin their own party, and see them consigned to the political wilderness for ever. Yet these same people assert that Corbyn cannot galvanize support, or enthuse a nation with his policies, despite the vast power base and traditional working-class vote that the Labour Party seems to be slowly recovering.
Jeremy’s opponents want to have their cake, and eat it. On one hand, they claim that the public wants their pseudo-Tory and business-backed policies, and that socialism is not the way forward. To keep Corbyn as Labour leader will be the end of everything as we know it, they say. But on the other hand, they warn that UKIP, with one MP, can influence the whole nation by a click of its fingers, or a raised eyebrow from Mr Farage.
They can’t have it both ways, I’m afraid.
The Labour Party: Still missing the point
The battle for the Labour leadership drags on. The attacks on Corbyn continue, and his opponent tries hard to erase his past as a pharmaceutical lobbyist, and to establish some Socialist credentials. For his part, Corbyn does his best to rebut the allegations of anti-Semitism, and takes part in debates with the person who once happily worked with him, instead of against him. Expensive lawyers have been engaged to overturn the voting regulations for new members, successfully excluding more than 100,000 potential Corbyn voters.
The Conservatives must be enjoying watching this collapse unfold before their eyes. They just carry on doing what they like, as the only viable opposition disintegrates in front of the public gaze, and the glare of the media spotlight. Accusations are flying thick and fast. Some Labour members of parliament are accusing the Corbyn camp of seeking to undermine the very foundations of the party, by infiltrating this arguably moderate party with a secret hard-Left agenda behind the scenes.
The outcome can only be a loss for the party, either way. If Smith succeeds, they will be left with a Welsh M.P. who has a history of working for big business. A man who thinks we should have a second EU Referendum, and will almost certainly fail to engage with the working-class traditional supporters of that party. If Corbyn survives the vote, as many believe he will, he will be left in charge of a Labour Party where only the rank and file members really support him, struggling to find enough elected members of parliament to form a credible opposition, and under constant threat of yet more leadership struggles.
If they are ever to return to government, which currently seems highly unlikely, they have to respect the will of the people, and offer radical policies that hark back to the real Socialist ideals of the original Labour Party. It is obviously what the members want to happen, and would have the benefit of attracting undecided voters, and those transferring their vote from parties like the Liberal Democrats in the next election.
At the core of it all, is the need for Nationalisation. There should be a radical programme on offer, starting with the re-nationalisation of the railways. Rail commuters have never suffered as they do now. Higher fares, constant rises in ticket prices, and a mind-boggling fare structure that makes it cheaper to fly to most cities in the UK, than to take a train. Private rail companies have their hands tied by a different private company that manages the rails and tracks, as well as being restricted by short-term franchises that negate the desire to invest in improvements for the future. The answer is simple. Stop awarding franchises, and nationalise the lot. Offer reasonably-priced travel on reliable trains, and let the workers get to where they need to be on time. If nothing else, it would reduce road congestion in certain areas. Cancel the high-cost and unnecessary building of express links to cities that already have plenty of rail services running to them, and do a long-term deal with the unions to ensure safety and decent working conditions for all.
Once they have tackled the railways, they can get on with the utility companies, and the telephone providers too. Then they could stop contracting out expensive medical procedures and clinics to the private sector, and spend the money on improving the NHS instead. Once the much-disputed ‘Brexit’ deal is done, there will be money available for many projects, despite the gainsayers. Labour needs to formulate a real Socialist agenda, with Nationalisation and the NHS at the heart of it. A real alternative to more privatisation and cronyism under the Conservatives.
They have to learn that being The Opposition has to mean more than just having the same policies, whilst wearing cheaper suits. And they have to swallow the bitter pill of telling people the truth for once.
Will they do it? I doubt it, but they should.
It’s all gone a bit quiet
Maybe it’s the change in seasons, and the arrival of colder weather, but don’t you feel that it has all gone a little quiet of late? I refer of course to the predicted end of life as we know it. The war in Syria was supposed to herald a crisis of immense proportions. Assad had to be removed, Isis were going to sweep away western values and take over the world, and the Russian involvement in Syria was almost certainly going to provoke a nuclear war. The tense standoff between Russia and Ukraine must surely end up involving NATO troops on the ground somewhere, everyone was sure of that too.
Then there was the influx of Syrian refugees. They would change the face of Europe as we know it, radicalise the youth in the countries where they settled, and undermine the very fabric of Christian society, changing all the churches into mosques within a generation. It was alleged that most of them were simply fifth columnists, ready to rise up against the nations that had given them shelter, bringing jihad to the centre of Europe. And even if none of this happened, western economies would collapse under the weight of supporting this ‘human tide.’
In the UK, Corbyn’s election as Labour leader would destroy the constitutional monarchy, restore nationalisation of all industry, and plunge this country into a spiral of debt from which it would never recover. He alone would return us to the bad old days of the 1970s, and his closeted Marxist agenda would leave us defenceless and vulnerable, with no more influence than Switzerland or Lichtenstein. Scotland would cecede from the union, and Britain would cease to be a United Kingdom.
Nothing happened of course. The media and politicians did their best to stir everyone up into a state of terror, fearing for the future of their children. (And their investments too, of course) The Syrian refugees continue to make their long trek to a better life in the west, but somehow it hasn’t been as bad as we were told. No need to order your copy of the Koran just yet then. Life carries on all over Europe, just as it had before all this happened. The British Prime Minister even tells us that our economy is improving, not collapsing as we were assured that it would. The Russians are still propping up Assad, but we seem to have stopped rattling our sabres for now, and put them back into the sabre cupboard. Isis fighters haven’t managed to get any further than they had when they were stopped, and the prospect of a nuclear war has returned to its normal state of mutually assured destruction.
Russia and Ukraine may have cancelled domestic flights, but behind the scenes they are brokering a deal about The Crimea. Putin stood up to all the threats and rode out the hysteria. He proved that he wasn’t a man to be messed with, so the west stopped trying to mess with him. The press even started to write about things that might actually be true. Such as Isis is supported by the CIA, and funded by the Saudi government, (read Royal Family) just as Bin Laden was. The question is now finally being asked, ‘Who is the real enemy here?’
And as for Britain, they forgot one important point. Corbyn is not in power, and is unlikely to ever be. His radical policies are so much hot air; and even if Labour won the election in five years time, they would never get through the process to become official policies anyway. And he is not a Marxist, far from it. He is a vegetarian Liberal with some Socialist ideas that are unlikely to ever see the light of day. And I say this as one of his supporters…The Scots might vote for independence when they next get the chance. Then again, they probably won’t. The Union is secure as it has ever been, whether we like it or not. The proposed referendum on leaving the EU is going to be watered down to a vague ‘agreement,’ and by the time the vote happens, if it ever does, everyone will be so terrified of leaving, the country will surely vote to stay in.
So you can book your holiday for 2016, cancel the Hijab to add to your daughter’s school uniform, and stop worrying about your teenage son being called up to fight in some foreign land. Feel free to order the 50-inch curved screen TV you lust after, and get it delivered in time for Christmas. With any luck, the iphone 7 will be out soon, and there will be some good new programmes on Netflix too.