Tax rises expected from the latest Tory PM. What I can’t figure out is why they have to ‘make up for a £50bn fiscal hole’ caused by Truss, when she was only in for 5 minutes. Her disastrous mini-budget hadn’t been enacted yet.


Broken Glass

I’ve been feeling kind of sorry for Jo Swinson today. Also for myself, and the whole country, especially underprivileged people, people with disabilities, the young, the old, minorities, the marginalised… Anyone who’s going to suffer under the new regime.

But Swinson lost her seat by just 149 votes, which must be especially heartbreaking. She always impressed me as someone who knew what she was talking about and was on top of things. She was part of the Cameron/Clegg coalition, which is problematic, but let’s let that go.

She’s quoted as saying:

One of the realities of smashing glass ceilings is that a lot of broken glass comes down on your head.

which is great, and sad.

People criticised her for making the Liberal Democrat campaign too presidential, too much about her, and that probably was a mistake. Though would they have criticised a male leader in the same way?

And there’s the business of promising to revoke Article 50. Which I was and am completely in favour of, even if it can seem undemocratic.1 The problem was not the promise, but the messaging. The story should have been, “Elect us to government and you’ll give us a mandate to revoke. Give us less power and we’ll work for a second referendum.” That was the story: she just seemed to have some difficulty expressing it in clear, simple terms, at least in the debates I saw.

All that said, I’m still baffled as to what has happened to the country.


  1. it wouldn’t be if handled properly, but it’s too late to go into that now. 

Fear and Loathing All Over the Land

The time is almost upon us, and I have The Fear. Or at least, I understand The Fear.

I understand the fear of Brexit; of giving the Tories control, yet again, of the NHS, and of the economy; and of their plans for changing the constitution in all the wrong ways, since I feel it myself.

But despite my problems with Corbyn, I don’t understand the loathing for him. It doesn’t seem to come from dislike of his policies. Some of the people who say they don’t like or don’t trust him seem to be Labour voters, who you’d expect to have similar beliefs. Even if those people have more centrist beliefs, you’d think they’d be close enough to the party’s current policies not to be put off totally.

It seems almost to be personal. Do some people dislike him as a person? Strikes me as odd, as he comes across as quite moderate and reasonable to me. To be sure, he can get snappy with interviewers at times, but it’s nothing compared to some people. And at least he doesn’t bluster; doesn’t lie; and always gives the impression that he knows what he’s talking about.

Yet some people say they don’t trust him. Sometimes those same people say they do trust Johnson, even as they acknowledge he lies. It’s unfathomable.

On tonight’s Channel 4 News they interviewed a guy in Johnson’s constituency who claimed to be a socialist, but who is going to vote for Johnson this time. They didn’t push him for an explanation.

In the same constituency there was a business owner who had always voted Tory but is not going to this time, because of the way the party has been taken over by the far right. It takes a Tory businessman to recognise what a “socialist” can’t. We are through the looking glass and no mistake.

Anyway, I’ll be voting Green. I hope everyone reading this will get out and vote on Thursday, for anyone who isn’t the Tories, and to stop Brexit.


Unhelpful Thoughts On Brexit

You could spend a lot of time wondering what makes Theresa May tick.

She says she supported remain and voted to stay in the European Union. So her increasing fervour for Brexit has been one of the most confusing factors in British politics over the last two and a half years.

Taking over the Tory leadership after David Cameron resigned was always going to be a poisoned chalice. No-one would have had a good time in that position, except maybe a genuine hard quitter like Jacob Rees-Mogg. That’s probably why Gove and Johnson pulled out.

If she truly believed that staying in was best, though, she would not have rushed into triggering Article 50 (nor would she have gone to court to fight for her wish to do so by diktat; luckily National Hero Gina Miller had the nation’s back on that one).

If she had used more care, collaboration, and consideration, she might have had an easier time when Article 50 finally was triggered and the negotiations started. In fact if she had been more thoughtful in the first place she might even have said something like, “The vote was close; the country is clearly divided. We will discuss the possible ways forward in parliament and with the rest of the EU, and come back to you, the people, for confirmation when we better understand what Brexit means.” 1

But no: “Brexit means Brexit”: she knew up front what it meant, and never deviated. Even if the majority of the country had no idea what it would mean.

She then proceeded as follows:

  • ignore any idea of cross-party talks and so involving parliament (the UK’s sovereign body) in the negotiations;
  • trigger Article 50 as soon as she could;
  • negotiate with the EU27 almost in secret;
  • have inflexible “red lines” to appease the hard quitters, leaving herself no room for compromise in the negotiations.

It’s a truism, even a cliche, to say that she puts the Tory party before the country. But the only way I can explain such a dramatic change of heart is that her love for the Tory party overruled her knowledge that being in the EU was, is, and will be the best situation for the UK. And that she somehow convinced herself that she could heal her fatally-divided party.

In fact, the very thing that Cameron was trying to do by calling he referendum in the first place.

“Tory eurosceptics” used to be a common enough phrase, but it denoted a tiny fringe of the party: a few loons like John Redwood. But in trying to appease them, two Tory leaders and prime ministers have turned them mainstream and brought us to where we are today, on the brink of leaving the EU without any kind of agreement for our future relationship.

And their party is as divided as ever.


  1. That’s fanciful, of course. But it’s what a sane, thoughtful person, who cared about what might happen to the country would have done. 

General Election: Vote!

TL; DR: Vote Against the Tories

This is long, and I’ll understand if you don’t want to read it. So, a summary.

The election should never have been called; Labour should have resisted it when it was. But now that it’s here we need to take advantage of it to protect the NHS. And maybe hold out some hope for stopping, or at least softening, Brexit. Because with the Tories we’ll only get a disastrously hard crash out.

Vote to stop the Tories and save the NHS.

And now, a table of contents. Yes, this is that long.

Calling the Election

Calling the election at all was at best a cynical ploy by Theresa May. Labour looked weak. She thought she could get a hugely increased majority for relatively little effort. So despite her repeated promises that should would not, she called a general election.

Now, however, it might have backfired on her. The polls have shifted (though we know we can’t trust polls). Quite dramatically by some measures. It’s looking like she might end up with a reduced majority. Or even — dare we hope? — a radical change. A Labour majority seems implausible, but a hung parliament? That’s beginning to look a lot like a real possibility.

The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act

But what of the act that was supposed to remove prime-ministerial whim from the choice of election date? It turns out it wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 contains a clause that allows the current government to call an election if it has the support of the house.

Not, I note, with a simple majority. Obviously that would be ridiculous for anything really important. No, a two-thirds majority is needed.

And was easily obtained, owing to the failure of the opposition to oppose; and now May wants to repeal it anyway. But more on both of those later.

Brexit

When the election was called, my initial reaction was that it would be all about Brexit. Nothing else loomed so large. And that was why I had concerns about Labour, because Jeremy Corbyn seemed committed to carrying on the madness that the referendum started.

I wrote then:

[P]eople will be torn between voting on the normal things they care about: health, security, homes, welfare, the economy… — and the big thing of our time: Brexit.

I can’t in conscience vote for a Labour party that won’t clearly place itself against Brexit. I just can’t. This means I have to leave the party, I guess. Corbyn called today for “A Brexit that works for all.” No, no, no.

I didn’t leave the party, and though there’s still some truth in that, things have changed. I’m not entirely sure when, or how; but somewhere along the line — the publication of the manifestos was certainly part of it — the normal things began to matter again. They never stopped mattering, of course, but they came back into focus.

One of the normal things in particular: the NHS.

Saving the NHS

The Tories — modern Tories, at least — have never really supported it. They have always pushed privatisation of it, or as much of it as possible. Though to be fair, the last Labour government at fault there too, with their public-private partnerships.

Tories, of course, have pushed for privatisation in everything, not just the NHS, at least since Thatcher. But even Thatcher kept her hands off the NHS. Not so this lot. Thatcher didn’t leave much to privatise, so their eyes are firmly on the last great publicly owned body.

I fear that if May’s lot get back in, especially with an increased majority, we could see the beginning of the end of free universal healthcare in the UK. We are in that much danger.

Thoughts on Corbyn, past & present

I voted for Corbyn as leader twice. I had my doubts, but he always seemed to be on the right side; and as well, there was no good alternative (not the second time, anyway).

Around the Referendum

Then I felt totally let down by Brexit & after. To be fair, his “trigger Article 50 now” comments were slightly misinterpreted, but expressing himself like that just added to the idea that he couldn’t handle himself with the media.

And that was certainly true in the first several months. It was like he — the party as a whole — had no media management at all.

And at no time did he resist Brexit.

Post Referendum

Then there was a series of mistakes, or bad decisions:

  • The three-line whip on the first Article 50 vote.
  • Not resisting the invocation of Article 50 at all, even when criticising it.
  • Waving through the vote to have the election. Because even if he didn’t want to stop it, how much better would it have been to make the Tories call a vote of no confidence? If only for the schadenfreude.
  • Then he chose not to join the debate because May wasn’t involved? That’s what we call missing an open goal.

The Big Improvement

Things have — and he has — got so much better since then. Somewhere along the line he started to come across as the dignified, statesmanlike man of principle that we knew he was. What changed? Was it better media management, or did the media actually start to give him some proper time?

I don’t know, but the result is that the polls have turned round dramatically, giving rise to a measure of that most terrifying of things: hope.

Manifesto Destiny

Everything in the Labour manifesto is better for the country than everything in the Tory one. It’s as simple as that. “For the many, not the few” is the tag line they’ve been using, and it’s great. Simple, to the point, meaningful. And accurate.

Not to mention costed. No “magic money tree” here.

Back to Brexit

Although they haven’t said so, I could see a Labour government offering a second referendum. At least you can imagine them being more open to considering the possibility. Especially, of course, if they were in coalition.

Now that takes us to the next question: if it’s a hung parliament, can we trust the LibDems not to back the Tories again?

I mean, surely, this time… But that’s what we thought he last time, and look where that got us. So it’s a worry. But the LibDems are likely to get some of their old seats back, and Labour almost certainly can’t get a majority with the way things have changed in Scotland, so a coalition is our best hope.

May Madness

Now let’s turn our attention to our gloryless leader.

Theresa May has presented an increasingly bizarre face to the world over the last few weeks:

  • Her “Me, me, me” approach to presenting Tory policy (“If I lose six seats…” you only get one); that’s not how politics in the UK works.
  • She wants to reverse the country’s stumbling steps toward better voting systems, such as the proportional system for the London Mayor.
  • Politicising the terrorist attacks:
    • first troops on the streets, as I discussed;
    • and now she wants to tear up human rights legislation. Next it’ll be internment, I shouldn’t wonder.
  • She was seemingly scared to debate the other party leaders on TV. Debates may not be quite standard in British elections yet, but that is the way the world was moving.
  • Oh, and along with voting reversals, she wants to repeal the fixed-term parliaments act, for what little use it was.

In short, it seems like she just wants to go backwards to an imagined Little-England past.

Conclusion

It won’t surprise you in the slightest to hear that I’m strongly advocating voting against the Tories, in whatever way you can have the most effect. I will be voting Labour, of course, but then I live in one of the safest Labour seats in the country, so that doesn’t have a lot of effect.

However, I’ll also be joining other Labour members from Hackney tomorrow in heading over to Westminster North, which is a Labour marginal. I’ll be helping to get out the vote there.

To you I say, please vote. Vote to stop the Tory mayhem. Vote to save the NHS.


Tory MP Claims Astrology Could Help the NHS

This should be enough to disbar someone from public life for good: Astrology could help take pressure off NHS doctors, claims Conservative MP — The Guardian. Though I notice the article is two years old. It just came to my attention via Facebook one of Twitter’s occasional emails.

David Tredinnick said astrology, along with complementary medicine, could take pressure off NHS doctors, but acknowledged that any attempt to spend taxpayers’ money on consulting the stars would cause “a huge row”.

Getting his defence in early, he goes on to say that his likely critics (he names Brian Cox specifically):

“… are also ignorant, because they never study the subject and just say that it is all to do with what appears in the newspapers, which it is not, and they are deeply prejudiced, and racially prejudiced, which is troubling.”

Nice tactic: he knows he’s talking bullshit, so accuses people of racism. Last time I checked, astrology wasn’t a race.

Nor was stupidity.

And in the unlikely event that anyone reading this thinks I’m just being reflexively mean and as bad as the critics he fears, here’s a considered scientific opinion. The only possible known way the positions of the planets and stars at our birth could affect us is by gravity. And while gravity does travel all through the universe, it is very, very weak — the weakest of the fundamental forces. Just look at how hard it was to measure gravitational waves. We were only able to do that in the last year, and it took colliding black holes to make enough of a splash for us to measure.

Is it possible that heavenly bodies affect us in some other, as yet unknown way? Yes. And here’s what science says about that: show us how, and we’ll study it. Demonstrate the mechanism by which this influence happens, and we’ll write down the equations that govern it and learn all about it. We’ll have to throw out all existing models of physics, but if you bring the evidence, that’s what we’ll do.

That’s science.


Beginning of the End

A total of 47 Labour MPs voted against the Brexit bill, joining 50 SNP MPs and seven Liberal Democrats. Just one Conservative MP, Ken Clarke, joined them in the division lobbies, to applause from Labour rebels.

A fifth of Labour MPs defy three line whip to vote against article 50 bill | Politics | The Guardian

Well done to all the rebels. But really, Tories: only one? Only Ken Clarke? Is that really you doing your duty, acting in the best interests of the country?

We’re living through the death of representative democracy.


Putting the "Mental" into Governmental

This is beyond insanity: Government axes climate department - BBC News


The Tories want to reintroduce the Lord Chamberlain

From The Guardian:
David Cameron has backed plans to give Ofcom stronger powers to prevent the broadcast of “extremist messages” despite concerns from one of his own cabinet ministers that this could amount to state censorship.

The prime minister appeared to support Theresa May, the home secretary, after the Guardian revealed a split in the cabinet over her counter-extremism measures.

Let’s return to the days when creations had to be authorised by a state censor, says Cameron.