Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Supreme Court rules on Prorogation of Parliament

Please do not get your hopes up if you are a "Remainer" or if you dislike Boris Johnston and don't trust him as our PM. Sure the Supreme Court has ruled that what he did was illegal, but they have just  now made the law on this. It is freshly minted so to speak.  Boris was mischievous, crafty, devious. But that's him. We won't see his head roll and there will be no "punishment" to fit the crime. He has even said he'll just go back and ask for another suspension, this time presumably within the time honoured constraints of parliamentary routines for this time of year.

The judgement is good nontheless because we cannot have a situation where any PM can go and ask the Queen, without having first consulted Parliament, to suspend Parliament outwith the normal time honoured recesses for holidays and electioneering, which always follow standard timescales laid down by tradition. The PM has to be accountable for his actions, and if he has wangled the suspension of Parliament, all we have left is the law. So it wasn't a political matter - it was rightly a legal matter.

But what will happen now is anyone's guess. Who gets to recall Parliament? If it's the government, they'll drag their heels anyway. If not, then who? Has it enough will to organise itself to get it back into session? And thereafter? Who will scrutinise what Johnston might claim to be a deal, no matter how spurious it might seem? Parliament might well debate into the moments before deadline, but the deadline is law. It would need some fresh law to unmake it. I still have a feeling that the ship will slide into the waters of Brexit down the deadline slipway. The decisions of both the Labour and Liberal Parties, while I admire the Lib Dems' Jo Swinson for her bold unequivocal stance, are like bolting the stable doors after the horse has gone. Renegotiating, re-referenduming, re-anything won't be an option once we are out. Going back in will mean we go cap in hand and have to eat what we are offered. It makes all the talk and frantic voting on resolutions at the Labour Party Conference seem a bit vacuous.

So the ruling is a good one for justice, and the accountability of our highest office in the land. But it has no bearing I believe on our ultimate immediate fate with regard to Brexit.


Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Why Watson is right about Labour's election strategy

Tom Watson has called for Labour to back Remain unequivocally in their election campaign. I think he's right.

If Labour continue to look like the dithering party then they will simply lose more votes. I am not sure that the public want another referendum now. I think the moment has passed. A party offering a clear Remain message against a clear "Out" party would be enough of a referendum. And I suspect that many voters would respect Labour for coming out with a clear message. Sure they might lose votes in "remain" heartlands but these would be nothing to the votes they would gain from those who did not want a Johnston led government and years of wrangling about "leave" deals, which a Labour insistence on leaving with a deal would inevitably bring on. Of course it would be a risk, and if Labour didn't win the election pundits will argue for years to come about whether it was because they backed Remain or whether it was because Corbyn just didn't have what it takes to persuade the public that he'd be a good leader for the country.

I believe what will actually happen is that Labour will go into an election offering a referendum based on the choices of "Leave but only with a deal", "Leave whatever" and "Remain". I do not think this will be enough to sway the public to vote for them in large enough numbers to command a majority in the next parliament and I fear some kind of Tory hard line machine, since all the rebels look like they have been deselected and quite a few of them ain't going to stand for election again anyway.

Of course all this may well be academic if Johnston manages the sleight of hand I posited in my last blog. And whatever happens in the next short while with regard to this vexed question of Parliament sitting or not, I believe in my heart of hearts that Johnston will weasel us out. O please, let me be wrong. 

Monday, 9 September 2019

Why "No Deal" really is still on the table

Everyone thinks that Boris is snookered and that his drastic "No deal" option has been obliterated by a determined and united coalition of opposition and rebel Tory MP's. One could so wish.
I am not convinced and here's why.

Boris is far too conniving and sleekit as we would say in Scots, to be outmaneuvered by such moves. He will go in all appearance (or send his aides) to Brussels under the guise of seeking a deal or an extension, as Parliament has commanded. He will to all appearances be obeying the law. Then he will return, confirming an exit on 31st October and confirming that he has a deal!! The deal will be some absurd sleight of hand which the EU will either deny or be obscure about, and which Boris will plug with all his force of charm and limited but sometimes effective powers of oratory. The electorate will be divided as it has so consistently been since this debacle started, parliament will be furious, the law will be confused, (for who has defined "deal" legally?), and amidst the shambles we will glide out of Europe on the 31st and argue for years whether Boris actually got a deal. You read it here first. I do hope as I often have these days, that I am totally wrong, and I fear I may be right.

If this scenario does not happen though, where does that get us? I agree with Rory Stewart that there is not another deal apart from the one Theresa May brought back. So if by any chance an extension is granted and fresh discussions get underway, the outcome I believe will be substantially the same. The only thing that can give is Parliament, and it has proved remarkably intransigent on uniting over accepting the 'May" deal. So as far as that is concerned, Boris is right. This will push an increasingly fed up electorate into wanting the thing to be done and dusted at any cost. Therefore enough remain minded members of the voting public will change their minds in order to swing Boris back into power to get it over and done with when the General Election is called. The Tory Party will have sought to fill its ranks with "leave" minded MP's and will gain a majority enough to command the will of Parliament and we will then, belatedly, leave with no deal.

Of course the idea of having the thing "done and dusted" is a complete illusion. If we leave with no deal then many years will be spent in negotiation around how we trade with the EU and live alongside them. There will be years of uncertainty and resentment and anger. Watch how in the future the pound's value will slip to around being the same value or less than a euro. Meanwhile the planet will be warming away nicely and asking us how relevant all this is anyway. 

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Boris the Kipper Waver

Well, now we have all seen Boris waving a kipper and blaming the EU in a let's face it, speech to woo the hearts of all those who haven't a brain in their heads. "Hold on" you might say, "didn't the media almost universally report this with the corrective that what he said was mistaken, therefore, false!" "Yes" I reply, "they surely and most gratifyingly did." But you know what? That will not change the reality one little bit. Boris will gain, not lose out of that little scenario. This is the place we live in folks. The shouters and the blamers and easy solution peddlars are winning the popular vote.

But the real kicker in that little mistake, (which again won't matter a jot to the voters), was that it was Britain that had made the rule that Boris was railing against. And the thing that those who whinge on about us having lost our sovereignty to the EU don't get, is that most of those rules and regulations were made in order to bless, to protect, to enhance communities and individuals. I think that's what governments try to do as well, except that they have voters to please in a way that the EU does not, at least not in the same kind of way. This means that they can be more objective in setting down laws for the benefit of the majority whereas the national politicians have to have one eye on the vote at the next election. Unfortunately, what is most popular is not always what will actually benefit the majority, strangely enough.

The other little quirk with rule making is this: whilst many rules and laws are made with the hope of addressing and sorting something that has surfaced as being wrong either through omission or mistake or inability to keep pace with changing social circumstances, there will always be those innocents whom the rule affects adversely through some combination of factors unseen and unimagined by the rule makers. When their predicament comes to light, this brings about in us all a sense of indignation at the general stupidity and thoughtlessness of the legislators. I think of these situations much like the eddies created by a strong current flowing. The main stream is in the right direction but there will be bits that don't quite tick the box. This and the more general and mistaken rant about giving us back our sovereignty has set opinion against the EU in those places where the population count is highest and the feelings of resentment are most easily exploited.

Still, I do have hope that in Parliament, there are enough sensible people to steer us to a least damaging of outcomes. That I think is the best we can hope for. As Barnier said, "Brexit is not a game where there is a win win option. It is a lose lose game."

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Dazed? me too, and angry.

The latest round of events involving our Ambassador to the USA, Sir Kim Darroch, has stunned me. Not the disclosure of what he said in his confidential reports, for that is the professional duty of our diplomats. Honest assessments are needed, confidential but honest to be sure. No, what is beyond stunning is the peeved, childish, petulant absurdity of the tweets issued by that man who instead of being the respected leader of the largest country in the "free" world, is looking like he wants to be despotic ruler of all. His beyond acceptable level of primary school rhetoric is embarrassing to serious politicians all over the globe, and encouraging to thin skinned dictators fearful of any kind of criticism. "He's like me" they're thinking. Frankly he is an embarrassment to the USA way beyond the 50's and 60's stereotypes of the ignorant bragging tourist from over the pond. And not only is he mouthing off insults about this diplomat whose opinions he should have in true statesmanship either ignored or simply said something flat and neutral, but he is insulting our Prime Minister. Whether or not you are a fan of our PM, whether or not you think she has done a good job, is entirely beside the point. What is to the point is that there should be universal outrage that that man has had the temerity to insult her in public using the only forum that suits him: limited vocabulary and length, Give him more and he simply repeats himself anyway. 

As if this were not enough, we have Boris Johnson refusing to endorse, support, stand alongside Sir Kim when the opportunity to robustly do so was given him on an open plate in the TV debate on Tuesday. Instead he mouths off about what he would do when PM, and to those with eyes to see and ears to hear, this was a grovelling wink and nod to America's White House. And make no mistake about it, this complete mess of a candidate for the PM's job is going to get it. The handful of people (relatively speaking) who make up the Tory party membership have a starry eyed majority within their ranks who think that Johnson is the big strong lad who tells it like it is. In the event we may find that just over 60,000 people have presented us with our new leader. I hope with all my heart that I will be proved wrong, but I fear I may be right. Not that I prefer his rival much more, but it's a case of anything, anyone but Johnson.

But these people who will vote for Johnson simply represent the average voter who gave us this s.....storm we call Brexit in the first place, and who skilled manipulators of public opinion can easily influence, are what we have, both here and their equivalents who gave us the USA President too.  Democracy needs a reset. I do not know what the answer is, but please let there be one, for at the moment it seems to be the day of the big mouthed blamers and easy solution makers as far as democracy is concerned. I do believe that more of us need to start speaking out and calling out the idiocy we see in some of the politics and politicians of our day, like the Biblical prophets of old. At the moment, we have a few brave newspapers and that is about it. Our television journalists are embarrassingly neutral, and the church is ridiculously silent. Let's start to do a bit more, eh?

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

The will of the many

If you've been lamenting the newsworthy current political mess as something new as opposed to the politics of yesteryear which seemed positively dull and boring  "ah, those were the days" says one wit quoted in "The Week", then think again. If you are becoming disillusioned with "the will of the people" and "the people have spoken", you can at least take comfort from the fact that this is nothing new at all.
Perhaps the first recorded instance of the people speaking is in the Bible, at Exodus Chapter 32, where the people of Israel in the absence of Moses' return from up the mountain, clamour for any old gods to go with them on their journey. Aaron, the brother of Moses and one of the Senior Management Team 😉, like our Tories who put the Referendum into their prospectus, fearing the loss of popularity and votes, tells the people to collect their gold baubles and he melts them down and casts them into a golden calf. "Behold your god he cries." Uh oh. There was trouble ahead when Moses did eventually get back to camp. One of the other oft missed wee bits of advice from back then is "Don't follow the crowd to do wrong." (Exodus Chapter 23.2)

On a similar theme, Francis Bacon doesn't rate our objectivity very highly when it comes to reasoning: "The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion, either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself, draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate." He probably wasn't a fan of universal suffrage.

So now we are into a competition amongst the Tories to see who can become leader and Prime Minister. Unfortunately the most attractive least blowhard, most sane and reasonable of the candidates won't I suspect, make it to the final cut. Big Boris is out front at the moment and I imagine the typical Tory member (my own stereotype admittedly) being absolutely wowed by him and his blustering confidence and easy solutions.

I liked the results of the European Parliament elections where those of us who are remainers went for a nice spread of parties that we felt represented us. I think a similar result in a UK national election would help our democracy immensely. I hope the voting public agree and don't return to the old default voting positions out of a sense of "now it really matters and I better vote for one of the big 2".
It's a long road till then though.


Saturday, 25 May 2019

The Future: October 31.

OK so here it is. October 31st 2019. Boris Johnson is prime minister and he takes Britain out of Europe without a deal. You read it here first. It will take something like a miracle to stop this happening. Boris' lack of everything except confidence is actually enough to get him through to party leadership. I've listened to reasonably intelligent sounding students who were members of the Tory party as they spoke of their possible support for him. It doesn't seem to matter how palpably inept you are, the voting public are capable of infinitely deeper gullibility, blindness, and stupid choices. And that's a shame as some of the candidates for leadership do look promising. But they lack the public recognition that would get them through and past the big names. However it still is a poisoned chalice.

The Guardian carried a headline "Broken by Brexit" with regard to Theresa May's resignation. But she won't be the only one. Nothing will have changed in terms of the parliamentary attitudes or numbers. A new leader will have the same obstacles and objections to deal with. That's why we'll reach October 31st in the same deadlock we are in now, and Boris will, if he can, simply walk away with huge issues of how we now manage our relationship with Europe unresolved. Businesses will go broke, there will be far reaching hardship, and those nutters with loud voices who believed him and love him will hail him as their hero anyway. Brexit may not break Boris. He'll just break everything else.