Monday, April 24, 2017

Brexit, British General Election 2017 and Blair

Leading British Labour Party politician Chuka Umunna today posted on his Facebook Page a note angrily rejecting former Labour Party British Prime Minister Tony Blair's call to Labour supporters to vote Conservative or Liberal Democrat in the June British General Election, in order, according to Blair, effectively to block a Brexit 'at any cost.'
This is some indication of the confusion I believe Brexit is going to impose on the June British General Election. Making it almost impossible to predict what will be the outcome. Although, once again going against the grain, I have already predicted that I do not believe, as most of the talking heads are suggesting, that current Conservative Party British Prime Minister, Theresa May, will walk away with a landslide. I think she will have a Parliamentary majority of about 30 ...

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

It May All Backfire For May

And so. Everyone and his uncle is predicting that British Prime Minister and her Conservative Party will reap the rewards of a double digit polling lead over the opposition Labour Party, and win the General Election in June by a landslide. I'm not so sure.
Yes. She will win. I'm going to stick my neck out and say, with a majority of no more than 20-30. Which will be seen as a shocker. Bearing in mind she has a majority of 17 now.
The first thing that everyone forgets is how badly all the pollsters got their call of the 2015 General Election, and why. You may remember (because I'm an insufferable pr**k, and won't let you forget), I was one of the few to call that election correctly. And the reason is that I paid attention to the true nature of the underlying trends.
Most analysts - even now - say the unexpectedly good result for the Tories was due to a collapse in the Liberal vote. This was true of the seats that the Conservatives gained in the South-West. But, in the North of England, it was the Labour vote which collapsed.
So. All this talk of the huge majority that May will rack up, due to a collapsing vote in the North of England? Folks. It already happened. But. But. The polls, Geoff. The polls. What about the double digit lead that the Tories didn't have back then?
First, we live in a totally different age now. I mean, literally. The SNP closing out Labour in Scotland. Brexit changing the political landscape. Tactical voting now being second nature. Fake news. Alternative facts. Leaders who lie as a political philosophy.
No-one actually tells the truth to pollsters any more. Polls are no more than Christmas wish lists, people thinking aloud, wondering 'what if.' You watch those polls tighten dramatically as reality strikes home. Or not, as folks continue to lie.
Won't make any difference. Because this election is going to be about the stay-at-homes. Tory voters are pretty good at turning out. But, what about those Conservative Remainers? They are used to expressing displeasure by hopping over to the Liberal Democrats. Look at Richmond. They know May is going to win. So, maybe a few surprises there?
Yeah. Liberals Democrats are hopping with joy. But, they worked decades to get to some 54 MP's just a couple of elections ago. They'll pick up a lot of Tory Remainers. But they'll lose some of their own Leavers. Plus, their left-wing, which deserted to Labour in 2015. They ain't coming back. And the few Tory seats they may pick up in the South and South-West. Will be offset by the potential gains they lose to the Tories in the North. Where former Labour Leavers, who moved to UKIP in 2015 (the Labour collapse pollsters missed in 2015), will now switch from UKIP to the Conservatives. Snatching several potential gains from the Liberals.
Please note that last point. This, in my opinion, may well be the trend that everyone else misses this time. UKIP Leavers in the North switching to the Conservatives in droves. But, not enough to offset a surprisingly strong Labour showing, a low Tory turnout overall, and strong(ish) Liberal activity.
Which brings us to Labour. Yes, there are too many who dislike Corbyn. Yes, there are those who will say, s**t, we're going to lose anyway, let's send a message we want Corbyn gone. But. The core Labour folk. The diehards. Those who still sing the Labour anthems in the grimy sandstone temples they call Labour Clubs. They'll turn out. Along with all those Momentum acolytes. The collapse won't be enough to hand May a 100-seat majority.
I could go on. But. Bottom line? One more time. Too many Tories will stay at home. Labour already collapsed in 2015. Any more collapsing between the main parties will pretty much offset itself. Save for UKIP shifting to the Tories in the North. The Liberal Democrats will be lucky to come away with about 60 seats. And, as I say, the Tory majority will be no more than about 30. And the history books will excoriate May. Who will be gone by the following General Election.

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May in June

Well. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called a snap election. This has to be the biggest political yawn since.
I'm sorry. I'm so underwhelmed. I can't even be bothered to think of a semi-humorous analogy.
The ruling British Conservative Party has been recording a double digit polling lead over the main opposition Labour Party since.
The Labour Party itself is led by the most ridiculous and disastrous political leader since.
As British General Elections go, there hasn't been a better chance for a sitting Prime Minister to win re-election in a landslide since.
Of course May is not going to play ball, and offer any of the opposition parties a foot in any door. No-one has occupied a more commanding political position since.
I mean. Let's get real. I haven't yawned so much since.
[Tomorrow, if I can be bothered, I will be offering a stunning and comprehensive analysis of the possibility that the British Prime Minister called the General Election in June, because her surname is May.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Freedom -v- Security

In the light of the actions of Khalid Masood, this may be regarded as an insensitive post. I do the sensitive bit at the end. But the fact is that we live in times increasingly dominated by the public interest argument about the relative emphasis civilized societies place on security versus freedom.
Frankly, it is almost never a very honest debate. It depends on one's political starting point. And where in history one chooses to begin the narrative.
Who fired the first shot? Who invaded whom first? Who is due the most retribution? When? And for what? Was it The Crusades? The Moorish push westwards? The desire for oil? Militant Islamic fundamentalism? Migration of Muslims into the West? Fear of cultural and religious differences? The 'militant tendency' of the Islamic faith? The vigorous fundamentalism of Old Testament Christianity? What?
To be fair. To be effective. To live in the real world. For myself. I begin the discussion with where we are now. In which regard, I think it fair to say that the first responsibility of any level of government is to protect all of the individuals who live within the jurisdiction of that level of government.
If we are talking about Great Britain, that 'protection,' in my opinion, means equally protecting the security of people going about what used to be called their lawful occasions. And it means protecting the rights and freedoms of Muslim residents to be Muslim. Of anyone to be who they are.
I do not see the need for choice. Legislators and law enforcement use their best efforts to ensure that folks are safe from any danger. Societal oversight then makes sure that government does not overreach itself in offering protection from that danger. And all citizens remain vigilant to respect the differences between the many different beliefs, religions, cultures, preferences and lifestyle choices of all those living together in a nominally free society.
Beyond that, yes, it is incumbent on all of us who choose to be sentient to look to the causes of hateful difference between us, to see what can be done to minimize the possibility of that hateful difference becoming harmful. Whether to individuals, or to society generally.
It is also incumbent on all of us who choose to care to pay attention to all the possible triggers for violent behavior: emotional issues, lifestyles, environment, belief systems, whatever.
There will be much argument in the coming days about what lay behind this attack in London. That is important. It is why I began this post by addressing that subject. For, to be frank, while a relatively small group of people will be spending their time dealing with the immediate and personal grief following the loss of their loved ones (and my heart very genuinely goes out to them), the rest of us will be engaging in that wider debate about cause and consequence.
I wanted to offer my primer in a discussion which, because of the nature of the times in which we live, will almost certainly involve much heat, innuendo, blatant falsehood, distraction, and toxic hate. This post won't prevent that. But at least it allows me the opportunity for contribution, in what I hope is a calm and measured manner.
All of which said. I do very truly feel terrible anguish for those who died. Those who are injured. Those who suffer, because of loss, concern, worry and the tremendous amount of care that is yet to come. Not least, because the rest of us will likely forget all these good folk, just as soon as the news cycle moves on.
I also grieve for a society. Any society. Which creates a soul, so lost, that he or she feels the only way he or she can feel safe, can express themselves, is the need to engage in violence against another. I feel desperately sorry for a society that stands by and allows them to be so lost. So forgotten. That gets its priorities so wrong.
Perhaps somewhat controversially, I have feelings for the bringer of violence, who died in the violence of his making. He is likely the product of circumstances not all of his own making. We can pretend otherwise. But that will, with respect, achieve little, if we are truly looking for a safer society. I have feelings for anyone who was born in what most people in the world regard as an obviously 'civilized' and peaceful corner of the world. And yet was so troubled, so unhappy, so disturbed, so unsatisfied with that corner of the world, that the way he felt he could best bring meaning to his life was to take the lives of others. He has much to answer for. So do we.
And finally, I feel tremendous sadness that we feel the necessity to elect leaders whose first reaction to episodes such as this attack will almost certainly be to calculate how they can use the episode to maximize their political status.

Deluded Losers

I link to what I regard as an appalling article, from the former Editor of The London Guardian.
We elected Donald Trump. We voted for Brexit. We discover it is not just Russians bombing the Middle East and killing civilians. Martin McGuinness did what he did. Khalid Masood did what he did. And behind all of these events are people who acted for reasons.
As human beings, we judge. But. If we want things to change, we have to move beyond the judgment, and understand the reasons. Understanding requires what Preston reviles as 'the oxygen of publicity.'
It is my God-given right to think any way I choose. To express those opinions however I want. And to act upon them in any manner that is legal.
But when you are the former Editor of a respected news outlet, and you are read by many, there is an especial responsibility upon you to recognize your outsized contribution to that 'oxygen of publicity' (certainly outsized compared to you or me), and to act accordingly.
It is my undersized but considered opinion that, with this article, Preston acted like a narrow-minded pig.

It's The Agenda, Stupid!

I read an article in The London Daily Telegraph, the headline of which screams: 'Gibraltar accuses Spain of 'hijacking' Telegraph poll.'
The themes are: nothing is what it seems to be; all is virtual; anyone can hack anyone; nothing is objective; everyone has an agenda; find out for yourself; decide for yourself; and stop blaming other people for the dumb decisions you make.
The NSA has so many satellites in space (not to mention the British, French, German, Australians, Israeli's et al), it looks like Steptoe and Son's scrapyard up there.
They record every electronic communication made anywhere in the world. They have infrared, x-ray, microwave, ultraviolet and plain 'ol normal eyesight. You can't shit in a pot without the US knowing what you are doing. And that's just the US and the NSA.
They don't need warrants. Warrants are what you get to introduce evidence to trial. Not to spy on your granny. And anyone with an associate degree from Peoria Community College and Photoshop can turn it all around, and change what is on your computer, in your pics, on your record, what shows up in a poll.
Your computer and your telephone can be hacked when they are turned off, inside a lead box. And it doesn't take a lot of money. It ain't just Donald Trump, Breitbart and United Airlines changing the story.
We live in a world of the immediate. Where your fifteen minutes was so sixteen minutes ago. Standards went the way of the horse carriage and the audio cassette. Mainstream went conspiratorial, in order to keep up with Daisy May's viral blog on alien cooking and the rise of the altright.
No-one wants boring and staid and honest any more. They want color. Vibrancy. Crazy. Silly. Cats. And if it's a 'true' story about the cat eating the alien cooking that Daisy May says brought the altright to power, then so much the better.
Stop believing what you read. What you are told. What you see in your Facebook feed. Find out for yourself. Look to an author's credentials. Their politics. Find purpose. Agenda. Form your own view. Own it. Act on it. And take responsibility for it.
Oh. And as for Gibraltar. Wake up. Let's mouth the words. Colonies are ancient history. Worse than slavery. But. People should be allowed to decide for themselves. To design their own destiny.
Got that? With me so far? Now. Chuck that out the window. And let the harsh glare of cold hard reality shine a little sense onto the equation.
Gibraltar stands at one of the two entrances to the Mediterranean. It is owned by the UK. Which just left the European Union. Underneath the Rock is one of the least secret and largest 'Top Secret' military bases possessed by Great Britain.
It is a primary training base for those activities of its special forces GB doesn't want the rest of the world knowing about. GB ain't giving up Gibraltar anytime soon. Whoever hacked The London Daily Telegraph's poll ...

Who Have We Become?

And not just the CEO of United. Not just the employees who dragged this man off the plane. Not just the police who aided and abetted. All of us.
The passengers who took video's. Rather than offering up their own seats. Or stepping in. And just saying. This is wrong.
I watched the whole video. All the way through. Did I do so because I was shocked? Or did I do so out of trainwreck curiosity?
If you do watch the whole video. It becomes quite clear at the end. That the gentleman in question has issues. He is horribly disturbed.
I can understand why. But do most of us really care? Do most of us watch the video and say. This man believed himself to be in a place of safety. And they made him feel unsafe. Or do we just snigger at such a notion?
Do we really care? Or do we just use it as an excuse to attack large corporations?
Do we really care? Or do we post another attack on the police?
Do we really care? Or is it just another opportunity for political insult, political point-scoring?
What do we care about? Who have we become? We engage in verbally violent language about anyone who does not agree with us. And then we wonder that casual violence follows.
We think that it is better to gain fifteen minutes of fame through viral social media. Than doing the right thing. Stopping the wrong thing.
We believe ourselves righteous. Yet we cannot see the poisonous self-righteousness when our positive outlook survives only because we perceive the negative so strongly in others.
Why do we redefine the most basic values? Find reasons to hedge on simple truths, like honesty, responsibility, loyalty, and decency? I mean, what the heck ever happened to the notion of simple decency in civic life? In every aspect of our lives?
And we are all to blame. None of us is excused. We have all of us left decency behind. There is now always too much at stake in winning with respect to all that we do.
When did we put aside the idea of losing gracefully? The notion that there is not always just one right? When did we decide that preaching was more important than listening? Winning more important than taking part?
When did we lose sight of the fact that maintaining the dignity of others should always be more important than the way we look to our friends, to our gallery, on Facebook, on Twitter, in the mirror?
When will we all wake up, look in that same mirror, and truly ask of ourselves: who have we become?

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Ordinary People Taking Back Political Definition?

Yesterday, I posted several posts on Facebook (at least one of which a contributor described, probably accurately, as provocative) about the definition of political terms, in particular our use of the term 'feminist.'
I'm bound to say, the discussion about the use of the term 'feminist' has become (it continues) quite an interesting debate, devoid of heat. Wish more political argument at the moment was the same.
The nature and the topic of the discussion got me thinking. I believe we are witnessing at the moment one of the great political shifts of history.
Even though, at the moment, it appears to be all about a move to the right, I do not believe that history will show that is/was its primary thrust. I take the view that history will show that the underlying trend is/was about ordinary people taking back control.
I think this has been building for about forty years. Since about the Sixties. When, in my opinion, politicians of all political hue began to seduce electors by giving them political permission to do whatever they liked, without thought for the consequence to society as a whole.
Cutting a long story short, this came to a grinding halt, again in my opinion, with the Great Recession of the last decade.
The primary political reaction was a progressive one. But it was one proffered less by ordinary people, and more by an entrenched left-of-center political elite.
The prescription did not produce enough. Anywhere in the world. Not of itself. And also because it was set against a tapestry of forty years of permissive politics and globalist economic trends. Where all was about, on the one hand, global ambition, without thought for the social or spiritual welfare of individuals, who were, on the other hand, 'bought off,' with the admonition that, within this impersonal structure, they could pretty much do as they wished.
The reaction to this formalized progressive approach was a right-wing backlash. The conservative drift had been gathering steam for some time. But it truly only came into its own with the failure of the progressive response to the Great Recession.
This conservative reaction became, in my opinion, ugly, when, in the past 18 months, it took populist form. And here is where I may set myself apart from other talking heads.
I do not see this populist trend as set in a right-wing mold. I think this is a current, even if unfortunate, phase. There is much about the current right-wing populist offering which is inherently impossible to achieve and implement. That will become apparent. And folks will eventually go looking for a more centrist or even leftist populist alternative. I truly understand this offers little support to the many individuals who will suffer in the meantime:
All of that on one side. Wherever the current populist trend ends up on the political spectrum. I do see a huge inherent silver lining. Namely, ordinary people finding a way to declare that they've had enough of professional politicians treating them as guinea pigs in some never-ending series of social experiments.
That can only be good news in the long-term. And it brings me back to where I began this post. The discussions I referenced at that point seem to recognize that one of the ways in which professional politics seeks to exclude ordinary people, and to 'keep them in their place,' is to use a whole glossary of 'accepted' terminology, a whole slew of debating rules and precepts, the purpose of which is simply to confuse ordinary folk.
I am delighted that the threads of discussion to which I refer appear to accept that no one section of our society has the right to exclude others from political debate, merely by stating that they are not qualified to debate or to vote, because they do not understand the issues, and/or they do not understand or they do not subscribe to the terms or the verbiage or the precepts the 'professionals' insist should be adhered to in any debate.
If nothing else, I do see this rise in populism putting an end to that exclusionary nonsense.

[Facebook comments here.]

When Brexit Means 'Bromide'

[‘Bromide’: a trite and unoriginal idea or remark, typically intended to soothe or placate. "Feel-good bromides create the illusion of problem solving."]
I know I can be a bit thick on occasion. But there are aspects to this post-Brexit conversation that I simply don’t understand.
Here’s what I believe I know. And I think the best way of understanding Brexit is to compare it to a marriage break-up.
We’ve been throwing pots and pans for decades now. Time to grow up. The kids are sick and tried of it. Stay together. Split. Make up your minds.
Ok. Says Dad. I’ll have one last go at trying to agree terms with Mom. Then you kids get to decide.
Agrees pretty weak terms. But. It’s the best he can do. Kids say: sucky terms; split.
Then, all the neighbors weigh in. Well. We know you said the kids could decide. But what about the relatives? Don’t they get a say? Did Mom negotiate in good faith? Did the kids have the telly on when they voted?
Next up. Split suddenly becomes a ‘process.’ The kids start saying. Ok. We said: ‘split.’ But. Terms have to be agreed. Right? And you know. Maybe we’d like another vote on those terms.
Well, we’re going to be affected by your splitting. And. And. But, you knew that when you voted ‘split.’ What did you think was going to happen?
Besides. Says Dad. Help me here. What if. We negotiate terms of the split. And you don’t like them. And you vote ‘no’ to the terms. What are you suggesting? We get back together after all?
Ok. Enough of the analogy. It’s almost as confusing as reality.
Look. I’m no rocket scientist. But here is the reality, as I see it. The nation voted to Leave the European Union. I’m not entirely sure why that Leave is dependent on what the French think. Or the Slovakians. The Polish, the Germans, or the Lithuanians. Bless them all.
In other words. Why the all-fired focus on negotiating terms? Didn't David Cameron already do that? Why do we think we're going to get better terms for Leaving than we were offered for Remain? And isn't all this backchat actually just a backdoor way of trying to overturn the Leave vote? I mean. Bearing in mind I'm thick.
Surely the process is: the British government works out what it wants Leave to look like. Maybe has some options. Discusses with other British political parties. Has a vote in Parliament. Calls a General Election, and then has a vote in Parliament. Whatever.
Then it goes to the EU. Once. And says: here are the options. Choose. Puts a time limit on it. Either they choose. Or they don’t.
If they don’t. We shrug. And we Leave. Because the people already voted to Leave. And the terms are ours to present; not the EU's to negotiate.
We pursue our own path. It will then be up to France and Germany and Slovakia and Poland and Lithuania either to trade with us, exchange immigrants with us, or not. Face sanctions from the EU, or not.
But. At some point, surely, we no longer accept diktat from the body we have voted to Leave. That is our decision. And ours alone. Surely?
And as to Tim Farron’s call for a second referendum, to take a view on the negotiated deal with the EU. How exactly does that work?
The first referendum had a consequence. If we vote Leave, then we Leave the EU. What happens if we say ‘No’ to the negotiated deal? We Leave the planet?
Or, is there something I'm missing?