Dear Brussels

Dear Brussels,

Erm… well. This is awkward. So the UK went and did something daft. Let’s be honest though, the tone of voice you adopted while we were making the most critical constitutional decision of a generation wasn’t very helpful, was it? And it can’t be said there aren’t many folk in every other European nation that don’t share the feelings of those here who voted for the UK to leave.

You can pretend like you weren’t aware of this, that your attitude towards the inconvenient statistics that are the normal, working, struggling people of Europe, was the right one. This would of course be quite typical of you, being so viciously possessed of a disconnection between the ideals you’re striving for and the reality you’ve created for just too many people.

And what now? All we hear are your leaders trying to push us off the deep end, when in fact this isn’t something Europe wants or needs. And actually, as soon as the referendum result came out, wasn’t even something huge numbers of Leave voters wanted. The picture is clear – a terrible and embarrassing mistake was made, predicated somewhat on the basis of the lies these people were told, and that you failed to effectively respond to.

Really it should have been the easiest argument in the world to win. But somehow you lost it. YOU lost it, because while we were having the conversation, one worth having if we’re being honest, you behaved largely with irritation and scorn.. And now you’re acting like a pack of petulant infants, throwing your toys out of the pram and further risking alienation and the entrenchment of the minority attitude in this nation that the UK doesn’t want to be a part of the Europe.

As the clear message goes out, “Get out now!”, some of us are left to wonder who is having the quiet conversations in the wings at the highest levels as to how this whole mess can be resolved to the benefit of everyone. Because sure enough, if you now want to go about punishing the British political class and British people for saying, on one level, we are simply not happy with the EU, then actually is the EU worth defending?

I’d rather see some mature politics now, some recognition of what really happened here. It was a coin toss that fell heads and immediately told us we really, really fucking badly wanted tails. The protest vote that actually did to our horror return the protest candidate. For the moment however, the whole bloody lot of you, including plenty of our own clowns, continue to be pathetic disappointments.

If the referendum was held again tomorrow it’d probably be a ten point swing. Chew on that before being so determined to make a stupid example of us.


One of the 48.1%

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In this metaphor, my blog is a strategically sorted vampire. Staked, chained, soaked in holy water and wearing a wreath of garlic as it rests beneath a thousand looming crosses. It was put away, it was done. This was good, I had better things do to.

Then Brexit. FFS.

Nice one folks, we’ve gone and fucked it. We’ve stuck our fingers up, turned over the table and stomped out of the room. Whatever triumphalism there is about this will turn quick enough, and an associate is indeed already taking bets on who can find a Brexit voter by Christmas.

So here’s my quickfire assessment. The Leave camp are so self-evidently venal and toxic that little need be said there. They lied their way through the whole bloody thing, leveraging emotions and appealing to an unsubstantiated set of optimistic predictions. Gove, Johnson, Farage… remember these names, because further down the road they’ll be trying to stick their head in the sand. Which will not be permitted, thank you very much.

But really I’m angry in the most part at the Remain camp, and at the EU itself. From the moment it was clear that Leave were going to go about their business and play the game entirely on their own terms, the message should have been obvious.

Desperate, fawning, pleading. Please god UK, stay in the EU. You are desperately needed. We love you. Incessantly. Persistently.

Is it true? I don’t know. I don’t care! But it’s what was required. The UK public needed a little affection, but instead the Remain message was, largely – and in this regard Leave were spot on – fear. They spent the whole goddamned run-in trying to make us lay bricks at the very notion of Brexit, with EU figures like Tusk helpfully indicating that the draw bridge would pull up. Whatever time on the floor that remained was dedicated to simply looking indignant and scoffy at any number of Leave claims.

As far as a failure of politics goes, this is about as big as it has gotten in my lifetime. How utterly fucking tone deaf. Some antagonism in the response was almost guaranteed, and this was almost certainly the root cause of the swing.

There are already strong indications across the globe that attitudes towards Britain are not favourable, see… the news, everywhere, which is understandable given how much the already shaky tub has taken another major rattle. I suppose I would disconsolately remind everyone that 16m+ did vote for Remain.

Though as for the nearly 17.5m who did vote to Leave, let’s not pretend they’re a mass of xenophobes and idiots either. A few, sure. But if we’re actually saying the conditions that inspired this referendum weren’t easily read and that the matter was conducted with even vague competency…

Well then, screw ya’ll, no one is honest here, fuckedy-bye now.

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This blog is dead. Long live this blog.

More to follow.

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UK Election 2015 – Exit Polls

Initial reaction… huh!? I had to rewind the BBC broadcast a few times when Dimbleby first revealed the exit polls at the stroke of 10 there. Even though we’ve already heard by this hour repeated calls for a cautious approach to the figures, which give the Tories 316 seats to Labour’s 239, it was unquestionably a blind-siding start to proceedings. Now we can only wait for, or more likely sleep through until, the results proper.

Why by contrast the rest doesn’t surprise me, I’m not sure. It felt clear that the SNP were running away with the show in Scotland, and I’ve maintained unwavering faith in my prediction of five years ago that the coalition would result in pain for the Lib Dems. They did a deal with the devil as it were, chucked in their principles for a seat at the big boy’s table, and rightly are suffering. A German-inspired neologism springs to mind – schadenfreudegasm.

Favourite moment of the night so far? Without a shadow of doubt, the tantalizing prospect of Ed Balls losing his seat. I despise the man, in vast disproportion to my sentiment towards the Labour party, which is much the same as towards all parties – sceptical. This eventuality would appear to be a perfect encapsulation of why the Labour party appear to have come out so poorly. Not enough trust on the economy, and to be sure, Ed Balls inspires as much faith as a fox offering guardianship of the hen house.

Pardon my language, but he’s also a giant bell end, and by comparison I find Ed Miliband rather endearing for all his goofy qualities. But enough of that. How do I feel about the current prospect of another Tory government? Err… well, it’s better than a stick in the eye? Gonorrhoea is probably worse…

The markets definitely seem to like the idea. Honestly though, at this point I’m far too glued to the election analysis to really get into this consideration too deeply. And things may all change yet. And Jeremy Vine is doing more of his silly but curiously captivating 3D guff, so, more to follow…!

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Party Leader Election Debates

Bear with me on this one, I actually wrote it last week prior to last night’s 7-way leader’s debate broadcast. Although I’m feeling perfectly vindicated as the whole thing more or less confirmed my suspicions as detailed below….

UK politics were treated to another novel concept this election cycle, the slightly oddly formatted affair on Channel 4 that saw Cameron and Miliband grilled separately in quick fire succession by the tenacious Jeremy Paxman, in addition to a small studio audience. It felt like a dense affair with little breathing room, as both leaders were put under no small amount of pressure by their inquisitors. Snap opinion polling gave the nominal win over the affair to Cameron by an order of 54 to 46, but the small margin has seen some commentators claim that, due to low expectations, Miliband was the actual victor.

Various other subsidiary metrics were gleaned via polling, relating to matters such as leadership quality, world standing, likeability, veracity etc., but really it’s hard to measure what if any genuine impact the event will have on the election. Reactions from journalists, politicos and the average observer seem to pretty much boil down to confirmation bias, and the much vaunted “undecided” are unlikely to pin their ultimate decision down to what they witnessed. It largely felt like a vapid presentation piece during which we learned nothing new, and the best a sceptic might say is that it was entertaining to watch both leaders squirm a bit.

Frankly, these leadership-oriented events are something of a betrayal of the traditional nature of British politics and a further step in the trend towards imposing a presidential sort of perception on things. For anything that adequately and accurately represents how the Westminster machine still really ticks you would have to include at least the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary. But given the tedious palava that were the negotiations to establish this year’s varied set of cross-party forums, such an eventuality would probably be beyond the capabilities of the broadcasters and parties to achieve.

The seven-way debate on April 2nd could be fairly forecast as a complete debacle, unless ITV’s Julie Etchingham has moderating qualities of supernatural proportions. If you’ve ever watched an early-stage US presidential primary debate, in which there are multiple candidates still in the field, you’d probably agree with that statement. They either descend into noisy and cluttered diatribe, or the moderator wields an iron fist and the strict time allocations reduce proceedings to a stilted competition of who has the best sound bites. And that would be referring to the relatively mild Democratic primaries. The Republican iterations are downright outlandish.

As for the other main formats, the April 16th BBC five-way will offer little by way of improvement for lacking Cameron and Clegg, despite Dimbleby’s formidable experience, though at least the April 30th Question Time between Cameron, Clegg and Miliband carries the familiar and tested feel of a UK political staple. The town hall vibe feels marginally more genuine, as even if the core questions are guaranteed to be pre-approved, there is no grooming the often visceral reactions of the crowd. The people in the audience that night will hopefully feel entitled to express themselves as freely as they often do on many an ordinary Thursday night.

One wonders if the broadcasters considered something completely different though, something that might have offered the electorate a proper look into the parties in a fashion that is actually representative of UK politics. The cross-party aspect possibly does provide an adversarial entertainment element, but really it is completely meaningless. Going back to the notion that the Chancellor and Home Secretary should be representing their parties as well, you could expand further and include other major portfolios, and have broadcasters host single party events that more fully delved into individual party legacies, policies and promises.

Line them and give them a treatment on par with Paxman’s uncompromising assaults on Cameron and Miliband for Channel 4. Perhaps it may appeal less to those who don’t already have a healthy degree of political engagement, but considering a major complaint of the Channel 4 spectacle was that it broadly lacked substance, perhaps not. The format would provide proper focus and strip away the chaff of who is a better debater or performer, which is an utter irrelevance to political competency and ideology.

There’s no doubt the parties would still find a way to moan and quibble over how the broadcasts were released, which day of the week, timeslot, order, interviewer, proximity to election and more, but it would be worth pursuing in future elections if the British public are keen on more accessible modes of having their political options presented to them. The spirit of televised pre-election political broadcasting is in that sense very worthy. But clearly as they are still a newfangled thing in this country, there’s great room for improvement on what we’ve seen so far and are yet to be served up with.

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Limited Term Politics

Now there was an announcement of interest – David Cameron won’t run for a third spell as Prime Minister, assuming of course he grabs a second by what won’t be more than the skin of his teeth. This caused surprising levels of disquiet among the Conservative Party, and the world of political analysis went into overtime to parse the meaning of it all. Was it clever? Was it reckless? What impact will it have on the election, and who would be the next in line? One question that doesn’t seem to have been asked though, is why it’s seen as appropriate for one individual to hold such a degree of authority in the nation’s politics for longer than two terms?

There’s no sense in dredging up the ostensible facts about the structures of British politics, cabinet politics, where technically the Prime Minister is only meant to be a part of a core team of fellow ministers. This isn’t the USA, some would say, Cameron isn’t the president and the differences in these systems means unlimited-term ministers are of less concern. But if we’re being honest, there has been a shift in the last two decades in the character of British politics that has seen the role of Prime Minister assume greater relevance. While still a far throw from being actually presidential, there’s no doubt a heady step in that direction was taken with the ascendancy of Tony Blair.

Even if that wasn’t the case, the question would remain – what is the logic and wisdom of allowing a limited group of individuals an unending seat at the tables of power? Why in this country is that effectively the default position for our ministers, from the lowly junior elect all the way up to No.10? Whatever bearing Cameron’s declaration will have on the imminent political landscape, and assuming the declaration was honest and to be borne out in the fullness of time, it’s hard to understand why it was greeted with any sense of controversy. Where were the congratulations for daring to be forthright about the limited extent of his political ambition?

It is a rarity that a political career of noticeable longevity was thus because of the excellence of the politician in question. More often than not it is a product of entrenchment, where the individual in question was simply able to cling on out of vanity and comfort, without any aspect of genuine competition for their place in politics. We see it in Westminster and in Washington, and in many other of the halls of governance across the world. That constituencies can be so utterly stagnant as to allow for the continuation of political livelihoods that span decades is surely something that defies the better wisdom of public service.

In the UK we have even enshrined the position of longest serving MP with the title “Father of the House”. For the last five years that honorific has belonged to Sir Peter Tapsell, although it may just be that this man belongs to that less common set of genuinely unflinching public servants, and it’s difficult, perhaps not even called for, to make criticisms of someone so broadly respected. This doesn’t mean the system in place that allowed a ministerial career that started in 1959 and runs to this very day, only disrupted by two years out of parliament from 1964-66, isn’t worthy of criticism.

It takes a glance across the Atlantic to see what is unquestionably the poster child for reformations to the allowed terms of public service, one Congressman Charles Rangel. How this perennial lightning rod of ethical discrepancies has maintained his 44-year career is no mystery, as we go back to those key words: vanity, comfort, entrenchment and stagnation. Leaving behind naïve ideals of politics, open ended political service is far more want to produce the Rangels of this world then it is the Tapsells.

Look to the expenses scandal our dutiful MPs found themselves embroiled in, in 2009. To date, eight politicians have had criminal charges brought against them, Labour’s David Chaytor, Jim Devine, Eric Illsley, Denis MacShane, Margaret Moran and Elliot Morley, and Conservative Peers John Taylor and Paul White. All but Jim Devine had served for a period of not less than 13 years, in most cases considerably longer than this. Of the dozens of other MPs obliged to repay the public coffers for their indiscretions, most assumed office in or before 1997.

This isn’t to say that a prolonged stint on the public teat is definitively corollary with petty corruption, and many MPs were quite capable of resisting temptation, but it is simply another layer to the argument that ministers, let alone cabinet or prime ministers, should have better restrictions placed upon them. Besides, a traditional ideal of politics was that it never should have been a substitute for an “actual” career, namely one that began and thrived in the private sector and then ceded into public service once some form of wisdom or experience of the real world was accrued. In that sense, politics carried some characteristic of sacrifice, rather than opportunism.

Like or loathe or David Cameron for his politics, there is at least a little something to applaud in his apparent unwillingness to plough ahead indefinitely in Westminster, without doubt with regards to his role as Prime Minister. Periodically, new leaders, new ideas and a new direction are hugely important to reinvigorating national politics. While it also remains to be seen if Cameron becomes part of the “revolving door” dynamic of modern politics that sees many slip from office into some form of lobbying, there shouldn’t be anything implicitly negative about saying, in politics, “Enough is enough.”

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Vote Your Politics

Emanating from the heart of the Labour party as much as from its ardent supporters on the fringes, is a message that causes deep frustration to the more hopeful observers. “Vote Green, Get Blue” is the most often touted line, but recently we’ve also seen “Vote SNP, Get Blue”, and the sentiment clarifies. Effectively, vote anything but Labour, and we’ll have a Tory government for the next five years. Don’t waste your vote on a party that can’t win the seat.

It’s understandable to a point, First Past the Post is a fairly odious electoral system that generates extraordinary advantages to the established parties with both intensive and extensive enough support among the constituencies. We’ve seen cycle after cycle that lesser but ambitious parties like the Greens and Lib Dems do not reap remotely proportional benefits in relation to their overall vote share, to the benefit of Labour and the Tories.

So here’s the question. When the hell is that ever going to change if all we can bring ourselves to do is perpetuate the dynamic in feeble subjugation to the cautionary words of the established parties? From where will the impetus for a better system ever come? Not selflessly from the parties that the current system well serves, you can be assured of that.

A basic truth of proper democratic government is that winning the election does not grant the victor an unyielding mandate to pursue their agenda. Not only is there an opposition to convince or circumvent, but there is in fact still the message of the people rendered by the vote. A winning Labour or Tory party understands that many millions of people don’t support their vision, otherwise they would have voted for them too.

This is to say, a vote for a losing party is not a zero sum game. Every vote carries with it even the smallest amount of political capital, even if it doesn’t translate into seats, and this is exactly why we should be ignoring the fear-ridden message of Labour. A vote for Green is a vote for Green, and a vote for the SNP is a vote for the SNP, and so on. If you sympathise with these parties’ messages, or any other party’s message, you simply must vote for them. Do not vote the system.

Voting the system means the system will never change, and you’ll never have a hope of achieving the politics you want. Of course you’ll always have to temper that hope against the fact that this is a democracy and your views may well just be in the eternal minority, but the notion that we only have room for two major and only a few minor schools of political thought as represented by the current parties of Westminster, is daft.

The issue has never been more pertinent, as this year we do see several smaller parties muscling their way onto the centre stage, notably over the matter of the televised debates. In only their second incarnation, two of three debates will see not only the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems, but also UKIP, Greens, SNP and, controversially given that regional parties Sinn Fein and the DUP actually courted more votes in the last election but are not invited, Plaid Cymru.

It’s right that these forums are as representative as possible, and chances are you’re going to hear some very appealing notions from parties you never thought to bother with. But what’s the point if all you’re going to do is vote based on electability? On that basis there really only are two parties in this country, Labour and Tories, being that no other party is likely a generation within being a viable majority party. Unless, of course, we start to have the courage of our convictions and vote purely and only for our politics.

There’s no surprise whatsoever that the Lib Dems have long since championed reforms to the electoral system, and that Green and other minor parties support this change as well. Labour have shown some meaningless sympathy to the idea, smothered in prevarication, and the Tories are simply just against any change in this regard.

Looking ahead to May, we can predict that the Greens might elicit around 6% of the national vote, for which they will likely be rewarded 0.2% of available seats, or in real terms, likely only one seat, their Brighton stronghold. This is, in and of itself, a clarion call for changes to the system, as it is patently, demonstrably incorrect that this should be the case. However you feel about UKIP politics, a possible 15% of the vote share translating into possibly four or five seats, 0.6% of available… well, it just isn’t a fair reflection of the will of the people, is it?

The UK is, for the time being at least, one sovereign political entity, not 650 constituencies. Having constituencies works in terms of establishing geographical or demographic units for individual MPs to serve, but it’s madness that they should function as they currently do, which is effectively as self-contained electoral units. The national vote should be the national vote.

Without going into the nitty-gritty of the more representative systems available to us (and they are perfectly available to us), the message here is that if sufficient millions of votes appear to back the mandate for changes to the electoral system, it becomes a difficult issue to ignore. Voting Labour or Tory as a tactic, or out of a sense of futility, instead of a conviction, is nothing more than a vote to perpetuate an unrepresentative system, which is itself the only reason not to vote your convictions.

Staring down the barrel of a political future where outright majority governments are fewer and further between, where the coalition will be key and smaller parties of greater relevance, there is every reason to make the push now. Vote Green. Vote SNP. Vote Lib Dem. Vote UKIP. If they or others speak to you, give them the legitimacy to say the system in place is just too flawed. That is the meaning of your vote, even it doesn’t win your party the seat, and even if it does defer votes from whichever major party is politically “close enough”. As politicians live and die by the vote, they’ll clamber to be the party that delivers.

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