Friday, June 23, 2017

One year on: Britain is still in denial

The rusty cogs of government have finally begun to creak into life as the Brexit negotiations begin, and people finally have to put their money (some say £350 million for the NHS and some say a £100 billion EU divorce bill) where their mouth is.

A lot has happened in just a year since the shocking result. Of course, there was division and anger and then just confusion over what Brexit means. There was a new Prime Minister in Theresa May, who promised not only Brexit but Red, White and Blue Brexit, which would surely give the EU stationers some minor headaches finding the right colour paper. Finally, there was another twist in the tale as May then called a snap election expecting the kind of majority that Thatcher would have licked Michael Foot’s arse on TV to get.

Then another shock, May lost her majority after fronting one of the most lacklustre campaigns in living memory, maybe only tying with the kind of complacency of Hillary Clinton’s Democratic campaign. Rupert Murdoch then voided his bowels (he’s at that kind of age now) and the increasingly divided Britain was left with a hung parliament just over a week before the big bad negotiations with the wicked sneaky Europeans.

Of course, the brave white haired Knight, David Davis whose blood actually pumped red white and blue (a medical condition I’m told), lured the wicked foreigners into a trap by handing them exactly what they wanted on negotiating a trade deal only after the terms of divorce were set. Little did they know they were now exactly where he wanted them….

Or so some people would like to believe because despite the shocking incompetence shown by the leaders and negotiators Britain has still not accepted that it’s not going to get a better deal than what it has. Britain was already a privileged member of the EU with a lot of bargaining clout and was seemingly a leader considering its voting record on EU legislation often came out in its favour. However, of course, a lie repeated enough times about unelected democrats, angry fishermen, complaints from people who just could not get their heads around the metric system and “something, something those Polish are stealing our money, jobs and benefits”, here we are just as clueless as we’ve ever been.

Now we will lose all that influence we had, and we’ve already pretty much lost any reputation we had for being cool-headed and calculating. Britain will only get a deal where it has to lose something and not this tailored appeasement some Brexiters believe in. “They need us more than we need them”, they say showing a flimsy level of understanding of cooperation that Britain has been famous for in recent times and also of the nation’s diverse and globalised economy. Either way, concessions are going to have to be given back to the EU to secure our future relationship, which begs the question, is there really any point to all of this?

Of course, now some people are starting to catch on slowly as prices rise and businesses start to stall their decisions, waiting for an outcome. Unfortunately, Britain hasn’t realised it’s about to waste a huge amount of time and money that it’s ironically really going to need once the costs and effects of Brexit really hit home.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Strong and stable chaos

They say a week is a long time in politics and this week more so than usual.

A lot has happened if you think that last Saturday there was very sadly a terrorist attack in central London. Theresa May the Prime Minister then made an authoritarian-sounding speech about dealing with the terror threat, talking about clamping down on the Internet and seemingly throwing out the traditional liberal values of British society in order to secure (at least the perception of) safety.

Then came the election on Thursday and the message seemed to be clear. It was a monumental error to call a vote at this time (and so close to the Brexit negotiations). The Labour party surged in the polls and the Conservative majority was wiped out. The PM’s party despite still being the biggest in parliament now doesn’t even have enough seats to form a government in its own right and a coalition or deal is necessary to rule.

This then brings us to the present moment, where despite her no-nonsense approach to terrorism and desired crackdown on the public to prevent all terrorist activity she is prepared to do a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party, which has a very dubious history. The DUP was founded by the firebrand evangelical preacher the Reverend Dr Ian Paisley and has had strong connections to the Ulster Defence Association a violent unionist terrorist group in Northern Ireland. The Party also holds truly antiquated and bigoted views on social issues in society.

To say this is an ironic twist in these strange times is, of course, an obvious conclusion, but it takes some serious cognitive dissonance to be able to preach zero tolerance to all terrorism one week and then do a deal with terrorist sympathisers before the week is up. It’s made even more ridiculous by the fact that the cynical and lacklustre campaign by the Conservative party heavily criticised Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for having a dialogue with the IRA in the 1980s (which as it turns out a lot of politicians on both sides of parliament were doing, albeit mostly in secret).

Obviously, it’s clear that principals are out the window and that power and holding on to the premiership are more important to Mrs May. This is probably only temporary as even her own party look like they’re about to turn on her and moderate conservatives (including the openly gay Ruth Davidson and David Mundell) will most likely be cringing at the backward views their new partners have on homosexuality amongst other things.

It’s been said a lot that the biggest irony is that the strength and stability that May parroted at the beginning of the campaign has led to chaos and weakness and of course it is true. Nevertheless, it has been a source of schadenfreude after hearing so many lies and so much cynical posturing for the last couple of months.

The question is of course what happens now? There are many things still to do such as deal with the issue of austerity going forward and the gigantic thrashing dinosaur in the room (luckily for the Tories the DUP allegedly don’t believe in dinosaurs) is of course Brexit. It’s hard to know how these will progress going forward as the blinkered view of a hard Brexit seems to have proven to be poison at the polls and there can be no doubt that people are tired of austerity after 7 years and a spluttering asthmatic economic upturn as a result of it.

I’m certain of one thing. Theresa May is finished as the Conservative leader. Like them or loathe them the Tories do not tolerate failure and I’m sure they are warming up the iron and sharpening their knives for a good old ousting. As for where this leaves Britain, that is unclear. The country obviously is experiencing something of a shift even from last year as the much-maligned youth vote actually came through for once.

Brexit hasn’t even started yet and it’s looking shaky as the hard-line rhetoric seems to have failed and the EU seems at least passive to any threats of walking away with no deal. It’s not really clear who is even in charge of that anymore with May and her inner circle looking like lame ducks. A final question hangs over Northern Ireland which of course could be greatly affected in the upcoming negotiations and what a deal with the DUP means for the Good Friday agreement. Who knows, we might even end up with another election this year.

It’s not sure how it’s going to pan out but I think that luckily we’ve seen the end of Strong and Stable as a mantra for government campaigning.