PM dislikes Scotland because it has power to defy him

Another ridiculous outburst from the PM (see link to BBC article below) but there is within this issue a lost opportunity which Blair found himself unable to resolve.

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-54965585

What should have happened alongside the Scottish and indeed Welsh devolution was and indeed still is the need to set up regional governance in England. By just devolving powers to Scotland and Wales an unbalanced process of governance was set in train. The Tories have in their own way tried to redress this imbalance via their Metro Mayors and City Regions but this has, at least in my view, been pretty much an abject failure, apart that is from it turning Bandwagon Burnham the Manchester Metro Mayor into a Scouse hero.

No, the problem is the utter mess of devolution in England Mr Johnson; you’re looking, as usual, through the wrong end of your telescope.

Power should always be exercised at the lowest practical level of governance commensurate with it being efficient and democratically appropriate. You start with England’s network of Parish/Town Councils working your way up via Borough/Unitary Councils then Regional governance in my case (North West England) and then UK Governance. The object should be to exercise as few powers as possible at UK level. Defence, international relations, national budgets and obviously UK-wide issues come to mind. Everything else gets pushed down as low as possible so that governance is at the most appropriate level. It’s not rocket science for goodness sake……..

How not to take the House with you – A guest posting by Bob Robinson

I read “Conservative Home” – for as the axiom hath it. “If you read only one newspaper, read the one published by the opposition”. A Fanzine, written by Tories – for Tories, “Conservative Home” often has me spluttering my cornflakes. But Andrew Gimpson’s piece following Prime Minister’s questions on the 9th September was remarkable – not only was he calling a spade, a spade but also he was calling a charlatan, a charlatan.

www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2020/09/andrew-gimsons-pmqs-sketch-johnson-starts-to-sound-like-the-boss-of-a-tractor-plant-in-minsk.html

“At the end of PMQs, Sir Desmond Swayne had asked the Speaker, on a point of order: “What remedy is there for those of us who enthusiastically support the Prime Minister but nevertheless want to restrain the Government’s ability to govern by order without debate?

Boris Johnson was sitting on the Treasury bench, smiled and nodded gently as the Speaker exploded with fury at the absent (Matt) Hancock. The Prime Minister’s demeanour was that of a schoolboy who finds it amusing that one of his chums is being given six of the best.

Johnson might have done better to look grave. For one of the problems from which he himself suffers just now is an inability to take the House into his confidence, and thereby carry MPs with him. He naturally expected Sir Keir Starmer would challenge him on the shocking admission the day before by Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, when asked about the Internal Market Bill: “Yes this does break international law in a very specific and limited way.

I suppose one might say Lewis was taking the House into his confidence, but not in such a way as to carry MPs with him. The Prime Minister seized the chance before facing Starmer to make a bald statement: “We expect everybody in this country to obey the law.

Starmer then ducked the argument about the rule of law. This was an odd decision, for it is a necessary argument. However preposterous the PM’s attempts to extricate himself from the appalling statement made by Lewis might have been, we wanted to know what they were.

This is something the Commons can do extremely well: expose ministers when they are talking nonsense”.

Andrew Gimson concluded:

“This is a Government that puts its arms round the people of this country,” Johnson said at a later stage of PMQs. Again, this sounded like a strange, faintly totalitarian, even creepy remark for a Tory Prime Minister to be making. We don’t want the Government to put its arms round us. We just want it to do various things reasonably well”.

Alex Ferguson was famed for scorching criticism of poor performance even by the Galactico’s in his team as David Beckham recalls. It was known as “hair-drying”

www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2057556/David-Beckham-Alex-Fergusons-hairdryer-secret-success.html

Boris would be well advised to ask not for whom the hair-dryer blows. It blows,,,,,,

For those who missed PMQ’s you catch up on the BBC’s “Match of the Day” Channel – BBC Parliament.

When political parties all go wrong at the wrong/same time

The more I think about the 2019 General Election the more I realise what a terrible choice the British public had on offer in terms of potential Prime Ministers. On that basis is it any wonder they picked (with the more than significant help from our warped electoral system) the politician to lead them who is probably best summed up as a populist entertainer.

If Corbyn had been really credible he would have won in 2017. That he didn’t and went down hill from there makes you wonder what on earth the Labour Party was doing keeping him on as they must have known they were on the road to nowhere with him. And so it proved with a shocking electoral performance in December 2019 – Labour losing many seats to a Tory Party under the leadership of someone that no one trusted.

The Tories had been in a right old mess ever since David Cameron found himself calling the EU Referendum having surprisingly gained a majority in 2015; a majority which privately he must have very much hoped not to have for it forced his hand to go where he did not want to go with the EU.

The Lib Dems recovered some ground in terms of vote share in 2019 but bizarrely ended the election with one seat less than they won in 2017. Our wonderful NOT electoral system at work of course. But their leader Jo Swinson proved not to be an asset to the Party as on balance she wasn’t liked by voters and yes I do realise there will sadly have been some misogynist views at play in her downfall.

And then within a couple months a huge crisis envelopes the world, one that the UK reacted to far too slowly and which because of our obsession with austerity we have been incapable of addressing well. Here we are 6 weeks after lockdown with only a few brave Tories willing to wave the flag for Boris Johnson; the rest of the population wondering how on earth we ended up where we are with a shockingly poor government at the very time we need a strong one.

Oh for an Obama, a Blair, a Merkel or a that wonderful young lady from New Zealand whom we all struggle to say the name of (Jacinda Ardern) in our hour of need, but true leaders in UK politics are hard to find anywhere. The blood letting in both the Tories (over Brexit) and Labour (over Brexit, antisemitism and Corbynism) has led to the loss of many credible politicians and the Lib Dems have failed to come up with a leader the public really can take to since the demise of Charles Kennedy. That someone as credible as Dominic Grieve has found himself unwelcome in the Tory Party or that Louise Ellman walked away from Labour tells us that our politics is far from healthy and that dogmatically driven sects are far too powerful in our two major political parties.

That Labour has finally sobered up is a given in that they’ve now elected a reasonably credible leader in Keir Starmer although the jury is clearly still out. He’s no charismatic leader and worryingly seems still wedded to too many of the faults within Corbynism such as Brexit (he opposes the transition period being extended). He needs to become a true progressive as Blair clearly was in his early years, before he fouled up big style over Iraq. Yes it’s hard as Labour’s core working class supporters can easily swing to the right into regressive politics (as they did to deliver Brexit) but if Blair could be progressive and keep them on side Starmer has to as well. It will be no good appeasing them by throwing in a few ‘hang ’em and flog ’em’ policies Keir.

As for the Lib Dems, who for reasons no one can quite get their heads around have contrived not to have an elected leader in place since the December 2019 GE, there is hope that someone like Layla Moran can come through to be a truly progressive Social Liberal Leader. I hope so as I want my Party to be placed not between the Tories and Labour but to the left of Labour on many social issues/policies as we were in Charles Kennedy’s day.

What will become of the Tory Party is a very big question indeed. You can’t see Johnson surviving or indeed wanting to survive as PM in the long term. His popularist entertainer position which he’s carved out over many years is clearly unsuited to a country in crisis as is his legendary personality fault-line of not doing detail.

Politically the UK is in a mess, England probably more so than the Scottish and Welsh devolved administrations. There’s room for some optimism but it will be a long road before our main 3 political parties become fit for purpose again.

Johnson exposed by the Sunday Times?

I’ve read the Sunday Times article of yesterday and at face value our PM, our political leaders and Public Health England are being said to have been ‘asleep at the wheel’ with more than a little evidence to back that up. Yes it’s just one side of a story but tellingly that story was blasted out by a usually Conservative supporting newspaper.

Frankly, to me, the lengthy article reads like it was well researched although unsurprisingly not all sources are disclosed particularly the inside No.10 political ones.

I’m sure Conservative leaders will seek to say that the article is a hatchet job on Johnson and I note that one Minister referred to it as ‘grotesque’, one definition of which is ‘strange and often frightening in appearance or character’ according to the Cambridge Dictionary.

And it’s easy for me as a Lib Dem opponent of the Conservative Party to say that the article proves that our Tory Government is not in control of this pandemic or at least they weren’t when it really mattered at the start. Yet well before I read the sobering Sunday Times article I had been struggling to accept that Government was in control. Again though is that just my innate response to politicians whom I have fundamental disagreements with? I’ve droned on enough in the recent past about prejudiced thinking so am I been a victim of my own party political prejudices?

It’s also interesting though that Government has not responded to the article in any serious way. Some short sound bite dismissals but not much if any evidence that Government political attack dogs have been let loose to destroy the fundamental thrust of it. That tells me that the fundamentals are probably correct and Government just wants to move on so the accusations move to the back burner of our troubled lives at present.

Is it also the case that we as a general UK population are so distracted by what is happening to us presently that we are almost pushing such accusations onto the back burner ourselves as we feel we need to have confidence in our leaders so we have hope that all will eventually be well?

Readers of this blog site will know that I have long held the view that we should trust no one with power and that their every move should be scrutinised. I fear there is much to scrutinise and that saying things like ‘this is not the not the time to look at what has gone wrong’ is no more than burying our heads in the sand. No, we need hard nosed investigative journalism more now than at any time in living memory to expose propaganda, misinformation, and the missteps of our leaders.

Propaganda, Conspiracy & Cock Ups

Our Health Crisis – My Perspective

When Government first started using wartime phraseology at the start of our present lock down my thoughts went straight away to propaganda. What will be true amongst what we hear from now on I pondered and what will be that which political leaders want us to hear/believe?

Yes of course we are always subject to propaganda it’s what politicians of all colours and indeed many journalists/newspapers/media outlets do day in day out when things are ‘normal’. However, in times of ‘war’ this gets ramped up and governments sometimes with collaborating media outlets produce agendas which are very much associated with what they want us believe. In other words they push the boundaries of what is acceptable deceit (is it ever acceptable?) much further. So to a free thinking mind, amongst all that we are been told, is what is truth and what is fiction?

Another word for our times is conspiracy. If you use social media you may well realise that folks invent utter rubbish and present it as fact for criminal purposes, to mislead, to give false hope or for other reasons. Conspiracy theories are rife about the origins of the virus, who can get it, what quack medicine protects us from it etc. etc. What’s more these conspiracy theories can sometimes look plausible at face value and we are urged to pass then on. Any tweet or facebook message which urges us to pass it on to our followers, friends and family should ring loud alarm bells but if we have found the message comforting or it fits with our own misinformed prejudices we can easily be hoodwinked into doing what we are asked rather than what we should be doing – deleting.

And what about cock-ups? Government has probably made many right from the start of the emergence of the virus either through lack of information, misinterpretation of data, ignoring data/facts, bad advice etc. etc. When this terrible period in world history is over and the actions of governments are assessed those which got things right and those who got it wrong will probably be exposed. The consequences of this could be dramatic and governments could fall if voters find out they were lied to on an industrial scale, were subject to unacceptable levels of propaganda and/or incompetent leaders.

But who amongst world leaders looks like they are making the least missteps? Trump is now little more than cringe worthy. Merkel, as always, looks calm cool and collected. The New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern is, as usual, a delight to listen to and like Merkel is seeming significantly trusted. On our own doorstep Rishi Sunak has come across well as for me did George Eustas on his one appearance in front of the cameras. Priti Patel, Dominic Raab and Matt Hancock look to be well out of their depth.

Government here looks far from confident or indeed competent. Even before the PM became ill he came over as someone well out of his comfort zone who was struggling with a situation he was not prepared for. As a populist politician, in some ways like to Trump, he seemed poor on detail. I wonder how he will emerge from his serious health scare and whether it will have changed him?

But my other great concern is about our journalists as few of them seem willing/capable of holding government seriously to account in our crisis. Far too many vague answers from Ministers are let go, far too many questions to Ministers are too rambling and imprecise. In short, to my mind, many journalists are simply not doing their job of cutting through the propaganda, exposing the cock-ups and most of all making our leaders feel the heat. As for all the adulation of Johnson by the media due to his unfortunate and obviously serious illness this has been very much over emphasised. And I say that not because the health of our PM is unimportant but because he is only one of many thousands of seriously ill and sadly dying people in the UK. Continually focusing on Johnson’s health has been lazy populist journalism which has been very useful cover for a weak government.

Funnily enough this crisis, falling as it has just after Brexit, could probably not have come at a worse time for the UK. A Government elected to deliver a fantasy anti-EU/little Englander world against an opposition which had thrown in the towel years ago has saddled us with many 2nd division politicians in high office. Our troubles now are built on the fact that we have few credible leaders in government or indeed in opposition as they were purged by our two main political parties as a consequence of Brexit.

The good news is what is happening despite government as many folk in communities across the land are rising to the challenge of our unprecedented health crisis to help those in need. There is indeed hope out there but little of it is coming from the UK’s political leaders………..

Thoughts on a depressing General Election

It had become apparent to those of us involved in politics that what came to pass was coming so in many ways the result was no surprise.

Contributory factors?

Corbyn – Yes I know and understand that his devotees couldn’t and still can’t see any faults in him but those outside of that bubble always could. The 2017 GE should have been a wake up call as a credible opposition would have won that election. But the cracks were papered over on the back of Labour winning some seats back from the Tories when that was in fact an indication of failure not success. The following two years only emphasised to the electorate that he was not a good political leader so when the electorate delivered Labour’s worst GE result in generations it was really no surprise.

Swinson – Too keen to focus on Brexit rather than wider political issues, too inexperienced as a political leader, not able to engage with ordinary voters who stopped listening to her.

Johnson – Reasonably well managed by a ruthless Tory high command who kept him almost on their message most of the time. And where they felt he would perform badly they kept him securely locked away, such as at the Ch4 climate change debate. Untrustworthy, someone who follows the political wind, terrible when questioned under pressure and a significant tendency to say things not borne out by the facts. At face value not a political leader whom the electorate would normally get behind, but they did. Why? Because the other options were worse in their eyes.

Brexit – Of course it has poisoned our political debate with all the lies, misrepresentations and bizarre made up stories. However, it has been brewing for at least 2 generations via quite ridiculous press stories which senior politicians have not had the courage to address. They knew the stories were lies and at best misrepresentations but it was always handy for the EU to get the blame for the UK’s political and financial ills. What they allowed to fester came to bite us all hard on the backside.

Apart from a very few I suspect that the vast majority of voters:-

* voted the way they always have but with little if any enthusiasm
* voted for their least worst option
* did not vote tactically because it’s an alien concept in our first past the post electoral system

Where did it all start to go wrong? I guess we can all point to significant political events but for me it started when Labour elected the wrong Miliband as their leader, as they became step by step more unelectable.

Where are we going? Very difficult to say. Fundamentally it probably depends how much power the Tory ERG has within their new Parliamentary Party. The more power they have the bigger the risks to the UK. Johnson will hate being unpopular and he will want to stay as PM as long as he can, remember from his perspective it is all about him. Will he address the desperate situation of our NHS and our connected social care system or will he let them continue to decline so his ERG-types can have the US style health system which only works for the wealthy? The answer to this question will probably define his premiership.

Has Johnson got Brexit done? No of course not, only a fool would think that. It will be 10 to 15 or even more years before Brexit is actually done or that we realise that we have all been done.