What kind of Tory Government have we actually got?

With some of the highest rates of taxation in living memory, it makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

I’m sure I heard one Tory describe the present Conservative Government, a while back, as a benign Ted Heath type. Yes, I found that hard to accept too.

Interestingly, I’ve also heard folks speculate on Johnson not actually being a Tory at all because of his spend, spend, spend approach to the economy and yes, some of that speculation has come from Tory supporters.

Then of course you see the more traditional Tory approach in the recent taking of £20 per week back from those receiving Universal Credit. Now that seems more like the Conservative Party we’re used to. Yes, I know they gave it out in the first place, on a temporary basis due to Covid, but with significantly rising inflation removing it instead of confirming its permanence has quite simply made the poor poorer.

Acting appallingly towards refugees crossing the Channel; that’s plumbing new depths which traditional Conservatives of my Dad’s generation would never have contemplated no matter how bad their right-wing rhetoric against such unfortunate people may have sounded.

The endless dithering over Covid measures on the other hand seems so not Tory in nature, as traditionally they have liked to be seen as stable and decisive.

But what about ‘levelling-up’? It’s an odd thing for Tories to promote particularly if they actually meant it to be anything more than the political slogan which sadly it is. Surely Conservatism is all about protecting the middle and particularly upper/ruling classes from the working class? I guess it’s the recent re-emergence of working-class Tories who have deserted the Labour Party which is driving this pretend ‘levelling-up’ agenda.

From my perspective, all these contradictions are the result of the Tories getting lost in their own self-made fog and fantasy of Brexit, their pandering to populist right-wing wish lists, them lacking (in common with other UK political parties) strong leaders and finding themselves very poorly equipped to deal with the pandemic.

At the very time the UK needed a strong government it got ditherers. What my dear old Dad would have made of this I don’t know. He was from working-class Tory-supporting roots, although if you reminded him that his family used to live in a council house he always looked uncomfortable having made it to become middle-class. But my point is though that he had standards that were generally those of a decent person (I’m putting to one side here his utterly appalling anti-semitism!) and he’d seen through Johnson many years ago. Dad died in 2009 and he was bemoaning the decline in standards in public life and in the Conservative Party for maybe 10 years prior to that.

To my mind, the present Conservative government is all over the place politically but with a populist entertainer as their leader should we be surprised? It makes John Major look quite the statesman with hindsight does it not?

Liberalism

I came across a graphic a few days ago that tries to define where Liberalism sits in the political landscape. Here it is, but you’ll have to enlarge it for reading:_

One issue which sticks out for me is the supposed positioning of Liberalism between Labour on the left and the Tories etc. on the right. Well, where to start? How about the definition of Labour as a party of the left – really? Labour is a party of the working-class so it encompasses a very wide range of political opinions indeed from right to left and that is of course why it’s in a state of almost continual internal warfare. Often referred to as a ‘broad church’, it’s like all religions together in one tent and the squabbling for which sect is the top dog is unstoppable.

So to look at Labour as a party of the left is very misleading and you only have to take their passive position over Brexit as a rather glaring example of the party in effect backing a policy of the right because their working-class right-wingers, who support Labour electorally, backed Brexit and Labour could do nothing about it. Labour has as a consequence lost some of its traditional supporters to the Tories as they thought Labour’s Brexit stance (on the fence but leaning towards Brexit) was not good enough. In fear of losing more supporters this way, Labour’s leadership has in effect hidden behind the sofa hoping no one will mention Brexit.

As a Social Liberal, my view is that the vast majority of Labour supporters are to the right of me politically but where you can place Labour on a left V right axis is problematic as that party has the potential to be left or right of centre. Conversely, until recent times, it would be possible to find Tory supporters who were all but centrists but of course, they’ve either been thrown out or have left that party. My own present political axis for England would look something like this:-

Liberals, Greens, Social Democrats ———–Centre———— Tories, UKIP
——————Labour———————-Labour————————Labour——

That Labour desperately wants its former right-wing voters back is a given, but presently many are in Johnson’s clutches. However, this very Labour problem kind of makes my point about where the Labour Party sits in the political spectrum because its white, working-class, right-wing voters can easily move to back the Tories. There may even be a few Tories left who can easily move to vote Labour too as they don’t see it as a left-wing party.

As an aside, I’ve never been particularly taken with the alternative view i.e. looking at political parties as Liberal V Illiberal as that is not how folks in the real world look at political parties in the UK.

I don’t consider myself to be ‘middle of the road’, ‘moderate’ or ‘centrist’ but of the left. As a Social Liberal and a life-long trade unionist I’ve never been tempted to join Labour as it mostly seems to be to the right of my politics.

Brexiteers created the problems, now their leaders seem to want to make them worse

Health warning – Brexiteers shouldn’t read this posting without having extra blood pressure tablets within reach

Jim Hancock has the posting on his blog site – see link below:-

jimhancock.co.uk/hancocks-half-page/

Jim has this about right as a piece of level-headed commentary but the matter is far from being level-headed of course because Brexit is very much an emotional as opposed to a logical issue.

Well that’s probably got my Brexiteer readers jumping up and down but however you cut it this Northern Ireland issue is a direct consequence of Brexit. The way forward according to our government seems to be to break an international agreement which we signed up to only a couple of months ago. It’s as though those who voted for Johnson’s Brexit Deal, which includes all but one of Labour’s MP’s, didn’t know what they were doing or the consequences of their vote! Blindly voting for a last minute Brexit Deal as Labour and Tory MP’s did was always going to end in tears and so it has come to pass.

The trouble with Brexit is it meant many different things to many different Brexiteers but probably the biggest issue was that those who promoted it actually did not understand the far-reaching consequences of what they were campaigning for, let alone be able to explain those consequences to the electorate. Johnson’s ‘oven ready deal’ ended up no more than half-baked and Keir Starmer led his troops into backing it. Of course Brexiteers, blame the EU, the French, the Irish, the Germans; indeed it’s everyone else’s fault but their own. And have you seen the January trade figures with the EU!

Brexit was always a hugely complex matter but it was sold as everything the electorate could wish for, no down sides, huge benefits and Britannia would again rule the waves. Of course none of that was even remotely true but it sounded akin to Trump’s ‘make America great again’ and look where that got the US!

We are in danger of becoming a failed state, indeed we are already well down that road I fear……

Still not prepared to join the Little Englanders

Well no readers of this blog site will be surprised at that heading of course.

I’ve pretty much always looked upon myself as being a European and am not for changing that view. I’m probably a tad more EUish than Jim Hancock but his latest blog posting on the matter is pretty much blob on for me. Go on have a read of it via the link below:-

jimhancock.co.uk/hancocks-half-page/

One thing that has long concerned me is the links between Trumpism and Brexit and how the major payers in both have openly interacted in their joint promotion of their own forms of anarchy. Johnson was putting Trump up for a Nobel Peace Prize not long ago, Farage saw himself as Trump’s ally and of course Trump was a big Brexit backer. But behind these bizarre leading characters there were others who worked for or advised both campaigns.

Brexiteers and Trumpians are cut from the same cloth

Both Trumpism and Brexit have been very successful attempts to tap into the anger of those who feel that US and UK societies have left them behind. At the same time these political campaigns have exploited the very same people in a process which certainly in Brexit terms has always been aimed at making the rich richer and poor poorer. That you can manipulate voters to become enthusiastic backers of a process from which they can only be the losers is remarkable but it has simply been built upon what the right wing press have been peddling for many years. Setting the EU up to be blamed for all the UK’s ills enabled the establishment, the wealthy and those in power to always have a believable scape goat which many voters were willing to accept as being ‘their’ problem.

But hey I lost I must ‘suck it up’ so Brexiteers tell me as they celebrate all their winnings. Except that, of course, there are no winnings as there was never going to be!

But more than anything what Brexit has shown in spades is that our political system is very much not fit for purpose. A Tory Party taken over by UKIP, a Labour Party riven with splits and unable/unwilling to act as an Official Opposition, a Lib Dem Party which failed to get its message across, an electoral system which virtually always delivers governments (and Conservative ones at that) with less than 50% elector backing.

We are still in the mire, despite leaving the EU, as our political system will always prioritise those on middle incomes and the wealthy at the expense of the poor. The poor/poorly educated will continue to be exploited and be left behind despite ‘levelling up’ rhetoric and our right wing press will continue to feed them fake stories about who to blame. Leaving the EU has lanced no boil at all, it has just confirmed that fake news is a very powerful tool in the hands of unscrupulous politicians.

Brexit Deal – ‘celebrating’ abject political failure

Welcome to the UK at the end of a terrible 2020. Like everywhere else on earth we’re battling against Covid 19, but we’re also very troubled with our own self-destructive need to shoot ourselves in both feet. For years our politicians and our press have found ways to blame foreigners, the EU, the French indeed pretty much anyone outside of the UK for our own self-made troubles. The whole sorry mess has culminated in what looks to be a wretched Brexit Deal which is bound to be one of the greatest acts of self-harm this country has imposed on itself in living memory. Just look at the deal; it’s terrible:-

We often look to the right of politics to blame for our Brexit debacle but in reality the supposedly progressive parties have sadly had a big hand in this process as they’ve found themselves unable to effectively rise up and oppose it; an abject failure of leadership across the board.

The Tories found themselves being infiltrated by UKIP and latterly the Brexit Party in a far more successful way than Militant ever infiltrated Labour in the 1980’s. Many senior Tories acted like appeasers and they were rolled over and left politically dead. But not content with allowing narrow nationalism to take over their party they then elected as their leader the most unsuitable person just about ever to lead them and be Prime Minister. There can’t have been anyone within the Tory Party who was not aware of his flaws, indeed he’d changed his views over the EU from being a staunch backer of it to exactly the opposite and that can only have been for political power which could not have been gained otherwise. He’s proved to be the disaster that pretty much everyone thought he would be, but that’s of course no surprise at all.

But where has the official opposition been during this period of political turmoil? Labour under both Corbyn and Starmer have been fence sitting, hiding behind their Brexit sofa and trying not to be an opposition because too many Labour supporters on it’s right wing and even a few on its left wing are Brexiteers. Indeed, many of its white working class supporters helped to deliver Brexit by voting for Johnson’s Tories at the last election! Many of us progressives thought Starmer was having his wings clipped when he was Corbyn’s Brexit Spokesperson but sadly he’s hardly moved Labour from its ‘hide behind the Brexit sofa’ position at all as their new leader. He now even says Labour backs Johnson’s terrible deal!!!!!

And what of the pro-EU Lib Dems? Some false dawns prior to the last General Election came to nothing as they were unable to win the hearts and minds of voters even many who actually agreed with them! Suffering a lack of high profile leaders since the tragic loss of Charles Kennedy they’ve been unable to communicate with voters at all well of recent years. Like Labour they went for a safe pair of hands (Ed Davey*) after political trauma when their new leader desperately needed to be a Kennedy/Ashdown kind of communicator who voters would take notice of. Predictably, having gone for the safe pair of hands, the Libs have not been cutting through and frankly Starmer & Davey might as well be a firm of high street accountants for all the good they’ve done at Westminster. Both are worthy, both may well be steady Cabinet members but neither are leaders of women and men.

If you’ve got this far I’m guessing you’re not a Brexiteer and that you realise there’s nothing, literally nothing, to celebrate with our former ‘oven ready’ Brexit Deal. We’ve trashed our economy and our neighbour trading relationships because voters were convinced (in 2016) that most if not all of our ills were the fault of the EU which, despite its many faults, it rarely was/almost never had been. The power of our right wing press to get what it wants and implant its views in elector’s minds has indeed been proven.

And what next? I’m of the view that Scotland will probably leave the UK and re-join the EU at some point. I’m also of the view that what has gone on will have hastened a united Ireland. I’m supportive of both I might add. The thing which is bizarrely working in Brexiteers favour though is Covid 19 as the wrecking of our economy can at least be blamed on that with the Brexit effects being concealed. How bizarre is that? So be prepared for many more years of blame for our ills on ‘others’ as Brexiteers are not going to stop lying to you.

From my perspective as a Social Liberal of the left and a progressive politician by instinct we need credible leaders on the left who can communicate with voters. Blair was successful as he could communicate well. Yes I know, he went off the rails big style over Iraq etc. but I’m taking about a real communicator. Politicians like him and Ashdown and Kennedy and John Smith are few and far between these days but if Liberals, Social Democrats and the Socialists who aren’t Brexiteers want to rid UK politics of our nationalistic politicians they’ve got to find such leaders and when found they need to sitting on the sofa with electors not hiding behind it!

Click on the scans of the Brexit Deal graphics to enlarge them

* But I do give credit to him for saying he won’t support Johnson’s Brexit Deal

An open letter to Michael Gove from Bob Robinson

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE MICHAEL GOVE, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, MP

Dear Mr Gove,

“TRUCK QUEUES COULD BE 7,000 VEHICLES LONG WHEN TRANSITION ENDS” – MICHAEL GOVE – THE GUARDIAN.

Thank you for responding so quickly to my earlier open letters,(posted on the Facebook Lib Dem Chat Group) albeit not in person. You are to be congratulated for your candour – albeit somewhat late in the day. You do, I take it, clearly understand the implications of what you have said. As a retired bean counter, I spent my career eliminating the need for holding inventory by promoting the use of “just in time” manufacturing techniques – stock although an asset on the balance sheet is not as liquid as cash. Liquidity is going to be critical to our recovery. Turning inventory into finished goods adds value and turning finished good into sold goods is what generates business liquidity. Please do not feel that you can duck behind coronavirus as an excuse – the seeds for this were laid long ago when some balding chap with glasses appeared talking about reshaping British Industry – He was looking for the next generation of disruptive innovation. Perhaps at some point, you might like to tell me how that’s going? No Pain No Gain only works if the same people asked to bear the pain can be given cast iron guarantees that they, not rentiers, will enjoy the gain.

In the meantime, might I suggest, until you have a spiffing response, you might need to avoid the honourable members for Southport and South Ribble – (they are/were on your side of the House). Both constituencies sustain a substantial part of the United Kingdom’s horticultural sector – in particular, fresh salad vegetables to Supermarkets. In addition to top quality tomatoes and salads grown locally in the area – the growers put the Wonder into Golden Wonder crisps. In addition to growing, they have built specialist packing and preparation plants that employ many workers. Britain, however, has long passed accepting seasonality in fruit and vegetables and in the off season, imported produce is shipped from Spain and other warmer climes, minimising handling damages. These are brought in by truck and packed for major supermarkets. This ensures door to door delivery but it does have to run to a tight, just in time, timetable. I am sure that whilst, in your Botany class at school, somebody explained to you that once a lettuce is cut – it starts to die. Two days extra in transit will increase the amount of not fit for purpose lettuce, sitting either on shop shelves or customers fridges – imposing knock on costs to supermarkets and consumers alike. The shipping time is therefore critical. I am sure you will also appreciate that queues of lorries outside European ports will represent a tempting target for desperate people.

Katherine Fletcher, the newly minted MP for South Ribble and Damien Moore will no doubt be catching it hot and strong soon. Indeed, the local Tory Parties are traditionally supported by major growers. If your party’s cash flow takes a hit following recent revelations – you may need to look to your home-grown supporters for help. Damien Moore, by the way, was, in his former, life a Manager at Asda – he will understand just what this kind of (expletive deleted) could turn out to be for Supermarkets. He will also know the best way the sweep up Maltesers. Just ask yourself – if this what you want to happen to you?

Best regards Bob

www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/sep/23/truck-queues-could-be-7000-long-when-brexit-transition-ends-ministers-warn

www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/sep/04/uk–businesses-demand-urgent-talks-over-fears-brexit-border-chaos

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-54260470

P.S. Archie Norman, the Chief Executive of ASDA, used to begin his welcome to new staff, including myself, by recalling his early experiences on the shop’s shop floor. Sometimes Maltesers would escape and represent a “slip” risk. The easiest way to sweep them up was not to chase them with a broom and shovel – but to tread on them. Nudge-nudge-wink-wink stamp-stamp Mr Gove – Know what I mean.

And then before publication but after writing the above this happened – The lorry and logistics crisis just got worse. The Guardian has just published the latest round of revelations including a twitter copy of the letter by Michael Gove to the RHA.

You could not make it up