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.

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………..