As a committed Remainer, you might think I’d be pleased that there will be another General Election in June. An opportunity to stop the madness that is Brexit, perhaps. And yet, as optimistic a person as I try to be, I’m not terribly excited. Truth be told, it’s rather filled me with Continue reading “An Election. Again.”
It strikes me that the Republican Party has something of a problem. For eight years, the most vocal part of the party has spent it’s time questioning Obama’s birthplace, the exact shade of black of his skin, his religion and whether or not he is a gay communist who funded his youthful drug habit through male prostitution. And attempting to block everything he does regardless of its merits. The rational part of the party appears to have spent it’s time trying to appease the former. And no one has questioned what direction the party should take. Exactly what does the GOP stand for? What are their core values and ethics? How do these translate into policies in today’s USA? Continue reading “A Trumped Up Charge”
The date has been set and the campaigning has begun. I have a few thoughts on the debate as to whether or not we should leave the EU. I have a few observations on the situation too.
- Jeremy Corbyn is right. This referendum wasn’t created to debate our membership of the EU, although the consequence of the outcome could obviously alter our relationship with the continent. This referendum is really about Cameron appeasing a wildly divided Conservative party, which has on several occasions in the last 30 years pretty much self imploded over the debate regarding our place in (or out of) Europe. He wanted to limit the defections to UKIP prior to the 2015 election. A better tact would have been to let those who wanted out of Europe to get out of the party and bring in fresh blood.
I view politics very much through a British looking glass. You wouldn’t expect anything else. This means I’m inevitably going to be viewed as a commie by our American cousins and a capitalist pig by our Russian ex-friends. Both are simplistic labels proferred by simplistic minds. My political line of thought is easily summed up. If it’s too big to fail, essential infrastructure, a matter of national security, a social service or where human decency overrides the need for profit, it should be government run. Otherwise, we the people should be left to get on with it. There’s the ‘left’ and the ‘libertarian’ in me in in two shortish sentences. Of course, those two sentences are wide open to interpretation. You can have a crack at this quiz, if you care to. It’s pretty low brow, but still…
With this in mind, you can probably imagine how I view US politics. Obama is not a socialist. Sanders is not a communist. Neither are even close. You guys really need to meet Jeremy Corbyn, our new-ish Labour leader. Some people would suggest Sanders is an American style Corbyn in many regards. I like Corbyn. He’s principled, decent and in the politics game to try to make a difference, rather than for his own furtherment. His analysis of real world politics and issues is spot on. Probably because he lives in the real world. Yet, I probably won’t vote for him. As things stand, I’ll vote Liberal. Because Corbyn is a weak leader whose specialty is protest not policy.
He’s a good guy in the wrong job. But he is not Britain’s Sanders. He is our Trump. You might not see how such a comparison works if you look at their respective policies and opinions. They couldn’t be more different. But policies don’t matter one jot if you don’t get a shot at the top job. What Trump and Corbyn do share is the ability to tear their own parties apart, to alienate the key floating voters and to gift their opponents the next election. This is the main reason behind my opposition to Corbyn.
My assumption, though, is that Trump will fall down in the primaries. He’ll get to the blue states, who’ll pick a moderate Republican and send Trump back to the tower. His tower, sadly. Not ours. We no longer behead crooks anyway. Trump is nuts. Despicable is not too strong a word. He most definitely doesn’t live in the real world. It’s worrying that anyone who does would offer him their support. Frankly, Ted Cruz is no better.
You couldn’t make a parody of Trump. He is a walking talking parody already. Where does one even begin to list his misdemeanors? He’s figuratively raped the bank accounts of Americans and other citizens and governments around the world for decades. But perhaps more of a concern is the literal rape of his ex-wife. Is this just being ignored in the US? Have I missed something? Seriously, what’s the deal? There’s been no conviction, as is oft the case with this particular crime. But dear old Ivana was pretty clear in a statement under oath. He raped her. Then he gagged her through the courts. One of the joys of ‘freedom’. Can I get a hallelujah?
Nowadays, she says that he didn’t literally or criminally rape her. What does that even mean? He had her permission to rape her? Isn’t that sort of activity more commonly known as consensual intercourse? Is this just a British / American linguistic anomaly? Help me out guys. But I guess, more importantly, help yourselves out. You are the ones with a vote to cast in this election, not I. Don’t swallow the audio-visual Rophenol soundbites he’s throwing your way. Don’t give this guy your consent. He will shaft you all if he gets the opportunity.
We’re at war. Again. Sort of. I’m not really sure why our latest campaign in Syria is being called a war. Obviously there is a war happening on the ground. We’re not participating in that. We’re just dropping bombs on distance targets from a safe distance. But anyhow. I have a few thoughts.
- Why are we bombing Syria? Well, there’s a very simple answer to this. Its what we do. It’s what we’ve done for hundreds of years. It’s what we’ll continue to do until someone gives us a sound thrashing and puts a stop to it. Even then, it’ll probably only be a temporary stop. It’s in the national psyche. It’s tradition, pride, vanity. If there is a bit of a kerfuffle going on someone in the world, we feel obliged to throw our hat in the ring. Especially if the French are involved. You think this is a ridiculous explanation? The world is, more often than not, ridiculous. Besides, I have evidence. A map of the world. Everything in red is a nation invaded or occupied by the UK at some stage. I know what you’re thinking. How the hell did Luxembourg get away with it??
- I voted Labour at the last election. I’ll be voting for someone else at the next election, unless Corbyn is replaced. I like him. His analysis of a problem is often spot on. He is principled. He is eloquent. He says what needs to be said. But his solutions, when he actually has one, are usually ideological, impractical and devoid of consideration for all other connected factors. The chap is an activist. He is not a leader. He demonstrated that last week. He is 100% against bombing in Syria. Yet, rather than force Labour MPs to vote against military action, he gave his colleagues a free vote. Why? Because his colleagues were going to ignore him anyway and he didn’t want to look weak. He’s not in control of the party and even if he were, his continued leadership is almost certain to see another Tory win in 2020. Who might replace him? Some would now say that Hilary Benn is a candidate. Picture yourself in the year 2020 at a UK/US convention. PM Hilary and Pres Hillary. Cartoonists are going to have a field day.
- The argument in the UK as to whether we should bomb Syria seems to be devoid of substance on both sides. The Right believe they can bomb ISIS into oblivion. The Left want a political solution. A political solution? Who are they kidding? A political solution with who? Russia? Assad? Turkey? The Kurds? That’s like sitting at at table with a bowl of dog shit and declaring that you are going to make a cake. Ain’t nobody gonna be swallowing that, I’m afraid. As far as I see it, there are two types of war. Total war, which is the one we most want to avoid. The other type involves running around trying to put out fires, but doing little to actually stop the firestarter. Which is also unpleasant, but probably better than sitting back and watching the fires spread and burn some more. But when all is said and done, there is no answer to this (or many other) of the world’s problems. Such is life.
- No one seems to be asking the most important question. It’s a simple one. Can our bombs kill radicalized terrorists more quickly than the bombs radicalize new terrorists? There’s got to be someone doing the maths…
- I’ve also noticed that those people I speak to who are most in favour of bombing Syria are also the least likely to approve of us taking in refugees. There has to be a formula out there to calculate the bombs to refugee ratio. Factor in tonnage of bombs dropped, the period of time over which they are dropped and the density of the receiving population per square mile. Plus a few other contributory factors. We can then present the maths to fans of the bomb and explain the concept of cause and effect in numerical form. Getting them to understand the concept of ‘responsibility’ is another matter altogether…
- Putin is nuts. He may sometimes make a valid point. But I suspect that’s by chance rather than design. The Turks are also nuts. They are doing more to prolong and aggravate the Syrian conflict than other nation. They have definitely occupied the moral low ground. I read somewhere recently that Turkey and Russia have waged war against each other more times throughout history than any other pair of countries. Although producing such a stat is a very dubious art. But anyway. They’re not buddies at the best of times. That should be everyone’s biggest concern, perhaps.
- I’ve long needed a post relevant for my warplane photos.
PS. We’re still bombing Iraq, dontcha know?
Let’s see if we can put this in a nutshell. In the late 90s, Greece, with a little help from their German friends, fudged their books to get the drachma operating within the rules and regulations of the ERM and threw their lot in to join the Euro. They continued fudging their books right up to a few years back. The Great Recession struck and someone asked for a little something from the reserves, only to be told…oops….ain’t none. A big stack of debts, yes. Cash reserves? Not so much. Not to worry. They kept on spending the welfare, dodging their taxes and dreaming the European dream.
And Greece and the EU fudged the books again, breaking all sorts of rules and regulations, splashing the cash to try and keep Greece’s head above water. Alas, the floatation aid stopped Greece from ever reaching dry land. And here we are today. The Greeks have debts they can never pay off. The Germans have credit notes they can’t forgive. Forgiveness is for wars. The truth is, the Greeks should never have been in the Eurozone. Trying to keep them in it was simply throwing good money after bad. It turned out that a half-baked single currency shared by a multitude of independent and competing economies wasn’t such a good idea. Who knew? I guess all the other countries who have ever tried to share a currency and seen it fail.
So here we are. Pick an option. It’s lose, lose all round. There can be no winners. The only question is, does Europe seek an idealogical solution based on faux European unity and give the Greek’s their financial haircut? Or do they seek a common sense solution and let Greece go? Time will tell. Either option is expensive. Either way, pro-Euro supporters like myself are watching, weeping, and losing faith. It’s become an uncontrollable monster. The Eurozone area needs to federalise. The European Union needs complete reform, or risk losing supporters like myself to the sceptic side.
Are there any possible winners at all? Well, possibly. If Greece becomes Europe’s turkey and is sent to the slaughter house, could Turkey become Europe’s next hot entry? Whether this would be a good thing for the Turks or a bad thing is debatable. But they have previously expressed a desire to join in the fun. The only thing stopping them? The Greeks, with their Cypriotic grudge*. Who might not be around to say ‘oxi’ for that much longer…
- Of course, the Greek part of Cyprus will remain to be convinced…
The right to cast your vote in secret is an important one to ensure a free and democratic election. I have cast my ballot today in the 2014 European elections. Just how free and fair an election process is can be tested by the willingness of the voters to forego their right of secrecy and declare the recipient of their vote, comfortable that whilst others may disagree with their choice, they won’t face discrimination or any other adverse effect due to their vote. I’m perfectly happy to tell you who I voted for. I voted for the lesser of
two eight evils.
I keep threatening to run for election as an independent myself one day. Perhaps next year. If I can raise the £500 needed for the deposit. Any donors? If I get at least 5% of the vote, I’ll get my cash back. And so, therefore, will you. But I’ll not bother running for a European election. It has to be the real deal. The General Election. Don’t be overly surprised if you didn’t get your donation back. But there’s always the chance you’ll see me in television, on a stage, waiting anxiously for the results to be declared, hoping that I get at least two votes. My own vote being pretty much in the bag…
So, now you know. I voted Labour. In between uploading those photos and getting on to this paragraph , I had to pause for thought. Should I be posting photos of my trip into the polling station? You’ll note one of those photos shows a sign forbidding photography. In my defence, I noticed it on the way out, not the way in, and nobody said anything to me inside about not taking a photo.
The BBC has this article explaining the rights and wrongs of photography in a polling station. Essentially, there are no rights or wrongs, other than to photograph someone else making their choice – specifically, revealing their choice – is an offence. Polling stations have been told to put up signs forbidding photography even though it seems pretty clear that there is no law to support this policy.
So. To publish or not to publish my photographed ballot paper? Obviously, given that you’ve seen the photos above, I chose to publish. For several reasons. I object, albeit rather mildly in this instance, to being told not to do something when there is no legislation preventing me from doing so. Selfies have been going on for a while now, as have elections. If this were important, there should have been prior legislation. I have satisfied myself that my photo does not compromise any other persons right to a secret ballot. And also because, on the very next BBC page that I turned to, I see that they have published photos taken inside polling stations during this election to accompany their election coverage. Much as I have.
Back to the election. Which has mostly been about UKIP. I hate to generalise, really I do, but I’m going to just go ahead and make an exception. Active UKIP supporters….they do rather come across as a rather ignorant, arrogant collection of toffs and tarts who haven’t yet quite gotten around to acclimatising to the 21st century. It’s a rag tag collection of people who are just like other people, and enjoy other people’s company, just so long as they aren’t…you know…different. It’s a party for racists who didn’t know they were racist. It’s a party for people who can’t tell the difference between officious political correctness and plain old fashioned xenophobia.
But I like UKIP. It serves a purpose. It splinters the Conservative party. Many of the rotten apples of the political world have gravitated around UKIP, identifying themselves. And, one must concede, they have put Europe on the agenda as a subject demanding action rather than empty rhetoric. Most intelligent people do not want the UK to leave the EU. They want to belong to a cohesive, efficient Europe that is flexible in meeting the needs of member nations, that is committed to upholding the sovereignty of individuals nations and that brings economic benefits. As opposed to a domineering, excessive and bureaucratic monster. It’s sadly closer to the latter than the former. Let’s fix it, not flog it.
So, did you vote? Would you vote? How did you vote? Left, right, centre or secretly?
I must confess that when reading through Forbes list of the worlds richest people, you have to head quite a long way down the list before you find a Brit. There’s no need for a person to have tens of billions of pounds. Or dollars, for that matter. Here in the UK, we are strong believers of wealth distribution, and the idea of having a handful of mega billionaires is something we find rather distasteful. Instead, we have lots and lots of plain old fashioned normal billionaires.
Lots and lots of them. Over a hundred now, which is more billionaires per capita than any where else on the planet. London is home to the majority of them, unsurprisingly. A total of 72, more than any other city on the planet. I’ve read repeatedly how London is reclaiming it’s title of Capital of the World. It sure does have the capital. And that loot is coming in from all four corners of the globe. You see, of the 25 richest people in Britain, only seven of them are actually British. And one of those has a bit of a question mark over his nationality. Just two of them are in the top ten. Here’s a little chart I created, totalling up the cash per country. For convenience, I included the Ukrainian chap in the ‘Russia’ tab. He soon will be, anyway.
To be clear, I’m not anti-rich people. I’m a fan of Bill Gates, and they don’t come any richer than him. But, am I really being controversial by stating the opinion that if the majority of the wealth that exists on this planet is concentrated in the possession of an incredibly tiny proportion of the population then something has gone wrong? Economics is a complicated subject, I know. But surely the status quo is not the perfecta ratio?
I imagine most people, of whatever political persuasion, do not wish to see fellow citizens who are prepared to do a fair days work but have no work to do, made homeless or starve. That is why we have a social safety net. But my little rant today are for those are actually do complete a fair days work. The Minimum Wage was one of the better policies introduced by Tony Blair’s government. The ratification of the European Working Time Directive in 1999 was also an important step forward.
If we’re not paying people a living wage, then they end up picking up benefits to keep their head above water. In other words, the tax payer is subsidising the employers, be they corporations or smaller enterprises. There are a few policies that I would like to see implemented by the next UK government. Assuming that the incumbent one is removed….crossed fingers.
I’d like to see the minimum wage increased to a living wage. I’d like to see the Tax Allowance increased to the amount set as the minimum wage. I’d like to see employers obliged to pay 1.5x the hourly rate for every hour that PAYE employees works over their contracted hours. I’ll wager that the Zero Hours contracts will disappear pretty quickly. I’d also like to see pay at 1.5x the hourly rate for all hours worked on Saturdays, and 2x the hourly rate for work done at night or on Sundays.
I’d like to see a couple of pieces of Mexican employment legislation introduced too. Particularly, a minimum of a three month pay off for all employees fired, let go or otherwise released from employment contracts, on top of any redundancy pay out that already exists in British law. Just to put a bit more onus on employers to choose their employees carefully, to ensure they give them a fair opportunity and to ease any period of unemployment for the employee. Lastly, a Christmas bonus. Two weeks salary, to be paid prior to Jesus’ big day in December.
Which of the main UK political parties will take these ideas up and run with them? I’d give them my vote. Alas, I’ll probably have to run for parliament myself…
Scotland, that rugged mountainous land just to the north of England. The home of the haggis. An English speaking country, supposedly, whaur nae a single body kin actually speak sassenach. A land of homphobic gaelics with no sense of irony. They gave us the likes of Rod Effing Stewart and refuse to take him back. The mystery isn’t why the Scots are voting for independence, but why the English aren’t voting to expel them. And whilst they can’t keep the pound, they definitely can keep Rod Stewart.
But voting for independence, or against it, they are and the day of reckoning is coming up fast. The bookmakers have the No camp as very strong favourites. I personally have the Meh camp way out if front. Either way, it doesn’t look good for the Yes camp at the moment. But things can change, and sometimes they can change quickly.
I am pretty firmly in the Meh camp. It’s a decision for the Scots to make. But at the same time, I can’t help feel that as the inhabitants of the same smallish island, with roughly the same language and such an intertwined history, present and (whether any one likes it or not) future, the status quo is the way to go. The Scots have a good degree of autonomy with their own parliament. A union is usually stronger and more resilient that fragmentation. And there’s an awful lot more in the list of similarities than there is in the list of differences when discussing the English and the Scots. And Scotland does have it plus sides, if you can overlook boiled offal and deep fried Mars bars.
I do have a couple of strong-ish opinions though. Firstly, that for a vote of independence to be successful, a simple majority is not enough. The 40% rule was controversial in the 1979 vote. But I feel it didn’t go far enough. I feel that a minimum of 50% of the electorate should be the qualifying limit. Independence through apathy isn’t acceptable. If not enough people actually care, then the justification for a break up of the UK isn’t there.
Secondly, of course they can’t keep the bloody pound! The question they will be voting on is ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?‘. Not, ‘Should Scotland be sort of independent, but keep the bits of union it likes?‘ If they want monetary union, and are so confident that automatic membership of the EU is a given, then let them join the Euro. I pass you over to one of the highlights of the British political world, the excellent Question Time.
I would describe myself as a Conservative. Very much in the British sense, not the American. Where my views would go down in certain redneck circles as Commie. I stand just to the right of centre. I believe everyone should not just be born equal but also provided the means and education to enter adult life on an equal footing. I don’t believe in an enforced equality in life. But I do believe in an enforced system to prevent inequality. They might sound a contrary pair of ideals, but they are not.
My grandfather was a Labour supporter and union member. My dad quite the opposite. I’ve switched sides myself on a regular basis. I voted Conservative in 1992 and 1997, because I believed in John Major and Ken Clarke and was thoroughly sceptical of Neil Kinnock’s manifesto. I abstained in 2001, unable to bring myself to vote for a Conservative party headed by William Hague that had run to the Tory extremists corner.
In 2005, the Tory’s went further to the right with Michael Howard, and that was enough for me. One of my final acts before setting off to Mexico was to cast my first vote for the Labour party. Even one lead by Tony Blair was a better option. I was still in Mexico in 2010. Had there been an option to cast a vote for ‘None of the above’, I would have done so. There should be that option. I wasn’t going to go to the considerable trouble of registering as a foreign voter just to spoil my ballot. And I sure as hell wasn’t going to vote for either the Tory party or Labour. Brown or Cameron? Which turd would you least like to step in?
I will vote in 2015, or earlier if an election is called. My choice has, bar any major event occurring, been made. It won’t be for David Cameron. He’s not necessarily the worst Prime Minister we’ve ever had, although he probably is the worst in my lifetime. Phrases like ‘out of touch’ and ‘attention seeker’ stand out. They are the more polite phrases. I am right of centre. He is right of right.
The Liberals would have been an option. Had they not chosen to put their lot in with Cameron in 2010. I understand their decision. Labour would only enter into a coalition if Brown stayed as PM, and that was a simply ridiculous proposition. They could have refused to enter a coalition at all, and forced the Tories into a minority government. We would have had another election by now if they’d gone that route.
But they jumped into bed with Dave and George, which was a piece of very short term thinking. You never know what you might catch when you jump into bed with a new partner, and the Liberals now have a nasty, unsightly blue rash all over them. Most unappealing. They should have jumped straight back out of bed the moment they saw the infectious policies that Dave and George were planning to poke the general public with.
So I will, of course, vote Labour. That will even the score. Two votes for the Tories, two for Labour. I might even become actively involved. It would be fun. And an experience. I’m not currently intending to become a signed up, paying Labour party member. Although I might. I can’t say I’m completely enthralled with Labour and their own policies. However, they are closer to my own views than are the alternatives. Most importantly of all, though, they are not the Conservative party. Or, at least, the current Conservative party. Which also answers the question Labour asked me when I signed up to their website – why do I support Labour? But what are my views, exactly? Well, my basic principles…
- A free education to Degree (or equivalent) level. But with places limited to what is needed in the workplace.
- A free NHS at entry point for all. But with some serious changes to the running of it. I’m not adverse a small charge to see the quack.
- A clampdown on abusive and unfair employment practices. But an easier route out for employers needing to move on employees.
- If it is too big to fail, it is too big for the private sector to manage.
- The National Minimum Wage and the Liveable Wage should be the same thing.
- Decent pensions with decent benefits. But you’ll be working till you’re 70. Because you’ll be living till you’re nearly 90. It’s about the maths.
- Investment into a justice system that should be more about rehabilitation centres rather than retribution and punishment.
- Governments and unions should be on the same side, doing the same job at different levels. Just making sure everything is fair and lawful.
- Society should be secular, neutral and free from discrimination. What people do in their private time is up to them, until they inflict it on anyone else.
- National infrastructure belongs to the nation not a corporation. What runs on that infrastructure is another matter.
- Go green and clean.
- The Social Security Safety Net is to catch people when they fall. Not for use as a hammock.
- Government should lead the way with policies and investment with regards the direction the country takes in the future. But the government should never ‘be the future’.
- The United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland doesn’t sound right. If the Scots declare independence, we rebuild Hadrian’s Wall. Maybe.
- We’re in Europe. We should stay in Europe. But Europe should be a leaner less intrusive bureaucracy. We can guide it there.
- God Save the Queen!
Hurrah! The United Kingdom is finally catching up with the Third World. I mean, the Developing World. What’s the correct term for today? The Economically Challenged World? Who knows. Anyway, we are, like I said, catching up. We will soon be joining the likes of Fiji, Vietnam, Romania, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Samoa, Singapore and Zambia.
Pound Sterling notes will, from 2016, be printed on plastic. Or more precisely, polymer. Of course, there are a few ‘advanced’ countries already printing on polymer. Australia has been printing on plastic for decades. Their early adoption, no doubt, was to prevent counterfeiting, being a country full of thieves, bandits and no good varmits.
Am I being harsh on the poor Aussies? I’ve never been there, but they have just given us a good thrashing at cricket, so it seems to me that a bit of slander and abuse is entirely appropriate. Indeed, questions regarding their parenthood are very much on the table. Besides, there’s a bridge nearby which spells out what sort of stock they are made from.
Canada too has polymer notes. Presumably plastic freezes better than cotton paper. I’m a little surprised that Israel made the jump. Surely all that plastic must confuse the explosives detectors? Unless they use the ingenious British made bomb detectors that <sarcasm> proved themselves so effective </sarcasm> in Iraq. I wonder if they ever did bring out the version with flashing lights?
But I digress. Back to the plastic notes. Will the British public approve? Begads, why even consult them?! That’s just asking for trouble. Half of them believe in aliens, the other half are struggling to work out who fathered who’s child. Have you not seen Jeremy Kyle? It’s scary viewing. Decision making should be kept well away from them. But consult them they did. What was the feedback? Who knows, but they are going through with the plasticisation of our currency. So Joe Public either gave the whole thing his thumbs up, or the powers that be decided to ignore him and get on with it anyway.
Besides, anything new is inevitably controversial. There’ll always be some haters, especially in the UK. Less so elsewhere though. I was in Mexico when polymer notes were introduced. I didn’t notice any great amount of objection. Perhaps because half the population aren’t rich enough to trade in notes. Another 49% were just pleased to have some money of any sort and weren’t about to question its merits. The final 1% probably professed confusion about what exactly bank notes are and declared that they will continue to buy things the old fashioned way, with gold ingots.
I liked the polymer Mexican pesos. I thought they looked modern, felt tough, and I can confirm through experience that they do survive a spin or three in the washing machine. It’s the way forward. Are you listening Mr Obama, with your ridiculously highly counterfeited (and frankly very dull looking) dollar bills? I suspect he would face an altogether different set of issues in introducing plastic money though. The internet would provide a thousand conspiracy theories overnight, Alex Jones would declare it to be unconstitutional and part of a secret plot to take everyone’s money away from them, Pat Robertson would call it the Devil’s money and blame the next high school shooting on it whilst dear Sarah Palin would probably stage a protest at a war memorial, because ‘vets died for our paper money’. Pft.
At the centre of London sits Trafalgar Square. If you’ve visited London, you’ve been there. Surrounding Nelson’s column are four plinths. Upon three of them are statues to heroes of the past. The fourth, until recently (as in the 1990s) was empty. But now it hosts temporary displays of various art works and tributes. The current piece that sits on top is clearly in honour of the incumbent prime minister. Decked out in finest Conservative Blue, the statue gazes directly towards Downing Street, the home of ministerial power in the UK.
I’m hoping that the obvious pun can remain unspoken, and that I won’t need to elaborate and point out that there’s a massive cock up there on that plinth. Oh darn it, I’ve gone and said it anyway…
Let me see if I have this right. A handful of extremists have hijacked the Republican party, holding both it and the government to ransom in an effort to overturn a piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act. Despite that piece of legislation having already been passed into law by both chambers and the American people having given it their blessing through two presidential elections. I’m sure there are some finer details, and I don’t doubt there’s room for a mighty semantics based battle in those two sentences. But still. Am I on the right track? Roughly speaking?
I’m not sure I think the US political system is for me. I prefer the UK way. Truly. Having a figurehead monarch from an inbred family as the head of state, an unelected upper house of barmy lords and a rowdy lower chamber of spivs, toffs and commies running the country has never looked more sensible. One house to govern, one house to oversee/advise and one house to rubber stamp. That’s teamwork. More importantly, it works. Every day. Sort of.
I really have little interest in getting into the Affordable Care Act / Obama debate. I would support a proper national health system. Others wouldn’t. But the issue seems to bring out the extremes in far too many people. People who are otherwise likeable, intelligent, rational individuals become completely insane. Geez. And I thought religion brought out the worst in people. Do people who enter the fray by breaching Godwins Law have any idea how ridiculous they sound?
Of course, things were much better in the old days. Much better. Today we’re all doomed. Yesterday was the time to be alive. The Affordable Care Act is the end of civilization as we know it. Smallpox, polio and TB were much easier to deal with. The unrest in the Middle East? Proof of Armageddon. The millions who died in India/Pakistan during partition were nowt to worry about. Etc.
There is a way around this. Put on rose tinted glasses and remember all the good times. There were good times. That’s why there are communists in Russia and Eastern Europe who genuinely long for a return of communism. And people in the West Indies wishing the British Empire would come back and make things all good again. It’s human nature. In the 50’s and 60’s, Rank made a series of shows that applied rose tinting at the moment of creation. They are interesting to watch. More pleasant to watch than the mass executions in Kenya, the invasions in Egypt, Malaysia and elsewhere and the other nastier realities of life that were occurring at the time.
I am, possibly, the definitive Thatcher’s Child. Well, me and all those of my age. Margaret Thatcher won the first General Election I remember, when I just just six years old and about to enter education proper. She was still PM when I hit the age of 18. I grew up in a Britain that was riven with division, evolving from a manufacturing economy into a services based economy, and those my age finished our education having known no other leader.
Some will tell you that she saved Britain, transforming a bankrupt state in decline into a prosperous world power once more. Others will decry her tenure as one that destroyed our industries, sold off our assets and threw millions onto the scrap heap. Both sides are quite correct. I’d offer counters to both sides. Our national prosperity was created at huge human cost, based on unfair and short term deregulation, funded by credit that laid the foundations for our current economic malaise. On the other hand, the unions had become so powerful, so militant, so detached from reality that they were destroying the very industries they were supposed to be trying to safeguard – someone had to stop them. They made quite clear that it was death or victory, comrades. Thatcher heard the cry, and obliged.
I sometimes enjoy sitting on the fence. As I’ve made obvious in some of my recent posts, I don’t believe that anything is black or white. I neither think of Thatcher as a savior or a monster. She was, very clearly, one of the most important Prime Ministers of the last, or any, century. I’ll jump off the fence for a moment. Despite my reservations, I’d rather have had her win the 79 and 83 elections than someone else. She served a purpose. It would have been an idea if she’d stepped aside in 87. Eight years was enough. On the other hand…maybe not. She is everything that the current incumbent at No 10 is not.
Britain is better off today for her having triumphed. I admire any politician whose policies I believe to be a product of their convictions rather than a product of a popularity contest. Even when I don’t agree with them. Margaret Thatcher most certainly did not sit on the fence. She was certainly easy to look up to. Especially for a six year old boy curiously observing electoral history being made. I liked, and still like, Margaret Thatcher. I wish her well, wherever she is going now. She was never one for turning. If she can see a white light, I might suggest that now is not the best time to start…
One of my favourite bloggers is Robert Peston. He’s a BBC employee posting on the BBC’s website, so perhaps the term blogger isn’t the most accurate fit. Where’s the line between blogger and journalist? Still, he makes for an interesting and enlightening read and keeps me up to date with regards the economy in Britain and beyond. One of his latest articles (click here to read it) has wry touches of wit and sarcasm. There’s a decent summary of Cameron’s government if you can read between the lines.
I have never liked Cameron, nor his chancellor Osborne. I could never vote for a Conservative party with either of them in senior roles. That they needed to enter a coalition with the Liberals to form government (despite the farce and failure of the previous Labour govt) suggests that I’m not alone. Their policies are those of an opportunist, using the economic crisis to sneak in right wing ideology . They are both out of touch with the British people, and indeed have never been ‘in touch’ with the daily reality of British life.
The Liberal party were genuinely electable before the 2010 vote. Had I voted, I would have voted Liberal, and that would have been a first – my current record is Tory x 2, Labour x 2 and Abstention x 1. If the leadership had a shred of dignity, they’d have withdrawn from Cameron’s government some time ago, and pulled the rug from under him. My record at the next General Election will have a x3 next to the Labour Party. Anyway, did you read the article? Perhaps you should, and then enjoy the video below, in context.
My good friend and blogger at Viva Verzcruz recently wrote about his top 10 movies of all time. It’s some list, one that makes me feel somewhat culturally inadequate. I’d still put Star Wars in my list. I could never create a list without the Life of Brian either. It’s not simply a great comedy. It’s utterly timeless. The Pythons pluck the essence of human nature, wrap a satirical ribbon around it, pickle it in farce and serve up a delightful dish of reality – a reality turned on it’s head. It’s almost a documentary at times. Whenever I write about social, religious or economic matters, I feel (but usually resist) the urge to add a Monty Python clip.