2017 minus 18: Small anniversaries

Posted: 14 December 2016 in 2017 minus

A small anniversary passed last week, one I don’t expect many people to have noticed. It’s not a multi-year anniversary, not even a single year one. It’s a 50 day anniversary.

That’s all. 50 days.

Last week, we hit 50 days since the Home Affairs Select Committee delivered its report on antisemitism.

And we just passed a slightly larger anniversary, but only slightly: 150 days since Therese May became Prime Minister, Boris Johnson became Foreign Secretary and the rest of this awful government took office.

I’m genuinely not sure where to start; both of these anniversaries make me so very angry for entirely separate and different reasons.

The Home Affairs Select Committee report was well-researched, well-written, and – unless you are wilfully blind – a well-deserved attack upon the antisemitism that has been allowed, if not positively encouraged, to take root in public life. (It does irritate me hugely when anyone says “there’s no place for antisemitism in our society”, as it seems to be ignorant in the extreme. That there should be no place for it, is – I hope – beyond question, but that there is currently a place for it? Ugh, sadly, yes, there is. And the examples of it, online and in ‘real life’, are plentiful.

But, after mroe than fifty days since the report was published , it’s difficult to suggest that it’s actually achieved anything. OK, sure, in the initial days after publication it was discussed and quoted from and great predictions were made that it would change things… but it hasn’t. 

In any way. 

At all.

We still have a Labour party led by a man who – at the very least – doesn’t give a shit about others’ antisemitism, and that’s giving him the benefit of a doubt that I’m no longer entirely convinced he deserves. Corbyn lied to the very Select Committee that produced the report, pals around with overt antisemites, maintains a breathtaking hypocrisy about antisemitism and yet still people I know defend him and say it’s all made up, ignoring evidence in a way they decry when it’s anyone else. (I used to say that of course he wasn’t antisemitic himself, merely supremely indifferent to others’ antisemitism; I’m no longer convinced of the first part of that. He certainly has no problem with agreeing with others’ antisemitic tropes.)

We have a Liberal Democrat party that still – as I write – has David Ward as an elected councillor. David Ward, a man who doesn’t so much tiptoe over the edge of antisemitism as trample the edge in his eagerness to play with antisemitic tropes. Just as Jenny Tonge did for years before the Lib Dems finally – and in the most craven way – suspended her for stuff that was actually far less offensive and antisemitic than she’d previously said. And then, when she left, the Lib Dems hoped like FUCK that everyone would forget they’d let her get away with it for decades. And all Tim Farron could do in evidence to the Select Committee was kind of go ‘oops, I hope you hadn’t noticed’. Still, at least the Lib Dems sent their party leader.

The Tories? No. Once May took over, they couldn’t have treated the Home Affairs inquiry into antisemitism with less respect and seriousness had they shat on the main committee desk. David Cameron at least – for all his many, many faults – seemed to treat the inquiry with respect, and yes, I’m quite sure that this was in part because he thought it was aimed solely at Labour, and wanted to capitalise on that. I can understand May not wanting to set the precedent of a Prime Minister appearing before a select committee, turning down the invitation to ‘the Tory Party Leader’m but the least she should have done was to send the chair of the party. But no. It was left to Eric Pickles, someone who holds no party role.


But, to be fair to May, she’s had a bit on her own plate the past 150 days since she became Prime Minister. You wouldn’t know that though; she’s kept herself hidden away and let her ministers get the attention. I’d have some sympathy with this attitude if I thought she was bringing back cabinet government as it’s supposed to be done: ministers run their departments and report to Number 10 and the rest of government at cabinet, while briefing the House at the appropriate juncture. And if they breach cabinet collective responsibility, or speak in a way that’s not ion behalf of the government, they’re out. 

But that’s not what’s happening; on Brexit alone, the foreign secretary, the Sectreaty of State for exiting the EU and the Sec of State for International Trade have all made statements that have been slapped down by Number Ten, but none of them have actually lost their jobs over it, none of have suffered them any penalty. And the response of the Prime Minister’s Office to a  former minister’s criticism of the Prime Minister was petty at best, but at worst brings nothing to mind as much as the bunker mentality of Gordon Brown when he held the job. The government, five months into May’s administration, is bumbling through, day by day, consumed by Brexit, and achieving nothing much at all, grabbing at the faintest praise and sulking at the slightest criticism.

Many have blamed the Labour opposition, and the Labour leadership for this woeful state of affairs. I don’t. Oh, sure, the useless state of our main opposition party irritates and upsets me in equal measure, but they’re not the sole reason by any measure. Would a better opposition make for better government? Possibly but right now, I’m unconvinced. Replacing the leader would be a good idea – as far as I can see – because a) I can’t stand Corbyn, and b) it’s unlikely  anyone could do worse in the job. But re-electing Corbyn as leader set the path for Labour for the next five, maybe ten years.

Even if Labour replaced Corbyn, it’s unlikely – in my opinion – they stand a chance of winning at the next election. It’s possible, just, that a replacement could stop May achieving a working majority after the next election, but I can’t see any way that Labour could form the next government. Possibly, possibly, a new leader would make the election after next a winnable one. If Corbyn remains leader, though, even that’s off the table.

I say ‘the election after next’ rather than 2025, because I’m not convinced the election after heat will be in 2025. While The Fixed-term Parliaments Act makes it difficult to call an early election, it’s not impossible; I don’t think Theresa May would call an election at the moment, but if the boundary changes go through, and the reduction in MPs seats from 650 to 600 occurs, I’d expect her to call an election within 3 months of the change. And she’d likely win with an increased majority.

Whereas the first days from the publication of the  Homes Affairs Select Committee on antisemitism hasn’t changed much, at least on the surface, the 150 days since Theresa May became Prime Minister changed a lot on the surface and changed fuck all underneath. We still have a Tory government less concerned with actually fixing things and more worried about surviving. We still have a Labour opposition leadership less concerned with government or even holding government to account but more concerned with preaching to the already converted acolytes of the Dear Leader.  

I remain convinced that as 2015 came to a close, UK Politics and US politics got pissed together and bet each other sho could fuck up more in 2016. And the bet’s still going on.

Bah, something less maudlin tomorrow. 

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

  1. Meanwhile, in Canada, it seems like we’re slowly rebuilding our way out of the Harper years and looking nervously over our shoulders once more at Washington.

  2. Enlightbystand says:

    In relation to the next election i’d say there a small chance of May 17 but more likely May 20. The boundary review will complete in mid 2018, which would be in the late days of Brexit negotiations, at which point she wouldn’t want to go to the country, which makes it May 2019, at which point you have to do the difficult work of getting through the FTPA wall moving up just one year (that of course presumes that nothing delays either A50 or extends the negotiation )

    I would be shocked if repeal of the act wasn’t in the Conservative manifesto though, making the next but election freed from 2025

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