55 plus 44: [further] Politics ponderings

Posted: 30 September 2019 in 55 plus, politics
Tags: , , , ,

Small amusement to start today’s entry. One of the things I like about iOS, have liked since the very first iteration of it is keyboard shortcuts. They’re basically a way of typing a combination of letters which will then automatically resolve into a pre-written word, phrase or sentence. I have a few, but the three I’d always recommend to set up are: your email address, your phone number and… well, I’ll come on to that in a ducking minute, ok?

Being able to type ‘bbbb’ and have ‘budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk’ automagically appear saves so much bloody time, I tell you.

I set up ‘::’ (two colons) as a shortcut for my mobile phone number and ’44:’ as the same number but in ‘international format’. Which is fine and dandy… right up until you need to type “55 plus 44:’ as the title of a blog entry. Heh.

Oh, and the third? Since I rarely need to type the word ‘ducking’, I set it so if I do type the word ‘ducking’, it resolves instantly to ‘fucking’. Which is great until I sent a tweet during a session of Prime Minister’s Questions asserting that ‘David Cameron was fucking the question’. Which may well have equally accurate, now I come to think of it…

Anyway, all that is what occurred to me just now as I started today’s entry.

(Thanks for the private messages I received regarding yesterday’s entry, by the way. A more personal post than many, I was genuinely unsure of the wisdom of posting it. I’m glad that, so far, I’ve not regretted doing so.)

So, what’s new today? Or rather, about what can I write?

How about stupidity? Not mine for once, but politicians’. It’s been on my mind for a couple of weeks, since I heard the redoubtable lawyer and legal commentator David Allen Green (who you may remember from the Twitter Joke Trial if for no other reason) comment a couple of weeks ago that the mark of Boris Johnson’s government has been its complete stupidity and incompetence in its attempts to prorogue parliament. It’s a fair comment. One can argue the toss over whether we have the worst politicians in generations, but, surely, one cannot argue against the position that we have the most incompetent?

I’ll come back to that in a moment, but I remember then Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s budget in 2012. In that election, you may or may not recall, the Conservative/Lib Dem government reduced the top rate of income tax from the rate it had been at for a couple of years – 50% – to 45%, the rate it remains at today.

Now, despite the rate only having been at 50% for a couple of years, one of the last things Alastair Darling did as a Labour Chancellor, it was seen at the time, widely seen, as Osborne giving the rich a tax break, while stinging the poor. It was also perceived as making a nonsense – maybe fairer to say, making yet more nonsense – of the government’s claimed ‘we’re all in it together’.

Osborne claimed at the time that the additional tax rate brought in hardly anything (arguments in favour of, and against, this claim vary in both detail and credibility).

But I remember observing to a friend at the time that had Osborne said ‘in the next five fiscal years, we will reduce the higher rate of taxation by one percentage point in each fiscal year‘, he’d have almost certainly gotten away with it.

A reduction of one percentage point per annum? Yeah, there was so much else wrong with that 2012 budget (the ‘omnishambles budget’ as it became known) that I thought at the time, and still think, that it would have been relegated so far down the list of problems people had with the budget that it would have been at the end of page 37. As a footnote.

But Osborne wanted the appearance of something big – yes, appearance; he said the tax rate didn’t bring in much, remember? So he wasn’t giving much back at all – while risking, and then achieving lousy headlines and a gift to Labour.

Over the Atlantic, we had “stupid Watergate”, as John Oliver dubbed it (Watergate, if everyone involved had been a fucking idiot), and we now have Even Stupider Watergate… Trump et al couldn’t have been more incompetent in what they’ve done, how they did it, how they attepted to cover it up, and how they tried to cover up the cover up, if they’d gone out of their way to do all four.

And then there’s Boris Johnson, whose government’s incompetence in the attempt to prorogue parliament led the Supreme Court to conclude – 11 to nil – that not only was there not a good reason to prorogue parliament for five weeks, but that there was no reason at all other than to frustrate parliament.

And again, I’m struck by the incompetence and stupidity whereby had Johnson had gone for a three week recess and then a prorogation for a week or so, he’d have gotten the same effect he ostensibly¹ wanted: party conferences, no scrutiny in the chamber itself, no PMQs, and a Queen’s Speech into the bargain…

(¹I say ostensible because I’m not at all sure that that’s what he did want; I remember that the day after parliament had the prorogation-that-never-was, Johnson was due to face the Select Committee made up of all the Select Committee chairs… an appointment that prorogation made moot.)

Instead, he went for the big gesture, in which he’d effectively gain little, but risk everything… and it blew back on him, like a well-deserved bucket of shit.

Johnson continued his lack of competence, following half a dozen votes in parliament, of which he lost every one, not a single civil servant nor minister of the crown providing a witness statement – due to dangers of perjury, being slapped down hard by the Speaker of the House of Commons, by MPs, by the Scottish Court of Sessions and the bloody UK Supreme Court.

David Allen Green said, a couple of weeks ago:

It’s an observation I’d not considered before; now it’s one I won’t forget.

Y’know, I miss when politics was efficient, when politics was boring, was predictable, was… forecastable, with a reasonable degree of success.

I also wonder when was the last time that anyone could predict, say, the next 6 months in world politics with any reasonable chance of being correct. I’m not talking about individual events, here and there, but the major events, who would win elections, how politicians would ‘do’, etc. I mean, lots of people thought Trump would fuck it up, but surely they didn’t see scandal after scandal and fuckup after fuckup to this extent?

I reckon mid- to late-2015 was the last time.

Say August 2015.

I think late-2015 was when even (especially?) knowledgable folks went “Well, I dunno…”

You know what? I think I’ll stick with my own observation made since late 2016, but semi-regularly since then:

 
 
It’s Tuesday tomorrow, so the usual then…

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