Posts Tagged ‘british politics’

Prime Minister’s Questions. I’ve written on them before, so no need to go into the whole history of them, their basic usual pantomime level of Punch and Judy politics, but…

But there were three items of interest in today’s session that I think are worthy of commenting upon, or at least noting that they occured.

Because, to me at least, they were genuinely interesting, and two of them at least were – again, to me – unexpected:

Let’s get the expected one out of the way; Jeremy Corbyn looked tired. For once the subject matter of his questions was in his area of preference: foreign affairs. But where I might have in the past expected fire and brimstone from him on it, it just wasn’t there. As I say, not a huge surprise given the election result, and the past three weeks.

(Though the lack of passion and fiery rhetoric just might have been to do with the next ‘interesting thing’…)

But it was painfully obvious that he knows he’s on his way out. He seemed… less, somehow. Which didn’t exactly hurt Johnson’s ability to blather his way out of pretty much anything Corbyn asked.

But since Corbyn is on his way out, a comment or two about his performance in general in Prime Minister’s Questions. I make, and indeed have made, no secret of the fact that I think Corbyn is pretty useless at PMQs.

Now, I hasten to add, that’s entirely unrelated to what I think of him politically, or as a person. I mean, there are plenty of politicians I hugely disagree with but who I’ll quite happily acknowledge their skill in the House of Commons; when they’re at the dispatch box, asking or answering questions.

There’s very little I agree with Michael Gove about, say, but he is pretty good in the chamber, while maintaining a… flexible and malleable attitude with accuracy.

I quite liked Paddy Ashdown but – in part because the House was rarely kind to him when he was on his feet – he was never someone who commanded the attention of the House when he asked questions as Lib Dem leader.

And then there’s John McDonnell.

When Corbyn appointed McDonnell Shadow Chancellor, neither Corbyn nor he had ever been on the front bench, asking questions on behalf of the opposition or answering them on behalf of the government.

Both were – I think it’s fair to say – utterly, unreservedly useless.

Difference between them soon became obvious though. Both were, they must have been, told by people around them ‘you’re fucking useless; my gods, that was embarrassing.you really need to step up your game‘.

That difference became strikingly obvious, though, when McDonnell clearly listened, practiced – I’m genuinely curious who trained him, I’ll admit – and… upped his game. In well under a year, he’d gone from cringingly embarrassing to not that bad at all; six months later he was getting quite good. Six months after that he was very good.

He’s now one of the best Labour has at commanding the attention of the House, asking questions, and making hard, very hard indeed, speeches.

Whereas Corbyn? well, Corbyn is better than he once was. The ‘I’ve had an email from a Miss Trellis of North Wales’ idea was a clever one but Corbyn being Corbyn overdid it to the point of absurdity. He eventually found his way to the apparently entirely foreign to him concept of… asking a follow up question, and even later seemed to almost stumble over the essential Leader of the Opposition skill of

  • asking the PM a question you already know the answer to
  • Getting a non-answer from the PM, then
  • starting the next question with ‘The PM didn’t answer my question; the answer in fact is… [embarrassing answer for the government]’; now let me ask him…’
  • And then doing it again.

However, he’s been Leader of the Opposition for four and a half years and it’s only the past two, I’d say, where he wasn’t flat out lousy at PMQs. And it’s fortunate indeed for him that he faced Theresa May for most of it; anyone else and he’d have been crushed every bloody session.

(One thing May and Corbyn shared, and it’s an odd thing for an experienced politician, of any stripe: they’re both abysmal at reading out scripted gags. Both can be, rarely but it happened, pretty good at ad libs, even if they’d been prepared ages ago and the opportunity to use it just now occurred. But scripted jokes? No, both terrible at delivering them. I don’t however wholly blame them; their speech writers should have written gags that at least sounded like their bosses’ words; they never bloody did.)
 


 
Second point of interest: it looks as if the days of 45 minute PMQs sessions are gone. Speaker John Bercow slowly but surely allowed the length of PMQs to extend until they rarely finished before about 12:45pm and occasionally ran even longer.

Back in the day, by which I mean way, way back in the 1990s, the format was that a backbencher would open the session by asking the PM for their engagements for the day. The PM would answer with something like

“Mr Speaker, This morning I had several meetings with colleagues and others. Later today, in addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings.”

The backbencher then asked another question, the important¹ question they’d always intended to ask.

Other MPs would follow the same format of questions. They’d first ask for the engagements, the PM would say “I refer the hon member to the reply I gave some moments ago”, then the MP would ask their proper question as what was known as a ‘supplementary question’. The idea was to prevent the PM knowing what was coming.

This all changed in the 1990s, when such ‘closed questions’ were for the most part abolished. They still occasionally happen, but only once in a blue moon. Now, an MP puts their name on the order paper without the question, to preserve the ‘the PM doesn’t know what’s coming.’

Bercow tended to allow two backbencher’s questions – one from Labour, one from the Tories – before calling the Leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition to ask his six questions.

So in recent years, it tended to go:
 

  1. a couple of backbenchers’ questions, then
  1. Leader of the Opposition/Prime Minister, 6 questions, anything up to 15 – 20 minutes… long questions, long answers, then
  1. 3rd party leader/Prime Minister, 2 questions, 7 or 8 minutes, then
  1. Backbenchers’ questions, 20 or 25 minutes…

 
Not under Speaker Hoyle. Looks like we’re back to ‘the old days’ at least about timings.

Today’s had:
 

  1. single backbencher’s questions, then
  1. Leader of the Opposition/Prime Minister, 6 questions, 10 minutes… short questions, short answers, then
  1. 3rd party leader/Prime Minister, 2 questions, 5 minutes, then
  1. Backbenchers’ questions, 15 minutes…

 
Done and dusted in 31 minutes.

It’ll be very interesting to see if this continues and whether we’re really back to half hour #PMQ sessions all the time or whether – as with Bercow – it… stretches. I suspect the former, with rare examples of the latter. But we’ll see.


 
Third point of interest: the very final question in the session.

Karl Turner, a Labour MP, asked the following question:

I’d recommend you watch it to get the full impact.

In case you haven’t time, Turner asked about a constituent – someone serving life – who’d saved lives on London Bridge by tackling a knife-wielding terrorist risking his own life to do so, and asking the PM to pay tribute to his constituent’s bravery.

I have no idea what reply he was expecting from Johnson, but the Prime Minister’s professed admiration for the man’s bravery and hope that it be recognised in due course was probably² more than Turner expected.
 
 
Something else, tomorrow.


¹ I say ‘important’; I jest. There are and were so many planted questions of the ‘does the PM agree he’s just lovely?’ that the important questions are sadly the rarity

² It’s more than possible that the PM got a heads-up that the question was coming and that Turner had a pretty good idea what the response would be.

Two weeks left.

Well, a little under two weeks, I guess.

A little under two weeks.

And then 2019 will finally be over.

Done. Dusted. We can put it to bed. Gently rest its head on a pillow. Cover it with a blanket. Then take another pillow, and carefully, deliberately, smother it. Put it out of its pain and misery. I don’t even think it’ll protest. It’ll welcome that longest sleep, and succumb quickly.

But it’ll be dead.

Except it won’t. Not really.

For the consequences of decisions taken in 2019, and of events that have occurred this year, will linger not only into 2020 but far, far beyond.

The obvious, I guess, since it’s the most recent in pain, hurt and time is the 2019 election we’ve all just… enjoyed. The consequences of that election, both direct and indirect, will affect us throughout 2020, and into 2021 and longer.

In 2015, as part of this blog, I wrote a countdown blog to the election and wrote more than forty entries about the election. I took almost all of 2017 off from blogging, and so didn’t write about that year’s general election. And I hardly wrote anything about this one; the occasional piece, sure. But not a full blown ‘ok, let’s take a look at what the fuck is happening’ series of entries.

Partly because I had nothing to add, partly because what I saw, what I witnessed, was too painful. Partly because I knew I was going to lose friends over the campaign period, and didn’t wish to gratuitously, needlessly, lose more.

Because the campaigns were poisonous on all sides, and the poison infected everyone. I’ve long bemoaned the political climate of ‘our opponents are not merely good people with bad ideas, but bad people with worse ideas’ but it reached its zenith in November and December. Or at least I pray it did. For if it’s going to get even more apparent and greater in scope, then that’s not a country and not a world I’m entirely sure I can handle.

The fallouts from that election on a national, and on a personal, level are still painful. And for once that’s not a netaphor, nor a conceit; it fucking hurts, inside.

And I am so fucking tired.

I shouldn’t have to wonder, every time someone I know, like and respect makes a ‘dodgy’ crack; I shouldn’t have to ask myself every fucking time: “do they realise what they’re saying, how it’s coming across? or did they just go for the quick joke and it’s essentially ignorance, not malice”.

Never before has ‘no candidate/party is perfect, so you vote for the least imperfect‘ clashed so obviously, so blatantly, with the ‘there are lines I cannot and will not cross‘.

So, yeah, I very deliberately didn’t write much about the 2019 election.

Which means, at least, unlike in 2015, I don’t have to write a mea culpa post afterwards about everything I got wrong.

And now we approach 2020.

On a personal level, the start of any new year is always overshadowed by an anniversary that takes place a week and a bit into that new year: the anniversary of my brother’s death in 1998. As I’ve written before, and no doubt will again, the advent of 1998 was the last time, the final time, I greeted 1st January with “well, whatever happens this year, it can’t be worse than this last year.”

Who knew?

But even leaving aside that intensely personal reason for not greeting each new year with unalloyed joy, four weeks into 2020 the UK will leave the European Union. Oh, there’ll be a transition period of almost a year, during which most stuff will stay the same. But unless an extension is sought by July, no extension is gonna happen at the end of 2020.

So there’s every possibility, probability even, that at the end of 2020, the UK is out without a trade deal… after which the brown stuff truly will hit the spinning round whirly thing.

I read today that after 31st January, official British government policy will be to stop using the term ‘Brexit’, presumably so Boris Johnson can claim that ‘Brexit’ was… done.

Our primus inter mendaces knows it’s not true. As does his entire government, his entire party. And saying it, and believing it’s true because it was said, is more often associated with the orange poltroon in the big round room across the Atlantic. But Johnson is banking on enough in the country being gullible enough to believe it. And, given the past few years, who can unreservedly claim that he’s incorrect in that calculation?

All the parties in the recent election, every one of them, relied on a certain amount of gullibility from the people from whom they were seeking votes; all that differed was how much.

Talking of America, and the orange poltroon, we get to see the trial of President Trump at some point. I’ve no idea whether or not the trial will happen in January. And right now, no other bugger does wither. Pelosi seems to want to not send the articles of impeachment the House voted to approve to the Senate until she gets a cast iron guarantee of how the trial will be conducted.

Which, given Mitch McConnell’s fundamental untrustworthiness, may take until after the 2020 Presidential election.

Oh yeah, we’ve got that next year as well. Which will once again show the world’s countries how – whatever their own fucked up politics and fucked up electoral systems – America really doesn’t like being second place in the table of countries with fucked up politics and fucked up electoral systems.

Just as it’s irresistible to look at the results of a horrible car crash while you’re driving past it, there’ll be an overwhelming desire to watch both the trial and the election, to witness history in the making.

Because, like it or not, both will be history in the making. They’ll be events that will make pundits and public alike look at, years later, and.. and what? Shudder at? Cry at? Wince at? Who knows.

But history in the making? Certainly.

But then there’s always history in the making.

I was born in mid-August 1964, a few months before America decisively rejected Barry Goldwater’s offer to the American people, and almost exactly nine months after JFK was assassinated and after the first episode of Doctor Who was broadcast.

In the now over 55 years I’ve been in this planet, I missed some history being made, sure; I wasn’t even aware of anything outside what directly affected me and mine for the first, what half a dozen or so years of my life, and for the next half a dozen, didn’t care about them. So, President Nixon resigned in 1974, week or so before my 10th birthday.

At ten years of age, I’m not entirely sure I even knew it at the time. It’s possible my father might have mentioned it, and I heard it, but no, I have n memory of it. (I do remember the Beatles breaking up, six years earlier, but only because my aforementioned big brother was terribly upset.)

I honestly don’t know how much I’d have been aware of, though had social media and ubiquitous connection to the internet had been around in the 1970s…

But even if you say from the age of 13 – in mid-1977 – in my life, I’ve witnessed history being made dozens of times. Just off the top of my head, without thinking about it, in my teenage years, Elvis died, as did John Lennon. We had the first woman British Prime Minister, and shortly thereafter the miner’s strike. Soon thereafter, Labour showed how you catastrophically lose a general election, a lesson that took almost forty years to be forgotten enough… to do it again.

In my mid-20s, the Berlin Wall came down and the USSR started to collapse, and Nelson Mandela walked to freedom… and and and…

History is made all the time, and occasionally you realise it at the time, but almost never does it happen in such a way that instantly you know what the consequences will be.

You can guess whether they’ll be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but not much more than that.

And 2020 will bring more deaths; that’s inevitable. There’ll be much loved celebrities who die at the end of a ‘natural’ life span’, and some that go too soon; some that go far, far too soon.

Though, to be fair, there’ll be some who’ll die and my reaction will be… that I’m surprised they were still alive, either because of advancing age or, let’s say if Keith Richards dies, that they managed to last as long as they did.

My mother used to say that things came in threes… and if another thing happened, it wasn’t that things happened in fours, but that it was the start of a whole new series of three.

But you know, you already know, that when something – I don’t know what – but something will happen in the early says of 2020 – happens, plenty of people will cry in protest: “Oh fuck; I was hoping 2019 had ended…”

It did.

It will have.

This will just be the long, lingering smell of shit, like someone dumped a huge barrel of turds across the world in 2019.

Which, I suppose, in every important way… they did.
 
 
Something else, something happier, or at least smilier… tomorrow. And next week? Something on good stuff that happened in 2019, both personal and beyond.

Exactly 20 years ago today, I was looking forward to a holiday, a special one.

I’d recently started working at the company I was to spend the next twelve years working for, was enjoying it hugely, but we hadn’t been ‘away’ as a family for a proper holiday for some years, and I was very much looking forward to it.

My then-, but now ex-, wife Laura and I were taking our then four year old son to Anaheim, to Disneyland, immediately after Christmas.

And I’m thinking of that holiday today. Specifically, I’m thinking of a few minutes before midnight, before 1st January 2000. Just a few minutes before, you understand, and you’ll appreciate why in just a minute or two.

So, 31st December 1999.

As I say, we were in Anaheim. We’d already been to the park earlier in the week but we’d been told that greeting the new year in Disneyland was something special. We’d also been advised to get to the park early that morning, as it would be jam packed most of the day, and especially by the evening; indeed, it was.

We spent the day doing rides, walking around, enjoying our son’s sheer unfettered delight at the park; repeated rides on things like It’s A Small World, trying to capture forever the joy on his face at the prospect of doing this, then that, then this, than that… then that again, and this again… It was lovely, genuinely.

I can’t swear that Disneyland is always, as the slogan has it, The Happiest Place On Earth, but for our lad, that day? Yeah, it applied.

Utterly exhausted, Phil fell asleep in the stroller around half-past seven, and slept for most of the next four hours.

By half-ten at night, the darkness lit only by the million lights or so of the park, we were in our final positions, a good view of the fireworks to come.

And we were just waiting… waiting… waiting.

An hour later, with thirty minutes to go before everything went nuts, we miraculously saw people we knew, people staying at the same hotel as us, and we caught up with them. 

Packed like sardines, the warmth of the crowd uncomfortably increasing, seeing the forced smiles of Disney people slipping momentarily before being plastered back on, the time clicked away. Phil was awake by now, surprised by the crowds, wanting to be lifted up. The adults? We were tired.

Sure, we were excited about the forthcoming celebrations, the fireworks that we knew would be spectacular, the start of the year 2000, the fact that we were there, five and a half thousand miles from home… but we were tired, hot, crowded…

About ten minutes before midnight, I remember saying to one of my companions, “Thirty minutes to go… Thirty minutes to go…” 

Puzzled, he glanced up at the giant clock, then looked back at me. “Thirty minutes?”

“Thirty minutes…” I repeated, “…until we can get out of here…”

I’ve been feeling the same about this general election for the past couple of days.

I almost entitled titled this blog post “#ThisFuckingElection“, the hashtag I’ve used more than once on Twitter.

No one is, can be, unaware of my views on the leaders of the two main parties standing for election tomorrow. I’ve written of my views on Corbyn more than once, and named Johnson primus inter mendaces when he became Tory leader and Prime Minister. Neither of them are fit for the office they’re likely to have after tomorrow. Neither of them are fit to be leaders of great parties, let alone Prime Minister.

Now during the election campaign, everyone’s had to draw their own ‘lines’. And no matter where they’ve drawn that line, they’ve received grief for it, justified grief or not,

(‘Justified’ in my own opinion, of course.)

Before the election campaigns started, I wrote in a post:
 

It’s a mug’s game making predictions about elections. Only a fool would do it. And only an idiot would make predictions this early.

Let’s make some predictions this early.

 
And, surprisingly to me, only one of those predictions (including the final, ‘extra’, one) didn’t pan out, hasn’t come true.

This one:
 

Prediction Eight: I’m going to miss a typo at sometime in the next six weeks and I’ll type “I’m really not looking forward to the result of this erection.”

 
So, yeah, if one was going to be wrong, I’m content it was that one.

However, as I say, everyone’s drawn their own lines. And everyone’s had to judge for themselves when those lines have been crossed. I predicted in 2017 that I was likely to lose friends during that year’s election campaign. As it was, I didn’t. I’m not quite sure how, but I didn’t.

This time, I made the same prediction, with a very different result. I’ve lost friends, I’ve terminated friendships, during this fucking election and the campaigns leading up to it. And when I say the friendships have been ended, I should have added the word ‘irrevocably’.

I wish I felt worse about it. I wish I felt sad about it. Because I don’t. I don’t feel bad about those – some of them decades’ long – friendships ending. At all.

Everyone’s had to draw their own lines.

Still at least it’ll all be over tomorrow at 10pm.

I’ve loathed this election more than any other, unlike any other, in my lifetime. I’ve detested the campaigns, on all sides, and those who’ve supported various positions, parties and policies, while ignoring… certain other matters.

I wish, however, that what I wrote above was accurate: that it’ll be over in approximately 30 hours.

Because it won’t be. That’s the final gift this election, and the associated campaigns, have for us. And what a shitty gift it is.

Because whereas this election and its campaigns have made me look at some people differently, people I’ll never look at the same way again, will never fully trust, not when it comes to my safety….

…those same people will never look the same way at me again, will never truly trust me.

And whatever happens tomorrow, whoever manages to form a government, that’ll continue. That’s the legacy of this fucking election.

If Corbyn loses, the blame game will commence five minutes’ later and leaving aside the ever-present excuse of ‘Labour lost because they weren’t left wing enough’ (which is always offered), there’ll be plenty who will blame Teh Jooz. Oh, they might say ‘zionists’, but they mean Jooz.

There’ll be plenty of others they’ll blame as well: the media, ‘centrists’, Blairites, and any candidate who wasn’t labour. Oh, and the voters.

But yeah, Teh Jooz will be blamed for Corbyn losing. I won’t say ‘their fair share of blame’ even for flowing language, because it won’t be ‘fair’. Antisemitism never is fair.

It’s why I’ve been saying that I’ve been looking forward to 19th December. Not the 13th, the day after the election, but the 19th. Because, hopefully, if we’re lucky, the worst of the ‘blame Teh Jooz’ will have died down by then.

If we’re lucky.

Yeah, but how lucky have we been so far the past few years, eh?

No matter who you’re voting for tomorrow, vote. I think it’s important to vote, and you’ll get no ‘[my side] voters vote tomorrow; [the other lot] voters vote on Friday’. It’s tiresome and annoying. And never funny.

Vote tomorrow.

Something less hurty tomorrow.

A friend of mine used to work for an accountancy recruitment firm. Like all of us, in any job, he had his own rules, developed from years in his chosen trade or profession, and two of them were almost articles of faith to him.

One of them was why people stay at a job, and why they look for a new one.

He maintained that there were three attributes people cared about regarding a current job:

  • Your prospects – what you can reasonably expect if you stay: better pay, title, job, promotions
  • The benefits you currently get: who you work with, the extras you get from working there, the clients you have
  • A genuine vocation for the work.

He insisted that if you had none of them, you’ve already been looking for an new job for a while

If you had only one of them, you’re similarly already looking for a new job

If you had two of them, though, you’d probably stay at your job:

He suggested that people will put up with ‘no prospects’ if they like the job and have a genuine vocation for the work.

Also, even if you’re not crazy about the specific job, if you’ve great prospects and enjoy the work, you’ll stay.

And, obviously, if you’ve good prospects and have a vocation for the work, you won’t mind not liking this specific job for a while until those prospects are met, or you realise they won’t be.

Oh, if you claimed you had all three, he’s recommend you call The Guinness Book of Records. Because he’d rarely come across someone who genuinely did.

The other thing he viewed as aa certainty was: the worst question to ask – or be asked – in a job interview.

He had no time for the “how many dentists are there in London?” type questions. He viewed them – correctly, in my opinion – as merely examples of the ‘how would you approach solving this problem?’ type. That’s all, no more no less. They weren’t trick questions, nor impossible to answer impressively.

No, the absolute King Bastard Of Questions, he insisted, was:

If you don’t get offered the job, what do you think will be the reason why?

He recommended it to employers to ask in only two specific circumstances: when you knew you probably wouldn’t offer the candidate the role but there’s a small voice at the back of your head pushing you to, or when wanted to offer them the role, but that small voice voice is warning you not to… but you don’t know why.

And the reason why it’s such a bastard of a question is because there’s no right answer. (Well, there is, he suggested, but more about that in a moment.) But since no one in an interview wants to blame someone else, it forces the candidate to examine their own history.

And whatever they say reveals what they think are their weaknesses as a candidate.

If they mention their spotty job history, never staying long at a job, then they’re worried about that; if they mention their less than stellar exam performance, the same.

The only ‘right’ answer, my friend maintained was to walk a line between confidence and cocky, between assured and arrogant:

I don’t know. I hope I’ve done enough in this interview to convince you that I am the right person for this role.

For some years, I’ve been quietly irritated that the same question isn’t asked of politicians seeking our votes. “If you don’t win the election, what do you think will be the reason why?”

Not that I expected any politicians to answer it. In fact, on the rare occasions when they were asked something similar, the usual answer trotted out by politicians of all parties is ‘I don’t answer hypotheticals; I think we will win.”

And that’s an answer that infuriates me. A manifesto is, at its very heart, something that relies upon a hypothetical. And politicians have no problem at all with predicting the future will be golden under their policies.

They have an equal lack of issue with trashing the other parties’ manifestos, usually involving and creating or relating ever greater and more ludicrous hypotheticals, offered with even greater claims of calamity.

Any politician commenting on their [main] opponents’ manifestos will always assert that their opponents’ fiscal policies, if put into practice, will crash the economy.

Predicting, whether it’s the effect of ‘your ‘own’ sides’ policies or your opponents’ inherently relies upon hypothetical scenarios.

As I say, I’ve been frustrated that this question isn’t put to politicians, on the national scale, and at local hustings.

However, I’m neither irritated nor frustrated that the question isn”t being asked this time.

Because, unlike that job interview above, and unlike most previous elections, were the politicians to have been honest… this election, this time, every main party running for Parliament would – and will – blame other people and other things for them losing.

The Tories both overtly and by whispering campaigns, both at the national leadership level, and from their supporters, will blame the ‘enemies of the people’, will blame the EU, will blame the broken parliament that ended weeks ago. Not their leader, not their policies, but everyone else.

The SNP will blame the fact that they’re not independent and Brexit. Again, not their policies, but the system.

The Lib Dems will blame both the voting system, and the other party machines.

Labour? Well, the leadership will blame the media, and the gullibility of the voters. And the ‘centrists’ and the Blairites. Except for a large portion of Labour’s membership and suporters. Because, well, yes, we all know who they’ll blame.
 
 
Something else, tomorrow…

Ah, the joys of winter. Have a throat that feels like it’s been sandpapered, and a chest that is more that a little wheezy, so I’ve stuck the past I was working on – a Ten Things post – into drafts and you’re getting a quickie today.


All over Twitter today has been a video clip of Boris Johnson being asked a quetssion he obviously didn’t expect, and then blustering his way through… well, it would be too kind to call it an answer.

Not the first person to blag his way through sometihng, though most of the people who’ve tried aren’t currently, and hoping to continue to be,The Prime Minister.

But it sparked a conversation online about how he’s not asking people to vote for him because “he’s relatable”. well, no, but that misses the point somewhat.

He’s just crap at answering questions he doesn’t know are coming his way, or dealing with people who aren’t fawning over him.

Corbyn is the same, but he usually responds not with bluster but with irritation, as if the message is ‘How dare you have the effrontery to ask such a question of me? Who the hell do you think you are?’

For a long time I maintained that we had the worst politicans in a generation. I now think I was wrong on that.

Whatever you think of Farage – and let’s face it, who doesn’t? – you can’t deny that he had an ostensible political aim, and again ostensibly, got it.

I stress ostensible because I don’t believe for a second he ever wanted the UK to leave the EU. What he wanted, what he really wanted, with all his heart and soul, was to be able to continue whingeing for decades about how the establishment wouldn’t let the UK leave.

And, despite so many promises from Brexiters at the time of the referendum, somehow over the past few years, The Only True Brexit has switched from

“a brilliant deal, where we keep all the advantages without being tied into the political project’

to now being

“we leave with the harshest possible No Deal”

And I’m not entirely sure how it happened.

But that’s for another day.

Today, it’s just noticeable that politicians in the UK (and in the US, to be fair) think we’re back in the days when interviewers’ only questions should be of the ‘have you anything you wish to tell the nation?’

Problem is, that with many of those interviewing, we’re not that far from it..

Something else tomorrow…

Well, it is, isn’t it? A mug’s game.

Making predictions about elections, I mean.

Ok, with some elections, you can make a decent stab at a result, caveating your forecast to hell and back. And some elections, yes, are such foregone conclusions that the result itself is almost an anti-climax.

The obvious one that springs to mind isn’t 1997, to my mind, but 2001.

It was obvious in 1997 that Blair was going to have a thumping victory. But the size of the majority – over 160 – surprised many. That wasn’t the case in 2001. It was obvious from the moment that he called the election that the result was only going one way, the same way: another thumping majority. And after four years of a New Labour government, it was just a matter of whether the majority would be roughly the same as 1997’s, 20 seats fewer, or 20 seats more.

2005? Again, not a surprise that Blair won, and it was fairly obvious that his majority would shrink. Not sure everyone expected the final numbers, but yeah, not a huge surprise.

Since then, however, they’ve been difficult to predict. Partly because polling models never seemed to cope well with change, and overestimated this party’s support, underestimated that party. (For a long time, polls always overestimated Labour support; that seems to have been addressed, but we’ll see.)

2015 came along, and again, the result was a surprise to many who after five years of coalition government expected nothing but a coalition government going forward.

I did a countdown blog to the 2015 election, and — no, don’t worry, I’m not going to turn this 2020 countdown into an election blog, though there’ll no doubt be some election related material.

But no, as I say, I did a countdown blog leading up to the 2015 general election. It was fun, for the most part, commenting on stuff that was going on. But yes, I thought a coalition government was the inevitable result. I even wrote a piece about how Cameron was actively misleading the electorate, claiming that he really really didn’t want one, and you couldn’t vote for the Lib Dems again…

Well, more fool me.

After the election, before I did anything else on here, I held my hand up, admitted I’d got it wrong, and wrote a full mea culpa.

I started that piece with the words:

Notwithstanding Sir Humphrey Appleby’s view that you get anything potentially troublesome out of the way in the title of an Act Of Parliament (so you don’t have to actually do anything in the body of the thing), it’d be remiss of me to even begin to set out my thoughts on what happened on election day, or to suggest what I think will happen in the days and weeks ahead without admitting one, crucial thing: I was wrong.

I wrote something just under 40 blog entries specifically about politics, and the forthcoming election, and I was wrong. 

I was wrong about so, so much. Now, were I to start listing out all the things I was wrong about in regard to anything at all since only January… well, I’d take up far more of your time than you have a right to expect. 

But even limiting it to the election, there’s a lot. So, let’s get at least some of them out of the way in this entry and then we can move on.

About the only thing I was right about was my late-on-in-the-campaign prediction that whoever’s party lose the election, or didn’t do well…? Well, they’d speedily resign.

So, yeah, it’s a mug’s game making predictions about elections. Only a fool would do it. And only an idiot would make predictions this early.

Let’s make some predictions this early.

So early, in fact, that it might have escaped your notice that the election hasn’t actually been called yet.

Yes, the House of Commons passed that Bill, but it’s not an Act of Parliament yet. It still has to go through The House Of Lords, then – if unamended – back to the House of Commons and then off to Her Maj for Royal Assent.

Final day of Parliament will be next Tuesday or Wednesday, after which Parliament is dissolved. At that point they, all 650 of them, all stop being members of parliament (since parliament is no longer sitting) and those that want to get the job again are now standing for election as prospective parliamentary candidates, along with about 3,000 other people by the time the election takes place. (In 2017, 3,303 candidates stood for 650 seats.)

So, yes, the election hasn’t actually been called yet.

And that’s the first prediction: people will get stuff wrong. Not the politicians – but see later – not the pundits, but interested observers, people who don’t actually know this stuff inside out, so misinterpret, misunderstand. These aren’t people lying, nor actively seeking to mislead. They just get stuff wrong occasionally. They mishear a word or phrase, or don’t quite understand the rules, or procedures. We’ve all done it. We will all do it again.

My hope, a forlorn hope, no doubt, is that this is understood. That it’s appreciated that people fuck up from the best of motives, that mistakes are made and sometimes they’re in good faith. Not everyone making a prediction, or saying what is happening is doing so from bad faith. Sometimes they’re misinformed; sometimes they’ve misinformed themselves.

Second prediction: people will lie. Will knowingly mislead. Will deliberately tell untruths. And all for political advantage. Yeah, being open to all of that above doesn’t mean you should be a fucking idiot. If someone is openly promoting a political candidate and/or party, and is promoting untruths about political opponents, or casting separating aspersions on those who vote, or may vote, for someone else…

Yeah, they may well believe every word they say and type is gospel. Doesn’t mean you’re obliged to. And neither does it suggest that you’re mandated to assume good faith. And certainly not if they repeatedly do it.

Third prediction: Parties and candidates will call for clean elections. Third and a half’th prediction: they don’t mean it. Oh, they may mean it when they call for it; that’s possible, I guess. But the moment they think they can gain advantage by a bit of let us say not-exactly-ethical manoeuvring, either they or their staff/supporters will do it and sleep well afterwards. The purpose, their objective, is to win an election; as long as it’s not breaking the law – and sometimes not even that will stop them – it’s all fair, they’ll protest. It’s all part of the game.

Prediction Four: Each side will regard an opponent’s entire political history to be up for grabs, but anything in their own record more than five years ago will be decried as ‘dirty tricks’, “desperate smearing’ and, of course, ‘out of context’, that favourite of the caught out. I found it genuinely bemusing how the left regard, say, anyone who served in Maggie Thatcher’s cabinets as beyond redemption, but anything from a decade or two back, hell from 2012 (!), in Corbyn’s history is apparently off-limits. Or how the right will cheerfully pull up stuff from Corbyn and McDonnell’s pasts in the 1980s, but the contents of memos Letwin wrote about race are ‘in the past…’

Fifth Prediction: For some people, every poll that suggests ‘their’ party is doing well will be trumpeted; every one showing it’s doing badly will be ignored or the polls or polling company, will be attacked. The hypocrisy that surrounds polling never fails to astonish me. I might have more to write about this subject another time, but for today, I’m just slapping that down on the table like a wet, slightly smelly, fish.

Sixth Prediction: Four in one here. Whether or not tv debates happen,

(1) Someone will point out that they’re a new thing, someone else will point at the US, and someone else will publish a long piece on whether we’ve entered a period of presidential politics in the UK.

(2) Each party will claim the others are the reason that debates might not happen, and claim the rules they want are perfectly reasonable but the other lot are being wholly unacceptable.

(3) Smaller parties will demand they should be treated exactly the same as larger parties, including parties with no MPs currently, or only one or two.

(4) If they happen, when a party leader doesn’t do well, the format will be blamed. Or the host. Or the broadcaster. Never the leader just not being any good.

OK, four personal ones to end on.

Prediction Seven: I’m going to hate this election campaign. Not only for the obvious, pre-stated, reasons, but because the nastiness has already started.

I’ve already seen accusations that unless you vote for this party, you don’t care about the environment; unless you vote for that one, you don’t care about the poor; unless you vote for this party, you lack human empathy; unless you don’t vote for that one, you have no national pride.

Note: these aren’t ‘don’t vote for that party.” That I can understand. “Vote for anyone else…”, I get. “Vote for whoever gets rid of that MP”. Again, I completely understand and appreciate that. “Vote tactically.” Again, yes. I may or may not agree, but it at least makes sense to me intellectually.

What I don’t get, what I can’t agree to, is the “you must vote for this party, because they’re the only ones who care; they’re the only party who cares about [insert subject of choice]”.

I’ve whinged before about how I’m not sure when we went from ‘the other lot are good people with bad ideas” to “the other lot are bad people with worse ideas.” But we got there long ago, and this election campaign will prove it once again.

Prediction Eight: I’m going to miss a typo at sometime in the next six weeks and I’ll type “I’m really not looking forward to the result of this erection.”

Ninth Prediction: I’m gonna forget how bad I am at predicting election results. At some point, I’m sure I’m going to forget it. I’ll get carried away one night, or I’ll have one too many single malts, or I’ll just get pissed off with the incompetence of this politician or that campaign. And I’ll make a prediction.

Prediction Ten: I’m going to regret making any predictions at all, including the ones above.

Oh, and one more, not a prediction, resting on a sensible appreciation of the facts and the history, and forecasting an extrapolation, but a feeling of impending doom, as if I’m watching a car crash approaching. This is the final time, the final week, that I’ll regard some people as friends and that they’ll regard me in the same light.
 
 
Something else tomorrow…

Housekeeping note: I was planning on completing Part the Fourth today – after parts the first, second and third – of the series on antisemitic imagery but a confluence of events got in the way.

So, yes, it’s coming, but I don’t know when. Can only offer my apologies, once again. It’s proved tougher to complete this one than I anticipated. Partly because the imagery is so upsetting, partly because its too easy – I’ll acknowledge – to see image after image and then mistakenly include one that’s not antisemitic, assuming that it draws on the same imagery. I want to be accurate, and if that means taking a bit longer, then so be it.
 


 
Besides, something occured in British politics today which genuinely interested me, and I’ve been reading up on it a bit. So I figured I’d write something on it today, and save Part The Fourth for sometime later.

I doubt I have to explain to anyone reading this either what Brexit is or why it’s been a complete clusterfuck from start to finish. As mentioned previously, to deliver what was promised by the Leave campaign, and by those who pledged to deliver the result of the 2016 referendum would be impossible.

Not a rhetorical conceit, a flat statement of fact: it’s impossible to do so.

In part because to deliver what was promised, all that was promised… what was pledged, all that was pledged… would be self-contradictory. And everyone, well, pretty much everyone, acknowledges that.

The British public was promised a golden age, with dozens of trade deals signed, with no deleterious consequences, [nearly] all the benefits of membership, an extra £350m a week for the NHS, tariff free access to the Single European market, no huge job losses, massive investment into the UK… the list goes on and on. Basically only Good Things, and No Bad Things.

Take tariff free access to the single market. We were promised that tariff free access, while reducing immigration from the EU, even though the EU maintained that ‘the four freedoms’ – including free movement of labour – were inseparable; you want one, you get the other three as well.

There are umpteen videos of leading Brexiteers assuring that no one wants to leave The Single Market.

Here’s just one.

But what do we have? A statement from the Brexit Secretary that “There should be adequate food“. And assurances, based on nothing but a hope and a prayer – oh, and £25m – that medications will continue to be available in the event that the UK leave the EU without ‘a deal’.

Of course, what “a deal” means has changed somewhat since 2016 and 2017, when the Article 50 notification – the official start of ‘we’re leaving’ – was delivered to the EU. Back then, it meant that by the time the negotiation period ended in March 2019, both the UK and the EU would know under what terms we were leaving the EU, and under what terms our relationship with the EU would continue.

Now? Over two years later? It means the former, with a possible transition period during which the EU and UK would continue to negotiate the future relationship.

So even had the Withdrawal Agreement (and associated Political Declaration) passed in parliament, the UK – and the public – would still not know what the future relationship would be. I mean, we’d know what both sides wanted it to be… but we absolutely would not know, nor would anyone, what any final relationship would be.

And that’s not the only phrase that has changed meaning since 2016/2017.

At the time, no one talked about “No Deal”. It was… well, not inconceivable, but unthinkable to many. Even those who kind of advocated it didn’t call it that. They called it a “Hard Brexit”.

Now you can argue back and forth whether they meant a No Deal, or merely a more favourable-to-UK deal than was ever truly possible, but either way, no one was pushing a complete cessation of every clause in every relationship we have had thus far.

Without going through how we ended up here, where are we?

We’re just eleven weeks, seventy-seven days, from leaving with No Deal. It continues to amaze me just how many people continue to believe that it’ll never happen “because there’s no majority in parliament for the UK leaving with No Deal.”

Whoever’s in government – and I’ll come on to that in a moment – they don’t need a majority favouring a No Deal Brexit for a No Deal Brexit to occur.

The current law mandates – subject to something else happening – that the UK leaves the EU on 31st October 2019 without a deal. The phrase you need to remember is “by automatic operation of law”.

It’s kind of like me jumping out of an aeroplane without a parachute. Now, there are plenty of things that could prevent me, after a short period of time, going splat. Someone could jump after me and hand me a parachute which I successfully use. Someone could jump after me and grab hold of me, and we both use the same parachute. Spock and McCoy could pilot their ship and save me just in time from being sucked out into space. No, wait, different situation.

Anyway, you get the point. Unless something occurs to save me… I go splat.

And unless something occurs to stop No Deal Brexit… No Deal Brexit is what happens. By that automatic operation of law I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago.

Doesn’t matter how often people protest, doesn’t matter how many symbolic votes take place in Parliament, doesn’t even matter if everyone knows there is a majority for something else, unless a binding vote takes place in parliament, mandating the government to do something else, which will involve legislation passing through both Houses of Parliament…

Now that something else could be A Withdrawal Agreement, though it’s not looking likely, with the current government shitting on the current agreement from a huge height, and the oposition parties not liking it either, for their own party or policy specific reasons.

That something else could be a general election; the EU has indicated that they’d be ok with another delay to the process, another postponement of the leaving date, if a general election was called.

That something else could be the government revoking Article 50 and abandoning Brexit in its entirety, though that’s about as likely as Jeremy Corbyn campaigning for Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson campaigning for George Galloway.

(My personal preferences – though they’ll never happen – would be for either Article 50 to be revoked and that’s an end of it, or at the least, revocation followed by a public inquiry and another referendum in, say, three years… using that three years to agree a future relationship and if no agreement, no official agreed position, then put it to bed. But if wishes were horses, eh?)

Or the ‘something else’ that could change matters could be the government changing and doing… something else that gets the majority of the House of Commons going along with them.

And that’s what people are talking about this morning.

Because Jeremy Corbyn has sent a letter to other opposition party leaders and it’s got people talking about a GNU, a Government of National Unity.

Not the first time the idea’s come up, and not the first time enthusiasm for it has overwhelmed people’s natural scepticism at politicians professing insistently that they’re ‘doing the right thing for the country’ when it personally benefits them.

Even ignoring, temporarily, my own views on Jeremy Corbyn’s personal complicity over antisemitism inside Labour, basically, what the letter asks, what his supporters demand, is that we trust Jeremy Corbyn.

And there’s a problem with that.

Not merely over antisemitism, not merely over his numerous other faults as a politician, as a party leader, as a person, but over his position on Brexit.

Corbyn has spent much, maybe all, of his political life as what was – for a couple of decades – usually described in the Tory Party as a “Eurosceptic”. He’s never liked the European Economic Community, which became the European Community, which became the European Union. He’s wanted the UK to leave for decades, and said so, repeatedly. Pretty much every step he’s taken, with the occasional blip, as party leader has been to reinforce that position and that impression.

He’s promised one thing, then not delivered. He’s promised that the party membership is supreme, then ignored their wishes. He’s tried every trick in the books, and created a few, to avoid his party membership cottoning on to the simple truth that:

Jeremy Corbyn wants, has always wanted, the UK to leave the European Union… and if that’s without a deal, then ok, that’s just fine and dandy by him.

Now some have argued, with some justification, that there’s another reason for his wanting to leave, beyond pure ideology; it’s the ‘let the Tories fuck everything up and then people will flood to the Labour Party begging ‘please save us’ and we will save them.’ I say ‘justifiably’ because that’s been a Labour position over many elections. Not every election; occasionally there’s a campaign that says ‘come to Labour because we can make life better for you’, but the ‘The Tories made things worse, fucked everything up… but we will fix it’ has been the usual message.

And of course, that plays well with a chunk of the membership and country unaware of Corbyn’s actual views and policies.

So, whatever your views on the concept of a government of national unity, yes, it’s a minor point, but what struck me forcefully was the implicit (and sometimes explicit) suggestion that those of us who loathe & detest Corbyn, and regard him as fundamentally untrustworthy should, on this occasion, on something he’s been previously proven to be untrustworthy… trust him.

And I don’t. At all.

I don’t believe he voted Remain in the EU Referendum. I don’t believe his claims that he worked hard for Remain. I don’t believe him, nor trust him. At all. About anything.

And it’s not – as others have suggested – because of the suggestion that he wouldn’t leave as Prime Minister once in. There’ll be a majority of the House of Commons that would undoubtedly bring his caretaker tenure to an end at some point, leading to a general election.

My lack of trust has to do with what he’d do while Prime Minister. For he doesn’t have ‘to do anything’ to get the brexit he’s wanted for decades. In fact, he has to do precisely… nothing. If he got the job in late September, say, it wouldn’t be difficult to stall for a few weeks… claiming he’s negotiating in good faith and then not doing so.

And then, come October ‘gosh wasn’t it a pity?’ the Corbyn acolytes will cry, as the UK leaves without a deal by the aforementioned ‘automatic operation of law’.

But does a lack of Corbyn in Number Ten prevent the idea of a Government of National Unity, stop it in its tracks?

Well, I have to say, sadly, yes, I think it does. As others have observed, he is – like it or not – leader of the opposition. You’re not going to get Labour MPs openly suggesting, publicly stating, that they don’t trust their leader to be PM. It’ll kill them before and during any general election campaign. The Tories would replay videos of Labour MPs saying ‘don’t make Jeremy PM’ for weeks. And it’d certainly trigger deselection campaigns for any Labour MP. The only way out would be for them to follow Berger and Leslie, etc., and leave the party.

And to be blunt, if they’ve not left the Labour Party yet, they’re unlikely to now, over this.

But could Kenneth Clarke or Harriet Harman do the job? Sure, but they’re not going to get the job, for the reasons immediately above.

What about Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson’s call for a GNU?

Well, it’s great, but it’s what third parties do, and though I’ve been very impressed by her leadership of the party thus far, the call was far more for the impression it gives than in the hope that it’d achieve anything.

So we’re in a situation where the people who first called for a GNU can’t form one. The person who now wants a GNU can’t even unify his own party, and the people who don’t want a GNU have no other solutions.

Oh. Joy.

Oh, and the calls for and against have more to do attacking the people who disagree than the idea itself.

Which brings me to the final part of this post.

Some have been a bit upset at the Lib Dems calling for a government of national unity, but not one headed by Corbyn, the official leader of the opposition, and indeed her previous statements that she’d never go into coalition to form a Corbyn-led labour government. And others have been upset at the Labour response of reminding voters that the Lib Dems – and Swinson herself – were in government with the hated Tories from 2010 to 2015.

Me? I genuinely don’t have a problem with either party making those attacks on the other.

Any more than – apart from the hypocrisy – the Conservatives having a pop at Labour antisemitism, Labour over the past 40 years exploring Tory divisions over Europe, the Tories back in the 1970s and 1980s seeking to damage Labour over trade unions’ behaviour, or any party ‘weaponising’ – a horrible word – a weakness in the other party.

Well, a perceived weakness, at least, whether or not the weaknesses actually exist. (Always amuses me and irritates me, in equal measure, that political adverts in this country are specifically excluded from the truth and fairness rules in advertising.)

Exploiting perceived weaknesses in another party’s policies, positions, or people are what political parties do.

To complain that a party you don’t support is doing it to one that you do, while supporting your party doing it to them is hypocritical. But again that’s what party supporters do.

If your only objection to a Government of National Unity is that Corbyn would be PM, then you care far more about Corbyn not being Prime Minister than about any GNU to solve the Brexit clusterfuck. And if you’re only interested in a Government of National Unity if Corbyn’s in Number Ten, then you’re similarly more interested in Corbyn being PM than in anything a GNU could [try to] do to stop a No Deal Brexit.

Be honest about that, at least?

I have no issues with a GNU; I just don’t think one’s achievable without Corbyn. And I don’t trust that any GNU under Corbyn could – or would – do anything to stop Brexit, with or without a deal’.
 


 
As a coda: I was reminded when I saw the acronym GNU – Government of National Unity – appear today, that British politics does like its animal acronyms. After GOAT [Government of All the Talents] and the COBRA Committee [named after Cabinet Office Briefing Room A], we now have GNU. I wonder what else we’ll get in the weeks ahead.
 


 

Something else tomorrow, the final post in this run… some reflections on blogging, and possibly something on Edinburgh, which I’m travelling to, overnight.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Smear – unhelpful fact

‪    — ‬How to speak like a Corbynite: a helpful guide, Michael Deacon

When Theresa May announced in April 2017 that she planned to seek the House of Commons’ agreement to call a general election – hours after the message coming from ‘Number Ten’ had been no general election – I was far from the only person who viewed both the forthcoming campaign and election with dislike and distaste.

And, of course, viewed the eventual result drenched in the same sentiments.

Of course, May had on many previous occasions insisted that there’d not be an early general…

On the same day that the Commons voted to indeed hold an early general election, a lady who became known as ‘Brenda from Bristol’ famously summed it up for many: “You’re joking. NOT ANOTHER ONE?! Oh for God’s sake, I can’t, honestly – I can’t stand this.”

Indeed, her exasperation and frustration were shared by most of the people I knew; no one thought an election would solve anything. The government was trying to do the impossible and few thought that an election would make the impossible thing any less, y’know… impossible.

Well, no one other than Theresa May and her staff at Number Ten Downing Street, of course. And what do you know? It turned out that ‘everyone else’ was right and she, and they, were wrong.

So, yeah, I disliked the 2017 election. And I knew I would the moment it was called.

But I wasn’t dreading the election in the same way as I’m dreading the one we’re likely to have in the next year.

Whether it’ll be the first autumn/winter election we’ve had in almost fifty years, or whether it’ll take place in Spring 2020, an election is likely on the way. With an official working majority of one in the House of Commons, and an unofficial majority of who-the-fuck-knows-what-the-fuck-it-fucking-is – a technical parliamentary term, you understand – parliament is effectively paralysed.

Strictly speaking, of course, under the terms of the Fixed-terms Parliaments Act – a piece of legislation I naïvely supported when it was created – we already know the date of the next election.

It’ll be on 5th May 2022, five years after the previous election in 2017.

I don’t know anyone, however, who thinks that this pisspoor shitshow of a government and this toothless, impotent and incompetent parliament, will last until then. The FTPA does of course foresee situations, and permits a couple of circumstances, in which an election can take place earlier.

May used one of these in 2017 (the House of Commons votes by a two-thirds majority of all MPs) to get her early election. I find it fascinating, by the way, that it’s ⅔ of all MPs, as in you need 433 MPs – ⅔ of the 650 elected – to vote in favour, rather than merely ‘⅔ of MPs voting’. The authors of the Act really really wanted to ensure that both the government and the main opposition wanted an early election before getting one.

The other way an early election can, no must, be called is if a ‘vote of no confidence’ in the government is carried, and in the ensuing two weeks, no one – neither the current government nor the Opposition, nor anyone else – can command the ongoing confidence of the House.

So, yeah, under either one of those two circumstances – both of which I suspect we’re going to face in the next year – we have an early election.

Last week, I wrote about how anger often brings certainty. A certainty that’s unwarranted, to be sure, but certainty nonetheless.

I ended the piece with the following:

I’m dreading a general election. Honestly. One’s likely to occur this year, and if not this year, then next.

And I’m dreading it, and the campaign that leads up to it.

It doesn’t anger me. It doesn’t infuriate me. It scares me.

And I suspect, before this run of blog posts is done, I’ll write about why.

Ok, time to write about why.

Long time readers of this blog may remember the following three blog entries.

From May 2015… it’s my party and i’ll cry if I want to…

From July 2015… ABC: Anyone but Corbyn

From September 2015… congratulations, mr corbyn… and goodbye

In the first, I related how, after 30-odd years of adulthood with an intense interest in politics but somehow without joining a political party, I’d finally done so. I laid out why, where I stood politically, and why Labour was the party I’d joined.

Towards the end of that piece more than four years ago, I wrote the following:

I’m not suggesting that people who voted Tory are evil, nor that they have no compassion; merely that they were wilfully or otherwise ignorant of the policies the government now seeks to introduce. Because if they voted knowing full well the policies that will now be put before Parliament, then I honestly don’t know what to say.

It’s an old, and usually false, saw to say that “I haven’t left the party, the party left me”, but for me, this government has done that for me.

I can’t see how the Tories will move back to the centre-right ground, its natural home I’d venture to suggest, within the next fifteen to twenty years. Which means that it’s Labour for me unless or until they have a policy or party leadership that renders a potential Labour government as toxic to me as the Conservative Party now is.

Sadly, overwhelmingly sadly, history has shown me that’s possible. I just hope it doesn’t happen for a long, long time.

I’ll just repeat that last bit:

Which means that it’s Labour for me unless or until they have a policy or party leadership that renders a potential Labour government as toxic to me as the Conservative Party now is. Sadly, overwhelmingly sadly, history has shown me that’s possible. I just hope it doesn’t happen for a long, long time.

So, yes, I joined the Labour Party mere hours after it became obvious that David Cameron’s Conservative Party had won the 2015 election with a working majority; barely, but yeah, he had a working majority. And scarcely had the election results sunk in when the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, resigned.

How quickly did he resign? Well, my ‘welcome to the Labour Party’ email still had his photo attached, even though, by the time it arrived, he’d already resigned.

So, an hour or so after I joined, the Labour Party was already planning their next leadership election.

Nominations ran from [effectively] that moment until 15th June. And by then, I’d attended several constituency Labour Party (CLP) meetings, and quite enjoyed them.

The constituency in which I lived – Richmond Park – had never had a Labour MP; at the recent general election, the Labour vote had been at 12.3%. So it wasn’t exactly as if Richmond Park Constituency Labour Party ‘made a difference’ as to Labour’s position in the country. In truth, the seat had jumped back and forth between the Liberals/Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives for decades.

The CLP contained people from ‘the left’ of the Labour Party as well as people from the ‘right’ of the party, and all points in between, and had fairly vocal advocates of each position; in some ways, the make up of the local party was exactly as it should be; there were debates and some heated ones, but no more nor less than I’d expected, or wanted.

And then the leadership contest occurred. And everything changed.

I appreciate that as a new member, only a month or so into it, it’s kind of weird to say ‘everything changed’ when I only had two or three meetings under my belt.

But it’s true.

Everything changed. Where previously there had been heated debates, now there came nastiness, and allegations of cowardice, of callousness, or not being ‘true’ to Labour. Where there had been discussion and mild distaste for others’ positions, now there was utter contempt for the other position. And most of the nastiness and the contempt came from one faction within the CLP.

Because Jeremy Corbyn had entered the contest to be leader.

And while at that time, I had no doubt that he wouldn’t have approved of the nastiness, would in fact have decried the venom, which accompanied the positions taken by his advocates, I quickly realised that wasn’t the case. I came to the conclusion that while he might not have approved, he certainly had no issue with it.

Which brings me to the second of the posts above.

Now, I’d been aware of Jeremy Corbyn since the mid-1990s, I guess. At least I don’t remember paying much notice before that. I knew that an MP, a Labour MP, had invited convicted IRA members to the House of Commons after the IRA bombed a Brighton hotel and tried to assassinate the Prime Minister and a chunk of her cabinet, but I doubt I recalled that it was Corbyn who’d done so.

And I knew that a Labour MP had chaired a conference calling for the Labour Party to kick out (‘disaffiliate from’) Poale Zion (Great Britain) – the previous name of the Jewish Labour Movement – in the 1980s, but again, I didn’t recall it being Corbyn who was the Chair.

But when I ran CompuServe’s Jewish Forum, and helped run the UK Politics Forum, in the mid- to late-1990s, his name cropped up every so often, alongside that of Ken Livingstone, Paul Flynn, and a few others of similar political views. He was one of the ‘I see no reason to support the party leader just because he’s leader’ lot, the blatant hypocrisy of which is mildly amusing now, in retrospect.

And by 2015, I was well aware of his policy positions and his – at that stage, I still thought – complete and supreme indifference to others’, including his supporters’, overt and snide antisemitism.

I didn’t at that stage think that he was personally antisemitic, merely that he regarded antisemitism in others as… I dunno, as having a pimple on their nose, or crooked teeth, or having bad breath. Not ideal, perhaps, but certainly not a genuine problem, certainly not a deal-breaker. Their antisemitism, their blatant and clear antisemitism, was entirely irrelevant as to whether he supported that person, liked that person, campaigned for that person, called them ‘brother’ and ‘comrade’.

But I found myself more and more questioning my position, struggling to maintain it.

As more came out, as more evidence was revealed, of his wilfully ignoring the antisemitism of those who he supported, defended, campaigned for… I found it harder and harder to maintain my ‘he’s not antisemitic; he just doesn’t care if someone else is’ position.

But anyway, even if that position was accurate, as someone else asked me: would he ignore another form of racism? Would he accept it in his supporters, and in people he supported, if they didn’t like people of colour, say? Would he regard it as a deal breaker?

Because if the answers to those question are No, No, and Yes… well, then he’s treating Jews differently, discriminating against Jews… and there’s a word for that.

The hypocrisy became more obvious, and clearer, with every example. Here’s one: he utterly and unreservedly condemned anyone appearing on a platform with Nick Griffin, one time leader of the racist British National Party. There was no excuse, he maintained, for sharing a platform with him. “No one,” he said, “should be sharing a platform with an avowed racist and an avowed fascist.” Oddly, though, as Corbyn’s history showed time and time again, he had no problem at all sharing platforms with overt antisemites.

“Ah,” his supporters say, “he does that solely to challenge them.” Equally and appropriately oddly, there’s no record of his challenges. Funny that.

So I wrote that second post, laid out some issues I had with Corbyn, and said that I wouldn’t, couldn’t, vote for him, and that if anyone did, they were siding with his views on antisemitism. Or – at the very least – they were saying ‘I don’t care’ about his views on antisemitism and on Jews.

One thing that started to piss me off, and my upset only grew, was that he never criticised his own supporters for antisemitism; he never told them not to, or at least not in any way that supporters or critics took seriously, or were meant to. He spoke about antisemitism – once he had to – only ever in the abstract, criticising antisemitism and antisemitic acts without condemning those who carried them out, without calling those who committed those acts, said those things, posted those images, antisemitic.

And then I started noticing that he never condemned anyone as antisemitic. He’d say they were wrong, that he disagreed with them, but not that they were antisemitic, not that they were antisemites. It was kind of like watching someone condemn a lynching without criticising the KKK as racists. (NB the ex-Grand Wizard of the KKK openly praised and praises Corbyn re claiming his election as leader was a sign that people were recognising “Zionist power” and “Jewish establishment power”.)

A month later, I got the opportunity to speak to Corbyn, on a Radio 4 phone in they held with all the Labour Party leadership candidates.

I came away from the phone call even more convinced that at best – at best! – he didn’t give a shit about others’ antisemitism. He cared that no one identified him as an antisemite, but his supporters?

He claimed, repeatedly, that any antisemites didn’t speak for him, but as others have observed equally repeatedly, but with far more justification, the antisemites are convinced that he speaks for them.

And as to whether he personally was antisemitic?

Well, I wrote the following hypothetical offer to those who claim he’s not.

A right-wing MP, proud to be on the hard right of the tory party never makes an overly racist statement himself… but platform shares with known racists, hosts them in parliament, says it’s his pleasure & honour to host his friends & it’s a pity the govt banned other white pride racists (he thinks that a big mistake). He gives tv interviews to affiliates of white power organisations, and defends white pride people as “honoured citizens” “dedicated to peace and justice”.

This man on the hard right of the Tory party makes statements against racism, but only in the abstract, condemning lynchings but never criticising those who carry them out. The closest he comes is saying in interviews that he doesn’t always agree with them.

This right wing Tory MP says a man who wrote that “blacks are racially inferior & want to take over the white race” is an honourable man and he looks forward to having him for tea at the Commons.

What would you say of this right wing Tory? Racist or no?

(And if you’re British, and the name John Carlisle springs to mind reading that, well, you’re not alone…)

But here’s the thing: all of the stuff in that hypothetical above? There are direct parallels to stuff Corbyn’s done, said and advocated.

And that was before blatant, clear, evidence started coming later out of his personal use of antisemitic tropes.

(And as previous posts in this run have shown, use of an age old antisemitic trope, a classic sterotype, used to demonise Jews for centuries doesn’t cease to be antisemitic merely because someone says ‘zionist’ or ‘israel’ instead of ‘Jew‘.)

But anyway, Corbyn won the leadership, convincingly. Wasn’t even close.

And, as I’d discussed with the chair and secretary of the CLP, I resigned from the party, four months after I’d joined it. I quit a few hours after having been in the hall watching him win the leadership. And I wrote about why here, in the third post above; in sadness, slightly scared, but mainly upset.

I resigned because I could see what was about to happen, what was going to happen.

I resigned because I knew from that moment that antisemitism would no longer be an automatic deal-breaker for membership in Labour, nor even to hold appointed or elected position within the Labour Party.

I resigned because I couldn’t stomach the idea of belonging to a party led by a man who welcomed antisemites, who campaigned for them, defended them, supported them.

And, since 2015, he’s continued to do so. He’s continued to defend antisemites, continued to campaign with antisemites, continued to defend antisemites, to call them comrade and brother, and to let his advocates, his surrogates, promote antisemitic conspiracy theories, to trivialise antisemitism, to allege conspiracism… and not done a single, meaningful thing to stop them.

Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected Leader in 2016.

And despite losing that general election he won in 2017, he’s still there.

And he’s likely – despite the huge number of times over the past two years that I’ve been assured otherwise – to be there, leading Labour, at the next election.

Because every time more evidence comes out of his personal actions, his own defences of antisemites, there’s always an excuse.

  • “No, no, he didn’t mean that,” his defenders will say, after previously maintaining that he’s a decent honest man who always says what he means, and means what he says.
  • “No, no, he didn’t lie; you misunderstood his statement.”
  • “No, no, the moment he found out that Paul Eisen was a holocaust denier, he stopped attending his [non-holocaust related] events. The photos of him attending afterwards? Smears!”
  • “No, no, he doesn’t agree with the person who promoted the Blood Libel; he just defended and campaigned for him”
  • “No, no, he didn’t say ‘Jews’ don’t understand irony despite living all their lives in Britain, he said ‘zionists’ don’t even though that made no sense whatsoever…”
  • “No, No, he doesn’t agree with the antisemitic statements made… and he said so at the time; It’s just an unfortunate coincidence that no records exist of that…”

And “how dare you attack an anti-racist?”

Yeah. Right. An anti-racist (except when it comes to antisemitism) who’s spent his life speaking out against racism (except when it comes to antisemitism) and who condemns racists (except when it comes to antisemites) and who called racists… racist! (except when it comes to antisemites)

And Labour continues to re-admit antisemitic member, after antisemitic member, continues to lift the suspensions of antisemitic councillors and activists, and those who do get expelled? Labour never says they’re ejected because they’re antisemitic.

And activists, Corbyn fans, continue to blame Jews for the antisemitism and claim it’s mostly malicious claims.

And that’s mostly why I’m dreading the election. (See, you didn’t think I’d get back to that, did you? Ah, ye of little faith.)

Because after four years of Corbyn-led Labour, I just don’t believe that anyone with the slightest interest, or who’s paid the slightest bit of attention, is unaware of Corbyn’s at best apathy towards, and supreme indifference to, other’s antisemitism, and his personal complicity and use of antisemitism. I just don’t believe it.

Which means that if people are voting Labour they either a) don’t care about all of that, b) they actively agree with it, or c) they think it’s a price worth paying to get Corbyn into Downing Street. None of those fills me with anything other that unfettered dread and unmitigated fear.

Corbyn supporters aren’t short of fucking good reasons to not vote for the Tories. Hell, I agree with most, the overwhelming majority, of those reasons. They’re very good reasons to not vote Conservative.

But I’ve got a pretty fucking good reason to not vote Labour while Corbyn et al run the shop.

And that’s mostly why I’m dreading the election.

Before any election campaign has even started, I’ve already been accused that by not voting Labour, by not trying to make Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister, I’m choosing ‘the jews’ over the poor, the disabled, the ill… which of course ignores that there are poor Jews, ill Jews, disabled Jews.

Before any election campaign has even started, I’ve already been accused of being a paid Israeli agent, of knowing that Corbyn’s a decent, honest man, and of maliciously making up claims of antisemitism inside Labour.

During Corbyn’s tenure as party leader, I’ve been told that even if I believed Labour was antisemitic ‘head to toe’ (not a claim I’ve made) that as a Jew I should still vote Labour “because the Tories are worse”. Think about that for a moment: I was told that, as a Jew, I should vote for an antisemitic party.

Through the looking glass? We’re through a whole fucking factory of mirrors.

And that’s mostly why I’m dreading the election.

Because while, right now, I might – just about – be able to handle the idea of someone I know and like voting Labour, I genuinely don’t know if I can handle, if I could handle, people I know and like advocating others to vote Labour, working for Labour MPs, campaigning for Labour, campaigning to put Jeremy Corbyn in Number Ten Downing Street.

It’ll end friendships. It will damage, fracture, and end some of my friendships, people I’ve been friends with for years… in some cases, decades.

Because at best, they’ll effectively be saying “I don’t care about antisemitism against you and yours, budgie” “or well, yes, it’s not nice but it’s a price worth paying to get Corbyn and Labour into Number Ten”.

And at worst they’ll be saying “I agree with him when he uses antisemitic tropes about ‘hidden hands’ of influence and when he supports antisemites.”

But yeah, that’s why I’m dreading the next election.

 

It’s Tuesday tomorrow. If you’ve been following the blog through the run, you know what’s occuring tomorrow. if not, then all I’ll say is the usual… which is, of course, “something else tomorrow.”

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.