Notes on an election campaign

Source: Unsplash.com

 

It has to be said: this one’s a bit of a joke

 
Boris is getting himself in a twist as to whether he’s building 40 new hospitals or 6, or whether it’s actually just refurbishment, whether we’re going to have 50,000 nurses or actually 19,000. He really doesn’t have anything to say other than ‘let’s get Brexit done’!  ‘Unleash Britain’s potential’!  He promises a high level of investment in the NHS, in Education, in apprenticeship etc, all the usual stuff.
 
 
 
Mr Corbyn ( funny how we call Boris by his Christian name but with Jeremy we are more polite) promises unprecedented levels of spending, an old socialist policy, although possibly we’ve never seen it on this scale, billions being thrown around like confetti (yes that’s a cliche but it fits) to fix just about every problem we face.  When he runs out he’ll just borrow some more! On Brexit he declares himself neutral – an ‘honest broker’ to bring the country back together. It’s more likely that he is waiting to see how the land lies before he commits himself.
 
 
The Liberal Democrat’s promise to stop Brexit and revoke Article 50 is anti democratic. It ignores the wishes of every leave voter.  It’s totally unrealistic to imagine that they are going to vote for this. The thing that is most striking about their campaign though, is the constant repetition by Ms Swinson that she’s not putting Boris back in Downing Street, but she’s not going to put Mr Corbyn there either.  She does not say who is going to be there. I think she really thinks that she could be going there instead!
 
 
In the Question Time session last week, the only party leader to acquit herself reasonably well was SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon.  There were a lot of Scots in the audience who were able to get answers to their questions. All well and good. For the rest of us the important thing is her insistence on another Independence referendum. Again this is anti democratic as they’ve already had one and voted to stay in the Union.  Both Johnson and Corbyn would deny her that, although Corbyn has said not in his first two years then he sort of fluffed a bit and said not in his first Parliament. About the only thing they agree on! Their  relevance in the campaign is what they if they’re holding the balance of power.  Ms Sturgeon says she’ll work with anyone except Boris!
 
 
Except, of course, none of this is a joke.  It’s uncertain, muddled and therefore confusing.  It’s frightening or exciting depending on where you stand.  None of us can see how this is all going to pan out. It’ll probably go right to the wire before we know.
 
 
 
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

An open letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Boris

You have me seriously worried and confused. For the first time since I was eligible to vote in 1974, I don’t know what to do. Things were quite tough then. A Tory government under Edward Heath was struggling with a miner’s strike and those of us in work had to endure the three-day week, the constriction of power to commercial premises, meaning no light and no heating, this went on for three months January to March, the coldest time. There was an oil crisis, economic crisis, and the Trades Unions ruled the roost.

Women in the office of a duvet manufacturing firm use quilts to keep themselves warm while they work
Photograph: Evening Standard/Getty

There were two elections that year resulting in a Labour government. Strangely, Jeremy Corbyn was present during this time as well, up on the hustings with his left-wing Union friends. I don’t think he’s changed much.

I digress. The reason I am confused. For the first time in my life I don’t know who to vote for. I have been Tory to my roots all my voting life. I have worked for the Party, I stood for my local Council twice, and managed to halve the labour vote in my Ward, in what was then a fiercely loyal Labour seat. I have never doubted where my vote should go.

But now I do doubt. My Party has disappeared and in its place has arisen right-wing Populist politics. I associated this with the UKIP Party in the last two elections and in the referendum campaign. The only reason we had a referendum, as I see it, was that David Cameron was running scared from Nigel Farage and his cronies. We’ve had MP’s chucked out because they refused to vote with the Government, Parliament unlawfully prorogued, and Senior Tories and others stepping out of Politics altogether. Others have resigned in disgust and are now standing as independents, relying on their personal constituency vote.

The reason I am worried. Boris, I’m really sorry, but I don’t trust a word that comes out of your Eton-educated mouth. You want to ‘get Brexit done’, a phrase you repeat over and over, without specifically clarifying what it actually means. According to more balanced opinion, it probably means years and years of hanging on the edge of Europe trying to negotiate a trade deal (a bit dramatic but you get my drift).

In the meantime, you want to negotiate a trade deal with the US. This is the thing I am most worried about. Another one of your oft repeated phrases is ‘the NHS is not for sale’. I just don’t believe you. Jeremy Corbyn says it too, but I’m more inclined to believe him (I’m not quite sure why).

I could not bear to see our NHS broken up and sold out to American global corporations. I think you would do it. Despite your statements and those of Mr Trump on the matter and I quote “ We wouldn’t even be involved in that, no. It’s not for us to have anything to do with your health care system” (Donald Trump speaking on LBC). I am not reassured.

So you can see my dilemma. I voted remain in the referendum because I believe in European citizenship and free movement. However, I also believe strongly in democracy, the referendum was a democratic vote and the result should be honoured.

Notwithstanding that, the only Party open to me as a Remainer is the Liberal Democrats. But this really is a tactical vote, as they have little chance of gaining a working majority. I don’t like tactical voting, I think it’s a wasted vote.

Putting on my Politics graduate hat on for a moment (it’s not working very well just now) I think we may end up with a hung Parliament, which will solve nothing, and it may well be that a second Referendum is the only answer. Whether that would change the outcome is unknown, but whichever way it went tough decisions would have to be made. This could mean we end up back at square one. Another scenario is that the Tories gain enough from the election for a working majority. This is when effective and coherent opposition will be necessary. A third scenario is a Party like the Scottish National Party become ‘king-makers’ because they hold the balance of power.

So, the choice is stark. Do I go with my heart, forever Tory, or with my head which tells me to vote Lib Dem’s in the hope that we get a second referendum (which I don’t want, it goes against my Democratic principals). It is an impossible choice. Vote Labour I hear whispering in my head, but I would rather gouge my own eyes out!

So, Boris, this is how I feel. I’m sure I’m not alone. I’ll just keep watching the campaign unfold, and hope the sometime in the next few weeks something helps me make up my mind.

Photo courtesy of news.sky.com

Note to my American friends: Please don’t be offended by my references to President Trump and American Corporations

In whom do we trust?

So, we have a general election in December close to Christmas, the first since 1923. All the Parties have launched their campaigns.

Photo by Elliott Stallion on Unsplash

So, where do they all stand?

The Liberal Democrats have called themselves ‘the Remain Party’ In other words for them it’s all about revoking Article 50 and pretending that the democratic vote didn’t happen and if we vote for them it’ll be ok because everything will go back to normal — whatever that is!

The Labour Party can’t make up their minds whether they want Brexit or not and would offer a second referendum if elected, whilst at the same time getting Brexit done with a new deal in six months! They have unveiled an apparent spend, spend, borrow, spend some more………typical socialist economics we have seen before.

All Boris has said so far is that he doesn’t want an election but nevertheless he will get us out of the EU by the end of January 2020. But he has announced major spending plans for the NHS, the Police and infrastructure. A good and proper end to austerity, which they have put the country through for years. Everybody forgets that at the end of the last Labour era how much we were in debt!

Nigel Farage has popped up again to make sure nobody forgets him, and he is still peddling the same message — he is the man of the people and the only one who understands how much everyone (except the 48% who voted to remain) wants to leave Europe. Just go down the pub Nigel!

But Seriously…

So, already the sparring has started. From each, but particularly Corbyn, attacking each other seems to have set the tone. However much they pretend otherwise (save the Lib Dems) this is going to be a Brexit election. People are generally fed up with three years of uncertainty and interviews with the general public would appear to show that there is a general shift towards Boris Johnson as the man who will relieve us all of this burden. However, it must be remembered that this is a minute sample of roughly 50 million voters.

Mostly there is a sense of confusion. The Labour Party insists that Boris‘ plan is to sell the NHS out to major US corporations. In this Jeremy and Boris have the same message constantly uttered ‘the NHS is not for sale’. Who do we trust? Boris has lost the trust of many over his Brexit deal and it’s solution for Northern Ireland, whereas as Jeremy is an unknown quantity never having had the chance to be tested on his trustworthiness. It depends very much on which Party the voters trust to deliver Brexit, as well safeguarding the NHS, dealing with climate change, and delivering a strong economy.

Trust is a very important concept in politics. Ordinary people can be heard asking the question ‘who can we trust?’ Or ‘how can we trust Boris Johnson?’ . The sad thing is that people in this country have lost their trust in our democracy. The Parties have an opportunity to try to restore this trust. If all this election comes down to is squabbling and scoring points, as in recent campaigns, any trust that is left will be further eroded.

There is a real chance we will end up with a hung Parliament again. This will deny us the chance to move on from this ghastliness that we have endured over the past few years. Unlike others I don’t believe our democracy, system or Parliament is ‘broken’ but we do need a government with a working majority at the very least. It is very difficult to predict who are the best people to put into government.

This is the most important election we have had in 40 years. Any government we elect will potentially govern for five years. We have got to get it right.

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Why can’t I decide…………

Photo by Michal Vrba on Unsplash

 

It occurred to me last night, that if we have a General Election fairly soon, I don’t know who I’d vote for. I’m a lifelong Tory voter, although I suspect that had the Liberals had been a viable option, I would have voted for them. I’m talking about the old style Liberals of Joe Grimond and, God help us, Jeremy Thorpe.

In the absence of a viable Liberal option, and probably because my parents did, I voted Tory. My first voting experience came in 1974, the year of two elections, the Miners strike (the first one), the three day week (when commercial consumption of electricity was limited to three days a week), which meant working in a very cold office by candlelight and no electric typewriters! In fact that was a challenging time in British politics and bears some similarities to today. Look at this from Wikipedia:

‘The election of February that year had produced an unexpected hung parliament. Coalition talks between the Conservatives and other parties such as the Liberals and the Ulster Unionists failed, allowing Labour leader Harold Wilson to form a minority government’

So, I would describe myself as a left-wing Tory, as opposed to my father whom I would describe as a High Tory, a throwback from the nineteenth century! This has remained my position. But now, my beliefs are being severely tested.

I cannot accept that a Conservative and Unionist (to give the Party it’s proper name) Prime Minister would deliberately and without compunction undermine the stability of the Union.

By putting a border down the Irish Sea he will do exactly that. It’s clear that the DUP feels betrayed by Boris’s Brexit deal, and well they might. The problem is that unless they can get their Assembly up and running they are subject to rule from Westminster.

I would never vote Labour. Jeremy Corbyn is a dangerous man, I remember him in the ‘70s and his alliances with the Trades Unions and others. It was a politically toxic era and he was right in the thick of it.

So, that leaves the Lib-dems. Apart from the fact that they are still a minority group, I actually disagree with them. I have always been against a second Referendum as anti-democratic. A democratic vote is just that and must be respected. Although I have to say that as we have moved through this process I have sometimes thought it might be the only way, but I cannot disregard what, for me, is a fundamental belief.

There are other reasons why a second Referendum is not a good idea. Firstly, we cannot deny Scotland a second vote on Independence if we then go on to have one ourselves. Second, we could find the result comes out the same and then what happens? Third, has anyone in the whole country got the appetite for it?

If, as seems likely, we will have a General Election sometime soon, I really don’t know what I’m going to do!

 

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Where do we go from here?

Photo courtesy of BBC News

It’s not over yet

I have spent the morning watching the debate in the House of Commons about the Brexit deal. It’s an education in Parliamentary procedure. This is because an amendment was laid down this morning by Oliver Letwin (an old thorn in the side?) which, if voted through, would delay Brexit further.

The law states (the Benn Act 2019) that if this were to happen the Prime Minister must, at 11 pm tonight, send a letter to the European Union to ask for an extension to Brexit, delaying it until 31st January 2020. This is well known to everyone except, apparently, the Prime Minister!

Mr Johnson is, of course, refusing to do this. He is supremely confident, believing that he can get the legislation done and dusted by his magic date – 31st October. This would seem highly unlikely, given it has to pass through both houses

There is now a cacophony of speculation, apparent messages from sources inside No 10 , comment from various experts, trying to work out what will happen next.

As predicted yesterday, it is the Democratic Unionist Party who have complained bitterly about the proposed deal which puts a border down the Irish Sea. This was always going to be a problem.

There is a sense that something big has happened today. The thing is that no one is quite sure what it means. All we know is that we have not advanced towards an end to this endless and exhausting process.

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

Exported from Medium on October 19, 2019.

O my ….. is the end in sight

Let’s not get too excited!

Photo by Valentin B. Kremer on Unsplash

So, Boris has got his deal ensuring his place in history. Yesterday, in Brussels, lots of back slapping, hand clapping and, frankly rather distasteful, kissing!

There is a sense that this has all been rather rushed, and it’s important to take a step back and look at how this deal was reached.

Basically the Prime Minister has rehashed the May deal with only one real change – replacing the so-called ‘back-stop’ with a customs border in the Irish Sea, something which, in 2018, he stated in the strongest terms, he would never do. This, in many people’s view, undermines the Union of our four nations, as well as the hard-won peace enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement. it also raises the spectre of Scotland, who, if the SNP is to be believed, is champing at the bit to break up the Union.

Parliamentarians of all colours were quickly lining up this morning, to show their support for the deal. Most of this is sheer fatigue, everyone wants it over. Even the MPs who were chucked out of the party for voting against the Prime Minister, were saying they would vote in favour!

On the other hand, some of the less enthusiastic types, were urging caution, and they are right to do so. There plenty in the House of Commons who will vote against the deal. Added to that the fact that the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) will not support anything that separates them from the rest of the UK, or anything that leaves them tied to the EU in any way, it is possible the deal will not get through.

Tomorrow will be an extremely tense day, and possibly momentous. What happens next remains to be seen.

Photo by Dylan Nolte on Unsplash

More Philosophy

Photo courtesy of Dailystoic.com

Since I wrote about the Stoics in my last piece, they seem to be popping up all over the place particularly in the Philosophy section of Medium.com. This a daily digest site with a platform for new and experienced writers to showcase their craft. One name that appears most frequently is that of Epictetus. He was a freed slave who studied Stoicism with the permission of his master, and gained his freedom after the death of Nero. not much is known about his life, other than that he lived a simple life according to the Stoic principles:

Epictetus taught that philosophy is a way of life and not just a theoretical discipline. To Epictetus, all external events are beyond our control; we should accept calmly and dispassionately whatever happens. However, individuals are responsible for their own actions, which they can examine and control through rigorous self-discipline. (Wikipedia)

It would appear, just from the above short extract, why people are talking about him. In our current political morass those in government and Parliament, on all sides and of all persuasions should exercise self-discipline when it comes to discourse. It is absolutely essential when choosing what language (i.e. words and terms) to use, self-control is paramount. The way our media operates should ensure that speakers act responsibly by not using inflammatory language, although it must be said that many politicians use the media for precisely the opposite – to add fuel to the fire! I would definitely point them in the direction of our friend Epictetus

This may seem like stating the obvious but, if , like many people you, dear Readers, are as shocked and disappointed at the behaviour of our politicians as I am, then I am sure you will agree that it needs to be said. The words of Epictetus, quoted above, say it most distinctly.

An ‘unlawful’ Prime Minister

I read over the weekend that Boris Johnson is considering making the Supreme Court a US style partisan affair. Judges would be selected by the government rather than the Monarch. This scares me more than anything else that is happening at the moment. The piece I read was a small paragraph in a sidebar, so as not to appear too important. But nothing would be more damaging to our democracy. In a country that has been one of the earliest and most stable of political systems for centuries and has no written constitution, the separation of powers is how it works. It is all based on the rule of law, of which the separation of the Judiciary from the Executive is key. If you want to destroy democracy in Britain that’s the way to do it!

Photo from bbc.co.uk

On Epictetus: https://plato.stanford.edu. (Stamford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy)https://www.iep.utm.edu (Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy)

The same sources can be used for for more information on the Stoics.