Category Archives: politics

Nothing Will Come of Nothing…

… speak again.’   So says Lear to Cordelia – and pretty soon the government are going to have to say it to the electorate, ‘speak again – because we didn’t quite hear you the first time.  You weren’t enunciating properly.   You were trying to say too many things at once and we couldn’t make out what you wanted.’

Still, muddled as the result is, some things are pretty clear: first, that most commentators vastly underestimated Corbyn and his supporters.  I had felt for a long time that the press were overplaying their hand and that by getting out and talking directly to the public, JC could get past them.

https://wordpress.com/post/lizardyoga.wordpress.com/9023

And I’ve largely been proved right: the press threw everything they had at Corbyn and he still increased Labour’s share of the vote by 10% and the number of seats to 262, even winning ‘unwinnable’ seats like Canterbury and – what the hell? – Kensington.  Kensington!!

His critics are queuing up now to apologise and say they misjudged him: Owen Smith, Alistair Campbell, Yvette Cooper and so many others are falling over themselves to apologise and offer to serve in the shadow cabinet.  Likewise media commentators: Jon Snow yesterday and said ‘I know nothing about elections,’ and even the BBC has admitted its error, Laura Kuenssberg once again causing me to shout at the screen when she said that Corbyn had been subjected to unfair criticism.  ‘Yes, by you!’ I yelled.

We still need to win an election; but that is looking increasingly achievable now.  May’s hold on power is so tenuous and her coalition so weak and misguided that it is not a matter of whether she goes, but when.  Under any other circumstances than these, a Prime Minister who had called an election to increase their mandate and had instead lost seats would have to resign, not carry on as though nothing had happened.  Whether it be days, weeks or months; whether it be a leadership election or a vote of no confidence, she will be out.  And when there is an election Labour, with its membership now at 800,000 and rising (more than 150,000 new members since the election), are poised to win – and win decisively.  I watched JC on television yesterday: he looked poised, relaxed, assured and confident.  It was a pleasure to see.

Now is not the time for recriminations.  Now is the time to form a government.  JC4PM!

Kirk out

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Please Stand By. Calculating the Results of Your Election. Please Stand By…

Please stand by: conservative spokespersons are trying to find something positive to say about the election.  Meanwhile here is some light music:

The story so far:

We had an election.  Nobody won a majority.  Lots of people wanted the Maybot to resign but instead she went to see the Queen and had tea.  Here is a reconstruction of their conversation:

Maybot:  Your Majesty.

Queen:  Mrs Maybot.  One understands you have called an election to increase your majority and have in fact decreased it, causing one some concern as to your sanity.

Maybot:  Yes, your Majesty.

Queen:  Well, what have you got to say for yourself?

Maybot:  I know I’ve been naughty but please can I form a government with my friends from Northern Ireland?

Queen:  Won’t that threaten the peace process?

Maybot:  No.  Absolutely not.  Strong and stable, strong and stable.

Queen:  Oh all right then.

Meanwhile in another corner of London Tony Blair emerges from the cupboard where he has been held hostage.  He emerges blinking into the daylight to learn the news that parliament is hung and that his bete noir (or rouge) the Corbynista, has smashed his way to an increased share of the vote.  Just as he is swallowing this indigestible news, a reporter approaches.

‘Mr Blair?  What’s your reaction to the news?  Do you regret being so critical of Mr Corbyn?  Would you like publicly to apologise like Owen Smith and Yvette Cooper?  Mr Blair?  Mr Blair?’

But Blair has slunk off and is nowhere to be seen.  Latest reports indicate he is holed up in a bunker plotting his return to power.

More on this as it emerges.  Meanwhile back to the studio.

Kirk out

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The People Have Spoken – Sort Of

Yes, the people have spoken.  But we’re still trying to work out exactly what it is they’ve said.  Before I try to untangle it, there are some features of this election that are fairly clear:

First, young people were key.  Everyone thought they wouldn’t bother: everyone was wrong.  Young people came out and voted in large numbers, boosting the turnout in many places by students and young voters.   When I turned up to vote I was told they’d been very busy due to large numbers of students from the nearby college and university: ‘we’ve never seen anything like it,’ said one member of staff.  When our candidate went to the university he was met by 2000 students going in to exams, many of whom shook his hand and said they’d voted for him (in the end he failed to get in, though he halved Nicky Morgan’s majority.)

Second: the turnout was high.  In general there was a high degree of engagement in this election, due in part to Brexit but on the left to urgent concerns about the NHS and social care, and the privatisation of public services.  Overall the turnout was nearly 69%, more than two points higher than 2015.

Third, and for me most important: Jeremy Corbyn.  Here was an elected leader who from the word go had been derided, attacked, slandered and smeared by the press; treated unfairly by the BBC and undermined by his own party.  No sooner was he elected than they set up someone to oust him; he was given no chance in this election.  many feared defeat worse than 2015.  But they were wrong.  Commentator after commentator has (finally!) paid respect to how he has fought and won seats to turn the election round.  Labour have taken key seats from the Tories and although they have not gained enough to be the largest party, it is not over yet.  If all falls apart in the Tory camp we are waiting in the wings to form a minority government.  This, in my view, shows what can happen when, under election rules, the media are forced to report more fairly on the issues.  In the space of weeks, JC turned from a hate figure to someone whose policies and campaigning proved massively popular, attracting tens of thousands to public rallies and millions more on live feeds.  Canterbury, which has been Tory since Chaucer, became Labour; Derby North returned to Labour and many others were won or retained while Tory strongholds were threatened.  Amber Rudd nearly lost her seat in Hastings and the Kensington result has yet to come in because they’ve had a thousand recounts and the staff are all comatose.

So where are we?  To be honest, nobody knows.  May has no intention of resigning, though resignation would seem to be indicated, partly because there is no obvious leader to take over and partly because to resign might, it is suggested, precipitate another election.  And another election is the last thing anyone wants right now.

So at the moment it looks like the Tories will try to do a deal with the DUP.  This is not great, but I for one am massively relieved that they didn’t get an increased majority, since it looks like the end to privatisation of the NHS, the end to a hard Brexit and – please god – the end to Murdoch and Dacre dictating the results of elections.

Phew!

I am now exhausted.  I don’t know how politicians do it.

Kirk out

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How Does Your Garden Vote?

What with my time being divided between canvassing and gardening at the moment, it was inevitable I should eventually get round to thinking of the election in terms of gardening.

The other day we were having a discussion with someone on Facebook about manifestos: OH had opined that the Conservative one seemed devoid of content and asked for opinions from Tory voters, to which one friend replied that the point of Conservatism is precisely not to have ideas but to allow the economy to function on its own: to, as it were, find its own level.  The phrase ‘find its own level’ is reminiscent of water, but my mind turned to gardens.

So, imagine if you will, our nation as a garden.  When you start out, there seem to be two ways to go.  You can try to control everything: you can spray every weed, get everything out of your lawn that is not grass, have neat rows of flowers and veg and not a single weed.  This looks scarily controlled, and leaves no space for spontaneity or creativity.  In political terms, this represents total state control as practised by the Soviet Union and others (I won’t call it communism because it wasn’t).

Alternatively, you can practise the opposite policy of unfettered capitalism, and leave the garden to regulate itself.  Initially, this allows for plenty of spontaneity; but after a while the weeds take over and you end up with a garden full of the strongest, most invasive weeds – brambles, horsetail, nettles, dandelions and poison ivy.  Nothing else is allowed to flourish, and useful flowers and veg are throttled.  And so it is that capitalism swallows everything: public services, health, even democracy itself if we let it.

What we need, I suggest, is a mixture of the two: we need judicious pruning and weeding for beneficial plants to flourish; we need a zero-tolerance policy towards brambles, ivy and of course horsetail; and for other, somewhat beneficial weeds such as dandelions and nettles, we allow them to grow in moderation and in the right place.  This represents a mixed economy and in my view, allows the best of both approaches.

We need a mixed economy in order to flourish.  Capitalism has its place: innovation and creativity often flourish here.  We need creative people like Dyson, to name one person off the top of my head.  And public ownership has its place: some industries are natural monopolies, and essential services ought to be run in the public interest.

So, to summarise: if profit is allowed to permeate everything you get corruption.  If the state controls everything you can get stagnation.  Some things ought to be nationalised, most industries should stay privately run, and that way everything in the garden will grow in a balanced environment.

It’s not perfect, but what is?  A mixed economy is like democracy: it’s the worst system apart from all the rest.

Kirk out

 

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Getting in a Flap for Labour

We’re ramping up towards the election now (as if you didn’t know) and Corbyn is doing far better than anyone thought he would.  It’s not over yet though, and every vote counts; to which end I have been out leafletting.  Now, as I remember from my days on the Christmas post (every student did a stint on the Christmas post in the ’70’s) letter-boxes come in all shapes and sizes.  Well, not all shapes exactly; but they vary more than you might think: and not all of them are designed for the helpful transition of post from hand to doormat.

It is Labour party policy to have a spatula handy for poking leaflets through and avoiding the nipping of fingers by over-eager dogs.  But even with a handy spatula it is not a piece of cake.  Sure, there are the nice and easy letter-boxes that say come on in; a single flap that opens and closes with the ease of a well-oiled door.  But these are few and far between, and the older ones seem designed to accept nothing larger than a business card, causing valuable leaflets to be folded or squished.  But it gets worse.  Modern letter-boxes have two flaps: an outer one which you lift, and an inner one which you have to push against.  Between these flaps sit two sets of bristles, designed presumably to remove any stray dirt from the post.  It can be quite a performance getting a single leaflet through these letter-boxes; but some houses are not content with this level of difficulty and add a ferocious hinge meaning that if the dog doesn’t get you the letterbox will.

Honestly, don’t people want post?  You begin to wonder: for in addition to the letter-box problem, in richer areas you first have to play ‘hunt the door’.  Some houses seem to delight in hiding their front doors behind a hedge or round a twiddly wall – or else you have to guess which side of the house it’s on, and inevitably it’s not the side you try first.  This seems to me almost a sort of arrogance, like not signposting the entrance to some exclusive club.

But all is not straightforward in poorer areas either; many HMO’s (houses in multiple occupation) have the front rooms as a bedroom and ask you to trudge down an alleyway and locate a postbox at the back.

And – I will never again do this on bin-day: everybody’s bins were in the way.

Anyway, all local households have been issued with a Labour party leaflet which I hope and trust they will read, mark, learn and inwardly digest before going out to vote.

To vote Labour!

Kirk out

 

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Hust! Hust! O Hust!

It’s a funny word, hustings.  It sounds like Hastings, which of course means ‘things said on the spur of the moment to explain to someone who comes into a room unexpectedly, precisely what you are doing.’

http://tmoliff.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/hastings-pln.html

Which, now I come to think of it, may not be too different from Hustings: policies made up on the spur of the moment to explain to electors who come into the room precisely what you plan to do after the election.

Be that as it may (with a small ‘m’, since May declines to debate with anyone), last night’s hustings in Loughborough were by all accounts much more civilised than the TV debate.  I have yet to catch up with this as my arse was on a chair in St Peter’s Centre, listening to five local candidates set out their stall.  It was a good debate, with questions previously submitted (mine didn’t get in, sadly, though I did squeeze in a comment) – and if the mood of that meeting is anything to go by, the Tories will get short shrift.  Nicky Morgan comes across as pleasant and reasonable: she is well-thought of locally and in my seven months here I have come across her three or four times at local events.  So far so good: but her voting record is appalling; she lives in a six-bedroom house in the county and frankly I wouldn’t trust her as far as I could throw her: underneath the charm there is a sly manipulative streak that I do not like.

It is fairly typical I suppose that out of the five candidates we know three personally: Phillip Leicester of the Greens is a stalwart of Friday Room discussion group and spoke eloquently and passionately about Green policies and the need for a more representative system than ‘first past the post’.  Jewel Miah, the Labour candidate and a local guy, spoke well though I could have wished for a tad more passion, and David Walker, who I know from Quaker Meeting, was also eloquent and persuasive.  In addition to Nicky Morgan (sad that the only woman there was a Tory) was the UKIP guy who spoke somewhat haltingly didn’t seem to persuade many people, though he was, by UKIP standards, fairly civilised.

I was determined to get in a comment about the NHS and seized my chance in the middle of a question about public services, expressing my deep concern about the likelihood of it being parcelled up and sold off to ‘the likes of Richard Branson and US insurance companies.’  This got a huge round of applause, which was very heartening.

So all in all, a good hust.  But it is important to remember that this was an event organised by Loughborough churches and as such may not represent the town as a whole.

But I’m hopeful.  I get more hopeful with every day.

Vote Labour (or anyone to get the Tories out)

Kirk out

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All our Daughters? Desperately Seeking Meaning in Manchester

Like many of us I woke this morning to the news that another terror attack has happened in Manchester.  I guess this one was a little closer to home, in that our daughter goes to Manchester a lot, and theoretically could have been involved.  Imagining a loved one caught up in such an event brings it close to your heart in a way that no statistics can.  I got the news via Facebook messenger from our daughter (she’s in Leicester right now, so I wouldn’t have worried) and then went to other news sites for details.  I now know as much as anyone about what happened.  Presumably details will emerge of the who and the how; presumably as usual the why will remain a mystery.

So I go on Facebook briefly – and immediately I am assaulted by a scattering of comments about Muslims, not from friends (who would be immediately unfriended) but by members of groups I belong to.  I won’t repeat what the comments said, since they were fairly predictable; but it goes to the heart of my problems about Facebook.  I go there every day because I want to communicate with friends, to share life events, to find out what my children are up to, and to catch up with the latest news in, for example, the Labour Party (no campaigning today as a mark of respect.)  Yet every day I am assaulted – and that is not too strong a word – by hatred, vitriol, insults and prejudice.  When I post even the mildest of comments I am unsure whether it might, out of nowhere, receive an aggressive response from someone who has read into it a meaning which I never intended.

I’ve tried various responses to this: preventive, ie trying to make my meaning as clear as possible; asking questions, eg when someone posts an aggressive comment, asking why they think as they do, and most effective of all, hiding, unfollowing and in extreme cases, blocking.  I am careful to mind my mental health when on Facebook, and when posts have a detrimental effect on me, I hide them or unfollow the conversation.

All this seems as nothing in the face of an event like last night’s: and yet it is somehow relevant.  How do we deal with atrocities like this?  I am aware that, as mere bystanders, we don’t have to deal with very much, and yet there are our own feelings and responses, and those of others with whom we interact.  So how do we deal with the inevitable upsurge in hatred and prejudice?  Here are some ideas:

Hiding and unfollowing: don’t read the tabloids or follow the trolls.  The tabloids have vested interests and are not open to argument, and the trolls just want the attention.

Asking questions: when in contact with far-right groups, ask mild, polite questions.  Why do you think that?  What makes you say that?  Which particular aspects of sharia law do you disagree with?  Their beliefs are usually unfocussed and emotional – specific questions can cut into that.

Stand alongside the persecuted: when witnessing a verbal attack on someone, stand alongside them.  Ask if they are OK, or strike up a conversation.  (Naturally a physical attack needs to trigger a call to the police.)

Difficult though it is, avoid rage and vitriol: these achieve nothing beyond raising your own blood pressure.  As the Buddha says, trying to hurt someone with anger is like throwing a spear made of fire.  You burn your own hand first.  If situations and people enrage you, come back when you’re calmer and ask questions.  Above all, don’t get into arguments; debate peacefully.

The scenario in Manchester reminded me of Arthur Miller’s play, ‘All My Sons.’  A corrupt aircraft manufacturer allows faulty parts to be fitted into planes, resulting in the death of young pilots, one of whom turns out to be his son.  The title of the play comes from his final recognition that there is no difference between his son and the others: that they were ‘all his sons.’

And there’s the rub.  My daughter, thank god, was not in Manchester last night.  But other daughters were.  All our daughters were.

Kirk out

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