Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Strategy after a Huge Majority

First of all, what a fat lot of good the Fixed Term Parliament Act turned out to be! No need to repeal it, just bypass it. Once a Prime Minister wants a General Election, no one else in direct competition is going to shy away from the challenge. The Scottish Nationalists of course choose their own path. The only difference then is that dissolving Parliament is no longer a prerogative power of the monarch given to the Prime Minister. Quite rightly, Parliament should decide. Nevertheless, the Government controls the business of the House of Commons. By introducing the legislation, the governing party is whipped into compliance, and the rest follow on. The alternative is losing a vote of confidence, by a simple majority.

The upshot is that the timing still suits the Prime Minister and no one else. And it does suit her. She reached a 20% gap over Labour in the opinion poll ratings. Labour was clearly unsure and compromised with itself about leaving the European Union, and up ahead were French and German elections before which nothing much could be negotiated anyway.

Theresa May's reasoning for calling the General Election, that the country was uniting but Westminster was divided, was disingenuous to say the least. The country is not united any more than it was: opinion is going through phases, but not uniting.
And she might have heard that it is the job of the occupants of the Palace of Westminster to hold the Government to account. She sounds dangerously authoritarian, and the language of "give more authority to me" is not how we elect Members of Parliament in parties to choose a Prime Minister.

The real reason she has called an election is precisely the same reason why we who wish to remain in the European Union have to recalculate what to do. Strategy was to use the coming division in her own party, that which she will remove.

The situation is good for her and bleak for many. With the bleating media doing her job for her, and her repeated catch phrase about "my strong leadership versus the chaos of coalition" (which was quite stable previously, liked it or loathed it) - and people always prepared to be like sheep - we are facing a potential landslide Tory majority.

If little piggies flew and Jeremy Corbyn became Prime Minister, he would have bestowed upon him the same powers and privileges of all who become Prime Minister. His Cabinet would argue like any other and be subject to unity of presentation. The same bureaucracy would support it. If it needed a coalition for support, it could be as stable as any other. Like coalitions, it would consider the arguments more openly. Even tacit support could do it. Theresa May on the other hand might be telling her Cabinet what to think, ending up with all the mishaps of those Prime Ministers who think they are the only ones that matter, with a kitchen cabinet or the sofa for decision making. You might get one or two Cabinet member identified as restraining, as in the Blair-Brown duopoly.

Nevertheless a poll for Wales gives the Tories a lead, a situation not seen for 180 years. A vox pop effort in the street shows people saying they "won't vote for him", meaning Corbyn. Tim Farron has to say gay sex is not a sin early on in this campaign to try and fill the hole he jumped into since he became Liberal Democrat leader, now fuelled by tabloid journalism. The original question, I think, was from Channel 4 News when the journalist (Cathy Newman?) could see a difference between Liberal Democrat equality views and those of a card-carrying evangelical Christian. Seeing as he could say "not a sin" now, why didn't he say it then? Well, it is not important, but it shows how trivia can undermine: would he be so conflicted on a bigger matter?

For Corbyn to stop digging, he'd have to resign, with a rapid replacement via some emergency rules. It is not going to happen.

Now the first thing is that the first past the post system, and on the old constituencies, gives Labour some protection from outright disaster. However, there is a tipping point in constituencies, and this was seen in Scotland in 2015. It could be so in Wales. Indeed it could be so throughout large parts of England. I hardly think East Hull will be lost to Labour, despite Karl Turner, but it is quite possible that Hessle and Hull West could go Conservative now that Alan Johnson has retired. And such a tipping point activated would, the time next, start to implode in places like East Hull.

This is bleak stuff and I say it as naturally drawn to the Liberal Democrats. This is because the Liberal Democrats also face such a tipping point upwards, and so they are unlikely to achieve it to restore them back to some 60 seats. Indeed it is very difficult to get more seats once lost.

Here is the problem. The phase we are going through now, for EU opinion, is for those who voted Remain to say 'get on with it and see what happens'. Theresa May knows this. Later on, these voters, and those who just tipped over into leave, will start to see that we should stay in. Those, like me, who think we should stay for both idealistic and practical reasons are in a minority.

Our task was going to be to persuade others to realise we are going to be better staying in the EU. It is the fact on the ground, and we trade with it. If you pay for the benefit of it, and abide by the rules, you ought to have representation through the Council of Ministers, be in the Commission and opining through the Parliament. Coming out will be economically damaging, and the best option is to stay where we are. Coming out, we will not have a say on its level of integration in future, and we will be more and more on its outside, more and more having to accept what happens with no input. And staying in gives us our young people travelling all over Europe for work and non-work reasons, so freely and productively in every way, it gives us scientific co-operation, and it keeps us in this growing confederacy of internal negotiation and peace.

By calling an election now, Theresa May jumps the gun on this. Correct for her: she has taken the initiative.

It's not the other parties that are split, it is hers down the line. Here is how it was going to be: if Cameron had won the referendum - we stayed in - the Tory Party would have split there and then. By losing the vote, the Tory Party became nearly united and Labour looked divided and lost. But down the line, at the point of decision on the deal, the Tories would then split between the single market/ customs union side and the wholly out side. And with an effective majority of around twenty, any decision would have lost Theresa May her majority. The Tory Party this is, not the rest, who were either pro-EU or unsure. Because she might well get a decision at home in favour of the single market, she is deemed to be anti-single market. She is deemed to be attempting to get UKIP votes and seen therefore as 'hard Brexit'. Her policy direction seems to be that way, as calculated.

The problem is the rest of it, of course: the Tories and the dreadful funding/ management/ privatising of the NHS, the social care crisis, the education mess, transport inadequacies, the level of underemployment and fake unemployment figures, and people who are having to go to food banks because of the increasingly cruel social security system. This is what makes it so depressing, and why Corbyn is letting us down when he knows he is such a blockage to at least having a decent sized opposition.

This notion that he is 'moving the debate leftwards' is useless if the representation shrinks. Nothing is being moved, other than down a plughole. This idea of not this election but the next, that he loses of course but the troops will re-elect him leader to 'move the debate left', is just more woe for ordinary folk - yes the ordinary folk who are so foolish to vote for an authoritarian leader or, previously (we hope), the various stupidities of UKIP. Why do turkeys vote for Christmas?

The problem of Corbyn is demonstrated in a number of ways recently. For example, the decision making processes of Labour concluded that the Trident missile system is to be renewed. Corbyn cannot stomach it. So in an interview he doesn't support the policy, and immediately afterwards the Party issues a statement about its policy - contradicting its leader. Or Sir Keir Starmer makes a reasoned statement clarifying EU policy for Labour, after which Kwasi Kwarteng can demolish it in 5 seconds, saying this revision is now agreeing with the Tories and not what Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott had said previously (Channel 4 News, 25th April).

The Labour management of its party is a shambles, and it is this lack of governance that suggests he hasn't got a grip. In other words, the man (Corbyn) is a campaigner, not a leader, and he is simply putting people off. Contrast this with the grip Blair's Labour Party showed before 1997, and indeed throughout, and Blair's media presentation as leader in waiting.

So, those of us whose strategy was to 'educate and wait' regarding the EU opinion have been usurped. May has stolen our time, and we have to rethink. Tony Blair, turning up with his own "I'll vote Labour" and then not quite suggesting tactical voting, is vague - because he too has been caught on the hop. Those who would have formed a grouping to reverse the EU decision have all been overidden in strategy by this early General Election.

So it needs a rethink, and my rethink so far goes something like this. Theresa May actually believes in very little: it is her strength and her weakness. Assuming she gets a landslide, she will think she can do what she likes. Her leave position is more likely to seek economic continuation, close co-operation with the EU. She will probably be realistic over immigration. I don't buy it that she necessarily will do the 'hard Brexit', and for me it's not the point anyway. For me, a soft Brexit is stupid enough, because we may as well have representation and support the ideal in its concrete reality and get all its benefits. She was a Remain; her political power rests on slipping into leadership after the leave vote (she'd have done the same when Cameron would have lost power over divisions had he won; then her remain approach would have been via a General Election as well). So with all power she will be able to adjust back into that fairly uncommitted near leave/ near remain position.

So what happens in this scenario? Well, Blair saw this happen with his majorities: a party that is 'big tent' or stretches too far becomes unwieldy, and starts to split. She will have the manifesto mandate and all that, but the realities are still flexible. So the same division will come about. She will still have a majority, but the party will be increasingly undisciplined simply because it does have that majority. She will get her way, with big chunks of dissent among her own ranks.

Unfortunately, it does mean that those of us who would have us stay in the EU are probably stuffed: except for this. That there is likely to be a transition time in removing. That transition time will mark out the real losses that coming out will demonstrate. It may well be that an election happens during that period, one that involves a Tory Party in deep division and disarray, from which there can be a rethink. It is a small prospect, this, but the EU would not turn away a repentant sinner if the 'events dear boy' come about to change people's minds - where those who would have come out and quickly are disappointed, and those who'd have stayed realise that something has to be done to reverse matters.

Plus the other fact that a huge Tory majority will frighten the Scots. They will have about 45 MPs next time or so, with losses including to the Conservatives (and Liberal Democrats). It would serve Nicola Sturgeon to wait: wait until the arrogance of May as authoritarian and with the huge majority, plus powers of the EU to translate to Westminster and not the devolved assemblies (court cases coming up!), where that huge Westminster majority persuades the Scots that their best option is their own sovereignty, to be shared with the European Union.

For when the UK leaves the European Union, and no longer contributes to decisions that directly affect us, we will have lost not gained sovereignty. We will have lost it to a nowhere place, instead of investing it in supranational institutions.

Meanwhile, really, we should be voting in constituency after constituency in the best way to avoid an elected dictatorship. It is the best we can hope for. But the worst is, probably, a longer term best hope, where the Tory Party falls over itself and digs its own grave.

It is bleak. It is bleak because, in this election, all Theresa May has to do is what she is doing. She goes to occasional staged election gatherings, says very little, says the same thing each time, and leaves. She just needs to show her presence. The rest is left to Labour's mismanagement and lack of place in the current British EU situation, and the arithmetic mountain of Liberal Democrat recovery.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Becoming (One) Unitarian Curator

Easter Day I provide the music again as I have done since 14th February 2010. The plan is to do one more. I want a clean break. It never became possible to 'train up' someone to stand in for me, despite an early attempt, and I have never missed even one for illness. Absences have been planned in advance, usually because of doing other Unitarian activity (e.g at Great Hucklow).

My method of music has been to use Unitarian Choir Hymns CDs, downloadable organ music of public domain hymns from the excellent Clyde McLennan, other Unitarian hymn singing put online, occasional other websites with public domain hymns, and You Tube and similar presentations. In addition I have used incidental music sources. They have been edited and saved on an external hard drive, so that every hymn in Hymns for Living is now covered, most hymns from Sing Your Faith, and a selection of 'No Book' hymns and then a number here and there appearing in other books. Now that I am stopping I have offered the external hard drive for copying to another such drive so that these hymns can be used by any others. As well as the longer term gathering, editing and storing, there is the preparation of a CD for each service and then the actual operating of the equipment so each hymn and each piece of music is delivered as required.

I was also responsible for setting up the original music delivery system so that organ music sounded like organ music filling the room from four corner speakers in good stereo. It had the power to be a loud disco, but has never been so used.

It is a matter of some sensitivity to discuss anything local, because I hope that policies go ahead for growth. For example, there will be live played music from a number of musicians: excellent. Nevertheless, one notes the statistics as ever, and we talk of growth but decline goes on nationally.

So all I am going to say here about is my own outlook. I do not describe myself as Christian because I do not believe in the incarnation of God in the person Jesus of Nazareth. I don't describe myself as liberal Christian either, partly because I don't know what it means. Nevertheless, I have an informed theological outlook at the more liberal and radical end of Christian thinking, and I combine this with a Buddhist view of focus and clarity and a humanist view of dominant working and delivering narratives of what is real.

I have an institutional view of religion: this is to say an attempt to understand historical streams, exposing and recognising the role of myth-making in them. These are invented traditions, claims of apparent historical ballast to legitimise something in the present. I would include Pagan continuity, the Unitarian Open Trust Myth, almost anything involving Iolo Morgannwg or Edward Williams (1747-1826), The 'Land of Song' myth with Welsh Methodism, Anglo-Catholicism in its attempt to claim a history that isn't, and 'Unitarian Church founded 1672' etc.. Doing history means realising that (Reformation style) Arianism had more impact in the Church of England than the Presbyterian stream that became Unitarian (Arian Samuel Clarke did influence the new Essex Church, that failed to attract Anglican defectors), and that Socinianism was never really part of the Presbyterian stream at all - when it was acceptable it had morphed into a kind of liberal, biblicist, materialist ideology. It means knowing that Bohemian Jan Huss had nothing to do with Unitarianism or similar, and reading back into that has more to do with nationalism than liberalism.

Doing such history is a continuous intellectual activity, but it is done in order to look forward. If one argues, for example, that Unitarianism and its predecessors were often binary running arguments, then this gives an understanding of where things are going. Thus the later dominant liberalism built into the Unitarian stream was collectively liturgical but individually subjective, and such a clash has distinct postmodern implications, the collective and individualist each collapsing into the other. This, however, is a very different approach than offered by the mirror opposite postliberal direction into postmodernism. For Karl Barth, faith was the Gospel witness, of revelation in the particular, out of which comes biblical narrative (even Church narrative), and therefore the institutional life creates identifiers of legitimate performance (collective and anti-experience). That is postliberalism. For James Martineau, the Gospel witness was but one example of faith, for which one had collective liturgical poetic spirituality and individual conscience (experience), and therefore a much more widespread basis of religious identity.

Some are trying to go back to the Anabaptists and radical revolutionaries and using this 'Spirit' focus to anchor a definition now. It is inadequate on a number of fronts. Too much happened in between. English Presbyterianism onwards like so much nonconformity was very middle class and mercantilist and then capitalistic in reference. It was also born from intolerant Presbyterianism both here and in its export to America (it wanted religious freedom, but did not offer it to others - not until later on). So the roots are hardly the radical Anabaptism of parts of the continent. Nor, as said, are institutional roots here particularly Socinian; after all, even Transylvanian Unitarianism was not Socinian. And the Anglo-Americans had to rediscover Transylvanian Unitarianism, with its different catechism approach, in the 1830s.

What I do dislike is the other trend seen within Unitarianism of becoming 'spiritual but not religious' - in an attempt to grab a perceived contemporary market. Now a lot of this is New Age and related, and some of it is a kind of commercialised second-rate magic or forms of spiritualised psychologism. This is the "we have moved on" argument. What is wrong with, for me, it is that we always talk collectively, and collective talk comes from traditions and understandings. Revolution is always less revolutionary: the Russian Communists ended up producing a modernist Tsarism, for example. This is because we are culture-carrying institutional types. Even the shrinkage down to handfuls gathering on Sundays does not permit 'starting again' because institutions are incredibly persistent. Memories and past inventions persist. We still deal with a Puritan shadow.

Many of those who say they are 'spiritual but not religious' are soon found to be religious. They do it in a Buddhist setting, and what they get then is some kind of Tibetan or Hinayana or Mahayana or combination presentation. Or indeed Pagans invent a continuity based on certain polytheistic principles and sell their Tarot card readings. One can see how traditions continue and change, such as the Old Catholic into Liberal Catholic morphing that happened also on the edges of Unitarianism and Congregationalism: as in the Kings Weigh House in London and the Unitarian Bishop who ordained many there. So, someone tells me that they are spiritual and not religious, and I will tell them their religious context.

And, incidentally, what is interfaith and ecumenical are indeed those: it takes time or receptive periods for crossovers to happen. It is too easy to exploit and violate the religious rituals of others. Misused and misrepresented, they usually turn out to be simplistic, misdirecting and offending. One annoyance of mine in the past was 'The Buddhist Beatitudes'. Another yuck was The Golden Treasury of the Bible. Of course there is change, and adoption with adaptation. So a little bit of Hinduism and Buddhism came into the Liberal Catholics, and of course Unitarians in their plurality have evolved Christian, humanist, Eastern and Pagan outlooks. These are not mini-versions of those religions, and nor should they be. In Unitarian terms, they are the working out of the decline of Christian sufficiency and explanation, plus the rise of romanticism and its clash with inherited reason. So reason is seen in humanism and most of the Eastern methodology, the Christian became more romantic, as is the Pagan with a bit in the Hindu tales. You can see the running argument still running.

So out of the history comes theology, and all of it follows a sociology of institutions: this means memory realised into the present.

I would admit that my personal reference is to several streams: and so one is the Unitarian outcome, Methodist, a little of the Presbyterian reborn, Anglican theology and ritual, and also Independent Sacramental (Liberal Catholic/ Free Catholic) outcomes. Add to this Western Buddhism and the unofficial Liberal Bahai.  I'm going to pursue these in conversation across cyberspace, and in my own reading and writing.

It is quite usual for some folks even near Unitarian congregations to prefer other contacts. Many join the NUF. Some have a choice of congregations with different tendencies. Not so where I live. I don't want to join any Unitarian body.

My liturgical offerings, my reading, my theologising, has a particular institutional sense to it, a reaching back as well as a reaching forward. In the end, institutions are carried in people's heads. When institutions decline, as indeed Unitarianism has now done to chronic levels, the purpose of the memorialising and translating changes.

I remember having an online conversation with an Intersex woman, who was Jewish and she could have no children. She was part of an extremely small Jewish Messianic group for which Jesus as Messiah "forefilled" (not fulfilled) the Kingdom. Rejected by all the main Jewish groups, considered not Christian enough, and definitely not part of the nasty Christian messianic movements of fundamentalists doing Jewish rituals, the movement had drifted. She had become, she said, a curator of documents and the memory that described their faith. The communal memory was that they had wriggled out of various oppressions that we say crushed Jewish Christianity - starting with the first primitive Jesus family Messianic Jews. The Nazis effectively finished her grouping off, and they have been too weak since. In their few hundreds, they are seeing the end.

This is my view regarding the Unitarians. You see the governing institutions effectively collapsing. They are confronting what the URC and Methodists must tackle soon. The recent General Assembly was well-delivered and there are yet more ideas for spreading the message. The profile is going up. But it does not translate into broad recovery, only into more decline as the age imbalance continues to rise.

When people do come along, they can be told all sorts as to what is Unitarianism. It takes a long time to absorb the religious culture. So many have gone away before they do.

So this is how I see it now. Unitarian sympathisers are curators. I'll do a website with stuff on it and write material. All Unitarian websites now ought to contain resources for understanding. When they don't, they are thin and even illusory. But this is how I view my future: Staying connected, I'm going more freelance, but I'm going to work on these memories and what we keep in our heads as we pass culture on, one to each other and each other to one.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Day We Lose Sovereignty

March 29th 2017 is a tragic moment in the life of the UK. It is when Theresa May, who once set out a cogent argument for staying in the European Union, fires a gun in the form of a letter to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, that could quite simply throw us out of the Union in two years. The reason why the Supreme Court said that this needed Parliamentary approval through legislation is that the letter results in exclusion. "Job Done," Douglas Carwell MP called it.

For some of us, and hopefully more of us as time goes on, the effort has to be that he does not get his 'Job Done': however, for the brakes to go on, it will take the agreement in unanimity of all 27 others in the Council of Ministers. To stay in will probably take a resolution across the institutions of the European Union.

By April the basic outline of the EU position on negotiating should be known, basically whether divorce settlement negotiations preceed trade negotiations. This is how much it costs to come out to meet obligations. In April the European Parliament should express its position as well. The Council of Ministers makes a formal view of its position end of April. Even then the rounds of negotiation, the chapter headings will need to be worked out. Between June and Autumn all this gets fleshed out by the Commission. And this gets us past the French and German elections. It is only in Autumn that real negotiating begins. How long will it all take? If it takes a year, that is long enough, because ratification is involved, and may well involve national parliaments.

The fact is that some governments, or parts of governments, would like to be shot of us, because we have always been the bad boy of Europe. Our influence has been expansion to many members and economic liberalism - which has not worked, set alongside a currency we never joined and never supported. The euro would have benefited from our membership.

The effect of coming out is to lose sovereignty, not gain it. The reason is that if we have all the trading benefits we had before, then we still pay towards them and the only difference is that we have no say in them. There will be this plus the cost of the divorce.

At the same time, a more unity-minded EU will evolve its democratic institutions. It knows about the democratic deficit. But with Britain out, it will be easier (even with some slow lane countries - and frankly, some fascistic tendencies in Hungary and Poland require two speeds at best) to make accountable processes at the centre. The EU will stay confederal for a long time: it will remain principally a co-operative structure with only some 'federal' elements.

So how to put the brakes on. First of all it needs political leadership from a core group that grows. This is now Farron, Clegg, Clarke, Lammy, Heseltine, Morgan, and similar so on. By-elections are likely to be shaped by the referendum. Labour, whose ambiguity and appalling ineffective leadership, hasn't helped but now promises "hand to hand" combat on the government achieving what David Davis, Exiting the EU Secretary, calls gaining the same benefits as we have now. Let's see, because this is going to be the rub of the opposition duty regarding negotiations from now on. Chief folks here will be Labour's Keir Starmer, Nick Clegg and, actually, all of the Scottish Nationalists acting with one voice.

The government for its part no doubt will keep things relatively secret, to reduce the effectiveness of the opposition.

Now I take the view that Theresa May isn't very effective. She can U-turn on anything, including her view of the purpose of political power. Having achieved power, she could have gone to the EU and said we had 52% out and 48% in, what can you do really now to meet our agonies of membership so that we can be in but loosely in. She could have made an appeal across the House of Commons and House of Lords. One more go or we go, so to speak. But no, she simply became someone else after the referendum result.

She's made a big mistake over Scotland. A Scottish Parliament, for that is what it is, has decided on having an independence referendum, with timing to know the terms of the EU exit deal. She is saying no, only after we've left. If I was Scottish, I'd be infuriated, on the lines of who does she and he (the Scottish Secretary) think they are? Once again it is the executive trying to buckle Parliament. Ah, Section 30 is in the hands of the British Government. Of course it is, but set against this is the democratic will in a representative democracy.

We are going to have to sort out the British Isles constitutional situation. The House of Commons is now utterly imbalanced. Instead of adjusting here and there, it needs a formal sort-out and reform that is comprehensive. But does the government have space for this?

Otherwise Scottish independence is the way to sort out much of the imbalance. There would have to be a Council of the British Isles, rather like the early European Economic Community itself. A place to co-ordinate by discussion and agreement. In this, Northern Ireland either becomes independent or goes south - independence would need the active support and engagement of both British Isles sovereign governments.

The fact is that we cannot come out of the European Union and retain a unitary State. This is because increasingly the EU was underpinning the British Isles politically, and the worst prospect is for the border in Ireland. How on earth is that kept relatively invisible with one nation inside the EU and one outside - unless one of them is outside but pays for everything economic inside except having representation? In other words, the British State loses its sovereignty.

The reality is that the best deal is the one we have, being in. By triggering Article 50, the negotiation may well realise that its either economic damage or lost sovereignty (or both). We then get enough people to see the light: the Liberal Democrat strategy of a second referendum on destination becomes the means to ask to stay in.

But it doesn't follow that we do stay in, because to stay in may come with conditions, rather like joining again - to no longer be the bad boy of Europe. And it turns out then that this Conservative Government under Theresa May will have been the most disastrous ever. Plus the Scots may be on their way to their own independence and control over how to manage their sovereignty. And goodness knows about Northern Ireland: unity across Ireland might be possible even with enough unscared Unionists in a modern, secular, EU Ireland.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Couterfactual - if the EU Vote had Gone Remain

There is a difference between 'fake news' (not a new phenomenon, as any reader of a tabloid newspaper will know) and the counterfactual. Historians can use counterfactual scenarios to understand what instead happened. They are like novels of what could have happened. So what would have happened if the British public had narrowly voted in the EU referendum to 'remain'?

EU Referendum Result: 51.5% remain, 48.5% result stay. Scotland votes remain very comfortably 65% to 35%, Northern Ireland remain 59% to 41%, Wales 50%-50%, England out 47% remain to 53% out.

The first point is that Prime Minister David Cameron hails the result as a success, and that a success is a success. There is certainly no justification for any further alteration to the EU relationship. However, it is clear that the large minority to come out determines a continued semi-detached membership, and that all future unifying measures in the EU will definitely exclude the United Kingdom.

However, UKIP is energised to fight the result and some forty Conservative MPs vow to campaign on to change opinion to come out of the EU. Cameron states that the issue is now settled for good, and the Conservative Government can concentrate on other matters.

The venom some Conservative MPs show David Cameron, however, spills into every area of government, and the Conservative Party becomes ungovernable itself and incapable of passing policy.

Jeremy Corbyn is seen as lukewarm towards Europe, as ineffectual, but some say he at least had the measure of opinion, and others say he showed lack of principle because had he fought for leaving he might have influenced just enough socialist voters to bring the UK out of Europe.

The Liberal Democrats hail the result and hope to rebuild their fortunes.

However, Cameron realises that his victory is hollow, because he cannot govern, and the Houses of Parliament repeal the Fixed Term Parliament Act (only the Liberal Democrats and many in the House of Lords resist) replaced by the Parliamentary Elections Act so that in future a simple majority in the House of Commons alone after a Prime Minister's proposal can call a General Election.

In other words, Cameron realises that the European Union referendum was not enough to lance the Tory boil, and it needs a General Election as well. Nevertheless, the advice is that too many of the Tory Party including especially the 'leavers' would be returned to office and would still hate him for gambling and winning the referendum.

Thus Cameron comes to the conclusion he must first stand down. Gove thinks he can stand, as a leave voice to rearrange the UK's membership in Europe as more arm's length, but the moderate understated Remainer Theresa May becomes the safe pair of hands as new Prime Minister.

A manifesto is produced that has behind it the Liberal and then Conservative Unionist Joseph Chamberlain philosophy behind it. She recognises the high vote for leaving shows a disconnect with politics among many, and institutes an interventionist, somewhat UK nationalist, economic policy with an end to austerity and neo-liberalism. This turns out to be far more than a 'safe pair of hands'.

She then goes to the House of Commons for a vote to go to a General Election, daring the Labour Party to vote to go to the country. She has a divided party, but an advantage over a weak Corbyn as a disconnected politician with Labour voters.

The result is something of a shock, with a Conservative majority of about 100. Many of these new MPs may be eurosceptic, but owe loyalty to May. May now redefines the Conservative Party as centrist, interventionist, and early by-elections are won by her. There is no place for Gove or Boris Johnson in her government. The Liberal Democrats recover to 35 seats thanks to remain constituencies and a clear stance. Labour however implodes, and although Corbyn attempts to hang on this time the rump PLP will have none of it and forces a leadership election; the demoralised membership outside only just lets go of the socialist project given an alternative candidate, so that Corbyn stands down and Clive Lewis succeeds.

Clive Lewis then goes about making the Labour leadership office more efficient and effective and starts to organise opposition, but discovers that May is embedded and is rather difficult to shift because there is such a focus on social and interventionist policy. She declares that, "the Conservative Party is for everyone." So the railways are forced to become one nationwide company, renamed British Rail, and NHS hospital trusts take over social services across England. There is even a National Investment Bank for high tech support. Councils and Housing Trusts are allowed to finance and build houses, with a new and surprising emphasis on renting. Councils have this principle housing task having lost social services. Local Income and Business taxes replace Business Rates and Council Tax.

(The contrast with the reality today is that the governmental energy going into exiting the EU excludes such emphasis on economic interventionist policy.)

At the following General Election the Liberal Democrats get an equal share of the vote as the Labour Party, and it looks like a tipping point can be approached where the Liberal Democrats become the main and liberal/ liberty opposition to a Statist Conservative Party.

Friday, 24 February 2017

By-Elections Disaster - Government Approval by Default

All the intentions and promises in the world made by Labour will count for nothing if Labour cannot win. Labour is not winning; it is failing and disastrously.

It won a by-election in Stoke Central on 7000 or so votes when one lot had 5000, another lot had 5000, and another 2000, plus then the collection of others. In other words, very unimpressive, and a minority of the votes. It went backwards in share of the vote when the government party went forwards. But Copeland is the disaster of a two horse race, when the government increases its vote share by nearly 7% against the opposition and wins.

You wouldn't think that the NHS is starved of investment, that social services have run out of money, that infrastructure is failing, prisons are in crisis, when the business rates face huge rises, that so many people are underemployed and unemployed (I don't believe the statistics anyway), and that we have second rate politicians running key departments of the government. Inflation is up on essentials: we are told the economy is all right - well we have not yet left the European Union. Trade is still tariff free, abroad is still like being at home. Just wait until we do leave.

The first response of Labour to their shambolic performance was a press release, pre-planned, to shore up Jeremy Corbyn. He is an abysmal leader, in practice as well as in ideology. There is no point running a fantasy opposition - an opposition must connect and be ready. The problem is that should Corbyn be challenged, the ideologues will gather again and keep him there. And for what? For a dream of: 'one day we'll have socialism.' Meanwhile, this day we get nothing. Nothing forms, nothing builds: it just slides backwards.

Once again we are crying out for political leadership. Let's not be fooled that the Tories are providing good leadership. They are not: the political economy, the social fabric, the happiness of people, the sense of community, are all going downward. The reason Tory poll ratings are 15 to 20% higher than the main opposition is because the main opposition is on another planet.

We need opposition parties to provide leadership now to do two things. One is to oppose the government, and the other is to form opinion to oppose leaving the European Union. I was noticing how on the evening of the by-elections that BBC Newsnight was explaining how the United States Supreme Court is positioned in the US body politic. Pity then that no one ever bothered to describe and educate how the European Union operates, rather than continue to put it up as a bogeyman and Aunt Sally about bureaucrats and bananas. Pity that the remainer campaign treated it as economic fear alone to come out. With a number of exceptions, MPs seem paralysed at present to go but in one direction only, when this does not take account of the actuality of what is involved in terms of economy and indeed political progress in integrating and mixing with 'people like us' abroad - the richness of European culture and sharing sovereignty.

Now, in 1966, the government won a by-election in Hull North. I'm in Hull East. Harold Wilson, ever the political manipulator, saw his opportunity to go to the country. He got himself the majority he wanted. Mrs May could too, via a simple repeal of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, and get a majority of 120 plus. What is so disastrous is that the by-election results could leave Corbyn and his shambolic office in charge of Labour, and so she does not even need an election and can happily go along to 2020 in the knowledge that Labour gives her a clear run while it heads for the electoral valleys. So analysis one is Labour stays as it is, with the ideologues sending it to defeat.

Secondly, Labour will shape itself up to provide 'loyal opposition' to the government, to get 'a good Brexit deal'. If it succeeds, then Mrs May will take all the credit and the Tories will be re-elected again on that basis alone.

The only hope (if it is 'hope') is that just as the out-vote regarding the EU led to Labour disarray and relative Tory unity (an in-vote creating Tory disunity), so the terms of the exit will be divisive for the Tories in 2019. This is because many Tories regard single market membership as necessary, and others regard it as little better than being in the EU. But Labour is not even pressing to stay in the single market. Labour is as vague about what constitutes 'a good Brexit deal' as the bunch who are heading up the Tory absence of policy.

The fact is that the EU vote divided up politics for the foreseeable future. If you think we should have stayed in, then most if not all scenarios of coming out are negative. Coming out should be opposed. Oppositions don't say, OK you won, we will now be like you. You make the argument. Form opinion to oppose leaving the EU! The Liberal Democrats are shaping up on this, but more is needed and from broader opinion. Some of the Labour 50 should be part of this newer, necessary leadership. We will not get to a point where staying in is a political option in 2019 unless opinion is formed in that direction. It should not be a 'Deal or No Deal' option of coming out only.

Perhaps some of the 50 or so in Labour, who voted not to trigger Article 50, can come to the view that the Labour Party is in a pretty much terminal mess. It won't gain from the Tory inability to produce a deal, because it has the same mixed up message confused leadership, and won't if the Tories do produce a deal. So perhaps it is time to be like Corbyn used to be, and start to restructure politics by doing their own thing, and doing what is of benefit for this land and people.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Be Honest, Anglicans

It seems to me that if you are going to do religion at all, you ought to be honest. Sometimes it gets you into trouble, but in the longer run it is worth it.

Church of England bishops have 'done it again' with a pretty rotten document called Marriage and Same-Sex Relations after the Shared Conversations. The only reason it is "challenging or difficult reading" is because it is basically duff - of no useful interest to an outsider like me - but frustrating to anyone on the inside. Once again this sort of document promotes dishonesty.

So why should I be bothered then? Well, on one strong level, I am not. I am far more bothered about May meeting Trump and the press coverage around something that has a nasty smell about it. He's turned out to be every bit as bad as feared, and one waits for his wings to be clipped by other centres of political power. She turns out to be indecisive and making wrong associations time after time. At a coffee morning it concerned me how some folks just reflected the tabloid view of Theresa May - "She'll sort him out" I was told - whereas I replied no, this is just a tabloid way of raising someone up in their terms before knocking them down.

At least such in politics is fluid and moving. The Church of England hierarchy is, instead, stuck. It had all these conversations, with people risking their emotional necks, and the outcome is a reversion to some past dishonest 'working' of don't ask and don't tell. It doesn't work, however, when there is marriage for couples of different sexuality, and when 'discipline' can apply just the same when a Church has half a view of marriage. Proposing more proposing, writing about more writing, is all what there was: it's like looking for more long grass to kick something into yet again.

Some principles: sex and gender isn't binary; marriage is a personal and social statement of what there is and something about hope for its future; and such what is fundamental should be supported ritually. Christian Holy Matrimony is as much a construct as the approach of State and Society, and so meaningful rituals help mark and support the breadth of marriage. The Church of England is stuck in some narrow selective biblicism, its own Communion bias, and a selective ecumenism - no surprise, obviously, but it does mean it is stuck.

What puzzles me, however, is why people put up with this corrosive dishonesty. It is clear, if it ever was, that this Church is stuck between its own rock and hard place, and as much as the progressives push the sectarians will dig in. The progressives say the bishops are (at very best) disappointing, that all that heart-displaying was exploited for nothing, that the system is rotten, that these bishops are all signed up to this static state... and yet these folk stay for more. It is the State Church, of course, but this counts for less and less. There are choices out there! I seem to recall that James I vision of comprehension finally gave way to toleration when James II was replaced by William and Mary of Orange. From toleration came variety. And now the Church of England really does not represent much at all.

And yet the people who ought to vote with their feet retain a fanatical sense of loyalty. Has anyone wondered that this very sense of 'won't budge' is exactly what these bishops rely on in order to get by with their sanctimonious documents? If people really have no budge point, the authorities really will not move.

Try somewhere else. Set up your own, if you like the forms of Anglicanism. Cut the rope. Then note your own sense of liberation, and of those around you. It then won't matter what these little authorities say to themselves. This is the point: they really do not matter. They only matter because you let them have a sense that they matter over you.

And so, on this, I've no more to say. They don't affect me, nor my friends. The only thing I would say is that none of these bishops should be in the House of Lords, and our schools ought to have nothing to do with this form of religion. Beyond these public hang-overs, they can be then as stuck as they like. This situation is not being honest with anyone and it relies upon misplaced loyalty.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Why Jeremy Corbyn will Make Political History

What the Supreme Court has done is made a government intending to use a supposed Prerogative power have to use a Statute power instead. Constitutionally this is fascinating because it underlines now that every supposed Prerogative power comes under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court. Prerogative power was the assumption of residual Monachism -Royal Supremacy - and that the Ministers are indeed Ministers of the Crown. But it turns out now that the Crown is subject to the Surpreme Court: it and only it can confirm what is and what is not a Prerogative Power. Parliament can still decide what it likes, and the Surpreme Court cannot undermine the High Court of Parliament (of which Law Lords were once a part, within and part of it and functoning under the House of Lords), but there is no basis for any Monarch to have its non-interference in the making of powers. Its powers remain so long as Parliament permits, and indeed Parliament can remove Prerogative powers. One such was the power of the Prime Minister to call a General Election, acting in the place of the Monarch. But then Parliament can overturn the Fixed Term Parliament Act any time it likes.

The Supreme Court also upheld the supremacy of the UK over all devolved institutions, defining a difference between law and convention (when so much of the constitution is bedrocked on convention). The devolved institutions are simply not bedded in enough to acquire veto power -  a veto power because it has passed laws and granted rights that will be affected by removing from the European Union. It means that devolution is not woven into the UK, but is potentially here today and gone tomorrow on the whim of the highest level of UK law formation.

So, here we are then: an Act of Parliament is needed to grant the Government power to invoke Article 50. No resistance can come from devolved nations.

Some of us think that a Referendum given was advisory. It was clearly very significant, very legitimate, very advisory, but it was utterly flawed and of a moment. Having a referendum does not give its victors the right to bully everyone else into submission. Everyone has the right to make the argument against and the right to strategise to bring about a change of opinion either through representatives or by another advisory referendum to assist the representatives.

Some of us think that the argument to leave the EU is disastrous. It takes away the simplicity of trading. It takes away the theory of economic sharing leads to political sharing -  a means to peace. This means overlapping political formed economic institutions. It means a confederacy, where governments meet and make the critical decisions, often with veto blockings, but where there is a union-wide Parliament as well, one that should gain powers over time. The EU executive initiates Europe-wide legislation for the Ministers, and the executive also monitors legislation - and calls in the courts to enforce. The EU was the level to take on the multinationals, to deal with environment, to handle trade, to watch the power of power blocs. And yet actual governments made the decisions, working together, and had subsidiarity, for moving everything down that could be moved down.

But this was never presented to British voters: instead it was a diet via the popular press and more of bureaucrats and straight bananas, elites and lost democracy, a massive massive bureaucracy. Britain continued to wallow in its historical myths and the workers were as tribal as the daftest of old elites.

So we have to make the argument that the Integrated or Single Market is only a substitute on its own for having decision-making that constitutes its rules.

Here is why. If we in the UK negotiate a trade deal with the external EU, as we must, then the deal must be policed. It will be policed by us, and by the EU through its institutions. These will still have to rule. This is not even the full Single Market membership (as an outsider) but it is STILL subject to intergovernmental and EU rule-making. It will still cost money. It will still involve doing things we do not want. The membership of the Single Market simply means using the EU institutions as arbiters of equal treatment. It will still cost money. There will be, however, no policy input.

What we need is political leadership that starts with an intention to block giving the government Statute power to invoke Article 50. The argument, like the above paragraph, still needs to be made, in speeches and in papers. It also needs the argument from vision, from idealism, and against tribalism.

The Liberal Democrats are playing a game of requiring a referendum on the deal as a means by which, on not receiving such a promise, they can vote against Article 50. There is an argument for this, but I oppose referenda anyway because they undermine representative democracy. Referenda bring in substitute reasons for voting based on (or not) flawed campaigns and promises. But the Liberal Democrats are stuck between the rock of 'respecting' a referendum and opposing leaving the EU. The Scottish Nationalists (and indeed Irish Republicans and Nationalists) have an easier reason to vote against: their countries/ regions voted against.

Unfortunately, Jeremy Corbyn
shows all the leadership abilities of a wet sponge dry in patches. He wants the single market and all that, plus workers' rights, but will support invoking Article 50 anyway. So what if he doesn't get these negotiating positions from the government? Well, he'll support the government anyway.

Result is that the government can concoct any deal it likes; the vote at the end will be for 'Deal or No Deal' and if 'No Deal' results then it's straight over the exit cliff edge. Only the EU other governments can unanimously prevent us going over the cliff edge by keeping us in... Well done Jeremy Corbyn and your three line whip - your one contribution to British political history.

Time for some gathering of political leadership to the contrary of that nonsense. We need politics as information building and changing minds. Stop Article 50 now and make the argument as others try and bring it back in for invoking. Indeed it is likely that Jeremy Corbyn will be the one person who makes sure Article 50 does go through directly. Who'd have thought it?

Friday, 6 January 2017

The Current Need for Political Leadership

It's not about a 48% who want a closer relationship with exiting the European Union, it is about making the argument to oppose leaving the EU altogether. This is whether or not this Article 50 is invoked, whether or not it has to come through Parliament or the government thinks the executive can do it.

This is not something to be trivialised with name calling and labelling. The view that leaving the EU is a disaster for ethical, political and economic principles: principles of sharing with like-minded nearby political cultures in order that we come together as peoples, principles of economic overlap that turn into political overlap, with the ethics of peace and similarity, are too important to be lost in some transitional time vote that rarely had anything to do with knowledge and purpose about what the European union did.

What is needed now, I suggest, is a leading politician, and group of politicians, who are quite clear that this is a disaster and will stand to stay in the EU and make the argument. So far we have politicians who "respect" the vote and wish to see the best deal regarding economics. With a few exceptions, Parliament's politicians, who are representatives and not delegates, seem too scared to actually go beyond this limited resistance. Some may be going for cover while really wanting to stay in the EU. They are not yet 'declaring their hand'.

But what is required here is leadership, leadership that articulates the arguments now to stay, that makes the case that was never made within the limitation of the campaign. Even in the campaign, politicians for remaining in were luke warm in defending the EU. It was as if they were accused of calling it perfect. It's not about it being perfect - of course it is a long way from being perfect, and does have a democratic deficit - but the answer was never to abandon the principles involved by removal. But it's as if these principles were never discussed. Compare it with the 1975 referendum when the whole range was discussed. It's a historically disprovable to say that we were only going into a Common Market then: Edward Heath, Roy Jenkins, even Tony Benn in the negative, discussed the full range of implications of being members and the trajectory. Watch the Panorama debate where a young David Dimbleby sits back because he need not direct the respectful conversation between Benn and Jenkins. Nothing like that this time, in a terrible campaign both sides that is part of the argument for a bad vote. I'm against referenda anyway regardless, but the wrong campaigning, and wrong reasoning, and ignorance, all calls upon politicians to grasp the nettle.

We need a political A. C. Grayling. Had the vote gone the other way, there'd be no doubt that Nigel Farage would have been the political figure for that argument of removal on that side. He would not have given up. Nor should those who think we really ought to stay in.

Nor is it about this notion of unity in the UK. Unity was not there before, and not there now. It is not there among the population, nor is it between the UK nations, itself a unitary state than is starting to look more like a federation. Of course the European Union is a confederation, not even a federation, and this was never explained by its defenders. I cannot remember any information about how the EU actually works: how decisions are taken and why it is beneficial from a principled position.

Politicians may be being strategic: they are watching a government make a hash of it. There is a certain amount of holding back, before it becomes more obvious what a mess is involved. There are overlapping ministries that cause the decision making upwards to the Prime Minister Theresa May, but it looks like her absence of leadership, her indeed questionable competence, is causing stagnation, as well as the incompetence - indeed the amateurism - of the politicians we have available to run departments. This notion of 'it's your mess not you sort it out' is not good enough unless the mess they then go on to create can be stopped as it unfolds. The resignation of Sir Ivan Rogers and his reasons are only a symptom.

But this reality does call for clarity on the side of those who oppose leaving the EU. It needs a sort of government in waiting to articulate turning this around: making the argument to stay, and why the referendum is not some sacred object that must be obeyed.

When it comes to the General Election, it requires political parties. At the moment the Liberal Democrats are the nearest to offering the sort of resistance-to-reversal that is being suggested here. But it seems not quite, and the party is somewhat unclear, even if the most clear compared with muddled Labour and divided Conservatives (on what form of exit). General elections trump referenda: they are referenda with a manifesto, with a government intended. So what is needed is the Liberal Democrats to move position, but in addition individual politicians to declare themselves, rather in the manner of David Lammy and Sarah Olney. Kenneth Clarke probably will. These politicians can form an informal group, and may well be part of a possible grand coalition (as coalition is the first possibility to defeat the Tories, given the electoral arithmetic and Corbyn stuck in post ahead of Labour).

If the Supreme Court rules to uphold Parliament, those politicians who do not vote to invoke Article 50 will be the most obvious to clarify the politics of reversing this drive.

Reversal means not just stopping the nonsense of leaving but also making time for policies needed in this country for social reconstruction, policies that a dithering do-nothing Theresa May talks about but will have no time or resource to act upon. Leaving the European Union is so enormous an act in terms of law and policy and negotiation that scarcely little else is going to happen.

There is no reason to change view that this government is set up to fail, but it still needs leadership to formulate what needs to be done when it does fail.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

New Pluralist Magazine

Having resigned from doing a church magazine, I decided that I wanted to continue with something similar iin skill use for my own Pluralist Website. I could of course just make articles as webpages and add them in. And nothing wrong with that. Except of course they get lost into the generality of all of them. I can highlight new ones here, but that is only for those who visit here. So something up front is a little different, another emphasis, with a front page button access, as well as an extended definition of the 'Stories' Area, as renamed.

The idea then is to mix material along the subjects already as part of the website. In the previous magazine I did (that now continues with the church administrator under the same editor), there were a few intentional rules, given its main presentation was as printed out. One was to put main pieces facing the front, that is on odd page numbers, and lesser to the back. However, two page pieces were to be facing. Three then, the assumed maximum length, could be any three. All were to be continuous - nothing like in The Inquirer with its numerous 'continued on...'
Front and back were distinct: I preferred  an informative front and the back could be poster like: best was a colouring in, I thought. We settled on Trebruchet MS 12pt as most readable - I'd started on Arial 10 Bold, which didn't allow further emphasis. It meant for the A5 format very short articles. I wanted variety. I found myself not only editing pieces (prior to editorial decisions) but crushing some, losing some important detail at times. I didn't intentionally ever do bleed-through and what was therefore required ahead of printing (extra margin to assist cutting), so there was always a white border. Nevertheless a variety of software created a variety of appearance, as .PDF pages were made and combined into one document.

Now, with my magazine, and for online, some format decisions can be relaxed. The cover is similar (same in frame) to my previous magazine work, but the back is less critical. The front now contains the Pluralist logo and a flame that relates to Sir Cato Worsfold's Vestal Virgins, whilst in a kind of also mosaic chalice. I have abandoned an article size limit, but kept the Trebruchet MS 12pt font in an A5 size page. Also, articles can start where they will even though I still offer an alternative book order for A4 printing, in the online linking. I'm less worried about coloured backgrounds too, used with criticism before, although I keep them faded. They form a function of saying this colour means this article continuing. Some new presentation rules though include the consistent Google-like titles, often after an opening paragraph that starts with a drop capital, vertically two lines being enough (I like the Freehand591 BT for these enlarged opening characters).

So the first magazine - maybe quarterly but possibly more - is available.

It shows the long-gone Sutton-on-Hull railway station. Article 1 is about the end of Setam on Hessle Road in Hull, having contributed myself to very many Facebook Old Hull section comments (I did not start this) and making corrections to opinions expressed. Setam was part-managed by my long-standing friend. It is an essay an article on changes in retailing. Its Pluralist Website home would be in Localities or Learning/ Business and Organisations. The next article might be seen as some hoary old chestnut: 'Can Unitarians Be Christians?' In fact the question extends to who at all can be called Christian. It reflects my reading of Bart Ehrman (again) and a really good little book about Christianity in the Arab world, which serves to describe early Christianity broadly (with a little too much acceptance of orthodoxy as an early norm). So my piece covers how one does the historical Jesus and more on early Christianity, because in my view with varieties of belief and our cultural distance the decision to be Christian is about relating oneself and one's group in continuation from the early believers. Politics is next, with religion, on how the Liberal Party was involved in Trade Unionism before Labour got going. Fred Maddison went to school in Hull and failed to represent a Hull constituency in the city. This already has a shorter webpage in Learning - Religion - Unitarianism (local). Then a long article again on defining preaching in a pluralist and liberal setting, using an Anglican approach for comparison and contrast. This would be in Learning - Religion, probably under Unitarianism (national and international). Finally is the Nash Equilibrium, a puzzle with answers, with relevance to road space in Hull, that probably would supply a webpage in Learning- Maths. I was saving this for some time.

So there is the main pages order version, and then the back-facing (with front cover) and front-facing A4 print run versions.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

New Year Gloom

Internationally, locally and personally, 2016 has been an awful year. We've seen the portrayal of evil in Syria and related spilling out over the world. We have had cynical, nasty, if some places restrained, political leaders engaging in conflict. The xenophobic right wing has been doing its usual trick of hoodwinking the masses and making headway. The problem is that 2017 could be a whole lot worse.

The United States is about to lose a cautious, thinking, President for someone whose logic on many matters doesn't extend further than chat down the pub and is someone who jumps to assumptions at best. The newcomer isn't divested of his interests and we suspect his palliness with the Russians is because of longer term business interests, where corruption is rife and politics is twisted.

In this country we have a Prime Minister and Ministers who show themselves to be out of their depths - and their depths are shallow. They seem intent on pursuing an exit from the European Union despite all the damage it will do, and the narrowness of vision this involves. I am clear that a referendum set up for party political reasons and made as a gamble that went wrong should not be driving policy for a representative system of control over government. For decades political culture has pressed down on the tendency to tribalism, nationalism and racism, and now the can of worms has been opened.

The city in which I live has its year of culture. Best of luck with that. I regard it as ephemeral. Culture follows on from economic and social structures and forms, and isn't 'made up' - or at least shouldn't be. So I pay it little interest. For those who think otherwise, enjoy, and let's see if the various authorities cease from cocking things up as they have all the road works prior to and running into this particular year.

I've been on what is now in Orwellian speak called a 'Fitness Certificate' renewed several times. It will go through the State processes of being rendered ineffectual so a cycle goes on. Last year saw me declared diabetic, although in the last count I went below 48 (the key number: 42-47 is a warning). Over Christmas I might have gone over 48 again. I've never had so many salads and oily fish.

Next year will simply be a task of 'hanging on' and trying to keep afloat. That is the only goal. My religious involvement is being minimalised and I'll make it more personal and less collective. My friendships are precious (and one is having a serious life change: loss of a lifetime's work habit) and my potential relationships are unlikely to non-existent.


All around me though is where it could go all go seriously wrong. The scenario is an idiot President of the USA surrounded by his chosen business people. Pallying up to Putin, Putin nevertheless tests him on some matter of conflict. Being narcissistic, the stupid USA President reacts and everything spirals out of control. He is already making conflict with China, on the basis that he isn't into their business scenario and blames them for bad competition. The Chinese, we hope, are more rational, but they are building those islands in the sea. The British could add to the damage of the European Union, and its ideology of sharing and being peaceful, liberal and democratic is thrown into serious doubt. Already our Prime Minister has, over Israel's dangerous expansion into Palestinian land, sucked up to the President elect rather than the one with some brains. If this is the pattern to come, it shows the weakness of Britain coming outside of the European Union. In the end the political, social and economic environment shapes what happens personally.
Perhaps if we begin pessimistically then we won't be surprised, and things may actually turn out to be better. Things just look very gloomy, that's all.