Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Before the Debate

In 455 CE, after only two and a half months into his reign, the Western Roman emperor Petronius Maximus, a wealthy senator and a prominent aristocrat, was fleeing the Vandal assault on Rome abandoned by his bodyguard, and then (probably) a mob overtook him, stoned him, chopped up his body, and threw the remains into the River Tiber. [Thanks to Rev. James Ishmael Ford]

He had come into power after the violent death of Valentinian III. There was no obvious successor, and the army was divided regarding its support for three main candidates. Maximus had the support of the Roman Senate and by distributing some of his wealth to officials of the imperial palace he secured power on 17 March.

Genseric managed to capture Empress Licinia Eudoxia, Valentinian III's widow, and her daughters, Eudocia and Placidia as they tried to escape. Rome was sacked with little violence and murder. Eudoxia and her children were the last of Rome's imperial family.

It is the last day of May. Can it be the last day of Theresa May? Can she be sacked on June 9th?

Let's look at the General Election campaign at this point. I'm writing before the debate that will feature now Genseric - sorry Jeremy Corbyn.

First of all, as a dyed in the wool Liberal Democrat supporter I am sad to report the complete lack of traction of the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron.
If there is anyone who ought to resign after this election, beyond Theresa May we hope, it is him. Now much of it is not his fault in that the General Election was called too early for people to realise the sheer cost and stupidity of the exit from the European Union and for enough of them to change their minds.

Compromised early on by his evangelical Christianity in a setting of social equality, he has also appeared to be robotic in manner and lost in an unbelievable mantra that he provides the only opposition. He accepted Theresa May's assertion that this was and is a 'Brexit' General Election and then produced a manifesto for an opposition leader.

The proper assertion would be to say that as a political party can do so and as a General Election trumps any (advisory) referendum, this party would be elected to stay in the European Union. Does anyone seriously believe that the Liberal Democrats would negotiate to exit the European Union? No. So the argument for a second referendum is from a minority position in the House of Commons: in other words, after they lost. Even if unrealistic, a manifesto sets out a position to be had in government. You stand by your principles. The tactic for the second referendum 'on the destination' works during a parliament but not in a manifesto.

I knew from the off that Theresa May's 'strong and stable' repetition was rubbish, but it took her U turn (and denial of it) on social care to remind everyone of the U turns, helped by an otherwise lousy interview by 'Stuffing' Jeremy Paxman. He had her running down his interview narrative, only to bottle out when he could have used the 'weak and wobbly' alliterative response. Indeed he failed to follow up the consequences of a 'no deal' exit via his repetitive questioning.

She also appeared wooden against Brillo Pad's questioning (Andrew Neill). Indeed she was wooden on BBC 1 The One Show, especially when contrasted against Jeremy Corbyn's warmth and normality.

Indeed, now we have no policy detail on just about anything, except the continuation of the bust mantra. But the reality is the cuts already in health, education and social services, and of course the police.

This has been a disaster of a campaign for the Conservatives. She wasn't even mentioning their name much at one point, leaving a problem that many half-ignorant voters would be looking for her name on the ballot paper and not finding it. The only evidence of a relaunch in any sense a few days ago was using the Conservative name again.

On the other hand, Jeremy Corbyn took a risk to campaign on social and economic issues, with an agenda that makes a difference. He viewed exiting the EU as a given, but one to maintain as much status quo for the functioning economy as possible, and maintenance of libertarian and social conditions as well. His main thrust was to put right what has been going wrong in a definite inclusive and collective manner.

And this gamble (that Tim Farron did not make) has worked. The agenda has shifted.

Then we have the fact that Jeremy Corbyn is confident in himself, despite his recent memory loss and lack of instant notes, and has actually campaigned in front of people openly instead of using television tricks as May has done (the equivalent of doughnutting).

There is also the marginal point but could be significant in one or two places that more young people have registered to vote and, under his leadership, may just might go and vote.

The Greens haven't got a look-in because Jeremy Corbyn has stolen most of their ground, except perhaps more radical environmental concerns, and UKIP led by the daft Paul Nuttall have had Theresa May's 'nasty talk' steal their territory. However, taking from Labour and giving to the Conservatives that UKIP have served may now change as Jeremy Corbyn becomes more credible.

Now of all the outcomes, the possibility that Theresa May could end up with a similar majority to the one she had would be a disaster for her. Would she even survive such an outcome.

My thesis is that she went to the country (after repeatedly saying she would not) to grab the huge majority predicted. She did this, even with all the hard core talk regarding exiting the EU, on the basis that she could defeat both her single market faction in the Tories and the hard exit faction in the Tories. It was never about the naughty opposition parties she blamed for not being her sychophants. It was, yet again, the problem in the Tory party, the problem that backfired for Cameron when he hoped a referendum would defeat the Tory nut jobs once and for all, only to receive a backlash from so many people who could in ignorance blame their economic woes on immigration and had a silly view of Brussels ruling us rather than sharing sovereignty.

Should the election prove that each faction can defeat her negotiating, then she is bust politically. She will have lost her gamble, as Cameron lost his.

Let's be clear. The only track record of Theresa May is one of indecision and changing her mind. She was uncommitted to make a stance to remain, beyond a few demonstrations, because what she really wanted was to slip into power. Apparently she looks to Joseph Chamberlain for a social and economic outlook - or an advisor does - but we don't really know. All we know is what she has done, and it has been pretty negative for our social institutions and will be more so for the full costs of leaving the European Union.

She might still get the majority she wants. Then we will see how she just used the General Election. She probably wants a close relationship with Europe and all this hard talk is pure baloney. Why should anyone believe what she says when no one actually knows - other than continuing Tory privilege of course.

So really we ought to vote for something more positive. And let's not have this bullshit about Corbyn and his incapabilities etc.. He will be as supported by the Civil Service as any Prime Minister and he will grow into the job. He would 'look at the evidence' for matters of peace, war and security, but most of all he would set us on a compassionate and inclusive growth path. It matters that there are universal benefits for everyone, even millionaires, because that's why there is progressive taxation. It is the only way to remove the heart attack - don't lose but dementia - do lose lottery when it comes to social care, plus social care can become as developed as the NHS. We stop losing the NHS. We get back our railways, and essential utilities. We get back a proper political process too: party democracy.

I don't buy some sort of selective grand coalition stitch up to freeze him out. Even in proportional representation, parties lose and win elections. Labour lost in 2010 and that's why there was never a stitch up with the Liberal Democrats, SNP and Greens. Even a small Tory win would be a kind of losing for them.

Now let's see what happens in this debate tonight, where wisely Jeremy Corbyn turns up and Theresa May still does not, depsite having her own 'Presidential' campaign. A President who sends along her number something instead?

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