Saturday, 3 September 2022

Why So Nervous, Tories?

We can see that the Tory Party is ever so nervous about a Liz Truss win to become Prime Minister on Monday 5th September.

This is what Ryan Shorthouse said, Chief Executive of the Bright Blue think tank:


“If she just surrounds herself with the Boris fan club, puts in place a continuity cabinet with the same old faces and uses the same arguments, policies and tactics as Johnson, she will lose the confidence of the parliamentary party rapidly. The public will feel nothing has changed.”


But it will also because only a third of Tory MPs supported her, and she wasn't that all important second in the race until the last minute. She started in front among Tory supporters - so male, so elderly, so well off comparatively - and, if anything, she has lost ground in front. She has projected herself as this deliberately well-photographed 'Poundshop Thatcher' to appeal to that selectorate, but it's been utterly inappropriate to the concerns of the public.

During Covid, Johnson acted like a Social Democrat because there was no other option. The State acted and redistributed cash, and it preserved jobs while paying people to do nothing. The energy price crisis and cost of living increases are such that Truss will have to do something similar; her 'solutions' have been condemned by her opponent Sunak as inflationary and inadequate.

Polls suggest that people expect her to do a bad job, before she has even started. The timing of the General Election and a temptation to go early for legitimacy could mean she is one of the shortest-serving Prime Ministers.

Her gaffes and her wooden performances suggest she has all the political vacancies of Boris Johnson but none of the communication skills to get around her limitations.

But Johnson had so little in the way of political philosophy that he could be centrist and write cheques.

Truss appears to have a political philosophy - a clone of Thatcher - but she is actually several reconstructions. She wasn't just a Liberal Democrat but the President of them at Oxford. She was pro-European Union - kept her in with Cameron as Prime Minister - and then was Brexit reborn, keeping her in with Johnson.

I don't know if she'll be continuity Johnson or apply an irrelevant dogma: rather, I think she will be overwhelmed and make allies and supporters very irritated.

She is yet another third-rate politician come to the top via some peculiar route.

Priti Patel didn't stand for the leadership because she surely calculated that the next Tory leader will be overwhelmed and short-lived. Better to do a bit of opposition and make an appeal, for people to elect their MPs when she stands as leader.

Truss begins her time in office after the government has been asleep at the wheel, as anxious worrying has increased among the public. She and Sunak have indulged in something that should have been sorted out quickly. So there'll be no 'honeymoon period' but a disgust with the delay. What she does early on will matter, but so far she has suggested policies in the realm of fantasy.

She may offer Sunak a role in government but, after all he has said, he couldn't stand up for policies he has said are reckless. She then has many favours to reward. Her government will likely be narrow in personnel. But if she does the other thing, as in what is necessary, she will look quickly like a liar.

But then Sir Keir Starmer was elected by a membership with many left wing promises, and has pretty much dropped the lot of them. The result - with support of his MPs even as 96,000 ended their Labour Party membership - is likely to be he wins the next General Election even with a minority government. He'll take many seats back and some, the Liberal Democrats will take others, and the Scottish Nationalists more or less keep theirs. Hello Liz Truss and, with good fortune, it will be goodbye soon.


Saturday, 6 August 2022

Unless Self-Inflicted She Wins

 

So the MPs put Sunak first but will have to accept the membership's verdict should they, as expected, put Truss first. That is a core source of instability for the future, a lack of authority in the parliamentary system in which the Prime Minister exists on the basis of the approval of the House of Commons.

The Tory system among MPs was always to come at least second. The winner in terms of MPs support had to 'lend' votes to have a satisfactory second place person to then beat using the party membership. Sunak's people thought they had a better chance of beating Truss over Maudant. but now, as they seek future cabinet jobs, even Maudant (and indeed Tugendhat) has now approved of Truss over Sunak.


What's wrong is that the Prime Minister created this way picks up privileged monarchial powers. The Monarch has none of these powers any more, as they go to the Prime Minister, but Parliament is unable to remove these powers unless the Prime Minister allows it. This is why a final decision by the membership is wrong.

Truss wanted regional pay boards. She says she was misrepresented, in her U turn of the policy. I'm not surprised she can U turn, because she has done it all the way along to such an extent that when in power and with these monarchial powers she can become anything she likes. Her policy is a fantasy of Tory-appealing tax cuts when there is a crying need for public services and dealing with poverty. She may well ignore all that she has said to them, rather as the Labour leader Keir Starmer has been doing to his own  selectorate. He is currently dumping policy commitments as fast as he can.

The tragedy is that Starmer is so uncharismatic and so unable to score into an open goal that she might even win in a General Election. She is the attention seeker, in her disrespect for Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish democracy. Starmer is no attention seeker as he seems to be politically shy. Ed Davey has done his own policy disappearing act, meanwhile, when he could make a unique appeal to have a Single Market and Customs Union with the European Union to solve, rapidly, many of the cost-raising backlogs we face. Unique policy may well not attract everyone, but it will attract with enthusiasm and in a wish to reverse recent political stupidity a numerous block of voters and in key constituencies. We don't need two UK opposition parties where the public are clueless about their policies. Everyone knows what the SNP stands for, both regarding Scotland and the European Union.



Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Crick in the Political Neck

 

I have a lot of time for Michael Crick, whom John Prescott once called, "Biggles from Newsnight." He was speaking from Talk TV as a guest, the channel with one viewer at that point - me - only because Crick was already on.

 
He says the Tory leadership is over already, Truss being the winner. She has positioned herself on the right but expects she'll govern nearer the centre. I hope he's right. Certainly someone who has reconstructed herself over and again can do it again.

Someone else who did that, positioned on the left to win the party vote, is Sir Keir Starmer. He's been chucking all his winning commitments out of the pram.
 
Crick said he has no charisma and no one knows what Labour stands for. They should be twenty points in front of the Conservatives after all that has happened, so it is quite possible that Truss will win the next General Election. Blair, Smith, Kinnock all were well ahead of the Tories at this stage, and Labour is not there.

'Beergate' was never anything, and Starmer survived the police enquiry fully intact. But it perhaps would have been better for Labour had he gone, for someone else with some charisma to take over. I'd favour someone like Wes Streeting. (Has to be from the right of the party, I'm afraid.)

He didn't mention Sir Ed Davey, leading the Liberal Democrats, and why would he? To my mind Davey has to be distinctive, and the one way he can do it is by promising to make moves to join the EU single market and customs union. We should be like Norway. Even Blair has abandoned this position, because we'd be rule-takers only. But he knows this is not true: the European Economic Area involves lobbying the EU and Norway makes its representations. Davey can offer solutions to our movement and travel,  ending our trade disadvantages, and most of all secure Northern Ireland's peace inclusion in the UK and closeness to Ireland in the EU. Charles Kennedy made his stance on the Iraq war and was rewarded for it in terms of recognition. It's time that Ed Davey did the same, and (as a Lib Dem member, if largely inactive) it's about time he got on with it.

Monday, 25 July 2022

Institutional Church Trickery

(See the update)

On religion (this blog was once all about religion): I no longer attend anywhere. When I lived in New Holland, North Lincolnshire, as from 1994, I first went to Hull Unitarians, and left at a time of (I alleged) mistreatment of a minister, and then I went to Barton Anglicans, a broad (at the time) Anglo-Catholic parish church. Despite my best efforts and even presenting to a theology group, in a liberal corner, I ran out of doctrinal steam and also could not justify the ethic of the wider institution. The Unitarians took me back, so to speak, and then it chose a new minister with disastrous results. After a few years people voted with their feet and left, one by one. I did too, after far too long. I went to the Quakers for over two years and realised they had a commitment to something special which I did not share. So I stopped, and that was it.

So if I comment on anything, it is from the outside. I have no relationship with the Church of England, but boy is it suddenly in a desperate condition of institutional duplicity? After 14 years the Anglican Communion worldwide is to return to Lambeth (so to speak) for a get together of its hierarchy of bishops.

It seems to have forgotten that the attempt to have an Anglican Covenant worldwide failed; the Church of England synod itself said no and that finished it. Rowan Williams from Wales was very annoyed, reminding the Church of England that it was led by bishops like him.

And now there aren't even resolutions for this Anglican get together. No Covenant, no institutional unity. Except there are, by way of Calls, and these Calls can't be voted against - only 'yes' or 'yes but more work needed'. It's like there was a Covenant agreed after all.

Now I thought Christianity was at least about honesty. Seeing as I don't believe it (all that credal stuff suggesting an alternative universe of divine-intervening events), the honest thing was to withdraw. Now I know people view these creeds an doctrines with elasticity, as I did myself, and theology rather demands it at times. So we expect some duplicity and nothing is perfect. But here we have something else - the Calls were introduced when not discussed quite as they appear, and the real brute is the one that wants to reaffirm the 1998 resolution excluding gay sexual relations as permissible and denying gay marriage as normal.

It's a bit late in the day for that! The north Americans in two provinces, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church in Wales have become rather more inclusive institutionally since then. So how can this resolution, in a 'Yes - Affirm' or 'Yes - Needs More Discernment' voting system be the 'Mind of the Communion as a whole'?

Well, one way we know it isn't is the dishonest way it was all shoved forward at the last minute. Already same sex partners were excluded whilst the opposite sex spouses were invited along. This is evidence enough of being 'institutionally homophobic'. However, trying to resolve something as the Mind of the Communion when clearly it isn't could only be shoehorned in as a form of skullduggery that convinces no one - no one bar the Archbishops, presumably, who have driven this dishonesty.

And what this shows is that, after the Unitarians, Quakers and Liberal Jews led the way, and after the United Reformed Church and Methodist Church have become inclusive, plus many tiny Churches of the trinitarian kind opened themselves to sexual partner diversity, the Church of England is not going to follow its Scottish and Welsh neighbours on the road of inclusivity.

The small SEC and tiny CiW may well be motivated by being desperate for members and reach, but the C of E still deludes itself that evangelicals can bring in the numbers and money, and so cannot go the same way. And then there are the overseas Anglicans in parts of the world where these institutions encourage frightening bigotry within and without. The C of E is mother Church, fearful of being colonialist again, and so goes along with the bigotry via sleight of hand and institutional tricks.

Not exactly ethical is it? I wouldn't touch the C of E with a bargepole. I don't know why some people still do.

Update

There has been a change. Yes, they've been found out pulling a fast one. (As if no one would notice!) Now the options are:

'This Call speaks for me. I add my voice to it and commit myself to take the action I can to implement it.'

'This Call requires further discernment. I commit my voice to the ongoing process.'

'This Call does not speak for me. I do not add my voice to this Call.'

Of course the Calls are still biased, the assumptions built into their presentations. They might tinker with the odd text. Do majority votes mean the 'Call' is made?



Relaunch Fakery


We've seen the end of Boris Johnson and by 5th September this year he'll be gone as Prime Minister. He's certainly a supporter of the Conservative Party as an institution, but principle-free to such an extent that he could be a centrist and encourage his own right wing at the same time. As a Covid Prime Minister he was a Social Democrat, but then was forced to chuck red meat at his right wing. He promoted the incapable on the basis of loyalty. A Chancellor of the Exchequer came from nowhere, and the Foreign Secretary was promoted after Johnson's predecessor demoted her. Sunak and Truss respectively turned out to be a smoothie in presentation and a reconstructor of political personality.

Sunak was fined for being present at a party, like Johnson. Sunak also had a Green Card, allowing him to bolthole to the United States along with his international wife even when Chancellor.

But Truss is the one who gets me hiding behind the sofa, like a child watching (or hiding from) Dr. Who. She has staggering form for political fakery.

She trashes Roundhay School, Leeds, in public, but it got her to Oxford. Thus she started as a Liberal Democrat and anti-monarchy too (I am both), becoming its local President no less when at Oxford. This should reassure me. Of course it doesn't, not with the number of zig zag changes she's made.

She had an affair and then became a Tory candidate, her marriage surviving but not the bloke's. She became a Cameroon, a moderniser of the Tory Party (that was vicious to those on benefits - and why I still criticise the Liberal Democrats for propping up the Tories for far too long). Part of this political climb was her robust defence of the European Union and our influence at the central table of its decision taking. She became Lord Chancellor, and was apparently no good at it, and was demoted by Theresa May. But she saw the direction of the political wind, and hitched herself to the Johnson wagon. She suddenly became a convinced Leaver of the EU, rather like Johnson himself had his two newspaper articles - one for in and one for out - and opted to come out. He promoted her from Chief Secretary to the Treasury (and crap at that too) to Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade and then, even, Foreign Secretary. Her incredible trade deals were, basically, EU deals we already had and now needed repeating bilaterally.

As Foreign Secretary she did two connected things. One was have her photo taken wherever she went, and then in iconic Thatcher-appearing style. When she appeared in television debates, she was wooden, robotic and tried to look like Thatcher. She was appealing to the Tory Party demographic.

Don't look for the real Elizabeth Truss, because there isn't one. She is whatever suits at the time. She is no leader for a crisis, and her economic policy is crackers - borrowing when interest rates rise. For a long time money has been 'printed' on the basis of trying to tickle along more economic activity, in the risk that economic activity could release financial assets into price and wage inflation. This, along with war in Europe, has now happened. Monetary policy has to try and make the excess disappear, but her policy would create more and more money swilling around and, presumably, spent by consumers to stoke up demand. Capitalism has been in intensive care since 2008, and now it's about to fly off into contradictions every which way.

She is not the woman to lead the country. Go back to the 1970s when things were bad, too, and at least we had leaders of depth - people who read history, people who argued worked-out positions. We have had decades now of third rate politicians. She is one of them, and for that matter so is Sunak.

Johnson says, "I'll be back," because he knows that his party's "herd instinct" gets fed up with under-performing leaders. He is sure of his greatness, and of appointing people well below him. They are all low level.

None of the above. Mordaunt ran out of steam during her vacuous campaign, but in a system where the first task was to come second or above, it seems that Sunak's firepower was aimed at keeping the apparently popular Mordaunt out. Remember how little his vote went up before the final stage? Clever, but not clever enough, because it seems the Tory faithful rather like fakery and reconstruction, so just as Johnson (and Sunak) can communicate, Truss can turn herself into whatever she wants. Some people can be fooled all of the time.



Tuesday, 11 January 2022

He's Finished

I was thinking of blogging again. The defeat - for this is what it was - by leaving the European Union - ended me having anything to say. It was up to those least divided and so taking a majority to carry out the will of the voting system.

The Northern Ireland Protocol is a kind of figleaf for the exit, to keep a borderless Ireland that has meant a border of sorts in the Irish Sea. The government now does not like its own handiwork. Lord Frost, negotiating it, hoped it would allow the UK to become a Singapore off Europe, being an economic liberal Tory.

But economic liberalism has had nothing for the Covid pandemic, and why we have had a centrist and even social democratic government under Johnson. Johnson's centralism doesn't mean he doesn't care about the Conservative Party - his one big plan was to bring UKIP deserters back to the fold. But he cares little about anything else. Indeed a lot of what he does is about what Carrie Johnson wants, his highly political wife.

He's a good communicator. Even charlatans have to be good communicators, otherwise they get nowhere to practise their craft.

What does if for Johnson this time is that hiding behind the Sue Gray inquiry into parties won't work. It's too binary. Either he (and his wife) were there, or they were not, and being there in that manner was illegal. The inviting email is the gun that went off. This happened when people were suffering.

The replacements aren't too hopeful, right wingers again on the newer Cameron school, whereas Johnson is (I suggest) more of the Peter Walker school of Tory history. He's just so shabby, so without honour.

Carrie Johnson will want him to continue, and that's his personal motive to continue, otherwise he might just give up for more lucrative work. If he goes, she's got nothing, and will have to redesign her life to find political influence.


Sunday, 9 May 2021

Back Again as the Nations Divide

Time to resume the blog after a long gap when the political opposition to leaving the European Union was divided. The progressive left is still divided, but it is (after the devolution elections and local elections) more effective in the nations beyond England and some mayoral settings.

The Conservatives, forced to be centrist as a result of the pandemic, continue to stomp all over the political space. A terrible Brexit deal, although exposed over Ireland, and between Ireland and Britain, is yet to unravel in significant areas. (We're not going to go to war over Jersey, are we?) The divorce is a bureaucratic mess.

But where it will go wrong is with the British nations. The West Lothian question has never quite gone away - in fact it has intensified. Mark Drakeford is able to save Labour in Wales because he had a practical and deliverable manifesto assisted by the recognition given to him with the Coronavirus pandemic. The Scottish National Party and not Alba, but definitely the Green Party, was able to continue to define politics and government in Scotland. Northern Ireland wants it both ways: different from Britain when it suits, but like Britain economically as it suits.

If Ireland can produce the equivalent of the National Health Service, many northerners would vote for taking Northern Ireland into Ireland itself, and back into the European Union. Unionism is already different from the Democratic Unionist Party and its agenda: based on consent, the Alliance Party can be a place for parking Unionism and considering the future.

It is Scotland where the big change is coming. There seems to be a misunderstanding in the United Kingdom government (that increasingly legislates for England only in the details of life) that it decides the path to independence or otherwise. Previously, Cameron said yes to a Scottish Independence referendum, won it, and on the basis of that gambled again regarding the European Union in-out referendum, and thanks to Osbornes austerity and ignoring ordinary folk the government lost. Had the government lost the Scottish referendum, we would never have had an EU referendum.

However, 'just saying no' this time won't work. The reason is this. The Union of Scotland with England, Ireland and Wales was based on a consent of equal nations. Scotland remains a nation - its own legal structure and religious settlement - and the union comes from the sovereignty of the people of that nation and the nations it joined (principally England). The Supreme Court of the UK has already shown that it is both the top of the tree of the Scottish system as well as the English plus system, and if it has to decide about the legitimacy of a referendum it is likely to delve into some very ancient bases indeed about how the Union is formed.

Johnson then is in danger of making a huge error. He stayed away from Scotland in these elections to give the Scottish Conservatives a better outcome; his reach politically - his ability to win - has limitations.

The irony is that the West Lothian Question could well be sorted out via an EU style confederation. We could have a British Isles of independent nations coming together with a limited Parliament (like the EU Parliament) and a Council with national vetoes to decide matters of common interest. We could be a confederation, just like the EU, with some in it and some (one or two) not. The House of Commons ends up being English.

As for the English Labour Party (if we can call it that), it is in a hell of a mess. It probably does have to change its leader - why sack the deputy when the boss has said he carries full responsibility? But there is no party ready to take over from it. The Liberal Democrats looked diminished after these 2021 elections, still damaged from the Coalition and destroyed immediately after by its partner party the Conservatives. It propped up the Conservatives so that they could take us out of the EU, precisely the opposite of Liberal Democrat political culture, and for a while the Conservatives alone in power attacked the poor again, until Johnson started winning 'poor' population seats and became centrist. Let's see how long this lasts, and when ordinary folk with short memories wake up and smell the Tory coffee.

The point is that if Labour are failing as the Liberals once did a hundred plus years ago, where is the political party to replace Labour? Once Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy built up the Liberal Democrats and they would have been ready - but Nick Clegg destroyed all their good work and the Liberal Democrats have gone into reverse to where they were.

And look at the Liberal Democrats in Scotland. They are at some islands (Scotland's further reaches) and a few fragments. They are a fragment in Wales. They are in retreat in Cornwall. If you are pro-EU in Scotland, you must support the SNP or the Greens because the leadership of the Lib Dems have gone into retreat on the EU and because it is a Unionist party by its own intention.

My own view is we'll have to join the European Free Trade Area to have a simple and straightforward trading relationship with Europe, but to do this will need political change and I can't see it - except that the nations of the British Isles are likely to divide first and define politics. Scotland did offer this compromise and was, once again, ignored. So now Scotland is withdrawing its sovereign consent from the Union and this affects everything.