22 July 2016

But we are not alone..........

Political life in post-Brexit Not-Quite-United Kingdom may well be a little topsy-turvy but at least we don't have Nigel Farage as a potential Prime Minister. Compare this to the USA where Donald Trump (Farage on steroids) is now the Republican candidate in the upcoming Presidential election. But there is a very real comparison between our situation and that in the USA - in both places, politicians are making general policy statements which lack any detail, which are completely open to interpretation and which, most likely, cannot be implemented whatever the interpretation. The real downside of this approach is that people who vote for these 'policy promises' are very likely to be disappointed and when they are, the shit will really hit the fan.

The Brexit vote may well have been more of a protest vote but the fact is that many voters feel that they have been ignored or left behind and it is that constituency that politicians both ignore and embrace at their peril. If politicians address that constituency with their promises, then they had better deliver and ensure that those voters feel that their situation has improved. The problem there is that, referring to the UK, to improve the situation of the disaffected (outside of the major conurbations) will require a major policy shift e.g. a general refocussing of investment away from, for example, the M25 bubble and more towards the wider UK.  Is that likely to happen - probably not so what happens when voters who voted for 'change' find that nothing changes? More extremism is the answer. And more finger pointing - blame them, they are the problem.

The 'stay or go' referendum could be characterised as change vs no-change and the 'change' camp used phrases like 'taking back control of parliament' or 'taking back control of our borders'. Only time will tell but neither promises are likely to be delivered and Farage has already made it clear that he won't be around to share the responsibility for failure. He's made it clear that he is far happier to foment dissatisfaction and then move on than he is to stay and deal with the entrenched attitudes that maintain the M25/Westminster/City of London bubbles. More dangerous are Trump's wild policy generalisations about delivering safety and Law & Order the moment he takes office.

Whilst Farage's efforts may have made the UK a less liberal place, Trump's vision could easily make the world a more dangerous place.

12 July 2016

Chaos reigns .............

Whilst I feared that the referendum vote would, at least be close, I certainly didn't see the chaos that has followed on the heels of the Brexit vote. The 'exit stage left' of Boris and Farage simply showed them to be the opportunist politicians that we knew they were. They got the result that they claimed to want and when they had it, they recognised it for the shit-sandwich that it is and beat a hasty retreat. Then Gove, having stabbed his good friend Boris, sought the Leadership of the Tory Party and found out that he was not well liked (how could he have been surprised?) and that left us with a two mare race, May vs Leadsom, to decide who would lead the country into the valley of  death.

Loathsome Leadsom did us all a favour when she seemed to wear her fertility like some sort of qualification when we all know that getting pregnant requires little, if any intelligence. On the other hand, Theresa May's childlessness may (and I stress may) indicate that, like myself, she fears for the future of humanity and decided that the world might not be a great place for the next generation.

Whatever the case, Leadsom, having also taken time to 'sex up' her CV, decided that she would step-aside for the good of the party and the country. What utter bull-shit. Being an opportunist politician,  she saw the opportunity to parley her complete obscurity into some sort of position in the new administration. What surprised me was the disappointment on the faces of her beery-nosed supporters when she decided to 'do the right thing'.

So, Theresa May is now left to sort out the mess left behind by Cameron et al and she will have to do it with little cross-party support given that the Parliamentary Labour Party seems determined to tear itself apart in the most public manner.

Jeremy Corbyn seems a decent man and a conviction politician but, unlike most politicians, he doesn't court the media and that has made him their enemy. It has also made him the enemy of his parliamentary colleagues who see courting the media as an integral part of the job. Not only do they see it as integral to the job, they also see it allowing them to spend more time inside the Westminster bubble and, by extension, less time with the electorate.

This approach stands in stark contrast to Corbyn's approach during the Leadership election when he went out to the country and spoke at local meetings, talking to local people and real voters. As a consequence, membership of the Labour Party grew substantially resulting in Corbyn's election by a huge margin over the other candidates. And, in the face of Angela Eagle's challenge, Corbyn will probably win again, by another significant margin.

But the trials of the Labour Party speak eloquently to the wider problems with our Parliamentary Democracy - it is out of touch with and disconnected from the electorate. Living inside the Westminster bubble isn't real life or anything near it and, whilst living outside the Westminster bubble would not necessarily guarantee a better democratic process, it would increase the chances that it might reflect something better approaching real life.

So, my prescription for Theresa is that her first priority should be to use the proposed renovation of the Houses of Parliament as an excuse to turn them in to a theme park whilst moving Parliament itself to somewhere north of Manchester, to the geographic centre of the United Kingdom. Theresa might also consider creating a 'virtual parliament' where Members vote from their constituency offices, preferably in the presence of their electorate.

An underlying intention of Parliament's relocation would be to expose our parliamentarians, and media, to the standards of infrastructure that most of us experience. That would also be followed by a radical rebalancing of infrastructure expenditure to ensure that most such expenditure is focussed outside the M25. Theresa should also extend 'right to buy' to the private housing sector whilst, at the same time, impose a 50% purchase and 50% sales tax on non-dom owned property in the UK. Empty residential property should also attract a 10 times increase in Council Tax.

Will any of this happen - I doubt it but, when chaos reigns, we can at least dream.

4 July 2016

First Boris, now Nigel........


It came as a huge surprise to everyone  (well, maybe not everyone) when Boris announced his decision not to seek the Leadership of the Conservative Party. Now, the awful Farage announces, not for the first time, that he is stepping down from Leadership of the Ukippers and I wondered what do these two decisions have in common?

In simple terms, both Boris and Farage have realised that Brexit, which they both claimed to support, will, most likely, be an unmitigated disaster, not least because none of the Brexiters had the faintest clue how Brexit would be managed. The awful truth has now dawned of both these individuals and they share a common desire not to have to consume the shit-sandwich that will be Brexit. In fact, although there is meant to be a Tory Leadership election, the Brexiteers will be very happy if, at least in the short term and maybe in the longer term as well,  if Teresa May gets the job. That will give them the perfect excuse to blame the Remainers when Brexit doesn't happen.

So, whilst all of this sad manoeuvring is going on, Dave (He of the Big Tent) will be sunning himself in the highly paid shelter of directorships which usually follow senior politicians who exit the political field. Don't be surprised if Dave indulges in some sniping of his own.


News from Somerton.........


Muck & Brass started off (in 2006) commenting on the activities of the then Somerton Town Council, particularly with regard to the various proposals to provide  a 'community hall' for the town. That story is extensively covered elsewhere in this blog but some aspects of the story live on today and my attention has been drawn to two of these: the proposed demolition of the now redundant doctor's surgery and the development of the Badgers Cross Industrial Estate.

With regard to the redundant doctor's surgery, I understand that it is now proposed to demolish the building and turn the site into additional car parking in the centre of the town. The surgery building was purchased in 2003 (with a loan from the Public Works Loan Board) and it is to be assumed that the District Council's purchase of the site will compensate the community of Somerton for their investment in the original purchase.

Regarding Badgers Cross, on 29th November 2009 I considered the implications of the then proposed relocation of Somerton's recycling site (at Bancombe Road) to a new site at Badgers Cross. From information available on South Somerset District Council's website, Badgers Cross is well on the way to becoming the predicted Bancombe Road Mk2, the major difference between 2009 and 2016 being that the taxpayer is not going to fund the infrastructure for the project.

28 June 2016

Bridging the gulf..........


The current distasteful spectacle of the Parliamentary Labour Party tearing itself apart is the best illustration that I can see of the gulf between Westminster and the rest of the country.

Jeremy Corbyn was elected to lead the Labour Party and by a huge margin of the Labour Party membership. However, it was immediately apparent that, whilst Jeremy won the popular vote, the Parliamentary Party were clearly not on his side. Today, 9 months after his election, Corbyn faces a vote of no confidence within the Parliamentary Labour Party, a vote which he will inevitably lose and which will then trigger a leadership election which will probably go exactly the way the last one went leading to Corbyn, again, being re-elected as party leader. And this process is likely to be repeated, ad infinitum, until everyone dies of boredom.

What is clear is that the PLP are out of touch with their constituents, probably to a greater degree than Tory MPs, but out of touch none-the-less and they need to address that issue. But, like the Tory party, MPs are selected by institutional  organisations which exist within the Westminster bubble and that is the problem for every political aspirant in this country.

Until the Westminster bubble is burst (along with the Square Mile bubble and the M25 bubble) business will continue as usual with carping, whining, mud slinging and the promotion of the interests well able to look after themselves.

Our Parliamentary Democracy was meant to represent the interests of the whole of the country not just the interests of those lucky enough to have access to and influence within those three bubbles.

27 June 2016

So what exactly was 'Leave' meant to achieve?

This from today's edition of The Times, Rupert Murdoch's mouthpiece:



26 June 2016

'Leave' - a very British coup


I have just watched Douglas Carswell talking to Evan Davis on BBC2 on the subject of 'Where do we go after BREXIT?' and his views, if I understood them correctly, suggested that he thinks that we have had an change of government.

When Evan Davis asked him what part the House of Commons would play in the negotiations he seemed to suggest that ALL MPs must follow the party line which would be instructed by the 'Leave' campaign. This position would propose that the referendum has, in fact, created an unelected government, the 'Leave' campaign, and that ALL MPS must follow instructions issued by 'Leave', even where they might represent constituencies which voted 'Stay'.

Carswell went on to explain that the negotiations with the EU must be undertaken only by 'Leave' MPs, i.e. Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and, I would assume, Carswell himself. So, the referendum has been hijacked to serve the interests of the ultra Right and, if anyone thought that leaving the EU was going to make things better, they had better prepare themselves for a shock - its actually going to get worse, much worse.