Red Tape

I know. Why explain? When people only hear what they want to hear? On the scale of right-wing political good or bad there are words that can make a slogan to suite any blank page. Shape any mood. Frame a slogan around “tax cuts” and you are at the happy end of the spectrum (blue). Frame a sentence around “red tape” and unhappy faces will appear (red).

My heart sinks when I see British newspaper headlines like: Truss pledges EU red tape bonfire[1]. It’s a celebration of ignorance and pessimism. The politics is crude. It’s kindergarten. Dam the past and paint a picture of gleaming utopia ahead. Comic book stuff. There’s never been a quicker way to appeal to the Conservative Grumpy[2] family.

In earlier articles, I’ve made it clear that 6-years of Brexit has meant more “red tape” rather than less. That is red tape that greatly impacts UK exports, imports, livelihoods, jobs, and prosperity.

For Leavers, the Brexit project was about cutting so called red tape in the belief that administration, laws and rights are the ultimate problems. However, the post-Brexit UK is presenting more complex bureaucracy, producing poorer results at a greater cost than before.

It’s always peculiar when legislators blame legislation for our ills.

When the UK was a member of the European Union (EU) countries worked together, removing trade barriers, and promoting free movement to create a better future. Now, the UK is determined to continue to reverse that good work much to its own detriment. Plainly, we are a country determined to sanction itself. All because it opens the political convenience of being able to blame others.

These years are the topsy-turvy years. A Government that tables a no-confidence vote and then cheers a discredited Prime Minister[3]. A zombie Government then limps on while a few thousand people mull over our future. Ministers boast of their achievements but then dam everything that has gone in the past.

It’s unfortunate but this generation of uncivilised minnows is in charge. At least for the moment.

POST 1: False words compound the problem of understanding. There is no EU “red tape”. The UK left the EU. What we have is UK law. Law made by the politicians that who are damming that law. Yes, parts of UK law have been derived from EU law. That is law that the UK helped make while in the EU.

POST 2: Concerns about the removal of consumer protection are being raised widely. Believe me, you will miss that red tape once it’s gone | Money | The Sunday Times (thetimes.co.uk)

POST 3: The list goes on and on UK chemicals sector hit by £2bn Brexit red tape bill | Financial Times (ft.com)


[1] https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/uk-leadership-candidate-truss-pledges-to-ditch-all-eu-laws-by-2023/ar-AAZSeN6

[2] My coffee mug is from the Mr Men, Little Miss series (2017).

[3] https://votes.parliament.uk/Votes/Commons/Division/1351

ITV Debate

For anyone interested in public affairs watching a debate of candidates for Prime Minister (PM) should be a pleasure #ITVdebate. It’s the summer heat. Pleasure it certainly wasn’t. It was a formulaic event that was enough to make milk curdle. The toxic blue-on-blue punch-up was uninspiring. A college debating society might have made better peak time TV.

The matter of who will be the British PM in only 7 weeks’ time is important. As the first question put it, we are at the start of an actual cost of living crisis. Unfortunately, Sunday night a lot of fairy tale economics were on show. Rubishing the past took front stage. All Conservative candidates said they would not have the caretaker PM Boris Johnson in a new cabinet.

All candidates vaguely rattled on about Brexit opportunities. When asked if the winner needed to call for a General Election to consolidate their mandate they all said – no.

Tom Tugendhat MP stood on a hill shouting “clean start,” but it was as if no one was listening. He said he was in mortal fear of the leader of the opposition. He shifted around in an uneasy manner.

Liz Truss MP wanted to emphasise that she was “honest” but admitted to not being “slick” as she sideswiped the other candidates. Here neo-Thatcher stance is thinning as quickly as it arrived. Word of the night was – bold.

“Time for a change” was Kemi Badenoch MP’s mantra. Being brave and asking for unity are all designed to create good vibes. The Twittersphere has dubbed her #badenough as if to mark that as the criteria for winning. To target the giveaway candidates Badenoch said there’s “no easy option”.

As the front running Rishi Sunak MP, former Chancellor, got the most kick backs from other candidates. “I want to be honest” and responsible were his themes. He put the stress on prudent conservatism, a phenomenon that may not exist anymore.

Penny Mordaunt MP was all about saying she’s a team player but not acting like one. Asking for an innovative approach and that the system is broken is appropriate. Sadly, filling the vacuum with nothing much hasn’t helped her case. She’s the spend, spend, spend candidate. She told a fib about the state of the polls too.

Robot like, Truss wanted it known that she has “served” and will stand up to Putin. She stressed her legacy of trade deals and getting things done. Her project fear was to mention the inflationary spiral of the 1970s. Truss and Mordaunt can across as arrogant and patronising by calling for change but being unclear what change is needed.

Badenoch was not ashamed of her role in Government. Strangely for a politician she hit out at the others by saying “talking is easy” Tugendhat is a fan of nuclear power and never misses an opportunity to mention his military service.

Sunak was the only one to come across as relaxed. Open shirts are his uniform. He was unshaken as he skilfully batted back all the balls bowled directly at him. If there was a winner – he was it.

Fundamental schisms

Today, we have a UK Conservative Government running against a UK Conservative Government. Elections can be strange but this one is stranger than most. Even the rules for the election have been made-up as the process moves forward. Changing the rules is becoming a habit.  

Each candidate for British Prime Minister is pointing out the errors of the past and dire problems the country faces. With some, at the same time, sitting in a lame duck administration, these candidates are heralding how their personal qualities elevate them above the herd. How they are ready to lead. As if they had emerged from nowhere. As if a curtain can be drawn over Boris Johnson premiership.

When reporters ask about their record in the House of Commons, a quick sidestep is the most common approach. The general defence offered for our dire situation is that of quoting a list of global events. COVID, war and economic downturn. Yet we all know that these global events would have occurred whatever UK Government had been in power.

It’s like saying we have just travelled over an unmade-up road and then blaming the condition of the road for any damage done. That the driver, and political decision-makers in the country have no responsibility for the folly, harm, and pain of the last 7-years (2015-now). Yet, even as the road gets rougher those sitting next to the driver are trying to grab the steering wheel.

As bizarre as anything this Conservative Government limps on with a dominant parliamentary majority despite only commanding 44% of the votes cast back in 2019. As the turmoil continues under their watch, their national poll rating is sustaining a dip below 30% of the electorate.

This political whirlwind will not be stopped by shifting the political deckchairs. There are fundamental schisms within the Conservative party. It’s very evident from the camps being formed by the party candidates for Prime Minister. No new leader will be able to hold this fracture bunch together.

The Brexit Bolsheviks do not want to make peace. They see their roles are permanent revolution. They will always see the post-referendum era as work unfinished. It’s a partisan drive to a utopia of isolation. It’s the complete opposite to what the country needs. Confidence has truly been lost. In so many ways this Conservative Government has no legitimacy. The representatives in this British parliament have lost public confidence. It’s time for them to go.

He’s still in post!

How to reflect on the week’s national news? A tumultuous flurry of activity reached a peak not often seen. Mass media speculation saturated the bandwidth available. A collapse of support was expected but sequence of events was anything but certain.

Just for fun I’ll start with a metaphor. It was like a series of steppingstones to cross a turbulent and toxic river. Once the political will had been assembled to cross the river the course of events kicked off. Such a moment is difficult to define even if the outward signs were the first big Ministerial resignations. It took a couple of big beasts to take the risk on making the first steps.

The illusive steppingstones shimmered in the media spotlight. Some provided a workable path to the destination. Others appeared and disappeared as opinions were as plentiful as stars in the galaxy. At any moment the turbulent and toxic river could have consumed the whole enterprise.

In the end, step by step, “clownfall” happened. It’s a nice composite word that sums up the fall of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. At least it’s a break from the series of this “gate” or that “gate” sagas that were coined.

Going back to my metaphor, after all the stormy kerfuffle a lectern was erected outside Number 10 Downing Street. It’s as if a pontoon had been erected in the middle of the river. The PM nonchalantly breezed out of the imposing black door of Number 10. He then proceeded to pontificate about his great achievements and only grudgingly admitted that he had to go.

It might normally be expected that the moment had come to leave. Walking down Downing Street to pass through the gates, wave to the crowd and not return, unless invited. In a normal situation this would be the moment that the person designated as a deputy would take over and manage a transition period. That a line would be drawn, and the business of Government would continue under a temporary management. Not so.

We now have the bizarre and dangerous situation where a discredited man continues to hold the post of British Prime Minister. It’s as strange as it gets. Everyone knows that he is a lame duck leader holding up a lame duck Government. It’s barmy.

NOTE 1: Monday 18th July, Conservative MPs voted to keep the zombie Government in power. With not one Conservative MP breaking ranks to vote against Boris Johnson. Yet, all the candidates to replace him say they would never have him in their Government.

NOTE 2: Boris Johnson’s ‘disgraceful’ plan for 30 new peers | News | The Times

Well, don’t say I didn’t warn: Boris Johnson poised to go ahead with resignation honours list | Boris Johnson | The Guardian

Bridge the gap

Trying to understand the motivations of people that I don’t agree with is something I try to do. It can be fruitless and frustrating, but it does get away from social media’s ever-present algorithms. It’s not good to only listen to people with whom I wholeheartedly agree. Last night, in a moment of curiosity I switched on the TV and watched GB News. That’s until it got far too boring.

There’s one sure thing. The channel is nothing to do with News. My observation is that GB News is focused on delivering disinformation to a British target public. Not much cheer or many smiles on this channel. There’s a sullen diatribe of announcements covered in red, white, and blue. Its style is that of a pound shop American Fox News, but tone would have been at home in Soviet times.

The themes are entirely predictable. It goes like this; the European Union is an evil empire but European are weak. The enemy is at the gates. Amongst the worst are “Remainers” and the waves of “woke” minded. Forget hardships, Brexit will one day bring a utopia that others will envy.

An evangelical zeal gushes from the screen. Interviewees who say they once voted against Brexit but now see the light. There’s a strong projection of victimisation. It takes an intolerant form. How dare they say I’m wrong. How dare they say I didn’t know what I voted for in 2016. Underlying this is a collective “they” who are believed to be conspiring to overturn the will of the people.

What makes these observations chilling is that I’ve been told by my local Member of Parliament that British Prime Minister Johnson is being attacked by an unfair prejudicial media. Populists have a sharp partition in their minds. On one side is the righteous propagandists and on the other is the mainstream media, who’s a danger to their cherished projects.

Liberal Democracy loves diversity and media pluralism. Let many flowers bloom. However, these current changes in public dialogue are heading in a dangerous direction. More polarisations will lead to more disillusionment. The middle ground must reassert itself. In starting that journey, I wouldn’t start from here, but we must start from here to bridge the gap.

RE

So, Sir Keir Starmer sees “no case” for the UK re-joining the European Union (EU). Disappointing but, in a way, I’m not that surprised that the leader of the UK Labour Party should say such a thing in the North of England. The audience wishes to hear that Starmer is looking ahead, and not behind.

What was interesting in my mind was the emphasis on – no way back. However, the point is moot. It’s true, there is no way back to the way things were prior to 2016.

Going back in time is reserved for science fiction. I’ve been watching re-runs of the 1980s/90s US TV series Quantum Leap[1]. It’s incredibly enjoyable. Time travel within one’s own lifetime is a fascinating theme for fiction but it’s not happening anytime soon in the real world. Starmer is not Dr Sam Beckett on a mission. Starmer doing involuntarily leaps through spacetime is way beyond my imagination.

Saying there’s no case for re-joining isn’t earth shattering. Those two letters “re” are a millstone. There in the words: return, recreate, revive, restore, revitalise, and even remain. Always the subject is about the past. I know we are a country that loves to revel in the past but let’s dump “re[2]” when talking about future possibilities. The last thing we need is to maintain a sense of repetition. There are times to put the past behind us and create a new vision.

If Starmer becomes UK Prime Minister (PM), and that could be sooner than many think, then the timescale for evaluation of the UK’s relationship with the EU may not be too far off.

Starmer claims he wants to “make Brexit work” if he becomes PM. Now, that’s where his utterances get unwise. Above, I’ve warned about lashing public policy to the past. It’s better that Brexit is consigned to a list of historic mistakes. And besides, why say such a thing when the public’s attention is elsewhere?

When people are asked: How well or badly do you think the Government are doing at handling Britain’s exit from the EU? the answer wallows in negatve numbers. It seems strange that Labour seeks the same hopeless position as the Conservatives.

There’s a desperate need for new vision.


[1] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096684/

[2] re- Word-forming element meaning “back, back from, back to the original place;” also “again, anew, once more,” also conveying the notion of “undoing” or “backward,” etc., c. 1200, from Old French re- and directly from Latin re- an inseparable prefix meaning “again; back; anew, against.

Dead End

It’s been said as a joke but “Steve Barclay moves seamlessly from pretending Brexit is going well to pretending Boris is doing well” rings too true. This is a reference to Conservative MP and Minister Steve Barclay moving his desk into No. 10 Downing Street. Questions are being raised over how Johnson’s new Chief of Staff will manage more than three jobs.

Barclay will have a desk in No. 10, the Cabinet Office and his constituency. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle may come into play in that no one will be entirely certain where he is at any moment in time. It has been said that this is deckchair rearrangement of the highest art.

When a premier or Cesar[1] goes bad a blindness afflicts them completely. This is often aided by those in their immediate circle of influence. They are protected from reality by a shield wall of group think. So it’s right to ask, in the fullness of time, will Johnson be found playing the fiddle in the safety of No 10 Downing Street as the country burns (metaphorically speaking) around him. If he hangs on long enough this seems highly likely, given all the indications.

Barclay’s Brexit credentials are extemporary. He’ll certainly be using every opportunity to make the European Union a scape goat for whatever disasters are coming next. Public blaming has become the political tool of choice amongst Johnson’s shrinking cabal. A wide range of targets have been used. The Conservative party’s list is long: the media, foreigners, immigration, judges, courts, police, markets, industry, workers, civil servants, the voters, and most unsurprisingly anyone who voted “remain” in 2016 have all been under attack.

Johnson’s Government will continue to spin deeply misleading and often untrue statements to lift the spirits of its supporters. At the same time the smoke screen will anger and insult the rest of us.

A growing number of commentators agree about the inevitability of Johnson’s fall. But it’s not at all clear how he will be ousted, the timing or who is in line to take over the role of Prime Minister. Now, if this was classical Rome a violent act would be being planned at this very moment. In 21st century, Britain a public verbal evisceration and the movements of grey men in dark suites are probably on the cards.

As we pass into the next era there will be so much wreckage left by Johnson’s Government it’s going to take a mighty long time to fix it up. It’s possible to imagine a better Government. One full of hope and ambition but will they be first burdened with sorting out one hell of a mess.


[1] https://www.worldhistory.org/Nero/

Gaslighting

Any movie with Ingrid Bergman must be worth watching. If your evil partner is manipulative and you feel you might go insane then watch the 1940s movie “Gaslight”. Lamps dim for no reason and your grip on reality starts to slide. As the thriller unwinds so the process of gaslighting is unveiled.

It’s not uncommon that people are their own harshest critics. Naturally, if you are a psychopath that’s not the case. Similarly, if you have a mountainous ego where nothing much will shift you from thinking you are right, in any circumstances.

Gaslighting is an insidious form of emotional harm. It’s associated with abusive relationships. Where one person deliberately manipulates situations to undermine another. Motivations can range from being just plain evil to money or an insatiable desire for power over others.

It’s not individual relationships that these words will cover. What’s a phenomenon is the frequent use, particularly on social media, of the term “Gaslighting” to refer to current political manipulation. It’s way up there on the lexicon of how to describe the Conservative Party’s campaigning.

You don’t have to be a glamorous film star to suffer the effects of techniques aimed at undermining your perception of reality. It’s all to easy in the febrile world of social media.

Political villains’ intent on distorting facts are there to take advantage of the compelling nature of the small screen. You shouldn’t have to second-guess yourself when reading the News but its not so difficult to persuade people to do so.

Just now we have the nonsensical rhythm of double speak in the question – when a party is not a party. It’s almost got to the stage of asking the question – when a cake is not a cake.

In all of that, let’s recognise what’s happening. By deliberately muddying the waters and sowing doubt so a lot of Conservative MPs are gaslighting the public. The Prime Minister is gaslighting the public. It’s difficult to know what’s true when the sand is shifting so often. The manipulator can seem charming and as nice as pie, but their motive is to deceive you.

Our perception of reality depends on acquiring information that is accurate and reliable. In my aviation world, fatal accidents are caused by a loss of situation awareness. Even a lapse of awareness can get pilots into serious difficulties. Accurate and reliable information is needed to stay safe.

COVID has caused a great deal of social isolation. That is fertile ground for despicable political operators to disorientate people. We are players in a psychological thriller. We are people trying to make sense of the world. Trying to make a better world. We need to be able to recognise it because “Gaslighting” is a big danger.

Gap Grows

“One rule for them. Another rule for us.” It’s always an emotive slogan. It’s not my favourite saying in a time of great political polarisation. First you must see yourself as, one of us. Second you must see them as alien and privileged.

In a divided society this slogan gets thrown around like candy. However, it has a core truth in it. Inequality is a fixture in England. It was fine for Blair and Brown to say: education, education education, but they only shifted the dial a small amount.

Recently, I did a guided tour around a well-known English public school. Its history is fascinating, and some notable people have gone through its doors. The experience of schooling in that place is a huge leg up on prospects. There’s absolutely no way that a state school experience can match up.

One of the factors is the huge resources focused on creating opportunity for each pupil. Another, advantage is the closeted environment that creates a private network of lifelong contacts.

What then of “levelling up”? As a political slogan it seems to imply an almost communist attempt to increase the wellbeing, opportunity, and quality of life for every single citizen to a new common level. That makes me wonder why equivalents like eliminate poverty or prioritise education or fix climate change aren’t getting a look in.

Could it be that “levelling up” is in fact “covering-up”? Objective measures say that the gap between the richest in society and the rest of the population has widened over 10-years[1]. Rather than a natty political slogan surely corrective action to address this gap is needed.

This year household finances are going to be under extreme pressure. A cost-of-living crisis is upon us. It’s not just energy bills. It’s post-COVID-19 business failures. It’s supply chain chaos made worse by BREXIT. It’s incompetence and waste in Government responses.

Unfortunately, this Conservative Government has forfeited any trust people may have had in it. Trust matters if solutions to our challenges are to be met and overcome. Trust is broken when one privileged group demands the right to cling to power regardless of circumstances.

There’s need for urgent action. There’s need for a new plan. There’s need for a new Government.


[1] https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/personalandhouseholdfinances/incomeandwealth/bulletins/householdincomeinequalityfinancial/financialyearending2020

He must go

We are always faced with contradictions. Paradox is frustrating. Nevertheless, reality is littered with inconsistencies.

On the one side it’s often said that: a leopard can’t change its spots. Meaning that basic habits become so ingrained that changing them becomes all but impossible. Parts of a person’s personally are so deeply set that it’s difficult to imagine them ever being any different.

My Dad would occasionally say: you can’t teach and old dog new tricks. When I was younger, I used to find this annoying. It’s the kind of phrase that is used to avoid trying a new way of doing things. You could say it’s innately conservative with a small “c”.

These homilies run parallel to the general notion that everyone can change. It’s the Christian call for redemption. That all of us can choose a different path. That we have autonomy. Just like Scrooge we can wake up one morning and transform our lives.

What makes the difference is a matter of character. That’s a quality that is established over a long time. It’s the sum total of past actions. It’s the mark that a person has left on the world.

Now, the idea that Boris Johnson will change, or can change is for the birds. In the current crisis of trust in senior Conservative politicians, the defenders of those in power are trying to be contrite. These people are in fact reluctant or unwilling to change habits or long-held beliefs. In reality, they are hunkering down based on the ways and means that got them power in the first place.

This is a morning for proverbs. Johnson is a bad apple. Can you imagine any parent saying to their child – I hope you grow up to be like our current Prime Minister. Will his method of governance be taught in schools as the right way to do thing? I don’t think so.

People expect a British Prime Minister to be accountable for their actions. It’s a role of great importance in the life of our country. In the face of deliberate misconduct, intentional recklessness, or even criminal activity Members of Parliament must be answerable.

The negative consequences of Johnson’s actions are having repercussions throughout society. This Prime Minister does not meet basic standards of behaviour expected of a person in a premier leadership role. It is time for Johnson to step aside. He must go.