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.

Bury the Past

Politics does descend into absurdity. It’s not unique to our time. What important is that we don’t ignore what’s going on. That approach just abdicates power to the worst amongst us. Attention must be paid to uproot any burying of the past. Corrective action must be taken to re-establish competency and trust.

An absurdity of the moment is the pretence that what happened in the past is irrelevant. That no one in power is answerable for past events. Even those newsworthy events that are relatively recent. This political strategy elevates talk of future actions to cover-up the deficiencies and negligence of the past.

We’ve heard from a Minister of Justice saying that a suspect crime, that happened a year ago, is not the sort of event that the requires investigation. He’s saying that past mistakes and stupidly can escape scrutiny. For any member of the public, a law degree is not needed to know that this is absurdity. It’s right that questions be asked at the highest level.

The UK’s Prime Minister seems intent on concealing any revelations about a Christmas party that may or may not have taken place in No 10 Downing Street[1]. To deny the past is not sustainable. The open display of a culture that ignores rules is shameful[2]. If this proves to be the case strong corrective actions, including resignations would be appropriate.

In addition, there’s a bad habit of saying that criticism of past actions is only “hindsight”. That word is used to diminish the importance of an important issue. What’s worse is that it’s used to justify ignoring fair questions or legitimate criticisms.

Absurdity becomes the norm when this political strategy is used frequently and with little thought. A default position that says, all past events are irrelevant is dangerous and rapidly erodes credibility. A position that then justifies lying to bury past events is supremely crooked.

Conservative politicians in Westminster have got themselves into this extremely bad habit. It’s an arrogant assertion that accountability is for other people. It’s an attempt to by-pass the checks and balances that are necessary in any successful democracy.

As inflation rushes to exceed 5%, the denial that Brexit has had anything to do with this is another absurdity. This habit of burying the past extends to supply chain problems and a decline in trade[3].

Parliament needs to rise and challenge these absurdities. The fabric of our democracy is fraying.

Government credibility is sinking in the quicksand of denial.


[1] https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/uk-pm-johnson-under-fire-over-christmas-lockdown-party-2021-12-08/

[2] https://news.sky.com/story/this-party-is-not-going-to-be-investigated-by-the-police-in-a-years-time-rees-mogg-jokes-about-government-christmas-parties-12489616

[3] https://ukandeu.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/The-impact-of-Brexit-on-UK-services.pdf

#PolicingBill

It’s bad. It’s bad when a Government drafts legislation badly. To put a draft text out there which has a mixture of headlining positive proposals, but also mind-bendingly bad measures is bad politics. I can’t use the word “bad” enough.

Today, the #PolicingBill is being debated in the UK Parliament. The bill is an unparalleled attack on civil liberties. This post-Brexit slide towards authoritarianism under this Conservative Government is dangerous.  The Bill contains the most draconian crackdowns on the right of peaceful protest that any of us have seen in our lifetime.

Protest by its very nature causes a level of disruption. So, if UK legislation makes disruption illegal it effectively bans public and personal protect.  This is shocking. 

This incredibly badly drafted legislation has proposals that look like they were taken directly out of 1984.  10-years in jail for annoying someone, particularly a police officer. This is dangerous politics.

Protest isn’t a gift from given by a generous authority. It’s our fundamental right. It’s our fundamental right to show that we disagree. If this bad bill passes unamended, we will end up with a police state where our civil liberties are eroded in ways that it will be difficult to claw back.

If you don’t believe me then I recommend you read the text of the proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (PCSC Bill).  See: 59 Intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance. https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-01/0268/200268.pdf

You will get 10-years in jail for serious annoyance, serious inconvenience, or serious loss of amenity to a person or even risk of such.

Flying, Democracy and Safety 1.

woman in white face mask
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

National lockdowns are being effective in controlling COVID-19 outbreaks. The tricky part is that the fear that has been induced in people to encourage compliance with the lockdowns means that any relaxation of rules is going to be difficult. That’s only right and proper, given that the management of risk is a delicate balancing act. Not only that but fatality totals have risen to truly staggering levels.

What is evident is that the way the international air transport industry has been working, its systems, procedures and business models are going to need a radical shakeup. Coronavirus is a game changer. According to @IATA the impact of COVID-19 crisis on long-haul travel is to be “much more severe and of a longer duration” than what is expected in domestic markets.

Aviation safety work is important per se, but it has the added value of maintaining public confidence in air transport. In the past, a minority had a fear of flying.  For as long as we have COVID-19, the situation is different. Now, it’s likely that many more people will be finding alternatives or putting off flying either for business or pleasure.

Governments have introduced measures and restrictions at borders. If these stay in place summer holidays are going to be off this year.

The European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) continue to try to create a new partnership. The agenda for this week’s round of EU-UK negotiations have been published[1].  It’s good to see that Aviation Safety gets a couple of hours on Wednesday, 13 May 2020.  No doubt a progress report will be forthcoming by the end of the week.

There’s still a possibility that a limited deal could be struck by October 2020.  However, it continues to look unlikely that the UK will seek an extension to talks despite the risks. With confirmation that the UK is in an economic recession the hard-line on the Brexit negotiation time limit looks suicidal. The combination of events is extremely bad.

The great Brexit divide in British politics is alive and kicking. It’s deepening as people harden their views under the weight of the Coronavirus crisis. The political slogan of 2016: “Take back control” now sounds hollow and meaninglessness.

If the EU-UK negotiations fail and a No-Deal Brexit outcome results the harm it will do to ourselves and to our allies, friends and neighbours will be unforgivable in normal times.  It will be unbelievably irresponsible in the middle of an economic and health crisis.

[1] https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/brexit_files/info_site/hl-agenda-round-3.pdf