Reform

The UK’s recent political calamities make it look like we have a long-run soap opera rather than an example of effective governance. There are examples of good governance. Look at the role played by select committees in holding decision makers to account. That’s a rare example. One reason for the last six years of turmoil is that stultifying lack of innovation and blockheaded belief in MPs superiority. Gradually, Parliament has become disconnected from everyday life. It mimics a theatre of the absurd in its form and manners. 

Parliament will be relevant to people if it’s seen to work for people. Today, any claim that it works raises laughter and sullen looks.

So, I welcome Labour’s former Prime Minister proposing a rewiring of the UK Parliament. The House of Lords (HoLs) in its current form is “indefensible”. Naturally, the tabloid media uses the word “abolish” for its dramatic impact. Better to say that there’s a transformation to be undertaken to bring our democracy into the 21st century.

This is not as new as detractors might suggest. Here I sit not far from a rotten Borough[1] that returned two Members of Parliament at a time when cities like Manchester returned none. Gatton’s disfranchisement was agreed on 20 Feb. 1832. Yes, that’s 192 years ago but in terms of the evolution of the British constitution that isn’t that long ago.

The arguments against the current HoL should not be based on an attack against all its members. There are many who take their role extremely seriously and perform the scrutiny of Government bills with care and diligence. However, out of the large number of members many do little.

It’s the legitimacy and structure of the institution that are highly questionable in the 2020s. The form of the HoLs does not represent the country. It’s manner of working is stuck in pre-history. It’s a sign of reward for a tiny minority.

Both Canada and Australia have a Parliamentary system. Their second chambers are based on a more rational, democratic and effective structure. They provide regional representation as well as scrutiny.  A Senate of the UK makes sense to me.

It’s well overdue that the “Mother of Parliaments” stepped into the world we all inhabit.


[1] https://historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1820-1832/constituencies/gatton

Tramline

The time for change is now. It’s not much more than a year before a UK General Election. Sadly, we are seeing only reactive thinking from the two largest British political parties. Both bounce off each other like a game of ping pong. There’s a conversation going on across the country about the need for change, but the Conservatives and Labour Party are stuck on a tram line.

“It’s the economy, stupid.[1]” I remember reading James Carville’s book about Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. It’s about the great political motivator of how people feel about the amount of money they have in their pockets. Probably shouldn’t put it like that anymore since we tap every purchase with a card and local bank branches are closing. Cash is no longer king.

As an example of the terrible economic damage that Brexit is doing, we need only look at trade figures between the UK and Germany[2]. There’s been a huge fall in trade between the UK and Germany during the first period of the post-Brexit trading relationship. So far, the impact of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) has been negative.

Knowing the facts, the Conservatives and Labour Party still parrot the nonsense that they know how to make Brexit work. It’s a peculiar dance around an economic corpse. Where both political parties point fingers at each other for ruining the dance.

Except for trade specialists, the British media are being inarticulate about the failings of Brexit. It’s as if there’s a distinct fear of being called out and ostracised. Many of those who should be speaking out are sitting on their hands. Maybe this is the dull precursor to change since we don’t know what the public mood will be in a year’s time.

Brexit does not negate the facts of geographic proximity, globalisation and decades of close economic partnership. Close European links will continue and need to be nurtured. Politicians who have wilfully attempted to destroy the bridges built between the UK and the EU belong to the past.

A Government that continues to endanger more than just back pockets and living standards shouldn’t win another term of office – should they? Will people vote for candidates who plan to improve our dismal economic outlook? Those who will tell the truth about Brexit. Today, neither the Conservatives nor Labour Party are telling the truth.

POST: What can we know about the cost of Brexit so far? | Centre for European Reform (cer.eu)


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_the_economy,_stupid

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/56347096

House of the past

Legacy. So, many of our problems are because we carry the millstone of the worst of the past. It would be nice if the best of the past guided us forward but that’s not the English way.

In 1990, we were treated to a television feast. A wonderful political thriller that echoes down the years. House of Cards[1] reflected and exaggerated the twists and turns of life in a fictional Westminster. It was the post Thatcher era. Surrounding succession, intrigue, and dastardly goings on filled the corridors of power and Parliament.

One of those sayings that keeps bouncing back in respect of politics is: “under a tall tree nothing grows” and variations on that theme. In essence it can mean that the aftereffects of having had a powerful leader, or a period of unchallenged power is inevitably a desert of ideas and imagination.

Ian Richardson’s portrayal of Francis Urquhart is masterful. House of Cards depicts the scrabbling for power, for the sake of power that consumes British politics from time to time. It shows how the greedy, incompetent, and foolish can be manipulated by a clever person with devilish intent.

32 years on it is surprising, although it shouldn’t be, how much of the series resonates with the political turbulence of 2022. The 1990s were different times. No social media. An infant digital world as mobile phones were just starting to impact daily life. That said, untrammelled ambition adapts to whatever technology is available.

What’s missing this year is any British politician that can be said to be charismatic. We are blighted by a cohort of dreary managers, automatons, and greasy pole climbing jobs worths. This adds to the reason that we need a General Election. Not for more turbulence and squabbling but for a clear out and to bring in new thinking.

What might happen on the other hand is that those who still have the potential to thrive outside Westminster will jump ship rather than suffer defeat. That means the good and the bad. Case in point being the former pensions secretary Chloe Smith Conservative MP for Norwich North, who will be standing down.

The shadow of the Thatcher era haunts the Parliament. It’s about time to open the curtains and let in the light in. There’s a stale mist hanging over the House of Commons. The remaining Eurosceptic vampires need to be consigned to the vaults.


[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0082dzs

What next?

When I returned from German, in early 2016, I had no idea there would be a national referendum. Let alone that the referendum on European Union (EU) membership would be lost by a tiny margin and then send the UK into political and economic turmoil for years and years. It was a strange period.

As of me writing these words, the UK has had its fifth Prime Minister (PM) since the Brexit referendum. We’ve had a pandemic, the invasion of the Ukraine and the now an energy and economic crisis, not to mention an on-going climate crisis.

I don’t say it was, but if Brexit was a politically inevitability there couldn’t have been a stupider time to do it in the history of the country. There we were, having all but recovered, remarkably quickly from the banking crisis of 2008 and then we voluntarily threw asunder the UK’s most important trading relationship. There even seemed a time of relative national contentment as London hosted the most spectacular Olympic games in 2012. That was washed away like a flood of foolishness.

As idioms go: “here’s nowt so queer as folk[1]” about sums it up. That could be a political maxim for our times. It may be a particularly English trait. I absent my Scottish, Welsh, and Irish friends from this classification. It goes like this, I’d say, when all’s well it’s a time to do something daft. That feeling should be resisted as much as possible.

The result of 2016’s fantasy is that the relationship between the UK and EU is torn by tension, disputes, and disappointments. Instead of everyone benefiting from the excellent innovations of the Single Market and freedom of movement in Europe, the UK continues to pedal backwards.

There’s coming a moment when change might be possible. I am a great believer in disproportionate relationships. It’s like the statistical curiosity of buses arriving in threes. There are periods of time when things seem to be stuck on a tramline and nothing interesting changes. Then a moment of transition occurs and suddenly new possibility crop-up.

Why do I say this? Well, polls, such as they are, are showing a significant public willingness to reconsider what happened in June 2016[2]. Not only that but because of the “Truss debacle” the advocates of Brexit are on the back-foot. They did trash the economy with little care or concern.

With a UK General Election (GE) looming there’s a strong likelihood that anyone shouting for more Brexit will suffer the same fate as Trump’s red wave (or lack of it) in the United States (US). This will upset hard core Brexiters, but in all fairness, they have had plenty of time to show the benefits of their beloved project. They have shown none. In fact, we continue to go backwards under the yoke of blind Brexit dogma.

The UK and the EU can greatly improve their current relationship if they both choose. We have common problems, common challenges, and common threats. It would be of great benefit to all Europeans if we worked more closely together.

POST: The evidence points to one conclusion Why is the UK struggling more than other countries? – BBC News


[1] This phrase is typically used to emphasise someone’s particularly behaviour. (“Nowt” is a Northern English variation on “naught.”)

[2] https://bylinetimes.com/2022/11/02/brexit-polls-uk-public-want-to-rejoin-eu/

Wrong

Where the Conservatives went wrong, and other mistakes. It’s OK, I’m just channelling HHGTTG[1].

Where God Went Wrong is the first book in a trilogy by Oolon Colluphid . The other two parts of the trilogy are Some More of God’s Greatest Mistakes and Who is this God Person Anyway?

By allowing the “swivel eyed loons[2]” to take over the Conservatives have sealed their fate. Those 3-words were banned around back in 2013. It’s amazing how prophetic they have turned out to be.

These are the politicians and minor celebrities driven by a pathological hatred of the Continent. In fact, it goes further than that mindset. As we have seen from the Party’s membership vote on a leadership candidate, the tendancy for self-destruction is imbedded.

Recent attempts by senior Conservatives to revive the bogyman of Mr Corbyn, the Labour Party’s former leader are quite pathetic. People in glass houses should not throw stones. It’s nearing the end of 2022, so the campaigning nonsense of 2016 and 2019 is not going to play with the public. That narrative is dead.

We are in a deep hole. It’s more than financial. In recognising the banking crisis, and the need to do something about it, there was a degree of consensus in 2010. However much there’s regret at the mistakes made by the Coalition Government they didn’t match the incompetence and shear madness of what we have experienced this year. Sheer madness.

In 2008, the greed of bankers drove the Country into troubled times. In 2022, the obsessions and warped ideology of a rotten worn-out political party drove the Country into a deep hole.

So damaged is the reputation of the Conservative Party that their poll rating, floating just above 20% is a fair place for them to be at this time. If 1 in 5 people are prepared to forgive them for a cavalcade of ineptitude they need to think again. Rewarding such folly and madness will only result in more of the same.

As we move towards a General Election there’s a need for a monumental shift away from the sirens who have lured the country onto the rocks. The Conservative Party must be sent into distant opposition to reflect on the damage that it has done.


[1] https://hitchhikers.fandom.com/wiki/Where_God_Went_Wrong

[2] https://virtualstoa.net/2013/05/18/a-short-history-of-swivel-eyed-loons/

Break the cycle

It’s almost as if the UK is a private country club run by a desperate array of fundamentalist eccentrics. Interview after interview ponders on the machinations within this rotten privileged club. Manoeuvrings and diversions take on a soap opera quality where none of the characters are likable and all are fatally flawed. It’s a daily Machiavellian[1] mystery show.

Although I’ve concluded that our governance problems are systemic the case for letting the country’s people decide what to do next is now overwhelming. Political parties with a large majority in the House of Commons become warped after a long period of power.

The UK is a Parliamentary democracy or is struggling to remain one. The prospect of Boris Johnson returning as Prime Minister (PM) is truly astounding. If he strides back into No 10 Downing Street as the Conservative top dog, then we have flipped into an undemocratic presidential malaise. 

Today, No 10 staff are preparing to give evidence at the privileges committee inquiry. Tommorrow, imagine the subject of that inquiry returning to be their boss.

Commentators are saying that many Conservative MPs will resign the party whip if Boris Johnson[2] wins the party leadership race. Sadly, this may not concern party managers given that they will still retain a majority in the House of Commons. Numbers matter.

Please don’t ask why is Boris Johnson has been on holiday when the House of Commons is sitting?

There’re a few oddballs who are saying that the British political opposition is scared stiff of Boris Johnson returning as PM, because “they know he’s a winner”. This really is turning the whole show into a sale of the century where honesty and integrity play no part in the proceedings.

The call an immediate General Election, so that the people can decide who should lead us through the extraordinary times, is right and proper. The chances of it happening are extremely thin. Pressing the reset button is of paramount importance. Trouble is that Conservative MPs prioritise protecting their jobs rather than the greater good of the country.

Britain’s last Prime Minister ran as bad a show as can be done in a short time. Likelihood is that Britain’s next Prime Minister will come the same discredited stable. Catastrophic results last time. Catastrophic results in prospect next time. The cycle needs to be broken.

POST: However strange, the support for Boris Johnson isn’t hiding under the covers https://twitter.com/LeoDochertyUK/status/1583418690120212482?s=20&t=08UMtfqXbbHzNjgiSahPjw


[1] https://marketbusinessnews.com/financial-glossary/machiavellianism/

[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/boris-johnson-flight-liz-truss-sunak-prime-minister-b2208264.html

Reigate

You may well know that Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is the British politician that led the Conservative Party from 2019 to 2022. He served as Prime Minister (PM) of the UK. This is history. His term of office was a disaster. It was peppered with gaffs, lavish holidays, “terminological inexactitudes[1]” and jobs for his chums. Conservative MPs could take no more, so they got rid of him.

Circulating in the rumour mill is the possibility that this gentleman will be doing the “chicken run.” Boris Johnson’s current parliamentary seat, Uxbridge and South Ruislip would be among the 125 seats the Labour Party would likely win to secure a majority at the next General Election[2].

The rumour is that this former leader of the Conservative Party has his eye on Reigate. It’s a county constituency that has been a Conservative parliamentary seat in modern times. The only exception to this was in 1906 when a Liberal MP was returned to Parliament.

Reigate is a prosperous Surrey town, south of the North Downs and north of London Gatwick Airport. It’s at the heart of a Westminster constituency that extends north to Banstead and encompasses the town of Redhill. Next door are seats that have a simillar history as being safe for Conservatives.

The term “chicken run” became popular in the mid-1990s. As General Election defeat loomed, leading Conservative politicians started abandoning their parliamentary seats and getting themselves what they thought to be safer ones. This move was seen as a clear sign that the Conservative Party was conceding defeat. In fact, it took a while but it did turn out that way.

With Reigate’s current MP promising to stand down at the next General Election. There’s a vacancy. Who will the local party members choose? Boris Johnson in Reigate would be a dreadful prospect. However, this might bring about 1906[3] all over again. In the General Election of January 1906, the Liberals swept to victory with a landslide result.

Yes, Reigate could go Liberal Democrat. Now, that would be a good day.

POST 1: A Bring Back Boris petition has toped 10,000 in two days. It’s seems the rock and the hard place is playing out as Conservatives up and down Britain panic.

POST 2: Now, Reigate’s MP has been doing the rounds of the national media sudios calling for the current PM to stand down. Asking for the British electorate to tollerate yet another switch of PM. Absolute bonkers are far too mild words to describe the Conservative Party.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminological_inexactitude

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/may/28/could-boris-johnson-lose-his-seat-in-the-next-election

[3] https://liberalhistory.org.uk/history/1906-election/

Our political class is sclerotic

It’s been pointed out time and time again. It’s not like it’s a new phenomenon. The education of our politicians is dominated by a small number of schools, universities, and courses. Having an Oxford PPE[1] puts someone in pole position. So, does attendance at Eton.

Yes, we are not the only society to exhibit such educational polarisation, but it’s deep rooted in the UK. Centuries of domination of select institutions are well documented. The UK is long in the tooth. One set of privileged people are often in the wings to replace another set of similar people.

Simple generalisations about this fact being bad are not so easy to sustain. On the list of those who were educated in this way have been some real reformers and progressive thinkers. Nevertheless, there are a significant number of dangers that come from such a narrow streaming.

Although the overarching heading of Philosophy, Politics and Economics contains a variety of options and differences, it’s been constructed as a machine in a factory for politicians. It’s a cooky cutter for a template Member of Parliament (MP). For a long, long time, local constituency party’s and a significant number of voters have taken it as read that this is the model for an MP.

An interesting question arises in the current chaotic political maelstrom. Is this phenomenon one of the roots of periodic failures and catastrophes in the UK?

Here’s several reasons why the suggestion can not be easily dismissed.

Narrow streaming is a great way to instil a “group think” in our governance. Thing is, I don’t think we (voters) need or want this to happen. The risks are self-evident. There’s a greater propensity to agreement on the wrong course of action. An example is the decision to go to war in Iraqi.

Linking “orthodoxy” and stability in the minds of the population may limit what can be done. This is a strange one in that politicians with a common background can be strongly motivated to be unconventional just for the sake of doing it. Maybe that’s what has just happened.

Diversity is not just a nice to have. Diversity brings strengths that are not available in a monoculture. It’s a good strategy to bring in new ideas. New thinking. Bring in people with a wide variety of different backgrounds and experiences.

Change is needed. The UK’s political class is sclerotic. It shouldn’t be a surprise that we just had a national heart attack.


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/feb/23/ppe-oxford-university-degree-that-rules-britain

Election now?

Unless turkeys vote for Christmas, there will not be a UK General Election (GE) in 2022[1]. Well, I say that assuming that there will not be a total and utter breakdown of the governing political party. In the current state of play that event is within the realms of possibility. However, with a sizable remaining majority in the House of Commons, the Conservatives intend to continue regardless of their habit of swapping out party leaders.

It was pointed out to me that since the changes made to the UK Electoral Commission[2] earlier in the year, it’s much to the Conservative Party’s advantage to use their new powers to their benefit. The Electoral Commission is the “independent” organisation that oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. Ministers now have much more influence over the workings of the Commission.

There’s more than one Commission in the mix too.  The Boundary Commission for England (BCE) is in the process of coming up with a new map of proposed Parliamentary constituencies. From the 8th November, members of the public will be able to view and comment on new constituency boundaries. With this boundary review underway there’s little incentive to have an early UK GE.

Embarrassingly, Parliament will have to debate a public petition[3] that is signed by about half a million people. So shocked are people by the ineptitude of this Conservative Government, this petition calls for an immediate UK GE.

The calling of an early UK GE is at the discretion for the sitting Prime Minister (PM), whoever that might be. So, as I’ve said the case for a turkey voting for Christmas pertains.

Certainly, winter national elections are not popular amongst political party activists. The shorter days and weather conditions often make conventional campaigning activities like doorstep canvasing difficult to do. There’re other complexities too. For an election held in December, the notice of election will be published before the deadline for publishing the revised electoral register.

There are, and there have been unprecedented crises threatening the UK. The new PM’s team looks and acts febrile and inept, but it looks like we are stuck with them for a while longer.

POST: Reports from Birmingham are that the supernova like explosion of the Conservative party is indeed a possibility.


[1] The 2019 General Election was held on Thursday, 12 December 2019. It resulted in the Conservative Party receiving a majority of 80 seats in the House of Commons.

[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/electoral-commission-elections-bill-independence-b2067888.html

[3] https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/619781

Out of Step

If ever a political party has misjudged the public mood more in the last few decades, it’s the British Conservative Party, here and now. Without going into the cavalcade of reasons why they are incompetent, the overriding fact is that they are completely out of step with the British people.

After years of turbulent instability and pressures caused by the banking crisis, the pandemic, conflict and Brexit they have a mad idea that we have a big appetite for chaotic change with blind sheeplike obedience. It’s difficult to say that in “normal times” this Government’s irresponsible behaviour would be totally unacceptable to the point of civil disobedience and mass protest. But it’s true and the later may indeed happen. Winter is coming.

Running the British economy as if it were a poorly thought-out student project is beyond contempt. The childishness of the UK Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer is off the scale. There is’nt a scale made for this bunch of idealogical fanatics.

This week there maybe a week of back peddling, without seeming to back peddle but the damage is done. Reputational damage is easy to achieve but mighty difficult to recover from in the short-term.

The classic British example is that of Ratners in 1991/92. Now, instead of the “Ratner effect[1]” we will have to speak of the “Truss effect” in 2022. Certainly, in the rank and order of economic disasters the Truss Government must rank well above Ratner. Afterall, he only lost 330 jewellery stores, 2500 employees and over £122 million in a few seconds.

Interestingly, the fall of Troy is on the list of all time disasters brought on by human folly. Even I wouldn’t draw a comparison with the Truss effect and a tragic story from classical literature. Or would I?

In breaking my own rule, I can just see the Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng as a wooden horse entering the His Majesty’s Treasury ready to burn it down. He’s jumped out of the horse and what comes next is writen. He may be serving at His Majesty’s pleasure but I’m sure that’s just formal terminology and, there’s a whole bucket load of displeasure behind the scenes. Whatever his eccentricities, it’s likely His Majesty is far more in-touch with the British people than this appalling British Government. They have sat too long. It’s time for them to go. And go soon.

POST 1: At conference, it is reported that the Conservative Party chairman is telling their MPs they will lose the party whip if they vote against the fatal mini-budget of last week. Shirts are being printed with the slogan – I’m with stupid.

POST 2: Conservatives now plan to scrap the scrapping of the 45p top rate of tax. It’s a big poltical u-turn only days after the UK PM publically defended the policy.


[1] https://www.businessblogshub.com/2012/09/the-man-who-destroyed-his-multi-million-dollar-company-in-10-seconds/