Populists, corruption and disaster capitalism

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If I was to tell you about a newly installed government, whose minsters and party donors were making millions betting against their own country via offshore firms, who openly earn large sums in kickbacks for a few hours of supposed work (e.g. after dinner speaking fees, “consultancy fees”, etc.), a government that was now using a crisis to give out sweatheart deals to its cronies, you’d probably assume I’m talking about some tin pot dictatorship in the developing world. But no, I’m talking about the UK under Boris, which has got to count as the most corrupt in the country’s history. But its actually the new normal (you think this is bad, wait till they are in coalition with Farage!).

Recently Channel 4’s dispatches did a piece on “brexit millionaires and how many in the Tory party, or their donors, were cashing in on brexit and making millions. Front and centre was Jacob Rees-Mogg, aka the right honourable member for the 18th century, the new minister for silly walks leader of the house of commons. In between being a grammar nazi (he’s set a whole bunch of grammar rules for civil servants, rules he has himself broken 700 times), he has been profiting from brexit. His offshore investment firms have racked in millions since brexit started. With him personally profiting to the tune of at least +£7 million. So much so he can afford to buy a a multi-million town house in London (to go with his country estate) and pay for it in cash. This is corruption, pure and simple.

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Rees Mogg’s little country cottage

And he is by no means alone. Boris is going for a no deal brexit, not because its what people voted for (he and his ministers have been challenged to provide an example of when in the referendum they suggested the UK might have to leave without a deal, we’ve yet to get an answer). In fact polls show the public would rather just cancel brexit all together than except no deal. Even Teresa May is warning no deal threatens the union (pity she didn’t say that while in office!). But the cabinet backs it because they know its the best way for them and their mates to make a quick buck. Food and medicine shortages! millions loosing their jobs! civil war in NI! Scottish independence! how is any of that their problem?

In fact here’s a good one, from a young Tory whose whinging that Boris can’t ignore him and implement no deal against the wishes of parliament and the country. LOL, the naivety of youth. He can, he is and he will. If you have a problem with that you shouldn’t have voted Tory.

And in other countries we are seeing similar trends. Trump hasn’t drained the swamp, he’s made it deeper and released alligators. In Italy, the horseshoe government of populists are now literally surrounded by steaming piles of garbage as the cities public services have collapsed. And corruption is as bad as ever (if not worse), so much so some are thinking of voting for Berlusconi. And if that sounds unlikely, well consider that in Greece, the populists there made such a pigs breakfast of things that the very party who got the country into a massive mess in the first place have just been voted back in.

Rome is now in such a mess, tourists are been giving advice about the risks to their health while visiting

Many people voted for populists because they were appalled at self serving politicians divorced from reality. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, voting for even more corrupt and incompetent populists has just made the situation worse. The very same elites these voters hate, just took to bribing and manipulating the populists. And guess what, they are even dumber than the regular politicians and cheaper too! In fact they’ll do things the regular politicians won’t dream of doing (because the latter are prone to rare moments of clarity where they actually giving a shit).

Angry desperate voters, voted for the most extreme option on the ballot paper thought they were sending a message. But the message that arrived in elites HQ was that these voters are even more naive and stupid than we thought, so let’s take full advantage of them (I mean they could have voted for some established third party candidates, or others who can’t be bought, then we’d be really screwed, but instead they vote for some complete idiot whose in our pocket). The elites can basically do whatever they want now, just so long as their boy remembers to make the odd racist dog whistle and some vague promises that they’ll never have to keep.

The fact is that populists leaders know that they aren’t held to the same standards as other politicians. It used to be a politician made the slightest gaffe, that was it, game over. Remember how Ed Miliband lost because of one photo of him looking awkward for a second eating a bacon roll, or the whole plebgate business. It used to be a politician said something to the media that was inaccurate, or broke the ministerial code and they’d be gone within a week (a good example, Brian Lenihan and the 1990’s Irish presidential election, he went from odds on favourite to being sacked and losing by a landslide over one phone call he made back in 1982).

Now they can get caught in a lie live on air and nobody bats an eyelid, because its one in a string of so many lies nobody can keep up (well unless you are a member of the labour party of course….or black….or worse both). Its understood that voters will ignore this, they are voting based on anger and tribal loyalties, not facts and policy. So long as said leader stays on message and keeps them angry (i.e. they have absolutely no good incentive to help these voters in any way, because then they might calm down and start acting sensibly) he can get away with anything.

Consider for example how both the Tories and the GOP have abandoned their long term commitment to balanced budgets. Both came to power talking about the dangers of deficit spending and how they would be pro-business. Now the policy is bollix to that and fuck business. Like Trump, Johnson seems to be planning to spend like a sailor on shore leave. But not on hospitals, schools or helping the poor (Tory policy here has been branded by the UN as ‘mean-spirited and callous), but instead on no deal preparation, tax cuts for the rich and big infrastructure projects than can be farmed out to Tory donors.

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The Tories new motto

I mean seriously, why do you think Boris gets paid over a £150,000 to show up and give an after dinner speech? You think they like the sound of his voice that much? No its a bribe and now they’re going to cash in. And its hardly as if any of this should be a surprise, given his past performance as London mayor and foreign secretary.

Of course the fact these policies, combined with the economic impact of a no deal brexit (or Trump’s tariffs), will make a mess of the economy and wreck the public finances doesn’t matter to them. They’ll get rich, who cares. In fact they’d even see a silver lining to that. They can use such a crisis to sell off state assets (such as the NHS) to themselves and their allies and dismantle the welfare state.

Its a strategy the rich have been applying in developing world countries for decades. They’d take advantage of the country’s naive or incompetent populists/autocratic government, to swoop in and wreck the economy on purpose, knowing they and their allies (juiced in local elites) would be able to take advantage of the chaos. Now they’re just doing the same in western countries (what goes around comes around I suppose).

And furthermore, even if some leftie such as Corbyn or Bernie ever gets into power, so what! They’ll not be able to afford to implement any of their policies or even reverse the mess the current government is making. In fact, the conservatives can just blame them for everything (as they did with Obama). What’s that? the lefties might putting up taxes? So what! let em! all their money is offshore….course if the UK was only part of some big pan-European club which was determined to do something about such tax avoidance …just a thought!

The dangers of mislabelling a product

daryanenergyblog

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I came across an article the other week, from the BBC, which discusses the links between the UK’s civil and military nuclear energy programs. And hence why certain politicians, notably the Tories, have this perverse obsession with nuclear that seems to go against their entire political ideology. To the point where they are willing to throw piles of government money the way of the nuclear industry, push up electricity bills and punish renewables for its successes (so much so there’s now a serious risk of a total stop to UK renewables installations and the UK missing its climate change targets), all to clear a niche for their little darling.

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For example, their latest plan involves the UK taxpayer paying for any future nuclear plants upfront, including cost overruns, even thought the reactors will still be privately owned. The Tories (you know the ones who live in fear of Corbyn…

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The Grapes of Wrath part deux

daryanenergyblog

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Fossil fuels are critical to many industries, but most especially to food product, hence why any interruption to their supply (in the absence of suitable alternatives) would be so devastating. However, there’s one fossil resource that often slips under the radar, but which is equally, if nor more critical to food production – fossil water.

In many parts of the world, water from underground aquifers now represents a key source of water, for both farming and drinking water. However this water is not a sustainable resource. The water has built up in these aquifers over many thousands of years. The recharge rate of fresh water in is a tiny fraction of what’s being taken out. So once its gone its gone. And as the documentary film “Pumped Dry” discusses, those water levels have been dropping alarming…

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The breaking of British politics

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If current polls are to be believed the UK could be looking at a major upset in its political system next election. Brexit has broken the political system and it might break the country itself.

The latest polls show that the country is now essentially split four ways, with conservatives, brexit party, labour and the lib dems on about 20% or so each, with a further 15%  or so leaning towards other pro-remain parties (greens, SNP, etc.). In fact in one recent poll labour has slipped to forth place behind the others on only 18% support, down from the 40% of the vote they took in 2017. Even the 23% of support the Tories are on represents a massive drop from the 42% of the vote they took in 2017.

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Now the trouble is that both parties aren’t taking these polls seriously. Both seem to assume that polls are polls and come an election people will vote for the duopoly. After all, such is the unfair nature of the UK’s first-past-the-post system anyone not voting for either labour or Conservative is usually just throwing away their vote.

However this line of reasoning falls down on a number of levels. Firstly most voters aren’t that politically literate. Most would struggle to name their MP, which party was responsible for which policy or explain how the UK voting system works. Case in point, voters in Greece just returned to power the very party that got the country into a massive economic mess back in 2008. And what are the promising? Pretty much the same things they promised back in the 2000’s. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

So while yes, some proportion of voters will vote tactically and these polls probably won’t be replicated on election day. But they do indicate that some significant proportion of the population will vote for 3rd party candidates. Which will basically mean the outcome of the election effectively becomes a coin toss. Remember its possible for a candidate in the UK to take a seat with as little as 25% of the votes cast and a party can get a majority of seats without necessarily winning a majority of votes.

The poll I mentioned earlier would translate into a Tory/Brexit party coalition and a massacre of the labour party. Even with their depressed support, the Tories could still form a majority government if they top the poll. Even with just 29% of the vote the Tories could secure a majority.

Furthermore the tactics both parties are adopting are unlikely to yield the outcome they expect. The Tories for example seem to assume that backing no deal will win back support of those who have defected to the brexit party. While this is true up to a point, they fail to understand that backing the brexit party amounts to placing comforting lies over hard truths. Any sort of “deal” with Europe (or the US, or China) will inevitably fall well short of what was promised before the referendum. It will involve some compromise (and no free unicorns), even in a no deal scenario.

Case in point, the UK’s ambassador has just been removed from office at the request of Trump for doing his job (that’s taking back control!). The danger for the Tories is that a no deal brexit means any brexit party support they regain is cancelled out by centrist or pro-business Tories either voting for other parties, or staying at home on election day.

However at least the Tories have a strategy. Labour still hasn’t decided what its going to do. But didn’t Corbyn make a big speech backing a 2nd referendum recently? No, he repeated something he’s said many times before, which he, or his pro-leave allies, will no doubt walk back over the next few weeks. As one commentator put it what he committed too was a different form of fence sitting.

He failed to clarify what labour would do if they won an election (a remote possibility yes, but still). It would appear to imply that they’ll “negotiate” a labour brexit…even thought the EU’s made clear their will be no re-negotiation….so a “labour brexit” will be more or less the same as May’s deal, just with her name crossed out and Corbyn’s put in its place. But they make no commitment to putting this to the people, nor that the party will campaign for remain.

Labour’s difficulty is that they don’t want to commit to backing remain. Now they claim its because they want to “respecting the decision”, blah, blah, blah, or that they have to stick up for working class leave voters. Well like I’ve said before, this is all baloney. The vast majority of labour supporters, including unions support remain (by 90-70% depending on how you do the maths). The few hard core leavers have probably already thrown in their lot with the brexit party.

Furthermore, I’ve yet to construction a scenario with an election seat predictor where labour’s support drops below 30% and many of the leading brexiters within labour (Skinner, Cruddas, Hoey, etc.) don’t all lose their seats (usually to 3rd party candidates). In effect, labour’s lexit position is a political suicide pact.

The real reason why they are stuck in the doldrums boils down to two reasons. Firstly many in the party, noting that Corbyn was a euroskeptic, and was appointing many of his euroskeptic mates to his shadow cabinet, jumped on the brexiter band wagon (like those in the Tory party). If the party were to now completely reverse course, they’d be out of position and scupper their chances for further advancement. So its cynical party politics at its very worst. No different from what’s been going on in the Tory party.

Secondly, there’s an assumption that labour can exploit the negative consequences of a no deal brexit to win power. However, this assumes that those effects appear immediately and before an election. Neither might be true. The danger with brexit was and is always the long term impacts, not the sort term disruption.

While yes the EU is supposed to hit the UK with extra paperwork, tariffs and new licensing requirements on the 1st of November, they may chose not to do so immediately. They’ll have to do so eventually (otherwise they’ll get sued, as will the UK, the head of the WTO has ruled out the use of Gatt24), but its at the EU’s discretion to wait a few months, or phase the new rules in gradually. They’ll be doing so for their own benefit, and the timing of when such measures end will be taken without consulting the UK (so likely when it is least convenient for the UK….such as over Christmas!). But my point is that it doesn’t follow that disruption and the economic fallout from a no deal will be immediate.

No doubt the Tories will have the good sense to call an election at the correct time to maximise their chances of winning (e.g. after brexit happens but before its full effects are realised). And in any event, the likely response of voters to a harsh no deal will be to vote for pro-EU parties, not other forms of euroscepticism.

So baring some major change within labour, I don’t see how they can win back the remain vote. All its going to take to undermine labour’s current position is some right wing hack ambushing Corbyn, or a member of his shadow cabinet, in the first week of any election campaign, point to the obvious holes in their strategy and getting a non-committal answer. Next day, all the headlines will be that 3 years later and labour still hasn’t made up its mind on brexit. Something that all the other parties, lib dem, Tory and brexit party will carry on repeating till polling day.

So labour needs to go much further, commit to remain in a way which cannot be unwound, even by the fifth columnists within the party. Key to this would be involving pro-remain MP’s (such as Tom Watson or Hilary Benn) in cabinet and doing an election deal with other pro-remain parties. I think the odds of that are between slim and nil. Take this article from one of Corbyn’s red shirt fanatics, calling on Tom Watson (the deputy leader, elected by the party members) to leave (or be thrown out of the party) for daring to question the wisdom of the one true Corbyn.

Corbyn and his supporters seem more interested in winning some sort of ideological battle with the rest of the political left than actually winning an election. As a consequence, labour is likely to lose seats not gain them. And its kind of hard to overtake the Tories or win a majority of that happens.

So the likely outcome of the next UK election is a Tory/brexit party coalition. Not quite the worse case scenario (we’ll come to that!) but not far off it. After all, the Tories are a pretty racist lot anyway. Yes far right parties have gotten into power in other EU countries as part of coalitions and haven’t managed to do that much damage. But that’s because other EU states have constitutional checks and balances to prevent that (given that most have had the misfortune of being under the control of dictators or communists before). The UK doesn’t have any such measures in its constitution. Hence the level of damage that could be inflicted is considerable.

Consider for example that Farage has stated that he’d favour a purge of the civil service to remove anyone who isn’t a committed no deal leaver. Also consider that proroguing parliament (i.e. suspending democracy) to force through a no deal, means putting the Queen in a very awkward position (as you are asking her to make a politically motivated decision to temporarily suspend democracy). If there’s any negative backlash (and no deal is something of a leap into the unknown), this could undermine the royal family’s position.

And yet, like I said, even this isn’t the worse case scenario. Remember how I said you don’t need a majority to win an election. Well technically you don’t even need to finish top of the polls either. It is mathematically possible for either labour or the Tories to finish 2nd in the polls (i.e either brexit party or the lib dems top the polls ahead of them), and with as little as 30% of the votes, they could still end up with a majority of the seats (not just the most seats but a majority of them). Can you imagine the outcry. A party “wins” an election, with the support of less than 1 in three voters (more like 1 in five once turnout is factored in) despite finishing 2nd and gets to form a majority government and implement radical change on the UK.

Needless to say its the fallout of such an election would be considerable, particularly if it occurs with a no deal brexit going on in the background. A border poll in northern Ireland as well as independence referendums become very likely. Foreign governments with a bone to pick might refuse to recognise the legitimacy of the UK government (Trump for example might refuse to recognise a Corbyn win under such circumstances), which means they might refuse to negotiate trade deals or even honour existing arrangements. The regional assemblies (assuming they stay part of the UK) might refuse to implement legislation passed by Westminster (or refuse to hand over tax revenue). Assuming the lords don’t simply veto everything and the Queen chooses not to sign it (in theory she could withhold royal assent, which is exactly the danger in forcing her to start making political decisions, if she’s going to have to wear it, she ain’t going to sign it).

In short there is a very real risk that the next UK election could break the UK in every sense of the word. It could make the outcome of a no deal brexit seem minor. Hence why I’d argue the only credible solution is a government of national unity (led by someone other than Boris one assumes!). And presumably that government will sort out brexit once and for all (then have an election). This could take the form of a negotiated compromise deal everyone can accept (Norway for now). Or simply revoking article 50 (and instructing the Sargent at arms in Westminster to lock any MP who mentions brexit again in the Tower of London).

Or more than likely a referendum. Now what the brexit option would be doesn’t really matter to me, although if you are going to put “no deal” you’d want to clarify what that means (the versions of no deal the brexiters seem to favour often involve negotiating with the EU some sort of mini deals….well how can it be “no deal” then!). And prior to any new election, changing the voting system to something more sensible, such as proportional representation.

But either way, both the major parties and the unfair and outdated UK electoral system now represents a ticking time bomb that could go off at any time.

Summer news roundup

Unfit for office

One of the main stories of the last week was a blazing row between prospective PM Boris Johnston and his live in girlfriend. He denied it had happened, and the police refused to comment, until it turned out a neighbour had recorded the row (so they had to be shouting loud enough that he could hear it in his place). Naturally the right wing media had a massive tizzy about this, calling it an invasion of privacy, while team Boris went into damage limitation mode.

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Ordinary I’d agree, however there its a case of pot calling the kettle black here. Boris used to be editor of the Spectator (during the phone hacking scandal) and has regular column in the Telegraph. The UK media (when they aren’t hacking people’s phones and emails) are well known for setting up sting operations, getting a political they don’t like drunk, high or just angry and recording them, then reporting what was said out of context (most notably Vince Cable, reporting a conversation in a constituency office out of context).

So a neighbour recording a scary sounding row in the hope it might be useful as evidence for the police (something the police agreed was a sensible idea) is a nosy pleb who should mind his own business. But a tabloid hack bugging a celebrity or using a long lens to get a picture of a member of the royal family with her top off, that’s good journalism. And while the right wing media are very quick to report on the private lives of celebs or left wing politicians, they are slow to report the infidelity of right wing politicians. Boris and his girlfriends (and children out of wedlock) or Farage’s affairs are largely kept out of the newspapers.

Either way, it is merely one of a long number of reasons to doubt Johnson’s suitability for high office. Almost anyone who has had anything to do with him has said he’d make a terrible PM. And as for brexit, his plan is basically bonkers, labelled “a fantasy” by some civil servants. He plans to go to Europe, bang on the table and get a better deal. What’s actually going to happen is he’ll go there to find a sticky note on the door saying nobody home, we’ll get back to you in mid November (the EU has disbanded its negotiating team, they have to wait for the new parliament to sit and elect new members)…after the UK’s scheduled to leave.

So that would imply no deal, but he’s also said the chances of that are very low, which is probably just as well as the country is woefully poorly prepared, indeed the person in charge of no dealing planning just quit. All in all, it would appear that he’s not got a clue what he’s going to do. His sole reason for going for the job is ego. He’s posh and if his bullingdon buddy Cameron (whose not from as rich a family as Boris) can be PM, why he’s practically entitled to the job, its his by right.

Of course, given that the media is camped outside number 10 pretty much 24/7, the next blazing row with his girlfriend/wife/boyfriend will be broadcast worldwide. And if he thinks he can lie his way to office and then backtrack, think again. His could well be the shortest and most disastrous PM term in history. Interesting time perhaps. And I suppose it means for Americans, the brit’s can stop laughing at them over Trump.

Trump v’s Iran

Speaking of Trump, there’s the drum beats to war over Iran. Its possible that the plan is to provoke a war with Iran to improve Trump’s poll ratings and give him a boost ahead of the next election. Well if that’s the plan its a terrible plan, as I outlined before. Its all very reminiscent of the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

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Iran is much better armed and equipped than Iraq was (including the latest in Russian air defence missile technology). Its probably inevitable the US forces would take losses. And that means captured US pilots, or sunken warships (they’ve also got subs, including Russia made Kilo class subs), a media disaster for any US president (remember what happened to Jimmy Carter!). Iran is also closely tied to the anti-Jihadi forces in Iraq and Syria, as well as to the Russians. So there’s multiple ways this could blow back on the US. An oil embargo, them being driven out of Iraq (or indeed the Iraqi forces turning on them and taking US military personnel hostage) and Syria, a rise in terrorism, you name it.

Also given that Iran has now begun enriching Uranium, it raises the risk that Trump’s actions means they get nukes anyway and his listening to right wing hawks and Israel simply helped them do so. And recall there’s a way Iran can get access to nukes very quickly – the Russians. The worst case scenario is that Iran is so intimidated by this conflict that they retreat under the protective blanket of Russia and invite the Russians to install nuclear missiles in Iran. Plus if Russia takes any casualties from US attacks (which is possible, they’ll likely have advisers and contractors on site) Russia might choose to retaliate in another theatre, most likely the Baltic.

So this can only end badly for America. We can only hope he chickens out, probably more about saving his precious ego than anything.

Working class leave

Corbyn meanwhile still goes through the routine of promising a move towards a 2nd referendum. But then he goes into a meeting with his lexiter cabinet, who seem determined to leave at any cost (even if it destroys the labour party) and emerges to backtrack. The fact is that labour’s brexit strategy is as equally divorced from reality as Johnson’s. Take a recent article from leading Lexiter Jon Turddas Curddas, saying how the working class labour supporters will never forgive labour if they back a 2nd referendum.

Excuse me, but brexit would only not happen in a 2nd referendum if the leave camp lost. So he’s saying the party should deny people a vote on this, now and until the end of time just to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Also we need to address this myth that the working class labour supporters voted overwhelmingly leave. They didn’t. Polls show that between 90% and 70% of labour supporters backed remain (the margin depends on who you consider to be a “labour supporter”, a party member or someone who tends to vote labour). And if anything the party is swinging more and more to remain, not least given the threat no deal presents to working class jobs.

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Labour is overwhelmingly a remain supporting party

Why then did some labour constituency’s vote for brexit? Well because under the UK’s decidedly unfair first-past-the-post-system an MP can be elected without a majority of votes. Its possible to win with as little as 25% of support, although 30-40% is more typical. So take 10-30% of labour support, add it to the Tory & UKIP vote, chuck in a couple of thousand people who don’t normally vote, but the bloke on the telly told them they’d get a free unicorn if they voted for this thing called “leave” and yes you can get a labour seat to vote heavily for leave. Like so many deluded leavers, Curddas assumes that everyone in his constituency agrees with him, even though polls, not to mention basic maths, do not support this.

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And those polls show labour is haemorrhaging support. Does Craddas and his fellow London leave brigade seriously think that they can drag the country out of the EU, pissing off many of labours young new supporters, seeing many others lose their jobs and not suffer any sort of blow back? Like I said, they are as deluded as the Tories.

And now is the winter of our discontent

Case in point, I came across this old copy of a documentary about the infamous winter of discontent. Over the course of the winter of 1978/79 the UK was besieged by a series of strikes as the then labour government fought with its normally loyal supporters in the unions. This eventually led to an early election and the milk snatcher Maggie Thatcher winning, largely because labour party supporters stayed away from the polls.

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And so its worthwhile remembering what happened, as it provides many valuable lessons for today. Firstly, yes the media made a mountain out of a mole hill. The PM Callaghan never said the famous line “crisis what crisis” (he merely said it was a matter of opinion as to how bad things were…i.e. You hacks are just trying to make hay so you can get a Tory elected). Yes the grave diggers went on strike, but only in one small part of the country. There was disruption from those strikes but it was sporadic and it didn’t last the whole of the winter. But all of that said, it was a mess (just not as big a one as the media made it out to be), the labour government fecked up, they have to take the blame for that.

And at the heart of the problem was the global economic events of the 1970‘s. Contrary to what many Corbyn/Bernie supporters believe the 70’s was not a working class utopia, quite the opposite in fact. There were several economic crises, not least of those being caused by the oil shocks. This had the effect of pushing up inflation, which caused workers to demand higher wages, which caused more inflation, which caused more jobs losses.

The labour government were determined to stop this cycle, by limiting wage increases in return for the government acting to keep living costs down (by restricting rent increases or price rises on basic food items). But there was a disconnect between those in the Westminster bubble (which included union bosses) and the rank and file union members or labour supporters in the factories, who’d effectively just taken a pay cut because of inflation.

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Both groups thought the other had their back. The workers assumed a labour government won’t go against striking workers, the government assumed that working class workers won’t undermine a labour government and hand the wicked witch of Finchley the keys to number 10…who immediately went to war on those very same unionised industries. But that’s what happened. Turkey’s will literally vote for Christmas sometimes.

So the lesson for labour would be that just because those around Corbyn think brexit is a great idea (including union boss Len Mc Cluskey), doesn’t mean the rest of the country (or even his own party) agrees. If they think they can screw over remain supporting labour voters and fuming thought they’ll be, they will still vote labour in the next election, think again. Yes some will be sufficiently scared of more Tory madness, but others will make a point of voting lib dem, green (or not at all). And it doesn’t take many of them to do that to decimate labour at the polls (even just a 10% drop in support would be catastrophic, remember they need to gain support to win an election not lose it!).

And even if Corbyn gets in to power, does he really think workers whose jobs might be put at risk by his brexit policy (including much of the civil service, who, like those in the 1970’s, have taken a 30% pay cut in real terms since 2008) won’t strike and plunge his government into chaos, casting labour into the wilderness for another generation. Well history says yes they will.

And there’s lessons here for the Tories. They seem to think that they can screw over business and they’ll just take one for the team. They won’t sue the government (several have already won multi million pound payouts), speculate against the pound or move their company to Ireland….except they are and more will follow! And the Scottish Tories fear a Johnson premiership combined with a no deal brexit, could create an ironclad case for independence.

Another clip I came across recently was this bit from the Long Good Friday. A film from the Thatcher era it sees this scene where the protagonist basically telling a bunch of yanks to feck off, he’s a European and in the single market, they can stick their money, he’s going into business with the Germans (you’d have to watch the whole movie to understand the context of it….has a young Helen Mirren in it too!). Well the 2019 remake would appear to involve our protagonist kissing US booty and promising to be their bitch. That effectively is brexit in a nutshell.

Unfit to lead?

Another story was a “leak” from the civil service claiming that Corbyn is too frail to be PM and largely under the control of his advisers. On the one hand, given what I’ve said above, that kind of does make sense. Then again, you could say the same thing about May or Boris, yet nobody is questioning their suitability for office. There are procedures and rules for how such issues should be dealt with (without leaking things to the media). And I cannot help but notice that this story first appeared in the Murdoch press. If these leakers were genuinely worried, why didn’t they follow the correct policy, or approach a more credible newspaper?

One worries that this is simply a case of old Etonians in the civil service, all too aware of the dangers Johnson posses to the Tories electoral chances, they’ve decided to get ahead of themselves and start running interference well in advance. But even so, rather than take any criticism instead Corbyn wants to make a federal case out of this. Shoot the messenger and the message will die, won’t it?

Life expectancy falling

Some other disturbing news shows that the UK has now recorded the first drop in life expectancy rates in a century. While there are many reasons behind this drop, less healthy diets and lack of exercise are part of the problem, but clearly there is a link to the decline in NHS spending (while the Tories will claim to have increased it, this ignores inflation and an ageing population, which means cuts in real terms) and the impact of austerity.

And the Tory response was to make all sorts excuses ranging from old people dying of flu (actually vaccines against the flu are becoming much more effective), harsher winters (we’re getting more student cold snaps, but its winters are in general milder now than previously). And of course, life expectancy rates are still rising in the rest of the world, even in more prosperous parts. We’ve long accepted for many generations that the next generation will be better off and live longer, but the Tories have now so broken the UK that this is no longer true.

Women’s world cup

Not sure if anyone’s been watching the women’s world cup, but on the whole I think its been quite good. I cannot help but notice there’s a lot less diving and other primadonna theatrics, which just goes to show that most male professional footballers are just a bunch of overpaid wimps.

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Anyone for some footie….or tea?

However there’s been some controversy over VAR (Video Assistant Referee), which has destroyed the natural rhythm of many of the games, by having the referee dash off the pitch to watch a playback of some event, often for something that could easily wait (a yellow card decision for example).

This isn’t an issue with other sports, which have used VAR for many years (while FIFA fought tooth and nail against it) and it doesn’t interrupt the game much. In hockey for example they’ve a system whereby the game just carries on as normal, save certain key decisions (e.g. did the ball go over the goal line), but either team can refer to VAR at anytime. If their claim succeeds they can make further referrals. If it fails they lose their right to do so. End result is it doesn’t really effect the flow of the game. But anything that’s a good idea, you can rely on FIFA to screw it up.

And one cannot help but notice they are tweaking the rules as they go along in the middle of a major women’s tournament, not the men’s. And the players haven’t been properly briefed about it, as became clear during the Cameron game (where a number of VAR decisions went against Cameron and they nearly walked off the pitch). Which just tells everything you need to know about FIFA.

Cycling ban

In effect last week cycling has been banned in the UK. A cyclist who hit a mobile phone zombie (she stepped in front of him while on her phone) was successfully sued. While her payout will be limited to a few thousand, he’ll have to pay up to a £100,000 in costs. Needless to say this opens a massive can of worms.

Firstly it requires cyclists (and potentially drivers) to be responsible for the irresponsible actions of others. Needless to say, this will have all sorts of disastrous repercussions. The crash for cash brigade will have a field day. All they need to do now is walk in front of a bike/car/scooter at a junction, lie down on the road and claim they were hit (a innocent “passerby” accomplice willingly testifying to the “accident”).

Well the thing is the best strategy if that happens to you on a bike is keep going. The mistake this cyclists made was stopping to check on her welfare. If he’d kept going and left her bleeding on the side of the road, he’d not be in this mess.

Which inevitably means people’s lives will be put at risk, as anyone with a lick of sense who hits someone will just ride or drive away (yes that’s technically illegal, but do you want to end up £100,000 poorer?). I hope the judge in this case and the attention seeking claimant will be happy when they learn their actions have led to an explosion in fraudulent claims, the insurance premiums of everyone in the country going up and one or two deaths because someone was left bleeding the road after an accident.

What this highlights is everything that’s wrong with the UK legal system. Given the lack of a proper constitution it means that judges can basically just make it up as they go along. Hence if you can pay enough money to lawyers you can pretty much buy whatever outcome you want, creating a horrible legal mess for everyone else in the process.

What happens in Alabama stays there

Alabama, the state that last year recently narrowly avoided electing a known kiddy fiddler, showed us everything awful about what happens when the Republican party’s toxic ideology is implemented.

A pregnant woman was shot in the stomach and she’s now been charged with manslaughter of her unborn child, while the person who shot her walks free. I mean guns only kill bad people, so it must be her fault that her body (with her baby) got in the way of the bullets aimed at her. If she was innocent god would have intervened (maybe she just didn’t pray hard enough or give enough money for her minster’s private jet).

I’ve pointed out before that in Europe the laws are such that its more gun regulation than gun control. You can pretty much get any kind of gun you can get in the US, the main restriction is what you do with it (and, oddly enough, shooting pregnant women in the stomach will get you sent to jail, and your gun ownership privileges revoked).

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However, I think the NRA types are sleep walking America towards a future where instead it will be gun control. i.e. total bans on guns for all but a handful of strictly regulated purposes. And probably state funded abortions too! If they honestly think stuff like this is going to have no blow back then they are very naive. And they will only have themselves to blame when that day comes.

You have trodden on the forbidden lawn

Guardian columnist George Monbiot, and a number of academics recently produced a report on the UK’s land ownership and how it is fostering inequality, not to mention helping the wealthy to dodge tax. They have recommended to the labour party a number of measures to reform the UK’s land ownership to counter these issues.

Needless to say, this hit something of a raw nerve among right wing media barons (who just happen to be major property owners!), who launched a massive media blitz against these proposals and began using them to bash Corbyn. A reminder, while the labour party (and Corbyn) are aware of this report, they have yet to adopt any of its proposals or craft any specific policies from it.

But since when have facts stood in the way of a good hatchet job, with the gutter press duly improvising by pulling a couple of scary (and fictitious) policies out of their own arses, sticking Corbyn’s name against it and going on a massive tirade against a straw man that exists only in their own paranoid imagination. Its all very similar to the Fox news reaction to the recent Green new deal proposals.

You know you are over the target when you start taking flak. And clearly this reaction from the right wing media highlights that maybe Monbiot and co are on to something. Let’s just take one of their proposals, abolish council tax and replace it with a property tax instead, a policy I’ve long advocated (I’d include the option of a local income tax instead as well thought). This would not only be much fairer, as it would link ones ability to pay to what you pay, but also eliminate a lot of the cheating of the council tax system that goes on. While people in every income bracket do this (council tax is essentially an honesty tax, its fairly easy to avoid paying it if you don’t want too), its obviously the wealthy who are the worse offenders.

Of course, as you can probably guess, the last thing the rich want is a tax system that’s “fair” and links their wealthy property portfolio to how much tax they pay (its not as if they can move their country estate overseas, nor can they plead hardship on a multi million pound London flat which earns several thousand a month in rent), hence the over reaction to this report. Which is why I’d advice everyone to read it.

May’s legacy – Solar bashing

Theresa May is probably thinking of her legacy. She’s confronted Putin over Salisbury (good!) and promising billions towards fighting climate change ignoring the fact that the solar industry (which was growing steadily for some time) has now collapsed in the UK. With the Tories contemplating new taxes to make damn sure they kill it off for good (we can’t let the plebs generate their own power!).

What worries me is the long term consequences of all of this. As I’ve pointed out before, the UK’s energy system is badly in need of investment at nearly every level. Ageing power stations need replacing, the grid needs updating and that’s before we even tackle climate change.

By burning one industry for the crime of being successful, she and the Tories are sending a dangerous signal to industry. Yes they favour Natural Gas and nuclear. But both of those have limited room for expansion (given the recent cancellations nuclear is almost certain to contract). And brexit could be a show stopper to either. So her legacy could well be to put the UK on a route towards rising carbon emissions, power cuts and energy shortages.