GW: Is He The One?

GW.jpg

This week has seen the Outrage Bus started up and driven off at speed so frequently that the engine is overheating and the clutch is knackered. No doubt the Sunday papers tomorrow morning will have more pain and upset to surprise us with and there will be more than a few Members of Parliament who have spent today dreading the call from a reporter asking, 'Can you confirm that in September of 2015 you.........?' 

One of the items of outrage that seemed to put Tory MP's and the press instantly into a state of spontaneous combustion was the reshuffle following Sir Michael Fallon's resignation that catapulted Tory Chief Whip Gavin Williamson into the front line as Defence Secretary. "Too young,' 'too inexperienced,' 'not ex military,' 'caused the reshuffle himself,' were some of the typical reactions. One lady Tory MP was reported as describing him to a journalist as a 'self serving cxnt.' A lady MP who, by the way, ought to be dragged into a corner and read the riot act and told that if she ever speaks to a journalist about a colleague in such unprofessional and unbecoming terms again she'll be fired. Still, it is Parliament we're talking about, not a 'normal workplace.' 

Looking at it from the cheap seats, I would point out to these Tory MP's, and the press, that Gavin Williamson, (who I hadn't heard of before this week), is three years older than was David Cameron when he became leader of their party, (only four years after becoming an MP), and is only one year younger than was David Cameron when he became our youngest Prime Minister since 1812. So, they can stick that in their pipe and smoke it.

Moreover, being given responsibility at a relatively young age is bread and butter to the Armed Forces. More important is the question of whether he is capable of running such a big and complex department. We won't know the answer to that for a wee while but one thing is for sure, Defence has not been given the attention and commitment that it needs by successive governments for years so Mr Williamson can hardly do a worse job than have his predecessors. 

If then, Williamson can quickly grasp his complex brief and throw his talents and obvious political acumen behind his department it could be a career defining time for him and, given his sponsor is the PM, a positive for Defence. If though, he simply becomes a conduit for the Treasury and shrinks his department further then it will take years to restore the damage given many areas are already finely balanced on the line of viability. There is a new saying gaining currency amongst the lads, 'We don't do a show of force anymore, we do a show of face.' That has to change, immediately, before some bad people chance their arm and have a go. 

For the time being, I'll mostly be ignoring the Westminster Bubble crowd in giving Mr Williamson time to succeed. I very much hope he does.  

Fallon Takes A Bullet

 'In politics... stupidity is not a handicap.' Napoleon Bonaparte  

'In politics... stupidity is not a handicap.' Napoleon Bonaparte
 

In 2015 when Malcolm Rifkind resigned I wrote, 'The galloping sense of self entitlement of some MP's so often seems to bury any of duty and honour that once they might have harboured.' We thought Parliament had touched the lowest possible ebb in the 2010 expenses scandal but no, here we are again. 

So, Michael Fallon has decided to take rather than dodge the allegations bullet, probably before more rise to the surface. For the Armed Forces, with a mini Defence spending review in progress, this is somewhat unhelpful. In an interview with the BBC's Laura Kuennsberg he said that his behaviour had in the past fallen short of those expected in our Armed Forces. He is right then to resign.

Where he is wrong is in his belief of what was acceptable, 'ten or fifteen years ago.' Here's a newsflash for Fallon and any other miscreants. Ten or fifteen years ago creepy behaviour in the workplace met with zero tolerance. In a bank for example, an allegation would have been met with probable suspension pending an HR investigation. HR would then proceed to unpick the suspects life starting with a trawl through thousands of emails and any other electronic communication, reviewing hundreds of hours of recorded telephone calls and close examination of all expenses. HR would also interview colleagues to establish if there was a pattern of nefarious conduct. In short, the only people behind the curve here are those in the Westminster bubble. 

Of course, many people meet, date and go on to marry work colleagues and such liaisons are perfectly acceptable. What is outrageous is when individuals abuse positions of power and influence to boost their inflated ego's. 

Amongst the WhatsApp groups and spreadsheets circulating I have no doubt there will be some innocent's named. What really bothers me though, and this goes to the beating heart of our Parliament, is that bad behaviour was tolerated throughout. It is no secret that the whips have for generations, used their 'little black books,' to keep order with recalcitrant MP's. That is blackmail by any other name. Also, it puts the whip's in the 'enabler,' category of offenders. Indeed, how many 'enablers,' are there in Westminster among the MP's, administrators and journalists who have looked the other way? Actually, just as most did with the expenses scandal.

It is not just a few names on spreadsheets that need a swift kick up the backside; the whole place needs a good wash-down. 

What Trump Should Have Said

When President Trump was elected, to the surprise and shock of the prevailing wisdom of the Washington elite and New York media, I thought that he had a glancing opportunity to do something meaningful. I wrote at the time that he should focus his energy on getting something done such as an infrastructure bill which would have cross party and national support rather than become subsumed in the Washington political morass. He hasn’t become subsumed, he is drowning. Unfortunately for our friends across the sea, and in fact the rest of the world, he is proving to be completely inadequate on every level. While we could suggest that the world is a more stable place because Trump will more readily project US power than did Obama there is growing nervousness about his personal capacity to exercise good judgement. The events of this week in respect of the race row are especially troubling.

We must be cautious ourselves in the UK about being too vocal on the subject given we have our own significant domestic race issues to contend with. The resignation of a shadow minister this week because she vocalised widely held concerns about the exploitation and grooming of young girls by a very specific racial segment is an example of our own inability to confront tensions within. The United States though continues to struggle to come to terms with it’s own heritage. Racism is never far below the surface wherever you travel. Once, while working for a Mid Western company of some size, I asked a board member why we didn’t employ any black people. “Not here,” was the simple and straight reply. 

The President though, should stand above these arguments. He, like our Queen, represents all citizens. That Trump has failed to put a stake in the high moral ground in this regard has probably damaged him beyond repair. I would not be surprised to see a new president in office by the end of the year. Any president who is seen or perceived to be on one or other side of the racial divide in the United States is holed below the waterline. A pity he did not action his earlier rhetoric to bring safe streets to the worst of America’s inner cities such as Chicago. He has now blown what little credibilty that has survived serial screw-ups over the past eight months.

A friend reminded me with a Facebook post of what is expected of an American president. In 1989 a reporter asked President H W Bush, who was only a month into his presidency, “What does the party do about David Duke?” the former Klu Klux Klan leader who was standing for state office in Louisiana. (It is usually regarded as highly improper for a president to cross the line and involve himself in State politics). Bush senior said,  

"Maybe there was some feeling in Metairie, Louisiana, that the president of the United States involving himself in a state legislative election was improper or overkill. I've read that, and I can't deny that. But what I can affirm is: I did what I did because of principle.”

Later, in 1991 he was asked if he regretted his actions. This was his reply, 

"When someone asserts that the Holocaust never took place, then I don't believe that person ever deserves one iota of public trust. And when someone has so recently endorsed nazism, it is inconceivable that such a person can legitimately aspire to leadership — in a leadership role in a free society. And when someone has a long record, an ugly record, of racism and of bigotry, that record simply cannot be erased by the glib rhetoric of a political campaign. So, I believe that David Duke is an insincere charlatan. I believe he is attempting to hoodwink the voters of Louisiana, and I believe that he should be rejected for what he is and what he stands for.”

Encouraging voters to vote against his own party was a stand-out, stand-up thing to do. Duke lost and Democrat Edwin Edwards was elected. The stand did not later help Bush senior’s re-election bid with voters in that area but he would have slept more easily. Some issues are more important than party politics. A lesson the current incumbent would do well to absorb.

Charlie Chaplin in the Great Dictator; a great speech with no limit of time

Trump could have been the Messiah to cauterise the economic wounds wrought on ordinary decent Americans over the past ten years and he could, should have been the person to bring their nation closer together. That the opposite is happening is nothing short of criminally tragic. What we are looking at though is a mirror. We have many of the same issues at hand in this country and our own politicians, of every hue, are equally ill equipped to confront them. There is, I am afraid, an absence of moral courage and leadership on the international stage the like of which has probably never been seen before in our history. It is all really rather a worry.

A Nasty Piece of Work

John Martin McDonnell is a nasty piece of work. Some may view him as just dim and irresponsible, others as a sinister and manipulative individual. I am firmly in the latter camp. McDonnell has called for a million people to march in protest in London on July 1st. Is that clever when London is under persistent threat of terrorist attack? Will the Met welcome having to divert resources to police the event? There will be trouble. You can absolutely guarantee that. 

Veteran Corbyn agitator riles protesters at Kensington Town Hall, (picture from Guido)

McDonnell is urging people to protest to help destabilise the government, bring down the Prime Minister and force a second general election. His disrespectful contempt for democracy is outrageous and it is dangerous. The devious and calculating way that tragic events are being weaponised to stir up a hate campaign, which is full of false facts and disinformation and includes agitators appearing to protest in West Kensington while labelling themselves ‘locals', against the Prime Minister is an affront to decency and due process. 

What is happening is much, much more than mischief making. McDonnell and his henchmen are attempting to subvert our democratic process. In clear and open view the Labour party has allowed itself to be taken over by extreme left Marxists. This is not about housing in West London, those poor souls are being used as ladders for the cynical operators of Momentum to propel themselves into a position of total dominance of the Labour party and from there, the Government.  

Corbyn meanwhile is wandering around every new disaster like some latter day saint proclaiming love and hugs for all. His new found respect for anything with a blue light on it or the word ‘security,’ in it is especially dubious. Corbyn is the anti Christ. That so many Labour MP’s who previously treated his policies with disdain are now swooning in his shadow is cowardly and pathetic. They are first in line against the wall as they will discover when they are deselected one by one. That so many feeble-minded and dim witted fools can’t see the truth of what is happening in front of them is worrying. 

 

In another place, in another time there were also demonstrations against democratic election results. It did not end particularly well.

Oopsie!

 The croft in the Highlands scenario just became a viable option

The croft in the Highlands scenario just became a viable option

The REME vehicle mechanics had been working on the engine pack throughout the night. As dawn rose through the mist on the North German Plain Bombardier Clark turned to me and said, ‘Well Sir, I reckon the things properly fxcking fxcked.’ Bombardier Clark had a way with words which I find difficult to better this morning as I survey the train wreck that is the election result. 

 Tory passengers noticed before the driver did that something was awry

Tory passengers noticed before the driver did that something was awry

Despite all the opposition parties swaggering around the studios like winners there aren’t any really. Except for Jeremy Corbyn personally, house prices in Scotland and Ruth Davidson. The parliamentary Labour Party have just been handed their worst nightmare. New Labour is history and New Old Labour is here to stay given that Corbyn’s position is unassailable. Theresa May is on political life-support and will in all likelihood be gone by mid morning or will give notice to leave, (although the BBC are now signalling she intends to stay). I expect you could then say that Boris is a potential winner but he, or whoever the Tories elect, will be handed a chalice laced with political arsenic. One of the things I got right, and there weren’t many, was that Ruth Davidson would shine and she has with a genuinely robust set of wins in Scotland which has nobbled IndyRef 2. The SNP though will have more influence at Westminster than before. The Lib Dems went nowhere and UKIP did every bit as badly as we expected.  The Europeans meanwhile are not happy. They wanted a strong and unified set of negotiators on the other side of the table.

As an act of national collective madness this will take some beating. I look at the fact that so many misguided half-wits voted for a man who supported terrorists uninterrupted for 30 years with bewildering incredulity. The not so nice part of me thinks, ‘Stuff it. I hope you get your grand coalition. Your loans might go down but there will be no jobs for you at the end of it.’ The Conservatives have however, only themselves to blame as I explained in a previous post. They might have been hearing but they weren’t listening. That under 30’s, of all previous political hues and family backgrounds, lurched to Labour is an unforgivable dereliction of responsibility by the Tories. 

One thing is for sure and for certain; we will have another election this year. We’re turning into bloody Italy. This morning, the croft plan doesn't seem so silly. The only, and I do mean the only mitigation in staying up all night was Emily Maitlis in that red dress. I think Bombardier Clark would concur.

Are We There Yet?

"Election Warms Up". Good coverage of the  General Election (in 1964)

One day to go until the Election and most of the parties will be wishing they could wind the clock back and start again. Led by the Conservatives, with the worst campaign in memory and about as interesting as toothache, most of the parties set low standards, failed to achieve them and have been in defensive mode from the get-go. The Liberals seemed to wandering around in a baffled daze wondering where the buses went. They were left behind at the start line when they put all their eggs in the basket marked, ‘cross about Brexit,’ without it having dawned on them that most of the ’48%,’ had moved on. (Tim Farron incidentally is rumoured to be vulnerable tomorrow). UKIP’s engines blew up when they turned the key while the SNP charged off at 100 miles an hour but in the wrong direction, having made the same miscalculation as the Liberals and subsequently went back to start again focusing on public services while under unremitting pressure for Ruth Davidson. The clear campaigning winner is Comrade Corbyn who has successfully rewritten the narrative of his personal support of terrorist groups over 30 years and presented a platform of reasonable unreasonableness by promising lots of free stuff to anyone with a hand out whether they need free stuff or not. As one member of a Question Time audience described it, ‘your manifesto reads like a letter to Santa Claus.’ It is easily the most mendacious, devious and manipulative campaign by Labour that I can recall. But clever nonetheless. So, May will win tomorrow but hasn’t really earned it. But why has CC done so well and May so badly?

The Conservative campaign has been described as ‘presidential.’ My view is that the Prime Minister initially set out to attempt to be anything but presidential. I believe her aim was to restore some gravitas and dignity to the office and to do so by avoiding electioneering stunts with hi-vis jackets and hard hats or rolled up sleeves with a pint in hand being a ‘man of the people,' as every PM since Mrs T has at some point attempted and mostly failed to do. The approach has failed though. She has come across more as something between a sub post office mistress and a doctors receptionist. Worse, until this week those ministers with a strong intellectual belief and understanding of their departments and policies, and a charm with which to communicate them, have been hidden from view. The manifesto was, I thought, much better than the press it received suggested. Despite being more 6 null Left wing than I would like I think I understand what the intended broad thrust was. In fact, it was woefully undersold and there were plenty of points which have resonance with the electorate that deserved some flesh on the bones such as the aspirations to build out the digital infrastructure so that every home has access to hi speed broadband by 2020. 

The Conservative manifesto also suggests a policy of student debt forgiveness for student nurses but is limited in its scope. The Conservatives should listen to Crumble, expand it and make a noise about it. I have long argued against the current loan regime, (how can a compound rate of 6.5% be justified in the current low rate environment? It is usury, plain and simple. A £42k student debt with compound interest at 6.5% will be £80k in ten years time). At a minimum, HMG should be offering students electing to do courses which have a direct benefit to the country, (computer science, medical, social work, teaching etc) and where there is need, discounts which increase with length of service. This should be extended to those who subsequently go into a government job where they make a career sacrifice to do so. Further, young people who engage in voluntary work on either a charitable or local government basis, join initiatives such as Teach First, or serve in the Reserves should also benefit from a discount. Given most loans will anyway remain unpaid HMG may as well attempt to derive some benefit from them for the national good. In committing to this the Conservatives would lay the foundation for some sort of vision for the under 30’s which has been the biggest miss of the entire campaign. In fact, the Tories have been watching a completely different movie and have left the young with little incentive to vote for them. Usually, when people start talking about ‘the vision,’ it is time to switch off and walk away but in this instance, a better articulated view of how the UK is going to come to terms with accelerating developments in computer power, automation, robotics and biotech against a backdrop of rapidly changing demographics would have been a good thing. A simple statement such as ‘All primary school children will be taught elementary coding by part time students and graduates who will enjoy a level of student debt relief commensurate with commitments made,’ would at least put a marker down and be duly noted by the young vote. Oh and while I am on the subject of students it’s about time HMG shook down the universities and tackled head-on the weak value proposition that so many students are paying for in terms of poor and sporadic teaching on three year courses which, in many subjects, could easily be done in two.

The Dementia Tax episode was just woeful. Again, there is some good rationale to it which would leave most if not all better off than they would be today but the delivery was mistimed and misunderstood. The big, (and getting bigger), problem we have in the UK is that since Labour years ago weaponised the NHS the chances of having a rational discussion about it are round about zero. Back in 1978 my geography teacher, Mr MacKay told us that with the then rate of growth by 2027 we would all either be working for the NHS or be patients of the NHS. Mr McKay was a lot smarter than most of our politicians. Their selfish and infantile thinking precludes debate about potentially innovative and creative solutions to a growing problem and 6 null is contemptible. The other big problem for the NHS is that it has become the default dustbin for everyone in society with any kind of problem, medical or not. That, with a galloping sense of entitlement encouraged by idiot politicians from its users produces unsustainable and unreasonable demand. If citizens in Ireland pay for GP’s appointments what makes us so special that we shouldn’t do the same? The whole national approach to the NHS, and the expectations that we have of it are in heavy need of recalibration rather than the national state of denial which exists. A general election though, is not the time to do it.

Tory strategists clearly thought they were being clever by occupying the centre ground and edging slightly to the left, presumably with the intention of pushing Corbyn further out to the extremes of policy. Unfortunately for them, they were left looking flat-footed when Corbyn outflanked them and has had the bare faced cheek, as someone who has voted against all Anti Terrorisim Acts, to start selling himself as a friend of the police and security services and a bastion of law and order. I am left incredulous that some believe the outrageous nonsense he has been promulgating. Fortunately, the electorate are not as stupid as Corbyn needs them to be in order to win. Let’s though, just remind ourselves of some of the things that would disappear if Comrade Corbyn actually won, (I'll see you all in the hills then....)

The Monarchy

The SAS

Special Branch

The 'Five Eyes' Intelligence Sharing Agreement

Winning

Foreign Corporations

Low Interest rates

Synagogues

Gibraltar

High Net Worth Individuals

Scotland

Foreign Investment

All the Regimental Silver (to be returned to its original owners)

Tax Receipts

The Elgin Marbles (and everything else cluttering up the British Museum)

Public Schools, Grammar Schools, Academies

The Falklands

Trident

The House of Lords

Our International Reputation

Statues of famous statesmen

Northern Ireland

Premium of the pound over the Euro

 

 

 

 

Time Out

So, home a tad late to a warm welcome from the dogs and Shepherds Pie, ‘it’s in the oven.’ With 48 hours to go until the election, and the servers of the Social Media companies smokin’ as they go into Warp Factor 5 overdrive with a digital frenzy being unleashed by political supporters of all sides, I’m taking a time-out for a moment to share my all-time favourite ad. 

Scared Rabbits

Jeremy Corbyn is not having a very good day. Running over a BBC cameraman's leg is not usually the sort of voter friendly PR which helps political campaigns, although I doubt very much the BBC will cover it much. It's all rush, rush, rush to get to the next photo op in front of a group of mannequins holding placards as veteran Rob Gray discovered yesterday in York. Mr Gray shouted a question to Corbyn who was on stage outside. Mr Gray wanted to know what Corbyns position was on the pursuit and possible prosecution of Northern Ireland veterans. Mr Corbyn said he would come down and speak to Mr Gray. Instead he hurried off in the opposite direction while Mr Gray's path was blocked by a minder.

This kind of antiseptic and choreographed campaigning is endemic in British politics. It wasn't always so. There was a time when politicians were expected to prove themselves in front of their voters, when unrehearsed heckling and questioning was part of the game and politicians were expected to show a little more grit. The last time we saw such an exercise was Labour's Jim Murphy in 2014 when he did his 'No,' 100 towns in 100 days tour throughout Scotland. Before then? Well, you perhaps have to go back quite a while. I accept that politicians then did not have to face 24 hour news or any small verbal indescretion instantly being pinged around the world but the current state of affairs lacks balance. This piece from Newsnight from a couple of years ago adequately sums up where we are and where we have come from,