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Still reeling

I have not blogged since the US election. Why not? Because I don’t understand.

The media world is at present full of gurus trying to explain it. The best of them realise that they are groping  and, like the rest of us, are waiting for  wisdom to emerge. The ones who “know” the answer are probably not worth reading.

I am not one quoting poetry, but the Second Coming by W B Yeats is highly resonant.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Free Tesco parking if you buy straight bananas

Laura Leeks was reportedly refused free car parking at Tesco because the only thing she had gone into the shop for was baby formula. According to some jobsworth at Tesco’s, to allow her the free car parking would amount to a promotion of that product, which is not allowed.

Before I get to the point, let’s clear off one or two side-issues: Tesco’s employee was almost certainly over-interpreting the law. In the unlikely event that that is what the law actually means, two reactions would have been sensible. The first would have been to turn a blind eye, the second, though on a different plane, would be to work to change the law. The other side-issue being that while baby formula is clearly not in the same league as, say, tobacco for a harmful substance, it is quite clear that babies do better if they are fed by mothers’ milk. Regulations to prevent younger, often vulnerable, mothers from being aggressively targeted by baby formula manufacturers are a good thing, surely?

The truly objectionable thing, however, was the reaction of the Department of Health. According to the link above:

The Department of Health said the relevant rules are enshrined in UK law as a result of an EU regulation on the sale of baby formula. “These rules are currently in place because of EU law,” a spokesman said. “But our great repeal bill means that when we leave the EU, laws such as these will be debated and controlled by the UK parliament.”

So, the message is clear – according to the Department, we should blame Europe for everything. Never mind the fact that Britain, as a major player in the EU, will and should have played a major part in framing those regulations, that they are indeed “our” regulations. And after the great repeal bill, it seems that we will be able to abandon those annoying things that are designed to protect people but get in the way of trade. We will be able to let Nestlé and the other manufacturers have free rein to use any advertising trick they like to get their products into the mouths of babes and sucklings.

With statements like that coming out from them, one might imagine that the DoH also fell for New York-born Boris de Pfeffel Johnson’s joke that EU regulations required straight bananas. (I say “joke” to give him the benefit of the doubt. More likely, in my view, it was a malicious smear which he knew that he could pass off as a joke when challenged, but that many people would be thoughtless enough to believe.)

Here is New York-born Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, by the way:



Second tries and Brexit

Yes, that topic again.

I heard it again last night:

“MPs voted six-to-one to give the decision to the British people.”

NO THEY DIDN’T! MPs voted six-to-one (I’ll assume that figure is correct) to consult the British people. They did that. They had a referendum. An advisory one, as usual, not a binding referendum. We all know that by a small margin on that day the vote went in favour of leaving. An equivocal result, more of an “Errmm…” than a mandate.

The High Court ruled with some clarity that the government must have the approval of parliament before triggering Article 50. And here’s the puzzle:

  • even though most of the Brexit promises fell apart within hours and days of the referendum,
  • even though the depressing price to be paid in terms of increased cost of living, job losses, and opportunity losses have got clearer and clearer as the months have gone by,
  • even though the lies repeated again and again by the “leave” campaign are now staring us in the face

– leavers still want to remainers to “accept the result” as being the “will of the people”.* “No second referendum”, they cry, “just because you didn’t get the result you wanted the first time”. But they want to go back to court and have another try at bypassing Parliament, just because they didn’t get the result they wanted the first time. Consistent, or what?

*Whatever the “will of the people” is actually supposed to be. It’s not a concept I entirely grasp.

Secret Brexit negotiations – not good enough, Teresa!

Current government and pro-Brexit spin is making a very big deal out of the argument that the negotiations that are presumably going to take place at some stage are like a game of poker. They must not, therefore “show their hand in advance”, which is to say that they would like their policy-making to be kept secret. I suppose we can assume that finally they have started to make policy and think about what must be done. Can’t we?

Governments, of course, always tend to want to do things in secret. It’s so much easier than dealing with pesky oversight or explaining to taxpayers where their money is being poured. So their position is understandable. But it is bad.

Aditya Chakrabortty has explained with some clarity how this has gone down with Nissan. To summarise, Nissan’s boss says in September that the UK must cut him a deal, and he needs some kind of compensation to stay in Britain. In short order he gets a person-to-person meeting with Teresa May, soon after which he announces that not only will they stay in Sunderland, but they will make the new model of the Qashqai there. Business secretary Greg Clark won’t say how this turn-around was achieved. He asks us to believe that all was required was a gentlemanly assurance that the government has an “intention to find common ground and to pursue discussions in a rational and civilised way”. Clark will not reveal what the written commitments that are reported to have been given might be.

Of course he won’t, because if the secrecy is blown, the queue of CEOs wanting the same benefits would probably stretch from Westminster up to Trafalgar Square. And those forced to rely on food banks or punished in other ways by the government’s lack of care for those with less privilege might get angry about it. In due course, that might even cost seats in parliament, and we couldn’t have that, could we?

The government needs to surround the Brexit negotiations with secrecy because they need to hide how much the country will be bled in order to save face here and there.

Could lying politicians be held to account?

It has been reported that

The director of public prosecutions is considering a complaint that voters were misled by the Vote Leave and Leave.EU campaigns, in contravention of electoral law.

In other words, the question of whether the lies that were told amount to a criminal offence is being considered. Early days, of course, but something to be watched.

We seem to have got to the stage where politicians can tell any lie they like and get away with it because, “that’s politics”, or “people say all sorts of things in and election campaign”. I don’t know how far this will get, but it is more than time that politicians who lie suffered the consequences, including criminal prosecutions.

Breaking the Godwin Barrier

In the days when the horrors of Nazi Germany seemed, to some people (particularly people who are not German) something far away that could never happen here, it became understood that once someone accused another of being  like a Nazi camp guard or like a little Hitler, this was a clear sign that insults had taken over from reason. Hence the growth of the convention, known as Godwin’s Law, that when a discussion got to the point where those analogies were being thrown around, the first person to use them had automatically lost the argument. It was a nice idea.

But times have changed. The fact is that there are now real analogies between what is happening in the UK and America and what happened in Germany in the 1930s. For the avoidance of silliness, let me make it clear that I’m not saying that May is a little Hitler in the making. Perhaps a little Thatcher, which is bad enough, but not a Hitler. I don’t, however, have the same certainty about Trump. Jonathan Freedland, amongst others, recently summarised his awfulness better than I can. To quote one paragraph:

So a President Trump will change lives far beyond the US. An American leader who believes climate change is a Chinese hoax, who believes terror suspects should be tortured and their family members killed, who believes that Saudi Arabia should have nuclear weapons, who is fascinated by nukes’ power of “devastation” and who has asked repeatedly why the US doesn’t use them; a man who says, “I love war”; a man who drools in admiration for Vladimir Putin and whose disregard for Nato, and refusal to promise to defend a member state if attacked, would all but invite Moscow to invade one of the Baltic states – such a man would plunge all of us into a dark future. That we are not living in the US will not protect us.

But consider this. Hitler’s appointment as chancellor may have been alarming, but it was legal. Intimidation played a significant part, but his acquisition of “temporary” power to act without the consent of the German parliament – to become a dictator – was also legal. And we all know how well that went. (The Wikipedia article on Hitler’s rise to power is worth a look if you’re not familiar with the story.) The parallels are real, and Godwin’s Law no longer applies: we have broken the Godwin Barrier.

Which brings me back to Brexit. Sure, May is not remotely like Trump, thank the Lord. But the ranting of the gutter press, demanding that Parliament should be bypassed, and that the legal system that guards us from dictatorship is an “enemy of the people” is frightening. They are asking for the road to a dictatorship to be opened up. And this, merely on the basis of the fact that the resounding “Errmm…” spoken by the British people had a marginal leaning towards “leave”.

Brexit meets Bake Off

According to the Express yesterday:

JACOB REES-MOGG has savaged the High Court’s ruling Theresa May cannot trigger Article 50 alone, as the leading Brexit campaigner said Parliament passed the Referendum Bill knowing EU-exit would be exercised immediately.

This rather reminds me of Channel Four’s purchase of the Great British Bake Off. Yes, they bought the rights to the programme, at a high price, but we now all know that the services of the presenters – the “talent” – were not included in the sale. It was not in the contract. Or like someone I knew who bought a house in the countryside (this was in Ireland), and was then surprised to find that the garden around the house was not included in the sale. It was not in the contract.

Similarly, Rees-Mogg and the other leave campaigners may have assumed that exit would follow immediately if the vote went their way, and may have assumed that the referendum would be binding, however small the majority. They may have assumed that David Cameron would do what he said (even though it would have been illegal, as we now know). But it was not in the act.

As such, and as the High Court has confirmed, the rules are the usual rules of the British constitution. Even if the referendum had had a large majority one way or the other, rather than the slender 2% that was the actual result, it would only have been advisory. Nothing was included in the act to specify that the result of the referendum would have to be followed.

Working on dual citizenship

Even if I were to hear today that the whole Brexit thing was off (just pretend, of course) I would not be stopping my application for dual citizenship (GB/IT). For those with a choice, who would want to be limited to a country that is sliding into little (white) British insularity? Led as it is by buffoons like Boris Johnson, proven cheats like Liam Fox and wind-followers like Teresa May, who is hard when it comes to the poor but putty in the hands of, say, the sugar industry. She made Boris J into Foreign Secretary, for goodness sake! Either she is stupid or she really wanted to show the rest of the EU that as far as she is concerned they can go and f**k themselves. I suspect the second.

All change

Bear with me – the original purpose of this blog has faded, so it’s going to go through a few changes. If the appearance is wrong, let me know!

In the meantime, the might be a bit to see at site I have for my acoustic blues, namely alexwildingblooz.com, so you can have a look at what’s going on over there.