Going for Gold

I have to congratulate the participants in Rio 2016 [The Olympics] not just because they have been exceptionally brilliant this year but for bringing some much needed relief from the dire state of British politics. Each and every competitor has shown the watching world how great a human being can be if they put their minds to it and I’m not just talking about winning medals. The athletes have been amazing and the commentators, with one or two exceptions, have been  equally impressive. Clare Balding, in particular, deserves a gold medal for her performance at the velodrome! However, the games will shortly be over and our television screens will be full of the same old dross as before, debates around Brexit, debates about the Labour leadership contest, more hand-wringing over the refugees situation etc. Fortunately, the football season has started so that might pick our spirits up a little and of course, there’s the long run up to this years “Strictly come dancing” to keep us on the edge of our seats. Will ex-Labour MP, Ed Balls live up to his name and crash out in the first round or will he turn out to be a bit of a bobby dazzler on the dance-floor? One of his predecessors, Denis Healey, was known to be pretty nifty in the ballroom so perhaps he will take after him. Exciting stuff indeed but we will have to wait a few months before we know the answer to that particular question.

Members of the Labour Party however, have only a week to wait before they can cast their votes for whoever they think should be leader of the party.  That’s providing that the PLP doesn’t come up with another reason to delay things. They’ve already refused to allow thousands of new members the vote which I feel is absolutely disgraceful and only goes to reaffirm just how remote from ordinary members the parliamentary Labour party has become.  Those who are eligible to vote only have a choice of two names, Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith unlike a year ago when there were four candidates to pick from, each of them more credible than the current contestants. And before anyone points out that Corbyn was one of those previous four names I’m simply inferring that the pre-2015 election Corbyn was a much more attractive choice than the one standing now. That’s not to imply that Jeremy is not by far the best candidate, it’s just that the previous twelve months have detracted from, rather than added to his general appeal. We can only blame two groups for that, the PLP and the right wing media which tends to forge public opinion in Britain rather than simply reflect it. Jeremy has made mistakes as well but then, he was bound to considering the position he held within the party. Corbyn despite being a successful, popular constituency MP has long been seen by the PLP as an outsider, a “trot” as they like to call him, an often despised figure unlike their dearly beloved “trots”, Michael Foot and Tony Benn.  I have to agree that both Foot and Benn  were far greater orators than Corbyn but neither of them improved the party’s chances of reaching government. Michael Foot was sixty-seven years of age when he became Labour leader, same age as Jeremy Corby but the latter looks twenty years younger. Tony Benn on the other hand, remained youthful and in my opinion held similar beliefs to those of Corbyn.

Margaret Beckett, someone who appears to  have been an active member of the PLP for decades without actually ever doing anything in my opinon, said this week, that vast numbers of Corbyn’s supporters did not care about Labour’s core values. I believe her to be wrong on several counts, especially in her interpretation of “Core” values. I’m a member of the Labour Party and I know what it says on my membership card however, that should not be confused with the notion of core values. We all have “core” values, they are buried deep within us and whilst, not entirely unique to each and every one of us, they remain constant through our evolution as human beings. As we grow we “adopt” other beliefs or values, some of which we retain and build upon, others we discard. However, our “core” values remain and it is these that forge our personalities, influence our friendships and even dictate which political party we are likely to support. Beckett’s idea of core values appears to me as no more than a bunch of ideas or policies that someone has drawn up to represent where the Labour Party stands at this moment in time. In other words, they are “adopted” values subject to change or in many instances, simply abandoned whenever it suits the PLP. Ironically, it was Margaret Beckett who encouraged Jeremy Corbyn to stand in the 2015 leadership contest, obviously thinking he wouldn’t win but certain that it would show the PLP in a good light. It must have come as a great shock when Beckett and her PLP cronies discovered that there remained an awful lot of “left-wingers” amongst Labour party members and not all of them were “trots”. Many, like myself, are best described as “moderates” however, I like to think that the majority who voted for Jeremy in 2015 did so because deep down inside, those core values again, they felt an affinity with him in the way they never did with Brown or Blair.

I should discuss the other contender in the contest, Owen Smith however, I find it extremely difficult to offer a balanced view of the man. In my opinion, Owen Smith is a total phony and I find it incredulous that a party with so many genuinely talented people in it’s ranks have nominated him. Personally, I would have put Caroline Flint or Yvette Cooper up against Corbyn but that’s another story. Smith is trying to appeal to party members who know very little, if anything, about him and yet, he treats them with contempt. For example, Smith claims that the Tories have a “secret plan” to dismantle the NHS along with other key parts of the welfare state however, none of this is secret. The Tories first announced their plans to dismantle the NHS in 2005 and clearly, they have steadily progressed their plans ever since, sometimes with the assistance of the Labour Party. Elsewhere, especially in the education system, the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Work and Pensions, there have been huge changes which directly impact on the most vulnerable sections of society. It may have come as a surprise to Owen Smith but all of these changes have taken place in the most transparent  manner by a government that feels no shame. The Tories or Conservatives to give them their official moniker have not always been the “Nasty Party” as Theresa May once called them, they have previously been a more moderate bunch than they are now. However, since Thatcher imposed her “monetarist ideology”  largely influenced by the American economist, Milton Friedman  a leading proponent of “Free Market Economics”on the country, the Tories have become less interested in society as a whole and disproportionately interested in the more affluent sections of it. The Labour Party lead by Tony Blair had the opportunity, when it replaced the Tories in government, to undo a lot of the damage done by Thatcher but it chose not to, in fact it simply continued along the same lines even going to war on the lamest of excuses with devastating consequences for all of us.

Watching the Rio Olympics over the past week or so has completely distracted my mind away from politics, my previous blog “That’s all for now” indicated my feelings at the time. I was totally fed up of reading about the problems in the Labour Party and the media appeared so biased against Corbyn that I was even turning off The Today Programme as soon as a politician came on. However, I and all those other voters will have to come out of our living-room bunkers shortly and think about who they want to vote for and why.  Interestingly, coming up with reasons why seems a lot more difficult than deciding who I might vote for. I will undoubtedly vote for Jeremy Corbyn but only because the other contestant is simply the wrong man altogether. However, whilst I share much of what Corbyn says he stands for, I don’t believe he fully understands the role of leadership. To return to Thatcher, as an example, I discovered from reading her biographies that she would hatch an idea and then present it to her cabinet with an instruction to go away and come back with a policy based on that idea. This possibly sounds like a dictator at work but I suspect it to be the most efficacious way of doing things as long as the person coming up with the ideas has a sound mind and has fully thought things through. However, some of the ideas that Corbyn is coming up with appear not to have been given very much consideration apart from the fact that they might attract public support. Take his pledge to return our public transport systems to public ownership as an example. Jeremy is a similar age to myself but I haven’t spent all of life living in London where commuters are well catered for by their buses, trains and tube operators. Yes, they have problems but nothing like you get outside of London. We all know that back in the early sixties the railways were moth-balled to appease both the construction industry which was wanting to build roads all over the country and the car manufacturers. Putting transport or any other utility back into public hands is not going to improve matters unless the people put in charge of them already deploy or are willing to adopt modern business methods.

You don’t need to have ever been Prime Minister to know that it cannot be easy governing a country like Britain. We are probably one of the most densely populated nations on the planet filled with a diverse, contradictory mix of individuals. For example, we consider ourselves a predominantly Christian society and yet people, generally, rarely ever visit a church. I’m not saying that people who don’t visit churches cannot claim to be Christians after all, there are those who claim their religious belief to be Klingon and they’ve never visited a far distant universe in their lives. However, that’s Britain for you. We like to believe that we are a tolerant nation which we are to a large extent however, try reversing into someone’s parking space or stepping out of turn in a queue and we’re not so bloody charitable. The question of who is best placed to govern our country is almost impossible to answer unless, of course, people look beyond their own personal preferences to what would be in the best interests of everybody. It’s the same with the NHS question. No one can seriously object to private health care just as long as it does not undermine the performance of the public sector. Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening and unless we elect a government that is fundamentally opposed to any further privatisation of the NHS then ordinary people will suffer. I think it is quite significant that since the beginning of the 20th Century Britain has elected three Liberal Prime Ministers, seventeen Conservative PMs and only four Labour PMs. On each occasion when the public elected a Labour government, the country was experiencing massive social upheaval and as soon as things settled down, the public voted the Conservatives back in again. Britain was on its’ knees in 1945 but people were prepared to give Labour their opportunity to truly govern the country and they were repaid with the Welfare State.

Although the plans for the British Welfare State were drawn up by a political coalition during the latter part of World War Two led by the economist William Henry Beveridge, no other party would have delivered it so successfully and so extensively. However, two years after the NHS opened to the public in 1948 the Labour government was looking decidedly tired and its’ ministers were openly fighting with each other over aspects of policy. Not surprisingly, the public sensing that the hard work had been done reverted to type and voted the Conservatives back in. This became a familiar pattern but one that showed the British public to be less interested in personality politics and more interested in which party had the most power and influence. Britain went through another major social upheaval in the mid sixties when suddenly, teenagers appeared. Previously, young people simply looked and behaved like their parents or in some cases, like their grandparents. It was Pop music, largely, that brought about this change although, we had been listening to popular music for at least a decade. However, this was different because the Pop music of the sixties was being made in Britain and the entire world wanted to buy it. Music became a huge industry, young people became rich and famous and riding on the back of all that came Harold Wilson puffing on his pipe and giving everyone that cheeky little smile. Notwithstanding his popular image, Wilson was a very clever man and it was clear why people liked him. Labour grandee Sir Gerald Kaufman MP claims that Wilson was one of the nicest politicians he has ever known, demanding yes but very even-tempered, funny, a master tactician and highly principled. That’s not a bad reference is it? However, there are those in the Labour Party who, unlike Kaufman, were not part of Wilson’s inner circle and for various reasons have a different opinion of the former Prime Minister.

I cannot compare Jeremy Corbyn to Harold Wilson for two reasons, firstly, Wilson was closer to being a Social Democrat  than a Socialist although, he truly believed in both supporting and empowering the working-classes. Secondly and I don’t wish to suggest that Corbyn is a wimp but Wilson despite coming from humble beginnings could hold his own against any adversary and would not be pushed around. There is no doubt in my mind that Jeremy has struggled in his role as leader of a party that never wanted him to lead them and to a large extent, he has sought to prove his leadership credentials by pointing to the huge wave of public support he receives. However, this is not the right approach as anyone who has ever undergone management training knows. There are basically four different styles of management with the best managers, in my experience, being able to adopt all four styles. Jeremy however, doesn’t appear comfortable operating in any particular style of management, he’s certainly not the coercive type as we saw in his relationship with Hilary Benn and others in his cabinet and so far, we’ve not seen anything that suggests his performance is driven by a high level of expertise. I’m not trying to be unfair, I like Jeremy however, he is making silly mistakes and the biggest of all was allow members into his cabinet who clearly did not support him. His performances at PM’s question time have been poor compared to his public rallies which have been great. However, the PLP appears to be against Corbyn regardless of whatever he does and are using everything and anyone they can to bring him down. I’ve seen this collective approach so often in business where a person is systematically demoralised into submission. They are even using people such as Neil Kinnock who lead the party to four successive election defeats during the period 1982 – 93, to canvass against Corbyn and then, we have individuals like Margaret Beckett questioning members values. However, the Labour Party is now, thanks to Jeremy Corbyn, much bigger than any of them and my advice to those PLP members who are opposed to Corbyn would be to seriously  think about joining another party.

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C’est tout pour aujord’hui

I received a message from my local MEP this weekend outlining why she was backing Owen Smith in the Labour leadership contest. No surprise there considering that the person in question is equally bland and has been as obscure previously as the man she believes is capable of leading The Labour Party to success in the 2020 General Election [GE]. Personally, I can’t see “Viagra man” improving the performance of  Labour at the next or any future GE. He reminds me very much of Neil Kinnock, a Labour leader so out of touch with public opinion that he failed to woo voters away from the Tories even whilst Mrs Thatcher was at her most unpopular. Kinnock could talk the hind legs of a donkey, still can it seems but people weren’t listening to him therefore he did the next best thing to becoming PM and grabbed himself a seat in the European Parliament. Smith however, is not going to be able to emulate the former Labour leader so he might as well make the most of his fifteen minutes of fame playing this silly game of “I’m more left than Corbyn, I am”.

What I fail to understand though, is why those MPs who campaigned alongside Jeremy Corbyn in 2015 to become Labour leader are not standing again now? I respect Andy Burnham’s view that becoming Manchester’s newly elected Mayor is a much more attractive proposition than remaining in a Westminster bubble that he claims is both elitist and prejudiced against anyone with a regional accent. I like Andy Burnham and my hope was that he would take over from Corbyn prior to 2020 [ without a coup] and lead the party into government. However, that’s not going to happen. The Parliamentary Labour Party [PLP] is, by it’s own doing, between a rock and a hard place. They refuse to back Jeremy which in effect is a slap in the face to all those party members who voted for him in 2015 and then they stop all those new members inspired by Corbyn’s leadership from voting for Jeremy in 2016. Where is the fairness in that, they are happy to  take the money but they don’t want to let members engage in the party’s affairs? It’s a farce and the sooner the curtain falls the better. I’m not saying that Corbyn is doing a wonderful job because he isn’t. He messed up [again] by nominating Shami Chakrabati for a peerage, she deserves to be in the House of Lords but this wasn’t the right time to propose the human rights activist. Corbyn should have attacked Cameron’s cronyism instead but perhaps, with all the criticism over “Brexit”, Jeremy wasn’t ready to risk another mauling from The Tories aided by his own seditious back-benchers. However, with ever more revelations coming out about the true nature of the EU, history is certainly bound to prove that we did the right thing in voting to leave.

The future for the Labour Party is looking less rosy as the post-brexit weeks pass and the nation’s eyes remain fixed on the new PM, Theresa May. The details surrounding Article 50 are likely to be a long drawn out affair and quite rightly so, Britain has nothing to gain by rushing it. The homegrown movement to remove us from the EU has grown steadily since it began in 1993 so a few more months is hardly going to spoil the celebrations. However, despite the efforts of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel to appear supportive of Britain’s position there are others inside the EU such as Martin Selmar, Chief of Staff to the commission’s president, John-Claude Junker, who see Brexit as an opportunity to fast-track the EU’s federalist agenda. Nigel Farage may have seemed a little churlish, uncouth perhaps when speaking to his colleagues in Brussels following the result of the UK referendum but at least he was being honest. The party he worked tirelessly for had achieved everything that it set out to do without actually gaining any more MPs than the Green Party that Farage supported before leading UKIP. However, the party appears to be going through a rocky time at the moment with no one in charge and a steering group that doesn’t appear able to make up its’ mind about the kind of person they want to replace Nigel with. Perhaps, the Labour Party will stop fighting itself long enough to realise that there are UKIP votes going begging especially in the North. So, let’s stop whinging about the brexit vote and start putting policies together that will attract voters back to the Labour Party. Remember, that in 1993 a Mori poll found that 74% of the electorate were in favour of  Britain leaving the EU but it appears that no one took any notice of  the public’s mood back then which, of course, gave the Referendum Party and then UKIP, the opening it needed to make its’ mark on British politics. Now, there’s a lesson for Labour to learn and quick.

 

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Poverty is a burden on us all.

More often than not, whenever I purchase a copy of The Big Issue I have to stop myself from saying to the seller, “It’s okay, I don’t actually want the magazine but take my money anyway”. However, if I did say that it would deprive the seller of his/her dignity and I would never wish to do that. I don’t know if you’ve ever been a Big Issue seller yourself but the deal is that you have to become registered with your local branch and once accepted, you’re given a pitch from which to sell your magazines. I say magazines but they are more like free newspapers really, maybe slightly better quality but not up to the standard of a regular magazine like Q or Mojo. The vendor/seller has to buy their stock of Big Issues, usually on a daily basis, before going out to flog them, hopefully. The magazine currently sells at £2.50 which gives the vendor a profit of £1.25 – a 50% mark up which isn’t bad considering. However, unlike regular newspaper sellers, the Big Issue vendors cannot return their unsold copies for a refund – they are stuck with them until sold. I’ve known some excellent Big Issue sellers in my time, those who know exactly how many copies to buy, when to start selling them and so on. It might surprise you to know that very few vendors are actually homeless, many are simply hard up, struggling with their benefit claims, addicted to alcohol or heroin ,or, they simply enjoy the freedom that self-employment brings. It’s not all fun though, the community of Big Issue sellers is like most other communities, people gossip, spread rumours, treat newcomers with suspicion, ostracize those who refuse to conform etc. They might even try and steal your pitch if they think you’re selling more than them.

The guy who started the Big Issue franchise, John Bird, maintains that it was always his intention to give the homeless and others who were also down on their luck, a way in which they could help themselves. It’s a noble thought, a long way from John Rowles’ Principle of Social Justice but, I would agree that creating a nation of magazine vendors is preferable to blinding the poor so that they become more successful beggars. A new study from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation claims that poverty is costing Britain £78bn a year. This includes £9bn in lost tax revenue and additional benefits spending to address the symptoms of poverty however, most of this £78bn goes into areas of public spending including health care, education, children’s services, police and the criminal justice system. All of these services are seeing huge reductions in State funding whilst simultaneously having to deal with increased public demand for their support. Another recent report on Poverty in the UK  found that social mobility is at an all-time low which suggests that less people are managing to move out of poverty by simply moving, whether to take up better paid jobs or relocating to a more affordable area in which to live. It is incredible to think that in the 21st Century, so many people in our country are being held back by poverty. However, as Julia Unwin CEO Joseph Rowntree Foundation states, “Poverty doesn’t just hold individuals back, it holds back our economy too”. It used to be the case that young people would automatically benefit from higher education both socially and economically but that is no longer the case. Students, especially those from poorer backgrounds are increasingly burdened with debt with many of them failing to see when, or, if ever they will be able to pay it off.

There are a huge group of people in the UK for whom the word poverty just doesn’t exist, not that we should ever wish the experience upon anybody. However, it would be great to believe that everyone had enough and that no one need worry about being able to make their next mortgage payment or  have to renege on a promise to treat their children to that day-out they’d been looking forward to. In my last few years as a social worker however,  before retirement beckoned, I was constantly having to challenge the Department of Work and Pensions [DWP] over unpaid benefits for my clients, organise food parcels for clients, try to find landlords who would accept tenants in receipt of benefits etc. so I know only too well, that poverty is a reality for many people. An awful lot of people, in my experience, are ever only two pay cheques away from finding themselves homeless. I listened to a programme on BBC Radio 4 recently discussing poverty in Britain today and was moved by a young, very articulate mother  as she explained how her planned one week holiday with her daughter had been cancelled due to the fact that she needed to replace her washer using the money that she had been saving to pay for the holiday. It’s stories like this that make my blood boil over whenever I read about the “priviledged many” who appear to have so much more than they could ever need. For example, those individuals named in the current “Honours list” put together by David Cameron and largely made up of extremely rich Tory donors. It’s not that I resent those who are already well provided for being rewarded for simply being loyal friends of an exiting PM although, I do. What really rankles is the granting of titles to business leaders who have been questioned over their companies tax affairs, pleaded guilty of contravening the United Nation’s “Oil for Food” programme and lobbied against the government’s support for an alleged business rival. However, when you also have former “spin doctors” getting knighted, it’s time this country became a republic.

Historically, Britain was not always a poor nation. Prior to the advance of Industrialisation, England was a much more equal society although we still had  impossibly wealthy individuals ruling over us. However, the general population resembled a happy nation of artisans who made and sold their goods across the land. Early gatherings such as the Nottingham Goose Fair would attract buyers and sellers from every nearby county and sometimes even further. Everything changed towards the end of the 18th Century once the mill owners recognised the potential in mass production.  Men and later women, who had not been making as much money as they’d hoped for recently were enticed into working in the factories, those satanic mills as they became known. Children were also working in the mills as well and before long, entire families became as much a fixture of those factories as the machines they toiled upon. The mill owners, the majority of whom had made their fortunes in the slave trade, built villages around their factories so they could have their workers close at hand. They even introduced licensing hours for the local pubs in order to control the amount of ale their workers drank on an evening. More social change came after the First World War, 1914-18 with so many of those who survived the campaign finding themselves, homeless and destitute. This period, rather than the Victorian era which is often portrayed as the harshest time for working class people, is when poverty became an endemic characteristic of the British Isles. The further you were away from London, the greater your chance of being poor. Fortunately, the regions contained many idle yet skilled workers, reminiscent of the time when artisans were the norm and in a relatively short time-span,  modern industries took over from the mills as Britain’s  major employers. Modernity however, fared only slightly better than the previous industrial era and poverty persisted throughout the 1950s despite the decade being cited as “A golden age for Britain”.

Since the late 1980s we have been living in the Post-modern era, a period characterized by insecurity and risk. We never actually benefited from the “White hot heat of technology” promised by PM Harold Wilson who by the mid 1970s was himself sick of the social turmoil that was tearing Britain apart and ready to retire from politics altogether. Instead we had the trade unions making more and more outrageous demands on their bosses whilst, non-unionised workers received short shrift if they as much as asked for a small increase on their already low wages. However, Margaret Hilda Thatcher PM came along and knocked everyone into line, sold off our council houses, privatised the utility companies, closed down our mining industry and went to war over a tiny island thousands of miles away inhabited by approximately 1300 people and the same number of sheep. And after doing all of this, she then increased the number of welfare benefits available to families who were now in even greater poverty than they had been pre-1979.  The only “poor” people who appear to interest our politicians today are those they constantly refer to as “hard working families”  without actually identifying who this group are. I can only assume that by the emphasis placed on working that they must be the employed, perhaps not richly rewarded employed but holding down jobs all the same. So here we are, back to Victorian times with its’ notion of “deserving” and “undeserving” poor. The former being worthy of support because they do whatever they can to earn a wage whereas the latter who might be sick, lame or unhinged get nothing because they don’t try hard enough. For example, an unemployed man or woman living in a remote coastal town which probably only ever has three job vacancies a year gets his/her benefits stopped because they failed to apply for fourteen jobs over the past two weeks.

So, how do we tackle poverty? Do we increase benefits or do we expand the economy, in other words, create jobs? I suggest the answer is that we do both but not in the way that John Bird did with his Big Issue enterprise. You need to tackle poverty from the bottom up rather than the top down which is the approach most charities adopt. It’s the old “teach a man to fish” parable “and he will always have food on his table” as opposed to giving him the occasional hand out. Every human being has a set of core values which they carry from birth onwards, everything else they assume is simply adopted along the way and perhaps, the greatest of those core values is Dignity. It is this value that drives each individual to better themselves and in turn, create a better society however, when forces work against the individual then society fails. Mrs Thatcher once said that there was no such thing as “society” only “individuals” which, in my opinion, explains how easily she took to destroying whole communities/societies full of decent people whose only crime was to vote Labour. She may have increased the range of Welfare Benefits on offer but Mrs Thatcher’s politics threw more people into poverty than any government before or since. People don’t want to rely on hand-outs unless they absolutely have no alternative. The only people, in my experience, who relish the thought of doing as little as possible in return for as much as they can get are criminals and we can do without any more of them in our society. Seriously though, if poverty is ever going to be reduced to a level where it can be relieved by an occasional hand-out then the government has to be held to account. The state has to take responsibility for the lack of social housing, the scarcity of jobs in large parts of the country, the short-falls in public transport outside of the metropolitan centres, poor health care and so on. In other words, bring back the welfare state only make it bigger and make it work for everyone this time not just the middle-classes.

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Which one would you buy a used car from?

Here’s an interesting thought. Who would have guessed that The Parliamentary Labour Party [PLP] could ever have devised a plan so cunning that even old Baldrick would have dismissed it as a non starter? However, the PLP  found themselves with a democratically elected leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who they did not want and in order to resolve their embarrassing predicament, they hatched a plan. [We will have to wait a few months before we know just how cunning it was.] Corbyn wasn’t one of them, he was ordinary, unambitious, principled and worst of all, he was a genuine “lefty” but, you may ask,what is their problem? The PLP has rallied around “lefties” before, Michael Foot, Tony Benn, Aneurin Bevan – all beloved by the party – so what makes Corbyn different? May I suggest that he wasn’t part of the elite, those Labour MPs and Peers who had gone to Oxbridge or Cambridge, flirted with Fabian societies up and down the country and generally, seemed a bit posh. Perhaps not however, whatever the reason, the PLP did not want Jeremy as their leader. Fair enough, the man hasn’t exactly set the house on fire since taking over from Ed Miliband, someone else who failed to ignite Parliament with his debates. However, it’s hardly surprising when Jeremy has both his front bench and back bench MPs sitting behind him in parliament openly siding with his critics and even worse, jeering along with them as he tries to make any serious points. The fact remains that Jeremy who is clearly a brilliant MP, has never been allowed to grow into the role of leader but rather than address this with a bit of intensive training, the PLP want him gone and here is how they plan to remove him. They wait until there is a major political event such as  the EU referendum and then they pounce. They put up the person who gained the second lowest number of votes in the 2015 Deputy leadership contest as the prime candidate to replace him and then they wait. Unfortunately, the result of the EU referendum doesn’t go the way the PLP would have liked so they blamed that on Jeremy as well. The guy didn’t stand a chance, did he? However, it then transpires that a rather unknown, slightly questionable [as far as his socialist ideals are concerned], MP called Owen Smith might actually be a better choice than Angela Eagle so Smith now becomes the preferred option for  Labour leader.

Who is this Owen Smith and why are not Cooper, Burnham or Kendall putting their names forward? Not that it really matters because by the end of September, Smith will only be remembered as that guy who stood against Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership contest. Personally, I feel that the PLP should have stood by Angela Eagle, not that she would have done any better but she appears to be a much nicer person than Mr Smith, in my opinion. Anyway, back to my first question, who is Owen Smith? Well, he was a former journalist [ I know but it gets worse.] before working for the BBC. He then moved swiftly on to become a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer where he remained for five years before going into politics. Now here’s an interesting fact about Owen’s former employer. Pfizer supplied the NHS with the drug Viagra, along with lots of other drugs. Viagra became so popular that Pfizer opened a factory in the UK solely making the drug which they then supplied at a very high cost to the NHS. There is nothing new about pharmaceutical companies “over-charging” the NHS for their drugs, it’s the post-Thatcher world we live in. However, Pfizer lost their patent rights for Viagra recently which meant that the drug could now be produced by any other company in generic form and offered to the NHS at a fraction of what Pfizer were charging. Whether the generic drugs are as good as the original I wouldn’t know however, Pfizer’s response was not to simply reduce their price but, as with so many Multi-National companies, they opted to close down their UK factory and moved production elsewhere. Of course, under UK rules, companies can do this but is not the role of Capitalism within a democratic society,  to create and then share it’s wealth with the whole of society, often called the trickle-down effect? No one is arguing that companies should not profit from their entrepreneurship but when ordinary tax-payers have spent years pouring money into their coffers, I feel that there is an even greater obligation on companies such as Pfizer to be more altruistic. However, all of that is behind Smith as since becoming an MP in 2010 followed by six years of obscurity, he is now challenging Jeremy Corbyn for the position of Labour Party leader.

I joined the Labour Party long before I had ever heard of Jeremy Corbyn but I was duly impressed by his performances during the 2015 election campaign. Ed Miliband had my support previously however, I felt badly let down by him when he resigned immediately after the result of the 2015 General Election  had been announced. In my opinion, Ed should have stayed on as leader if only until the party had analysed where things had gone wrong for them and put in place policies that would help them win office at the next attempt. That wasn’t to be though and by September of that year we had a socialist in charge of the party. I say, “in charge” when it was blatantly obvious that no one was in charge but never mind, we remained a party, of sorts! Tony Blair’s “spin doctor”, Alastair Campbell, not surprisingly,  has already come out in support of Owen Smith and has somehow imagined that Smith rather than Corbyn, can win round those voters who abandoned Labour last year. I find this view incredible but then, Campbell still insists that his former boss Tony Blair was right to invade Iraq so fair play to him, loyalty is often seen as a virtue no matter how misguided. However, I do find myself in agreement with the journalist when he claims that the major flaw in the PLP’s ABC [anyone but Corbyn] approach is that none of his rivals and this has to include everyone within the PLP, appear able to put together ideas and policies that would get Labour elected again. It’s no good simply saying that Jeremy is unelectable, it’s the party that people vote for at the end of the day. The primary role of any politician, MP or party leader is simply to become popular, after all, the fact that the General Election is nothing more than a popularity contest is borne out by the many calls to make it easier for people to cast their votes.  However, what politicians and their advisers fail to realize is that whenever the turn-out to vote is low, it is because what is on offer has failed to grab the people’s imagination. The high turn-out for the EU referendum though, showed the exact opposite.  Here was something that people clearly felt very strongly about and I applaud David Cameron for keeping his word and letting the people decide for themselves.

Now that the dust has settled somewhat after the shock of “Brexit” we find ourselves with a new leader of the Conservative Party and our second ever female Prime Minister. Whether I feel happier with a vicar’s daughter who would not hesitate to press the “Red Button” or the daughter of a grocer who believed that we should always attempt to resolve our differences diplomatically before pressing the same button, I’m not sure.  However, I am certain that there will be many more twists and turns before, in Teresa May’s words “Brexit means Brexit” but I am relieved that she is not rushing to trigger Article 50. Interestingly, since the UK voted to leave the EU we have not had the plague of locusts or any other disaster that was forecast by the Remain camp. If anything, the economy appears to be picking up, unemployment is falling and investment from outside of the EU is growing. The value of Sterling may have gone down, temporarily, against  the Euro and the US Dollar but there is nothing new in this, currencies go up and down all the time and I can remember a time when a euro was only worth around 97 pence. However, regardless of the value of Sterling, we are still getting flac about our decision to vote leave from members of the remain camp and a lot of it is totally unjustified. As a nation we may have voted to leave by less than 52% but in the regions the leave vote was as high as 70% and whilst some people insist on painting the typical leave voter as a moron, the same could easily be said of those wishing to remain in the EU. What remain voters don’t seem to understand is that wishing to divorce from the EU does not mean that we no longer love Europe. Those of us who enjoy travelling to other European countries will continue to do so whilst those who don’t really “get” Europe will remain neutral. I don’t “get” Florida, Turkey or Thailand but I don’t want people to stop travelling there on my account!  However, I am upset that a charity which I support, Greenpeace, has come out against the “leavers” but my money can go to another worthwhile cause. As for the novelist, Lisa Hilton who claims that the Brexit vote is “jolly inconvenient” especially as it means her having to rewrite much of the follow up to her erotic thriller Maestra.  Surely no one takes these books seriously anyway, so why not just continue as you intended Lisa? Bonking in Paris or any other EU state will be exactly the same whether Britain remains part of the EU or not.

So there we have it. The most unexpected twist in a tale of two countries. The steely Teresa May finally getting to sit in the big chair with that lovable rogue, Boris Johnson by her side, Jeremy Hunt still in place as Minister for Health and a Justice Minister whose only experience of the law so far is to purchase two tickets to the local Policeman’s Ball [allegedly] However, whilst there are bound to be some early gaffs to overcome, my gut feeling informs me that Ms May could become very popular which would make Labour’s job at the next general election so much harder. It would be impossible for Labour with or without Jeremy Corbyn to win an election anytime soon so imagine how hard it would be should the country fall in love with Teresa the same way that they fell for Maggie? I sincerely hope that the Labour Party ensures that this never happens and that Teresa May’s tenure at Number 10 [ No 11 actually] is a pleasant yet brief affair, a bit like those enjoyed by the characters in Lisa Hilton’s novels.

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And the winner is …

Well, it certainly wasn’t Democracy was it? If nothing else, the past two weeks has confirmed something that I alluded to in one of my earlier blogs, that the notion of “government by the people” is not what our democratically elected politicians actually want. Nor, it seems, is it what people want when the result of public opinion is not in accord with their own views. The EU referendum may have produced a resounding Brexit call from English voters, the Official result being 52% Leave and 48% remain. However, the Remainers refuse to accept it and they are being positively beastly about those [ the majority ]who voted Leave. In actual fact, outside of London the numbers voting to Leave were far higher than those wishing to Remain. In my region, East Yorkshire, the result was 60% Leave and even higher in many other regions of the country. However, whilst the turnouts were surprisingly high [ 75% in East Yorks] it seems that we who voted Leave have been labelled as “racists”, “paupers” “idiots” and other equally vile terms  by those who voted to remain. Some people even called for the result to be over-turned on account of it being too small a margin whereas, had the result gone the other way, the same people would have claimed it a tremendous victory for the Remain group. Personally, I’ve never been comfortable with being perceived as part of a “Group” as I’ve always valued my independence. However, even I know that the government would not wish to offend those millions of voters outside of London, who voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU. The Metrosexual, Cosmopolitan, elite who believe themselves consanguineous with every politically correct moron who ever walked this earth can go take a running jump, they lost, we won.

So okay, we’ve taken a huge risk but there are people in place to manage those risks. We don’t need individuals such as the governor of The Bank of England running around shouting “We’re doomed” or “I told you this would happen”. Get you finger out mate or shove off back to Canada! Seriously though, whatever reasons people had for voting to leave the EU, I believe that it was largely a call for greater democracy along with an attempt to get our elected representatives, those 650 members of parliament, to look beyond London to where ordinary people feel neglected and let down by consecutive UK governments. I’ve already drawn attention in previous blogs to how undemocratic the EU is however, when the Labour MP Gisela Stuart who was on the committee drafting the European constitution, explains how whenever she and her colleagues wanted to put in clauses that would make the EU more democratic, these clauses would be struck out at the last minute. Ms Stuart along with many other British MPs and MEPs know that the EU cannot be reformed from within,at least, not to any extent that it would appear to have changed. Jean Monnet, one of the EU’s founding fathers envisaged a new Europe governed by an elite group of bureaucrats unconcerned with the petty day to day concerns of the people. Not a maligned dictatorship but a dictatorship all the same. We have seen how this dictatorship works in practice ever since Greece threatened to leave the EU in 2012. Under pressure from the IMF and the World Bank, the Greeks decided to remain only to find themselves put under so much economic pressure by the EU that many now regret their decision to stay. The president of the EU, Jean Claude Juncker has taken a similar hard line against Britain and has demanded that we invoke Article 50 [ the terms on which we sever our relationship with the EU] straight away. However, whatever Juncker thinks, Britain can take its’ time over Article 50 to ensure that we leave on the most favourable terms possible. Juncker may also find that he may not be the president to whom our Prime Minister finally hands over our keys.

There is, obviously, a great deal of work involved in drawing up the terms on which Britain will leave the EU. The most pertinent question must be, what do we do about those non-British Europeans already settled in the UK? Personally, I think they should be allowed to stay if they wish to however, we may have to determine what the term “settled” actually implies. If that appears racist then I apologize as it is not meant to but someone, for example, coming to the UK simply to earn money to send back to their family in another country is not the same as a person who has managed to bring their family into the UK with the intention of settling and building a new life here. This brings up another concern I have about Britain’s membership of the EU and it’s one that I feel was a significant factor in why so many ordinary people voted to leave the EU and that is, immigration. However, my concern is not that there are too many immigrants arriving in the UK but it is the way in which they are processed. Now, I can’t say too much because I would be breaching certain laws but whilst there are no restrictions on people coming here from other EU member states, people wishing to come here from non-EU countries are subject to extremely strict quotas. It doesn’t matter whether they wish to rejoin family already settled in the UK or are able to bring much needed skills to our economy, the measures in place to bar their entry are pretty draconian. In fact, I would say from experience that someone hoping to come here from a non-EU country has around a one in five chance of being allowed entry. In my opinion, that is unfair and I believe that all applicants wishing to enter the UK should be treated the same.

To return to the referendum itself. I noticed a lot of people were surprised over the turn-out which was much more than you get at a General Election and about double what you find at local elections. My thought on that is simply, that enough people knew what they didn’t want [ more of the EU ] whereas with most political elections, feelings are fairly mixed, so much so that you find staunch [ supposedly ] Labour voters turning out to vote for their Tory candidates, or, God forbid, Lib-Dems. I certainly found that to be the case in the 2015 General Election. The Remain party despite having by far the most supporters from the upper middle-classes, the bankers, the multi-national corporations, the supranational money-men and women in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and Richard Branson failed to persuade “middle England” that they were acting in their best interests. They’d heard it all before. The little people are fed up of being treated with contempt by our own elite but they are certainly not going to take anymore from an unelected elite whose only purpose in life is to gather around a big table in Brussels and repeat the word “No” in several languages. Not now that David Cameron has given them a referendum, oh no. Cameron seriously underestimated the mood of the people and unfortunately, for him, his arrogance finally did for him. The campaign on whether to remain or leave was a ridiculous, horrible mess that did no one any favours. In my opinion, party leaders should not have shown their allegiance with either side. The role of the PM and his chancellor should have been to present to the public, exactly what steps would be taken in the event of  the UK remaining or leaving the EU. The only unknown that the British public should have had to cope with was the actual result of the referendum vote. The problem is however, that had Cameron been forthcoming with this information, would we have believed him?

The fall-out from the EU referendum has been incredible, not just the enormous chasm that has opened up between the generations but the guilt that is being levelled at those who voted to leave. I have no doubt that the EU referendum has split families and friends however, in the case of the latter, they were probably not worth having in the first place. Your children are a different matter but because you care about them more than anything in the world, they will get over it. It’s a different picture at Westminster!  I cannot think of another time in modern history when there has been such upheaval in our political parties with each day bringing even more surprises. I was astonished when Cameron resigned but I suppose that if anyone was to blame for the result, which shouldn’t be the case in a true democracy, then it was down to him. As for the Paliamentary Labour Party [PLP] – it just gets worse and worse.  Jeremy Corbyn may not be the leader they want but he’s the only one who can lead them back towards socialism where they belong. Personally, I think the PLP will quieten down once the Chillcot Report is released this week! The Tories have a much easier quest to find their new leader because, basically, they are all the same. Whoever they elect, it will be business as usual apart from having to decide on what to do about Article 50. Nicky Morgan, Education Secretary, whilst not in the race to become Tory leader had this to say following Brexit,”We must recommit ourselves to a truly One Nation society where people’s life chances are no longer determined by things such as parental wealth, race, gender ….” I won’t bore you with the full speech but suffice to say that it was the same old rubbish that we are tired of hearing. The same old referral to the “One Nation Society” which in reality, i.e, as when the phrase was first used, bore no resemblance to the vision that Ms Morgan paints for us. Having said that, That was long before the EU was ever imagined and monkeys were often being mistaken for French spies, especially in the North of England. But what can you expect seeing as we are all impoverished, stupid, racist idiots up here.

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Musings of a “less affluent left-wing voter”.

If anything good or interesting came out of the EU debate over the past few weeks whilst I was out of the country I would have seen it in the British newspapers. However, whilst I chose not to purchase The Times, The Daily Mail, The Mirror, The Sun or The Daily Express from the local Greek Supermarket near to where I was staying, one glance at the daily headlines informed me that very little had changed or improved since I left home. Both sides were still peddling the same untruths with the Remain camp, arguably, becoming more negative by the day with David Cameron focusing on each potentially concerned cohort in turn. One day, the PM is forecasting disaster for businesses if we Brexit, the next day it’s pensioners and so on. About the only group that Cameron has ignored are the homeless but they don’t count as they won’t be voting anyway. And wasn’t it one of Mr Cameron’s friends, the Tory MP and now Lord, George Young, who referred to the homeless as those people you step over on your way out of the opera? Sir George also had the misfortune to appear in a poster campaign with the late Jimmy Saville in the early 1980s. However, to be fair, he wasn’t the only Tory who believed the former DJ to be excellent company.

It’s all very well to suggest where Britain might face difficulties should we leave the EU but seriously, don’t we have highly paid experts in place to manage such things as the economy to ensure that we only suffer the minimum amount of damage? The Governor of The Bank of England, Mark Carney, will no doubt have returned to his native Canada by the time the EU referendum dust settles so rather than him simply going along with all of the other nay-sayers wouldn’t it be more useful for him to concentrate on how we best do this in the unlikely event that Britain actually leaves the EU? I say unlikely because there has been so much negative campaigning from the Remain camp that I’m surprised that any sane British person hasn’t simply given up listening and asked for the ballot paper now, in order to put themselves out of their misery. It’s like being interrogated by the police prior to the PACE Act coming in – just give me the form to sign gov and I’ll admit to everything, just stop it with the verbals Please!

There are a number of reasons why I believe that we should vote Leave however, I never expected to find myself in agreement with individuals such as the politician Iain Duncan Smith, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Lawson [Nigel] , the UKIP campaigner Nigel Farrage and the journalist Rod Liddle, none of whom I would ever wish to share a taxi with or anything else for that matter. However, there are others that, I am proud to say, share my views and these include the former cricketer, Ian Botham, Tory minister Theresa Villiers [ Secretary of State for Northern Ireland], Labour MP for Vauxhall, South London, Kate Hoey, Lord Owen [ David Owen ] and the businessman, Lord Digby Jones. I say businessman but Digby is so much than that. He is arguably the most inspirational, motivational business leader of  the past fifty years [if you should ever want to view an impressive Curriculum Vitae [CV] then I suggest you check Digby’s out] a Leicester City and Aston Villa Supporter, author, visionary, social reformer and all round good guy.

Those latter four individuals mentioned above have perhaps, more experience of the European Union than the former sportsman but the views of everyone, including those who want to remain, are equally valid. That’s how it should be in a situation that is based, above all else, on the notion of democracy. However, look what happened with the Scottish referendum? The Scots were on course to vote leave until the nay-sayers intervened with their negative campaign fuelling fear into the hearts and minds of voters. Ironically, those voters who listened to what both former and current Labour politicians had to say, demonstrated their anger a few months later when they virtually kicked them out of  Scotland. That’s fine, that’s democracy in action – or was it? I suspect that it was more a case of the fear of the unknown taking hold at the last minute. The Scots want another go now though! Not content with rejecting a “so-called” once in a lifetime opportunity to change the course of history, they want to go through it all again and at our expense.

Disregarding the recent Scottish referendum we should look at what those people mentioned have to say about the EU. Theresa Villiers who spent six years [ 1999 – 2005 as a MEP  [ Member of the European Parliament ] a former barrister and lecturer in law at King’s College, London and currently the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland admits that her concerns about the EU were confirmed during the six years she spent working in Brussels as a MEP. She says that she used to think that the UK tabloids exaggerated their claims about the place but in fact, her experience led her to believe that if anything, they had understated them. As a lawyer herself, Ms Villiers was shocked to learn that EU law had supremacy over UK law and the only way to change this would be to  repeal the European Communities Act of 1972. However, the only way that Britain can do this is by leaving the EU. Whilst this might appear to be a fairly drastic measure, Theresa Villiers is not convinced by all the arguments about the British economy collapsing if we were to leave. She believes that it would be worth taking the risk in order to become a self-governing country again, spending our own money and making our own laws.

I’ve always held the highest regard for the Labour MP, Kate Hoey and I was pleased to learn that she is also in favour of leaving the EU. The basis of all democracy, she argues, is the ability to remove the people who make decisions over your life. ” This can certainly be done in our small consituencies, but is virtually impossible at EU level. The EU Parliament is hugely expensive, has virtually no power and MEPs are all but unknown in the mega regions they cover.” [ from: Another View, The i newspaper, 10.6/16] Personally, I am aware of who my own MEP is and I have also had dealings with the her two predecessors. However, I am not convinced that any of them has ever done anything to directly benefit our region. They may well appear on television saying that for every pound we hand over to the EU, Yorkshire gets ten back but this is clearly not true. Even if you don’t subscribe to the old adage that if something sounds too good to be true then it probably isn’t, the fact remains that for every two pounds we hand over, the EU gives us one pound back. What you need to bear in mind however, is that not only does the EU hand back money which belonged to us in the first place it then dictates how that money is spent.

Another former politician who I had the pleasure to get to know in a former life, is Lord Owen who as a founding member of the SDP [ Social Democratic Party ] I met on several occasions in the early 1980s. David Owen then, just as now, has always been passionate about two things; The NHS and the future of Europe. Not surprising, considering that he was both a GP and Foreign Secretary [ 1977-79 ]. I saw him on TV recently discussing the EU debate and was relieved to see that he hasn’t lost any of his debating skills, nor, has he become “soft” in his old age. When questioned about Simon Stevens’ [ the current head of NHS England ] warning about the detrimental effect leaving the EU would have on the NHS, Lord Owen dismissed his claims adding that it was Mr Stevens job to sort out the mess that the NHS has been allowed to get into and not to be adding his voice to the deluge of unsubstantiated claims about the EU. Mr Stevens predecessor, [Sir]David Nicholson had been instrumental in bringing about the most radical reform of the NHS since its’ conception under the auspices of Health Minister, Andrew Lansley and it appears that Mr Stevens is more than happy to continue in a similar role  for the current minister Jeremy Hunt. However, none of the reforms have, so far, been greeted with much approval from either NHS staff or their patients.

The greatest threat to the NHS apart from this Tory Government is undoubtedly, the Trans-Altlantic Trade and Investment Partnership [TTIP] agreement giving multinational corporations the power to sue our government in the pursuit of further privatisation of our public services.  Only by leaving the EU will we ever be safe from the risk of the NHS becoming privatised under the terms of the TTIP. You might say that the health service is already largely privatised but there is a huge difference between say, individuals having the option to pay for private health care and health care only being available to those who can afford to pay for it. Karol Sikara, a former Chief Executive of the World Health Organisation who has worked in the NHS for more than forty years believes that treatments are already being rationed in an attempt to save money. He states that “..the [NHS] is there to make sure that the organisation and the people within it make a living and to make sure that the burden on society as a whole is not too great.”  In other words, the NHS is being run in exactly the same way as any other large business, the big difference being that the tax-payer picks up the bill whilst those running the service walk off with the profits. However, the “free at the point of need” service is still subject to “Cost Benefit Analysis” which means that the treatment or care you require may not always be available in your area nor will other NHS Trusts have to provide it instead.

The Tories want to transform the current NHS from being a “Free at the point of need” public service to an American Style insurance-based system with all but the most basic of interventions being funded by the patients. This is how the public health services operate in the United States and it explains why the poorer, more disadvantaged sections of American society suffer from more chronic illnesses than their better-off neighbours. The Remain group however, claim that the NHS will be safer if we vote to remain a member of the EU. That simply does not compute whichever way you look at it and everyone from Nigel Lawson to Digby Jones find the claim simply laughable. Another former Chief Executive of the NHS, [Lord] Nigel Crisp, who like David Nicholson is an advocate of further NHS privatisation warns that a Brexit would make it more difficult to fill staff shortages within the health service. However, he ignores the fact that since the health service reforms began in 2008/9, the NHS has seen a huge exodus of GPs and other health professionals, many of whom are now working elsewhere in Europe, Canada and the United States. Listening to some of these health professionals explaining why they chose to leave the NHS, it seems that not being able to offer patients the treatment they need is the main motivation.

In conclusion, I can only restate something that has already been said in my previous blogs that whether you vote In or Out, you do it in the certainty that it may well prove to be the wrong decision. That is the only thing we can be sure of. No side in the debate has yet come up with any concrete evidence to suggest how Britain will prosper, or, not prosper after June 23rd. Of course, no one likes uncertainty. Most of us continue to put our savings in the banks or building societies knowing full well that those savings are unlikely to grow very much but at least we know that our money will be safe. That’s a bit like deciding to vote Remain in my opinion however, there are still people who would rather take a risk now and then. They look at the odds of that risk paying off and perhaps, they take the advice of  leading experts to help them decide. However, at some point their final decisions boil down to nothing more scientific than a gut feeling. How many of us have gone against a really strong “gut feeling” only to regret it later? A friend of mine once turned down the chance to invest a couple of thousand pounds in a young rock band that was trying to get established in late 1980s because their music was more to his son’s taste than his own. A decade later each member of that band was worth at least fifty million pounds! My response to my friend was if he had the money to spare why didn’t he loan it to his son for him to invest in his friends group and then they would have both become rich? It’s not the same thing I know but I’m simply trying to illustrate my point about taking a risk, looking beyond the obvious pitfalls to what might actually turn out to be a good thing.

 

 

 

 

 

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A good time to take a break

I suppose you could say that the Labour Party had a good week in the sense that they didn’t do anywhere near as badly as the media predicted they would in the local council elections and their man, Sadiq Khan did amazingly well in the City of London Mayoral contest [ he trounced the opposition ]. However, once again Scotland put the boot in and spoiled what would otherwise have been a brilliant week for Jeremy Corbyn and his team. It’s not hard to imagine why Scottish voters have turned against Labour now that the Scottish National Party [SNP] is infused with youth and invigorated by the dynamic Nicola Sturgeon. However, the real mystery is why so many of them voted Conservative? There was a time, not so long ago, when a Scottish Tory was almost as elusive as the legendary Loch Ness Monster and by all accounts, even more scary. Anyway, what’s done is done and I fully expect that the only way Labour will ever return to government is if, as they could have done at the last general election, they agree to share power with the SNP. I can’t see Corbyn agreeing to such a partnership although, to be frank, I doubt he will be in a position to make that decision when the time comes.

For now the Parliamentary Labour Party [PLP] can ride upon the coat-tails of Sadiq Kahn’s success but what about the rest of us who vote Labour? Unless you live in London, Mr Kahn’s success means nothing. He seems like a good person and I’m really impressed with those Londoners who ignored the negative campaigning  deployed against Kahn and gave him such a resounding victory. However, the fact remains that Labour’s success in London will do little to improve its’ position elsewhere in the country. On a more positive note, there have been a lot of good things coming out of the Labour Party recently, especially from John McDonnell, which under normal circumstances would attract votes. However, unless the party gets behind Jeremy Corbyn in defiance of our Right-Wing Media, David Cameron et al, then no one is ever going to accept that  Jeremy in his quiet, calm, controlled way, may well have the answers to many of this country’s problems. Personally, I feel that for whatever reasons, the talent within the PLP is being suppressed when it should be attacking this government for what it is doing to the NHS, The Justice System, Schools and Social Services.  However, it might be too late for the PLP to unite as an effective opposition after all, who is going to forget the damage inflicted on Corbyn’s leadership by Hilary Benn or how heartily Andy Burnham and other Labour back-benchers laugh along with those Tories who make fun at Jeremy’s expense during PMQ?

With all the excitement of last week out of the way I’m not surprised to hear that Jeremy has decided to take a holiday and why not, he deserves one. However, no sooner is he out of the way when that blundering, former PM, Gordon Brown re-emerges from wherever he’s been hiding since the 2015 Scottish Referendum campaign to intervene on behalf of the “Stay” team. I’m not sure why Gordon feels he needs to do this especially as the PLP are united, allegedly, in their efforts to nudge the public vote towards remaining in the EU. What really surprised me however,  was his allusion to Britain’s “Churchillian spirit” and it’s “irrepressible spirit of internationalism” as a way of rallying the troops in support of the “Remain” campaign. Surely, if we adopted Churchill’s approach towards Europe we would be defending our borders and vowing never to surrender Britain’s sovereignty? If you read the history books on Churchill you will also discover that he wasn’t particularly fond of Europe, much preferring to “break bread” with his American cousins. One of the reasons why Churchill disliked Europe was because it was the home of “International Socialism” and both he and his American friends would have no truck with that.

Personally, I have yet to hear a convincing argument as to why we should stay in, or indeed, come out of the EU. However, the arguments put forward by the remain groups are largely ridiculous. For example, the assumption that membership of the EU somehow makes us safer. It does not and anyone who thinks otherwise needs to swat up on post-1945 International Developments. If anything, the EU has made each of its’ member states less safe by the simple fact that their border controls are being transgressed by all manner of criminal gangs including people-traffickers, drug-smugglers and terrorists. I’m not suggesting that the EU is responsible for the growth in these forms of criminal activity but there is no denying that the policy of open borders has made it easier for these criminal gangs to operate. The other much quoted, claim regarding the potential loss to UK businesses if we leave the EU is highly contentious and ignores the fact that the majority of  homegrown, small to medium sized enterprises [SMEs] would welcome the split from Europe. Multi-nationals on the other hand, may wish for the UK to remain in the EU but you can bet that it’s not for the benefit of British families or the UK economy.

The last time Britain held a referendum on EU membership was in 1975 when the late Harold Wilson was both, leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister. Feelings were very much the same then as they are now with even Wilson swinging between both camps prior to his re-election as PM in 1974 before finally deciding that it was in our best interests to remain in the EU.  However, the situation was very different forty years ago and had Wilson been PM today then I doubt that he would be in favour of remaining in the EU. One of  his most able ministers, Denis Healey, noted in 1989, that developments within the EU had produced a Community totally different from what had been intended by its’ founding fathers in 1958.  Britain was refused entry to the EU or Common Market as it was then called for almost two decades but we managed okay without it. In fact, there are those who would cite the period 1958 to 1972 as Britain’s “golden age”.  But whatever you choose to believe, the institution has definitely changed since Wilson was PM and not for the better. There were only six member states originally which by 1992 had grown to twelve and today there are twenty-eight with more wanting to join. Britain has changed considerably too, largely due to another Eurosceptic, Margaret Thatcher who I also suspect would not be in favour of us remaining a part of the EU. So whether you share Wilson and Healey’s left of center politics or Thatcher’s brand of political authoritarianism the chances are that you will share the same view on Britain’s EU membership.

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