Be alert, be very alert . . .
The fivethirtyeight website is a good place to look to see what US Republican gerrymandering tricks the Tories may get up to next. We are currently seeing Johnson’s crew introducing a vote suppressing photo-ID scheme which could reduce the right of millions of voters without passports or driving licenses to go and vote. This scheme is being introduced to combat electoral fraud—allegedly—but since such fraud is vanishingly rare in the UK it is clear what the real motive is. And building on this suspicion of ‘fraud’ will come a new conspiracy narrative, straight out of the Republican playbook, that elections can be ‘stolen.’ Thankfully in the UK our voting system is pretty straightforward and homogenous, with standard procedures wherever you are in the UK. But the Tories are introducing further measures which could complicate matters, such as extending the time limit for when ex-pats living abroad can vote in UK elections from 15 years to life. I suspect it will be difficult for hard pressed local election officials to detect fraudulent activity by people who left the country say 30 years ago. The Tories have always supposed that comfortably retired Brits on the Costa del Crime would lean towards them, but after Brexit I’m not so sure. I suspect the five million or so Brits living in the EU won’t feel they have much to thank Johnson for, so with any luck this particular ruse may blow up in his face.
The fivethirtyeight article may describe events a little anathema to the UK democratic process, but since we love most things American,* it may only be a matter of time . . .
*One is allowed a little irony now and then
+Dominic Cummings. What a laugh. I feel sorry for anybody who felt compelled to listen to seven hours of this man’s testimony before parliamentary select committees yesterday. What substance he had to say could have been condensed to half an hour, leading off with the self-exculpatory comment that he clearly wasn’t qualified to be in government, along with his erstwhile pupil/master Boris Johnson. In fact, I think that’s the only worthwhile thing he said, so that wouldn’t have even taken half an hour. His fate now is (I hope) to sink into quiet obscurity, unlike an earlier incarnation Rasputin, who after defying poison and bullets was eventually sunk in the Malaya Nevka river in St Petersburg. Ras Putin. Not related.
+However, it has to be said listening to Health Secretary Matt Hancock tonight rebutting Cummings’ tales, he couldn’t answer a straight question with a straight answer. Game 1-0 to Cummings. I’ve drawn up a list of things politicians must never do:
10 ‘Don’ts’ for a modern politician
Never admit to failings whilst in power
Never properly apologise for anything until you want to rehabilitate yourself for posterity
Never admit there are incontestable truths if they are inconvenient
Never admit that you will always put ‘your own’ first
Never reveal a personal failing
Never waste an opportunity to exaggerate successes
Never concede good ideas which may not have originated from you
Never acknowledge or even pretend that there’s such a thing as hubris
Never acknowledge that the other side might be right (occasionally)
Always keep you options open – never say never
A great stink
My friend Gordon Prentice (here)has written a most entertaining blog in what I think is a long running series questioning the integrity of that most noble Lord, Baron (Conrad) Black of Crossharbour. It seems Gordon is getting under the noble lord’s skin by having the temerity to ask where Black is paying his taxes. UK Parliamentary rules state that parliamentarians should pay their taxes in the UK if they are to sit in the UK parliament. Black considers Gordon mightily impudent for asking the question. It seems Black lives in Canada, whose citizenship he renounced in order to gain entry to the Lords (Canada’s constitution prevents its citizens from sitting in foreign legislatures). Of course Black doesn’t want to answer the question, just as Lord Ashcroft faced similar difficulties. Given that today some of the more virulent, disease-ridden British press are calling for the un-Lording of Lord (Tony) Hall over his part in the Bashir/Diana affair, perhaps now would be an opportune time to have a root and branch defenestration of all the questionable peerages that clutter the over stuffed upper chamber. By what merit did the Prime Minister’s brother Jo become a peer? Or the Russian oligarch who owns the London Evening Standard? Why is there still something called a Lord Archer? There are too many examples to cite, but to be created a peer these days must almost be classed as a badge of shame. Of course, the preferable option would be to abolish the whole thing, but that’s not going to happen when there is so much political patronage to dish out. Nevertheless, perhaps a leading journal of the left, such as the Guardian, could start an in-depth examination of all those who deserve to be de-ermined.
Here in the United Kingdom, citizens are known as ‘subjects,’ which is to say we are subjects of the Royal family, and notably the Queen, our unelected head of state. But perhaps it would be better to phrase this 'we are subject to the royal family,' since we are subjected to them on a daily basis, almost as if we were constitutionally wired into some perpetual tweet, or more prosaically, a soap opera. The latest storyline is the famous interview of Prinny Di by Martin Bashir 26 years ago, and the subsequent discovery of his alleged underhand methods in getting the interview. The whole episode is deeply ironic, not least with the recent memory of Harry and Meghan’s talkfest with Oprah in mind. We have learnt from Meghan what it is like to be an outsider in The Firm—the isolation, the putdowns, the cold shoulders and possibly the racism. Harry has remarked on the behaviour of his father, which to say the least was a Father’s Day message with a difference. But now heir to the throne Prince William has claimed that Bashir’s interview further isolated Di and added to her paranoia. Isn’t it time this lot woke up and realised that they should actually put their own house in order first? Bashir seems to have behaved with journalistic abandon (i.e. doing what it takes to get an interview) but there was substance in that interview, and perhaps the royals would do well to remember that rather than getting too hoyty-toyty about their treatment, they could try out some mindfulness?
That said, we now have a perfect storm for the BBC, with rednecks (shouldn’t that be bluenecks? Ed.) on the Tory backbenches smelling an opportunity to hand over the corporation to Murdoch.
An editorial in the Observer today squarely confronts the current explosion of violence in the Israel/Palestine conflict. That is, it squarely lays the blame equally on the leadership of Israel, the Palestinian ‘Authority’ and Hamas. The paper proclaims “Let’s be honest. In the end, issues of religion, ethnicity, race and even land are not the main problem. The problem is that, politically speaking, both Israelis and Palestinians are shockingly badly led.” This is like saying colonial conquest is not the main problem, it’s just down to bad leadership, including that of the oppressed. This is just one way in which voicing the Palestinian cause can be muted, by pretending that if they could just have a decent leader, their problems could magically be whisked away. And there is no evidence on the Israeli side that they too might get a ‘decent’ leader—Netanyahu’s recent challenger Benny Gantz is just as savage in his attitude to Palestinian freedom and rights.
Back here in the UK I read on the Skwawkbox website that a school has excluded a pupil for shouting ‘Free Palestine’ in class, on the grounds that it was ‘racist.’ That epitomises the ‘balance’ the mainstream media seeks—they haven’t reported it.
A naughty boy is on the loose
+I thought David Cameron’s performance before the Treasury Select Committee yesterday must have been modelled on Richard Nixon’s performance in his famous interview with David Frost. The same carefully constructed legalistic evasions, the same shifty look. But I don’t suppose they’ll make a film of it. And surely at least, Nixon must have had one or two redeeming features??
+The Labour Party, I heard on the news this morning has suspended the membership of Unite’s general secretary candidate, Howard Beckett. Suffice to say Beckett is of the left, not a man Starmer wants in the footsteps of Len McClusky. Beckett’s offence apparently was to call for the deportation of Pritti Patel, the Home Secretary, after a Glasgow crowd prevented the deportation of a couple of people a day or two ago. I think I can bet safely that the context of Beckett’s ironic remark was that she might try a taste of her own medicine. But that would be far too subtle for Labour’s new iron fist disciplinarians. Oh dear, why did I use the phrase ‘iron fist?’ Aren’t those the words Benjamin Netanyahu used to describe his government’s response to the latest round of Palestinian grievance. Oh dear, we shouldn’t talk about such things!
The UK has now got another political prisoner, namely the former UK ambassador and accomplished blogger Craig Murray. He was found guilty of contempt of court in his reportage of the Alex Salmond trial, when it was said he had revealed sufficient information for readers to piece together the identity of Salmond’s accusers. I am not in a position to address whether an actual contempt took place, but Murray has amply demonstrated that the mainstream media did provide sufficient info for intelligent readers to ‘triangulate’ the identity of accusers. The fact they were not also prosecuted for contempt is the incontrovertible evidence that proves Murray was singled out, in my opinion because he is such a forensic thorn in the side of the establishment. (Having said which, I’m not expecting ‘forensic’ Kier Starmer to be incarcerated any time soon—he clearly isn’t a thorn in the side of the establishment.) I’m no fan of Alex Salmond, the ‘Atomic Dud’ (© Baron Foulkes of Cumnock) and it seems his new Alba party failed to make much impact in the elections last Thursday, so if there ever was a Scottish (SNP) establishment campaign to discredit Salmond and his supporters it now seems to have run its course. Murray is set to appeal to the Supreme Court. If he fails there, then the two or three months he serves of his eight month prison sentence will no doubt lead to some interesting blogs, and an even more analytical critique of the imperial regimes either in Edinburgh or London.
Just as I predicted (a couple of blogs ago). When Starmer said he would take full responsibility for losing Hartlepool, et al, all he meant to say was ‘I will carry on.’ Those of his team who have been interviewed in the aftermath of the defeat are trying to blame Corbyn—of course. One, Cardinal Richelieu (aka Peter Mandelson) went so far as to say the result was down to C & C—that is, covid and Corbyn. Obviously the good people of Hartlepool must have forgotten the brilliant legacies of their ennobled former MP. After a year as leader Starmer should have cut through by now, but the fact that he hasn’t is being blamed, lamely, on the fact that he hasn’t been able to meet voters personally or speak to live audiences. That just happens to be the case with all other politicians of course so doesn’t wash. So now, in his Dunkirk moment Starmer will be emboldened, will ‘reset’ the agenda and shift rightwards ever faster. As he’s a Bilderberg hobnobber I think we can see where it will all end up. Sadly the only thing he has any operational control over at the moment is the Labour Party, so this will even more be the focus of his efforts to be seen to be a man ‘who gets things done.’ God knows how he’ll generate decent headlines out of this, since he doesn’t have a Clause 4 to abolish or a Militant Tendency to expel. One thing he will do is leave Corbyn outside the Parliamentary Labour Party, which means that the former leader will not be allowed to stand in the next general election as a Labour candidate.
+Today is allegedly ‘super’ Thursday, a day when a wide variety of elections take place in the UK. Over 40 million people will, if they can be bothered, be voting for devolved parliaments, police and crime commissioners, local councillors, executive mayoralities and of course for a new MP in Hartlepool. The last of these will be the first to declare and so will probably set the tone for all the mainstream media reportage thereafter, with the narrative being how Labour has lost the plot. Starmer has said he will take full responsibility for the results, which translated means he will declare that he needs to do more ‘to climb the mountain’ - rather than resign. In other words, bad results will demonstrate that his project needs more time—and distance from the party’s recent past. He will not be compelled to change his course, i.e. to produce a vision people can actually latch on to, or stop repudiating the party’s late leadership. Perversely, If we face losses, Starmer will be vindicated, and will search for even more disinfectant to pour over the memory of Corbyn.
+My regular bête noir, the BBC’s PM Programme excelled itself this evening. Presenter Evan Davies told listeners that because of the elections, there would be no coverage of that subject today and instead asked listeners to send in questions about climate change. These questions were delivered in such rapid fire fashion there was no chance for the two invited experts to answer any of them properly (still less chance with Davies’ interruptions). At the end of the segment, Davies said “I’m sure we’ll return to this the next time we can’t do politics.” Nuff said. (emphasis added)
A worthy proposal
+Today marks the bicentenary of Napoleon’s death and the first edition of the Guardian. Clearly, with page after page of self-congratulatory praise in today’s paper, the latter is more important than the former. That’s only natural I suppose, so let’s not be churlish about it. Basically, we can detect that Napoleon was on the wrong side of history and the Guardian is very nearly always on the right side of it, standing proud in the liberal tradition spluttering ‘ahem’ when slight corrections in establishment behaviour are called for. I haven’t read all the paper’s pages of smug self-marvelling, and I don’t suppose I will have missed the bit where it celebrates its prolonged campaign to prevent the election of a socialist government in 2019. Never mind Waterloo, remember Peterloo.
+Once again I have failed to win a £1 million prize in the Premium Bond draw, maintaining a tradition that goes back three decades at least. Something must be done about this. I notice that this month’s winners both live in the south—Surrey and Wiltshire. I bet if I researched it, the greater preponderance of winners will live in the south. To those who have most, more shall be given. So we need a bit of levelling up, concordant with Boris Johnson’s great dream of making the north a paradise on earth. So my suggestion is to make one of the two million pound prizes only winnable by people who live in the north, say above a line drawn between the Humber and the Mersey. This would improve my chances somewhat. This proposal could be refined even further, making my chances of winning 100% That would be a great and worthwhile levelling up indeed.