Deluded President Trump failing the stress test
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Editor-at-Large Alastair Campbell on economic bandwidth, Corbyn's honesty and Donald's wellbeing
There is another B word that keeps popping up whenever the shortcomings of B for Brexit are highlighted. B for Bandwidth. We heard it from Alan Milburn as he explained why he was stepping down from his work heading the Social Mobility Commission. Dealing with Brexit, he wrote in his resignation letter, means the government 'does not have the necessary bandwidth to ensure the rhetoric of healing social division is matched by the reality'.
We saw the bandwidth problem in the Budget, where extra spending for the NHS was trimmed back to find the £3bn needed to fund Brexit preparations. So much for the red bus bonanza. We are seeing it every day in mental health, which Theresa May constantly calls a 'priority', but whose services are going backwards, particularly for children and young people. There is only one priority for this government, Brexit, its commitment all the more stunning given the clear majority within it are pursuing a policy that in their rare moments of reflection they know to be wrong.
I wonder if Alan was aware of the analysis by the LSE Centre for Economic Performance, which showed that the worst effects of Brexit-fuelled inflation are in working class areas of the north of England, Scotland and Wales. And the day after his resignation the Joseph Rowntree Foundation showed that almost three quarters of a million children and pensioners have fallen into relative poverty over the past four years.
They were not all pushed there by Brexit. The Cameron-Osborne austerity programme must take the lion's share. But one thing is sure, Brexit is not going to lift them out of it, not least because child poverty and pensioner poverty have slipped right down the list of government priorities, which are headed by Brexit, Brexit and Brexit. Whatever the economic and social cost.
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There was a neat if irritating symmetry in discovering that Jeremy Corbyn had agreed to do a GQ interview on an 'ABC' basis. 'Anyone But Campbell' as the interviewer. Was this revenge for my having suggested an ABC approach – Anyone But Corbyn – when he first stood for the Labour leadership? Possibly.
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However, the whole episode shone a light on what is often viewed as one of Corbyn's great strengths, honesty. When my requests to get him to do a GQ interview were being ignored by his not very communicative communications director Seumas Milne, I took advantage of the Labour leader's presence at a GQ awards dinner to ask him direct. I got a 'yes', on the basis we would talk about mental health.
Then I discovered the interview was going ahead, but with Stuart McGurk. I think Corbyn should have gone with me. My monthly interviews are straight Q and A, guaranteeing the interviewee's voice is clearly heard, whereas McGurk's was as much about his own deeply underwhelmed impressions as about anything Corbyn said. Certainly his leadership is often as much defined by what he doesn't do as what he does, as with his lacklustre campaigning in the referendum. McGurk also discovered that he can be similarly defined by what he doesn't say as much as by what he does. 'The worry,' he wrote in one of his more brutal underwhelmed impressions, 'is not that he doesn't have all the answers. It's that sometimes, he doesn't appear to have all the questions.'
So we learn that he doesn't know how his staff voted in the referendum. Really? It's hard to escape the conclusion that if he had been properly focused on the campaign, he would know, without needing to ask.
I'm assuming he knows they all voted Labour? PS: The offer of a two-page spread in The New European, to set out Labour's stance on Brexit, still stands, as it has since the end of last June.
A little bit of wit can go a long way, and I confess to smiling at various points when reading Labour Eurosceptic Austin Mitchell's spoof memo from Tony Blair to me, published on the Brextremists' breakfast propaganda diet, Brexit Central. A few highlights from 'Tony's' critique of my efforts to keep hope alive that the madness of Brexit can be stopped… 'The aim must be to make Brexit look so difficult that the government gives up… Don't call Brexit voters stupid, under-educated, racist or gullible. Many of them voted for me… Another Fear campaign won't work. Accept that Britain has its problems but don't admit to the scale of a disaster which can be blamed on us… Don't mention the war, Germany or the euro. Your skill at putting a first-class case for second-rate policies served us well in the old days before Gordon messed it all up… I don't want to diminish your enthusiasm for the cause but we must not open ourselves up to accusations of sexing up the EU or offering another dodgy dossier. This is an occasion when the hand of history must be portrayed as punching our people in the gut, rather than resting on the shoulders of you and I, or the rest of Britain's elite.'
Now go on, admit it, quite funny in parts. However, checking my Twitter feed as I travelled home from a rare Burnley defeat at Leicester, I realised that Brextremists do not all share Mitchell's capacity for wit. Several had posted the link and, judging by the usual bile alongside, clearly believed it to be a genuine document. Dearie, dearie me. Stay classy, Remainers, never lose a sense of humour, including the ability to laugh at yourself when you're the butt of others' jokes.
Less funny was Guido Fawkes (never trust a man scared of using his own name) including me in his list of 'ten people who have been driven mad by Brexit'.
I was mad long before he, let alone Brexit, existed. I have the doctors to testify to this truth. Real doctors, not spin doctors.
Talking of madness, you may not be aware of 'the Goldwater rule,' which prevents American psychiatrists from commenting on the mental health of public figures. It is so-called because of a poll of psychiatrists conducted by a magazine called FACT, which concluded 1964 Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater was psychologically unfit for high office. Goldwater sued, successfully, the magazine shut down and the American Psychiatric Association brought in its rule.
Donald Trump's Presidency, however, is pushing the rule to breaking point. Dr Lance Dodes, ex of Harvard, now with the Boston Psychoanalytical Society and Institute, suggests the US President is a 'psychopath' and 'a very sick man.'
It was Trump's tweeting of Britain First propaganda that led Dr Dodes to say: 'It's another example of his being close to psychosis when stressed. The simple explanation for it, which people don't want to hear, is that he's not in control of himself. That is what we mean when we say someone is becoming psychotic. All of his delusional ideas come up when he is stressed, and then he loses track of reality because it doesn't fit what he needs to believe.'
Sounds about right, no?
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