In “Brexit has downgraded Britain” (TNE #295), Paul Mason writes “Labour cannot win an election on anything other than a pledge to ‘make Brexit work’”. If one starts from the premise that there was a sincere desire to improve the lot of our people, now that it is clear our lot has not been improved, in fact the reverse has happened, is it not beyond the intelligence and wit of some of us to develop a coherent policy for Brentry?
We must not leave it to president Macron to make us an offer, the initiative must come from us, from those amongst us who have the vision and the intellectual ability to see and construct a better future for this battered island in a complicated world.
I can understand Keir Starmer’s eagerness to avoid unforced errors at a time when the government comes up with one per day, but it’s not just that he is only pledging to “make Brexit work” – it’s that he is not even saying how he would make Brexit work.
The time for sitting on the fence is over; now is the time to spell out a clear plan. Repeatedly failing to do so leads to the perception reflected by a focus group as reported in the Sunday Times: “These swing voters made multiple references to how Starmer always seemed to be making criticisms without posing any answers… Labour, to them, seems to lack ideas.”
No one wants to spell out their entire manifesto two-and-a-half years from a general election, but on this point Starmer needs to lay out a plan or be thought not to have one. The absence of a Brexit strategy, when the government is gearing up to weaponise the issue via the Northern Ireland Protocol, is risky in the extreme.
Re: “Running towards recession” (TNE #295). Many of our economic problems are being exacerbated by the government’s obsession with pretending there are no problems caused by Brexit.
You can’t fix a problem you don’t acknowledge exists. Until they do, the UK will continue to deteriorate.
I greatly enjoyed Mitch Benn’s suggestions of future career options for the prime minister (“Time for Johnson to press new career button”, TNE #295), but did he maybe miss one?
I understand there are opportunities to go and train journalists in Iran. Right up Boris’s street, I would have thought.
The failure to dislodge Boris Johnson (“Beginning of the end”, TNE #295) shows again how dysfunctional the British pseudo-democracy is. At a time when two-thirds of the public think he should resign and only 211 MPs – less than a third of the total – voted to keep him in post, surely the prime minister should require the confidence of the majority of the whole House of Commons before he is allowed to continue?
Interestingly, the German constitution makes in Article 67 some provisions for when the German chancellor (the equivalent of the prime minister) loses the confidence of parliament. There is a “constructive” vote of no confidence in that it is not enough to vote out the chancellor alone; the parliamentarians must also agree on a new head of government.
If the majority of MPs then expressed their lack of confidence in the chancellor, the federal president must dismiss him/her and appoint the elected successor within 48 hours. The British helped write this constitution – shouldn’t the UK take a bit of its own medicine?
Alastair Campbell is right. Johnson staying was the best result possible. The Tory party is in tatters. The spineless MPs who voted for him to remain will get slaughtered in the byelections and the general elections if we get there.
We were chatting about Boris Johnson in a shop this afternoon. A fellow shopper chimed in with the conversation. She loves going to the bingo and says there is a new call when the number 10 is pulled out of the bag. Instead of the “Maggie’s/ Tony’s Den” of the past, the punters now yell in chorus: “Get him out!”
Time’s up, Johnson.
Tim Bradford’s very funny “Ballad of the Greased Piglet” (TNE #295) reminded me of a quote from the late Dr Hunter S Thompson: “Today’s pig is tomorrow’s bacon”.
Mandrake (TNE #295) hints that Theresa May might be about to apply the coup de grâce to Johnson. Surely by now, if she had anything on him, she’d have used it? And the worse it is the worse she will look having made him foreign secretary – a role that probably helped him to get the leadership.
The views of Theresa May don’t interest me. Most of what’s wrong with the Brexit deal we got is down to her and her hubris. She was completely out of her depth. History will not be kind to that woman.
Alastair Campbell (TNE #295) mentions Johnson’s early desire to be “World King”. Perhaps at the age of five, Master Boris Pfeffel Johnson was not aware that “Emperor” was a more prestigious aim, so perhaps his desire to resurrect antiquated British imperial systems hide more grandiose aspirations than just misplaced nostalgia.
In 2010 I tried to halt Johnson’s plan to introduce his “New Bus for London” (the “Borismaster”). This bus with an open platform at the back was Johnson’s bribe to be elected as mayor. My complaint it was dangerous (people had fallen off the back of earlier buses – I spent two days unconscious in hospital after going headfirst down a staircase into the road) were ignored, including by road safety organisations. Only Buses magazine provided any backing. The Borismasters no longer drive around with their back doors open. Much money was wasted on that Johnsonian fantasy.
Reintroducing imperial measures also deserve to fail. I’m sure bringing back old measurements is more about giving the impression Brexit “is still being done”, confirming that Johnson still regards everything “European” as alien to the British way of doing things.
In the 1960s the print industry completely metricated, replacing a plethora of paper sizes and a multitude of fancy names, a huge number of weights (thicknesses) of paper, and reams of different numbers of sheets. Before industry adoption, business and personal computers and scientific calculators, estimators had a nightmare job performing the calculations needed in paper manufacture and purchasing.
I still have the largest slide rule I’ve ever seen to help with the complex calculations. The DIN “A” sizes and “gsm’s” are much easier to use, even by non-printers.
Re: “The bitter taste of British cake mix policymaking” (TNE #295). Focus groups work when you’re trying to appeal to a group; economic policy shouldn’t be run by an appeal to popularity but with specific aims in mind. But this is a policy-free government hanging on to power to enrich their friends and themselves.
Though I hate to disagree with Charlie Connelly, the book is not “pretty much the perfect format” (“The ultimate in shelf gratification”, TNE #295). Kindles and larger phones are better for reading in bed when your partner is asleep, or on the beach, by the pool and when standing in a queue.
Weirdos will no doubt point out that you can’t use a Kindle in the bath. But who is going to get a book wet by reading it in the bath? That’s where you read magazines.
What a lovely feature on Wings’ 1972 tour of Europe in your last issue (“Band on the run”, TNE #295), accompanied by the memories of drummer Denny Seiwell.
I’m not fully aboard the “Macca was the real genius” bandwagon that seems to have started up over the last few years (let’s face it, McCartney is getting extra points for being alive and gigging, something that is denied to his co-bandleader). But two of the albums Seiwell played on that I dismissed at the time now sound better and better to me with each passing year – Red Rose Speedway and, especially, Ram, which opened with the Lennon-baiting Too Many People and contains the truly wonderful Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.
Alas, Wild Life – probably the purest expression of the hippy Wings that Seiwell describes in the article, still sounds like a mess to me. One to revisit when Sir Paul’s doing Glasto in his 90s?
Amazing that Wings made no money from that European tour! The marijuana bill must have been huge!
Sophia Deboick (“When one Door closes”, TNE #294) failed to persuade me that Jim Morrison was anything other than a better-looking Adrian Mole in leather trousers.
Jim’s ode to his girlfriend Pamela – “My wild love is crazy/ She screams like a bird/ She moans like a cat/When she wants to be heard” – is surely not a patch on Adrian’s to Pandora when she is about to go to Tunisia on holiday: “Come back tanned and brown and healthy/ You’re lucky that your dad is wealthy.”
Sophia Deboick’s piece on Jim Morrison’s last days with his girlfriend in Paris reminded me of one of the most unintentionally hilarious bits of movie history – in Oliver Stone’s The Doors, when Meg Ryan (miscast, awful) throws mashed sweet potato in Val Kilmer’ face and says, “I have one thing to say to you, Jim Morrison: you’ve ruined another Thanksgiving.”
This saying is used in our house every time a meal or public holiday goes wrong, and has been since 1991.
Bob ‘Lizard’ King
I see that Brexit backer Arron Banks has lost his libel action against the Guardian journalist Carole Cadwalladr. I’ve no particular point to make about this; I just enjoyed writing it.
How closely are the authoritarian right in the UK (and elsewhere) watching the Capitol riot hearings in the US?
The riot was the response of the frontline street fighters of Trump’s Make America Great Again army, egged on by their leader to test the fragility of the institutions of US democracy.
This followed years of placing anti-democratic Republican officers in places of influence within the machinery of government and justice to prepare the ground.
In the UK, the Johnson government is meddling with the independence of the Electoral Commission, watering down the Ministerial Code of Ethics and undermining the independence of judicial reviews, all steps along the same road as the US is taking.
All those in opposition to this government, from all parties, need to rally the forces of democracy against this creeping authoritarian strategy. This is not just the blunderings of a buffoon in No 10, but the calculated step-by-step advance of anti-democracy that will continue after he is gone, unless the forces are gathered to oppose it.