The leaning tower of Theresa

 

© BBC

 

I haven’t written anything about politics on this blog recently.  This is because writing about politics involves thinking about politics, and these days thinking about politics involves fighting off the urge to go away and shoot myself.  However, in the United Kingdom, a lot has been happening lately – the council elections in England, Scotland and Wales held two days ago and the unexpected announcement of a general election to be held on June 8th.  Thus, I guess I’d better say something.  Here goes.

 

Wow.  That was some speech by our Prime Minister Theresa May the other day, once she’d been to Buckingham Palace to inform the Queen about parliament being dissolved in preparation for the general election on June 8th.  May claimed that the European Union was out to get her, and her government, and by extension dear old Blighty itself: “Threats against Britain have been issued by European politicians and officials.  All of these acts have been deliberately timed to affect the result of the general election which will take place on June 8th.”

 

For someone who’s been making a big hoo-ha about the strength and stability of her leadership recently, these allegations about nasty Johnny Foreigner sounded particularly unhinged – not so much the utterances of a Prime Minister but the utterances of the crazy old lady who gets onto the bus and sits beside you and spends the ensuing journey wittering about how purple lizards are eating her feet.

 

And is it just me, or is the gurning May looking more and more like Bette Davis as the grotesque Jane Hudson in Robert Aldrich’s 1962 gothic classic Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

 

© Daily Mirror

© Warner Bros. / Seven Arts Productions

 

However, as Polonius remarks in Hamlet, “Though this be madness, yet there is madness in’t.”  Her diatribe against the Europeans might have made any sane listener think she was a basket-case; but many people, not necessarily sane, who in recent elections had been voting for the xenophobic right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party, aka UKIP, decided they liked the cut of May’s jib and voted instead for her Conservative Party at Thursday’s local-government elections.  As a result, the Conservatives surged in those elections, whereas UKIP’s representation on councils across Britain dropped from 146 to… one.

 

It’s good to see UKIP, the toxic tarantula of British politics, get stomped to death.  Unfortunately, that tarantula has been stomped on by a rabid gorilla, the Conservative Party, and it’s going to stomp on you next.

 

If these results are repeated in the June general election – and with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party looking so spectacularly useless, there’s no reason why they won’t – then the Conservatives will get a whopping majority in parliament and May will be queen of all she surveys, in Britain anyway.  Unfortunately, she’ll then have to try and negotiate Brexit, i.e. Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.  Which means sitting down with and spending the next few years in long, complicated and arduous talks with the very people she’s severely pissed off – the EU itself and its 27 member governments.

 

Already, May’s government has approached these negotiations with the finesse of Godzilla taking a stroll through downtown Tokyo.  Her initiation of Brexit on March 29th came with a warning that, in the event of no deal being agreed, the UK might be reluctant to share intelligence about terrorism with its former EU partners – a charmless threat that prompted the Sun newspaper to run the front-page headline: YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIVES (“Trade with us and we’ll fight terror.”)  Although May says she disapproves of foreigners interfering in UK politics, she’s never spoken out against the constant, decades-long interference by one foreigner, the Sun’s proprietor Rupert Murdoch, who’s Australian-American.

 

Soon after came an insinuation by former Conservative Party leader Michael Howard that Britain could go to war with EU-member Spain over the sovereignty of Gibraltar.  (Cue the Sun again: UP YOURS, SENORS!)  I’m perfectly aware that Howard is an old idiot and not to be taken seriously, but it’s depressing that neither May nor anyone in her cabinet saw fit to condemn his comments.

 

Then, the other week, there was the now-infamous dinner attended by May and Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, at which Juncker was astonished by how ill-informed and simplistic May was about the complexity and length of the negotiations ahead.  No wonder afterwards he got on the phone to Angela Merkel and warned her that the British PM “lived in another galaxy.”  Details of the dinner were leaked to a German newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine, which seems to have inspired May’s rantings about EU interference in the forthcoming election.  Not that I imagine many of the British electorate reading the Frankfurter Allgemeine, or being able to read German for that matter.  I wonder if some of the people likely to vote for May can even read English.

 

Following the May-Juncker dinner debacle, just to make the Conservatives’ charm offensive of Europe complete, Ruth Davidson – May’s loyal lieutenant, ventriloquist dummy and mini-me in Scotland – suggested that Juncker’s comments weren’t to be taken seriously because he’d probably been drunk during the meal.  Yes, accusing your opposite numbers of being pissheads.  That’s the way to lay the groundwork for really successful negotiations.

 

It seems to me that Theresa May, once she has the general election in the bag, is in for a very long and very hard reality-check when the Brexit talks begin in earnest.  She may have reached the top of the pile in British politics by Euro-bashing but her words will return to haunt her.  After the abuse that’s been flung at it across the English Channel, is the EU going to show Britain a shred of sympathy or allow it a modicum of wriggle-room?  I doubt it.  Brexit looks set to be a disaster, ending with the UK tumbling out of the EU with no deal at all, something that sane economists agree would be a very bad thing indeed.

 

No doubt, though, many Conservative hardliners are rubbing their hands in glee at this prospect.  It’d wreck the British economy, yes.  But then they’d be free to build that economy up again from the wreckage, fashioning it into a low-tax, no-minimum-wage, regulation-free, zero-hour-contracts-galore monstrosity that fits their scary alt-right vision of Britain as Air Strip One / Tax Haven Two / Sweatshop Three.

 

In the short term, Theresa May has scaled the heights thanks to anti-European opportunism and calculation.  But I predict it’ll end badly once the Brexit process kicks in.  The Tower of Theresa has been built on rotten foundations and it’s going to topple.  Let’s hope Britain as we know it isn’t flattened beneath the rubble.

 

From madhatters.me.uk

 

And incidentally, if you need any more reasons not to vote Conservative in the forthcoming general election, here’s 30 of them. 

 

Kippered

 

(c) Huffington Post

 

I don’t know which news item today is more depressing.  News that Glasgow School of Art’s A-listed and much-loved Mackintosh Building, designed by and named after the great Scottish artist and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, went up in flames yesterday.  Or news that the right-wing, anti-EU and anti-immigrant United Kingdom Independence Party managed to win 155 seats in the English council elections two days ago, giving it a real chance of winning parliamentary seats at the next general election and making it officially, in the words of many political pundits, ‘the fourth force in British politics’.

 

I’ll talk about the second news story.  What I found revealing about the UKIP phenomenon was a TV interview that appeared yesterday on youtube, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7lPcJ7uscs.  The interview is with a guy called Darren, from Walsall in the West Midlands, and he explains to the interviewer why he’s just voted for UKIP.  Well, he tries to explain.  This is what he says:

 

“The reason why I voted for UKIP was cos, like, we’ve had Labour, we’ve had Conservative, we’ve had the Liberal Democrats.  We want a new party, we want somebody who’s going to send a voice, especially in Europe, especially on immigration, especially round here cos we have different people coming in, taking our jobs and just working for the minimum wage.  Okay, we’ve lived here nearly all our lives and we’ve (inaudible), we’ve had to step up the ladder and we’ve had to work, go to college, earn all our wages and everything else, and they just cut from underneath you, especially, like, the immigrants are coming in, like the Poles and the Ukraines and everything else from the new European countries who are coming in.  Really, you want to get out of the EEC and fight for our own and be a better Great Britain again, like before it was, before it was, before it was everything else, cos Great Britain was all over the world then.”

 

I’m sure that Darren is a decent enough bloke but, once you’ve deciphered what he said, it seems a bit rich that he complains about immigrants ‘coming in’ and then concludes with a nod to the glory days of the British Empire, when ‘Great Britain was all over the world’ – i.e. going into other countries and presumably taking all their jobs.  It’s also ironic that the interviewer (although you can’t see her in the interview-clip on youtube) is a young woman of Asian descent.  Darren doesn’t say anything about this, but maybe he resents her sort coming in and taking all the TV interviewing jobs.  Maybe he could have been a TV interviewer if British people had really ‘fought for our own.’

 

From the look and sound of him, Darren probably hasn’t had many educational or professional opportunities in life and he must be pretty near the bottom of the social pile.  So it’s sad that he and many people like him feel compelled to vote UKIP when, plainly, UKIP is the sort of right-wing party that’d happily screw folk in their position big-time if they ever got to power.  They might give Darren and his ilk someone to blame for their problems, and give them a sense that they’re showing a middle-finger to a callous, uncaring establishment.  But UKIP aren’t on their side.  No way are UKIP on their side.

 

I’ve been reading the party’s manifesto from the last general election and it doesn’t give the impression that by voting for them you’ll be sticking it to The Man.  Quite the reverse.  It kicks off by declaring that ‘Britain’s economy is being suffocated by high taxation, excessive EU regulation, overgenerous welfare and punitive bureaucracy.’  It proposes a flat tax of 31% for everyone earning above £11,500 a year, argues that ‘there is no alternative to major cuts in government spending’, envisages two million people being squeezed out of jobs in ‘Education, Health and Public Administration’ so that the public sector is scaled back to a 1997 level, and of course vows to ‘(s)crap up to 120,000 EU directives and regulations that impact on the UK economy,’ presumably including all the ones relating to working conditions, environmental standards and health and safety.  (Amusingly, one of the few examples given of what they’d chop is this one: ‘In particular, UKIP would repeal the forthcoming AIFM Directive that threatens hedge funds in the City of London.’  Which is a good indication of whose side they’re on really.)

 

Yes, it sounds like the sort of scenario that Milton Friedman must have had wet dreams about.  And in countries where such policies have been implemented – often totalitarian countries where the public can’t express opposition to them – the number of people living in poverty has usually skyrocketed.

 

At the same time, it’s a document suffused with Lewis Carroll-type absurdity.  You’ll find all the usual guff you’d expect from UKIP – about banning schools from using ‘global warming propaganda such as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth’, allowing teachers to ‘impose proper discipline on pupils’, safeguarding ‘British weights and measures (the pint, the mile, etc.) which have been undermined by the EU’, scrapping political correctness, abolishing the Human Rights Act, and so on and so forth – but look carefully and you’ll find a few pledges that are oddly at variance with the ‘cut, cut, cut’ mantra I’ve described in the previous paragraph.  There’s talk of making sure the NHS can ‘continue to deliver care free at the point of delivery on the basis of need, not ability to pay,’ bringing back ‘free eye-tests and dental check-ups for all UK citizens’, bringing back student grants and spending a whopping ‘extra 40% on defence annually’.  How on earth, one wonders, are they going to pay for these health, education and defence goodies when there’s so much economic pain and paring-to-the-bone going on elsewhere?

 

To be fair to UKIP’s pint-swilling, mule-faced leader Nigel Farage, he did admit back in January that he thought the 2010 manifesto was rubbish: “I didn’t read it.  It was drivel…  We have put that behind us and moved onto a professional footing.”  Mind you, he did stick his name on it at the time.  And I’ve had a look at a UKIP document that was circulated before the recent elections and they’re still banging on about reducing regulations on employers and implementing the sort of flat tax that’d bring relieved smiles to the faces of Gary Barlow and Jimmy Carr.

 

Meanwhile, one place in England where UKIP noticeably didn’t do well the other day was London.  In an interview on BBC’s Radio 4, the party’s communities spokesperson Suzanne Evans gave this assessment of why UKIP failed to appeal to Londoners even as it was winning support from people elsewhere in England.  “(W)e do have,” she said, “a more media-savvy, well-educated population in London.”

 

Too well-educated to vote for UKIP?  Oops.  Freudian slip.

 

(c) New Statesman

 

96% Green

 

 From greenparty.org.uk

 

Recently, while I was trawling about on the Internet, I came across the website uk.isidewith.com.  It offers a questionnaire that you complete with your opinions regarding a number of topical issues, about which all the UK’s major political parties have taken a stance.  Then it compares your opinions with the policies of the parties and calculates how much, overall, you’re in agreement with them.  You end up getting your percentage of agreement with each party, which is a bit like having your political DNA tested – you find out how much of you is Labour, how much is Conservative, etc.

 

http://uk.isidewith.com/political-quiz?from=dcbxSuNxN&utm_source=social&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=10ways.com

 

When my results came through I was surprised to find that the party that figured highest in my political DNA was the Green Party.  I was told that 96% of my opinions matched its policies.  I was surprised because I assumed I’d de-Greened myself when I answered a question about my view of nuclear energy.  Unlike the Green Party’s line, I’m reluctantly in favour of having nuclear-power stations.  (I agree with the Guardian’s environmental correspondent George Monbiot that generating nuclear energy is an evil necessity while humanity tries to reduce carbon emissions and limit manmade climate change.)

 

In joint-second place after the Greens were the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru.  I’m 95% in agreement with them, which I suppose isn’t a surprise considering how I’d answered a question about whether or not Scotland should be independent.  And just behind them was the Labour Party.  93% of my views match the policies of Ed Milliband and Ed Balls, apparently.  This is despite the fact that I’ve always thought life under a Milliband / Balls regime in Westminster would be little better than life under the current Cameron / Osborne regime.  The rhetoric would no doubt be more touchy-feely but the economic and social reality, I suspect, wouldn’t change much.

 

But I was really shocked when I was informed 44% of my opinions match the policies of the United Kingdom Independence Party, that ragtag gang of Little Englanders led by Nigel Farage who want to take Britain out of the European Union and change it back to its glorious, monochrome 1950s version — a Britain where everyone is white and Christian (Church of England, preferably), where the working class doff their caps before their betters, where teachers have the right to take canes and belts to naughty pupils, where smokers have the right to give other people lung cancer in public places, and where television is a Mary Whitehouse-style paragon of decency that’s devoid of bad language (although good old-fashioned non-PC terminology, such as Jeremy Clarkson uses for black people, is probably okay).  Nearly half of my mindset, I was told, was identical to the UKIP mindset.  Well, I can only assume that the 44% of me that agrees with Nigel Farage is the 44% of me that’s located closest to my arse.

 

At least it gives me an excuse to show a picture of Britain’s best-known right-wing buffoon being struck by an egg whilst campaigning yesterday for the forthcoming European Parliamentary elections.  Ha!

 

(c) The Independent