January 2020

Crystal Ball 02This New Years Day not only heralds the start of another year, but the start of a new decade as well. To myself the start on the new decade engenders a strange feeling, that the 20th century, momentous as it was, no longer seems as it was just around the corner, but has now firmly  become part of history.

  Predicting developments in the forthcoming year is not like trying to gaze into a crystal ball for answers as my article picture would suggest. It is more a case of keeping in touch with events, particularly the more recent ones, and then using common-sense nous, tempered by sensing the public mood on given issues to forecast how things are likely to pan-out.

There can be no doubt recent political events culminating in a General Election will continue to have a major impact in the forthcoming year.

It’s now three and a half years since the UK held the referendum, popularly known as the Brexit Referendum, to decide whether it should leave the EU or not. Our exit date supposedly being by the end of March 2019. During that time, the public mood became increasing frustrated by the political antics of MP’s opposed to the referendum result, irrespective of how their constituencies had voted, used their dominance with a minority government, to try and frustrate, delay, or even abolish Brexit altogether.

Leadership, Anti-Semitism and proposed fiscal issues also were causing Labour a lot of concern. It was only when a General Election was finally called with many anti-Brexit MP’s firmly convinced the public was completely behind them, that they finally awakened the real truth of public opinion, as the electorate swept them aside. In the end voters elected with an overwhelming majority, the only major political party to have put honouring the Brexit Referendum at the centre stage of their manifesto. Now it looks like the Conservative Party are firmly in control for the next five years, although it may be a little shorter than that depending on circumstances at the time, as most political parties are loathe to hold elections in the winter

Now the losing political parties will carry-out a lot of soul-searching as to why they lost, and some electing new leaders. But irrelevant of how many enquires they hold, the real question is whether they can accept what to many is the blindingly obvious reasons for their defeat, or for reasons of  political expediency become self-deniers?

In Labour’s case, I think there is a possibility of strong differences of opinion over future policy issues, which could lead to something of a internal struggle. There is a strong feeling running through the country that no political party really supports working people any longer, and the traditional support Labour relied on from working people is no longer there. Given this left in the wilderness feeling and general distrust of all political parties, many voters now vote tacitly in each election be it local or national, dependent on the issues at the time. One aspect many working people are also suspicious of is the rise of the professional politician. Labour is now at something of a crossroad and depending on the path they take, they can either eventually start travelling on the long road to recovery by rebuilding working peoples trust, or begin the long decline into insignificance. If they choose the latter, it is inevitable that another workers party will eventually emerge to take their place. Even the most wonderful of election manifestos is worthless if the party proposing it does not take power. The forthcoming year is likely to see the future fate of the Labour Party decided for a long time to come.

The SNP did extremely well in Scotland and once more cries for Scottish Independence have started to ring loud. However there are many Scots who will say although they voted for the SNP, that does not mean they would vote for Independence. Recent polls indicate only about 45% of the Scottish electorate support the idea. That is about the same amount as the Scottish Independence Referendum held five years ago and which was supposed to be a once in a lifetime vote. The new Conservative Government have already indicated the last referendum on independence should be honoured, which is the polite way of saying no. If as looks likely the UK does leave the EU at the end of January, and with the EU having previously indicated they would only accept Scotland as part of the UK, apart from the noisy sabre-rattling sounds of displeasure, it is not clear to me what real cards the SNP have left to play.

As for myself, I am English by birth but I have always considered myself to be British. Historically, the United Kingdom may well have been at one time three separate nations plus Northern Ireland, but to most people including myself, all of it has been my country throughout my lifetime, and I have never considered the Untied Kingdom as anything other than one country. There are many people, possibly the majority throughout the whole of the UK who feel the same. I am sure that any politician who tries destroying our country, the United Kingdom, for short term political gain, is likely to get short shrift from the public as a whole.

Even with the UK. leaving the EU, until the end of 2020 there should be little difference to individuals travel and holiday arrangements in the within EU. What happens beyond that will largely depend on how negotiations on trade and conditions with the EU develop.

One thing that clearly has to be resolved is the question of the Irish border. In the past year with a minority government, both the EU and the Irish Republic were able to take a tough stance on the issue, but now the political football field has radically changed, one would hope they will now adopt a more reasonable stance, particularly as a hard border will be very damaging to Ireland. In the world of politics, there is no such thing as the impossible. All is possible providing the will, and possibly the financial necessity is there.

The 1st February will be a historic day in itself as it will be the first time in 47 years since 1973,  that the UK once again becomes a truly sovereign nation, able to determine its own way in the world. That may be something of a strange feeling to those born after that date, but those old enough to have experienced it before, know how it feels to be able to stand on your own two feet. In some ways it is like the time in life, when a young person is considered to be legally mature enough to make their own decisions in life, independent of their parents.

This year will also see major decisions made on the High-Speed rail link to the north of England. During the past year there have been suggestions questioning it’s economic viability. I am certainly no economist although I have a gut feeling that a lot of money must have be unnecessarily wasted and escalating costs need to be firmly brought under control. It does seem to me though, a question of how can one expect the Northern Powerhouse to properly flourish, if it is not adequately connected by rail to the rest of the country? There are some projects that need to placed well beyond the dampening influence of bean-counters, and this is one of them.

What the political analysts missed.

Polling chartYesterday England went to the polls in local elections for it’s Metropolitan and District Councils. This did not include the counties of England often referred to as ‘The Shires’ as they are on a different electoral timetable.

Prior to the elections, one party in particular was boasting of the large landslide wins it expected to make and most of the media got caught up in a lot of this speculative hype. However irrelevant of what popular media might think, the electorate has its own unique  way of of determining what they want, not what the political parties of media think they should have.

Well the aspired to political landslide eventually turned out to no more than a few grains of sand rolling down the proverbial hillside. One political party was all but wiped out of local affairs and the seats they previously held fell reasonably evenly to the two main political parties dependent on a particular area. Overall the local political map was neither painted with large new areas or Blue, Red or Orange, but with few exceptions on either side, the political map remained more-or-less as it had been prior to the election.

Political analysts are busy beavering away with their charts, swingometers, statistics and graphs trying to make sense of what happened and what this means to the future fortunes f the political parties and their leaders.

One thing I find the political analysts tend to overlook is the mood of the electorate as a whole, which is more likely to make more sense of yesterdays voting trends than anything else. Something I have sensed for a long time is a complete lack of trust in any political party. Many voters now have a feeling they have been completely disenfranchised by parties that seem to have long ago forgotten who they represent other than themselves. If that is correct, then no political party can in future rely on any form of support from traditional supporters, as dependent on any given local area, the vast numbers of voters who feel they have become disenfranchised will no longer vote for a given party, but are more likely to vote for what it sees as the best of a bad bunch at the time.

All political parties are very inventive in their dialogue and the popular flavour of the month, particularly after an election, is talk of ‘re-engaging’ with the electorate. These are however just words, words the electorate are becoming weary of and it is likely that political futures will now be made or broken depending on which way the wind is blowing at the time. One thing the electorate do know is they voted by a majority for Brexit in a referendum, and all they have seen is politicians constantly trying to undermine the majority decision. It is unlikely a future wind will blow favourably on such politicians and more than likely our second chamber,  the unelected House of Lords will face calls for its abolition after they decided by a large majority to attempt to impose what is effectively a Brexit wrecking measure.

General Election Fever

Election BinWhether we like it or not, for the next month the media will be filled with General Election news from the hustings as to which political party has promised this or that, which ones have dropped a gaffe, (and there has been a few already), and their grandiose visions for the future of Britain.

It does seem to me that one thing that is certain, lessor political parties can promise the world knowing that as they unlikely to achieve sufficient votes to form a government, their promises will never come to anything.

Because the current snap General Election caught all political parties by surprise, most have feverishly been cobbling together their election manifestoes over the last two weeks and dependent on how active or moribund those parties are in your local area, those manifestoes will soon be dropping through our letter boxes. As can be see from my cover picture, I am well prepared for them.

Already on a number of occasions when asked in news interviews about salient political points, the response has been that it will be covered in the parties manifesto. That rather begs the questions why they do not know now and what have they been doing for the last couple of years if important issues are only now being rapidly discussed simply because a snap election is forthcoming?

The one thing I am always wary about any politician at election time is those that use the words ‘pledge, promise or commitment’. Such words are already being bandied about in terms of the ‘triple-lock’ on pensions and I cannot help but recall the Lib/Dems pledge on no increases in university tuition fees, which must be on record as one of the most short lived pledges ever. Tax the rich to pay for various election promises is another old idea also doing the rounds at the moment. However that always sounds like the accumulation of wealth is a crime to be heavily penalised apart from it being a disincentive for accumulating wealth in the first place. I always wonder when politicians decide to slice up the financial cake how they end up with more slices that actually exist than the totality of the cake itself. Well that’s politics for you.

Every political party will have the question of housing in their manifestoes usually in the form of promises of how many homes they will build if they come to power. All this always ignores the fact that housing is a issue that can never be solved as the population is growing faster than houses can be built. There is also a limit to how much land is available or desirable to build on in such a small island.

Brexit which is a relatively new thing in elections will form a large part of election speeches, ranging from those politicians determined the will of the people will be upheld, to those who will be trying to save the British public from themselves as they claim they did not know what they were voting for. Perhaps those same politicians will want a re-run of the General Election if they lose for the same reason.

There does come a point where many people will simply become desensitised to all the political rhetoric that is bound to come and will treat it like background traffic noise. That is to say it is something that is always there but nothing can really be done to stop it. However after a period of time, no one hears it anymore. For anyone suffering from insomnia, perhaps listening to politicians pledges, commitments and promises might be a good cure.

Snap General Election 2017

Teresa MayWell it would appear that the Prime Minister has well and truly set the cat amongst the pigeons with her decision to call a snap General Election over Brexit. It is a move that has sent something of a shockwave through all political parties.

I cannot help but think that this election which will be held on June 8th will not only decisively settle the issue of Brexit in Parliament but will also ultimately turn out to be something of a game-changer for the face of British politics for years to come.

With all political parties caught off guard, their leaders had little choice but to express their individual optimism of how well they all think this election will turn out for their own parties but I do suspect without the usual hype that normally proceeds known General Elections, there is something of a background panic at suddenly having to muster their unprepared troops for this unexpected contest for the future of the nation.

I can only make possible predictions based on my own personal reading and feelings of the state of play in British politics, and public opinion, but I have little doubt that after the votes are cast and counted Teresa May will be returned as Prime Minister with a vastly increased majority. If that eventually proves to be true, then it begs the question of which political parties will lose-out?

I have little doubt the majority of the loss will be felt by the Labour Party which seems to be in a constant state of disarray and turmoil between its grass-root members and current Members of Parliament. There was a good chance that some of these MP’s would have been deselected by their own parties in the normal course of events, but the calling of a snap election now means there is no time to go through the normal selection process and existing Labour MP’s will stand again as candidates. It is however well possible that in some constituencies, many local members may feel disinclined to campaign for them. Although the undisputed leader of the Labour Party, I have always felt that Jeremy Corbyn has lacked the dynamic charisma necessary to lead a party. Although well meaning in his views, most of them tend to boil down to a mixture of either tax the rich or introduce even more taxes to pay for his aspirations. For a already heavily taxed country, it is a message unlikely to be well received. If Labour do lose heavily then either Jeremy Corbyn will resign and opportunist MP’s, not to the liking of many  Labour members, who have been waiting in the wings will once again attempt to seize control  of the Labour Party. Either that or if Jeremy Corby stays,some of them might attempt to form their own political party.

Whatever way it plays out, there are just so many of Labour’s traditional electorate who feel Labour have long ago lost their way in recognising who it is supposed to represent, and why, that Labour is becoming almost meaningless in their traditional supporters eyes. One thing is for certain, a political party which is at war with itself does not win votes.

The Liberal Democratic Party will obviously pin its hopes on making something of a recovery, but I cannot help but feel that even if they do win a few more seats from their already decimated position, they are still destined for years in the wilderness. The public has long memories and former university students who are now married with families and mortgages, and with hefty debts accrued while at university as a direct result of their then leader reneging on his pledge not to introduce university fees. With that and their failure to accept the democratic majority vote in the Brexit referendum, they curry little favour in many of the publics eye.

For the Scottish National Party (SNP) who command a sizable position within Parliament, I think this election could well prove the beginning of their decline.I accept they are still likely to be the biggest winning party in Scotland after the election, but I also think it possible they may lose a number of seats. If the SNP do lose a few seats, it is likely to be as a result of their incessant demand for yet another Independence Referendum even though there was one such ‘once in a lifetime’ referendum only a few years ago. It does seem the majority of Scottish voters are not in favour of having another referendum forced on them and this is likely to cause some resent apart from that often felt towards most governing parties. Losing a few seats might not seem the end of the world but it would show the SNP’s position in Scotland is not impregnable and would be the start of the slippery slope to eventual defeat..

As for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), now that the vote for Brexit has been achieved, I am not sure they have too much of a future. Support for UKIP swelled enormously when there was a lot of pressure for a Brexit Referendum on which UKIP’s stance was clear. Now that has passed and with a Tory Party now implementing the same thing, apart from ensuring Brexit stays on course, many voters including myself do not understand what other policies they stand for. I am certain they do have policies but for some reason their message never seems to come across. UKIP did manage to succeed in getting one Member of Parliament elected but he has since defected. I think they are still likely to do reasonably well in this election particularly from disaffected Labour Voters but due to the current Parliamentary system, this is likely to result in few, if any seats in Parliament.

I would not be at all surprised if future historians will look back at this General Elections as being a defining moment and something of a sea-change for British politics.

January 2017

Happy NY 2017

This is the time of year I try to forecast likely events in the year ahead and based on previous years my ‘crystal-ball’ gazing has been reasonably accurate.

Politics.

The Brexit process will clearly continue to play a major role during 2017. Whether or not the Government’s stated timetable of formally moving Article 50 of the European Treaty by the end of March is achieved, largely depends on a Supreme Court ruling during the coming month. Whichever way the ruling goes, I would still predict Article 50 will be activated during the year although fresh legal challenges are likely.

It does seem to me these legal challenges over Brexit are causing something of a constitutional crisis, in that they bring into question whether it is a democratically elected government that runs the UK, or the courts. For any government irrespective of their political persuasion, it would be a untenable position for every decision they may make to be open to legal challenge, and I foresee possible legislative moves to curb the power of the judiciary in determining what a government may or may not do.

January 20th also sees the US President elect Donald Trump taking office. Although US politics are a matter for the US, the fallout of any policy change is likely to effect the rest of the world. Judging by statements being made by Donald Trump, it is clear that whatever new policies he actually proposes, his administration will be like that of chalk and cheese when compared with the current policies of the outgoing Obama administration. The ripples of these changes will most definitely reverberate around the world and will be felt by many including the UK.

European Elections

Numbers of European countries are due to hold elections during 2017 including France and Germany. Both of these countries have been heavily effected by large immigrant influxes over the past  two years, which may well have a considerable bearing on how electors in those countries vote. The present incumbent President Hollande has announced he will not be seeking re-election and it is possible a new president of a different political persuasion and outlook could be elected.

Although the current German President Angela Merkel is likely to retain power, a current wave of unpopularity in Germany may well see her support and therefore her influence much less than at present.

UK Elections

In the UK, as to which way the wind is blowing in terms of support for any given political party remains unclear. Many traditional Labour supporters feel they are between a rock and a hard place at the moment, with many unhappy at f the stance Labour took on the Brexit referendum and many are equally unhappy at either the leadership or the stance their MP’s took at supporting or rather, not supporting the Labour leader. One things always rings true in politics, a divided party which Labour appears to be at the moment do not win votes.I still sense a feeling of public unease with the Lib/Dems and although UKIP are still likely to attract disaffected voters for the time being, I do not sense any great public appetite for this party.

Apart for any by-elections that may occur, the next litmus test of public political opinion will be the local County Council elections in May. Issues like proposed three weekly refuse collections are likely to weigh heavily, but often public support on national issues have a way of deciding support for the composition of local councils. Incumbent governments usually lose some support in the form of protest votes in local elections. However with a new Prime Minister in the Form of Teresa May who still seems to enjoy a good measure of public support, I would predict the Tory Party will probably retain the councils they currently hold and may well increase that number.

Brexit in a Nutshell

A excellent animated video showing in a nutshell the benefits of leaving the EU. It also shows why daily scare stories being circulated by those who want the UK to stay in the EU are nonsense.

More importantly the video shows the dangers of what will eventually happen if the UK remains in the EU.

In case anyone is in any doubt, I am fully committed to leaving the EU. What was originally a glorified street market, (the EEC), is now almost a Super-State and eventually it can only seek Super-State powers.

Europe is made up of democratic countries, yet not one European citizen with the exception of Ireland has been allowed to vote if they wanted the EU in the first place. Neither is any citizen of all these democratic European countries permitted to vote for the European Commissioners that set laws and directives. This also means they cannot be voted out of office. The same applies to the EU President and other top EU positions.

Leaving the EU would be no bed of roses but the prospect of what the future holds if the UK remains terrifies me.

It does seem likely to me that if the UK had never been a member of the EU and instead of a Brexit Referendum, the UK was being asked if we would want to join the EU, it is more than likely the answer would be an overwhelming no.

 

The European Brexit Referendum – In or Out?

BrexitNow the Prime Minister David Cameron has returned from his lengthy European country hopping tour, clutching what has become know as “The Deal” of reforms the EU has not so graciously awarded the UK, he immediately announced a date of Thursday 23rd June as polling day for the long awaited referendum, (or Brexit ), on whether the UK should remain part of the European Union (EU). I for one cannot help but be reminded of the similarity when another British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain also returned from Europe brandishing a piece of paper with appeasement written all over it.

Campaigning by both the Leave-EU and Stay—in factions has now begun, but so far I find both of them quite lack-lustre in putting any form of message across. I find that disappointing considering both campaigns have seasoned politicians from all sides of the political spectrum as their front-runners. The Stay-in campaign appear to have adopted a ceaseless barrage of fear in a attempt to persuade, or even scare voters to remain in the EU. Fears like national security, job opportunities and so on, all of which I find feeble and groundless. The Leave-EU campaign however I  find  are also failing to put forward what should be the positive benefits for leaving the EU. In short, so far the UK electorate have faced a totally negative fear campaign on one side, and a far less than positive one on the other side.

Although it is still early days for both campaigns, opinion polls tend to indicate the views those in favour of leaving or staying are reasonably evenly  divided, with about a third of the electorate as yet undecided. Apparently there is even a marked trend in age difference between the two sets of opinions with younger voters more likely to vote to stay in the EU and with more older voters wanting to leave. In a way I suppose that is understandable as no one below the age of 40 will have had any experience what being a totally independent country and what the opportunities that brings really means.

With the exception of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), the leaders of other political parties have declared their parties are for remaining in Europe. However one cannot help but wonder just how many grass roots members in their own parties they are speaking for?  Reports indicate the Conservative Party appear to have deep internal divisions on the issue, and I would not be in the least surprised if other political parties are facing the same problem. Either way a referendum does not depend on what individual political parties, local or national politicians say. A referendum is where a country as a whole votes for a national policy, not a local political party or politician. It is where the individual electors collective opinion counts only.

As for myself, I am definitely for Leaving the EU. I voted not to join the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1975. Although in many ways at the time this was little more than a glorified European street market, I could foresee the ramifications of what those who were then pushing for, and still are, for ever greater political union, would really mean. What we have now is something bordering on just short of a European super-state. The danger with something this big is ultimately it tries to make “one cap fits all” policies, and  for an area as big and diverse in people, customs, practices and beliefs that Europe is. Such policies can only lead to resentment which does no one any good.

To me the EU’s recent concessions to the UK are merely unimportant bread crumbs. What was given on one hand can be taken back again by one method or another if we remain members of the EU. What I found more important as well as infuriating, humiliating and disgraceful was  a week in which my own Prime Minister had to effectively plead with the leaders of 27 other countries as they debated and decided what they would allow my country to do or not do. That in a nutshell sums up what the EU is about. It does seem as if individual national governments and the voters that elected them are now in effect starting to become subservient to the collective decisions of other countries. It no longer matters what part of the political spectrum anyone’s views are,  as national governments are in effect gradually becoming almost like puppet governments in terms of EU policies they would have to comply with even if ones own government and public opinion are totally opposed to it.

I am also mindful of ideas like a European army that have already been floated around by European politicians. Although these ideas received little support for now, I have no doubt they will be raised again in the future and all that entails. I understand the EU is even seeking to bring the UK Coast Guard under its control and likely unpopular proposals like the power ratings of electric kettles seem to have been temporarily shelved while the Brexit campaign is underway. I look at our once proud and robust fishing industry now totally decimated and cannot help but think this is what the policies of the EU gave to us, or should that more accurately be, took away from us.

It is true to say that UK politicians do make mistakes, but then so do other European politicians. The difference is the electorate has the power to dismiss a UK government through a general election, but has no power to dismiss European politicians.

Winston Churchill was a great wartime leader whom without his anti-appeasement stance and defiance, it is unlikely the UK could have withstood, let alone be a essential part in winning World War 2. Although I am unlikely to have ever agreed with his peacetime policies, I do recognise Churchill had great foresight. One of his quotes on Europe was

Of Europe Churchill once said;

 ‘If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea.”

Being anti-EU however does not make me anti-European, quite the opposite. Europe is rich and diverse in its many cultures and long may it be so. I have always found individuals warm and welcoming and  I would not what to see such diversity gradually eroded away by the desire of some for increasing European conformity.

Despite the negative fear campaign being waged by the Stay-in the EU group, I am not in the least bit afraid to leave. What really scares me is the thought of what Europe will become if we remain in it, and what the UK will also gradually be forced to become too. For this reason alone I trust the electorate do not make the same mistake they made in 1975 and become beguiled by the romance of Europe as opposed to the hard realities.

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