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.

January 2016

Happy New Year 02As we venture into the new year ahead of us, many of us will already be making plans for holidays escapes, family events and so on. It is also the time of the year when I try to look ahead at how forthcoming situations are likely to develop.

.

Politics.

Well the last year certainly saw a major sea change in the face of British politics following the General Election. As I predicted, the Lib/Dem Party suffered badly at the hands of the electorate, even in some of their previous stronghold seats. Labour fared better but were completely routed in Scotland following the expected surge in support for the Scottish National Party (SNP). This now only leaves the three traditional parties with one seat each in Scotland. Despite showing strong backing in the ballot box, UKIP, failed to translate this into sufficient votes to gain seats except one they held due to the local popularity of the sitting MP. All of this, particularly the collapse of Labour seats in Scotland, enabled  the Tories to hold onto power but with only a slender majority. Due to the changed face of the House of Commons, it is likely the year ahead will contain much wrangling about Scotland which already has it’s own separate Parliament, also being able to vote on matters concerning England alone via its Scottish MP’s, while English MP’s are unable to vote on Scottish matters.

The thorny question of the much promised European Referendum will also take increasingly prominence as the year wears on. Proposed reform of the EU will be under discussion during the year particularly the question of benefit payments to migrants. This is likely to require a treaty change by all 28 member states of the EU, but already some of the more poorer member states have indicated they are unlikely to agree to this.Getting the required unanimous consent for such a change may well prove impossible. All of this means the Prime Minister will quickly run out of time for manoeuvring room on the referendum and if he does not call the referendum this year, then he will be forced to do so in 2017 when more favourable conditions for a Yes vote from his point of view may have substantially changed.

Immigration.

The past year has seen a groundswell of migrants both refugees and economic flooding into Europe. As refugees are supposed to be settled in the first non-war torn country they reach, it is debatable whether all refugees into Northern Europe are economic migrants or not. Whatever the nuances of classification may be, the impact of mass migration is a reality. Some countries have flung their doors wide open to migrants but after an estimated one million of more migrants have already entered Germany alone. there are signs of increasing polarization in some communities where internal tensions and friction have arisen. There are also signs that European politicians are now trying to limit even more migrant arrivals in the forthcoming year by persuading mainly more Eastern European countries to take a greater share of them, but is likely there will be resistance on this issue. If European countries do not succeed on the reallocation of migrants, it is possible even more internal tensions are unfortunately likely to arise.Whatever a individuals thoughts are on this matter, the reality is the floodgates to this human tide have now been well and truly opened and it may prove impossible to close them again.

Fishing for Bass is now illegal.

According to some newspaper reports, the 1st January was the day  when it became illegal for fishermen to fish for Bass, even when using one rod and line from the beach. These restrictions will last up until June after which time the rules will be relaxed to allow fishermen to catch one bass only.  Apparently this directive already branded by some as absurd, came unannounced from the EU and few in the UK Government seem to know anything about it. The questionability of this new non-Parliamentary law is further highlighted by those that claim there no shortage of bass and off-shore trawlers predominantly French and Spanish will still be allowed to catch up to 1.3 tonnes of bass per month. The logic behind what amounts to a diktat is as yet still unclear.Although this directive is but a small example of the EU law making process, assuming process is the right word,  it does highlight the dangers of the UK having relinquished it’s sovereign powers to a non-elected body that may not always appear to have the UK’s interests at heart. Roll on the referendum. My guess is I would be surprised if any beach angler were prosecuted over this issue.

Flooding.

The run up to Christmas and beyond saw the northwest of England continually pounded by exceedingly above average rainfall. Subsequent heavy storms have also been experienced in areas of the northeast like the historic city of York, and southwest Scotland causing severe flooding in all these areas .Although York does have good flood defences apparently the defences that protect the flood gates that oversees this flood catchment area are not as robust. Consequently it is claimed that Environmental Agency officials opened the flood gates to protect the flood gate mechanism but in so doing, allowed the city to flood. If true, many might find this sort of logic a bit hard to swallow.

I live close to the Somerset Levels which experienced similar problems two years ago and know what may look like statistics on a piece of paper, actually translates into many months of misery and hardship for both residents and businesses alike. Homes need to be vacated for remedial  repair work. while the residents live in temporary and often inconvenient accommodation.

I suspect when the dust settles, or perhaps a better euphemism would be when the floods recede, there will be some sort of enquiry into the whole issue of flooding. Perhaps a token head may roll here and there with promises made for the future. but until something is actually done, which usually costs money, chance flooding is likely to continue.

The wind of political change

Ballot BoxThe ink on the General Election  ballot paper is barely dry, yet the die for the next five years is already well and truly cast. As the individual politicians either celebrate their victories or lick their wounds with various party leaders already falling on their proverbial swords, thoughts must turn to what the next five years will mean.

Surprising as it may seems, in the longer term and by that I mean after the next five years and the next General Election, the outlook for working people could be far better than it has been for a long time provided the Labour Party quickly learn their lesson. In the short-term, provided there is no political trickery, it should also mean that finally the electorate will  have its say on Europe which they have been denied by politicians for the last 40 years.

No one can say if the majority of the electorate will eventually vote to stay in the EU or not but there can be no doubt of the hue and cry from the electorate over the years that people want their say on the matter. With the leader of the Labour Party saying  a EU Referendum is unlikely  to take place if Labour won the next General Election and another Labour politician suggesting that British people could not be ‘trusted’ to decide if they wanted to stay in the EU or not, caused resentment amongst many voters.

Equally ignoring issues like over immigration and the real consequences it has caused in employment,  housing, education and health did nothing to curry any favour between the electorate and those they perceived dismissive of the problem in the past.

Although I do not support them, the SNP has won a massive victory in Scotland and must be congratulated for that as clearly that is how Scottish voters feel. However although they will now form a sizeable minority party in Parliament, their political teeth have been pulled in terms of hopes of ruling the whole of the country through a coalition. The SNP victory also shows how dependent Labour had become over the years on their Scottish politicians at the expense of other and less urbanised areas of the country. With that support taken away overnight, the numbers simply did not add up in terms of parliamentary seats of them ever hoping to form a government on their own.

And there lies the nub of Labour’s problem, one of trust or more accurately lack of trust in them by many of the electorate. Lack of trust or faith is something that did not happen overnight, it has been building for years and Labour did not appear to have the foresight to see it coming, understanding it, or countering it.

The electorate is not a single entity that can be taken for granted and used as a rite of passage into Parliament,  it is millions of decent hard working individuals each with their own independent thoughts and aspirations most whom loathe being lectured at by elitist politicians. Many working people now feel they have no political party to represent their views. For many it was once the principles of Keir Hardie they supported, strong principles which sometimes seem more recently to have become clouded or evaporated.. For a great many people it is not a case of them having moved away from the Labour Party, to them it feels more of a case that the Labour Party has moved away from them.

The Labour Party is now begun the process of choosing a new leader and it is likely unless they choose a person that voters can believe in, that any future policies Labour develop will be seen as anything other than words on paper. This point on the choice the right leader has already been expressed by some Labour politicians fearful Labour may once again be sleepwalk into the same mistakes of the past.

Something I often hear in conversations is peoples distrust in careerist politicians who they feel  lack the contact, experience and understanding of everyday folk and their hopes, fears and aspirations. Nothing makes many peoples blood boil faster than politicians they perceive as “champagne socialists” glibly deciding what is best for them rather than asking or understanding them.

At the end of the day, it is those same people who are going to put their X on a future ballot paper against a particular politician’s name or not. Politicians who appear to alienate people  are only alienating themselves.

Choice of their new leader is a matter for Labour alone although some bloodletting over their General Election defeat has already begun. Even if they choose the right person, Labour still face the monumental task of rebuilding its trust and faith with the electorate. Choose the wrong person and they face many more years in the wilderness.

%d bloggers like this: