Brexit Breaks Britain

June 30, 2016 Leave a comment

As a visitor in London on the weekend of the Brexit Referendum, there was a strange atmosphere about the place. It felt as though a country had taken leave of their collective senses, and for this correspondent, it had an air of being behind enemy lines. The country that stood for Europe in 1939, had now rejected the institution that came from the ashes of that war. The Leave decision had seemed both brutish and symbolic. The UK had voted to quit after decades of tabloid vitriol and contempt towards Brussels and a populist campaign that preyed on fears about immigration by appealing to the worst instincts of the electorate. Europe had lost a member of the family. Things had changed utterly.

The fallout from this self-inflicted catastrophe was in many ways worse than feared. Trillions wiped from share value globally, a spike in racist assaults in England and political chaos at Westminster. The demographic and class split that had been projected by pollsters, came home in dramatic and divisive fashion. The Old voted to Leave, the Young voted to stay. Middle Class Graduates voted to Remain, Working Class voters wanted to go. Scotland, London and Northern Ireland put it up to the rest of the United Kingdom; we aren’t with you, mate.  The consequences of last Thursday’s decision will be played out for years.

For the Conservatives, the reckoning was swift. David Cameron will go down in history as having made a monumental error in calling this referendum to appease the right wing of his own party. The catastrophe has cost Boris Johnson his lifelong ambition to be Prime Minister. The party of traditional financial stability has presided over the most risky political stunt in the last fifty years. It looks like Theresa May might come through as PM by being one of the last sane Tory MPs in the field.

The Labour Party is in absolute turmoil. A career Trot clings stubbornly to power when the overwhelming majority of his elected colleagues want him out and out now. Corbyn runs the very real risk of destroying HM’s Opposition. Egged on by a motley collection of dreamers, political know-nothings and, frankly, mad individuals, the Corbyn experiment has failed. It is time for Labour to regroup around a Centre-Left Remainer, someone who won’t be afraid to put it up to the Hard Left that if they want street politics, there are alternative parties for them to join.

The case for Scotland having a second independence referendum has never been stronger. Nicola Sturgeon can argue that the interests of voters north of Hadrian’s Wall have irreparably drifted from those south of the border. The hypocrisy of a Westminster Tory government dominated by Leavers dictating policy to Scotland on such a kernel matter of self-determination would be breath-taking. If Labour pivot to supporting the case for Scottish independence, the march towards that goal may be swifter than imagined less than only two years ago. A constitutional crisis that has been sped up rather than created, Brexit has served to underline that Scotland and England are inexorably drifting apart.

Another fine mess the Leavers have created is injecting fresh doubt into Northern Ireland. The Six Counties voted to remain. The DUP – bizarrely – supported a referendum that drives a wedge in the Union. As it happens, the Irish Government will row behind many of the British Brexit negotiation positions; this is because governments tend to look to national interests. But let’s be clear. Nationalists can point to the winner takes all democratic centralism of the vote result. The Good Friday Agreement was a precarious patchwork of a deal; last Thursday’s result has frightened many.

The demographic breakdown from Brexit is a further issue of concern. The lowering of the tone has allowed racism to rear its ugly head in public. The anti-immigration rhetoric was stoked up so much that we shouldn’t be surprised that working class areas voted to leave. If you’re not White or Eastern European, it is not a good time to be living in certain parts of England. The fact that younger people voted to remain may offer some solace for future European engagement. But the country voted out and once Article 50 is invoked, the countdown to leaving begins.

The grounds for optimism aren’t that widespread. The hope is that market adjustments and political instability will be short-term. But the real risk is that voting leave has done real medium to long-term damage to the UK, Europe and the World. The Centre may hold, but this unnecessary political adventurism has shattered the hopes of millions. Better Together wasn’t just a slogan to remain, it is a truism that we should all aspire to or should we not, there should be compelling reasons not to. Leave never made the case that there were these reasons. They’ve broken it. They can try and fix it.

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Trump’s Triumph, Corbyn’s Muddling On, Drugs not Working

Trump’s Card a Losing One

Trump’s only gone and done it. He’s decimated his opponents in the Republican camp and is now the presumptive GOP nominee. There are a few (wise) commentators saying that he may even go on to win. The process so far has been bizarre beyond belief that this horrifying prospect can’t be ruled out. But it is unlikely. Look at 2008 and 2012. President Obama’ election and re-election have shown us that the electoral demographics have changed significantly since the Reagan hey-day. It is no longer possible to be elected by angry white men. There aren’t enough white voters without college degrees to elect Trump. Black voters aren’t going to go for the Manhattan goon. While he probably could run Hillary a lot closer than the more optimistic Democratic pundits are suggesting, he’s still going to lose. But even if she wins by a 48-50 state clean sweep or takes 55 to 57% of the vote, it means tens of millions of Americans voting for a racist ignoramus. The withdrawal of Ted Cruz means Trump can start making some PR hires and consultants to help him move to the Centre. It may be much too late to convince many in the Republican Party. For Paul Ryan, both Bush Presidents, the vast majority of Congressional GOP representatives and conservative talking heads, Trump is either seen as un-electable or beyond the pale. There is an irony to this. The Republican Establishment encouraged the growth of Tea Party know-nothingsism by caving in to the wing-nuts. Now, the lunatics have truly taken over the establishment. Trump won’t win in 2016. But he will make America worse again over the coming months. For a country that prides itself as one of the cradles of modern democracy, there is something profoundly wrong about a system that allows such a thug to get so far in the race to the White House.

Corbynista Denial

Jeremy Corbyn can claim that last week’s test of the electorate was a good result. No it wasn’t. A British Labour party should be racking up hundreds of gains in the local elections, not making a small net loss. The results in Scotland were grim. The Conservatives are now the official opposition in Hollyrood. That’s how far the SNP have outmaneuvered Labour. There was a zero bounce for Corbyn in Scotland. The victory of Sadiq Khan in the London Mayoral vote came from a strong candidate who distanced himself from the Labour leadership. This writer doesn’t hold with many on the Soft Left that Jeremy Corbyn is wrong on every issue. He is thoroughly unelectable as a Prime Minister though and the sooner Her Majesty’s Opposition come to their senses and depose him, the better. Sadly, this looks like being later rather than sooner. He will trundle on as a General despised by his Officers but loved by his troops. He is a hero of the Regressive Left who hold with the 100 year strategy for political gradualism. And who benefits? The Conservative Party, that’s who. The same Tory Party that’s in a state of civil war over Europe. Yet, friends of Jeremy would rather go down in flames than face political realities. Even if the Conservatives implode after the June referendum, the Labour Party is ill-placed to capitalise on such an internal collapse. There’s not a lot to be optimistic about.

Drugs Dilemma 

The ‘war on drugs’ must be one of the longest and most unsuccessful wars of all times. The arguments are well rehearsed; both pro and anti-legalisation hold to their shibboleths to their hearts and heads. There are strong moral and policy grounds for maintaining the law and order approach. If tobacco were discovered tomorrow, with what we know now, there would be no health grounds for licensing it. And that is the argument that legalisers have to defend. Are they saying that as long as it’s legal and sold under license, we shouldn’t care about those who become addicted to the product? But the central point of those advocating change holds strong. The sheer cost of the ‘war’, the loss of life, the growth of criminal cartels, the corrupting of public officials with narco-money, all these have been an appalling drain on human and financial capital over the last forty years. Legalisation isn’t a magic wand but it would have the immediate effect of de-criminalising users of both hard and soft drugs and the concomitant removal of that cohort from the criminal justice system. Vast swathes of American and European society have been scourged by heroin, crack; it may be too late for that lost generation. The hardest part of legalising the trade is the recognition that that there will be new addicts with the resulting social problems for individuals and families. But it would be better than what we have now; a war without end.

 

 

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Bernie, Blockage and Brexit

April 26, 2016 Leave a comment

Sanders End?

There has been something inspiring about the Bernie Sanders run for President. A veteran Left-Winger runs for the Democrats as self-declared socialist. That’s pretty gutsy to start with. Sanders is speaking like a man a pre-Carter Democrat. There is carping, some of it justified, that Bernie is a carpet-bagger, hitching his bandwagon to the Dems. His supporters would turn around and say that he, and not Hillary, is the true heir to the LBJ Great Society, to the FDR New Deal and a necessary counterpoint to the DNC Democratic compromise of the mid 1980s to the present. No cynical triangulation for Bernie; he says what he means and means what he says.  But the Sanders journey may be coming to an end. While HRC is only 200 pledged delegates ahead, such is the sweep that the Vermont Senator requires between now and June 2016, Hillary may not even require the super-delegates to come out in her favour. Despite the enthusiasm, the sincerity, the lack of pandering to big interests, he may just have reached the end of the road. He will probably keep going, just as his opponent did in 2008 against the outgoing President. It may have been an impossible dream from the start. And it would be appalling if Trump were to sneak in as President because Bernie supporters decide to stay at home. US politics is broken in so many ways. Bernie Sanders tried his best to fix that. It has been a valiant run and he should be saluted for his passion and integrity in truly trying to make America great again.

Government Impasse

It looks like we might be heading for a new type of government in Ireland. Or then again, maybe we’re not. Such has been the tortuous path of negotiations between Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, most of the Independents and indeed with everybody else but Sinn Fein, that it is still impossible to say if these talks will end in a new type of politics in Ireland or another General Election. We just don’t do things like they do in mainland Europe; we can’t go months without an elected government as our institutions and local councils do not have enough autonomy and authority to survive for long periods without guidance and direction. The state rumbles on but for every week that there’s no elected cabinet, for every day there’s no Taoiseach, for every hour there aren’t ministers with sufficient democratic mandates to take executive action, the body politic becomes more and more weakened. The public may not take well to the behaviour of the two major centrist parties refusing to go into government together or even agreeing minimum supply and confidence measures. There’s so little between the two major parties on policy grounds that any contested discussions are more smoke and mirrors than differences of real substance. There is a real danger, if the two big parties put their heads in the sand, that a succession of elections could make Ireland ungovernable. There is a virtue in compromise. It can be reached. But the odds are on an election within three years and it will be quite an achievement to even make it to that length of time.

US opposes Brexit

Barack Obama is enjoying a well-deserved swan-song tour of Europe. He stated quite unambiguously while speaking in Britain that Brexit would not be in the interests of the British people. He said, quite rightly, that should the United Kingdom vote to leave the European Union, then Britain would go to the back of the queue when it came to trade negotiations. Why this was decried by the motley right-wing crew who look like they could well succeed in forcing UK cessation from the EU is not surprising, They don’t like hearing the truth on this one. We simply do not know the level of economic shock and the duration of the same that will occur should the British in their wisdom decide to leave. There will be an immediate drop of several hundred points in stick markets across the world. The British would be entering totally uncharted territory. Never before has a constituent member of the European Union left the ‘club’. Despite what the Brexit proponents have suggested, the Berlaymont will not be rushing in with a plan B. The Plan B, such as it is, is scrambling for help and international goodwill which may be in short supply after the UK’s history of saying ‘non’ throughout their membership of the EU. This is a much bigger issue than Cameron’s survival as Prime Minister. He may win the vote with Labour Party votes. But he has brought this upon himself. Like Oedipus, he may be the master of his fate and the master of his downfall. President Obama was right to say what he did,

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Obama Review, IDS Resignation, Who Will Govern?, ISIS Threat

March 31, 2016 Leave a comment

Obama Overview

The BBC Documentary series on Obama already has an elegiac feel to it. Compared to the horrors of the Republican Party nomination process, President Obama’s eight years in Office already assume as rosy glow. The series works because of the superb access – look, there’s Hillary Clinton! – behold, it’s Bob Gates! – and while there’s an overall tone of respect from the programme makers, they don’t shy away from the more troublesome aspects of the legacy. Syria is a blot on the conscience of humanity; but did Barack Obama cause this? The inability to tackle inequality in the US; is this Obama’s fault, or more likely, could any President have survived the GOP scorched earth policy that Obama has had to endure from 2008? On a smaller level, a couple of things strike this viewer. The first is how much Barack Obama has aged in the last eight years; a Presidency will not help you look younger. The second is that being President is like chairing a board and having to sift through the opinion of principals. ‘O’ arguably steered the world away from a global depression in 2008/09. His job is one most of us would find impossible to cope with. This series is a fitting testimony to the qualities of the man.

IDS Missile

So, so long Ian Duncan Smith. The Quiet Man has raised his voice yet again, and, what exactly? His resignation should not be seen as matter of principle over spending. To say that IDS is on the economic Left of the Tory Party is not to know the Conservatives. They are a party of power that drift between the centre and the right; it is difficult to have respect for any organisation and leader that had Lynton Crosby as one of their main advisors. No, IDS has quit in order to be a martyr for the anti-European cause, laying down a marker for if and when Boris becomes PM. Maybe this long-term dis-loyalist has ambitions for the top job himself? Maybe; but most Conservatives will remember his disastrous time as leader at the turn of the century. When Cameron goes, it could be a bit of a free for all. George Osborne is still well placed but if Brexit is carried and Britain leave the EU, then IDS will be a happy man wherever he ends up. Britain could be sleepwalker into leaving the European Union; Europe will be a very different place if they do.

Multi-Party or Grand Coalition

The aftermath of the Republic of Ireland’s General Election leaves the country celebrating their 1916 commemorations without a permanent government. While Ireland hasn’t had a single party government since the 1970s, it has usually been straightforward enough to form a coalition. This time, the parties are weighing up whether a minority multi-party administration can be formed on a ‘confidence and supply’ basis or if there should be a burying of the hatchet between the two big traditionally Centre parties – Fine Gael and Fianna Fail – to form a comfortable and stable government. Under PRSTV, the Irish electorate is expected to throw up fractured results well into the immediate future. Many commentators are now arguing that only a grand coalition between the two big civil war parties will lead to a government that will last the course. While mainland Europe may be used to month after month of political negotiations, it is not the Irish way. The pressure will really be on in April for the political shadow boxing to stop and for the adults to take over in the negotiations to establish an administration that is effective and one that has a mandate.

ISIS Crisis

Another month, another ISIS atrocity. This time Brussels, tomorrow, the Middle East, Africa, anywhere. That’s why the ISIS campaign of violence is so frightening. Their political objectives are so beyond sane that to even write that phrase makes the stomach churn. These thugs are ruthless killers; they corrupt the young and poison their minds. It is a death cult that seems all too easy to join and all but impossible to escape. The response in Europe will be more security. Better to feel safe than sorry. But ISIS are winning to the extent that the West are having to change their way of life every time there’s a terrorist outrage or a hostage is decapitated. This is not the time for moral equivocating. This feels like an existential struggle. President Obama is right in his objectives on this one; ISIS must be degraded and destroyed. It is a campaign that one fears may take decades. That is the tragedy; it may not take as long as that but the US is not dealing with a rational actor in this situation. The resolve of the West is being severely tested.

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The Johnson Doctrine, Hope v Fear in the USA

February 21, 2016 Leave a comment

The Boris Brexit Bet

Fortune favours the brave. Sometimes. Boris Johnson’s move to come out for a ‘No’ vote in the Brexit referendum is undoubtedly brave. He could have accepted the probability of a ‘Yes’ vote, rowed in behind Cameron and, difficult for Boris, kept his mouth shout for the next few months. Instead, he’s gone and rolled the dice for the biggest gamble of his political career so far. What’s in it for him?

There are a few scenarios that play out, some good for Johnson, some not so good. Let’s start with a bad one for Blonde Ambition. The ‘Yes’ side wins and it wins by a rout; over 60% of the electorate votes and over 60% vote yes. This is entirely possible. If Labour goes out and campaigns hard, if the Cameron can staunch the internal party bleeding and if most ordinary British subjects think about the crucial choice they have to make, possibly the most politically existential decision for the rest of their lives, there may be a turning away from the nuclear option. This is bad for Boris and other ‘No’ candidates.A defeat for Boris sees his opponents mount a ferocious attack on his ‘No’ leadership, presenting is as a wild piece of opportunism, an act of disloyalty that disbars him from the highest office.

A middling scenario for BoJo is a narrow win for the ‘Yes’ side. There will then be immense pressure on Cameron to quit sooner rather than later. A narrow vote to stay in would mean millions of Tory supporters had voted no. The grass-roots will start agitating for change and Johnson will be in the mix for Conservative Party leadership and the prize of PM.

The calculus gets even better with a narrow ‘No’ win. There will be blood, rancour and recrimination but Johnson stands a good chance of coming out on top after the knife fight.

Then there’s the dream result. A comfortable or crushing ‘No’ victory. Forget for now whether or not this would be a disaster for British National Interests – it would be- and look at it from Johnson’s point of view. He gets the acclamation of the febrile right-wing Euro-sceptic Press. He is then head and shoulders above any other candidate in terms of popularity with the public. Should Cameron lose, there’ll either be an immediate resignation or a pledge to lead his country’s withdrawal negotiations from the EU. The latter may be politically unviable. Johnson wins.

Cameron gave a hostage to fortune when proposing the terms of this referendum. Boris Johnson knows this may be his best opportunity to become Prime Minister. Cameron’s ignominy could be Johnson’s glory.

Civil Politics and End of Days; US Primary Season Rolls On

American politics, particularly the 2016 Presidential cycle, never ceases to amaze and appal. The results of last night’s Nevada Caucus (Democratic Party) and South Carolina Primary (Republican Party) gives much for discussion and much for deep concern.

The Democratic Primary season is still  by-and-large, being fought without rancour by the two candidates. While many supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders might strongly disagree with that statement, the two main actors have been mainly civil and courteous when in debate with or commenting on each other. They have had a battle of ideas; an essential and ever-topical debate among Liberals. Sanders is the democratic revolutionary, Clinton the gradualist. Clinton is portraying herself as the realist candidate, Bernie as the only one looking at the real issues. Let’s give each credit where it’s due and that credit is coming from an unlikely source, Noam Chomsky. When asked if there was a difference between the two parties, the radical Professor said that there was a clear one. The Democrats accept that global warming is a man-made phenomenon and are committed to trying to save the planet. Then there’s the Republicans.

The bizarre and irresistible rise of Donald Trump has most political commentators baffled. He has continued to be the anti-candidate, channelling the Bubba vote, taking stances so extreme, so frightening, that President Obama commented that most Americans wouldn’t trust Trump with the nuclear codes. His complete absence of grace is now, apparently, a winning asset. Van Jones was right to point out Trump’s lack of any class, ignoring Jeb Bush completely when the hapless former Governor pulled out of the race; at least Marco Rubio paid tribute. While Ted Cruz may still be the one, arguably, with a better path to nomination, it is Trump who is casting all the shade.

The odds on a Trump nomination in a divided field are shortening by the day, however. The hope is that if Trump, or Cruz (who on many issues, is just as extreme) gets the nomination, Clinton or Sanders will rekindle the Obama plurality. Rubio, despite his manifest weaknesses, would at least garner Moderate votes.  Trump could bring the Republicans down in flames as many in the GOP vote Democrat in disgust. Donald Trump stopped being a joke months ago. He needs to be taken seriously by both the Republican establishment and the commentariat. He is a threat to democracy and world peace.

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Kernel Issues for Sanders, Returning to an X and Taxing Problems

January 23, 2016 Leave a comment

Bernie Sanders; the Possibilities

Bernie Sanders may win Iowa, New Hampshire and run Hilary Clinton all the way to June while Nate Silver is already calling it for Clinton, big style. Let’s imagine Silver is wrong (he is human after all but made his reputation by calling 2012 straight down the line). What are the pluses and minuses of a Sanders nomination?

Sanders can win in a run off against Trump or Cruz. HRC supporters will vote for him; the zero-sum game of US Presidential politics mean they have no choice. He would be vulnerable to a centrist Republican Presidential pick but that species hasn’t been seen since Eisenhower. His could, conceivably, go all the way to the White House. If he selects Elizabeth Warren for VP, the Democrats will have a Team that means business. But he could lose to Rubio or Bush. The fact that neither of these candidates looks like getting the GOP seal of approval means that Sanders can appeal to the better nature of the American Electorate not to elect a raving lunatic. However, Senator Sanders would be the most Left Wing candidate since George McGovern and things didn’t end well for him.

The downside to a Sanders nomination is that fear will win out over hope. Polls are just that; polls. They were wrong during the 2015 British Election and could be under-estimating (scary thought) Trump’s popularity among Blue Collar voters. In a straight vote, Sanders would surely beat Trump (sweet revenge for Woodie Guthrie who was saw first-hand what an bully Trump’s father was) but an Electoral College means nothing can be taken for granted against Cruz. Sanders is well to the Left of most House Democrats. His nomination would see him leading a party removed from a lot of his core beliefs. He may not get much done in any Presidential term. President Sanders might face a death of a thousand cuts.

The Truthers are Out There

‘The X Files’ makes (for what is this writer) a welcome return to the small screen this week. Hopefully the writing will live up to the quality of the 1990s. While it is Sci-Fi or cross-genre fiction, its use of conspiracy theories and government surveillance has never been more topical. Whenever a large scale disaster, plane crash or an absolutely cataclysmic event like 9-11 occurs, the ‘Truthers’ can’t wait to head on-line ‘first’. The investigations of Mulder and Scully seem like a documentary to a sub-culture of web-heads. Their theology holds that the September 11th attacks were an inside job, that mass shootings are – and this is where you have to reach for the sick bucket – ‘false flag’ operations directed by Obama in person. Jon Ronson and others have covered much of this territory to comic effect; a lot of the time, these people aren’t funny – see the rise of the Trump battalions. Edward Snowden and the revelations about Big Data meant that many (who wanted it) had their ‘we told you so’ moment. This coincided with the ‘why vote, they’re all the same’ movement, which just lets the wrong guys win. This viewer is looking forward to the ‘X Files’ for good story telling that seems plausible, where he can willingly suspend his disbelief. He won’t be tuning in to vindicate his know-nothing conspiracism where the official explanation is never the right one. Of course ‘they’ want you to think it is…’Trust No One’.

Avoiding Tax…Discussions

Corporate Tax is one of the few touchstone issues left determining where someone stands on the political spectrum. It should be an easy determinant of Left/Right political opinion. In smaller nation states, unfortunately, there’s a consensus that the ‘beggar thy neighbour ‘ approach is one of the few strategies a small, open economy has in a competitive world. It is usually the far Left or those dismissed as ‘cranks’ who campaign for higher corporation tax or, at the very least, a shared common rate. Tax undercutting is a short-term measure that bodes no guarantee of long term success. There’s no merit in continually gearing tax policy to suit corporations rather than the long-term funding of social services; this is an enormous international issue that’s not going to go away. As more jobs become automated, governments are scrambling or kow-towing to the demands of international corporations. Campaigning on this is no mere populism; there needs to be a consensus on the issue before more institutions, municipalities and states fail due to lack of a sustainable tax base. It’s commonsense and politicians who ignore the issue or abet big business should be held accountable by the electorate at every election. Public Service sustainability may not sound as ‘sexy’ as saving the planet but for humankind, it is as important. Multinational Companies and Corporations should pay their fair-share of tax; urgent changes to company and accounting regulations should be undertaken. Life is much too brief to keep kicking the can down the road on this one; we need action, now.

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Cameron’s Luck, Balls on the Up and Using the Force

December 29, 2015 Leave a comment

Cameron Rolls the Dice

Napoleon asked that he be given lucky Generals. Meticulous preparation and cunning can only get you so far as eventually – as was the case with the Revolutionary/Dictator – luck will run out. The commodity of good fortune in politics should not be underestimated. One such beneficiary of this has been David Cameron. Cameron has had several great and extraordinary escapes since becoming Prime Minister. The two most notable are winning the 2015 General Election and the Independence Referendum in Scotland. The former was a stunning political ‘coup’ which his own political Generals scarcely believed was possible. The latter, Scotland, was on a knife-edge up until the final few days; the ‘No’ side was arguably saved by Gordon Brown (irony of ironies). He has had other big escapes also; many is the Tory PM who would have been dragged down by the Murdoch Phone Tapping Scandal. He had no hesitation in throwing Andy Coulson under a bus to save his own hide. More recently, Cameron has enjoyed more good fortune with the Labour Party electing the probably unelectable Jeremy Corbyn. He has, for goodness sake, also survived a rumour that he performed a sex act on dead pig. But the sea of troubles is about to get more stormy.

Europe; an entity for the Little Englander that begins after Calais. The ‘European Question’ (none of the other member states have such a term, yet) is a symptom of insecurity. There are huge problems with European institutions and the neo-liberal consensus therein. But Cameron’s view is that austerity is fine as long as it is self-imposed. His reform is reduction; a reduction of consumer, worker and human rights. Yet he has called a referendum that will be his biggest roll of the dice yet. There’s no guarantee he’ll get sufficient concessions from his European ‘partners’ to be able to sell a package to a domestic audience. Corbyn’s ‘New Politics’ might also see the Opposition move towards an ‘Out’ stance. The best hope Cameron has of winning a referendum is for a vote in spite of, and not because of, him. If he loses, then it’s an absolute disaster., He will need his luck to last to get a win-win from a needless referendum. The Conservatives are already experiencing a period of intense European Naval Gazing; in the run up to one of the most critical strategic decisions the British have ever have to make, Tory self-indulgence is only going to multiply. Cameron should start praying to the Gods.

Ed ‘Foot’ Balls

There are said to be no second acts in politics. Mostly, this is true; politicians reach a pinnacle and once they can’t go any further, it’s all downhill from there. William Hague was one of the few to buck the trend, coming back from his disastrous spell as Tory Leader to become Foreign Secretary. The trick, if you really want a return to the front-line, is to try to hold a semi-public profile in the recovery period. The shock of losing a seat at a General Election is profound but there’s nothing quite like getting back on the horse to keep you going. The recent appointment of Ed Balls as Norwich City FC Chairman is intriguing. One of the biggest of the big beasts, one foot in 11 Downing Street, he has chosen that semi-public role. He has said he does not wish to return to front-line politics but is this the case. A position like this and others leave him ideally placed to get back on that horse. There’s more to life than politics, as Balls is discovering. On the grounds of never say never, he might be advised not to rule anything out. We may see him back yet.

A Force for Good

‘Star Wars – The Force Awakens’ is, for many, a pleasing return to the childhood comforts of ‘A New Hope’. Many of us Middle-Aged Fanboys and Girls will have warm memories of one of their first trips to the cinema; the nostalgia is strong in this one. The latest chapter in the saga continues the battle between good and evil; the politics of Star Wars haven’t changed much in the Parts IV to the current outing. The Empire or First Order are the epitome of Might is Right fascism. Which brings us back to 1977…

‘Star Wars’ came out when WWII was in living memory. Just over thirty years previously, storm-troopers had swept through Eastern Europe leaving a trail of carnage and destruction. The script was about as powerful a warning a child could get to a the power of the dark-side in the recent past. It worked on this level as most parents bringing their children to the cinema in 1977 were ‘Boomers’; alright, they, like their kids, enjoyed it primarily on a ‘Space Opera/Western’ level like any great story, Lucas knew what he was doing by calling his bad guys ‘storm-troopers’. These guys were the Nazis in Space; even if us younglings didn’t know it, we were being schooled – ‘history’ lessons have rarely been as entertaining or as instructive, 

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