Britain on the Brink

September 29, 2019 Leave a comment

Boris Johnson is leading his country down a very dangerous path indeed. His unanimous defeat at the hands of the Supreme Court over the prorogation of parliament has led to zero contrition. In what would have under any other pre-Brexit times have led to the immediate resignation of the Prime Minister, Johnson has double-downed. With the most right wing cabinet in living memory, and in Dominic Cummings, an advisor who takes his tactics from Steve Bannon, the current incumbent at Number Ten shows no signs of deviating from his course of action to stir up a populist war of ‘Parliament v The People’. As commented previously, this writer has noted Johnson’s complete lack of principles, and his total opportunism to gain and hold power. Public service is the last thing on his mind, he wants to serve his monstrous ego, and attempt to satiate what to many appear his insatiable appetites. He has shown himself to be a liar in apprenticeship to the Father of Lies across the Atlantic, they have a similar relationship with facts and the truth. Johnson may be smarter than Trump, but he is no less devious. He uses humour as a mask, to distract from what he really thinks. Rhetoric need not be yoked to cynicism, but sadly, for the current Downing Street occupant, they seem to be inseparable.

Johnson’s intemperance in parliament was shocking, but after recent behaviour and performances, scarcely surprising. Several female MPs now face death threats on a daily basis, and there is a general need for parliamentarians to recognise that Brexit has tinder box potential, particularly following Jo Cox’s murder by a right wing extremist. Yet Johnson callously dismissed such concerns as ‘humbug’, and he continues to increasingly weaponise the issue by using such terms as ‘surrender’ and ‘betrayal’. With the far right on the rise, and the term ‘traitor’ being thrown with alacrity by them at anyone opposing their British nationalist no-deal Brexit views, the use of such terms needlessly or deliberately puts peoples safety at risks. By any fair-minded analysis, it’s not Remainers threatening or actually assaulting people, or issuing threats against Leavers; threats and actual violence are coming overwhelmingly from the Leave side, albeit from a minority. Johnson is not a stupid man, he knows what he’s doing. He is dangerous because it would appear that he will do almost anything to win and stay in power. There is a slippery slope from the demagogue to dictator. Johnson has already demonstrated his contempt for democratic forbearance.

European capitals must assume that Johnson is still scheming for a No Deal. Parliament under the hastily put together but strongly drafted Benn Act is full square behind preventing this and Johnson is unable to do so as the parliament stands. But if a vote of no confidence somehow accidentally leads to a general election before October 31st, then he can crash out and appease the Conservatives who can only be described as headbangers. Tory Grandees such as Michael Heseltine and Ken Clark no longer recognise the party they joined; the One Nation Toryism they once knew is as dead as a a Dodo in today’s Conservative Party. Johnson has junked all the credit for any good work he did while London Mayor, a record which now is coming under further critical scrutiny. If we are to judge politicians by their actions, he is behaving with disdain for the truth and political norms. Imagine if you were told in the mid-1990s that the ‘Monday Club’ and the John Major’s ‘Bastards’ would not only have taken over the Tories, but would be running the country; you’d have dismissed such a scenario as possible, but somewhat unlikely. The Notting Hill Set appear to have been a aberration in this journey. There is little prospect in the short to medium term of the Tories turning back. They are the party of Dominic Cummings, for now.

Such are the vagaries of first past the post, that it is a wise man or a fool who would seek to assuredly call the outcome of Johnson’s recklessness. Jeremy Corbyn may be down, but after the 2017 result, it would be foolhardy in the extreme to say that he is out. The man his opponents no longer call Boris is gambling on nationalist fervor seeing him returned to office when an election is called. This campaign and outcome will say a lot about the democratic direction of the United Kingdom for the next five years. Such is the strangeness of current times, there may even be a Remain Caretaker Prime Minster appointed next week. He or she will have to calm the tempestuous seas that currently threaten to engulf the mother of parliaments, and block the tides that would seem to be about to overwhelm much of what they value in their democracy.

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Reasons to be (somewhat) Cheerful

August 26, 2019 Leave a comment

Audacity of Hope

Many have tried to see and hope for a way through the current international morass. Sometimes, they make a good point when they say the current authoritarian wave will burn itself out. It may, of course, just do that. People will realise they’ve been lied too, been taken for fools, and seen those who said they’d lead them to the promised land turn out to be nothing but false prophets, lining their pockets while claiming to be of the people, It’s a con trick older than the bible; trust in me, and I will deliver for you, when, in the end, the supposed agents of deliverance turn out just to be acting for themselves. The current sitter in the White House represents a trope as old as time itself.

Optimism is important. Without it, we might become increasingly aware of an existential meaningless to our lives. We might become cynical and apathetic to the Brexiteers and Trumps of this world, deciding that if life is ultimately short and without meaning, then there’s nothing to be gained by resisting the shadow, the dark nature of ourselves. Many were willing Nazis, and thousands of Russians cried at the death of Stalin. We have to be better than that, or Santayana’s maxim becomes a truism. Resistance is what makes us truly human, and ergo divine. It can take many forms, and as demonstrated in many struggles against injustice, is strangely effective when expressed with non-violence.

There’s little to be gained from coming to an accommodation with ethno-nationalism. We may continue our comfortable lifestyle, but at a huge cost. You don’t have to be far left or a John the Baptist in the wilderness to see where Bannonism and Putinism end up unopposed and victorious; you finish at the gates of the concentration camp or the gulag when they’ve finally come for you. If we fear death so much that it governs how we live, how we think, how we stand up for others, then life itself is cheapened. We are on this Earth to make things better, or there is truly no reason other than propagation. Some geneticists may agree with this, but it seems instinctively off; even if there is no-higher purpose, we have the capacity to choose to be good.

The ‘strongman’ is strong because all of us fear torture, hate stigma, and have what we think are societal and consumer needs, that we are reluctant to take a stand while we can. The strength in numbers is precisely that as we’re able to gain power when we combine. The new totalitarianism is exactly like the old one in this key way; it seeks to divide and conquer. When Trump pits the white labourer from Michigan against the Latino immigrant, he knows exactly what he’s doing, The scapegoat has a resonance from history, and is the mark of any ruler unable to govern justly. Today’s racism is sadly all too familiar.

The optimism of the hopeful is not to be mocked, or pitied, but championed. Whether it’s from protestors in Hong Kong who refuse to bow to vastly superior numbers or the protesters in Moscow who brave everything the state throws at them, ordinary people are capable of extraordinary acts. There’s no saying that the ‘baddies’ won’t win, but at least they won’t be unopposed. Liberal Democracy receives the disdain of the far left and right; it is for those, the majority somewhere in-between those polarities, to take a stand for what is right, and when we do this, we are truly alive.

G7 in France

There are three countries of the seven at the recent G7 in Biarritz that are going through a period of psychodrama which may take years to unwind from. There’s the madness of Brexit Britain, apparently heading over the cliff of a no-deal Brexit on October 31st. Then there’s Italy, where there are actual fascists in government. Third, and the biggest headache for sensible world leaders, is Trump. Macron has run as good a show as to be expected. He has shown some diplomatic poise in preventing Blotus from derailing the whole proceedings. He has held the line on the environment, and despite some indications a few days ago, France were adamant that Putin was not coming back until ’Ukraine was sorted’. Merkel and Trudeau added grist to the French rationalist mill. That’s not to say Trump is not going to repeatedly get Putin back in the club; he is. But for now, the upholders of some form of international law and order have held the line; even Johnson seemed reluctant to allow Russia back in so soon after Salisbury. The demagogue in chief has been checked for now, and it will bridle. Unfortunately, he can be, wounded animal-style, at his most dangerous after this. Constant vigilance will need to be the watchword of all good constitutionalists.

 

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Loss of America

Loss of America

Robert Mueller was supposed to be riding on a great white horse to come in and save American democracy. Unfortunately it looks like this isn’t going to happen. It’s partly the fault of writers such as the undersigned, ascribing Hollywood endings to real world scenarios. The distinguished Mr Mueller must take some of the blame too, for leading the horse of impeachment, corruption, and obstruction up to the fence, and letting it rest. His appearance before Congress will have provided few surprises for those on his side following the story, but his pained legalese style of delivery did little to expand the appetite for removing the current holder of the presidency. Only one Republican congressman has jumped ship to call for impeachment; the movement towards a change of mind on that side of the house is glacial, and gives huge grounds for pessimism. The lions share of the blame for the relative ineffectiveness needs to be apportioned to a White House that is using every trick in the book to evade the Special Counsel’s grasp.  In AG Barr, Trump has an Attorney General happy to be his Master’s voice and do the bidding of the most venal, law-breaking US President since Nixon, and Trump is in many ways worse than Tricky Dicky.

So, sadly, there’s a feeling that Trump will ride this out and cheat his way to reappointment in 2020. The current system in the US is horribly flawed, akin more to a barely certifiable democratic process more like India, than most countries in the EU. Money, big data, and new low norms in everyday politics have made the country ripe for dictatorship. This new dictator may be Trump himself, or worse, but it will differ from jackboots on the street. Who needs an SS or an SA when you just cheat with the electoral machines, gerrymander districts, suppress the vote, and be returned by an Electoral College that is as out as date as the musket and gunpowder it sought to be a bulwark against? The very federalism that was a boon to civil rights in the 60s and onwards is now being used against itself as it was before. A Senate where a representative from Montana has a vote worth around 40 times what a representative from California has is grounds for a republic that can not stand.

Civil War, of course, is the great unspoken fear. There may not be a single moment where historians can point to and say that was the start of the effective break-up of the United States, but much of the rhetoric and the bile on the Republican side, the sheer effrontery of Putin enjoying the puppet he placed in charge, the danger of people like Steve Bannon mingling his poison with other race-baiters and fascists in Europe, means that these are very frightening times. To call what is going on right now ‘populism’ is to misuse a noble word rightly owned by those fighting for the rights of the working man. Most populists are only fighting for themselves, and for lining their own pockets. If there is a second civil war, it may not erupt for another decade or so. But, and the question has been asked, if Trump wins the electoral college, but loses the popular vote by 10 million, which could well happen, then where is the legitimacy in that, where is the democracy? Even the Never-Trumpers – who have to be encouraged and welcomed in a popular front for democratic values – defend the archaic and dangerous logic of the electoral college.

There are several grounds for optimism. People power can win out and has done throughout history. But a divided opposition, as there is one now between the Centre and the Left, means that there will need to be real leadership, popular opposition in the streets in the form of mass protests, a media that stops playing the game and becomes advocates for democratic values, and a resolution that says that this may not pass, that this is a permanent threat to American values as understood by most of the citizenry. It is not something that can always be beaten by going higher either; sometimes they’ll need to fight fire with fire, and get as down and dirty as the opponent they’re facing. Trump is a grafter, someone with no great political strategy other than avoiding going to jail; he’s practiced this most of his adult life. The Democrats need to realise that Trumpism is the hijacking of prejudices and fears of a man who’s essentially a coward. They need to be ferocious in their attack on all his record, and need to throw the kitchen sink at him, and there are several candidates capable of doing this. A Republican ‘win’ in 2020 would close the door even more on democracy in America.

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Cripes! Johnson Nears the Winning Post.

Boris Johnson is only weeks away from taking the keys for Number 10 away from the departing Teresa May. Let that sink in. One of the most unqualified and ill-suited Eurosceptics of recent years is set to become a leader of a nation entering perhaps its most politically challenging post-war moment. Johnson’s charms have faded for many; gone is the cross-party support he enjoyed as London Mayor, and now he has double-downed as a populist playing to the gallery, being all things to all people among the tiny percentage of Britons that are the Conservative and Unionist party membership. Unless Jeremy Hunt can pull off a miracle, Johnson is a shoo-in into Downing Street. Hunt would be preferable, in an after Rory Stewart best of a bad lot kind of way, but at time of writing, Johnson seems unstoppable.

According to BBC figures, the average age of a Tory party member is 57. A vast swathe are in their 60s or above. In general, they are rigidly pro-Brexit, almost obsessively so. Boris Johnson is their man. They like his swagger, his disdain for the Guardianista class that they believe run the BBC, higher education, and the civil service. They hark back to a Britain of the shires, an England of the 1950s, one where modernity had yet to rear its ugly head. Some are out and out racists. Almost all say they’ve ‘had enough of political correctness’. They want a leader who’ll stand up to Brussels, and consequences be damned. As many of them are retired, they don’t really care too much about job losses. They prefer to look to the past than the future, and in Johnson, they see someone who speaks up for the values of the grocer’s daughter from Grantham. Many of them revere Margaret Thatcher, and hold that she was stabbed in the back. Their moment has come.

Johnson may turn out to be even less popular than Teresa May. Yes, he has a surer touch with journalists and much of the public that she never could have, but he is definitely a marmite politician, and will struggle to win over the undecided voter in the midlands and beyond. His Eton and Oxford charm rings hollow when you look at his comments about ethnic minorities. He has expressed a disdain for much of working class culture, and his Oxford Union antics will have limited efficacy when it comes to any upcoming Brexit negotiations. His genuine or affected Drones Club mannerisms may have been amusing on ‘Have I Got News For You’, but now they serve as a sorry testimony to the state of British politics.

His greatest asset is the lack of threat posed by Jeremy Corbyn. Labour are still a divided party, suffering terrible agonies as a hard left coterie holds out against a second referendum. If HM’s opposition were to come under new leadership, then Johnson could face a formidable challenge. As it stands, he faces more troubles from within his own party than from without. There’s a small but vocal flank of Tory MP remainers who won’t accept a no-deal under any circumstances. They know how disastrous it would be for Britain.

There’s no doubt he’s bright. But there’s a laziness to the man, the unwillingness to accept the responsibilities of a brief, or the complexities of political reality. The cult of the amateur, which appeals to a certain type of upper class English man, has had a hugely damaging effect on the European argument for the last 30 years. It has been calamitous over the last three. Johnson supported the Chequers agreement to his Prime Minister’s face, then rejected it a short while later. He walked away from his responsibilities at the Foreign Office. He is the blunderer’s blunderer.

Johnson’s great political hero is Winston Churchill. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, he’s no Churchill. If, however, and it’s a massive if, he can perform a Churchill-esque volte-face with the DUP, and have an invisible ‘border’ run through the Irish Sea, then he will have shown some of the acumen and ace-producing his idol was known for. If he doesn’t move beyond his current Telegraph and caricature-based performance art, then his future won’t be too bright at all.

Some of Johnson’s former colleagues have spoken of how utterly untrustworthy they thought him to be. Be that as it may, his brio looks like bringing him over the line. He could, potentially, set in track the break-up of the United Kingdom. That would be an ultimate irony for a man who pretends to be in the tradition of strong believers of the union. British politics may resemble a runaway train, but their next Prime Minister, far from being a figure capable of applying the brakes, looks like being one who’ll put his foot down on the accelerator.

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May’s Leave, But Chaos Remains

All things must end. Political endings are rarely voluntary. Theresa May’s defenestration was brutal and a timely reminder that no politician is irreplaceable, no leader is immortal, and that, be it in tears, or with grace, the end is rarely wished for. May might well be Prime Minister till July, but yesterday’s announcement confirmed the only words of wisdom to fall from the lips of Enoch Powell that ‘all political careers end in failure’. Her reign has left the United Kingdom a more divided place than when she succeeded David Cameron. History may not be kind to her.

May’s political record is a test case in how many conservatives (small ‘c’) are able to separate themselves from their actions. She probably believed she was a good person, and there are examples of her personal kindness to friends and to some colleagues. But the impact of her and her party’s policies has been devastating on the poor. Britain has one of the toughest social welfare regimes in Western Europe; there have been scores of suicides and premature deaths of those clearly wrongly marked fit to work. As Home Secretary, she pandered to the Tory and tabloid right be giving them the red meat of being tough on immigration. This posturing enabled a climate whereby illegal deportations of the ‘Windrush generation’ took place. Her Britain was neither Christian nor an example of compassionate conservatism, if such a thing exists. Hers was often a cruel and tone-deaf place. She was a lady not for turning, and in this she was like Margaret Thatcher.

Her personal characteristics did not help. Her tendency to keep her counsel to herself meant that her ministers and civil servants rarely knew what she was thinking or what her plans for Brexit were. She had few close friends in politics, a weakness that can be an Achilles heel in a world where loyalty and friendship are commodities. She seems to have been a more than competent administrator in the area of anti-terrorism and showed some personal courage in speaking in the lions’ den when addressing a hall of hostile police officers. But the ‘Maybot’ tag stuck, hence the shock and surprise at seeing her breakdown at the end of her Downing Street resignation. There’s nothing wrong with crying; perhaps, though, these were the tears of acceptance and grief after her denial had finally been subsumed. She may have cried, but few will have been crying with her.

Her legacy is a deeply divided country, even more cleaved than when she took over from her hapless predecessor. She missed her chances to work towards a middle ground that would have delivered a Norway-style option, or a Brexit-in-name-only. This would have alienated hard-core remainers and leavers, but delivered a middle-ground option that could’ve pleased most voters. The two big opportunities she had were in July 2016 when she became Prime Minister, and June 2017 after her disastrous general election campaign. On becoming PM, she should’ve convened an all-party constitutional convention on Brexit, and then settled the matter one way or another with a second referendum. Instead, she took the tortuous path of making concessions to the hard liners in her own party believing, wrongly, that this was the path of least resistance. In June 2017 she could have refused to cut a deal with the DUP and sought talks on a national government. Politically impossible? So is Brexit as she has played it out. But she bulldozed on with her idiotic ‘Brexit means Brexit’ sloganeering that in the end just succeeded in annoying everybody. She entertained the toxic ‘No Deal’ option just enough for it to gain serious traction. It is now a real prospect later in this year.

She could not govern an ungovernable party. The ERG fanatics would not accept any reasonable compromises and her inability to form common cause with them meant she was constantly trying the Sisyphean task of rolling the Brexit rock up the hill, only to see events and Brextremists push it down. Her successor will face the same problems. If it’s Johnson or Raab, and they promise the Tory faithful a No Deal, then they won’t get this through the current parliament. There would be a particular irony to this after the serial disloyalty of the likes of Ian Duncan Smith, some still around almost 25 years later, whom John Major called ‘bastards’. Figures like Amber Rudd have already said they won’t serve in a Johnson cabinet and they certainly won’t support the nuclear option so favoured by the increasingly more unhinged voices of what is becoming mainstream Tory opinion.

The sensible thing for Tory members and parliamentarians to do would be to elect someone like Rory Stewart. This is unlikely to happen. Instead, while Johnson may not win, expect someone who says they can get a new deal from Brussels, and that their magic formula will work, this time. May is gone, but the chaos remains.

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Trump UK Visit, EU Elections, and Notre Dame Fire

April 28, 2019 Leave a comment

Corbyn Boycotts Trump

Jeremy Corbyn has come under tabloid fire in recent days for turning down an invitation to a state banquet for the upcoming Donald Trump visit to Britain. This writer is no Corbyn fan, but in this instance, he’s made the right call.

Diplomacy is more than just being friends with people you like. Relations are kept going with regimes that appal most decent people. Human rights violations in China and Saudi Arabia are legion, Putin’s Russia is a malign force in global politics, and fascists are in government in Italy, and may also be in Spain. Diplomatic relations are maintained with governments that any sane thinking person would consider odious. But diplomacy and politics can be about doing what’s possible and achievable. Boycotting a state dinner is one such occurrence.

Corbyn and Vince Cable are not in government. They have no obligation to welcome the imposter in chief. An attendance at such an occasion dignifies someone without dignity. It would be her majesty’s opposition saying they welcome Trump in their country. Corbyn really has no choice here. He and his party are, rightly, unwilling to put a gloss on a vanity visit by a would-be autocrat. Jeremy Corbyn may not be the best leader Labour could have, but here, and to his credit, he’s made the correct call. Trump needs to be shunned, not embraced. He is an international pariah, and the sooner he and his loathsome ‘populism’ are consigned to the dustbin of history, the better for us all. Sometimes, gestures are important and appropriate, and turning down this invitation comes under both criteria. Doing the right thing is still the right thing to do.

Brexit EU Elections

The election that Brexiteers thought would never happen for them – the 2019 European Parliament election – would seem to be round the corner for the United Kingdom. There’s little consistency in the polls as to how the results will shake out. There are fears that Farrage’s new Brexit party and the increasingly racist UKIP will have a good day out and send a rump of obstructionists over to Brussels.

There are many parallels with the 1930s in the current rise of right wing parties. Where the Nazis scape-goated Jews, immigrants are now blamed for economic and cultural woes. There’s a growing contempt for democratic norms and there’s no certainty that the values many of us hold as sacrosanct can survive the current onslaught. One of the paradoxes with freedom is that it’s seldom appreciated until it’s gone. Our rights need to be protected and cherished; they can be eroded and removed before we realise it. We can’t be sure that the good guys will always win.

David Cameron’s decision to call his wretched referendum has to have been one of the most stupid acts of national sabotage in prime ministerial history. It gave licence to nationalist voices that have little regard for consensus or democratic values. Oswald Mosley wasn’t as popular or successful as some of the current voices on the hard right in Britain. Public discourse, enabled by social media, has plumbed depths that would have been completely unacceptable even five years ago.

There is the hope that there’ll be a sufficiently high turn-out from Remainers to show that Britain also speaks with a pluralist voice, and that there is another vision of where Britons see themselves in the world. If Labour stand on an anti-Brexit ticket, then there will be a real alternative for people to vote for. Unfortunately, it looks like Corbyn’s 1970s-style suspicion of the European Union will mean the party is committed to Brexit, albeit a soft one. If the Remain side can show they have critical mass, and can claim that the majority of MEPs represent their views, then this would be a major coup for them. It looks likely, however, that Leavers will have the better election. The Brexit insanity is here to stay, for now.

Notre Dame and Human Connectivity

The fire in Notre Dame shocked millions around the world. There was some commentary on it being just a building. But for those who were upset by the event, it had a deeper meaning. Notre Dame represents not just an apotheosis in civilisation, but an unbroken chain going back for centuries of custodianship. There’s a sense of connection with the previous generations who built, maintained, and added to this magnificent structure. The fire was a reminder of our shared humanity, and the simple concept that some things, concepts, and associations are just bigger than ourselves. The church may be Christian and Roman Catholic, but you didn’t have to be religious to have been saddened by the fire. It is a symbol of how art and culture can be transcendent of the humdrum and the day to day. May the rebuilding respect these values.

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Mueller and May

March 30, 2019 Leave a comment

High Crimes or Misdemeanors?

It’s nearly a week since the Trump hand-picked attorney general released a highly edited and spun version of the Mueller report. The findings, if we’re to believe a man that helped cover up Iran-Contra, puts one of the most corrupt and venal presidents of all time in the clear. According to Barr, Trump did not collude with Russia. Russia interfered in the 2016 election in a most effective, devious, and subversive way, but according to this AG, it was nothing to do with the current office holder. This simply beggars belief. Until we see the full report, we have no idea if Mueller said there was insufficient evidence to proceed with prosecution or indeed the level of Trump’s involvement with Russia. When it came to obstruction of justice, Barr could only spin enough to say that the report does not exonerate Trump of this. Why did he fire Comey, and rubbish Mueller and his team for much of the last two years? This has to have been obstruction of justice, there are no other words for it.

The full Mueller report needs to be released immediately or leaked. It is completely unacceptable that an enquiry funded with public money into the gravest of matters concerning the governance of one of the world’s biggest democracies is censored, filleted, and manipulated by an official who took an oath to uphold the US constitution, but who has form performing cover ups for his political masters. If ‘Mueller’ gats side-lined, the Democrats are throwing everything into a last gasp 2020 election. This report was supposed to apply an effective brake on the authoritarian menace. If Mueller blinked, and we won’t know until we see the unexpurgated findings, then America is in profound trouble. Many commentators, including this one, put too much store in the report. This was not necessarily in the promotion of Mueller as some sort of Eliot Ness figure of moral probity, but simply because the circumstantial, documented, and intelligence evidence against Trumps seemed and seems damning. Other observers such as Peter Daou and Sarah Kendzior have said all along that there were flaws in the manner and duration of the investigation and that Mueller would not save America. Salvation will come from protest, mobilization, and voting.

There has been a macabre alliance between far left and Trumpian right to rubbish any Russia connection since the start. Well, some Democrats are not letting the matter slip away quietly. Adam Schiff and other patriots are going to keep investigating. The American people are owed a proper explanation as to how Trump was favoured by the Russians, why they’re still looking to sew chaos in the political system, and the protective veil in front of Trump’s finances needs to be pulled back. There are grounds for pessimism; trump controls the Sentate, which the Democrats’ need to impeach him. He controls the Supreme Court, which is needed to check his power. He looks unbound. But, and it’s no guarantee, if the Democrats can run a strong candidate in a free and fir election in 2020, the stand a good chance of winning and clearing out the Augean stables.

May’s Broken Britain

So Brexit Day has been and gone and no-one can say for sure how it’s all going to end. One of the main reasons this has transpired is down to the character and leadership of Theresa May. It is her determination to put party before country, to appease the right-wing ‘bastards’ (to use John Major’s words), and to plough on regardless of the 48% remain side of the population, that sees the United Kingdom in the sorry state it is today. While the massive remain protest last weekend showed the essentially urbane and civilized nature of the remain campaign, last night’s thugishness in Whitehall exhibited by Tommy Robinson supporters showed up *some* of the leave side as bigoted, fascistic, Trumpian, and dangerous.

May has announced she’s going early once Brexit is passed. Fine, but if her replacement is the disgracefully opportunistic Boris Johnson, the United Kingdom will have leapt from the frying pan into the fire. He is not to be trusted. It says everything about the mess the Conservatives are in that Johnson is among the favoured candidates to take over following May’s departure.

There may yet be light at the end of the tunnel in terms of a consensus for a Brexit in name only. Such a path would uphold the result of the 2016 referendum, yet also recognise there was no mandate for anything in that result apart from an inchoate and incoherent wish to leave the European Union. Or Article 50 may be revoked, or the UK may go crashing out without a deal, in which case, Johnson will be inheriting a broken state, and one that’s needlessly inflicted this on itself despite so many other chances to take a different path.

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