by Martin Odoni

I did mention earlier in the year that Boris Johnson, who in most respects could hardly be more different to his predecessor, Theresa May, is nonetheless still just similar enough to make many of the same mistakes. This General Election campaign, he seems to be setting out to prove it.

We all remember, I am sure, the negativity, cowardice, and general ugliness of the Conservative campaigns in General Elections 2015 and 2017. 2017 in particular was almost painful to behold, as a mechanical, no-chances-taken, evasive, badly over-choreographed and colourless Tory campaign pretty much handed Labour about ten points in support from a public on the threshold of lethal boredom. The whole seven-week fiasco demonstrated that May was absolutely hopeless at heading up an Election campaign, and should have established her as the very model of a leader not to emulate on the metaphorical hustings.

With this in mind, and looking at the current Tory campaign, one has to ask, not for the first time, “BoJob, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” Johnson seems to be copying May’s every mistake, having started the campaign with a mistake copied from David Cameron (as mentioned last week).

blunder-man

A XXX-rated Prime Minister if ever there was one, just not in the way he would like us to think.

Consider in GE2017, when the Tories announced in their Manifesto a change to social care policy that increased the financial burden for elderly people suffering illnesses related to dementia. Although the actual burden on patients was not as severe is it sounded, it was still a very regressive policy, which was quickly nicknamed Dementia Tax. It caused a public uproar. Within a couple of days, May had panicked and reversed the policy, the first time on confirmed record that a Manifesto pledge had been formally U-Turned away from before the General Election had even arrived. In the weeks that followed, May was nicknamed The U-Turn Queen, while Jeremy Paxman famously called her,

“A blowhard who collapses at the first sign of gunfire.”

blowhard uturnqueen

But this time, Johnson has gone one better even than reversing policy between Manifesto and Election. His Government promised less than two weeks ago to halt fracking, with a view to banning it, “until compelling new evidence is provided” to show it can be done safely. Now, before he has even published the Manifesto, that policy has been U-Turned away from as well, with Johnson accepting, via very quietly-published civil service documentation, that “future applications will be considered on their own merits”. Whatever else that is, it is clearly not a ban nor necessarily conditional on evidence, and indeed it sounds no different to the status quo that was in place beforehand.

A blowhard who collapses at the first sign of Cuadrilla gunfire, perhaps? “U-Turn if you want to?” said Margaret Thatcher. It seems that Johnson, like May, is very much for turning.

(On the subject of U-Turns, Johnson has again retreated from his vague promise in the summer to hold an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, reiterating a vague commitment to investigate “all kinds of prejudice”. This dodge might work against his party though, given the research published last week showing that anti-Semitism is absolutely rife on the right wing.)

One of May’s numerous, very cringe-worthy platitudes during GE2017 was a repetitive warning of a “Coalition of chaos” under Jeremy Corbyn, chiefly between Labour and the Scottish National Party. Two-and-a-half years of subsequent Governmental gridlock under an alliance between the Tories and the Democratic Unionist Party gave the punchline to that. But amazingly, Johnson appears to be matching that rhetoric by giving the same, barefaced-hypocrite warnings again. This, even as Labour are visibly moving to try and dislodge the SNP from its supreme position in Scotland, not ally with them.

During the 2017 campaign, the cowardly May famously, and probably illegally, had unapproved journalists locked in a room so they were unable to ask her questions while she toured a factory in Cornwall. There was more than just a faint echo of that kind of incredible cowardice in Nottinghamshire last week, when Johnson visited a school where the 6th Form pupils were kept away from him at all times by confining them to the common room.

Johnson refused to visit a nearby hospital on the same day when it was on ‘Black Alert’, instead choosing to visit a nearby hospital that was not in ’emergency mode’. Over the weekend, he dismissed the severe floods in the north of England as “not a national emergency” (quite the contrast with Tory reactions five years ago when it was Tory-voting constituencies further south that were flooded). These incidents have a particularly uncomfortable resemblance to another display of shocking cowardice by May in 2017, albeit after the Election, when she ran away from locals in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower Fire Disaster. The resemblance is in the combination of personality faults that it highlights – a lack of empathy with the public, and a fear of facing the public under uncontrolled conditions.

Johnson is not learning the lessons of thirty months ago. Then, the Tories were projected to win a resounding landslide. Some of the early opinion polls, suggesting that the Tories have a double-digit lead, would seem to project something similar for 2019. But look what happened in 2017 when the Tories blundered and bored in equal measure, while Labour rallied at high speed with a positive and colourful campaign. The start of Labour’s campaign this year has, again, been very positive, full of colour, with high participation, and a strong message of hope. The start of the Tories’ campaign has, again, been negative, riddled with blunders, lacking in colour, lacking in participation, numerous candidates dropping out, and with a message overly-fixated on Brexit.

And it is led by a man making so many mistakes similar to those committed by his predecessor that it raises the question of whether there was any point in the Conservative Party changing leader this year at all.

by Martin Odoni

Roll up! Roll up! Have I got a deal for you?!

If you are looking for a holiday to the Bahamas, and you have slightly more than enough money to afford it, but want a bit more left over afterwards, this is your lucky day.

Because I am prepared to offer you an arrangement where you give me all of that money, and in return, with absolutely no strings attached, I will give you slightly less than enough to afford the holiday back, and then you can try and borrow the rest of the cash off of a few religious fanatics from Northern Ireland.

How does that sound? What a great offer, right?

So far, I have had one enthusiastic customer taking me up on this generous deal – I shall refrain from revealing her identity except to let you know that her name is Theresa – but I am sure that plenty of you lucky people will leap at this chance too. I mean, you were happy enough to take up an offer of £350 million for the NHS last summer….

Theresa May has committed the biggest blunder in British political history. That is not an exaggeration. I have thought hard about this over the last forty-odd hours and, terrible though some were, I can genuinely think of no other that was this bad. She needlessly called a General Election late in April, in an attempt to dig a very deep hole in which to bury Jeremy Corbyn. But when she tried to push him into the hole, he simply stepped to one side, causing May to over-balance and fall into it herself. Somehow, from a starting lead of twenty points in the polls, facing a deeply divided and dysfunctional Opposition Labour Party, and with the confident expectation of winning a one-hundred-seat majority in the House of Commons, May managed to lose the smaller majority she already had, and is now trapped in a Hung Parliament.

With this mistake, Theresa May has turned herself into the greatest laughing stock in Europe. While polite noises of concern have been expressed by leaders in the European Union over the fresh confusion Thursday’s Election result is likely to cause, there have also been plenty of contemptuous noises. One cannot help suspecting that the contemptuous noises – especially from Radoslaw Sikorski or Guy Verhofstadt – are the more truthful ones.

Brexit is becoming more and more a form of self-harm

A Dutch cartoon highlighting how the British, and in particular Theresa May, are becoming increasingly self-destructive.

The whole pretext for calling the Election was that May wanted a proper mandate for negotiating withdrawal from the EU. This was not as untrue as it might appear. There were a few reasons for it, but it would genuinely have been useful to her to have a larger majority for the negotiations, but not for the reasons she presented. She made it sound like she wanted it to increase her credibility when dealing with EU leaders. In truth, it was more about trying to protect herself against rebellions by Euro-skeptic MPs in her own party, should the eventual deal extracted from the EU prove not to their liking.

But the reality is that, whatever the reason for calling the Election, May has simply wasted six weeks of precious negotiation time, and surrendered three more years of governing with a small-but-workable majority, just to be hamstrung by operating a minority Government propped up by a party of homophobic sectarian terrorists.

(NOTE: If any supporters of the Democratic Unionist Party happen to read this, and find the terrorist references objectionable, I feel it only fair to point out that they have never hesitated to call Sinn Fein ‘part of the Irish Republican Army’. Given the overlap between the DUP and Loyalist Paramilitaries in Ulster, especially the Ulster Defence Association, is at least as great as the overlap between Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA, it really is time Unionist fanatics grew up a bit and accepted that they cannot have it both ways.)

I struggle to think of a more meagre return on an investment in the history of British Elections than what May has sifted from this one. So when she arrives at the negotiating table, if the EU delegates want to push her around, she has handed them fantastic material with which to do so.

As for May’s prospective alliance with the DUP, it is unlikely to remain stable for long at all, given genuine differences between the two parties on social policy, and on leaving the EU. The DUP want a ‘soft Brexit’, retaining access to the single market and keeping the Irish border open, whereas the Tories, perhaps at the insistence of the lunatic, UKIP-bordering fringe in the House of Commons, are looking for a total severance from the Union.

Furthermore, with the DUP’s crazed attitudes to homosexuality, climate change, creationism, and abortion, soft-right Conservatives will really struggle to stomach an alliance. There are already very public rumblings of alarm from some of the (relatively) moderate members of the Parliamentary Conservative Party.

Screenshot from 2017-06-10 17-15-46

The unhappiness of Tory MPs about working with the DUP will be heightened by the narrow margin of some of their constituency victories in the Election. The swing towards Labour across the UK was very dramatic, and even in seats the Tories retained, the winning margin at the ballot box was often slight. The most prominent example of that was Amber Rudd in Hastings, who only retained her seat after two nail-biting recounts. But she was by no means the only one to survive a close shave. A range of Tory MPs are now only in place by knife-edge margins, and none of them will therefore be enthusiastic about supporting any controversial policies. But given the throwback nature of the DUP, it is hard to imagine any policies May can come up with that will simultaneously be uncontroversial enough for her own backbenchers while still being hard-line enough for the DUP to see as worth the bother of continuing to support her.

Not for the first time in recent weeks, May’s handling of her chosen approach has done her and her party no favours. While it is understandable that she sees an alliance with the DUP as the only way of establishing some kind of majority – it is objectively true – she really needs to be more careful about how she speaks about it. On announcing that she was looking to form the alliance on Friday, she dropped yet another clanger by referring to the DUP as “friends”.

Given the endless tidal waves of accusation aimed at Jeremy Corbyn over once, purely as a diplomatic nicety, referring to Hamas as “friends”, it is frankly nauseating that May has not been taken equally to task in the media over referring to the paramilitary-allied DUP in the same terms. This is doubly unsettling given what a serious danger Brexit poses to Northern Ireland and the peace process there.

The alliance itself also creates problems for Northern Ireland. Its legality may be in doubt, due to the Tories’ own ‘English-Votes-for-English-Laws’ rules, and due to the Good Friday Agreement’s requirement for non-partisan British governance within Ulster. For the DUP to exercise an influence on Westminster’s administration that Nationalist or Republican parties, such as the Social Democratic Labour Party or Sinn Fein, do not is a probable violation.

There are so many obstacles, both to setting the alliance up, and to maintaining it, that I find it very hard to believe that May’s new Government will see in the year 2018. If there is, as I currently suspect, a second General Election to happen later this year, I can only see the Labour Party winning it. Theresa May has been made to look hopelessly inadequate, while her party has no serious alternative candidates to put forward to replace her, and their public image is already being further-harmed by association with the DUP. Meanwhile, Labour’s support is continuing to surge without a post-Election pause for breath. If May’s new Government has to resign, Jeremy Corbyn will, after so many people insisted he could not, become Prime Minister.

Here are a few other, miscellaneous conclusions I have drawn from an extraordinary Election Night; –

1) YouGov should abandon its usual model of polling and focus on the one they used for the Brexit Referendum. It correctly projected all the way through that Leave would win, and it was also the first model to predict a Hung Parliament for the General Election. The final poll of YouGov‘s standard model, by contrast, proved to be hopelessly wrong.

2) The Hung Parliament could embolden a lot of MPs in the UK who have long been much too afraid of upsetting right-wing press barons like Rupert Murdoch. (This failure-of-influence is probably why Murdoch apparently threw a childish hissy-fit when the BBC/Sky Exit Poll was announced). For Jeremy Corbyn to run the popular vote so close after two years of unending smears by the Tory red-tops and even the supposedly ‘liberal-left’ media like The Guardian, it is becoming obvious that the influence of mainstream newspapers on public opinion is on the wane.

3) Following on from 2), my hypothesis when Corbyn became Labour leader was that social media was beginning to erode the grip of the traditional press. The  General Election appears to confirm this. Not only is social media effective as a high-speed ‘debunking’ tool, it is also far better at getting through to and mobilising younger voters. When it comes to tapping the potential of the Internet, Corbyn’s Labour (especially support groups like Momentum) appear to be streets ahead of the Tories, whose campaigning style in cyberspace seems not to have advanced since about 2010.

4) A lot of Blairites and ‘soft-left’ Parliamentary figures in the Labour Party have not only been made to apologise to Jeremy Corbyn – and what delicious fun it has been watching them squirm – they are also coming to realise that a very central article-of-faith they have followed for half their lives and more was wrong. They have insisted for years and years that old-style Labour policies will never chime with the British Electorate anymore. But, while Labour still have work to do before they can secure an actual majority in the House of Commons, the Blairites have nonetheless seen that the ‘Real Left’ does have considerable appeal to the public. The last General Election in which Labour secured over forty per cent of the popular vote was Tony Blair’s first as leader in 1997. In Blair’s two subsequent victories, in Gordon Brown’s defeat in 2010, and in Ed Miliband’s humiliation in 2015, the total Labour vote declined sharply and consistently. Thanks to Corbyn’s invigorating campaign, for the first time since 1997, Labour’s vote-share has gone up again, nay, surged up, from a dismal twenty-nine percent to over forty per cent in the space of just two years. In terms of vote-count, Corbyn’s performance is even more startling. With nearly thirteen million votes going to Labour, in most Elections he would have had plenty to secure Number 10 there and then. All of which means the Blairite ideologues have a toe-curling question to ponder; just how much potential support have these fools spurned over the last fifteen years or so, by ignoring the young and disengaged, and insisting on trying to poach Tory voters with half-baked offers of queasy-conscience neoliberalism instead? How many supporters might they have earned by offering a more daring policy-platform? Or indeed, how much better might they have done by trying to engage with the public in a less-television-centred way? Now in fairness, Blairite campaigning approaches worked in the infant age of the modern Internet, because social media still did not really exist back in the late-1990’s. Looking good on television and sounding suave on the radio were still sufficient. But that mainstream-only style is now obsolete, and until Thursday night, the Blairites appear to have missed that development completely.

5) Corbyn’s own campaign-style, in some respects, is even more old-fashioned, but unlike the Blairites’ mainstream-media-dominated approach, it remains effective. Corbyn was going on rallies, talking to people face-to-face, getting on the soapbox and addressing crowds in their thousands. In short, he showed up. He was there in person, which is always good politics. That side of his approach is no different from the campaigning style of politicians from the distant past, such as Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone. But for all its oldness of style, it still works consistently, and probably always will. Indeed, hand-in-hand with modern social media technology, providing live video streams of big events, and avalanches of digital photos that can be shared around the world within seconds, it is probably more effective now than ever. By contrast, radio-and-TV-only skills are really quite hit-and-miss these days, because a lot of the electorate will only have passing contact with them.

6) The main argument for retaining the hopelessly-outdated First-Past-The-Post system for British General Elections is that they are more likely to “create strong Government” than Proportional Representation systems. However, the post-Credit Crunch era in Westminster has given the lie to that once and for all. There have been three General Elections in just the last seven years. Two of them have led to Hung Parliaments, and one of them led to an overall majority of just twelve – with the Prime Minister therefore left at the mercy of the extremist fringe of the governing party. So clearly it is high time to dump the assumption that the older system protects the Government from instability, because the facts do not substantiate it.

7) My my, but Tony Blair has been awfully quiet, has he not? Has there been some development from this General Election upon which he now finds it embarrassing to reflect? I wonder what that might be…?

Screenshot from 2017-06-10 23-11-41

No, nothing springs to my mind either. So maybe Blair is just too busy preparing his defence case for when he is standing in the dock in the Hague in the fairly near future?

by Martin Odoni

There are just six days until the General Election, and the Prime Minister’s already-shambolic campaign has been struck by two fresh, self-inflicted body-blows in about fifteen hours.

Last night, the United States President, Donald Trump, withdrew the USA from the Paris Accord on Climate Change. It was an outrageous decision that has received condemnation from all around the world. (It is genuinely disturbing to see Communist China, at least on this issue, actually showing greater honour and morality than the self-proclaimed ‘best country in the world’.)

Oddly, at a crucial stage of the Election campaign, this presented Theresa May with a real opportunity to demonstrate her vaunted ‘strong-and-stable leadership’, and to prove that Britain is not just an obsequious follower of the USA’s every whim. So naturally, May seized upon the opportunity, and did not add her name to a letter signed by other world leaders condemning Trump’s decision. Instead, she telephoned the President to tell him she was ‘disappointed’.

Wow. Effective. Really seizing the initiative there, no cowardly or feeble half-gestures from our nation’s inspirational leader, dear me, no.

Now I am not entirely convinced May even made the phone-call, but if we give her the benefit of the doubt on that, I am still led to ask, “So what?” What she said determines whether her response was strong, and it clearly was not. She is merely ‘disappointed’ in a decision that could ultimately devastate wide stretches of land across the surface of the Earth? Really? ‘Disappointed‘? Did she ‘shake her head in disapproval’ at the Rwandan Genocide?

‘Disappointment’ is yet another lazy, mechanical ‘get-out’ word, used as a substitute for expressing anger with an ‘ally’ when anger is merited.

May claims the letter was drawn up before she had had a chance to speak to Trump. I have no doubt of that; I expect it was originally drawn up around the time Trump was sworn into office, as the move was one of his Election promises, and other countries would have wanted to be ready for it. So May could easily have added her name to it any time she wished, simply by forwarding an electronic signature by e-mail. It can be done in seconds.

So, having probably cost the Conservative Party another point in the opinion polls by allowing herself to appear spineless over international affairs (not good when your main Election posture has been that you will be a ‘strong’ negotiator during withdrawal from the European Union), May needed Friday to be free of any more bumps-in-the-road.

theresa-may1

Enter Craig MacKinlay, Conservative MP for South Thanet. Now, the Tories appeared to have dodged a major bullet early last month, when the Crown Prosecution Service initially ruled that there would be no charges over the Tories’ Election Expenses Fraud. Smugly, and very deceitfully, May claimed in the aftermath of that announcement that this ruling meant that no one in the party at a constituency level had done anything wrong. That was categorically not the meaning of the CPS’ ruling, but more importantly, May overlooked one other detail; the ruling only applied to the rule-violation of the misuse of the Tory ‘Battle Bus‘ for local campaigning, while reporting it as a national expense. The individual case of the very bitterly-fought campaign for South Thanet was still being investigated separately.

Now – with truly agonising timing for the Tories – the investigation has been completed, and the CPS has found enough evidence to be confident of a successful prosecution. MacKinlay, his election agent, Nathan Gray, and a party activist called Marion Little, have all been charged with violating the Representation of the People Act of 1983.

I would just like to offer a mild observation at this point, with no implication intended. The timing of these charges is reminiscent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s bizarre, and as it turned out rather pointless, public declaration that it would re-open investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal just before the US Presidential Election back in the Autumn. I would certainly argue that there is more point to what has happened today, than what happened then, given there is apparently sufficient grounds this time to press charges. But even so, there are so many parallels between what it happening in Britain now and what happened in the USA last year that it is almost eerie.

MacKinlay’s alleged conduct is probably not May’s fault, and this is one occasion where her inability to control the Election campaign is not down to her own incompetence. But her rash and dishonest declaration that no one had done anything wrong is now likely to do her and her party yet more harm, with the Election now dead ahead. A declaration like that is usually a reputation-gamble. Given the savaging May’s reputation has already suffered over the last few weeks of campaign chaos, it could be argued that it was a small gamble to make. But it is not, because the destiny of 10 Downing Street is on the line as well right now. With Jeremy Corbyn and Labour closing rapidly in the opinion polls, and May’s entire campaign banking on the public perception of Tory competence, the final death of her reputation could also be the final death of her bid to remain Prime Minister.

After all, who would want a party in power that has shown itself to be both incompetent and, in all probability, corrupt?

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by Martin Odoni

Well, the televised leadership “debate“, or at least the nearest equivalent that Theresa May had sufficient courage to submit to, on Channel 4 is over. Both she and the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, answered questions from the audience, moderated by Faisal Islam, and then faced a grilling from the nation’s most brutal interrogator, Jeremy Paxman.

Corbyn took first turn, and was very relaxed and accomplished during the audience Q & A. It was a fair bit tougher for him during the Paxman interview, predictably enough, and I did notice Corbyn getting a little evasive, especially on the matter of nuclear weapons. However, no matter how nastily Paxman asked the questions, there did seem to be a certain futility about a lot of them. Questions about the Falklands War, for instance, or the diplomatic nicety of addressing delegates from Hamas as, “my friends”, seemed very in-keeping with the rather woolly-minded obsession in the mainstream media at the moment with things Corbyn said in the 1980’s. I hate to draw attention to this point, media people, but the 1980’s have very definitely not stretched all the way to the year 2017, and many issues of the time are long settled. Yes, they include the Falklands War. And the Irish Republican Army for that matter. Fussing about the politics of the 1980’s during the 2017 General Election would be a little like fussing about the politics of the Wall Street Crash during the Presidential Debates between John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

Equally, the very hypothetical, in fact specualtive, scenario Paxman put to Corbyn about “twenty minutes to order a drone-strike on someone planning a bombing” seemed ludicrously over-dramatic and specific. It seems a very James Bond film suggestion, and would probably never work in such a way in practice. If it was a question of national security being safe or otherwise in Corbyn’s hands, it seems very uneven that Paxman did not ask May, just for instance, why she let MI5 work with the Libyan Islamic Fighters Group in 2011 – the group with whom the Manchester Arena Bomber may have been working.

Overall, Corbyn came across positively. He kept his cool reasonably well, and seemed both affable and fairly sincere, and will have taken no political damage from the questioning at all. (Even opponents of Corbyn such as Alastair Campbell and Nigel Farage have admitted as such.)

As for May, her performance was not as awful as some are suggesting on social media, but it was still unambiguously weaker than Corbyn’s. She did okay during the audience Q & A, although she was needlessly evasive with the first couple of questions, while her repetitive use all the way through of the phrase, “Strong economy” showed that she is still completely incapable of speaking publicly without retreating into reflexive, robotic soundbites. She is the epitome of the over-trained politician. Thankfully, she never once said, “Strong and stable”, presumably because she realised that she would turn most of the audience against her the instant she did so. But all that has changed is the pet soundbite, and the new one is only half-different from the old one.

May’s subsequent performance against Paxman left a lot to be desired, at least early on. She was stammering and changing tack halfway through sentences quite frequently, and she committed one particularly silly gaffe that she was lucky Paxman did not pick up on, when he asked her if she accepted responsibility for her mistakes, and she said,

“I take responsibility for the decisions I make.”

The unwanted implication of giving this as an answer to that particular question is that May’s decisions are all mistakes. Had Paxman been really on the top of his game, I am sure he would have pursued that.

May also came across as rather silly when trying not to admit that she had changed her mind on leaving the European Union – she was originally opposed but is now in favour – by denying that she thinks it is a duff idea. If she really wants people to believe she is a ‘strong and stable’ leader (YAWN!), then she needs to stop flip-flopping while pretending to be consistent. From the list of very swift U-turns Paxman rightly presented her with, it is quite correct that he called her “a blowhard who collapses at the first sign of gunfire.” This description got probably the loudest ovation of the night from the audience, and that will be of concern at Tory Party HQ.

Theresa May blowhard

The Prime Minister, described by Jeremy Paxman as “a blowhard who collapses at the first sound of gunfire.”

May did finish fairly solidly though, although it was clear she was getting help from a jingoistic minority in the audience who were whooping and cheering any sign in her rhetoric of a two-fingered salute to the EU. It is very saddening to find that there are still large numbers of people in this country who are so easily impressed by such yobbish theatrics. But impressed they are, and their vocal support seemed to lift May enough to get her through to the close.

So, in all, another clear win for Corbyn, and he continues to hold the impetus and the initiative in the election campaign. Whether this leads to another boost in the polls for Labour, we shall have to wait and see. On the flip-side, May’s performance was shaky, but it was certainly not another disaster for the Tories, who may well be sighing with relief just at that small mercy. (Especially after the comical double-disaster for Michael Fallon over the weekend.) But even so, May still came off worse on the night. The ‘debate’ was not an outright fiasco for once in this abysmal excuse for a Tory election campaign. But even a less decisive loss is still another loss, and so there is hardly reason for the Conservative Party to break out the bubbly just yet.

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by Martin Odoni

HEALTH WARNING: BEWARE OF POSSIBLE SARCASM OVERDOSE

On Friday 26th May, the band Captain Ska, in association with The People’s Assembly Against Austerity, released a new single called Liar Liar.

Screenshot from 2017-05-29 14-26-32

It has so far been a great success, reaching number 10 in the Downloads Chart on iTunes. However, several radio stations, Capital FM and Heart, have skipped over the song when it would have been appropriate to play it on air.

The precise reason for this oversight has not yet been made clear, but one pretex-… er, I mean, entirely justified possible reason is concern over political neutrality. The content of the song is heavily critical of Prime Minister Theresa May and the Conservative Government. Given the entertainment-only nature of these radio stations, it is perhaps understandable that their controllers would want to keep their broadcast content apolitical, especially with a General Election only eleven days away.

Now of course, this issue could lead to considerable unhappy pressure being applied to broadcasters, especially if the single continues to do well. And we would absolutely not want that to happen, now would we? I have concluded that the most reliable way of preventing such an inconvenience would be to reduce public exposure to Liar Liar. So I have decided to do my bit to help out. Therefore…

In the interests of political neutrality, it would be preferable if nobody clicked on the following link leading to the download page for the single on the Amazon website; –

This is the link you should not click on.

Also, may I request that no one follows this link to the corresponding download page on the iTunes website either?

You should not click on this link either.

Equally, political neutrality also requires that no one’s attention is brought to the video release of the single, which can be viewed on YouTube via this next link, which of course no one should click on either; –

Whoah! You should totally avoid this link like it leads to a 700-photo album of Katie Hopkins in a series of saucy poses.

And above all, can I please request that all readers share all the links on this page to their social media accounts. That way, everybody else they know will be made aware of which links not to click on, and can pass the information on in turn.

Thank you for your time and co-operation, everybody.

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by Martin Odoni

After yesterday’s Nightmare On Tory Street, another YouGov poll has more frightening news for Theresa May. The Conservative Party, having apparently made big gains in Wales over the previous few months, appeared in recent polls to have overtaken the Labour Party west of the border, with the Tories on 41 points and Labour languishing on 35.

Now, after last week’s much-applauded Labour Manifesto, and the Tories’ everlasting shambles on Thursday and in the days following, YouGov have found the swing back to Labour has been far bigger and more rapid in Wales than seemed possible just ten days ago. The Labour Party has not just caught up west of the border; it has surged back into the lead there, and on 44 points, the party is suddenly an imposing 10 points ahead of the Tories, who have slumped back to just 34.

Now, a swing on this scale is not going to be replicated across the country as a whole, at least not remotely as quickly, but if it were to do so, Labour would not only be looking at forcing a Hung Parliament, they might even be the largest party in a minority Government.

I shall waste little time listing off the implications for the Tories, as they hardly need pointing out. However, I should mention that today’s latest little fiasco, with announcing an amendment to a Manifesto promise just days after publishing it, compounded by insulting attempts by May to convince everybody that there has been no Tory U-turn, has doubtless only cost her party more votes. But the YouGov poll in Wales was compiled from findings across four days up until yesterday, and will not reflect reaction to today’s farce. The Tories have made every stupid mistake it is possible to make so far in this campaign, and that is why they have started to haemorrhage support.

My priority is to mention the right wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party. It is time for them to grow up, and to smarten up. Their party has all the impetus now. Jeremy Corbyn may not yet be winning the Election, but he is dominating the Election Campaign, and that means he can win on the 8th of June. So I am addressing the Blairites, their allies, their apologists, and their spin doctors when I say the following; –

If you want to convince everybody that you are not just ‘Blue Labour’ or ‘Red Tories’, that these are just cheap insults that miss your true beliefs, well now is your chance. Just see what Jeremy Corbyn and his Shadow Cabinet have already done over the last month largely without you. Now imagine what they could do if only you would swallow your stubborn pride and get properly behind Corbyn. No, none of the shallow gesturism and ‘going-through-the-motions’ you have made do with up until now. It is time for you really to speak up for him, really to commit to his Manifesto, really to appeal for the public’s support, and really to show that you truly want that support.

For the sake of far more than just your party, you cannot afford to waste another opportunity like this. You made such a terrible, self-defeating mistake when you tried to overthrow Corbyn last year, letting the Tories off the hook when they were reeling from the Brexit Referendum. By some miracle, you have been presented with another opportunity. Do not make the same mistake now. The Tories, with their U-turns, their brainless policy ideas, and their comical public gaffes, are not ‘Strong-&-Stable’, they are vulnerable and clumsy. A sustained, unified, party-wide campaign by Labour starting now can bring the Conservative Party toppling down, and there are so, so many people around the country who desperately need that to happen. Never mind your ideological assumptions that old-style Labour politics ‘must be wrong’, and that you will therefore make them wrong just so you can tell yourselves that you are right. There are more important matters at stake than your intellectual vanity. Time to get on board. Time to work with the leader your party chose, and time to bring down the most draconian Government Britain has had to endure in well over a century. That should be a goal in itself.

The opportunity is there to do it, and contrary to your assumptions over the last two years, it can happen with Jeremy Corbyn as leader. In fact, it could well happen because he is leader; he is connecting with the public in a way that no political figure has done in about twenty years.

Screenshot from 2017-05-22 19-13-58

Just think what could be achieved over the next few weeks if you really backed him.

Corbyn can win this, and that means you can win this. Do not be the ones who lose it for your party instead. So many people will suffer if you do.

by Martin Odoni

So. The ITV leaders’ debate. I found the absence of Theresa May from it was rather a redeeming quality, as the leaders who did speak were comparatively less android-like, and she would have ruined that with her mechanical repetitions of ‘Strong & Stable’. I thought Caroline Lucas and Tim Farron were the most impressive speakers, Lucas very impassioned, Tim Farron surprisingly combative. Nicola Sturgeon seemed a bit awkward compared with her performance in 2015 and a bit too eager to speak from a narrowly-Scottish perspective. Leanne Wood’s performance was fairly solid, although it had a bit too much umm-ing and ah-ing at points. I do feel Jeremy Corbyn rather missed a trick by not taking part.

A special mention for Paul Nuttall – and yes, paranoid ‘Kippers, I will start by being fair to him. Given it was clear that the other four debaters were all in agreement on most topics, and therefore were dead-set against Nuttall’s far-right mindset, I genuinely thought his showing was surprisingly good. It can only be difficult to avoid getting in a flap when everyone else on the stage disagrees with your every word, and I thought he held himself together quite well.

But, having said all that, he still said some flipping stupid things, which made it easier for the others to ‘gang up’ on him. Here are my own responses to five of these stupid remarks; –

STUPID REMARK NUMBER 1: –

“There’s a big world out there! There’s the Anglosphere. There’s the Commonwealth which has over 2 billion people in it. This is where our future lies.”

(Emphasis added.)

Really? Nuttall thinks the British Commonwealth is this country’s ‘future’? That would be rather like Vladimir Putin suggesting that the future of Russia lies with the Tsars of the House of Romanov. Or Lars Rasmussen declaring that the future of Denmark lies in raiding other countries in longships and stealing their gold.

The whole reason why the Commonwealth is so-called, and no longer called ‘The Colonies’ or ‘The Empire’, is that it is not Britain’s future. It is part of Britain’s shameful past, and there is little reason to assume any of its constituent nations would be eager to offer Britain a better deal than the European Union.

Speaking of the Commonwealth as Britain’s ‘future’ says more about the pseudo-historical romanticism of the xenophobic right in this country, harking back to some kind of ‘British Golden Age’ that never really happened, than it will ever say about the realities of Brexit.

STUPID REMARK NUMBER 2: –

“We are letting too many people come [into the country]. The only way to solve it is by having an Australian points-based system, whereby we have the right to say who comes and who doesn’t.”

Oh? Would this be the same Australian points-based system that, according to studies from last year, allows a higher rate of immigration per head than the UK’s current system?

Well, I am fairly happy for extra immigrants to come in, so I am most gratified to learn that Nuttall was secretly in favour all along.

STUPID REMARK NUMBER 3: –

“My party is committed to putting £6 billion extra every single year into the National Health Service. This will fund twenty thousand new nurses, ten thousand new GPs… Net [migration should be] one in, one out.”

While I am heavily in favour of training up far more home-grown medical experts than has happened in Britain over the last twenty-five years, we have to face the reality of how long it takes; training up a new doctor requires up to six years of education. So as we wait for an enlarged next generation of doctors and nurses to come-of-age, what do we do in the meantime? Well, the answer to that is precisely what we have sadly been doing for the aforementioned twenty-five years; we have to rely on immigration to keep the NHS adequately staffed. But if, as Nuttall insists, we have to reduce net migration to zero, adequate staffing becomes a dice-roll. What if not enough unskilled people wish to leave the country at a time of NHS vacancies? What if a lot of the people leaving are themselves NHS workers?

The policy platform of the UK Independence Party, characteristically, is completely incoherent. Particularly, it fails to recognise how one policy can impact upon another. It is therefore ironic that Nuttall said at one stage of the NHS/social care discussion, “The left hand very often doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.”

That is a fine summary of his own party’s policies.

STUPID REMARK NUMBER 4; –

“Let’s not forget the opportunities Brexit will give us once we leave the European Union. We’ll be able to sign trade deals all over the globe.”

“Opportunities”? The UK will be compelled to sign such deals, instead of leaving it to the EU to sort that out, as it presently can. Whether replacing all these deals is an opportunity or a chore, it will be an obligation. A very long, slow, frustrating obligation, some of the negotiations taking many years. This is because, once the UK is out of the EU, it is also out of all of the EU’s trade agreements too. That will mean replacing the collective deals with individualised treaties, country-by-country. Nuttall does not seem to realise the incredible amount of work and time that will involve, and again, no plan for what the UK will do in the meantime.

STUPID REMARK NUMBER 5; –

“How would we pay for [NHS funding increases]? Well, we would take that money directly from the Foreign Aid budget… … … We believe as a party that people know how to spend their own money better than any Government does on their behalf… we believe that people know what best to do with their own money.”

The implication of this is that the Government spends tax-receipts on services. This is not strictly true, but Nuttall probably thinks it is, so let us go with it for now. With this in mind, from where exactly does Nuttall think the Foreign Aid budget is sourced? Throughout the debate, he kept talking of spending more on some services by re-directing funds from other areas. Fine, but if he is going to rabbit the Bronze-Aged cliché of people ‘knowing how to spend their own money’, how can he then talk about a putative UKIP Government investing in anything at all?

In fairness to Nuttall, he was not the only one to make the odd silly remark; I found Leanne Wood’s remark that large class sizes in schools have little negative effect on the quality of the children’s learning to be very foolish indeed. If that is the case, well, why not just have about fifteen teachers in the whole country, and let each one of them teach one year of pupils up and down the nation all at once? Easy in an age of Skype, right? The reason why not is because of course large class sizes have a negative effect on children’s learning!

But Nuttall definitely made most of the stupid remarks, and if he is really the outstanding talent left in his party, that is a very sorry look-out for its crumbling support-base.

Ah well, better luck next time you need to choose a leader, UKIP – assuming you are still around long enough for there to be a next time, that is.