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Sunday, 25 September 2016

Why We Should Wish for The Guardian to Close

With Jeremy Corbyn newly re-installed as Leader of the Labour Party, something about which I have no strong views, I asked myself what could really help the formation of a Progressive alliance, a Popular Front, able to offer some kind of coherent and credible and popular alternative to the Military Government of Mrs May. My first thought was this: It would help if The Guardian folded.

I quite often buy the paper version of The Financial Times (and I have an online subscription too) and I also buy  the paper version of the i, which I think does a good job. I also have Al Jazeera on my Favourites bar. A long time ago, I deleted the BBC News website, sick of the unctuous royalist and religious drivel. A while back I got rid of the Huffington Post which I find juvenile. Next in line for removal from the Favourites bar is The Guardian. Clearly, some kind of struggle is going on there but the dominant faction seems to be the one which wants to turn it into a forum for grievance writing, some of it sharp-elbowed and some of it childish. It's not the stuff you need to build a Popular Front. To build that requires a combination of well-researched news stories and background briefings - like those I get every day in the FT - and well-informed opinion pieces looking at the bigger picture like those written in The Guardian by Owen Jones. Unfortunately, good journalism costs money and maybe The Guardian is now so awful because it relies on what reads like day after day of uninspired Internship formula navel-gazing.

There is also the problem that print is out of favour and Twitter in favour. Twitter is a disaster. We need to get back to newsprint or, at least, back to intelligently structured websites which have serious News and serious Opinion pages.

Oh, and a Popular Front needs no more than seven (plus or minus two) policies which are clear, decisive, which could be implemented by an elected government with a five year term and which voters could see made sense and made a difference.

Why a Popular Front? It's the electoral system. There is no proportional representation. Constituency boundaries are currently skewed in favour of Labour and soon that is going to be changed. Of course, you can influence things without having MPs - UKIP has done that very successfully. But there is no Left equivalent to UKIP. No one need be afraid of losing votes to the Socialist Party of Great Britain which has had no impact, nowhere, ever.

Friday, 9 September 2016

The Financial Times and Mrs Theresa May

A couple of recent articles in the FT - the only newspaper worth reading in England - highlight the soon-to-become-visible weaknesses of the new government. Chris Giles and George Parker are both telling a similar story. Since the government came to power in an internal coup - no election, no parliamentary ratification, no Conservative Party ratification -  not surprisingly its leader is insecure even if she was not insecure already.

So remarkably authoritarian tendencies are on display, which for the moment play well with the tabloids but soon won't. There is a High Court case pending to challenge the view that Parliament is a merely consultative body so far as Article 50 is concerned. But the Prime Minister has made plain that, whatever the decision there, she regards Parliament as a Duma for the Tsarina to listen to or dismiss as she sees fit. In addition, Downing Street is offering a running commentary on speeches and comments made by its own Ministers. They too are being told they have no power. The Tsarina will decide everything, and what she decides will always be in everyone's interests for she is the Mother of all the British.

I recall reading somewhere that at the moment he was forced into abdication, Tsar Nicholas had been studying papers relating to the proposal to build new glass houses in the botanical garden of Dorpat's (Tartu's) ancient university. It's a credible story and illustrates the perils of micro-managing. While you are attending to the glass houses, you lose the throne.

Mrs May will lose a Minister sooner rather than later. Either she will sack someone who steps too far out of line or someone will rebel and stalk out. In a previous Blog, I have already put my money on Dr Fox as the person most likely for either because he has his own form for believing he can do exactly as he pleases (See my Blog 27 July 2016)

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Matthew Tate at Hartsdown Academy, Margate

God, The Queen, School Uniform, Pounds Shillings and Pence, Janet and John ...

People like Matthew Tate, headteacher of Hartsdown Academy Margate and in the news today for zero tolerance of young people, can only imagine the future as a tribute act to the past. It's what you might call the English Disease and Margate is the sort of place where it easily becomes endemic.

It's a disease which is sending us over the tipping point into irreversible national decline. We should pay high salaries to those who can enthrall children and young people with Shakespeare or show them how fascinating it is to work out why the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides. Or teach them Chinese. But we shouldn't be paying people like Mr Tate at all. He's in the wrong job and doing a lot of damage.

If you need something to cheer you up, a while ago I found some scenes of young people doing impressive things despite wearing tee shirts and trainers. They attend the Cusanus Gymnasium in Erkelenz, Germany - a country where history has taught them to be suspicious of men keen on uniforms. All these secondary school students speak English - the teachers have time to teach English because they aren't spending their time policing ties and skirt lengths or whatever is the latest fantasy of Mr Tate.

To see what you can do wearing tee shirts and trainers, just go to YouTube and enter the school's name and small-town location and enjoy.

Friday, 2 September 2016

David Davis on the Irish Border: Brexit and the Two Irelands

David Davis, one of Mrs May’s Three Brexiteers, has gone to Ireland and promised that Brexit will not bring a Hard Border back to Ireland. People will be able to come and go as they do now. He is in no position to make any such wild promise, for two reasons.

First, on the Brexit scenario table is one option which involves imposing tariffs on goods imported from our former friends next door and allowing free entry for goods from our new friends a long way away, enticed into co-operaton by Dr Fox Enterprises. Under that scenario, the United Kingdom would have to establish Customs posts between Northern Ireland and Ireland in order to control smuggling of former-friends' goods from the Republic.

Second, there is a  Brexit scenario which favours getting rid of European Union regulations and red tape. That could, for example, include offering farmers de-regulation as compensation for the loss of EU subsidies. In that situation, Ireland would want – indeed, would be required by its own commitment to EU standards - to  institute Health and Safety checks on UK agricultural produce being sent across the border. This is not an unusual situation: countries like the USA and Russia repeatedly slap bans on foreign food imports of one kind or another for Health and Safety reasons. It doesn’t happen often in the EU because there are common standards. But there are Brexiteers itching to lower standards in pursuit of someone’s fast buck.

There are lots of other promises out there from Mrs May’s Cabinet ministers. All of them are worthless until such time as Mrs May picks a Brexit plan which other countries will agree to, if indeed she can find any such plan.