Saturday, September 02, 2017

Arms Corruption in Great Britain Continues

Today is the 20th Anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. I offer in a companion piece my recorded views about the connection between her death and the then growing influence of arms corruption within British society and its body politic.
(SPOILER ALERT: If you want to miss out my analysis of why arms corruption in Great Britain is so important, and you just want to skip to the part where you sign a petition objecting to the London Arms Fair, um, go straight to the web-site for the (British) Campaign Against the Arms Trade. Spoilsports ... )
Where was I? Oh yes. Make no mistake. This is not just about one or two seedy politicians in the UK Parliament taking a couple of backhanders in exchange for turning a blind eye to the British government supplying some tanks to a dictator in southern Africa.
We're talking the wholesale and systemic corruption of Westminster, Whitehall. the British Civl and Foreign Services, the City of London and British Intelligence.
In the Eighties, forgetting the politics for a moment, Margaret Thatcher presided over the collapse of British manufacturing industry. It had to be replaced. Fast. So, she set in motion a deliberate policy of turning ploughshares into swords. Massively expanding the British arms industry. Today, Great Britain is one of the largest exporters of arms in the world.
The problem is, at that level, you can’t choose whom to supply, and then with whom to maintain supply. You may contract with a democracy. Which then becomes a dictatorship. And think about it. Dictators are more likely to need weapons than democracies.
Countries aren't going to buy your weapons in the first place, if they can't depend on you to service and maintain with spare parts. If they can't depend on you, whatever the changes in their system of government. Whatever their fluctuating record on human rights. Whether or not they are rendered subject to UN sanctions, for whatever reason.
You can’t guarantee arms jobs at home if you can’t guarantee regular exports of weaponry. Wherever the end destination may be. And today, one in five jobs in the UK is directly or indirectly associated with the British arms trade (which is why even the unions support it). So, you deal with whoever you have to.
If the client is ‘legitimate,' they get to use the ‘front-door,’ and have tea and crumpets with a nice government Minister, in a cozy, oak-paneled room in Whitehall. If the client is less than salubrious, banned by the UN, whatever, then they have to use the ‘back-door,’ and they likely meet with an 'unofficial' tailored suit, in an equally oak-paneled but decidedly deniable office in a City of London investment bank.
In my book, Maggie’s Hammer, I detail the trail that led me to conclude that the death of my mate, Hugh Simmonds CBE, in 1988, was due to his having been one of the team hand-picked by Margaret Thatcher (consequent upon his interesting skill set), and tasked with setting up the original ‘back-door’ arms operation in the Eighties.
One further unavoidable feature of the arms trade is that you can’t get business without grease. Bribes. For everyone. One of Hugh’s primary jobs was the creation of the money-laundering pipelines for the flow of bribes back to senior politicians within the UK.
Why has none of this British political corruption come to light more substantially? Well. Except for my book, that is. Answer: everyone is in on it. Either receiving the grease. Or turning a blind eye to it. Conservative. Labour. Lib-Con. And now back to the Conservatives.
Really, Geoff? British political arms corruption has been going on this long, totally uninterrupted, gathering steam? Everywhere? Without any serious success in exposure by anyone else? Not even a hint? The massed ranks of the media, law enforcement, well-funded investigative non-profits notwithstanding? Nada? C’mon, Geoff.
Hmm. Ok. Here’s a teaser from my book. By way of illustration of the ubiquity of the arms corruption in Great Britain.
Pick a guy. Any guy. I know. Try Sir Alan Duncan, MP, KCMG. Back in the Nineties, when he was a lowly British Conservative MP, not yet a Tory government Minister, he was the hand-picked successor to Jonathan Aitken.
Who was Jonathan Aitken? Well, read my other post. But, the short story is that Aitken was, until he went to prison for perjury, he was, in the Eighties and early Nineties, the guy who negotiated the arms bribes for Tory politicians, arising from arms deals with Saudi Arabia. Duncan was chosen by Aitken to take over this role when Aitken went to prison for perjury in the late Nineties.
Then, in 2010, the new British Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, made Duncan his Minister for International Development. One step below full Cabinet rank. Which was interesting. Seeing as Duncan had always been tipped for Cabinet.
But, here’s the thing. Cameron had more important work for Duncan. Arising out of his continuing, extracurricular arms activities. And Cameron needed Duncan to be doing that work, um, ‘out of sight.’
Britain has what many Tories (certainly) regard as a rather over-sized International Aid budget. Why? Because it ain’t about building dams. It’s about sweeteners to get arms deals. Buy our missiles and warships. Then you get a school and a dam.
In this regard, the Tories streamlined the vetting process. So that the program for clearing dams and schools was handled by the same person who signed off on the Export Licenses and Credit Guarantees for the associated arms purchases.
And that person, from 2010 to 2014, was Duncan. Tucked away, in the No. 2 position, in the seemingly warm-and-fuzzy International Aid Department.
Why so hidden? Because, from 2010 to 2014, the Tories were in coalition government with the sandal-wearing Liberal Democrat mob. Who might have been offended by the tie-in between International Aid and weapons. Not to mention blood-money bribes.
However. Not to worry. In 2015, after that year's UK General Election, David Cameron's Conservatives assumed sole control of the government. Duncan was moved sideways. Out of government. Cameron had him lined up instead to take over the Chairmanship of the joint Parliamentary committee overseeing Intelligence. Until those pesky Parliamentarians interfered.
Why was this committee important? Well. Seeing as Britain had by then become (and remains) one vast arms-dealing enterprise (which has included transforming the City of London into the world’s capital for dirty money), its Embassies have been morphed essentially into arms showrooms. And the primary function of British Intelligence is not to combat terrorism, but rather is to scout out new arms deals, and do opposition research on the competition.
Why do you think the guy who produced the notorious opposition research Buzzfeed Dossier on Trump, collated as it was from considerable knowledge of dirty money dealings with the Russians, why do you think that guy was a former British Intelligence operative with MI6? Because that’s their specialty now.
So, Cameron wanted a 'friend' in charge of Intelligence oversight who could spike any uncomfortable investigations. And, by the way, do not be thinking all this corruption was just the Tories. Labour kept the whole pot boiling while they were in power from 1997 to 2010. It's all in my book.
Still not convinced? Well. Read the book. And remember. I was shot at. Two senior British journalists told me they were warned off the moment they began investigating Hugh. Oh. And Hugh ended up dead in a woodland glade in 1988.
And so. Welcome to today. As we remember Diana. Whose death I say was intimately linked to nascent arms corruption within British society and its body politic. A body politic now thoroughly corrupted with arms bribes.
Approaching the 2017 London Arms Fair. Which is held every two years in September. And is one of the largest arms fairs in the world.
Of course it is. This is where we are now. And it is the primary reason for my writing this companion post to the one about Diana’s death. The arms corruption killed her. And it continues. It’s time to take a stand.
Why does any of this matter? Beyond the immorality. Gosh. Two examples:
1) Refugees. When jobs are dependent on arms. When your lifestyle as a politician is dependent on bribes. It is in everyone’s interests to keep on selling arms to whomsoever. Especially if you are able to do it to both sides.
The biggest market remains the Middle East. And its hot spots. Some of the hottest spots for a while have been Syria, Iraq and Libya. Where there are all manner of opposing parties to whom one can be selling military technology.
If you sell arms. Folks use them. Those arms have become devastating. And so, they devastate. Do you think all of those millions of refugees left their homes to go on holiday? They left because their homes had been devastated. With weaponry their own countries did not manufacture.
2) Britain sold the component parts for Sarin to both sides in the Syrian conflict. Not the USA. Not Russia. Great Britain.
This is why arms corruption in Great Britain is so important. It affects folks in Great Britain. It devastates people around the world. And this is why we should be so appalled by the London Arms Fair. Ok?
Now. Why not expand your knowledge about the devastation British arms sales cause to Great Britain and to peoples’ around the world by buying my book? And then, do something about it by signing the petition on the CAAT web-site.
Too many of us settle for shrugging and saying, well gee, I just didn’t know about this. Well. You do now. And you can find out more. So do it. And then, start making a fuss. As Britons, we are better than this. As human beings we are better than this. It deserves more than our switching on the latest episode of Game of Thrones.

'Maggie's Hammer': Diana, Arms Deals, Death

Was there a connection between the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and the nascent arms corruption of the British body politic, which corruption I describe in my book, Maggie's Hammer, and which I allege now exerts a dominating and toxic influence over most of the workings of the British government and the UK Parliament? Yes. But it was not what you thought it might have been. Read on.
When the British Conservative Party was unceremoniously tossed out of power in May of 1997, after eighteen years of government under first Margaret Thatcher and later John Major, all manner of seemingly credible establishment figures began to make serious allegations about the involvement of senior right-wing Conservatives in very remunerative (um, bribes) and certainly illicit arms dealing.
One by one, the politicians among the accusers were bought off. With a juicy Shadow Cabinet position here. A threat or two there. All except for Mohammed al-Fayed, billionaire owner of Harrods, Fulham Football Club. And the Ritz Hotel, in Paris.
Al-Fayed had a continuing beef with the British Conservatives. They had denied him British citizenship. And he promised in 1997 to walk all over the grave of their election defeat with detailed revelations of the covert arms activities of senior Conservatives. Naming names. Of all the participants. Including the Middle-Eastern arms middlemen. Folks who normally preferred to remain nameless, in the shadows.
Al-Fayed’s crowning moment came in June of 1997 when, just a month after the Tories’ election defeat, he provided the evidence which scuppered the libel action former Tory Cabinet Minister Jonathan Aitken was bringing against the (London) Guardian newspaper.
In 1995, the Guardian had run a piece alleging that Jonathan Aitken, while serving as Tory Minister for Defence Procurement (for which read, Minister for International Arms Sales), had in 1993 met in al-Fayed’s Ritz Hotel with one Said Ayas, one of the primary arms bagmen for the Saudi Royal Family.
Bagmen are the high-flying, backroom fixers who negotiate the level of arms commissions (bribes) to be paid, and who decide who receives how much. In 1993, some $300 million a year in arms commissions was being paid by the Saudi government into a special Bank of England account, for the political party in power in Great Britain then to divvy up among its friends.
That money arose out of a multi-stage, rolling arms contract between the British government and Saudi Arabia, which began in 1985, continues to this day, and so far has been worth about $100 billion. The contract is known as Al Yamamah, Arabic for ‘The Dove.’
Aitken was meeting with Ayas, in Paris, in 1993, to put the finishing touches to the bribes to be paid from Al Yamamah II, while commencing the negotiations for the commissions arising from Al Yamamah III.
Naturally, all of the parties concerned were less than happy with al-Fayed’s boasts that he was going to reveal details of the illicit Tory arms dealing which had been taking place in his hotel.
However, no-one really took him seriously. Until, in June of 1997, al-Fayed triumphantly produced a fax which proved that Aitken had been lying in his libel action.
The fax made clear that, contrary to what Aitken had been insisting in his libel action, namely that he had never met Ayas, didn’t know him, and most certainly had been nowhere near the Ritz Hotel the weekend in 1993 when Ayas was holding court there. Aitken had indeed been in the Ritz Hotel that same weekend. Meeting with Ayas. In fact, the fax al-Fayed was waving in his grubby little hand was none other than a copy of Aitken’s hotel bill. Oops.
Libel action crashes. Aitken later goes to prison for perjury. Fayed is beside himself with joy. And the backroom arms dealings of the British Conservative Party and those shadowy Middle Eastern bagmen are suddenly being exposed all over the British media. Not a place shadowy arms middlemen like to have their photographs appearing.
I continue with an excerpt from my book:
“Al-Fayed was, of course, beside himself with joy. Not only had the offending event occurred in his hotel, but he had been able to get The Guardian story going in the first place, with his invaluable inside information about Jonny’s meeting.
More than that. Al-Fayed had then been able to apply the coup de grace personally. For it was he who had supplied the trial with the Ritz Hotel fax that had proven that Jonny’s wife was in Switzerland, and not in Paris. Tubby little Fayed bobbed and weaved around London, in merriment and mirth, rubbing his hands in glee, just like Danny de Vito as the Penguin in Batman Returns.
Along with the bobbing, and just before the weaving, al-Fayed was also trumpeting to the press that he would now hammer the nail well and truly into the coffin of the Conservative Party, with total exposure of the Tories’ remaining dirty dealings with respect to Al Yamamah. I put two and two together, and wondered whether he was in a position to do this because those dealings had also occurred in the Ritz Hotel?
I wrote a letter to al-Fayed (in early August of 1997), setting out my reasoning, and asking him if he’d happened to come across Hugh in his hotel, up to no good. Not really expecting al-Fayed to respond, I got a little “familiar” in the letter, and commended him on his courage in speaking out so boldly about arms merchants, who probably wouldn’t be too happy at his threats to expose them, along with right-wing Tories.
Less than a month later, in the middle of the night of August 31, 1997, his son Dodi was killed in mysterious circumstances in a car crash in Paris, as he was traveling from the Ritz Hotel back to his apartment. Also killed in the crash was his girlfriend. With him. In the back seat of his Mercedes.
The girlfriend was Diana, Princess of Wales.
To this day, Mohammed al-Fayed has not uttered a single word more about arms deals, arms merchants, arms middlemen, the Ritz Hotel or the (British) Conservative Party. He has four young children by his second marriage.”

Monday, August 28, 2017

'Maggie's Hammer': Thatcher, Miners, Poverty, Arms

A heart-rending description in today’s (London) Observer newspaper of poverty in the former coalfields of Northern England. So many to blame. So much to do. And so few driven even to try.
The tragic irony is that the Tories are now reaping the ‘benefit.’ For we were the ones who devastated the mining communities with our war on the unions in the Eighties. Not a proud moment in my life.
The article reminds us of the toxic danger of ignoring the long-term consequences of short-term political gain. And recalls for me the personal shame of having looked the other way.
It was the evisceration of British industry which served as the trigger for the massive corruption of the British body politic with arms bribes. As first Margaret Thatcher, and later her successors, of all political hue, sought to replace the lost industry with arms manufacture.

Tories, Neo-Liberalism and the Conservative Co-operative Movement

Oh look. The British Conservative Party does have thinkers. The linked to magazine is for those more towards the center of the Party. I’m always taken with what Jesse Norman has to say (Page 27). He comes from a banking background. But he realized quite early on that the economic model used by all major political parties in the UK, and by the UK Treasury, was totally broken. It treated people as predictable economic agents. Rather than the unpredictable a**holes we all are.
His general thinking is that the solution is to devolve as much decision-making process as possible to the people in all aspects of life. He is one of the prime supporters within the Conservative Party of mutualism. Established the Conservative Co-operative Movement (of which I am a founding member. And supports the concept of co-operative provision of both private and public services, including health care and education.
Now, while we’re on the subject of old economic models, and alternative Tory thinking, let’s include a handy history of what is currently still regarded as ‘traditional’ Tory economic thinking – neo-liberalism. All good background wonkdom …

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Monday, August 07, 2017

Life after (Election) Death for Red Toryism?

Nick Timothy, the ‘brains’ behind Theresa May’s pre-UK General Election 2017 brand of working-class Tory populism, is all over the place at the moment attempting to revive interest in Red Toryism.
The thing is, I don’t disagree with his central premises. That Tories should be interested in what is best for the whole nation. That they should always be concerned to reform, carefully. Wherever that reform sensibly should go. That they need to have an ear to what the populace wants. And that a lot of folk, especially working people, feel very uncomfortable with the prescription of the center-left for a supranational economic melting pot, which doesn’t appear to take care of those who can’t necessarily make the grade in the brave new world.
It is the healthier aspects of this approach which allow me to meld those aspects of Red Toryism with my own brand of US proletarian populism, which I call Democratic Populism.
The problem is, when people are scared, they aren’t always at their, hmm, ‘healthiest.’ And, as another Guardian article points out, it is often not the principle of free movement of labour, capital and goods that the ‘left-behinds’ vote against, as it is the colour of the skin doing the moving, and the fact that the capital ain’t moving into their bank account. Frankly, I think the author of this article, one Stephen Bush, misses a lot in his essay. But I do believe him correct when he says that, if Red Toryism dies, the alternative could be a lot uglier.
As Nick Timothy himself admits, he is as much to blame as anyone for the possibility that his policy baby may well have got thrown out with the election-failure bathwater. But, even before the 2017 UK General Election, some in the British Conservative Party were inadvertently doing their level best to condemn Red Toryism by allowing others favorably to compare it to Trumpism.
For myself, I do believe that politics in both the US and the UK will be driven, for a while to come, by a large section of the working population who feel they want to retake control of their economic future. I think that is best obtained by devolving as much power over economic decision-making as possible as far down the political ladder as possible.
The upshot of that will undoubtedly be less interest in supranational decision-making. A desire for some breathing space, while new priorities are designed. Which itself may take the form of an element of protectionism and isolation. Together with some localized intervention in the marketplace, to keep at bay the impersonal forces of capitalist change, while ordinary folk better prepare themselves for that brave new world. And it might even see a surge of interest in mutualism. All in all, a gentle ‘qualification’ of the absolute freedom of the free market.
What I strongly believe will not work is boffins of right and left seizing on the distress that exists to superimpose trendy prescriptions of social engineering, which are not desired, and have not worked in the past, and may only result in further distress, and a headlong rush towards greater political ugliness.
It is not left the people want. Nor right. Nor even the center. It is populism. It is what the people say they want. It’s easy enough to work out. Just stop prescribing before you’ve listened. And then have the generosity of political will actually to accept what you are hearing.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Left-Behind Folk in the UK much like those in the US

It is fascinating how much similarity there is at the moment between the US and the UK politically. Especially as regards the behavior of those who believe themselves ‘left behind.’
I really have little more to add to this excellent analysis in the (London) Guardian. Except possibly for this. Labour did, indeed, do brilliantly in the UK General Election in June. And many Labourites are acting as if the next election (probably not before 2022) will be a case of building on that success. I’m not so sure.
For certain, Labour’s good result had much to do with the unexpectedly assured performance of Jeremy Corbyn. And the seeming attraction of Labour’s manifesto. But I still hold that history will show that 2017 was about rebellion much more than Labour.
Rebellion by Tory Remainers in London. Rebellion by Liberal Democrats against the LibCon Coalition record and against Farron. Rebellion against the European Union in the North and East of England. Rebellion by the young against austerity. The question is, how much of this rebellion will remain embedded in 2022?
I suspect the Liberal Democrats may be slightly regrouped under Vince Cable. Not much. Not enough. But some. Brexit will no longer be an issue. So just watch those Tory Remainers remain with Labour no longer. And I'm pretty certain the Tory government will merrily spend the next two years picking the more palatable and attractive cherries from Labour's offering of goodies, in order to calm further fears of pocket-picking going forward. At least among those whose votes the Tories want.
Meanwhile, as this article makes clear, the move by many voters in 2017 from Labour to Tory, in the North and East, was not just about Brexit. It was, as one correspondent describes, a 25-year movement. I’m not sure all those Labour voters will be returning. Besides, I don’t see how Labour will have anything more to offer in 2022 than they did in 2017. So, where does a better result come from?
Add to all this the near-certainty that the British Conservative Party will have a new and likely younger leader (my money is on Priti Patel). The Tories will need a polling lead of only 3% for an overall majority, compared to 8% for Labour. And the fact that Labour will be led either by Jeremy Corbyn (who goes down much better at Glastonbury than in the North and East), or by someone he pretty much handpicks. And I’m not convinced that the Tories will not be eking out a fourth, consecutive, narrow election victory.

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Friday, June 09, 2017

UK General Election 2017: The Morning After The Nightmare Before

I’ve been involved in electioneering in #GreatBritain, actively and as an observer, since the #GeneralElection of 1979, when I was also a successful #BritishConservativeParty municipal candidate. And I have never seen a General Election as remarkable as the one just finished (#GE2017). Remarkable not just because so few expected it (except, sigh, for #YouGov). But because the results themselves are still so confusing.
First, the overall picture. Well, I should have stuck with my original April prediction, and the reasons for it, when I said that this might all backfire on #TheresaMay. I suspected then that the pollsters and pundits were overestimating May, underestimating the holding power of #Labour, and not factoring in the likelihood that #Tory #Remainers would, well, ‘remain’ at home.
That said, my June adjustments weren’t without merit. They just didn’t take account of certain things that really only became apparent on polling day itself.
Young people turned out in droves – good for Labour. The #LiberalDemocrats did a teeny-weeny bit better than my second prediction assumed – bad for Tories. Not all of the UKIP vote in the North of England went to the Tories. Some 30% went to Labour – bad for Tories. #ToryRemainers did stay at home, especially in London – good for Labour. All of which might have made for a better night for Labour, but for the unexpected success of the Tories in #Scotland.
Ok. That is the big picture. But it wasn’t as simple as that. Take these two stats for example. At 4 o’clock in the morning (UK time). Within minutes of each other. The Tories won #Mansfield in the North of England from Labour with an 18.5% swing. While #ReadingEast was won by Labour from the Tories with a 16.5% swing.
Never, not in almost 40 years of interest in British General Election campaigns, have I ever experienced results of such complete and utterly opposite trend. What did it mean?
I’ve been scratching my head. I think the answer is this. People were just bloody weary. Weary of politics. Weary of politicians. They treated the whole production as one big By-Election. And just decided to rebel against everyone and everything.
Labour pushed out #Conservative. Conservative pushed out Liberal Democrat. Liberal Democrat pushed out Labour. And everyone had a shot at the #SNP in Scotland.
People saw through Theresa May and #NicolaSturgeon’s manipulation, and gave them both a bloody nose. They saw authenticity in #JeremyCorbyn and #RuthDavidson, and again, rewarded them both. Plus. The great British public decided they wanted to take it a bit easier on the #Brexit negotiations.
Where does this leave us? Well. I could go into a long ‘constitutional’ chit-chat. But, I’ll spare you. Here’s my very brief prediction of a timeline. May becomes #PrimeMinister. Supported by the #DUP. Eventually, there will be a vote of no confidence (may even come from her own side). #BoJo will be given a shot. He will fail. Corbyn will take his chance. He’ll let everyone see a juicy Labour Queen’s Speech. He’ll wave from No. 10 a few times. Suffer indignities at the hands of the Tories. He’ll wring his hands. Grimace. Shake his head. Shrug. Go back to the country. And get an enhanced mandate.
Why doesn't May just do the decent thing, and resign? Because she's a self-centered, selfish, stubborn pig. She didn't call this General Election for the good of the country, or for the good of her party. She called it to enhance her own personal position. Period. She knows she can't call a second General Election herself. She would be excoriated by the voting public. She knows her party grandees want rid of her. So, she's doing the only thing she can - for herself. Hanging on grimly.
Right. That’s really all I have to add to my #BBCExitPoll post of last evening. Save for a final personal note.
#NickClegg lost his seat last night. And I’m sorry. Theresa May made great play of the fact, when she took over as Leader of the Conservative Party and #BritishPrimeMinister, that she was putting the #Cameron legacy firmly in the past.
That legacy, at least in government, and to a very large extent, was the #CoalitionGovernment of 2010-2015. Which I believe, speaking as a wettish Tory, was one of the best experiments in governance I have witnessed in Great Britain. Not least because the charm, intelligence and patience of Nick Clegg brought out the better instincts of #DavidCameron.
I will miss Nick Clegg. So will the #UKParliament. And the people of Great Britain owe him a huge debt of gratitude. He was, in every sense of the expression, a selfless statesman.

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UK General Election 2017: The Exit Poll

Well. The notorious BBC exit poll has been published. Exit polls are no more a result than any other poll. But these BBC exit polls tend to be accurate.
So. First. Wow. Blimey. I was wrong with my prediction. But. At least I was on the right side of wrong. I wasn’t one of those predicting a May majority of 100, even 80.
That said. This is a victory for Labour. A disaster for May. A goodish result for the Liberal Democrats. And the beginning of the end for the Scottish National Party.
Ok. What next? And let me give you a hint. There are next to no experts on the British Constitution among the British media. Absolutely none in the US. So. Pay no attention to them.
As a consequence of the rules agreed to after the General Election of 2010, when there was also a Hung Parliament, rules drafted by the then Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell, the Queen will call on the Leader of the largest Party to attempt to form a government.
May’s only real chance of a government is in coalition with the Democratic Unionists and the Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Democrats won’t. The DUP probably won't be enough. In my opinion, therefore, and if the exit poll figures hold true, May will probably fail to form a government that commands a natural majority in the House of Commons.
She may try to govern without a majority. If I were Jeremy Corbyn, I would not give her the chance. Screw all the nonsense about Brexit negotiations beginning in 11 days time. The British government will tell the EU to wait.
The Constitution requires that May be given a chance. But there is no written Constitution as such. It is all conventions, wisdom, paying attention to the voice of the people, sticking a finger in the wind.
And the bottom line is this. Two months ago, Theresa May had a polling lead averaging about 20%. The British public have utterly rejected her. More than this, they have voted positively for Jeremy Corbyn and his program. This will be especially true if the Labour vote turns put to be larger than in 2015.
It matters not what anyone says about the SNP voting on English matters. We are still one country, called Great Britain. And Great Britain handed a success to Jeremy Corbyn. He went up. Theresa May went down.
The result allows May to have her chance. But only a limited one. Corbyn’s success allows him to be hard-headed. But within reason. And it allows him to govern with the tacit support of the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Green MP, the Liberal Democrats and like-minded parties from Northern Ireland.
If May stays as Prime Minister, she will not be challenged as Leader of the Conservative Party until after the Brexit negotiations have concluded.
The Brits take this whole Queen thing seriously. The Prime Minister is the Queen’s Prime Minister, not Parliament’s.
The Queen calls on a Member of Parliament to form a government. Parliament does not choose that person.
If the Queen calls on May to form a government. Then it will be May forming that government for the Conservatives. Not another Conservative.
There is just a chance that the Conservatives, desperate to hang onto power, may demand that May step aside, in favor of another Conservative MP, who might gain the backing of Parliament.
I think that unlikely. May is stubborn. And Corbyn could turn around and say, convention requires I give May a chance. But not any other Conservative. They lost this election. They went entirely the wrong way. By bucketloads. Why should I stand aside?
I can’t say as I’d disagree.
If I had to put money on it. If this exit poll is correct. Corbyn will be Prime Minister within two weeks.
But how did this happen? Well, those polls which were showing this to be a close election were correct. And those fashioning those polls said that their models were different because they were factoring in a large turnout of young people. So. I’m guessing young people (18-25) made the difference.
Whoever becomes Prime Minister, tactics with regards to the Brexit negotiations will now change.
Theresa May was playing hardball because she said she had the country behind her. The country is likely still pretty much Brexit. But not hard Brexit.
Besides, those doing the negotiating for the EU are going to be the ones playing hardball now.
What else? Oh yes. Once the Brexit negotiations are concluded, May will be gone. Unless she resigns before the end of this coming weekend. And. She won't be getting a bust in the Carlton Club.
Even if Corbyn does not become Prime Minister, he’s not going anywhere. He now has the opportunity to choose his preferred successor.
The Liberal Democrats will be reasonable happy. Provided the exit poll works out. And gives them a few extra seats.
The SNP are finished. This was a bad result. They are not now going to get a second independence referendum. Labour won’t give them one.
Labour will be taking the view that, once Brexit is done, once folk realize there isn’t going to be a second referendum, those folk will abandon the SNP as a one issue party. Just as UKIP proved to be. At which point, Labour will be expecting to get back their voters.
Um. That's it. Until we get some actual results. May. 100 seat majority. Wipe away the tears of mirth. Never a dull moment in the UK, eh?

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Tuesday, June 06, 2017

UK General Election 2017: Pre-PostMortem

On the subject of distinguishing between real media and ‘fake’ news. My view of why we got the result in the UK General Election we got. In advance of getting it.
And my apologies for writing about tacky politics at this difficult moment in the land of my birth. But politics is the answer. And writing about it remains important.
Pretty much as I predicted when the election was called, Theresa May and the British Conservative Party will win an outright majority. But of no more than 40 seats.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time rehashing what everyone else is saying, or will say. I’m going to offer my own personal perspective.
First, what is different between my earlier prediction and this pre-postmortem? Answer: the Liberal Democrats.
Pretty much all that I said in the earlier prediction, especially the collapse of UKIP, and the opening that would offer the Tories, will come true.
But, the Liberal Democrats have also collapsed. Which means the Tories will pick up a few extra seats in the South-West I was not predicting on April 20.
The other major change is I do not think a low majority for May will be due to low turnout. It will be because she has turned out to be a manifestly awful campaigner. While Jeremy Corbyn has been surprisingly affable and effective.
Which is not to say May made a mistake calling a snap election. She didn’t call it for the health of her party, or the country. She did it to make the most of what she privately perceived as her own shortcomings.
I think Theresa May is a lot like Gordon Brown. Controlled. Controlling. Introspective. Shy. Insecure. With all the charisma of a soggy Margaret Thatcher 1979 tea towel.
Unlike Gordon Brown, I believe May was well aware of her personality shortcomings. Like Gordon Brown, she had a plan all worked out for maximizing her leadership in the first few months of her reign. Then, unlike Brown, she had the balls mercilessly to take advantage of her temporary popularity.
Plus, she was canny enough to look ahead, and realize that the Tory brand was waning.
May transformed the Tory Party, after her ascension, from Cameron’s touchy-feely tree-hugging to UKIP. Not UKIP-lite. No. Full bore UKIP. With devastatingly-effective and cruel manipulation, May took full advantage of all the emotional consequences of Brexit.
She wasn’t in the slightest bit interested in the future. She was interested only in this election.
I think the clever people around May. And they are very clever. Told her that, once Brexit was done, well before the chosen date for the next General Election of 2020, the voting public would have no reason to vote for the Tories other than their record.
And even the most fervent of Conservative blue rinses has to accept that the time for this version of Toryism is over. The sell-by date is past.
Electorates never vote out of gratitude. They vote for goodies they are going to get tomorrow.
Whatever folks may think about Tory claims that they rescued Great Britain from Labour excess and recession. That was all so five minutes and Nick Clegg ago.
People have had enough of being noble. Of being told they need to accept cut, and cut out and cut off, for the good of the country, their children, the world, someone over there.
It’s time for some sugar. The clever people around May told her that, by 2020, and with Brexit out of the way, the Great British voting public would be looking for a bit of Bert after all the Mary Poppins. A spoonful of sugar. And Tories don’t do sugar well.
It’s no good talking about nationalization, and price controls, and ceilings being a part of the failed past. No-one cares about the Seventies. Besides, people like to do their own failing. They won’t get warned off it by being told it’s going to end in tears.
If people paid any attention to history and causes, marriage counselors and bookies would have gone out of fashion a long time ago.
So. May knew 2020 was going to be a disaster for the Tories. Knew her best shot was now. Knew that those 20% polling leads would dwindle the moment she began to put her foot in her mouth. And so, she called her snap election. For herself. And for herself alone.
Now. To be fair. I suspect she knew her polling figures would take a knock. But not as much as they have. Very few punters predicted Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign. And let’s be clear, Jeremy has done more than cement his own position as Labour leader post-election. He has, in my humble opinion, made Labour favorites to win the next General Election.
Corbyn and Momentum made a conscious decision not to offer Tory-lite in 2017. They presented a coherent alternative economic and social policy. Based on assumptions which rang true with the current British electorate.
Again, it matters not if Tories and others whined that nationalization didn’t work last time. Neither party was offering anything all that new. There never really is anything new in politics and economics. It’s all a rehash of the past.
The only thing that matters is whether or not it is a rehash whose time has come. And Jeremy Corbyn, with his integrity, charm, affability and humor, created a space, entirely all his own, in which that rehash could be viewed positively. And I predict that will be a stepping stone to likely Labour success in five year’s time.
I’m not sure Corbyn will hang around for another election. But he will now likely go on his own terms. And I suspect not least because the more intelligent of those who opposed him will realize that he really was the man for the hour. There probably was not another candidate who could have done a better job of making Labour policy look so warm and fuzzy in 2017.
Oh. An even further look ahead in my pre-postmortem crystal ball? Unless May exceeds all expectations, and does in fact get a majority of at least 80 seats, she will be history by the time of the next General Election.

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