Friday, June 24, 2016 

We've got our England back.

We've got our England back, said the woman from Barnsley on the radio.

The England where the high streets consist of charity shops, pawnbrokers and betting shops.

The England where the out of town retail outlets continue to buzz.

The England where the pubs, once hubs of the community, close one by one.

The England where J.D. Wetherspoon thrives, where the booze is sold cheap, and the vomit outside mounts.

The England where we've got to start looking after our own.

The England where the poor are good only for Channel 4 and Channel 5 documentaries, where charity begins at home.

The England where politicians will now finally have to listen to concerns about immigration.

The England so intolerant, so spiteful, that it has voted for economic suicide after a mere 10 years of increased migraton from other white European nations.

The England that has finally made its voice heard.

The England that did it not by howling at the outcome of 37 years of neoliberal economics, of the hollowing out of a country that once made things, but by in effect giving a vote of confidence to the most rapacious, disreputable and dishonest of our free market politicians.

The England that once stood alone in defiance, the England that could have sued for peace, but fought on.

The England that has now turned its back on the world.

Yep, you've got your England back.  


Enjoy it.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016 

The empty threats of an irresponsible chancellor.

When it comes to issuing threats, there are a couple of set rules.  First, the threat itself must be realistic. For instance, every time Israel has struck within Syria, whether to hit Hezbollah or some other related target, the Syrian government has responded by warning of devastating consequences.  This has been going on for decades.

Second, the threat must be seen to have a chance of being carried out.  Despite all the talk of Project Fear and the criticism of scaremongering, the threat or rather promise of refusing a currency union with an independent Scotland was a realistic prospect, as were most of the other warnings.   While not a threat per se, the warnings of how an independent Scotland would be affected by a drop in the price of oil in fact underplayed how serious the drop in revenue would have been had Yes won.

George Osborne and Alistair Darling's threat of an emergency budget should the country vote to Leave next week therefore fails on all counts.  First and most pertinently, George Osborne's not going to be in a position to present a budget in the first place.  Even if David Cameron doesn't resign immediately as I imagined yesterday, he's likely to announce a fairly imminent departure.  Osborne is almost certain to stand in the Tory leadership contest, so win or not, he most certainly won't be chancellor.

Next, as most commentators quickly pointed out, the tax rises and spending cuts Osborne and Darling set out (PDF) would almost certainly result in a recession whether or not the reaction to leaving is as dramatic as they predict.  Darling's claim that he's more worried now than he was in 2008 is ahistorical nonsense.  Darling and Brown have both previously commented that if they had not acted in the way they had as market turmoil and panic spread following the bankruptcy of Lehmann Brothers, the whole banking system was in danger of collapse.  However serious the market reaction to a Leave vote would be, it would not result in the banks having to close and ATMs being left empty.  The only responsible thing to do would be to wait and see what happens, and then if the economic fallout is damaging as claimed, the response would be to cut taxes and increase spending, as Darling of course did in 2008.

If then by some marvel of the universe Osborne was both still chancellor and decided to pursue his punishment budget, it would be voted down.  The now 65 Tory MPs who have said they oppose it would win the day on their own, without the need of Labour, with Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell both saying they would oppose such a ramping up of austerity in any case.  Corbyn even managed to get a laugh out of Cameron at PMQs by congratulating the Tory MPs supporting Leave on their sudden conversion to anti-austerity.

In the end though, it all comes back to the irresponsibility of Cameron and Osborne.  Their refusal to confront their backbenchers in the way that say Blair did, instead giving in to their demands, has inexorably led to the very real risk the country will vote to make itself permanently poorer and more insular next week.  Osborne's threat to make things even worse with an emergency budget isn't him cutting off his nose to spite his face; it's the equivalent of the dictator in the bunker ordering a non-existent army to commence blowing up bridges and destroying crops.  Remain or leave, Cameron and Osborne must go.  And soon.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016 

Hard and fast.

The result of the 23rd of June 2016 referendum on whether to stay or leave the European Union came as a shock to those campaigning for Out.  Very few of them had genuinely believed they would win, let alone by a mirror image of the result in the Scottish independence referendum of two years previous.  The 55%-45 vote in favour of Leave stunned most of the political establishment, but not the leadership of the Conservative party.  Just as their private polling had suggested they were on their way to a majority in 2015, so too it had pointed towards a victory for Leave.  In the last couple of days of the campaign, David Cameron and George Osborne had become fatalistic in private, preparing for the inevitable.  Labour's canvass returns led them to reach a similar conclusion, but their reaction was the opposite, throwing everything they had into trying to get their supporters to realise what they were going to vote for.

It did no good.  Their minds had been already made up.  The Leave campaign's unending focus on immigration from the EU had overwhelmed all the opposing arguments from the Remain side.  More precisely, the unrelenting focus on immigration post the 2005 accession of the A8 countries is what did for Remain.  Most damaging by far was the Conservative promise to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands, an unachievable aim the leadership had never been serious about, and yet kept even after winning their majority in 2015.  David Cameron's claims that his renegotiation, extracting concessions on benefits, would somehow bring the numbers down was specious and he knew it.  Migrants from Europe came to work, not claim benefits.

Few politicians dared to make a positive case for the wave of migration from eastern Europe, instead either making false promises or pretending to listen to concerns while doing nothing.  The coalition government went so far as to abolish the fund that had directed increased spending to areas of the country where migration was highest.  That 5% of nurses and 10% of doctors working in the NHS were EU nationals made no difference; most chose to believe that immigration was in fact a drain on the health service, when the opposite was the case.  Labour voices that had previously spoken up for migrants were drowned out by other MPs panicked by what their constituents were telling them.  The last minute pledge to work to change the rules on freedom of movement came far too late to make any difference.

The Remain campaign had started out believing that a repeat of the "Project Fear" tactics seen in the independence referendum would work again two years later.  What Remain had not reckoned on was the remarkable dishonesty of the Leave campaign: almost every single claim made was a lie, and yet it did them no harm.  By far the most egregious was how many times over Leave spent the money they claimed would be saved by leaving the EU. It was variously promised to the NHS, to cut VAT, to keep up the payments the EU made to universities, farmers, the arts etc.  The internet was meant to have made fact checking the claims of politicians all the easier, and still it made no difference.  All politicians were liars, went the refrain, so why would anyone bother?  The required neutrality of the broadcasters meant they had to treat the figures produced by Leave with credulity, even when they were fantastical.  With the vast majority of the print media virulently anti-EU, producing front pages that day after day warned of a new migrant surge, any attempts to move the debate away from immigration on to the economy, how the UK wanted to be seen in the world and how it would affect the rest of Europe failed.

The morning of June the 24th was grey and wet, as much of the previous month had been.  The exception were the images beaming out from every TV screen: the grinning, jubilant faces of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage.  David Cameron, his face ashen, begrudgingly congratulated the Leave campaign at a dawn press conference in Downing Street, where he also announced his immediate resignation as both prime minister and leader of the Conservatives.  Cameron in the past few days had tried and failed to come to terms with the extent of his failure, what he now recognised as his act of the utmost irresponsibility in promising a referendum.  With the focus on winning the 2015 election, the Tory leadership had failed to recognise that its success would also be its downfall.  The coalition it had put together to win that election, overwhelmingly focused on voters over 40, was massively opposed to the EU and resistant to change.  The Tories had imagined that Labour voters would make up the difference.  Instead, faced with a Tory government, continuing austerity and without the prospect of any apparent improvement in their lot, many decided that leaving couldn't possibly make things any worse.

George Osborne took over as interim prime minister, launching his bid to become party leader a year earlier than he had imagined would be the case.  Osborne ended up finishing third, behind Michael Gove and the all conquering Boris Johnson.  Johnson within days of taking over conspired behind the scenes with the SNP for a vote of no confidence to be called.  While Labour opposed the vote, the other parties voted in favour, and a snap general election was called.  Jeremy Corbyn campaigned valiantly on a manifesto designed around leaving the EU on the best possible terms, remaining in the single market, but the party was as divided as ever.  The SNP swept the board in Scotland, Plaid Cymru and UKIP picked up seats in Wales while Labour fell back even further in England, the Tories under Johnson winning a landslide victory.

Writing from the vantage point of 2040, with Scotland long independent having rejoined the EU, Wales on the cusp of its own independence vote with the polls suggesting a clear majority in favour of seceding from England and Northern Ireland, and London an effective city state, with Neo Labour mayor Owen Jones entering his fourth term having negotiated a free trade agreement with the EU where the Tories had long refused to, it's easy to see how disastrous the Leave vote was.  Johnson lasted only 2 years as prime minister before a scandal involving his giving the home address of a BBC journalist to a underworld figure forced his resignation.  One of the first moves of his successor, Michael Gove, was to join in with President Trump's attack on Iran.  The last British troops leave Tehran in September, with the total number of dead numbering over 5,000.

The Leave campaign never had a plan for what to do in the event that it won.  While the worst predictions of Remain were not realised, at least not in the short term, the results over time have if anything been worse.  With the Tories failing to agree a trade deal with the EU, everything reverted to WTO standards.  With the advantages of being in a trade block gone, the global manufacturers who had based their operations in the UK one by one relocated to the continent.  Communities that had already been hit hard by the 2008 crash were hit again, this time never to recover.  The voters did however get their wish on immigration: with the UK no longer one of the fastest growing economies in Europe, net migration fell within 5 years to below the tens of thousands target.  After ten years the pendulum had swung completely: more were emigrating than were arriving.  Still however there is a comfortable majority for the Tories in England,  Labour having split, merged with the Greens and Liberal Democrats in an attempt to create a progressive bloc, and then re-emerged as Neo Labour under the leadership of Will Straw.

The UK post-2016 seems to this writer the embodiment of H.L. Mencken's statement that "democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard".  At least it would be if it didn't result in numerous Neo Labour MPs informing me of how these are very real concerns that we must listen to.

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Thursday, June 09, 2016 

Mark Allen and Jack Straw: guilty as hell.

In another of those wonderful moments of serendipity we get every so often, today has seen both the publication of the Loughinsland inquiry and the CPS decision on whether to bring charges against the former MI6 head of counter-terrorism.  For years various officials and politicians in Northern Ireland and the rUK have attacked the idea there had been collusion between the RUC and loyalist paramilitaries, despite previous inquiries finding precisely that, such as the de Silva report into the murder of Pat Finucane.  Far too much emphasis was placed on regrettable incidents like Bloody Sunday, and not enough on the outrages committed by the Republican terrorist organisations, helmed by figures now at the very top of the devolved government.   Where was the over-arching inquiry into their crimes, aided they often allege by the Irish government and the Garda?

That the IRA was riddled with informers and MI5 agents, some of whom commissioned attacks in order not to blow their cover is not as often brought up.  Now we know thanks to the Maguire report of further such examples involving loyalist groups, only with the RUC rather than the intelligence agencies covering their tracks or turning a blind eye.  Up to 70 murders and attempted murders were carried out with weapons smuggled in under the noses of the police, with the owner of the farm where the weapons were being hidden tipped off two hours before the RUC came looking.  While other officers were trying their hardest to track down those responsible for the Loughinisland massacre, someone informed members of the gang they were about to be arrested.  One of the suspects was in any case an informer, who carried on being so for a number of years after.

At least the motives in Northern Ireland were good ones though, right?  The object was to save lives; who's to say those agents and informers didn't ensure more people weren't killed than would have been otherwise?

The same cannot be said of our dealings with Colonel Gaddafi in the aftermath of his giving up his WMDs, a decision that hasn't exactly stood the test of time for either side, Gaddafi having ended up being sodomised with a knife and all.  Delivering over a couple of Islamist opposition figures to his jailers was the least we could do, wrote Mark Allen to the Libyan head of intelligence, Moussa Koussa.

A hint of the likely outcome to the police inquiry into the MI6 aided rendition of Abdul Hakim Belhadj and Sami al-Saadi was provided by the flying visit of said Moussa Koussa to the UK prior to the fall of Gaddafi.  After a quick chat with the rozzers about Lockerbie, Koussa was allowed to piddle off to Qatar.  You might have expected the intelligence chief of a dictatorship with an appalling human rights record would have been of especial interest, not least because of Yvonne Fletcher and the supplying of the IRA with large amounts of Semtex, but strangely not.

Likewise, Sir Mark Allen is not so much as named by CPS, instead referred to anonymously as the "suspect", despite how the entire rest of the media is naming him.  To be fair to the CPS, their full statement in fact gives them great credit.  While it starts off with Sue Hemming saying there was insufficient evidence to bring charges, it goes on to almost deliberately contradict itself.  While the actual rendition was not carried out by MI6, instead our mates in the CIA doing the kidnapping and strapping down of Belhadj's wife, there was contact between them and the suspect, as there also was with the Libyans.  While there also wasn't complete written authorisation by a minister, there was some discussion.  In other words, Allen and Jack Straw, then foreign secretary, are guilty as hell.  Only the law as it stands falls short of being able to guarantee a conviction.

Not that the explanatory part of the statement will make a scrap of difference.  Insufficient evidence is the part that will be repeated over and over.  Nothing to see here.  That the Gibson inquiry was in effect scrapped so the police could investigate the allegations against Straw and Allen was something of a happy coincidence for the coalition government, soon having got cold feet, despite originally promising a full independent inquiry into alleged collusion in torture and rendition.  Instead the Intelligence and Security Committee is once again left to try and get the truth out of MI6, which even with its new powers and the capable and trustworthy Dominic Grieve as chairman can hardly be depended on.

Still, this is without doubt the very closest we have yet come to any sort of government body admitting the intelligence services in the aftermath of 9/11 were perfectly happy to collude in torture.  It didn't matter that neither Belhadj or al-Saadi were of the slightest threat to the West, members of a group with links to al-Qaida or not; the lure of getting access for British companies to Libya's oil was enough of a justification.  Allen of course went on to become a special adviser to BP, even if the subsequent deal with Libya was rather soured by the uprising against Gaddafi, at which point we once again switched sides.

We're funny like that.  One minute we're handing over people to be tortured, the next we're deciding the responsibility to protect the ordinary citizens of Libya had to be invoked.  It's almost as though we make it up as we go along, with no moral code whatsoever, even while those with overall responsibility for such acts demand further such interventions.  Ah well.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2016 

Where are the Blairs of yesteryear?

A couple of weeks back, Sam Kriss wrote an absolutely glorious, unrelentingly scabrous and marvellously offensive takedown of Nick Cohen.  Cohen, Kriss writes, is "the one who looks like a kind of malignant egg, with his pervert’s dent of a top lip".  This didn't go unnoticed by David Aaronovitch, with the great man tweeting Kriss on how he only wrote such things as he knew Cohen wouldn't sue him.  Oh, and that he should fuck off.   Cohen himself was left with little to do other than the equivalent of shouting leave him Dave, he ain't worth it, adding only "the poor fucker can't write".

I mention Aaronovitch and Cohen only to compare them with their fallen leader.  Not that either would ever confess to being a Blair booster, despite that being the role both have effectively played for years, the outsider commentators pushing for that muscular liberalism Blair only really embraced and talked of once out of office, even if it was the very essence of the Blair doctrine.  While there are still Blair devotees in Labour, the Tories and among the leader writers of various newspapers, actual commentators with a weekly column pushing the interventionist line are getting rarer.

This is hardly surprising when none of the liberal interventionists have ever had the eloquence, the force of argument, or most importantly, the belief that Blair had and still does.  Tony you truly have to accept believes what he says when it comes to bombing it better; he still believes the Iraq war was the right thing to do.  He still thinks despite everything that we should have fully intervened on the side of the rebels in Syria, even if that means allying with jihadists funded by the Saudis, or al-Qaida itself.   He still poses the question of how things would have turned out if we hadn't decide to get rid of Saddam, as though you could ever say surely nowhere near as badly as they have done.

In short, it's always been difficult not to regard Blair with a grudging respect.  Say what you like about him, he has a world-view, and he's stuck to it in spite of everything.  Of his followers, Cohen has been the only one never to accept that Iraq was a disastrous mistake.  It hasn't stopped them from pushing to repeat the mistake elsewhere, but they didn't have the balls or that word again, the belief, to keep on defending something that to so many of us quickly became indefensible.

Only Blair finally seems to have cracked.  Perhaps the imminence of the publication of the Chilcot report and the strain of what it might say about him has finally pushed him over the edge.  To many of us nothing Chilcot could possibly conclude will make any difference at this point.  He's not going to say Blair lied.  About the best we can hope is for the blame to be spread equally, for it most certainly wasn't Tone that dragged us kicking and screaming into a war of aggression.  A large number of those that supported it did so with almost a spring in their step.

A Blair thinking straight wouldn't launch an ad hominem, straw man attack on Jeremy Corbyn as he has today. Blair raging against Corbyn for not lifting a finger against an actual war criminal in Bashar Assad might make more sense if it wasn't now 3 years since the Commons rejected air strikes that were meant as some sort of punishment for using chemical weapons, not aimed at actually deposing him.   If Blair wants to go after anyone over that, it should be Ed Miliband, the coalition for making such a fuck-up of the case, or as he probably acknowledges deep down, himself for forever giving ill-thought through and badly planned military adventures a bad name.

No, see, our Tone got rid of a bona fide war criminal when he and Bush overthrew Saddam.  Of course, Saddam principally committed his war crimes while we were supplying him with weapons and the likes of Corbyn were condemning the gassing of the Kurds as the government of the time said not a dicky bird, but that's by the by.  What has Corbyn ever achieved with his protesting?  Is his brand of opposition ever likely to lead to power?  Does he even want power?

The sad thing is, Blair has a point.  Being opposed on principle to war until all other alternatives have been exhausted, or keeping our nose out of civil wars in the Middle East doesn't tend to win you elections.  We only need to look across the pond to where Hillary Clinton has just triumphed in the Democratic race, despite how Hillary has never seen a conflict she didn't want to join in with or failed to support when suggested by the Republicans.   Hillary owns Libya even more than Obama does, and if anything has even greater interventionist credentials than our Tone, among her closest advisers and friends Samantha Power, who really has wrote the book, Susan Rice and Anne-Marie Slaughter.  Whichever of Trump or Hillary ends up as president, you can guarantee there's going to be a whole load more wars, with our good selves following meekly behind.

Unless Corbyn wins.  Which he won't.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2016 

This is how you don't silence journalists in a democratic country.

There are many wonderful things about this Stephen Daisley piece that has been doing the rounds, but for reasons of time and brevity let's just zero in on his thundering conclusion:

But media hatred is not criticism. It is a rage against a world that refuses to work out the way it ought to and replicates a hostility to critical enquiry familiar from earlier forms of populism. The object is not "fairness" or "balance" but complicity by intimidation. The object is to single out journalists like Kuenssberg and, by making an example of them, produce a chilling effect.

Am I sure I want to write this story? Is publishing this sceptical analysis going to fill my timeline with abuse and invective? Look what happened to Laura Kuenssberg. Is it really worth it?

That is how you silence journalists in a democratic country. Not a finger lifted, not a bone broken. Make their job more and more difficult. Make employing them more and more bothersome. Eventually, you'll shut them up or prompt their employer to rein them in. And you won't have to worry about hearing them in the mainstream media anymore.

Once upon a time, journalists used to expect green ink letters, dog shit in an envelope, or exceptionally rarely to never having actually happened, letter bombs.  Actually, that's not true.  Some journalists in democratic countries can potentially face far worse, as we sadly know.  But no, what they really have to fear is an unpleasant timeline.

Abusing journalists as opposed to criticising (some) commentators is rarely worth the effort, not to mention not condonable.  Your average punter might not like the media that much themselves, but if you so inspire your supporters to descend en masse outside a BBC building to protest about perceived biased coverage say, then you start looking ever so slightly unreasonable.

Still, the ironies here are nearly impossible to count.  In his scattergun spray against everything he disdains, Daisley mentions identity politics.  It doesn't seem to matter that Daisley zeroes in immediately on why Kuenssberg has faced abuse and complaints so quickly - it's because she's a woman, obvs.  Actual evidence for the dislike of Kuenssberg, which I am not defending in any way, being based on her gender is extremely thin on the ground, but no matter.  Just throw it in there.  That the media deciding Kuenssberg being hissed was more of a story than Jeremy Corbyn's actual speech doesn't really suggest there's much in the way of silencing going on either.

What's happening more widely is the mixing up of journalists and MPs as though they were one and the same, with strangely the same people, suddenly aware of what some normies and a lot of motivated, hateful shits think of them, wanting something to be done about it.  The Reclaim the Internet campaign, laudable as it is, would make more sense if the internet had ever been a place where wide open spaces invited debate rather than flame wars and abuse.  It hasn't, and probably never will.  Facebook and Twitter are too open and too big to moderate.  This is not a bug; it's a feature.  The internet has always been about subcultures, where groups of like-minded people congregate and either get on or fall out, but did so in a confined space.  Throw a whole load of people of different, competing world-views and backgrounds together on one huge place, remove the barriers to communication, and what do you expect is going to happen?


The fact that journalism is becoming one of the worst possible professions to work in, as hardly anyone wants to pay for the product, allied with how it's so easy for the cunts of this world to scream at you thanks to how the media embraced Twitter only for it to come back and bite them in the arse is merely coincidence.  Actual populism, the kind that sees hateful bastards warn that staying in the EU will raise the chance of women being raped because of all the people with different "attitudes" coming over here, is a threat.  


The "populism" Daisley and friends object to is people daring to speak up against the overly deferential treatment of not the mainstream, but the real, actual establishment, or rather establishments, as there's the political establishment and media establishments, as obviously the Graun/Indie/FT aren't the same as the Mail/Sun/Express/Times/Telegraph.  The coverage say that for so long treated Farage, a populist if he wasn't such a pompous prig, with kid gloves.  Farage has had a far better press than Corbyn, and I'll leave it up to you which one is the more radical.

Such though are the biases we've long got used to, for better, for worse.  What really grinds the gears is when the bosses of the Daisleys of this world piss on my head and then he and others like him insist I'm the one doing the pissing.

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Monday, June 06, 2016 

Does anyone understand politics anymore?

Andrew Sparrow is good enough in his latest politics live blog to admit he sometimes feels like he doesn't understand politics anymore.  How could anyone claim to understand politics when polling suggests that Boris Johnson is now the most trusted figure in the EU referendum debate?  Admittedly, by most trusted we essentially mean least not trusted, as he has a net figure of minus 26, yet that's still 25 points above David Cameron.  And amazingly, Boris Johnson's figure has improved over the past two months.

These figures are practically meaningless, of course.  They're not really rating trust, they're rating popularity.  Nicola Sturgeon is second most trusted, and she's said almost nothing of any consequence on the referendum, except to make clear how she would obviously be doing a much better job of losing than Cameron currently is.  As discussed before, the referendum has practically turned into a matter of all or nothing for Dave: he wins, he can stay in power for at least a little longer.  He loses, he resigns.  If there's any in-between, there's been no evidence of it.  He can talk all he likes about staying on regardless of the result; he can hardly say any different.  Everyone knows he's a goner if it's Leave, not least as it should be up to the Leavers to make a go of the negotiations with the EU.  They wanted out, they campaigned for it, they should be the ones tasked with making their claims of things only getting better freed from the confines of the EU a reality.

Johnson's triumph, despite as Sparrow outlines issuing a constant stream of half-truths to outright whoppers seems indicative of where we are currently.  All politicians are liars; all involved are scaremongering; only those impervious to practically all attacks can hope to rise above it.  That Johnson has been twice sacked for dishonesty only seems to demonstrate how superior he is at lying, being found out, and recovering regardless.  Most lesser mortals would have been done for the first time, not managed to be in with a massive shout of becoming prime minister while claiming that bananas can't be sold in bunches of more than 3.

It almost makes you wonder if the key is to lie big and as often as possible, just combine it with what looks to be a positive case.  Boris and chums spent today claiming not just there would be a "triple whammy" should we remain, with all three parts of the whammy swiftly debunked, but also that you can only guarantee long-term prosperity with democracy and freedom.  This is an incredibly dubious argument, undermined not least by how China to name but one country has combined lack of basic freedoms with a growth rate the envy of the rest of the world.  History suggests that a growing middle class will eventually demand greater freedoms to the detriment of authoritarian governments/rulers, only this has yet to come to fruition.  Nonetheless, much as the claims of lack of accountability, with bureaucrats making decisions in Brussels we can't influence are incredibly overblown, they still resonate.  You can't be against democracy.  You can't be against freedom.  You don't want to be under the control of a remote elite more interested in continuing to concentrating power than anything else.  Why not take back control?

That it's snake oil doesn't matter when snake oil seems preferable, at least for the moment, to a constant diet of doom.  Both Vote Leave (PDF) and Stronger In (ditto) issued dossiers today; even the merest glance at the two makes clear that Stronger In's, while still listing the most hyperbolic predictions of what could happen if we leave, is easily the more based in reality.  Facts though seem irrelevant, even as voters demand them; the facts we really want depend on our biases.   Very few of us are completely ignorant of the arguments; that is not to say though the arguments we're aware of are not themselves ignorant.  One might hope the intervention of the Institute for Fiscal Studies today, making clear Michael Gove was misrepresenting its finding that leaving would save £8 billion a year, albeit an £8 billion that would very quickly melt away if the economy declined as they believe might have some impact, but probably not.

Nor is there much hope when as Leave put it, Cameron appeared alongside a host of losers.  Natalie Bennett has been hopeless as leader of the Greens; Harriet Harman was such a success as interim Labour leader she massively helped Corbyn to victory; and Tim Farron hasn't even started to begin the rebuilding process the Lib Dems need to go through.  Who currently undecided could possibly be persuaded by any of these figures?  Has Remain gone too early with its economic campaign?  Has the scaremongering had the opposite effect?  Are the polls suggesting a shift to Leave wrong or merely the equivalent of what happened in Scotland, where Yes received a boost late on only to fall far short?

My own feeling, so wrong last year, is that Leave really could win this, helped by how Leave voters are more motivated to turn out than Remain supporters.  I hope I'm wrong, and I'd be lying to say I haven't shifted before; my initial feeling was the coalition the Tories formed to win the election were likely to be natural Leavers, only to be placated by the polls.  Anyone claiming to be certain at this point is either a liar or a fool.  I just fear Leave has the edge, with all the potential implications that has.

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Thursday, June 02, 2016 

Not everything is about you.

In the latest development in the everything is Labour's fault meme, the last couple of days has seen first the Times and then the Graun ascribe the apparent dip in the fortunes of Remain to the party "failing to pull its weight".  If only Corbyn and friends were out there campaigning night and day, putting their message across to all the Labour voters across the country rather than leaving it to Dave and his shitty mates, then clearly all would be well.

As with most of the criticisms of Corbyn's Labour, there is a smidgen of truth to this.  Yes, Labour could be doing a bit more.  Yes, it could be making its case more forcefully.  By doing so though, does it risk getting associated with a campaign that is essentially internecine warfare between the Cameron leaning Tories and the UKIP leaning Tories, and doing more harm to itself than good in the process? Also yes.

And then we have the media's own agenda when it comes to the EU vote.  No bones about it, the actual debate stripped of the histrionics and personalities is as dull as ditchwater.  While Alan Johnson's campaign is more in line with Remain in general, the one being ran by the leadership itself is attempting to play it reasonably straight.  Which is boring.

It didn't make much difference then that today's speech by Corbyn was easily his most significant intervention yet.  He made clear that while Labour is foursquare in favour of the EU, the party is only supporting Remain with the intention of reforming the organisation from within.  He will veto the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership if Labour is in power come 2020, and made clear that he fears if Leave wins, whichever Tory ends up leader will gut the workers' rights we owe to the EU.  He and the rest of the shadow cabinet won't share a platform with the Tories on the basis of the rest of their policies, and he criticised the idea that Leaving would result automatically in a recession.

In other words, he walked the same line he has throughout.  Everyone knows he isn't the biggest fan of the EU and he's not pretending to be.  His position is pragmatic: leaving is the wrong choice, but it wouldn't be the biggest disaster in the history of the world.  The Tories are a far greater problem, which they are.  He isn't going to make the same mistake Scottish Labour did and hitch his party to a campaign that will damage it far more than it will its main constituent.

What then has the media decided is the biggest story from the speech?  That "Corbyn supporters", not Labour supporters notice, hissed Laura Kuenssberg when she asked an question.  The BBC is about the only organisation giving the speech itself a higher billing.  The most ocular proof yet of Labour's misogyny, on top of its obvious antisemitism?  Err, not really, as ITV's Chris Ship was booed as well when he questioned whether Corbyn had been half-hearted in his support for Remain up to now.  As Corbyn responded, this also depends on the media's decision of what to cover.

And obviously, the reaction of those present to a journalist is far more newsworthy than the contents of yet another lecture from Uncle Tom Corbo.  Do I really have to say it's daft to boo or hiss a journalist, as it is, especially one from the BBC?  That it is doesn't make that the story, unless hacks have no intention whatsoever of playing by their own rules, which they don't.   You don't have to think there is some great get Corbyn campaign to realise portraying him and his supporters as not playing by the accepted rules is much to their advantage with their other anti-Corbyn sources.  That one "senior Labour figure" was briefing after the speech that Corbyn "had just sabotaged the Remain campaign", about the most obtuse possible reading you could make of it just sums up how spiteful such people are determined to be.

One of the reasons there has been a change of attitude towards journalists, deserved or not, is they so often seem determined to make everything about them.  Criticism of Labour from a media overwhelmingly biased against the party, let alone under the leadership of Corbyn is expected.  What's going beyond that is to criticise, and then try to shift the story when Corbyn does precisely what was asked of him.  Everything is not always about a self-obsessed media, just as it isn't always about a self-absorbed political class.  A few egos being punctured every now and again wouldn't hurt, only it's usually just the one side that gets it in the neck.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2016 

The Hair/Pob alliance breaks loose.

After however weeks, weeks that have seemed like years, the Leave campaign has finally got its act together.  Who knows, perhaps this was always the plan: wait until the purdah period begins, happily at about the same time as the latest immigration stats are released, and then go into overdrive.

It's also helped massively that they've decided on a tactic which seems to have thrown Remain and the (actual) Tory leadership completely: make the referendum essentially into a referendum on which wing of the Tory party you want in power.  Priti Patel, in a likely Freudian slip, made this apparent when she spoke today: don't just take back control from Brussels, take back control of the government also.  Patel it's fairly obvious is first in line for the chop come the revenge reshuffle if Remain does win; if not, who knows how high an MP who once described us plebs as "among the worst idlers in the world" will rise in a Johnson-Gove administration.

As it couldn't be more obvious this is what the choice now boils down to.  Vote Remain, and you're voting for at most a couple more years of Dave, with a truculent and aggrieved party making life as difficult as possible for the man who finally won them a majority, however slim, 23 years after the last one.  Vote Leave, and you're on the side of team Bozza/Pob, and such policies as maybe reducing VAT on fuel, maybe spending a bit more on the NHS, and maybe reducing immigration a little more.  Boris is quite possibly the biggest charlatan in British politics, but he's a conniving, scheming, on occasion pin sharp charlatan.  Every time he denies this is a programme for an alternate Tory government, and every time he says Dave will continue as prime minister regardless of the result, he means exactly the opposite.  He doesn't need to so much as nod or wink.  It's that apparent.

If, and it's a massive if, the Hair/Ventriloquist Dummy pairing mean what they say on immigration, then it tells us a few things.  First, that the Gove-Dominic Cummings axis has won the argument when it comes to leaving the single market.  For years the Tories, Eurosceptics included, made the single market out to be the one unquestionably positive attribute of the EU.  Being part of the single market however means being a member of the European Economic Area, which in turn means free movement.  Gove and Cummings have somehow convinced first themselves and then their Leave mates that exiting the single market entirely is worth it if it means being able to claim you can then control immigration from the EU.  That leaving the single market is easily one of, if not the most economically destructive of all the various options Leave has posited so far is apparently by the by.  We can take it, very well alone and all that.

Except this still doesn't quite add up to the IMMIGRATION REVOLUTION! the Mail adoringly splashed on this morning.  Putting in place the same points based system as applied to non-EU migrants simply isn't going to work, unless of course the Leavers are fine with the farming industry to name just one business sector collapsing entirely.  Even if they didn't make any adjustments, and even if immigration from the EU ceased entirely as a result, net migration still wouldn't come down to the tens of thousands, as Johnson and the others have implied would then be possible.  This is without the Leave campaign keeping their other implied promises about making it easier for migrants from Commonwealth countries to come here.  Indeed, about the only way net migration could possibly fall to the tens of thousands would be if emigration increased massively.  Which, to think conspiratorially for a second, could be the actual goal.

Second, it fully gives the lie to the already ridiculously hypocritical comments from the likes of Patel about certain individuals being blasé about high levels of immigration because it either doesn't affect or actively benefits them.  Put to one side the evidence is very mixed on whether immigration has had that much of an impact on wages, and instead gaze on the multitude of reports, all of which conclude there will be an economic impact from exiting the EU.  The more honest Leave figures admit it is likely there will be at least an initial effect, made up for in later years or not.  As Rick argues, for many of the people the Leavers claim to be standing up for, they simply can't afford such an effect.

Leave knows it can't win on the economic arguments; it's why they've made their move this week.  Likewise, Remain cannot win purely on the economics, which is why you would have expected a better rebuttal to the Leave gambit of the last couple of days than the panicked one we've had.  Partially this is down to how Cameron has trapped himself on immigration, but it's also a result of Remain becoming complacent, so lacking up to now has Leave been.  At the same time, Leave has laid itself bare: the decision to go wholesale with not just leaving the EU, but the single market too gives Remain an opportunity.  Leave wants out of Europe as a whole.  The British people might reject Brussels, but they certainly don't the continent.  Most also will likely prefer Cameron/Osborne to Boris/Gove.

Then again, most would likely prefer the cold steel right up them to both.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016 

The absurdity of it all.

I take it all back. The EU referendum is brilliant.  How could it not be when it results in such delicious absurdities as have taken place over the past couple of days?  First, mere weeks after accusing him of palling around with extremists, David Cameron appears on the same platform as to Sadiq Khan to big him up as though he was the winning Tory candidate.  A proud Muslim!  A smasher of glass ceilings!  A thoroughly delightful chap!  Oh, and he thinks it'd be swell if you would now vote to stay in the EU.

Khan can of course do as he likes.  He now has a mandate of his own, to the extent where he can pretty much shut Labour out if he so wishes.  If he wants to share a platform so soon after the election with one of those chiefly responsible for a campaign he said was putting off other Muslims from going into politics, that's up to him.  Clearly he thinks the ends justify the means.  Which again, is fine.

Some of us though are far more petty.  Far as I'm concerned, all things considered, Cameron got himself into this mess, and Cameron can get himself out of it.  Sure, this means if he manages to pull it off he gets the glory, but equally if he fails then he gets the Gene Wilder/Willy Wonka treatment.  Add in how Cameron implied Khan was an extremist not to be trusted as far as he can be thrown, and my response were I in his position would be to tell Dave to GTFO.

This is also the view of John McDonnell, who equally rightly thinks sharing a platform with the Tories full stop is a bad idea.  Which it is.  If Labour must campaign to stay in the EU, leaving it to Alan Johnson in the main while McDonnell and others pootle around not getting much in the way of attention is definitely the way to go.  Anyone saying Labour has to do this or that first has to explain whether their proposed plan of action will bring any benefit to the party whatsoever, because as we saw with Scotland, the public seem more than prepared to decide for themselves as to whether or not a particular party acted in their best interests.

The horror with which the results of focus groups saying they didn't know whether Labour was in favour of leave or remain, backed up with a further poll, just demonstrates that politicians don't always think the worst of the public; often the public amply do that themselves.  What it does show is that first, the vast majority aren't the slightest bit interested in the internal machinations of political parties.  Duh.  Second, not knowing whether Labour is for leave or remain is a good thing, as at the moment the party should be graceful for small mercies.  Third, that again, the vast majority also aren't the least bit interested in the referendum, otherwise they would know that Labour is overwhelmingly in favour of remain.  Fourth, they also don't know what the Tory position is.  Because, just to rub this in, they don't freaking care.

Labour politicians attacking each other for sharing platforms with the Tories isn't the most absurd thing of the last couple of days though, oh no.  Two examples merely from today beat it.  Chris Grayling, the berk's berk, the journeyman's journeyman, the bone in the spicy wing, the tits on the bull, said this morning that voters shouldn't be making their minds up based on the EU of today, but on the EU of the future.  Again, either this is a politician having a surprisingly high opinion of the average voter, most of whom haven't the slightest clue about practically anything the EU does beyond exist and that it's bad, or it's a politician with not even the beginnings of knowing how to make a case.  Can you imagine if parties tried applying this to any other election?  Voter!  Don't make up your mind up on how the government is performing today!  Just think how it will be in 10 years' time, even though we're not providing you with even the most basic facts of how it is currently!  Manifesto?  You want a manifesto?  You're joking!

And then there was Boris, Gove and err, Gisela Stuart, making clear we have entered the handjob, or moon on a stick phase of the campaign.  Despite telling us for eons that the £350m going to the EU each week could instead be sent straight to the NHS, now here come the most unlikely threesome since REMOVED ON LEGAL ADVICE to claim that if we left the EU we could dispense with VAT on fuel as it disproportionately hits the poorest households.  Put another way, Boris, Gove and Stuart are offering happy endings if you vote leave, as it's about as likely they would put any savings genuinely left at the end of the process on lifting the burden on the poors as they would on a state body of sex workers.  It's completely transparent, and yet what else is Leave to do?  Admit that once we've left any money coming back will instead be spent on reintroducing the subsidies and funds the EU currently distributes in the UK?  Absurd doesn't really begin to cover it.

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Thursday, May 26, 2016 

The immigration monster bites back.

If there is one thing worse in the eyes significant number of the public than uncontrolled immigration, it's claiming to be controlling it while doing nothing of the sort.  Net migration running at 330,000 a year cannot possibly be presented as controlling it, and yet to an extent that is what governments have always done.  Contrary to the repeated calls from various halfwits for the introduction of a points system, there already is oneNumerous barriers have been placed in the way of immigrants from Commonwealth countries bringing over relatives or partners.  Proof that a wife or husband from outside of the EU will be earning more than £35,000 a year is needed before they will be given so much as leave to remain.  Child asylum seekers from countries like Afghanistan can be sent back once they reach 18, while interpreters who served with British forces in the country are denied asylum.

And still the numbers threaten to reach the previous net peak.  The number one reason for this is the relative strength of the UK economy compared to the rest of Europe.  The latest GDP figures out today in fact show we're once again relying on the service sector to prop the rest of the economy up, with both manufacturing and construction falling back.  Whether this will have an impact on numbers down the line, with the rest of the Eurozone finally threatening to outgrow the UK remains to be seen, but it will come far too late for the EU referendum, with the Leave campaign bound to spend the next month plastering the 330,000 figure everywhere, as they have the false claim about £350m going to the EU every week.

Yet again it will be the steadfast, cowardly refusal of our frontline politicians to confront the electorate with unpalatable truths that will be to blame should the 23rd of June result in an exit vote.  The Tories' unexpected majority gave them a once in a parliament opportunity to row back on their beyond idiotic "tens of thousands" pledge, one they knew they could never meet, and to make a positive case for immigration, meeting voters halfway by setting out how the areas with the biggest churn of arrivals and departures would receive extra resources to help them cope.  Instead, the tens of thousands pledge, which no one believes in and no one expects to be met was reaffirmed.  Knowing that it's not possible to control immigration from within the EU once the initial controls on newly joined nations' access to free movement are lifted, every other way of keeping the numbers down has been attempted.  A "hostile environment" for illegal immigrants is duly being created, regardless of the potential consequences of making it impossible for those without the right to be here to work, live anywhere other than the street, or no doubt coming shortly, take a dump.

How either side is realistically doing at this point is all but impossible to tell.  One poll suggests Remain pulling away; others have it either neck and neck or within the margin of error.  If it's the latter, then today's figures will surely give Leave a boost after a rough couple of weeks.  In truth, it's their one remaining trump, as Remain's Project Fear campaign on the economy has left Leave only able to squawk that each and every expert is either biased, has got things wrong before, or is funded by the EU itself.  Monday's Treasury report might have been either specious bollocks or specious severe bollocks in the words of one MP, but it tends to be the stand out figures or warnings of a recession that stay in the memory regardless.

Hence why Leave has every right to crow about the 330,000 figure for the next month.  For quite possibly the first time ever, Boris Johnson is bang on to say the tens of thousands target is variously, scandalous, cynical and a mistake.  David Cameron might not have expected Boris to end up profiting from the mistake, but he knew full well that whoever the Leave side ended up consisting of they would play the immigration card for all it was worth.  Nor does it matter that Leave doesn't have any real answers on how leaving the EU would help to control immigration, just as it doesn't on practically on all the other issues; unless the likes of Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings got their way and took us out of the single market entirely, any subsequent deal would almost certainly continue to involve free movement, just as it does with Norway and Switzerland.  Jacqui Smith poses 8 very good questions, including asking how Leave would bring immigration down at the same time as promising to ease restrictions on immigration from Commonwealth countries, yet the practicalities don't really matter.  As long as the impression is that leaving would bring immigration down, support will go to Leave.

Whether it will turn out to be enough is another matter.  David Davis today made a rather good speech responding to the various economic claims from Remain, in a far more temperate fashion than Leave has managed thus far.  Davis's vision of a Britain renewed by leaving is a lot more realistic than the fantasy one conjured up by the likes of John Redwood, the Vulcan insisting that unless we leave we will no longer be an "independent democratic country", just as he previously repeated the idea that leaving the EU would mean we could become a veritable land of milk and honey.  If there had though been any chance of having a good natured, knowledgeable debate, where those able to keep a lid on hyperbole had made the running, it went out the window with Boris.  Much as Cameron and friends deserve to pay for their constant feeding of the immigration monster, the alternative hardly bears thinking about.

Moreover, should Remain win handily, no longer will UKIPers or those on the Tory right be able to claim that the public haven't been consulted on the scale of immigration.  Many of them always wanted a referendum on the EU to be about immigration and little else; they've got their wish, now they'll have to accept the result.  Or not, as the case will almost certainly be.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016 

Killin.


In the end, everything comes back to the Simpsons.  In Rosebud, after being wished a Happy Birthday by the Ramones, Mr Burns orders Smithers to have the Rolling Stones killed.  "But sir, that wasn-" "Do as I say!"

In the same way, it would be far too easy to have those personally responsible for da yoot #Votin campaign for the Remainers slaughtered unceremoniously in their beds.  Equally, those at the Stronger In headquarters who commissioned it, then gave the OK after seeing what venturethree came up with should also not be shot down on their way to work as recompense.  No, to really make clear just how traumatised everyone who has watched just the 25-second clip urging the youn t ge ou an vot will be, as you can't just drop the g from words ending in ing and claim that is how the childrens speak, innocent people have to die.

Hang on a minute you're probably saying, that seems a bit much.  Except it's not.  Is it really that hard to put together a campaign that might just have an impact with younger voters while not both being as dumb as a bag of rocks and therefore also treating them as having the IQ and attention span of an exceptionally dim goldfish?

Here's one idea I just pulled out of my ass, and I've been awake already today for 17 hours.  Black background.  White text.  If you're watching this, you're probably already aware of the issues around the EU referendum.  We just want to remind you of who's in favour of leaving, and who's in favour of remaining.  Black and white shots of Farage, Gove, IDS, Chris Grayling, Dr Death, Katie Hopkins, etc etc.  Colour shots of Nicola Sturgeon, Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas, Alan Johnson, Eddie Izzard, JK Rowling, any number of the other various celebs/artists who signed the luvvie letter.  That's what we think too.  Vote Remain.  End.

Now, which of you Remain dipshits pays me, and which one of you is going to cut down the requisite amount of first born?

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Thursday, May 19, 2016 

The artist subsequently known as PJS.

It would take a heart of stone not to laugh at the continued failure of the tabloids, News UK in particular, to get the injunction preventing them from making public the identity of the person known only as PJS lifted.  They must have thought it was a sure thing; how could the supreme court possibly disagree that the identity of PJS had become so well known, thanks to the name being all across social media, published in the National Enquirer, the Sunday Mail, numerous blogs etc, that it would be an absurdity not to let the Sun on Sunday print all the juicy details on the threesome?

Never underestimate the potential for judges to go against accepted wisdom (judgement PDF), especially when they notice something that's passed everyone else by.  IPSO's code of practice, Lord Mance notes, states that an "exceptional public interest would need to be demonstrated to over-ride the normally paramount interests of children under 16".  You could of course argue that consenting adults should consider the potential consequences for their children of extra-marital activities, regardless of the agreement of both partners, not least because of the obvious potential for it to cause difficulties down the line.  This is not by any means though a justification for a story that all the justices agree has no public interest defence whatsoever to be published.

Indeed, I would argue that it's possible in this case to respect the arguments of both Lord Mance for the majority in over-turning the Court of Appeal ruling that the injunction should be set aside, and Lord Toulson in his lone dissension.  It's hard not to respect a judge who risks incurring the wrath of Paul Dacre by directly referencing the paper claiming the law to be an ass due to the publication of PJS's identity elsewhere; if that is the price of applying the law, Mance writes, it is one which must be paid.  The court is well aware of the lesson which King Canute gave his courtiers, Mance goes on, in answer to the claims that injunctions in the age of the internet are defunct, with the Lord later quoting a previous ruling by Justice Eady "that wall-to-wall excoriation in national newspapers, whether tabloid or ‘broadsheet’, is likely to be significantly more intrusive and distressing for those concerned than the availability of information on the Internet or in foreign journals to those, however many, who take the trouble to look it up".  I would argue that distinction still holds up today, if barely: there is a huge difference between a story appearing on multiple newspaper front pages, available for anyone to see at petrol stations, supermarkets, newsagents etc, whereas online it is still possible to avoid such stories altogether if you so wish.

Lord Toulson disagrees, writing that the "court must live in the world as it is and not as it would like it to be", and also that "in this case I have reached a clear view that the story’s confidentiality has become so porous that the idea of it still remaining secret in a meaningful sense is illusory".  Toulson does not "underestimate the acute unpleasantness for PJS of the story being splashed, but I doubt very much in the long run whether it will be more enduring than the unpleasantness of what has been happening and will inevitably continue to
happen.  The story is not going away".

It most certainly isn't.  The only reason that the papers have been full of stories for the last couple of weeks about a certain Downton Abbey actor are due to a certain injunction still being in place from years ago.  One way or the other, the British media will get a story they want to be out in the open out in the open.  They might not make any money out of it, quite the contrary in the case of the Sun, with its legal fees likely to be astronomical, but for those who want to know they'll probably be able to find out.  If the case going to trial, with PJS and YMA likely to win, gives them satisfaction and protects their children, then great.  More likely however is that Carter-Fuck will go on getting richer while the kiddiwinks will find out one of their parents is partial to threesomes regardless.

All the same, coming in the same week as the IPSO decision that the Sun blatantly breached the editors' code of practice over the QUEEN BACK BREXIT bullshit, with the paper throwing its toys out of the pram in response, saying yes, the headline was a complete lie, but the one underneath "qualified" it, and the Queen isn't above politics anyway because she called the Chinese rude, for those of us whom enjoy schadenfreude, it's been a fine time.  Long may it continue.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016 

The cupboard is bare on purpose.

We are but a year into a whole 5 of Tory majority rule, and yet to judge by the thinness of the Queen's speech, it would seem the government is already running out of things to do.  This is admittedly somewhat down to how the Tories have succeeding in piloting some of the worst of their policies through the Commons already, with the Psychoactive Substances Act shortly to come into effect for just one.  Conversely, the list of bills is also slighter as a result of opposition from the backbenches: suitably watered down is the schools bill, from forcing all schools to become academies to merely pushing them in the general direction.

The real reasons for why the cupboard is bare are obvious.  First though, this wouldn't be a Queen's speech post on this blog if I didn't have a moan about the increasingly deranged nature of the spectacle itself.  The Queen is now 90 years old, and regardless of your views on the monarchy, the requirement that she carry on getting dolled up to read out the inane bumpf of her latest government surely can't be allowed to go on much longer.  Should the Tories ever get round to sorting out their bill of rights, making the head of state read out nonsense about improving the life chances of all will have to be designated cruel and unusual punishment.  Dennis Skinner's yearly jokes have already regressed to the point where they are statements rather than attempts at humour; why not square the circle and get the Beast of Bolsover to read the damn thing out?

No, the real reason the speech has so relatively little to raise ire is that parliamentary politics is effectively suspended until June the 24th, by which point it'll almost be time for the summer recess in any case.  Anything that might further incense either the Tory backbenchers or for that matter the opposition, never mind the public, has been postponed until after the referendum.  Sure, a few on the right will hardly be pleased by the proposed prison reforms, especially the idea of some only being locked up at weekends, but they're overwhelmingly likely to be for Leave anyway.

Far more instructive than the contents of the speech itself is the way its been spun.  The BBC News at 10 has led each night this week on prisons, part of an obvious softening up process for what was coming today.  Peter Clarke, former head of anti-terrorism at the Met, author of the main report into the hoax Trojan Horse takeover of schools in Birmingham, apparent friend of the Tories and new independent inspector of prisons was given the kind of platform never previously afforded to Nick Hardwick, in the main to comment on "legal highs" finding their way inside.  High profile reporting into the chaos prisons have been descending into is of course welcome, but is hardly telling the full story unless it makes clear the problems have been exacerbated massively by overcrowding and cuts in funding.  The bill outlined today, aimed at putting into law the proposals previously announced by Michael Gove and David Cameron won't make things worse, but nor will they begin to solve them when Cameron continues to argue against the "idea that reform always needs extra spending".

Whereas just plain laughable is the idea today's attempts at improving "life chances" could ever add up to a legacy for David Cameron.  Quite simply, there's nothing there: no one could disagree with the changes to adoption or the "help to save" plans, they're just overwhelmed by the Tories' on-going contradictions.  The party can hardly be the great friend of diversity David Cameron claims he wants it to be, forcing universities to be open about their admissions while at the same time encouraging landlords and hospitals to be suspicious of anyone with the wrong skin colour or a foreign sounding name.  The party that depicts Sadiq Khan as an extremist, refusing to say London can be safe in his hands cannot be taken seriously on either discrimination or "life chances".

But then Cameron has no intention of his legacy being such things.  The other reason why the Queen's speech has so little for the Tories to shout about is he still doesn't know if he's going to be around beyond June 24th.  If he isn't, he will go down in history for austerity and being the prime minister who through the most abject weakness took Britain out of Europe.  If he is, then he most probably has another year in which to further shape how he will be remembered.  Chancing leaving Osborne, or worse yet, Boris with his legacy legislation was never an option.  Still, should the Leave campaign manage to turn around a seemingly unassailable lead for Remain, then Boris will forever be known as the man who made all porn sites verify their users are 18.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016 

That Lady Royall report into allegations of antisemitism at the Oxford University Labour Club in full.

  • I do not believe that there is institutional antisemitism within Oxford University Labour Club
  • However, in order to remove the possibility of any such claims being made in the future, OULC should take action to ensure there is a safe space, i.e. by disbanding immediately in case anyone's feelings get hurt again
  • All further allegations of micro-aggressions should be reported immediately to The Telegraph, The Times, or John Mann MP in order to be used against Jeremy Corbyn
  • Err...
  • That's it

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Monday, May 16, 2016 

June 24th: never the end.

By Christ, politics is dispiriting at the moment.

Not that it isn't normally.  It's just the absolute quality of the nonsense of late.  The entirely confected Labour antisemitism row, that just so happened to coincide with the local elections and has since vanished without trace, just for one.  You obviously can't legislate for the newt fancier to suddenly decide to tour TV studios talking about Hitler, but it does show the depths to which a party establishment still unable to face up to how it got itself into this mess will sink.  Just look at the anonymous quotes given to Sam Knight for his New Yorker profile of Corbyn.  "He is an allotment digger," said one ex-cabinet minister.  "Plodding".  What does that say about you then, mate?

It's also that no one it seems can learn the very simplest of lessons.  I hate to keep coming back to this, it's that it's so fucking obvious.  If the Scottish referendum campaign taught us anything, it's that it's suicide to share platforms, even if it's for the greater good.  To see Osborne, Balls and Cable all on a stage together, joined by another of those unacceptable faces of capitalism, Michael O'Leary, it's as though the whole Yes/No neverendum didn't happen.  No, Balls and Cable might not be MPs now, having both lost their seats to the Tories, making it all the stranger why they would decide it was in anyone's best interests to play the part of the shit to Osborne's latest round of bull, but that doesn't make a scrap of difference.  It still looks like the establishment ganging up together, even if the Leave campaign is just as much the establishment as Remain.  There isn't any need for conspiracy theories, as Osborne said, because something that looks very much like a conspiracy to your average passer-by is only made all the more apparent by figures that used to be at each others' throats suddenly making eyes at each other.  Talk about a trifecta of dunces, only one joined by someone who would sell you his grandmother and then charge you extra for her handbag.

Then we have the Leavers, with Boris himself deciding to dust down old Adolf and bring him into the debate.  Now, it might sound beyond stupid to everyone else, comparing the EU to a dictator who used his military in the attempt to create a united Europe, and that's because it is.  It doesn't though to some in the Leave campaign, as Matthew d'Anconservative in one of his lucid moments sets out how comparing the EU to the Nazis has long been a thing.  Those on the far-right usually prefer to describe it as the EUSSR, as clearly all EU member states are just vassals to Brussels, with Jean-Claude Juncker as Brezhnev.  Either way, it's the same thing: the EU has no democratic accountability or credibility.  You only need look at how the EU doesn't take for an answer on previous referendums to see that, obviously.

Which is precisely why as d'Ancona relates, should Leave lose this time, those who want out will just agitate at every turn for a referendum under the 2011 European Union Act, the first attempt at placate Tory backbenchers by Cameron.  The merest transfer of power to the EU will then trigger another referendum, another fight, another round of each side calling white black, while everyone else either tunes out or becomes so desperate for the end they consider opening their wrists a viable alternative.  June the 24th will never be the end.  Leave learned from the SNP.  Remain hasn't from the mistakes of the No campaign.

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Thursday, May 12, 2016 

The prime of Master Dominic Cummings.

In the pantheon of spin doctors completely losing the plot, Dominic Cummings' (for it was surely he) freak out out late last night is rather special.  It's not quite on the level of Alastair Campbell storming into the Channel 4 News studios demanding to be put on the air (but then what is), nor is it Comical Ali denying the Americans had reached Baghdad as a tank was seen rolling past in the distance, and yet it still feels not that far behind.

It really does have it all.  Allusion to Goldman Sachs funding Remain, that if made by someone on the left in the current climate would probably prompt accusations of antisemitism and conspiracy theorising?  Check.  Implication that absolutely everyone and everything is against Leave, and yet still the polls remain at 50-50?  Check.  Naming of specific journalist with claim they are biased against Leave, with spurious allegation that Robert Peston campaigned to join the Euro, the same straw man Cummings and Leave throw at everyone?  Check.  Attempt at intimidation, with threat that ITV will face the consequences once Leave wins? Check.

Quite why the initial decisions about the debates caused Cummings to lose his shit quite so fantastically is a mystery.  What on earth made Leave think that Downing Street would suddenly decide to play hardball any less than they did last year, when they successfully bullied the broadcasters into acceding to their demands on the basis there wouldn't be any debates if they didn't?  Did they really believe that cowardly custard Dave would be willing to take on Boris or Gove when both intend for this to be their springboard to the Tory party leadership?  Far better to go up against Nigel Farage, with his record of being easily riled if the audience dares not to applaud his nonsense, than a fellow Conservative with slightly more self-control.

Not that Boris does have more self-control; he'd likely descend into muttering within 10 minutes.  You can though see Vote Leave's point: Farage is part of the Grassroots Out group, rather than Vote Leave, and Vote Leave is the official out campaign as designated by the Electoral Commission.  If there's going to be anyone sort of facing Dave, as the ITV "debate" would take the same format as Channel 4's non-debate between Cameron and Miliband did last year, then it ought to be someone from Vote Leave.  It shouldn't be up to the government to dictate whom it will or won't face, especially when part of the reasoning is that the Tories don't to further their impression they're at war with each other.  Sorry Dave, ought to have come the reply, it's a little late for that now.

The fact is the debates have become a prestige event for the different networks, caring far more about holding them come what may rather than whether or not they're in the slightest bit illuminating.  Last year's non-debates were absurdities that should never be repeated, and yet it would seem as though much the same is going to happen only a year later.  The referendum has already been one of the most over-covered and somehow still least informative media debacles in recent memory, principally for the reason that the two campaigns agree on almost nothing.  Each side accuses the other of scaremongering, and we have nothing remotely approaching an independent adjudicator to separate the complete bullshit from claims slightly more grounded in reality.  The debates as proposed would do absolutely nothing to change that.  Which, once again, would seem to be the point.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016 

A microcosm of wider stupidity.

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Monday, May 09, 2016 

The banter years.

Those with long memories might recall that back in the 90s, in one those ill advised attempts the guilty occasionally make to prove their innocence, the gang suspected of the murder of Stephen Lawrence gave interviews to Martin Bashir.  Asked to explain their use of racist language and play acting with knives, as secretly recorded by the police, they said it was banter.  They didn't mean anything by it.

I am not of course suggesting that the likes of Michael Fallon and George Osborne describing Zac Goldsmith's London mayoral campaign as being all part of the "rough and tumble" of politics makes them akin to racist murderers.  It does though make you wonder exactly how far the rough and tumble of politics extends.  Implying that Sadiq Khan is an extremist and refusing to say London will be safe in his hands is clearly perfectly permissible.  Certainly not permissible, as we've learned, is the use of language Hadley Freeman considers to be antisemitic.

Where then exactly to draw the line?  If you're Atul Hatwal, then the only problem with the Tories' campaign was that it was incompetent due to how Suliman Gani was more allied with the Tories than he was with Khan and Labour.  On this basis, Labour could have spent the local election campaign proclaiming on how Cameron was a pig rapist.  Sure, there's no evidence Cameron has raped a pig or any other barnyard animal, but the Ashcroft/Oakeshott book claims he did pork a severed hog's gob.  Mostly everyone thinks it's a load of old toilet, but it's on about the same level of truthfulness as the various claims made about Khan.

Why then not go the whole way?  After all, we've just gone through a period where it seemed perfectly acceptable to speculate on whether or not mostly deceased former politicians could have been not just paedophiles, but child murderers also.  Most of these claims were made against former Tory MPs.  Would it be just the rough and tumble of politics to describe the Conservatives as the party of choice for child abusers?  Sure, the Met might have discontinued Operation Midland, yet why let a detail like that get in the way of the contact sport that is politics?  It would just be natural rough and tumble, all a part of the game.  If you whine about it not being fair, you're simply not cut out for being a true leader of men.

Atul Hatwal does admittedly have a point.  Extremism should be called out.  Generally though there needs to be actual evidence, and we all have different definitions of what extremism is.   To some, Jeremy Corbyn's brand of old school socialism is extremist; to others, the Tories' naked contempt for welfare claimants and the state in general is beyond the pale.  That much of politics and the whole of social media "politics" has descended into one great big condemnathon, where the sound and fury both signifies nothing and is also absolutely everything might well have made politics even more incomprehensible and alien to outsiders.  It's just far too much trouble to try and turn back now.

Not that the Tories were ever going to admit that Goldsmith's campaign had backfired, not least as portraying Ed Miliband as so unprincipled he'd stab his country in the back for power worked last year.  It's also how they intend to go on depicting Labour in general: as a threat to national and economic security.  Bearing in mind a decent section of the parliamentary Labour party regard their own leader as an extremist, how could they not?

When it comes to today's EU clashes between Dave and Boris you see an almost mirror image of the extremist battle, only it's about power within a party, with the country coming a distant second in their concerns.  If Cameron really feared Britain leaving the EU could destabilise the continent to the point of a return to war, he would have been irresponsible in the extreme to have set in a motion a process that was fundamentally about buying off his restive backbenchers.  Likewise, if Boris Johnson truly believed that leaving the EU is the liberal cause of the day, it wouldn't matter as much that he's also using the referendum campaign as a springboard to his inevitable Tory leadership bid.   That only two years ago he wrote in direct contradiction of what he said today about the EU and peace, and has no compunction about making a "liberal, cosmopolitan" case for leaving that at its heart involves further doom-mongering about immigration just sums up how infuriating our politics has become.  We are it would seem firmly trapped in the banter years.

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