CAVING IN

CAVING IN

Last week I was declaring myself Not-a-Fan of Theresa May. This week, it will surprise no-one to learn that I’m also Not-a-Fan of Donald Trump. In his case, I don’t think it’s even necessary to list any reasons. Where would you begin and end?

However, I’m still rather ashamed of our behaviour towards him as a visitor to this country. I’m all for the rights to peaceful protests, so we had the RIGHT to object to him, but it was hardly good manners on our part to insult him personally. He is the President of the United States after all, and he came in peace. We would not be pleased if some Prime Minister of ours, however he or she might have been despised by us, were to have been received by the United States in like manner. And apart from the issue of how we treated him, there’s the question as to whether this is how we want to behave.

I think it might have been a better way of demonstrating our disapproval of him if we just had completely ignored him. I suspect that the good Donald would prefer even negative attention, rather than none.

And while I’m thinking about media attention, I heard a BBC news broadcast in the last few days which stated that Theresa May had ‘caved in’ to pressure from some section of her party over some issue or other. I thought the BBC was famed for it’s even handed and unbiased reporting? This is certainly not an example of that. ‘Caved in’ is a) an opinion and b) an emotive term. Mind you, I think it was true, but they should find a better way of putting it!

I’m going to cave in to the heat and go and read a magazine!

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COULD YOU DO ANY BETTER?

COULD YOU DO ANY BETTER?

We’ve had an unpredictable week in politics with predictions as to the longevity or otherwise of Theresa May as Prime Minister. Now I’m not a fan of Theresa May – she’s a head girl, a Tory, and her taste runs to leopard skin shoes – but I think her unexpected survival this far is due to one of the few admirable qualities of the British electorate – ie their desire for FAIR PLAY. (I mean the electorate’s desire for fair play, not the politician’s obviously. Many of them don’t have a notion what it means.)

The Tory party has a ruthless and unprincipled attitude to the removal of leaders who no longer suit it, but if it wishes to win the election that will follow, it has to pay some attention to the wishes and views of the voting public.

So I find myself entirely surprised to be in the position that I’m defending Mrs May. She is in a very difficult position. She voted to remain but she’s heading a team and a government tasked with leaving Europe. For her majority, she’s obliged to depend on the DUP which is the equivalent of a baby owl needing the support of a fish eagle feeding chicks – i.e. tenuous to say the least. There are elements of her own party which are rabid in their support of Leave or Remain and Cameron was so afraid of them that he asked this unaskable question, which he ought not to have done. However it has been asked and we must now deliver accordingly.

Mrs May must lie in her bed at night, wondering which of the undesirable possible outcomes might be marginally acceptable. She does not enjoy overwhelming support from any section of party or country and most pundits predicted her demise in a couple of weeks, Yet she is still here. She has managed (just about) to steer her way through these dangerous waters. She has kept her temper while being insulted and betrayed (and by those from whom she might reasonably expected some loyalty.) She gets up every morning and goes doggedly through her day, and as Dickens observed, It’s dogged as does it.

As I’ve stated, I’m no supporter of Mrs May and it’s very unlikely that I would vote for her party. But I don’t think she’s done so badly. She doesn’t insult us or patronise or underestimate us as her female predecessor did. She is entitled to be treated with respect and to the right of a Prime Minister to call the next election and be listened to with courtesy.

Besides, of the candidates available, who would you prefer at the present time? I agree that the lady is neither decisive nor brilliant. Boris is brilliant and having him in charge would be even more hair-raising. Brilliant people quite often soar like a burning star only to come to an equally spectacular bad end. Think of Napoleon.

No, on reflection, Don’t!

DARKEST HOUR

I was born in 1949 when sweet rationing after the Second World War was still operating. My father gave me his rations and I felt rich.

At that time, with the war so recent, it was not taught in school, and survivors of the fighting did not feel inclined to speak of it much.

The first I heard of the war was the recurrent ‘She was at Dunkirk’ which skipper after skipper of the local fishing boats would say to my mother of their vessels. I asked my mother, “What is this Dunkirk that they keep talking about?’ and she explained briefly that it was a rescue by small boats of soldiers who had been stranded on the beach at Dunkirk and were being repeatedly bombed by German fighter planes. I thought this a dastardly act, was glad the rescue had been mounted, and then thought no more about it.

My father during the years of the war drove steam engine trains from Aberdeen to Glasgow which was a reserved occupation and so the war affected him very little (and this was just as well, for he would not have fitted in at all well to the army and was likely to have been shot by our own side!)

When I was about ten I lived briefly with my grandmother in Glasgow. She had television (which we never had as children because needless to say, my father didn’t approve of it.) There was a series of programmes called Victory at Sea, which were broadcast on an evening when my mother and grandmother were out at some ladies meeting, and my father working shifts, so I watched this alone (I don’t remember where my brother was – perhaps he went to bed earlier). I was enthralled by this wonderful programme; the lines of battle ships spread out across the Atlantic; the whoop, whoop, whoop call; the epic stories of the ships that were pursued and hunted down. This was how I learnt the history of the Second World War.

John and I saw the film ‘Darkest Hour’ earlier this week and greatly enjoyed it. It is a bit gruelling in parts, but you can scarcely avoid this given the subject matter. There was a moment when I waited anxiously to see what the action would be when one of our heroes has been left behind as he is too ill to make the crossing. The German officer who comes across him is kind, and gives him water and a cigarette. And glad that the Germans were nor universally vilified. There are always good men and bad on both sides.

The portrayal of Churchill was possibly the best rendition of the role that I have seen.   He showed some of the integrity and capacity to hold to his own judgement that we know Churchill possessed. In general, I am not an admirer of Churchill. He was wrong about practically everything except the war, but then that was what chiefly mattered. There he was equipped (but only just equipped) with everything he needed. Of course it is mandatory to explore all avenues of peace before you commit to war, but you have to be careful who you pick as your allies.

Churchill was an orator. There are not many of these in a generation. In our own, there is Alex Salmond, George Galloway, Billy Graham, Boris Johnson and a few others. George Galloway didn’t have anything to say; Billy Graham sold fairy stories; Alex Salmond was unable to ignite his audience to action; Boris is too self-interested. But Churchill was able to see what lay in the heart of his people and articulate it for them. We will fight them on the beaches – in other words, even if we have lost the battle and are facing slavery and death, we will fight on to the last man; and we will never surrender, Churchill spoke the words but they were what was in our hearts. The Germans could not understand why we so rated Dunkirk which to them represented defeat and failure, but it was because we all stood together; we did not abandon our colleagues; we would sink or swim together, and we despised the German’s lack of gallantry and dastardly conduct. It is not easy to be an orator. Very few people can do it. Much of the time you just sit around doing nothing much apparently, but you are honing your skills and thinking, so that when the day finally arrives, you can recognise that it has come and write the speech and deliver it.

Churchill wrote the speech that was in our hearts; and for this service alone we are forever in his debt. We forgave him all his sins and took him as one of our heroes.

I recommend the film!

UNDESIRABLES?

UNDESIRABLES?

I haven’t written on politics in recent months because events have had an unbelievable element (you could just about guarantee that whatever was most unlikely would come to pass.) It is difficult to poke fun at something that would be hilarious if only it weren’t so serious. One cannot really castigate the Americans for being so stupid as to elect Trump, when we have ended up with Brexit (which was not, I believe, our intention.)

We voted blindfolded for Brexit with no real understanding of what it would mean. Although I do hold it against the politicians for not unearthing more facts rather than just attempting to frighten us into voting as they desired, I think as the complexities of the matter unfolds that it would have been impossible to predict accurately what was likely to happen. We still don’t really understand what the outcome will be and our politicians have no idea either. Matters are too complex and inter-related and unpredictable. It’s rather like a meeting of the Mafia with too many Families present.

I watched Nigel Farage interviewed by Piers Morgan. In spite of his dismal reputation, I think Morgan is one of the finest interviewers operating today. I always find him almost more interesting to watch than the interviewee. He has enough empathy and charm to lead the person into dangerous areas of their hinterland before they realise where they are headed (in spite of their wary experience and skill in being interviewed); he actually listens to what they say and will pause to explore anything interesting that turns up; but for all he participates in the conversation, when you watch him you can see that throughout he also retains an editorial detachment.

Although I have never voted for Ukip, I can understand why people did. Farage, who is I think genuine in that he sincerely believes what he says and is not particularly motivated by personal gain, is an interesting character. I have never heard him say anything which I personally found offensive. I do not think wishing for us to have control of immigration, is in any way racist; nor is a desire for Britain to remain recognisably British in culture and language, welcoming in-comers but expecting them to speak English and to recognise that while their history enriches our own, ours is the dominant culture, and we wish it to remain so. If they so disapprove of our culture, why have they come here? They should go somewhere else that is more to their liking.

No doubt there are undesirables within Ukip, but they also lurk in every other political party.

And talking of undesirables, did I hear Tony Blair being so bold as to talk to us – actually offering advice – on Brexit? Does he not realise that we have left him unchallenged for answers to the charges against him only because we are ashamed he was our prime minister and we have not got the stomach to endure the humiliation of going through all that again? Advice for Tony Blair. Don’t talk to us. Don’t comment on our affairs. Don’t come here. Don’t presume to give us advice. We don’t want your advice. We took it before and look where it got us. What you should do is lie very low, forever, in case our anger overcomes our shame, and we come after you.

STANDING IN A PLACE OF GRACE

STANDING IN A PLACE OF GRACE

I’ve been thinking on the nature of democracy which, while an imperfect institution, is better than any known alternative. I was rather alarmed to hear people (good people in my estimation) stating that the result of the referendum ought to be disregarded. If you profess to be a democracy, the will of the people has to be accepted, even if it were by only one vote. Otherwise it’s the thin edge of the wedge: reject one result because you deem it unsuitable or inconvenient and you could end up in a one party state before you could say Vladimir Putin.

David Cameron seemed, when he started out, an example of the best you can expect from the Tories. Courteous and calm, with compassion, having suffered grief and loss in spite of his privileged background, loyal to his friends, untouched by financial or sexual scandal, you thought as he took office, he’ll do, and good luck to him too. Yet he has proved to be that most worrying of failures – an incompetent, and of poor judgement. He has gambled with our future stability and well-being – and lost – but even had he won, the risks he took were not worth what he might have gained.

Referenda would appear to be a blunt and unsubtle instrument. In the Scottish referendum on Independence, Cameron he did not lose outright. But the putting of the question and the size of the vote that it attracted effectively legitimised the Independence position, and strengthened their case even though they did not win that vote. The issue has certainly not gone away. I was surprised on our recent travels in Scotland to see the Saltire flying all over the place, and a fair number of car stickers saying, Ask me now and I’ll say Yes. It was apparent that people who a year ago were vehemently antagonistic to the idea of independence were far more relaxed about it now. It is my belief, if the question keeps being put in its present form, that the Scots will eventually vote Yes and then it will not be possible to deny them. It is undeniably the case that the question can be put however many times it takes, and regardless of the intervals, until the desired answer is given, but the electorate only has to say Yes once, for the outcome to be virtually irrevocable. Westminster should have remembered this. There are two other factors that were overlooked. The electorate believes in fair play, and it does not respond submissively to bullying.

We have seen with referenda that the electorate will vote Leave or Remain as instructed, but that it is not necessarily giving those answers to the questions which it was asked.

My guess is that so far as Brexit is concerned, London and the South being prosperous and near Europe largely voted Remain it being convenient for them. Scotland voted Remain to the last county and it has always been pro-Europe as a counter-balance to England, but the Scots also voted Remain in support of independence. The Irish in Northern Ireland voted for Remain in support of a United Ireland.

The English Midlands and Northern counties voted Leave in a spirit of dissatisfaction with Cameron’s government; and English coastal areas voted Leave because of their despair over having to cope with an unending influx of migrants with no government acknowledgement of their difficulties or help with the accompanying problems.

I’m quite sure that a fair proportion of those people who voted Leave for the reasons I have argued, did not actually expect that the overall vote would be to Leave and so got a result that was unexpected. Protest votes are dangerous and best kept for bi-elections!

George Osborne, of unlamented memory, was always described as being a wily strategist, which clearly was NOT the case, since the outcome here has been a catastrophe for him. But you cannot enjoy such a reputation for no reason. I’ve come to the conclusion that to be a good strategist, you need to be able to predict the reactions of a wide variety of people, including ones unlike yourself. People, as I have attempted to argue, vote from different motivations. Some vote for self interest; some vote altruistically; some vote in hatred or prejudice; some vote in family tradition. George Osborne, I suggest, understood extremely well the turpitude of his shoddy colleagues (of all parties) in Westminster, but he had no understanding of the hopes and dreams his fellow countrymen carried in their secret hearts.

Every incoming British prime minister, I believe, sets out with the goodwill of the British people.   Mrs May, I think, has so far conducted herself (and God knows I have no sympathy for the Tories) so that she still stands in that place of grace where we will give her the benefit of the doubt and wish success to her endeavours. Let us pray then that she continues as she has begun, for she is going to need all the good will she can muster to steer us through the rough times ahead.

THE EU REFERENDUM

I’m heartily sick of the whole business of the EU Referendum.     You can’t switch on the television without some pundit telling you how to cast your vote and forecasting catastrophic consequences for the country and perdition for you personally if you cast your vote the ‘wrong’ way.      The American president came and told us to vote to stay in or America would no longer smile upon us.   We hadn’t noticed that much gain from heir smiles up until now, and I suspect (and hope ) that a general reaction was, And what business is it of yours?

Going back to the groups attempting to influence the decision, I’ve come to the conclusion that NONE of them have the least idea what the outcome will mean for the country, and so they’re commandeering certain facts. proposed future actions, predicting the reactions of ‘our brothers in Europe’ and translating these nebulous results into a forecast.   There’s no proving or disproving these scenarios, of course, so they can be made with relative immunity except that the protagonist knows he’s just made it up and looks stressed.

Talking about self induced stress, into this toxic mixture wanders one A Blair on Andrew Marr this morning.   I couldn’t believe that he would be so bold (Is he talking to us?   Well, tell him we’re not listening.)   He told  us we should go to war in Iran because they had weapons of mass destruction, and how wrong was he about that?   He should go back to whichever tax haven is harbouring him these days and lie low and hope we never come looking for him.

Coming out of the EU won’t solve the problems of migration.    The reasons we are having these problems include

  1.   world over population
  2.   extreme poverty of some countries compared with others
  3.   instability of Middle East (to which we have contributed) rendering formerly pleasant countries uninhabitable
  4.  religious intolerance.

None of these will be improved by our exit from the EU.

Cameron has been hoist by his own petard.   He announced the Referendum to appease the rabid right wing dogs of his own party, and now they’re running wild in packs and threatening to destroy him.

Whatever your view, go out and vote.   It might just make a difference.

 

 

 

BLOOD ON OUR HANDS?

BLOOD ON OUR HANDS?

We have all been watching in horrified sympathy the ghastly events unfolding in Paris. One wonders what can have been DONE to those people – citizens of Western countries – to motivate them to take part in a shocking and brutal act of merciless mass murder, and then throw their own lives away as well?

My personal reactions are: horror – it was a disgusting event; sympathy for and a desire to support the French; unease – it could be us next time; anger – how dare they and do they think WE are a people who can be bullied and intimidated; determination to preserve our liberties and customs; and finally, absolute incomprehension.

There are many unanswered questions within the issue. One of the most depressing and alarming statements I have heard is that there are large sections of the Muslim population who secretly have sympathy with the aims of the terrorists. Can this be true? What proof is there of this? I can’t personally believe that our fellow citizens, enjoying the rights and privileges of being British alongside ourselves, would condone such wickedness. I believe the vast majority of our Muslim

and indeed other religious residents are decent people and as appalled at these atrocities as we are.

Governments are quick to label as ‘terrorists’ groups whose political aims are in opposition to their own policies, and while we may deplore the violence of the struggle, one can have sympathy in some cases with their cause – a united Ireland, for example, or South Africa free of apartheid and in charge of its own affairs. But there is no stated objective that we could from a judgement of in this case.

I heard George Galloway on this subject on Newsnight, talking sense for once, so you could see his formidable intelligence, his quick thinking, his skill at oratory, his indomitable courage, and you could just glimpse how great he might have been, had he only not succumbed to vanity. Undoubtedly he had much to be vain about, but sadly vanity destroys one’s judgement. He had some interesting insights, but no credible soluion . I find myself (I despise my own foolishness) listening hopefully to Cameron, Putin, Obama, the army, the police, the intelligence officers, seeking some sign that some of these experts will emerge and lead us out of this hazardous war zone we seem to have landed in. I come to the reluctant conclusion that none of them has any idea how to solve the problem.

Bombing? I don’t think bombing ever solves anything. It just lays waste to people’s homes and infrastructure, kills large sections of the civilian population who did not take any action against us; and the British population at large is not comfortable with bombing people in their country when they haven’t bombed us in ours. Over the last quarter century we’ve bombed several countries and none of these campaigns have been regarded as successful. Plus, after Blair’s fiasco, we’d need to get a UN mandate (surely Cameron would not proceed without one?) and that might be problematic.

Boots on the ground. I think Cameron should by now realise that the country is extremely unwilling to put the lives of our own men at risk in a country far from our shores. The enemy would have to be at the gate. Of course in a sense the enemy is already within our gates, but your man in the street, who in spite of being thought of by politicians as the great unwashed and ignorant, exhibits considerable sense and sound judgement, does not believe that sending troops to fight in other countries will enhance our security at home.

A policy of shoot to kill. Obviously if our policemen or soldiers are facing a terrorist on his murderous spree, they do need to shoot to kill, both to preserve the lives of our citizens caught up in the event, and that of themselves and their colleagues. The problem is that the nature of terrorism means that these events rise up out of the blue, so our defendants do not have time to collect their arms and their authority. They must be prepared at all times. But having a carte blanche shoot-to-kill policy can lead to grave miscarriages of justice, and once an innocent person is dead, there is no restitution can be made to him in this world. This is a grave matter, and not a trifling issue which can be sacrificed in a spirit of needs must.

What we can do is demonstrate love, tolerance and support for those affected by this issue. We should show solidarity, not only to the French, but to those of our own citizens who came to us from these countries, for they are not the people who have harmed us; but if we allow our country to be split into factions because of this, then the terrorists will indeed have damaged us. We should send expertise and funds to those countries we have bombed and damaged and help them rebuild their infrastructure. These things are long term and difficult and first of all you have to subdue rebellious insurgents so that you can carry out the necessary work and it will not just be promptly destroyed.

But can we understand it? Indeed we should acknowledge that we are not blameless in this crisis. Over the past century we have meddled where we should not have done, and we have interfered to support our own interests and not those of the local inhabitants. We have blood on our hands. But whereas we could perhaps understand if our attackers were defending their interests intent on adding to their territories, increasing their wealth, making their people healthier, richer, better educated: we might resent them pursuing those things at our expense – but we could see the point of all that. But this does not appear to be their aim at all. Their purpose is simply to destroy us.

What is the answer to this riddle? I’m afraid I don’t know, and what is more I haven’t heard any expert speak that gave me any confidence that he knew either.