Does soul-searching over the 2010–15 coalition leave Liberal Democrats in danger of failing to take the credit for our real achievements in government and undermining our relevance by being reluctant to try again?
Even before the arrival of Covid19 we were in turbulent times. British politics since the referendum has been highly dysfunctional.
In the 2019 General Election, my sense was that the Tories and Labour had lurched to extremes. On the doorstep I found even Remain supporters switching from us to the Tories for fear of a Corbyn-led government. Labour seemed to have prioritised ideological purity over electability, which was the place from which they were attacking us over the coalition.
Under normal circumstances, their choosing, in Keir Starmer, a leader who would be a credible Prime Minister would change everything and point to a revival of their fortunes and ours. As it is, the proposed changes to constituency boundaries are likely to favour the Tories. If the country is to move away from having an anti-European, authoritarian and incompetent government, we will need to work with Labour — which has to include the possibility of coalition. Continue reading “The next coalition?”
He’s (rightly) been criticised — but has an uncanny knack for mobilising people’s frustration to his advantage. Has he done it again?
I want to describe his trip to Durham during the lockdown as somewhere between “grossly irresponsible” and “utterly foolish”. But it is a little too easy to write him off.
This is the man who took a pile of grievances about things that had little to do with the European Union and coalesced them into a vote for Brexit — even though this will make life worse for most of those who voted for it.
This is the man who (apparently) took last year’s parliamentary stalement and Boris Johnson’s illegal prorogation of Parliament and enabled the Tories to win a handsome majority — even though the tiny increase in the Conservative vote makes it look more like a vote against a Corbyn government than support for a Johnson one.
Breaking the lockdown was bad, but what about the damage Dominic Cummings has done to the country over Brexit?
People are rightly angered at Dominic Cummings’ decision to visit family in Durham when the rest of us were following the government’s advice to “stay home — protect the NHS — save lives”. But this is a fraction of the irresponsibility he’s shown over Brexit. People should be looking at all that he has done — and they should be angry.
As I write this [26 May], people are angry at his decision to travel from London to family in Durham during the lockdown. Apparently his uncle died from Covid19 while he was there which doesn’t really cut it with people who’ve been unable to visit loved ones dying in hospital from Covid19 or going to their funerals.
Offering a stable basic income to all, without the risk of people falling through the net has been a good idea for a long time. It’s become a compelling one in the face of the economic consequences of Covid-19
The idea of a Universal Basic Income is that the state pays something to everyone, regardless of circumstances. It needs to go with a changed tax system, so that the money is taken back again in tax from most people.
It means that, if people fall on hard times, they stop paying the money back in tax, rather than needing to claim benefits. This matters because there are inevitably flaws in the design of any system of benefits. People can fall through the gaps, whether those are oversights or bureaucratic errors, and face destitution. The five week delay before receiving Universal Credit is a good example. There was credible reasoning behind it, but the number of people needing help from food banks in that period shows that that reasoning was flawed. Not being sure where your food will come from or how to keep a roof over your head does real and long term harm to someone. With a Universal Basic Income, bureaucratic mistakes mean that the tax authorities get their money a little later — which does a lot less harm. Continue reading “Universal Basic Income: a sensible economic response to Covid-19”
Pretending Covid-19, Brexit and climate change don’t matter: why do some people need to ignore reality?
On 24 March 2020 Paul Bullen, formerly leader of the UKIP group on Cambridgeshire County Council, put out a jaw-dropping tweet where he said:
“Isn’t it about time we stopped this nonsense. The majority don’t care about Covid-19, don’t care if they catch it and know that it won’t have any adverse effects. Do we really want to kill our economy? Let’s get back to work, open our pubs and restaurants and get back to normal.” (click to view tweet)
After the Brexit party chose not to stand candidates against sitting Tories, Bullen became an independent candidate in Huntingdon Constituency in the General Election, where I stood for the Liberal Democrats. He took a position that was strongly in favour of Brexit. In hustings he repeatedly claimed that climate change, though real, is not the result of human activity, and that, if elected, he’d not be beholden to any party line, but would speak for his constituents.
I don’t know Bullen well enough to speculate on what he actually thinks, and note that this twitter account seems to have been deleted.
Brexit “gets back” what was never lost — Boris Johnson has set up himself (or his successor) for failure when this becomes obvious. The consequences will be serious.
The vox pops in my social media feed on 31 January sent a shiver down the spine. There were comments on getting back “our freedom” (that we never lost), “our independence” (that we never lost), our “sovereignty” (that we never lost), our “democracy” (that we never lost) and “our industry” (that we have lost, but not because of the EU).
That’s a heady mix. On social media people were quick to lampoon these positions — with good reason — but people are believing them.
To bring over people who supported Brexit we need to expose the failings of the Johnson government as it unravels, so that “Rejoin” is the response to LeaveLies coming into focus.
Nothing has emerged since the start of the referendum campaign to suggest that Brexit promises anything more than serious harm — to the British economy, British culture and Britain’s standing in the world. That didn’t change at 2300 on 31 January.
But the way forward is more complicated than switching from #RevokeArticle50 to #RejoinEU — and not just because the process for rejoining is not so simple.
The arrival of Brexit is the triumph of nostalgia and folly. It’s Britain launching on a rash denial of reality with serious consequences. It’s turning our backs on an institution built to secure our future. It’s ripping us from our cultural heritage. It has dangerous historical associations. “Get Brexit done” is the political lie since the claim that the Great War would be “over by Christmas”.
As it happens I was in London on “Brexit Day” (though thought better of going near Parliament Square in the evening). I saw someone selling The Big Issue, with a front cover asking “Would the Kindertransport be welcomed now”. Yes, that is a reference to the Dubs amendment, rejected by parliament, that would have offered protection to unaccompanied children. But the xenophobia unleashed by Brexit is ugly. The stories of people who have lived in the UK for years being denied settled status brings up unsettling associations with the treatment of minorities — most especially Jewish people — in Hitler’s Germany. It’s easy to say that is “totally different”. But is it?
On a news stand I saw a copy of Le Monde. The headline “Brexit: L’Europe entre dans l’inconnu” (Brexit: Europe enters the unknown) fits with the front cover of The Economist — a ship captioned “into the unknown“. That’s a more realistic assessment than None of Boris Johnson’s crazy optimism. Continue reading “Brexit arrives: a day of sadness and grief”
In the referendum the highest level of support for remaining in the EU was among young voters. Ignoring them sets the UK up for serious difficulties in the future.
In December 2018 I blogged a demographic analysis of the 2016 referendum result. The conclusion was that the deaths of older, predominantly Brexit-supporting voters leaving the electoral register, and predominantly Remain-supporting young people passing their 18th birthdays meant that the majority for leaving the EU would be gone by the end of 2019.
The surprise result of the 2019 General Election says more about Labour’s failure than the Conservatives’ success. It’s a mandate for not-Labour rather than an endorsement of the Tories. This is dangerous.
This was an election where Labour promised huge increases in borrowing, championing “the end of austerity” a “green industrial revolution” and a large number of nationalisations. Those with long memories will think of the situation the country was in during the 1970s. It’s a message that caught the idealism of young people. The snag is that it’s an idealism that risked also doing real damage.
Early in November 2019, the news that a Chinese company was buying what’s left of British steel injected some reality into the seriousness of Brexit party’s decision not to stand candidates against the Tories.
Sometimes the coincidence of what happens to appear in the same news broadcast is startling. 11 November 2019 saw the news that Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party was not going to stand candidates against the Tories, and that the Chinese Jingye Group was to buy British Steel.
The People’s Vote march on 19 October 2019 had a sadness to it — akin to depression — and which should be taken seriously.
A friend commented that she was struck by the sense of sadness. There was also fear, but much less of the carnival-like atmosphere of previous marches. One of the hallmarks of emotions in groups is that, if they affecting the whole group, they are less obvious because people don’t look around and see others in a radically-different space. My friend’s words called my up short, and made me wonder.
Freud’s essay Mourning and Melancholia suggests that the big difference between the two is that, in mourning there is real grieving for something that has been lost, such as after the death of a loved one, but in melancholia, though the sadness is real, but it’s not so clear what has actually been lost. That’s part of the territory of depression.
19 October 2019 was a day of high drama in Parliament — in its first Saturday sitting since the Falklands invasion. The media has been awash with speculation and interpretation — often adding more heat then light. Perhaps that’s justified, but I wonder if it was also a distraction from something much harder to name.
An un-nameable loss
I could point a finger at both the Conservative and Labour parties, suggesting that they’ve both lurched to extremes, leaving many of their traditional supporters with a sense of abandonment. I could point to the serious threat of Brexit, in both economic and cultural terms. But these have all been around for a while. They don’t adequately explain the sadness now. Continue reading “Repercussions of a sadness around Brexit”