the brilliantly leaping gazelle

Can those who dish it out, take it?

Earlier on today, I was faced with a dilemma, namely to smash the radio I was listening to to smithereens, or to simply turn it off. Whilst the option I chose was undoubtedly quieter and less messy, it was also much less satisfying. I was listening to ‘The World at One’, and the main item they were discussing was the language used in parliament yesterday. You can guess the angle they took, a rather censoriously superior tone, the kind Radio Four does so well, so much so that sometimes you’d be forgiven for thinking the Guardian had taken the airwaves.

At no point did anyone think that after sustained hectoring and personal attacks on his motives and character, the Prime Minister might crack. By all accounts, he was subjected to this for nearly three hours and he is human. If I’d’ve been subjected to that level of vitriolic abuse, I’d’ve used much more earthy language, much more often and much sooner. Anyone who has listened to the recent exchanges about Brexit in Parliament knows they can get heated, it’s not the Oxford debating chamber. It’s Brexit, and Brexit arouses strong passions. In fact, if anything, I thought the Prime Mister was remarkably restrained. ‘Well done him’, I though yesterday, as I listened to the ill-tempered cacophany on yesterdays ‘Today in Parliament’.

Anyway today hasn’t been a good day for me, not that any day is good per se, but more that some days are less worse than others, and that today is one that is far worse than in quite a while. It’s a day when I really question the point of getting up, and then I have to make a conscious effort to stop that train of though before it derails. Perhaps that’s why I’ve got no time for perceived slights, manufactured outrage and hyperbolic bolics.

Or perhaps not.

Political caveat emptor

When writing yesterday in the immediate aftermath of The Supreme Court ruling that the proroguing of parliament was unlawful, I cited a number of reasons why I felt the law of unintended consequences might soon come to play an ever increasingly disruptive role in our democracy. Having slept on it, I’m more convinced of it now than I was yesterday.

Not just because, as was pointed out on the excellent ‘Brexitcast’ podcast, it raises to spectre of any controversial government decision being challenged, and possibly overturned by The Supreme Court. The Labour Party may well see this ruling as a victory for democracy now, when it accords with their political objectives, but what happens if they get into government? Will they be so happy if, lets say, a decision to bring the railways back into public ownership, or to sequestrate public school playing fields was similarly challenged? And they lost? Policies that had been the result of a democratic mandate at yesterdays Labour Party conference been declared unlawful by unelected, unrepresentative and unaccountable members of a court that is now writing its own rules.

As I wrote yesterday

Britain doesn’t have a written constitution, instead we have a bewildering array of conventions and precedents built up and built upon over centuries

But if the court is now following precedents it has created, without those precedents being challenged, then what happens next? Who has ultimate power? Will appointees to the Supreme Court become increasingly political, such as in America, where a President knows they may only serve eight years at most, but appointees to the US Supreme Court serve for longer and rule on matters of the utmost import.

Earlier this month I got a letter informing me I’d been selected for jury service. I was overjoyed. If people want democracy to work, I reasoned, people needed to do their bit to make it work. I’ve even gone so far as to visit the court building, to make sure it can meet my needs. But now I’m in a quandary, inasmuch as I still feel that way, that for democracy to function effectively it requires the active participation of the people. But after yesterdays ruling, do I believe that democracy works? Am I still required to honour the obligations beholden upon me, if I believe that democracy isn’t honouring its to me?

And if, as has been widely speculated, Boris Johnson does indeed submit a proposal for a general election to parliament later today, what’s the point in bothering to vote? As I wrote yesterday

If I, along with 17.5 million other people, had voted to leave, only for 11 judges to seek to prevent it from happening, I’d be asking exactly whose interests does the law serve?

 

A pyrrhic victory for democracy.

The Supreme Court ruling that the proroguing of parliament was unlawful has been welcomed by some as a victory for democracy. But is it?

As I’ve written many times, I voted to remain, but more people voted to leave, and because we live in a democracy, I dealt with it and moved on. But lots of people didn’t. Now if the case the Supreme Court ruled on had been financed by a large number of disgruntled remainers who had raised the funds needed to bring the case, I’ll admit I’d have had less of a problem with that than with one wealthy woman bankrolling the whole thing. For a well-argued case why this is not especially helpful for democracy, I’d urge you to read this.

My second problem is that it gives Boris Johnson the chance to appeal directly to the 17.5 million people who voted to leave and claim that a cabal of various elites is thwarting their wishes. Whilst this may or may not be true, he can assert it to be true and on the face of it, the facts bear him out. Who brought the case? A businesswoman who had already been to the Supreme Court before about Brexit, someone who has never reconciled herself to the referendum result.

My third problem is with the Supreme Court and the unintended consequences that might stem from this verdict. Britain doesn’t have a written constitution, instead we have a bewildering array of conventions and precedents built up and built upon over centuries. But conventions and precedents only work when they’re adhered to, if the people they are applied to feel they have some legitimacy, a reason to obey them. If not, they won’t. If I, along with 17.5 million other people, had voted to leave, only for 11 judges to seek to prevent it from happening, I’d be asking exactly whose interests does the law serve?

Which leads me on to my final, and most important problem, namely in what universe is this verdict going to help heal the divisions between the opposing camps. Equally, had the verdict gone the other way, the same question would still be relevant. Actually, thinking about it, it isn’t simply a case of healing the divisions between leavers and remainers, its also healing the divisions between the moderates and ultra’s on both sides.

A confederacy of dunces..

Today would be a masterstroke of ironic genius if it wasn’t for the fact that it is a painful indictment of the human condition, one which will help bring about our eventual extinction as a species.

On the one hand, we have protesters taking to the streets through out the world and well, protesting about climate change, or to be more accurate the lack of any concerted and sustained and demanding meaningful action be taken or those with the power to effect such. What this action might be and how effective it might be is another matter. However, the important thing is not only are that they are doing something, it is that they are seen to be doing it.

On the other hand, we have the news that the travel company Thomas Cook is at risk of collapse, therefore holiday-maker’s plans are put at risk.

The utter ridiculousness of these situations was put into sharp relief on ‘The World at One’ today. Immediately following an earnest report on the climate change protestors concerns, there then followed what was supposed to be a heart-rending tale of a holidaymaker whose plans to jet off to the Maldives had been thrown into question by the turmoil engulfing Thomas Cook. That would be the Maldives Islands that are at great risk of flooding due to rising sea levels caused by climate change, partly caused by the emissions caused by aviation fuel released into the atmosphere.

That Maldives.

Mind you, at least the weather was nice for the protestors!

Exactly how are the ‘Liberal Democrats’ either liberal or democratic?

Anyone with an I.Q bigger than the radius of their kneecap would’ve been not in the least bit surprised by the news today that the Liberal Democrats have pledged to cancel Brexit if they come to power at the next general election. But don’t worry. That ‘if’ presupposes a lot of unlikely things will conspire to make one very impossible thing a reality. I mean, if could walk unaided again I’d like to do more hiking, possibly give mountaineering a punt. 

But at least I’m not so delusional as to think it remotely possible. The same cannot be said of the Liberal Democrats. I mean they are aware that we have a first past the post electoral system for general elections aren’t they? And that the only reason they enjoyed the success they did in the recent European elections was because they use proportional representation?

And just because they proclaim to be something doesn’t mean they are, unless of course they’re channelling the spirit of the ‘Red Queen’ in ‘Alice in Wonderland’, in which case it means what she says it means. Otherwise could someone please tell me exactly how are the ‘Liberal Democrats’ either liberal or democratic? How is ignoring the result of  democratic vote, compatible with that. Being in a democracy means accepting things you don’t like when the result isn’t the one you wanted. I voted for to remain like a lot of people but more people didn’t. It sucked cocks in hell for few days but after that I got over it.

It’s just struck me how similar people who want a second referendum or better still to thwart Brexit are to conspiracy theorists. Because just like them they marshall deeply spurious assertions and flawed logic to bolster an opinion they believe everyone should believe. I’ve got to be careful here, because one of my good friends will be reading this and she thinks the people should be asked again and we’re meant to be going on holiday tomorrow. I’ll just say that if the Leavers had lost and they carried in like the Remainers had, well they’d be roundly and comprehensively denounced as the bad losers, the turncoats they are.

Democracy hasn’t failed us. We have failed democracy.

In the midst of everyone playing the blame game about the current Brexit fiasco, no-one has as yet properly identified the main culprits. Yes, proroguing parliament is a desperate throw of the dice by a Prime Minister increasingly out of options. But then we should properly ask ourselves who gave him such crap dice? I mean Boris Johnson had to work with what he inherited from Theresa May and she had a to try and make the best of a bad lot from the first day of premiership.

If, on the 29th June 2016, instead of this country being convulsed with the referendum result, had politicians from all sides pledged to come together in a spirit of common purpose to make Brexit work, then this whole sorry farrago might have been avoided. But then it is hardly fair to blame politicians for being politicians. After all, politicians are, in theory, servants of the people that elect them, and it is they – us – the electorate, that bear ultimate responsibility for the chaos we find ourselves in.

It is worth bearing in mind that 28.2% of the electorate didn’t vote. Mind you, having written that, it’s hard to know whether that is 28.2% of the adult population or 28.2% of the adult population who registered to vote. Regardless of that, given the slim majority of the Leave campaign, had those 28.2% been bothered enough to vote, then probably we wouldn’t have found ourselves in this chaos. Not only might there have been a clear and decisive mandate for one course of action, it would have also prevented the current turmoil being unleashed across the country and the very real risk of civil disobedience might have been negated. But clearly the 28.2% had other more important things to do that day. So if anyone is to blame for the current fiasco, it is them. You might think that some of them may well have assumed a vote to remain was a certainty, and therefore didn’t need to vote, but a certainty only becomes a certainty when it is made so. Possibly the remainers who didn’t vote are the one’s protesting the most vociferously now?

Although the 32.2% of us – well you, because I’ve always voted – who didn’t vote at the 2017 general election are marginally less contemptible. That was the election that saw a divided government weakened to the shambles it is today. That is why where we are where we are, it is wholly the fault of an apathetic electorate and quite why no politician dares speak this incontrovertible truth is beyond me. Far from being a failure of democracy, it is the electorate who have failed democracy.

So parliament is prorogued? It’s not as we voted for it, is it?

Chuka Umanna: A man who personifies current political principles!

Oh the irony of having a first name that also embodies your defining political characteristic! The news today that the former Labour MP Chuka Umunna will fight the Cities of London and Westminster parliamentary seat for the Lib Dems at the next general election will come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed his unillustrious career.  

Previously a Labour MP who was elected on a manifesto that pledged to honour the result of the referendum, he then proceeded to do everything he could to achieve the very opposite. Upon finding that his ambition exceeded the standing others held him in, Chuka chucked it in with Labour to form a new party with a collection of unlikely lads and lasses, called, somewhat inaptly, Change UK. Rather annoyingly, the electorate voted with their er…votes and after a disastrous showing in the European elections, Chuka decided to chuck that in and joined the Lib Dems instead. All the while insisting there was no need to hold a by-election in his constituency until that is, the prospect of an impending general election became a very real possibility. Possibly aware that a constituency that returned its Labour candidate with a 68.5% share of the vote cast –more than double that of all his rivals combined – might not take too kindly to his political chicanery, he’s decided that the honourable thing to do is to decamp to a somewhere with a greater prospect of success.

Truly a man for our times!

An oddly reassuring thought…

I know its not exactly what one might call a ringing endorsement of Boris Johnson’s election as the new Conservative Party leader – and by dint of that, our next Prime Minister – the notion that because we’ll all be dead soon, it has only a relative importance. But I will be, and therefore it isRelative to not only how long I’m going to remain alive, relative to my potential to effect any meaningful change on whatever decisions he or other world leaders may make, but most of all, relative the lack of any effective action by humanity to reverse catastrophic climate change.

It literally dawned on me at 04.58 this morning as I watched the sun come up, that ultimately, nothing we say or do matters from here on in. I’m at the seaside at Cromer and enduring the heatwave, one that may or may not set records for the hottest UK temperature, but will be one of the hottest years globally on record. Most of these have occurred in the recent past and we not only know this but in trying to combat the heats effects we only make the problem worse. I am as guilty as the next man of this, unless of course, the next man happens to the President of China or America.

To cool off in the sun, my partner made some delicious homemade ice pops, using only watermelon juice and star fruit juice, whatever that is. Oh yes and the energy needed to freeze it, the petrol needed to drive to the supermarket and back to get the juice, the energy needed to keep it chilled until purchase. Oh, and then there’s the energy needed to transport it here, probably a combination of freight and air –freight, given that neither of these two fruits are grown in the UK. Then there’s the energy need to grow them, the sheer amount of water needed, the low wages producers need to pay their workers, so my partner, when she’s in Cromer Co-Op won’t think ‘How much?’ and choose something else. And I nearly forgot the packaging! I thought of all this as the ice-pop was melting, reflecting on if the sun could do that, what in Darwin’s name is it doing to the polar ice-sheets. Lots, I know, and none of it good.

Whilst we might imbue our own concerns with importance, that importance is only important to ourselves and is no of consequence not to the universe. This truism was borne out to me last week I visited the Turner Gallery in Margate, where there was an exhibition of seaside ‘photos, some of which were taken at the start of the last century. I was struck by the thought that all the people in those ‘photo’s, they were dead now, and all their hopes and dreams, which had seemed so important to them, had died with them.

This blog has always had a rather somewhat cynical view of humanity’s continued existence as beneficial for the planet, so therefore it would be a tad hypocritical to exempt myself from my own belief. And even if we ultimately pollute ourselves  out of existence, what will the universe care? Regardless of whatever deal or no deal we leave Europe with, the sun will still rise. How much longer humans will be around to witness it is another matter.

Other people befouling my eyes…

I know this is going to be a bit sexist and judgmental, but I am hugely judgmental and frequently withering in my appraisal of other people – well if they will befoul my eyes – so can I just observe that the ratio of good-looking men has demised markedly. I’m not exactly an Adonis myself- but then neither am I a John Merrick lookalike- but at least I make an effort. Some of the men here though, what with their curious facial furniture look like strategically shaved monkeys. If I wanted to better acquaint myself with the local hospitals A&E, I might ask if their knuckles hurt from being dragged along the floor. And as for what they wear, or rather, what they are not wearing, how much of this from decorum can be blamed on the weather, or where exactly do individuals bear some responsibility for baring nearly all is a moot point. But to me – and most right thinking people -men going topless and wearing flip-flops, whilst fine and appropriate on a beach, isn’t street attire. It seems however, that here in Cromer they’ve enthusiastically embraced what seems like anarchic clotheslessness.

And all too frequently, this abandon of propriety goes hand in hand with tattoo’s. Where did this obsession with body disfigurement come from? Most people have difficulty committing to gym membership, so why on earth they imagine they make the sort of commitment a tattoo requires is unfathomable. Things change. Plans Change. Times change. And bodies sag. What was once chiseled and buffed in former years becomes visual proof of the cruelty of ageing. There’s a lot of it in Cromer and yes, it befouls my eyes.

All that glitters isn’t gold…

I’ve just found out from the BBC that

 Boris Johnson has promised the “beginning of a new golden age”, as he made his first Commons statement as PM.

 And a large part of me thinks, is that such a good thing? At the moment I’m reading ‘The Watchers: A secret history of the reign of Elizabeth 1’ by Stephen Alford, and whatever thoughts I had about her reign being a ‘golden age’ is largely a creation of benevolent historians. From the outset, her legitimacy to be queen was questioned, England was isolated from Europe and the country was beset by plots, intrigues and treachery. Does any of this seem pertinent to now?

 Or we could call to mind Harriet Jones vaunted ‘golden age’ when she was Prime Minister. Admittedly she was a character in ‘ Doctor Who’ but as many others have pointed out, Boris Johnson is a creation of Boris Johnson. But whilst she was P.M of a Britain in a parallel world, who knows what planet Boris is on?