Understanding the Right Wing mind – William Hague

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/05/2020 - 5:00pm in

Here is yet another article in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ – I know – people will think I read nothing else! Which is probably why I chose – just in case – to add this piece to our series on understanding the Right Wing mind. If Johnson is the after-dinner speaker as Prime Minister, then I... Read more

Boris Isn’t Churchill, He’s Neville Chamberlain

Okay, it’s finally happened. I think people have been expecting this, but were hoping that somehow it wouldn’t come true. But it has. Mike today has put up a piece reporting that the death toll from the Coronavirus has hit 62,000. 51,000 people are known to have died, according to some of the people, whose tweets about this tragedy Mike has reproduced in his article. That’s more than those killed during the Blitz.

How do I feel about this? Absolutely furious and bitterly ashamed. Britain is one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, but we now have the second worst death rate from this foul disease in the world. And it can all be put down to our leaders’ incompetence, their doctrinaire pursuit of neoliberalism and private industry at the expense of the res publica, the commonweal, the public good. And their willingness to sacrifice the health, safety and lives of the great British people for the sake of their corporate profits and the narrow interests of their own class.

Mike, Zelo Street and a host of other left-wing bloggers and activists have published article after article minute describing the Tories’ culpable negligence. They were warned in advance by scientists and medical experts that a fresh pandemic was coming sometime. As you know, I despise New Labour, but Blair, Brown and the rest nevertheless took the threat seriously. They prepared for it, setting up appropriate government and NHS departments. What did the Tories do? Shelve all these plans, because they were committed to austerity and they didn’t think the money spent on these precautions were worth it. 2016 the government wargamed a flu pandemic, and this pointed out all the problems we’ve subsequently experienced with the Coronavirus. And what happened after that? Zilch. For the same reasons the plans were shelved and weren’t updated and the specialist departments closed down.

And the Tories’ commitment to austerity also meant they prevented the NHS from being adequately prepared for the outbreak. It had too few intensive care beds, the supplies of PPE were too small, and underlying it is the plain fact that the NHS has been criminally starved of proper funding for years. Because, for all that they’re praising it now, the Tories are desperate to sell it off and have a private healthcare system like the one that works in America. You know, the one country that now has a worse death toll than ours.

Austerity has also exacerbated the impact of the disease in another way. It hits the poor the hardest. Which is unsurprising – the poor often suffer worse from disease, because they don’t have such good diets, jobs, housing and living conditions as the rich. In this case, poorer people do jobs that bring them more into contact with others, which leaves them more exposed to infection. I really am not surprised, therefore, that Blacks and Asians are therefore far more likely than Whites to contract Covid-19. There are other factors involved, of course – ethnic minorities as a rule tend to live far more in multigenerational households than Whites, which increases the risk of infection. But Blacks and some ethnic groups also tend to do the worse, most poorly paid jobs and that’s also going to leave them vulnerable.

And Boris is personally responsible for this debacle. He was warned in November that the Coronavirus was a threat and January and February of this years the scientists were telling him to put the country into lockdown. But he didn’t. He was too preoccupied with ‘getting Brexit done’. He also didn’t want to put this country into lockdown, because it would harm the economy, which meant that the big businesses that donate to him and his scummy party would take a hit. And he and Dominic Cummings and certain others also subscribe to the Social Darwinist view that the disease should be allowed to take its toll on the weakest, because they were useless eaters holding back all the biologically superior rich businessmen the party idolizes. It was a simply just culling the herd, nothing to worry about. And apart from that, Boris was just personally too damn idle. He doesn’t like to read his briefs, he didn’t turn up to the first five meetings of Cobra, and rather than working shot off back home at the weekends. And he was also far too interested in pursuing his relationship with his latest partner.

Johnson fancies himself as Winston Churchill. A few years ago he published a book about the great War Leader, that was so execrable it was torn to shreds by John Newsinger over at Lobster. In this, the Blonde Buffoon resembles Jim Hacker from the Beeb’s comedy series, Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. Whenever Hacker had some grand idea that would raise him or his administration above mediocrity, he’d start posing and speaking like Churchill. Boris hasn’t quite done that, or at least, not in public. But he certainly shares Hacker’s vanity in this respect.

But he isn’t Churchill. He’s Churchill’s predecessor, Neville Chamberlain. Churchill hated Nazi Germany and was determined to destroy it. Chamberlain, on the other hand, wanted to avoid war. Hence he came back from Munich waving a worthless piece of paper, which he proclaimed as ‘peace in our time’. He was thus absolutely unprepared for Hitler’s invasion of Poland. But the Tories got rid of him, and replaced him with Churchill.

Johnson was unprepared for the Coronavirus. He should have been removed long ago and replaced with someone, who could do something about it. But that would mean replacing the entire Tory party, as none of the Prime Ministers since Brown have been serious about preparing for this threat.

And thanks to them, more people have now died than in the Blitz.

What an under, damnable disgrace!



Brexit: Posturing and Impasse

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/05/2020 - 8:54pm in

More Brexit chest-thumping.

Brexit disaster looms…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/05/2020 - 5:00pm in

There is worrying news from the WTO, which seems to be little noticed. The only record I can find is here, and which ‘Yorkshire Bylines’ are, I suggest, well worth following. The USA has long refused to approve more WTO ajudicators (arbitrators for disputes) so these judges are now inquorate. Trump has only accentuated the... Read more

Brexit: Yet More Chicken

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/05/2020 - 8:15pm in

The same bad Brexit dynamics are very much in place.

Covid-19 How is the UK doing?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 17/05/2020 - 10:29pm in



Introduction From HMG’s perspective, now that the UK has left the EU, the Covid-19 pandemic provided an opportunity to show the UK’s true genius, unshackled from an allegedly moribund Europe. What better opportunity to showcase the true and exceptional greatness of Great Britain? The UK is world-leading (almost). According to the Global Health Security Index... Read more

Starmer Throws Away Corbyn’s Popular Socialist Labour Policies

I really shouldn’t be surprised at this whatsoever. It was inevitable, and everyone saw it coming the moment Starmer entered the ring in the Labour leadership contest. But I hoped against hope that he would still have some sense of honour and remain faithful to his election pledges. But he hasn’t. He’s finally taken his mask off and revealed his true, Blairite neoliberal face. And in the words of Benjamin J. Grimm, your blue-eyed, ever-lovin’ Thing, ‘What a revoltin’ development’ it is.

On Monday Mike put up a piece reporting that Starmer had given an interview to the Financial Times in which he blamed his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, for last year’s election defeat. He claims that Corbyn’s leadership was the chief topic of debate. That’s probably true, but only up to a point. The long, venomous campaign against Corbyn certainly did whip up a vicious hatred against the former Labour leader amongst a large part of the electorate. Some of the people I talked to in my local Labour party, who’d been out campaigning, said that they were shocked by the vicious, bitter hatred the public had for him. One woman said that it was as if they expected him to come up the garden path and shoot their dog.

But Starmer was also one of the reasons for Labour’s defeat. It was due to Starmer’s influence that Labour muddled its policy on Brexit by promising a second referendum. Johnson’s message of getting Brexit done was much simpler, and more popular. It’s almost certainly why Labour lost its historic strongholds in the north and midlands. These were areas which voted heavily for Brexit. But obviously, as the new leader of the Labour party, Starmer doesn’t want to mention that.

Then he goes on to blame the defeat on Labour’s policies. He claims Labour had overloaded its manifesto with promises to nationalise several utilities, issue £300 billion of shares to workers and promising another £83 billion in tax and spending. However, these policies, contrary to what the habitual liars and hack propagandists of the Tories and Lib Dems claim, had been properly costed.

Now I don’t doubt that the manifesto was overloaded by too many promises. When analysing what went wrong in the local constituency meeting, some felt that it was because the manifesto was too long, contained too many such promises and felt that they were being made up on a daily basis as the election progressed. But the central promise of renationalising the electricity grid, water and the railways were genuinely popular, and had been in the previous election in 2017. And Starmer promised to honour the policy commitments made in last year’s manifesto.

And now he’s shown in this interview that he has no intention of doing so.

He’s also demonstrated this by appointing as his shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Bridget Phillipson, another Blairite, who attacked Labour’s 2017 manifesto for offering too much to voters. Mike also reports that a leaked letter from Phillipson to other members of the shadow cabinet shows her telling them that from now on any policies that involve spending must have the approval of both Starmer and the shadow Treasury team before they’re even put in the planning stage.

Mike comments

Clearly, Starmer wants an “out-Tory the Tories” spending policy of the kind that led to then-Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves promising to be “tougher than the Tories” on benefits, in just one particularly out-of-touch policy from the Miliband era.

Absolutely. He wants to show Tory and Lib Dem voters that Labour stands for responsible fiscal policy, just like it did under Blair, who was also responsible for massive privatisation and a further catastrophic dismantlement of the welfare state.

Blair also made a conscious decision to abandon traditional Labour policies and its working class base in order to appeal to Tory voters in swing marginals. And the first thing he did was to recruit former Tory cabinet ministers, such as Chris Patten, to his own to form a Government Of All the Talents (GOATS). Starmer’s trying to make the same appeal. And it’s shown glaringly in the choice of newspaper to which he gave the interview. The Financial Times is the paper of the financial sector. Way back in the 1990s it was politically Liberal, although that didn’t stop one of its writers supporting workfare. According to Private Eye, the newspaper was losing readers, so its board and director, Marjorie Scardino, decreed that it should return to being a Tory paper. It has, though that hasn’t helped it – it’s still losing readers, and has lost even more than when it was Liberal. Starmer’s trying to repeat the Labour Party’s ‘prawn cocktail’ offensive, begun under Neil Kinnock, in which it successfully tried to win over the banking sector.

The rest of Mike’s article is a dissection of Starmer’s promises to stop landlords evicting their tenants because of the Coronavirus crisis. These look good, but will actually make housing scarcer and actually increase the problems renters have finding rent. Critics of Starmer’s policy see him as protecting landlords, rather than tenants.

Please see Mike’s article at:

Starmer’s policy does seem to be succeeding in winning Tory and Lib Dem voters.

According to a survey from Tory pollster YouGov, Starmer has an approval rating of +23, higher than Johnson. People were also positive about his leadership of the Labour party. 40 per cent think he’s done ‘very well’ or ‘well’ compared to the 17 per cent, who think he’s done fairly or very badly.

When it comes to Tories, 34 per cent think he’s doing well compared to 25 per cent, while regarding the Lib Dems, 63 per cent think he’s doing well compared to 53 per cent of Labour people.

Mike states that this is humiliating for Starmer, as it comes from people, who have a vested interested in a duff Labour leader.

Starmer gets approval rating boost – courtesy of Tory and Lib Dem voters

And Starmer has been duff. He’s scored a couple of very good points against Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions, but he’s largely been conspicuous by his absence. This has got to the point where the Tory papers have been sneering at him for it, saying that Piers Morgan has been a more effective opposition. It’s a point that has also been made by Tony Greenstein. See:

Even if these stats show that Tory and Lib Dem voters are genuinely impressed with Starmer, that does not mean that he has popular mandate. Tory Tony Blair won over Conservative voters, but that was at the expense of traditional Labour voters and members. They left the party in droves. It was Corbyn’s achievement that he managed to win those members back, and turned the party into Britain’s largest.

But Starmer and the Blairites despise the traditional Labour base. As shown by the coups and plots during Corbyn’s leadership, they’d be quite happy with a far smaller party without traditional, socialist members. And Starmer was part of that. He was one of those who took part in the coups.

Starmer is once again following Blair’s course in wanting to appeal to Tories and Lib Dems instead of working class voters, trade unionists and socialists. He wishes to return to orthodox fiscal policies, which will mean more privatisation, including that of the NHS, and completing their destruction of the welfare state.

He wants it to become Tory Party no. 2, just as Blair did. And for working class people, that means more poverty, disease, starvation and death.



The right to work (or not)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/05/2020 - 5:00pm in

I enjoyed this (below) which is apparently doing the rounds in the USA – though in the UK it is also, by all accounts, those hyper wealthy Tory backers who want the lockdown unlocked pronto: These wealthy Conservative backers have got, as a result of Johnson’s softening – or is it the Daily Telegraph’s hardening?... Read more

Canine Protest Against Brexit, Farage and Rees-Mogg

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/05/2020 - 6:57am in

Well, the best bit of tonight’s edition of Have I Got News For You for people down here near Bath And North-East Somerset was right at the end of the programme when they show funny photographs making jokes about how they’re of a certain event. BANES is the stomping ground of a certain Jacob Rees-Mogg, and they showed a picture of a dog peeing on a photograph of the Honourable Member for the 18th century. The joke was that it was Somerset council’s way of making sure that dogs urinate in the correct areas. Here’s the photo:

The photo seems to come from a demonstration against Brexit, entitled ‘Brexit Is A Dog’s Dinner’. Other photos showed demonstrators’ pooches expressing forthright views on the former leader of UKIP, now Fuhrer of the Brexit corporation, sorry, party.

Hope this gives everyone a laugh. If only they’d had the vote at the referendum!



Book Review: Slipping Loose: The UK’s Long Drift Away from the European Union by Martin Westlake

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/05/2020 - 8:40pm in

In Slipping Loose: The UK’s Long Drift Away from the European Union, Martin Westlake takes a long-term view of the result of the 2016 UK referendum on EU membership, showing it to be less a shock decision than the consequence of historical choices that led to the gradual slipping of ties between the UK and the EU. All future work on the 2016 referendum should reference this book, writes Jake Scott

Slipping Loose: The UK’s Long Drift Away from the European Union. Martin Westlake. Agenda. 2020.

The vote by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union on 23 June 2016 came as a shock to the global community – or so the story goes. But was the result truly a surprise, or was it a foregone conclusion? The rush to explain the decision by academics ranged from global perspectives (such as Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin’s National Populism and John Judis’s The Populist Explosion) and those at the national level (David Goodhart’s The Road to Somewhere) to the close analysis of ethnographers (Geoffrey Evans and Anand Menon’s Brexit and British Politics). Curiously, this wide range of analysis had a glaring gap – the perception of the institutional relationship between British politics and politicians and the EU (and, most importantly, its constituent parts). Martin Westlake’s new book Slipping Loose: The UK’s Long Drift from the European Union has sought to correct this.

As a preeminent documenter of the developments of the EU (his own research occupies nearly a whole page in the bibliography), Westlake is well-positioned to take on this daunting task. More than any other analysis of the 2016 referendum thus far, Westlake has attempted to explain developments and trends on both sides of the English Channel, cataloguing the path-dependency of each institution (insofar as British politics can be called a singular ‘institution’) and the reception by the other. Furthermore, the perspectives adopted in previous analyses were often described as long-term, but typically only looked as far back as a few decades – conversely, Westlake begins his story in the 1880s.

The overall argument of the book is that, rather than being a foregone conclusion or an unforeseeable shock, the result of the 2016 referendum became more and more likely as a consequence of choices, made both out of necessity and voluntarily (32), until settling ‘the Europe question’ by referendum was seen as the only viable option. Most significantly, Westlake tackles two presumptions: the aforementioned belief that holding a referendum at all was inevitable; and the assumed ‘shock’ of the result.

Each chapter attempts to break down these causes into, respectively: (1) political/constitutional drifts (in the United Kingdom); (2) economic crises, questions and clashes, specifically between the pound and the Eurozone; (3) the integrationist strategy of both the foundations of the EU and conscious choices made by actors; (4) the clear absence of consensus in the British polity on what sort of relationship was desired with the EU; (5) the declining presence of British people in the burgeoning European civil service; (6) the emergence and subsequent discarding of the Spitzenkandidaten (‘lead candidate’) procedure; (7) and, finally, the increasingly frequent question of what the British public truly thought of the EU. This pedagogical structure of the book is exemplary, with each chapter referencing back to previous revelations and conclusions to explain why, ever since the 1970s, Britain’s approach (or lack thereof) to the idea of a unified Europe led eventually to the decision to Leave.

Though the entire book is rich in value, it is the first chapter that deserves close attention. As above, the ‘looming prospect of a referendum’ is the subject of Chapter One, and Westlake is at pains to show how the tool of a referendum for settling significant constitutional questions in the British polity is not so alien a prospect as some contemporary commentators presume. Indeed, citing Vernon Bogdanor, the flirtation with referenda on constitutional vagaries dates as far back as the third Reform Act of 1867 as a means of overcoming the increasing tribalism of party politics with a ‘direct appeal to the people’ (7-8).

However, the sharp turn away from such reformist attitudes came in the post-war settlement which, as Westlake shows, was marked by the experience of totalitarianism to such an extent that Clement Attlee called the referendum ‘the instrument of Nazism and Fascism’. Perhaps this is the ‘long-term’ most commentators have in mind, but it is a strength of Westlake’s analysis that he shows a deadlocked party system in the early 1970s (not unlike today) increasingly toying with the idea of a referendum to settle a clearly irresolvable issue which, once the referendum became an option, evolved continually until the 1997-2001 UK Parliament intentionally decided the constitutional definition of what a referendum actually is. The reflexive movement of a referendum in relation to the constitution is what really matters here: too many analyses of the Leave vote have been concerned only with the British-European relationship; Westlake aims to show how internal developments in British politics made strategic planning for this relationship difficult.

Indeed, throughout the text it becomes clear that whilst many post-war constitutions on the Continent implicitly assumed the reality of a European project in the reconstruction of polities, the British never had such clarity. Always the indecisiveness, both at home and abroad, would linger in the minds of British politicians and civil servants (70-71). What is most impressive is Westlake’s deluge of statistics, tables, graphs and trends – as well as the perceptions of those trends – throughout, especially in Chapter Seven, ‘The People’.

A number of clear issues present themselves in the book, however. The first is, given the salience of the issue, the glaring absence of a discussion on populism is striking: indeed, the word is not even referenced in the index, though it does appear on occasion in the text. For a book on Brexit to not engage with this burning question is clearly a strategic choice: Westlake is, for better or worse, attempting to rise above the topic of the moment and present a lasting analysis. I believe he has, but I do wonder if his deliberate distance from the question of populism will serve his book well in the immediate climate.

The second issue is that of depth – but only in places. Obviously, the sheer scale of Westlake’s undertaking is considerable enough, and the ability to observe and comment on trends that occur over decades, never mind years, is extraordinary. However, Chapter Four on the spectral presence of British MEPs in the European Parliament feels rushed and brief in comparison to the seeming importance of that ‘absent presence’ that the chapter emphasises, especially in regard to how each political party responded to the introduction of proportional representation. Similarly, in Chapter Five, Westlake spends time considering the cultural influences in each nation and how this shaped their approaches to the burgeoning European civil service, especially regarding legalism and bureaucracy, but does not really expand on them, given the marked distinction between the common law and civil law traditions (112).

In consideration, this book undoubtedly joins a growing literature attempting to show that, though the 2016 vote might have been a shock to those in the moment, it probably should not have been. More than any other book in this field, Slipping Loose goes into the long-term trends to explain the confluence of factors and the divergence of opinions and attitudes in the relationship between the UK and the EU. All future work on the 2016 referendum should reference this book, or risk losing out otherwise.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics.

Image Credit: Viewfinder in Gibraltar, 2019 (Jelger CC BY 2.0).