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On Decency

May 3, 2017

In the age of spin, there's always a battle for the winning soundbite. As I sit in the US and watch the clown car derby that is Donald Trump in office, you can watch as each simple idea, simple solution and 'read my lips' promise splatters against the wall of reality.  Government is hard...  big revelation for those who serve, unless we're willing to assume a certain level of complication as standard - to give the benefit of the doubt to people doing a difficult thing.  This most people would do, if only they didn't keep telling us how simple the answers are.  

 

But it's not the answers that are truly dangerous.  Simple answers tend to stem from a simplified problem.  Immigrants stealing my job...  Too many.  Too much spent on welfare...  Too expensive.  It's no accident that the simplest solutions, and the simplest framing of a problem are designed to appeal to our baser natures, and most predictably, our selfishness.  Paul Ryan was quoted this week as being thoroughly mystified and indignant about why the tax dollars of the young should pay for the old, the sick...  An idea that appeals to those who cannot quantify that they too will get old... and the system (Government, big or small) will enact a means by which the elderly in a society are not eating out of dumpsters.  (You can see this any night of the week in San Francisco)

 

As America experiments with this in real time, Europe is an interesting place right now.  In France, Emmanuel Macron battles Marine Le Pen for the presidency.  Le Pen, the simple solutions candidate - (break up the EU, kick out the immigrants, de-islamify the West) is at this moment, predicted to be defeated, even after abandoning her party, the Front National to make herself more palatable to voters.  If as expected, her simple solutions do not prevail, and if Angela Merkel can win in Germany in a few weeks time, Europe may, as something resembling a whole, have chosen the difficult solution, the hard won negotiation, the reform of the imperfect model over a knee jerk descent into a reactionary, simplistic future that America and yes, Britain are realising can only ever be a fantasy, even if you do vote for it.

 

Britain is now in election mode.  The soundbites are in full swing.  Theresa May, a woman who, (as the wonderful newspaper observation by David Robjant goes) always keeps her promises, has called an election she promised not to to get a mandate she says she already has for a policy she said was a bad idea... and is now running on a platform of 'strong and stable leadership'.  That Monty Python-esque platform seems to entail hiding that leadership form both the general public as well as any sort of meaningful television debate.  Why?  Because anyone with an eye on politics has seen that May is fragile when challenged, unable to think on her feet, and while she may indeed be a 'safe pair of hands' behind the scenes, clearly there's enough concern about her performance to close down any idea of debating her supposedly weak opponent who has won rather a number of election debates and two leadership contests recently.

 

Jeremy Corbyn is not polished, or telegenic, or particularly charismatic, at least not in a Tony Blair kind of a way.  He's ordinary...  A thoughtful, bearded leftist whose arguments may not be delivered with evangelistic belief, rather a simple desire for fairness and decency in how people live.  So while the tories and their allies in the media may troll us with their endless soundbites of stability, anyone looking objectively at the catastrophic management of the nation over the last few years, could only conclude the opposite.  Worst of all is the assumption that victory doesn't have to be earned, that you can call an election and not participate in it.  It is not Jeremy Corbyn that must hold these people to account, but all of us.

Patriotism, the creation of straw men and the labelling of any nay sayers to the accepted doctrine as 'saboteurs' only enhance the opinion that I have long held about the UK.  One that will come under scrutiny all too soon.  Britain with its system of majority government, undemocratic reliance on first past the post that renders so many votes a waste of time is about to enter negotiation with people who negotiate difficult agreements between 28 countries for a living.  May's horrific meeting with Junker as briefed to the German newspaper is evidence of an entitled, poorly briefed UK that expects the world to buy it lunch and pat it on the head, even as it engages in an act of sabotage based on numerous false premises.  Theresa May and her cronies might be able to bully and cajole this country into drinking the coolade of Brexit, but if she thinks the rest of Europe and the world will do the same, then her naivety will be at great cost to the future of the country.

 

So on June 8th, if we can do anything to put the breaks on the unfolding political train wreck held together by a weak government and a rabid right wing press, we should do so. These people do not deserve a mandate.  They have not earned it and should not inherit it with no scrutiny because Labour has been self sabotaging for the last 3 years. Brexit cannot and should not become the defining political idea of our age.  It is not an idea, as much as a chronic failure of imagination and should not disguise the fact that the tory party up for election now is basically the one that lost to Blair in three landslides.  We can't go back to the future.  We have to go forward, and these people are not the ones to take us there.

 

 

 

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