Allocating Blame

As we take time to absorb the prospect of a 5 year far right Tory administration with a hefty majority capable of inflicting massive pain on the ordinary citizen whilst asset stripping remaining public property to assist in the re-election of Trump, it would be good to allocate blame.

Firstly to David Cameron for being stupid enough to call the EU Referendum, expecting an easy win but managing, in the process, to create such deep societal divisions that they will take decades to heal, and possibly not in my lifetime.

Secondly to Theresa May for being stupid enough to call a General Election thinking she could increase her majority and in fact losing it, forcing her to do a deal with the DUP Devil and her own right wingers. For being stubborn enough and putting herself above the national interest in not forming a national convention to agree a consensus path to EU Exit, instead setting red lines that precluded all hope of that consensus.

Third to Jeremy Corbyn for credibility-destroying fence sitting over a second confirmatory referendum and for not agreeing to a temporary Ken Clarke / Harriet Harman administration to deliver a second referendum. For stupidly agreeing to a General Election when it wasn’t necessary.

Fourth to Jo Swinson for also stupidly agreeing to that General Election, thinking naively that the Brexit Party would deliver the Lib Dems dozens more seats only to see that rug pulled away. And for stubbornly refusing to allow Corbyn to be a temporary PM to take over from Johnson when he was on the ropes and about to be knocked out.

Fifth to Nick Clegg for agreeing to that ridiculous PR Referendum that wasn’t PR and so enshrining FPTP that allows parties with a minority of the vote to get a significant majority of seats. Should have been top up seats like the other assemblies and parliaments. Tried, trusted, clearly works.

Sixth, to all the non-Tory/Brexit candidates that fought each other to allow Tory candidates through. Well done for that. Anti-Brexit parties actually got a majority of the vote but a significant minority of seats due to lack of collaboration.

Do I blame Johnson or Farage. Absolutely not. They are opportunists that recognised exactly how to destroy their opponents and win the seats even when not winning the popular vote. Everyone else played straight into their lying conniving hands. I could blame those who believed the lies but if we’re honest most people were not that stupid and knew they were being lied to – they just preferred those liars to the other ones. But I will blame, seventh, Labour party members who elected Corbyn as their leader twice, when a centrist Labour leader would have wiped the floor with Johnson and Co.

A New Way to Lead the Lib Dems

I’m afraid that my own less than favourable opinions of Jo Swinson were shared by the wider electorate at the December polls, and her own local electorate it seems. Jo was a fine MP, would have made a fairly good middle-ranking minister but was never Prime Minister material, and she should not have invited ridicule by suggesting she was. As a leader she was not inspirational, aspirational, or charismatic. Lightweight with a gender-related chip on her shoulder, calling out sexism where it did not exist was very irritating, preparing the excuses before the failure. Sturgeon didn’t have that problem. Clearly the burden of leadership caused her to spend less time on campaigning for her own seat than she needed to.

A major issue with Lib Dem leaders is that they need to be selected from a quite narrow pool of less than inspirational MPs. Davey was not my choice for leader last time and he won’t be my choice next time either. The Greens, SNP, Plaid Cymru, and DUP do not feel the need to elect their leaders from members of the Westminster Parliament, and it hasn’t done the SNP any harm at all. So next time around we must not limit ourselves.

We need a charismatic leader, one that can carry arguments in big debates. We need a leader who has the time to lead without the shackles of constituency or Parliamentary duties. We need a media-friendly leader with new ideas, one not encumbered with a Coalition legacy. The next Paddy Ashdown / Charlie Kennedy. I guess I’m making the case for Chuka Umunna. But it need not be him. Just someone like him that can latch onto centre ground Labour supporters who are currently disenfranchised.

In Parliament our MPs should select their own leader, the one they feel most able to get behind, and who would automatically become Deputy Leader of the party overall. I think you could make a case for Daisy Cooper but I don’t think it is for the members to choose.

BBC License Reform

I’ve just received an email from asking me to sign a petition to stop the Government decriminalising the non-payment of the TV License Fee. Clearly they don’t know me.

If I don’t pay my Netflix do they try and give me a criminal record? No, they cut me off. Same with Sky, my water, phone, electricity, gas, broadband and other service providers. They may take civil action to recover outstanding debts but they can’t make me a criminal, take away my livelihood, even jail me. The only other service you can use and be criminalised for not paying is using public transport without a ticket – that is treated effectively as deliberate theft and you always have a choice not to board a bus or train.

If you want to consume a rival competitor service, e.g. ITV, you need to pay the BBC for the priviledge. If you refuse you will be fined. If you refuse to pay the fine, eventually you will be imprisoned. I don’t pay Tesco to use Morrisons, so why should I pay the BBC to use Sky. Criminalisation of non-payment of the license fee is immoral and unjustifiable.

But let’s look at what you get for your license fee. The BBC is huge. It is the largest broadcaster in the world by number of employees, 22,000 of them, 35,000 of them when you include part time and contractor staff. BBC News is the largest broadcast news gathering operation in the world. The BBC operates 8 national TV stations, 2 regional language TV stations, 10 national radio stations, 6 sub-national radio stations, and a network of 40 local radio stations. It has one of the largest and most comprehensive online news websites in the world, 5 staff orchestras, a professional choir, Then it has 13 commercial TV stations operating worldwide, 7 national commercial TV stations in the UK via 100% ownership (since April 2019) of UKTV (Dave, Alibi, Gold, etc.). It has a 10% stake in the new BritBox subscription service. It has, over the years grown into a vast media empire, and it has grown this large on the back of a guaranteed income stream enforced by criminal sanctions if you do not contribute.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for high quality online and broadcast news content independent of Government and independent sponsors. There is a place for commercial free entertainment. There is a place for national radio stations. There is a place for content that could not be sustained by commercial value. But those places do not have to involve becoming a vast media conglomerate funded by force.

So, I would like to see the Government carry out a full-scale review of the BBC with a remit to preserve independence and integrity but with everything else up for grabs. I would cut out BBC3 and BBC4 TV channels and merge CBBC and CBeebies. I would cut back the national radio stations to 4 (Radio 3 content is duplicated largely by commercial operations), and sell off the local radio network to commercial interests. BBC News (online and broadcast), Current Affairs, niche and minority language programming, and radio to be paid for via a fund to be set without political interference. Personally I think the rest should be funded via a subscription of no more than £10 a month. No license fee, no criminal sanctions, the choice not to use BBC services so they don’t have to fund pensioners’ viewing.

I won’t be signing that petition. The reverse – I’d like the Government to take an immediate decision to decriminalise non-payment of the license fee and make it a civil debt until wider reform can take place.

I want to move to Scotland. I want to vote SNP.

My General Election is officially over. My vote has been cast and posted. Lib Dem it had to be in the end. All I have to do now is sit back and await whichever nightmare scenario comes to pass. Johnson’s extreme right bull in a china shop approach, Trump-lite. Or Corbyn’s Venezuela-modelled economy. Or yet another hung Parliament where no-one makes any decisions.

One thing is for sure, everyone is thoroughly sick of Brexit. Johnson can’t get it “done” because even with a majority and exit at the end of January, that is only the start of a decade long haul to negotiate separate agreements with the entire world, sort out major policy shifts, e.g. to fishing and agriculture, and replace 50 years of mostly good regulations that mostly protect consumers. You’ve heard Farage declare his support for chlorinated chicken despite the reasons for chlorination being appalling US animal health standards.

I suspect I am not alone in being thoroughly sick of constant, continual lying by politicians of all parties. I need to stop yelling at the inanimate object in the corner of my living room that shows a non-stop parade of self-serving political agents spouting their version of the latest wheeze. New hospitals and nurses that aren’t really new, more police that just bring us back to the beginning of the Tory administration. Nationalisations for free. Superfast broadband for free just when 5G is about to take over. Borders down the Irish Sea that appear and disappear on a daily basis.

I want to move to Scotland. I want to vote SNP. I want a second Scottish Independence Referendum. I want to vote for Independence. I want to build a new Hadrian’s Wall and I want the Mexicans to pay for it. I want to be on the other side of that wall from Corbyn and Johnson.

Johnson Chunterings

It was pretty despicable of Boris Johnson to start blaming Labour for the release of Usman Khan when he clearly still posed a danger to society. Usman was sentenced in 2012 to Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP). He would serve at least eight years but could not be released unless he had convinced the Parole Board he was no longer a threat. The Conservatives (and Lib Dems) were in Government at that time, and months later IPPs were abolished. On appeal, Khan’s sentence was reviewed and he would serve 8 years before receiving automatic parole subject to license conditions.

The fault lies in the sentencing rules in force in 2012. It does not matter under whose Government those rules were devised. Labour had been out of power for 2 years at that point and there was plenty of time for Tories and their Lib Dem partners to review the rules and update them. We know they did actually did this because IPPs were abolished. That review failed completely to deal with the impact on prisoners such as Usman Khan. Seven years on and innocent citizens paid the price for this error. The error was 100% the fault of the Government at the time of sentencing and in the seven years since when they did nothing to mitigate for the risks. It would be nice if Tom McNally owned up to the Lib Dem culpability to set an example of how politicians should act when events prove them lacking. I’d have more respect for that stance and I think most people realise hindsight is a wonderful thing and it would have been impossible to predict what would happen in 2019 back in 2012. An apology is all that is really needed, nothing more.

It was notable that Johnson did seem to try and distance his Government of 120 days from the Cameron and May administrations in order to try and wriggle out of having to accept even a modicum of responsibility but the bottom line is Conservatives, the party he leads, have been in charge of the Justice, Prisons, and Probation services for nearly 10 years.

Next to the appalling event on London Bridge on Friday, it seems trivial, but Johnson and his cronies seem determined to try and claim that they are creating 50,000 new nursing jobs, when they are actually retaining 19,000 due to be cut and adding 31,000. Same as police – recruiting 20,000 new police officers having already cut 20,000. Net result, zero. The maths involved is worthy of Diane Abbott on a bad blood sugar day.

I’m struggling to work out how, given every conceivable version of EU Exit carries a hit on the economy, all Johnson’s spending plans are dependent on getting brexit done. Magic Money Forests I guess.

In the meantime, the Daily Express (is that still going?) reports that “BBC viewers turn TV off as Andrew Marr ‘loses temper’ in interview with Boris Johnson”. This seems to be based on a number of Johnson’s cronies going onto Twitter and ranting that their Glorious Leader had been prevented by Andrew Marr from deflecting every question asked and rambling off onto a different subject, usually guesswork on what Corbyn would do. Marr, rightly, wanted to hear what Johnson would do on all the issues. This does seem to be a Tory tactic to avoid the awkward questions – tell the questioner what the opposition would do about something completely different followed by “get brexit done” to cure all ills. Corbyn is perfectly capable of burying himself and doesn’t need Johnson’s help with that. Back to the Express, I guess technically if two Johnson-supporting viewers switched off the headline is truthful. Putting “loses temper” in inverted commas means even the Express doesn’t think Marr lost his temper and they were just quoting. It’s good to know that fake news is alive and well in the UK and the Express are leading in that particular skill set. The Express now has a readership of 320,000, down from their high of 4,320,000 when they were a real newspaper. Is it any wonder?