Apocalypse Apostasy??

Avoiding “Fusterclucks” needs a new form of politics

During recent parliamentary discussions on Brexit Liberal Democrat MP, Layla Moran, raised the BBC corporate blood pressure a notch by telling a reporter that Brexit was a “Cluster Shambles”. It turns out that enough MPs agreed with her, that Mrs May was now able to claim a record… `the biggest voting defeat since the 19th Century` – defeated 432 to 202. Wow – just WOW!

One report said that the decision was “Decisive”, but, strangely, despite the huge numbers going through the anti-government lobby it was actually rather less decisive than may be thought! There was another story about two young people, one brexiteer and one supporter of a People`s Vote (PV) standing outside parliament to listen to the result of the vote. On hearing the news, each thought the vote meant they had won the day.

The `brexiteer` decided the vote was so large that the inevitable result would be for the UK to jump over the cliff of having a “No Deal” Brexit. The PV supporter was completely reassured that the inevitable result would be the suspension of Article 50 and an ensuing People`s Vote. As I write these words, we do not yet know which is the more likely, but anyone who has read my blog posts will know which I prefer (for any NEW readers let me be clear I want to STAY in the EU and make it a much better more environmentally-friendly place.)

For my part, I think Layla would have increased her profile threefold if she had not used the euphemism “Cluster Shambles” and it may even have gone up fivefold is she had used the Spoonerism version “Fustercluck”. As you can see that is the version I have favoured for my sub-title today.

Anyway it set my mind thinking and the thought that occurred to me was that there seems to have been an increasing trend (over a VERY long period by the way) towards politicians living in fear of telling truth to power and the ones that do still manage to tell the truth to power should be listened to with more respect than they often get. I include in this band of political heroes Layla Moran of course, David Lammy, Caroline Lucas, and Anna Soubry with respect to Brexit at least.

When I was still a teenager it was probably still close enough to a real World War for the Cuban Missile Crisis to be seen as a Real and Present threat to world peace and I recall a very real feeling of fear that we may need to buy lots of brown paper bags to cover the windows in case there was a nuclear bomb dropped nearby – we lived not far from the V-Bomber air base of Waddington.

Not many years later the Israeli Six Days` War represented another possible source of conflagration when we really thought it would be necessary to hide away under the stairs for a few days until the radiation had declined enough to go out and hunt for tinned food in devastated nearby towns. The fact that – in these cases – the worst did not happen is part of the trend to which I referred above, leading me to the heading for this post.

Definitions

Since I had to look up the actual and real meaning of these words, to make sure they meant what I understood them to mean, it may be helpful if we check those definitions over…

Apocalypse – An apocalypse is a disclosure of knowledge or revelation. In religious and occult concepts it is usually a disclosure of something hidden, “a vision of heavenly secrets that can make sense of earthly realities”.

Apostasy – the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief.

Let me approach my position, my `argument` perhaps, that people in general have somehow abandoned the view that something REALLY bad might actually happen, when told that bad things are threatened. I have said before in these columns that I am definitely an optimist, so let me also reassure you that I have not changed this habit of a lifetime. I am still an optimist and that remains my underlying reason for being involved in politics – I always believe there is a better way. In the words of the current Liberal Democrat branding we should “Demand Better” from our current politicians. But back to my argument…

One of the things that perhaps led to, or at least contributed to, Apocalypse Apostasy was the collapse of the Russian experiment with Communism in the late 1980s from the 1917 revolution until the fall of the Berlin wall. For years and years and years we had been threatened that Communism was THE threat to Capitalism and then the Iron Curtain became flimsy and suddenly it just collapsed. And in 1989 the People just climbed onto the WALL and started knocking chunks out of it.

Just on a personal note it has always been one of my minor regrets that we did not go to Berlin and at least symbolically help to take it down. I recall saying to my wife Tricia, as we watched the evening news, – “Hey – let`s go to Berlin. NOW, let`s just do it!!” There were probably several sensible reasons why we shouldn`t or couldn`t, but now I just look back and think we could have and we should have.

So, then people started getting very worried that Y2K would be the end of the world. If you are not old enough to remember, someone somewhere had identified that because computer software programmes typically referred to years with only two digits (i.e. either 77 or 98 for 1977 and 1998 respectively) then there may be a distinct problem on December 31st 1999 when the two digits had to roll over to 00 – the “millennium bug!” Computer systems would suddenly collapse with all sorts of problems occurring, not the least of which was that airplanes would simply fall from the sky.

Needless to say, now we know, but that did not happen. Most people assume it did not happen because it was all about people making a fuss about nothing, but a very large part of the reason it did not happen was because many, many dedicated IT professionals went through all the systems believed to be most at risk and ironed out any possible bugs to make sure it DID not happen.

Then there was the worry about hydrocarbons and the expansion of the Ozone hole over the southern hemisphere. These chemicals were, over a very long period finding their way up to the stratosphere and destroying the ozone layer which was all that kept us from being frazzled by ultraviolet rays from the sun. The problem was first identified in the early 1970s, being taken seriously as that decade moved to a close and an international agreement was reached to phase out the worst culprits. The societal problem was that the chemicals causing the problems were amongst the most useful ever identified and were used in “modern” refrigerators and air conditioning form the 1930s onwards. It is now recognised by those in the know that phasing them out is beginning to be successful and the ozone hole is just beginning to get a little smaller again.

There are still disbelievers, however, who regard the whole Ozone Hole thing as some kind of pseudo-science hoax. Needless to say, perhaps, but I believe they have the same mindset as Climate Change deniers, Holocaust deniers and those people who poo-poo the many “experts” who predicted that leaving the European Union would cause irreparable economic damage.

All of which, of course, brings me to the present day. The Brexit issue may yet prove to be settled without the damage, if the politicians can avoid the Brexit “Fustercluck” and somehow make it work that we can continue within the economically and environmentally beneficial European Union.

What concerns me much more, however, is the existential threat of uncontrolled global warming and the inevitable Climate catastrophe that is unfolding as I write this and you read this! The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report last year actually did an unusual thing for an academically led report. It effectively pressed the PANIC button and told us all that if we did not seriously change our ways within the next twelve years (i.e. before 2030) and keep global warming under the figure of 1.5 degrees Celsius by the year 2050, life on Earth would become untenable for some.

If the Global Warming figure reached, say, 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, then 99% of all the world`s corals would die (even at 1.5 degrees of warming we can expect 75% of corals to die off before the end of the century) massively changing the bio-diversity balance in our Oceans. The World Wide Fund for Nature also reported last year that we have lost 60% of all wild mammals in the last 40 years.

On the optimistic side of the equation a recent piece of research has said we CAN avoid going over 1.5 degrees of global warming – but if, and only if, we stop creating any new fossil fuel burning facilities worldwide. NOW. In other words it is STILL possible we can avoid Climate Armageddon, but only if we act immediately.

But it seems, as I have been building up to in this post, we have a whole series of politicians taking or holding Power in the world who suffer from Apocalypse Apostasy – they have abandoned or renounced the political belief that the end of the world as we know it has been revealed by humanity`s research experts and is a potentially REAL threat.

We have Trump in the USA who is a Climate Change Denier and has appointed Climate Change Deniers to the highest political positions in the land, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA.

We have Jair Bolsanaro elected as President of Brazil, who has appointed a Climate Change Denier as his key Foreign Minister and merged the Environmental protection ministry with the (now more senior) Agricultural Ministry, in the face of the destruction of the Amazon Forest, as the lungs of the world.

And we have a UK Prime Minister still trying to force through a Brexit deal that will reduce our capacity to strengthen our environmental laws and regulations in concert with our European neighbours in the face of experts warning of the dire consequences of so-doing. Aided and abetted, it has to be said by a Brexit supporting “so-called” leader of the Opposition – “What Opposition?” I hear you say!!

We also have a small cabal of media moguls who are happy to keep raking in the money of their media empires by playing to the lowest common denominators of their climate-denying readership who are quite happy to continue ripping off the environment which is destined to look after their progeny.

Apocalypse Apostasy can only be circumvented by a new approach to politics. We saw Capitalism take the upper hand in the world from Communism back in the late 1980s. Perhaps it is time for a new Environmental Economics – a Circular Economy, if you will, which treats all inputs as valuable, never to be “wasted” by casual discarding during manufacturing processes or by unwanted “emissions” – time for Circular Economics to oust straightforward, linear “Capitalism” from the driving seat of our new Green World.

We need politicians with the bravery of David Lammy, for example who spoke so eloquently in the House of Commons recently, speaking real truth to Power about the dreadful effects of Brexit, even though they did not want to hear it; and politicians with the bravery to tell truth to Power, that they were presiding over a Fustercluck, as Layla Moran almost did just a day or two ago.

A scruffily bearded man holding a placard that says “The end of the world is Nigh” has been a cartoon meme since I was a teenager (or longer?), so perhaps Apocalypse Apostasy is a syndrome that is older than I have realised. The problem is that it is rather like the boy who called “Wolf!” when there wasn`t one – nobody believed him when there really was a wolf.

Scientists and experts are now crying “Wolf!” about Global Warming and the Climate Catastrophe and it seems there really is a pack of wolves circling and getting closer. We need to hear these warnings and then actually DO something about attending to them in time for my optimism to find something to be optimistic about!

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Posted in Environment & Sustainable Development, Fustercluck, History, Politics | Leave a comment

Open letter to the Queen

Open letter to the Queen

Dear Elizabeth Windsor,

I have never considered myself your “subject”, so I hope you will forgive the unusual lack of protocol in addressing you this way. Nevertheless, I am moved to write to you given the strange and erratic behaviour of the current Prime Minister and many of her Cabinet ministers and the fact that as Head of State you still enjoy considerable “reserve” powers in our unwritten constitution.

I know from many a documentary and news programme that you are certainly au fait with the political state of the country and I understand from the same sources that not only do you take an interest in the activities of the Government, but that you have really rather a lot of experience in discussing politics with many former Prime Ministers and ministers over the many years of your position as Head of State.

I very nearly wrote “Your” Government, but, of course, it is really no more yours than mine and everyone else`s government too. And that includes all the people who have settled here for many years whose home state was one of the countries in the Europe on the other side of the channel – who did not get the benefit of being asked what THEIR views were about whether their current home state should secede from the European Union.

You will know, of course, that the many written rules of our parliament confer you powers that you MAY use at your discretion in various scenarios, including situations like the one that may arise very soon if the Prime Minister loses a vote of NO CONFIDENCE following the debate about her so-called “Deal” with the EU. I feel sure that if she does suffer a vote of no confidence it will have arisen largely as a result of her intransigence in the face of her clear failure to please either side of the argument over Europe.

Precedent probably would press you towards giving way and allowing her to say that she should go to the country and seek a mandate for her views. But you will also know that the so-called Opposition Party leader Mr Corbyn also wants to leave the EU though he keeps trying to play both sides against the middle at the moment. Both of them will tell you, as they keep telling the media, that they are seeking to deliver the “will of the people” as shown by the referendum results over two years ago.

But YOU will know as well as anybody that the referendum was not only ADVISORY as clearly stated in the law that you signed into being, but that it was enormously flawed and flagrantly fraudulent. AND it did not seek the views of either the many long-term EU residents of the UK, nor for those of our countrymen and women who have lived overseas in Europe for a long time.

You will also have received advice that leaving Europe with ANY kind of deal will make us all much worse off and may well result in the break-up of the Union of which you are the Head of State. Those that purport to still maintain we would be “Better off” outside the EU represent a continually decreasing group of embittered little-Englanders and, in my view, it would be a grave mistake to offer any of THEM a chance at forming a Government.

On the other hand, there are many MPs of all parties that have been pressing for a further chance to test the current views of the people of this country. I am sure you have seen or at least been apprised of the increasing view that we perhaps ought to think again about leaving now that we know much more about the damage that will be done to our economy and to our safety and to our way of life, not least the restrictions of opportunity facing the younger generations coming through.

So, now I come to the nub of this letter to you. I feel sure there is a core of potential governance which could be led by one of these MPs which could be brought together in the National Interest (the Union of which you are head of State, of course!) I will not seek to name a particular MP, but I suspect your Privy Council could give you appropriate sound advice as to which of them was most likely to command most support.

It would mean that more than one political party would be involved in such a government, but I am sure you could manage that process for at least the relatively short time it would take to create a temporary hold on Article 50 in order to organise a further referendum. It seems likely that Parliament will not allow the possibility of crashing out of the EU without a Deal anyway – it is already more than clear that would be utterly destructive to our economy. In which case the referendum would become a test as to whether to leave the EU with a negotiated deal (unlikely to be any better than Mrs May`s current “deal”, frankly) or whether we should stay within the EU with full voting rights at the EU table.

Once the People`s Final Say is established there will be time to hold a more familiar General Election. Mind you whilst you were sorting this out you might also press the temporary Government to establish Proportional Representation for our citizens, which would bring a much fairer system of Government to these shores of ours.

It would be good to get a reply, but I am sure you will be pretty busy there for a while so I will not hold my breath whilst I wait for your reply.

Yours sincerely

KMM

Posted in Article 50, Elections, electoral reform, European referendum, Politics | 1 Comment

The curious case of the banana bees…

 

 

As you might just gather from the title, I am back in Brazil for the Christmas and New Year season and, as I write, Summer is showing its teeth. The weather in the last week of Spring was very warm… no, let`s be clear it was HOT for Spring even for Rio de Janeiro. Most days have been in the upper 30s (37 – 39 degrees C) with a couple of days topping 40oC. But conditions were such that there was the opposite effect of UK`s “wind-chill factor” – not quite sure how to describe it! – and the “sensation” was officially described as “around 50oC”. The heat has continued into the early Summer weeks.

For an expatriate Brit that is – officially! – TOO HOT for comfort. Yes, of course, I can get into an air-conditioned room, as I am now, writing this, and travelling from A to B is OK in an air-conditioned car. But, even so, one has to spend some time `in the weather`. By the way, for those of my Green persuasion, one does not have to worry as much about one`s Carbon Footprint as far as energy use is concerned here in Brazil. Over 75% of the country`s energy is created using hydropower. We have visited the Iguacu Falls Power station once when being “tourists” and I have to say it is pretty impressive.

What is irritating, however, is the knowledge that quite a significant proportion of the population chooses not to pay for their electricity – even many, otherwise `honest`, citizens, think nothing of “having a cat”. At first, I thought the expression was an indication that Brazilians were as crazy about their pets as the British. WRONG. Having a “cat” is the euphemism for organising an unofficial connection to the network – in other words for stealing your electricity from the grid. (The same expression can also be used for stealing your water supply too, but I think that is rather less common.) The trouble is, of course, that if your electricity is “free” then you probably leave your air-conditioning on more than most. So, we poor mugs who pay for our electricity end up paying quite a lot more than we should (and suffering quite a few power-outages when air-cons are at full-tilt.)

In some areas the Water companies and, to a lesser extent, the Electricity suppliers, have made a bit of an effort to regularise supplies and will challenge (some) residents who are flouting the law about becoming law-abiding citizens. However, there are quite a few “Favellas”, where the employees of such companies would really be risking their lives, if they were to try and put in proper meters. There really is quite a degree of lawlessness here in Brazil.

I suppose those “otherwise honest” citizens who do have a “cat” can offset at least some of their natural guilt with reference to the large-scale corruption carried out at the highest levels in Brazilian society. For example, the last four Governors of Rio State have been imprisoned for massive corruption over many years, including the last SERVING Governor and the serving Mayor of Niteroi who has recently been imprisoned on corruption charges. Also, recently, a whole bunch of policemen were arrested very publicly on corruption charges. “So, what if we do `borrow` a few Reals worth of electricity – look at what the politicians get away with” – must be the mind-set that can justify the process.

One of the benefits of the hot weather is that one can spend time in the swimming pool and I am pleased to say I managed a swim on both Christmas day and New Year`s Eve (as well as other days of course!) It did seem a little odd the other day swimming gently back and forth – it is a very small pool! – lit by the stars and the flashing seasonal lights, seen through a small stand of banana trees.

The Banana Trees.

Talking of banana trees, some years ago (I think nearly five years, now) we went for a drive and a walk in the nearby countryside. It certainly was not summertime, as it would have been too hot for walking during the day! Anyway, at the side of the road was a small seedling banana tree, self-seeded on the verge. Having decided it would make an interesting addition to our garden, I found a large flat stone with which to dig it out of the ground and we planted it when we got home. It turns out it was the wrong place to plant it – too sandy and free draining and it did very little for ages, but it did throw up a few new shoots. We left the original where it was and planted one of the shoots in ground that had had an unsuccessful orange bush that eventually had perished from some orange-bush disease. The ground was, however, banana-tree friendly and the banana flourished, sending up around a dozen new shoots but, sadly, no bananas.

This year, however, I arrived in Brazil to find one of the individual banana shoots with bananas formed and growing. The thing is, however, that they are a long time in the ripening thereof and may not even be ready for eating until after I fly back to England! Fingers crossed I may get to eat a couple of home-grown bananas! Not being used to banana-raising I have been taking care to watch how this bunch is going on. It is not a big bunch if you compare it to the old “Day-o” calypso… “six-foot; seven-foot, eight-foot bunch, Day, daylight and I wanna go home” Ours is less than a two-foot bunch.

What I didn`t know is that there are specialist banana-bees. As you can probably see in the picture they are tiny bees and completely jet-black. I thought, at first, they were simply bluebottle-type flies, but close inspection shows they are true bees in shape and behaviour. You can see that the bunch has its own single flower on a long stem, that gets longer as the flower develops. Each day three or four petals open up and curl upwards revealing the nectar filled flower parts. If a petal is being slow to open the bees will nibble a hole in the bottom of the petal at the pointy-end of the flower and some of the nectar drips down finding its way to the hungry bees, so there is always a little nectar-action.

Once the bee-carried pollen has fertilised the seeds presumably they must find their way up the sort of umbilical chord upon which the flower hangs, gradually growing longer as time goes by. I can only hope that the very warm weather we are having now will speed up the ripening process – it would be very disappointing to have to go home to England without tasting our very own bananas!

Celebration of the 70s

By way of a change I can also report that we have had a musical night out in Rio. We went, a few evenings ago, to a show just labelled as the “70s”. An ensemble of approximately 25-30 singers and dancers regaled us with songs from the 70s, including the Carpenters, the Bee Gees, John Lennon`s “Imagine”, a burlesque version of Caberet, played for laughs and one of my favourites “YMCA” which brought back memories of 1970s Liberal East Midlands annual dinners for some reason!

Virtually all the music was live, with the musicians split into small groups around the modest-sized theatre. The musical director was on the keyboard and, as well as conducting four players in his little cubby-hole, a video camera carried his image to other musicians in other areas keeping all to time, including a couple of percussionists not far away to our right. It was a two and a half hour show with a short intermission, after which the journeymen singers were joined by three “girls” who used to perform as a group in the 1970s in Brazil – call the “Freneticas”. They must have been pretty close to my age, so they were being a little careful on stage, moving about, but their voices were still going strong. The Brazilian audience loved them, it was almost as if the Beverly Sisters had walked onto a British stage. Clearly a successful show, it has been going continuously for about a year, mostly to sell-out audiences and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

In addition to the international hits, amongst which Bohemian Rhapsody was included in excellent rendition, there were also many purely Brazilian hits, some of which earned rapturous applause from the audience, some of which were very “pointed” in the light of the recent Presidential election – made me wonder how long it might be before the show drew the displeasure of the new Brazilian leader. Remember that the Brazilian dictatorship was still thoroughly in charge in the 70s and quite a few of the songs were censored at the time and the new man-in-charge has been known to praise the dictatorship period, so I am pretty sure at least some of the heavy applause was more than a little satirical in nature.

It really was a great evening out and we had a bonus on the way home. It was Sunday and there had been several groups of Carnival “blocos” practising their sets on the Plaza near the ferry terminal. At least a couple of them belonged in Niteroi, so they came back from Rio on the same ferry that we were on. When the ferry set off, so did the music and we had one “bloco” sitting just behind us, so we finished the evening with impromptu samba tunes on sax and trumpets with drum accompaniment for the 20 minute ferry journey. A lively evening from start to finish!!

Posted in Bananas, Brazil General | Leave a comment

The Treaty of London 1518

Just a quick reference to the quincentenary of the Treaty of London in 1518 during the reign of Henry Vlll. It was an early version of the European Union and I have just referred to it in a Blog Post related to my historical novel “Captain Cobbler: the Lincolnshire Uprising” – I thought it might pique the interest of those of my friends who want us to remain in the EU…

If you want to see how it was 500 years ago, pop over to my Captain Cobbler Blog – here>>>  https://captaincobbler.wordpress.com

Posted in Captain Cobbler, European referendum, Henry Vlll | Leave a comment

Defusing the Environmental Logic Bomb in Brexit

Defusing the Environmental Logic Bomb in Brexit

Logic Bomb – def: A logic bomb is malware that is triggered by a response to an event or when a specific date/time is reached.

I recently participated in the People`s Vote march in London, as avid readers of my Facebook posts will know. I have never been much of one for demonstrations and marches on the basis that so many of them have proved to be counter-productive rather than influential in a significant way. I did speak at an anti-Iraq-War rally in Nottingham, which salved my conscience, both before the event and afterwards, too.  Sadly, it had little effect on events at the time.

The People`s Vote March in London felt different, however, and still feels different in hindsight. It helped, of course, that it was a delightfully sunny day and the mood was light, friendly and full of camaraderie. There was music of various kinds and various volumes to entertain us, one of my favourites being “Rinky-Dink” – a quirky mobile disco using cycle power to move it AND cycle power to raise the volume (the faster and harder the rear-cyclists pedal the louder it plays apparently!)

Also, we had a good contingent of Green Liberal Democrat members there with double sided, recyclable posters (the Green Party posters were made of plastic by the way!) and Graham Neale, our GLD Chair had made about a hundred of these posters up, so the rest were handed out to sympathetic Lib Dems, raising our profile within the crowd and were spread across social media too in lots of march photographs.

We also featured what one colleague has called “Guerrilla Marketing” for the group, with not only our members wearing our special Hi-Viz jackets, saying “Green Liberal Democrats – Action not words”, but with a few judicious gifts we managed to get some high-profile Lib Dems wearing the jackets too. As the photos show, both Sir Ed Davey, one of our current MPs and Sir Simon Hughes, one of our former MPs, took very little persuading to don the GLD publicity!

But, what has this got to do with the Environmental Logic Bomb and Brexit, referred to in the title above, I hear you ask. Well, let`s get serious for a minute. The march was both big enough and peaceful enough to make an impact, even on the BBC, which many anti-Brexit campaigners suggest has been very biased in favour of Brexit, previously ignoring, almost totally, earlier anti-Brexit marches. The figures quoted have varied significantly, from as low as 130,000 (dismissively) from a Brexit supporter to as high as 840,000. The number which seems to have stuck most frequently as an accepted figure is that the march contained about 700,000 people – over ONE percent of the total UK population, or more than the total population of a Greater Nottingham or a Greater Leicester.

Certainly I understand that Parliament Square was already full to the brim when there were still many thousands of people still standing in Hyde Park, not even having started to march towards the centre.

Doubtless for many, perhaps the majority, of those 700,000 people a key reason for being there was to raise the issue of the economic problems we will face if we actually leave the EU in even the softest of Brexits and the certainty of economic disaster if we end up with a “No-Deal” situation next March. Also, for many, there is a realisation that the Union of European countries has been a major factor in the enhancement of peaceful co-existence in an area of the world which has been at war, almost continuously for around a thousand years, perhaps longer. (It is, after all, not many years hence that we will be “celebrating”, if that is the correct word, the invasion of England and the Battle of Hastings by the Duc de Normandie, more usually referred to as William the Conqueror. 1066 and all that – by which time I shall be 119, if I last that long)

For me, however, whilst all that peace and economic surety is important, the most significant features of the European Project have been the Environmental Protections that have been put in place and the ongoing exertions to try and resolve the issues driving us towards deadly Climate Change. Already the deadening effect of negotiating (unsuccessfully) about the dreaded Brexit has imposed a huge opportunity cost on tackling Climate Change, which is truly an existential threat to humanity (and very large swathes of fauna and flora) around the globe.

This hugely incompetent Government and equally incompetent Labour (“so-called”) Opposition are spending most of their precious Parliamentary time trying to resolve the impossibilist demands of  brexiteers, against the brick wall of concerted European agreement that we cannot have our cake AND eat it.

Environmental Logic Bomb

The Brexit Environmental Logic Bomb is “political malware” that will be triggered by the specific date and time of leaving the EU – next March 29th, 2019. It is already in place. It was put into place by Mrs May with the active connivance of Jeremy Corbyn months ago when the European Withdrawal Bill was enacted and received Royal Assent on 26th June 2018. Debate upon the Bill was sparse, to say the least and it give the Government  and, more specifically, Government Ministers totally Henry Vlll powers to scrap provisions of 40 years-worth of European-wide well-debated legislation protecting our environment.

It is worth noting, by the way, that there were many chants at the People`s Vote March of the refrain “Where`s Jeremy Corbyn?”. His entirely avoidable absence from the march was noted and may prove to be his biggest political misjudgement yet (and there have been quite a few of those!), putting himself clearly on the wrong side of history. I believe, too, that Mrs May`s continued refusal to contemplate a People`s Vote on the final deal puts her on the wrong side of history. Both she and Corbyn and their very different core supporters vouchsafe their supposed conviction that some kind of deal can be done which will ensure economic benefits for all, carry on protecting our environment and “take back control” – but the truth is we never really lost “control”.

At the same time, we have cleaned our beaches, cleaned the rivers and protected the integrity of our foods (well, up to a certain point we have, at least!) with the assistance of like-minded citizens across Europe, in the face of businesses happily polluting the “common wealth” of our environment in the expectation that the public purse will pick up the tab for keeping the environment clean – in jargon it is called “externalising the costs” of pollution.

Also, at the same time the countries of the EU have made more progress, together, than we ever would have separately, in building a consensus to create more renewable energy (not least prompted by Liberal Democrats during the coalition years, it has to be said!) We have put into place energy “interconnectors” to share renewable energy production using wind or sun across the Channel, when sun or wind is not providing enough electricity in one part of Europe.

All of this progress will be subject to the calamitous Environmental Logic Bomb. And there are multiple detonators of the “If this … ,  then that…” variety.

Detonator #1: If there is “No Deal”

If there is no deal, then the system breaks down and there will be a significant period of confusion where the Government has already indicated they will “keep the borders open with as little disruption as possible“. This would be an invitation for all sorts of unscrupulous rogues to flout current environmental regulations with relatively little risk of being picked up. The Government will not want to cause delays and gridlock by stopping potentially dodgy importers – this risk has already been flagged up and broadly acknowledged with respect to smuggling stuff in duty free, but nobody seems to have mentioned the environmental rogues (and we KNOW there are plenty. You only have to see where much of our supposedly recyclable plastic waste has ended up when China stopped importing such recyclables, to know there ARE rogues out there!)

Detonator #2: If there is a fudged deal

This is actually a dual detonator. If Mrs May manages to cobble something together at the last negotiating minute that she can “sell” to her party (and this raises all sorts of questions about spineless politicians that I shall choose to ignore today) and Labour acquiesces once again as Mrs May`s “enabler” this could last a little while until the restless Leavers decide to upset the apple cart and rebel, therefore leading back to Detonator #1, when they realise they have been essentially conned and we are stuck in the worst of both worlds – basically having to do as we are told by the EU, but with no recourse to the negotiating table, because we would have no seat at that table.

If, on the other hand, the deal is sufficiently robust to last a while (personally I do not think this is possible but let us allow it for the sake of argument!)  then it will not be long before one or other of Mrs May`s ministers uses the Henry Vlll powers to change the rules by ministerial diktat rather than through a proper debate in the House of Commons. And we KNOW this will happen because the Tories have already “got form”.

Just look back less than three years. Under the Coalition before 2015, regulations were agreed to require new-build houses to be built to much higher environmental specifications with respect to insulation and so on. As soon as the Tories “had the place to themselves” they repealed this new legislation in 2016 even before it had chance to be put into effect, allowing builders to remain in the market providing, effectively, `sub-standard housing` – a retrograde step to say the least!

Defusing the Logic Bomb

There are two ways to defuse the Logic Bomb and they will only work if we change the “If THIS…” bit of the equation. The first way would be simply to revoke Article 50 which would require a Government with enough “Cojones” to stand up and say “Look folks, we have tried our best, but this really is NOT going to work and we believe it is securely in the interests of all the peoples of this United Kingdom, the environment and our European ideals of the four Freedoms.” However, barring a potential legal case going through the courts now challenging the validity of the passing of Article 50, this is politically not going to happen. I suppose there is the faintest of possibilities that a new Cross-Party grouping of MPs who believe in Europe manages to oust Mrs May, but I have to say it looks very unlikely.

The second way to defuse the Environmental Logic Bomb takes me back to the start of this blog post and it would be to hold a People`s Vote on the Deal that Mrs May might try to introduce to avoid the “No Deal” scenario. This is a scenario that even the Chancellor is now saying would be a catastrophe for the country. If the “No Deal” result is swept aside, the People`s Vote should then be held to ask the Question “Will you support the Government fudged deal, or take the safest Environmental route by staying inside the European Union?” If that question still elicits support for Brexit then we must accept that Brexit actually does mean Brexit, horrendous though that appears to staunch Remainers like me.

But that Logic Bomb would still be present and would cause major casualties on the environmental front, if it were to be detonated!!

Posted in Article 50, Environment & Sustainable Development, European referendum, Henry Vlll, Politics | 1 Comment

Addendum – More than Two Hours late

My first post today has already commented upon the lack of professionalism of the live stream promised on the Liberal Democrat website not appearing as a live stream at all, after a much hyped “Leader`s Speech” from Vince, so I will say no more here, other than that the video was at least two hours late getting onto the site.

First, the good news. Vince wants to bring “Values” back into UK politics and in the brief “promo” video before he speaks there were three political value-based issues, one of which was the GREEN issue of Climate Change. This, in and of itself, is clear progress for our party`s Green heart which is music to my ears, as you might imagine from the person who became the founding Chair of the Green Liberal Democrats back in 1988.

Next the less-good news. As suggested by the leaks before the speech, Vince wants to widen participation in our `movement` – not a bad idea in its own right – but worrying when he wants people who are not paid-up members to have an unfettered say in who should be Party Leader. He speaks highly in favour of the online movements Avaaz, Change,org, 38 Degrees and so on and I have certainly voted many times for petitions on these website, but I would not vote for a Change.org candidate in a general election, nor yet an Avaaz candidate, however much enthusiasm I have for several Avaaz campaigns.

And I certainly would not be happy to see the Liberal Democrats led by someone who has not shared at least some of the trials and tribulations of surviving the continuous struggle for Liberal Values to be held as important in our world. It is this sense of “shared community” which gives our Party Leader her or his validation and enthuses workers to continue to work for the same values. I do not WORK for Avaaz values, I just agree with a lot of their petitions. But I DO work for Liberal Democrat Values – Especially GREEN Liberal Democrat Values.

For the moment I shall say no more on this Blog, but will continue working for those very values getting stuff ready for next week`s conference in Brighton.

Posted in Elections, Politics, Radical Liberal | Leave a comment

My Radical reaction to Vince`s speech

 

Hello I feel a blog coming on

I am starting to write this blog post at around 9am on Friday 7th September because there has been a lot of publicity over the last few days that Liberal Democrat Party leader Vince Cable is due to make an “exciting and important” speech in about half and hour. I shall be listening, of course, and then I hope to make a few comments of my own afterwards, depending upon what he says, of course.

So, why am I starting to write before he speaks you may ask? The reason is that I have been troubled by the rumours of what he is supposed, or expected, to be saying and I want to be ready to react as soon as possible afterwards, so I am writing my introduction on the basis of what I have heard and then will comment directly on his speech as soon thereafter as possible.

The rumours are that he will talk of creating a new “Centrist Movement”, presumably fed by people who may have some access to his thought process. If that is not the case, then we would then need to respond to the question of why and how such rumours started. Are those rumours meant to be supportive of a Centrist Movement, or were they designed to undermine what it is that Vince Cable is actually going to say.

The only legitimate way I can raise my concerns, then, is to lay the groundwork for those concerns before he has spoken and without the benefit of hindsight, otherwise my response will not be genuine, it would have been “constructed” – which is so often the way of pieces written after the event.

Why am I concerned about Centrist Movement rumours? Because I am not a Centrist and have argued in blog posts before, that I do not believe Liberal Democrats should be Centrist, because it ill-defines Liberalism and what that is really about. My other concern about the rumours is that there will be a suggestion, somehow, that people outside the framework of the party – in other words people not prepared to “pay their dues” to the Party, can somehow legitimately lay claim to voting for the leader of our political grouping or party. If that is going to be the case I shall argue below why I think it would be a bad idea, but I felt the need to lay that groundwork before hearing the speech.

OK, that task has been achieved in my mind, I shall now await the speech and we`ll see what gives. Since there is a little time left before 9.30 let me also say that there is a possibility that this is a clever tactic to double the amount of publicity we might have been expected to get from the Party Conference for a party that is still struggling along in the doldrums around 8% or 9% in opinion polls (Indeed, one recent poll even put us in fourth place behind a refreshed UKIP, where we were on 6% and they were on 7% or 8%!)

OK – it is now 9.36 and the speech was scheduled to start at 9.35 – the screen says “We’re currently experiencing technical difficultites with the livestream. Please stand by.” – By the way, it really does say “DIFFICULTITES” – that is the Party`s typo, not mine! 9.40am and the difficultites continue, just refreshed the screen!

Well – turning into a damp squib. 9.46 and the typo has been corrected but the live feed has not yet appeared, so I am now involved in a thread discussion. (9.54 now and it clearly is not going to be live-streamed at all. The on-screen message has been changed, the typo has been corrected, and we are told the speech will be “posted” on the page “soon”. I understand the speech is being made at the National Liberal Club, but no idea how large the audience is, nor whom it contains. There was a news item about a week ago where MPs and “leading Liberal Democrats” were told to keep today free because there was to be this exciting and important speech etc.

Takes me back about 50 years to when I was a trainee in Unilever`s advertising agency, Lintas. It was about this time of year too. I had only been employed a few weeks and about ten or a dozen trainees were working in syndicates preparing “advertising campaigns” for mythical products. Our group of four had worked up a really good campaign for those large bullet-like peas that did not make it into the Bird`s Eye packs of petit pois. It was (we thought, anyway) a cracking campaign and we presented it to the bosses at the agency, but we got two slides upside down in the projector. We laughed it off and thought we`d get plaudits for a fun campaign! As it was we got severely slated for getting the two slides upside down.

I remember it as clear as day – “You are in the communications industry! If you lose your audience at this stage with upside down slides, you`ll never win them back!” – a deeply learnt lesson about professionalism – sadly apparently lacking today!

OK, clearly, I cannot comment yet on the contents since I haven`t heard `em, so I will just have to comment on the rumours and come back to what Vince actually says (said?) later. The rumours are, then, that Lib Dems need to “become a movement” in somehow the same sense that Macron made a movement in France which led to him becoming President of France. Or, perhaps the way Justin Trudeau took hold of the Canadian Liberal Party and turned it back into a vote-winner.

Apparently (the rumours go) Vince sees the Liberal Democrats as the potential focal point for a Centrist group of exit-from-Brexit types including Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry. A sort of Grand Central Coalition maybe.

OK – it is just after 10.30 am and the BBC News Channel, during its 10.30 bulletin played a short clip from Vince Cable`s speech. We`ll have to wait and see if it is the only sound-bite that gets aired, but if so it has been presented as Vince paving the way for his retirement from the office of Leader in the next year and Vince determining that the Party should have a much wider choice for the next leader, including non-parliamentarians. “Politics in the UK is damaged”, he said, “if not broken”.

If that is it, I am not totally impressed that it was an exciting and important speech that warranted the hype, but will have to wait and see when the full speech has been posted on the website. If electing a leader from outside the Party is the ultimate goal, then there will have to be a change to the Constitution. There is no way that can happen at the Party Conference in Brighton next week, there is no debate and the date for emergency resolutions and amendments has already passed, so, unless there is a call for a Special Conference, or whether it needs to be brought to the Spring Conference, this is not about to happen soon. It is NOT in the gift of the Leader of the Liberal Democrats to make that change to the constitution from the top.

The Liberal Democrat party is a party of the members. It is democratic and any change to the constitution has to be passed by a two thirds majority. It looks as though the timing of the speech may have something to do with possibly raising a topical motion (in response to a topical matter – i.e. Vince`s speech) which would be about the only way a change could even be promulgated immediately. That would, however, require a special Conference because any change to the Constitution needs six weeks` notice.

I cannot comment any more until I see the speech in full – and there is no sign of it yet on the Party website. Perhaps I will write about this again, or maybe not, depends how exciting it gets

Posted in Elections, Politics, Radical Liberal | Tagged | 2 Comments