We’re simply pawns in the politicians’ games

Courtesy of @cartujakds

Six days ago, I was depressed beyond belief, not quite taking in how we had somehow contrived to vote to leave the European Union.

Today I am angry. Fucking furious, actually.

Two spoiled baby men, aided and abetted by people who should know better and many who never will know better, have allowed their schoolboy rivalry to make the UK the laughing stock of the world.

Racists, both closeted and up front, have decided the leave vote has given them carte blanche to express their bigoted, foul views on anyone who doesn’t quite look British enough.

And to put the tin lid on things, the Labour Party has picked this week of all weeks to start sniffing glue and embark on its greatest bout of in-fighting in three decades.

So businesses shudder with the realisation of what Brexit means for stability, for jobs, for investment; many Leave voters express bewilderment that we’re actually going to HAVE TO LEAVE and want to change their vote; the EU prepares to play hard ball over leave negotiations; the media, both social and mainstream, practically eats itself with the minute-by-minute implosion of the UK’s two major political parties; and MPs, political activists and commentators indulge in their very favourite pastime of backstabbing, gossip and intrigue.

In the meantime, no one appears to be at the helm of UK plc.

All of that is farcical enough to raise some gallows humour. I’ve spent the last week trying to look on any kind of bright side – usually helped by reading the acidic penmanship of the peerless Marina Hyde – and thinking that we’ll somehow muddle through this self-inflicted crisis.

But today I got one of those BBC News updates on my phone and it made me mad as hell.

It revealed that Boris Johnson would not, in fact, be standing for leader of the Conservative Party, despite spending the last four months ostensibly batting for leave but really simply auditioning to be the next prime minister.

The bumbling buffoon act turns out not to have been an act at all, BoJo outfoxed at the last by his fellow Outer Michael Gove.

Blue on blue action is usually entertaining, but right now I don’t fucking care that the Tories are effectively stabbing each other in the front. I don’t even care that yesterday I actually thought I’d prefer Theresa May as PM to any other candidate (actually I care a lot more about that than I’m going to discuss right now).

I care that the UK economy and the lives and livelihoods of millions of people have been put at risk because a bunch of overgrown schoolboys thought it would be fun to play political games.

I care that the wider Europe I loved being part of is soon to be denied me.

I care that people who think they have no voice have found theirs in bigotry.

I care that a man who campaigned on a tissue of lies used his ambition to gamble on this country’s future – and lost.

I care that voters on both sides of the EU argument have been betrayed.

Never mind the so-called new kinder politics – insert hollow laugh – the Corbyn-era Labour Party was supposed to usher in.  They’re no better than the rest.

Politics is only a game to those at its heart. For them, their strategies and manoevres and machinations have no bearing in the real world – until they tragically do.

Until politicians, their hangers-on and the media scrum that follows their every move look outside their enormous bubble, the only kind of politics that is thriving is the divisive kind.

Grow up, the bloody lot of you.

The thought that counts

Another birthday has just rolled around with depressing inevitability. Hey, I ain’t knocking it, I’m just glad to have survived my 50th year with only (relatively) minor cuts, bruises, a shonky knee and a permanent limp.

With my track record as a complete klutz, it could have been so much worse…

I began my 50th year with the bright idea of having a list of 50 things to do that I’d never done before. Not only did I only manage to come up with around half that number, I never even got halfway to completing the list I did come up with (I did mention in a previous blog that I have an issue with starting stuff, then never finishing the job…)

Even the one thing that was No. 1 on my list, I never quite managed to achieve – that was to go to Iceland and see the Northern Lights.P1000019

I went to Iceland and it was fantastic, but the weather refused to play ball, so I saw lots of amazing lunar-like, snow-covered scenery, bathed in incredible hot springs and ate delicious fish but of extraordinary lights in the sky there were none.

However, my 50th year was not a waste of time. Oh no. I walked a lot of dogs. I fell over even more than I had done in the previous year. I did some thinking. I did some more thinking. Here’s some of what I’ve been thinking recently.

  1. My internal thermostat is clearly on the blink because – a bit like Iceland – I am producing a lot more heat than I can possibly use right now. The only upside is that I might never need to buy another jumper at this rate.
  2. Social media is both the greatest and the worst invention of the internet age. I love its immediacy, breaking news on my phone, the instant connection with folks around the world, dog memes, daft Facebook quizzes, seeing my nieces grow up from afar.  I hate its baying nature, its public shaming, its bullying, its misogyny, its racism, its idiocy. To paraphrase Sir Alex Ferguson — people, bloody hell.
  3. There’s no such thing as the new, kinder, gentler politics. Politicians and those who hang around with politicians are a genuine breed apart. Left, right, centre and everywhere in between – they are all the same. And that’s actually ok. Because politics is about getting things done. And there are many ways to get things done but mostly it’s about cutting deals and compromising on issues that the voting public might not be so keen on. That’s not the same as corruption or introducing policies that you kept quiet about in an election manifesto or imposing ideologically-driven but ineffective and in the end costly changes on public services. So feel free to still get excised about the latter and keep holding elected representatives to account but do remember that the former is how the wheels of the state keep turning.
  4. But wouldn’t it be nice occasionally to be like Iceland – can you tell it’s my new favourite place? – where the public mood, freely and peacefully expressed, is enough to make an elected official accept they have betrayed the electorate’s trust and resign immediately?
  5. The Donald Trump presidential campaign is clearly an enormous joke being played on the world. I hope.
  6. Not everyone who is annoyed about tax avoidance and evasion and the current furore about the Panama Papers feels that way because they hate the rich or because they are envious. It’s possible to feel ok about folks who have made a lot of money or were born into wealth but to feel also that those folks should pay their fair share of tax without hiding vast sums offshore or indulge in monetary gymnastics to outwit the taxman. Taxation is the price a civilised society pays for, well, its civilisation. Like education and roads and police and doctors, from which we all benefit.
  7. For all its corruption, for all its bloated salaries and pampered prima donnas in flashy boots, football is still the greatest sport for producing genuine fairytale finishes. Step forward, Leicester City, who are only a couple of games away from becoming the most unlikely of English Premier League champions. Rainforests will no doubt be felled in chronicling the story of how Claudio Ranieri and last season’s relegation escapees humbled the big names of English football. For everyone who loves the game, Leicester City, champions, is the stuff of dreams.

Talkin’ ’bout a revolution

There’s more than a whiff of insurrection and rebellion in the air around Europe right now.

The French party like it’s 1981

The French – may I say upfront that j’adore la belle France and her people – elected a man unashamedly calling himself a Socialist (their first Socialist president since Miterrand).

Mon dieu! Can you imagine the furore if a mainstream politician of the (lower-case) left in the UK was happy to be known as a Socialist?

Labour Party spads would be twitching uncontrollably and spinning like tops to stop that adjective ever being applied to their man or woman.

The Greeks, infuriated at the extraordinary fiscal restrictions imposed by the EU and IMF, stuck two fingers up to austerity and voted for left-wing parties who are openly talking about leaving the Eurozone.

The Left and protest parties made gains in local elections in Italy and in Germany, too.

Here in Blighty we had local elections in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland that gave the Coalition parties a kicking, provided Labour and the beleaguered Ed Miliband with a tiny shot in the arm and was both a boost and a boot to SNP confidence (they did a Devon Loch in Glasgow but had some excellent gains elsewhere).

For proper analysis of what all this might mean, go here and here and here.

My thoughts on it are altogether more prosaic.

For a start, didn’t the French and the Greeks put us to shame with the turnout? Around 80% of voters in France went to the polls, while around 65% of Greek voters took the time to go put their X in a box.

Here? A miserable 31% of us bothered to get to the polling station. Fair enough, these were local elections with the great British voting public still showing their disillusionment with politics and politicians in particular.

But come on! Voting is an essential part of democracy. Not only that but it’s only within living memory that universal suffrage – the rights of everyone over the age of 18 to vote – was introduced into this country.

And yet we treat this precious right with such disdain, with such casual apathy and even idiocy that it infuriates me.

If we get the politicians we deserve, maybe the politicians get the listless, ignorant electorate they deserve.

Mandatory voting isn’t the solution but I’m tempted by the idea that if you don’t use your vote, you lose the right to vote in the next election – that would certainly concentrate minds during local elections.

Of course, it’s all very well me demanding that you get out there and place your X in the box or your 1, 2, 3 of preferred candidates but what happens when there’s literally no one on the ballot box you’d be willing to elect?

My own personal coalition of the unwanted.

For the first time ever, that happened to me last Thursday. We were voting in two local elections – one for the local council, one for the parish council. As an exiled Scot, the parish council is not within my ken as ours went the way of the dinosaurs almost a century ago. I’m still not certain exactly what powers ours has except for running a summer-only car park by the beach.

And there it was – my worst nightmare writ large. 6 parish councils candidates to choose from – 4 Tories and 2 LibDems. My own personal coalition of the unwanted.

I stared in horror for a minute or so while I tried to process exactly what to do next. This was a Hobson’s Choice of the most unpalatable kind.

I’ve never spoiled a ballot paper before and I wasn’t quite sure how I should spoil this one. In the end I didn’t go for a dramatic message or a giant Get It Right Up Ye in caps but simply crossed a line through all the names.

My overriding emotion afterwards was one of anger, seriously pissed off at the paucity of choice. My esteemed other half suggested I stand myself next time and, all joking aside, why the hell not? An alternative voice that challenges the cosy status quo should always be welcome.

I’m a self-confessed news and politics junkie so it’s only natural I don’t get it when people say politics doesn’t matter to them or doesn’t affect them; when they dismiss all politicians as “just the same”; when they can’t be bothered taking five minutes out of their day once every couple of years to participate in something they’re lucky enough to be able to take for granted.

But the French and the Greeks showed us this week what collective power we have in our hands when we enter the ballot box. No wonder our Coalition partners have been frantically trying to reassure us they’ve got it all under control this week.

Rant over (for the moment). But the seeds of an idea have most certainly been planted in my napper … watch this space.