The British Media is one known for its generally right-wing bias, so when the typically conservative paper The Spectator whips up a headline of “WHERE’S BORIS? – A GOVERNMENT AT SEA” then we should acknowledge that maybe the Prime Minister is not doing his job very well. But in fairness to BoJo, how good a job can he seriously be expected to do on an Etonian poverty line salary of 150K a year? What must the other Bullingdon Boys think?!
With some high-flying Oxbridge types taking aim at Johnson, it took a man not cut from the same cloth as them to stand up for the PM on the news outlet platforms. Enter, Grant Shapps. The human celery stick, the marzipan man, the Tory Party’s appendix. Nobody is quite sure what he is there for. He just is. Like the mature student in a first year undergrad class, little G had his hand up first when Boris called on HQ to firefight the allegations made by Italy’s la Repubblica that the Prime Minister had taken a long weekend away in Perugia. He is the Transport Minister after all. Naturally, the claims are being denied by number 10, with the press team denouncing the reports as false.
It didn’t matter to little G if the reports were true or not, he had his orders and he had to carry them out to the best of his limited abilities. When quizzed on Sky News, Shapps was quick out of the blocks to impress his masters, “Not that I’m aware of, I think it’s mistaken, as far as I am aware”. As shocking as it is, that is probably the best performance the celery stick has given for months. Cummings’s veterinarian plans of having an electric shock device attached to Shapps have had to be put on ice alongside his visions of muzzling Francois, neutering Johnson and lobotomising Grayling.
It seems to be that the only use the Tories have for Shapps anymore is to send him into no man’s land to be shot at. Make him feel important again. He had his own delusions of grandeur when he thought he could oust Theresa May will a rally round on WhatsApp, but made the fatal mistake of zeroing in on his target only to find that he was holding a water pistol that is leakier than a pissing puppy. It seems that it is the only thing keeping Shapps in the loop. Now, little G, be a good little media droid for a few more years and you’ll be Chancellor before you know it.
Hagrid appeared on everyone’s social media today as he came out in defence of the ever-present clickbait queen, JK Rowling. Yes, Robbie Coltrane now felt compelled to weigh in on the matter of the existential crisis facing this generation’s attitude problem, “They wouldn’t have won the war, would they?”. Coltrane is 70 years old. Meaning he was born in 1950. 5 years after the end of the Second World War. Not so much “you’re a wizard, Harry”, but rather, “you’re a wanker, Robbie”. The sad thing is that Coltrane is not alone in his rose-tinted view that he, in some way unbeknownst to this generation, played a serious part in that war. This is a serious symptom of Brexiteer Britain. There is an inordinate level of self-harm that some British people are willing to administer on themselves in order to cause some of their European counterparts some degree of discomfort.
However, when the EU had international law on their side of the argument, the Tories were stumped and reverted to type, blaming the EU. The ploy that has worked so well before. Point the finger, puff out the chest and if the lies are exposed then bluster, guffaw and claim that Brussels bureaucracy is still trying to keep its foot on the neck of the Great British Empire. Britannia will rise again like a phoenix. And who are the men that will lead the charge? Their war heroes, of course. A Churchillian Johnson, stay at home wife Rees-Mogg and brave Francois, who although never actually did any fighting, is still misty eyed about his own courageous exploits, “My father Reginald Francois was a D-Day veteran, he never submitted to bullying by any German, neither will his son”. Britain has never been stronger. This one nation Conservative Party will sail into the abyss under the watchful eye of Edward Smith’s protégé, Captain Cummings, with 365 Tory MP limpets clinging on for dear life on the underside.
Given that the UK has such a huge standing across the globe, it is only right and proper that they can break international law in a limited way. They won the bleedin’ war, after all. Poor old Brandon Lewis must have got an absolute bollocking for making the fatal mistake of telling the truth.
So, what next? The papers drummed up nonstories about Tory backbench rebellions. The proof was in the pudding when it came to the vote, only two limpets broke rank. At a time that Kier Starmer has written about how amazing it would be for a little bit of bipartisanship to be demonstrated, it is likely that this latest charade will only serve to deeper the divisions that we have started to grow rather accustomed to.
Thrown to the wind for a couple of months due to COVID-19, the Brexit boomerang has come home once again, covered in bird shit, battered beyond belief and in the hands of one of the most incompetent PMs ever. Ah, it brings you back.
The standard patriotic verbatim was duly rolled out once again, “Britain never has been, and never will be, bullied easily”, wrote Dehenna Davison MP in her best efforts to administer a hefty dose of morphine into the veins of a nation sobering up to the reality that BoJo & Co haven’t a baldy about what is going on. Davison, who is 27, is very keen for the readers of the Sun to know that Britain won the war and won’t lie down for any German. Even if the new bill with the EU breaks international law, it’s the Brussels bullies that are the bad guys. From oven ready to never ready, and still, little Britain is the victim and should break free from their self-imposed shackles.
But we shouldn’t be all that surprised Vote Leave government made up of Raab, Patel, Gove and those of a similar persuasion are quite comfortable when it comes to violating laws. This violation has cost Whitehall another of its most senior civil servants in the shape of Jonathan Jones, adding to the body count that includes Mark Sedwill, Philip Rutnam, Simon McDonald, and Jonny Slater. Perhaps the master plan is to string together such a plethora of cock ups that the cream of the crop in the civil service are forced to escape the burning building of UK administration. Although Jones did not explicitly say why he chose to leave Whitehall, it is plainly obvious that if a senior lawyer operating in the public service jumps ship, that he does not want to be complicit to the government of the day breaking the law.
Bog standard Tory droid, Brandon Lewis, described the international treaty as a “special treaty” when pressed by the slightly more polished Tory droid, Theresa May, today on the floor of the Commons. The former PM put it to the Secretary of State for NI that more changes to the withdrawal agreement could damage their international reputation, the irony of course being that the UK’s reputation currently lies firmly in the gutter.
What comes next is unclear, the changes to the NI protocol have been branded as “unwise” by Simon Coveney and you can forgive the EU if they do not receive this most recent turn of events with a warm embrace. There is no telling what the government that pressed for Brexit, won Brexit, shot down May’s deals, made their own deal, won an election, voted through the deal into legislation and now intends to alter it once more will do next. Failure to “tie these loose ends” will result in another embarrassing U-turn, something that Johnson can’t really afford. One thing is for certain though, that Brexit is back, baby. It’s here to dominate our timelines, threads, newspapers and conversations for the foreseeable future again. Nostalgia is rampant.
One thing that the Cummings cartel have been very good at during the last number of weeks is keeping controversial appointments relatively under wraps. It is no great secret that Cummings has always yearned to rip the heart out of Whitehall and replace those with a history of diplomacy and expertise with bippityboppoty computer science data analysts born with no genitalia and no emotions who present work in a prompt and timely manner before whirring back to their desks awaiting the next instruction. Ideally, he would clone thousands of Chris Graylings and let them patrol the corridors of administrative power in London with two settings, “Yes Sir” and “No Sir”.
The Westminster bubble has hit the roof over the Mark Sedwill saga, the Sir Philip Rutnam fiasco and even the malfunctioning, feeble Maybot chimed in for the appointment of David Frost to national security advisor, her citing of “no proven expertise” being a rare moment of clarity in the former PM’s career. But one such potential appointment that may just be cutting through the imperious bubble is that of the former Aussie PM, Tony Abbott, getting the gig as the UK’s trade envoy.
There are several reasons why this could be. Perhaps it is big Tony being a truly appalling Prime Minister, maybe its his neglect of climate change and pig-headedness towards women, or it could be that this newest appointment is just the tip of the iceberg when illustrating just how far down shit creek the UK has floated. The worm has turned and the UK has travelled from a time of a hateful but respectable politics under Cameron to a dystopian merry-go-round of right wing narcissists waiting for their 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th bite at the cherry when it comes to shaping policy or international relations.
It seems that the Abbott appointment may be causing somewhat of a stir in the Cameron and Osbourne clan of the Tory Party. The poster boys of “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” are worried that their pitiful legacy will be further damaged should a homophobic misogynist be speaking for the UK. Former Osbourne chief of staff turned Health Secretary Matt Hancock was visibly uncomfortable during a typically fiery Kay Burley interview this morning. Although Hancock said that Abbot “is an expert” he also declined to give a ringing endorsement of Tones, crawling back into the COVID trench of “I’m fierce busy here at the moment to be answering any questions about anything other than what I actually want to answer”. This is as far as Hancock can go in criticising Abbott without wearing an ‘I heart JULIA GILLARD’ t-shirt live on air.
It is clear that there are some creases that need to be ironed out, or some dissenting voices need to be whipped into submission, but the government once again finds itself in a tight spot, but probably feel their 80 majority can overpower and bury quickly. But U-turn after U-turn is never a good look and this government is running up quite the tab. Even if the Abbott appointment is poorly thought through, Cummings and his pet shop boy Johnson may have to drive it on to avoid adding fuel to the fire of the already flaming U-turns.
“You can’t eat when you’re muzzled!” Apparently DUP MP Sammy Wilson cannot fathom the possibility of eating an ice cream outside. This revelation arrives in the latest instalment of Sammy’s tirade against the public health advice to wear facemasks when indoors. I’ll admit, it’s never easy to follow the East Antrim MP’s train of thought when he decides to go off on one. Although in the pursuit of a mask free post-pandemic society, Sammy has grounded his thinking in a traceable and linear fashion for us. Masks, the MP argues, will put people off shopping and damage the economy. This concern for the economy almost seems rational for a man who once asked if buses in Belfast’s city centre were gay, following Translink’s decision to change their livery from blue to pink. However, I’m yet to see any credible source indicate that the marginal group of individuals opposed to masks will decimate the Northern Irish economy in any way comparable to that of a second wave of Coronavirus. Mr. Wilson’s concern, quite frankly, is misplaced.
The Stormont Executive have been mandated the power to make face masks compulsory, albeit this compulsion has been set back to the 20th of August. But beyond the obvious question of, why delay such a decision when surely every day counts in the fight against a pandemic, one must ask how anyone can oppose such a policy? Masks are uncomfortable, I don’t like wearing them. But I sure as hell prefer them over the discomfort of a ventilator or life inhibiting and sustained lung damage, obtained from refusing to wear a mask for five minutes while ordering my rum and raisin 99 with an extra flake. And I particularly, prefer wearing a mask over the discomfort of potentially asymptomatically transmitting said virus to a vulnerable or shielded individual. As shielding policy comes to an end as of today, the time for acting responsibly and in a shared common good, transcendent of any party politics, is now. Someone needs to get this message to Sammy.
Mr. Wilson took to twitter two days ago to proclaim that given the low rate of death, only five deaths throughout the month of July, it would be “mad, for the Health Minister to enforce the wearing of face masks in NI.” Except, that is still five deaths Sammy. That is five grieving families. These are individual lives at risk, and if the mandating of masks can save even one life from this tragic virus, then it should unquestionably be done. Irrespective of some imagined cataclysmic economic fallout from a minority of anti-maskers deciding to skip their trip to Victoria Square. Then of course, there is the possibility, which it seems Mr. Wilson has failed to consider, that perhaps mask wearing encourages people during a time of such uncertainty, that they can safely re-enter and support local businesses! Imagine that. I think Sammy’s got it wrong on this one and need’s to rethink such an irresponsible and insensitive standpoint which lacks any credibility. Perhaps he just doesn’t wish to hide that impressive moustache of his.
The twitter bubble of Irish politics has been nothing if not intriguing over the past month or so. The Barry Cowen fiasco, Super Junior Ministers pay rise, Eamon Ryan nodding off during a vote, Richard Bruton showcasing his 6 pack and, of course, “the brits being at it again” as the Guardian attempted to commandeer Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott as thoroughbred Brits, despite the two actors hailing from Maynooth and Dublin respectively. But in amongst all of this, the government still found the time to make the U-turn on a pretty poor policy to begin with, if you’ll pardon the pun.
A mere 4 days ago, an Tánaiste told RTE that the “department of social protection gets information from the airports and if somebody is not genuinely seeking work their welfare payments can be stopped”, only for Minister Heather Humphreys to explicitly say to the Dáil that “the Dublin airport authority does not pass travel information to the department of social protection”, those two claims seeing rather at odds with one another. But of course, the FG white blood cells of twitter rushed to clot the PR wound, asserting that people on job seekers should be seeking jobs and that being on holiday obviously means you are not seeking a job and if you are not seeking a job then you are not entitled to the jobseekers payment. Perhaps those on jobseekers’ allowance should not be allowed to travel abroad at any time if that is the case. Perhaps every hour of every day should be spent scouring the web for that elusive minimum wage job, or if the weather is good, they should be going door to door, CV in hand, “like the good old days”, otherwise you are branded a waster.
Even with the payment being withdrawn, it is such an inconsequential amount of money not being distributed that one has to question who thought this policy creation was a good idea. As Micheál Martin pointed out, this is only about 100 people in a scheme of 270’000, so the financial benefit is a drop in the ocean, but the potential for it to play out as an attack against the poor would have been abundantly clear. And that is exactly what has happened. Public backlash and opposition has led the government to stick it in reverse, and roll back once again.
What we come away with from this policy wreckage, is that those on welfare can indeed go on holiday. It’s against government advice but no longer against government policy. So, they don’t want you to go, but if you’ve already paid for the holiday then fair enough, but if you can cancel it and get the refund or some vouchers they encourage you to do just that, but if it is something you were really looking forward to, then sure this time has been hard on everyone and we all deserve a little break. But don’t go on holiday and have a lovely trip away.
“The silent majority will reign!” or so is the cry emerging from a wounded, limp and lingering Trump campaign. The man whose infamous spell in office has been driven almost exclusively in the interests of securing reelection, according to his former national security advisor John Bolton, is having to come to terms with the fact that he will not get re-elected come November. As the polls swing robustly in favour of his opponent the jig looks to be up – but The Donald will not go quietly.
I have, in a previous article, outlined the groundwork Trump is doing to ensure any Democrat success come November can be decried illegitimate. No doubt in the days following November third we will see a slew of block capital tweets from the White House crying foul-play. Trump’s fascinated with mail-in voter fraud, a phenomenon after being subject to much academic and statistical inquiry, has been found to be practically non-existent. Despite this non-existence, his delusional and dangerous campaign trundles on, crutched upon the premise of blind-eyeing his inevitable and welcome downfall.
The hypocrisy of Trump sobbing illegitimacy however, should not be lost. Let’s not forget, that if there are to be seeds of illegitimacy come November, more than likely they will the found once again below the feet of Mr. Trump, whose 2016 campaign was significantly boosted by foreign interference. While we can’t say that such a goal was a directive of Trump himself or his campaign, we can say that he undoubtedly benefited from it, so how can he be so desperate to bring discussions of electoral misconduct back into the conversation? The simple and almost reassuring answer in terms of the election, is that it is all he has. He’s struggling. In 2016, Trump rode upon a surge of discontent aimed at the institutions held responsible for the struggle of everyday Americans. But now he is that source of discontent, the past four years have been nothing shy of an executive shit-show. Tweet after tweet. Press briefing after press briefing. Impeachment grounds after impeachment grounds.
Robert Mueller determined that the goal of foreign interference in 2016 was, “to damage the Clinton campaign, boost Trump’s chances and sow distrust in American democracy.” There is of course no better way to sow distrust in a democracy than to place at the helm of it a man who will attempt to disenfranchise and discourage electoral participation through whatever nefarious means he can, and that man has proved to be, Donald J. Trump. The cherry on top of his spoilt cake, will be if he rejects a democrat victory on the grounds of electoral interference or fraud, but unless such accusations are directed at his own campaign, they will bare little credence. It is a classic example of the boy who cried wolf, except in this case the man crying, is the wolf.
If a week is a long time in politics, then four years is an eternity. Barring some exceptional circumstance wherein we face an election sooner, it is four years until the Great British electorate will see the inside of a polling station to choose their Westminster representatives. It is safe in this knowledge and with their 80 seat majority that the Conservative high command sit comfortably. Make no mistake, the coronavirus pandemic will not be forgotten about. The once in a lifetime onslaught of such an indiscriminate and tragic novel virus, and the lockdown in which it placed us all, will no doubt form the fabric of many stories we tell the generations yet to come. In the yarn shared between grandparent and grandchild, no doubt, the scope of tragedy will not be lost. But I fear the unscrupulous nature of political electioneering. I fear the human scope of the tragedy will be forgotten in four years’ time in favour of a heralded, ‘against all odds’ great economic recovery. I fear the countless gaffes will be forgotten too. Above all, I fear the Tories already know this.
In knowing this, the Tories have adopted a long-term electoral strategy, centred upon engineering a post-pandemic environment wherein the economy does not struggle nearly as bad as economists warned us it ought to have. Fuelled by Nando’s and Pizza Express vouchers, the Tories want things moving again. Understandably, and chomping at the bit following three months of exhaustive zoom quizzes and burnt home cooked Delia recipes, the public will not hesitate in taking Sunak’s arm off for these high-street incentives. But there remains a glaringly problematic dimension of the UK’s restriction-easing experience and that is, are we ready?
The UK experienced the highest death toll in Europe and the third highest in the world (after Trump’s U.S and more recently Bolsonaro’s Brazil) and at the time of writing the UK is experiencing 512 confirmed new daily cases. Five Hundred new daily cases coupled with a Sunak and Johnson sponsored encouragement to get back to work and back to businesses – albeit alongside an insistence upon the use of face masks, a uniquely welcome U-turn from Number 10. Despite this message, there remains a swell of scepticism surrounding the preparedness of the UK to handle what is essentially the final stage in lockdown-easing. This scepticism is borne out of the UK’s lack of a digital track and trace app – the successful development of which was considered by many other countries to be the crucial skeleton key for relaxing restrictions. Indeed, various epidemiologists and members of the SAGE committee have compounded and stressed the necessity of digital tracking and tracing capacity in the easing of the lockdown. The benefit of track and trace of course being that normality can resume, traders can trade, restaurants can restaurant all while pockets of Covid-19 could be efficiently quashed. Nevertheless, in the gaping absence of such capability, we move fourth.
Reopening the economy is of course essential, and broadly, Mr. Sunak’s support for business throughout the pandemic, and now the support for consumers is, on the surface, encouraging (the point shouldn’t be lost however, that it took Marcus Rashford to point out to the government that starving schoolchildren required government subsidisation, yet when it came to the survival of businesses, Downing Street proved well capable of figuring it out themselves, without the input of a Premier League footballer.) But the thought of the human cost and the familial grief of more pandemic-related tragedy, as such will be the case with premature relaxation in light of no digital track and trace, is deeply troubling. Likewise, on the other hand, a post-pandemic recession as hard-hitting as ’08 or worse, as some economists have suggested, would no doubt bring hardship and further tragedy to the households of many.
The calculations are stupendously difficult and I do not envy the shoes in which the individual stands who has to make them. But I do believe that each single human life is invaluable, and an overzealous fascination with bolstering the economy, particularly when underpinned with an eye to 2024, will significantly skew these calculations harrowingly in favour of percentage points and pounds. Moreover, and rather unfortunately come 2024, the Tories will not let subside any shred of economic triumph in the wake of this once-in-a-lifetime global struggle. The pandemic will not be forgotten, but the intensity of the grief of thousands of deaths which sits so viscerally with us all now, may recede as normality returns. Replaced only by a loud Tory acclaim to economic success, propelled by the chancellory and testament in the avoidance of a crippling recession -and it will probably be written on the side of a big red bus too.
Strategy and craft have dominated the US political landscape over the past few years. So much so, that the depth of character of several Republican senators has been revealed to be decidedly shallow. Now, the chickens have come home to roost. The Trump cheerleaders have had a bucket of cold water thrown over their sleepwalking support of him and now must wake up to the fact that this man is a rotten limb of the GOP that is in dire need of severance for the future of the country, the party and most importantly, the future of their own self serving interests.
In yet another powerful ad, the Lincoln Project pointed out that Trump is now submerged in a loyalty crisis within his own party. Many of these political invertebrates are up for re-election in November, and many of them will try and push their campaign voyage as far away from the Trumpian shores as possible. The cracks are already beginning to appear.
One of the best chances that Democrats have in flipping a seat lies in Colorado, where Trump’s ventriloquist dummy Cory Gardner represents. Gardner is now confronting a crisis and it is very hard for him to stick or twist due to the fact that he is blatantly stuck. Whilst other Republican senators have given themselves a little wriggle room for getting the fake tanned fast-food gorger off their backs, Gardner has put himself so willingly in the clutches of Trump in February at Colorado Springs that any attempt to shift away from him will be regarded as utterly disingenuous. Gardner will quickly find himself in some form of self-fulfilling boomerang prophecy wherein he tries to fling himself away from Trump to find himself back in his master’s clutches in a matter of seconds.
The face of moderate Republicanism is now retreating too. Susan Collins of Maine did not bind herself as closely to Trump as her colleague from Colorado did, but she is still one of the many enablers of the worst President in US history. Collins often portrays the stance of being a conscientious Republican but has often saddled up and ridden to the aide of the Kentucky Turkey, Mitch McConnell. Now she faces the fight of her life against Democrat, Sara Gideon. Gideon is ahead in the polls, ahead in fundraising and most importantly, doesn’t have the baggage of the commander in chief. On the campaign trail Collins has said was not “going to get involved in presidential politics”, but unfortunately for her, she is involved. All of the Trump enablers are involved in the presidential politics that will hold so much sway on November 3rd. Collins knows and has seemingly known for a long time that ties to Trump will be a massive hindrance to her re-election bid.
She is not alone. Republican incumbents are facing Trump’s current tidal wave of unpopularity that will come crashing down on their political careers should they not manage to sufficiently distance themselves from him. The political worms that have crawled into any crevice that keeps their positions of power intact have found themselves exposed with democratic birds circling above. Ripe for the picking.
Oh dear, what a flop. The Donald’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, proudly boasted “just passed 800’000 tickets. Biggest data haul and rally signup of all by 10x. Saturday is going to be amazing!”. But poor Billy Goat Brad suffered huge humiliation last night as the epic rally fell flat on its face in Tulsa, Oklahoma where the overflow stage was promptly packed up upon the realisation that nobody was coming. I only hope Parscale hasn’t cut his ties with his website building career, he will probably be returned their soon. The video of a bedraggled Trump trudging off the plane, giving a half hearted salute with his tie draped around his shoulders, barely able to lift each foot off the ground as he shuffled back to the White House will be replayed and replayed across the world. He looks dejected and rather sad. Perhaps he knows that the jig is up.
There was a tinny echo that reverberated throughout Tulsa and across the world during his speech, the type of echo that comes with thousands of empty seats, reminiscent of the uninspiring turnout for his inauguration. The photos put up on his infamous twitter page were of the masses on the ground floor, as if the camera had have been tilted one tier up, the sea of blue would have shown the epic rally to be the embarrassment it truly was.
But the worst was still to come from the contents of the orangutan’s speech. A tapestry of gaffes so long that Biden needn’t point them out, they are as plain as the leather sole on Trump’s shoes. The man who so often goes on the offensive seems to be very hurt by the campaign ads from the Lincoln Project or the #TrumpIsNotWell trend, so much so that he felt compelled to defend himself in front of his fiercest supporters. Parts of it seemed like a comedy routine that would be performed in some dark dingy gentlemen’s club back room with the air thick with smoke, “I SAID GENERAL…I SAID GENERALLL”, before describing why he creeped down the ramp like the Pink Panther. He moved from his defence of how he walks to the defence of how he drinks, flexing his muscles on his ability to drink water with one hand. Incredible. POTUS managed to drink a glass of water and throw it away, which to his puppets means he is the “GREATEST. PRESIDENT. EVER!”. What a sick joke. What next? Will he proudly showcase his exceptional ability to tie his laces? His remarkable talent in boiling an egg? Or perhaps he will really thrive when he illustrates how he can go number 2 and wipe all by himself. The standard of the Oval Office hasn’t just slipped down a mountain under Trump, it’s fallen off a cliff.
The floppy rally, funny as it was, had quite a sinister element when POTUS claimed he wanted to “slow the testing down please” because the more tests that happen, the more people have COVID-19, at least on official record. This new fire set ablaze by the President has required emergency extinguishers. Peter Navarro came on CNN and laughed as he explained “come on now Jake, you know it was tongue in cheek”, seriously? Light-hearted, good natured joshing about the virus that taken the lives of over 120’000 of your citizens sure is something you want to make light of and put a smile back on the faces.
The question now is what Trump will do to shock his campaign back into life. Another failed rally will surely be disastrous for his bid. The silent majority he so vehemently claims that he speaks for are very, very quiet, eerily quiet, not present quiet. He is all at sea at the moment surrounded by busted life jackets that cannot keep him afloat due to the sheer weight of the cargo. If he is going to make it back to shore, he will have to do it alone and I don’t fancy him as much of a swimmer.