Breaking Whispers: Article 50 Bill passed for final commons reading

Within the last hour MP’s have voted overwhelmingly in favour of passing the governments European Union (notification of withdrawal) bill to the final stage of debate in the House of Commons.

The final stage, comprising a third reading of the bill was approved by a commons vote of 494 votes for to 122 votes against- a majority of  372.

What happens at a third reading?

  • Debate on the Bill is usually short, and limited to what is actually in the Bill, rather than, as at second reading, what might have been included.
  • Amendments (proposals for change) cannot be made to a Bill at third reading in the Commons.
  • At the end of the debate, the House decides (votes on) whether to approve the third reading of the Bill.

After that if the bill is approved, it passes to the House of Lords for its first reading and debate. Once the bill passes in the House of Lords it moves forward for Royal Assent and will eventually become law.

Why is this significant?

The passage of the bill into the third stage of reading stops opposition parties from tabling amendments which could derail the governments Brexit agenda.

Many amendments to the bill have been tabled as part of the second reading and have been successfully defeated in subsequent parliamentary votes.

Its a crucial victory in the governments timetable of a 31st March triggering of Article 50 and the commencement of the UK leaving the EU.

Commons Reaction

david-davis-boris-johnson-e1476175519793David Davis, Secretary of State for Brexit released the following statement after the vote:

“We’ve seen a historic vote tonight – a big majority for getting on with negotiating our exit from the EU and a strong, new partnership with its member states.

It has been a serious debate, a healthy debate, with contributions from MP’s representing all parts of the UK, and I respect the strong views on all sides.

The decision on EU membership has been made by the people we serve. It is now time for everyone, whichever way they voted in the Referendum, to unite to make a success of the important task at hand for our country.”

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage immediately took to Twitter to express his delight at the positive vote:

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Gisela Stuart, the Labour MP who chaired the Vote Leave campaign said: “This bill has passed with significant majorities unamended which is a clear signal to the House of Lords that they should do the same.”

The vote was not without some controversy however, as Shadow Business Secretary Clive Lewis resigned his post in order to defy the Labour parties three line whip and vote against passing the bill.

Newly elected Labour MPs

Mr Lewis, a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn issued a statement via the party saying: “When I became the MP for Norwich South, I promised my constituents I would be ‘Norwich’s voice in Westminster, not Westminster’s voice in Norwich’. I therefore cannot, in all good conscience, vote for something I believe will ultimately harm the city I have the honour to represent, love and call home.”

4c71bc1669a2e0dbf91fe4f69ebeef74Mr Corbyn said he understood the difficult position of some of his MP’s but said they had been ordered to back the Article 50 because the party would not “block Brexit”.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, who was widely derided after she missed last week’s initial vote on the bill due to a migraine, backed it this time, saying: “I’m a loyal member of the shadow cabinet and I’m loyal to Jeremy Corbyn.”

View from the Green Seats- Article 50 debate begins in Parliament

Members of Parliament in the House of Commons have today begun the first of two days of Parliamentary debate on the Notification of Withdrawal from the European Union bill, or as its more commonly known: The Brexit Bill.

Debates will take place today and tomorrow, with a vote on whether to send the legislation to the next stage tomorrow evening.

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The Brexit Bill

Once the legislation passes this stage, Prime Minister Theresa May will publish a White Paper which summarises the governments position on Brexit.

The bill will begin its committee stage in the Commons, which gives MP’s an opportunity to take another look at it and potentially revise it. They can try to change the bill by pushing through amendments to the document, although it is unlikely any will pass without the support of a high number of rebel Tory MP’s.

At the end of the committee stage, MP’s will get another chance to debate the bill, followed by a final vote.

It is highly likely that Parliament will vote in favour of adopting the bill, with it being passed to the House of Lords for a secondary debate and vote by its members. If no amendments are proposed and the vote is passed then the bill will be passed to the Queen to receive royal assent.

It is only then that the bill becomes enshrined in UK law.

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David Davis MP

Secretary of State for exiting the EU, David Davis made a short statement in Parliament in which he called upon MP’s to “honour their side of the agreement” following the referendum result and pass the bill. He said voters “will view any attempt to halt its progress dimly”.

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Sir Keir Starmer MP

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer says the House has a short and “simple bill” to discuss, “but for the Labour Party this a very difficult bill.”

“We’re a fiercely internationalist party,” he says. “We’re a pro-European party.”

Labour campaigned to remain in the EU “but we failed to persuade: we lost the referendum”.

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Sir Oliver Letwin MP

Former Cabinet Office minister Sir Oliver Letwin has said that tomorrows vote on the bill is “one of the most important that we will ever take in the House” but he will vote “because the will of the people, in the end, has been expressed”

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Meg Tillier MP

Labour MP Meg Hillier has said that she will vote against the bill saying “I cannot walk blindly through a lobby to give a trigger to a process without a shred of detail from the government”.


In other news MP’s also confirmed that they would debate a recent petition calling for the cancellation of a state visit by US President Donald Trump.

The petition, which began over the weekend has gained over 1.7 million signatures, well over the 100,000 required for a parliamentary debate.

It follows widespread condemnation of Mr Trump’s immigration policies, in which individuals from seven predominantly Muslim nations are being refused entry to the USA for a period of up to 120 days.

A similar petition, which calls for the state visit to proceed will also be debated in the Parliamentary debate after reaching over 100,000 signatures.

The debate will take place on 20th February.

International Whispers- Donald Trump becomes 45th president of the USA

Donald J Trump has just been sworn in as the 45th President of the United States at an inauguration ceremony on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington DC.

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President Trump takes the oath of office, flanked by his wife Melania

Amidst heightened security and reports of earlier protests, Mr Trump and Mike Pence, the vice president took their oaths of office administered by US chief Justice John Roberts.

In a speech that was full of the bluster of Trump the candidate, the new President called January 20th “the day the people became the rulers once again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now.”

“We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and restore its promise for all of our people,” Trump told the crowds as rain fell over the capital. “Together we will determine the course of America and all of the world for many many years to come.”

Donald And Melania Trump Arrive At White House Ahead Of Inauguration

One in One out: President Trump and his wife Melania pictured with Barack and Michelle Obama

The new president said: “Today we are not merely transferring power from one party to another … but we are transferring power from Washington DC and giving it back to you, the people.”

Speaking directly to his supporters, President Trump said “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America First, America First,” and described American economic policy in the future as being “two simple rules”: “buy American and hire American.”

Preparations are finalized at US Capitol for Trump inauguration in Washington DC

Inauguration Day, January 20th 2017

Flanked by former Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton and Carter, Mr Trump took a moment to speak about unity, saying “Whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots,” he said. “Whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky … and they are infused with the same breath of life by the almighty creator.”

So, a man with no previous political experience is now America’s 45th President. It will be an interesting four years in American politics and indeed the politics of the world.

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Its mine, my own, my precious……..

Breaking Whispers- Theresa May gives speech confirming the Governments position on Brexit

Prime Minister Theresa May has today outlined her strategy for Britain’s exit from the European Union in a speech at Lancaster House in London.

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Prime Minister Theresa May spoke about the desire to create “A Global Britain”

The Conservative leader made clear that she would look to pursue a ‘Hard Brexit’ from the EU and that there would be no compromising on things like immigration, access to markets and parliamentary sovereignty.

Mrs May said “We do not seek to adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries. We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave. The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union. My job is to get the right deal for Britain as we do.”

In a conciliatory but firm statement, the Prime Minister confirmed the following:

Britain will not remain a part of the single market

With speculation that her government would not look to stay in the single market, Mrs May confirmed that Britain would not be staying  within the single market but would instead look to sign a new free trade agreement with the EU.

This proposed agreement would allow the UK to have access to the single market but without membership of it. Membership of the single market required accepting free movement of goods,services, capital and people. In her words retaining membership of the single market “would in all intents and purposes mean not leaving the EU.”

Britain will remain a member of the customs union

Trade formed a large part of the Prime Ministers speech and she confirmed that Britain would look to remain a member of the customs union with Europe. However she was keen to specify that Britain would not look to be subject to the common external tariff (a tax on all goods coming into the union from outside it).

The prime minister would not be drawn on whether the custom’s union’s policy of no member country negotiating trade deals on its own would be something that Britain would look to avoid.

The phased approach to Brexit

The Prime Minister underlined the requirement of any exit strategy from the EU to be phased in rather than having what she called a “cliff edge” point, which could cause irreparable harm to the UK economy.

Phasing arrangements would allow the economy, industry and public institutions to make necessary preparations for life outside of the European Union.

Mrs May confirmed that she would look to conclude negotiations with the EU within the two year timescale provided for by Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon.

Controlling Immigration to the UK

The control of Britain’s borders was a crucial part of the decision to leave the EU and the Prime Minister reiterated her desire to enforce this policy.

However, she affirmed that Britain wants to continue to attract “the brightest and best to study and work in Britain”.

Referring to her time as Home secretary, Mrs May said “You cannot control immigration overall when there is free movement from Europe … Brexit must mean control of number of people coming to Britain from Europe.”

The UK’s immigration system post-Brexit has not been announced and the Prime Minister made no reference on how policing immigration from the EU would occur.

An end to the legal authority of the European Court of Justice in the UK

The authority of the European Court of Justice in the UK legal system will cease after the Brexit negotiations are concluded, the Prime Minister has confirmed.

Leaving the EU meant leaving all the institutions of it, with the Prime Minister arguing “We will not have truly left the European Union if we are not in control of our own laws.”

It is widely expected that the Supreme Court will assume all the legal responsibilities currently being undertaken by the European Court of Justice.

The final Brexit deal will be put before both Houses of Parliament

In a move that will appease both remainers and opposition parties alike, Mrs May has confirmed that any final Brexit deal committed to by the UK will be the subject of a vote in both the Houses of Parliament and the Lords.

This move will allow MP’s and Lords to block the plans, but is a vital move in confirming the sovereignty of Parliament in the Brexit negotiations after the recent Supreme Court case involving campaigners led by Gina Miller.

The timeframe for the Brexit deal to be put to the House will be confirmed shortly.

Cautious friends with Europe?

Mrs May stated that “I must be clear. Britain wants to remain a good friend and neightbour to Europe but I know there are some voices calling for a punitive deal. That would be a case of calamitous self-harm for the countries of Europe and it would not be the act of a friend. Britain could not, indeed we would not, accept such an approach.”

The Prime Minister said she believed that this would not occur but said that “no deal would be better than a bad deal”, warning that Britain would be free to set competitive tax rates, echoing earlier comments by the Chancellor Phillip Hammond.

However she also called for a close relationship with Europe after Brexit- ““Our vote to leave the European Union was no rejection of the values we share. The decision to leave the EU represents no desire to become more distant to you, our friends and neighbours. We will continue to be reliable partners, willing allies and close friends,” she said.

Cards on the Table?

By confirming the sort of deal that Britain wants from Brexit, the Prime Minister has placed Britain in the metaphorical driving seat of the Brexit negotiations. Much will be made of what the Prime Minister did not say and the lack of specificity on certain points but this is an important step on the road to Britain’s exit from the EU in two years time.

International Whispers: Trump ‘keen’ to sign quick trade deal with UK after Brexit

President-elect Donald Trump has promised that the U.S. will sign a quick trade deal with the UK after the Brexit negotiations are concluded.

In an interview with former leave campaigner and cabinet minister Michael Gove for the Times newspaper, Mr Trump said that the UK was “so smart for getting out”. He went on to say  “We’re gonna work very hard to get it done quickly and done properly. Good for both sides.”

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President Elect Trump met with MP Michael Gove at Trump Tower in New York

 

Mr Trump’s words were in sharp contrast to outgoing President Barack Obama’s remarks during the EU referendum campaign, where he famously said that “the UK would be at the back of the queue” for any potential trade deal should it leave the EU.

The President-elect, who will be inaugurated on Friday in Washington, went on to criticise Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel’s stance on immigration calling it “obsolete”.

Mr Trump later said “I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals, you know, taking all of the people from wherever they come from. And nobody even knows where they come from,”

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Mr Trump said that the UK was ‘doing great’ in the wake of Brexit.

Later in the interview with Mr Gove, he turned his comments to NATO and called for more member states to commit to the target of spending the 2% of their respective national incomes on defence, a spending target that the UK is meeting and remains one of the few nations to do so.

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Defence Spending as a % of GDP- Source: NATO

With his inauguration looming, UK prime minister Theresa May will be keen to ensure that Mr Trump delivers on his promise to sign a trade deal with the UK, as this would be a boost to the economy and future success post Brexit.

Breaking Whispers- UK Ambassador to EU Resigns

Sir Ivan Rogers, the UK’s Ambassador to the European Union has today resigned from his position, a full ten months before his scheduled departure from the role in November 2017.

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Sir Ivan Rogers, pictured here with the Chancellor Philip Hammond last month at a meeting with the EU

The resignation comes a month after making public comments that he felt a post-brexit trade deal could take as long as ten years to conclude, despite the two year limits imposed in Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. Downing Street later refuted the comments as not reflecting the view of the British Government.

Mr Rogers was a part of former prime minister David Cameron’s negotiating team when he unsuccessfully attempted to renegotiate Britain’s position within the European Union. A failure which ultimately led to the EU referendum and Britain’s subsequent vote to leave.

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Rogers, right pictured with former Prime Minister David Cameron in January 2016

Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who previously worked with Sir Ivan said “If the reports are true that he has been hounded out by hostile Brexiteers in government, it counts as a spectacular own goal. The government needs all the help it can get from good civil servants to deliver a workable Brexit.”

While the Government have yet to issue an official statement on Rogers resignation a source in Whitehall today said that it would not affect the governments proposed triggering of article 50 later on this year.

With preparations for this process to be made and significant ground still to be decided upon, the Government will come under significant pressure to appoint a new ambassador as quickly as possible.

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However reports that Nigel Farage had already sent his CV in for the position were described as laughable by one government source.

 

 

 

The Party Line is ………Coherence

Modern civilisation exists as a coalescence of nations and communities, with a common set of ideas at its heart and with the aim of the advancement and perpetuation of the species. Today’s political parties are a macrocosm of this coalescence in so much as they exist to advance a common set of ideas to the advancement of the party’s goals.

When declaring that their political ideas match those of a group or political party, the individual forfeits their individual perceptions of what it means to have these ideals and suborns them to the will of the political party. Or at least that’s how it should be.

As more and more voices enter the fray, the debate over the content of the political ideas that the party purports become less and less important and somewhere along the way the politics of idealism is replaced by the politics of compromise.

A common ideological thread is essential to the success of a party, as its easier to sell a single political ideology to the people than the din of parties ideological rambling.  This set of principles must be simple and easy to state to any voter or member of the press.  The most successful ideologies in politics are those that are the easiest to explain.

But where does that simplification begin?

Fundamentally, this simplification begins at manifesto level.  A political parties manifesto provides the medium by which a parties’ ideas are encapsulated and presented to the public at large. This is the key document which defines it as a political organisation, existing both in print and latterly on the internet.

This is where the simplicity exists and also where it ends. Once it becomes subject to interpretation the message is lost in translation and loses its effectiveness as a political belief system. The clarity of the manifesto is what makes it palatable to the people, once that dies you can never resurrect it.

It is wrong to blame just the party members for this ideological death, as the leaders of political parties are equally culpable and can impede the effectiveness of political doctrine delivery.

Just look at the impact that Donald Trump has had on the perceived political position of the Republican party in America. The politics of the individual can sometimes have nothing in common with the overriding politics of the party.  For example, how many Republican politicians would extoll a political credo so extreme that it borders on racism? Simple answer: None. They would offend their core voting base and would potentially forfeit their political standing.

On the other side of the coin, how much does Mr Trump’s political position have in common with the politics of the average Republican voter? Zero. This is an example of how an individual’s politics at leadership level results in the divergence of the political parties’ ideology from its core message.

Should an individual, at leadership or parliamentary level be allowed to force or purport a message which results in this sort of political divergence? If the party wants to be a successful one then theoretically no, it shouldn’t, it should speak with one voice and present one message to the people of the country it wishes to govern.

Politicians lend a great deal of belief and conviction to their speechmaking and general conduct while in the political sphere and limitation of this to a set message and delivery would detract from their impact and the effectiveness of the party. Think of the truly memorable politicians and they have all been individuals of singular personality and powered by strong idealism.

There must be a happy medium that would allow a party to conduct itself to a coherent and unified message but not compromise that message in its delivery. An argument can be made that this exists in the written and online world, but there is one very crucial difference: A party and its policies online rely on the individual interpretation of the individual accessing them, whereas the party and its policies in the public sphere can shape that individual’s perception and interpretation.

In assuming the leadership of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn has been keen to unify these many conflicting fields into one party with one message. He has been keen to create a unified opinion on all of the pertinent issues that the British public have been faced with and has utilised online media to create a unified identity for the Labour party.

The problem is that in creating this supposed unity, he has in fact created the conditions for widespread opposition not from the current membership, but from his parliamentary colleagues within the party. Members of Parliament finding that their views have been supplanted in favour of a unified position have instituted a backdoor coup against his leadership and although it will not succeed, the political damage done to the party is far reaching.

The Labour party has become the party of Jeremy Corbyn in the same way that the Republican party in America could effectively become the Donald Trump party after the election in November.

The crucial difference in this is that the American political system lends itself to an individual as its figure head but the British political system is a system of parties and organisations and as such does not allow for the coalescence of the party thesis into the central figurehead.

A simpler approach to politics is required, where the party maintains one coherent message that every member agrees on and can be easily espoused, interpreted and perceived by the public that it serves is a practical necessity.  The problem is that a singular message does not lend itself easily to the community led nature of the political party.

© R Simmons 2016. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Party Line is………Perception

At any point in the day, our brain receives trillions of sensory impulses from our body which flow from our nerves directly to our brain for processing and interpretation. It is these impulses which shape how we perceive the world, covering everything from pleasure and pain to the baser level bodily functions.

The interpretation of this data by our brain shapes our perception of reality at the sensory level. At a psychological level this shaping is more pronounced, if we have a negative experience of reality we are far more likely to behave negatively and vice versa.

The shaping of reality or perception at a psychological level can be influenced by individuals through behavioural training and learning more about our own character. An entire industry exists, generating millions of pounds, to promote these ideas and to enable individual introspection, character adjustment and behavioural modification with the ultimate aim of becoming more positive and productive individuals.

Take the simple idea of sensory based reality, substitute the brain for the collective consciousness of society at a political and sociological level; you have an almost infinite range of perceptions and impulses, experienced by the society as a whole and reflected in what it does, how it acts and how it responds in the world.

As with the brain, this reality can be shaped, tailored and where applicable manipulated to suit the overriding imperative of the government or society where they are experienced.

So how does a society experience and perceive politicians?

A perception of a politician is experienced at many different levels:  there are the acts of the individual within their local community and how they are perceived, how society perceives them in relation to their wider party affiliation and how they exist in the public eye.

The first two can be controlled, or at least attempted to be controlled, by the politician through the medium of spin.  This is a low-level example of the manipulation of perception to ensure a positive outcome for that individual, in the same way that you would use behavioural training to shape your behaviour.

Spin is a product of the media age and media as a whole contributes dramatically to how a politician is perceived in the public eye. Once an individual enters public life, their life essentially becomes public knowledge, with their every move scrutinised and commented on by countless individuals, even more in the world of social media and the internet. Politicians experience this on a much more fatalistic level, with every misstep potentially contributing to the end of their political career.

Indeed once an individual involved in the political sphere makes a political gaffe, or is involved in a scandal, the media can shape the public perception to such a degree that the individual can no longer function as a politician.

These two necessary functions of modern politics sometimes work in synergy with each other, but the sheer levels of exposure and potential profit render the media far more likely to want to cause damage to a politician than prevent it (as seen this week with the Keith Vaz sex sting scandal).

The public largely perceive two types of politician: the institutional politician and the populist politician. The institutional politician is seen as a stuffy, privately educated individual who is more likely to want to enhance their own position rather than act in the best interests of the people. By contrast, the populist politician is seen as a self-made individual, someone who the common voter can relate to and retain an interest in, a true man or woman of the people.

Go up a level to the international stage and the perception/manipulation of it becomes less obvious, but wider ranging in its implications.  Shaping public perception of the country involved is a national occupation and is vital to the longer term success of that country.

Manipulation at this level involves a more subversive method: that of propaganda.  The use of propaganda has been one of the bedrocks of statecraft for almost 500 years now and is enjoying a renaissance in the age of the internet.

Propaganda can be used to assert, subvert and otherwise engender the ideology of the country using it or be used to destroy the ideology and people of a target country.

Overtly obvious use of propaganda today is largely confined to those restrictive regimes, who need the constant reassertion of their ideology to place their message into the minds of their people, thus shaping their perception to embrace that ideology fully.

In those less restrictive regimes, pronounced propaganda as asserted by a regime or government cannot exist because it would inevitably clash with the fundamental right of freedom of speech, i.e. the freedom to express a contrary opinion to the prevalent political line of that country. The contradiction between these two precepts forces the use of propaganda away from the political sphere and back into media sphere.

As with the politicians, the media can be used as a tool by the government to create negative opinion about opposing countries and regimes, shaping the public perception subconsciously and not endangering the fundamental freedom of speech rights.  Indeed, the media is perceived as the guardian of free speech, despite increasing evidence that it is becoming the mouthpiece of political parties and governments.

The one thing that this manipulation can sometimes struggle to keep up with is the change in political position in respect to a country. For example if a rogue country moves overnight from a totalitarian regime, which is universally hated, to a democratic regime, the government of the opposition country may need to soften its political stance towards it and change its relationship. We’ve seen it recently in the open dialogues between the USA and its old adversaries Cuba and Iran.  The public’s perception, previously shaped to a negative opinion of these regimes, had to be shifted to a positive one in the long-term to ensure the opening of good relations between the nations. Again the media and government play a part in moving this process forward.

Another recent example of this is the softening of the negative opinion on Britain leaving the European Union. During the referendum campaign extremely negative sentiments were expressed about the potential consequences of leaving and our eventual place in the world. Politicians, both domestic and foreign were keen to add their opinions to the seemingly unceasing tide of negative press about Brexit. However once the vote was concluded and the decision to exit confirmed by the UK government, the overriding need to proceed with the publicly voted for mandate prompted an almost immediate shift in media and government communications from being negative about the consequences to active examination and criticism of the implementation process.

The perception that a country has in the world can often have a negative impact on how that nation is treated by its neighbours in the international community.  For example, while the Russian federation does not exhibit any overtly evil or totalitarian qualities, it is perceived as being a totalitarian regime or “evil empire” when in fact the truth can be something entirely different.  This perception and the implementation of it by the other nations of the world causes much of the diplomatic conflict which exists between Russia and the wider community, particularly the USA who has been the historical enemy of Russia for many years.

Another example of this is how the USA is perceived in the Middle East.  With significant interests in the oil rich nations of the middle east, the USA has always been keen to provide stability for the region through support of vassal regimes and clients. Additionally, the USA has been the most ardent supporter of the state of Israel, viewing it as a key ally in the region.

This support and, dare I say it, interference in the affairs of the region, while well-intentioned, does not garner popular support from the various tribes and ethnic groups of the region. Combine that with a secular religion that does not view outsiders as friends and you have a recipe for extremist opposition. A sort of opposition that manifests itself in the various terrorist organisations that operate in the region, opposed to the interests of the USA and their perceived puppet states.

Consider the political effectiveness of a nation if it was in tune with how it is perceived in the world, has full cognisance of the consequences of its actions and is in possession of a coherent and appealing ideological standpoint. Such a nation would have the blueprint for longer term stability and success, effectively making itself immune to all potential issues which would arise in the course of its life.

With the obvious example of a politician in the public eye being able to shape his or her perception to suit their objectives, you have to wonder why more countries do not employ this sort of perception manipulation in their political armoury.  With so much at stake, can they afford not to?

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is………. Consequences

As human beings, we exist in a world where we are constantly confronted by decisions. We examine the options involved and once we have decided, we make our choice, one action over another, stay or go, do or do not. These instances of choice shape hundreds of choices which follow the initial one, cascading outwards like the ripples in a pond after a stone is thrown into it.

Without exception every decision we make carries a consequence or in the case of a larger decision a set of consequences which can shape our lives entirely.  Unfortunately, and paradoxically, we cannot understand the nature of the consequence until the action or decision has been made, sometimes far into the future.

In a political world, a decision and its consequences are a more public animal.  The intense scrutiny placed by society on political decisions merely increases our understanding and analysis of the decision being made, and the potential consequences of that decision.  The difference between a political decision and a personal one is that the potential implications and ripples have a wider range and affect more people.

It has been a year of big political decisions with far reaching consequences, some of which we’ll examine here.

We cannot talk about 2016’s big political decisions without addressing the elephant in the room: The EU referendum. As decisions go they don’t get much bigger, especially in terms of the long term future of the population of the UK.  In the aftermath of the vote, you got the strong sense that it was an unexpected choice that none of the politicians were prepared for. This was certainly true in the first 48 hours after the vote, when politicians railed against each other and the premiership of David Cameron came to a very abrupt end.

A quick leadership contest and cabinet reshuffle later and we can finally see the first of the wider implications of that decision as we look to commence negotiations to leave the EU. We face a European bloc eager for us to leave but with a definite resolve to make it the right sort of exit to ensure their long term security. Additionally, we have a new government with a strong desire to enforce the vote of the people but with the added obligation of ensuring that Britain remains a stable economic power as it moves on its own.

Despite the warnings and naysayers, so prevalent throughout the stages of the referendum there seems to be a definite appetite to see things through and no shortage of countries and businesses eager to do business with the newly independent UK.  A period of intense negotiation between the two parties is required, but with the UK reluctant to start negotiations right away this period seems further and further away. Only after these negotiations and the resultant exit period have concluded will we understand the fuller consequences of our decision.

One of the immediate ripples reverberating from this decision was the abortive coup d’état that has engulfed the Labour party for the majority of the summer recess. It began as a concerted effort to remove Jeremy Corbyn from power, but it has spiralled into a second leadership contest in twelve months. The summer months have been characterised by massive infighting and resignations, which only serve to destabilise the Labour party further. If as predicted, Mr Corbyn wins the leadership election in September, then we can expect a winter of discontent within the party and the potential for a split between those loyal to Mr Corbyn and those who are not.

A party in turmoil, members trying to halt an unstable political force that they themselves have unleashed?  You only need to look across the Atlantic to see another example of this; the startling rise of Donald Trump. Known primarily as a businessman and celebrity, the meteoric rise of this plain speaking plutocrat has captured the American imagination in a way which has echoes of a Hollywood movie.

With no previous political experience at all, the Republican establishment must have thought that he was merely indulging in a vanity based publicity stunt and tolerated his attempted campaign histrionics. Now just over a year later, the Republicans must be ruing the day that this egotistical hurricane entered their domain.

Seeing the rise of Trump from political joke to presidential candidate the Republican Party moved to counter, pitting the might and the finances of the Republican establishment against the man from New York.  Leveraging candidate after candidate, they all fell down before the brusque showmanship of the Trump campaign leaving him as the official nominee of the Republican Party and the opponent of the victorious Democratic nominee: Hilary Clinton.

The long term consequences of this decision will not be known until America goes to the polls in November, and it’s easy to think that the brash politically inexperienced Trump will lose against the more moderate grounded Clinton. However, since the Democratic nominee is dogged by accusations of being a corporate stooge, along with allegations of impropriety in respect of sensitive emails, who can say with any certainty who will win? What will that person bring to the White House and how will their presidency be remembered?

Although the civil war in Syria has been the source of much consternation and politicking over the past 4 years, 2016 was the year where the problem became a truly international one with the migrant crisis. Scenes of families and large groups of people making the long march across Turkey and Greece toward Europe are common place and sometimes these migrations have tragic consequences.

One can argue that the migrant crisis affecting Europe is a consequence of the failure of NATO and the west to directly address the Syrian civil war when it began in 2011. This inaction left the Assad regime to its own devices and allowed it to carry out a campaign of terror against its own people, causing them to emigrate in massive numbers to Europe.

The Russian intervention on the side of the Assad regime has only served to exacerbate these numbers and, ultimately, the migration crisis affecting Europe as a whole. As long as there is continued unrest in the region, there is no easy solution to the problem which will allow these migrants to return to their own country.

As free thinking individuals in the world, we deal with the consequences of our actions and hope to learn from our mistakes, trying not to repeat them over again.  Politically we face a harder road, as political society is not endowed with a collective will and is thus limited in what it can do and learn in the long term.

If the recent history of civilised man is any judge of how quickly political society learns from its decisions, consequences and mistakes then we face a far longer journey to the sort of society where decisions made politically do not engender potentially negative consequences.  That is not to say that political society is not evolving in its understanding, but that learning is coming very slowly and at an increasingly high cost to the people of the world.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is ………Identity

A golden tipped plane arrived at London Heathrow earlier today, carrying the victorious athletes from the Great Britain Olympic team. In an enthralling display of sporting prowess, they netted an astonishing 67 medals achieving a feat unsurpassed in British Olympic history and very rightly are welcomed home as national heroes.

As a citizen of Great Britain, it makes me very proud to see our athletes doing so well and beating nations like China and Russia who both have far bigger populations than our 65 million Brits. In our pride we venerate our victorious athletes and vicariously, our nation.

But after a while the pride subsides, the medals fade and the apathy sets in. We become nonchalant about being British, unwilling to maintain that level of pride we settle into a practiced negativity talking down our nation and undervaluing our achievements.

It’s a cycle that repeats itself not just at the Olympics but other sporting and social festivals: We are proud to be British as long as it’s convenient or allowed, but as soon as convention dictates we go back to our national apathy.

If we could, would maintaining our national pride make us a better nation? How would we do it?

The issue is that the notion of Great Britain lends itself to a historical slant rather than a current one, we revel in our glorious past without considering the potential for our future. So much of British society is set up on the traditions of the past: our Parliament, our Royal Family, our class system (yes it still exists) and most importantly our national zeitgeist. Even the name Great Britain lends itself to a time past when we commanded a vast empire.

In our rush to become a truly multicultural nation, we have effectively negated the British identity relegating British nationalism to extremists and the ignorant. It has become almost a societal taboo to express British nationalism except in those instances previously mentioned.

Far too often nationalism is confused with National Socialism but many people forget that for all their extreme politics the Nazis brought the German nation from economic and societal destitution to unity and almost total European domination in 9 short years in power.

Nationalism created the American identity, allowing it to go from a collection of colonies into a World superpower. It energised a people, enabling them to explore outer space and win the ideological war against Communism.

Our problem is we are afraid to use practical nationalism for fear of it becoming fascism. We are right to fear because it is a very fine line between the two as both champion the superiority of one group over another.

But what if there was a way to be Nationalistic without being fascist?

In choosing this course we have to first tackle one of the issues I previously mentioned: The British reliance on its past.

In all seriousness, who wouldn’t want to rely on a past where we dominated over 3/4ths of the Earth, where we were the undisputed masters of the sea and were the pinnacle of civilisation for a time?

The problem with over reliance on the past to generate a national identity is just that, it prevents you from crafting an identity which is current and pertains to the people of this generation.

A current national identity, generated by the people living today would engender a greater sense of what it means to be British than the collection of past glories and traditions being churned out in today’s society. It would connect the people of this country to this countries identity in a very tangible long-lasting way as they would become de facto stakeholders in the British experience and identity. I’m not saying ignore the past entirely, but don’t overplay it as we have done.

An example of doing this would be to drop the “Great” in Great Britain and just continue as Britain. This would have the effect of absolving our ties to the past nation. The slight issue with this is that there may be negative consequences, but if spun correctly this could be used as a challenge to the people of this country: Make Britain worthy of the title Great again.

Just as the American dream provides a notion for all to strive for and achieve, the new British identity and quest for greatness could provide a similar vehicle for national growth and expansion.

A seed change of this sort would have to be instigated from the top of society downwards, in a way which affected the lives of all citizens. It would require a prompt and I can think of no greater prompt than the death or retirement of either the Queen or Prince of Wales.

This tragic but foreseeable future event would undoubtedly prompt introspection on what it is to be British. A new individual on the throne for the first time in almost a century inspires a period of renewal in their country: there is a feeling of newness and the society can capitalise on that feeling to a positive end. A precedent for this sort of sweeping societal change exists in the cultural revolution that took place in the aftermath of the Second World War. In that case a new society emerged from a great tribulation and began an explosive period of renewal, cultural growth and enterprise which greatly benefitted Britain.

This period of renewal could begin with the formalisation of a written constitution to govern. For all its history, Britain does not possess a formalised constitution in the same way as many other nations in the world do, we instead rely on traditions accumulated throughout the centuries. A formal process to create a constitution with public engagement on all facets of the process would give the people of Britain a legitimate and long-lasting say in what their country should be and how it should be run.

The impact of this change cannot be underestimated, here enshrined in the rule of Law is the constitutional nation of Britain. It is something which can be defined, defended, studied and improved as required. It would make people feel connected with their country.

Renewal once is not consistent change, so the constitution could be renewed every five years in line with the election of a new government. Additionally, the public could be asked to vote on the inclusion of amendments to the constitution at the point of renewal, thus maintaining their aforementioned stake in how the country of Britain evolves.

A society where this sort of nationalism is only practiced on a singular basis will inevitably fail to embrace this change. The ethos of this New Britain must be extolled at every level from school children to the elderly and must be made part of every institution that exists in this country.

We need to spend less time venerating pointless celebrities and more time recognising the people who do great things for this country and its people.

Once again, we near the line of fascist nationalism because extolling the virtues of the New Britain over the other ideologies of the world implies that ours is the better ideology. We should be keen to champion other ideologies and governmental systems but a British society must be able to push itself to the fore in its own country.

Using the energizing spirit of this renewal, the government can inaugurate a culture of British achievement in all fields from construction to agriculture to information technology. Government departments can be rebranded and repurposed with the aim of using them to promote Britain rather than just the current error prone standard of government department. The constitutional change can facilitate this as parts of it can be used to create new ministries and entities.

The cynics among us may well say “well where is the money for this change going to come from?” and obviously there would be financial concerns in play at the point of renewal, but we spend billions on unnecessary social and political programs designed to make changes that simply do not have any chance of making real change.  All too often the act or program is instigated and shelved as soon as a new government is appointed or the public appetite shifts, wasting a lot of money and time.

Creating a constitution that everyone agrees on and has a stake in reduces the risk of these sorts of programs occurring, allowing for the funneling of those funds into projects which will actually be relevant and useful to the community at large. It also serves as a checking mechanism to the more out of touch ideas that the politicians have in government. The more these ideas are found and stopped the less likely they will occur giving the politicians a greater sense of what the public actually want and how to serve their respective communities.

Challenges such as these demand a higher standard of politician, one that goes beyond the current crop of elected individuals and could see them replaced by individuals who are more geared to the new ethos of the British state. The period of renewal in British society could and in all honesty should wipe these individuals away, as they are remnants of the traditional society rather than the new.

With a population hungry for change and the appetite to make this change at a societal level, there is no limit as to what changes could be made. The recreation of Great Britain under a newer more relevant guise could make this country what it needs to be: A more United Kingdom and a truly resurgent world power.

 

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.