Brexit: Theresa May’s Gordian knot?

The Gordian Knot is a myth surrounding that great conqueror of early history, Alexander of Macedon who when faced with a rope so knotted that it could not be unwound by the most skilful of champions took out his sword and cut the knot into pieces: thus solving the problem and providing the first demonstration in lateral thinking.

Flash forward three thousand years, and UK Prime Minister Theresa May finds herself faced with her own Gordian knot in negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union. In each turn of the knot, she finds herself further and further entangled within its shackles. Each knot has its own strand each with its own objectives and impact on the UK and indeed the EU at large.

Strand one: The divorce bill

£27bn, £40bn, £57bn. The price of Britain’s exit seems to increase week to week, certainly in the newspaper headlines anyway. Things are often spun in such a way as to make the EU’s demands overtly punitive, and yes to some degree they are in terms of actual cost. The problem is this: We signed up to these agreements which placed a cost on our membership and now we have to honour those agreements.

brexitbill

What will the final cost of Brexit be and will the UK pay it?

The issue now is that this bill is being used in a game of brinkmanship by the EU. To get the trade deal we must first pay the piper, and the EU is calling the tune. The problem is, if we refuse to pay we can’t legally leave and we risk engendering the bad feeling of future trading partners. However if we pay an overtly large settlement in order to achieve the next step in the process, the Prime Minister loses all credibility in the British parliament and media.

Strand two: What is a soft border anyway?

Historically, the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland has always been a ‘soft’ border than a ‘hard’ one going back to the founding of the Irish free state in 1919.  However with Ireland being a member of the EU and the UK in the future not being a member, the question becomes what to do with Northern Ireland.

1008brexit01

Is this the future for the Northern Irish border?

If we leave the border as a soft one, then we open a backdoor into the UK which could be exploited by thousands of economic migrants both legally and illegally as they would be able to become citizens of Northern Ireland and vicariously the UK.

The problem is if we have a hard border, we risk endangering over 30 years of improved relations between Northern and Southern Ireland, going all the way back to the Good Friday agreement, which ended the Irish troubles. The EU knows this and have given the Irish a veto on any border negotiations between ourselves and the EU.

A border needs to be maintained, there needs to be a clear distinction between what is now EU territory and what is UK territory, with the channel it is easy, with Ireland it will be harder.

Strand three: Proving the EU to be right

The European Union was designed to be an organisation of equal rights where everyone would be happy and everyone’s concerns would be listened to. No one is supposed to want to leave political paradise. Now that we have thrown that dream out of the window in asking to leave, the EU is entering damage control.

2157

Should Mrs May ignore her fellow European leaders as they look to preserve the EU?

Part of that damage control is enforcing an exit that is punitive so as to discourage others from seeking the same exit that we are seeking. Another part is that an exit was never envisioned by the people writing the EU so this is new territory, both politically and sociologically and in any new territory there are going to be bumps in the road.

By pursuing a hard Brexit we achieve our aims but we engender an undercurrent of hostility over our exit from the EU. Other nations, emboldened by our exit may seek to renegotiate their deals and if these negotiations fail, then more and more nations will leave.

Strand Four: Party politics

No party can be seen to go against the will of the British people, especially where the EU referendum is concerned, however the Labour party has been largely indifferent in its Brexit stance, not deciding between a hard Brexit (which would appease the Brexiteers) and a so called soft Brexit (which would appease the remainers, who don’t want to leave the EU).

The more concessions Theresa May makes, the more she loses the support of her own party and now following the disastrous general election in May, Mrs May now has to balance the support of her own party with her new coalition partners: The Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP is a party which has a profoundly religious background of somewhat radical ideas.

Theresa-May-Arlene-Foster-815393

The power behind the throne? With ten hugely important seats in parliament, the DUP is in a position to exert enormous influence on the British political system

Their brand of unionism and their proximity to the Irish question makes them a key player in the EU negotiations add to that their ability to collapse the May government by withdrawing their support and the difficulty that the Conservative government under Theresa May faces is self-evident.

Strand Five: Home problems

When faced with a choice, 52% of voters in this country voted to leave the EU. Regardless of the politics involved we said we wanted to leave and now the government is charged with making that happen.

But politics in this country didn’t suddenly stop, the problems in this country didn’t suddenly cease functioning and they will continue to do so even when we leave the EU. The problem is, finding the right time to address these long standing problems when we have more immediate concerns.

We have two years to leave the EU, as mandated by our treaty with them and we have to make it work within that time. The problem is that parts of the negotiation there affect problems here.

If we pull out of the single market without an effective substitute then our economy suffers, if we lose the European court of human rights without an effective judiciary authority to replace it then the legal system suffers and so on and so forth. So we can’t ignore the negotiations and we can’t address our own long standing problems without addressing short term concerns.

Cutting the knot

Gordian-Knot_Thumbnail

Is there a lateral solution to the Brexit problem?

Alexander demonstrated lateral thinking in cutting the knot with his sword. Theresa May can do the same, but she needs to display the same confidence in her thinking to do so.

Brexit is going to happen and no second referendum is going to change that, however what may be needed is the ability to act definitively: to pay the bill, to sort out the border, to change the language and bring the EU back to positivity in these negotiations, to build a political consensus and to support our own country.

Can she do so? Potentially yes. Will she do so and remain in charge? No. Decisiveness and democracy don’t always get along and I think the first casualty of Brexit will be Mrs May.

View from the Green Seats-Trump to speak in Parliament plans dropped

British officials have confirmed that a plan to allow Donald Trump to speak in Parliament as part of a state visit to the UK have been shelved.

It is expected that the Presidents state visit will be moved to late summer or early autumn, when Parliament is in recess for the summer.

Parliament will be in recess from June until the 5th September, with a months recess commencing on the 15th September to make time for party conferences to take place.

trumpuk

Not In My House: Speaker Bercow railed against Mr Trump

The move by the government is aimed at averting the prospect of a parliamentary snub for Mr Trump and follows earlier comments made by the Speaker of the House, John Bercow.

Speaker Bercow had come under pressure to resign from the speakership following his unguarded comments about the President in which he accused him of being racist and sexist.

Conservative MP James Duddridge yesterday tabled a motion of no confidence against the speaker in the House of Commons, but this was widely expected to be dismissed.

_75645634_75645633

James Duddridge MP for Rochford and Southend East

Mr Duddridge said  “I’ve done this because Speaker Bercow for a long time has been overstepping the mark and with his comments on the state visit of President Trump he has clearly expressed views.”

“That is not the role of the Speaker, and it is impossible for him to chair debates as Speaker adjudicating on things he has expressed a view on.”

Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke echoed Mr Duddridge’s sentiments saying : “John Bercow has politicised the office of Speaker and his position is untenable.”

This view was not shared by his colleague Claire Perry MP, who said “I think for us to try and remove a speaker over something that he said would be really rather drastic. He’s entitled to his opinions, perhaps he just shouldn’t have addressed them on this particular issue.”

No formal dates for President Trump’s state visit to the UK have been announced, but don’t expect this to be the last potential opposition action against this most controversial of U.S Presidents.

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.

oath-1

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.

donald-trump-oath-office-620x330

Its mine, my own, my precious……..

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.”

pay-no-social-use-president-elect-donald-trump

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,”

methode%2fsundaytimes%2fprod%2fweb%2fbin%2f72aa433c-db5e-11e6-b301-d3506ecf1753

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.

nato-3_custom1

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.

resignation-2

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.

resignation-1

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.

article-50-2

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.

 

 

 

The Party Line is……….Insurrection

People often have differences of opinion, it’s a fact of life. One person says one course of action is good and another says something different. If your anything like me an argument usually ensues.

But fundamentally, differences of opinion are vital for humanity to succeed, promoting agents of change and societal progress. They provoke debate, with each person seeking to prove the legitimacy of their argument.

Politically, we’ve just had a massive debate prompted by a difference of opinion: The EU referendum. Ultimately, one side triumphed over the other and regardless of the tactics used a debate was had and settled in a vote.

The voracity of the debate polarised the UK, splitting the people in two. It was as though some great force had woken up the populous from their political slumber, provoking a furious response. Once this issue was settled, you could sense that the UK had become a more extreme place to live. This manifested itself in an upsurge in racist attacks on immigrants and online abuse of many individuals on both sides.

With so many winners and losers, it’s becoming harder in the UK to find common ground. Political opportunism is becoming the language of the day.

But what if someone decided that they didn’t like the result? Someone with the means, motive and method to effect an insurgency against this political settlement.

It sounds fantastical I know, but it all stems from a difference of opinion.

Let’s play this little scenario out, shall we?

An insurgency or coup relies on an unpopular decision being made and the popular will to oppose it. If the individuals are rebelling against a popular decision, individual or government then the coup will struggle to achieve the sort of popular support required to legitimise it because they have already lost the battle for public opinion.

Anyone planning this sort of insurgency would have to have large scale support and important allies.

The first being a prominent public figure, someone to serve as a legitimate figurehead to the insurgency. This would most likely be a politician, someone serving on the counter side to the prevailing argument and a well-respected individual.

The second important ally would be the military as they would provide the platform to create the coup, leading the insurgency and once it has achieved its objectives allowing it to stay in power.

There would have to be sufficient military support to both lead the insurgency and then to ensure its long term success, anything other than this and you risk the failure of the coup, as you saw in Turkey.

Speed of movement is essential to the success of the coup, because as soon as you trigger the process mechanisms will work against you to counter your plans almost immediately.

The awareness and preparedness of the opposing forces determines the speed of their response, an unaware opposition being ill prepared to counter and vice versa.

Only if you had a combination of these elements, would your insurgency have some fighting chance of success. But what would a practical coup in the UK look like?

Step one would have to be the securing of London. As its capital city and central hub, London is integral to the UK and would have to be captured and secured before the coup could move forward.

Securing a city like London is no mean feat and would require the cooperation of local authorities, but if these authorities are not privy to the plot, how would you ensure their compliance?

The simple answer is a phony terror plot or state of emergency. This would allow the free movement of the Army through the city under the pretext of preventing loss of life. It would mobilise the metropolitan police, keeping them busy and occupied until the principal targets had been taken.

An additional benefit of utilising the terror plot is the ability to place army personnel close to high value individuals, allowing them to use subterfuge to complete step two.

Step Two involves the capture and forced detention of the Royal family, the Prime Minister and any other high value members of parliament who are otherwise uninvolved in the coup.

By securing these individuals early on in the insurgency, the insurgents would have crucial leverage against any opposition forces that may instigate a counterinsurgency.  They could also be used for blackmail and ransoming should the insurgency fail.

Crucially, securing the Prime Minister would allow them temporary access to the nuclear launch codes that he possesses. I say temporary, because there are redundancies which prevent these from being used in the event of involuntary imprisonment or coercion (Yes, I’ve seen the movies).

Step Three would involve the securing of all the transport hubs in and out of the country, the airports, train stations, ferry ports and most importantly the Channel Tunnel. As the primary entry and exit points, they provide an escape for any high value individual fleeing the country and an entry point for any counter insurgency forces. These must be secured to avoid either eventuality, with the Channel Tunnel being the most likely candidate for destruction.

If steps one through three are achieved, then they will have gone 50% of the way to achieving their aim of taking over the UK.

The remaining 50% of this process is step four: the securing and holding of the UK.

Any individual or group in opposition to the insurgency, not captured or detained by it would immediately become a threat and must be dealt with. The wholesale detention and potentially execution of these individuals becomes a crucial part of enforcing the insurgency on the UK.

Likewise, there must be a concerted effort to prevent external interference from any foreign power, most likely the European Union, who inversely would have the most to gain from a pro-EU insurgency. The difficult thing is utilising already overstretched military forces to combat this while maintaining control of the UK as a whole.

Would the EU welcome a new regime in the UK? Ideologically no, the idea of a coup in a civilised nation such as ours is a complete antithesis to the co-operative community spirit of the EU. However in reality, the interdependency of the nation states of the EU on each other and the UK makes provision for a middle ground/areas of compromise.

This is where the second part of step four comes into play: utilising political means to provide legitimacy to the new regime, while giving the required time for it to bed in and for the people of the UK to adjust.

By providing a public face and voice to the insurgency, the insurgents stop the regime from being considered a rebellion and open up the lines of diplomacy with other nations.

It also allows for that crucial thing: Political continuity. No power vacuum, no alternative means of government just a transition between the previous government and the new. This makes it possible for the completion of step five:  Onward political progress.

I say onward political progress, because as important as it is to conduct the coup and see it done, it is just as important to reinstate the status quo as quickly as possible. The only difference being that the insurgents now sitting at the top of the pile rather than being the unheard minority.

Steps One through Three could be achieved in as little as 5 days, with the right preparation and timing.  It naturally follows that the greatest chance of success would be a coup effected at the weekend as this would maximise the chance of catching the enemy unprepared.

Steps Four and Five would take significantly longer to achieve, but are possible within six months to a year. Longer term success being down to the aforementioned populous and the stability of the new regime. A collection of disorganised and warring individuals is far more likely to collapse than a well-disciplined regime centred around a political figurehead.

At the end of the day, this is speculation and it couldn’t possibly happen in a civilised country such as the UK, could it?

I imagine that the Stuart monarchy felt the same when faced with opposition from Parliament unaware of the civil war that awaited them. Almost 400 years later we are the beneficiaries of that unexpected coup, just as the Stuarts were the casualties almost bringing to an end their short reign.  Things can change just that quickly in the world.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.