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.

The Party Line is………………..Schism

The British parliamentary system of government is a system of duality. It is a system which requires two parties to function effectively: one in government and one in opposition. The principle function of this is for one to provide an effective counterpoint to the other and vice versa. This ensures that the opposing viewpoints are aired and a consensus prevails.

When one party ceases to provide this effective counterpoint the system becomes prejudiced towards the other. In the unfortunate event of both parties ceasing to provide counterpoints to each other you inevitably see the sort of political and economic confusion that has existed over the last few weeks in the post referendum world.

With its speedy appointment of Theresa May as prime minister, the Conservative party has been the first to emerge from this land of confusion to a state of reasonable (if only perceptually) stability, allowing them to get a hold of the Brexit juggernaut and move toward a coherent exit plan.

On the other side of the aisle, the Labour party however has become embroiled in a civil war between its members of parliament and its leader Jeremy Corbyn. The only recently elected leader has found himself the subject of an attempted coup from within the Labour party. Using the pretext of Labour’s failure to effectively campaign in the EU referendum, a group of dissenting MP’s resigned and have pushed the Labour party into its second leadership contest in as many months.

A Labour member of Parliament for almost 35 years, Mr Corbyn is a man of deep conviction and an entrenched socialist, who matured in the staunchly union version of the Labour party that existed under the tenure of Neil Kinnock. He is not a man who conforms to the New Labour stereotype and was never expected to be anything but a backbencher in the young dynamic Labour party.

Yet it has been a rise as meteoric as much as it has been unexpected.

Winning a leadership election with almost 60% of the vote has given him almost unlimited carte blanche to turn the Labour party into his version of socialism and to steer it away from the Blairite version of new Labour.

The politics of new Labour and its chief architect; Tony Blair have been the prevailing political sentiment within the Labour party for the last 20 years and have shaped many of the politicians which now form the Labour parties front and back benches. It is a politics of reform and accountability.

The nascent politics of Corbynism which finds its voice in more traditionalist Labour values has moved in to replace this ideological standpoint, but New Labour is so entrenched in recent Labour philosophy will not leave without a fight.

A fight which has created the first schism in the Labour party, but a schism of their own making.

By contradicting the party zeitgeist, he has won a legion of new supporters in the party, but very few friends in Westminster.  Not every Labour party leader has been popular amongst his peers, but popularity in Parliament does not matter as much as support from within the party membership.

Indeed, by their actions, Labour party front and backbenchers cannot be called upon to offer Mr Corbyn the kind of support he needs in this second leadership contest, so he must look to other sources for assistance.

Historically, the largest and strongest support that Labour party leaders can call on comes from the Trade Union movement. An integral partner in the party since day one, prospective leaders have had to court union support to succeed in their rise to power.  They are the largest proportion of membership within the Labour party and are also its largest donor.

The candidate who can call on Trade Union support can win the leadership contest, regardless of the popularity of the other candidates as we saw when Ed Miliband famously “stabbed” his more popular brother David in the back to win the Labour leadership election in 2010. He could not have done so without the crucial support of the trade unions.

Jeremy Corbyn with his socialist background appeals to the union mentality of Labour and as such the Unions have been unswerving in their support of him, despite the attempted coup by the rest of the party.

The traditional support mechanism of the Unions has been joined by a new political group, that of the organisation known as Momentum.

Momentum, inaugurated in the wake of Mr Corbyn’s victory in 2015 is a group made up of those individuals who so vociferously campaigned for Mr Corbyn to be elected leader. It portrays itself as a unifying presence, a grassroots movement designed to strengthen the Labour party, increase its support and unify the party behind Mr Corbyn. It has a manifesto of broad social reform very much in keeping with core Labour values but remaining an independent organisation within the Labour party.

It is currently embroiled in campaigning to get more of its supporters elected to the Labour National Executive Committee, the key ruling council of the Labour party. Councillors have found themselves being supplanted by organisation members in their own constituencies and individuals within the party have been coerced into supporting Momentum’s aims.

Momentum has become extension of the Corbyn political machine, which has now dedicated itself to keeping him in power.

The Labour party is a party of communities, of organisations, of unions, which finds its strength in the politics of consensus rather than focusing itself on an individual, as Momentum does with Mr Corbyn.  A conflict between these two ideologies is inevitable as each is an anathema to the other.

It is this conflict, if unchecked that has potential to split the Labour party in two. This will undoubtedly lead to the end of the Labour party as it is known today.

This is the second schism which is rocking the foundations of the Labour party. Both threaten the core if a political settlement is not reached.

But what of those MP’s who openly rebelled against Mr Corbyn’s leadership?

If he does, as expected win the upcoming leadership election they will find their position is almost completely untenable.  If they do nothing, they will be forced out of their positions by Mr Corbyn and Momentum, but if they do choose to act they risk their entire political careers by going against the party which they represent.

There is no easy answer.

The only winners in this sort of scenario are the other main parties, who can sit around in their stability and watch as the Labour party implodes. There is potentially every chance that many of the rebel MP’s will choose to defect to parties which more closely match their views.

We could see the growth of a new political party distinct from Labour which could amalgamate with the Liberal Democrat party, a virtual non-entity since it was cast out of number 10 in 2015.

Whatever the scenario, the Labour party has a rocky road ahead of it.

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is…………Hindsight

Throughout our lives, there are times when we make the wrong decisions. We choose one course of action over another, we support one thing where another may have been the more correct point of view and we express remorse when our decisions are proven to be wrong.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing and with hindsight I would say that at the time I would never have supported the war in Iraq.

I should qualify that last statement: I supported the British government undertaking to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. I believed that it was a logical and highly justified endeavour, I mean why wouldn’t I? This was a concerted military action to remove a tyrannical despot from power and free a people from a regime of terror that claimed so many of their fellow citizens.  It would also serve to protect us from his potentially hostile intent. I refused to believe those who said that it was an illegitimate war and supported the Blair position in this area.

But 13 years and almost 300,000 deaths later, I can say unequivocally that I was wrong.

The process by which a government admits it made a mistake is a much more complicated one and is generally not legislated for in any constitution. It becomes the province of the individual politician or government to determine the legitimacy or illegitimacy of any action undertaken, they have to be seen to take responsibility for their actions both previous and current. In the continuance of this imperative, the UK government called for a public enquiry into the government’s actions in both the lead up and the aftermath of the Iraq war.

Testimony was taken, evidence analysed, reports written and a week ago the results of this enquiry were made known to the general public and more particularly to the families of those who died as a result of this war.

At 6,000 pages the report is the most detailed examination of the Iraq war to date and its publication has shown the failings and backroom politics of the Blair administration during this period.

So you might be wondering, what else is there left to say that hasn’t already been said?

While the individual truths of the conflict and the lead up to it are slowly being disclosed, the key thing that characterises both the war in Iraq and the lead up to it is failure. Failures of international systems of law and governance and failures of the political process in the UK.

The Prime Minister of the time, Tony Blair has become a scapegoat for the systemic failures that allowed the war in Iraq to take place in the first place. If these systems had been as robust as is intended and portrayed, then war would have been impossible. Any concerted action by the Prime Minister with such a course in mind should have been checked at once by the cabinet, the party and the people of the UK. It was not, and the actions that Tony Blair undertook to force the country to war qualify as an abuse of executive power.

In his eagerness to support our American allies, he became blind to the severely questionable legality of invading a country which posed no immediate threat to the United Kingdom. The intelligence and security services failed to produce significant evidence of any so-called “weapons of mass destruction” and the case for invasion was a fudged coalition of half-truths, presented to the British people as concrete facts.

That is not to say that there was not significant opposition to the potential invasion of Iraq. Four senior ministers within the cabinet publicly voiced their opposition and were forced to resign. Public protests were widespread in both the UK and the US and many of our international partners voiced their opposition in the EU and in the United Nations.

Mr Blair conducted secret meetings with individuals outside of the regular parliamentary system, ignoring political procedure when it suited his aims. Political pressure was brought to bear on members of parliament, by both whip and lobby to force them to vote in the affirmative for war.

This absence of cabinet legitimacy prevented the instruments of government being used effectively once the decision to go to war was taken. As a direct result of this failure to utilise effective government our troops went into the war without the tools to effectively wage it, which contributed to the high number of service deaths in the conflict. Indeed, once the war ended, this failure to use government prevented the ability to produce a coherent strategy for the post war environment, allowing the Bush administration to pursue its damaging policy of complete structural destruction of the Iraqi system of government.

A country should at its heart, not plan for war and should exercise all possible actions to avoid this through diplomatic means. It is impossible to talk about the diplomatic methods to avoid war without addressing the chief diplomatic body of the time: The United Nations.

An organisation of mutual collaboration, designed to provide a check to the dictatorial and despotic ambitions of member countries as the previous League of Nations failed to do. In this endeavour it utterly failed to provide a significant check against the invasion ambitions of the US and UK. Its resolutions, while well-meaning were completely ignored when it suited the Bush administration and by proxy the Blair government. It should have pressed the member nations to exert political pressure on the US and UK and backed it up with the prospect of sanctions, both pre and post invasion. The gesture of placing Weapons inspectors in Iraq was a token one and achieved absolutely nothing but prolonging the period before war was declared regardless.

All efforts at diplomacy failed, but realistically was there any chance of them succeeding at all? Old animosities from the previous Iraq conflict, coupled with the American desire to fight back at the so-called “Axis of Evil” made the chances of a peaceful diplomatic solution very slim.

The American people, shocked out of their isolation by their biggest tragedy since Pearl Harbour in 9/11 can be somewhat forgiven for having an appetite for revenge. The American congress, however cannot be forgiven for allowing President Bush to pursue this agenda without a clear plan for the aftermath and for allowing their intelligence agencies to manipulate intelligence to suit a flimsy case.

An American politician advocating peaceful solutions at this time would like their UK counterparts be shouted down albeit more vociferously by their own people. In the aftermath of the war, the public opinion changed dramatically, as the US Army and its government became bogged down in the quagmire.

The failure to clearly plan for the aftermath of the War and the rush to utterly destroy the existing political structures of Iraq created the power vacuum and ultimately created the conditions for the Islamic State movement to exist. This is the greatest failure of the war in Iraq and has contributed to many more deaths and terrorist acts over the years following the cessation of operations.

The civilian enquiry into the War in Iraq should be applauded for both being thorough and unequivocal in its judgments, but such a mechanism should be in place in the constitution of this country and should not have to rely on civilian oversight. The problem with this, particularly in the UK is that Parliament is essentially the presence of the Crown in politics and as such cannot be seen to be wrong.

The weight of evidence, high number of deaths and obvious manipulation of government necessitates the need for strong political changes in this area. These changes must occur not just in the UK but in both the United States and the United Nations.

What can we do in the UK to prevent such a situation occurring in the future?

Changes in legislation to ensure that a Prime Minister cannot operate independently of his cabinet, the introduction of large-scale political engagement in the war making process be it from the populous or ministers independent of cabinet and party and the reintroduction of the historic practice of impeachment for those who flout constitutional law.

Additionally, we have to create a mechanism where civilian oversight in both foreign policy and the practice of war making becomes a legitimate function of government. Abuses of executive power should be documented and prevented via legislation and judicial restraints. It should not take a public outcry for these things to come to light, it should be parliamentary practice to review.

We have to create a climate where making war truly becomes a last resort and is conducted as a legitimate constitutional act, controlled by parliament and with the full consent of the people. I do accept that there are always situations where wars do not conform to these sorts of absolute aims, but by maintaining these absolute maxims and conditions we can more effectively manage the hardest duty of any government: declaring war.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is…………..Accelerated Politics

On Thursday night, Andrea Leadsom could have been excused for feeling over the moon. She had just defeated her Brexit colleague Michael Gove in the second round of the Tory leadership contest and just one individual stood between her and the top job in British politics. It was a meteoric rise for her and on Friday it became an equally meteoric fall when she learned the first rule of British politics: Never fall afoul of the British Media. In an uncensored newspaper interview, she single-handedly took a wrecking ball to her political chances in the biggest self-inflicted gaffe since Gerald Ratner’s famous “It’s all crap” speech of the 1980’s.

That inexperienced mistake has led to a weekend of ultimately futile firefighting in which she attempted to defend her position and qualify her largely off the cuff remarks. It was a fight she would eventually lose, as was proven when she exhaustedly conceded defeat. This left the remaining candidate and current Home Secretary, Theresa May unopposed and the de facto winner of the leadership election.

In succeeding Prime Minister David Cameron, Theresa May has been given a strong mandate by her colleagues to take the Conservative party forward into the next phase of its political life. Despite this legitimacy, she lacks the crucial additional component for any political leader, a strong mandate from the people. Should she come into Number 10 on Wednesday, she will do so as an unelected leader and will immediately come under strong pressure to call an election to obtain the mandate she lacks.

Great care must be taken in when this election is called as the UK remains at a tenuous stage in its post referendum state. An early election could be a step too far and would increase the climate of general uncertainty pervading the financial markets, but by the same token an election called too late would push the question of the legitimacy of her government to the fore. A suggestion could be made for an election in May next year when the current tribulations may be more settled.

Ms May faces division in both society and her own party and should immediately seek to unify both in common cause. She will face a fractured opposition in the Labour party and a strong one in the Scottish Nationalist Party, newly emboldened by its remain vote will both seek to undermine her premiership from day one.

She will face a strong adversary in the European Union, but an adversary that could turn into a strong ally as she will be free of the vitriol that pervaded so many of the Brexit candidates. In being a politician who voted to remain in the EU, she will come into this job being handed the reins to make the Brexit result a reality. Being a prominent member of the Cameron government, she will know the players in the game but she will be playing it at a whole new level and it will be a sharp learning curve for the vicar’s daughter from Eastbourne.

In the opinion of this writer, Theresa May was the best candidate for the job and represents a crucial compromise between those who voted to leave the EU and those who voted to remain. I hope that this compromise and her premiership signals a new era in British politics, where a more positive, optimistic viewpoint is promoted and enshrined in the newly EU-less Britain.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is………Open Season

The political campaigns of both sides of the European Union referendum debate used increasingly low methods to achieve their objectives, to the point where the referendum became a very ugly campaign.  Party divisions were magnified, mud was slung and no subject was untouched in the rush to win the vote.

Now that the referendum has been settled, the British public can be forgiven for expecting the frantic politics to stop and for everyone involved to take a breath.

Unfortunately, the divisiveness of the campaign and its subsequent fallout has infected each of the two main political parties, prompting a positively Shakespearean world where political loyalties are cheaper than House of Commons toilet paper and everyone is fair game.

It is a world of power broking, sudden political shifts and betrayal. It is a world of kingmakers and fall guys with backroom dealing becoming the practical exercise of political power. This is a world seldom seen by the ordinary voter and often only alluded to in the press but it exists just below the surface of political society.

In the aftermath of the referendum this hidden world has been thrust into daylight for all to see with the fall of the Cameron premiership.

In a scene reminiscent of Julius Caesar, Michael Gove has like Brutus betrayed his Brexit campaign brother in arms Boris Johnson publicly and finally. With one motion the Justice Secretary has seemingly dealt a fatal blow to the Prime Ministerial ambitions and political career of Boris Johnson.

However, like Brutus at Philippi, he will not be able to enjoy his victory as the perceived betrayal will not engender him to the Conservative hierarchy and membership. So Boris Johnson may have the last laugh as Gove becomes gradually ostracised from his own party.

Despite suggestions that the field of candidates be drawn directly from those who campaigned for Brexit, the defeated remainers were able to field three main candidates: Stephen Crabbe, Theresa May and Liam Fox.

Crabbe’s inexperience and status as an unknown quantity has led to his early withdrawal from the contest, but he remains a candidate for the future and could potentially form part of the new Prime Minister’s cabinet.

May remains a strong figure within the Conservative party and has garnered strong support from Ministers and backbench MP’s since she declared her candidacy last week. She has come into this campaign with a good record as Home Secretary and is the candidate to beat. It remains to be seen if she will survive the new climate of backroom alliances and skullduggery, but she stands a very good chance of succeeding Cameron if she does.

Although Liam Fox is an experienced political operator, he’s also been forced to withdraw early from the contest due to lack of support within the party. He has been keen to support Theresa May and will like Crabbe, look to be involved within her cabinet should she be elected.

With the excommunication of Gove and the demise of Johnson, Andrea Leadsom has moved forward as the only Brexit campaigner present since day one. A popular figure during the campaigns and debates, she should command a strong vote from the Brexit contingent of the Conservative party. That vote may not be enough in the contest against such a strong opposition figure as Theresa May.

Any prospective leader of the Conservative party must have a strong beneficial presence in the media, because the media is the most powerful tool to aid the success or failure of the candidate in the leadership contest and afterward in their government. The principle individual to negotiate with in this instance is Rupert Murdoch, owner of two of the UK’s biggest newspapers The Sun and The Times.  Candidates must have his support be it covertly or publicly, but great care must be taken in obtaining this support as Mr Murdoch has had a very fractured relationship with both the British public and political classes. That being said, an endorsement of this sort would carry great weight in the days to come.

While the travails affecting the Conservative party have been aired publicly, the problems within the Labour party have largely been confined to private infighting. Mass resignations have rendered the shadow cabinet a shadow of its former self and severely affected its ability to function as a political opposition.

These resignations and the subsequent activity in the media by those who have resigned have at their heart one aim: the removal of Jeremy Corbyn from his post as party leader. Many of these individuals were unhappy with the appointment of Corbyn as leader, but could not be seen to air their distaste for his appointment due to the groundswell of support from ordinary party members and the trade unions.

Using Labour’s lack of definite activity in the referendum as a catalyst, these individuals have finally found a platform on which they can attack Mr Corbyn’s leadership with any certainty of success, staging a coup d’état against him. The party has conducted a vote of no confidence, (the traditional signal for a candidate to resign) which he soundly lost. Perceptually Corbyn’s position as leader is becoming more and more untenable by the day.

But like a barnacle on the hull of a ship, Jeremy Corbyn remains unmovable because of two key elements: the aforementioned popular support of the ordinary party members (numbering almost 200,000) and the support of the largest trade union in the UK: Unite and its chief Len McCluskey.

The trade unions, being the kingmakers of the Labour party remain its strongest constituent part and as recent history has shown, if you have the support of the unions you get to be leader. In this fractured environment, McCluskey’s unwavering support of Corbyn remains his greatest political weapon, which he can wield to crush any opposition from within the party.  If the support disappears, Mr Corbyn will undoubtedly be cast into the political wilderness.

This sort of dog eat dog environment can challenge even the stoutest of political heart and doesn’t exude an image of trustworthiness to the average voting age individual. The candidate who emerges from this sort of contest will undoubtedly face even tougher challenges as they step up to the top job in their respective party.

However, in a world where a media mogul can change the destiny of an incumbent government with a few well-placed stories or a union leader can push an entire body of workers to favour one candidate over another, it is important to stay ahead of the game, otherwise you risk becoming the next casualty of the great political turkey shoot.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is……….Exit Strategy

We came, we saw, we voted and we left.  In the tumult of the hours that followed the result, that decision was cross-examined with the voraciousness of a person questioning his identity. Had we changed so much? Had we been so eager to leave that we had become something dark and twisted? What was next for us?

There can be no doubt, last Thursday’s vote was a watershed moment in British politics as despite all the warnings and trepidation, we voted to leave an organisation that had been an integral part of the British political system for the last 40 years.

It seemed that the decision took everyone by surprise, not least the voters who took to social media to express their disbelief, their dissatisfaction and their anger. The enfranchised but largely absent younger generation accused the older generation of robbing them of their future and their elders accused them of seeking to preserve the status quo at the expense of British sovereignty.

Division and infighting was not limited to the voters, as the politicians of all parties dissolved into factions and threw many of their colleagues to the press wolves. As the strongest advocate of the remain argument, the first casualty was Prime Minister Cameron albeit with a proviso to leave in October. Sensing opportunity, dissatisfied Labour MP’s have launched an abortive coup attempt against their leader Jeremy Corbyn and it seems that before long he will have to defend his administration from a rival within the party.

Amidst all the shock, political infighting and market uncertainty, the principal problem of delivering on the exit vote moved from an afterthought to the prime concern of the UK Government. Despite all the contingency planning, there is still a lot to do before the UK can officially leave the European Union.

A coherent plan and resulting legislatory changes are required before the UK can activate Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. Committees are currently being drawn up to make such a plan a legal reality.

David Cameron, in moving quickly to resign his premiership has made one of the shrewdest political moves of his career. In making this move, he both physically abdicates responsibility for the next phase in the exit while at the same time perceptually abdicating responsibility for its potential failure and after effects.

The Brexiteers, newly legitimized by the vote are now the frontrunners to administer the new process as their dissenting voices now become the perceived democratic voice of the nation. They now have the burden of making the vote a reality placed upon their shoulders. The earliest indications seem to be that they were so unprepared for the prospect of winning the referendum vote that they didn’t feel it necessary to plan for the eventuality.  The centrist politicians within the campaign who have campaigned hard over the months are now losing political ground every day by not presenting the next stage in the process to the British people.

The only one still speaking is the right-wing leader of UKIP Nigel Farage, emboldened by both the vindication of his parties’ core aim and the prospect of now losing his job has taken the opportunity to vociferously attack the EU in speeches and prose. As the only one speaking from the campaign he devalues the legitimacy of the moderate Brexit argument with his right wing barracking of the EU.

The longer he continues to act without censure, the more the leaders of the EU are likely to make our exit harder. Moderate voices must act and show the EU that the British people are not a bunch of anti- EU zealots.

These moderate voices now have their own problems, in the forthcoming Conservative leadership contest with each member of the Brexit campaign now vying for a seat at the top table.  One may win, or none may win as the party could vote to select a candidate independent of the campaign to administer the next stage in the process and carry the UK forward alone.

The problem now is that the resignation of the Prime Minister and his commitment not to activate article 50 of the treaty of Lisbon have placed the next stage in the process on hold for the next four months. Europe cannot push us out and likewise we cannot see what the consequences of the result are. It is a quandary which creates a lot of uncertainty in both political society and financial markets.

Our former European partners also fall victim to this quandary, as continued UK presence within the EU makes it a poisoned partnership and drags the other nations into our uncertainty.  The EU cannot afford to keep us in but they also cannot be seen to accelerate our exit as it would give other dissenting nations the opportunity to voice their own concerns about the European experiment.

A nation reluctant to move quickly to the exit door and an entity motivated to move them out as quickly as possible with undoubtedly come into conflict. With the exit process taking potentially up to two years, European haste and British reluctance to proceed without a coherent plan will continue to make the environment of the EU a very uncertain place.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is…………Decision time

Friday’s Britain will be a very different place to Thursday’s one. The political shockwave will reverberate around the UK and the corridors of power in Europe, it will be a watershed moment in British politics as the nation decides its own destiny.

In or Out? Are decisions rarely ever that simple?

We claw at the truth of each argument like a man in the dark searching for a light switch, groping anything in search of illumination. It is an old struggle that the political establishment in Britain have been keen to maintain as it keeps them in power.

Every individual of voting age in the UK needs to make their own selective judgment on this issue and right or wrong, at least their vote will be theirs and not the politicians or the doomsayers.

I say doomsayers, because regardless of their politics there have been prophets of doom on both sides preaching Armageddon both social and economic. Leaving or remaining in the EU was always going to be a leap in the dark and as such it has brought out those previously unseen divisions in Britain’s political and social structures.

Understanding should be at the heart of every political debate, except this one. This referendum is all about one thing and one thing only: emotion. We are at our heart, emotional beings with clearly defined boundaries and precepts, we know what is right for us and what is wrong for us and by appealing to our emotions the political parties in this campaign bring these precepts to the fore.

What sort of place do you want Britain to be? Do you want to stay in the EU or do you want to leave it? These are the issues at the heart of the debate and they are deeply emotional questions.

The problem is that decisions made purely on emotion are not always the best decisions. However in the clamour for your vote, the rival campaigns have lost the ability to win the argument through legitimate means and can now only win points by emotion. That is not to say that we have not been bombarded by arguments, statistics and estimates to the point where we are saturated by them.

I’m not here to continue this trend, I wouldn’t know where to start and wouldn’t presume to judge your feelings or predisposition on the EU. Do I need to? If you’re anything like me you’ve probably already made up your mind on which way you will vote.

You are reading my blog, so I assume you want to know my view and over the past few months I’ve expressed my feelings on the referendum, how it’s been conducted and the fundamental arguments involved.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

Today I can confirm that I will be voting for the UK to leave the European Union.

Now that the shock of this knowledge has sunk in, I’ll explain why.

In any scientific experiment there are things that work and things that don’t. If the things that work outweigh the things that don’t the experiment succeeds and vice versa. The weight of either determines the success of failure of the experiment. The EU is an experiment in political and fiscal union.

While the EU started out as an experiment that worked, the number of adaptations made to it over the years as it has expanded has stopped it functioning as a viable political entity. It is a clunky inefficient organisation that does not exercise its political authority in a manner which benefits all. If it did, there would be no discord and federal union would be a practical reality.

Of course the central tenets of free movement and integration between countries are worthwhile goals, we live in a globalized world and co-operation helps achieve the highest of human goals, but these tenets must be executed correctly and in a manner that benefits all.

Citizens must be able to say to their leaders “your approach is not working, try something different” without fear of being labelled reactionary or as some have called Brexiters racist. Legitimate concerns have been raised and without practical redress, risk the whole structure of democracy in our country.

Claims, Suppositions and Estimates have been bandied around as facts and words like could, should and may have become ever more frequent words in the political lexicon. Saying that we should not undertake a course of action because of a fear of the consequences of what may happen is no argument. If I didn’t do things because I feared what may happen I wouldn’t do very much at all. I am are aware of both the risks of both leaving and remaining but neither will stop me from choosing what I believe to be correct.

I will make an important point here: I believe in the idea of the European Union, but the idea has been practised incorrectly in my view and is need of serious reform.  The problem is that the European Union is seemingly unwilling to embrace the need to reform its political structures, its reluctant to say that its wrong. Mr Cameron’s failed attempts to obtain a deal with the EU that was in the best interests of Britain is the best evidence of this failure to change.

We need a consensus in the EU for practical reform, but any such consensus is being overwhelmed by the actions of the larger economic powers within the organisation: France and Germany. Both of these nations have become so blinkered, so focussed on EU integration that they have lost sight of the fundamental precept of the Union: the idea of community.

Don’t get me wrong, we could stay in and try to effect real change from within the Union, but such a change has to be in our national interest otherwise why bother. All signs point to a similar reluctance to change as highlighted earlier and I believe that any attempt to reform the EU will be widely opposed and shouted down. I honestly believe that a vote to remain on Thursday will not be the end of the debate and this issue will continue to rear its head in the politics of the next 50 years.

Who knows? A decision to leave the EU on Thursday may prompt a seismic shift in the politics of the Union, shocking it out of apathy and into practical action. If this occurs and the resultant Union reform is successful, I will be the first to campaign for Britain’s return to this organisation.

All political schisms are fraught with uncertainty, no decision is without risk both short and long-term.  I am of the firm belief that when something is important to you, you do it regardless of the risks involved and Britain’s future is important to me. I want to see this country prosper and find its place in the world. I want us to become the Great Britain that I’ve always read about in the history books, becoming a greater world power and force for good.

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© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is………..Fear

Like it or not, we live in a world which is shaped by politics. We may not see it or come into direct contact with it, but it is always there lingering in the background of our lives.  When we receive our pay packets we are experiencing politics, when we shop at a supermarket we are experiencing politics and by simply existing in society we experience politics.

It is a beneficial relationship to both the individual and the society they live in, as both receive compensation for their contribution. A relationship which starts as beneficial will not always be so, as times change and society and the politics that govern it evolve. Relationships can often become toxic to both, with both individual and society changing radically. Toxicity to this relationship can often start with the smallest of changes to the political structures or outlooks.

The implied relationship between individuals detailed above leaves both vulnerable to the politics of fear. For example, politicians can be forced to bow to political pressure to avoid losing their constituencies and people present in society can be forced to change their political views for fear of losing something of value to them.

A toxic symptom is currently finding fruit in British politics: the usage of fear as a political tool. It is a tool that is being used extensively in the current EU referendum campaign.

I do not apply a partisan view to this statement, both campaigns are using this as practical political process. Only their implementation differs.

Britain has long been an unconquered nation in Europe. While other nations have been occupied and subjugated, most notably in World War Two, Britain has stood apart. This idea has taken root in the public consciousness and manifests itself in the belief that Britain should continue to remain separate. It exists in notions of empire and history, but in the modern age it has become a focus for anti-integrationist sentiment. Politically, successive governments have encountered opposition to proposed greater integration with the EU and this trend will in all likelihood continue, due to this fundamental idea being entrenched in British culture.

The prominent assertion is that British sovereignty should not be surrendered. It is this assertion that The Brexiter’s have exploited in their campaigning, claiming that the EU is steadily eroding British sovereignty and that this erosion, coupled with rising immigration from the EU is destroying Britain’s ability to exist as a country maintaining its own cultural heritage and perceived position as a world power.

This loss of sovereignty may have some basis in fact, particularly as governmental policy is increasingly becoming influenced by Europe, then again it may not.

The Remain campaign, frustrated at losing the immigration argument has pushed the emphasis of their campaign towards what the British people would lose if they were to leave the EU.

Legitimate statistics and estimates have become the ammunition of both campaigns, with The Remain’s economic arguments employing the more direct usage of fear. Bringing the cost of exiting the EU to a household level may have won them more votes than attacking immigration but it should be remembered that at the heart of the matter these numbers are estimates only. The actuality of cost to each family and to the country as a whole is not known with any degree of certainty, beyond the immediate future.

By the same token, Brexiter’s have quoted migration and financial statistics slanted towards two clear points: Migration will increase to uncontrollable levels and we are giving more to the EU than we are getting back. It is an approach that likewise gains votes but engenders fearful sentiment.

The campaigns have been supported in their usage of fear by an increasingly partisan press, eager to increase circulations and consequently revenue. Scare stories appear in the media on a daily basis, with different institutions taking contrasting viewpoints on the debate. The key thing that seems to be missing is clear objectivity. Although it may seem that they take a moderate view, the media coverage is increasingly one way or the other, depending on who funds their organisations.

The EU referendum is at its heart a debate and in any debate it is the persuasiveness of the argument that determines the winner. Although the campaign started out as a debate, it has increasingly become a contest of fear mongering. Politics should be about winning the argument using persuasive and ultimately right expression, not about using statistics and statements to make people afraid to exert their political opinion.

As negativity and fear in political campaigning becomes political currency, legitimate debate becomes less and less important. A climate of fear mongering challenges the long-term stability of political societies, leaving it vulnerable to extremist views. It vicariously endangers those freedoms to which we all depend: It must be stopped.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Tax Files- The Truth is (finally) out there

A conspiracy to cover up a truth, a truth reaching into the lives of every man, woman and child on this planet with key players at all levels of government and business: the truth about the existence of extra-terrestrials.  It sounds fantastical at first, that such a wide ranging conspiracy could exist in the world, but such a conspiracy does exist with its truth being of financial origins rather than extra-terrestrial ones.  It relies on silence being maintained and a careful balance of legality and discretion, its players keen to keep it that way.

But the silence is over and the truth is out. In the biggest ever leak of confidential documentation since the embassy cable leak of 2010: 11.5 million tax and financial documents have been passed to the German paper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The documents come from one source, the Panamanian legal firm Mossack Fonseca. This firm administers wealth and sets up legitimate companies in offshore tax jurisdictions, operating in over 42 countries including the popular tax havens of Switzerland, Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands.

The ICIJ has spent the last six months sifting through the massive amounts of documentation but the revelations from the files investigated so far have been explosive.  Current and former heads of state, prominent businessmen, senior politicians, heads of committees and organisations have been implicated.

The highest profile individuals implicated include Vladimir Putin, the Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the president of Ukraine Petro Porshenko and the Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson (who has been forced to resign his position as a result of these revelations).  However the list of individuals implicated grows by the day.

We can expect strong denials from the implicated, a raft of resignations and the suppression of all utterances of the story in the more extreme governments like Russia and China.  The damage done will vary on the party or persons being implicated.

The obvious question is, how long has this been going on?

It is highly likely that this has been going on for many years, as a succession of individuals from the past and present have successfully moved money free of tax to these tax havens , keeping it out of the hands of the international tax system.

The worrying thing is, it’s totally legal and above board.

A tax haven is a country where certain taxes are collected at a reduced rate or not at all. These countries operate in an environment of total financial secrecy. Individuals and organisations can be assured of total discretion and secrecy in investments and companies which are incorporated in these locations often pay little or no tax. Financial services organisations (like Mossack Fonseca) exist in these countries to help individuals circumvent the payment of things like income tax or corporation tax.

What can the British government do to combat this?

As I confirmed previously, using tax havens in this fashion is completely legal, no laws have been broken it is just the exploitation of loopholes in existing legislation.  There is however a moral and ethical illegality, it is not right for these individuals or organisations to exploit laws to deprive countries and governments of legitimate tax revenue.

Closing the tax laws for everyone would ultimately prove to be counterproductive and would involve the re-writing of hundreds of laws and treaties to close the loopholes at potentially high cost.  There is also no guarantee that this would solve the problem, as new loopholes may be found by those multinational organisations whose finances allow for the recruitment of individuals who can examine tax law. This allows these organisations to continue and become richer.

The British Government can instead exercise the moral imperative with itself in the same way that it did with the governmental expenses scandal.  The records of any MP or member of the House of Lords implicated should be published and there should be significant political pressure for that individual to close down these financial instruments and make reparation to the Inland Revenue.  The house can then preclude any future instances by writing a constitutional code requiring the declaration of any and all offshore investments or prohibit the investment of any MP/ Lords money into offshore tax avoidance financial instruments.

The laws of incorporation of UK businesses are far simpler and less prone to loopholes. It is there that the UK government can make the legislatory changes which will enable it to make headway in solving this issue.

Many of the tax havens of the world are former British crown dependencies and overseas territories.  Unable to exert direct pressure on these governments, they can use the existing association of the Commonwealth to force these countries to exercise greater financial responsibility and increased taxation.

By highlighting and addressing its error in this matter, the British government can show the world that it is a transparent, morally and ethically sound government. It can say to the world: do as we do. Though it may not change anything, it is important that we act in a just, fair and transparent way.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.