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“The Band Begins to Play, My Boys”

I’m afraid I can’t do anything but flinch when members of the UK’s present Government wax lyrical about our suddenly “wonderful” NHS. Pass the sick bucket.

(Especially egregious was the spectacle of Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak applauding outside 10 Downing Street. A derisory photo-op if ever I saw one.)

This is the same NHS they cynically used to win a referendum on false pretences, that their political persuasion has been denigrating at every opportunity for almost as long as I can remember and that their Political Party has been deliberately running down for the past ten years in preparation for saying that it’s broken and must be sold off. Run down and underequipped so much that it’s not now in the state it could have been to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Their attitude irresistibly reminds me of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, Tommy:-

O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
But it’s, “Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s, “Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play.

The World Turned Upside Down

We were in the Northeast of England last week. We visited Tynemouth, Durham, Bishop Auckland and Sunderland.

Tynemouth was reasonably prosperous looking, quite a few eateries and with a bustling Saturday market, Durham was busy, as you would expect from a Cathedral city. Sunderland was a typical city – in its centre anyway. (I did pass the Stadium of Light but it was in the dark.)

The attraction of Bishop Auckland was the recently refurbished Auckland Palace/Auckland Castle former home of the Prince Bishops of Durham. As part of the entry ticket we were able also to enter both Auckland Tower centrepiece of the Auckland Project (though the tower itself was closed due to high winds) and the excellent Mining Art Gallery just over the road from the tower.

The town itself though was deserted (well, it was a Sunday in England) and very run-down in appearance, empty shops prominent.

I can therefore see why the locals might want change but how on Earth they think voting Conservative will in any way improve their lot is beyond me.

The Tories’ track record in aiding the working person is poor to say the least. And for a former mining area to vote Conservative is an act either of outstanding forgetfulness – or remarkable forgiveness. This truly is a topsy-turvy age.

If I go back in five years’ time I very much doubt the town’s fortunes will have recovered.

By that time we may also have witnessed the NHS even more in hock to private provision (if not sold totally down the river,) judges neutered, Channel 4 and Ofcom eviscerated, the BBC dismantled, Parliamentary constituency boundaries redrawn to favour the Tories even more and voters without photo ID disenfranchised. Not to mention the rise of the cult of Alexander de Pfeffel.

Is all that really what the inhabitants of Bishop Auckland and its neighbouring towns desire?

There’s also a clash of mandates with respect to Scottish independence to resolve. Or not, as the case may be.

And a one-sided trade deal with the US to endure.

Plus I’ve not even touched on the EU negotiations which might still be going on.

What’s to like?

Unpresidented Election

You may be aware the UK is in the middle of a General Election campaign. It is possibly the most important of my lifetime and one which has the potential of embedding a harrowing future.

In that context the following is quite trivial, but it still annoyed me.

I have only received one leaflet so far – from the Labour Party. While it does show photographs of the local candidate and Labour’s Scottish leader there is absolutely no sign nor mention within it of the UK leader, one Jeremy Corbyn.

It also has three linguistic irritations.*

1:- “Only the Labour Party will bring unpresidented investment into the UK.”

I suppose there is an outside possibility that this is a reference to T Ronald Dump’s intentions towards the UK and its NHS in any negotiations of a trade deal after Brexit. More likely that view is too generous and it is in fact a malapropism.

2:- “A Labour Government through their Green Industrial Revolution policy…”

Now, the word ‘Government’ can be a noun of multitude (which would take a plural pronoun) and I accept that this is the way in which most people use the word nowadays.

However, in this case it refers to the Government as a whole and not as a collective and so requires a singular pronoun, ‘its’.

3:- “the fact they have not recuited or trained enough staff.”

Recuited? (Recruited, please.)

I hope the literacy (and/or proofreading) standards of any other campaign leaflets I receive in this election will be somewhat higher than this.

Or is that expecting too much?

*Edited to add: Make that four. By the time I’d come round to compiling the post I’d forgotten the leaflet also spelled truly as truely.

A Rabbit Hole

Words fail me.

We stagger on from one absurdity to another.

Can someone tell me how sending an unsigned letter corresponds to complying with a law that says a letter must be sent? After all, if you sent an unsigned cheque through the post it has no legal standing.

Not only is he a blustering buffoon (posts passim) Alexander de Pfeffel Johnson is utterly childish. This behaviour is just one big, “Yah boo sucks,” to Parliament, to which he is now in contempt of. (Not to mention contempt of the law itself and the Queen who signed it.)

Any claim that the UK once had to being a serious country is now lying shattered on the ground. It’s not even a banana monarchy now.

What year was it the world fell down a rabbit hole.

Surrender? Humbug!

Yesterday I also missed this live.

The blustering buffoon calling the act to ensure that the UK doesn’t leave the EU without a deal a “betrayal” and a “surrender.”

Well, Mr Johnson. I wasn’t aware that the UK was at war with the EU. If there was a declaration of such a war I must have missed it.

If war has not indeed been declared then there is no possibility of surrender so your words are nonsensical. (Not that that is anything new coming from your mouth. It’s like the old joke. How do you know when Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is lying?)

Then there is his dismissal of the receipt of death threats by female (and other) members of Parliament being encouraged by his use of language. Describing concerns over these threats as “humbug” is utterly reprehensible.

If he had any self-awareness, any sense of shame, he would resign. Then again if he had a shred of those he would never have tried to enter Parliament nor attempt to become Prime Minister.

Whatever else he is he is certainly not the UK’s saviour. Under his premiership we are in greater danger than ever of being driven into an abyss. I hope Conservative MPs of a reflective stamp quickly realise what a mistake they have made in acquiescing to his rise – and act accordingly.

On past form, fat chance.

Outrageous Disgrace

Did my ears deceive me?

I wasn’t listening live but I caught a news bulletin on the radio yesterday in which Attorney General Sir Geoffrey Cox MP called “this Parliament” “a disgrace.”

An Attorney General – an Attorney General, the UK’s top Legal Official (not top legal authority as this week’s events showed,) called the supreme law making body in the land a disgrace?

It appears my ears did not deceive.

As I wasn’t listening live I have no idea if the Speaker of the House admonished him for this but in my opinion he certainly ought to have.

Parliament is the bedrock of UK democracy. For anyone – but most egregiously for a person holding high office – to call it a disgrace is outrageous. Both Mr Cox and the person for whom he was fronting ie the blustering buffoon, one Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, are using unwise and dangerous language. Perhaps, even if their project manages to succeed in their terms, they ought to reflect that, in time, it may come back to haunt them. Once standards have fallen, once the language of contempt for any opposition has been embraced, it can be very difficult to restore civilised behaviour.

Messrs Cox and Johnson, be careful what you wish for.

Core Values?

In yesterday’s Guardian G2 there was a wonderful scathing article written by the US born comedian Rich Hall dealing with recent events in his home country.

In it he satirises the US penchant for owning, and using on each other, firearms.

A striking sentence concerns the number of terrorist-related deaths carried out by people from the seven countries subject to the, now legally suspended at least till appeal, ban on entry to the US.

That number?

Zero.

(Though Hall does balance this by saying there have been three – thwarted – attacks using knives.)

I don’t suppose such satirising of what Hall characterises as the US core value of gun crime will change anyone’s mind, though.

Stop the World: I Want to Get Off

“Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.

“I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.

“I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country” – Donald Trump.

“We will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us.

“The Government I lead will be driven, not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours” – Theresa May.

“Where there is discord may we bring harmony” – Margaret Thatcher.

Well; the last of these three didn’t work out well.

I don’t expect the first two to do so either.

Mr Irresponsible Just Can’t Help Himself

Not content with all his other serial idiocies culminating in being reckless with the UK’s future and then walking away from the resultant mess I today heard on the news that the man this blog knows as Mr Irresponsible, aka former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, is to resign his parliamentary seat.

He can’t even be bothered to give another four years commitment to constituents who were reasonably entitled to expect he would serve out his term till the next General Election. (The reasons he advanced for his decision were entirely spurious by the way. It is perfectly possible for him to be a back-bench MP and not cause the Government any bother at all.)

I would hope the good citizens of Witney give his party a bloody nose at the consequent by-election for being troubled totally unneccessarily but of course they won’t.

No doubt he has a very lucrative job (more likely jobs plural) or even sinecures lined up with some of the people and organisations whose interests he favoured while in office. To them I say; take care. He’ll mess those up just like everything else he has touched. I hope you come to regret it. He certainly won’t.

What is Occurring, Terence?

The title of this post is, of course, taken from the TV series Minder, George Cole‘s signature role.

It is however the only appropriate phrase with which to greet the latest news from the soap opera that British politics has become. Yea, verily; Angela Leadsom – it seems only two seconds after anyone first came to hear of her – has abandoned her attempt to become Prime Minister.

So, not only is the architect of the catastrophe, Mr Irreponsible, quitting, his main nemesis been shown up for the buffoon he is and betrayed, his assassin defeated, and one of the last two standing has weaselled out (which is entirely in keeping with the way she weaselled in.)

Who leaned on her? Is Angela Leadsom really so thin-skinned that she cannot take criticism of a statement she made – on tape – to a journalist? Why has she suddenly decided she is no longer the person most suited to run the country? She seemed confident enough about her abilities a week or so ago.

This is the sound of the Tory party closing ranks, partly to presume upon Labour’s disarray, partly because it is just what Tories do. They can be ruthless in cleaving to what they see as their advantage. Its members may feel cheated of their chance to give their input but I suspect the Tory grandees have never been too keen on democracy – even democracy within the party – and may always have been looking for a way to engineer the result they wanted.

But…. To look at it another way it is actually a coup d’état. The Government has been removed and will be replaced with another, another that is liable to propel the UK even further rightwards, make it even more divided, even less fair, even more prepared to kowtow to the barons of the Press and their agenda, even less likely to address the concerns of those whose votes were suborned in order to enable it, even more likely to eviscerate – and even dismantle – the NHS and the BBC.

She may possibly have been the lesser of two evils but if the answer is Theresa May what the hell was the question?

And note, the wider electorate has been totally excluded from all this. I very much doubt there will be a General Election to sanction the change of government and due to the Fixed Parliament Act our new Prime Minister will have four years to do more or less as she wills. Her government’s majority of 12 in the House of Commons will not see serious inroads, unless there are by-elections. Tories, without the bee of the EU in their bonnets, won’t want to upset the apple cart.

On a happier note, congratulations to Andy Murray on winning Wimbledon for a second time. A thoroughly professional, accomplished performance.

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