Turkeys Voting for Christmas

Many people will have views about how the result of the 2019 General Election came about. Pundits will be trawling over Boris Johnson’s successful campaign, and the failure of Jeremy Corbyn’s and Jo Swinson’s failure to make headway against a fractured governing party in a time of real crisis.

People have had doubts about Jeremy Corbyn from day one of his leadership of the Labour party. His past affiliations to groups have been regurgitated so many times in the press and on social media over these last years, you can’t help thinking that the establishment really didn’t want him to win. 

Let’s take one of the accusations about Corbyn head on. At the time he was talking to Sinn Fein in Ireland in front of the camera, Margaret Thatcher’s government were doing exactly the same thing behind closed doors. So, why was he different to Her Majesty’s Government in his attitude and actions to the Northern Irish issue?

Put simply, the press and right-wing commentators have colluded in scuppering the chance of any left-wing leader of the Labour party ever getting elected. I remember Michael Foot being lambasted and lied about in the early eighties very clearly. And following him, Neil Kinnock never stood a chance despite the Tory’s going through hell and high water in power. Not until Labour elected a more right-wing leader in Tony Blair, did the press and powers that-be take note.

Corbyn’s flim-flamery over the subject of the day cost him dearly. Wanting another referendum, but not saying which side of the argument he would stand, allowed his critics to attack him daily. How he thought that policy would bring in Leavers and Remainers, I’ve no idea.

Jo Swinson’s attempt at all-out remain failed dismally, although they did increase their share of the vote. That doesn’t always help in a First-Past-the-Post-Election. Swinson herself lost her seat in Scotland.

The SNP have gained massively in Scotland. A second independence referendum will be called for, and given no matter what the Tory leader says, in the coming years. And the break-up of the Union is most definitely on the cards, especially with Johnson negotiating a Withdrawal Agreement that effectively separates Northern Ireland from the rest of the Union.

I have written about the Tory’s nine years in power elsewhere and about Johnson’s failings. But in saying these things and writing them down in this blog, I can’t help thinking that the Turkeys have voted for Christmas. Clearly, the UK public have voted for more of the following:

These are just a few things that I can illustrate. There are more. The promise of getting Brexit done shouldn’t have been enough for the Tory’s to regain power and dump Labour to its worst performance since 1935.

If it was the Brexit confirmation election, and only time will tell on that one, then the British electorate have a lot of confidence in one issue to correct the ills of this country. I wish them luck!

Anyone but…

Politicians have for many years manipulated figures or told fibs. We’ve come to expect it. But now, it seems, we’re residing in a world where Stalin would be ashamed.

For years our present Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has peddled truth and mistruth as if they co-exist in the same reality. He has annoyed, vexed and downright sought to besmirch sections of society in ways only an extremist would find acceptable.

Let’s look at some examples of Good Old Boris just being Cheeky-Chappy Boris. Surely there’s no harm in him?

  • At a Conservative fringe meeting in 2017, Johnson said the following regarding Libya: ‘They have got a brilliant vision to turn Sirte into the next Dubai… The only thing they have got to do is clear the dead bodies away.” Insensitive? Crass, maybe? You decide.
  • If Boris Johnson is to be elected PM, I would suggest you don’t get put in a foreign prison when you’re innocent. His lack of detail and support has left Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe struggling in an Iranian jail after the authorities lengthened her sentence following loose remarks made by the then Foreign Secretary. Responsible? Maybe not.
  • Foreign policy obviously isn’t his strong point? When you search Johnson it’s not hard to find gaffe-prone gold! For example, Johnson won a £1,000 prize for a limerick in the Spectator magazine, about the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, having sex with a goat. Not very statesman-like, I would have thought. Or is that just me?
  • Or maybe this further example of foreign relations not being his strong point might surprise you. In 2007 he likened Hilary Clinton, the Democratic hopeful for President, to a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital.
  • Further, he thinks that referring to people with ‘Watermelon Smiles’ and ‘Piccaninnies’, or people wearing burkas as looking like ‘letterboxes’ is satirical. Some may not. They may see these comments as unhelpful and offensive. I know which side of the fence I sit on…
  • His homophobic slurs are well known. His reference to gay men as, ‘tank topped bum boys’ is an absolute disgrace and will not be accepted as right by A. P. Grozdanovic.
  • In a 1995 article for the Spectator he said, single mothers were raising a generation of ‘ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate children’. Quite a sweeping statement and certainly ill-advised and offensive to the people concerned. Perhaps you’re not one of those people and you’re not bothered. I’ll give you some advice, you should be.

And what about his flagship ‘Let’s Get Brexit Done’ mantra? Well, he still hasn’t got it done, despite getting his Withdrawal Agreement passed in Parliament. 

In fact, he has failed at every turn since he was installed as our Prime Minister by a handful of aging Tory members.

And then there is the record of Tory rule over the last nine years, something I have written about previously. Through their policy of austerity, they have butchered the idea of this country as a caring, progressive place to be and head to.

In this election campaign I have watched as he heartlessly waved away pictures of a child lying on a hospital floor; how his party have not just manipulated news but down right lied about things that have happened; promised to sort Brexit out when he has proved time again he isn’t up to the job. 

I have been filled with incredulity that this once great country is being led by this patently inadequate Tory Prime Minister, a Brexit Prime Minister who can’t deliver Brexit!

But unlike the loud and proud right-wing press that many of my readers devour and regurgitate daily, I will not be advocating a vote for ALEXANDER BORIS de PFEFFEL JOHNSON. In fact, it will be anyone but Boris!

Let's Do Something For The Many

The 2019 General Election, the one Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he never wanted but pushed for relentlessly since his elevation to the highest office, is shaping up to be the most divisive and broken in living memory. I don’t think it need take an Oxford Don to work out why. But more of that later…

So, in this election, the 36th after my first punt at choosing this country’s Prime Minister, I find myself with a massive dilemma. That’s because the question I have always asked myself, ‘who do I want to lead this country into the future?’ has changed to, ‘who do I NOT want on the leavers of power for the next five years?’

Experience has always told me where my bread is buttered, and with who. I can tell you this time is no different. And that is still the case with the elephant of Brexit running amok outside the proverbial room.

In today’s world of reckless division, my starting point has to be the governing party. Do I still want them to remain in Downing Street? What have they done in the nine years since moving in? Have they improved the lives of all the people of this country and beyond since winning power? Have they had time to make the improvements they promised? 

The overwhelming answer to these questions has to be a big fat ‘no’. I can list some of the reasons below:

  • Shelter recommend the building of 3.1m new social homes to meet demand. A demand this Party has had no intention of achieving.
  • That lack of availability in social housing obviously increases homelessness. Between 2013 and 2017 homeless people dying on the streets has more than doubled. That is a frightening statistic for the 5th richest country in the world by GDP.
  • Food bank parcels are on the increase. In 2009/10, as this Party came to power, 41,000 food packs were distributed. By 2016/17, 1.2 million packs were given out. That is a massive increase and something to be ashamed of. 
  • In employment, some 66% of people languishing on zero-hour contracts want more hours and security in employment. That’s not a lot to ask for.
  • What about health? The NHS has been under fire for many years. Targets for treating cancer patients after GP referrals haven’t been met for five years. We now have the worst waiting times, over four hours, in A&E since 2004.
  • According to the Independent, some 17,000 people died while waiting for essential benefits. It’s inconceivable that any government could preside over a more unresponsive or uncaring system of benefit payments.
  • Police numbers are important to the electorate because they use that as a sign of how safe they feel on the streets. Since the present party came to power in 2010 there has been a cut of some 19,000 police officers. Not exactly the party of law & order, I would suggest.
  • What about defence? People who obsess about whether the leader of this country would press the nuclear button to annihilate millions forget that the army has systematically fallen in numbers for years. Ironically, they’re generally the very same people who call for the re-introduction of National Service, and the same people who never had to square-bash the parade ground for a day in their life.
  • These people need to get a grip. Come the day, they will be dead! Finished, just like the Norwegian Blue in the famous Monty Python sketch. Nuclear weapons are not for protection, a deterrent or any such thing. They are a phallic example of the ruling elite’s strength and position. Nothing more, nothing less!

During the years of austerity One Nation Conservatism has been well and truly killed off! This ruling party has succeeded in dividing the country for generations. Principally, their strategy in holding the referendum in 2016, their lack of strategy in dealing with the fall-out of a Leave result, and their continued divisive examples of Leave perpetuate the uncertainty of the stable future we desire for our children and grandchildren. Bland statements like ‘Get Brexit Done’ don’t cut it. Boris Johnson has been regurgitating that one since his arrival at Number 10 and he still hasn’t got it done. And that’s a failure he and his party own alone.

The fawning over of Trump, the man who gets his world view from Fox News and cannot avoid the spectre of impeachment in his own country, is an absolute scandal. The man would sell his own grandmother to get a deal for the Good Ol’ US of A. Britain and its needs would be well down the pecking order.

In saying all the above, I would not presume to tell you how to vote. That is for you and your conscience to live with. I also know the non-dom press barons have been helping you along with that for some time anyway. Their vilification of other leaders has been one of the most depressing parts of modern reporting. I would advise you to look at other reports and seek out the truth before deciding that he or she is this or that, though. Believe me! Reading beyond the headlines is worth it.

But taking the things listed above into consideration and the sense of entitlement this Prime Minister and his cohorts seem to possess, I cannot with all honesty advocate a vote for them.

My cross will land in a different box because I want this country to regain a sense of togetherness, where we can all live with dignity and with the security of a state that cares for everyone. I want us to be able to hold our heads up and say that we did our best for all, not just the favoured few. This governing party has done as much for the few that it can. It’s high time we had a government that does something for the many. Show me the Party that does that, and I’ll show you where my cross will land.

Spare Us The Claptrap!

Boris Johnson has got his Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in place inside two months, something his predecessor in failure only managed in two years. But is it his own deal? Well no, not exactly.

The agreement with the EU that he is asking Parliament to ratify shows very little difference from May’s doomed attempt. Only fifteen core pages have been renegotiated, along with the political non-binding declaration. Eleven pages have been jettisoned. That’s out of nearly six hundred pages! I’m just wondering why negotiators have had to fly back and forward to Brussels when they could have just exchanged texts!

In reality Mop-Top Johnson, who looks as statesman-like as Onslow from Keeping Up Appearances, hasn’t really negotiated a full deal at all, he’s just tinkered around the edges with a pair of nail scissors. Those edges, he’s hoping, will encourage enough MP’s to vote the agreement through.

I suspect he’s on a hiding to nothing. 

The DUP have already said they won’t vote for the agreement. Jeremy Corbyn, the Brexiteer in sheep’s clothing, is saying Labour won’t back it. With Jo Swinson’s, Conservative-lite, Liberal Democrats advocating remain come what may, alongside the Greens and the SNP, Johnson hasn’t got a cat in hells chance of winning the vote this coming Saturday.

But as we know by now, Brexit voters will shout from every rooftop that the referendum should be honoured whatever the costs, this tawdry story is going to run and run.

The fact I don’t believe he’ll get it through a Parliament elected after the 2016 referendum, for me, has never been in doubt, but he’ll try anyway. Johnson and his staunch Brexit cabinet will blame everyone under the sun but themselves for the situation the country is in if it is voted down. Chief among them the EU, remain voting MP’s, Remoaner-voices-off. He may even stoop to blaming the Chief Mouser in residence, Larry, if everything goes pear-shaped.

With the passing of the Benn Act, which was introduced to avoid a no deal Brexit and Johnson’s ultra-commitment to leave on the 31 October the two sides are polls apart, and they don’t appear to be getting any closer.

I myself have a view on Brexit, which I try not to push too much here on APGrozdanovic, but it’s imperative that the two sides find a way to come together for the good of the country. To say we have to Get Brexit Done, or to pummel the airwaves with the only way to move forward is a People’s Vote is misreading the mood of the nation.

A recent YouGov poll of polls shows an increased backing for remain, but the country will still be fractured after Brexit is done or not.

What we need is statesmen/women who will move this country forward together, for the benefit of everyone. This has proved elusive for the past two incumbents of 10 Downing Street. And as I have argued before, it’s time for radical thinking. And these politicians have proved time and again that they can’t change their spots. We have to move on, forward, together. If that means an election, give us one. If it means a People’s Vote, give us one. But above all, spare us all this claptrap that the referendum of 2016 unleashed.

Election 2015

From the Archive…

This year’s election is like no other, that’s for sure. With all the competing party’s on top of the traditional two plus one, voters are finding it hard to settle on a clear favourite. The polls are matching the two main party’s at neck and neck consistently. Whilst, the EU bashing UKIP and independent dreaming SNP garner favour in unprecedented numbers. The poor Liberals, traditionally the protest party of choice, have plummeted in popularity during their stint in government.

What has gone wrong for the Tory’s and Labour is hard to establish in this modern electoral nightmare. But one thing is for certain, politics is not that simple anymore.

Austerity has blown consensus out of the water. People who were attached to the old order in politics now look for scapegoats all over the place. For the nationalists it’s Westminster. For UKIP it’s Europe and the influx of migrants. The electorate are not placated by data showing more people working than ever, or wage’s growing for the first time since the downturn. They simply want something different.

Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, blames Cameron and austerity. She keeps banging on about wanting a deal with Labour to lock the Tory’s out of Downing Street. A deal most Scots would relish. But that does nothing for Labour. Accepting a deal in public before the election would simply throw Labour out of Scottish politics too. They would become as irrelevant north of the border as the Conservative party has since Thatcher’s days.

Sturgeon’s priority is to grab as much power as she can, and as quickly as she can, in Westminster. This will enable her to force a new referendum through on independence. It’s important to remember, Sturgeon’s whole raison d’être is the break-up the Union. Her strength north of the border, if the polls are to be believed, will be total after the election. And that divorce will be irresistible if she gets anywhere near the levers of power in London.

The nationalists in Wales are also banking on division too. Leanne Wood has performed well in the debates on TV. Unlike the SNP, Plaid Cymru’s foothold isn’t as comprehensive, but in this era of change, who knows what can happen. Her direct approach to the people of Wales was effective and measured. While I haven’t read the Welsh press, I expect her performances to have gone down well in the Principality.

While Sturgeon and Wood are wedded to independence, UKIP are intent on a breakaway of a different type. Extrication from the EU is in their blood. Total and complete withdrawal from Brussels is Farage’s aim. (I find this unusual coming from a man that has been paid handsomely by the EU for some time.) All the country’s problems appear to be solvable by withdrawing from the EU and introducing an Australian-style points system for entry into the country. I sometimes wonder if his next proposal will be to build a giant wall around the country to stop foreign people coming in.

His brand of popularism is definitely resonating with the public though. Polls for the election are putting them ahead of the Liberal Democrats. Their two MP’s, Carswell & Reckless, both Tory defectors may be added to on May 7. If they are, and they get enough support, Farage may be the man who hands Cameron the keys to Number 10 for another 5 years.

The Liberal Democrats are polling at extremely low figures, vying with UKIP and the Greens. It’s proving to be hard for Nick Clegg to retain any authority after jumping into bed with the Tory’s 5 years ago, and propping Cameron up in the first coalition government in many years. His ditching of a flagship policy like tuition fees hurt him badly. He has never really recovered. There are even murmurs about him losing his seat at the election. Polls come and go. We’ll have to wait on that one.

Labour are struggling to take a lead over the unpopular Tory’s. The memory of the crash still hangs heavily over them from 2008. Brown’s government left a hefty deficit after the necessary bail out of the banks. But there is a new man at the helm and despite popular fights against the press, energy companies and others, Miliband struggles to make a mark. His performances have been good in the televised debates. He will have only gained from the added exposure. Unlike the Tory’s, they’re not setting a date on eventual debt eradication, preferring to reduce it slower and where they can. They have definitely learned from Cameron’s bold intention in 2010 that was never achievable.

Where Labour have failed is to instil in the public mind that it was the banks that caused the crash. Yes, they were in power, and yes, the rules in the banking system were lax. But at the time even the Tory party were insisting on even less restrictive measures.

Cameron’s tenure in Downing Street is one of missed opportunities – unashamedly championing the rich, or in modern parlance, the Wealth Creators. He promised no top down reorganisation of the NHS but did it. He promised to get rid of the deficit. He hasn’t. He promised fairness while cutting taxes for the wealthy and imposing the Bedroom Tax on the poor. He didn’t learn the lessons from Blair on Iraq when he wanted to tackle al Assad in Syria with Obama.

His legacy appears to be a low wage economy. Division between the haves and have-nots. Decimated public services. An increasingly privatised NHS and uncertainty in the jobs market with issues such as zero-hour contracts.

On 7 May the electorate, those that are registered to vote, or can be bothered to, will choose the next government. Many don’t vote at all and that’s the fault of both the electorate and the politicians. People should be engaged in the electoral process and it’s important that politicians give people something to vote for. 

For keen observers it will be an interesting time. For a lot of others, it will be business as usual.

This article was originally published in May 2015

Radical Thinking

It’s now 3 years since the country voted to exit the European Union. Two Prime Ministers – and counting – and we still inhabit the Brexit wasteland. Remaining in, but endlessly sat in the departure lounge. 

And what of the two sides?

There seems to be no coming together of the Remain and Leave side of the Brexit argument. In fact, most people, and this is only anecdotal, have simply dug their heels in. They are either Remain (not Remain and Evolve) or Leave (at all costs). 

No fan of Theresa May, I think we can all agree she wrecked any chance of a Brexit compromise with her Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union. (Did you read all 500+ pages of the agreement? No? Neither did I!) She satisfied neither side of the Brexit divide. Her whole Premiership will be seen by historians as a complete and utter failure to bring Parliament and the people together.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Leader, seen by many as a Remainer, although I don’t know why, has completely failed to take his party with him on Brexit as well. His policy of constructive ambiguity, whatever that was, has seen the Fourth Estate portray him sitting on a splintered fence leaning towards Remain. I’ve never seen it that way. In all circumstances, Corbyn has re-iterated that the result of the referendum should be honoured. I ask myself, how can that be a Remain position? Where people get confused, and right-wing pundits bellow it from the rooftops, is that he doesn’t advocate a Tory hard Brexit. And to them, that equals Remain. They somehow miss the point that he continually says he will negotiate a better deal if he becomes Prime Minister. Those are not the words of a Remainer. However, he will support a second referendum on what he sees as a bad deal put forward by any Tory government. But that does not make him a supporter of Remain.

Alternatively, we have Farage shouting down BBC microphone’s at every opportunity like some demented Shakespearean tragi-character threatening the wrath of the people if he doesn’t get the Brexit HE wants. Every time the megaphone agitator appears on TV I can’t help thinking, ‘O for another series of classic Spitting Image’. I suspect he’d be sat in Trumps breast pocket while in the other would be ‘Mop-Top’ Johnson, the likely new Tory leader and PM.

And on the other side of the Brexit chasm we have the Liberal Democrats – Conservatives-Lite in another dictionary – fighting for the pro-Remain votes with the Green Party led, inexplicably, by two people. Not forgetting the SNP up there in Scotland. Agitating for an IndyRef2 if they don’t get a People’s Vote to Remain.

Common ground in British politics has been burnt at the Brexit stake.

Whilst here at APGrozdanovic we try to be impartial, it is sometimes hard to pull off that particular trick, of arguing for both sides in such a divisive matter. But here goes, I have readers of all persuasions…

It’s high time for radical thinking. 

The country needs our political representatives to speak for us and act in our best interests. Not for their own narrow interest group within a party. 

Brexit voters conveniently forget what we were promised during and after the ballot. Note the ambiguity of the £350m we could spend on our NHS emblazoned over a big red bus. John Redwood saying on 17 July 2016, that ‘Getting out of the EU can be quick and easy.’ Or Michael Gove pronouncing on the 1 June 2016 that, ‘We can easily conclude a new settlement with the EU…’ These and other things have proved to be pie-in-the-sky.

On the Remain side, although they lost the referendum, I still don’t think they are putting the case forward well enough for people to re-imagine a world where a new ballot can relieve citizen’s doubts about the EU and the advantages of staying in. The political soundbite ‘Project Fear’ still resonates, no matter how many reports show Brexit impacting on the economy and jobs. For their argument to prevail, they have to step up to the plate and explain better the reason for staying.

In my fictional book, Stalag Britain, about a Brexit that goes catastrophically wrong, I wrote about job losses in various areas and shortages in the health service. The rise of racism. Governments failing. This wasn’t hard for me to imagine and include in my story, so why is it so difficult for others?

I think the time has come to think beyond Brexiteers & Remainers. It’s now an opportunity for a new Prime Minister to be radical. And I don’t mean to raise the flag for one side or the other. Whether it be ‘Mop-Top’ Johnson or ‘Entrepreneur’ Hunt who becomes the next PM, they have to jettison the idea of Brexit on 31 October, pause Article 50, and form a government of national unity. One where people of all sides of the political spectrum, including voters, can work out where we want to go as a country. That may end up in Brexit. It may not. But at least we will have clarity and agreement on the road we are travelling. We have to remember that the future is not ours, it’s our children’s and grandchildren’s. It’s our duty to leave them a prosperous future of opportunity, where doors are open in friendship and not closed because we have cut our nose off to spite our face.

I raise a glass in Hope…

Be Careful What You Wish For

Following the first results of the Conservative Party’s leadership race, you wouldn’t have to be a modern-day Nostradamus to see the country is heading yet further towards the Brexit rocks. 

The first three candidates to hit the buffers were Harper – who accepted that Brexit couldn’t happen by 31 October, Andrea Leadsom and the ex-TV host, Esther McVey who both stipulated that Halloween will be our leaving date come what may. And today, Nick Hancock, the Health Secretary, dropped out, citing his candidature was about the future, and his party was looking towards a leader for the here and now.

The remaining, I use the term loosely, candidates are Johnson, Hunt, Gove, Stewart, Javid and Dominic Raab, the former Brexit Secretary. We will have to wait until the coming days to find out which two will go forward to fight it out among party members. 

My views on the process of choosing a new PM like this can be found elsewhere…

The winner by a fox hunting country mile in the first round of voting was the former London Mayor & Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. Not only was Johnson the clear winner in the vote amongst his fellow Tory MP’s, he is the clear leader with the bookies too.

But party members, and more importantly the wider electorate, should be careful what they wish for. There are just 160,000 Conservative Party members who will choose not just the party leader, but the next Prime Minister of this country. 

Johnson’s main selling point to party members and a portion of the electorate is obviously his stance on Brexit. He has announced that we will leave the EU on the 31 October, deal or no deal.

Apart from the fact no one can predict what a no deal Brexit will look like – except people looking into a crystal ball and seeing a land of milk & honey, where Britannia rules the waves and Victoria, in the persona of Gemma Coleman, reigns – this is definitely a leap in the dark.

At present a no-deal Brexit is a perpetual fantasy, and Johnson is a master at the make believe. Just look at the fact check Channel 4 produced. It basically illustrates that what good-old Boris promises, doesn’t actually come to fruition.

Take a look at what he has said or written. Likening Africans to piccaninnies. Writing offensive poems relating to the president of Turkey. But there are a litany of things he has said and done which we should think very carefully about before contemplating allowing this man to hold the keys to 10 Downing Street.

The decision on who runs this country cannot be decided on just one issue, Brexit. This person has to be competent and have a real-world vision on where the country is heading. The new Prime Minister will have to have the gravitas to bring people together after the divisive Brexit referendum. Something that Theresa May failed to do. Boris Johnson has proved he is not that man. He is a small-world Trump-like figure who will sew division for years to come.