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.

This post was originally written & uploaded: 14 June 2019

Time For Change

Since Harold Wilson voluntarily resigned as Labour Prime Minister in 1976, we have had three, and soon to be four leaders of this country who have been forced to throw in the towel.

Margaret Thatcher was toppled in 1990 by her own party due to problems that included the Poll Tax and Europe. Tony Blair’s Labour party had had their fill of their most effective leader after ten years in 2007, replacing him with the Iron Chancellor, Gordon Brown. David Cameron had to resign in 2016 after his ill-fated sojourn into settling the European question for a generation.

And now we have Cameron’s successor, Theresa May, promising to step down as Prime Minister because she has been unable to satisfy the thirst of Brexiteers within her own toxic party. They are now predictably plotting to replace her.

What these leaders all have in common is that they weren’t replaced at the ballot box, but by their own party, who had become exasperated and disillusioned with them. In todays world, where politicians of every persuasion rabbit on about respecting votes at the ballot box, this archaic form of replacing an unpopular leader has now become unacceptable.

Post Brexit referendum, where sovereignty and accountability were heralded as reasons to leave the EU, the British public must have the final say on who resides in Downing Street. It isn’t good enough anymore to allow a cabal of MPs, and party members, to choose who governs this country in our name. 

If people want effective democracy in this country, then things have to change. The fixed-term parliamentary act has to be amended. Whilst this was a good addition to democracy, it failed to anticipate that leaders could be jettisoned at any time by their own party. Who in turn could retain power by nominating their own leader and thus Prime Minister without recourse to the electorate.

It’s self-evident our system of government needs an overhaul. If Prime Ministers are to be accountable to voters, then they have to be voted in by the electorate. We may need to move to another system of government all together, perhaps a Presidential format, where voters know who they are getting for a fixed period. Or, simply, a tweak to the present format. Say, if a party wants to sack its leader, then a fresh election is triggered within a short period with their new leader in place.

If the electorate continually accepts that a small group of party members and MP’s can decide this country’s leader, then the public will get what it deserves. And quite honestly it has, for in each case listed above, the Prime Minister has been replaced by an increasingly unpopular successor. 

In the modern world, democratic accountability is essential. It’s now time for change.

This post was originally written and uploaded: 19 May 2019

May Has To Go

At the time of writing, Theresa May, the Conservative Prime Minister, has lost 1,300 council seats and seen 40 Councils float away into the Brexit wind. She must be up there with the worst Prime Ministers the UK has ever had the misfortune to suffer.

And yet she stills clings on to power. Why? Because her party is riven by division. Take it from me, if there was a credible alternative, the Tory’s would have dumped her long ago. No Boris, please sit down!

During her time in Number 10 Downing Street she has seen 42 government or cabinet ministers resign or be sacked. That must be a record. Just one department, The Department for Exiting the European Union, is on its 3rd Secretary of State. Surely, a poisoned chalice, if ever there was one.

Not only as she failed to live up to the Brexiteers hopes that she’d lead Britain out of the European Union like some modern day Boudica, she has wrought mayhem and suffering along the way.

I can’t recall a Prime Minister calling an election when they have a working majority and then losing it. How calamitous is that? The list of mistakes she’s made along the Brexit route is endless. Among them, triggering Article 50 when she had no need to. That was a clanger of epic proportions. She could have waited to find a consensus first. But no, she had to rush in like some kindergarten kid looking for its next sugar rush.

Take food banks as an example of her governments attitude to the needy. A good snapshot of how people are feeling the pinch in the Cameron/May Austerity Britain. In 2009/10 as the Tory’s came to power the Trussell Trust, the largest distributor of food parcels, handed out 41,000 parcels. In Mays 2016/17, they handed out 1.2m. (Source: Full Fact) Surely a sign things aren’t right?

Homelessness has risen to 320,000 people. (Source: The Big Issue) Put your hands down! I know Europe causes that too. Yeah right! Its policies worked out and rubber stamped in Downing Street, Theresa May’s nice little grace and favour London pad, that determine this disastrous situation. Or is it that picturesque country pile she uses at weekends, Chequers, where she plots another catastrophe? Whichever, I’m sure a few families could squat in there for a while and she wouldn’t notice.

Wages still haven’t reached pre-recession levels despite almost 9 years of Tory rule. (Source: Full Fact) And yet the Conservative Party continually bangs on about putting more money in your pocket and charging you less in taxes. Do me a favour!

What about PIP, the flagship policy to renew the Benefit system. A court ruling found that it was unfair to people with mental health issues. A review of it is estimated to cost £3.7m by 2023. This is under a Tory government that propagates the idea of sound financial management. It beggar’s belief! (Source: BBC)

And zero hours contracts? In 2017 there were 1.8m people estimated to be working contracts that did not guarantee them a minimum number of hours. (Source: Full Fact) In surveys, some say they are happy with the arrangements, but others aren’t. We should be living in a country where people have a choice. Minimum working hours shouldn’t be foisted upon workers.

This government can’t even be trusted with the NHS. With NHS England reporting a shortage of 100,000 staff (Source: The Guardian), how is this government proposing to keep people healthy? I would suggest with Brexit taking all it’s energies up, it hasn’t got a chance.

And let’s not forget about the debacle of the Windrush & Grenfell Tower scandals? All on Mays watch. 

Since her elevation to Prime Minister she has nailed her colours to the Brexit flag pole. She wanted to satisfy the 51.9% who voted for Brexit (on a turnout of 72.2%), attempting to side line the rest. But she has failed on Brexit, big-style! Who could succeed with their expectations? Europe was willing to let Britain walk without a deal. It was parliament that stopped the Lemming-style approach of the hard-liners. She can’t even control her own party and coalition.

This country will be well shot of Theresa May once this Brexit fiasco is sorted out, one way or the other. We just have to hope that the next Prime Minister can bring the country together in a way that she has found beyond her capabilities.

This post was originally written and uploaded: 4 May 2019

Prague Visit

With medieval streets, Art Nouveau masterpieces and Baroque squares, Prague is a city to behold. The absolute joy of walking around corner after corner and being faced by yet more architectural beauty is amazing. In no other city that I’ve visited has this happened.

From the Old Town Square to the Gothic Charles Bridge, to Jewish Prague and Prague Castle, to Wenceslas Square to St Vitus’s Cathedral, you just marvel at the history and splendour of a city that is becoming more and more popular.

Prague’s distinct areas include, Staré Mêsto, Josefov and Northern Staré Mêsto and Prague Castle & Hradêany, Malá Strana and Nové Mêsto. There are more, but we just visited those.

In Staré Mêsto (The Old Town), you’ll find such delights as the Astronomical Clock. Dating back to the 15thCentury, the clock not only tells the time, it displays the movement of the sun and moon through the signs of the zodiac and the planets around the earth. Get there on the hour and you’ll be accompanied by many others watching the distinctive way it marks the event.

A group of people sitting on the side of a building

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The Municipal House is a prominent Art Nouveau building decorated with figures on all sides. It is an impressive sight. And close by is the Powder Gate, an entrance to the city that dates back to 1475

In the Josefov and Northern Staré Mêsto area, Jewish history is very prominent with its synagogues and museums. It’s quite a sobering experience to visit the synagogues and to be faced with the brutality inflicted on the population by the Nazis. To see the names of the people written on walls of remembrance and to read of their suffering is a reminder that we cannot and must not forget what has happened to the Jewish community through time. The small cemetery is a place for quiet contemplation with grave stones struggling to stand upright, with the horrors to which the city has witnessed, clearly on their shoulders.

If you wish to visit the synagogues and museums (which include the Jewish Museum, Pinkas Synagogue and Spanish Synagogue, to mention just a few) in the area, you can purchase reasonably priced tickets to get in all of them.

Spanish Synagogue

If you cross the river using the impressive Gothic Charles Bridge, you’ll reach Malá Strana. Here you will find the beautiful Baroque Church of St. Nicholas and the Palace Gardens. For John Lennon/Beatles fans there is the graffiti-covered wall that people regularly paint over. The Kafka Museum is a must for fans of literature. It tells the story of the city and one of its most famous sons.

On the same side of the river is Prague Castle, which dates back to the 9thCentury, and is quite extraordinary. It covers a substantial area. The Gothic St. Vitus’s Cathedral, which can be seen for miles around, is the centre piece. If you’re fit and able, a climb up the tower, which gives breath-taking views, is a must. A castle visit also includes museums and places to eat and drink, so you can have a rest during your visit – which we did, partaking in Hot Mulled Wine and Apple Strudel.

Going back over the river to Nové Mêsto (New Town) you’ll find the National Museum at the top of Wenceslas Square, an impressive area with shops and restaurants. 

The Baroque Cathedral of St. Cyril and St. Methodius is of historical significance because the parachutists who assassinated the Nazi governor, Reinhard Heydrich, hid in the crypt. You’ll find a memorial to them in the crypt itself as well as their story. Their valour in the face of Nazi occupation cannot be underestimated.

Traditional Czech food includes Roasted Pork and Goulash. I can attest to both being excellent. Also, Apple Strudel on the Dessert Menu is popular, and it was with us.

Czech beer never fails. Don’t be put off by the Dark Beer which, despite its appearance, isn’t like British Stout. It’s much lighter. Other traditional lighter Czech beers are excellent too.

In general, English is widely spoken, so ordering food and drink isn’t a problem. But with narrow streets and cobbled, uneven paving, getting around could be difficult for the disabled.

We visited in late March, for four nights. The weather wasn’t great. It was cool with mostly grey skies. We were lucky, no rain fell while we were there.

We stayed at the Mamaison Hotel, Riverside, Prague. Our transport and accommodation were arranged by Heather Reynolds of Travel Counsellors.

I suppose the success of a City Break rests on whether you would visit again. I can say without a doubt, we’d definitely visit Prague again.

Labour Defections


The news yesterday that seven Labour MP’s have resigned from the party was no surprise. It had been coming. You only had to listen to Owen Smith, the MP for Pontypridd recently. 

Bold statements by the seven included:

The party is, in Luciana Berger’s opinion, ‘institutionally anti-Semitic.’ 

That any criticism of the leadership, according to Ann Coffey, is met with, ‘abuse and accusations of treachery.’

And that in Mike Gapes view, Jeremy Corbyn ‘would threaten our national security.’

The MP’s statements cannot be swept under the carpet. These are serious allegations that cannot be explained away as just another day in politics. They weren’t made by Westminster hacks or opposing MP’s punching below the belt, they were made by former colleagues of Jeremy Corbyn. People who until yesterday were inside the Labour tent.

The Labour Party now has some big decisions to make. Does it listen, find solutions and act to allay the fears of potential voters? Or does it entrench and attack the leavers?  Both ideas are already on the burner. 

Tom Watson, the Deputy Leader, has felt the need to call for the seven not to be referred to as Traitors. While John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, has said that Labour has to listen more. The horse it would appear has already bolted on both accounts.

Corbyn has been playing fast and loose with members and voters for some time. The reports about bullying and anti-Semitism are not new. And his handling of Brexit is akin to a Card-Shark but with all the cards on show.

We can only surmise that Jeremy Corbyn is letting his members down with all these reports. 

How it got to this stage is anyone’s guess. But if Corbyn wants to be taken seriously as a future Prime Minister, he has to step up to the plate and lead. 

We need concrete action by Corbyn that is posted for all to see, that ensures Labour is tackling racism within the party, that it is listening and that it is acting.

Before, we can take Corbyn and the Party as a viable option for government it has to get its own house in order. Until that day passes, Labour will be in opposition for a generation again.

Corbyn, The Brexit Enabler

People who believe that Jeremy Corbyn is the sticking point in a Brexit deal miss the point completely. Corbyn is a brexiteer who just happens to go round wearing a woolly hat. He seems to believe that we can have all the benefits of being a member of the EU but without having to carry a membership card. We only have to go back to the referendum when he refused to join the official remain camp to understand his real position.

Today’s letter to Theresa May, from Corbyn, has finally put to bed any notion that he wants Britain to stay in the EU. Afterall, he has said on many occasions that he respects the result of the referendum of 2016. The fact that his party carries the option of a People’s Vote when all else has failed means nothing to Corbyn. He will do his utmost to stop Labour supporting a new referendum.

If May wants his support, though, she must acquiesce to his demands in various areas. He and the rest of the Labour leadership know that to follow his demands, May would be risking the break-up of her own party. (And as we all know, Brexit has always been about keeping the Tory party together.) Close alignment with the customs union and rights and protections are not in the hard-brexiteer handbook, though, so she’d be backing it at her peril. Even though the EU has received the suggestions favourably.

But as mischievous as Corbyn can be in posting his suggestions to May, the real fight is in the Tory party. With the support of her own party and the DUP, May can push her Brexit plan through. If she can convince them of the merits of her deal then there is no need for Corbyn’s support. His place in the Brexit history books would be as a mere footnote.

The problem that May deals with daily is keeping her Tory party together. Now, we find, Corbyn is risking the break-up of his party with his constant enablement of the Brexit cause. Regardless of the form Brexit comes in, and whether you like it or not, he is supporting it with every bone in his body and proves it with his support for the outcome of the referendum and todays demands.

Owen Smith, the Labour MP for Pontypridd, has said he is considering his position in the party following Corbyn’s exercise in oiling the Brexit wheels. More are certain to follow his lead and think carefully whether they want to sit on the same benches as him in Parliament.

Brexit is a political chasm that can’t be closed. And we have the two weakest leaders this country has probably ever had facing each other at the Dispatch Box. With the severity of the issues at hand, both parties and this country deserve better.

Whether you believe in Brexit or not, don’t for one minute think that Jeremy Corbyn will stop it. He is an enabler, despite what his party wants or the press tell you.

Remainers shouldn’t look to Corbyn for help. His back was turned the moment the referendum was called. If you want a People’s Vote look elsewhere. If you want Brexit, he can’t do much worse than May.

7 Feb 2019

Time For Labour To Stand Up

Brexit, in all shapes and sizes, looks to be a complete dog’s dinner. It’s hard to look at it any other way.

While we have a government led by the ineffectual Teresa May, leaving the European Union with a good deal looks about as distant a prospect as man landing on Mars.

Since taking over the Tory leadership she has misfired at every turn. She called an early general election (despite fixed term parliaments being a Coalition success) and lost a Commons working majority. She then effectively handed control of Brexit policy to the DUP and the right-wing Brexiteers in her party (not to mention noises off, Farage). And since then she has limped from one Brexit crisis to another. 

How humiliating must it have been to have Brexit Secretary, Davis and the blonde mop and dinner party raconteur, Johnson, resign over her Chequers deal. And then have it effectively thrown in the incinerator by European negotiator, Michel Barnier

The vision of Brexit by its champions is one of nirvana. The It’ll Be Alright on The Night Brigade never seem to deliver a coherent picture of life outside the European Union. Yes, they point to better trading deals with countries like the USA. But do we really want to be standing alone in a trade deal with someone like Trump in the White House, slapping tariffs on anything that takes his fancy? By pulling the drawbridge up on Europe, our biggest free trading partner, does that make Britain great again? It’s a big question. 

And it’s an even bigger question when time and again reality bites and warnings are delivered as to the what will happen if a cliff-edge no deal wins the day.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (who work towards eradicating poverty in the UK) say families will continue to struggle regardless of a Brexit deal.

In a survey conducted by Odgers Berndtson of a hundred UK business leaders over 50% wanted to stop Brexit altogether.

Jaguar’s boss warns of high job losses with a bad Brexit deal.

Honda’s European boss says the company would lose tens of millions of pounds.

These are obviously selected clips from what the hard Brexiteers would call Project Fear, but when you consider recent polls by Yougov showing public opinion is drifting away from Brexit, things begin to look different. Do people still think that this is the future they want for Britain? Maybe it isn’t.

In a Yougov survey of 2,700 members of Unite, Unison and GMB it showed a clear majority for staying in the EU. This is just over two years since the narrow victory for Vote Leave. 

Times change.

It’s time for Labour to stand up and be counted.

We now have a convincing majority of Labour members who want their party to opt for the so-called People’s Vote. The enthusiasm for this is now charging forward apace.

With all this evidence – business, Union and public opinion – shouting from the rooftops that they want a new vote now the reality of Brexit is knocking at their door, it is incumbent on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party to be the trusted opposition to a catastrophic hard-Tory Brexit. 

By changing their policy and supporting a People’s Vote (and writing it in their manifesto), Labour will give people a real choice at the ballot box. Because Brexit is the only game in town. Get that right and you can begin to move on and work towards a better health service, a world class education system and quality employment. The things this government and Brexit has derailed.

This article was originally published on 22 September 2018