Time For Change

Since Harold Wilson resigned as Labour Prime Minister voluntary 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. Who 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 accepted 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 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 here, 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 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.

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 food 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 employees.

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 41.9% who voted for Brexit, 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 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.

Stalag Britain

The following is an extract from Stalag Britain, a short story by A. P. Grozdanovic, that is available on Amazon Kindle…

’On this historic day, the twenty-six of June 2016, the British electorate has spoken,’ the news anchorman declared, ‘and it’s a definitive rebuff to the Remainers. The UK has turned its back on the Prime Minister and the European project. By a margin of 51.9% to 48.1% Brexit is now a reality. For some analysis on what this means, we’ll go over to Darren Reynolds, our Chief Political Correspondent, in Downing Street. So,’ the anchor momentarily paused in thought, ‘what does this mean?’

The camera cut to the reporter in Downing Street.

‘Put quite simply, Michael, no one knows. We can take a wild guess: market turmoil, factory closures, years of renegotiating trade deals, university funding cuts due to the number of foreign students falling. The list of negatives seems endless. 

‘But, of course, some will see this as scare-mongering. They say that this is the beginning of a whole new chapter in the relationship we have with the entire world, not just Europe. One where the British people decide for themselves what they want. From trade to immigration, from law to subsidies. And there are champagne corks popping across the country in celebration at this new opportunity.’

‘And what about the Prime Minister?’

The reporter gave a definitive, ‘He’s toast! The Prime Minister staked his whole political career on a referendum that many new he couldn’t win. Polling shows that not only were the electorate voting to leave the EU, they were also voicing their dissatisfaction with the government and its austerity package. Quite simply, he put himself in a no-win situation.’

The camera cut back to the studio.

‘Do I smell the whiff of resignation?’

The camera returned to Downing Street.

‘It’s more a stench than a whiff, Michael. Some say the Prime Minister won’t last the day.’

The camera cut back to the studio.

‘So that’s it, folks. Once Britain triggers its formal intention to leave the EU the countdown begins. Historic times indeed. Goodbye from us.’

To read more of Stalag Britain visit:

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

Chaos Rules the Day

Along with religion and politics in general, Brexit has become the subject to avoid among friends.

Everyone and his faithful dog has an opinion. But, unfortunately, no one has the same view.

I predicted before the referendum in 2016 that politicians would try to find a position where-by they could say Britain was out of the European Union, but effectively still be in it. A fudge. And that is exactly what Theresa May has attempted to do. 

To say she has divided a nation even more than it already was is an understatement.

No one group enjoys confidence in the deal struck with the EU. 

Members within the different groups don’t even agree. From hard Brexiteers who want ‘out means out’ WTO to Leavers who are comfortable with Canada+. We even have Norway+ being bandied around. The devil is in the detail, and whatever the minutia in those suggestions is well beyond this mere person. What is still confusing is what Her Majesty’s Opposition thinks of it all. The more Corbyn talks about his solution for our European future, the more confused I am.

Of course, we have the Remainers who are still clinging to the chance of a People’s Vote. This could either turn the 2016 result on its head or modify the deal so much that many of the benefits we get will stay as they are. Despite many of those benefits being the reason why some people voted to leave in the first place.

From pay-offs to fish. From border control to the establishment of a European army. From elected officials to non-elected officials. Not many agree.

Even the simplicity of the referendum question has been queried. 

Did we really mean out, out? Yes we did, I hear people saying steadfastly.

When I voted remain, I meant to stay in with all its faults and under no circumstances do I think the EU needs reform.

Heels are being dug so deep, movement is near impossible. So, would a People’s Vote be worthwhile? That depends what side of the Brexit fence you’re on, of course.

Some people say we should just get on and respect the referendum result. That’s democracy in action. It is. But do you just agree with the opposition after any election? No, you don’t. You fight for change. Just like prominent Brexiteers have been doing for decades. They just weren’t called Brexiteers back in the day. Democracy gives you the ability to disagree and fight for the change you want.

And what about the politicians whose job it is to take care of our wellbeing, our prosperity and our safety. They are as confused as the rest of us. Do they back May or sack May? That is a big question.

But who could take her place? Who can bring the country together?

Take it from me… No one.

The whole debate has fractured this country right down the middle. It has paralysed this government and any future governments for generations. Everything will be seen through the prism of Brexit. Are you a Remainer or a Leaver. Can you trust your traditional party of choice to honour your view on Brexit?

The answer to that is also a big fat No.

Brexit is too big a question. And there is no politician in todays ranks that can bring the population together. The whole electoral system we have has shattered into fragments of differing opinion. Candidates will jettison their party if they don’t get what they want. A party’s traditional broad-church approach to politics has disintegrate over Cameron’s disastrous Brexit legacy. 

The agents of change through chaos have won the day.

This has been written before Theresa May’s parliamentary vote is taken on her deal. Reports are saying it’s a dead-duck. Just like her Premiership. Whatever the future holds, People’s Vote, May’s Deal or Brexit means Brexit, the future is as cloudy as a smoking room in Smokesville!

This article was originally published on 10 December 2018