Not Another One

In four days time Britain has yet another general election. Like many I’m sure, I’m sick and tired of vote after vote that seems to make very little difference. I’m sick and tired of referendums. Distilling complex issues into one yes or no question is not democratic especially in this day and age where politicians can lie without any consequence. There’s also no point in having them if the result is never carried out or commitments around “once in a generation” are then walked back within weeks.

I’m sick and tired of TV debates that achieve nothing and where politicians are not held to account. I’m sick and tired of leaders who can duck out of anything that looks challenging or could lead to a slip up.

However what annoys the most is the current crop of politicians in the UK. By far the worst in my lifetime, the state of the parties and their leaders gives me little choice in next weeks vote. We seem to be heading to voting for personalities rather than parties. All the parties are focussing on their leader and less on policy. They’ve always done that to a certain extent but this year more than ever. First past the post doesn’t help. We really need to move to some form of proportional representation to better balance the views across the country.

You won’t be surprised to learn that I won’t be voting Tory on Thursday, for much the same reasons that I won’t be spending the day kicking children and pensioners into traffic

Frankie Boyle

Frankie Boyle’s Election Countdown whilst funny makes for depressing reading but I agree wholeheartedly on his rule’s for voting Tory. Britain is broken right now. We shouldn’t need food banks. We need to fund education and health properly. Universal credit doesn’t work. We need to reverse the last 9 years. We need to hold current parties to account for their leadership. It still amazes me that the SNP get a free run in Scotland despite the mess of education and the NHS. I lie though – until independence is delivered they’ve pretty much got 50% of the vote. Like Trump, they could literally do anything and their supporters will still vote for them.

While I don’t like Corbyn and think he’s one of the worst leaders in decades I’ll be voting for Labour on Thursday. They are offering a radical alternative to todays ill’s and while I don’t agree with all their policies they better align with my moral compass than any other party.

Despite opinion polls I can only hope that tactical voting and the many campaigns online switching your vote will deliver, if not a Labour majority, a chance that they could lead a minority government. If not then Labour and Libdem’s need to hang their head in shame at this missed opportunity to work more smartly and seize power. Come the morning of Friday the 13th I can only hope we are in a better place. The fear is that there are more like this guy who will do whatever it takes to deliver Brexit and vote against a fairer society.

Nadhim Zahawi

Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi spoke out last night against Trumps muslim ban as he feels he is now banned from visiting America and his kids are in the US studying. Another tragic example of how the Trump policy splits families apart and harms the innocent. Zahawi was on Andrew Marr today and said the Trump policy was cruel. Couldn’t agree more. Zahawi feels discriminated against. Of course he does. Think of the refugees – quite right, we always should do.

However it’s hard to feel too much sympathy with Zahawi as he supported the Vote Leave campaign and hammered home why freedom of movement endangered the UK. Be careful what you wish for.

Week One

So Trump’s first week has passed and what a week it was. He was exaggerating during the campaign they said. He won’t do things like the wall they said. There will be a replacement for Obamacare they said. There won’t be a muslim ban they said.

They were wrong.

In his first week Trump and his team wrote executive orders that have reset America’s position in the world.

Trump’s First Six Executive Orders

  • Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal: This executive order attempts to loosen financial elements of Obamacare.
  • Expediting environmental reviews and approvals for high profile infrastructure projects: An order to quicken environmental assessments of U.S. infrastructure projects.
  • Border security and immigration enforcement improvements: The contentious order to construct a wall between Mexico and the U.S. southern border. Trump has repeatedly vowed that Mexico “will pay” for the wall, which the country has denied. This executive order led Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to cancel a meeting with Trump.
  • Enhancing public safety in the Interior of the United States: Trump ordered more resources for immigration officers to crack down on undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and to limit funding for sanctuary cities.
  • Protection of The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States: An order that suspends the U.S. refugee program for four months to weed out “radical Islamic terrorists” from entering the country.
  • Order to grow military: On Friday, Trump signed an order to spur “a great rebuilding” of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Trump’s First Eight Presidential Memoranda

  • Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies: An decision to pause any federal regulations put forward under the Obama administration until Trump’s team can review them.
  • Mexico City Policy: An order to revive Reagan’s anti-abortion policy.
  • Regarding Withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations and Agreement: An order to scrap negotiations regarding the TPP, a massive international trade agreement negotiated under Obama but not yet ratified by Congress.
  • Regarding the Hiring Freeze: A decision to halt hiring of new federal workers, excluding military jobs.
  • Construction of American Pipelines: According to this move, new pipelines should only be made with American-made materials.
  • Regarding Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline: An early approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. The gesture seen as a pre-emptive measure since firm plans for the project have yet to be formally approved. Since the executive action, TransCanada has submitted a new presidential permit application for the pipeline’s approval.
  • Regarding Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline: The controversial pipeline project in North Dakota, where protesters have been camped out for months, has been prioritized by Trump.
  • Streamlining Permitting and Reducing Regulatory Burdens for Domestic Manufacturing: Under this action, Trump has asked for a plan to make the permitting process simpler for American manufacturers.
  • As if those weren’t bad enough…lying about the inauguration crowd size. Banning government agencies from talking on Twitter unless they go through the White House team first, leading to many rogue twitter accounts being setup allegedly by employees fighting the order. Resisting from within.

    Worse is the power that Nazi sympathizer Steve Bannon, currently in charge of American foreign policy, wields within the White House. Bannon who runs the right wing Breitbart got named to the National Security Council. He is setting America’s immigration policy. He’s a fucking Nazi. In the White House. On Friday the White House released a statement to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day with no mention of Jews, Judaism or antisemitism. The reason – Trump’s administration “took into account all of those who suffered”. Nazis.

    The muslim ban seems to have been the final straw for many not just in America but around the world. World leaders are openly condemning and rejecting Trumps policy. Tech leaders are finally openly condemning the ban as well, although not all. Unfortunately Theresa May and the Conservative government found themselves on the wrong side of the argument. Worried about trade deals and with Brexit pushing her into a corner she eventually blurted out “The United States is responsible for the United States’ policy on refugees, the United Kingdom is responsible for the United Kingdom’s policy on refugees.” Cards marked.

    Many hours later and after many countries had made their objections against Trump clear, May came out with a weak statement. Prime Minister Theresa May does “not agree” with Donald Trump’s refugee ban and will appeal to the US if it affects British citizens, Downing Street says. Does not agree is pretty weak but just a few hours earlier it was a matter for the United States. May was caught out or maybe it was her true colours.

    Trump has also lost his first legal challenge thanks to the ACLU. Their blog post on their win makes for sobering reading but also has a great quote:

    The United States is a nation governed by the rule of law and not the iron will of one man. President Trump now has learned that we are democratic republic where the powers of government are not dictatorial. They are limited.

    However it looks like the government will enforce the new ban despite the ruling. For those who think the muslim ban makes sense, some facts. No doubt there will be alternative facts presented at some point but you need to believe the data and not your racist views at some point.

    The scary part is that agencies in America are following through on these executive orders without it seems much questioning. What happens when an executive order is written that you are against? What then? Sit back and take it? Those involved in the legal case are already being victimised on social media and being threatened, just like brexit in the UK. The parallels are clear.

    So what to do? Fight. Resist. You don’t just have to accept which is repeatedly what the leavers tell the UK. If recent votes had swung a couple of percent the other way would the right wing have sat back? So why should everyone else. Thanks to Richard here’s Roger Waters nailing his colours to the mast.

    Donate to the ACLU, help bring Hamaseh Tayari home or sign this petition to prevent Donald Trump from making a State Visit to the United Kingdom. Best of all, don’t bury your head in the sand or ignore what is happening no matter how bleak it seems.

    Fuck racism, bigotry, and hate no matter where it happens or who does it. And fuck Trump and his Nazi staff.

    Believe the Experts

    Thankfully the Euro referendum is only a few days away. While both sides of the campaign have stretched claims to the extreme the one thing that really bugged me (apart from the blatant racist campaigning) was Gove and the Leave campaign insisting that everyone was fed up with experts. Stop listening to them. Why would they suggest such a thing? Is the electorate now more knowledgable on economics, immigration and law so as to make a reasonable choice of remain or leave?

    Of course not. It’s because the experts are siding with Remain, the economic arguments don’t stack up and the Leave campaign is high on populist rhetoric, low on actual reasoned evidence.

    I stumbled on this video today on Twitter by Professor Michael Dougan on the EU Referendum and it was a great 25 minute watch. No matter which way you are leaning it’s well worth some of your time.

    I’d rather trust an expert than any politician. What about you?

    Decision Time

    This has been one of the most interesting general elections for a while. Despite the millions spent by all the parties trying to convince the electorate to vote for them the opinion polls have shown little variance over the last 5 weeks. By all accounts it will be a hung parliament and deals will be done to form then next government or someone will have enough seats to form a minority. Only time will tell but the stench from the parties already around what are legitimate deals and what aren’t is telling. If you are still undecided, here’s a few links to help:

    • Vote for policies – what matters to you? This helps get behind the personalities and focusses on what each party has put forward as policy in this election. Of course, how much will still remain if a coalition is formed?
    • Your Next MP – Who’s standing in your area? This has taken a lot of work to keep up to date with the UKIP withdrawals.
    • MP Report Card 2015 – see how your MP has performed. If you can’t decide based on the policies of each party has your current local MP done enough to justify your vote?
    • They Work For You – more stats on what your MP has done over the last few years
    • Want to vote tactically? Buzzfeed has a postcode driven tool to help you decide where to place your vote, The Guardian has a guide for Labour and Conservative supporters and the Daily Mail gives a detailed guide on how to keep out Labour. Twats.

    I’m already surprised at how many are tweeting tonight of voting tactically rather than for their party of choice and that they have switched today, so it will be very interesting to see just how accurate the polls have been. In Scotland it looks like almost total wipeout for Labour and it’s not hard to see why. For the first time I’ll be voting SNP tomorrow and that won’t gift the election to the Tories – I voted Labour last time and still got Cameron. If Labour hadn’t spent the last 5 weeks telling everyone a vote for the SNP is a vote for the Tories and what they were actually standing for it could have been a slightly different story. Not much, but better than where they seem to be today.

    Just one last thought…no matter your viewpoint I hope you make the effort to vote. It’s too important a decision to leave to others.

    New World Order

    So Scotland voted no, we can all get back to normal and the parliaments can focus on dealing with day to day issues again rather than trying to win the referendum. But what is normal? I always thought the days after the referendum would be volatile but it’s safe to say that things will never be the same again.

    I’d predicted a Yes vote based on the mood around Glasgow and also on the Yes campaign which was pretty fantastic. You couldn’t escape the Yes campaign in Glasgow. Travelling between Central and Queen Street stations on a drizzly Monday night before the vote I walked by three groups of Yes campaigners who were still out fighting for votes. The Better Together campaign was nowhere. Stalls in Byres Road and Anniesland, Yes stickers everywhere and so many windows with Yes posters so it was no big surprise that Glasgow voted Yes overall. It was also generally a positive campaign from the Yes team both in the flesh and online. There was definitely more antagonism online from Yes campaigners but both camp’s had their loons.

    However the Friday and Saturday after the vote took a decidedly nasty turn. I could understand frustration from the Yes campaign that they had lost by 10% especially as they had ran a long passionate campaign but I thought the claims of vote rigging, miscounts and clamouring for a revote were pretty desperate. The worst event though was the orange loyalists descending on George Square which up until that point had seen great celebrations for Yes campaigners. The behaviour and violence was disgraceful and in total contradiction to the events of the last few weeks. The Glasgow Commonwealths felt like a generation ago while watching the Youtube video’s from George Square. The Police should have done a lot more to defuse it but it was shameful how the events were reported by traditional media reporting it was Yes and No casuals fighting. I’d love to say heads in the sand but it was lies, pure and simple.

    Also lies were the many many tweets that said No voters had voted for the trouble in George Square and this is what you get for voting No. Oh dear. Equally the vast majority of No voters were not conned by ‘The Vow’ but I guess it makes the loss easier if there is something to target. I didn’t expect Salmond to quit but Nicola Sturgeon is more than capable of filling his shoes and I think will also make the SNP more appealing to voters.

    A few other notable points from the campaign:

    • The two TV debates between Salmond and Darling. In the grand scheme of things I don’t think they had the impact that was expected. I was surprised that Darling narrowly ‘won’ the first debate, but Salmond kicked his butt in the second. What changed? Salmond more prepared, more on the offensive?
    • Better Together was awful. Complacent, negative, lacking in idea’s and to be frank they looked desperate after ‘that’ opinion poll. I’m still surprised that the Yes campaign up against such poor opposition and having a dream year for events in Scotland failed to deliver a Yes vote. Tell’s me that there is a real core of Scot’s that do not want independence.
    • For all the Yes campaigns posturing about a fresh start away from Westminster and old broken politics, their cosying up to Rupert Murdoch must leave a sour taste in many an independence campaigners mouth. I still think the YouGov poll 2 weeks before the referendum was ‘questionable’. Online only, a different polling firm than The Times used before or afterwards and leaked by Murdoch who wanted to be seen to be influencing. Nasty.
    • The lack of answers from both sides was disappointing. Vote Yes and we’ll spend the next 18 months sorting out what that really means. Vote No and you may get some extra powers that we’ll spend the next 6 months sorting out. Considering the amount of money spent on the referendum there was a distinct lack of clarity from both camps.
    • Who woke up Gordon Brown? If only the No campaign had shown this sort of passion in the months leading up to the referendum.
    • A week before the vote and Cameron, Miliband and Clegg descend on Scotland. That didn’t annoy me as much as Salmond saying he and the Yes campaign were for ‘Team Scotland’ while everything else is ‘Team Westminster’. Utter bollocks and that stance annoyed many many people, just like the Yes campaign claiming the Saltire as theirs.
    • Funniest moment? Matt Lygate and ‘Bow down to your imperial masters!’
    • Bernard Ponsonby was by quite a distance the best political journalist throughout the campaign. The BBC by contrast looked fairly toothless.

    The next few months will be very interesting. What new powers will Scotland get, what the future vote share will look like in Scotland and how will Nicola Sturgeon change the SNP going forward? I’m amazed at the number of sign-ups the SNP have got, almost at 70,000 now which is almost two and a half times the number they had pre referendum vote. I can see this being a real challenge for Sturgeon as almost all the SNP hierarchy have said that the vote was a’one in a generation’ opportunity yet the majority of the new sign-ups are demanding at the very least another vote if not independence if the SNP return a majority to the Scottish Parliament. It’s a nice problem to have for the SNP, but a problem none the less.

    As for me I have no idea who I would vote for at the next general election. Thinking through my options:

    • Conservatives. Never.
    • Labour. Not the way they are carrying on at the moment. Matching Tory austerity budgets? Miliband is hard to like but worst of all was standing on the same ticket side by side with the Tories during the referendum. Labour should have stood for the No campaign on their own. I can see it being a generation before they get back in power in Scotland, if not longer. As for Westminster, it should be English votes for English laws and Miliband again looks lost when it comes to this issue. Many in Labour should be ashamed.
    • Liberals. No backbone, lost their principles as soon as power became a realistic option.
    • SNP. I agree with much of what the SNP stand for, except for Independence which is a bit of a deal breaker.
    • Greens. Might be closest to my ideals?
    • Others? Cranks and racists. No thanks.

    Scottish politics has changed for the better and we have a generation that is active and energised. If the mood of the people of Scotland spreads throughout the UK we could see the most unpredictable general election for years. The beginning of a New World Order or just a small blip? Only time will tell.

    A Simple Question

    Should Scotland be an independent country?

    It’s straightforward enough and thankfully we will know 5 days from now how Scotland has voted. This has been the longest most drawn out political campaign I’ve experienced and despite the money spent by each camp there is still a vacuum of real answers. It’s clear that the result is closer than many thought and is also causing real division across families and friendships and I just hope once the answer is known on September 19th that we can all move on and accept the result.

    There have been some negative aspects to the overall campaign:

    • Better Together’s campaign has been a mess. Negative, lack of a plan A around devolved powers and an obvious last minute panic as the poles narrowed. Their mismanagement will be costly.
    • Alex Salmond’s comments on Team Scotland vs Team Westminster and the snide assertion that if you are Scottish you will vote Yes and if you are a No voter then you aren’t part of Team Scotland. Bullshit of the highest order.
    • The lies from both camps. Never ending.
    • Citizen journalists and analysts and ‘their sources say’. What sources? More bullshit.
    • I’ve had no hassle but I know my mum has been called an idiot for not voting Yes and does feel intimidated by some of the behaviour of campaigners in town at the moment. I’ve also seen some heated Facebook threads just because someone has said they are voting no. Sad.
    • The lack of clear answers from the Yes campaign. In my opinion they watered down what independence really means to guarantee a win – monarchy, currency etc. Be honest and set out a truly independent vision rather than a 3/4 way house.
    • The assertion that ‘big business’ is in cahoots with the No camp only. Jim McColl’s rescuing of Ferguson’s and the subsequent mailshot that I and many others received from him on behalf of the Yes campaign was stage management of the highest order. All from a guy thats stays in Monaco.

    However the positives have been great:

    • The referendum vote has grabbed the public imagination and sparked debate and participation after decades where people have felt disenfranchised by the main political parties. The use of social media has certainly exploded over the last few months – even today there is a massive rally protesting at BBC bias over the last weeks and months and if it wasn’t for friends posting about it you’d have no idea it was taking place. Hours after it started it’s only now that the editor of Reporting Scotland has tweeted about it (and much later the BBC reported on it themselves – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-29196912). Thats the only recognition that around 1000 people are now at Pacific Quay protesting. Well done Roy for on the spot reporting 🙂
    • Patrick Harvie, co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, has been great. Spoke well, debated without getting into slanging matches and has campaigned tirelessly for the Yes campaign.
    • One hundred weeks of Scotland is a blog started by Alan McCredie in October 2012. Each week he would write about a different aspect of Scotland highlighted by some great images that he took on his journey. Been great to follow this on the run up the vote with some amazing photo’s and stories.

    I’ll be voting No on Thursday as the arguments for change haven’t been made clear for me but my expectation is that the Yes vote will win and on Friday Scotland will be an independent country. I hope then we can all move on and make the best of what lies ahead – it won’t be an easy journey.

    Murder

    War isn’t easy. There is no black and white. In the heat of battle mistakes happen. With that in mind, watch this video.

    This video was released by Wikileaks and shows an Apache helicopter killing 12 people. Two were Reuters journalists. The full details can be read in this Guardian article. For me, this was murder. Watching and listening and remembering this was real and not some video game or drama is sobering.

    No side is ever innocent in a war but it’s how a government reacts after incidents that tells the real story. The cover-up’s are worrying. Watching The Pacific tonight and wondering how grotesque a 10 part Iraq would be.

    Blogging Bollocks

    Interesting week with the NHS. Firstly the Republicans in America start spinning stories that the Brits hate the NHS. British people are shown in an advert paid for by a right wing group slagging off the NHS. Later the people who took part claimed they were duped into taking part and they are very annoyed at how they were portrayed. Worse, relatively unknown Euro MP Daniel Hannan has been spreading nonsense on right wing American news programmes about how bad the NHS is. This video tell’s the story so far.

    Of course some of Hannan’s quote’s in isolation sound far worse than his interview as a whole but the fact that he chooses to peddle his thoughts on Fox etc in America devalues him in many people’s eyes. His blog claims he has spoken about NHS misgivings for 10 months now in the UK and you should go and buy his book to read what he says. He handily gives you an Amazon link too. Nothing like a politician making a bit on the side.

    Anyway, of more interest was the backlash that kicked off on Twitter. Thousands of people tweeted with the hashtag #welovethenhs and a real show of force from NHS loving twitter users forced the NHS into the headlines. Gordon and Sarah Brown tweeted, David Cameron panicked and distanced himself from Hannan and Labour made the most out of the situation. Obviously this couldn’t stand so in waded the right wing bloggers, particularly Guido Fawkes. He blogged that this wasn’t a viral storm and then quoted some figures comparing the hashtag usage against the numbers signing up to the e-petition calling for Brown to resign. His Tory loving commenters lapped this up, quoting it on other blogs and tweeting it to all who wanted to listen. What a load of bollocks.

    The e-petition has been running for over 10 months. In April this year, over six months after launching, it had reached 30,000 signatures. In four days, the Twitter hashtag has been used by 16,000 users. So which is the most popular? The e-petition has had roughly 230 sign up’s per day. The hashtag – 4000 tweets per day.
    *Update* – looks like Sky news is wrong and the e-petition started up in April 09, running for six months. Thanks to Kalvis Jansons who started the petition for clearing that up. I guess that makes around 500 sign up’s per day.

    Hold on you may say, the Twitter hashtag system is abused by spammers and advertisers posting up rubbish but using the popular hashtags. True, so those numbers are inflated. The numbers on the e-petition though are greatly inflated too. Scrolling through the latest 500 sign-ups on the e-petition website shows lot’s of made up names and dubious celebrity sign up’s. Some may be true but I don’t really believe David Miliband MP has been one of those to sign up. If it really was him he would have signed up a long time ago, not just in the last 500.

    I’m all for healthy debate but I really despair when people can’t see sites like Guido Fawkes as right wing attack sites. Off course, he peddles it as an honest and fair attempt to expose those in parliament but look through his posts and in particular the venom that can be found throughout the comments (he also has a nice habit of blocking anyone who is anti him or anti Conservative) and then make up your mind. And next time, before you start to tweet round comments and stat’s, have a little think first.

    Time for Change?

    Watched Question Time tonight – really good with the politicians on the rack again but with the old party politics back in play. However some really interesting points tonight.

    • Recognition of the anger around the country at the MP’s expense row.
    • Acceptance that criminal proceedings should take place – deliberate fraud has occurred.
    • Each party has to clean up it’s act.
    • Martin Bell – each party faces a test which it will pass or fail – can it clean up it’s MP’s and not just the old guard and back benchers but also take action against cabinet and shadow cabinet members? Labour is messing this up right now and as the party in power should be doing a lot more than it is.
    • A general election now would elect a very different parliament.
    • Is it time for electoral reform?
    • Will celebrity MP’s become more common?

    The part that was really interesting was around reform of parliament and election of independents. The panel was split between the need of established party politics so that effective government could take place against election of independents to shake up the parliament.

    It got me thinking – could a People’s Party, a coalition of independents standing on the ticket of anti-sleaze become a dominant force? What if the independents weren’t just known faces like Martin Bell, Esther Rantzen et all but acknowledged business leaders and academics? How many of our current MP’s are actually fit to lead? I’m not measuring fitness based on the expenses scandal either. What qualifications do our current crop of MP’s actually have apart form going to the right schools and universities, joining their party branches at an early age, working for former MP’s as researchers etc. Where’s the business acumen, the proven leadership? Sadly lacking in many cases.

    It was no surprise to see the larger parties saying that the only answer was for them to sort out their issues. They were the only way forward. William Hague dared to suggest that it was only the large parties that could take on issues like unemployment, financial crisis and defence. What a cheek. Neither party has covered itself in any glory in the last two decades. With the public not having much of a choice would it not be better to vote on qualified independents rather than a candidate chosen by the local party offices especially when the selection is made to satisfy a quota or is based on the candidates influence and background? Do we really need 1300 officials in parliament? How different would a slimmed down parliament with proportional representation look compared to today’s mess?

    I can’t see electoral reform taking place in the short term but a coalition of independents with a ticket of anti-sleaze and a commitment to fight for electoral reform would win many many seats if there were an election in the next 6-8 weeks. Throw in a few respected celeb’s into the mix and there’s the potential to have many more seats and power than the Liberals while denting Conservatives and especially Labour. Sadly the chance of the election taking place this year are slim to non existent. By 2010 this could well be old news. Hysterical mass media will have moved onto the next big thing. Can you remember when swine flu and the credit crunch dominated the news? One things for sure – if issues like this don’t get people out voting, nothing will.