Sunday, 12 February 2017

Sophy Ridge assists Chuka Umunna in effort to slur David Davis

This morning on Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday show Labour's Chuka Umunna was a guest. On the subject of David Davis allegedly trying to give a hug to Diane Abbott and being rebuffed with a curt "fuck off" from the upstanding lady, Sophy Ridge referred to media reports saying that:
In a text to a colleague to say he wouldn't have done it "because I'm not blind".
She then went on to say to Chuka Umunna:
"Now that sounds pretty sexist does it, particularly if it's directed to the first black female MP someone who's suffered from lots of abuse online."
First, how is that in any way sexist, defined as: relating to or characterised by prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex?
Second, what does Diane Abbott being the first black female MP have to do with it and how is that relevant?
Third, how low grade is it that Sophy Ridge's take on journalism is to ask such a blatantly leading question to purposely tee up Umunna to attack Davis and Tories in general, claiming sexism, misogyny and racism when it is clear that Davis did no such thing?

According to Umunna it was appalling and a man allegedly saying about a woman that he wouldn't have tried to hug her "because I'm not blind" has "no place in the Conservative party or British politics full stop". What utter rubbish. Is a woman who says "I'm not blind" when saying why she declined to hug or kiss a man she doesn't find attractive guilty of misandry?

Clearly I must have missed Umunna's similarly forthright condemnation and assertion that there is no place in the Labour party or British politics full stop when Diane Abbott made a clearly racist comment - a genuine offence - tweeting:
"White people love playing 'divide & rule' We should not play their game"
Instead, all Umunna said was:
"Ed Miliband has spoken to her this morning and made it very clear in no uncertain terms that the contents of the tweet were unacceptable."
I've not found Umunna doing anything other than explaining and reiterating what Ed Miliband said. More to the point, where was Sophy Ridge's challenge to Umunna about that evident double standard after she set him up to have a free hit on the Tories? She didn't call him out on his failure to condemn Diane Abbott, who was rightly forced to apologise for her racist comment.

In any case, Davis' alleged comment in a text message was clearly not sexist or misogynist in any way, rather it was about not finding someone appealing. Since when was not finding someone appealing an offence?

What Sophy Ridge did this morning wasn't journalism, it was a deliberate, contrived and cynical attempt to stir a row to generate a headline for the news cycle. This is what the media does, tries to create an argument it can lap up and use to fill news headlines.

Lo and behold, on the Sky News 11.00am news headlines, there were Umunna's comments and accusations being repeated as the second lead news item, after the North Korean missile test, and Sky reporting there are calls for Davis to make a public apology for something that isn't even wrong. Sky even followed up the report with a two-way discussion with their Westminster correspondant about it, elevating imagined offence and manufactured outrage into today's lead political story.

Not finding someone attractive is not sexist, misogynist or an offence. It's a matter of taste. Some men inevitable find Diane Abbott attractive and would like to hug or kiss her. Some men don't. Only a fool would find a wrong in that. Davis, sadly, has since caved in to the witch hunt and made a statement of apology. It is disgraceful. The public is being spoonfed this shit instead of real news and journalism.

I had hoped with her new show Sophy Ridge would bring an incisive and robust interviewing approach to the Sunday morning chat scene, doing more than her counterparts to hold politicians to account using intelligence and evidence. But today demonstrated that Andrew Neil she is not. She's just another of those petty, stirring hacks. The viewing public is being badly let down.

Update: This is what the media manufactured row has now led to...

Friday, 3 February 2017

Brexit can lead to UK 2.0

For too many years the UK has been subjected to a defeatist programme of managed decline. It has weakened and undermined the country and for too many people it has eroded confidence, removed a sense of purpose, curtailed drive and subdued ambition.

Contrary to the negative claims of the noisy rump of holdout Remainers, an independent, self governing UK opens up a myriad of opportunities to transform this country for the better and improve the lot of the British people.

What it means to be independent is slowly dawning on the political class and business, underlined by TheCityUK's u-turn this week, now hailing the “a once-in-a-generation opportunity” Brexit is offering Britain.

After Brexit we will be presented with the ideal moment to begin an overhaul of this country to make it democratic, strong and competitive. It is time to upgrade our country into a modern Britain for a modern era. It's time to develop UK 2.0.

Politics really will mean something again because there will be no EU puppet master directing events beyond the control of our elected politicians. Democratic accountability to a sovereign people is necessary and there needs to be a focus on reining in politicians.

There also needs to be a focus on equipping the UK with what it needs to be strong, prosperous and competitve. That necessitates a new industrial policy where the watchword is quality and the foundation is innovation. There's plenty of market share to be had around the world for high quality goods and services and not everything needs to be produced to be cheap as chips like so many goods from the Far East. It will require a massive investment in technology to support R&D, upgraded production systems, enhanced high speed connectivity and regional incentives for domestic and foreign investment here.

But that can only be realised if there is a revolution in education that not only gets youngsters through the curriculum, but motivates them to pursue exciting and rewarding careers with prospects for good earnings and progression. Enthusing them in STEM subjects to give youngsters equality of opportunity is crucial to our future.

Pride will be a factor in this. Although the UK is a member of many global bodies, being part of the EU means we are forced to let the EU to speak and vote on our behalf. The UK is not allowed to make any direct or substantive contribution to regulatory and standards negotiations. Where is the pride in that? Where can there be a sense that the UK is playing a leading role on the world stage? That will change with Brexit. The UK will speak with its own voice and represent British interests (political and commerical) that have not been diluted by the often competing interests of the EU27. We will once again play an important role on the world stage.

Britain after Brexit will once again get to welcome and send trade delegations around the globe, negotiating agreements on mutually beneficial terms without the spectre of EU protectionism and tariffs. We will have the chance to redevelop a genuine deal making mentality, and the freedom lure businesses to the UK as a low corporate tax jurisdiction. Our agility and adaptability will quickly see confidence grow at home and abroad as people remember we have plenty to offer.

Make no mistake, Brexit is not the solution in itself. But Brexit is an enabler that opens up a myriad of beneficial opportunities that can be seized should the people of the UK have the drive, wit and ambition to take them. We can transform our country for the better. Let's make UK 2.0 a reality.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Have we passed Peak Flexcit? Clean Brexit momentum builds

Make no bones about it, when it was crafted Flexcit was the only serious plan for a post-Brexit settlement. Flexcit was a detailed output from years of research. At that time no one else had devoted as much effort to understanding the mechanisms that could enable the UK to make the move between the EU and an EEA only status (via EFTA membership).

It provided a roadmap for what was considered to be a vital and necessary adjustment from the EU to the EEA in order to maintain a smooth trade in goods and ability of firms to provide services throughout the member states, not least financial services. It was a product of its time for its time. But EU membership and withdrawal from political union is inescapably about politics.

Things are rarely constant in politics and change according to and in response to events. Since the referendum much has shifted and rather than embody the flexible response it speaks of, Flexcit is remaining doggedly resistant to events and the changing political landscape. This failure to adapt and continuously improve may mean Flexcit has become obsolete.

It is for that reason that we have seen two blogposts here and here declaring Flexcit to be dead, from people who supported and promoted Flexcit as a roadmap for a post-Brexit settlement.

A plan that is wholly dependent upon factors outside the UK's control (UNECE becoming the administrator of European-wide market not yet agreed or finalised), which is presented by its own author as having only a slight chance of achieving one of its main benefits (making it possible to have a deal of sorts with the EU within the two-year negotiation period), and which the author says will require a huge number of concessions to make it happen (no short term cuts in immigration and no end to payments to the EU), was never going to survive when knowledgable and informed people began to enter the debate and propose alternative ways of getting to a deal that would result in true political independence.

It is telling when a substantial number of proponents of a plan move on because the plan hasn't kept pace and isn't keeping pace with developments. It is also telling when the plan becomes more popular with people who want to remain in the EU and are already working towards a strategy to rejoin the EU after Brexit, than leavers. Politically that is not viable.

No amount of namecalling or insults can conceal the fact many of the doom-laden prophecies, that we have long been told will come to pass if Flexcit isn't followed to the letter, are being challenged by people experienced in related fields boasting expert contacts and resources and people who have done extensive research of their own. It is becoming clearer by the day the UK has more leverage it can use in negotiating a deal with the EU than was supposed when Flexcit was crafted and that a new trading agreement can be built to satisfy most mutual interests. We don't need to subject ourselves to enduring control by the EU.
 
It's time to move on. If so much time and effort and so many concessions need to be given up to only move the UK part of the way towards the independence voters have called for, there is no compelling reason not to focus directly on the endgame and bypass the 20+ year hiatus and reliance on structures being built that due to shifting political landscape may not ever be implemented. We should devote our limited resources and our efforts on a clean Brexit that removes the need to incorporate between one fifth and one quarter of EU law into national law enables us to skip 'interim' lay bys such as EFTA EEA and being bound by ECJ case law through the EFTA court.

The Canada-EU trade agreement (CETA) has shown us that a good, far reaching and beneficial deal can be done. The EU's desperate efforts to shore up that deal after it was held to ransom by Wallonia showed it was critical to the EU. A good trade and services deal with the UK is far more vital to the EU member states than the Canada agreement ever could be. There is no need to hold ourselves back.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Fico to EU member state politicians: Don't trust your voters

Reuters has reported some comments made by Slovakia's Prime Minister, Robert Fico, yesterday which include this:
I am asking EU leaders to stop with adventures like the British and Italian referendums (...) on domestic issues which pose a threat to the EU.
He went on to pose this rhetorical question:
What will we do if ... there is a referendum in Italy on the euro and Italian citizens decide they don't want the euro?
This is just the latest in a line of clear examples of the 'them and us' segregation of the political class and voters, something that voters are increasingly deciding to challenge and reject.

The welfare of the EU matters far more to politicians like Fico than such triviality as Italian voters being able to determine the direction of their own country. Fico's solution to anything that undermines the EU getting its own way is to call on political leaders across the EU to deny voters in their countries any say on matters that could result in inconvenient outcomes. That is, to deny them democracy.

Supporters of projects like the EU and of the kind of politics that sees an elite govern in its own interests, beyond accountability, rather than govern in the interests of the voters who elect them, are evidently worried that people's resentment of the status quo is translating into action at the ballot box. Their response is two-fold:
  1. to follow the Fico approach and prevent voters having the opportunity to effect change in the first place, or 
  2. if votes are held and reject what the elite wants, to declare the vote was somehow flawed and seek to delegitimise it by claiming the voters were ignorant, or misled, or intended something else, or were seduced by 'populists', then pack the media with stories about protests, challenges, court cases to overturn the democratic outcome.
Politicians are supposed to be the servants of the people, carrying out their wishes and representing them in the law making chambers of the state. But over the years many of them have much preferred to accord themselves a special status, be a law unto themselves, and do whatever suits their own interests once they have been elected, assuming the role of rulers and masters. 

The political battle of this era isn't left vs right, or even the tussle of authoritarians vs libertarians, but between the anti-democratic political elite (and its hangers on) and ordinary people who are treated as pawns in power games. The Brexit vote and election of Donald Trump in 2016 suggests many ordinary people appear to be pushing back and lending their votes to those 'populists' who (shockingly) pledge to do what representatives are supposed to and put voter wishes and interests first. 

This is as it should be. Politics needs to change to counter the unhealthy two-tier hierarchy that has developed, so that real democracy, people power, has a chance of being realised. The likes of Robert Fico and the massed ranks of the EU and its supporters stand in our way.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

A new blog for a new year

With the EU referendum done and after a long time spent reading the thoughts of others and looking on as the world continues to shape and reshape itself, I've decided to make a very small contribution to the sum of things and share my views and observations on wider matters through this new blog.

I'm writing this blog for myself. It's a way of getting things off my chest and clarifying my thinking on issues that resonate with me. But I hope some people may find my musings interesting, perhaps even thought provoking. If you're one of them, welcome.