Friday, June 23, 2017

The Conservative Party's circumventing of electoral law isa step in a dark direction

Notwithstanding Theresa May’s hand in had walk with Trump and her hostility towards immigration she is clearly not a Trump. But Trump did come out of the blue. Packing of the supreme court has ensured that the normal election expenses rules that is essential to the functioning of normal democracies have been outlawed. This has ensured that elected representatives are so beholden to their donors that they have little legitimacy. The gutting of the voting rights act, the great achievement of the civil rights movement of the sixties, has opened the way to a myriad of voting suppression tactics. All it needs is to look at maps of many states with grotesque voting districts to see that crude gerrymandering of the kind that in a real democracy would result in prison terms to realize that American democracy was flawed well before Trump.

The election fraud revealed by channel four is not on the scale that is normal in the USA. But the threat to democracies today is not from crude military coups but a gradual process of democratic backsliding in which the path to authoritarian rule is taken in baby steps.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

British government hard line on Brexit talks = failure of the Brexit negotiations.

We have been hearing for years that what’s wrong with the EU is that it is a political project. If only, they have been saying, it stuck to just being a free trade agreement. Of course, European Unity has never been simply about free trade- its main aim is to ensure that there is never again a war in Europe – an essentially political aim. In that it has succeeded – wars have occurred withing the geographical region of Europe (Bosnia, Ukraine) but only beyond the borders of the EU. Now, however, everything has changed. The Brexiters now tell us that the EU needs Britain as a trading partner and for this reason will be forced to accept a deal favorable to Britain so long as Theresa May stands firm.
The truth is the reverse. The remaining EU leaders see no reason to give Britain the economic benefits of membership if she is no longer wants to be part of the political project. They would like to keep good relations with Britain. They are aware that many voters still wish to be part of the EU and even after exit there is the hope that a future government may again seek membership. But the truth is that they aren’t that bothered. If Theresa thinks that being a bloody difficult woman is a good negotiating strategy she will discover that the EU leaders will decide they have better things to do than trying to get an agreement with a British government lacking any wish to compromise. The result will be Britain crashing out to the EU with no deal. But perhaps the extreme Brexiters with their ultra free-market dogma want just such an outcome with the possibility of a zero regulation bargain basement Britain?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Theresa May's post-fact call for an election

It is breathtaking how many untruths May packed into her statement calling a snap election. To take one example:

At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division. The country is coming together, but Westminster is not.

This is only a few weeks after 100,000 marched for Europe in London on the 25th of March along with many others in other parts of Britain. This is the largest show of support for the EU that there has ever been in Britain. The opposition to Brexit, on the other hand in parliament has been spineless.

Yet listening to Theresa May saying such things with such conviction it is very hard to credit that what she says is not the absolute truth. All politicians spin, they bend the truth to be more favorable to themselves and, let's be honest, so do we all. However to say things that are so divorced from reality so shamelessly is a feature of populist authoritarianism. It works because the human mid is simply overwhelmed by the size of the whopper being told. It takes a supreme effort to realize that it isn't true.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Grammar Schools and the unequal future Britain faces in Brexit

Among the many things that shows Theresa May's promise that Brexit will be fairer to be a lie is the government's to re-establish grammar schools across England. The evidence is that selective education largely benefits the better-off. Justine Greening, however, thinks that will change by moving the focus of education policy away from targeting the most disadvantaged households. Seriously? To move the focus away from the most disadvantaged who also have the least chance now is going to transform grammar schools into conveyor belts of social mobility?

But lets for a moment imagine that grammar schools could become engines of social mobility enabling the brightest and best from working class communities to reach university - what would be the result? It would mean that those communities would be deprived of of their most able members so leaving those communities less able to organize for their rights. In short greater social mobility would be at the cost of greater inequality for those who would be left behind.

But of course, grammar schools are not some Tory party to undermine working class communities by siphoning of those with the most enterprise so co-opting potential trouble makers. Instead it is a way of ensure government spending on education preferentially goes to the children of the Tory base - those already privileged.

Nonetheless it is worth keeping in mind that more grammar schools would make Britain more unfair even were they to work in the way the government claims.

Welcome to brave new Brexit-Britain.