Monday, 12 June 2017

Election 2017: Who saw this result coming?

Last Thursday with 2 hours left before the polls closed, I popped into one of my local betting shops and put a bet of £20 on The Conservative Party to win the General Election with a majority of 50 - 75 seats. I felt pretty confident, but as a 'hedge' bet I also had money on a Tory majority of over 75 seats.

Chatting about the election with the guy who took my bet, he said I shouldn't rule out the possibility of a hung parliament. I didn't hide my scepticism to that thought and went home confident that I was going to pick up some money the next day.

I'm sure you can imagine my surprise along with so many other people in the country when the exit poll was revealed at 10. I think I spent the next two hours in state of disbelief. Yet again the opinion polls got it completely wrong and all the assumptions about this election and the expected result proved to be a million miles off the mark.

The result of a hung parliament is an absolute humiliation for Teresa May and the Conservatives. I know life is about taking risks and it was always a risk to call this election but the odds were in her favour.

It's clear that the Tories fought an appalling campaign. I agree with the thought that it wasn't particularly positive or inspiring. It assumed that ultimately not enough Labour supporters would back a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour Party. What is evident is that although Teresa May has been a front line politician for over a decade, it was only in this election campaign that the public got a chance to really know her. What I and everyone else discovered is that she is a terrible campaigner with little personality or charisma.

She remains as Prime Minister for now, telling her party that she got them into this mess and is the person to get them out of it. She's on borrowed time and would have gone if it wasn't for next week's Brexit negotiations and the fact there is no obvious candidate to become the new Tory leader.

A personal victory for Jeremy Corbyn: Time to eat humble pie?

At the start of the year, I genuinely felt that Labour would end up with under 200 seats in Parliament. I thought any General Election would damage Labour so badly it would take at least another 10 - 15 years for Labour to become electable again. I couldn't see how a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour Party could ever succeed when a left wing manifesto was put to the British people. Ultimately I thought he was incompetent and unelectable!

Well like many people it's time for me to admit that some of these assumptions were wrong. I'm not going to apologies for these views as many of Labour MPs agreed with me.

I've been incredibly critical on Jeremy Corbyn since he became Labour Leader. I voted in both Labour leadership elections in 2015 and 2016 and voted against him. I have to admit he had a great campaign. He's grown into the role of leader. He seemed to enjoy his time meeting voters around the country unlike Teresa May. And he was positive and optimistic in his message.

He put forward every left wingers dream manifesto. More nationalisation, an end to austerity, more taxes for the rich, investment for the NHS. Populist and left wing. Whether Labour could deliver any of this is another question but it galvanised voters, especially young people who finally realised that if you come out and vote then collectively you can make a difference.

It was a great achievement for Labour to gain seats but it shouldn't be forgotten that ultimately Labour lost the election. The performance is a moral victory which is something the left love to indulge in.

Despite recognising that Jeremy Corbyn has improved as a leader and has earned to right to continue leading the Labour Party, it doesn't mean that I'm going to abandon all of my previous views and jump on a 'Jez we can' bandwagon.

For the last 35 years Corbyn has stuck rigidly to his views and values and has been lauded for his "principled" stance. Well many of us across the political spectrum have principles it's not something unique to leftwingers.

There are still policies proposed by Labour I don't agree with. Parts of their manifesto could cynically be described as a populist bribe. I'm unconvinced that many of the promises made could be implemented but I've realised that Corbyn supporter simply don't care.

Labour are still a long way from being in government. They need at least another 70 seats to gain a small majority and still need to convince more of the electorate that they are ready for power. However, judging by the ineptitude of the Conservatives - Labour might just be in with a chance.

A period of chaos

Putting aside the performance of Labour and the Tories, my immediate thoughts on Thursday night centered on the view that as a country we are in chaos. We are about to embark on negotiations to leave the EU. Instead of having the 'strong and stable' government thag was promised to deal with the biggest issue facing the country since the 2nd World War.

We have a government in crisis that is being propped up by the ultra conservative Northern Irish DUP.

The rest of Europe must be laughing at us. With Brexit and now this election I feel embarrassed at the state we now find ourselves in. Rather than thinking we can all have some time off from politics and elections we can instead look forward to another election within the next 12 months and more Brexit talks!

Sometimes I wish I wasn't interested in politics!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Election night thoughts

With just over an hour before the polls close I thought now would be a good time to review the election campaign and make my predictions for tonight's result.

Thinking back to 7 weeks ago when Teresa May I imagined that this would be the most boring and predictable General Election campaign that I'd ever witnessed. It's turned out to be far more interesting than anyone could have imagined. This is because it hasn't gone to script.

Teresa May was the 'strong and stable' leader who would lead the Conservatives to a crushing landslide victory over Jeremy Corbyn's party. The electorate would deliver a damning verdict on Labour's 'Hard Left' manifesto!

I have to admit, this is what I thought so I've been proved wrong along with many others but this election has revealed a number of things:

1. Teresa May isn't very good on the campaign trail. It's no wonder we saw so little of her during the EU referendum campaign.

2. The Conservatives have led a poor campaign. It hasn't been particularly inspiring. Teresa May has been evasive with the public and the media and that's before we even mention the 'dementia tax

3. Jeremy Corbyn has had a really good campaign. He looks like he's enjoyed it. He looks comfortable and has grown into the role of Labour leader. I have to admit I've found it unexpected.

4. Two party politics is back in fashion. After 2015 it seemed that the old two party politics were over. Although the Lib Dems suffered a humiliating loss of seats, the likes of UKIP and Greens gained a much larger share of votes and in Scotland, the SNP became the dominant party.

Things look very different now. The expected Lib Dem revival hasn't taken place and following Brexit, UKIP have become an irrelevance. The Green Party seem to be suffering now that the radical left option has been filled by Jeremy Corbyn. It seems only the SNP will remain in a strong position following tonight's result.

5. Terrorism and security have become significant issues. The campaign has sadly been overshadowed by the awful events in Manchester and London Bridge but it's raised awkward questions for both Corbyn and May. Firstly due to his previous support for the IRA and voting record in anti terror legislation and for May her record as Home Secretary.

6. Brexit has been surprisingly absent from the election debate

It's this point which has stood out as on a personal level as it's the most important issue for me.

This morning I decided to vote for the Liberal Democrates and my vote for them was based purely on the issue of Brexit. I voted Remain in last year's referendum and although I accept the result and don't want a re-run I certainly don't want a 'hard brexit' and want continued access to Single Market.

Of course there are other issues, like the the NHS, and public services, immigration and social care but for me, everything begins with Brexit. The direction which the country will take and how it deals with the issues mentioned will influenced directly by Brexit.

The Lib Dems won't win in my safe Tory constituency but I feel comfortable voting Lib Dem knowing that my vote is making my feelings known on the issue of Brexit.

Both Labour and the Conservative have had almost nothing to say on the issue which I find both ridiculous but unsurprising in equal measures. Teresa May seem determined to continue down the road of a hard Brexit and Labour seem to have little interest in the topic but then that was the case during the referendum.

It seems clear the Conservatives are going to win tonight probably with a majority of between 50 - 75 seats. It will not be a great victory for the Tory Party or Teresa May. Due to her performance she is very much a diminished figure and politician.

Jeremy Corbyn has exceeded all expectations but then those expectations were low to begin with. Corbyn has energised his base but I don't think it will translate into more seats, He will simply win more votes in already safe Labour seats.

I've written extensively about Jeremy Corbyn since he became leader of the Labour Party. If you've read any of my previous posts it will come as no surprise to know that I think he would be an mitigating disaster for this country.

This election is not a great election for somebody like me. I firmly believe that Brexit has and will damage this country; both Corbyn and Teresa May will simply damage the country in different ways. If I had to say who would be worse Teresa May and the Tories will be the lesser of the two evils.

I never thought I'd ever say that.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

No easy answers in the fight against Islamic terrorism

It's been an incredibly sad and emotional week for the city Manchester and the rest of country following the bombing at the Manchester arena.

The two main feelings that I felt was firstly what an awful waste of life to so many innocent people who went out to enjoy themselves at a music concert. The second feeling I had and one which I always feel with such attacks is: What do these people (the terrorists) actually want?

I grew up in the 80s and 90s when IRA terrorism was still prominent throughout the UK and Ireland. I never supported their acts of violence but I understood they had a political objective which was a united Ireland.

What is the political objective of ISIS and Islamic terrorism in general? There isn't one. They simply hate who we are and our way of life. It's this that I find difficult to understand. There is no ultimate objective, so in theory we could never sit down with these terrorists and reach some sort of peace agreement.

I certainly don't agree with Jeremy Corbyn and the Left's view point that British Foreign policy is somehow to blame for these attacks. That argument falls down when you consider we've had attacks in Sweden and Belgium, two countries that were not involved in Iraq, Libya or Syria. Besides Islamic fundamentalists groups have been around for decades with some groups beginning life in the 50s and 60s.

This form of Islam hates Western values and ultimately has a nihilistic mentality that wants to do harm to us simply for the sake of it. All we can do is continue with our security efforts to prevent future attacks but just as important is to find ways to stop British born or raised Muslims from turning to extremism.

At the weekend when I was out with my sister in a bar where we ended up in a slightly heated conversation with a guy who is a friend of some friends. He was drunkenly saying: "Something needs to be done about the Muslims" before talking about how we need to go in and 'wipe out' the terrorists.

My sister and I pointed out that there is a difference between Islamic terrorism and the wider Muslim community and that going into the Middle East and 'wiping out hundreds of 'jihadists' is unlikely to permanently kill off this form of terrorism.

For our thoughts we were both labelled as Lefties!

Ultimately there are no easy answers and solutions to these terrorist attacks and this is what makes the challenge so difficult.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

General Election 2017: Not another one

This morning the biggest news story for me was discovering that Harry Redknapp had been appointed the new Birmingham City manager following the nightmare that was GianFranco Zola.

That story was soon trumped by the announcement by Teresa May that there will be another General Election on the 8 June.

I have to admit I was quite excited when I heard there was going to be an announcement at 11:15 and I will enjoy election night but I'm not looking forward to another 7 weeks of political debate.

I get why we're having an election. The Conservatives have a huge lead over Labour in the polls and it makes political sense to go to the polls and strengthen the majority. I've read loads of opinion pieces about how this is a cynical ploy by the Conservative Party. A staggering U-turn by Teresa May. Personally I just think it's good politics.

We know the Conservative Party are going to win the election, it's simply a question on how big the majority will be. This is really the Brexit vote part II.

I'm more interested in seeing how the Labour Party will do. They certainly can't win this election and I fully expect them to dip below 200 seats. Anything below 170 will be an absolute disaster. Jeremy Corbyn may still have large support from Labour Party members but it's clear that the electorate at large do not see him as a potential Prime Minister.

Even when the inevitable happens and Labour loses, I'm not convinced he will step down as leader. Despite what he might say, the real aim of Jeremy Corbyn is to change the Labour Party and ensure that the Left maintain control. When he loses, his supporters will ensure that he is not held responsible for the defeat. It will because of disloyal 'Blairite' MPs and the hostile media!

We should see a Liberal Democrat revival. With only 9 MPs the only way is up and I can see them increasing their numbers in Parliament to between 25 - 40 seats. The great selling point for the Lib Dems are that they avidly pro Europe and will appeal to those Remain voters who are seeking a 'soft Brexit'

I don't really see the point of UKIP anymore and don't expect them to have any seats after 8 June while in Scotland the SNP will continue their dominance.

After the initial excitement of hearing the General Election declaration, I do understand those people who feel a sense of election fatigue. I just want the election to happen now. We know what the result is likely to be, I'm more interested in the election fallout.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Article 50: One small victory

For those of us who voted Remain in the EU referendum we may have lost the war but there are still lots of smaller battles to be won.

Yesterday's Supreme Court decision on article 50 felt like a small victory for Remain voters. The decision means the government can't trigger Article 50 without approval from Parliament.

As expected critics have labelled the decision as some sort of attempt to thwart the will of the British people and Gina Miller the woman who started the legal fight to get Parliament to vote on the act has received some horrific abuse and threats.

Like many people who voted remain I accept we are leaving the EU, I don't feel I need to pretend that I like it but I've come to terms with it. What hasn't been decided is how we leave and the process and debate involved.

Brexit supporters love to go on about how the British people have decided to leave the EU but the way this narrative is presented you would think that over 75% of people voted to leave rather than the small majority of 52% who voted for Brexit.

There are still millions of people who did not want to leave the EU and it's right that their views and opinion on the type of Brexit we have are heard. This is the role Parliament should be taking and Parliament should play a role in representing all of the electorate and properly debating and scrutinising the terms and conditions by which we leave the EU.

In these anti-establishment, anti-politician times that we live in too many people seem to think a vote for Brexit is the beginning and end of the matter. The people have spoken and we need to get on with it!

Well it might upset quite a lot of leave voters but we do still live in a parliamentary democracy. The referendum was a simple in/out question. We voted out but the terms and conditions on how we leave are up for debate.

It's only right that Parliament are involved, I've had quite enough of 'direct democracy'. The reason we have MPs is precisely for such occasions, the effects of Brexit will be felt for decades to come and how we leave needs to be debated and assessed properly.

It looks as if we're heading for a 'Hard Brexit' something many people did not vote for. My hope is that before Article 50 is triggered we arrive at a deal that better reflects the views of the electorate. Of course I know this will be difficult. Brexit is arguably the most divisive issue I've experienced living in the UK.

With more than 6 months now gone since the referendum result, I'm quite happy to admit that my disappointment and anger has only increased. I would say it's now bordering on a loathing for what I feel Brexit represents.

There's no doubt in my mind that individually and as a nation we will be poorer but for some the bigger issue is controlling borders.

Immigration is a fact of life, the country needs some for immigration. The volume and type of immigration (particularly in certain parts of the country) is the real issue.

But for me it's not just the economic and financial impact of Brexit that I'm opposed to, there's the cultural issues that Brexit represents. It's a kind of arrogance where the UK feels it can turn its back on its nearest neighbours, unwilling to make concessions and accept rules of membership of a club. Instead we will go out into the world and believe we can have all these great trade deals with the rest of the world which will always be in our favour.

Brexiteers will hate my analysis but I simply don't care.