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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

241. Tory-DUP & the Magic Money Deal


Theresa May’s magic money deal with the Democratic Unionist Party makes Voldemort look like a muggle on this Harry Potter 20th anniversary.

In some tongues BREXIT must actually translate as ABRACADABRA. I mean WOW. Britain is still grey with austerity but Theresa May can find £100,000,000 per DUP vote to keep herself in power because she believes it is her destiny to ride the BREXIT-broomstick.

Here’s miserable old me thinking BREXIT is a big pile of shite dumped by Cameron and lapped up by the racists, xenophobes and neo-imperialists, plunging Britain into even more mad mess but I was wrong wrong wrong. I am so happy.

You could say I am hysterical…

It turns out that because we are committed to BREXIT (even though not one bloody person knows what that entails) and the Article 50 clock has been ticking for some time now, Theresa May is suddenly able to find £1 billion bribe down the back of the Treasury sofa for a DUP shore-up. It’s amazingly amazing. Britain has had austerity shoved down its throat for years and poor people and immigrants have been blamed and vilified by the mass media, but now that the PM needs the 10 Irish Neanderthals to keep her in power -  tadaaaaaaaah.

The DUP are not even in coalition with The Conservative party. They don’t have to fag for May like ex-Liberal leader Clegg (who rightly lost his seat in the general election) did for Cameron. If it were a coalition May might have gifted them Wales and the Outer Hebrides.

And if you argue that this is not magic BREXIT money, I can prove you wrong. If it were not magic BREXIT money then it would have been available to quickly and efficiently help the victims of Grenfell Tower – which – it seems – it was not (see last week’s post).

But the magic, amnesia-inducing and mind bending properties of BREXIT magic stretch much further than even I – a writer of adult fiction and children’s fantasy – could ever have imagined.

The BREXIT-induced general election transformed pumpkin Corbyn into a political princess. Though he did fuck all, to any effect, during the referendum to argue for remaining in the EU or protecting EU citizens’ rights, Corbyn was recently cheered like the lead singer of a fusion folk-rock-punk collective at Glastonbury Festival by all the privileged middle class kids who could afford to go.

We must all sprinkle some BREXIT seeds out of our windows tonight and see if they sprout into magic beanstalks. I might put some in the back of my wardrobe and see if a magical world opens up behind it.

Maybe BREXIT is the new MATRIX and if I take the red BREXIT pill I will instantly know Kung-Fu, how to fly a helicopter and how to make a black, patent leather trench coat look good.

Unfortunately, like other rabbit holes – BREXIT is just a dark, damp dead end.

The list of things that were not considered before we entered this twisted Alice in Wonderland scenario is staggering; the Irish border question – now further complicated by the Government’s indebted position to the DUP. Why were not rights of EU citizens and Brits abroad considered before the referendum; free trade, free movement, the issue of the exit fee and so on and so on and so forth?

 “The mess is so big and so deep and so tall
We cannot clear it up there is no way at all”
                                             (The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss)

SO – while many EU leaders made sad noises when the Leave campaign won, their regret smells fake to me.

They look at our increasingly unpalatable, racist foreign secretary with incredulity.

They heard bumptious David Davis boast about his negotiating prowess right up to day 1. of exit negotiations where he immediately capitulated to the EU position.

They will remember how the British government shamefully reneged on promises to help suffering migrant children fleeing war.

Right now they must wonder who will end up as head of the UK asylum. Will it be the discredited Theresa May who campaigned to remain in the EU but then morphed before our very eyes into a hard Brexiteer and has just made a greasy deal with the DUP to cover her election failings?  Will it be Jeremy Corbyn, darling of the £238-per-ticket 2017 Glastonbury festival who flirted with UKIPs 1950s attitudes to foreign workers and is in favour of squashing free movement of EU citizens but thinks, on that basis, Britain could still be in the free market?

They will look at how the banks have deserted the UK after being bailed out by the public purse.

They will listen to Tory claims that we have economic power to our elbow because the EU could not afford to lose the spending obsession of the Brits – while they and everyone else know that the proportion of that spending based on credit (DEBT) is so vast that the next crash is already looming.

The remaining EU countries will see just how little, in reality, the UK cares about green issues (see blog 236).

Forward looking EU countries already know how UK society is anchored to incompetence and inadequacy and nepotism by the Old boys’ network, the private school privilege which ensures that those who have money get on rather than those who have skill, talent, imagination and drive (see blogs 35, 64, 65, 103, 113, 117, 171, 187, 201++).

Now they will look at the dirty DUP payoff while the rest of the UK is smarting from austerity and know that Britain has collectively lost its marbles and it's democracy.

And, whatever they say in the open, however diplomatic they are or however much they feel the need to publicly state that they regret the UK’s departure – in private – I bet my last bar of chocolate – EU leaders are saying,
GOOD RIDDANCE

Because if I were in continental Europe rather than the UK that is what I would be saying…
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Tuesday, 20 June 2017

240. Grenfell Tower – a village worth of people housed in a chimney

Grenfell Tower was a vertical village filled with a wondrous variety of humanity, multiple skin tones, wide-ranging interests, different religions, diverse cultures and all ages.

But Grenfell Tower was also a village worth of people living in a chimney because, it seems, people who should have cared did not.

Welcome to modern Britain…

I’ve hesitated to write about this unnecessary horror. I do not live in London. My flat is not in a high-rise block. But the causes of this wretched tragedy have their basis in much that I’ve written about on this blog; greed, lack of compassion, the exponentially growing disparity between those with un-spendable wealth and everyone else, political short-termism and incompetence. There are different rules for the rich and powerful and the rest of us, and we have a political system which is more like a warped reality show than a test of competence.

IN the aftermath of this monstrous event, we have collective responsibilities and obligations which I will deal with at the end of this, slightly longer than usual and humour-free post.

The wider context for the Grenfell Tower tragedy is that it was always going to happen – somewhere. I believe it is only the scale of the horror and extent of loss of life and apocalyptic pictures of destruction and mayhem that have taken our collective breath away. The scenes were reminiscent of third world factories where workers die because they are trapped inside sub-standard buildings because profit is all that matters. But this is Britain, one of the most developed countries on the planet and the occupants regularly complained and drew the authority’s attention to potential hazards. They were ignored.

Everywhere you look, cheap architecture is being quickly thrown up to house people who have limited choices due to their socio-economic circumstances. Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sold off the UK's precious social housing stock of good quality post-war housing that represented Britain’s bequest of the 1939 - 45 horrors; the right of working class people. I remember my Granny’s council house where she raised 5 boys and where I made mud pies and picked apples in the garden. Over the years it was modernised by the council including getting an indoor toilet early in the 1970s. But most of the houses in that street are now privately owned. That social housing, legacy of the war and sacrifice of a nation, has never been replaced.

Equally, Labour councils have put out public services to private tender reducing regulation via the back door and no one did more to introduce the corrosive private sector ideologies into the public sector than Labour, from Tony Blair’s administration right up until it lost power under Gordon Brown.

The current Labour crew were woefully ineffective during last year’s referendum (see last week’s post) Labour failed miserably to make the argument for stability, remaining in a reformed EU and celebrating diversity and free movement of people.

Last week I posted a piece about Britain’s slumping position in Europe but the scenes that unfolded in Grenfell Tower and the subsequent, incomprehensible lack of official support for the victims would not have seemed out of place in a Mumbai or Kenyan slum. And this in one of the richest boroughs in one of the richest cities in one of the richest countries in the world. SHAME SHAME SHAME.

There is no fire authority in the UK that could have dealt with the Grenfell Tower inferno, funnelling flames inside the cheap cladding. But there could easily have been sprinklers, central fire alarms, fire escapes. One commentator from Kensington council said that residents had not ‘wanted’ a sprinkler system as it would have slowed renovations – as if safety issues were akin to the colour of the walls.

Families were, it seems, given inappropriate advice on how to react in the case of a fire. Those who survived appear to be the ones who ignored that advice.

But, I believe, Grenfell Tower has a wider significance. The tragedy is an appalling testament to a country in a mess, where greed, self-interest, short-termism and inequality are out of control.

Some of our immediate responsibilities as a nation are these –
We must force ourselves, without sentimentality or ghoulish voyeurism, to look at the pictures of the lost; the innocent faces of the children, the open expectant faces of the young adults with their promising lives ahead, the lined, experienced faces of the older residents who deserved a better end.

Then we must remind ourselves that this simply did not need to happen. It is the result of greed, incompetence and inequality. One rule for ‘us’ and a different rule for ‘them’.

Also, we cannot just exist in a situation where, when things go horribly wrong, politicians compete to see who can make the loudest call for another costly inquiry. INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDS TO BE MANAGED.  Politics has become an ongoing beauty pageant with ‘leaders’ popping like a series of mad jack-in-the-boxes bouncing up and down to the dull beat of opinion polls.

We must remind ourselves every single day that WE CAN AFFORD A DECENT STANDARD OF LIVING FOR EVERYONE never mind what the media barons in their tax exiles tell us and never mind how many stories they spew out about immigrants and the disabled and benefit ‘scroungers’ causing the country’s problems. They are lies peddled by people who, themselves, avoid contributing fairly to society.

We must stop separating ourselves from each other with technology and politicians must stop separating themselves from the people with committees and quangos and barriers to government services. So when I ring my local council I do not want to deal with an automated system. I want to deal with a human being because I am a human being.

It goes without saying there must always be residents on relevant housing committees. It was that way when I was a councillor in the 1980s and chaired my local area housing committee, why has it changed?

We need to stop trying to placate the xenophobes pulling us away from the common good and achievable goal of a decent future for everyone. We need to actively work against the downwards pull of self-interest.

The media must stop feeding the public a diet of celebrity shit and start reporting real news, real issues about real people. If they don’t then we must not fund them by buying their papers, clicking on their websites, tuning in to their programmes.

And, as day 1 of Brexit negotiations concluded yesterday, giving a brief startlingly clear glimpse of just how weak the UK negotiating position really is, we should consider the behaviour of some tabloids. Some of those now making headlines and front pages with the gruesome images of Grenfell Tower were quick to condemn health and safety laws as the scourge of Brussels.

The blackened carcass of Grenfell Tower stands as a disgraceful monument to unnecessary death, wasted futures, unutterable sadness and a failure in the chain of human compassion and kinship which should link us all.

While it may be an eyesore to an affluent borough, perhaps the remains of the tower should be stabilised and stay as a reminder of what happens when greed takes over, when Mammon is god, when one group of human beings is regarded as worth less than another.

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Tuesday, 13 June 2017

239. Britain - from global power to ‘Greece’ in 14 years…

…minus the compassion for migrants.

In the preposterous 2017 UK General Election, young folk at least saw they can make a difference if they register and VOTE and the UKIP boil was finally lanced. Also ex-Liberal leader Nick Clegg – who pissed on the under-35s – lost his seat. So yes, out of the rubbish heap it was possible to pluck those three shiny things. And the UK’s current political state can be summed up thus ‘The Worst of all Possible Worlds.’

Choreographed stagnation. Self-inflicted paralysis. Socio-political constipation with the rock faced anti-liberal Irish DUP politicians providing our minority government Prime Minister with her only negotiating laxative.

IF, shortly after the illegal invasion of Iraq, two gremlins sat on a dung hill next to an open sewer near an unregulated landfill and meditated in the stench on a route to take Britain to the worst scenario possible (for a country that,  in 2003, still had status in the world) they would have plotted the path to Friday 9th June 2017.

Corbyn campaigned to get into power with a Viagra verve he never showed in 2016 when he flip-flopped, floundered, faffed and failed during the desperate (unnecessary) EU referendum debacle. And it is that result which will define Britain for my young grandson’s generation, not the ridiculous 2017 General Election.

Theresa May’s catastrophic display of Grammar-school-girl-who-should- be-running-a-small-branch-of-the-WI-not-the-country plus a Labour Party manifesto which (if you ignored the credibility gap) should have been an inducement to anyone who is not a soul-less tax exile, makes it not odd that we ended up with a hung parliament but odd that the Tories weren’t beaten. But at the end of the day – the long weary same old same old day – we have the worst of all situations. However, in view of similar previous claims, I make no assertion that things cannot get worse. We seem to be breaking records right left and centre in the new Olympic sport of shooting yourself in the foot.

Put simply, thanks to Cameron’s weakness and poor judgement added to fear and xenophobia towards the very refugees we helped create plus a general corrosive and illogical anti-EU malaise, we are out of the EU. Having been a Remain advocate, Theresa May, for some reason best known to herself, drove the cart hard for a full-on, over-the-cliff Brexit. Then, with the negotiating clock ticking in the background like a large ball of TNT in an Acme cartoon, we were plunged into yet another spurious election.

Britain now has a minority government hatching an unholy alliance with 10 Irish MPs who look as if they still believe the earth is flat. We have ensured no one wins. We will end up with a lot of the things the rabid neo-imperialists did not want – including rights for EU citizens (see blog 214 – The 3 Million and Aleppo) and a trade deal that invariably means staying with the EU Court – yet, we will not have the benefits of being a full member of the EU and part of the future. Putting all that to one side, it is the UK's loss of credibility that is most corrosive, most damaging, most hurtful economically, politically and socially. That is something which will not be redeemed in my life time.

Britain’s standing in the world has plummeted over the last few months in a way only matched by the US under Dump.

In case no one noticed – the banks and much else of the financial industry already snuck out the back door. Our under-funded universities, historically a huge British asset, are dropping like lead down the global league tables. Prices in the shops, which we’re told rose this year by 2% have, I can personally attest, risen by, in some cases, ten times that amount and EU nurses have all but stopped registering to work in the NHS.

Pollution – the biggest issue of our time, if you are a biological organism reliant on oxygen and averse to poison, has floated off like methane fumes into the stratosphere while people bicker and bite over fake self-made problems. IN this most difficult of times, the UK has a line-up of bloodless ‘leaders’ lacking in inspiration and imagination that must have every EU leader snickering up their sleeves if they are not simply incredulous.

Like road kill – our post- EU referendum situation didn’t look good – now after more political traffic – our economy, our global credibility and our future are smeared all over the highway.

Across the Channel Napoleon Macron has achieved a mandate for change with an impressive and much wider margin than could have been anticipated. The UK has a mandate for chaos, also with a much wider margin than could ever have been anticipated.

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Tuesday, 6 June 2017

238. The Birmingham gas chamber!


Who knew – Birmingham had its own human gas chamber – in full public view and very shiny.

Just at the point where my shite monitor for this Thursday’s general election went off the scale, I stumble on this open secret. Yes – as the UK shuffles to another vote - this one to decide who shapes the sloppy BREXIT turd (the Conservatives who shat it or the Labour Party who failed to divert it down an appropriate sewer) something way more bizarre is happening in the UK. And we all missed it.

Global environmental devastation is staring every living, breathing thing right in the kisser and no one in power in either the UK or the US seems focused on that amidst current chaos. But, it seems, there is an anti-programme.

It's hard to assimilate the news that human-fart-in-a-lift Donald Trump pulled the world’s biggest polluter out of the world’s most important and hard won climate agreement. The Paris Accord – the deal most likely to help mitigate global environmental carnage, is now minus America but I began to suss what may be going on.

Unable to avoid travelling home via Birmingham New Street train station, I was again struck by how hideous it is to be inside the big new, deceptively silvery mushroom. In case you missed the pleasure, some twonk placed a huge metal cap over this very heavily used West Midlands rail hub in the name of re-development. So, the enclosed area where people shop and have coffee and wait for trains basically fills up with diesel fumes all day from the trains below. I presume neither the architects nor the idiots who gave it planning permission use it often because, once inside the dome, you may as well be sucking on an exhaust pipe.

I’ve spoken to staff there on a number of occasions. Initially there was a suspicion that I’d arrived on a random day when something had gone dreadfully wrong with vents. I’ve been there several times since and it’s been the same, though some days may be worse than others depending on the temperature. One worker told me he often has stinging eyes, a sore throat and headaches. How long before he has 'dead'?

It is - if you think about it – an unofficial human gas chamber. Probably because we are not killing ourselves quite efficiently enough with general pollution. Let’s face it UK premature deaths from pollution are only running at about 40,000 per year.

Then we have the government’s keenness on fracking. I’ve mentioned before the irony of the UK government giving the go-ahead to french fracking firms when fracking is illegal in France. Clearly the French like their children healthy and alive.

Britain’s failure to replace and plant trees in sufficient numbers to offset ecological damage was the subject of two blogs ago. We are also still giving planning permission in areas of natural beauty and wildlife importance – for ecologically damaging open cast mining - e.g. Druridge Bay in Northumberland.

Our cities – choked with diesel fumes are just open toxic hazards.

In blog 220 Mexico v Trump & why America is literally breaking – I outlined the madness of the US having a head of EPA who does not believe in protecting the environment. Pruitt, ex-governor of Oklahoma – increased fracking and subsequently presided over an unprecedented increase in serious local earthquakes. 

But maybe the UK Crazies have a plan they didn’t mention. Having failed to control migration sufficiently to placate the politically constipated colonialist Brexiteers and neo-imperialists they had to do something. Add the prospect of hordes of ex-pats thronging home when they can no longer get free healthcare abroad – the government is going to deal with an underfunded health service – also under-employment, increased homelessness etc etc etc – by allowing pollution to kill off as many of the people who already live here as possible. The West Midlands Gas Chamber will help up the numbers. Maybe there are other 'projects' hiding in full view?

Sneaky.
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