Tag Archives: politics

Unpresidented

I have a terrible boss.

He’s not a terrible man. He’s a husband and father – with another baby on the way, so his wife must think he’s doing something right. He’s quite cheerful most of the time. He’s not afraid to experiment with facial hair.

He’s terrible at his job. In fact, he’s literally useless at his job. If he left tomorrow, no one would notice. He barely turns up as it is.

But what makes him a terrible boss is that he feels no responsibility for his employees. He exhibits no duty of care towards anyone in his department. He could not give a solitary shit.

When you become a manager, it means more than a few extra dollars in your pocket. The role of manager comes with responsibility – notably responsibility for the people you are managing. And the higher up the ladder you go, on the whole, the greater the pool of people for whom you are ultimately responsible.

A great leader would take a bullet for his team. I’m pretty sure my boss would throw us all under the nearest bus and then pretend he’d been somewhere else all along. Probably playing golf.

President of the United States is perhaps the greatest boss role in the world. This is a boss responsible not just for his immediate team but for his entire political party; for his whole country; for the West.

What he says matters. His words resonate. They don’t just tell us what he thinks; they tell us what he believes we should think.

When Donald Trump bragged of grabbing women by the pussy, it made sexual assault okay. There are now horrifying videos on the internet of young men, university students, defending their right to rape – because if it’s good enough for their president, it’s good enough for them.

This week in Charlottesville NC, white supremacists marched on an integrated community that had decided to move a Confederate statue – a march that evoked an embarrassing racist past and which ultimately descended into fatal violence.

And in the aftermath, Donald Trump refused to condemn their actions. He decried violence ‘on many sides’. He said some white supremacists were ‘fine people’. And he claimed the people protesting the march were as violent as the neo-Nazis they opposed.

It doesn’t matter that almost no Republican politician has voiced support for these statements. It doesn’t matter that several have voiced opposing views. It doesn’t matter that some have expressly denounced the president’s words. It doesn’t matter that the leaders of America’s biggest companies have quit White House advisory councils in droves, rushing to distance themselves and their corporate policies from Donald Trump’s racist right wing rhetoric.

All of their words combined don’t have the power of the words of POTUS. What he says matters. His words resonate.

They resonate with the millions of people who voted him into power.

For me, one of the most damning indictments of Donald Trump came – fittingly – via social media. It was when white supremacists claimed that President Trump had actively refused to denounce them – proof of his support for them, and of the righteousness of their cause.

And in response – he did nothing.

Who knows, maybe some of Donald Trump’s best friends are black. Maybe they were until this week, anyway. But that doesn’t really matter either.

Donald Trump’s words resonate. They resonate around the world.

I can’t think of a single other boss, in any line of business, in any country in the world, who could expressly support white supremacists – and still have his job the next day.

Suddenly, my boss doesn’t seem all that terrible.

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Not Fake News

So obviously we here in the not so UK are all super excited about Brexit. Now we have a date, we can all put the finishing touches to our Brexit party plans. Whew.

Article 50 is triggered when Theresa May sends a letter to the EU. I genuinely hope she actually posts them a letter. And that there’s a New Year’s Eve style evening of TV programming dedicated to the event culminating with a midnight countdown show in which we watch TM’s hand hover at the slot of a red post box for about an hour until the nation finally yells in unison 5-4-3-2-1-Brexit! as she lets go of the envelope. Then we would all sing God Save the Queen even though she absolutely definitely didn’t have an opinion on Brexit ever and certainly never mentioned one at a party one time while loads of people were listening. Then there would be the potentially weeks of aftermath fun as we wonder excitedly if the letter will get lost in the post. The EU, Europe? Good luck with that address, Royal Mail.

But in the meantime, AMERICA JESUS H CHRIST WTAF?? It’s sort of too late – and yet things do actually seem to keep getting exponentially worse so probably still worth doing – WAKE UP.

An American acquaintance of my mother’s once said to her, genuinely perplexed, that she didn’t understand why the rest of the world thought of Americans as stupid. My mother, always ready to help others where she can, wrote her a long explanatory letter. Incidentally, she never heard from that acquaintance again.

I think I’ll suggest she sends a similar missive to the FBI, who apparently thought it was okay to not mention this prior to the election:

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-trump-campaign-has-been-under-investigation-since-july

Even though there was totally precedent for mentioning that a candidate was under investigation because they did it to Hillary Clinton during exactly the same election.

But let’s not blame the monumental cock-up of electing Donald Trump on the FBI. That, my friends, is on the American people. And don’t give me that but-the-majority-of-us-didn’t-vote-for-him bullshit. Your electoral system hasn’t changed in probably ever – you all knew what the stakes were. This is on all of you – like Brexit is on all of us.

But if any you genuinely don’t get what you did wrong, I’ll be happy to introduce you to my mum.

On yer Boris bike

It’s hard for many Londoners to understand why Brexit happened. Maybe its because we live in a one of the world’s most truly international cities, the hub of so many European and global businesses, and we see the benefits of an international outlook and pan-cultural cooperation every day at work and in our communities. Maybe its because we live in the shadow of Westminster and are familiar with a wider spectrum of political thinking than other regions. Maybe it’s because we’ve already had Boris as a leader and Christ on one of his bikes, did the rest of you think you were missing out??? I don’t think its because the rest of England is stupid, or racist – though this is an actual conversation I had in the northeast:

Them: We were forced to leave the club because some darkies showed up.

Me: Wait – what??

Them: Yeah, it was a shame.

Me: You seriously can’t use the word ‘darkies’.

Them: What are you supposed to call them then – coloureds?

But then things get reported in the papers like “Cornwall votes for Brexit then pleads to keep EU funding;” and we put our faces in our hands and think what part of leaving the EU wasn’t clear? And Nigel Farage says, “The side of my bus said let’s keep the £350 million a week we give the EU and fund the NHS instead – it didn’t say we’d give them the whole £350 million;” and we put our faces in our hands and think of course it didn’t say that, did anyone actually think it did? And the pound drops to its lowest level since 1985 and people are shocked; and we put our faces in our hands and think but literally every single economist in this country and outside of this country said the pound would drop, how has this come as a surprise?

Advocates for remaining a part of Europe included the country’s brightest politicians, economists, scientists, business leaders, manufacturers and artists. Advocates for leaving included UKIP, the BNP, Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. That’s why we Londoners thought this was a no brainer.

Is Europe going to stop trading with the UK? Of course not, we’re countries not 10 year olds – but losing guaranteed access to Europe as a marketplace and having to negotiate deals is not necessarily going to work in our favour. Are big job creating tax paying businesses going to pull out of the UK? Why wouldn’t they, if the UK is a European hub – because a European hub should be in Europe, duh. Will the UK be stronger? Well we’ll be the only fish in a tiny pond, so kind of – but as opposed to a big fish in a glorious pond, which is much better in my mind. It would be a bit like if Texas left the United States, which is what’s being proposed on Twitter today. The rest of the world is still going to view the other 49 states as the powerhouse, and Texas will be reduced to being just Texas. But maybe Texans would think of themselves as better off through independence. I don’t know, are Texans as stupid as the British?

Narrow minds, and national identity over our place in the world as a whole, are not things that factor into day to day London life. It’s a city where diversity is celebrated; where people are curious of other cultures, not afraid; where politics are important and present. Where we see in practice every single day how being a part of Europe makes us stronger as a nation. Are there problems in the EU? Huge ones – but they could be overcome. Is the EU going to succeed? Possibly not as it is – but it’s not doomed to certain failure. The London I live in doesn’t run away from problems, it comes together and tries to fix them – look at the way the city unites in the wake of tragedy like 7/7 or Orlando, for Pride, or to protest injustice. The UK I’ve just witnessed leave the EU saw a problem and bailed. It’s not even a selfish move – it’s a shot-ourselves-in-the-foot selfish move.

In so many ways, London is not the UK. Today, 24 hours after Brexit, there are calls for London to secede, and today I wish that was a thing that could plausibly happen. But only if we could relocate the House of Commons, mind – maybe to Cornwall.

Because we Londoners know Boris. He’s less the saviour who will surely lead us to greatness, and more the buffoon who will almost certainly lead us to global insignificance.

Good luck everyone.

AS 25-06-16

Scotland the Brave

Our friends in the north, Scotland, are about to vote. According to preliminary polls, approximately half of the population believes that Scotland – population 5 million, biggest export whiskey – is large enough, important enough and influential enough to stand solo on the world stage. To put the magnitude of this belief into context, it’s a claim never made by England, by far the largest constituent country of the UK (population 53 million). Or any of the country-unto-themselves United States, like Texas. Or countries with far more geographical, political, cultural, racial and ideological reason to want to split away from the Motherland, like New Zealand.

It’s enough to make one wonder, why?

The Scots are a proud people with a rich cultural heritage. I respect that. So does everyone else in the UK. So does everyone in the world. No one, anywhere, I don’t think, is trying to dilute let alone obliterate Scotland’s Scottishness. Certainly no one in the UK, where we’re frankly quite fond of the place. And that won’t alter, regardless of whether Scotland is part of the United Kingdom or not. It’s not an argument for or against independence.

Scotland also has a history of warring with England, and there is some residual dissatisfaction that the countries were united 300 years ago. Well you know what, Scotland – get over it. England has a history of warring with Scandinavia. And France. And Italy. And Wales. We’re not interested in that any more. It’s a history of war. That means, literally, that it’s o-v-a-h over. Braveheart might have felt he had a legitimate beef with England; the average young professional living in Glasgow today really seriously doesn’t. It’s a bit boring now.

But Scotland’s main arguments for independence are geopolitical ones. Scotland claims to be a Labour voting country, which thanks to its being lumped in with the much more Conservative England has often had to endure rule by a Conservative government. Scotland also claims to have vast energy resources that it’s unhappy having to share with the rest of the UK. Scotland for the Scots, rah rah. Interesting. Let’s discuss.

If you look at the political map of the UK, England does identify predominantly as Conservative; of course there have been plenty of Labour governments elected over time despite this. What’s also clear is that Scotland identifies predominantly as Liberal Democrat. Er, Scotland – we currently have a coalition government involving the Lib Dems. Which I think means this is the closest Scotland has ever got to the government it wants as a nation. Sorry, what was your point again?

Glasgow and Edinburgh identify as Labour, but they only make up about 20 per cent of the country’s population. Surely you’re not suggesting that the preference of Scotland’s south should dictate the politics of the whole country? Isn’t that a little bit like the preference of the UK’s south affecting the rest of the UK…? Just saying.

As to resources… The last I heard, Scotland has vast untapped oil reserves that no one knows about except apparently the Scottish guy I know on Facebook who mentioned it and all of his mates. Official data suggests Scotland’s oil reserves are already on the decline and will be all but depleted in 25 years’ time. The truth is probably somewhere in between, but the reality isn’t all that different: there’s enough oil to keep this generation happy, but your kids are a bit fucked. Nice.

But really, from this impartial outsider’s view, whether or not Scotland should vote for independence all boils down to currency. “Funnyman” Russell Brand recently suggested this was an issue about whose face was on the bank notes – and the same Facefriend I mentioned above actually quoted his typically ill-considered and provocative remarks as a pro-independence argument. That’s not even slightly the issue! The pound is a pretty strong currency. A vote for independence dooms Scotland to joining the Euro, a currency that for years has been at worst unstable and at best stagnant. Even the established European superpowers of France and Germany are currently in economic turmoil. Note the pound is wavering in world markets in the run up to the referendum. Note that the Euro is not simultaneously rallying in excitement at the prospect of Scotland joining the party.

There is one alternative to the Euro – Scotland could invent its own currency. But as not even the hardest pro-independence lobbyists think that’s an awesome idea, let’s just put that one quietly to bed. Shh. Walk away. Nothing to see here.

Russell Brand also suggested your mortgages would immediately be assumed by someone called Abdul. If Abdul is a banker in the City of London, maybe. Any financial dealings with a British bank would automatically become financial dealings with a foreign bank. Because England would be a foreign country. Take independence out of the equation, and how many of you would choose to move your money – your security now and in the future, and the security of your dependants – to a foreign country?  More than 50 per cent…?

Also, when it comes to money, surely you want to look at what the financial sector is saying and doing. After all, money is their specialist subject. And what most of them are saying is that if Scotland votes for independence, they’ll leave Scotland. You don’t need to understand currency and markets all that well at all to know that that’s not a good sign.

Voting to join the Euro just so you could say screw you to the English would be like shooting yourself in the foot. And then the other foot, and then both arms, and then your head.

Our actions now don’t just affect our generation, but our children and our children’s children and many generations to come. Voting for independence may well give the young wealthy Scots of today an enhanced sense of national pride, but their retiring parents and their future children might well not thank them for it. Unless my Facefriend is right, of course, and there’s a never-ending supply of oil just waiting to be discovered the day after you vote for independence. But just to be clear, he’s quite fond of Scotland’s biggest export. And when it comes to Scottish independence, he quotes Russell Brand as an expert.

Government at a local level should be local; that’s how it works in every nation around the world. If Scotland’s government has been unduly restricted by the national government of the UK, then that’s worth correcting. No one wants that, for themselves or for anyone else. But that’s what devolution is about – giving more political freedom at the local level. And that’s what you’ve got. If it’s not working well enough, (bag)pipe up by all means and let’s sort it out. But Scotland isn’t big, and national independence isn’t clever.

Good luck on Thursday. It’s the 21st century. No one’s wants to stifle your national growth. And we genuinely hope you don’t end up stifling your own.

AS 16-09-14