Take Me To Your Leader Writer

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...has written more leaders (newspaper editorials) than anyone alive or dead, an honour still to be recognised by the Guiness Book of Records or the Nobel judges. I have produced them for the Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Sunday Mirror, Today, the Sunday People, the Evening Post (Hemel Hempstead), the Caithness Courier and the Student (Edinburgh). My creed is: Have opinions, Will travel.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

It isn't Corbyn's left-wing views that threaten this country

Those of you who read my blog on negotiating tactics would have seen demonstrated yesterday a classic case history on How Not To Do It. The Government has so boxed itself in that David Davis went into Day One of the Brexit negotiations with only two alternatives. He could cave in or walk out. And since walking out before things had even started was impossible - particularly after the election - he did the only thing left to him, which was to capitulate. How the EU's leaders must be laughing at us. When Davis tried to wriggle around what had happened, Michel Barnier let his aggravation show and made the critical point that the Brexiteers just refuse to understand: The UK wanted this, so it can't expect any favours. Our pathetic negotiators and negotiating position are clearly going to collapse. It is only a matter of time. That should be the moment when it would be possible to admit it had all been a terrible mistake, the Leave voters were misinformed and didn't realise the consequences, and can we please have our EU membership back. Yet there is one real obstacle to that - and it isn's the Mail/Sun/Express/Dacre/Murdoch, let alone the increasingly wild-eyed Outers on the Tory benches. It is Jeremy Corbyn. Before the election, the widespread cry went up that there was no opposition to what the Conservatives were doing generally. Then came the campaign, Corbyn's rise to popularity and an unexpected result. Opposition is back - at least, opposition to austerity, enforced poverty and increased privatisation. But there is no real opposition to the biggest issue that faces the country, and that is our withdrawal from the European Union. John McDonnell was always an Outer, as paid-up members of the far left are. Corbyn was more wishy-washy, but his left-wing credentials pushed him towards Leave and he has now bought into it totally. Which has given the Out mob the chance to say that 80 per cent of those who voted in the election voted in favour of not just Brexit but a hard Brexit. Not in my name, comrades. Tragically, the bulk of the Labour Party, which supports Remain but is utterly cowed by getting Corbyn so wrong, are going along with it. This is going to end in tears.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Is this what was meant by the 'Bonfire of red tape'?

It is impossible to say whether the widespread cuts in police numbers contributed to the three recent terrorist atrocities but it is equally impossible not to draw the conclusion that penny-pinching played a part in the awful loss of life at Grenfell Tower. Even though £8 million was spent on refurbishment, there clearly weren't effective fire alarms and defences. The firefighters did a wonderful job but their numbers have been cut. How long hospitals will be able to cope with mass tragedies such as this is questionable with the continuing shortage of funds and difficulties in staffing A&E units in particular. There were murmurings yesterday when these issues were raised that this was "playing politics" with a disaster. But it wasn't a natural disaster - not a hurricane or tsunami. It happened in a man-made building and seems to have been caused by and spread by man-created materials. And of course the decisions that stopped proper fire defences being installed and which relegated fire regulations were obviously man - and woman - made. Gavin Barwell when housing minister deliberately did not promote fire safety because it would cost money and introduce new red tape. What sort of mad ideology thinks saving people's lives is red tape? No one said that the "bonfire of red tape" the Tories promised would extend to the conflagration of scores of people. Barwell, now ensconced in Downing Street, is not particularly responsible. The shortage of funds and restrictions on "new red tape" were decisions taken above his pay grade. But it is no wonder people are so contemptuous of politicians when ministers are either too dumb to understand the consequences of what they do or too weak to fight against them. Nor, with hindsight, is it any wonder that the British people voted in such numbers for Jeremy Corbyn. "Cuts" is no longer just a political slogan. They are having a real impact on people's lives. Those families in Grenfell Tower weren't only affected by the lack of fire precautions but will have been hit by cuts to schools, health, welfare and in various other parts of their lives. The great political tragedy is that there is a vicious conspiracy - driven by the Tory papers - to stop discussion of the sort of country we want to live in. People say they want to take back control. Yet the real control isn't exercised from Brussels but from Westminster. And it is doing irrevocable damage to the country and the institutions which matter most to all but the privileged few.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Lies, damned lies and the Tory papers

To look at the front pages of the Tory newspapers yesterday (I haven't inflicted todays' on myself yet) was to peer into a parallel universe. Following the election on radio and television it was clear that Corbyn was having a good one, looking assured, dealing with difficult questions well (usually) and not avoiding answering them or hiding from the voters. Theresa May was the opposite. She is having a stinker of an election. She doesn't know how to deal with issues, parrots cliches and simply regurgitates nonsense instead of attempting to deal with questions, even when they aren't that difficult to answer [in evidence, m'lud, I call her interview with the Portsmouth Herald, not generally known as one of the nation's most incisive questioners]. She looks quite out of her depth. Then look at The Sun, Mail, Express and Telegraph. The Sun yesterday filled its front page with a picture of a tree with money hanging off it to illustrate "Labour's money tree" - the line pumped out by Central Office to attack Labour's pledge to spend more on health, social care and education. It also claimed that a Corbyn victory would cost every family £3,600 a year - although when the Remain camp produced a similar figure during the referendum campaign, it was denounced by The Sun (among others) as Project Fear. The Mail yesterday claimed that Labour would hit pensioners with a massive tax bill - ignoring, naturally, that Theresa May is really the one who has launched an attack on older people. It would be nice to think that the voters are intelligent and knowledgeable enough to treat this nasty, unbalanced stuff with the contempt it deserves but enough of them won't. I still hear plenty on the radio who describe May as strong and don't recognise the qualities Corbyn has been displaying. Remember the infamous headline after the 1992 election: It's The Sun wot won it? It will be again this time.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Could the end of the world really now be nigh?

The consequences of the Trump presidency make what could happen if the UK leaves the EU pale into insignificance, One will mainly have severe consequences on the British people, the other could lead to unthinkable disaster. Donald Trump is a dangerous, dangerous man. He is clearly more than psychologically disturbed and has surrounded himself with some very nasty people. While the quality of today's politician is generally low, certainly in this country, none so scrapes the bottom of the barrel as much as Donald J. Trump. He glories in doing the wrong thing. George W. Bush was not an intelligent or educated man but he looks like Einstein compared to the current holder of the office. Of course there are some leaders worthy of the name - Angela Merkel, obviously, and Emmanuel Macron is already shaping up well as the French President. His statement after the Trump climate-denying announcement that we should "Make the planet great again" was a brilliant twist of the knife in the moronic Trump narrative. Sadly, Trump and his people don't only not care, it pumps them up in their war against the rest of the world. One White House insider is supposed to have said, when told that the decision would upset Europe, "That's another bonus." Not even the greatest Cold War warrior would have said that about the Soviet Union. Doing all you can to spit in the face of your opponents and revelling in your successes in doing that is a sign of pathetic immaturity. The big question is where this goes now. Not particularly on climate change but for the future of peace in the world. It may be that Trump's greatest legacy will be to unite the rest of the planet. Yet if that makes the president even more paranoid, the possible consequences really are unthinkable.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The skilled art of negotiation (and it isn't Corbyn who hasn't got it)

When I was a trade union official, many years ago, I worked out that there were two ways to negotiate. One was to thump the table, shout, bluster, threaten to walk out and, indeed, sometimes walk out. The other was to try to find some common ground, behave with civility, never lose your temper and treat the other side with respect. It should be no surprise that I adopted the latter tactic, having taken over from a Father of the Chapel who had done the opposite. And I won the biggest pay rises for journalists that there had ever been on Fleet Street. So naturally it amuses and horrifies me to see Theresa May in effect taking the attitude towards the European Union negotiations that you would expect from the most rabid, hardline trade unionist. If Bob Crow were still alive, he would surely approve (he was very anti-EU anyway). The idea that the leaders of the 27 other countries will politely listen to her demands and then nod approvingly as she lectures them while playing to the image of being a bloody difficult woman is laughable. For a start, anyone who has ever been involved in negotiations and isn't completely stupid knows that the side which has the power has an advantage. And thinking that in a contest of 27 against 1, the 1 has the advantage is, frankly, breathtakingly moronic. That doesn't mean I think Jeremy Corbyn would be a great negotiator. I don't think he has done any since he was a junior public-service union official in the 1970s and the European team will be a lot different from management in a cottage hospital. That is irrelevant, though, as despite the interesting - yet clearly meaningless - latest poll, Theresa May will be the one leading the UK's negotiators. It is her who will be wandering naked into the negotiating chamber.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

This time it was May who missed the open goals

The sole way in what is left of the Lobby continues to operate is that political journalists agree on “the line”. A process which seems at times to work through osmosis but is nowadays helped by social media. Which is undoubtedly how the general view of last night’s non-debate between May and Corbyn came to be widely described as “a score draw”. This is utter nonsense. Even though they weren’t in a face-to-face scrap, Corbyn clearly did well and the prime minister did not, as any neutral person would have appreciated. And not just neutrals – people like me who abhor Corbyn were won over. Even Douglas Carswell and Nigel Farage thought he was impressive. By contrast, Theresa May was exposed as the posturing cliché-ridden zombie some of us had already realised she is. Her performance on the Channel 4/Sky News programme couldn’t have been a score draw as she patently failed to score. Even her parroting of “Brexit means Brexit” only got applause because the people who applauded her would have cheered whatever she said about getting out of the EU. The Tory campaign will now spend the next nine days simply saying “Brexit Brexit Brexit Brexit” and “Jeremy Corbyn is a terrorist lover”. The former will continue to reverberate with a large number of the voters who were duped into backing Leave and don’t yet realise how it is going to hurt them. The Corbyn slogan won’t resonate, though, as it says more about the Tories than it does about him. It is Lynton Crosby at his worst. He is one immigrant I would be happy to see put on the next slow boat back to where he came from It’s a pity that the Australian Points System so beloved of Ukip doesn’t mean one Australian in particular could be kept out of British life.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

The lemmings dash blindly to May's cliff-edge

Why is no one saying what this country will be like in 2022 when the next general election is held after five years under Theresa May? Partly because the opposition is bloody hopeless and partly because all seem incapable of looking beyond June 8. The Tory manifesto sets out a series of policies which are going to hit millions - not just the elderly but their relatives. The effects of leaving the European Union will by 2022 be growing obvious, with lower living standards and reduced public services as the tax-take falls. And public services are already on a downward spiral. Anyone who thinks the NHS can survive if it continues to be treated as it is at the moment is really living in a fool's paradise. The government won't listen to the people who know how serious things are - those who work in the health service. Just as they won't listen to the teachers and police who know what is happening to schools and law and order. At least Michael Fallow was honest when he admitted on Newsnight that curbing immigration would have a cost to this country and that the government hadn't a clue how great that cost would be. But that doesn't stop the Tories and the Ukip idiots lunging recklessly down the path of keeping out immigrants. The one thing all parties agree on is that this is the most important election of modern times. But none of them seem to understand why it is so important. It genuinely is about the future of the United Kingdom yet there is no real debate about the real issues and the real consequences of where we are heading. The cliff-edge lies ahead and the lemmings are blindly, madly rushing towards it.