Shiny Happy People

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Kudos to Boris Johnson on becoming the next Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party. I only hope that he can bring about the energy that our country so desperately needs at the moment. I still have very fond memories of the summer of 2012 and the wave of optimism that swept the country during the Olympics. I know this wasn’t entirely Mr Johnson’s doing, but he did play a part (along with his team).

I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the warm weather, but the torrent of vitriol that has followed the announcement on the Guardian app is somewhat disappointing, if not unexpected. Even among my co-workers I heard very few exclamations of delight, and a whole lot of groaning. It’s all too easy to criticise, but I didn’t see any of them up there at the hustings or stepping in line behind Tom Watson to oust Jeremy Corbyn.

I’m no huge fan of Boris, but I do think we should at least give the guy a chance. I would like to see him prove his critics wrong, if only because if he does, I think the country will be a much better place. And if he fails, then quite frankly we’ll be just where we are now, wallowing in pity and clueless about how to resolve Brexit.

I’d much rather be in Boris’ shiny, happy, energised dreamland, and I don’t think it would take much to get there, just some good, solid leadership. Let’s hope he’s up to the task.

Fudge no more?

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And so the glorious fudging of Labour’s stance on Brexit appears to be coming to an end with Jeremy Corbyn’s letter to Labour Party members saying that, in essence they will oppose any deal that the Conservatives generate, but if they win an election, they will ‘renegotiate’ a new deal. Quite what they think they can renegotiate that Boris the next Conservative leader can’t that actually looks like properly leaving, I don’t know.

Mr Corbyn goes on to say that ‘whoever becomes the new Prime Minister should have the confidence to put their deal, or No Deal, back to the people in a public vote. In those circumstances, I want to make it clear that Labour would campaign for Remain against either No Deal or a Tory deal’.

He tries to placate leavers saying that ‘a customs union [and] a strong single market… is a sensible alternative’. Last time I looked, that was just being part of the EU, without any of the benefits of being a member, and I think most people know that. Presumably, they are banking on people to reject it in a second referendum, which by that point will be so ridiculously one sided as to not even be worth worrying about, the options being, 1) Remain and 2) Remain in a really daft way.

What’s more interesting is that the Labour leadership do, finally, seem to be bowing to pressure to go all-out remain (albeit in a clever way); the threat of the Lib Dems just becoming too much for them. While they fudge it (there had to be a bit!) by saying that they haven’t decided on their stance for any possible election, the wording is strong enough that it would be fairly hard to renege on this stance if there is, as is becoming more and more likely, a fairly sharpish snap election once Boris the new PM is in number 10.

I suspect Boris Johnson’s more hard-line stance will also be another factor in this, as well as the diminishing opportunities for Grieve and co. to try to stop a no-deal Brexit with today’s amendment not being selected again.

Inconsequential words

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Well, I just watched the hustings show on the BBC and quite frankly I think it was a huge waste of time.

Emily Maitlis seemed to spend most of the limited time Boris Johnson was given talking over him trying to remind him of things he said. Indeed, most of the questions seemed deliberately worded to allow Emily to go on the BoJo offensive – she had all her embarrassing Boris quotes lined up ready – although in fairness she did once do the same to Jeremy Hunt. Both Jeremy and Boris did a great job of ignoring her, although Boris realised this and his apology to her was one of the lighter moments of the show.

I’m not sure any of them came out of it particularly well. Rory Stewart seemed a bit vague and waffly at times (but did talk some sense), and Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt were competent, but in the most part didn’t say much of consequence. Michael Gove seemed to have a lot of air-time, and as a result may stick more in people’s minds, but his heart-felt thanks to each person who asked a question (when perhaps he should have just been answering the question) made me cringe.

I don’t think any of them said anything we didn’t already know, and none of them really properly answered any of the questions, or for that matter, really interacted with the people asking questions. None of them, for example, had the courage to tell the young lady who asked them to commit to cutting carbon to Net 0 by 2025 that it just isn’t economically possible. The poor Imam who asked the question about ‘words having consequences’ just looked like he’d been set up by the BBC to have a poke at Boris. The woman from Southampton mentioned that her husband’s job was at threat from a No Deal Brexit, but no-one asked exactly how that would happen (I couldn’t figure it out, and presumably neither could they from their answers).

I’m not sure what was worse, the BBC’s efforts to make them look daft, or their own inability to add anything useful to the ongoing debate. Either way, as I’m not a member of the Conservative Party, so don’t get to vote, it’s just an hour of my life I won’t get back…

The Milkshake Wars

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It looks to me that today we will see Parliament throw a giant milkshake at Brexit by (I suspect) almost certainly voting to ‘take no deal off the table’ for good, or at least try to change the table, which is probably the more accurate simile.

I think the likes of Oliver Letwin and any other Conservatives should be somewhat ashamed of themselves for getting involved in such a scheme at this time when the bulk of the candidates for Prime Minister are laying down the mantra that Brexit must occur before or on the 31st October.

To me, it’s clearly a scheme cooked up by Labour and the Lib Dems to undermine the Conservatives at this time of perceived weakness, so as to fortify their ‘gains’ in the recent elections/by-elections.

I’ve no doubt that No Deal is not the best scenario by a long way, and not one I would strongly advocate – leaving with a deal would be the optimum (even Theresa May’s one). At the same time, I don’t share the opinion that No Deal would be the complete Doomsday scenario that many people do, purely because I just haven’t seen the evidence to back it up (if you have some, I’d love to see it). All I’ve seen is hysterical hyperbole and passionate rants, much of which is driven by self-interest and an ultra-conservative mindset. Again, it comes down to the optimists versus the pessimists.

But to take the best card in the negotiators hands away completely will surely result in no Brexit at all, as there’s no deal negotiable in that situation that would pass muster. This would indeed be the end of the Conservatives, fuelling the further rise of the Brexit Party (further weakening the Conservatives) and gifting number 10 to Labour. And a lot more milkshakes flying about.

No surprises

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I think most people with a passing interest in politics could have successfully predicted the main headlines in today’s papers. Even the ‘proxy’ referendum re-run appears to have come out around equal again, with both sides trying to spin it their way.

So what next? I’m still not quite sure what to make of the Brexit Party. They came out with a clear and concise message and stole a load of votes from Labour and the Conservatives in an election most people didn’t expect to even happen. But how does that translate into moving on to fight a general election, which seems less likely to be any time soon, given both main parties are on the back foot at the moment.

On the face of it, you’d have to assume Mr Farage, being Mr Farage, would be pro-business, pro-leave, lower taxes? etc. But that’s just the Conservative party. And as much as die-hard Tories like to have a bit of a hissy fit and vote Brexit party to show their erstwhile leaders just what they think of what they’ve done so far, I think very few would really hold out and stick with the Brexit Party long term unless it offered something worth sticking with.

That said, Mr Farage has surprised me in the past in debates when he’s perhaps shown that it’s he’s not so right wing in all his thinking and not averse to taking some ideas from the left. So perhaps he might try to find ways to differentiate the Brexit Party from the Conservatives. I guess we’ll have to wait for their manifesto to appear. Perhaps UBI will be in there…

On the Tory leader front, I took a quick peek at Boris Johnsons’ piece in today’s Telegraph. I do find the whole One-Nation Tory thing a bit nebulous. It’s meant many things down the years, and these days, with a burgeoning middle class, it doesn’t feel like a good story to work with. A bit like Theresa May’s ‘Burning Injustices’. Important, yes, especially things like poverty and modern slavery, but not that meaningful to your average Tory voter.

With Boris’s One-Nation thing, it feels like political game playing to get the likes of Amber Rudd onside. Fair enough if it is, but he needs to find a story for the average conservative voter soon, or there’s a real risk they will be lost to the Brexit Party. Although, if Brexit is the only issue on many people’s minds, the game may be up; I also noticed Boris’s tone on Brexit was somewhat toned down, and not as ‘Right, that’s it we’re leaving!’ as he was at the start of the weekend.

Me! Me! Me!

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And so begins the great race to find the next leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party. So far, so vacuous, with various levels of boswelox floating around as people announce their intentions to run for the post.

Several (well, the ones I’ve looked at anyway) have gone down the ‘we must leave without a deal’ route. My issue with this is there is no real explanation as to how they are going to talk round a government that is terrified of a future outside of the EU, has no belief in itself or the people of this country to pull it off, and has every intention of pulling some kind of Letwin/Cooper-esque move to get No Deal ‘taken off the table’ at the last moment (if not sooner) or just pull a vote of no confidence and go for an election.

Many have said that changing the Prime Minister won’t change anything, but I suspect removing Messrs Robbins and Barwell from the driving seats in number 10 will be a good start. A shuffle of the cabinet to more leave-minded person heading up the Treasury would also go some way to at least proving to the EU we’re vaguely serious about leaving on WTO terms. How anyone ever expected the EU to play ball with the old regime in charge, I have no idea. Perhaps now we can do some proper negotiations.

The EU do seem genuinely scared of Boris in charge, although so do half the population of the UK. I suspect (at least for the EU) it’s for similar reasons outlined above. They knew they were on to a good thing with Theresa May at the helm, with the setup she had around her.

So let’s see what the next few weeks of moving and shaking and general nonsense brings…

First up tonight, though, the EU referendum results!

Why the Under 25s Will (Mostly) Never Vote Tory

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It’s generally understood that younger people (in the UK) tend to vote Labour and older people tend to vote Conservative, and given that there’s a reasonable chance of Conservative leadership bunfight in the offing, along with local and Europeans elections looming, there has been a spate of articles in recent days (James Forsyth’s in the Telegraph for one) around how the Tory party have tried and failed to woo the ‘yoof’ vote.

I think, given what I’ve been focussing on in recent days, that the under 25’s proclivity to vote Labour has a lot to do with the fact that their right-brains are fully developed while their left hemisphere is still developing. As a result, they tend not to use their pre-frontal cortex for decision making as the integrative logical functions are still not fully formed, and instead tend to use their amygdala, buried down in their limbic system.

This makes them susceptible to more emotional arguments and viewpoints that the Left tend to rely on in their campaigns. Under 25’s also tend to focus on more self-centred issues – cost of education, cost of housing, getting a job. Labour’s very clever ploy to abolish university tuition fees played directly into this. The fact that it probably would have mostly been paid for by raising corporation tax, thus threatening many small businesses and a massive chunk of the gig economy, is a logical conclusion lost in the emotional maelstrom of limbic thinking.

I certainly remember getting swept along on the tide of emotion that engulfed the UK when Tony Blair powered his way to victory in 1997. I was 24 and I had no idea what either party really stood for. I had no time for logical arguments, I just wanted the smelly old Tories out. I totally bought into the message of ‘time for a change’. I’m not sure I can, hand on heart, say that change was particularly good, but there we go.

The problem with the Conservative message is that it is often portrayed through the lens of capitalism, with no recourse to the ideas of social evolution, and the almost mystical ideas of society from which capitalism emerges (more on that soon). These are nebulous arguments, and hard to sell at the best of time to anyone. So capitalism is reduced from the natural outpouring of human activity to work together to stay alive, and focussed through the emotional lens of cruelty and greed. This is something that resonates with the limbic system and gets the old noradrenaline flowing. Capitalism is bad! Businessmen are evil and greedy! The staple output of the left. Cold hard facts that contradict these stories are ignored (the Tories tend to be better at environmentalism and social care, and ‘capitalism’ can drive up living standards for all), the developed emotional right brain filtering them out.

I guess, with my filmmaker hat on, this also explains why the key demographic for blockbuster movies is the 18-25 range, they have the time, the money and the brain skewed towards enjoying films.