Why do I faff on here about losing my specs when the world around us is falling apart? When I was young we spoke, demonstrated and acted against racism and war. We did so because we believed our voice could be heard and we could change things.
Today we appear to be able to nothing, as we watch Trump join the other two great powers, Russia and China, in lurching the world towards a new era of hate, violence and insecurity.
Now Britain is in danger of finding itself led by Trump Mark II. There is the same disbelief as before Donald Trump was elected. Surely in the end people will see through this unpredictable, dishonest, uncaring self-promoter? But we can no longer be sure.
After all, this is the electorate that allowed itself to be seduced by the Brexit promises, which hankers after a nice, safe old world, when Britain could do its own thing (take back control) and not rely on others. It is an electorate swayed incredibly by the media (including the Telegraph, currently Johnson’s second paymaster).
When the two candidates reach the final round and the Tory Party at large choose between them, imagine – it is a small section of the population, some 160,000 Tory Party card holding members who will be choosing our next prime minister. Not only are they not representative of the British people but they are probably not representative of the Tories, with a bias towards ageing, white, probably mainly better off, probably mainly home counties home owners, favouring the non-liberal end of Tory values.
Assuming Boris avoids major clangers and reaches the final two, what of the other candidate? This will most likely be Jeremy Hunt. True, he has done better than Johnson as Foreign Secretary (who wouldn’t?), though of course I don’t approve of the ongoing policy of cosying up to the US and its allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel. But let’s not forget his long stint as Heath Secretary, when he battled uncaringly against junior doctors and A&E departments and misreported the drain on NHS resources by foreigners.
I don’t reckon much for the chances of Gove, he of the unfortunate time as Education Secretary (since redeemed in Environment), his cocaine past (conveniently – for others – dredged up just now), and unfortunate look when emerging from his house in running shorts. I can’t take Sajid Javid seriously since reading Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, and Dominic Raab is, I hope, with his gungho no-deal line, an unlikely winner.
I fear Rory Stewart has no chance at all of being the second candidate. Pity, as I always side with the quirky. He comes across as intelligent, genuinely caring, and unafraid of sticking his neck out against a no-deal Brexit, although I don’t reckon much for his preference for a citizens’ assembly over a second referendum. Let’s not forget though, that interesting as he is (and yes, ambitious), he is still very much a Tory and therefore ultimately for me a member of another planet.
Well, what of the other planet? What of Labour? I despair, I really do. I don’t have a parliamentary vote any more (anywhere). But if I did, would I really vote for the party which I thought was built into my genes (despite having cancelled my membership in 1997, when Brown ended the Labour Party commitment to use income tax and public spending to reduce inequality)?
I suppose I have always seen myself as somewhere left of centre within the Labour Party, a genteel sort of Fabian who tried to remain optimistic about the advance of democratic socialism (though completely against the Fabian closeness with New Labour).
It is difficult to judge the impact of Momentum, living as I do outside the UK and no longer involved in Labour Party politics. I share many people’s unease with some of its methods and style. But I agree with many of its positions, for example, on opposition to government austerity.
What really makes me despair is the disastrous leadership – if you can call it that – of Jeremy Corbyn. I suspect that I would agree with many of his domestic policies, but he has been utterly incompetent, rigidly stuck somewhere in the past in key areas, and incapable of engaging with modern media for putting his messages across. I think I may agree with him, for example, about the lack of evidence (so far) that the Iranians were behind the oil tanker attacks, about Israeli oppression of Palestinians, and that the British Government should not be working so closely with Saudi Arabia (or the Americans), but he has not put his position across effectively. And his complete failure to stem the accusations of anti-semitism in the party has been disastrous. His failure to persuade the Labour movement to give up on the nuclear deterrent has deprived him amongst other things of funds to promote social equality. Worst of all is his complete fudging of the Brexit issue. I simply cannot imagine him as a viable Prime Minister.
If I still had the vote my MP would be the only Green, Caroline Lucas, and I would continue to vote for her – with enthusiasm. If not, the Liberals? I suppose so, but I never forget rounding on my parents when they abandoned Labour for the Social Democrats!
It brings me no comfort to watch the rest of Europe going through similar turmoil. Here in France the Front National (I refuse to go with its ridiculous name change) was triumphant in the European elections. Our little commune of Bréau was only one of three in the local area in which the FN did not come out on top – just. The Socialists are pretty much extinct.
In Germany the Socialist Party’s record low support means it is no longer the obvious alliance candidate for the CDU (conservatives). Merkel’s successor Kamp-Karrenbauer, is hard right, and there is a danger of a drift towards the right-wing nationalist AfD. The rise in the popularity of the Greens remains the small hope this will not happen. Politics in Italy, with the horrible rise of the League, is very worrying. And let’s not get started on countries like Poland and Hungary.
Oh dear. What to do? I could go on to consider why politics has broken down and what could be done. Well, I have my spectacles, so that diversionary tactic is not available. Instead I will go away and eat a late lunch.