Showing posts from June, 2016

16 take-aways from the referendum campaign

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Turn-out looks as if it has been extraordinarily high for this referendum, not that that is making it any easier to predict.I did read one analysis which suggested that a very high turnout (above 75%) would favour Leave, since it meant all the customarily non-voting anti-establishment types had decided to turn up and vote to leave.But who knows?Another few hours and the apparent indecision of Britain will have finally become a decision, and one which about half of us will apparently hate.
Meanwhile, before the reality offers us the chance for reams of further comment, here are my take-aways from the campaign just concluded.
1.The Leave campaign has actually been a blinder.It was consistently under-estimated at the start – possibly part of its deliberate strategy – with rumours of persistent infighting, rivalry between the Johnson/Gove and Farage outfits, and the lack of a clear vision of Britain after Brexit.Nevertheless, they learned some core me…

Gove's Star Ever Rising

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If Boris Johnson has had a pretty mediocre - even poor - Brexit campaign, then the quiet man of the Leave team has had a great one.

Johnson remains popular with Tory grassroots and amongst the general public, who persist - contrary to all the evidence - in seeing him as the most trustworthy politician when it comes to speaking about the EU.

Gove, however, has severed his links with Cameron and the party modernisers, carved out a new furrow and become the Leave campaign's most potent debater.  While Leave supporters were collectively swooning over the great man's performance in the Question Timed debate yesterday - possibly because they've rarely heard one of their own side string words together with fluency and meaning, even if the substance was still being held at the door - even commentators who are not amongst Mr. Gove's natural support base were conceding that he'd done a good job.  Three of the Guardian's writers were inspired by M…

Ugly, Ugly, Ugly - A sane man tweets a Trump rally

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This is appalling reading.  Well, it's appalling reading if you're not a racist, homophobic, mysoginistic, immigrant-baiting, Muslim-banning bigot who also wants to beat up anyone who disagrees with you.

Jared Yates Sexton is a professor and political writer, and he went along to a Trump rally in Greensboro, North Carolina.  What he encountered there was a microcosmic representation of the Trump campaign in all of its ugly, discoloured reality.

Amongst the Confederate flags, drunken attendees, tasteless T-shirts and open misogyny towards Hillary Clinton was a palpably nasty atmosphere.  In the end, Yates concluded that yes, of course Trump should be defeated in the same way that a virus needs to be stopped in its tracks, but that the bigger question was how on earth to combat the deeply unpleasant, hate-filled people who are giving Trump such an extraordinary reach.

Of course Sexton is educated, a liberal, a man who thinks about what he's watching and…

Trump's narcissistic bigotry is well reflected in America's right-wing land

Donald Trump has been roundly condemned by the liberal classes for his extraordinary ability to turn a tragedy into a bit of narcissistic self-promotion.  The famous tweet - "Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness and vigilance.  Must be tough" - would seem, to any sane reader, to have come from some semi-educated loony who spouts his vitriol without thought onto the internet.  The fact that it actually comes from the Republican nominee for president is alarming in itself.  What is arguably worse is that the very view and temperament conveyed in that tweet chime so precisely with such a significant proportion of American opinion.

Much of the support given to Trump is inarticulately expressed, but the Breitbart site is a good place to find some attempt to express Trumpism in a form closely approximating to fluent English.  It is here that we get a character called Milo energetically endorsing Trump'…

Can you find rational arguments about the EU?

When even respected MPs change their minds on the EU debate it might be fair to ask what chance the rest of us have in understanding the issues and coming to a definitive conclusion. 

To be fair, Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative MP who has changed her mind from supporting "Leave" to supporting "Remain" has done so largely on account of her unwillingness to support a campaign that bases one of its core arguments on a lie.  Their widely publicised claim that leaving the EU would save £350 million a week has been derided in most quarters as at best misleading, and now Dr. Wollaston has determined that to support such an erroneous campaign would clearly be wrong.

The claims and counter-claims about the money we could save if we left the EU, or the immigration problems that could be solved if we left the EU, are responsible for many people suggesting that it is impossible to define a rational argument about it.  And yet, if you bother to spend just a small amount of yo…

Do voters fail democracy?

Democracy may be lauded as the "least worst" system available to govern countries, but there is a reason why most countries at least try and regulate it via a representative system.  From the American founding fathers onwards political leaders and thinkers have sought ways to respect the will of the people but not allow it to become tyrannical.  And a good thing too.  Political decisions should be taken with due consideration for facts and a high level of reasoned argument leading, one trusts, to rational outcomes.  Even having written that I'm aware just how fantastical it seems - we all know that emotions govern most political decision making and rationality comes a long way behind, but it's not a bad aspiration nonetheless.

Even so, there is normally some sort of correlation between reason, truth and decision making.  Not amongst voters though - at least if the current Yougov poll on trustworthiness is to be believed.

According to this, the most trusted politicia…

Gove v Cameron

On the surface Michael Gove had a better run at the EU debate than his boss, David Cameron did last night.  Gove came across as an impressive debater able to turn the tables on questioners and not short of the striking phrase (the best one being that the greatest symbol of British democracy is the removal van).

But Michael Gove had an easier audience, which was probably vetted to make sure no teachers attended.  Gove's audience struggled for killer questions and were allowed to ask rather tendentiously linked ones relating to the election fraud case and his own leadership ambitions.  No such cosiness was extended to David Cameron, but as has been pointed out by several commentators, the difference here is that Cameron was always going to present a better target for show-casing audience members looking for their 5 minutes of fame for the simple reason that he is the Prime Minister. 

What about the substance?  Cameron was badly tripped up at the start with the question on immigratio…

Cameron is undone by a broken pledge in his Sky "debate"

One of the worst aspects of modern day political leadership must surely be the need to go and be ritually humiliated by television debate audiences.  You have to give a wan little smile at the voluble English Literature student who spends ages asking her incoherent and roundabout question, only to finish her inestimable waffle with an accusation that you are the terrible waffler.  You have to listen to the grumpy man who wants to know why you need trade agreements when you've got amazon and ebay.  People who have read a couple of Express front pages suddenly become the interlocutary experts you have to politely respond to.  Lose your rag and you become vilified forever.  Stand there and respond with reason, to often unreasoned questions, and you just look like a wimp and everyone can proclaim that the wonderfully well informed audience sorted you out.  It's an unwelcome gig, but it's a cost of democratic leadership.

David Cameron is, as one commentator has put it this morn…

Americans shouldn't ignore Trump's racism

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For a while I flirted with the idea that Donald Trump is an entertaining candidate.  I liked the fact that he was shaking up traditional politics and sneakily admired the way his sheer chutzpah seemed to be getting him through the primaries.

But Donald Trump is no joke, and it will arguably be his greatest achievement to keep us seeing him as a rough-edged diamond making headway against a wretchedly corrupt establishment, instead of the dangerous demagogue and bigot that he really is.

It seems absurd at the moment that it is the Democratic Party which is in disarray, and not the party which has just seen a debt-driven real-estate chancer and reality television star seize their nomination from under their noses.  The Republican high command isn't just holding its nose to endorse Trump.  It is leaping willingly into the position of co-conspirator.  As House Speaker Paul Ryan becomes the latest leading Republican to endorse Donald Trump, let's remind ours…