Theresa’s Big Deal for Remainers, Believers, and Neighbours

January 2, 2017
 Oxford Road SICK festival

Theresa May makes a New Year pledge to negotiate the best deal for everyone. Which, outside the world of political rhetoric, means the best deal for no-one

Keep away for a few more hours, brave new world. I am warm and dry and selfish, and appreciate the comfort of refuge beneath the bedclothes. But 2017 intrudes.  There has been a bloody attack in Istanbul by who knows whom, fuelled by who knows what emotions.

Then a second news item. In creepily calm tones, our Prime Minister offers the people of the United Kingdom a new year message. Brought to you by the silver-tongued sidekicks who dreamed up the Brexit means Brexit message, we now can start the new year comforted with the thought that Theresa May, as she sits down with other great leaders to negotiate, will be there to obtain the best deal for everyone.

Just in case some of you missed it:

Everyone means everyone

Not just those correctly recognizing the will of the people by voting leave. But even for the bewildered or unpatriotic lesser forms of humanity who abstained or even (shudder) voted remain.

The best deal for all means the best deal for all.

Got it?

Sometimes words conjure up a vision. Theresa May’s curiously emotionless delivery nevertheless provided me with a vision. That of a protective mum promising fearful children everything will be alright. No need for fear. No need for hate. Those nasty people across the table will be unable to overcome her all-encompassing maternal powers.

Except . . .

Except for a nagging thought.

The best deal for all may mean something else. Faintly in the background can be heard protests from  one-time respected experts. Experts in the nature of ‘the good’, ‘the ethical’, even ‘the material well-being’. The philosophers, poets, even economists.

Then there are the bemused, among whom I find myself more often than I admit. Suppose there is a deal which is the best possible for everyone? I would like to know a bit about what it looks like. Would it disprove one of those theories that no such deal is possible? Like the hypothesis of rationality proposed by Professor Kenneth Arrow , an idea which got all those other so-called experts in a tizzy?

At risk of misunderstanding the wisdom of Professor Arrow, I would argue that

the best deal for all is no deal at all,

in a world where people grow up, eat, sleep, try to survive as best they can, with differing needs. Meeting these needs also requires some help from others in whom we have placed our trust.

Happy new year to one and all, including leaders and the followers they deserve.


Charisma watch: in Westminster: Making a spectacle of themselves

March 28, 2016

 Joseph Chamberlain

 There is political turmoil in the Westminster bubble, with ministerial resignations, budgetary U turns, and emergency sittings.  The presentation of self through TV broadcasts makes a fascinating topic for investigation

Take, for example, the choice of ocular aids. The Prime Minister, spic and span, is only transformed as he whips out a pair of unobtrusive spectacles to read from a supplied answer before him. He then replaces the specs as quickly as possible.

The entire Government front bench has been a near Spec-free zone in the absence of Michael Gove with his heavy duty spectacles. Maybe childhood bullying and taunts of ‘specky four eyes’ means there is reluctance among leadership wannabes to risk revealing an ocular weakness. Nor was there sign of that symbol of the ruling classes the magnificent monacle as espoused by Joseph Chamberlin.

In contrast, the opposition were fearlessly flaunting their spectacles. Leader Jeremy Corbyn rarely allows his features to appear specless in public. I pondered on the way leaders build their self-image in public.

 The Charismatics

I tried to remember the spectacles favoured by charismatic leaders. Gandhi  and John Lennon gave fashion credibility to the style of the aesthetic and creative individual. Then there is another recent  charismatic American politician whose spectacles were part of a spectacular brand image. I refer, of course, to none other than Sarah Palin.

 The Intellectuals

There is an intellectual heavy duty design which I associate with French heavy duty intellectuals. England can offer Michael Gove, aready mentioned above, in this respect. From America there is the intellectual, humourist and film-maker  Mr Woody Allen.

 The proposed research project

How to study this fascinating subject?  Clearly it calls for an exploratory or pilot stage. The classification of spectacles will be of itself an interesting part of this.  Our political figues could be classified according to preferred choice of spectacle, leadership style, and perhaps political effectiveness.

To be continued

Perhaps with a comparison of beards, or even hairstyles …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Replacing Scalia: How The Supreme Court Influences Presidential Elections

February 18, 2016

The death of the influential conservative Antonin Scalia opens up another front in the upcoming Presidential campaign.

 The most vital constitutional decisions in the USA are eventually settled by the nine mighty figures of the Supreme Court of the United States, nattily known as SCOTUS

Structurally, the system of voting is open to a simplistic liberal versus conservative 4-5 split. This makes for highly politicized appointments via the President but with congressional tactics to delay an appointment, an important example of the lame duck theory of a President in his last term of office.(POTUS trying to get the SCOTUS he wants).

This is where we seem to be at the moment

 Informed opinions among political commentators are evaluating the process according to game theory. Something like

Obama selects a highly qualified candidate of liberal tendencies. This will swing 4-5 decisions to liberal outcomes.  One of the front runners is the high powered Loretta Lynch, attorney general and heroine of the moves that brought justice down on the first group  of FIFA reprobates.

Republicans filibuster any appointment, offering a politically useful edge to the Democratic candidate in the upcoming Presidential race.  This seems a rare example of a win-win for Obama, because his nominee to SCOTUS will be one that could pull in ethnic votes crucial in a close race.

Dysfunctional politics

  This offers much scope for further dysfunctional politics in a system already prone to inept reactions and self-induced crises. Arguably, such behaviors have accelerated the further decline in confidence in mainline political figures and the rise of the non-political candidates such asTrump.

Bad, but not as  totally flawed as you might think. One analysis suggests that the court is not a simplistic algorithmic mechanism churning out decisions on party lines. That does happen but only in a minority of cases considered.

Unfortunately, these are often of the highest significance

The Bush Gore case is one such example. In the presidential election of 2000, victory was too close to call, and eventually came down to the highly-charged accusations over voting practices in Florida. As multiple recounts and law suits began, SCOTUS felt compelled to step in and voted to end further recounts, a decision handing the Presidency to Bush. The voting 5-4 was along the dreaded party lines.

 Get over it, the gleeful Scalia remarked afterwards.

 

 

 


“Who’s (more than) a pretty boy, then?” The case of Justin Trudeau

December 7, 2015

Justin TrudeauTrudeau sweeps to power in Canada not unaided by his sex appeal. This is a leadership idea that dares not speak its name

Are you going to write about Justin Trudeau, a Canadian friend asked me. Er, yes. How could I not? His leadership campaign deserves more serious treatment than it received outside Canada. Even when it did make headlines, they tended to emphasize his pulchritude as much as his politics.

His rise to the top is hardly surprising. He was born on Christmas Day, 1971, the son of the then Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Trudeau, himself a charismatic and reforming leader.

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The Commons vote on Syria: All human life was there and also a few political dilemmas

December 4, 2015

thatchertankOn December 2nd 2015, the elective representatives of the people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland debated for over ten hours and voted on the motion for overt military action in Syria.

The debate captured the whole range of human reactions from the authentic to the sycophantic, from the informed to the inflamed, from the arrogant to the resentful, from the committed to the confused.

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“I didn’t see that coming” The glorious unpredictability of sport, leadership and life

December 1, 2015

Not a ReviewNot a week goes by without me stumbling over the unpredictability of leadership in business, sport, politics, and more seriously over environment challenges and global conflicts

Being alive brings with it the survival skill of reacting to the unexpected. Fear of the unknown is part of the evolutionary arrangements. Learning from the immediate is another.

My blogging tries to help me, and I hope readers,  to connect up the microcosmic with broader sets of ideas, sometimes known as theories. This weekend there were several moments in which my reaction was “I didn’t see that coming”.

Tyson Fury

Tyson Fury’s win over Vladimir Klitschko was one such story. It involved two excessively large boxers in a sometimes hilarious spectacle of drumming up business for their world championship match. The challenger, Tyson Fury, had a range of attention-grabbing stunts. He heaped on the obligatory abuse belittling his opponent. At one press conference he appeared dressed as Batman and gave a pantomime performance of apprehending The Joker. He burst into tuneless song, dedicating it to his pregnant wife, and once, to his impassive opponent.

His underdog back story of the Gipsy King was already in place, ticking many boxes some with similarities to those of bad boy Mike Tyson after whom he was named.

Boxing, that noble art, risks going down a path of gratuitous violence with increasing suspicions of its integrity of decisions, and welfare of its participants. I watch from to time to time with a mix of admiration and suspicion at the apotheosis of athleticism at the service of big business.

The long-established but aging champion was still widely expected to win, although Fury had his cautiously optimistic supporters among pundits. In the fight, Fury delivered the strategy he had boasted of in the pre-fight nonsense and was the shock winner. I for one was fooled, and perhaps so was Klitschko.

As one report put it

Britain’s Tyson Fury pulled off one of the great boxing upsets as he outpointed Wladimir Klitschko to become heavyweight champion of the world. It was a dour and often messy fight but Fury, courtesy of his superior boxing skills, fully deserved to be awarded a unanimous decision.

Ukrainian Klitschko, whose nine-year reign as champion was brought to an end, simply could not work the challenger out and did not do enough to win.

George Osborne

The chancellor stood up to present his autumn financial statement before a House expecting some humiliating climb down over his plans to scrap financial benefits. Osborne sat down to conservative cheers having found a way of turning a defeat into apparent victory.

He was no longing scrapping financial benefits as announced, he was scrapping his plans. A bemused Robert Peston for the BBC described the ‘conjuring trick’.

So how has George Osborne pulled off the magical trick of maintaining spending on the police, imposing smaller than anticipated departmental spending cuts in general, and performing an expensive u-turn on tax-credit reductions, while remaining seemingly on course to turn this year’s £74bn deficit into a £10bn surplus in 2020.

Well, it is because the government’s forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility, has increased its prognosis of how much the Treasury will raise from existing taxes (not new ones) and reduced what it thinks the chancellor will shell out in interest on its massive debts.

Or to put it another way, George Osborne is today £23bn better off than he thought in July, and without doing anything at all.

Time to go back to the alleged remark by Napoleon about lucky generals.

Robert and Grace Mugabe

Nothing will surprise me about Mr Mugabe anymore. Or so I thought. Then I read of the expectations of his wife that thanks to a little help from orthopaedic aids, she expects him to rule Zimambwe until he reaches his hundredth birthday. After that  Grace Mgabe is willing to assume the presidency. Grace has already astounded her observers at the speed her PhD was granted from the University of Zimbabwe, following her less successful efforts as a correspondence course student at the University of London.

Lucky Robert. Poor Zimbabwe.

 

 


Denis Healey: ‘The best leader Labour never had?’

October 14, 2015

A Reflective Obituary

Denis Healey (30 November 1917 – 3 October 2015) has been widely described as ‘The best leader Labour never had.’ What might lie behind such claims?

This week [October 2015] the deaths were announced of two influential political figures, Denis Healey and Geoffrey Howe. Although from opposing political parties they will be linked in the history of the late 20th century. I will take a brief look at the attempts made by Denis Healey to become leader of his party and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and claims that he was ‘The best leader Labour never had’.

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