I’m a little despot

Our democracy is in distress
And David Cameron does his best
To deal us all a dreadful mess:

I’m a little despot
There’s no doubt
Here lies shambles
Here’s to clout
When division’s roiling
Hear my louts
Split us up and core us out

I’m a special despot
Yes, new blue
Here’s what neoliberals do
I can turn my shambles into a rout
Whip you up and core you out

I’m a little despot
King of snouts
Here’s a tangle
North to South
When the tangle’s boiling
Hear me spout
It’s up to you to sort it out

I’m a special despot
Silent ‘clue’
There’s what who you know can do
I can turn my reason inside out
Tip me up, I might spill out


I wish it didn’t matter

I wish it didn’t matter
how identity is packed
and that the psyche frackers
stacked upon their borderline obsessions
would retract because the boundaries
they’re adding are just value-cladding traps.

How I wish it didn’t matter
who I am or where I was,
since I can give myself the slip
as quick as sticking to my spot
because, as often as I am,
as much, I’m also often not
and, well, I wouldn’t give a jot
except there seems to be a lot
who need to squash identity
into a fixed and clearly labelled box.

But I wish it didn’t matter
if I’m fabled, vintage, English rose
or fifty-seven beans of British stock.
And I wish I didn’t have to choose
which union do we lose or fuse:
the Kingdom or the European bloc.

For I do not want my space to shrink
nor see it brought to its own brink
and I do not like being made to think
about which bits of me I dare forego
– not just to satisfy those who,
no matter what the cost, do swear
that they are better placed to surely know.

No: the world is small in kind enough
without this categoric guff.

Labour’s tedious tosh

So, while the Cons are busy diluting and dismantling our democracy as they pretend to understand and care about what they are doing to the ‘United’ Kingdom through this cheap, hotchpotch devolution wheeze and superficial sovereignty nonsense avec Europe, the Labour Party is treasure-hunting for the People’s trust and wisdom and for the source of its own dried up imagination and shrunken aspirations

Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Mary Creagh, Liz Kendall and Tristram Hunt (maybe) – the misinformed, economically illiterate, totally uninspiring selection from which Labour voters and would-be voters are supposed to choose the next leader and, hopefully, future Prime Minister. Well, stop that silly hoping, right now.

I don’t know which is worse: the dire choices provided with their patronising aspiration and trust guff or the enthusiasm being expressed for any of them by die-hard Labour supporters. This is really desperate stuff. The candidates claim they are listening to the views of their would-be constituents, ‘learning the lessons’ – yawn – but only insofar as it confirms the rubbish they already believe.

The level of misinformation and enthusiasm for populist piffle on both sides of this candidate-voter equation is so disappointing and tedious that I am struggling to maintain respect for either. I know I’m not supposed to say that because apparently it’s rude and alienating or something but I just don’t care, today. I’ve had enough of listening to and reading the tedious tosh of the well-played public and all its woefully inadequate servants.

Even if we took all the present candidates, popped them in a machine and blended their strengths and better characteristics into one big candidate, he or she would still only be as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike. And as for the deputy prospects.. Oh, I can’t be bothered. You can look them up if you’re still interested.


When I first joined Twitter I had a little refrain that went: Conservatives: they con us and serve themselves – Labour: making hard work of everything. I’ve seen many variations on the Tory one over the last three or four years. They are true, though, for both parties have become parodies of themselves, Labour being the most disappointing.

I really wanted to support Labour throughout the whole of the last Parliamentary term and, where possible, I did try but the Party made it so difficult that, in the end, I realised they were unlikely to provide the political answers and vision I was looking for. Though I exerted the majority of my contempt on the Cons because they were the ones in charge, I bashed Labour quite often on this site but, at the same time, I still hoped they would win this General Election because I knew that in a FPTP system, we needed them to, just to be rid of the Tories. Getting rid of the Tories became paramount. It was an odd circumstance, therefore, to ridicule and encourage, to bemoan and support Labour but I knew I couldn’t pretend they’d come good just because I wished they would. There can be a fine line between positive thinking and delusion.

Wishing and needing Labour to be the main governing party was, in the end, then, mostly to provide a brake; a breathing space. I remember writing that, when they won, we wouldn’t be able to relax for long; that we would have to push for the changes we wanted in all matters, from Foreign Policy to Social Justice; from democratic reform to environmental responsibility. I think all but the loyally blind knew this, too. Labour, in its present form, with its prevailing mindset, could only be temporary caretakers – willing facilitators at best – while we created something real and reflective of those who knew we could well do with turning ‘left’.

Like the neo-liberal groupthink of economics that thinks super-strength homeopathic treatment is appropriate when, really, we are in amputation territory, Labour seems intent on reaffirming the very characteristics that so many of its would-be, wanna-be voters have clearly and repeatedly expressed as loathing with a vengeance.

After the Scottish Independence Referendum, when Jim Murphy was installed as the Scottish Labour leader, I laughed and sighed and knew that the Party had learned absolutely nothing from the enduring impact of Thatcher and the negative effects of Blair. Since Ed Miliband resigned, the inevitable wallowing has begun and the Party is doing it again. They keep talking about how they must ‘learn the lessons’ and mustn’t go backwards but they can’t seem to move much beyond 1997. They are as misguided and nostalgic; as uselessly sentimental, in their own way, as Ukip and the Conservatives.

The Party still thinks and speaks of people in terms of top, middle or bottom boxes and of aspiration by categories of economic class. It still thinks of aspiration as something only ‘hard-working families’ possess and still imagines that our individual hopes and dreams are predominantly economically motivated and, when it says, like the Cons, that it is a ‘One Nation’ party, I feel it probably means conformist; homogenised, rather than nuanced and inclusive.

Too many in the Party still think and speak of ‘wealth creation’ and enterprise as being purely Business and Market led and that wealth and ambition are always about status and financial enrichment. They present as though only the poor old squeezed middle has aspiration and as though to lack it, in a recognisable form, is a failing. They think they didn’t win because they failed to talk about it enough… They think too much like the Conservatives and that is the last thing we need: more imitation. It is neither necessary to copy nor does it flatter the people of the country/countries – whichever the heck we are, now.

Aspiration is like growth, devolution, choice, Big Society and British Values – just another nebulous concept noun for nodding dogs that greases the wheels of policy but translates down into a patronising sop and an overly shepherded reality. Besides, not only do many people not wish to live by such intangible, politically arbitrary terms but aspiration is a disingenuous, deeply patronising hopium in a system that is knowingly manufactured as one big Ponzi scheme.

Sadly, the more some Labour folk try to explain what they think ‘went wrong’ and what it needs to become, the harder it is for me to even imagine being able to identify with the Party. I watched Liz Kendall on Sunday with Andrew Neil and I liked her. She seemed authentic and resonant, enough that I even thought I might want to give her more time of day. Afterwards, I came across a couple of articles that proclaimed her Blairite credentials which I had not recognised at all from her interview. I sighed. Again. She was going to be too far left of Blair’s, Mandelson’s or elder Miliband’s ‘centre’. Oh, they’ll choose Chuka Umunna, I mused. They’ll never let her lead. And I wondered if I would have liked her sufficiently to want her to and if I’d even get the chance to genuinely find out. How cynical…

Who is Britain, now?

Apparently Nicola Sturgeon is ‘the most dangerous woman in’ the country/election/Britain/world.., depending on the hysteria level of your regular news platform of choice. I want to say that this is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard but you and I know that that would be just as ridiculous since we are hearing an abundance of insultingly imbecilic election-related comments every day.

It seems as though every frit and hypocrite politician and his partner/advisor/journalist wants rUK to be terrified of Scotland and the Scots. Did those same people not just spend the last year hyperventilating about how silly the Scots were to think they could go it alone and how the rest of us would be bereft because of how dreadful it would be if Scotland left us and broke up the Union? And now that she has decided to stay and has become more influential, Scots are suddenly being called a threat to the Union? Give me strength…

Really, as if it’s not cheap and nasty enough the way immigration is being framed, now we have to listen to all manner of villains and fools talking about the Scots as though they were some invading and usurping horde. Well, maybe they are, if you’re a Thatcherite but, to me, the Scots are my fellow and equal citizens and always will be until and unless the day should come when they choose to be only my dear neighbours. Last time I checked, though, back in September, 2014, Scotland was as much a part of the United Kingdom and thus, part of my country, as are England, Wales and Northern Ireland. How pathetic the political-media-business complex sounded back then and how desperate they sound now.

Personally, I find rather attractive the idea of a Labour minority government with support, prodding and blocking, as necessary and appropriate, from the Greens, the SNP and Plaid Cymru. I rather wish I could actually see that ‘progressive bloc’ option on my ballot slip and vote for it rather than having to hope for it to be the outcome by happy accident.

But then, good grief and dear gods, Ed call me resilient, call me progressive Miliband goes and spoils it all with denials so persistent and so overtly unrealistic as to be risible and succeeds, mostly, in dancing to the mischief tune of a self-inflated Media and the short-termist, increasingly nationalistic (à la Ukip) Cons who are terrified of an organised Left. And I greatly resent the way politicos are acting as though it were up to them; as if the voters’ wishes, yet to be expressed, were mere garnish. And I despair at Labour’s seeming ignorance of those to the left of it and the Party’s tragic failure to see all the opportunities in leading a larger progressive Left. It’s infuriating…

The UK’s collective population is around 63 million of which Scotland’s portion is less than 6 million. With a UK Parliament of 650 seats (irrespective of the Speaker and Sinn Fein), how on earth does the SNP, even if it wins every single one of its 59 constituency seats in Scotland, seriously threaten the unity of the Kingdom or effect any irreversible change all by herself except by the consent or indifference of a good majority of the Houses and indeed, the citizens of our country/countries. Of course the SNP is going to fight for its interests, probably shrewdly. Like every other party. Go figure! But Scotland would need one heck of a bionic tail to wag the whole dog and the dog would need to be in a drugged sleep. To be sure, her representatives could make Parliament very lively; give the government a hellish term and the electorate many kittens over the passions and potentials of the debates. But, isn’t that what a thriving democracy looks like in times of portentous issues and events? And isn’t robust challenge to the smug comfort of a corrosive status quo exactly what so many wanted Labour to do for the last five years? Isn’t that what those blasted Kippers have been and hope to continue doing? Bring on that SNP agitation, I say.

There are those Scots for whom Independence will probably always be the goal, simply as a matter of principle and there are others for whom it may forever be anathema. There are, though, many Scots for whom Independence came to be seen as the best solution to their despair at decades of Neoliberal economics and foreign policy, Westminster bubblethink and arrogant Little Englishism. So, whether by Coalition, confidence and supply or vote-by-vote, I wonder: if the progressive Left can positively influence the socio-economic direction of all four nations – how can it not – and we all start to feel that our Society is Just and benevolent – wherever we live – might not Independence recede in the minds and hearts of all but the die hardests..? Maybe a strong SNP force (et al, of course) working with a willing Labour Party is actually the best way to heal all the harm caused by Tory and Labour neoliberalism and keep the United Kingdom a United Kingdom – in nature, as well as name.

But who, even, is Britain, now? It’s clearly not the once and for all settled argument that the establishment and the No voters keep trying to insist that it is. I’m unnerved and sick already of the ad hoc superficial quick fix, bit of this and a bit of that, placate your personal voter base approach. Unionists, Independents and Federalists (please, gods, no to the latter); decentralisation, home rule, devolution and localism: I reckon we’re all being stitched up, wherever we live. And the longer I watch this farce play out, the more complex the matter of our democratic settlement reveals itself to be. The more tribal the political argument becomes; the more bile and paranoia is expressed; the more I see the electorate being made secondary to the decision making and the wisdom of having a constitutional convention being conveniently dismissed, the more I believe we need to go back a few steps and address the question we haven’t asked ourselves from either side of the Scottish Indyref, not as a whole nor as all of its national parts.

Who is Britain? Is she to be a mere quirk of geography and history, four nations united and governed as one State (notwithstanding other beneficial democratic reforms) or four nations that should just be sovereign, separate and independent of each other? I think this fundamental question should not have been so easily overlooked and that it will become increasingly pertinent in the near to medium term. Answering it would focus minds as to what we all think we want and need and what we actually want and need and thus, better inform our next moves. So, before we go making a veritable constitutional, economic and civil mess, awarding powers willy-nilly, here and there, out of reactionary panic and short-sighted party political expedience, can we please make up our minds?

Britain expects

To continue from yesterday’s ‘All for one and one for all..?

The Cameron, Miliband and Clegg trio rush to Scotland at the last minute, the subsequent intervention of Gordon Brown and the ensuing hasty vow has produced a veritable mess.

Those that say if Scotland has a devolved parliament, so should England, are right. I had expected that this would naturally happen anyway: if Scotland had voted ‘yes’ then we would have moved towards our own parliament by default; as Scotland has voted ‘no’ (this time) that we would get an English parliament by political and general public demand. Add to that the calls from Northern Ireland and Wales for more devolved powers and Westminster’s acceptance that this is reasonable, then an English parliament seems inevitable. In this light, the West Lothian question is finite and a bit of a false controversy being used as a distraction.

However, if the Scottish settlement does come first and, bearing in mind that the English, Welsh and Northern Irish positions are not going to be resolved particularly easily or quickly and, if the proposed constitutional convention is to take place with serious intent, the West Lothian question will continue to loom large for some time, yet, won’t it?

I understand Cameron’s intention/desire to sort England out in tandem with Scotland. I get that this complicates things and why Scotland should now suspect the predicted delaying tactics and a possible dilution of what she’s been promised. Perhaps she was promised too much. I’m not sure, largely because I don’t know what the rest of us are going to be promised in the counterbalance. And I understand why Labour is accused of panicking about the loss of constituency MPs and indeed, the chilling fear creeping into those of us who see and feel an urgent need to be rid of the Tories now coming under further threat. Nevertheless, however it ends up being achieved, English voters for English (only) laws is a democratic no-brainer in a United Kingdom composed of country-centric devolved governments.

Obviously, the West Lothian question suits Cameron and his party very well. Of course he is being a political opportunist. I would expect him to put his party’s interests first if he could and to shaft Labour – it’s his MO, after all and could be said to be his best shot at a second term in Government.

However, Miliband, although he can be accused of dithering for fear of his majority, (though whether the WL issue actually guarantees Labour’s loss is much contested and besides, if people want shot of the Tories, they could always get off their arses and vote) he is still correct to say that making isolated changes is not a good idea and that we have to first look at the whole picture to work out the implications to cohesion, fairness and democratic integrity.

The political expediency and the evident complexity involved in the constitutional and democratic reform of four countries are being revealed daily. Some politicians claim we cannot have a link between the Scottish deal and English-centric issues but, how can we not? We cannot afford to be bestowing privilege to one country over another any more than one region over another. And yes, that is shit for Scotland but have not the acts of arbitrary privilege and badly weighted power deals been major, long-term parts of our current social destruction? However, Scotland has been promised certain powers within a certain time and to break this vow, either by detail or timetable, is simply disastrous to issues of trust, irrespective of whether it’s fair or reasonable. What a bloody farce!

And now, Federalists and devolutionaries who advocate extra tiers of autonomous governance as the vehicle of greater people power are pushing their ‘solutions’ into the mix. Such ideas as they express are a vital part of a wider discussion but blithely adding them to the Scottish timetable is unhelpful. Either deal with the Scottish settlement separately or throw everything back into the mix but don’t conflate in selective half measures.

The three main party leaders and peripheral actors look to be stitching us all right up, not just Scotland. I’m sure that many politicos are approaching or think they are approaching this whole conundrum with good intent. Others, I’m just as sure, are merely relishing the opportunity to settle scores and create mischief. Whichever end of the spectrum our leaders and media started from, be it singular career, tribal or ‘national’ interests, they mostly appear either naive or wilfully ignorant of the number and correlation of constitutional and democratic implications and have defaulted to their own win-win over that of the Commons’ benefit.

Really, though: did anyone actually believe political promises made in panicked haste would not be messed about with or broken altogether? But what is Britain, now? It’s clearly not the once and for all settled argument that the establishment would have us believe it is. Is it just a geographical abbreviation, one big country, four separate countries joined in equal union, or four countries who should separate? To be honest, I reckon we could eventually adjust to any of those with broad public consent and that reaching a concord over the choice is a priority that should mark the direction of reform and empowerment. Uncomfortable, frustrating and daunting as that may be for many, it is the heart of a push that has finally come to shove under a dawn of rising realities.

All for one and one for all..?

“Forgive me my nonsense, as I also forgive the nonsense of those that think they talk sense.” ~ Robert Frost

Context: post the Scottish Independence Referendum. Given that we are on a shifting carpet and no one actually knows anything very definitive yet, no matter what they say, this is just an intuitive, rough response to the last few days:

Unionists, Independents and Federalists, eh?

Over Europe, everyone complains that currency union is self-evidently impossible without civic and political union, as was similarly stated over the recent Scottish Independence campaign. European technocrats are accused of wanting one primary government with devolved powers bestowed to each member state and most, bar the technocrats are against it due to issues such as sovereignty and the obvious economic disparities. To me, the US epitomises such devolution: where State law is constantly at odds with Federal law – where the tax system looks a competitive mess; where you can get an abortion easily in one region but not another; consume cannabis recreationally in some states but not others. You can’t seem to find decent democracy in either, not for love nor money. To me, the US and the EU are democratic jokes but it seems that some here, in the still-UK, are bent on ignoring their farcical inconsistencies.

There are cries that the centralised state has failed us. But is that really true or is it that the good things the centralised state has achieved and has the power and potential still to achieve, have, in fact, been consistently undermined by career politicians in their pursuit of domestic regional one-upmanship, reckless foreign policies and economic illiteracy, all of which insist, symbiotic as they are, on profit and growth, to the detriment of social prosperity, cohesion, respect for law and democratic engagement?

Decentralisation, devolution and localism: they sound lovely and freeing but they are rather nebulous concepts that mean different things to different people. In reluctant, ignorant, partisan hands, each pretty little concept could turn out to be as destructive and divisive as yesterday’s capitalism that became neoliberal, libertarian ideology. I like the phrase ‘think globally; act locally’ but it’s a poetic abstract that can mean anything from ecologically aware sourcing to selfish individualism.

You can’t eliminate bureaucracy with further concentric circles of bureaucracy. Furthermore, it’s like red-tape and regulations: the issue is not so much, or just the amount of it but rather, whether it is actually necessary, useful or beneficial in its purpose. We’ve been sold and outsourced over and over to private profiteers by consecutive regimes. Just look at who increasingly runs our public services and the over-dependence on Charity businesses. To me, these are the vehicles by which a central government absolves itself from responsibility, and accountability. I can’t help thinking that this post Scotland knee-jerk rush to fix everything with yet another ideological wheeze is more about their abdication than our civic empowerment; that it will morph into a sneaky backdoor concretising of neoliberal, libertarian dreams that ‘they’ can then say we demanded when we complained about the democratic deficits and lack of accountability. (Like the way we let them further ‘shrink the State’ every time we complain about paying tax.) The current postcode inequality potentially exacerbated – and by consent!

So, anyway, it’s not democratic reform or debate that bothers me – I’m excited about that – but rather the localising/decentralising direction that it’s being automatically assumed, not only as necessary for any reform to take but as though it were the panacea for democratic ills. Of that, I am sceptical, suspicious, even.

On a wider, deeper level I am all for the idea of an all-inclusive, UK-wide Constitutional Convention. Gods know we do need constitutional and democratic reforms! And we will need a common platform by which to gain good information and ideas and on which to build exploration and discussion. One of the lessons of Scotland is how important it is to engage with the arguments. A convention through which to access ideas on a UK-wide level is years overdue and I hope time is taken and that options are kept open long enough to sufficiently distinguish between mere ideological herding and genuinely practical suggestions.

I want we, the people, to be empowered and our civic leaders and institutions to be made to be accessible, responsible and accountable. Thing is: although we are justifiably frustrated – furious at how we’ve been wholly short-changed and are right to want more democratic power, I suspect that ultimately, most of us also just want to be left alone to get on with our lives as we see fit. What I, personally, want is a state which functions to provide infrastructure that makes it possible. I’m always banging on about how we, the People are the State but now I wonder: of which state will I be a part? Over which one will I have an experientially valid voice and which one or just how many of them will have power over me? Now I am torn: I know that top-down diktats both assist and constrain lesser authorities and that grass-roots participation is vital to reform but, being politically engaged at a local-local level, a City level, a regional level and a national level such as is claimed would truly empower me and sixty-plus million people, sounds like a frenzied full-time job with no guarantee. It’s hard enough keeping up with Westminster and County Councils and I keep up better than many I know outside of the ether. I’m not sure, from here, how many Russian dolls of power I’d want to or could do that with.

I think, though, that the coming dialogue and analyses over our entire situation and psyche are going to make a welcome mockery of all manner of Westminsteresque and general mainstream bull. The light that will be shed on the level of hypocrisy, cynicism and dissemblance is going to make us better educated as a collective citizenry and probably very angry. More than now. It will hopefully shine on everything from sovereignty to finance to trade treaties to war and defence to health to housing to inequality to the corruption of Authority. You name it. Ev-ry-thing.

And poor Scotland! What a mistake she has made! Give it a few months and her noes will be full of regrets and what ifs, if they are not already. The usual elite suspects have stitched us all up. No currency union for an independent Scotland but if England gets her own Parliament or whatever we arrive at and Wales and NI get further devolved power, might it not be a currency union anyway? How long before everyone is cross with Scotland for opening this can of worms? I am not, by the way but I can see what an uncertain period awaits us when one starts to really absorb the legal/practical complexities so I don’t expect that the emotional searching will be any less of an upheaval. It could get really messy and pretty high-octane from now on and we will all be tested hard, I think. I’m not afraid of a bit of chaos but, after watching Scotland, I am worried about the misinformation and frames of bias that we will be spun by those who, however much they say that we, the people, will be the power and the voice of change, will engineer to get an outcome that suits established order.

I started off, a year or so back, wanting Scotland to stay as part of the UK because of stuff like sentimentality, laziness at the thought of the difficult post-yes negotiations and the same strategic belief in strength in numbers that made me look favourably on Europe. But as the campaign advanced and I read wide and deep, I became more and more convinced and hopeful that she should grab her chance while she could; seize the opportunity to escape neoliberal entropy and create a new social-economic model (albeit I was imagining her with a public central bank and a new currency). That it would ultimately be better for her people and better for the rest of us than a load of unequally devolved powers. Now we are looking at how to make devolution fair and available to all, I wonder if there will be calls down the line from some that Scotland be forced to go independent, whether she wants to or not. I would understand this because really, either we are the United Kingdom as one ‘country’ with one central government (notwithstanding some powers that could/would be devolved to all countries/counties/regions/cities – whatever. Makes me tired, thinking about it) or we are all independent, ‘sovereign’ nations who just happen to share a lot of history, mostly by virtue of geographical proximity but who must learn to negotiate and co-operate with each other just as we have to do with the rest of the world.

The whole thing is enough to make a head spin and we’ve barely started! Oh, well, we’re on the roller coaster now. Better buckle up.