Oh Lord, forgive me, I agree with Tony Blair

In 1997, oh so many years ago, Tony Blair’s Labour party swept the Conservatives from power. I admit to being delighted, as I had grown up under Margaret Thatcher’s government and it had not been a particularly wonderful experience. I had never particularly liked the Labour leader: he always came across as greasy and wheedling, but I was desperate for a change at the top. I guess I was young and naïve: pretty soon it became apparent that the only substantive change had been the names on the office doors.

It took the Tories a decade to get themselves back together again and they crept back in in 2005 in a surprising coalition with the Liberal Democrats. The rest is history, as they say, but Tony Blair was gone and largely vanished from the public eye except for the occasional appearance to comment on the Palestine peace process.

And then a desperately insecure prime minister made a manifesto promise to have a referendum on EU membership because he needed to cement his position in a party that was disinclined to support him against well-placed threats from within the party. It was a promise he’d never need to keep, of course, because the polls all said that he’d need another coalition to form a government, and that would mean he could quietly ditch the promise. Except that the Conservatives got a majority in the 2010 election and could form a government by themselves. Oops. The referendum duly took place and, again, the pollsters were confounded and David Cameron ran for the hills with his tail between his legs.

Enter Theresa May with her “Brexit means Brexit” bullshit, which sells well in the right-wing newspapers but actually just translates as “made-up-word has no defined meaning”. Her slogan is quite an effective club, though, and she is not shy of swinging it about whenever she is asked to explain how leaving the EU will benefit anybody. Seeking clarity on what kind of exit we should be looking for, she gladly gave us much more detail.

With the colour scheme decided, then, it was time to get down to detail. It turns out that you can’t leave the EU and remain in the Single Market unless you … well … carry on paying the same subscription fees and allowing the same freedoms as you had to when you were an actual member. You get all the rules, regulations and costs as if you were a member, but you don’t get a seat at the table deciding what those rules should be. Mrs May decided that this is a bit ridiculous. If you’re going to leave the EU, you should do it properly. Unfortunately, this means abandoning access to the largest free-trade area on the planet. Well, Brexit means Brexit, and the fact that this is going to completely fuck over our entire economy, causing us to lose a huge stack of jobs and lose our position as the anglophone bridge into the EU and generally lose any relevance we might feel we deserve on the world stage is just a minor detail.

Re-enter Tony Blair. In a speech he made, last week, he called on Remain type people to keep fighting for the future of our country, to fight to remain in the EU. We are convinced that the referendum result was less about the actual effects of EU membership and more about xenophobia, funding public services and Rupert Murdoch vying to retain unfettered access to government.

As a dyed-in-the-wool Europhile, I find myself strongly agreeing with Tony Blair. I hate myself for it, but I agree with him. The government is taking us straight towards a cliff edge, both feet pressed down on the accelerator, and they’re unwilling to consider, even for a moment, whether or not this is a great idea. Or even a good idea. Or even that the idea is one that can be considered. After all, Brexit means Brexit. The people gave a clear mandate (because squeaking a tiny majority in a poorly-debated referendum is a huge mandate), and it is not for us to consider whether or not this is a good thing to do. No. We must exit the EU at any cost. Even at the cost of the livelihoods of many millions of turkeys who voted for Christmas.

Stop continental drift: I want to get off.

ps. This article is very interesting.

Shock event

I got up late this morning, so I’ll be brief.

Donald Trump and his regime are sounding ever more like China or North Korea. I’ve got used to my own government sounding like those two beacons of free-speech whenever someone is talking about spying on every single one of us because that’s the only way to stop terrorism.

Anyway, I read about the “shock event” yesterday: the article makes perfect sense to me. With one possible exception: I am not sure that Donald Trump has the intelligence to plan anything like this, so I am unsure he is trying to use the shock event to cover anything up. That said, Mike Pence and other veteran politicians are not stupid: it’s entirely possible that they have something up their sleeve and that their puppet is dancing in just the way they want him to.

In the meantime, the shock is still operating in full force. Acting attorney general Sally Yates was on the sharp end of Trump’s “You’re fired” yesterday, for suggesting that the president’s blatantly unconstitutional executive order was, well, blatantly unconstitutional. The venom issuing forth from the Administration, as I said, sounded much more like a totalitarian regime than an alleged democracy.

Ms Yates is an Obama administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.

It is time to get serious about protecting our country. Calling for tougher vetting for individuals travelling from seven dangerous places is not extreme. It is reasonable and necessary to protect our country.

White House Press Secretary’s office

It seems to be legitimate policy to blame the brown guy for everything right now.

Of course, the fall-out is immediate and ridiculous. The USA is embarrassing itself on the world stage and the top dogs don’t seem to care. Top research scientist? Sorry, Iranian. We don’t need your God-damn Islamic genetic research. The fact that this has utterly screwed an eminent academic is irrelevant.

The fact that it is utterly screwing many people, both vulnerable and not, is irrelevant.

The fact that the first terrorist attack since Trump came to power was committed by a white “Christian” against a group of Muslims who made the fatal mistake of practising their religion in peace has not received much of a response from the White House.

What is most important is that the US is seen to be ripping up the very Constitution that it has been worshipping for the last 228 years, and everyone outside can see that. The man-child in the big seat doesn’t care, though. Because he’s a narcissist, and those closest to him are using this fact to get what they want. Regardless of the cost.

It’s an unfolding tragedy.

Hubris

It happened, then. One Mr Donald J Trump is now in the most powerful job in the world.

Apparently, he attended the first ever (and/or biggest ever) concert at the Lincoln Memorial the night before, in spite of the fact that it was neither the first nor the biggest. Then he gave an inaugural address that was mostly about himself (using a teleprompter, no less) and how great he is and how wonderful he’s going to be.

At least he wrote the speech himself…

Then he went on to boast about the size of his manhood, sorry the size of his crowd, and get all uppity with reporters who posted actual, you know, facts. Good thing that his press secretary was there to update us with some alternative facts. They are a wonderful thing to have, of course, and always come in handy in a sticky situation…

“Sir, you were doing 50mph in a 30 limit. We used our radar speed gun to measure your speed. It’s a fact.”

“Officer, I was doing 29mph. You can use ‘science’ all you want to make your ‘facts’, but my alternative facts state that I was doing 29mph and you can dance on your speeding ticket.”

I suppose that the search for definitive truth depends, itself, on the prerequisite that there is a truth to find.

Undeterred, the new president stood in front of the CIA to make a speech at which the crowd is reported to have been laughing and cheering. Somewhat disturbingly, it is reported that the laughers and cheerers were not actually members of the press or the CIA who were gathered to hear the great man’s words (they were such great words, the best words ever spoken), but were actually Trump’s own people that he’d brought in specially in order to laugh and cheer at his speech.

Closer to home, we have hubris all of our own. A couple of our finest Brexiteers went over to Berlin to speak to business leaders about how they are all going to be crowding around post-EU Britain (nobody ever seems to say ‘the UK’, but that’s another story) and begging for access to our market. Because the German economy will collapse completely and immediately if it becomes difficult to sell us BMWs, Audis and Mercedeseseses. It seems that the German audience was unimpressed with the “but we’re British and we’ve told you what we want, you have to do as we say. It’s the rules!” attitude. Sorry to break it to you, toffs, but the Empire died many decades ago and we are one of many countries in the world and we are far from the best. That attitude just puts people’s backs up and makes it harder for us to get anything at all. In the great school playground that is international diplomacy, it seems that we are falling back on our traditional tactic of throwing a gigantic tantrum. Good luck with that, guys.

Oh, and in other news?

The day after Trump’s inauguration failed to pull in a huge crowd, women marched. And, wow, did they march

When Science Fiction seems indistinguishable from reality

[Spoilers for 1990’s sci-fi series Babylon 5. Sorry.]

In recent days, I’ve dusted off my DVD box-sets of Babylon 5 (is it really 23 years since it arrived on our screens?), and I’m idly watching episodes of season 1 in idle moments. It is proving to be quite scary watching.

Episode 7, The War Prayer has two main storylines. In one, Ambassador Mollari faces a harsh reality about his own life summed up beautifully in his sobbing father’s words “My shoes are too tight, but it doesn’t matter for I have forgotten how to dance.”

The principal storyline is darker, however. A group from Earth are attacking aliens. Not just on Babylon 5 but on several other Earth-controlled systems too. They call themselves, variously, Earth First and the Home Guard. It is their aim to purify Earth, to kick out all the non-humans. This is set against a background of Earth president Santiago’s tour of the Earth Alliance: he’s on his way to Babylon 5, both to present them with a new wing of fighter craft, but also to promote his pro-immigration policy. He thinks that Earth should be an outward-looking world, a place where all beings, human and alien, can work together in harmony for our mutual prosperity.

It seems that there is a growing populist movement back home intent on blaming aliens and alien influence for all problems from poverty to traffic congestion. The president is pressing ahead with his plans to include those who are different because he believes that we are stronger together and that peaceful integration is the best way forward. By the end of Season 1, the president has been assassinated (it’s coincidence that the vice president got off the president’s doomed ship just before it blew up. Definitely.) and the new president, President Clark, implements a new policy aimed at removing alien influence at home, and casting suspicion onto everyone who doesn’t agree with him.

Under Clark, Earth descends rapidly into a police-state that has close parallels with the world of 1984, complete with a Ministry of Truth in charge of lies. Earth turns in on itself and ends up crippled and on the wrong side of a brutal civil war and nearly tears itself apart. In his last act (season 3, if I recall correctly), President Clark turns Earth’s defence system against Earth itself and the entire planet is seconds away from being cooked in its own juices. Ironically, it takes the selfless generosity of alien governments to help Earth get back on its feet once more.

Watching last night, I was struck by the eerie familiarity of the arguments. Obama wasn’t killed, but he is being replaced by a nutter intent on setting communities against one another. There is a sense that rich white men are now the oppressed ones (for more detail, see Stop Saying Feminism is Good For Men over at Medium) and it is time for them to fight back lest their privilege be wrested from them. The muscle they employ is the same as it has always been: the very people the previous administration has been trying to raise up (Affordable Healthcare Act, anyone?).

When people in power aim to serve their own needs by feeding ill-informed mobs blatant lies, we end up with Trump and Brexit and, if Babylon 5 is anything to go by, we will be at war, hot literal death-of-millions, war with each other before we begin to see sense.

I really, truly, hope that life does not imitate SciFi this year. I hope sense might prevail, but the signs and portents are not looking promising.

Stop the world, I want to get off.

Web round-up

In lieu of a coherent post this week, I’ve got a stack of web-links that I’ve been saving for a rainy day.

It’s raining, so here we are.

  1. The real reason women quit tech
  2. Autocracy: rules for survival (useful if an autocrat has just taken the most powerful job in the world)
  3. We are ignoring the most obvious problem with Trump (he has the worst approval rating of any incoming president ever)
  4. North Carolina is no longer considered a democracy. Impressive for a (region of a) regime that styles itself “the land of the free”.
  5. I exist. Really.
  6. When you’d rather your son be dead than be gay. Five lessons in inspirational parenting or how to embody Christ’s teaching that “they shall know you are my disciples by your love for one another”.
  7. Inclusive church (it’s not all bad).
  8. And finally… Get your children thinking with this curious, apparently anomalous, composite material.

It would be lovely to feel positive. Sadly, I do not.

Have a good week.

2016 is finally over. And yet…

So, that’s it. One of the worst years in global history since the Cuban missile crisis is finally over.

Celebrities died like flies, which was the first sign that rich Western nations got that it was going to be bad. The good people of Syria had already had plenty of notice that things were still awful and likely to stay that way.

Then politics took off its gloves and we had a referendum campaign in the UK that was centred around overt lies and deliberate misdirection with a largely inevitable result, both in terms of vote count and also in terms of the bitterness and disappointment left behind for voters on both sides of the debate. Then it was the US’s turn. Trump’s campaign was mostly based on two things: 1) being a rich white man and 2) telling as many lies as possible. Since the election, he’s been going to rallies all across America telling everyone that what he said during the campaign was simply stuff that “sounded good during the campaign”. Truly, nobody has any idea what he’s going to do in the White House but, already, he’s managed to provoke China and Russia in ways that could possibly start a nuclear arms race or, indeed, a nuclear war.

Joy.

And just as we thought it was over, George Michael and Carrie Fisher both died. Happy Christmas, everyone.

And 2017 is the year when our stupid decisions of 2016 begin to bear fruit. Theresa May is determined to pull the trigger on the EU and Trump gets the presidency (unless the Electoral College pulled a completely unprecedented move: we’ll find out this month).

One thing that seems certain is that facts no longer matter and we can look forward to a year of deepening divisions between factions. Truly, we are living through what history books call “matters leading up to”. I am fearful of what they might be leading up to.

I am.

The path of the Dark Side

Once more, Yoda’s wisdom applies in real life.

As is often the case on this blog, I’m talking about trans issues, but the same applies in many situations.

I was talking to a group of boys recently about stuff and, given that it was Trans Awareness Week, I brought up the topic of transgender people and how to be a decent human being when faced with one. I know. It’s hard to remember basic decency when you interact with someone whom you find hard to categorise. You feel like you’re being lied to, because your two-second first impression of them is going to be a completely accurate assessment of their entire personhood and if they are behaving in a manner contrary to that assessment, it is your right, no your duty, to put them right.

When did we get so arrogant? Speaking as a white British man, I am going to assume that this dates back to Empire and beyond, embodied in the attitude that drove us all around the planet killing, conquering and enslaving as we went. (There’s another story there: I was talking to a friend and it turned out that they had no idea of the part England played in developing the industry of slavery and laying the foundations of modern racism and the race divide that is still played out in public view in the USA and in a quiet, more English, way on these shores. But I digress.)

I asked my charges what they would do, in a public loo, if they were to meet someone who didn’t look like they had made the correct choice of which door to pass through. Most of them said that they’d pull out their Gender Police badge and politely inform the interloper that they were interloping and ask them to lope somewhere else. I’ll commend their honesty and confess that this was exactly the reaction I had expected. That is where I come in as an adult to teach the little darlings that this is a moment where we might express empathy for the other person. We can start by making an assumption that the person we meet has made a deliberate choice to use that loo and that they just want to use the loo in peace. We might also infer that said person has had a long and scary journey to get to where they’re going and really doesn’t need their day to be made harder or more scary by an ill-informed person.

First off, the public toilet is a public toilet. It is just as much a public space as the town square is. If I started walking around the town square telling people whom I thought was allowed there and who wasn’t, I would expect everyone to question my authority to make such pronouncements. I have, as an unspecific member of the public, no business whatsoever telling others who can or cannot be in the town square. Why, then, might I presume I have the right to make similar pronouncements just because I am in the gents’ loo? I guess we feel emboldened when in a single-sex space and we perceive that the single-sex nature of the space is being challenged by another person. I can see that. It doesn’t give us the right to police that space ourselves, though.

Secondly, we take on the arrogance of Empire when we decide that we have the right make a snap judgement about a person’s appearance then impose our idea of who they are onto them. As I said to my group, that person knows their own gender better than you do (aside: what does a Muslim look like?). What does it say about me, as a person, when I take action that just makes someone else’s day harder? What does it say about me that I can take this action with all the English kindness in my heart, basing my decision on the assumption that the poor dear just made a mistake at the door.  What if we pause for a moment of empathy? That person just wants a wee in peace and, frankly, does it matter which door they went through? They need a wee. Let them wee and get on with your day whilst forwarding the same courtesy to that person.

Naturally, I got an apoplectic e-mail from one of the mothers that night. We have no trans kids in our group, so why am I suggesting that we be nice to trans people? Naturally, my line manager sided with the mother.

Underlying the complaint is the idea that we cannot mention transgender people without talking long and hard about sex and sexual reproduction, and it’s the top of the slippery slope that will see us giving condoms to ten-year-olds (we’re won’t). There is a perception that discussion of such topics is something that should be age-restricted, that any discussion about treating transgender people as people will focus more on sexual anatomy than it does on being a decent human being.

Looks like we prefer our fear of the unknown, and its consequent suffering. Just as long as the suffering is borne by someone else.

Why I’m a bleeding-heart liberal

The current government of the UK disgusts me. The government under David Cameron astonished me. The government under Blair and Brown nannied me. In summary, successive governments, both Labour and Conservative, have been all about what the government can do to me and nothing about what I can do.

It seems that politics in Britain has collapsed to the point where neither major party is willing to treat 46½ million adults as adults. Sure, they’re happy to ask us to vote for them every few years, with promises of prosperity and happiness if we do but the moment they get into power, we are no longer worth their time and they get on with doing whatever the hell they like.

For the Tories, that seems to be enriching their mates and dragging the wealth of our nation upwards, leaving the poor with absolutely nothing and telling us to be grateful. It’s all about hard-working families, of course, because people who can’t work, for whatever reason, aren’t worth bothering with; they aren’t really people.

For the Labour governments under Blair and Brown, they seemed to think that we were a nation of children and that we’d elected them to be our surrogate parents. It was called the nanny state, where surveillance increased and we were urged to report our neighbours to the police if they put bottles of “chemicals” into their bins (I can’t find the advert online any more). It got to the point where Amateur Photographer magazine issued a lens cloth printed with advice on how to deal with the police if you get challenged for having the audacity to take a photograph in public.

Under the Tories, it has been just as bad. Like Labour, they treat the electorate like a bunch of poorly-educated children who need to be told what to do. Labour, at least, had the pretence that they were trying to make the poor little darlings’ lives better if only they’d behave themselves and play by the rules. Under Tory rule, they make no claim to be trying to help. They want simply for us to stay out of their way while they re-write society’s structure such that wealth is seen as proof of a person’s value and we must, therefore, reward those with such value with more wealth. Everyone else needs to work harder and they will enjoy the fruits of their labour. Really. Just keep working. You’ll get richer any day now.

Sitting quietly between the two self-interested behemoths is the ideology that states that people, by the time they’re old enough to vote, are grown up enough to behave themselves without their every move being regulated by law. Sure, some people need a bit of extra help, and the state can provide that. It would be good if everyone paid their taxes. We are all adults and some of the issues we must deal with are complex. That is fine, that means that our response must be subtle and well thought through. We can respect one another, we can welcome people from other places, we can go to other places ourselves. Wouldn’t life be so much better if we just got along together?

Sadly, it seems, the British electorate don’t much like being treated like thinking adults. It seems that it is our place to be dictated to by one bunch of autocrats or another. We get to switch from time to time in the name of democracy, of course, but we still end up lurching from one direction to another without really anyone stopping to think about what people actually want or need. The big parties are so busy shouting about what the people want that they never seem to take the time to shut up and actually listen.

Then again, who enters politics to listen?

Aaaand we’re back. And what a shit-show it has been.

With my attempt at NaNoWriMo this year formally failed (12,000 words written and 8 days left), I’m going to pour my words into the blog instead, this stormy Tuesday morning.

And what a time we’ve been having. I think that most people I know have not been enjoying 2016 very much. It all started with David Bowie. Then (in no particular order), Alan Rickman, Victoria Wood, Terry Wogan, Paul Daniels, Prince (artist formerly known as), Leonard Cohen and basic human decency. In the wake of the last in that list, the UK had the lyingest election campaign in history that resulted in a referendum to leave the EU and a wave of hate crime on the back of the result. The US election can’t be that bad, we all thought. Oh no, that will involve more truth, and more decency. But no. That was all about lies too, with one of the candidates contradicting himself more-or-less constantly (then again Boris Johnson’s referendum campaign was based around him taking positions directly in opposition to his own position on many issues). Of course, we now know how that one ended.

In the UK, following a vote that was, supposedly, all about returning sovereignty to the UK Parliament (on the back of a fictional assumption that Parliament had lost this), our favourite sorry excuses for journalistic output slammed three of our most senior judges for deciding that Parliamentary Sovereignty means just that and that Parliament, being Sovereign, must be consulted before we tear up forty years of law and much of our famously unwritten constitution. It seems that the executive (I’m looking at you, Theresa May) just wants unfettered power to do as it likes.

On that subject, the Investigatory Powers Bill passed into law this week, so now our surveillance laws make Iran and North Korea look like homes of free discussion and privacy. It’s great that we have such a strong Opposition to hold the government to account and to prevent it from over-reaching itself. (Not that Labour mind this bill: the Blair government was very keen on spying on all of us and seemed to hold the opinion that none of us were competent to get on with our own lives without the closest of scrutiny from above. It seems that all you need to say is “terrorism” and every MP is willing to take a runny shit on our basic right to privacy.)

The Labour Party has a lot to answer for. At the time of the deepest crisis of national identity since the War, they have really knuckled down and begun the long and daunting task of tearing themselves apart. Thanks, guys. You are a disgrace. You have been elected to represent your constituents. Please do your jobs. At least a bit. You may not like Jeremy Corbyn very much, but it does look like you’re stuck with him. I suggest that you sit down with him and talk, and come up with a way to oppose this government and its crazy plans that make Thatcher look like the tooth fairy. They have a wafer-thin majority and you are so busy fighting each other that they can do whatever the hell they like.

Over in the US, of course, things are arguably even worse. Nobody knows what Donald Trump is going to do when he gets the keys to the White House in January. The things he’s said in the campaign are contradictory and downright scary. And racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, homophobic, mysogynist, ablist and transphobic. My friends in the US are all scared.

That said, what could possibly go wrong?

Dear <my MP>,

I’m afraid this is going to be a long one, so it might be best to grab a cup of tea first.

I am seriously concerned about what the Conservative government is doing to the economy, to British society, to human beings in need of compassion and to our reputation globally.

Brexit
In your reply to me dated 23rd September, you reiterated Mrs May’s assertion that “Brexit means Brexit” and that 17 million people voted to leave the EU. The government keeps insisting that this is what the referendum suggested and they are damn well going to implement the result. I eagerly await the outcome of the ongoing legal challenge to Mrs May’s attempt to usurp parliamentary sovereignty by use of the royal prerogative. As you and I both know, leaving the EU is not simply a matter of making or leaving treaties. Leaving the EU will fundamentally change the way the UK does business, how British society functions and, indeed, looks perilously like it will actually destroy the UK itself. To do this on the back a wafer-thin majority on an non-binding referendum (a majority that Mr Farage himself said he would call “unfinished business”) beggars belief, particularly in light of surveys now coming in suggesting that there are enough people who regret voting “Leave” to swing the result in favour of “Remain”.

The referendum should never have happened in the first place. The only reason it did happen was the combination of the fact that Mr Cameron was too weak to stand up to UKIP before the 2015 election and the fact that the Conservative party scraped a piddling little majority in the Commons. Mr Cameron never expected to be able to keep that promise, as he fully expected to be in coalition again. To win a majority in 2015 was a disaster for him.

The referendum campaign was appalling to behold. Neither side covered themselves in glory, but the leave campaigns (for they were plural) were based on bare-faced lies and racial hatred. Johnson and Gove lied about the amount of money we send to the EU, and they lied about there being a chance that would be spent on the NHS. They also promised us that EU citizens currently resident and working in the UK would be allowed to stay, yet they both voted against that exact policy in the Commons last week.

The Parliamentary petition “Make it illegal for any UK political figure to knowingly lie or mislead” gathered 78,467 signatures, largely on the back of the despair felt by upstanding people for the contempt in which we had been held by our elected representatives in the referendum campaign. The government’s response quoted Lord Nolan: “The 7 principles of public life apply to those who hold public office. This includes people who are elected or appointed to public office, nationally and locally.” I assume that this response was supposed to placate us. Telling me that Boris Johnoson, for example, is bound by the 7 principles just insults me. Let’s look at Mr Johnson’s performance on a couple of them, shall we?

Selflessness: Mr Johnson, previously strongly Europhile, stood on the opposite side in the campaign from Mr Cameron purely so he could further his career within the party. It worked out quite well for him, personally, too.

Honesty: he lied about £350m, he lied about funding the NHS, he lied about Turkey joining the EU if we remain (If we are members of the EU, Turkey cannot join without our consent; if we leave the EU, they could join without our consent: if he really cared about keeping them out, he should advise us to remain); he lied about giving current EU citizens the right to stay on as they are in a post-Brexit Britain; he lied about the possibility of us maintaining access to the Single Market without allowing free movement.

The Cabinet Office dismissing the clearly expressed concern of 78000 people by saying that MPs are bound by these rules, yet failing to enforce those rules is unacceptable. Either Mr Johnson, Mr Gove and others are above the law and the Cabinet Office should have the honesty and integrity to tell us this explicitly, or they are not and the Cabinet Office should haul them over the coals for their clear, specific, obvious and flagrant breaches of the rules.

Mr Gove’s insistence that we are sick of experts is another example of utterly irresponsible behaviour from an elected minister. I daresay, should he require emergency surgery, he would prefer that an expert wield the knife, rather than Izzy the bin lady (who is, after all, an expert in her own field). The reason we listen to experts is because they are experts. They know stuff.

As for Mr Farage and his speeches and posters designed to incite racial hatred, that man should find himself in front of a judge. His “breaking point” advert was a carbon copy of a Nazi poster from the ’30’s, and should be treated that way. His use of refugees fleeing a warzone as a political tool was wrong on so many levels it’s hard to begin. Our obligations to accept refugees is independent of our membership of the EU; incitement of racial hatred is a crime; for a prominent politician to be spouting blatant racial slurs legitimises racism in wider society. We have already seen a sharp increase in racist incidents since the referendum, flames fanned recently by Amber Rudd and Theresa May at the Conservative conference.

The pound continues to slide, the banks are already planning to leave, Nissan have no reason to stay. The EU has no reason whatsoever to make life easy for us and every reason to make it difficult, yet Mrs May and the government keep insisting that we will have a successful deal and that Article 50 will be invoked early next year. It’s almost as if we’re holding a shotgun to our own faces: it’s a bit worrying at the moment, but it doesn’t hurt too much, it can’t be be any worse when we pull the trigger now, can it?

Immigration
In her conference speech, Mrs May kept on talking about citizens. Citizens this, citizens that. The implication is that people who are not citizens are people we can ignore and quietly get rid of. We don’t much like them: they are not like us. Ms Rudd’s speech was, arguably, worse and, as demonstrated by LBC’s James O’Brien, largely indistinguishable from chapter 2 of Mein Kampf.

Immigrants bring skills and workers to the UK and have been proven, time and again, to be a net contributor to the exchequer. Blaming immigrants for strain on local schools and health services is beneath contempt. It is for the government to spend this increased income on the services required by the communities where the need has arisen. It is not my fault if I give you £20 for the food that I eat in your house and you spend it on a new jacket. If the government is hell-bent on running schools and GPs into the ground because they are allergic to spending money on people, they should admit this publically. To blame the brown faces in a community for the government’s unwillingness to supply the need that the brown-faced people are paying for is insulting, degrading, divisive and straight out of the UKIP playbook.

Blaming the EU for large immigration numbers is also disingenuous when immigration from outside the EU is very high. If the government is so keen to reduce immigration, it could do that easily by curbing the immigration that we can control rather than blaming the EU for it.

Complaining that foreign immigrants do not integrate well into British society is also disingenuous when you look at British ex-pat communities overseas. Spain is probably the most egregious example, where whole towns are, more-or-less reserved for Brits who spend their whole time speaking English, talking only to English people and being unpleasant to Spanish business owners for having the audacity to be Spanish in Spain.

REFUGEES
Mrs May is quite vocal on the “first safe country” rule. Of course she would be. To get here from any of our current active warzones, you have to cross thousands of miles of EU territory, all of which will count as a safe first country. Hiding behind that rule is simply a way to side-step our obligations as a humanitarian nation. We pride ourselves on being nice, on being compassionate, on welcoming Jews fleeing before the Nazis. But we’re quite happy for all of that welcome to have been seventy years ago. These days, we’d rather you stayed in Greece, Italy, France or, frankly, you drowned in the sea. If we do, grudgingly, let in a few refugees, then they’d better damn well look like refugees. If we said “children”, then they’d better look like children. Preferably young, preferably crying and holding a cute, torn teddy or something. No. Yet another cabinet minister suggested unethical, inaccurate and demeaning dental checks for all the people we have deigned to rescue. They should be grateful, after all, and we don’t want to be taken advantage of.

We need a few tens of millions to pay for ammunition, personnel, equipment and so on to bomb Syria back to the stone age? Sure, we’ll find it. Can we take a few dozen children in so their families can look after them here? You must be joking. They’d be much better off being vanished away from the Jungle never to be heard of again until they show up in an unmarked grave in the woods, having outlived their usefulness as a child prostitute somewhere in a quiet corner of the black economy.

“Did the British Public, so concerned about immigration before the election, condemn us when we saw the photograph of that little Syrian boy [Aylan Kurdi]? No. They told us to open our arms.”

Heidi Allen MP

THE NHS
Andrew Lansley gutted the NHS and now Mr Hunt is intent on destroying it entirely. The service is chronically underfunded. It is already the most efficient health service in the Western world, and trying to squeeze more out of it for less money is, frankly, a joke. The “7-day NHS” rubbish is simply a bat to beat Junior Doctors with. Every time a person needs urgent care on the NHS, it is there. The ambulance service runs 7-days a week, emergency departments run 7-days a week. The labs, x-rays, porters, nurses, etc. etc. all run 7-days per week too. We already have a 7-day NHS where we need it. Asking the service to extend non-emergency cover by 40% at the same time as squeezing funding, cutting training of new nurses and refusing to guarantee that EU-citizens working in the NHS will be allowed to stay is, once again, utterly irresponsible.

We are reaching the point where people are going to start losing their lives because the government can’t be bothered to fund the NHS properly, and the Health Secretary is running around screaming and scapegoating the junior doctors. Mrs May suggests that there isn’t going to be any more money for the NHS any time soon.

It is the most efficient system in the world, and free at the point of delivery. We should be proud of that, not embarrassed that it is not in the private sector.

BENEFIT SANCTIONS
David Clapson is dead. He died in his flat, with 5p on his phone, £3.44 in his bank, with almost no food in the house and no electricity to power the fridge to keep his insulin cool. In short, he starved to death. Now, I’m not suggesting that there is a proven causal link between him having his benefits sanctioned and him being unable to buy enough food or electricity to keep himself alive, but I raise it as a possibility.

He’s not the only one, of course. This article makes me cry.

How has it come to pass that a nation who likes to tell the world that we’re warm, welcoming and compassionate and that we stand up for the little guy has become cold-hearted and angry to the point that we label our starving poor as “scroungers” who are probably either playing the system or outright cheating it. One wonders if we should be putting greater emphasis on benefit cheats or on tax avoiders.

“Sending a message to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society that we do not care [does not pass the Family Test].”

Heidi Allen MP

MASS SURVEILLANCE
We have already had a conversation about the Investigatory Powers bill. Quite why the government is so keen to replicate the Internet policies of China, Iran and North Korea is beyond me.

Privacy is important.

Do you sing in the shower? Would you sing in the shower if you thought I was sitting in the next room and might hear you? Would you sing if you thought I might be sitting in the next room and might hear you? The fact that I might be listening is enough to change your behaviour, whether or not I actually am.

The government defines British values as “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.” In the absence of privacy, we do not have individual liberty.

I am, of course, well used to politicians’ lies and hypocrisy, but that has never made it easy to stomach.

In addition, the fact that it is trivial for a competent criminal to avoid the mass-surveillance described in this law makes it clear to me that this is yet another security law designed purely for show, not for effect. History suggests that the metadata databases will be used for petty law-breaking. History also suggests that the metadata databases will get cracked, stolen and/or leaked. Anyone who has their data stolen will have their lives laid bare for all to see. How would you feel if your (hypothetical) frantic Google searches for “I’m suicidal: please help” or “depression helpline” or “my husband is abusing me” ended up all over social media?

This bill is soon to become law, and it stinks.

IN CONCLUSION
I’m stopping there, you’ll be pleased to know.

In summary, your government is despicable. The compassionate Conservatives you mentioned in your maiden speech do not appear to exist. The cabinet is full of rich white people intent on cutting us off from Europe and turning us into an inward-looking, tribalist band of haters who long for a mythical good old days where being British was a guarantee of special treatment on the world stage, where we could do what we liked to everyone without consequence and where we didn’t have to put up with those nasty foreigners.

It has become normal for politicians to tell bare-faced lies to get what they want, and to walk away from promises as soon as the election is over.

I implore you to do what you can to keep us in the EU, to stand up for refugees, to get proper funding for the NHS, to stand against human rights abuses wrought by your Conservative government, to ensure our privacy as private citizens, to end the government-induced deaths of benefit claimants, and to be the compassionate Conservative you are proud to be. I believe you may be the last one.

Yours in some despair,

i-am-a-person.net