The Trump/Corbyn Parallel

In 2015, the UK had a General Election. The Conservatives won. Licking its wounds, the Labour Party elected a new leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn was hardly a natural leader – a socialist straight out of the mold, he had been a dissenter all his life – but he reflected members’ resentment at having been stage-managed for so long. This effect went two ways – with Corbyn’s election, many people who broadly agreed with his views were motivated to join his party. And they became easily the largest party – a half million members, 10x that of any other party.

But in terms of the electorate (about 50M), that’s a tiny number. To many members of the general public, Corbyn was fatally flawed. He was known to sympathise with groups like the IRA (Ireland) and the PLO (Palestine), which the UK media likes to present as terrorists – any group which opposes the UK is conveniently labelled “terrorist”. And Corbyn did not play cricket.

Fast forward to 2016. Our Brexit referendum. The day after losing the vote, our Prime Minister, David Cameron, resigned. To be replaced by Theresa May. At this point in time, their government had a slim majority, but a majority nevertheless. As long as they weren’t too radical, they could pass their agenda.

Dissatisfied with the slimness of this situation, May decided to call another General Election in 2017, in the hope of crushing the opposition. My own feeling was “how can she be so flippant? If we’re going to deliver Brexit, we don’t have time to get distracted”. But, aware of Corbyn’s history, May called an election. She was Aesop’s fabled hare, the general public resented her attitude, and Corbyn did very well. He didn’t quite win, but he erased May’s majority – it took a couple of years, but May had been fatally wounded.

Fast forward to 2019. Bear in mind that throughout all this time, the public did not really like Corbyn. We saw countless interviews on tv which went along the lines, “I can’t vote Labour, not while he’s in charge”. By now Boris Johnson had replaced May, and he limped to yet another election. This time Corbyn was beaten. Trounced.

If you’re still with me, I’ll get to the point.

In 2017, the public voted for Corbyn in numbers, to give his arrogant opponent a bloody nose. But they never really warmed to him, not in the numbers he required to become PM. As soon as the opponent was someone who was palatable – I used the word “charisma” the other day – the electorate showed Corbyn the door.

My point is, I think the US went the exact same route. In 2016, Americans really did not like Hillary Clinton, so they voted for Trump, to give her a bloody nose. The only difference is that Trump won. But I don’t think people particularly voted “for” Trump, so much as “against” Clinton. By extension, put a decent candidate up against him, he will fold.

I don’t really know if Biden is the answer to that – I’m too far away to make a judgement. From what I hear, I’d probably have as many issues with one as with the other.

But I think their first issue is credibility, just like it was with Corbyn.

Despair

You can moan all you want about forests and fire,
You can say all you want, with your witty satire,
You can moan all you want as our world disappears,
‘Cos one thing’s for sure, buddy, I won’t be here.

You can moan all you want about oceans of plastic,
Your know-it-all science comes across too scholastic,
You can moan all you want as our world disappears,
‘Cos one thing’s for sure, buddy, I won’t be here.

You can moan all you want that the ice disappearing,
You can say whay you want, I am now beyond hearing,
You can moan all you want as our world disappears,
‘Cos one thing’s for sure, buddy, I won’t be here.

You can moan all you want about weather conditions,
Not a thing you can say that will change my position,
You can moan all you want as our world disappears,
‘Cos one thing’s for sure, buddy, I won’t be here.

You can moan all you want about species extinction,
Gorillas or rhinos, I make no distinction,
You can moan all you want as our world disappears,
‘Cos one thing’s for sure, buddy, I won’t be here.

You can moan all you want ’bout the absense of bees,
All those insect species now feeling the squeeze,
You can moan all you want as our world disappears,
‘Cos one thing’s for sure, buddy, I won’t be here.

You might think this is almighty strange,
But there’s nothing you could say will make me change,
You can say what you want about the declining earth
Because nothing you say will affect my net worth.

Cheap

Just watching the News here. The main items, of course, are UK news.

Boris Johnson.

They knew about him before he became mayor of London. They certainly knew about him afterwards. Like his cousin in the US, former advisors made small fortunes with their revelations. Unable to grasp the detail. A bit of a buffoon.

But he has charisma. Oh, the applause he received when he promised to lie in front of the bulldozers if they started digging at Heathrow Airport.

When he happened to campaign on the right side in the Brexit referendum (and it was a margin call) he became impossible to ignore. He was promoted to the cabinet, and was a part of the government which… approved the new runway at Heathrow. But no matter, talk is cheap. Say one thing, do another. Talk is cheap.

But he has charisma. Conservative MPs elected him their leader. He has charisma. He unified the party. With a straightforward message on delivering Brexit, he won a General Election. Decisively. He has charisma. He’s now trying to row back on the original Brexit agreement, but no matter. Talk is cheap.

COVID. Takes us all by surprise. We appreciate the value of Test and Trace. We will test some more. 10,000 per day, by the end of the month. We miss that target. So we increase the target to 25,000. We miss that target, too. Early on, Johnson promises a “world-beating” Tracing App. Nothing materialises, world-beating or otherwise. But no matter, talk is cheap. But over the months, testing increases, quickly at first, but more slowly between May – September. The “second wave” has been promised since July.

Testing is being shown as woefully inadequate. “Nobody could have predicted the need”, says a Johnson supporter. “We predicted it in March”, say the WHO. But no matter, talk is cheap.

But it is worldwide. Peru’s president: we will defeat the virus. Echoes of Winston Churchill. I bet their public love them for it.

Now tell us how. Talk is cheap. India has a says it has a refreshingly low death rate. Because it isn’t counting them all. Talk is cheap.

Left In the Dark?

First, to international readers, this is an ongoing internal issue in the UK. I wanted to put my thoughts down, but if you are outside the UK, this will probably not be of any interest, so please save your time.


There’s a debate been rumbling on here for a while. It’s funny, I’ve heard the issue raised a few times these last few days, so I just wanted to get my thoughts down on paper.

The UK has a tax called the TV License. It is technically a tax on watching programmes from the BBC, but it dates from the time when BBC programmes were the only programmes out there, so the tax became, effectively, universal. In these days of 100s of channels, the BBC no longer has a monopoly, but they fudge around with this license so that we end up paying it anyway. There are various hoops you can jump through if you don’t want to pay, but most people just pay it.

That’s the general case. There is an exemption. The exemption is if someone is over 75. Your income does not matter, just your age.

There has been a storm in the UK because the BBC, who apply the tax, want to abolish that exemption. Over 75s would now need to pay.

Now, there are a couple of issues here.

The first one is the concern about poverty. Over 75s can be among the poorest in society, although this is not always the case. The most famous over-75, our queen, is worth an estimated £500 million. Even if you don’t understand £, that translates to a helluva lot.

Now, there has already been an attempt to tackle this problem. There is a state benefit, designed to help these poorest people by supplemenmting their income a little. It is arguable whether it hits the spot, and perhaps reform is required as very few people seem to qualify. But basically the rule will become that anybody in receipt of this benefit will continue to be exempt from the license.

The second thing is the isolation. It is common for elderly people to be isolated. It is common to claim that because of this isolation, TV is the only medium through which people can see/hear human beings. I do not doubt that this is true. But the argument continues that the BBC will therefore increase people’s isolation by starting to charge.

I don’t buy that. I don’t think that the BBC are increasing anybody’s isolation. What they are doing is saying that people must start paying for the service. If somebody is isolated and needs the TV for company, they still have it, they just need to pay for it. What if they can’t afford it? Well, people on the lowest incomes will still be exempt.

There is a further issue about whether the BBC is managing its finances properly. I think this is a valid point, but it is a different point to license fee exemptions. We shoulds be discussing both questions, but separately. Possibly the start point should be whether it is appropriate for the public sector (the BBC) to try to compete with the private sector.

Summary
  • If we’re going to have a mechanism with any exemptions (which seems absolutely the right thing to do) then we should base those exemptions on wealth, not on age. This fits into the whole “social security” ethos.
  • If the wrong people qualify as being exempt, then let’s fight that battle, and campaign for a change in the rules.

Lastly, did you notice how I got through the whole of this post without mentioning the cost of this tax? That was because its value is not really important to my argument. But if you are interested, it is about £150/year, which is roughly the same value in EUR and USD. I guess we will all have different views on whether that is a lot of money or not.

A Fresh Perspective

I’m prompted to write this by the Democrat Convention in the US.

We had an election in the UK last December. At that election, I spoiled my ballot, because I didn’t rate any candidate. I was uneasy doing this, I thought about it afterwards. My conclusion that we’re stuck with our political system, we don’t have an option just to walk away and let them get on with it, and the only way we can improve our lot is from the inside.

So I decided that I should probably take part in future ballots. But I’m still left with the problem that none of the candidates was any good. So, who should I vote for?

I reconciled this by turning it on its head. I have to stop looking for the most suitable candidate, but for the least unsuitable.

The implication of this is that even if the candidate I voted for gets elected, there’ll still be things I’m unhappy with. So, I’ll still end up wanting better, even though I supported them. But there we go – nobody is perfect.

Anybody else who maybe is faced with some bad election candidates, maybe that’s an option? Instead of looking for the best candidate, and being disappointed (because none of them are much good), to think instead in terms of the least worst candidate?