Concentrate, Condense and Circulate

The First Twenty Days. The Next Two Hundred!

The Prime Minister has started work. We have not – or so it would appear. In many ways it does not matter what the PM. is doing, just that he is seen to be leading from the front on behalf of the country. Similarly, it doesn’t matter that he has the support of only part of the electorate. For all intents and purposes, he is the country. Where the hell are we?

Despite our poor numbers, we can and must lead the visual opposition. Labour has some pretty sad types fighting over the leadership of their mob, and there is a vacuum where there should be a leader of the opposition. It doesn’t matter which of our boys, and they are (sadly) all boys, assumes the mantle of leadership of the party, for no one outside the party cares (and probably only slightly more inside the party give a damn). What matters is that one, or more, of our team hit the headlines and assumes the role of Leader of the Public Opposition. What they do in Parliament is amazing less important than what they are perceived to be doing by the wider public.

The PM. has already visited two of his greatest failures, the seven day NHS and the numbers of migrants entering the country. They are now hostages to fortune, and his undoubted failure to achieve them in this five year term is something we should be storing up. To be really on the ball we need to be giving him less than three years to achieve these, as from then on there will be a leadership race within his own party. If he fails to negotiate the terms for Britain in Europe that the ‘bastards’ want, then regardless of the outcome of the referendum, he will find it hard to continue to lead a well divided party.

On a matter of terminology can we please stop using ‘Brexit’ for in reality we are not talking about a British exit from Europe, merely the exit of the southern part of England. It is immensely unlikely that the electors of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Northern Powerhouse will vote to leave. There may well be a Southern Majority, but the regions must not feel bound by this. The term we should be using is to refer to this Southern Exit is the far more enticing ‘Sexit’.

Terminology aside, nearly all in the Party want to remain in Europe. We have a broader vision than the Tories. We want a co-operative Europe, not just for financial and business purposes (and god knows these are desperately important), but also for broader historic, political and diplomatic reasons. At the moment the nation is very aware of the last two world wars, there is a certain jingoism in the coverage, but the memory has been awoken. The Coal and Steel Community, and all that has followed, was both an attempt to bring peace in Western Europe and to create an economic power capable of standing up to an expanded Russian Empire. The Russian Empire is again a reality. It is flexing it’s muscles and blaming the West, and Europe in particular, for the loss of it’s puppet states. Our vision of Europe is wider than just jobs and consequential migration. We need to start promoting this wider vision.

The British Empire has gone, and if we were ever to stand alone again, who would care. We matter little to the USA except as part of a larger whole; the Commonwealth provides some friendly Games; the Asiatic power blocks would be largely unconcerned; we may, or may not, have control of our own nuclear weapons, but we certainly wouldn’t use them in isolation. Russia has a recent history of picking off it’s targets one at a time. Russia would not hesitate to increase the cost of its oil and gas to us, as a warning to the rest of Europe to play nicely. In short we only matter as a part of a larger whole! We would matter even more if we were capable of taking a leadership role in Europe and this will not happen under the Conservatives.

In the next two hundred days, there will be smokescreens a plenty emanating from Downing Street. They will be there to hide just two main issues: the cuts in the welfare budget, and the failure to get any substantive progress on numbers of EU migrants. We must not get overly involved in these smokescreen issues. Some of them will be ‘core’ issues to us, Civil Liberties, Overseas Aid, the imposition of City Mayors… We can’t stop the Tories from doing what they want with these. The smoke will clear. In the meantime we need to concentrate on Europe and the Welfare State, and to do so honestly.

Europe, is far from perfect. Those of us who remember the 1975 Referendum, know that the democratic deficit has not got any better, and it needs to. The nonsense of moving the bureaucracy remains. The Euro shambles continues. The wages, expenses, and tax system applied to the civil service and MEPs is unjustifiable. But overall it works, and we would be the poorer without it.

The Welfare State is no less problematical. It is a system that has grown up ramshackle. I have worked, as a low level civil servant, alongside people who were working fewer hours and getting more in tax credits than I took in wage. We worked with inner city unemployed and saw households (especially those with many children) taking home more than any of us. But that is no reason for declaring the system a failure. What we need to accept is that people have expectations that perhaps cannot, and maybe should not, be met. The Welfare State needs reform in line with what the citizens think is reasonable, even if this does not meet some of our cherished dreams. A bit more honesty about what can be afforded is needed.

Inform and then trust.