“No General Election Before 2020”

30 June 2016 – “There should be no general election until 2020,” said Theresa May when launching her Tory leadership campaign.

4 September 2016 – “I think what’s important, particularly having had the referendum vote, is that we have a period of stability…so I don’t think there’s a – a need for an election. I think the next election will be in 2020.”

“I’m not going to be calling a snap election. I’ve been very clear that I think we need that period of time, that stability to be able to deal with the issues that the country is facing and have that election in 2020.”

1 October 2016 – Theresa May has told The Sunday Times she has ruled out a general election before 2020 as an early vote would cause “instability”.

7 March 2017 – “It’s not going to happen. It’s not something she plans to do or wishes to do,” says the prime minister’s spokesman, after William Hague writes a column suggesting a snap election will give May a mandate for Brexit negotiations.

30 March 2017 – “There isn’t going to be one. It isn’t going to happen. There is not going to be a general election,” said the prime minister’s spokesman.

18 April 2017 (Today)“Since I became Prime Minister I have said there should be no election until 2020 but now I have concluded that the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election and seek your support for the decisions I must take,” said Theresa May this morning. [1]

“This lady’s not for turning,” once quoted Theresa May’s doppelganger, Margaret Thatcher. It seems the present British prime minister has decided to forsake her Thatcher impressions in favour of grasping a leaf from the Trump book of political U-turns. U-turns by national leaders now appear in fashion.

But that’s not all she’s stealing from Mister Trump. Leaked government papers obtained by the Times newspaper indicate that she may be agreeing with America’s ‘Dear Leader’ that climate change is no other than a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.

Civil service documents, photographed on a train, reveal that Britain plans to scale down its concern over climate change and the trade in illegal wildlife to clear the way for post-Brexit trade deals.

Details of the policy change were contained in the papers of a senior civil servant at the Department for International Trade (DIT) photographed by a passenger earlier this month.

They include the speech notes of Tim Hitchens, the director-general of economic and consular affairs at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

The notes show he will tell diplomats and trade negotiators that they need to change their focus if the UK is to fulfil Theresa May’s vision of Britain as “a great, global trading nation”.

“You have a crucial role to play in posts in implementing our new approach to prosperity against the huge changes stemming from last year’s Brexit vote,” the notes say.

“Trade and growth are now priorities for all posts — you will all need to prioritise developing capability in this area. Some economic security-related work like climate change and illegal wildlife trade will be scaled down.”

Hitchens was unavailable for comment but Whitehall sources said the change of emphasis will make it easier to sign trade deals with countries in Latin America and Africa. At the moment, trade and aid arrangements with these countries can get bogged down with clauses that put environmental protections ahead of economic prosperity.

The document also reveals that Whitehall is still too short-staffed to maximise the opportunities of Brexit.

Hitchens plans to warn that “securing more resource” may be necessary, “particularly in the EU, where we’re already deploying additional officers”.

The notes are for a high-powered conference, Prosperity UK, sponsored by the Legatum Institute and Open Europe think tanks, taking place on April 26.

A second photographed document lays bare tensions between the FCO [Foreign & Commonwealth Office] and the Department for International Trade (DIT), which occupy the same building.

The handwritten note from a private secretary asks a senior figure — understood to be Liam Fox, the international trade secretary — to use his speech to the conference to stress “the need for FCO posts to work closely with DIT”.

It also says there is a need to explain “that trade is not just FTAs” — Whitehall shorthand for free-trade agreements.

Senior civil servants say there is irritation that Fox is heavily focused on tariff-free trade deals and less interested in obstacles to trade, such as standards and regulations. One said: “What is free trade in the 21st century? An awful lot of it is tackling behind-the-border barriers in services and intellectual property and procurement. It’s not about tariffs.”

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, condemned the shift away from climate change: “This government, not satisfied with delivering the greatest act of economic self-harm in history, is now threatening to disregard climate change and threaten the future of our planet. This leaked document shows that the government is now grubbing around for any idea and any principle it seems is up for sale.” [2]

[Reproduced in full due to Times subscription access]

Note the phrase, “… climate change and illegal wildlife trade will be scaled down.”

It seems that under the present U.K. government, economics and trade are far more important than the future of our planet. But perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised by that, given the dark political ejaculations emanating from the United States right now; a nation Theresa May has made no secret of aligning with against Europe.

The general election on June 8th will see Theresa May returned as the British prime minister. There can be no doubt of that. The main opposition party (Labour) is in total disarray and has lost the confidence of the country. No other party is in the running, though the Liberal Democrats may pick up some votes due to the enthusiasm of its new leader, Tim Farron.

Mrs May has picked her time well. A general election so soon after ‘Brexit’ may not suit the country, but it’ll certainly suit her and the Tory far-right she represents.

[1] “A flashback to all the times Theresa May said a snap election was a terrible idea because it would cause “instability” New Statesman, April 18th 2017

[2] “‘Less climate concern’ key to Brexit trade” Times, April 9th 2017

A World Divided

In June last year the people of the U.K. voted by 51.9% to 48.1% to leave the European Union. ‘Brexit’ had triumphed, but only just. The result highlighted a nation deeply divided, perhaps more so than it had ever been since the Civil War of 1642.

In November last year the people of the United States of America voted Donald Trump as their new president. The result was so close that, had it not been for the Electoral College system of democracy in that country, his opponent would now be occupying the White House, and Mister Trump would have retired with his tail between his legs. Another nation deeply divided in its political thinking, perhaps the most its citizens have been set against each other since the American Civil War of 1861.

Today, we learn that Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has succeeded in his attempt to become the virtual dictator of that country by a mere 51% of the vote. Yet another bitterly divided nation. [1]

After a British ‘Brexit’ the far-right wing of the Tory Party established itself in government without a mandate from the people. It’s leader, Theresa May, is proving herself a Margaret Thatcher on steroids. Her political ideal is an alliance with the right-wing Trump regime in America, more power to the corporations, and almost certainly the eventual ‘Americanization’ of the British National Health Service.

Meanwhile, Trump and his cohorts inflate the military budget and begin a strategy of ‘do as we say, or else,’ to the rest of the world. North Korea, Russia, and China are lined up in U.S. crosshairs and Trump’s second-in-command has only today made clear that nuclear war is an option firmly entrenched on the table. [2]

Quite how Turkey’s Erdogan will react to all this is still debatable. The country’s future is as yet a closed book, but given his treatment of innocent academics, journalists, and others following the abortive coup against him last year, it cannot appear exactly rosy.

On May 7th this year, the French people will vote for a new president. The far-right nationalist party leader, Marine Le Pen, has been doing well in the polls…

…but is not thought to have any chance of becoming the overall winner. But then, Brexit was unexpected, Trump was a rank outsider, and a secular Turkey never really anticipated Erdogan would get his way.

A world divided as never before is a world enveloped in conflict and drawing closer to eventual war. If the French throw Marine Le Pen to the wolves on May 7th it will keep at least one candle of hope burning in this otherwise darkened world. If they don’t it will add one more division of conflict to this bitterly divided planet.

[1] “Turkey referendum: Vote expanding Erdogan powers ‘valid'” BBC, April17th 2017

[2] “Pence: US era of strategic patience with North Korea over” BBC, April 17th 2017

U.S. Missile Strike: Trump’s Latest “Up Yours!” To The World

The air strike by U.S. missiles on a Syrian airbase today is an act of war, not just against Syria, but also its ally, Russia. It puts the ball firmly in Putin’s court. If he doesn’t react, he will be seen as weak. If he orders military action in reprisal, it will likely result in a third world war.

There will be many who’ll applaud this latest act of aggression by the United States. The U.S. Congress has already fallen into line behind their leader and the British government has, unsurprisingly, showed its support for America’s reactive military strike.

The use of nerve agents in warfare has been banned since 1925 under the Geneva Protocols, yet chemical weapons were used with impunity by the U.S. military in Iraq. But where were the U.S. media cameras, so quick to broadcast images of dead and dying children in Khan Shaykhun, when white phosphorus was killing and maiming people in Iraq? Strangely, they weren’t around. I wonder why.

As George Monbiot reported in the Guardian back in 2005:

The first account…unearthed in a magazine published by the US army. In the March 2005 edition of Field Artillery, officers from the 2nd Infantry’s fire support element boast about their role in the attack on Falluja in November last year: “White Phosphorous. WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE [high explosive]. We fired ‘shake and bake’ missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out.”

The second, in California’s North County Times, was by a reporter embedded with the marines in the April 2004 siege of Falluja. “‘Gun up!’ Millikin yelled … grabbing a white phosphorus round from a nearby ammo can and holding it over the tube. ‘Fire!’ Bogert yelled, as Millikin dropped it. The boom kicked dust around the pit as they ran through the drill again and again, sending a mixture of burning white phosphorus and high explosives they call ‘shake’n’bake’ into… buildings where insurgents have been spotted all week.”

White phosphorus is not listed in the schedules of the Chemical Weapons Convention. It can be legally used as a flare to illuminate the battlefield, or to produce smoke to hide troop movements from the enemy. Like other unlisted substances, it may be deployed for “Military purposes… not dependent on the use of the toxic properties of chemicals as a method of warfare”. But it becomes a chemical weapon as soon as it is used directly against people. A chemical weapon can be “any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm”.

White phosphorus is fat-soluble and burns spontaneously on contact with the air. According to globalsecurity.org: “The burns usually are multiple, deep, and variable in size. The solid in the eye produces severe injury. The particles continue to burn unless deprived of atmospheric oxygen… If service members are hit by pieces of white phosphorus, it could burn right down to the bone.” As it oxidises, it produces smoke composed of phosphorus pentoxide. According to the standard US industrial safety sheet, the smoke “releases heat on contact with moisture and will burn mucous surfaces… Contact… can cause severe eye burns and permanent damage.” [1]

The speed of Trump’s reactive strike against the Syrian al-Shayrat airfield just south of Homs speaks more of China and North Korea, than possible Syrian malpractise. It’s usual for military involvement to only come following days, or weeks, of planning and discussions. The speed of this response was all about Chinese premier Xi Jinping’s imminent arrival in Florida for his much publicized first meeting with Donald Trump.

To quote Paul Haenle, a veteran US diplomat:

“This is probably not a welcome development for Xi and the Chinese in terms of optics. It somewhat weakens the image of Xi as a strong statesman on the world stage. It will distract from coverage of the summit in US media. But more importantly, I think it says a lot about the US power and preeminent leadership role. It’s hard to imagine any other country in the world making that kind of unilateral strike – certainly not China.”

Bully-boy tactics have long been the Trump way of business. He’s always got his way by ensuring he held the strongest hand in any deal. That’s fine when playing poker; these days, when honour and loyalty raises only a sneer, it may even be considered the right way to do business.

When charged with leading a hellbent on empire-building superpower, such methods may bring results, but they may not be the kind of conclusion likely to prove beneficial to the long-term welfare of the human race.

[1] “The US used chemical weapons in Iraq – and then lied about it” George Monbiot, The Guardian, November 15th 2005

Consign Flags And Other Nationalistic Symbols To Room 101

Flags disgust me. Why do we as a species continually insist on displaying these symbols of nationalistic pride as though we were still uncivilized tribes hellbent on raping, pillaging, and slaughtering the bods living over the next hill, or sand-dune, for no other reason than, well – ‘it seemed a good idea at the time?’

I saw the image above on the BBC website today and realised just how sickening it truly is. It’s Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, signing the letter that will instigate the U.K.’s departure from the European Union. The large (and obviously carefully placed) Union Jack draped by the ornate fireplace is symbolic of nothing more than a nation withdrawing into itself, a return to the days of yesteryear when it was still possible to brainwash young men into being slaughtered by the thousands on some far-off battlefield, for no reason other than that of nationalistic pride.

Nowhere is this vile symbolism more grossly portrayed than in the United States. I remember arriving on its shores back in September 2002, just one year after the attacks known as 9/11, to be horrified by the nation-wide outburst of nationalism visible on almost every building, vehicle, ‘T’-shirt and baseball cap. The national flag was displayed everywhere it could possibly be placed, like some great, symbolic, upraised finger gesture, and not just to the perpetrators of those attacks but to all the rest of the world.

“The Flag” is what America’s about. Little kids in grade (infant/junior) school are taught ‘allegiance to the flag’. Immigrants wishing to become citizens must swear allegiance to the flag:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Despite nearly fifteen years in the U.S., I never had the desire to become an American citizen. I couldn’t, anyway. I would have choked on the oath of allegiance. I’ve never pledged allegiance to any one nation, and I never will. I was born British, but now I’m ashamed of that country and what it’s becoming.

I remember seeing all those symbols of nationalism on arriving in America, and thinking how terribly ‘un-British’ it all seemed. The only time Union flags were displayed in any number in the U.K. was at a coronation, or royal funeral perhaps. Now, since Brexit, flags are on display again; nationalistic fervour stirred up via a piece of coloured cloth on a stick.

Governments rattle on about ‘globalization’. On the one hand, they tell us how wonderful it is while waving their nationalistic symbols with the other. What they mean is globalization is great if you hold all the aces, especially militarily. It’s not so much fun if you’re the underdog forced to do the bidding of a superpower. “Liberty and justice for all” doesn’t mean much when the hated symbols of an invader, and its lackeys, are planted on your doorstep.

There’s a programme on British television called, “Room 101.” Three pseudo-celebs are asked to pick a particular something from everyday life that they intensely dislike. The three things are debated and one of them will end up in “Room 101,” a mythical vault in the BBC from which things never return.

I’m never likely to be asked to appear on “Room 101,” but if I were the first thing I’d choose to be consigned to that vault would be “Flags and nationalistic symbols.” I truly believe it’s time we got rid of them and learned to live together in this world.

Though I don’t doubt there are many who would disagree.

Goodbye Europe – Hello American Corporate Healthcare

Theresa May has finally announced she will trigger Article 50 on March 29th, to officially inform the European Parliament that the U.K. wishes to commence negotiations to leave the European Union.

It would appear this woman has no regard whatever for the consequences. Already European healthcare workers – nurses and doctors – are leaving the NHS and the UK in droves. They have no wish, as many say, “to remain where they’re not wanted.” Once happy to have made a permanent home in Britain, they now feel Britain no longer makes them welcome. You can hardly blame them.

A recent Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ documentary revealed that applications from European nurses to work in Britain have dropped by 92% since Brexit. With many preparing to leave the country the future for the National Health Service looks bleak. This last winter has seen a serious crisis in the service and, given the worsening staff shortages, next winter could prove disastrous.

As the Head Nurse at one hospital responded, when asked how they would cope if the situation continues to deteriorate:

“We will have to radically change the way we deliver healthcare in this country. It won’t be possible for us to run services the way they currently are. We just won’t have the doctors and nurses to be able to do that.”

Mrs May says they’ll fill the shortfall by recruiting British nurses and doctors. Those charged with training new recruits state categorically that it’s impossible.

A Guardian report from October 2016 stated:

[On October 4th 2016] The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, announced to the Conservative party conference that the NHS needed to become “self-sufficient in doctors” by 2025. It needed to end its reliance on foreign doctors, and it would do this by training an extra 1,500 medical students a year.

This was news to everyone, not least those working in the NHS, or heading up our medical schools or the British Medical Association, because apart from anything else, the numbers simply don’t stack up. “It’s completely unrealistic,” Deborah Gill, the head of UCL medical school, tells me. “It’s a drop in the ocean. An extra 1,500 students is going to make no difference whatsoever.” [1]

Hunt wouldn’t know 1,500 is a drop in the ocean, would he? He only the government’s Health Minister.

At present, student nurses receive a 4,500 UK pounds bursary to support them while training. From September this year, that will stop and be replaced by a student loan. The result has been a decrease in applications for nurse training of 23%.

It would seem that Mrs May is stating one thing while doing another. Perhaps that shouldn’t come as any surprise. Maybe she’s already hellbent on ‘radically changing the way healthcare is delivered in the U.K.’. Once free from the constraints of the E.U. in two years time – at which point the NHS is likely to be in even greater crisis than now – she can throw open the doors of British hospitals to the hedge funds, insurance companies, and corporate healthcare moguls in the United States, for them to walk in and take possession.

Of course, it’ll all be about “doing the best for the benefit of the British people,” and, “The NHS in its present form just can’t continue.” There’ll be promises of, “better healthcare for all,” “a better service with shorter waiting times, well-trained staff, more doctors and new modern hospitals,” all owned and run by the multi-billionaire conglomerates already in control across the Atlantic. There will, of course, be the promises that, “…it won’t cost you a penny more than you’re paying now.”

If you believe that, you’re even more stupid than the 52% of British electorate who believed that leaving the E.U. would deliver 350 million pounds a week into the pocket of the National Health Service.

They still think it’s going to happen.

[1] “Could Brexit prove terminal for the NHS?” Guardian October 16th 2016