Liars, Charlatans, and Democracy in Peril

The last few days in Parliament have seen some extraordinary scenes. Boris Johnson, a man who seems determined to drag the office of Prime Minister through the mire, has repeatedly used disrespectful and inflammatory language. He has dismissed the fears of MPs of the death threats, rape threats, arson threats they and their families have received. “Humbug”was Johnson’s response, apparently seeing this as some kind of joke. He even referenced Jo Cox, the MP murdered by a member of the Alt Right who shouted “Britain first” as he killed her, and said she would have wanted us to ‘get on’ with Brexit. BS.

Others have suggested riots if we do not leave the EU on 31st October. Suggested these riots almost as a threat, almost as a call for riots.

I have been on a number of pro EU marches since June 2016. They have been characterised by good humour, politeness, warmth. They had a family feel. There have been dogs and children, wheelchair users. They have made me proud to be British at a time when my country, which I love, has been tearing itself apart.

I stood at Trafalgar Square over a year ago and, as I waited for the friends I was hoping to join, struck up a conversation with a a French family visiting London. They were warm in their admiration of the way this huge crowd was behaving. I have been with Americans who have taken photograph after photograph, and then decided they wanted to join in, be part of this. These marches, these demonstrations, have fostered such good feeling, such warmth from foreigners who had wondered whether London was a safe place to visit in these febrile times.

There have been no arrests. At the largest march over one million people of all ages walked together, calm, courteous even when abuse was shouted by the odd Brexiteer who had turned up to jeer. Some people tried to engage with the Brexiteers, to speak to them. They were repaid with swearing and threats, not dialogue.

I have only witnessed a Brexiteer demonstration by accident. There were only a small number of demonstrators, but they were loudly aggressive, threatening. One wore a Donald trump mask while others sang “We love you Donald, oh yes we do.” As a Remainer, I would not have liked to challenge them. The outcome would almost certainly have been violent. More than one person has said that Brexit has become like a religion, a particularly fundamentalist religion, where questioning and discussion, let alone disagreement, is treated as blasphemy and quickly suppressed, the questioner demonised.

This is a dangerous development. Democracy is a delicate creature. Look at history and see how many times people who thought they were secure were forced to flee their homes with nothing when anti-democratic, often populist, movements silenced debate and demanded adherence to a particular ideology; when the people comes to mean only people who belong to a certain group. Continue reading

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Pants on Fire

A beautiful but cold evening here in London tonight. I’ve spent the day at home, not travelling far in any direction but still overachieving my daily step count goal. There were local elections across the U.K. this week. Boris Johnson, a London based politician whose acquaintance with truth is fairly loose, tweeted that he had been out to use his vote. Only when it was pointed out to him that there were no elections in London for him to vote in, did he take that tweet down. There was surprisingly little coverage of this. BoJo, like Farage, gets an astonishingly easy ride in the media. Or maybe it’s just that we are so used to BoJo’s pants being on fire* we don’t think of it as news anymore.
When the results came through it was clear that the Tories were massive losers, over a thousand council seats down. Labour lost around about a hundred, but all the news I listened to kept repeating that both main parties had suffered great losses. I’m not saying Labour did well, their losses compared to the Tories were in a different scale. Continue reading

Keeping it Sane

It’s been a busy week and a productive one. No, I am not talking about Brexit, though a new extension has been granted by the long-suffering EU until October. It sounds a good amount of time, six whole months, but once you subtract the days the house isn’t sitting it’s more like three. Mark Francois has made an arse of himself (again) by making threats to the EU and reading poetry aloud very badly, yet some people think he should lead the Tory party. Hello? Theresa May, whose air miles must be enough to get her to the moon and back by now, returned to the house and made the same speech again. Is it obstinacy, lack of imagination, or a plan to just wear people down? She does an aggressive upward look, reminiscent of Princess Diana, across the floor of the house to anyone who dares contradict her. Whatever the question was, Brexit is not the answer. Tonight, when the news was on, I deliberately left the room to avoid seeing the Farago announcing his new Brexit party with Jacob Rees-Mogg’s sister Annunziata on side as a prospective candidate. Some huge percentage of the adult population says it is suffering from Brexit related stress and anxiety. Tell me about it. I wake up from dreams about it.
Anyway, it’s Friday night and time for a bit of a break, though I fully intend to watch Have I Got News For You at nine o’clock, and I have already listened to the News Quiz. It’s like a itch I can’t help scratching. As though Brexit anxiety wasn’t enough, I have been worried about MasterB for the last couple of days. He has been under the weather, sleeping hugely, not nagging me much to play, taking only a cursory interest in his food. This morning, before I went to work, I rang the vet practice and talked to one of the nurses, describing his symptoms. If she told me to keep a close eye on things once, she told me a dozen times. Being Chief Litter Tray Monitor, I am well versed in MasterB’s bowel movements. Normally his digestive system functions admirably well, just the odd pungent smell from his hind quarters when he is sitting beside me, or the popping sound of wind breaking in tiny bursts. So I was able to say that yesterday’s deposit was less solid than usual. Today’s was even less solid than yesterday’s, so it seems something has upset his tum. I’m hoping he’s on the mend now as he has just led me to the kitchen and had a few mouthfuls of the wet food in his bowl, and his interest in biscuits has definitely returned. So long as it’s nothing serious, a few days of restricted calories might be just what he needs to shift the stubborn superfluous 500g he’s carrying.

 

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Prescient

Some people are saying they had no idea the country would be in reduced to such a state by the 2016 referendum and its result.

Where were they looking? What were they thinking? I have a little crystal ball someone gave me but I have never managed to see anything in it. But clicking on the related posts after the last one I wrote, I was struck at how prescient they were. Which suggests to me it was all pretty obvious then as I am no political pundit. Mind you I didn’t foresee Theresa May being praised for her heroic sacrifice of her career, praise that she put the country first because of her strong sense of duty. Call me naive, but I should expect any Prime Minister’s first priority, first loyalty, to be to the country, not their own career path. Perhaps that is why we are in the state we’re in now with Boris Johnson or Michael Gove being talked about as future Prime Minsiters, people we know have no scruples and enormous ambition. Theresa May has been quite happy to sacrifice 48% of voters who took part in the referendum, to sacrifice honesty and fair dealing by upholding the result and calling the dirty dealing regrettable, quite happy to sacrifice jobs and livelihoods of people who already have less than little.
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Back to Brexit

You would think that there had been no march on Saturday, no five million plus signatures on a petition asking for Article 50 to be revoked. Europe is talking about it, the world is talking about it, the UK government isn’t. No. The day after the march our esteemed Prime Minister met renowned Brexiteer MPs, people who would be quite happy to leave the EU with no deal. The Prime Minister followed this meeting up with a speech where she spoke about the British People (yep, they’re being evoked again but apparently my birth certificate lies and I am not one of them) and how they would not countenance not leaving the EU. No mention of the march, the petition, the fact that the referendum was advisory and not binding, and had it been binding it would have been declared void because of illegal activity by the Leave campaign.
Not. A. Word.
There’s the usual baloney about respecting the ‘will of the people’ respecting ‘the result of the referendum’. Nothing about respecting those who march peacefully, who follow the rules, who do not threaten civil disruption, public mayhem if this goes ahead, who engage in debate not rhetoric and meaningless slogans. Continue reading

Welcome to the WeekEnd

The petition to revoke article 50 reached 3,000,000 at lunchtime. It’s now at 3,706,979 and I think it’s slowing down. There was a very uptight member of Leave Means Leave on channel4 news tonight who claimed it was open to fraud and that he personally had signed it three times within five minutes. Whether that is true or not, the excitement generated by this petition is wonderful, and it obviously has some ardent Brexiteers such as the oleaginous Farrago rattled.
Not that the Prime Minister has any intention of considering any changes to her deal. Is it lack of imagination? arrogance? stupidity? obstinacy?
Anyway, when I finish work at lunchtime tomorrow I shall be marching tomorrow for a People’s Vote, though whether I shall succeed in meeting any of my friends is doubtful. The sheer number of people last time meant I gave up and walked with strangers.
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A Sign of Hope

For some weeks now, due to the bizarre political situation in the UK, I have felt like I am living in a Tom Sharpe novel. You know the ones. He wrote them in the 1980s and most were set in a dysfunctional South Africa. I never expected those scenarios to feel like real life in the second decade of the C21 in this group of islands I call home.
For nearly three years since the ill thought out referendum about the UK’s future relationship with the EU, those of us who voted Remain have been sidelined. The Breat British Public and their Will apparently excludes us and our will. We have marched, we have demonstrated. Parliament has ignored us, despite our numbers. The Electoral Commission has ruled that the Leave campaign broke the rules. Utd all government could find to say was that it was ‘regrettable’ and the referendum result must be respected. The subtext of this was of course that anyone who voted to remain, who had not broken the rules could,in the eloquent phrasing of Mr B Johnson, ‘go whistle’.
Last night, with just nine days to go to the deadline, we seemed to reach a new low. At this rate our government will surely find itself tunnelling through to Australia soon. Faced with the complacent smirk of Mark Francois, a politician whose election to office brings the whole of our system into disrepute, his intellectual capacity being either so well hidden no one has seen it yet, or possibly non-existent, saying that he is quite happy about a no deal exit from the EU, I felt deep despair and helplessness. There is no effective opposition in Parliament, no one offering an alternative. I feel abandoned.
I tried reading my next book group book (Heartburn by Nora Ephron. For such a slim volume it is taking me a very long time to finish it) but my eyes kept sliding from the page.
I turned to Twitter in search of a hashtag game to lighten my mood, and found a petition. This is a screen shot of it from earlier this evening.
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Dandelion Days

I’m watching the news where we keep switching back to the Commons chamber where a series of votes are taking place. So far the House has voted against a No Deal Brexit, which is fine, but if the EU, understandably frustrated by the situation, decides it does not want to engage with this pantomime anymore we shall leave with a no deal.
I don’t want to leave at all.
However, it is all too likely that a month from now I shall be living in a country unmoored. Prices will go up but income will go down. We are warned of empty shelves in the shops. I can buy lentils and so on, but what of green veg? Well, the answer maybe dandelion leaves. I was doing a spot of weeding on Monday, and as I dug out some dandelion plants I noted their young green leaves. So I separated them from the other weeds, chopped off their roots, brought them indoors, washed them and popped them in the fridge. Continue reading

February brings the sun

This is February, typically the coldest month of winter, a month associated with low temperatures and even snow. Yet today I was out and about in my shirt sleeves, opening windows wide when indoors. I can’t deny I enjoyed it. I had the morning earmarked for dusting and vacuuming. The sunshine had a downside though, mercilessly showing the amount of cat fur chez IsobelandCat.
Just how much fur can one cat shed over the course of a winter? A lot it seems. Each time I thought my duster would come up clean from the carpet there was another clot of fur. I resorted to the rubber glove technique to speed things up. I haven’t broached the drawers under the bed where MasterB often likes to sleep during the day. I know the cat fur there will be mega.

This seat needs some fur

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Twenty Minutes Apart

After Dry January (which I did not do, but Octavia did), Veganuary (which basically I do all year) it’s now Frugal February. Not, at least so far as I am aware, a national or international thing, but having received a bank statement which brought the unwelcome news that I had spent far more, despite already thinking I was being frugal, than I had made, I am wondering what further economies I can make.
So lots of good intentions which immediately got thrown aside when I had to buy a new printer cartridge costing £20.00 – £20.00! But at least I have the money. As a self-employed freelance, I know in my particular field January is not a good month. Neither is February. March tends to pick up, but Brexit is changing things and my sector is already suffering, so I can’t count on March, April or May to be busy.
I don’t earn a huge amount, even in a good year. If I were a foreigner there is no way the government would welcome me into the country. This is not a sob story, a plea for self pity. I chose to do what I do, gave up a part-time salaried post where I was bullied and miserable, I love my job. And I am lucky; I have paid off my mortgage, my outgoings if I am careful should be within my budget. I have choices.
But what of those who do not have the same securities? For some families that £20 unplanned expenditure wouldn’t be a setback, it would be the difference between eating or not eating, having the heating on or turning the heating off. When I hear politicians saying the pain we shall inevitably go through after the UK leaves the EU is worth it I simply don’t believe them. Today I saw Jacob Rees-Mogg’s new house. I’ve seen it many times before, but now he lives there. It’s in a very nice street, a lovely location, walking distance to the Palace of Westminster: further to the nearest branch of Poundland. As it turns out, a Poundland very close to where I live. About a twenty minute bus ride away.
It’s amazing how different neighbourhoods twenty minutes apart can be. Continue reading