Monday, 18 March 2019

Arlene Foster: undercover campaigner for a United Ireland?

OK so this post was supposed to have gone up on St Patrick's day, but better late than never...

According to this morning’s paper, the ten sectarian throwbacks who make up the Parliamentary DUP are trying to decide whether to reverse their previous concerns about the effect of the backstop on Northern Ireland and support May’s Brexit deal.  Ever since, in the wake of May’s unnecessary – and from her point of view, disastrous – decision to call a General Election in 2017, the less than magnificent ten have shored up her government, and together with the Raving Loony Rees-Moggsters, have wielded a veto over the whole Brexit process.  This was in return for a bribe from May (to the tune of £1bn), which, in the existentially cynical world of Westminster politics ranks up there among the most cynical.

We have heard a lot recently about the damage a second referendum would do; the Prime Minister said recently that it would ‘…damage social cohesion by undermining faith in our democracy.’    What about the threat to democracy the DUP’s privileged position in the power structure represents, given its status as a beacon of representative government?  Improbably, it’s no exaggeration to say that the future of this country is in the hands of these ten people (along with other Brexiteer ultras in the Provisional Wing of the Tory party), which is deeply disturbing when you examine the democratic credentials they bring to the debate.

In the 2017 General Election, the ten amassed between them approximately 296,000 votes – which represents about 0.6% of the British electorate.  The first-past-the post system brought them their ten seats (out of a total of 18), with just 36% of the vote.  Never mind that they count for less than 1% of the electorate, they don’t represent the views of Northern Ireland on Europe either.  The DUP are of course hard core Brexiteers; but in the referendum, the people of Northern Ireland voted 56%-44% to remain.  In their ‘negotiations’ with May, they really speak for no-one. Respect the will of the people – but not in Northern Ireland evidently.

The prospect of a no-deal Brexit has led to concerns about the possibility of a return to the Troubles, and a threat to the Good Friday agreement.    It’s not yet clear if the recent spate of bombs received in the UK and apparently sent from the ‘IRA’  actually represent some first steps towards a recurrence of the Troubles. 

But quite separately from that, a number of observers, on both sides of the (currently soft) Irish border, have speculated that a no-deal Brexit could lead, ultimately, to a United Ireland, firmly in the EU.  What a spectacular irony that would be – if Arlene Foster’s hard-line tactics led to the realisation of her worst nightmare! 

Lá sona Naomh Pádraig,* Arlene!

*In case you hadn’t guessed, happy St Patrick’s Day

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

It's Panto time!

It’s panto time

Amidst the gravity of the five day Brexit debate the House of Commons got into the Christmas spirit by staging another Westminster pantomime.  After her distinctly unamusing prologue the Prime Minster invited cabinet members to explore their political futures by making a pitch for her job.  Gove, Raab, Javid – and a few ex-Ministers like Johnson – in effect asked ‘where’s my political career’, to be greeted by catcalls from around the House of ‘It’s behind you’.  Then as the debate proper got underway, MPs from across the House rose to declare ‘We’re leaving the EU.’  At which point another Honourable Member would rise to respond ‘Oh no we’re not.’  I’m tempted to record the appearance of Mesdames Leadsom and McVey as the Ugly Sisters but that’s not acceptable in this day and age.  So perhaps there is a role in Vaudeville for Gove and Johnson…

Like many I have been puzzled by the exact meaning of this year’s May trope, replacing last year’s ‘strong and stable’: the new one is ‘very clear’, or some variant thereon.  Then I realised it’s actually a synonym for ‘mendacious’.  Listen to any of her recent speeches and you’ll see what I mean.

I’ve finished the last two years’ Christmas posts with the hope that the next will be an improvement, but it hasn’t worked, so let’s try: hoping that next year is even shittier. You never know, it might work.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Quomodo aliquis Jacobum Rees-Mogg victimam saturae facere potest? *

Latin epithets seem to have become the norm on SIC – two in a year.  But then there is no shortage of those around us who insist on harking back to what they argue was a happier past.  And prominent among them is Jacob Rees-Mogg.   He’s often portrayed as a figure of fun, which admittedly is very easy to do – the Member for the 18th century (though an earlier pre-Reformation century might be more appropriate), pictured as a 10 year-old reading the FT, openly affectionate about his Nanny.

Yet, underneath the self-satirising image there lurks a dangerous force in British politics.  His selective grasp of theology is well-publicised – opponent on religious grounds of abortion under any circumstance (even after rape) and gay marriage, but apparently unconcerned about the First Beatitude (blessed are the poor).  He has consistently voted at every opportunity for reductions in welfare benefits, and for stricter enforcement of immigration rules – including supporting a tighter asylum regime.  He’s generally opposed any increase in taxation rates for the better off.

Of course just now he’s best known for his obsessive support for Brexit and his role as chair of the self-styled European Research Group (European Myths Group might be more accurate).  What the ERG and other shady right wing fringe groups (such as the Institute for Economic Affairs, and the inappropriately named Tax Payers Alliance) are really after isn’t just 'taking back control' for its own sake, but as a step towards destroying all the employment, consumer and other protections that membership of the EU provides.  And beyond that, some of their member share close ties to the US healthcare market, and see Brexit as a route to replacing he NHS with an American two tier system (great if you can afford the fees, non existent if you can’t).  As Polly Toynbee revealed recently (Hard right brexit) Raab, the recently departed Brexit secretary (who couldn’t support the treaty he negotiated) published a number of papers proposing an extreme right-wing policy agenda, including radical reductions in the number of government departments, welfare cuts, reduced employment protection, and an end of equalities legislation.

So yes, if you have trouble with free movement, do think of Rees-Mogg – he makes me shit anyway.

* How do you satirise Jacob Rees-Mogg?

Monday, 15 October 2018

You couldn’t make it up….

A dark sense of humour appears to have descended on the government, as it approaches quite possibly its swansong.  First, the day before Theresa May goes isolated into the Cabinet chamber in pursuit of her elusive, nay fantasy, Brexit “plan”, she announces free dancing lessons for the lonely.  She has demonstrated to the nation – more accurately the world – how desperately she needs dancing lessons (not to mention help in improving her international negotiating skills.)

But even more bizarrely, the Foreign Secretary is pictured this morning with a number of his EU colleagues in a maze that we learn adorns the garden of his grace and favour gaff, Chevening.  A number of satirists have commented recently that their job is getting harder because so much of contemporary politics is self-satirising; but no-one expects senior government minsters to take the piss out of themselves…

Jeremy Hunt and his EU counterparts trying to navigate the maze at the Chevening country retreat in Kent.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Knob gags???

When I started SIC a few years back, I never thought it would stoop to knob gags.  But then I never thought that the US could elect a dangerous clown like Trump as president.  As Weinstein said – in a rather different context – things were different then.

If I had any doubts about mocking someone’s (alleged) genital abnormalities, this article by Hadley Freeman in last week’s Guardian soon reassured me: