The big heat

Is there a way to win?

There’s a way to lose more slowly.

It’s hard to escape this week the feeling that we’re all playing a role in an artfully directed film noir. The stifling heat-wave acting as a skillful metaphor for the stupefying complexity of Brexit; cheap fans recirculating hot air over the people recirculating year-old arguments; everyone hoping for the slightest breeze to bring relief.

Like the hard-boiled detective we stake out our mark, David Davis, watching the building across the street, looking for any clue as to what he’s up to in there, sweat on our shirt collars, a camera and a hip-flask our only companions. Slowly we’re starting to see the big picture. This isn’t a film with a happy ending. There are no goodies and baddies. Instead we’re caught in the cross-fire of two rival crime gangs; they hate each other, certainly, but that doesn’t mean that either of them cares for us.

may b&w
“From the minute she walked into office I knew that dame was trouble”

In fact we might have the sneaking suspicion that we’re nearing the point in the plot where one or the other sends their goons to beat us senseless, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to us.

First there’ll be a scene where we can’t sleep. We toss and turn, entangled in the unpleasantly damp sheets of tedious negotiations, before heading to the sash window and looking to the sky for relief. All this heat means that the storm must be coming. We can taste it on the air and convince ourselves that we can hear the distant rumble of its thunder.

may B&w2
“She had legs that just wouldn’t quit. Not just the legs, actually”

The director, of course, won’t allow the storm to break just yet. It as to wait for the climax of the film, when the McGuffin we’ve been chasing is almost within our grasp. That’s when the rain comes hammering down, and the drowsy daydream we’ve been living is violently washed away.

That’s when, torrents pouring down parched gutters, we must face whichever gang boss remains. First they’ll appeal to our reason, and ask us nicely to see things their way. If that doesn’t work then that’s when they up to stakes and the threats are unveiled.

corbyn B&W
“Made it, Marr! Top of the world!”

Then we find out what kind of story this was. Whether it’s the kind where the hero dies, or has a clever plan to get out of it all. Whether there’s any sort of ‘happily ever after’, or even a beautiful friendship. Whether it’s just the kind where the hero has to accept that they’re part of an imperfect world, and try to find morality not in being moral, but rather in recognising that they’re not.

But we won’t know until the storm breaks.

Until then, how can one sleep or work or think in this insufferable heat?

Meet the new bus…

In amongst the past week’s political turmoil and human tragedy The Daily Express’ claim that Brexit would make the UK £156 billion per annum better off passed almost unnoticed. In case you missed it, here’s one of my favourite hard-Brexit idiots sharing the story – and reading it exactly the way The Express intended it to be read:

better brexit 1

This is, of course, the stock-in-trade of The Express, and it would be easy to dismiss this as just another day of drum-beating for Brexit, maybe make a joke about it and move on. However, when I did exactly that, one of my Twitter followers asked if I’d read the report on which it was based, and kindly provided a link.

I read the article, I read the report, I read the reports the report cited. I’m not an economist, but this material is largely written for the lay-reader anyway or, perhaps more accurately, it’s written for the lay-journalist, who is looking for quick headlines and may overlook the stage-magician misdirection in these pieces.

Let’s start with Dancing Palace Guard – who I genuinely do not believe intended to mislead anyone, they simply either looked only at the headline, or were misled by the article. The ‘better off’ that is being talked about is a £156bn increase in the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP). GDP is an estimate of the total value of all goods and services produced within the UK. It’s not government revenue, so it can’t pay for a new NHS, more armed services or indeed anything else. It’s just a suggestion that the total amount of ‘stuff’ that we make and sell would rise.

The Express kindly tells us that this amount is equal to 7.2% of current GDP, and even breaks down where that money is coming from.

better brexit 2

Starting at the arse-end of that sentence you may recognise the money that was the most important thing in the world up until 23rd June last year, after which it was discovered that nobody had ever mentioned it or alluded to it in any way at all.

Former London Mayor Boris Johnson speaks at the launch of the Vote Leave bus campaign, in favour of Britain leaving the European Union, in Truro

It’s striking that already terms are getting muddled up. Our net contribution to the EU is direct government spending, quoting it mixed up with estimates for increased GDP is either confusing or confused.

Slightly more striking thing is that it’s the wrong figure.

Basic maths tells us that if 7.2% of GDP is £156Bn then 0.7% of GDP is £15.2Bn, not the £10Bn mentioned by The Express (which, in turn, is citing this report by the, presumably neutral, Leave Means Leave campaign)

This suggests that one of two things happened here:

  1. The writer of this piece has done their own calculations (workings not shown) and come to the conclusion that investing £10Bn into the UK economy would yield a 50% ROI, every year, in terms of GDP growth, or
  2. The writer of this piece spend so little time on the original report that they didn’t even notice that the mention of 0.7% of GDP was in an entirely different section to the investment of EU contributions.

better brexit 3

Easy mistake to make.

You might also notice that the report specifically recommends against spending our EU contributions on the NHS – or any public infrastructure at all – but rather spending it on “commercial ventures” which “create[s] economic growth, wealth and jobs”. Perhaps, “We send £350 million per week of tax-payers money to the EU, let’s give it to private companies and hope that, in our new low-tax economy, they spend it well enough for us to get some of it back” wouldn’t fit on a bus.

But let’s get back to that deregulation, from which The Express claim we’ll see a 2.5% bump to our GDP. Here the Leave Means Leave report (a) starts relying on external sources and (b) manages to descend almost into farce.

It starts by referencing Open Europe’s top 100 most costly pieces of EU legislation. Here’s there top 5, from their own web-site:

better brexit 4

In total Open Europe estimates that the top 100 most expensive policies cost us £33.3Bn annually. The top five however gives us a flavour of the problems with just reclaiming that money. Nobody in the EU referendum voted to repeal climate legislation or to worsen conditions for permanent or temporary workers. These laws would have to be revisited and rewritten and, presumably, recosted.

[Edited to add: The mysterious ‘CRD IV package’ that’s at number 2 in that list is the raft of regulations that were brought in after the 2008 financial crisis, and are designed to stop us having to do another £500 billion bank bail-out. Tearing up legislation with gay abandon is a very dangerous thing to do]

The Leave Means Leave report then cites the British Chamber of Commerce’s figure of a total annual cost of £80Bn for all EU laws. It then goes on to say:

better brexit 5

Firstly, 2% of GDP is around £50Bn, from laws costing us £80Bn/year. That is not a “modest deregulatory target”, that is tearing up more than 60% of laws and not replacing them with anything.

More importantly – why the hell are they quoting these figures as a percentage of GDP??? This gives the impression that if we scrap these laws then all of the money saved somehow ends up in our national bank-balance. GDP is, recall, just the total value of ‘stuff’ that we produce. If we save a company £1 in regulation does £1 more of ‘stuff’ fall out of the end of the sausage machine? Or is it more likely we remove legal protections for everyone in exchange for more profit for shareholders?

They tellingly say (emphasis added):

Potential savings from deregulation of 0.7 per cent of GDP were estimated by Open Europe at the time of its report as the maximum politically acceptable savings from deregulating a proportion of the top 100.

Even if this £33Bn, or £50Bn, or whatever were there for the taking even the people proposing it are recognising that it’s only something we can do after Brexit. It’s not an automatic consequence, it doesn’t swing into action the minute we step away from the EU. And it’s still less than the 2.5% that The Express are quoting.

The author adds to the end of this section,  somewhat wistfully:

Having sat for years on Mrs Thatcher’s Deregulation Task Force, which was largely fruitless, the willful forces of inertia in Whitehall and amongst their doppelgänger, big corporates, should not be underestimated.

There’s no doubt that this ‘modest’ deregulation is the work of years, or decades.

This is also the main issue with the big 4% boost to GDP from Free-Trade Agreements (FTAs) with the rest of the world.

Here the argument gets more technical, but basically it boils down to Treasury forecasts say the economy will shrink by 8% post-Brexit, while another group, Economists for Free Trade (formerly Economists for Brexit) say that it will rise by 4%, thanks to all of the free-trading that we’ll be doing.

That is, however, contingent upon:

we have as near to “signature ready” arrangements available on Brexit day plus
one, with as many countries as possible. These will help facilitate future economic growth and the removal of technical barriers

In the best-case scenario, then, we are plunging into Brexit with only the hope that countries across the world will be happy to sign free-trade agreements with us, negotiated in record time, and that the ‘technical barriers’, of which there are many, will be happily resolved in the future.

Leave Means Leave then reassure us that this is not the be-all and end-all of Brexit:

However, it is also important to recognise that 80 per cent of the economy is not concerned with exports and will benefit from the other manifest benefits of Brexit. As will the 11 per cent, which is already associated with exports to the ROTW.

A report that, in places, dithers over whether it wants 0.7% growth or 0.9% growth here manages to write-off one fifth of the UK economy, doesn’t even attempt to work out what percentage don’t directly export, but do rely on imports or form part of the supply chain for a final exporter, and seems not to recognise that the 11% of the economy that trades with the rest of the world does so under EU agreements.

As the section concludes:

By contrast FTAs with the ROTW, including with the United States, are dependent on other parties and while business will be encouraged by the success of these, it will be even more so by recognising benefits that are more certain, especially in prospect as opposed to completion.

In other words, the difference between an 8% shrinkage of our economy and a 4% growth is entirely in the hands of other nations, and even if they cooperate we still have barriers to overcome.

All in, then, our £156Bn Brexit bounty is dependent on funnelling tax-payers’ money into private commerce, in a market which may be tanking, while also shredding regulations and simultaneously negotiating dozens of free-trade agreements, in the hope that in some distant future we’ll start to see those publicly funded businesses do well enough to pay a bit more in tax.

Sounds very much like a case of “Meet the new bus (same as the old bus)”…

better brexit 6

Sample assize

I just did a Twitter search on the term “trust polls”, and the results weren’t good. Nobody wants to trust polls. The polling industry stands accused of a list of crimes; the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, the 2015 general election, the 2016 EU referendum and US presidential election and now, just to prove that they haven’t mended their criminal ways, they’re refusing to clearly say what the outcome of this election is going to be.

Some rogues are saying that the Tories still have a double-figure lead, while others have the gap as slender as a couple of points. They won’t simply tell you whether the ruling party is going to gain or lose 20 seats.

After getting all those things wrong how dare they toy with you like this?

ukip poll
Accurate polling, pictured yesterday in 2015

Well, let’s talk about you. Yes, you. And, frankly, it’s about time we had a chat about your unreasonable behaviour. Since the dawn of humanity you’ve been demanding to know the future. “Read the chicken entrails!” you demand, “Interpret my dreams”, “Deal the Tarot”, “Look for patterns in the heavens”, “I’ve come all the way to bastard Delphi and you won’t even tell me next week’s lottery numbers!”

And when the chicken entrails lie, or your dreams were just dreams, or the Tarot card you pick is no more exciting that the 4 of cups, and your lottery numbers don’t come up, well then it’s the fault of the fortune teller, not your greed for certainty in an uncertain future.

elvira-mistress-of-the-dark
Cassandra, who was cursed to speak only true prophesies, to men who were too busy staring at her boobs to listen

Let’s face it, you devour polls. You weave your narratives around them, they become crutches for your lame political biases, you distribute them to laud, you distribute them to mock, when your back’s against the wall you’ll even call them up, like a mugged drunkard summoning his well-kicked dog, to defend your arguments, and, by and large, you pay not a penny for them. Yet you deride them as inaccurate, you call them biased, you accuse them of being tools of influence, rather than reflection.

You need to wind your fucking neck in, mate.

Do you not understand polling? The polls tell you no more than you told them. In 2015 you told them – you promised them – that you were going to vote Labour. And then you didn’t. Then you demanded to know why the polls had reported your lies as if they were truth. Why didn’t they find the shy Tories? Why didn’t you spot the lazy Labours, why did they stick to statistics when we needed to see psychology, why…oh, hang on, it’s time for another general election – yes, I’m voting for Labour.

Never mind whether you trust the polls, the killer question this election is whether the polls trust you.

trust graph

 

 

 

The Phone Call

A play in 1 act, by ExcelPope

ACT 1 (the only one, not sure why it gets a number, really)

INT, DAYLIGHT, THE OFFICE OF JEREMY CORBYN, WHO IS SITTING AT HIS DESK. A WALL CALENDAR BEHIND HIM IS TURNED TO JUNE 8TH, THE PHONE ON HIS DESK IS RINGING

JOHN MCDONNELL [OS, YELLING]: Jeremy! Pick that up! It’s the Prime Minister calling for you.

CORBYN [Picking up phone]: Hello, Prime Minister.

MAY: Ah, Mr Corbyn. I just wanted to congratulate you on a well-run campaign. You’ve really focused on the issues, and that’s what’s won people over to your cause…

CORBYN: Well it’s very kind of you to say so Pri…

MAY: …which is why I’m conceding defeat. Well done, Prime Minister

CORBYN [after a pause]: This is most unexpected. Especially with [looks at watch] the polling stations open for another 12 hours.

MAY: Yes, but we all know which way this is going to go.

CORBYN: But all the polling says…

MAY: Yes, yes, but the polls are always wrong, aren’t they? I concede. I give up. Just get on with the job.

CORBYN: Well this is most unusual, but I promise you that I’ll do an excellent job for the country. I’ll introduce a fairer society, and I’ll make life better for everyone, and I’ll get us the best possible Brexit, and…

MAY: Smashing. Sounds great. Best of luck. Anyway, I must go.

CORBYN: No. Wait a minute. This isn’t some sort of trap, is it?

MAY [nervous]: A trap? How could it possibly be a trap?

CORBYN: It’s Brexit, isn’t it? You’re scared to do Brexit.

MAY: No. No. Not at all. It’s dead easy. A walk in the park. You’ll be all over it, prime minister

CORBYN: Well most of my supporters didn’t want it to happen. And almost none of my MPs do. And we are kind of assuming that our tax base isn’t going to change while we remove free movement, and all those NHS staff, and…

MAY [panicked]: It’ll be fine! Fine!

CORBYN: I’m conceding defeat, prime minister. I never had a chance, really, did I? You deserve the next five years, you really do.

MAY: You can’t concede as well, you idiot. One of us has to win…and I thought of conceding first.

CORBYN: I’m double-conceding!

MAY: That’s not even a thing!

CORBYN: Is so!

MAY: Oh, this is getting us nowhere [pause] but maybe there’s another way [muffled] Phillip, can you patch Mr Farron into this call, please? [unmuffled] So, how’s the jam going?

CORBYN: Oh, marvellously, I’m doing a very interesting pickle this year.

MAY: How apposite.

FARRON [uncertain]: Hello?

MAY: Tim, it’s Theresa here.

CORBYN: And Jeremy.

TIM [relived]: Oh, thank goodness. I thought it was another prank call. Anyway, I’m glad you guys called, I was just about to ring to let you know that I was conceding defeat.

CORBYN: What? But you don’t even want Brexit!

MAY: Oh, smooth work, you blithering idiot!

FARRON: It’s easy for you pro-Brexit parties. At least you’ve got more than half the country and a referendum backing your stance. You don’t have to be constantly accused of ignoring the will of the people or subverting democracy. You just have to deliver a Brexit that satisfies all the different reasons that all of those millions of people voted for it, without making anybody worse…off…and…you’re both conceding as well, aren’t you?

MAY & CORBYN: Yes!

FARRON: Oh, sweet shitting Jesus! You can’t do this to me! I wanted to concede first! I called dibs on it before the polls opened! I have witnesses! I’ll be opposition leader.

MAY: We’re all happy to be opposition leader, Tim Nice-but-dim. Being opposition leader is easy. Ooo, you’re doing it all wrong. Ooo, I’d do a much better job.

CORBYN: Well one of us has to be PM.

FARRON: Unless…

MAY & CORBYN: Paul!

CORBYN: OK, John’s patching him in now.

MAY: Right, dumb & dumber, I do the talking, OK?

CORBYN & FARRON: OK

NUTTALL: Hello, Playboy Mansion, chief photographer speaking.

MAY: Cut the crap, Nuttall, this is Theresa.

NUTTALL: Oh, thank you for the call, Prime Minister. You know, when I was a lad Winston Churchill used to call me every day to…

MAY: Shut up. I’ve got Jeremy and Tim on the line as well. We’re all conceding defeat. You’re Prime Minister now.

NUTTALL: It’s lovely of you all to think of me – I haven’t felt camaraderie like this since my SAS days – but I’m conceding as well, sorry.

MAY: What are you conceding for, you slap-headed lack-wit? You can’t be scared of Brexit, it’s all you ever talk about!

NUTTALL: Ha, Brexit’s no problem, old girl, but I’m terrified of Nigel. You heard him last month; all that talk of taking up a rifle if he doesn’t get the right sort of Brexit. He’s got a house full of shotguns and mail-order knives, you know? He once gave me a Chinese-burn just for saying “single market” without spitting afterwards. I’m bound to cock up something, and then I’ve got 20 middle-aged investment bankers in cammo gear crawling through my Petunias, looking to go all Steven Woolfe on me. Count me out.

CORBYN: But if none of us will do it, then it has to be…

ALL: Nicola!

MAY: We’re patching her in now. At least she won’t turn this down.

STURGEON: Turn what down?

MAY: Congratulations, Nicola. Owing to the unprecedented conceding of all the other party leaders, you’re going to be PM.

STURGEON: I am?

MAY: Yes. Just think. A proper Scottish Prime Minister. Scotland on the world stage. A great triumph for your proud, strong nation…

CORBYN: …a chance to fix all those Westminster problems you keep talking about.

MAY: [Groans]

STURGEON [uncertain]: So, I wouldn’t be able to blame Scottish problems on Wastemonster?

MAY [upbeat]: But you’d have the power to control referendums. No more London politicians dictating the fate of Edinburgh.

NUTTALL: Have one every week, if you want. You’re bound to win one sooner or later.

MAY: [Sound of a pencil being snapped]

STURGEON: Ah, well, while I’m very keen to deliver Scottish independence and then be able to govern properly, I think I’d best focus on campaigning for that Indy ref, rather than being PM. I concede as well.

FARRON: If anybody cares I’m fairly sure you have to be an MP anyway.

MAY: Right, there’s only one option left. Smarten up your acts, everyone, I’m calling the boss.

CORBYN: I’m not sure I can be party to this. I am a republican, you know.

MAY: Do you want to be PM? No? Then shut up!

LIZ: Yars?

MAY: Good morning, your majesty, this is the Prime Minister. I also have Mr Corbyn, Mr Farron, Mr Nuttall and Ms Sturgeon on the line. We were just thinking, did the restoration go far enough? Isn’t it time to put the civil war behind us, and accept that mistakes were made?

LIZ: Are you all conceding?

MAY: Yes, your majesty. We were wondering if representative democracy hadn’t perhaps run its course and we should jointly recommend a return to full monarchy…in keeping with the spirit of Brexit.

LIZ: Mrs May, we have reigned for 65 years. Longer than any other British monarch. Is it too much for one to ask that you manage one general election that doesn’t end with this fucking phone-call?

End of Act 1

End of play

Start of wishing you’d just paid for tickets for The Cursed Child instead.

 

Rant

I think it’s fair to say that the past 18 months have put me firmly on the anti- side of the Corbyn argument. On Twitter I’ve made a lot of jokes at the expense of Corbyn and his supporters, on Facebook, and in real life, I’ve argued and debated with them, been round and round their loops of obfuscation and denial, but I’ve never been angry with them.

Until now.

Now, when those who’ve fawned over Corbyn since his entry into the leadership contest, who’ve been at the forefront of denouncing ‘Blairites’, who’ve called for the deselection of decent Labour MPs, who’ve minimised Labour’s 1997-2010 record, and also Corbyn’s pre-2015 atrocities, who’ve reposted and quote The Morning Star and The Canary, while screaming that the ‘MSM’ is a Zionist tool being used against them…now that those people are hurriedly trying to win back the voters that they told to ‘fuck off and join the Tories’ by painting a vote for Corbyn’s Labour as being the only possible opposition to the Conservative’s destructive path.

corbyn bit shit

Seriously, fuck you all.

Corbyn isn’t going to save the NHS. He’s not going to build thousands of new affordable homes, he’s not going to make schools into palaces, universities free, pensioners wealthy or end poverty. He’s not going to do any of those things for four reasons:

  1. He’s incompetent. Massively, massively incompetent. He can’t do a no-seats-on-the-train stunt without falling flat on his face. He can’t fill a shadow cabinet. He can’t plan. And he’s surrounded himself with people whose incompetence equals his own. Between them they can’t run a government and an economy, they can’t even run a political party.  He’s a protester. He complains about things being wrong. He’s never had to make things right, and he doesn’t know how to do it.
  2. He doesn’t want to. He’s spent his entire adult life fighting the establishment and fighting against his own party, and when he is the establishment all that’s left for him to fight against is his party. If you’re shaking your head and telling yourself it wouldn’t be like that then go and re-read Lillian Greenwood’s resignation speech. He sacrificed political capital, abandoned a cause he repeatedly talks about and shafted his own shadow-minister to fight with his own party instead.
  3. He won’t win anyway. All of those guilt-wrangling social media updates won’t even be seen by enough people to make any measurable difference. Anybody taken in by this sanctimonious call for unity will find their vote used for only one thing, helping Corbyn stay in charge of Labour after the election.
  4. You’re a hypocrite. Because if you’d wanted to keep the Tories out you’d have backed away when it became clear he wasn’t going to be any good at the job. When his IRA and Hamas support became clear you’d have thought, “Hang on, this isn’t going to play well to the nation”, instead of excusing it or trying to twist it into his personal crusade to bring about world peace. When he was weak on anti-Semitism you’d have disowned him and found a stronger candidate, instead of accusing Jews of plotting against him. You wouldn’t have dismissed polls as biased or false. You wouldn’t have found excuses for Copeland. You wanted this. You wanted a Labour party that couldn’t possibly take on the Tories and (slow clap) you got it.

Fuck you all. I just wish the rest of us weren’t going to get fucked as well.

Progressively stupid alliance

clipart-numbers-numbers_set
Numbers, pictured yesterday

There has been talk of a progressive alliance between Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green party. In this alliance each party would agree not to compete against each other for seats and, instead, let the party with the best chance of winning field a candidate, unhindered by the other two parties splitting the ‘progressive’ vote.

This presents a strong anti-Tory option, which only has three main drawbacks:

  1. It’s stupid
  2. It’s stupid
  3. It’s stupid

Let’s examine those problems one-by-one.

First off, it’s stupid

The Conservatives currently enjoy fairly wide support. They are polling within a few points of having half the country behind them. If they want to be sure of translating that polling success into actual voting success they have to come up with a plan that nearly half the country supports.

Undoubtedly it will be the usual Tory bit about opportunities for everybody who works hard, a strong economy so we have the money to fund the NHS and schools, etc, etc. It just needs to be a ‘steady as she goes’ job, a Foster’s lager of a manifesto, with nothing to offend anyone other than its blandness. They’re looking at gaining 90+ seats, so there’s no need to go in hard.

A progressive alliance changes that; if they are going to be white then the Tories need to be black. They’ll need to pick the carcass of UKIP to get at every last voter. May, seeking to free herself from the need to listen to the swivel-eyed loons on the right of her own party may end up having to pitch a whole manifesto towards them instead.

She wouldn’t even have to worry about the Lib Dems. Their vote would, they’d be well aware, be a proxy vote for Corbyn and his rainbow of incompetence making a pitch for running the country. As many of them are in the Lib Dems precisely to get away from Corbyn in the first place it’s hard to see that playing well. In the alliance there are 15-20 seats that the Lib Dems could take that would otherwise go Conservative. May only needs to persuade those yellow voters to stay at home, and as Corbyn is as pro-Brexit as she is (probably more so) she has all the ammo she needs to show that they have Hobson’s choice.

Secondly, it’s stupid

On current polling numbers a non-aggression treaty would cost the Tories seats, but still leave them the largest party, albeit 20-odd seats short of a majority. Labour would still trail 50 seats behind them, and the 25-or-so seats that the Lib Dems would pick up (if their voters turned out, and didn’t jump to the Tory side when they did) wouldn’t be enough to cover the gap.

The Greens would still be barely relevant. They’d still have a single seat, or two if they haggle hard over who stands in Bristol West.

So even if every Labour, Lib Dem and Green voter can be talked into getting out and voting for the alliance it’s still likely to lead to a massive, messy coalition guiding parliament through the uncharted straits of Brexit, with Captain Corbyn at the helm.

Finally, it’s really, really stupid

With the Conservatives and Lib-Lab-Green pact both short of a majority the balance of power, either in coalition or on a vote-by-vote basis, lies with the SNP.

With the SNP outside of the progressive alliance they’d lose two or three seats, still leaving them with enough to make them a powerful parliamentary force in a fragmented Westminster.

Inside the alliance, on the other hand, they’d make all Scottish constituencies a choice between voting for them or voting for the strongly unionist Conservatives. In effect the general election would become a second independence vote.

Once again the Conservatives would pitch to England the possibility of the SNP running the country, while shoring up their Scottish vote by playing up the threat to the union.

Even if the alliance survived this, and did as well as it possibly could, everybody knows the price of doing business with the SNP, and having Scotland exit the UK at around the time the Brexit negotiations come to a head, still leaving all of the major parties short of an overall majority, would be…an opportunity. A huge, steaming opportunity.

Is there a clever solution?

Not really, no.

Labour are going to be wiped out and there isn’t another option to oppose Brexit or Tory rule. So, I don’t know, either stay at home and hope that their crushing defeat is again the spur to get them to cleanse the party of the hard left, or vote Lib Dem and start building their numbers back up, ready for 2021…when it will be too late.

Depressing as shit, isn’t it?

PNS in A SNAP

As the long-term reader of this blog will recall, last year I announced the launch of my own political party, PNS (Party for Northumbrian Sovereignty).

PNS

I must admit that when I wrote that I didn’t quite realise there would be paperwork involved, and that paperwork has since being sitting in my ‘to-do’ pile, underneath the red credit card bill, but on top of the court summons, since then.

Now the PM selfishly calling a snap general election has forced me to move the credit card bill to under the summons and actually look at the paperwork involved. Man, it’s a pain.

My first order of business is going to be getting some crowd-funding going. I’m hoping to raise enough money to put together a much better crowd-funding appeal, which will cover the deposit I apparently have to pay if I want my name on the ballot paper (is it any wonder the poor don’t vote, when they’re excluded from politics like this).

I also have to find some other people to join my party; Northumbria used to run from the Humber to the Forth, so I’ll really need to get candidates elected in the regions that I want to reclaim for the glorious Northern kingdom, otherwise people living in those areas may not feel that I have a genuine mandate.

Ultimately I’ll need to find some voters as well, preferably enough to see my candidates winning all of their seats and PNS thrust into parliament, with me as deputy prime-minister (I’ve never really been a leader).

I also, apparently, need a manifesto. This is principally to avoid awkward silences between the bit where I knock on somebody’s door and say, “Bye, don’t forget to vote for me!”

I’ve had a few ideas knocking around for a while, but this is the first time I’ve tried to jot them down, so please excuse any rough edges…

nhs logo

The NHS

The NHS consistently polls as one of the most important topics for voters of all types right across the country. I’ve no idea why everybody loves the Northumbrian Health Service that much, but I like to think it’s because we all have a little bit of PNS in us.

In line with its voter appeal PNS are making the NHS one of our top priorities. We’re pledging that in our first term in office we will have a fully-funded, fully-staffed hospital in all the major population centres; Hexham, Alnwick, Seahouses, etc. We will also work tirelessly to aim to provide at least basic medical services in out-lying rural areas, such as Edinburgh and Leeds.

We will shamelessly plunder the rest of the UK, Europe and the world for leading specialist in core skills; such as sewing on bits that have come off because of a threshing machine, undoing the most baffling and intimate of bailing twine knots, and real ale poisoning.

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Brexit

Obviously our priority will be ensuring full independence for Northumbria and delivering freedom to those who find themselves oppressed by the Scotch and the Yorkshires. Once that independence is achieved, and we have our own royal family installed, we will be ready to ask the hardy Northumbrians how they feel about joining the EU.

We certainly don’t oppose the idea, unless it turns out that lots of Northumbrians do…then we do as well. As I like to say, if you’ll give PNS a go then we’ll back you up.

Education and children

Nothing is more important than our children. At some point in the future people who are children now will literally be older than I am as I write this. With that in mind it’s vital – nay, important – that today’s children get at least as good as a education as what I got.

It’s also important to us that Northumbrian children don’t grow up in poverty. Every child has the right to grow up scratching out a substance living on a windswept hill-farm that gets no more than 12 minutes of daylight in winter. Sadly, this dream is now beyond the reach of many parents.

To combat this PNS will be raising the family allowance by a whopping 100%. In return we’ll be asking parents to pay £20 per week per child towards the cost of their education. This scheme is, therefore, revenue neutral, but makes parents richer and schools better funded. A true win-win policy that we’re expecting other major parties to poach.

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Taxation

Northumbria aims to be truly revolutionary with regards to taxation. We’re planning to become the first ever kingdom of the UK to introduce a flat-tax.

Under our scheme everybody pays ten grand a year in taxes. No dicking about. Ten grand each. This avoids loads of administration and is, unarguably, fair and just.

To avoid penalising low earners, the elderly and children we’ll be allowing people who are a bit short to pay what they can and do us an IOU for the rest, and I’ll keep track of these IOUs in an Excel spreadsheet I’ve already designed for that very purpose. If you throw a seven before your IOUs are paid off we get first dibs on your stuff.

On the flip side of the coin, if you’ve got a few extra bob kicking around you can pay your taxes up to 10 years in advance, thus avoiding any inflationary rises. This policy is unashamedly designed to attract the super-wealthy, with £100k+ to spare, to move into Northumbria and pay 10 years of taxes at a time. Even if we only land 10 such people that’s an incredible £1 million straight into the coffers!

We’re honestly not sure why all the other parties make such a fuss about taxes. They’re a piece of piss.

Trade and international relations

We hope to remain on good terms with England and what will be left of Scotland after we’ve had our slice out of it.

Tourism will probably do well, what with our new royal family (applications open after the general election), and we’re taking to some guy on Facebook about getting our own Centre-parcs. If worst comes to worst we can always live of that million quid for a couple of years.

We’ll get round to thinking about defence after independence, but, honestly, those Danes haven’t bothered anyone for years. We’ll probably be applying for NATO membership, once we’ve found their freephone number.

Other stuff

Is there other stuff? The bins and what-not seem to be sorted at the moment, so we’ll probably just leave them as they are, to be honest.

In conclusion

So there you have it.

I like to think we’ve put forward a strong and well-reasoned case for Northumbrian independence, at least on par with any of that Scotch independence lot.

If you’re interested in standing as a PNS then give me a call after 6pm (sorry, busy with work at the moment).

If you’re interested in voting for us, then go for it. Shout, “I demand PNS!” as you march into the voting booth. Everyone’s 90 year old mother will cheer, guaranteed!

If you’d like to donate to our fund-raiser to raise funds for a better fund-raiser then give me 10 minutes to find out how Kick-starter works and then check back.

Whatever you do, get involved now, on the ground floor – because this country is crying out for a viable party with electable policies, and we are that party!

PNS may be small, PNS may not be in everybody’s mouth but, by god, we have spunk and our time is come!