Monday 27 March 2023

Significantly Diminished?

Presented with a broad field of candidates, between one quarter and one third of the SNP's few remaining members decided not to vote in what amounted to the election of the next First Minister? Really?

Humza Yousaf claims to have been brought into politics in opposition to the Iraq War, yet he will now be in government at the pleasure of the born again warmongers, and privatisers, of the Green Party, who are particularly enthusiastic cheerleaders for a war that now involves the British deployment of depleted uranium to Ukraine, a decision that was probably made at least in part in Scotland.

I give Yousaf a year, and that is being generous. Longer than Liz Truss, I suppose, but most of his party's MSPs backed him, whereas most of her party's MPs did not back her. Still, he is not very good to begin with, he has barely won, and much of the party truly hates him.

Bringing us to Keir Starmer. The Corbyn thing is not news. Did it not happen months ago? But the protests against an Israeli Government so utterly typical that it is even headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, are the context in which tomorrow's motion can no longer mention "anti-Semitism". That Jeremy Corbyn cannot be a Labour candidate is now officially because he led the party to defeat at the last General Election. Well, karma can be a bitch, Starmer. Karma can be a bitch.

Corbyn would certainly be the First Past the Post at Islington North. Look out for Labour guff about physical fear being the reason why they could not find a candidate against him. No, dears, you just did not fancy coming fourth or below in an English seat. Most Guardian and Observer columnists live there or very nearby. Put up or shut up.

Everyone else, put aside any doubts about Corbyn, and get on board for the Left's most famous victory in living memory both in Western Europe and, for want of a better term, in the Anglosphere. Corbyn's reelection would cause dancing in the streets on every continent. Parts of Latin America might declare public holidays. I am not joking. Be part of it. You know you want to. Including if you see yourself as the anti-Establishment Right. You will not get another chance like this to sock it to The Man, who is now known by name as Keir Starmer.

Christopher Snowdon and Peter Hitchens would no doubt both see themselves as such, at least since the fall of Truss in Snowdon's case. He can discredit Trussian libertarianism to his heart's content by giving a twice-annual flogging to his dead hobbyhorse of British Summer Time all year, or even of Central European Time, but Hitchens's voice is too important across a wide range of issues to be drowned out by the reaction to his calls for the abolition of BST. If that debate ever began in earnest, then Snowdon would win, for exactly the reasons that Hitchens states. It is Snowdon's that is the lifestyle of the political and media elite. For the sake of the fight for railways and against drugs, for civil liberties and against wars, leave this alone.

Although he ended up being vaccinated anyway, Hitchens initially lined up with the libertarians against the Covid-19 measures, and those of us who instead adhered to the medical advice were not wrong to do so. That advice may turn out to have been wrong, although that was no part of the argument against it at the time, which was ideological. But we would still be right to have followed it while it stood. As lockdown opponents became anti-vaxxers, who seem to think that they have been conclusively proved right even though that has not happened and their arguments were political rather than medical, so anti-vaxxers are mutating into deniers of the existence of Covid-19. Yes, you read aright. They hold that there has never been any such virus as SARS-CoV-2. Again, if you want to be taken seriously on other issues, then keep away from all of that. It helps never to been anywhere near it.

People who opposed medical vaccination are in no position to defend recreational drug use, and the fact that nitrous oxide is given to pregnant women is no more an argument for the legal mass availability of laughing gas than the use of morphine in labour would be an argument for the legal mass availability of heroin. But there is no reason to expect Michael Gove to deliver on this.

Having returned to these shores, Prince Harry has not been arrested for his Class A drug offences, any more than his United States visa has been revoked. When he was so out of it that he thought that he was having conversations with a pedal bin, then he was surrounded by some of the most carefully vetted Police Officers in the world. They often are. Last May, Gove himself was described in edited Fleet Street copy as having been on " a cocaine binge". He and Boris Johnson, who is no longer an American citizen, have lied on their United States visa applications, as has Harry. They are not the only ones, although presumably no one will bother in future. As Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng was obviously off his face at the funeral of the late Queen. The Truss Government was so awash with cocaine that it scandalised the servants.

We need a single category of illegal drug, including cannabis, with a crackdown on possession, including a mandatory sentence of two years for a first offence, three years for a second offence, four years for a third offence, and so on. (I no longer believe in prison sentences that include the possibility of release in less than 12 months; in that case, then your crime was not bad enough to warrant imprisonment, which the possession of drugs is.) We need to restore the specific criminal offence of allowing one's premises to be used for illegal drug purposes. And Hitchens's The War We Never Fought should be taught in schools, as pro-drugs propaganda is routinely. But since drugs-based blackmail is fundamental to political power in this country, we can forget it.

So much for that confidence and supply agreement with the DUP. All it asked, and I am glad for the people who benefited from this, was an extra billion pounds, £100 million per vote. Social conservatism for Great Britain never seems to have occurred to the DUP. Anyone would think that they were Irish. But any dependence on them is long gone. Instead, we have the Windsor Framework, which assumes a case for Northern Ireland to be in the Single Market, though conveniently without any danger of even the remotest popular influence, that is also the case for Great Britain to be in the Single Market, though conveniently without any danger of even the remotest popular influence. Give it five years. Under any party.

After all, the parliamentary boundaries are being redrawn so as to restore normal service and stop General Elections from being decided in places that never voted for Thatcherism. Thatcherism at the time was a force both of and for social liberalism, and it was ferociously Eurofederalist, with any opposition to that project derided as "Loony Left". The Thatcherite heartlands became the backbone of the Coalition, and they expressed their approval of its record by giving its Prime Minister an overall majority in 2015.

The South then largely voted Remain, in accordance with Conservative Party policy at the time. That party installed a Thames Valley Remainer as Leader and Prime Minister without any sort of election, and if the 2015 Parliament had run its course, then scores of seats would have turned from Blue to Yellow in 2020. That would also be true if the 2017 Parliament had run its course, with the overall result that Corbyn's Labour would have been the largest party in the hung Parliament of 2022. Unsurprisingly, those Thatcherite, liberal, pro-EU areas are now preparing to return Liberal Democrats in 2024. And matters are being arranged so that theirs would once again be the votes that mattered.

Like the rise of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, and like the vote to Remain of those places which did so, the resurgence of the Lib Dems in the monied shires of Southern England bespeaks that the vote was a nice thing to have, but that people who got their way by other means every day did not really need it. If 60 per cent of the laws to which they were subject were made without the formal participation of their elected representatives, well, those were still going to be the laws that they themselves wanted, because that was how the world worked.

But when I tell you that there is going to be a hung Parliament, then you can take that to the bank. I spent the 2005 Parliament saying that it was psephologically impossible for the Heir to Blair's Conservative Party to win an overall majority. I predicted a hung Parliament on the day that the 2017 General Election was called, and I stuck to that, entirely alone, all the way up to the publication of the exit poll eight long weeks later. And on the day that Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, I predicted that a General Election between him and Starmer would result in a hung Parliament.

To strengthen families and communities by securing economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends, including national and parliamentary sovereignty, we need to hold the balance of power. Owing nothing to either main party, we must be open to the better offer. There does, however, need to be a better offer. Not a lesser evil, which in any case the Labour Party is not.