Socrates and the Corinthian democracy

With his beard, unkempt hair and stern look, there is an aura of a revolutionary about Sócrates. In some ways he was the footballing equivalent of Che Guevara, with his political opinions backed by his activism.
To add weight to his mystique, Sócrates was one of the most elegant and gifted players to wear the yellow shirt of Brazil. He was also part of the 1982 and 1986 World Cup squads that played some of the most beautiful football ever seen at a major finals. With the likes of Falcão and Zico, it was a talented team that tore apart the opposition and scored spectacular goals like Sócrates’ equaliser against the Soviet Union. All that seemed to matter to that Brazil teams of 1982 and ‘86 was the joy that they brought to people. They were Garrincha, just a few years later.
Many Brazilians have fond memories of ‘The Doctor’, as he was nicknamed due to qualifying in medicine. Rumour had it that Socrates studied at University College Dublin but sadly was confirmed as an urban myth. He was seen as a leader of the people, who was kind and brought happiness with his football. Politics was also a passion of Sócrates, who had his eyes turned to the social injustices in his country.
Brazil during the 1960s and ’70s was a country ruled by a military junta following the 1964 Brazilian coup d’état, and culminated in the overthrow of the democratic João Goulart government. The previous regime was deemed to be a “socialist threat” by the military and the right-wing, who opposed policies such as the basic reform plan which was aimed at socialising the profits of large companies towards ensuring a better quality of life for Brazilians.
With the support of the US government, Goulart was usurped with Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco sworn in as the president. Initially the aim of the junta was to keep hold of power until 1967, when Goulart’s term would expire, but ultimately felt that they had to keep control to contain the “dissenters” within the country.
Protests against the junta were brutally put down with dissenters killed, tortured or having to flee the country. Repression and elimination of any political opposition of the state became the policy of the government. The current Brazil president Dilma Rousseff was one of those who was imprisoned and tortured on the instructions of this totalitarian regime.
The organisation and structure of football clubs were very much regimented, too – with little or no freedom to manoeuvre – which was in tune with the junta government. Players were expected to obey orders and were closely supervised; whether it was being told when they could eat or drink, or to having to be holed up in training camps days before matches.
Initially, Sócrates along with his team-mates went along with this structure. However, he felt suffocated – famously a man of peace and freedom – and with the dictatorship strangling the life out of democracy in Brazil, believed that it was a time for change.
Naturally, it was not something that Sócrates or his team-mates could openly discuss. Instead it had to be done subversively, behind the scenes and through the power of words. Many high-profile athletes in Brazil at the time were politically aware and felt that it was their duty to try to use sport to re-democratise Brazil and end the regime.
An agreement was reached with the new club president Waldemar Pires in the early-1980s which allowed Sócrates and his team-mates to have full control of the team and to establish a democratic running of the club. During a meeting in which everyone got an opportunity to speak freely, it was agreed that every decision would be decided by the collective. This would be when the squad would train, eat or, as Waldemar expressed in a documentary about the Corinthians team, “when they would stop on the coach for a toilet break”.
What made the Corinthians democracy even more unique was that voting wasn’t restricted to the playing and coaching staff; it was a model that involved everyone within the club. Whether it was the players, masseurs, coaches or cleaners, everybody had a say. In short it was ‘one person, one vote’ with everyone backing the majority verdict.
After agreeing the new structure it was first put to the test when Corinthians went on tour in Japan. Walter Gasagrande, who was 19 at the time, was heavily in love and wanted to fly back home to his girlfriend. A vote was called for with people speaking for and against Gasagrande being able to return to Brazil. It was decided that he would have to stay – and Gasagrande respected the decision.
Nothing was off-limits at discussions with it being agreed that a psychiatrist was to be hired in order to help the team. Sócrates and his colleagues had an open mind and invited people who interested them outside of football. Prominent artists, singers, and filmmakers were invited to speak on various topics.
Corinthians slowly embodied the dream of the ordinary Brazilian in removing the dictatorship, to be replaced with universal suffrage. This was markedly expressed on the back of the club shirt which had ‘Corinthians Democracy’ printed with splashes of mock red blood similar to the Coca-Cola logo.
It was a move that upset the prominent right-wing, many of whom had branded the Corinthians’ Democracy movement as “anarchists” and “bearded communists”. However, with football coming to represent the very essence of Brazil even the junta government knew that they had to tread carefully. Nonetheless, the government still warned them about interfering in politics.
Indeed, they had used the success of the 1970 World Cup for their own devices, so much so that Sócrates stated: “Our players of the 1960s and 1970s were romantic with the ball at their feet, but away from the field absolutely silent. Imagine if at the time of the political coup in Brazil a single player like Pele had spoken out against all the excesses.”
Sócrates and his team-mates were prepared to bring in a silent revolution by using football to speak out against the military junta. The first multiparty elections since 1964 were set for the May provincial elections in 1982. Despite this, the majority of Brazilians were scared of voting. Some didn’t even know whether the army would allow them to vote, while others thought it safer not to vote at all.
With the May provincial elections set for the 15, the Corinthians team decided to up the ante and to chip away at the dictatorship. They agreed that they would have ‘on the 15th, vote’ on the back of their shirts to encourage people to head to the polls.
It was a quiet voice of dissent but as a smiling Sócrates advises in an interview years later, the military junta could hardly object as the team was not backing any particular party, merely encouraging people to vote.
Corinthians’ mood was quickly picked up by Brazilians, with the military government taking a battering in the provincial elections. It now appeared that the regime was losing its grip on power. Sócrates later said: “[It was the] greatest team I ever played in because it was more than sport. My political victories are more important than my victories as a professional player. A match finishes in 90 minutes, but life goes on.”
With the thirst for democracy at its peak, Corinthians now pushed for presidential elections. The team now took to the field with ‘win or lose, always with democracy’ emblazoned on their jersey this time. It was a mood that was quickly engulfing the ordinary Brazilian, who sensed that they could push for democracy.
During this period the Timão won the 1982 and 1983 São Paulo Championship. Unsurprisingly, considering his talent, Sócrates was highly sought after by top European clubs. In 1984, he proclaimed at a large rally that if congress passed through the amendment for free presidential elections then he would stay in Brazil. A huge cheer went up but sadly the amendment fell and Sócrates moved to Fiorentina.
Brazilians, in the words of Sócrates, were beginning to realise that political change was possible. It was something that the military government couldn’t stop, and so it was in 1985 that they were defeated in the presidential elections. Finally, Corinthians had achieved their objective of returning democracy back to Brazil.
It was a dream that Sócrates and the club were proud of bringing to the fore. By using football, they had managed to get their message across and helped bring about the change that people wanted. In many ways, it is quite fitting that since football is in the bloodline of Brazil, it was the Sócrates and the Corinthians Democracy that was part of the movement that helped rid the nation of the military government.
A first class player and man, there are few footballers with the same skill and integrity of the great Doctor Sócrates. It is why, after passing away in 2011, that he was revered with a fitting tribute by Corinthians players and supporters who held their fist out in memory of their legendary brother.

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Theresa May – Another omnishambles

Sometimes art really does imitate life.  Watching Theresa May literally choke on stage as the words of ‘building a country that works for everyone,’ fall apart you did at one point wonder if this was an episode of ‘the thick of it,’ starring Theresa May as Nicola Murray.

Everything about Theresa May since the ill-fated general election has been a omnishambles.  From her poor interviews and interactions with the public that had to be stage-managed purely for damage limitation.  It didn’t help that May kept parroting slogans in the hope of hypnotizing the public but just led to her being mocked when she was far from ‘strong and stable.’

Yesterday in Manchester was meant to be a ‘re-branding.’  of Theresa May taking responsibility for the mess of an election but being more stronger and listening to the electorate’s needs.  Indeed policies such as the energy price cap look putting politely very similar to Ed Miliband’s  2015 Labour manifesto.

Instead it literally fell apart metaphorically and physically.  Right at the start it didn’t bode well when a comedian broke forward to hand Theresa May a P45 before being bundled out.  There was brief bit of composure as she cracked a joke about it being Corbyn who ought to be given his P45 before her voice decided to give up on her.

A small cough quickly made Theresa May sound like the Fast show’s Bob Fleming as she resorted to making another lame joke at the Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s expense.  Even the sip of water in an attempt to kill the cough didn’t work as Theresa May started to choke.

It didn’t get any better as Theresa May seemed to be openly drowning on stage.  At one point Amber Rudd led the cabinet to applaud their leader to give her time not just to recover but to reassure May.  However Boris Johnson looked like a bemused relative who doesn’t know when to stand up in Church as Amber Rudd motioned him to follow her lead.

Not that it really helped as Theresa May started to look like Roy Hodgson watching his team being completely outplayed and not knowing what to do.  She really was one step away from rubbing her face in frustration hoping that it was all a nightmare.

At one point you did wonder if someone from the Tory faithful was going to throw the towel in.  To stop what was now painful but absorbing viewing for all the wrong reasons.  Then the words started to fall and it seemed to sum May’s shambolic career as Prime Minister.  Indeed the jokes flew that if the Tories could hardly build a decent prop then how could they build a country that works for everyone?

Eventually May somehow staggered towards the finishing line like an amateur injured marathon runner who finishes hours after everyone else.  The traumatic smile and pointing to her throat were all mannerisms associated with the hapless ‘thick of it,’ Nicola Murray.   Malcolm Tucker declared ‘her a omnishambles,’ and it would be fair to say so was Theresa May.

This speech was meant to be a new start.  A more personal Theresa May far removed from the aloof portrayal that she gave during the election.  It was meant to focus on her own thanks for the NHS who have helped with her diabetes, her humble family origins from her Grandmother being a domestic servant to May being Prime Minister.

That new start lay in pieces pretty much like the words that had fallen off the Conservative slogan behind her.  Rather than talking about a new start and May reasserting herself as a leader the talk was of how shambolic the speech had been.  That’s also not mentioning the reason why Theresa May decided to wear a bracelet with the image of Frida Kahlo whose views in sharp contrast to May’s

It has to be said Theresa May looks like a middle manager way out of her depth who finds herself as Chief Executive of a leading firm.  She also looks like a troubled football manager who has run out of ideas and is just counting down to the inevitable of being shown the door.

That’s not to say that will happen just yet.  Catastrophic as yesterday’s performance was it makes no sense for the Conservatives to ditch their leader whilst in the throes of Brexit.  Theresa May is pretty much toxic so might as well take the fall for Brexit when it no doubt doesn’t go as planned.

 

Boris Johnson a complete disgrace

The disgusting comments from the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson about the possibility of the Libyan city Sirte being the new Dubai ‘after they have cleared away the dead bodies,’ should have led to him being sacked.

It was a crude, disgraceful comment that showed a lack of regard for ordinary people killed in Libyan civil war.  A lack of respect and insensitivity that these dead bodies are just an inconvenience so that rich businessmen can build a rich beach resort.

More class and dignity should be expected of a foreign secretary which Boris Johnson clearly hasn’t got.  The remarks at the very least should have been under more media scrutiny because that statement is clearly unacceptable and in any other walk of life would lead to dismissal.

Keep the guards on the train

Of course it is going to be an inconvenience when Merseyrail goes on strike. It will mean being on the 80 or 80a (so-called because it takes eighty days to get to the city centre) rather than the twenty minutes it takes to get to work on the train. However I don’t blame the striking guards for but the bosses that are intent at putting safety and jobs at risk.

In Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray there is a famous quote on how some people ‘know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.’ This can be said about the train bosses whose decision to axe the guards is purely driven by maximizing profits. Don’t let anyone say that it is anything different.

The literature promoting the new state of the art trains racing towards an exciting future. Guards it states are no longer needed on these modern trains and the sell is that it is all part of progress.

Merseyrail state that they will find other jobs for the guards but what is omitted is the extra money that the accountants perceive that they will make from the wages saved. That this is a reasonable compromise for progress.

Of course nobody is against development.  Nothing stands still, but the dispute  is not only about jobs but protecting passenger safety. To state as Merseyrail have that the train driver will  be able to look out for passengers  is ludicrous.  The drivers prime responsibility is about getting the train safely to a to b without worrying about what is happening in the carriages.

There is a lot more to the guards job than opening and closing doors whilst making sure passengers get on and off safely.  For example they can act as a deterrent to any anti-social behaviour  or can contact for assistance if the situation demands it.  This stops matters escalating and provides support for passengers affected by this.

Other times they have provided help when a passenger has taken ill. Guards have also helped people who have got lost and advised them which stop to get off and what train they needed to get back on track.

Another matter that is omitted by Merseyrail is that Guards are also there to assist passengers in case of a serious emergency.  They will make sure that they evacuate the train safely as well as keep them updated rather than passengers having no support at all.

This of course is just a few examples and I am sure that there are numerous other examples of other tasks that Guards have done to assist to passengers.

The ironic thing is that being a customer driven business you would think that Mersey and Northern rail would be savvy enough to realise the importance of having a public presence.  That people appreciate having an actual person to speak to and that things are getting too impersonal for some passengers.

What gives me a wry smile is when one of the guards makes a funny comments such as ‘change at Liverpool central for Wirral services if you need to go over the dark side.’  Another casually tells passengers that they are ‘currently ‘five feet up and travelling at thirty miles an hour so.’

Some passengers comment on twitter and other social media services about how amusing they found the guard and how it brightened up their day.  Merseyrail take advantage of the positive feedback by retweeting and thanking them for their comments.  Ironically it is the same company that wants shot of them whilst at the same time acknowledging the positive feedback that Merseyrail have got due to that interaction with the guard.

An argument can be made to protect jobs for the future.  After all we have to ensure that there is work for people.  This strike though is also about safety for passengers and not cutting corners for the sake of making extra money.  Guards provide a fundamental job and provide a public face which passengers want.  That’s why come the 3rd and 5th October I will be whole heartedly supporting the guards and hope that Mersey and Northern rail come to their senses and realise that guards are a necessity.

 

Blackadder goes forth and the ‘Great war.’

A hundred years ago Britain was mired in a nightmare war that seemed to be going on forever.  It was meant to have been over by Christmas 1914 as Britain’s men were encouraged to do their bit for ‘King and country.’  There are those that try to varnish the past from the reality of the Great war and attempt to portray it as a necessary war.  It was as Edmund Blackadder said to Baldrick ‘a war which would be a damn sight simpler if we just stayed in England and shot fifty thousand of our men a week,’  such was the strategy of the Generals.

The saddest aspect was that it was a futile war.  It was more about protecting Empires and asserting their own power over rivals.  Once the patriotic fever was over it was not an adventure but a horrible nightmare of mud, barbed wire, trenches, and the continual slaughter were whole village regiments were virtually wiped out.

Blackadder goes forth pretty much captures the madness through its dark humour.  From the insane General Melchett who has Blackadder court martialed and sentenced to be shot at dawn for killing his pigeon ‘Speckled,’ Jim. Indeed soldiers some of whom suffered from shellshock were summarilly tried and executed for ‘cowardice.’

Then of course there is Field Marshall Haig who casually uses a brush and rubbish pan to sweep up the toy soldiers from his plan of the battlefield.  The scene of course showing the disregard that the Generals had for their men.

Each week for the six episodes we watched Captain Blackadder desperately trying to escape the madness of the trenches.  Whether it was posing as Chefs, organising a variety show or hunting a German spy in the hospital Blackadder tried every method to try to escape certain death.

At times it would drag Blackadder almost too close to being killed until he eventually runs out of luck in the last episode.  From being the commissioned artist who goes into no man’s land with Melchett sending a couple of flares up that he is ‘lit up like a Christmas tree for miles around!’

Then there was the episode when Blackadder joins the flying corps believing that all he has to do is twenty minutes work and spend the rest of the time ‘loafing about in Paris, drinking gallons of champagne,’ with experienced French girls.

The look on Blackadder’s face as he realises that the reason why Flashheart’s flying corps are called the ‘twenty minuters,’ is because the average life expectancy of a new pilot is twenty minutes, is one of jumping out of the pan into the fire.  Again there is some element of truth  as pilots and certainly those fresh from flying school were not expected to last long.  They may have had in the words of Flashheart ‘tasty tucker,’ and a uniform so smart it’s got a PhD from Cambridge,’ but the finger of death was never far away.

So much so that like some troops who shot themselves in the foot to escape the western front, Blackadder shouts at George ‘You lucky, lucky, lucky bastard,’ after a German bomb puts George in hospital.  In desperation Blackadder sticks his leg out and shouts ‘over here, Fritz!  What about me?’

The madness of the Great war is something that Blackadder goes forth captures perfectly.   In ‘Captain Cook,’ Melchett tells Blackadder that Field Marshal Haig has formulated a brilliant tactical plan to ensure final victory.  Blackadder asks ‘would this brilliant plan involve us climbing over the top of our trenches and walking slowly towards the enemy?’  Captain Darling asks Blackadder how he knows  as it is classified information.  The response being that they have used the same plan over and over again.  Melchett madly says that the Germans won’t expect it again and will ‘catch the watchful Hun off guard.’

Incidentally the British troops were instructed to walk slowly across no mans land during the battle of the Somme.  The belief was that the heavy artillery fired previously would have broken up the barbed war and killed many Germans.  Instead they were slaughtered in their thousands.

For the likes of Melchett the Great War is more like a sporting game.  When it is pointed out about the danger and deaths, Melchett just casually brushes it to one side and likens it to his old school rugby match who won against all odds.  ‘We ducked, and we bobbed, and we wove, and we damn well won the game 15-4.’  Even when Blackadder points out that the Harrow full back wasn’t armed with a machine gun, Melchett dismisses it with the wave of a hand before instructing Captain Darling to make a note of Gunners for the Harrow full backs.

Despite the endless slaughter of men nothing much was gained.  For example when Blackadder is captured behind enemy lines, Melchett asks Darling how much land they have recaptured by looking at the plan which is the actual copy of the couple of yards taken.

Even now after twenty-eight years after the final episode titled ‘Goodbyeee,’ it is still a very moving and emotional episode.  The walls are very much closing in as Blackadder frantically tries to escape ‘Insanity Melchett’s invite to a mass slaughter,’ or in other words preparing to go over the top at dawn.

There is very much a sombre mood as we quietly count down to when Blackadder and co. get ready to go over the top.  At the beginning George is very much gung-ho believing that the big push will be worth it.  Blackadder questions how it can be worth it when ‘millions of men have died since 1914 and we’ve moved no further than an asthmatic ant with heavy shopping.’

Ever the optimist George declares it will be ice cream in Berlin in fifteen minutes whilst Blackadder declares that the reality is that they will be ice-cold in fifteen seconds in no mans land.  Now is the time that Blackadder believes that he needs to get out of the madness of the war.

There is a slow realisation from George that he is the last of the ‘Trinity tiddlers,’ who had all volunteered in 1914 fresh from Cambridge University.  Baldrick tells of the pride of how he felt joining up with a woman kissing him as he marched.  Again this would have been the feeling of those volunteers in 1914 as the country was whipped into a patriotic fever.

With Baldrick there is almost a childish quality as he realises that they have been stuck in the mud of the trenches for three years.  Suddenly Baldrick asks ‘why can’t we stop, Sir?  Why can’t we just say no more killing, let’s all go home?  Why?’

George is at a loss to explain why they just can’t pack up and go home despite his blustering that it just wouldn’t work.

Desperation sets in for Blackadder who sticks two pencils up his nose and sticks his underpants on his head pretending to be mad.  Only Melchett is onto that trick having shot a whole platoon in the Sudan for trying that stunt.  Overhearing Blackadder pretends to tell Baldrick of the story.

The reality of what awaits is still there in the air even when General Melchett declares Blackadder’s soldiers as ‘fine body of men out there.’  In response Blackadder coolly replies ‘Yes Sir – shortly to become fine bodies of men.’

Time starts to ebb away as the trio talk as though it is going to be their last night together.  Blackadder is getting increasingly agitated as he sees any chance of escaping certain death slipping away if he can’t think of something to get him out.  It doesn’t help that Baldrick is also delivering an oratory of his war poems as Blackadder cries ‘I’m sorry, but I’ve just got to  get out of here!’

Without realising Baldrick gives Blackadder a belief that he can escape the big push by calling on a favour of Field Marshall Haig. This was a promise made to Blackadder after he saves Haig’s life twenty years previously from a sharp piece of mango when they served together at Mboto Gorge.

It literally is the last throw of the dice with Blackadder thinking that he has escaped by the skin of his teeth.  Only he hasn’t after Haig’s advice is to ‘ put your underpants on your head, and stick two pencils up your nose.  They’ll think you’re crazy and send you home.’  Blackadder’s response  after Haig slams the phone down is ‘I think the phrase rhymes with clucking bell.’

Poor Captain Kevin Darling now finds himself reluctantly being sent to the front.  The huge shadow of Melchett’s driver that looms over Darling might as well be the shadow of death as he is on his knees begging Melchett not to be sent over the top.

There is an air of self resignation as the minute hand draws ever closer to the big push.  George confesses that he is not at all keen at dying whilst Darling admits that he wrote in his diary ‘bugger,’ when being driven to the front.

As the orders can be heard in the background Blackadder reminds George not to forget his stick, who responds that he wouldn’t want to face a machine gun without one.

The tension can be felt as the guns temporally stop.  Darling, George, and Baldrick think that they have been pulled out of the fire as it indicates a ceasefire.  Blackadder advises the trio that they have stopped as the Generals are not that insane as to shell their own men.  Instead they find it more sporting to let the Germans do it.

It appears that time has finally ran out for Blackadder and co. although it doesn’t stop Baldrick telling Blackadder that ‘he has a cunning plan.’  The response from Blackadder eloquently sums up his attempts of trying to get out of the trenches.

‘Well, I’m afraid it’s too late.  Whatever it was, I’m sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad.  I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?’  That comment more than sums up the insanity of the Great war and had more than a grain of truth in it.

As the whistles can be heard to tell the men to go over the top there is a realisation for the viewer that Blackadder and his friends are not going to get out of this.  Like many soldiers of the Great war there is that fear that death is only minutes away as soon as they step over the top.  To feel that trapped and fearful of being mown down by German machine guns can  probably not be described.  Hoping against hope that they somehow get through it.

The final scene even now gives you goosebumps and you can feel a lump rising in your throat as the haunting playing of the Blackadder theme sorrowfully plays out as they charge over the top.  There is the low heavy sound that could be guns as the viewer realises that Blackadder, Baldrick, George, and Darling have been killed.  A slow mist descends over the mud and barbed war before it slowly transforms to the present and a field full of poppies were Blackadder and his friends met their fate.

Some historians have tried to pour scorn on the anti-war and the futility of the First World war that Blackadder goes forth portrayed.  There are even those that try to defend Field Marshall Haig like Gary Sheffield that he was not a callous man and that inevitably there would be lots of casualties.  Although Haig cannot be solely held accountable the deaths of soldiers are not just mere statistics.  These were people who were slaughtered in their thousands.  They were someone’s son, husband, brother, Father, and friend whilst whole village regiments were almost wiped out in a senseless war.

Wilfred Owen who in one of his famous poems ‘Dulce et decorum est,’ sums up the futility and pointlessness of the Great War.  ‘My friend, you would not tell with such high zest, to children ardent for some desperate glory, the old lie: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.’  (How sweet and honourable it is to die for one’s country).

Blackadder goes forth captured some of the sentiments of Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Dulce et decorum est.’  It is worth considering this especially as there are attempts a hundred years on to gloss over the mindless slaughter of the Great war.  This was meant to be a war to end all wars with the poppy not just a symbol to remember those who fell but a symbol that all war is futile.

Teresa May the real life ‘Nicola Murray’

After having to deal with another calamitous mistake by Nicola Murray ‘the thick of it,’  Malcolm Tucker tells her ‘You’re a fucking omnishambles, that’s what you are. You’re like that coffee machine, you know: from bean to cup, you fuck up.’ After the complete mess that Theresa May has made of the 2017 election there are probably many Tories who share the same view of their hapless Prime Minister.

When Theresa May declared an election it was according to her to strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations and to give her the mandate to ensure it was carried through.  It was also a chance to increase the Conservative majority and to take advantage of what they perceived was a Labour party in turmoil.

However rather than leading to a landslide it was to be a disastrous campaign that far from being a ‘strong and stable government,’ led to a hung parliament and to a weak and unstable minority government. Rather than Jeremy Corbyn looking out of his depth it is Theresa May drowning in a pool of her own incompetence.

The Labour party ran a first class campaign and although they didn’t win enough seats to form a government they did enough to make a lot of ground from the last election.  It would have been one almighty swing to Labour if they had romped home but it is progress especially as the Conservatives now rely on the DUP to form a government.

Although there was still a lot of media bias against Corbyn he was still shown to be able to connect with the public.  To paraphrase the West wing it was best to let ‘Jeremy to be Jeremy.’  He connected with the electorate, was pleasant, personable, and was seen to be comfortable answering questions from the media and the public.

This was in complete contrast Theresa May who looked shifty, uncomfortable, and only seemed to speak in soundbites.  Everything was stage-managed from the public events that she attended to the questions being vetted.  At one news conference a journalist in Cornwall was shown the door for daring to ask a third question.

Theresa May has consistently performed poorly at PMQ’s but she was to take this to a new level.  Meeting the electorate seemed to be an inconvenience and there seemed to be an arrogance that the public would accept anything.  The so-called ‘dementia tax,’ policy backfired spectacularly when the Conservative manifesto made plans to make people pay more of their own social care.  The policy caused anger because payments after death could eat into the inheritance of offspring whose parents were unlucky enough to suffer from a condition – like dementia – in which reliance on social care is inevitable.

It lead to a u-turn by Theresa May who scaled back proposals but considering that she was meant to be a decisive leader who wouldn’t stand any nonsense in brexit talks, made May look as though she would buckle under the slightest pressure.

The campaign by May led to personal insults against Corbyn and negativity throughout.  It seemed that so long as May got in her buzz words of ‘strong and stable government,’ that people would believe that she was the only one that could deliver this. However it just seemed stale and clichéd as Theresa May stood there nervously.  When forced to take questions May would take a sip of water to quench the nerves of being out of her comfort zone.  Again a trait that hardly inspires confidence.

In many respects Theresa May is one of those company middle-managers who are promoted way above their ability.  As a result they cause mayhem and damage before being quietly moved on.

By now it seemed to be as though the Conservatives were seeing Theresa May as a liability due to her consistent poor performances in public.  The decision to duck the leadership debate was poor judgement.  After all if you couldn’t comfortably argue your case and take questions how could you be deemed fit to negotiate in Brexit talks?  Inadvertently May raised Amber Rudd’s chances of taking her job by allowing her to take her place and performing well.

Of course the election was more than Brexit it was about the cuts in social service, education, the NHS and how austerity is affecting the ordinary person.   Labour’s manifesto seemed to an attractive and fair solution to bring about a fairer society.

As election day drew near it was the hope that people would allow the sound bites and uncertainty thrown about Corbyn to stick with May.  Indeed many thought the Conservatives would still win comfortably despite the poor performances of May.  They were to be shocked when the final poll at 10pm on the 8th June 2017 rightly declared it be a hung parliament.

Labour may not have won enough to govern but they had made progress whereas Theresa May had spectacularly shot herself in the foot.  She had called an election believing it to be a formality and a chance to increase the Conservative majority in parliament.  Instead they lost seats and rather than bringing ‘strong and stable,’ May now presides over a minority government with less MPs.  Now they have to rely on the DUP which will bring about other issues.  Furthermore due to the lack of a majority May will have to deal with factions within her own party.  Rather than talking about moving forward it is now about uncertainty and when another election will be called.

Even as the ceiling has come crashing down and with bits of plaster in her hair, May still acted as though she had won a massive majority.  Despite the clichéd key words that had fallen as flat as a fart at a funeral, May still couldn’t help herself declaring the coalition with the DUP as bringing a ‘government of certainty.’  It was as though May was hoping to hoodwink the public that everything was fine rather than being an almighty mess through her own making.

This didn’t go down with the party faithful especially the candidates who had lost seats.  To not even acknowledge that this was a massive set back was another poor error of judgement.  However Theresa May calamitous flounders around like Nicola Murray that it can’t be long before she declares a policy for ‘every day bat people.’

Prior to this election many felt that it would be the end of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour party.  Many were probably already writing his obituary.  Instead it is a dazed, incompetent, and weak Theresa May who staggers on after losing all credibility.

After this poor performance and weak leadership it surely can’t be long before Theresa May steps aside.  Whether she makes that decision or is forced out will be played out in the coming months. There really is no way that May can continue as Prime Minister.  She looks weak and above all has been shown to be incompetent that another election probably seems certain by the end of the year.

 

 

 

Why there is no such thing as impartial media as the 2017 election shows.

With the general election only a few weeks away it is just as well Teresa May has got the media on her side.  So far her performances on the campaign trail have been poor.  Journalists have had to submit questions with a local reporter being swiftly shown the door in Devon for having the audacity to ask one extra question that wasn’t on the list.

Everything has been stage-managed with May even playing the jingoism card by accusing the EU of trying to interfere because they fear how she won’t stand any nonsense from those pesky Europeans.

The Conservative sound bites have also had the impact of a clumsy theatrical dive of a footballer trying to get a penalty as May once again gets ‘strong and stable government,’ into a sentence with the shout of bingo as the final cliché has been spoken.

Then there is the embarrassment of the hacking of the NHS computer database with the hackers holding personal details to ransom.  If it had been a Labour government it would have been a guarantee that they would have got crucified especially as they were fully aware that the security was weak but were not prepared to stump up the cash.

Journalism and the news media have been far from impartial for it to be to be too much of a surprise.  There are too many vested interests with media moguls such as Rupert Murdoch intent on their news outlet to press forward their views on the public.  If there is anything that goes or threatens their interests then you can guarantee an attack on that person or institution.

The attacks on Jeremy Corbyn are nothing short of sinister even before this campaign.  It is as though the likes of Murdoch won’t take any chances by continually attacking him.  Whether its questioning his patriotism by not bowing properly enough, labelling him as weak, or simply Corbyn’s dress sense it has been a drip, drip, drip attack that people slowly absorb.  Headlines such as ‘Corb snubs the Queen,’ or even the subtle Sunday Times headline ‘Corbyn sparks Labour civil war,’ or ‘Corbyn Union pals pledge strike chaos,’ all give the impression of someone struggling to keep control and not knowing what they are doing.  Of course you will hear people say that you can’t trust the papers but with the constant negative headlines there are some that believe that they must be some truth.

Even the media that profess to be left such as the Guardian can’t help but be aghast and look at ways at undermining Corbyn.  The likes of Polly Toynbee who wail at the lack of leadership and his policies not being credible to Nick Cohen throwing his toys out of the pram due to the audacity of Labour members daring to vote for who they want as leader and not his choice is breathtaking.  Again it gives the impression that Corbyn is a bumbling fool that doesn’t live in the real world.

The slightest mistake or controversy is magnified and used to hammer the fact that Corbyn is unsuitable to be Prime Minister.  Take for example Diane Abbott getting her figures completely messed up about the cost of extra Policing if Labour was elected Government.  It was further fuel that a Labour government didn’t really know it’s figures and would not only deliver but put the country into debt.  Recently Abbott was also mocked by getting lost on stage after addressing the Police federation conference.

Nothing though was made of Amber Rudd being openly mocked by Police at the same federation conference when claiming officers were on £40,000 a year when questioned about Officers using food banks.  To make matters worse Rudd dug the hole further by trying to deflect the blame by saying ‘so I’m told,’ despite it being her business being the Home Secretary.

Philip Hammond also made another blunder by getting the cost of HS2 wrong by £20 billion on BBC’s radio 4 Today programme after ironically questioning Labour’s figures.  Again nothing major was made of this gaffe.  Nothing about whether you can trust a May government when her chancellor can’t even get his figures right or kindling the hysteria that a Conservative government would be incompetent.  Instead it was casually brushed over.

It has had the required impact on the British public who view Jeremy Corbyn as an unreliable maverick at best.  Take for example a member of the public who was asked what they thought of Labour’s manifesto.  The man in question liked the policies and believed it would benefit the UK as a whole.  However when the journalist asked if that meant he would be voting Labour the man paused before saying ‘I won’t be voting for that Jeremy Corbyn he’s not suitable to be leader,’ and with that casually strolled off.

That member of the public is not the only person to hold that type of view.  One person stated that they ‘didn’t like that Jeremy Corbyn.’  When asked why they were unable to elaborate or provide a reasonable argument as to why Jeremy Corbyn is unsuitable to be leader they couldn’t as their opinion had been influenced by the newspaper headlines.

The media has from the outset done everything to undermine Corbyn.  From the brash, vulgar, sneering headlines questioning Corbyn’s patriotism to subtly implying that Corbyn does not have a clue and will plunge the country into chaos if he is handed the keys to number ten.

Even the tones of the questions at Labour MPs or officials are constantly negative despite the responses.  It will turn to the cost and querying as to whether it is realistic.  The Conservatives are of course asked difficult questions but then spun to something where they can talk positively about another policy.

Of course Jeremy Corbyn should be held accountable and questioned by the media as should Teresa May and other political leaders.  However newspapers and other media outlets should be impartial and doing their job of reporting and presenting the facts to the public.  There equally should be none of this sensational nonsense that somehow makes every tragedy somehow a drama.

A news outlets job should be to present the facts and let people decide from their reports.  Everyone in a position of responsibility should be robustly challenged and there should certainly be none of the mocking and biased headlines that are casually fired at will.  If there was true impartiality then a newspaper or any media outlet would not declare any support for any of the political parties.  The fact that they do and this includes the media professing to be left-wing shows that they have a vested interest.

For those considered to be part of the establishment or simply rich the Conservative party represents their interests.  Consequently they ensure that the media outlets that they own represent their views.  If Corbyn is perceived as a threat then they will do their utmost to convince people that he can’t be trusted.

Even when Labour lands a significant blow such as Emily Thornberry embarrassing Michael Fallon on Andrew Marr, (Thornberry reminded him that he was present at a reception celebrating the election of the Syrian President Assad in 2007) it doesn’t warrant much of a mention within the press.

In this day and age with the internet and social media making people more aware than previously of what is happening in the world you would think there would be more cynicism regarding the press.  However with the constant negative headlines whether it is hearing the news on TV, radio, or newspaper, people are influenced and with regards to Corbyn feel that he is to be mistrusted.

The media is very much an important tool and if you have it behind you then it can help the most mediocre politician.  Crude as Teresa May’s slogans are the constant drip, drip of the Conservatives providing a ‘strong and stable government,’ whilst ‘Corbyn is ineffective,’ will seep into people’s minds come polling day.

It is a pity that we don’t have a real fair and impartial press that holds all political parties to account thus allowing the population to make a considered judgement from the facts.  Certainly the media in its current guise cannot be relied on.

 


Why Labour’s right are equally in denial as the left

Nick Cohen wrote an expletitive plea or should it be a rant telling Corbynista’s ‘to stop being a fucking fool by changing your fucking mind.’  In many respects it was akin to a spoilt child screaming ‘I’ll scream and scream, until I’ll make myself sick!’  By accusing Corbyn supporters of being in denial and that the party is in danger of going into meltdown unless they appoint their special one they too are very much in denial.  

To automatically assume that someone like Yvette Cooper or Chuka Umunna have not just got the personality but the ability to turn around the fortunes of the Labour Party is arrogant to say the least.  After all an illegal war in Iraq, presiding over one of the biggest financial crisis in recent years, and ignoring your grass root support on the assumption that the plebs will vote for ever is wearing the red rosette is one of the many reasons why Labour is in the mess it finds itself in now.

The problem with Labour is that it’s support is completely fractured.  In Scotland they have practically become an endangered species whilst in certain heartlands they feel the party no longer represents them with some even attracted to UKIP.  Added to which is the difficulty in appealing to the marginal seats to cross the line to form a majority government.  Ed Milliband and Gordon Brown in the last two elections were unable to convince the electorate and here lies the problem.  

Like everything in life nothing stands still especially as we react to the world around us.  That’s why it is always important to continually evolve and ensure that the party is not just in tune with its members but its electorate.  This is easier said than done but to not realise that New Labour is part of the problem of the party and not the remedy is a problem for the right of the party.

In some respects there is that smugness that only they know what is best and those that disagree about the direction of the party are fools especially if its a left slant.  Ever since Corbyn has been elected as leader he has been constantly undermined by  not just the PLP but the media such as the Guardian who in the past have supported the Labour Party.

Members voted for Jeremy Corbyn because they wanted what they perceived to be real change and what they feel the Labour Party should stand for.  Rather than showing support and working as best they can they have throw a tantrum akin to a spoilt toddler at a birthday party.  

New Labour was part of the problem as to why they lost the 2010 and 2015 election.  To persist that the third way still works and that the electorate will somehow be convinced by someone speaking in cliches and slogans is to continually row around in circles.  

It could be said that Gordon Brown allowed this void to happen where there was no one to step up to the plate that could lead and appeal to the electorate.  Obsessed with keeping power with power battles between Tony Blair anybody afterwards was always going to be tainted with either side.  This is certainly true of Ed Milliband and the other candidates such as Yvette Cooper for the 2015 Labour leadership election.

Nobody at present has the charisma or clout that would appeal to all voters.  Furthermore any of Cohen or the Labour right’s preferred choices would do any better than Corbyn.  At least he wants to offer an alternative.  Yes it can be argued that Corbyn seems to be out of his depth and the shadow chancellor John McDonnell certainly is but a tilt to the right isn’t going to balance the ship.  

The Labour Party is in a mess and needs to find a fresh approach that appeals to all.  Furthermore there is hard work in attempting to get a foothold into Scotland as well as appealing to the marginals that would swing an election.  

New Labour has become old Labour with the public just as distrustful of the old guard or anyone associated with the third way.   To move forward is to work together and slowly build up bit by bit.  They do say that loss (which is the case of the right losing control of Labour) brings denial, anger, and acceptance so maybe Cohen, Toynbee, and the others on the Labour right are now on the second stage before realising the reality they now face.  

That is a party that needs re-building with fresh ideas, working together rather than fighting, and not looking back to the past.