The Brexit club

To paraphrase a famous John Hughes film ‘the first rules of Brexit club is you do not talk about Brexit club.’

In all seriousness this might as well be the unofficial motto of May’s government regarding the UK’s discussions in leaving the EU.  Nobody has a clue what is going on only that once it’s all over nobody is going to be happy and it is going to be one huge mess.

After the referendum result it seemed that those calling for a second vote were being unrealistic.  Close as it was it seemed the best thing was to try and get the best deal possible.

Only there was one big flaw with that thought.  Namely that David Cameron was a chancer and like an aristocratic cad gambled the family estate only to lose the lot.  Even worse was that there was no actual plan in case the leave vote won.  It says a lot that the football game Championship manager investigated and replicated the repercussions of a Brexit Britain instead of the Government of the day.

Instead David Cameron stood in front of the camera for the last time before walking off to write his memoirs in a posh hut that cost £25,000.  The job was now given to Theresa May to try and sort this mess out only to be one of the worst Prime Minister’s in history.  In short she has been a complete and utter omnishambles.

‘Brexit means brexit,’ Theresa May cried which  was another slogan that nobody understood what precisely May meant.  Did she for instance mean ‘breakfast is breakfast,’ or ‘Brexit for the everyday Bat people,’ as her alter ego Nicola Murray would say in the thick of it.

The thing about Brexit is that the people involved are incompetent.  We have David Davies who is so dense that to quote the thick of it’s Malcolm Tucker ‘light bends around him.’  Incidentally that isn’t being harsh.  Look at him as he walks in for Brexit talks with the smirk of a football mascot walking onto the pitch.  Furthermore Davis has the same impact as a mascot does during the match itself.

So far even after two years since the result was announced we are no way near to getting something that looks feasible never mind satisfactory.  You would think that at this stage that May’s government would realise that this is going to end in a almighty mess akin to somebody dropping all the eggs being dropped from one basket.

So instead of working out what would be a realistic deal and letting voters decide if they would be happy with the implications of leaving the EU they stagger around like the cowardly lion from the Wizard of Oz.

Nobody so far seems to have the guts to realise that Brexit is a spiralling mess that has not been thought through at all.  From how it affects the peace process in Northern Ireland regarding the border to the Republic to how it will affect the economy and freedom of movement.

There are a lot of implications for how it will affect EU members currently living in the UK and then there are the British Citizens living abroad.  Even those who regularly travel to Europe for work purposes will be affected.

The economy, grants, legal and workers rights are all under threat that has protected people.  It isn’t a perfect system and after the way Greece was treated by the EU shows that the financial institutions still have too much sway yet it is best to be in it.

However remaining in the EU means there is a better chance of having a say and having some influence as well as having other EU members support.

Like it or not the UK economy relies on Europe for its business and gaining workers in vital services.  There is no paperwork just a case of providing your passport to confirm your country is a part of the EU.

Again there is the argument that the EU takes advantage of using a migrant work force that is cheap from the likes of Eastern Europe.  It is certainly true but something that can be worked on by other EU countries to try and resolve.

Part of the leave vote was not just about the worry of immigration but a protest vote against the perceived establishment.  To those that voted leave, Europe only seemed to benefit the metropolitan elite with some seeing a influx of migrants from EU nations causing a strain on local services and schools.

Leaving the EU though means that these areas won’t receive the benefits that have revitalised parts of the UK.  Brexit also means that if it affects the economy badly it could lead to a rising cost in living standards.  Workers rights will be weaker and there will be a strain on the health service as the NHS rely on migrant work force from the EU.  Whether it’s Doctor’s, nurses, porters, or cleaners they all help in supporting that the hospitals run as smoothly as they can.

Incidentally that is another lie when the Brexit bus stated how much money the UK could save and put that money in the NHS.  At the time of writing @ostendGudgeon has worked out that the NHS is owed £35.65 billion by the Brexiteer’s.  Money that is still not forthcoming and nor will it be.  After all Nigel Farage admitted ‘that it was a mistake.’

Of course there are the Brexiteers who believe that that this is all doom and gloom.  That there won’t be problems for businesses with the possibility of completing various visas to trade.  That there won’t be problems for British Citizens working and living in the EU, and that even visiting other European countries won’t mean being in a long queue.

The likes of the plastic toff Jacob Rees Mogg (he might dress like little Lord Fauntleroy and gone to Eton but he’s not the real aristocrat that Moggster would love to be)  might think you can just walk into a room tell Europe how it is and take what you want but it isn’t going to happen.

For starters the EU are in a stronger position due to the large number of countries in the Union.  Secondly they will ensure their members get the best deal as much as the Brexiteer’s like to think the UK does not have the same influence as it did in 1900.

Nostalgia for a Britain (that incidentally never was) of village greens, cricket, warm beer, and maidens on bicycles is what some Brexiteer’s want the UK to be.  That’s why there is the bizarre celebration of the return of the old blue passports as though that represents Britain.  However the inconvenient truth that the EU wasn’t particularly bother what colour the UK passport was is forgotten.  As is the fact that nobody really cares as long as you can travel on it.

It could be said that Michael Gove and Boris Johnson or to give him his full name Alexander Boris De Pfeffel Johnson are not really Brexiteer’s but chancers who used the referendum to put pressure on David Cameron.  The theory goes that the pair expected it to be a close remain vote and hoped that it would be enough for Cameron to step down and stand for the leadership.  As it was the vote went leave and Theresa May won the race to be Prime Minister.

So far it seems that the UK is far from getting close to a satisfactory deal as the clock ticks towards the full exit date of the 29th March 2019.  The bravado of no deal is better than a bad Brexit is just that.  There has to be at least some kind of idea what Brexit will look like and a realistic one rather than the wet dream of Jacob Rees Mogg.  To him the lands of Persia, Constantinople, and Narnia are just gagging to trade with the UK.

The reality of it is both side of leave and remain will be bitterly disappointed once the final whistle is blown on this mess.

It’s why if Theresa May had Britain’s interest at heart she would put it to the public to decide whether they are happy to leave with the deal negotiated or decide that being in the EU is not that bad after all.

May though is too weak with too much self interest for herself and the Conservative party.  That’s despite being consistently being undermined by the likes of Boris Johnson who has been sniping at how poorly she is handling Brexit.  When even the likes of David Davies undermine you and you can’t sack him then you really are a lame duck Prime Minister.

A large proportion of the blame has to lay with Cameron for not ensuring that some type of plan would be put in place if it was a leave vote.  Instead it’s the bland leading the bland who have been promoted way above their abilities who are responsible for our future.  That is the scary part that nobody in power is trying to stop this madness and put forward a second vote regarding a final deal.

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Is this the most incompetent Government ever?

This Government appears to be a spin-off from the thick of it. Theresa May is a hapless Nicola Murray as Prime Minister, Hugh Abbot is the Chancellor Phillip Hammond, whilst a PG Wodehouse character plays Boris Johnson.

All of them have ambitions way above their actual talent and competency. Somehow they have found themselves in the big jobs but are so out of their depth that the shark Jaws is already circling them.

What is frightening is that May’s Government are tasked with attempting to sort out the mess that is Brexit. Despite the stern talk of no deal is a bad deal they have so far capitulated easily. Then of course there is the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. A matter still yet to be resolved.

There is an abundance of incompetent cabinet ministers that in more ordinary times would never be allowed near the front bench. David Davis for example is somehow responsible for leading the talks on Brexit. It would help if he at least looked the part but instead has the look of a football match day mascot being allowed onto the pitch with his footballing heroes.

Davis has shown more skill for being lazy and inept when he was dragged before the select committee. Despite talks of a impact assessment on Brexit, Davis admitted in the tone of a school kid being caught out that he had not done so. What was more infuriating was the titters of laughter rather than finding him guilty of contempt.

Another shallow and idle big mouth is Boris Johnson, who has not only shown incompetency of huge proportions but has acted in a manner not befitting the Foreign Secretary. There was the time he made the disgusting remark about Libya becoming another Dubai when they ‘cleared away the dead bodies.’ Then there was the case of the British Citizen Nazanin Zagarhi-Ratcliffe languishing in an Iranian jail where he made it ten times worse by indicating that Nazanin was a spy when she wasn’t. Neither of these incidents was Johnson not forced to step down.

U-turns have been numerous from May’s first budget when Hammond backed down after he stated he would not hike up national insurance for the self-employed from 9% to 11%. Then during the election campaign there was u-turn on the dementia tax which would have meant relatives having to spend their inheritance on ensuring medical care for loved ones.

Everything about May screams of someone so uncomfortable and unsure that at times she resembles a frustrated Roy Hodgson unsure of how to stop his team being outplayed.

Consequently we come to the Windrush scandal and the hostile immigration policy of the Government. Amber Rudd was caught out lying but after the likes of Johnson and Davis then Amber Rudd probably thinks that there is no reason to do so.

Incidentally May is so weak that when trying to move Jeremy Hunt from Health Secretary found herself not only keeping him in post but giving him more responsibilities.

At present nobody has any idea of what exactly May’s Government stands for or what policies they wish to implement. Brexit is being made a mess of whilst they flounder from one crisis looking far from ‘strong and stable.’

This is a Government that is drowning in a Olympic size swimming pool of incompetency. From Theresa May, David Davis, Philip Hammond to Amber Rudd each and everyone of them has looked more like a ill-prepared student who has forgot to revise, flailing like a drunk in a storm when trying to give a presentation.

Maybe this is the era of ineptitude but with a Roald Dahl’s James and the giant peach sized ego. There is no shame amongst the lot of them with no lack of any direction as they flounder around in heavy waters. All they seem to be skilled in is surviving like Chucky the evil doll. Nobody should be surprised that Amber Rudd will not be forced out as Home Secretary.

2017 – The Omnishambles year

After the crazy year that was 2016 that saw Eric Cartman with a dodgy wig or Donald Trump as he is commonly known, Britain deciding to leave the European Union, and Leicester City winning the Premier league, it was a question of whether 2017 would continue to be mad or common sense would return.

That quickly went out of the window after North Korea fired a ballistic missile across the sea of Japan.  Considering that Kim Jong-Un is unstable and lacking in diplomacy what could wrong when Donald Trump waded in like a bar room loud mouth?   Naturally Trump had to raise the tensions another notch with his speech of ‘unleashing fire and fury,’ and referring to Jong-Un as the ‘rocket man.’

At times it seemed that Trump just seemed to wake up and decide to cause mayhem by getting on twitter.   Officially recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was one of many instances where he didn’t put his brain into gear first.  People accusing me of being a fascist?  I know I’ll re-tweet a Britain first comment without checking who they are and whether what they say is true or not.  After all truth can be an inconvenience can’t it?

Then of course there is the scandal of the suspicion that Trump colluded with Russians during the Presidential election.  It’s something that isn’t going away too soon with Steve Bannon to be questioned about it.

So far the Trump administration has been dysfunctional with people getting sacked such as Bannon, aides being caught lying, and sackings.  Then there are the problems in getting stuff through the senate.  The repeal of Obama care fell through when it was apparent that there was nothing put in place to replace it.

Even when Trump finally managed to get some success such as the tax reform bill that was achieved through utter chaos.  Last minute amendments were added in margins that it seemed as though Trump was hastily finishing that essay in the final minutes before it was due.

Back to the UK, there was equally as much chaos thanks to David Cameron losing everything on the roulette with his Brexit gamble.  After casually walking away to write his memoirs in his posh caravan, ‘the thick of its Nicola Murray,’ or Theresa May as she is commonly known took over as Prime Minister.

Article 50 was finally triggered after much debating as to when someone would press the button or hand over the envelope with a letter which was the case.  Of course to keep up the trail of incompetency only the most incompetent was picked to negotiate with the EU.  That task fell to David Davis who with his gurning smile looked like the match day mascot thrilled to be on the pitch with his footballing heroes.  He was as effective as a mascot as Davis was given some crayons and paper whilst the grown ups talked about the serious stuff.

Lying to your employer that you had done that important work only to admit that you hadn’t, would normally get you the sack.  Not if your David Davis who finally admitted to the House of Commons committee that he hadn’t nor was there any Brexit impact assessment work  done.  Rather than being held in contempt there was a little chortle from the panel.  The cheeky little scamp Davis hey?  Mind we’re still waiting for him to resign after declaring he would if Damian Green was forced to step down.  Green being the one who was found to have porn on his office computer.

Still Brexit means that we can change the colour of British passports to blue.  Something that we could have done all along whilst in the EU.  If that was the case maybe we can go back in time, change the colour to blue and we wouldn’t be in the mess that we are currently in.

General election

If 2017 was a football match then it certainly was a game of two halves for Jeremy Corbyn.  Seen as a liability by some (well mainly the right of the Labour party) there were pleas from the likes of the Guardian’s Nick Cohen to step down.  Incidentally the pleas were more from a stroppy five-year old who obviously knew better than the majority of the Labour membership who voted for Corbyn.

As the doomsayers were ready to say the last rites over the Labour party with murmurings of yet another leadership challenge, Theresa May decided to go for a walk.  During this stroll Theresa thought it would be a good idea to call a general election.  The Labour party was in disarray and this was an opportunity to increase the Tory majority and May’s stranglehold on the party.  Citing a Brexit mandate for the election  what could possibly go wrong?

It was though to be a decision of Nicola Murray proportions and equivalent of Corrie’s Alan Bradley chasing Rita Fairclough across a tram line in Blackpool.

Running a Presidential style campaign means having some kind of a personality and engaging with the crowd.  This was to be the first of many mistakes as Theresa May ran a omnishambles campaign that had to be the worst in living memory of any major political party leader.

Whereas Jeremy Corbyn looked at ease mingling with ordinary people and addressing huge crowds, Theresa May had the look of someone having to visit the dentist for a bit of root canal work.  It wasn’t as if the crowds that she had to endure where huge as it made a five a side team plus subs look packed.

Nevertheless Theresa ‘Nicola Murray,’ May continued with her robotic approach convinced that if she kept repeating ‘strong and stable,’ every two minutes it would be enough to convince voters.  Even then May still managed to mess that up by doing a huge U-turn over a proposed dementia tax that could see people potentially dipping into savings to ensure loved ones had the appropriate care.

As election day loomed May was now being seen as a liability by her own party.  Questions had to be seen first with a local Devon journalist shown the door for daring to ask something not seen.  It may also have been the reason why May didn’t take part in the leadership debate as Amber Rudd was sent in to bat for her.

It was like watching someone openly drown as May looked more and more uncomfortable.  At one point it all got a bit Withnail and I’s Uncle Monty with her Corbyn ‘standing in the corner naked,’ speech.

Despite the omnishambles of the campaign most still predicted a Conservative majority only they lost their majority to govern.  It ended up with May having to get the support of the ten DUP MPs to govern.  Somehow the ‘magic money,’ tree that she mocked Corbyn for was suddenly found to find the money for a £1 billion package for the region of Northern Ireland.

The unexpected increase of Labour seats and successful campaign stunned a lot of people including those within Corbyn’s own party.  Stephen Kinnock who had allowed a fly on the wall camera crew to follow him looked gutted as he saw the election results.  Now it was himself who had to look in the mirror as he had previously stated that Corbyn would have to do the same if Labour lost heavily.

For Theresa May it seemed that she wouldn’t be leader for long with a grinning George Osborne declaring her to be ‘a dead woman walking.’  The only saving grace was that there was no credible candidates and secondly it was better to let a damaged May take the flak for Brexit before getting another leader in time for the next election.

Even so there was still more humiliation for Theresa May who attempted to re-start her damaged image during the Conservative party conference.  A coughing fit, letters falling from the slogan that stated ‘building a country that works for everyone,’ and a comedian handing May her P45.  In all Theresa May looked like a middle-manager being promoted out of her depth.

It was another year of terrorist atrocities that at one point you dreaded any news alert in case another atrocity had taken place.  One of the horrific terrorist attacks took place at a Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.  Seeing the news reports it was hard to comprehend why somebody would want to hurt and kill people.

In memory of the victims and the survivors a memorial concert led by Ariana Grande was staged weeks later in Manchester.   Oasis’s ‘Don’t look back in anger,’ became an anthem to show support and a statement that people would not be cowed by terrorists.

The Grenfall tower block fire disaster was another awful image.  What made this even worse was that profit and the concerns of residents had casually been brushed aside prior to the fire.  It was recommended that a more expensive cladding on the tower block was used but instead used a cheaper alternative that meant that the fire accelerated quicker and led to more deaths.

As Kensington and Chelsea borough council is one of the richest and indeed gave a tax rebate to its richest residents and had £274 million in reserve made this made it all the more unforgivable.

The majority of Grenfall residents are still waiting to be re-homed and there are fears that the inquiry into the Grenfall fire disaster will be an attempt to brush it under the carpet.  For those in authority and that goes right up into previous Governments will not be held to account where profit was put before people.

It has unfortunately all the hall marks of Hillsborough were the victims families had to fight over twenty-five years to get anywhere near justice and accountability for what happened in Sheffield.  The fight too also goes on at what happened during the 1984 miners strike at Orgreaves.

Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey

More unsavoury allegations came out over Hollywood director Harvey Weinstein who sexually harassed and bullied actresses.  This incidentally was an open secret but nobody was prepared to hold him to account.

Kevin Spacey was another actor who was accused of acting inappropriately in 1986 and during his tenure at the Old Vic.  So much so that House of cards was postponed and it was announced he wouldn’t feature in the new series and was also axed from a film that he was due to star in.

Sport

There was to be no repeat of Leicester’s exploits as Chelsea won the Premier league quite comfortably.  Tottenham finished runner’s up whilst the ‘Wenger out,’ brigade was out in full force.  It shows how much money now talks in football that in years gone by winning the FA cup and finishing fifth would be deemed (as it should be) a successful season.  Instead some supporters are duped into thinking like accountants and thinking that Premier league placings are the be all and end all.  Instead of enjoying a bit of an adventure and glory, some Arsenal fans still wanted Wenger to be sacked.

It has to be said there are some Arsenal fans still showing faith Wenger as planes with banners flew over.  With signs of in and out it was as though the Arsenal faithful wanted Wenger to do the Hokey Cokey.

The demise of Barcelona was slightly premature as they made one of the greatest come backs of all time.  PSG led the Catalans 4-0 from the first leg as Barca scored three.  It was a relief for the Parisian’s as Cavani scored the vital away goal that seemed to knock the wind out of Barcelona’s sails.  Eighty-eight minutes was on the clock and it seemed nigh on impossible that Barcelona would get the three goals needed to get through to the quarters.

Neymar scored from a free kick, then won a penalty which he scored to make it 5-5 on aggregate.  Five minutes into injury time and mayhem broke out as Sergi scored with virtually the last kick of the tie.  It was an unbelievable game as the Camp Nou went loco.

Despite the victory Barcelona were to go out of the competition against Juventus whose 3-0 first leg win was enough to see them through to the semi-finals.  Barcelona could only draw 0-0 in the return.  Juventus would go on to lose 4-1 against Real Madrid in the Champions league final.  Incidentally the Madrid club would also go on to win La Liga.

For Luis Enrique who had ensured that the trophies still came in for Barcelona stood down after three years in charge.

Back to the Premier league and Liverpool it was to be a season that started off fast but fell apart half way through.  The red’s new signing Mane was in scintillating form as defence’s were unable to cope.  However the defending and a limited squad was Liverpool’s Achilles heel.  They were knocked out by Wolves in the fourth round of the FA cup but did manage to finish fourth and qualify for the Champions league after beating Hoffenheim in a qualifier.

As it stands Liverpool’s attack is second to none being a match for any team in Europe.  The rest of the team remains much to be desired.  In midfield it can be static and not quick enough to break the opposition when gaps appear.  They also need a defensive midfielder to help break up play as they wilt under the slightest pressure.  Defence is a concern although the signing of Van Dijk  will help a new goalkeeper surely has to be a priority this summer for the reds.

Nevertheless Liverpool are still in the Champions league with another possible adventure and dreams of repeating Istanbul by winning the European cup against all odds.  Football after all is still about dreaming.  Of course the FA cup appears to be the more realistic chance of silverware but there is a matter of a third round Merseyside derby against Everton at Anfield.

In the meantime Manchester City are walking away with the league being unbeaten so far with the only points dropped being a draw against Everton.

Castleford was the unexpected success of the sporting world as they won the rugby league leaders shield, winning the league by ten points.  Sadly they couldn’t overcome the final hurdle of becoming Super league Champions as they were beaten 24-6 at Old Trafford.  Still it was a magnificent achievement for a club that had never won the league and previously been battling at the wrong end of the table.

Television

With the world appearing to be in turmoil, nostalgia appears to be the comfort blanket.  Stranger Things harks back to a simpler time of the 1980’s with numerous throw backs to 80’s films and cult references such as the goonies, ET, and in second series ghostbuster’s.  Nevertheless it was another good bit of drama.

Still with Netflix’s Better call Saul gets better and better and very much stands alone from Breaking Bad.  The relationship between Jimmy and Chuck is beautifully written and played whilst we see how Mike gets dragged in with Gus.  We even see the unscrupulous side of Jimmy as we realise that his charm is down to him being a hustler.

House of cards (prior to the Kevin Spacey scandal) seems to be on the turn.  Without giving away too much the main storyline was too unfeasible and hard to swallow that the Democratic party and the public would accept half the shenanigans.  That’s not to mention Claire Underwood not being tarnished by Frank’s dealings.

Game of Thrones is moving towards the end and appears very much movie like.  It seems weird that it is ahead of the Martin’s books but doesn’t appear to be the worst for it.

On this side of the pond there were still great dramas most notably Black Mirror and it’s San Junipero episode standing out as one of its best.  Channel four’s replacement of the series Philip K Dick ‘Electric Dreams,’ was also another good bit of drama.

Elsewhere Doctor Who got a female Doctor with Jodie Whittaker generating as the next Time Lord.  For some reason this got the Daily Mail into a tizz that a fictional alien character would be played by a woman.

What 2018 will bring nobody knows but as the last two years have been turbulent it will probably follow suit.

 

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.

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.