So, the UK has a new Prime Minister, elected by the ruling party’s Members of Parliament ( and agreed by the 1922 Committee ) after a bizarre series of events. No pesky election, even among Conservative Party members, for Theresa May. And we have a new Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. A man, let us not forget, whose loose remarks and lack of diplomacy offended an entire city (Liverpool) and who, as Mayor of London, would regularly insult the elected Members of the London Assembly rather than answer their pertinent questions. Now we know why he removed himself from the Conservative Party Leadership campaign.
Her Majesty’s Opposition, meanwhile, begins the democratic process of consulting its membership in an election campaign for leader, only allowing the incumbent to be included on the ballot to members after seven hours of deliberation at its National Executive Committee. This ruling was necessary because he would have struggled to get the necessary 50 Labour MPs to endorse him as a candidate.
Jeremy Corbyn was brought to power on a tide of enthusiasm for proper socialism, mostly among the young, just as Bernie Sanders attracted support in the US. Unfortunately Corbyn, unlike Sanders, has had a period as Leader, during which time he has repeatedly been found wanting in the Parliamentary political arena. In a country in which most of the press has a right-wing bias, proving electability was always going to be difficult for a left-leaning politician, but the press hasn’t even had to try to traduce him. The most recent example of his own dislocation from real politics was his failure to rally Labour support in the referendum. When asked how important he thought Britain’s staying in Europe was on a scale of 1 – 10, he replied, ‘About seven.’ I saw this on TV, he was clearly uninterested in one of the most important debates in a generation, the result of which will impact on the lives of working people for years to come. Given that he did eventually campaign for Remain, I assume that someone told him that maybe the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition ought to take both an interest and a position.
The Parliamentary Labour Party has signalled its dissatisfaction by the resignations and refusals to serve in Shadow Cabinet and the calls for Corbyn to resign ( this isn’t a small disgruntled minority, whatever the Corbynistas say, but a lot of folk with strong objections, many around competence as much as policy ). Yet the desire for something more radical and different from new, young Party members was what made him leader in the first place and the left doesn’t have an alternative candidate. Party membership is growing again, but this time, I suspect, people may be paying their £3 in order to vote against Corbyn rather than for him. I know of several people who are doing so. Succeed or fail, a split may result.
Meanwhile in Spain, the jockeying for position and power in the Spanish Parliament continues. There is, heaven forfend, the possibility of a THIRD general election. Surely not. The Spanish take their democracy seriously, it was not so long ago that it was restored after Franco’s dictatorship, and the turnout in elections is usually much higher than in the UK. But it went down on 26th June 2016. I hope this isn’t the harbinger of the dissatisfaction with democracy which, at least in part, informed the recent ‘No’ referendum vote in the UK. The latest coalition being touted is one between the PP, the Cuidadanos, the Catalans and the Balearics, which would give Mariano Rajoy, leader of PP, 170 seats – a minority government, but a way of avoiding, at least for a time, a third national vote. But what would be the price of the Catalan’s co-operation? (See Hello Prime Minister – we need to talk).
Every Spanish person I have spoken with over recent days, from longstanding friends to taxi drivers, has wanted to talk about the Referendum result. There is much sadness and consternation. Why don’t the British people want to be part of Europe? It’s inconceivable. Given the fines recently visited by the EU on Spain ( and Portugal ) for non-reduction of debt as a proportion of GDP, I wonder if this view will continue. Especially as Spain hasn’t has a functioning government since the dissolution of the Cortes and the start of the 2015 General Election campaign in October 2015. As the Prime Minister of Portugal has said, what good will this do for the economy of the EU?
And in the US – no, I’m not even going to go there, it’s just as surreal, from FBI investigations to unsavoury, not to say criminal, tweets. Perhaps we will look back on Obama’s presidency as the last, sane, version. Obama was in nearby Rota over the weekend, visiting the US Base there and was all over Jerez news. After the first black President, what comes next?
If you enjoyed reading this article you might enjoy others which may be found using the Political Comment tag. Or try Democracy The Weekend After Stalemate
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