Groundhog Days

Every morning seems the same here in the UK, like groundhog day. The latest on parliament, the EU and Brexit.

  • What Theresa May said
  • Theresa’s deal
  • what Junker/Barnier/Tusk said
  • what Merkel or Macron said
  • who gave her short shrift
  • which cabinet ministers said what
  • cabinet splits
  • who just resigned
  • the Northern Ireland border
  • the DUP won’t agree to anything (apparently)
  • frictionless trade
  • no deal
  • hard and soft brexit
  • managed no deal (what in God’s name is that?)
  • people’s vote
  • people didn’t know what they were voting for
  • the will of the people
  • cannot let down the people who by chance I happen to agree with
  • where Labour stands
  • the five tests
  • vote of no-confidence
  • no majority in parliament for any deal
  • bring back control
  • fishing grounds
  • THEY are not being flexible
  • and on and on.

Thank God they’re about to break up for ‘Christmas’.

And yet, it’s disgraceful that government/parliament is taking time off when this riven, blighted country is about to fall of a cliff – all of their own making.

Featured image of two groundhogs taken by Joyce Hopewell.

UK bullying

There’s currently a fuss about bullying in the UK parliament. Actually it’s pretty obvious that bullying is in the culture, you only have to look at the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions and the ya boo interjections of backbenchers, encouraged by the way that the PM behaves.

The UK ‘public school’ (private schools really) culture in which many leading politicians are schooled is one obvious culprit – that demeaning of others, the put-downs, the macho posturing, the lack of empathy, that sense of entitlement and power all lead to bullying behaviour.

That this could lead to sexual harassment of many of the women in parliament, as also recently revealed, is not altogether surprising.

In my experience this sort of culture also extends into the higher levels of management of many UK companies. There are good managers and bad, and many of the bad are bullies, often those seen as the most successful. Failed companies were often later found to be run by bullies.

So what is to be done? Will parliament be able to sort itself out? Don’t hold your breath. The confrontational physical layout of the debating chamber does not help.

Actually, bullying depends on the fear of the bullied, because resistance will involve some sort of loss or retribution. So an institution needs an effective anti-bullying system.

Personally, individuals have a choice, although consequences may often be unpalatable. My first experience of being bullied was at age 11, by a boy a year older who was cultivating a ‘gang’. Being taller he stood over me demanding something. In response I just hit him and ran for my life, in fear of retribution. Unwise maybe, but he never bothered me again.

At the end of the day, bullying is just not acceptable.

Hair of the Dog

Or should it be ‘Out of the Frying Pan…’.

Forty years of the great neoliberal globalisation project has taken its toll in terms of destroying jobs and communities across the West. Of course there have been winners and losers, and as ever the super winners are the rich and super rich.

As many commentators have observed, the resulting discontent has been a major cause of the phenomena of ‘Brexit’ in the UK and ‘Trump’ in the US.

Europe has been protected from some of the extremes of neoliberalism by its tradition of social democracy and looking after the people. The European Commission, for all its faults, has been a bulwark against some of the forces of free trade, not afraid to take on the biggest corporations.

What a paradox then, that Brexit appears to be leading the UK into the hands of a free market right wing. The UK parliament, lacking even any safeguarding constitution, will be the only defence against global forces driven by the rich and powerful. Trade will appear to be all that matters in the global race to the bottom – surely creating more of the problems that are so concerning to people who wish to rip up the European project.

More paradox in the US, where electors appear to have chosen a leader from that very super rich class that has caused the problems they are concerned about – moved jobs to China, kept their money out of the country rather than invest, fought against social and environmental changes, demanded tax reduction or simply avoided paying taxes… Of course, his chosen team is mostly also from that class.

Paradoxically, it is just possible that reality and the occasional influx of common sense will ensure that it turns out all right. Let’s hope so.

Featured image ‘Killer chihuahua’ by David Shankbone, via Wikimedia Commons



Driven grouse shooting

Further to my post on the inglorious twelfth, I note that the petition to ban driven grouse shooting is to be presented to MPs on Tuesday 18 October at 2.15pm. MPs will hear from Mark Avery, the petition creator, and representatives from the RSPB, the Moorland Association and the Countryside Alliance.

Driven grouse shooting is a particularly obnoxious case of the gratuitous shooting of wildlife for ‘sport’, where the grouse are actually ‘driven’ by beaters towards the waiting guns. Peculiar to the UK, this ‘sport’ depends on intensive habitat management tailored to the raising of this one particular bird, reducing the natural habitat and said to increase the risk of floods and greenhouse gas emissions. It may be no accident that many recent floods have been in lowlands near to northern grouse moors, the sport of the rich leading to the misery of ordinary people.

Predators are eliminated in large numbers in order to protect the young grouse – foxes, stoats, and illegal killing of protected birds of prey including threatened hen harriers, eagles, buzzards… Mountain hares are killed because they carry ticks that can spread diseases to grouse.

Hen Harrier

Particularly gruesome is the use of pole traps, which will smash a bird’s legs when it lands on them. See eg raptor persection UK.

Although many of these activities are illegal, there is no effective action to curtail them. It seems the landowners and their gamekeepers can do just what they like.

You can watch the parliamentary session on Parliament TV: This appears to be a somewhat convoluted process as ‘the transcript of what is said will help inform MPs taking part in the House of Commons debate’. The parliamentary debate will be on 31st October.

Don’t hold your breath; the vested interests will be fighting hard to preserve their nasty little ‘sport’.

Featured image of landrovers in grouse shooting party by Peter Aikman,
and of hen harrier by Andreas Trepte, both via Wikimedia Commons

Honourable members?

This is not really a political blog, but immersion in the current national soap opera does tend to be a bit all-consuming.

Of particular interest from my perspective is the personal values of our political leaders and how they reflect back to ourselves and society. Members of the UK parliament refer to each other as ‘honourable members’. Are they in reality acting with honour? Let’s just look at a few examples from the current national shambles.Read More »

Run by abandoned children?

I was just pointed at the 2014 article by Nick Duffel in The Guardian Why boarding schools produce bad leaders, which, based on his research, makes a persuasive case that premature abandonment in a boarding school environment damages the psychological development of the individuals involved.

“It leaves them ill-prepared for relationships in the adult world and the nation with a cadre of leaders who perpetuate a culture of elitism, bullying and misogyny affecting the whole of society… turns out people who appear much more competent than they actually are. They are particularly deficient in non-rational skills, such as those needed to sustain relationships, and are not, in fact, well-equipped to be leaders in today’s world.”

Now look at the UK parliament and what do we see – a culture of elitism, bullying and misogyny. Look at our recent history with Europe – David Cameron appears to have spent his years in office grandstanding with Europe rather than developing relationships. The result – he had no allies when he needed them, and we are saddled with a damaging Brexit. The job was to make Europe work, not to break it.

The whole EU referendum debate was between these people, the ‘big personalities’ – Farage, Cameron, Osborn, Johnson, Gove – having the unreality of an Oxford Union debate where an interesting motion was being debated, but perhaps not really in touch with the importance of what it was they were debating. Did they ever really address the ‘big picture’ rather than the simplistic polarity of ‘economy vs immigration’, which will always be a compromise.

Duffel goes on to describe ‘privileged abandonment’:

“Prematurely separated from home and family, from love and touch, they must speedily reinvent themselves as self-reliant pseudo-adults… Paradoxically, they then struggle to properly mature, since the child who was not allowed to grow up organically gets stranded, as it were, inside them. In consequence, an abandoned child complex within such adults ends up running the show.”

Look at the ridiculous childish put-downs that are a staple of parliamentary ‘debate’, particularly at Prime Minister’s Questions. Look at the ridiculous attachment to centuries-old traditions that simpy make parliamentary procedures look farcical.

So are we really being run by immature adults with abandoned child complex, big egos lacking empathy, and is that why things are such a mess in these post-Brexit days?

If so, do we really want another of them to be the next prime minister?

 There is much more insight in Duffel’s article and , no doubt, in his books and on his website