Monthly Archives: June 2019

Boys Only

I was educated, from age 11 to 18, in a single-sex school. To make matters worse, my student days were at a single-sex college at a university where male students outnumbered female students by 7 to 1. So I spent my teens and the first part of my twenties in an environment where girls / women were hard to meet.

A 2015 post, First Doubts, touches on the fact that, in these formative years, I consider myself to have been a shy person. I leave it to those who know me to decide how well, or not, I have managed to overcome this problem in the following fifty years.

Why do I mention this now? Well, two recent news items (of which more below) prompted me to have some reflective thoughts on the psychological effects of single-sex education. The two stories both concern men who attended single-sex schools: Mark Field and Boris Johnson. Both Tory MPs: Field a minister (until he was suspended) and Johnson a backbencher (since he left the Cabinet). One a candidate for our future Prime Minister; both behaving in a misogynistic way.

The Mansion House Incident

The video of the incident involving Greenpeace activist Janet Barker and (suspended) minister Mark Field has been widely shared on social media. Here’s one link:

Predictably – and sadly – the incident has already divided opinion. There are those (almost exclusively in the Tory Party and its media supporters) who take the view that Barker got what she deserved. The rest of us, me included, see this is a wholly disproportionate reaction by a privileged white man to a peaceful (but disruptive) interruption to proceedings. It’s clear from the video that Field stays angry all the time he’s gripping Barker’s neck and pushing her out of the building. This is despite Barker’s repeated  statement: “This is a peaceful protest”. Field’s final words when had pushed Barker out of the building are telling: “This is what happens when people like you disturb our dinner.” (My emphasis.)

People like you. We can all speculate as to what exactly Field meant by this. I’m sure that, in part, he meant “people who do not share my views”: the whole anger shtick at the audacity of people who challenge his rich, white, male privileged position. But there’s more than a suspicion that “people like you” also refers to women; women who do not know their place.

One thing’s for sure: a thug wearing a black tie is still a thug.

The Screaming, Shouting and Banging in Carrie Symonds’ Flat

Which leads us naturally to incident number two and Boris Johnson. (Carrie Symonds is Johnson’s current girlfriend, apparently.) Shortly after midnight last Friday, police were called to the flat where Johnson is living with Symonds. The police left after satisfying themselves that no-one in the flat was in danger.

The neighbour’s concern followed loud noises of screaming, shouting and the smashing of glass or crockery. Symonds was heard to shout “get off me” and “get out of my flat”. It came as absolutely no surprise to hear that Symonds had also yelled “You just don’t care for anything because you’re spoilt. You have no care for money or anything.” The British public have a legitimate interest in the moral character of anyone standing to be our next Prime Minister.

True to form, three tabloid newspapers went into full attempts at character assassination of the neighbour who had recorded the altercation. Here’s an example from the Daily Mail in one of their full-throated “make the lives hell for ordinary people exposing inconvenient truths” mode. “Guardianista” seems to be a term of abuse for Mail journalists: it feels like a particularly puerile and infantile turn of phrase to me.

The neighbours were concerned for the safety of those involved after three tries to speak to the occupants and getting no reply at their front door. It subsequently emerged that three neighbours were concerned about the safety of the occupants.

Johnson’s private life is of no particular interest to me nor is it, per se, for judging his suitability for high office. But his character, and anything which throws light on this, is of serious public concern. Oh, and a “private” life that is so loud that it can be heard by three sets of neighbours in the small hours of the morning doesn’t seem to be so very private. What it reveals about Johnson’s attitude to women is also relevant – and disturbing.

False Victimhood

Today’s tabloids, in search of a lurid headline, are pursuing the Johnson “complicated sex life” angle. Speculation is rife. The Daily Mirror asserts “Boris ‘wants to get back with his wife’”.  The Mail says the opposite: “Despite bust-up, couple insist: We are stronger than ever”. Meanwhile, the Sun reveals “Boris and Carrie had 4 rows in 6 weeks”. Other papers concentrate on the “pressure to come clean” aspect. Taken together, it presents Johnson with an opportunity to play the victim: he’s being criticised for matters in his private life, poor dear.

Some of us are old enough to remember the scandal of John Profumo and Mandy Rice-Davies, where an out-of-control sex life threatened national security. But those were different times. Perhaps, on this occasion only, the last word should go to his former boss Max Hastings, who states that Johnson is “totally unfit” for office.

So What?

What do I conclude from these two very different incidents? Well, both illustrate the anger which is aroused in people like them who carry round with them an unswerving sense of their own entitlement. In that respect, they come from a very different upbringing from me. In retrospect, I feel that my “boys only” education meant that my teens and early twenties were, perhaps, a bit less exciting than they might have been. But I hold a strong suspicion that, for Field and Johnson, their single-sex education is a factor in their misogynistic attitude towards women.

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Zombies

I’ve taken a bit of a liking to the quirky comedy series What We Do in the Shadows. An inept group of zombies have taken over two streets in Staten Island, New York and seem a bit confused how to complete the zombie takeover of the whole of America. Or something like that.

Zombies alert!

To quote a former Tory Party leader: “Remind you of anyone?”

Well, yes, actually. And they look like this:

Horror Show

There’s one big difference, however. What We Do in the Shadows is played for laughs. What the second group of undead are playing is deadly serious.

Car Boot Hostage

Zombies taking control is bad enough. But the sheer helplessness of the majority of us who have no say in who will be our next prime Minister is far, far worse. I can do no better than quote this tweet from Tom Freeman: “I miss the days when Tory leadership elections were something I’d watch with half-amused anthropological curiosity rather than the horror of the abductee trapped in the back of the van.” Tom sounds like a man after my own heart.

The 99.8% with no vote

Rocky Horror Show

There have been many political commentators who have analysed the field of candidates in some detail. So I shall not do that. Suffice it to say that all ten want the UK to leave the EU, in varying degrees of extremist catastophe. A couple seem prepared to accept a further delay if that would help negotiations and a smoother exit. The rest say variations on the theme “31st October, dead or alive”. A couple have a simple solution to the lack of Parliamentary majority for Leave: make sure MPs don’t get a chance to vote before the end of October. In other words, suspend democracy in the interests of “the people”, i.e. the 52% of voters who voted Leave 3 years ago.

We have until the end of next month for this horror show to play itself out.

Little House of Horrors

The Conservative Party once saw itself as the party of business and the “natural Party of government”.  It has turned into a real monster: one that thinks “fuck business” and has given up all pretence of responsible government. The trouble is, it keeps feeding the monster and the monster keeps growing and needs more feeding. With the Tory Party in thrall to Mr Slime and the risk of his disciples becoming minority-vote MPs thanks to FPTP voting, the House of Commons could become a House of Horrors.

At the risk of repetition: “Remind you of anyone?”

The Tory-eating Monster

Nightmare on Downing Street

Maybe we’ll awake on 23rd July and find it was all a dream…
Or maybe it will end like this: he bears a frightening resemblance to Dominic Raab, don’t you think?

Our next PM?

Aaaaaagh!

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Logical Conclusions

Let’s play a game. I call it “Logical Conclusions”. Using logic alone, I will “prove” various assertions from a mixture of facts and assumptions. (In fact, this is something we humans do all the time and it’s more serious than just a game.) Anyway, here goes.

People’s Vote

Using the results from the EU parliamentary elections, various predictions have been made about the voting in a hypothetical People’s Vote. The most pessimistic was a 3% lead for Remain in an article by Polly Toynbee. The most optimistic was a Remain lead of 12%. My own estimate, based upon plausible assumptions about Labour and Tory voters (Labour split Remain 60%, No deal 20%, Corbyn hypothetic deal 20%; Tory split Remain 20%, 60% no deal , 20% May’s deal) gives a lead for Remain of 8 to 10 percentage points.

It’s important to note that all “forecasts” predict a lead for Remain, albeit all of them small, or smallish. So a logical conclusion would be that public opinion across the UK has shifted to Remain since the 2016 referendum. But it’s still a close call. Leave may well have had the edge three years ago, but no longer. The most likely reasons are a combination of two factors: (a) demographic change and (b) people changing their minds.

Demographic Change

Each year, roughly half a million people, mainly the old, die. So 1.5 million people have dropped off the electoral register because they’re dead. Harder to estimate is the number people, now 18 to 20 years old, who have joined the register. From my research, the figure is likely to be more than 1 million but probably less than 2 million. Younger people are far more likely to vote Remain than the elderly. It is estimated that, by January last, the UK moved from a pro-Leave to pro-Remain position by demographics alone (i.e. if no one had changed their mind). The Remain majority is forecast to grow by 1350 per day by this effect.

Changed Minds

Some market research surveys have suggested that 80% of people have not changed their minds since June 2016, as to whether they support Remain or Leave. The main arguments used, pointing in conflicting directions, are these.

“Weak” (i.e. no strong view) Remainers now support Leave because they buy the argument that the referendum result must stand for all time, otherwise it is somehow the “end of democracy”. I’m more attracted by the assertion “democracies that cannot change their minds are not democracies”. A logical conclusion to the first argument is that no further elections are needed, i.e. democracy is abolished. The other Remain=>Leave argument is that people are “fed up” with the issue paralyzing government want to “get it over with”. How so? Leaving the EU is the beginning of a process, not the end.

The main argument for a Leave to Remain switch is that such people are far better informed of the realities of a specific form of Leave (i.e. that negotiated by May) and are recoiled by it. Others may simply have learnt of the economic, social, cultural and educational (to name a few) advantages of EU membership.

The net result of people changing their minds remains controversial. There is no likelihood that this effect could wipe out the Remain majority caused by demographic change, backed up by recent opinion polls.

Country By Country

Using the same process of logical conclusions, I present some plausible outcomes by extrapolating present trends. These are not exactly my predictions, but should perhaps be seen as probable scenarios unless we change tack as a nation.

Scotland

Perhaps the easiest prediction to make, and probably the first to happen, will be that Scotland leaves the UK in another independence referendum. My best guess that events will need to unfold first, so that the timing of the first split from the UK is in about 2 years’ time. This assumes no resolution of the impasse in the UK parliament, a default crash out by the UK from the EU and about two years’ evidence of the economic damage of such a foolish move. That should give Nicola Sturgeon all the momentum she needs for victory.

Northern Ireland

On the same logic and emboldened by the Scots, Sinn Fein will lobby hard for Remain-leaving Northern Ireland to leave the RUK (Residual UK), to re-form a united Ireland. Violent reaction from the Unionists will demonstrate that they have been the problem all along. There will be some re-run of the Troubles, probably not on the same scale, but expect thousands of deaths, civilian, PSNI and military.

Wales

This is the hardest to call, given the illogicality of high EU Regional Development Fund spending in Wales and the Leave majority in 2016. It’s just a guess, but I would expect some increase in sporadic action by Welsh Nationalists along the lines seen in the 1960s and 70s. This would involve some burnings of holiday homes in Wales owned by English people but not much more unless the South Wales Valleys in particular are hit very hard by being cut off from the EU single market.

England

I’ve left this until last. Most likely outcome: Civil War 2.0: civil unrest, street violence, random attacks by racist and homophobic thugs and a move to autocratic government. A further hardening of positions will leave the cities and the educated increasingly isolated from the rest. England (or E&W) will become a pariah country for breaking international treaties. Expect successful lobbying at the UN for England’s Security Council place to be withdrawn. The DK (Disunited Kingdom) is bound to lose completely any reputation built up over centuries for sensible, stable government. In short, we’re fucked.

The Wildly Optimistic Version

In either the “bad but most likely” case above, or the optimistic case below, it’s reasonable to expect that the Tories will either disintegrate completely or limp on out of power for 20-40 years. So there’s some good news at least! Labour’s position is far less clear: how many “natural” Labour voters will return to the fold at the next General Election or vote for the far right populists is uncertain.

This alternative scenario would roll out roughly in this order:

  • A clear majority recognise the sheer folly of our actions and the complete breakdown of our ramshackle, feudal-with-democratic-bits-added-on “constitution”. Wiser politicians will respond through some form of deliberative process (Citizen’s Assembly) leading to necessary – and long overdue – reforms: my own priority order is used for the following list:
  • Replacement of first-past-the-post with some form of proportional voting system for MPs. Note this implies likely permanent coalition governments and a marked change of culture at Westminster. Timescale: about 2 years.
  • Abolition of the House of Lords and replacement by an elected Senate. This could be based upon regions / nations and may lead to some form of formal collaboration between DK (England and Wales) and the independent nations of Scotland and a United Ireland. This would be a looser arrangement than the present UK and safeguards would need to be built in to prevent England using its larger population to bully its way into getting what it wanted all the time. Ideally, the senate would meet outside London, perhaps on an itinerant basis. Timescale: about 3 to 5 years for full implementation, although some interim reforms are possible sooner (e.g. abolish the 92 hereditary peers and the CofE bishops).
  • The final item in my “wish list”, I expect sadly, will now not happen in my lifetime. That’s the final step of Britain becoming a republic with an elected Head of State. The meddling Charles Windsor (if he ever accedes) may speed up the process by his unpopularity but the recent PR-style rebranding of his children and grandchildren may prolong the outrage that not everyone in our land is born equal.

But don’t hold your breath. True to its history, where every progressive reform has had to be fought for, England will still be awash with well-funded, reactionary forces to resist change.

In the Meantime

Before any of this happens, we have to watch, jaws agape, as the ghastly spectacle of the Tory leadership contest plays itself out. Whoever wins, nothing changes the fact that a new leader will be leading a minority government. The Speaker has just ruled out prorogation of Parliament to facilitate “no deal” as some of the more insane candidates have suggested. Top legal experts have already said it’s illegal and could be successfully challenged in court.

So we’ve all got a jolly exciting summer and autumn to look forward to! Happy days!

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