Sunday, March 18, 2018

Austerity, Brexit and the Conservative Party: An undeclared "war" on British society?

Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) was famous for his "war on poverty", designed to eradicate the conditions that led to destitution. At times, it feels like the Conservative Party have an undeclared "war" on Britain's poor, designed to punish those segments of society that they feel are unworthy.


Perhaps the easiest way to explain the mindset that seems to exist in parts of the Conservative Party is this: their contempt for those unworthy of their pity comes from the belief that they believe that most people who are homeless, unemployed, disabled, or just poor are lazy "fakers".  In this mindset, there are very few people who are "really" homeless, or "really" can't get a job, or a "really" disabled, or are "really" poor.
This is the most rational explanation behind the government's longstanding policy of austerity and welfare reform. Those in government simply refuse to believe there is a "problem" that needs their attention; the only "problem" as far as they're concerned is the lazy fakers who have been stealing the government's money (and, it is implied, added to the myth of the Labour government's self-inflicted fiscal crisis). This is the pervasive attitude that has permeated the media for years, matched by the government's own rhetoric on benefit fraud.
This rhetoric has extended out to the whole gamut of social policy. Basically, anyone who wants any money or help from the government is a source of instant suspicion, whose motives are assumed to be suspect. From the degrading treatment that many disabled people must endure to get government help, to those simply trying to claim financial support while unemployed, the system is now designed to find any way possible to withdraw help. Part of this comes from the long legacy of "austerity", where saving money in any way possible, regardless of how inhumane it is, is the first priority. If it means that disabled people are left to fend for themselves, well it's just one of those things. If it means unemployed people having to skip meals to stay alive, well, so be it. If it means people being evicted and left homeless, it can't be helped.
In this way, it could be argued that homelessness is a form of government-sanctioned punishment on those who are unable to look after themselves, either mentally or financially. Psychological weakness is the worst crime of all, as far as the government is concerned. As the government refuses to accept that the reasons for homelessness often come from genuine social and familial problems, the government therefore sees homelessness as a "lifestyle choice". This view was shared by a local policeman in the town of Ely, Cambridgeshire, who stated that there were no "real" homeless people in the town; those on the street were all "fakers".

"Trained indifference"

This attitude of those in the lowest rungs of society being there through either psychological weakness or by choice is prevalent throughout the Conservative Party. Once this view is accepted, it follows that those who are "weak" or "lazy" must be either punished or cut off from access to official channels, as this is seen as the only effective way to alter their behaviour. Those at the sharp end of this inhumane policy are seen on the streets, with the soaring numbers of rough sleepers in the UK (by some estimates at ten thousand) making them look like modern-day "refugees" of the government's undeclared "war" on the lazy and weak-willed.
The "war" is always in an officially-undeclared state because the government would never openly admit that its actions are designed to "punish"; it simply cuts off government help whenever possible and lets nature take its course. That way, the victim's fate whether to "sink or swim" can be pinned on the individual, and not the government. As far its concerned, the government's own hands remain clean. If the homeless person froze to death in the winter cold, it was because he refused to take responsibility for his own poor decisions. Officially, of course, such situations would always be a "tragedy", but a tragedy of the person's own making. That way, the government can keep its hands clean.

The government's policy towards those deprived and vulnerable segments of society is officially one of help; it could hardly publicly claim otherwise and still be considered to be maintaining civilised society. But that "official" policy of help comes with the huge caveat that the government only believes a small fraction of those deprived and vulnerable people in society are in genuine need; the rest are liars who are there by choice.

The austerity agenda is also part of a wider aim to fundamentally change the relationship between government and the people: namely, to remove the idea from people's minds that government is there to help you. By cutting funding to social care services, and by the simultaneous "welfare reforms", the government is making the idea of getting help from them seem more and more onerous, to the point that people stop trying. To a Conservative, this idea seems entirely natural, as an encouragement towards greater self-sufficiency and individual responsibility. But this idea of course forgets the social reality, that no-one is ever completely responsible for their own fate from cradle to grave. No man is an island.
Austerity can therefore be seen as a tool of social transformation; a form of social engineering and psychological manipulation. It is about changing how British people think. One wonders if the government's indifference to, for example, the very visible rise in rough sleeping isn't implicitly a kind of psychological "shock therapy" on the British public; Britain's streets being turned into a kind of open-air laboratory for social engineering, where the sheer frequency of rough sleepers gradually creates a muted indifference in people minds, rather like how long exposure to pornography has allegedly changed the way that young men think about sex. This "trained indifference" would then be part of the agenda of "psychological manipulation", bringing public acquiescence to the Conservative Party's "war" on the weaker elements of society. It doesn't take a great leap of imagination to see what the logical conclusion of this strategy would be.

Psychological preparation?

With the streets of "austerity" Britain sometimes bearing the atmosphere of an open-air theatre of the grotesque, there's a case to be made that this might also be a kind of psychological preparation for the real austerity to come after Brexit. If people think that "austerity" is bad now, this may just be the beginning, after Britain leaves the EU and the single market.
All the reasoned voices (including the EU itself) declare that leaving the single market would be disastrous for Britain's economy. The reason why is because Britain simply doesn't have the infrastructure or know-how to efficiently deal with the sheer amount of bureaucracy involved in trading with the EU as a country outside the single market; in short, when all the costs of the extra bureaucracy involved are added up, businesses may well find it no longer financially viable to trade with the EU. The logistical nightmare of crossing to and from the single market is only one aspect of this that could quickly see the economy seize up in a matter of days.

I've gone into some of the details about who could benefit from this chaos before, but as with "austerity", the ones who will be the victims first in this kind of Brexit scenario would be the vulnerable and deprived. The kind of "shock therapy" from austerity since 2010 has been more a "slow-burner", where social problems have accumulated only gradually, until the issue reaches public awareness on the streets in the form of mass rough sleeping, and in local councils going bankrupt through a combination of mismanagement and lack of funding. A "Hard Brexit" scenario would be sudden and on a scale hard to comprehend, given its lack of precedent.
This is a situation that has the hallmarks of a government willing to preside over a society where some parts of it almost resemble a "failed state". Except this is one where the government seems to want to fail.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Britain, the EU and the Brexit negotiations: a clash of cultures?

An article in the Guardian articulated part of the problem the British government has with its negotiations with the EU. Apart from not understand the nature of the EU (in spite of being part of it for over forty years), it doesn't even understand how it is seen itself by others. As the writer in the article explains:
"In Brussels, the British are viewed with suspicion – seen as hiding cunning behind charm, using manners as a cloak for ruthlessness, and, at their core, being strategic, stubborn and mercantile. These stereotypes of character are joined by experience. It is precisely because Britain has so successfully secured its interests as a member of the EU – shaping the evolution of the European project while securing opt-outs from key parts of it – that the other member states understand how ruthlessly it pursues its interests. One of the great ironies of the current impasse is that Britain’s success in the EU stokes fears of its conduct outside it "
Apart from that, it also seems that Brussels has a better understanding of Britain's own culture than even Britain has itself:
British politics is erratic, unstable, and irrational. British politicians are, therefore, not to be trusted. There is a belief that the British – accustomed to great power for centuries – are simply incapable of accepting any rules. Britons lazily project their domestic political model – where one side wins, the other loses, and the winner dominates the loser – on to a European politics that is very different"

In a nutshell, we have above a cultural explanation of why Britain's government is failing so abysmally in its negotiations with Brussels. Apart from Britain's government having the ingrained culture of seeing politics and diplomacy as a zero-sum game, coming from its long tradition of an adversarial style of statecraft, its ignorance in even its own self-awareness (let alone of the culture of "foreign powers") is dooming its fate.
This is just one example of the cultural disconnect between London and Brussels. The EU cannot fathom, for one thing, how Britain's government can be so ignorant of the rules of an organisation that it has been a member of for more than forty years. It cannot fathom how Britain's government seems to repeatedly set demands for its post-EU relationship that would break the EU's own rules; rules that Britain should have been well aware of for decades.

The buccaneer versus the bureaucrat

One explanation for this is "culture", and that Britain's ruling class has simply become utterly complacent in its relationship to Europe and its own intellectual competence. Britain's cultural default in international relations is the imperial power-play, where it plays off one "Johnny Foreigner" against the other for its own advantage. This is one method that was used to expand and maintain the British Empire, and the same methodology was used in its past European relations.
Brought forward to a post-Imperial setting, Britain joined the then EEC for its own economic necessity, as well as joining the power-play tussle of the major European states within the organisation. This worked well for the first ten years or so inside "the club", but by the late Eighties it was clear that there were elements within the British establishment and the media who saw "Europe" as the enemy, and bristled against the increasing regulation and bureaucratic centralisation. By this time, it was clear to Eurosceptics that the European "project" was turning into something they didn't sign up for, and this was the start of the series of "opt outs" that the British government negotiated with the EU to mollify its critics.
We know how this story ends: with Britain outside the Eurozone, with a Conservative Prime Minister (David Cameron) going so far to mollify the Eurosceptics that we have ended up leaving the EU completely, with the current Prime Minister promising to even leave the single market (EEA/EFTA) as well. The mythic image of Britain as a "trade buccaneer" is what helped it join the single market in the 1970s, and it is that same self-delusion that is leading many in government to believe that Britain can thrive outside of the European single market now.
In this sense, the negotiations have failed because Britain falsely believes in its own self-delusion as a trading goliath, where the EU "needs us more than we need them". This leads to the belief that the EU's stubbornness is merely a negotiation strategy (more on that later) where they will eventually buckle. The British government's fatal misunderstanding of the EU's necessary preservation of its own interests is what we'll look at next. And it is also this British "buccaneer" vision that is fuelling the EU's need for self-preservation: it doesn't want to have a super-sized free-trade tax haven right on its doorstep, without the regulatory means to protect itself.

Short-term versus long-term

Regarding the Brexit negotiations specifically, Theresa May's strategy (if she can be said to have one) seems to be to find a short-term fix to any problem that arises, that kicks the can down the road a little further, until it has to kicked yet further down the road again later.
This classic short-termist strategy is something that has been a part of British politics for decades, arguably centuries. In British government generally (and also often in industry), big issues that need to be tackled are often "fudged", relying on a culture of "muddling through": from in the modern era, things like HS2, Heathrow's new runway, investment, infrastructure planning and the approach to the economy in general (feeding a rapacious financial sector or voracious property bubble, for example) to historical examples like the wasteful use of North Sea oil revenue, selling-off government assets for the short-term boost to the treasury's books, and so on. The tendency within the British system is to find short-term solutions to problems - and if possible, ignoring the problem completely - creating a culture of "make do and mend" that feeds an atmosphere of institutional backwardness.
Theresa May, however, has taken this mentality to new depths. As her main priority seems to be focused on purely self-preservation (of her, and her government's unity), survival is continued by the necessity to "fudge" any issues of disagreement, allowing them to be dealt with later. Regarding the agreement her government made with the EU in December, the semantic "fudge" allowed her to both satisfy the different voices in her government, as well as the DUP who prop her government up in parliament, and also the EU.
With Donald Tusk's recent comments, we know now that the EU has called May out on this clear act of short-term deception. The EU cannot accept any "fudge" that fails to provide clear legal certainty (see the next section below). It is this reason that the negotiations appear stalled. Besides this, and even more importantly, the EU has a cultural aversion to short-termism. In fact, in its very inception, the then EEC marked itself out as a long-term "project" for "ever closer union". While its solution to the Greek crisis several years ago looked like a "kicking the can down the road" exercise, this was also a demonstration of how the EU are risk-averse, taking the longer view that it was better to have Greece under control and inside the club than a potential basket case out of its control on its edges.

With Brexit, the EU have taken the view that as Britain's government has decided it will leave all associated EU institutions completely, it must act for its own self-preservation and self-integrity. The EU accepts that there would be an economic hit to the single market from Britain's actions, but it cannot compromise its own systems (or its long-term future) for the sake of one non-member, even one the size of Britain. And as the EU has stated, it is precisely Britain's size and close vicinity that make its deregulation strategy potentially so threatening to the EU. In short, (among other things) having such a lax attitude to tax regulation, treating citizens with callous indifference, and its threatening language from its media, has made Britain the "bad guy":

So the EU is prepared for the consequences of Brexit, and takes the longer view. It's only Britain who doesn't.

Amateurs versus technocrats

The EU has often been derided as a technocratic bureaucracy of faceless cogs in the wheel, but it is in the Brexit negotiations that the EU's technocratic system is shown to have its uses. On the side of Brussels you have Michel Barnier and his technical team of legal experts, with supporting roles by Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker. These are people who have an entire legal team of experts to support them, along with their own long experience of EU procedures. On the British side you have David Davis, supported by Theresa May and Boris Johnson. These are people whose grasp of technical detail is hazy at best; for example, you have David Davis not seeming to understand such basics like services not having tariffs, and so talks about removing tariffs from services to get better trade deals, to demonstrate his utter ignorance. There are a thousand and one examples like this.

In this sense, Britain's negotiations are led by figures who are literally amateurs. This is partly the result of how they came to get where they did; not through their expertise but their similar background, the ability to "blag it" and be on the right side at the right moment. They are all hopelessly out of their depth. With their personas formed from a political system that seems to run on the "Dilbert Principle", in this system what matters is having some degree of cunning and charm that masks your incompetence. That way, people lower down in the food chain do all the tricky work, leaving you to lord them around (while they clean up your mess). Related to this is the concept of "Mushroom management" (which Theresa May seems to best embody): giving out as little useful information as possible and keep everyone on their toes.
This system of "amateur governance" has a long tradition in Britain, and is one reason why the civil service was so highly-valued historically by comparison (as satirized so well in the "Yes, Minister" series); it was they who really ran the government on a day-to-day basis. But Brexit seems to be the "reckoning" on this system: most of the government's EU experts work for Brussels, not London, which leaves the few experts on this side of the Channel hopelessly outnumbered by all the special interest groups who see Brexit as nothing more than an opportunity for profiteering. This helps to explain why Theresa May's strategy seems strangely-similar to that of the Legatum Institute: out of her depth, she falls back on the voices of those who seem culturally closest to her, from the same background of elitist amateurs.
Brussels has no time for the kind of "blaggers" seen the the British government; it expects detail backed up by legal argument, while those supposedly "advising" the British government have their own agenda for seeing negotiations break down.

A haggle versus a checklist

Finally, Britain's government has from the start misunderstood what the negotiations are about.

Britain comes from its historical perspective of negotiations being a haggle where getting a deal means having something you can have to wave in exultation when you return home (a la Neville Chamberlain). Therefore, any "win" in the negotiations for Britain would necessitate a "loss" of some kind for the EU; the kind of zero-sum game that was mentioned at the beginning, and carried out every week in Westminster politics.
Brussels sees these talks not as "negotiations" in the traditional sense, but more like Britain deciding which one of several options Brussels offers it. And this latter analogy would be accurate, as it is incumbent on Britain to agree terms with the EU, not vice versa. This should have made it all the more simple in some ways, as it should have been about Britain "checking" which option "on the menu" it wants from the EU, giving both sides time to organise the agreed future relationship.
Because Britain's goverment has been in complete denial about this reality - thinking it can haggle in a "pick and mix" style over which bits it does and doesn't want, in spite of being repeatedly told otherwise, most of the "negotiation" has been about each side talking at cross-purposes. So, nearly a year on from the start of the negotiations, we're really little further on than we were on Day One, with the transitional deal that Britain asked for nowhere near being done, because Britain keeps asking for something that isn't on "the menu".

As far as Brussels is concerned, Britain just doesn't "get it". And on all the above evidence, it looks like it never did.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Numbers of rough sleepers in the UK: a more detailed look at "Britain's shame"

A recent report that looked at the number of rough sleepers in England revealed a bleak portrait of this too-often overlooked side of British society. In many ways, it seems to be the national "shame" that many people would rather turn their eyes away from on the street.

A bleak picture

In general, the numbers of rough sleepers in the country are rising everywhere, and in some places at an alarming (and thus highly-visible) rate. A more detailed look at the national spread of rough sleeping in the country can tell us which towns and cities, and which parts of the country, have the highest proportionate numbers. This might also tell us something about the nature of those areas and what is happening beneath the surface.

London's levels of rough sleeping have been well-documented, so I'd like to focus on the areas of the UK outside of the capital. This is not to downplay the bleak reality that thousands of rough sleepers have in London; I simply want this article to focus on the rest of the UK (although what's happening in London may well be linked to what's also happening outside of it).
In England, the major cities that have the highest numbers of rough sleepers relative to their size are Bristol, Nottingham and Manchester. Birmingham also has at least several dozen rough sleepers, though given the sprawling size of the city (as the second biggest in England), the numbers are slightly lower than the even higher levels seen in the first three cities listed, that have markedly smaller populations compared to Birmingham (such as the shocking rates seen in Nottingham in particular).

Outside of the major conurbations, rough sleeping has rocketed in a swathe of towns and small cities across England, in the South in particular, and this is the most visible illustration of the problem. The interactive graphic in the BBC link highlighted at the top shows a picture of rough sleeping now reaching epidemic proportions in the south-east (i.e. surrounding the wider London conurbation) and along south coast of England.
Along the south coast towns, there are a string of places such as Hastings, Eastbourne, Brighton, Portsmouth, Bournemouth and even Weymouth(!) and Exeter that all are experiencing extremely high levels of rough sleeping.
Meanwhile, there are a whole host of towns in the wider South-East (within commuter distance of London) that have the same, shocking numbers of rough sleepers: going clockwise from the Thames estuary, places like Southend, Maidstone, Canterbury, Reading, Slough, Swindon, and Oxford, Luton and Bedford all have extremely high numbers of rough sleepers relative to their size. Even Cambridge. Of those, Bedford, Luton and Southend stand out as having the highest propertions of all, given these are only medium-sized towns. What makes this all the more shocking is that the numbers of rough sleepers in these smaller Southern towns are much higher than even in much larger cities elsewhere in the UK. For instance, there are far more rough sleepers in Bedford than there are in Newcastle. Why this might be the case will be looked at later.

There are some details that appear to defy easy explanation, at least to the layman. For some reason, Lincoln also has an especially-large rough sleeper population, given the small size of the city. On the other hand, there are parts of England like the North-East whose rough sleeper numbers, while they have certainly seen a marked rise in recent times, seem fairly modest compared to the disproportionately much larger numbers in the the towns in the South. This seems somehow anomalous (though of course in a positive way), especially given the long-term problems within unemployment and poverty that that North-east has suffered.

Like in all the UK, numbers in Wales and Scotland have increased markedly, but compared to Wales and Scotland, England seems to have a disproportionately-bigger problem with rough sleeping, especially in the South. The question is: why?

Sinking to the bottom

Traditionally, the reasons for rough sleeping, at least at an individual level, can be many, but the most common ones seem to be problems with mental health, drug and alcohol dependency. However, as any expert would tell you, the last two reasons mentioned are usually tied with the first: mental health.
People who become drug and/or alcohol dependent can reach this state for a variety of reasons, but again, experts will tell you that they often reach that state through issues of family breakdown (often at a young age), and all the horrid side-effects that come with that. Put another way, these are people who have resorted to drink or drugs - "self-medication" -  as the way to escape their real-life nightmare. The same is true in any "sink estate" around the country; it's simply that those who become rough sleepers are in an even worse state of affairs, where they feel they have nowhere to go and so decide to cut themselves off from normal society.
So we can say with some certainty that those who "self medicate" are people who use drink or drugs to deal with mental health issues of one form or another. Also, another reason that many of these refuse to stay in hostels is that they "cut themselves off" in order to break their dependency. As some hostels can be riven with other "dependent" homeless with a ready supply of drink or drugs, some rough sleepers fall into a cycle of refusing beds in these institutions precisely because they don't want to fall back into the dependency cycle. Whether or not this rationale makes sense, or works, is another matter.

Apart from the "traditional" reasons for homelessness (and rough sleeping), an increasingly-common reason these days is simply being evicted by their landlord due to financial hardship. And this is not because of financial mismanagement, but simply being unable to make the money coming in (from work or welfare support) pay for everything. These people may well not have mental health issues at all, and have become rough sleepers for other reasons - shame (at feeling the need to admit their own sense of "failure" to family and peers); perseverance (feeling that they are just experiencing a "temporary setback" which will soon be overcome); or simply lack of other options (no close family network or friends to fall back on).

A stripped-down state

But for rough sleepers who are there for whatever reason, the buck stops with the government, and the spike in rough sleeping can be firmly laid at the government's door, for a number of reasons.

The traditional tendency for rough sleeping to be something associated with those with mental health problems goes back to the government's failure on dealing with mental health. This has been a problem for decades - exacerbated with Thatcher's "care in the community" - but has got far worse since the government began its cutbacks to mental health services across the board under David Cameron. Now local authorities no longer have the funding for local care of those with mental health issues, leaving them to fend for themselves. It's not surprising that the result is a spike in homelessness, for all the reasons mentioned earlier.
The government's "reforms" to welfare provision have impacted the money received by those with mental health issues (see above), creating financial insecurity where before there was at least some kind of safety net. Now these people are finding they are slipping though the net, and left to fend for themselves. From the rough sleeping figures, we know where that can lead.
Likewise, other welfare reforms, such as Universal Credit, are causing a surge in financial insecurity, not only for those who are the most vulnerable in society, but those who are also in work. This insecurity is what is feeding the rise in evictions, and thus rough sleeping.
Lastly, the government's "light touch" attitude to regulation has meant that the nature of work and housing has become more insecure. With local government budgets slashed, there is not enough money for local councils to enforce the regulations on employers and landlords that do exist; meanwhile, the government is doing little to encourage employers and landlords to change their often exploitative behaviour. All this means that there is added financial pressure on workers and tenants, making it all the more likely that they are just one "crisis" away from losing their job and/or eviction.

This kind of environment also makes it more likely that people will develop mental health issues and/or a dependency on drink or drugs, and into the downward spiral that too easily leads to rough sleeping by the other route.

An "English dystopia"?

It is this environment of exploitation and government indifference that is causing the rise in rough sleeping.
One final issue worth exploring is looking for an explanation to the geographical spread of rough sleeping in England. One thing that hits us, from a sociological point of view, about where rough sleeping is proportionately the highest, is the type of towns they are. The three that seem to have the highest proportions - Luton, Bedford and Southend - are towns that have done badly since the "de-industrialisation" of thirty years ago and are in a part of the country with a high rate of inequality. In my view, it is both these factors (poverty and inequality) that have contributed, and both working in tandem that exacerbate the problem. These are places that feel ignored, exploited and cheated by the centre, and are politically ripe ground for extremism.
As homelessness is seemingly a result of mental health and/or economic factors (that cause a "collapse" in the person's mental and economic stability; see also "crime"), it would seem logical that it is the towns and cities in the country with people most subjected to these factors that are most likely to have high rates of rough sleeping.
The combination of the two factors above (poverty matched with inequality) go some way to explaining why London, the wider South-east and the South coast have the highest rates of rough sleeping. Places like the North-east may have smaller proportions because the levels of inequality are less than in the South-east, even if the rate of poverty is more. Although the picture is complex, it is possible that the social bonds in places like the North-east are stronger due to lower levels of inequality, and this may account somewhat for the differences in the rates of rough sleeping.

Apart from the sociological factors, and how much a local council's social services budget has been cut, there is also the sad truth that some of these towns in the South are within commuter distance to and from London, and therefore it is relatively inexpensive for overwhelmed London councils to simply "export" these homeless to more far-flung, relatively isolated, towns.
That way, it becomes someone else's problem, and another aspect of the "English dystopia" that parts of the country have come to resemble under Theresa May.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Brexit, Ayn Rand and democracy: is emigration the most rational solution for Remainers?

On Brexit, we're often reminded that this is the "will of the people". But we're as easily reminded that Brexit is also the "will of old people". Given that half the electorate's wishes are being actively ignored by the government, and with the support of the media are characterized as people who should "get over it", what can the "48%" do?

If their voices are being ignored by the government, one simple suggestion might be take the government's implied instruction to take advantage of Britain's unique place the world, and leave the country completely. If the government simply ignores half of the electorate, and the opinions of those under fifty, what moral authority does the government over them?


Democracy has been called by Marxists as "the dictatorship of the majority". But this is a false understanding of the term, because in a properly-functioning democracy the government is meant to represent and reflect the views of all the electorate, not just its own supporters. It's only if a government only listens to its own side when it becomes a system of majoritarianism, also known as "elective dictatorship". Sadly, this is the system that is too often the reality in the adversarial parliamentary system in Westminster.
The "First Past The Post" system has tended to create a system where governing parties simply take turns doing what they want, so that at each election when there is a change in government there is a chaotic "changing of the guard" that results in successive governments forever changing how social policy and national institutions are run. This explains how, for example, education in the UK is such a structural mess. The same is true for many aspects of government institutions. In this way, short-term thinking and an instinctive desire by new governments to change things for the sake of it have caused institutional chaos, with the civil service struggling to pick up the pieces.

Brexit and Theresa May's interpretation of it as a "divine cause" has meant the same culture of majoritarianism being applied in the most dogmatic and divisive way. As her instincts are toward a more authoritarian and hierarchical style of government, it has followed that those who are against this are against the "will of the people".
In a situation where half the electorate's opinions are ignored, what happens to their "will"? Have they lost the right to have a "will"? Free speech is an integral part of a properly-functioning democracy. Some in the Brexit-supporting media and in politics seem to suggest that the free speech of half of the electorate should be muzzled or at least questioned as "unpatriotic" if half of the electorate are opposed to what the other half are doing. These Brexit zealots argue that the opposing half should simply be quiet and let the country get on with it. In this sense, they want the other half of the country to pay taxes but otherwise not exist.

This is not how democracy is meant to work. Yes, there is a democratic process where all involved respect the process and institutions of government. But respecting the process doesn't mean being quiet. I'm reminded that when Theresa May made a speech that pitched why she called for the snap election, one of the reasons was that the opposition were daring to oppose the government on Brexit; in other words, she wanted a new election because parliament was acting as a parliament instead of just a rubber stamp! It should not be forgotten that many dictatorships in the world also have parliaments and elections, and some even have a legitimate opposition; the difference between those regimes and proper democracies is that in a dictatorship free speech is curtailed by the government and media and an opposition is only allowed to exist for cosmetic purposes. Is this the kind of regime that some Brexiteers would prefer?


In the current political environment in Britain, when the government is choosing to ignore the will of the 48%, one option open to them is emigration. As often said, the British passport is (or was, until recently) perhaps the most valuable passport to have in the world. As "Remainers" are often well-traveled, educated and open-minded, why should they not take heed of Theresa May's derision of calling them "citizens of nowhere" and become citizens of the world, using their passport to make a success of their lives outside of a Britain that no longer cares for them?
With the self-destructive direction that the government seems to be taking Brexit, European migrants are already ahead of the curve on this, with new arrivals declining to a trickle, and a steady stream of those already here returning home. In this way, economic self-interest serves as the best motivation over emotional ties. Likewise, Japan's recent warning to Theresa May that Brexit could easily lead to their businesses simply pulling out completely is another reminder of the economic consequences; those that see no future will leave the country. "Remainers" might be wise to follow the same track of economic self-interest, using their skills and experience to migrate to countries where they are in more demand and will get greater respect, a better salary and better quality of life.

There is a delicious irony in this "solution". Those that voted to leave the EU tended to be either the entitled, looked-after middle classes of the shires, or the uneducated, unskilled segment of the population who only saw "abroad" as the place to get a sun tan and get drunk. Their motivations to leave the EU were emotional, not rational. As Britain's government seems to be ran by the same combination of incompetence, ignorance and entitlement, then is it not a fate that the people who voted for them deserve? The "leavers" voted for Brexit for emotional reasons, some of them so impassioned of their hatred for the EU that they would seemingly happily live in a Britain that was impoverished as long as they had their "freedom". Boris Johnson's recent speech reminded us that those that voted to leave the EU did so because many of them simply didn't understand how it worked. This is an tacit admission that Brexit is guided on the emotions of ignorance.
It is not for "Remainers" to feel any obligation to try to live and work in a country with a government that treats them with such contempt, ran by ignorant incompetents and charlatans. Any appeals by the government for "Remainers" to stay in the country to make Brexit work - when the government seems to be doing all it can to ensure it doesn't work - are nothing more than emotional blackmail; appeals to blind patriotism from a government on a self-destructive mission. If the "leavers" want to run Brexit Britain into the ground as an economic basket base, why should others who didn't choose this fate be obliged to assist them? They have their passports; why not make full use of them?

"A Is A"

One last irony to mention is how this emigration "solution" bears some parallels to the plot of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged". The "Brexit Agenda" is at its heart a libertarian project, and many of its advocates are well-versed in Rand's thinking and her literature. In "Atlas Shrugged", the country's "great and good" began disappearing from public life against the onset of an increasingly-pervasive Socialist government. After disappearing into voluntary exile, the country quickly began to fall apart as its institutions and businesses became ran by incompetents and boneheaded ideologues. The "great and the good" would only return when they could transform the country into a "libertarian utopia".
This is the delusional vision that many "Brexiteers" have, except that in our reality it is they who are the incompetent and boneheaded ideologues, and it is the "Remainers" who are being implicitly pushed into emigrant "exile".
If a significant proportion of the native population did emigrate (for the sake of argument, let's say ten per cent), this could make Brexit and its after effects economically-comparable with Russia in 1990s. The other irony is that, as all predictions are that Brexit will have significant negative effects on Britain's economy, "Remainers" are the best equipped people to "ride out the storm", especially if many of them did emigrate, at least for a while. Then, when things did eventually get better - one way or the other - they would be well-placed to return to Britain to bring their skills and experience to "make Britain great again". By that point, maybe the government would have even restored its respect for "citizens of nowhere".
And at this point, the poetic parallel with the plot of "Atlas Shrugged" would have come full circle. The "Remainers" would return to rescue Britain once the deluded, incompetent Brexiteers had finally shown their true anarchic colours for the rest of the world to see. The Britain that followed from this traumatic set of events would hopefully be one radically more progressive and innately "European", after seeing what nightmare Britain became if left to be ruled by a reactionary, parochial elite. In this way, from a "Remainer" point of view, the only positive to "Hard Brexit" might, might, be that the resulting economic meltdown would utterly discredit all the rhetoric of the Brexiteers, and Britain would embrace a strong European partnership as the only feasible option the country has for its future.
This might all be as much a pipedream as the vision that the "Brexiteers" have of Britain thriving as never before outside the EU, but for "Remainers", it's the only way to see any potential positive out of "Hard Brexit".

One wonders if this isn't precisely the kind of thinking that is going on in the mind of Jeremy Corbyn; keeping his powder dry, biding his time and waiting for the Tories to destroy themselves (but also, alas, half of the country with it). In the minds of some Momentum activists, it's easy to imagine them waiting for the rapture of "JC" to follow from the "end of days" rule of the "satanic" Brexiteers. "St Jeremy" Corbyn's strategy - a monastic Brexit vow of silence - is certainly morally questionable, as is his presumed strategy of biding his time. But, given the grim political situation which provides a lack of other real options, what else is there?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Brexit Britain and free trade: a "bargain basement" economy and a "whore to the world"?

The true meaning of what Brexit means for Britain's global standing is starkly illustrated in this piece.
It was a few years ago when Cameron was still Prime Minister that this author was discussing how the government had already debased Britain's dignity in its desperation to seek investment from foreign powers.

Brexit simply amplifies this strategy to the nth degree. In its desperation to get free trade deals with countries outside the EU, the government would pay almost any price, would have to do any deal possible; because the alternative, like with the EU, is "no deal", and falling back on to WTO rules.
This is the natural result of the government putting itself in a "diplomatic no-man's-land", by refusing to follow any other existing arrangement between the EU and other countries. As someone else once said, "Hard Brexit" is Britain telling the EU: do what I say or I will shoot myself!

The situation would be laughable were it not so serious. The government's post-Brexit global strategy appears to be to do deals with rogue regimes and dodgy dictators, and when not doing that, its ministers are proposing Brexit Britain as some kind of unilateral free trade area to attract foreign attention.

As pointed out, the idea of effectively turning Britain into a worldwide "bargain basement" would be catastrophic for many sectors of industry and manufacturing. The author elsewhere has made the point that some of the Brexiteers' ideas seem to cross over into the realm of anarchic fantasy. Because these people in government see that trade with the EU is so seamless, they have not the faintest comprehension of the deep complexity involved behind the scenes that makes this seamless world possible. Without creating the complex infrastructure necessary to get through the plethora of EU systems, once Britain left the EU that "deep complexity" would be an almost insurmountable barrier to easily trading with them, as this complexity would confront almost every aspect of the modern economy. It is a pipedream (or dangerous fantasy) to think that Britain would be able to trade freely and easily with the EU while simultaneously wishing to be separate from its systems. The recent example of Catalonia's brief quixotic escapade into "independence" demonstrated how legislators with no idea of the practicalities of their ideas quickly become tragic figures of mockery.

Meanwhile, we have the speeches of the "three stooges" - Boris, David Davis and Liam Fox - to look forward to. What's already clear is that they see Brexit as, at the very least, an instrument to turn Britain into a low-regulation, low-tax economy and potential free trade zone. Put in these terms, it sets up Britain as a "whore to the world": with Britannia's legs metaphorically spread open, inviting all and sundry around the globe to her take advantage of her flaunted assets.

What this feels like is not Britain ran for the benefit of its citizens, but for the benefit of its amoral elite, who are happy to exploit its native population, with rich foreigners invited to a "bargain basement" economy to make the most of the opportunity. In this sense, the Conservative Party seems to treat its governance of Britain as though they were an occupying power rather than fellow natives. When the Normans first took over England, they faced years of opposition and insurgency in the North, resulting in the so-called "harrowing" that left a landscape across that part of England called simply "waste". The Thatcherite agenda of de-industrialisation left a similar, post-modern sort of economic "wasteland" across many towns in the North of England and South Wales, which has never really recovered ever since. All that was left was insecure, poorly-paid employment and a local population in the depths of poverty and the inevitable social malaise of crime, drug and alcohol dependency brought on by a feeling of abandonment. The vision that the Brexiteers offer here is even more apocalyptic to those areas already feeling abandoned after decades of neglect. Either by ignorance or by design, this vision is one that yet further punishes the areas that traditionally voted Labour, with a similar heartless mentality as that of the Normans towards the Anglo-Saxon miscreants of yesteryear.

The completion of Britain's "de-industrialisation" agenda seems to be being pursued by some sections of the Brexiteers, so that when "hard Brexit" is achieved, Britain's final state will be an economy ran on banking, retail and services alone, with manufacturing, industry and farming decimated, and everything else being imported. It is almost as though some advocates of "hard Brexit" wish to take Britain back to an pre-industrial economy, like that of the middle of the 18th century, albeit with cosmetic modern structures. The author is reminded of how the modern Gulf States are an example of medieval societies ran with 21st century technology. Is this the kind of vision the Brexiteers have for Britain in the near future?
The only parts of the economy that the rich elite are interested in are the ones where they can make a quick profit. After all, this is how the property bubble has expanded in London. As they see it, there is no future in manufacturing, as this is all done in China. The government is only useful in the short-term sense that it has assets that they can sell off to foreign investors. The "skilled economy" is only useful in the narrow sense that they see from their own background. This explains why there is so little time spent on investment or training in large parts of business and government. If it's cheaper to get a foreign company to do it, then why bother with the time spent training up a native? This is why the growth in employment is largely in the unskilled sectors, and will continue in this trend as long as the economy continues down the same self-destructive path. The end result of this would be a native British population that is treated as an uneducated rabble, lorded over by a profiteering elite and their "foreign investor" friends. Britain would be ruled like a third world country.

The "Brexit Agenda" is no more than the logical conclusion of wanting to turn Britain into the bargain basement of the developed world, where its assets are sold off to foreign buyers without a moment's thought for its effects on the population. Brexit Britain's ruling elite seem to relate their interests far more with the other rich elites of the world, such as the Middle East, China or Russia. It is these people who pay for their children to go to Britain's best universities, buy up luxury property as a way to hide their dodgy assets, spend their money shopping in London's high class stores, make use of Britain's tax havens, and so on. The Brexiteers relate to these people and their motivations far more than the "ordinary people" of Britain, who by contrast are as distant to their own lives as peasants are to landowners. The "little people" are of no consequence.
This explains why the Brexiteer elite are in hock with so many profiteering interest groups; because they think like they do, and only are interested in ways to make money for themselves. Lazily, they might assume that if they are making money then it must be good for everyone else lower down in the economic food chain too; all those who are worse off from this would then only have themselves to blame.

This is the morality of the sociopath, who has little understanding or empathy for the problems of others, and only assumes that other people's problems are brought on by themselves. As he sees it, his success was by his own actions alone, and any good fortune that came his way was nothing more than "karma".
Corruption and exploitation are the inevitable result of this mentality, and we can see this is the kind of economic model that Brexiteers seem to be championing.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Brexit and the Conservative Party: a political nervous breakdown

There's a perceptible "last days of the Roman Empire" feel to Britain's governance under Theresa May and the Conservative Party.

Brexit seems to the Tories like the political equivalent of a nervous breakdown: some kind of unresolved psychological trauma that has been haunting the party's psyche ever since the UK joined the EEC, pushed to the back of the collective party's mind, until it was forcibly brought to the front of their attention by UKIP and David Cameron's referendum.
The issue could have been ignored, I suppose; UKIP would have won the European elections in 2014 regardless of whatever Cameron decided to do. That fate was settled with the unique result of the 2010 election, that kicked out the Labour Party, but neither gave a ringing endorsement to the Tories either. So we had the "coalition", with the result that Britain's three main parties were either in government, or had just been tarnished by it. It was this landscape that gave UKIP its opportunity.
As UKIP were really just the outside "radical wing" of the Conservatives, with many Tory MPs having views that were barely distinguishable from UKIP itself, the result was a "militant" arm of the governing party, with "moral support" from UKIP. This was the landscape that Cameron had to deal with after the 2010 election. The decision to give in to these pressures, rather than "ride out" the storm until the next election, tells us a lot about Cameron's personality. As well as appeasing this dual threat from his own party's radicals and the guerrilla tactics of UKIP, he also called the referendum for other, more vain, reasoning; he called for it simply because he assumed he would win.

Once the referendum was "lost", Cameron effectively handed to moral authority of his party (and the government) to his party's "militant wing", and the agenda of UKIP. The result of this was that Theresa May copied much of UKIP's rhetoric as well large parts of its social agenda, in order to appear on the side of the 52%. Apart from leaving the EU, May went even further with her radical envisaging of Britian's role outside the EU: to leave leave not only the single market, but the customs union as well; something that not even many UKIP supporters had considered feasible. Thus, in May's over-zealousness in want to appear on the side of the 52%, she went down a path that only a fraction of her own party's backbenchers (represented by the "European Research Group") followed.

In this sense, May's course of action since the referendum has been to place the government into the hands of the radical agenda of a faction in her party. She has disavowed any hint of moderation, and doggedly pursued an agenda that to any reasoned person's eyes looks completely unhinged. Although she has been able to keep her cabinet and her party's divisions from bringing down the government, this has only been achieved through her and her ministers' pronouncements that are feats in nonsensical semantic waffle. The government and its party are only held together by their fear of allowing Jeremy Corbyn become Prime Minister if they should fall. On Brexit, the Conservatives are impossibly divided.

As Michel Barnier has said, the clock is ticking. As well as the "clock ticking" on Brexit, the clock may also be ticking on the fate of the Conservative Party. Because the party has brought its own European psycho-drama out into the open, as it once fatefully did in the late '80s and early '90s, any observer can see that the party's differences are intractable. Now that the "clock is ticking", sooner or later, Theresa May, or her successor (more on that in a moment) will have to decide. If they don't decide, the EU will decide for them.
Theresa May so far has kept the government together simply by not dealing with the central issue, but putting it off repeatedly at each juncture with more useless waffle. The central issue is Britain's future relationship with the EU, and what the government's agreed position is. The problem is that the government doesn't have one. As the party is really a coalition of ideas, with the radicals in the ascendancy, everyone has a different opinion, as can be seen by ministers giving contradictory views on Brexit, even on the same day.

None of the options look good for the Conservatives.

If Theresa May somehow manages to get the government to have an agreed position that is somehow agreeable to the EU, this implies that a compromise would be involved, which would infuriate the radicals. The result of this could well be May losing confidence of her backbenchers and a new (radical) leader being selected, leading to a retraction of any previously-made agreement. Therefore Britain would likely leave the EU without any agreed terms (i.e. WTO). The result of this on the British economy is likely to be catastrophic, with the Conservative government getting the blame.
If May continues to procrastinate (as expected) and fails to reach an agreement on a transitional deal with the EU, the Tories will do badly in the local elections in May. This is likely to precipitate a leadership challenge and a new (radical) leader. Therefore Britain would likely leave the EU without any agreed terms (i.e. WTO). The result of this on the British economy is likely to be catastrophic, with the Conservative government getting the blame.
If May continues to procrastinate (as expected), fails to reach an agreement on a transitional deal with the EU, but the Tories don't challenge her leadership, then May will continue through the rest of the Brexit process until next year, when she can then be safely replaced and any mess can be blamed on her. The difficulty this would bring, and the likelihood of leaving the EU without a deal before March 2019, is that the Conservative Party's inner contradictions on Britain's future may well reach a point of detonation.
A last option (for the sake of brevity I've reduced them to four) is that the government somehow falls completely later on this year as a result of an impasse in the talks with the EU, or the government being forced to make a choice on Brexit that is simply impossible for some parliamentarians to accept; they would rather Labour take the heat for any future Brexit fall-out than themselves.

With the clock ticking, the EU will soon force the government to choose, or the EU will choose for it. If the government chooses a "soft" of "hard" Brexit (which will be indicated by how the transition talks pan out), it will anger one of the sides of its party, as just said. If the government doesn't decide, the EU will assume that the UK wants a "hard" Brexit, for the lack of receiving any other instruction from London. Ditto result for the Conservative Party.

Put it these terms, the Conservative government is quickly running out of time. They will face their fate, regardless of what they say or do. It is unavoidable. For now, they are running around like headless chickens, talking about Brexit "blue sky" thinking for how to make their contradictory and nonsensical ideas become a reality.
But Brussels will give the hammer blow of reality to the Conservative government sooner or later. What will be the state of the Conservative Party after that is anyone's guess. This fatalistic "end of days" narrative that seems to apply to the Tories reminds me of an article I wrote several years ago about the film "The Dark Knight Rises" and the psychology of the antagonist, Bane: it feels as though the Tories are in hock to their own ideological "league of shadows" - the "radical" Brexiteers - who are hell-bent on completely severing Britain's relationship with Europe, regardless of its impact on Britain or even their own party.
The looming threat of "hard Brexit" (like in the plot of "The Dark Knight Rises") feels a lot like the slow countdown of an economic time-bomb; the radical Brexiteers are either blindly-ignorant to this fate, or seem to implicitly welcome it, for their own reasons. "Hard Brexit" seems as the economic equivalent to Gotham's nuclear bomb, where the only people who hope for "zero hour" are the ones that either hope to get rich from Britain's carcass, or have a violent, millennarian agenda that requires the collapse of British society.
In this real-life "Gothic tale", the only saviour seems to come from the voices of the sane, who are being ignored.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Theresa May: Britain's worst Prime Minister?

The title of Britain's worst Prime Minister must have a number of contenders, but for the sake of contemporary relevance, Theresa May has few rivals in living memory to compare with. David Cameron's tenure in office ended in being defeated by his own vanity; in the EU referendum, gambling one time too many that he could predict and manipulate the political weather for his own benefit. His time in office was therefore an exemplar in the use of vain posturing and low politics that covered his own shallow sense of morality. His term as Prime Minister achieved little of real substance, except for his "austerity agenda" setting up his successor with a plethora of mounting domestic problems (economic and social), and the self-inflicted mess of Brexit.
The author has said before how Theresa May was dealt a poor hand when she succeeded, so anyone would have struggled. With hindsight, it is now painfully apparent that Theresa May was perhaps the  person in Cameron's senior cabinet least psychologically and intellectually qualified to deal with the issues at her door. She is a prime example of an utter mediocrity who has risen far above her station, and is now holding her office simply for the convenience of her party.


If the definition of the Prime Minister's role is to deal with the nation's problems and make decisions, then Theresa May is by definition failing to carry out her constitutional duties. As wonderfully satirized by John Crace, "there’s hardly a part of the country that isn’t falling apart around the prime minister’s ears as she devotes all her attention to doing nothing about Brexit" . 
Crace sums up the situation succinctly. Week by week, aspects of life in Britain take on elements of Gothic Horror: hospitals unable to cope while they also face mounting staffing problems; the education system seemingly in slow meltdown as teachers leave in droves over the ever-mounting and soul-destroying work schedule, while many private academies are facing their own financial apocalypse; some local councils now facing the very real threat of insolvency due to government-imposed austerity; an economy that provides only poverty-level work for many, leaving thousands in malnutrition and struggling to pay the bills; a housing market that works more like a Ponzi scheme for the rich, while leaving everyone else struggling to pay for ever-rising rents in (often unsafe) housing. And then there's the homelessness epidemic that is a result of much of the above.

All these problems, and countless other social issues, are going unaddressed while the Prime Minister is supposed to be dealing (but not dealing) with Brexit. While the fact that she now presides over a minority government she helped create doesn't help, this doesn't mean the government is incapable of action. On the contrary, a more pro-active and forward-thinking Prime Minister would take the opportunity to work with the opposite bench in parliament to get legislation through, in the manner of a "national government". This has happened in the past, as it is necessary for any minority government to function in a meaningful way. But she is psychologically and intellectually incapable of doing this (more on that later).
As her role in Downing Street seems to be simply to hold her party together long enough to see Brexit through - by the end of March next year - everything else becomes neglected, even critical decisions on Brexit itself. Because her party and her cabinet is irrevocably divided on Brexit and the desired outcome, May can do nothing but make pointless, superficial noises on the issue that are in reality meaningless. In this sense, she is the helpless adjudicator in an ideological coalition of incompatible ideas. If she seems to veer too close to the "softer" side of Brexit, the "hard" Brexiteers rein her back. If she veers too close to the "hard" end of the spectrum, those at the other end make their own "noises off". So far, hers is a government by procrastination and indecision, incapable of making a decision.
And because of the lack of any real decision-making, the UK may still end up leaving the EU next year without any real deal at all and no meaningful transition. The indecision is also causing the country's business leaders to seriously wonder about the future of the British economy. It's no wonder that in receiving no words to the positive from London, the EU is drawing up its own plans. The only place to get sane council on Brexit these days is in Brussels. 


The other problem with May is that on the rare occasions she is decisive, she seems heartless.

When it comes to Brexit issues such as EU citizens rights and migration, her former role as Home Secretary seems to colour (or more accurately, tarnish) her outlook: keen to reduce immigration regardless of its human impact, she seems willing to use EU citizens as "hostages" in the negotiation, threatening to withdraw their rights after March 2019. Apart from the psychological toll this would have on the millions of Europeans in the UK, it demonstrates how little thought she has given to its real impact on millions of families. Then there are the draconian methods used by the Home Office to detain and deport EU migrants currently, effectively persecuting them for being unable to make an economic success of their life in the UK.
Apart from Brexit issues, there are the already-mentioned domestic issues that May is making worse, not only through her inept inaction, but also through her stubbornly-myopic view of politics. Her background as a provincial (insular?) Home Counties vicar's daughter seems to play a part in this, being incapable of seeing the many problems of other parts of society, except at the most superficial and prejudicial level. Margaret Thatcher seemed to have a similar problem (and with, in some ways, a similarly-provincial mindset). But Theresa May takes this lack of empathy to a different level of indifference: while Thatcher's indifference might have been explained by a form of intellectual detachment, May's indifference seems to come from a more deep-seated psychological insecurity, where she dresses up her own sense of inadequacy in an unbending persona of rigid orthodoxy. This also explains why her instincts are reactionary and authoritarian.
This also further explains why she struggles to look human at times, and why she struggles to understand the problems of people she can't relate to. In times like this, when under attack for her perceived lack of humanity, her instinct is to become psychologically abusive and mean-spirited. As seen in her recent attacks on Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs, she laid into the NHS problems in "Labour Wales" and the policing problems in "Labour London", even though her government is ultimately responsible for cutting the funding to both.


Another form of May's failure is her long record of incompetence and political short-termism.

The earlier example of May's commitment to restricting the rights of EU citizens in Britain after March 2019 is also an example of her insular thinking: by restricting the rights of Europeans in Britain, it forces the EU to restrict the rights for Brits living and working in the EU. So May's thinking is both counter-productive and thoughtless.
This pattern continues to her stubborn insistence on Britain leaving the single market and the customs union, which anyone with a semblance of understanding of the practicalities would know it meant the British economy quickly falling apart without any replacement systems in place. But again, apart from her failure to grasp even the basics on many issues, from the economy to social issues, she is only able to think one step at a time, incapable of longer-term or three-dimensional thinking.
This form of political short-termism has plagued government and the economy for years, but Theresa May seems to encapsulate the problem completely. Her job is to keep her party in government long enough to complete Brexit; what happens to the country in the meantime or afterwards seems irrelevant.
Incapable of thinking two steps ahead of the game, she is constantly being manipulated into doing whatever the person with the loudest voice at that moment (usually a Brexiteer) has to say. As said earlier, her minority government was her own fault, but as she is intellectually incapable of any forward thinking, it also means she is incapable of knowing how to work with the opposition to get anything done in parliament. Even on Brexit, the one thing she is meant to be focused on, she is incapable of getting opposing sides to work together and reach a sane compromise. As far as she is concerned, the opposition is the opposition, and working with them, even in the national interest, would be anathema. Better that the country go to the dogs than let the opposition get a sniff of power, so it would appear.

For all these reasons, Theresa May makes a strong case for Britain's worst Prime Minister. The fact that she is running the country (at least on paper) during the most diplomatically-intractable time the country has had since the Second World War, which will have long-term consequences for the country's future, is appalling.