June 30th, 2016 by Roger Darlington
This has been the most tumultuous week in British politics in my lifetime. On a large turnout but by a small margin, the electorate voted for Britain to leave the European Union. I still can’t quite believe that this will happen but I have no idea how it will not.
Meanwhile political careers are falling like dead bodies. David Cameron expected to remain Prime Minister and has had to announce his resignation. Boris Johnson expected to become Prime Minister and will not even be a candidate for the Conservative Party leadership; and then there is Jeremy Corbyn …
I have never been a Corbyn supporter. As a Labour Party member, he was the bottom of the four candidates when I voted in the leadership election last summer. I expected him to be a disaster and so it has proved. He is not primarily to blame for the terrible Brexit decision (that would be Cameron) , but the verdict by Alan Johnson – my former boss at the CWU – is just the latest, if perhaps the most serious, of the many, many justifiable charges against him.
Seven months ago, I did a blog posting about Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party entitled “The growing despair of a Labour loyalist”. It attracted a number of comments and, in response to one, I in turn commented:
“Corbyn was elected on the first ballot in a large turn out in a democratic party election. Labour MPs cannot – and dare not – ignore this mandate.
Whatever i think about Corbyn’s politics and policies, I think that he is an honourable man and that sooner or later he will realise that he is not the person to lead the Labour Party to victory and do the honourable thing.
When Corbyn was first elected, I thought that this process would take two or even three years before sanity prevailed. But, every week now, I fear that there is no way we can wait that long or that events will take that long.”
This week, over 60 Labour MPs have resigned from the Front Bench, but still Corbyn remains leader. The Parliamentary Labour Party carried a vote of no confidence in him by 172 votes to 40, but Corbyn is still there. Now Angela Eagle is on the verge of mounting a leadership challenge – and still he is there.
But I remain confident that my assessment of seven months ago holds true. He will step down – and soon. Then the real work of rebuilding the credibility of the Labour Party begins.
June 28th, 2016 by Roger Darlington
In Britain, we are about to see a new leader of the Conservative Party which means a new Prime Minister. Some months later, we might have a general election which could conceivably result in yet another Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, in sunny Spain, they had an election in December when the Prime Minister’s party won the largest number of seats but not an overall majority. For six months, he served as merely the caretaker head of government while he tried and failed to form a coalition with a majority of seats in the Cortes.
This weekend, Spain had another general election which was a near rerun of the previous one. The current Prime Minister’s party gained some seats but still fell short of an overall majority. Now another round of coalition negotiations will take place …
You can read my essay on the Spanish political system here.
June 27th, 2016 by Roger Darlington
On 23 June, there was a referendum on the issue of UK membership of the European Union and the shock waves are rippling through every corner of British politics and the British economy.
On a turnout of 71.8% (the highest turnout in a UK-wide vote since the 1992 general election), 51.9% voted for the UK to leave the EU and 48.1% to remain in it.
The British Government will now have to use Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon to give notice of the nation’s intended withdrawal from the EU and there is a period of up to two years for negotiations on the future relationship between the UK and the EU. The Article has only been in force since late 2009 and it has not been tested yet, so no-one really knows how the Brexit (British exit) process will work.
There’s the full text of Article 50, together with a discussion of how it might or might not be activated, here.
June 26th, 2016 by Roger Darlington
This small, independent film was released at the same time as the “Independence Day” Resurgence” blockbuster, so the chances are that you haven’t heard to it. But this is a rare movie that is written and directed by a woman and has women in the two leading roles.
It’s funny and moving and I recommend it. You can read my review here.
June 26th, 2016 by Roger Darlington
Twenty years ago, it looked as if the world had defeated an alien invasion. But you know how persistent immigrants are. We should have built a wall.
Now they’re back. Can we defeat then again? I won’t reveal the ending of the movie, but you can read my non-spoiler review here.
June 25th, 2016 by Roger Darlington
“A quick note on the first three tragedies.
Firstly, it was the working classes who voted for us to leave because they were economically disregarded, and it is they who will suffer the most in the short term. They have merely swapped one distant and unreachable elite for another.
Secondly, the younger generation has lost the right to live and work in 27 other countries. We will never know the full extent of the lost opportunities, friendships, marriages and experiences we will be denied. Freedom of movement was taken away by our parents, uncles, and grandparents in a parting blow to a generation that was already drowning in the debts of our predecessors.
Thirdly and perhaps most significantly, we now live in a post-factual democracy. When the facts met the myths they were as useless as bullets bouncing off the bodies of aliens in a HG Wells novel. When Michael Gove said, ‘The British people are sick of experts,’ he was right. But can anybody tell me the last time a prevailing culture of anti-intellectualism has led to anything other than bigotry?”
— Nicholas on the “Financial Times” web site
(This comment has gone viral on Twitter.)
June 24th, 2016 by Roger Darlington
Yesterday, I voted in a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. I voted to remain in the EU – as I did in the referendum of 1975. We now know the result.
On a turnout of 71.8% (the highest turnout in a UK-wide vote since the 1992 general election), 51.9% voted for us to leave the EU and 48.1% to remain in it. Some reactions – on stock exchanges and currency markets for instance – were immediate, but the full implications will take weeks, months. years, indeed decades to unfold and with affect not just Britain, but the rest of Europe and indeed the world economy.
Sadly the conduct of the referendum campaign and the results of the actual voting reveal deep divisions in British society.
We are divided in national terms – outside of London (where I live), much of England and Wales voted to leave, whereas Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to stay with serious implications for the Irish peace process and Scottish independence respectively.
We are divided in age terms – the younger the voter, the more likely he or she voted to remain, but the older the more likely he or she voted to leave in a very stark age profile.
We are divided in economic terms – most middle-class voters did not feel threatened by immigration and have coped with the challenges of free trade, but working class voters are really worried by immigration and globalisation and voted against the views of almost all establishment figures.
We are divided in political terms – the Conservative Party will soon have a new leader which will mean a new Prime Minister and a new Government with a significant shift to the Right, while many in the Labour Party will feel that the lukewarm support for EU membership from Jeremy Corbyn further calls into doubt his capacity to lead the party and the nation.
Later on, I will try to be my usual optimistic self. But today I feel shocked and saddened and I see this very unfortunate result as part of a wider crisis in our older democracies which I have written about here.
June 22nd, 2016 by Roger Darlington
The answer is a mind-numbing 93,000 trillion calculations per second.
The computer that can do this is the Sunway TaihuLight which is installed at the National Supercomputing Centre in Wuxi in China. You can learn more here.
June 21st, 2016 by Roger Darlington
At last, I’ve read the best-selling novel “The Girl On The Train” by British author Paula Hawkins. It’s a very readable thriller with women as the main characters and more than a few twists. You can read my review here and you should look out for the film with Emily Blunt which will be released on 7 October.
June 20th, 2016 by Roger Darlington
Technically, today is the start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere as explained in this short note. But it seems that nobody told the weather. Here in London, we have grey skies and heavy rain and a temperature of 15C.
On Thursday, the UK holds a referendum to decide whether the country will remain a member of the European Union or leave. Although the overwhelming majority of senior politicians, business leaders, trade union leaders, and economists favour membership – as I do – the result currently looks too close to call.
It’s my birthday two days after the referendum. Boy, it’s going to be quite a week.