1 December 2019
The election draws closer, with Boris Johnson bottling out of interviews and debates in case he comes over as even more of a bumbling idiot than he is though he did apparently spend some time shouting over Andrew Marr’s questions this morning (rumour has it he’s too frightened to be interviewed by Andrew Neil). Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn condemns but refuses to apologise for anti-semitic remarks by members of his party. (Why not just apologise for heaven’s sake?)
One of these is going to be our next prime minister – let’s hope they don’t get a majority. And wouldn’t it be great if Johnson lost his seat!
At Thursday’s leaders’ debate on Channel 4, Johnson was represented by a block of ice that told fewer lies than he normally does and, still in character, ended up as a puddle on the floor. The website https://boris-johnson-lies.com/ gives some examples of how he fabricates, twists and bends the facts and, of course, his father believes the great unwashed couldn’t even spell Pinockio – how patrenizing!
We’re lucky in East Devon to have a brilliant independent candidate who is seen as such a threat to the Conservatives that we’ve now had two brochures and two ‘letters’ purporting to be from Boris Johnson himself urging us to vote for the only candidate who doesn’t live in the constituency, and the Independent’s poster on our wall was torn off last night.
The manifestos of the two parties who could win are radically different but both have been rubbished by the Institute for Fiscal Studies: they say Tory plans would still leave expenditure on public services, excluding health, 14% lower in 2023/4 than it was in 2010/11 when they came to power, and Labour plans overestimate their ability to raise the money they need to pay for their plans. The IFS research also shows that crashing out of the EU next year would increase the national debt to more than £220bn over the next five years, equivalent to an extra £8,000 of debt per household.
The Conservatives are promising things like hiring 50,000 extra nurses while, in fact, 19,000 of them are already employed by the NHS and it was the Conservatives who abolished bursaries for nursing students in 2016 anyway; and building 40 new hospitals which is (let’s be generous) misleading; they’re also promising to increase police numbers back to what they were before they came to power in 2010 and slashed everything in sight but, luckily, the rich won’t have to pay for it because there’s a magic money tree. In the shadow of Yggdrasil perhaps? Oh, and they’re promising to fill some of the 5,000 holes in Blackburn Lancashire.
Labour are promising much more expenditure on public services and have grasped the fact that they will need to increase taxes to pay for it. However, even their public spending plans are still modest by the standard of the more advance European countries.
No wonder John Major’s deputy prime minister is now telling people to vote for a LibDem or Independent candidate – he said “They represent the best chance I can see for stopping the enormous self-harm of Brexit”.
When a friend and I were talking last week about alternative electoral systems, he suggested that we should have (and I simplify here) ‘up’ and ‘down’ votes on each ballot paper. The winner would be the candidate with the highest number of ‘up’ votes after all the ‘down’ votes had been deducted or, if they all ended up with negative scores, the one with the lowest negative score. I really like this idea, particularly since you could argue that, if they all ended up with negative scores, you should start the process again with different candidates.
There’s even been a battle for Twit of the Week. Michael Gove’s attempts to rap a reply to Stormzy by quoting from a rap of his were demolished by a tweet from @Duggs_Bunny saying “Congrats, you’ve found the Twitter equivalent of blackface”; and Donald Trump’s posting an airbrushed picture of his face on Rocky’s torso, with no caption or explanation.
(The lyrics of Stormzy’s rap that Gove borrowed also include the lines “Mention my name in your tweets / Oi rudeboy, shut up / How can you be better than me?” but Gove forgot to include these.)
The saddest news of the week was that two of Britain’s greatest polymaths, Clive James and Jonathan Miller, died.
There was also another terror attack in London that left two people and the murderer dead but this week’s kindness (well, selfless bravery really) was demonstrated by three people who restrained the attacker.
I’m in London on Tuesday and Wednesday next week so, if there’s no email from me next Sunday, it’s not because I got stabbed but because I bumped into Juliette Binoche and brought her home so we can practise our French.
A la semaine prochaine. Peut être.