Follow the reluctant adventures in the life of a Welsh astrophysicist sent around the world for some reason, wherein I photograph potatoes and destroy galaxies in the name of science. And don't forget about my website, www.rhysy.net



Monday, 12 June 2017

Don't Worry, Everything Is Still Awful


Just before the election I wrote about how awful the UK political situation is. Four days later and nothing much has changed. If you're a Tory supporter, I'm afraid you're in a bad way. There isn't much I can offer to console you, except that for now, you've won. It's a bad win though, and very likely a Pyrrhic victory. Sorry about that. Actually, I might have been sorry with Cameron's government in charge, if only a little bit. But with May and her vicious screaming horde ? Not so much really, I was lying about that. Sorry. Actually that was a lie too. Sorry.

If you're anyone else (except for a few hard-right fringe parties) then I'm afraid, well, first of all...


The good news is that May is not long for this political world. May, as we've seen with increasing frequency in the last few weeks, is not a creature that does well under pressure. She has a habit of turning into a robot and giving wildly inappropriate answers to questions; not everything is about being strong and stable and very little of anything is about running through fields of wheat. Oh, she likes to talk tough, but actually being tough means giving sensible answers under pressure, not merely being able to deliver stock phrases without bursting into tears. That's just not good enough.

Pressure on May is about to increase dramatically. It's already ramped up because of the loss of the Tory majority. And as I said some time back, May called the election not merely out of opportunism, but out of desperate opportunism. She couldn't cope with the pressures of the reality of Brexit and the threat of indyref2 so instead of trying to negotiate her way out of it - the sign of a truly tough character - she went the way of the desperate and rolled the dice.

With strange irony, the election has indeed (unexpectedly) removed the threat of indyref2 - but it hasn't helped ease the pressure on May at all. Her slim majority has gone completely. This wouldn't necessarily be so bad except that the whole election campaign revolved around being "strong and stable"* and the farcical notion that the stronger the mandate of the UK PM to govern the UK, the better deal we'd get in a Brexit negotiation. Quite how that was ever supposed to work escapes me. And worse, virtually all of the other parties are now firmly opposed both to Tory ideologies - not merely policies but the deeper perception of what it is the Tories actually want - and May's personal dictatorial "strong and stable" style.

* May, they say, is a prisoner of number 10. Who's her jailer ? Easy : herself. She's a victim of her own sloganeering, constrained by her promise to be strong and stable when what's needed is to be intelligent and flexible.

That leaves the DUP, a bunch of awful people that no-one's ever heard of  - and those that have heard of them rightly detest them. Even May, horrid character though she is, is only trying to deal with them because she has no choice. It may sound strange to suggest that a deal with the Tories and these archaic lunatics is a good thing for modern progressives, but it is. Everyone instantly hates the DUP, and already they're not kowtowing to the Tory machine as expected. May is a lousy negotiator and always has been.

Furthermore, if you're worried about the damage the DUP will do to British politics, don't be. Brexit succeeded only (in part) because there had been years (decades, even) of widespread far-right anti-foreigner rhetoric in the popular press. But climate change denial or promoting creationism ? There's no appetite for that. The worst they'll do is generate a debate in Parliament, and we'll quickly find that virtually everyone is opposed to their assorted insanities. Their policies have no support, and nothing will come of nothing. They are toothless non-entities*. All they'll do is make the Tories much more unpopular.

* Just for good measure, it seems that they won't be able to vote on most issues because of the recent decision on English Votes for English Laws, though this needs to be verified.

And then the Brexit negotiations start, wheee ! Or at least they're supposed to. If they're delayed then that further weakens May, ratcheting up the pressure. If they're not delayed than we still go into them with a bunch of undiplomatic morons in charge who think that diplomacy is about being "strong and stable" for some reason, only now we'll do so with far greater doubts that even the crazy British public actually want the hard Brexit that May loves so much. Again, ratcheting up the pressure. Compared to dealing with the tiny bunch of lunatics that constitute the DUP, dealing with the large and largely sane group of leaders of 27 other countries is going to be way, way, way more difficult.

May's going to break, whatever she says. My guess is sooner rather than later - certainly long before the DUP have any chance to destabilise the peace process. That situation is a self-limiting problem by virtue of its sheer awfulness. I hope you enjoyed that comforting message, for alas...


Everything I've said about Corbyn remains true and is even reinforced. Declaring that you're "the real winner" of the election doesn't make it true, any more than May's repeated professions of certainty and stability make them true. Moral winner ? Maybe. But you want to actually form a government ? Well when you and all the other parties combined still don't have enough to reach a majority, that's cute.

Doing better than expected doesn't equate to doing well. Labour lost this election and lost it badly. Yes, they gained seats. Yes, that gain was even respectable - but it was still, ultimately, modest. Cheering in celebration is plainly ridiculous. In any other situation the leader would have apologised and resigned. Guess what ? Exactly as I bloody well told you would happen, Corbyn won't go. He sees every minor gain as a resounding endorsement of his ideologies and simply ignores every setback no matter how difficult.

Nor does any deal with the DUP somehow exonerate New New Labour's links with the IRA. It makes the Tories hypocrites, yes. But it doesn't magically make it OK to hang out with your terrorist pals you blithering idiots - it just means everyone is equally awful. Or perhaps not equal, since the allegations against the Corbynites go back a long time and are somewhat personal, whereas the Tories are accused of doing a deal because they have no choice.

I know many of you would like to believe that Corbyn is a basically decent chap who's misunderstood, misrepresented by the media and occasionally makes a bit of a blunder. But he isn't. His mistakes are chronic and follow a predictable pattern : going on the warpath when threatened then doing absolutely nothing when secure; pig-headed stubbornness; a near-total refusal to admit mistakes and a total inability to compromise. Not to mention a complete blindness as to the importance of the biggest political issue of the day, an unbelievably sanctimonious attitude and far too many friends who seem like a toxic mixture of the stupid and the evil.

See, I would love to believe that Corbyn really is taking Labour in a bold "new" direction back to the 1970's. Or rather, I'd love to believe that Corbyn's New New Labour would really deliver a strategy that makes a real, significant difference to the poor and lower earners and just be a generally good thing. I would love to believe that cancelling Trident would magically make the world a better place. And I would really, really, really love to be wrong about Corbyn and his acolytes, I really would.

But being anti-establishment isn't automatically a virtue. And attacks from the Tories are not automatically wrong. The thing about science is - and I've said this bajillions of time - we try to attack results that agree with what we expected. Confirmation bias is very well known : not only do you criticise things you don't like more strongly, but you also don't criticise things you want to be true. Individual scientists don't always do that, but the scientific collective is pretty efficient at finding problems. Sometimes it takes a while to be noticed, but there's almost always someone prepared to say "nope".


Science doesn't have partisan elements, though for sure academia does. Politics, on the other hand, is almost entirely driven by partisanship and tribalism; bias runs rampant with barely any consideration for plausibility. So I implore you, for all the good it will do, forget what you want to be true and consider what might actually be true. Honestly, if Corbyn was a Tory, most of my readers would be demonising the hell* out of him right now.

* Makes sense, right ?


Prediction is a fool's game in politics, so here goes. May will quit, probably within 1-2 months, 3-4 maximum. I doubt she'll be forced out - the reason we didn't see any credible Tory figures at the last election contest was because they know how screwed we are thanks to Brexit, and fully realise that the premiership would not be a chance for glory right now. No, May will go because she'll break under pressure, and we'll get someone else of comparable idiocy to May instead. None of the saner Tories will step up to the gallows right now.

Corbyn won't quit because he too is a bloody fool who doesn't understand that being PM will neither be good for him or the country. Could he win the next election if May does quit ? I wouldn't assume so despite recent polls - Labour still have a mountain to climb. But if he does, then a lot of people are going to find out quite quickly just what a colossal mistake they've made. Disillusionment is going to be much bigger and more rapid than with Blair, as they realise that Corbyn's cabinet have neither the skills nor the motivation to actually enact any of their promises, much less any way to find the money to pay for everything.

And emerging from the cloudy fog of British politics comes the sea-cliff of Brexit; not one we'll fall off but one we'll crash headlong into, the ship of state dashed against the stony rocks of contempt for reasoned arguments as we're held in the grip of the ideologies of well-meaning intentions. Corbyn has shown great strength and stability in resolutely not caring about Brexit; May at least realised the seriousness of situation - Corbyn is either too stupid not to understand what's happening or simply doesn't care. All those arguments we've heard about the dangers of Brexit - like it or not, they're still there. All the election has done is made us all ignore them for a while and live in the happy cloud cuckoo land of blissful ignorance where we pretend it doesn't really matter. Well it does matter, and having an apathetic idiot at the helm is not going to end well.

A Corbyn administration will be an absolute farce, far, far worse than the current government because it will be delivered not on a message of dreadfully dull stability and competence, but renewal and hope. Corbynites are going to have their dreams shattered. If the Tories are playing with fire by getting into bed* with the DUP, then Labour are in no better shape by playing with the fires of Marxism.

* Pro tip : don't play with fire in bed.

So take heart, people - everything is still awful, and it shows no signs of getting better anytime soon. We aren't even going to get a halfway competent Tory, let alone a sensible Labour leader. One way or another, we're just going to keep getting screwed.

(Possible escape route ? It's just possible that the Tories might have a sudden flash of intelligence and realise that, since the country didn't vote for a hard Brexit, they should elect a more intelligent, competent Remainer who would at least understand that diplomacy is about more than carrying a big stick. Such a person could destroy Corbyn without much difficulty. As for Labour I'm seeing less room for optimism - when they come to their senses they'll realise that since Corbyn is an unmovable despot, they'll have no choice but to split. Eventually, something might emerge from the ashes, but it's a long dark road for Labour full of soul-searching and mixed metaphors. Woohoo.)

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