white and red flag

LACKING PANACHE-VILLE: The Final Presidential Debate


I’m not going to lie, I stocked up for last night’s debate.

The first Presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was so utterly, excruciatingly bad that I wanted to gouge my eyes out, stick hot pokers in my ears and never speak to anyone again. Essentially, it made me want to deliberately emulate that famous Japanese proverb through self-mutilation.

So I had a crate of beers and some hard liquor ready, just in case I needed to block out the reality that one of these two men was going to be the leader of the free world in around 3 weeks’ time.

But last night’s debate was different. Better, I think. But different.

For a start, the new debating rules introduced a “mute” button, which the new moderator, Kristen Welker, could use to silence a candidate who spoke out of turn. The threat of being humiliated by having their microphone turned off weighed heavily on both parties.

More so on Trump, I’d wager.

But through this mutually-assured destruction pact, the debate took a, and I use this word carefully, ‘softer’ tone, and was actually more of a debate than a pissing contest. For policy wonks and politics aficionados like me, it was actually pretty interesting, especially considering how low the bar has been set for political discourse recently, both at home and across the pond.

In the end, however, it was probably pretty all completely irrelevant.


UNNECESSARY EVILS

To sum up the context of this debate, 30% of all Americans have already voted. According to opinion polls (yes, previously as accurate as a dog playing darts but significantly improved since), only around 8% of the American electorate are yet to make up their minds on who to vote for.

And the reality is that debates are held to sway the minds of voters. If a lifelong Democrat watched that debate, they’d vote for Biden. If a lifelong Republican watched that debate, they’d probably vote for Trump. And those Republicans that have run out of rope with Trump are already way over the horizon, much like our daylight at 6.30pm now that summer has gone.

I spent most of this summer stuck in a one-man flat, unable to see more than 5 other people at a time. What a year.

Anyway, this debate, this time hosted in Nashville, Tennesse, had to be a knockout blow for either candidate in order to sway the hearts and minds of the voters, or, at the very least, sow some serious doubts in the minds of opposition voters about their preferred candidates.

It did not do that.

Both candidates deserve credit for improved performances. Trump was largely respectful of both Biden and Welker, although this frayed towards the end. Biden seemed less like a crotchety grandpa shouting at radiators and made some good, salient points, although he had a weak twenty minutes in the middle of the debate.

Essentially, both candidates were prepped heavily by their staffers on how to come across and both just about fulfilled their briefs. It was a debate, not a screaming match, but it gave us nothing new.

Am I regretting my decision to stay up until 5am watching and then writing about it, though?

Yes. Yes I am.


TAKING DEBATE

While the tone of the debate was markedly different from the first, many of the same topics resurfaced. The first topic, unsurprisingly, was COVID-19, where Biden landed some good hits on Trump’s handling of the epidemic. Trump contradicted himself, refuted quotes that he himself had made earlier in the week, and generally sounded like he was completely clueless as to how to handle the situation.

Biden, by contrast, gave clear, unequivocal answers to what his plans for handling the pandemic were. The slightly worrying issue underlying this is that Biden’s answers were pragmatic but pessimistic. Trump gave no clear evidence of knowing what was happening (“We’re gonna have a vaccine in the next few weeks.” “Can you promise that?” “I can’t promise that,”) but used his rhetoric to give cause for optimism.

I don’t know about you, but if Jeremy Clarkson ran for Prime Minister tomorrow saying “I’ve got a cure, we all just have to suck on a tailpipe for 20 minutes, so everyone gets a free new exhaust and we’ll be done by Christmas”, I’d look twice. I am so utterly done with this virus that I’d probably sell a kidney just to not have to worry about it anymore.

So pity the poor folks in America who have it much worse (in many states, at least). Trump’s optimism is infectious in the face of all scientific, political and rational advice and it may yet ring true.

However, the rest of the topics of the debate were mostly won by Biden, if unconvincingly. Biden landed some good hits on Trump about his tax returns, offshore bank accounts, business dealings and all-round shadiness. This was particularly entertaining given that Trump had started the accusations himself, saying that Biden had taken millions of dollars from the Russians and the Chinese, despite there being no official evidence to back those claims.

Trump. God love ya boy, you do talk a load of utter bollocks.

But Trump still landed a few suckers of his own. Biden has good rhetoric on African-American rights and immigration, but Trump used facts and figures (I know, shock horror) about the two terms of the Obama/Biden administration to undermine Biden’s appeals.

“You had eight years, Joe. You did nothing. What makes these people think you’re gonna do anything now?”

It’s a generalisation and doesn’t begin to tell the whole story, but it is a good line of attack. Trump repeatedly called Biden “a politician”, emphasising his credentials as a businessman rather than a careerist in public affairs, and finally reignited the argument that was, to many Americans, part of his appeal in the first place.

That this line has come so late in the day, at such a nullified point in the campaign, is almost negligent.

But anyway. Some blows were landed, but no knockout blows. Except for one, by Trump, which was an absolute haymaker smashed straight into his own temple: he claimed that the only asylum-seekers who turn up for court hearings on their right to remain had, and I absolutely quote verbatim, “I hate to say this… Low IQs.”

Classy.


But this is the thing. It’s Trump. It’s expected. It’s not aimed at his base, and it doesn’t really matter. America has largely made up its mind already. Liberal-left city-dwellers are pretty uninspired by Biden but will vote for him anyway. Many Republicans might, too.

But you simply cannot underestimate Trump. We all did in 2016, and we know what happened next. Biden holds a commanding lead over him now, more so than Clinton did, but we just don’t know.

What we can probably assume is that the election was already decided long before this debate. We now just have to wait and see what happens.

For now, though, to bed. At last.

COMING SOON…

Between the Lines has been a passion project of mine ever since I started it, way back in the heady days of February 2019. Brexit was in the less-than-capable hands of Theresa May, Parliament was in civil war, and it all just seemed to be one big mess.

My God, what I wouldn’t give to be back there again. Compared to the harsh winds of COVID-19, Brexit feels like a warm summer’s breeze.

But we’re still exactly where we were when Between the Lines first started. A government that’s eroded all trust. A society divided. A political system in turmoil.

Understanding politics has never been more important.

So Between the Lines is back.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be constructing a database of easy-to-understand articles. These will explain everything you need to know about the British political system, our major political philosophies, and the pros and cons of all of them.

Balanced and unbiased, simple and straightforward.

If, like me, you think that politics should be understood by everyone, not just those who study it, then please do consider donating here:

Every donation, big or small, helps to develop our offering, advertise the site, and maybe, just maybe, help make Between the Lines what I dream of it being one day: an education pack, given to schools for free, so that everyone understands the society we live in and how to make it better.

You can’t win an argument by refusing to listen to the other side of it. A shared understanding is vital to a functioning democracy, even when you fundamentally disagree with another’s views.

That is Between the Lines’ mission: to make politics a debate, not a cock-fight.

I hope you’ll join us for the journey.

Matt Underhill, Founder and Editor

brass bell

A-Starm Bells Are Ringing


The gloves are off.

Sir Keir Starmer, Leader of the Opposition and leader of the Labour Party, has come across as measured, competent and dull over the course of the pandemic, according to opinion polls.

For those who despair at the Johnson government’s handling of the crisis, this might not be such a bad thing. Better a boring safe pair of hands than an exciting game of keepy-uppy with a glass ball full of nitroglycerin. But Starmer has played his cards close to his chest, scrutinising government policy without giving any suggestions of his own.

Today, that changed – Starmer gave a press conference distancing himself from the government’s new “three-tier” system and instead called for a two-week national lockdown as a “circuit breaker.”

So, one on side we have what sounds temptingly like a wedding cake and on the other we have what sounds like something you put in your car after the windscreen wipers get stuck on full blast.

What is happening? What does it all mean? Why is it important?

Let’s try to break it down.

NB: I would like to serve immediate (and legally-binding, hopefully) notice that I am not an expert on coronavirus. I’m not even an expert in the Inglesh language. This article is meant to be informative, but will not give the whole story. For full details on regulations, what you should do if you test positive, and other information, I urge you to visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ or https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus.


TIERS FOR FEARS

Yesterday, the government announced its three-tier system of restrictions in England to try and hamper the spread of the coronavirus. These are:

Medium alert: It’s quiet…

High alert: Too quiet…

Very high alert: OH GOD IT’S HERE OPEN FIRE *comms go dark*

As per every monster film from the 90s. They are, in reality, relatively simple.

Tier One, or medium-risk, is where most of us are now. This means current restrictions of 10pm curfew, rule of six, hands-face-space-race-brace, etc. etc. Tier Two means no indoor social meetings outside of your support bubble at all (in pubs, homes or anywhere else), and Tier Three means even stricter rules on where you can meet, if at all (specific measures are decided by local authorities).

Sounds rough, doesn’t it? Well, not rough enough, according to Jean Claude Van Tam, a leading member of the SAGE committee and epidemiologist. He explicitly said that the measures introduced by Johnson, himself looking depleted and sombre yesterday, would have little effect in stopping the coronavirus’ spread. Indeed, track and trace was only making a marginal difference, too, according to research papers released by SAGE.

So why is the government only dipping its toes into the murky lockdown waters? Fundamentally, the answer is: the economy. Another full lockdown could be catastrophic for small businesses and many others in the UK who are barely clinging on to solvency, or could be extremely expensive for a government that has spent unimagineable sums of money this year to prop up our ravaged economy.

…Despite just three years ago, the former leader famously saying, “There is no magic money tree.” That aged well, Theresa.

Look, it’s an almost impossible position for any government, let alone a Tory one. Do we cripple the economy, potentially putting tens of thousands of people out of work and decreasing their quality of life, potentially leading to long-term detrimental health effects? Or do we let the virus tear through our society, potentially causing our NHS to be overwhelmed and unable to focus on other, life-saving treatments for cancer and other illnesses?

Well, the government is trying to balance itself on this gossamer tightrope like a drunk panda.

But Starmer took a deep breath, picked a side, and plunged off the rope.


BREAKER BREAKER 1-9

Starmer held a press conference comprising solely of himself, Vicky Young (BBC), Robert Peston (ITV) and Kate McCann (Sky News), making it look like a particularly depressing am-dram production in a friend’s garage. But the soliloquy was more than just a ramble on midlife crises.

Starmer called out Boris Johnson for tacking away from the recommendations of his health advisors and recalled the government’s failure to manage the second wave of coronavirus. Not only that, he gave a clear and unequivocal policy at odds with the government’s, his first since taking charge of the Labour Party: a two or three-week national lockdown.

Starmer, and the wider Labour Party, have now positioned themselves as the party that “follows the science,” the buzzwords that flew out of Johnson and Matt Hancock’s mouths at every turn during the first national lockdown.

Incidentally, I realised the other day that ‘Matt Hancock’ can easily be turned into Cock-Hatt Man. It goes without saying that he shall be referred to as such henceforth.

So, while the government restrictions take shape, Starmer is now, officially, calling for more stringent measures. Starmer even addressed Johnson directly, saying that should he be worried about Tory rebellions blocking stricter measures, the Labour Party will give him the votes instead.

That one must have particularly stung. I imagine some muffled Latin expletives were heard by the Bobby outside the door to No. 10.


STARM-ALARM-ER DING DONG TIME

So what does this all mean? Why is it important?

Well, first and foremost, it’s probably going to play out as a very shrewd move by the Labour leader. Unfortunately, and desperately sadly, the statistics are headed invariably towards a large second spike. How large, we don’t know, but still – times are going to get tough again.

Which means that it is almost an inevitability that we will need a full national lockdown again sooner or later. And, when we come to it, many scientific voices will say that it should have come sooner, as they already are:

And Starmer will be the one who called it, way back on October the 13th. And, compared to the chaos in the heart of the Tory party, he will start to look like the UK’s salvation.

Johnson’s nightmare is only just beginning. This evening, he’s seen 42 Tory MPs vote against the controversial 10pm curfew, many of whom are new MPs from the former “Red Wall” seats in the North and Midlands. This is a shot across the bow – 42 rebels tonight could give confidence to others moving forward.

And, in the last few minutes, he has seen a member of the government resign over the effect of local lockdowns in Bolton:

Starmer has drawn a line in the sand, decisively moving away from the “scrutinise but support” strategy he previously followed. He now has a united party, on the key issue of the day, facing down a government that is horrifically divided.

Whatever happens politically, we can only hope that whatever decisions are made next are made quickly and correctly.

It won’t just be Johnson’s political life on the line if they aren’t. It’ll be the real lives of thousands of people, too.

stickers with i voted inscription and flag of usa

Fly-ce Presidential Debate


Another week, another bout of insomnia, another debate. And good Lord almighty, what a week it’s been for President Trump and his inner circle.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m avoiding writing about British politics at the moment. Perhaps it’s because the weather’s changed and the air feels quite ominous. Perhaps it’s because the coronavirus fiasco is almost too much to bear when it’s on your doorstep.

But I think it’s because, in the US, the wind does seem to be starting to blow in a different direction. From the polling statistics, Joe Biden holds a not-insignificant lead over Captain Tangerine, and polling has become far more advanced since the charmingly-naïve days of predicting clear victories for both Clinton and Remain. It seems as though the American people are starting to see Trump for what he is. He has undoubtedly put a shot in the arm of the US economy, but even that will probably turn out to be bleach, as he’s famously keen to explore.

But he is, and remains, a white-supremacist apologist, a bigot, and a blabbermouthed sack of orange pulp topped with labradoodle fluff. One who’s managed to infect the entire White House with coronavirus too, it seems.

And don’t get me wrong, Joe Biden is about as inspiring a candidate as a plate of granola without the milk (and he looks a bit like a plate of granola without the milk, too). But last night’s debate saw Kamala Harris, a female, mixed-race, second-generation immigrant, take to the debating stand as his candidate for VP.

Given that Biden is 77, the choice of VP has never been more important. Thankfully, Harris came across as compassionate, likeable and competent in a debate that lacked all of the soul-crushing awfulness of last week’s, but lacked much in the way of anything, too.


Softly, Softly, Catchy Trumpy

It was clear from the get-go that the VP debate was going to have an extremely different tone to last week’s, which was less Presidential Debate than “fly-on-the-wall footage of two confused men in a geriatric ward throwing custard at one another.” Mike Pence is many things (such as anti-LGBT rights, anti-abortion, and anti-free healthcare, lol), but he is not Donald Trump. He made a point of showing respect to Harris, saying it was a “privilege” to be debating with her and, besides talking for far too long, showed little of the braggadocio of his President.

The Repulican press team had probably briefed him with four words: Don’t be like (f***ing) Trump.

As such, voices were measured and rules largely respected, but both did come out swinging. Harris called Trump’s handling of the coronavirus “the greatest failure of any presidential administration” in history. Pence said that the Democrats insinuation that the US was institutionally racist was “a great insult”.

Both sides avoided questions in less-than-convincing style, too. For instance, both refused to elaborate on any plans their parties had for succession, should either elderly Presidential candidate fall ill. Given the fact that the leader of the free world had been recently hospitalised, this seems like an appropriate time to discuss the matter.

But Pence swerved the question, and Harris used the opportunity to talk about her upbringing and how proud she was to be there. Not exactly illuminating.

But, in the end, it was what it was always going to be – a slightly boring, cagey debate where both sides stuck to the script and did or said little to set the world on fire. Pence claimed that the President had been open and transparent about the virus from day one, and that it was simply a matter of chance that he contracted it himself, drawing incredulous chuckles from Harris. Harris defended her time as being attorney general of California, during which time racial profiling actually increased under her watch.

Everything was as expected, really. And, dear reader, I’m not going to lie to you – at around 3am, I nodded off.

I wish I hadn’t, because I missed the birth of a new celebrity.


Blue-Bottled It

Mike Pence, at one point in the debate, attracted a visitor. A small, black fly.

These little critters usually only hang around corpses and actual excrement, so I will let you draw your own conclusions about Pence from there.

As you can imagine, the fly became an overnight superstar. Its Twitter page took off:

Investigative reporters realised that this fly had been in the democratic ointment before:

And, hot off the back of last week’s “Will You Shut Up, Man” t-shirts, the Biden campaign seized the opportunity to claim allegiance to the Muscoidean Machiavelli:

We now live in a world where two of the most important people in world politics are on-stage, debating one another, and the thing that gets people really talking is a common housefly.

Whoever wins the next election, don’t think that we don’t deserve them. We all do.


Trump Stakes Presidency On Show Of Strength

Look, I can’t really not talk about what happened last week. Trump, and his ever-loving wife Melania, both contracted COVID-19. Trump was taken to a military hospital, where he was given an experimental cocktail of drugs and steroids.

The comparisons with our own golden-haired gas-bag can’t be ignored – two populist leaders, for whom shows of strength are everything, both hospitalised as a result of their own bravado. Many of Johnson’s inner sanctum also had to isolate (including, of course, Bernard Castle and his old pal Dom), but the White House appears to be an all-out coronavirus hive.

It is widely believed that the virus spread at an event held in the Rose Garden celebrating Trump’s not-illegal-but-still-a-dick-move nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Not long after, Trump and Melania fell ill, as have a huge number of his wider entourage. While Trump was in hospital, his doctor and White House staffers repeatedly gave mixed messages about the President’s health. Some said that he was in very bad shape while others said he was basically already better, and his doctor gave conflicting timelines of Trump’s illness and diagnosis.

Essentially, with these clowns in charge, it’s not unreasonable to assume that Trump thought he probably had coronavirus and just cracked on anyway, infecting countless others around him.

What really took the biscuit, however, was his drive-by stunt. Still highly infectious and not even remotely recovered, Trump got in the back seat of an armoured limo and drove around the front of the hospital, waving at his supporters who had gathered out front to show solidarity.

This drew huge criticism from commentators across the entire political spectrum, not least because some poor souls from his security team had to be locked in an airtight vehicle with him. While this would be bad enough on another day, (I imagine he emenates a smell of burger farts and Trump-brand aftershave) Trump was still highly infectious. He essentially guaranteed these staffers would get the virus, or at the very least would have to self-isolate to prevent themselves from spreading it to others.

This wilful lack of compassion for his own employees is just the perfect demonstration of the type of man that Trump is – entitled, self-centred and unbelievably insecure. That he felt the need to endanger the lives of his own men for a press stunt is reprehensible.

But still. At least now the coronavirus has had a look at what it’s like to infect the very worst of humanity. Maybe it’ll rethink its strategy and just piss off.

Because, at this stage, I think that’s one thing we can all agree on – the coronavirus can absolutely do one.

abraham lincoln administration adult art

The US, Eh?


Occasionally, if there’s a lot on my mind, I go through short bouts of insomnia.

I say insomnia – it’s more being unable to sleep for more than three hours, lying in bed for what seems like eternity just letting random thoughts come and go at lightning speed.

I read once that if you can’t sleep, it’s better to try and engage with something until you really do feel tired and then have another go. Sometimes this will mean sticking on a podcast, sometimes reading a book, sometimes I put Night Shift on my iPhone and read memes until I’ve lost so many brain cells I can’t count to ten anymore.

Last night, as I lay in bed, rolling about and unable to sleep, I remembered that the first Presidential Debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was taking place. Given that my body wanted to start tap-dancing more than go to sleep, I thought I’d stick it on. Two old men arguing about politics – just my kind of sleep-inducing content.

I have watched a cat run onto an A-road and get run over three times in a row.

I would rather have watched that again than the debate.

My God, I would rather have been the cat.


Trump v Biden : The Cleveland Clusterf*ck

The backdrop to this first in a series of three Presidential debates had Biden in a strong(ish) position. The latest “Presidency-ending” calamity to befall the Trump administration was the discovery by the New York Times that Trump had paid just $750 a year in income tax during the first years of his Presidency.

Al Capone, eat your trilby.

On the back of the US’s abysmal COVID management, the neverending allegations of Trump’s ties with Russia, and especially Trump’s anti-Black Lives Matter rhetoric, this meant that Trump was the underdog going into the debate. Nearly all polls gave Biden a single-point national lead ahead of the Art of the Deal “author”.

Trump has little to no desire to talk about policy, but instead whips up nationalist rhetoric to aid his cause and give vigour to his supporters. His only goal last night was to get under Biden’s skin, make him show his age (Biden, 77, is older than John Major), and generally add that Trump sparkle to proceedings, which is to say: pour a big bag of hot turds all over it.

And by God did he.

The “debate” was excrutiating to watch. Trump, according to CBS news, tried to cut Biden off 73 times. The format, two uninterrupted minutes each followed by “open discussion” on each topic, was flatly ignored by Trump, who gaily kept weighing in to disrupt Biden with things you’d hear from the playground bully who’d been kicked in the head by a horse when they were little.

Chris Wallace, the moderator, had a torrid time. You could see the genuine panic in his eyes as he realised that he was having to shout down the President of the United States like he was a misbehaving child. Trump, in his indefatigably horrendous way, refused to let anyone’s voice but his be heard, and Wallace, despite his protestations, largely failed to shut the candyfloss-haired, cyst-in-a-suit up. Biden himself eventually snapped, saying “Will you shut up, man?”

Incidentally, because the world is now beyond the point of saving, this has now been made into a t-shirt.

It was an unedifying, incoherent and aggressive tyre-fire. And it was the first of three.

God have mercy.


Who “Won”?

Biden. Just. But that’s like saying he won a naked jelly-wrestling match because the other guy tripped over his own feet and drowned in the jelly. No-one came out of it with much dignity.

Biden started off shakily, clearly rattled by Trump’s bravado. He muddled words, got the concept of millions vs thousands wrong on multiple occasions, and was actually incohrent at times. But, towards the end, he rallied, and managed to get some salient points across, directly looking down the camera and speaking to the American people.

Trump, on the other hand, will think that he won because hE tAlKeD lOuDeSt AnD aRe NoW sOoPeR pReSiDeNt. But, in reality, some of his bravado could cause some him some problems in the run-up to the election.

Challenged directly on his tax returns, he said that he paid “millions in taxes,” avoiding the specific issue of income tax. The NYT wouldn’t have run the story unless they were damn sure they’d found something that would stick, so this could come back to bite him.

But then, most of the things that should have come back to bite him in the past seem to have come back and bitten a chunk off, only to watch in horror as it immediately regenerates like a bloated mutant from a knock-off anime.

Perhaps the biggest own-goal Trump smashed in from three yards out with a perfect back-heel volley was refusing to condemn white supremacists. The “Proud Boys”, the anti-ANTIFA group of racists and knuckleheads, are ardent Trump supporters. Never mind the fact that they’ve named themselves like an 1970s LGBT disco-troupe, these are the thugs who turn up to BLM protests armed with assault rifles, Confederate flags and bucketloads of fascist intent.

Trump was given the opportunity to condemn them, but instead told them to “stand down and stand by.”

This, within the context of the final topic of debate, postal voting, suggests that the November elections might be even more horrific than we think.


Going Postal

Given that the coronavirus is tearing through the US like a firenado through a cornfield (yes, firenados are a thing), Biden has been urging people to use their postal vote rather than turn up in person. You know, so as to avoid further unnecessary deaths, protect the elderly, yadda yadda yadda.

Trump, by contrast, doesn’t care much for postal voting, not least because he knows that it gives the Democrats the best chance to oust him from power. There has been considerable toing and froing on the subject – Trump laid accusations of postal ballot boxes going missing and being dumped in rivers. Biden countered with claims from Trump’s own civil servants that it’s actually perfectly safe to do a postal vote.

Biden used the last few moments of the debate to encourage people to vote as early as possible, whereas Trump claimed, again, that postal voting was going to cause a “mass conspiracy” and that it would be a “crooked” result. Additionally, postal voting takes far longer to count, so while either side might claim victory on November the 3rd, it might take quite a while for that victory to actually be verified.

And, with Trump’s Proud Little Bois “on standby”, there is every reason to suggest that if Trump loses, he will simply refuse to allow it to happen. Given his nature, is it really so extreme to suggest that he might call upon his hillbilly army to prevent a democratic outcome?

Having watched the debate last night, I’m sorry to say that I think there’s every chance he’ll do it. The US may well see violence on its streets after an election. Democracy itself will be at stake.

What a mess America is in.

It almost makes me want to give Boris a hug.


It’s good to be back! Between the Lines has been away for quite some time due to a number of factors, but we’re going to do our best to be semi-regular again. There’s plenty to talk about and plenty to be angry about, but try to stay positive – we’ll all survive this mess yet.

If you have any topics that you’d like to see written about or explained, then please do get in touch.

With love to you and yours,

Matt, Between the Lines

SINKING LEADERSHIP – Systematic Failings at the Heart of Government

I promised that I wouldn’t write about the government’s approach to the coronavirus until it was all over.

But that promise was made under the assumption that this particular group of politicians, fresh from their total electoral victory, would get some kind of handle on the situation. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, because no-one could reasonably expect a government to get it completely right, straight from the beginning.

Unless you’re South Korea or Vietnam. But then again, they also know what their citizens eat for breakfast, so swings and roundabouts.

We have been in lockdown for four weeks. We, the people, are doing our part, and are losing jobs, our sense of normality and even our own sanity to do so. And what have we received in return?

A shortage of Personal Protective Equipment for our frontline staff. An absolutely decimated care system (but they got a badge, pip-pip and hurray!). The fifth-highest death rate per capita in the world. 85,000 fewer daily tests than promised by Matt Hancock, our Health Secretary, with increasingly less chance of hitting that target by the end of April.

And no exit strategy.

I appreciate that losing the Prime Minister to the coronavirus must have been dire. To lose the leader of the country in the middle of the worst pandemic of a generation would throw any government off. But why is Johnson the only world leader so far to get it?

Hubris.

While unlucky, Johnson clearly didn’t take this virus seriously and recklessly exposed himself to it. It goes without saying that I am extremely glad to see him making a speedy recovery, as should we all be. But when he was boasting about shaking hands with hospital workers as late as March, the writing was already on the wall.

I am also not the only one to note that he and his government failed to take the coronavirus seriously until it was far too late. An absolutely eviscerating Sunday Times investigation found that the Tories systematically missed opportunities to prepare for this virus. It reports that Johnson delegated the chairing of COBRA meetings to Hancock or Gove, spent weeks away from the limelight to shield himself from criticism over flooding, and was more interested in achieving his Brexit goals and announcing his engagement than focussing on this new, dangerous virus.

To compound matters, the government has released a long, poorly-written and sanctimonious response to the investigation, which makes it sound more like a stroppy teenager than a functioning government.

To be clear, they have devoted the time and resources of their communications department to say, “Oh shut up, leave me alone, you’re not my Dad,” to investigative journalists, in the middle of the peak of a global pandemic.

But that, of course, is just one example of a far wider malaise at the heart of the government’s communications strategy. The rules about the closure of restaurants and bars were infuriatingly vague. The rules around lockdown were so poorly communicated that some local police forces have gone full George Orwell. Our daily press briefings flicker between self-aggrandising statements of supposed victories and deflecting all criticism and tricky questions.

Because that’s what this government was elected on – a mandate of obfuscatory and misleading information, never acknowledging mistakes, and never, ever saying sorry.

And don’t get me wrong, not all of this situation is this government’s direct fault. They weren’t the ones in charge when pandemic planning resources were diverted to No-Deal Brexit preparations. Boris Johnson didn’t write out the policy of capping nurses’ salaries. This Cabinet weren’t the ones who crippled the care system by creating the policy of austerity.

But I tell you what: they all voted for it.

Every last one of them, while not Prime Minister, bears some responsibility for this perfect storm of an NHS on its knees during an unprecedented global health crisis. As do Labour, of course. The years under the ideological supremacy of Corbyn are barely forgivable. At least a grown-up is opposite the dispatch box now, at long last.

And yet they hide away from responsibility, still. For all of their withering claims that they’re “Following the science,” it is not the scientists who make the decisions. Science of this nature, predictive modelling and educated guess-work, cannot be definitive by nature. Every model to try and find a strategy is intensely variable, hence the “herd immunity” U-turn.

And how do we improve the science? By increasing testing. Report after report after report has emerged of independent labs contacting the government to help create coronavirus tests (and, indeed, PPE), only for them to not be responded to, or told that they’ll be contacted when needed. European initiatives have been avoided. International collaboration has been shunned as far as possible. Only now are we asking for help.

Why?

We all know why. Because this government is a one-trick pony, slavishly devoted to the ideological pursuit of British exceptionalism and individualism in a globalised world. Globalisation has undoubtedly caused a myriad of problems as unbridled corporations monopolise technology and innovation markets, and the working classes are increasingly feeling left behind. But, in an emergency such as this, we are shown firsthand how important it is that we all work together.

This government would rather we be isolated, and all because of a rose-tinted, feckless adoration of the notion of “Rule Britannia.”

We are led by the most feeble bunch of politicians in a generation. You could say that it’s unfortunate that we’ve got them now, rather than in a more stable time. But if you elect someone based on their attitude to immigration rather than their competency at running a country during a crisis, then this is the result.

This coronavirus was always going to kill thousands of people around the world. It was always going to kill thousands of people in the United Kingdom.

But the inability, the inaction and the ineptitude of our government’s response to it has almost certainly led to deaths that could have been avoided, not least those of our frontline NHS staff.

They might be trying their best. But I don’t care: it simply isn’t good enough.

The inevitable inquiry will be savage. But it might, just might, show this bunch of charlatans for what they really are.

Introducing CABIN FEVER – The Coronavirus Diaries

There is a time and a place for political blogs. There will also, one day, be a reckoning for this Johnson government.

An independent review into their decision-making process is inevitable. The utter shambles of their communications, along with the real possibility that wasting time on a “herd immunity”plan might cost thousands of lives, will be fully scrutinised.

And make no mistake, Between the Lines will be there at that moment.

But, right now, we need to pull together. We live in unprecedented times – scoring political points is, frankly, irrelevant. We’re all going to be stuck at home, going a bit crazy, and in need of some distractions.

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Cabin Fever, a diary on the coronavirus pandemic. You can find it, and the first post, below.

https://cabinfeverdiaries.wordpress.com/

With Cabin Fever, I’m going to write regular blogs that will not only act as a journal of developments during the pandemic, but hopefully alleviate some of the relentless boredom that comes from being stuck at home. It will contain a lot of my day-to-day thoughts, which will hopefully be funny, alarming, or a combination of both.

You can sign up to follow the blog much like Between the Lines – just follow this link at the top right-hand corner of the page.

I really hope you enjoy it. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me with any suggestions on topics, discussions or ways to improve it.

As ever, stay safe, stay sanitised, and all of my best wishes go to you and your loved ones.

Matt x

DON’T PAN(DEM)IC : Working From Home Tips From An Isolating Veteran

These are unprecedented times. Let’s not beat around the bush – it’s pretty scary.

Not because this is something immediate, tangible and horrifying like a terrorist attack, of course. It’s because we know what’s coming, we know that it can’t be stopped, and we don’t know what the overall damage will be.

And it looks as though a lot of us are going to be stuck inside for a very, very long time.

I am no medical expert, nor I am not an epidemiologist. I am, in fact, a massive hypochondriac, currently self-isolating because of a cough and lethargy that are probably lingering symptoms from a pretty heavy weekend. In short, I can give you no tangible advice on the coronavirus other than what you can find here (and you should read this): https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

What I am, however, is a nigh-on black belt at working from home. For most people, the idea of being cooped up sounds utterly horrendous. If you are one of those people, then you have much to learn, grasshopper.

Allow me to be your sensei.

NB: The magnitude of the coronavirus is not lost on me, and I appreciate that, for some, it’s far too early to be making jokes and finding humour in it. But I do believe that, especially in these bleak times, a bit of levity goes a long wayI hope this article provides that.


TIP ONE: Remember The Bullshit

If you consider this situation to be “being cooped up at home,” just take a minute to remember a few things.

Like your commute, for instance. If you’re a London-dweller like me, that probably means being stuck right up close in a stranger’s business on the tube. Like, I-can-smell-what-you-had-for-breakfast close.

Who-has-a-burrito-for-breakfast close.

And I swear to God if you do a Burrito fart I’m pulling the emergency brake.

Or you’re on a bus, with at least one screaming child. Or, if you’re coming in from the burbs, a train, which was probably cancelled.

If you have the luxury of driving to work, does the idea of sitting in the same traffic, on the same road, day after day, not start to mash your garlic?

Wasn’t that just bullshit?

Remember your workplace, too. Sure, there were some folks there it’s nice to see, and maybe they put on drinks every now and then. But I swear to GOD, if Karen from accounting puts one more pass-agg note up on that fridge then she’s getting locked in the bloody thing and it’s going in the sea.

Or as damn close enough as to make any difference.

And it’s always either just too warm or just too cold to be comfortable. And you simply cannot get the same joy from a shared, cubicled loo as you can your own.

And there is Never. A. Single. Goddamn. Meeting. Room. Free.

Wasn’t that also bullshit?

And the hours, WOOF. You might have a nightmare commute that makes you anxious about arriving late. Or you might finish all your work and sit there, thumb firmly up your sphincter, waiting for someone else to up sticks so that you’re not the first to leave.

…Lest you have a one-to-one with your line manager who, “Has had it brought to their attention that you have issues with timekeeping.”

Thanks a lot, Karen. You snitch.

It’s all bullshit.

Yes, commuting to a job, whether it be office-based, customer-facing or any other, gives you structure. But we now have technology that means that we don’t have to be in the office for 8-9 hours a day, 5 days a week. It’s mental that we are still working like it’s the 80s, despite the computing power of our iPhones have 100,000 times that of Apollo 11’s mission computer.

“Hey Siri, blast me to the f*cking moon”

So. Bear that in mind when you’re worried about being “cooped up.”

Now, then. Embrace the joy of your new “office” – home.


TIP TWO: Your Workspace

Make your own workstation. Make it welcoming, comfortable, and as far removed from any distractions as possible. Plus, this workstation is yours, not space bestowed on you by some overlord company. No-one is looking over your shoulder.

Revel in this. Vape at your desk if you’re so inclined. Eat smelly fish at it. Check the Daily Mail gossip page to your heart’s desire. Keep Football Manager open (someone’s got to do football, even if it’s virtual).

Just… do remember to actually do your work.

Missed thirteen calls for this, worth it

Now, having a workstation might seem tricky. Shared flats or houses (usually in cities but family homes elsewhere, too) might not have enough room for multiple desks, let alone a dedicated office room.

But, whether it’s at a desk, at the kitchen table, or even on your bed (avoid if possible), create a space that you’re going to work at and stick to that space. Having the idea in your head that “oh, that’s where I do work,” helps to compartmentalise it from the place where you sleep, eat, or relax.

If you’re in a shared flat with other WFHers, why not create your own “office” in a shared living space? Still get to socialise – check; help each other stay focussed – check; no Karen – double check.

But, whether it’s on your bed or at a desk, always make sure that once the computer goes off, it stays off.

Which brings me nicely onto…


TIP THREE: Routine

Rule one. And this is going to be hard.

DO NOT WEAR PYJAMAS ALL DAY, EVERY DAY.

I know. It’s the first thing we all think of when we think about working from home. Sod getting into suits, heels or company-mandated outfits. I’ll just wear loungewear and sip brandy like Hugh Hefner, but without with the surrounding ladies in bunny suits.

Or these fine fellows.

Well folks, for the first day or two, allow yourself to enjoy it. But, from my experience, staying in pyjamas almost exclusively makes you feel lethargic and, by the end of the day, grimy.

Instead, enjoy the fact that you don’t have to wear office attire, but get up, shower, and put some jeans and a t-shirt on at the very least. It helps you focus for the day, gets you mentally prepared, and makes you feel fresh.

If you like a morning workout, we don’t quite know what the situation is going to end up being with gyms yet (mine is still open, for instance). However, it’s a reasonable assumption that they’re soon going to be closed for a while. So, instead, why not take up something you can do in your own home – yoga or circuits are more than doable.

It’s also really worth noting that current government guidelines are not in any way saying that you have to remain locked away like a Rapunzel / 28 Days Later crossover. Get outside, but keep 2m away from those around you. Going for a run is a great way to get some exercise (and you can pretend you’re dodging zombies while you’re avoiding people).

Do not let yourself go more than 48 hours without having at least a couple of hours outside the house – you will go mad. Take it from me – I’ve done a five-day stint before and it took me two weeks to remember my own name afterwards because my brain had turned into a potato.

Pictured.

Remember your contracted work hours. You’re not in an office where timekeeping is a competition anymore – as above, when the laptop shuts, keep it shut. Take time for your lunch (you’ve got no excuse not to cook), take little breaks, and don’t feel embarrassed to be responsible for your own time.

I promise you, everyone else will be doing exactly the same thing.

Finally, also remember that you will have, on average, around two extra hours to your day where you won’t be commuting. This is the perfect time to do that thing you always wanted to do: pick up an instrument, learn a new language, or start an ant-farm, for example.

Personally, I’m growing a beard. And so far, it looks utterly horrific. I love it though.

All the stuff that we normally do with other people – go to the pub, see a movie – that’s gone for a little while. Why not take this opportunity to incorporate a bit of time for yourself?


TIP FOUR: Sleep

This one can be a bit of a dickhead.

Being out and about all day helps with the separation of home = eat, sleep, relax and work = work. Working from home can have pretty major effects on your sleep pattern.

I think most people aren’t quite as thoroughly useless with self-discipline as I am, but the single most important thing is: go to sleep at a normal hour.

It’s so tempting, having started a Netflix boxset under the duvet, to think, “Ooh, I can get up at 8.45 tomorrow, so if I go to sleep at 1.45 then I still get seven hours.”

Yes, true. But believe me, rolling out of bed, stumbling to your laptop and making sure you’re logged into the intranet on time for your boss to see it is about as pleasant as a dog plop-scented candle.

So calming. So foul.

Keep your sleep patterns healthy and well-regulated, and going out and getting fresh air is a big part of that.


AND FINALLY: Don’t Panic

For many of you, the next few weeks or months will be a massive culture shock.

Not being able to socialise in the same way as we normally do is going to take something of a toll on your wellbeing.

This is fine.

Not being able to visit elderly or frail relatives is going to be hard.

This is fine.

Completely altering the way that you spend your time may well uproot you and make you feel uneasy.

This is all fine.

As someone who’s also suffered from both anxiety and depression, the first step to take when a massive change happens in your life is to understand that it is absolutely, 100% ok to not feel ok.

At the start of this year, we felt quiet unease about this absolute spunk trumpet of a virus, but at least it was mostly on the other side of the world. In just two weeks, we have seen our whole society entirely upended.

None of this is even remotely normal.

What is completely normal is to feel sad, worried, or angry. Do not, ever, judge yourself for not being ok with what’s happening to the world around you. Reach out to others (especially so if you’re living alone), and make sure you talk about how you’re feeling. It sounds like nothing, but it is utterly vital to your own wellbeing.

Whether its spirituality, meditation, or any other means of making yourself feel grounded, make sure you do it, and make sure you take care of yourself.


COVID-19 can absolutely f*ck offid-19. But, at the risk of sounding cheesier than a Wotsit dropped in a vat of camembert, one way or another, we will get through it. I’m going to try to keep writing here and there, but not critical, satirical articles so much. In these times, we need to band together. Whatever you make of Joris Bohnson, I do honestly think he’s handling it relatively well so far.

Which is a bit like a cow doing calculus – you’re not sure how it’s doing it, but you’re pleased for it anyway.

Cow-lculus. Sorry.

Look after yourselves, look after those around you, and I wish you and your loved ones all the best in these strange times.

EU and Me

I started this blog on the fifteenth of January, 2019. My first article was published at the height of the crippling indecision that was eradicating faith in our democracy.

Long story short, it was an utter shit show.

Theresa May had been to Brussels, negotiated a “Brexit deal” to some degree, but had no majority in Parliament. Her decision to hold a snap election and promptly lose her majority had seen to that.

Because she barely had the numbers to actually enact any policy, the Spartans of the ERG were holding her to ransom, and were pushing for a full break from the EU. Months of indecision and conflict within Parliament meant that her mandate, if she ever had any, was as meaningful as a “We tried to deliver your package” note from Royal Mail.

She was ousted, Boris Johnson took the reigns, and he openly mocked our institutions. By proroguing Parliament, he lied to the Queen, the people, and the judiciary. But that counted for nothing.

In the General Election, he won one of the most overwhelming majorities since Margaret Thatcher. His vision was mandated, his style approved, and his version of Brexit unstoppable.

The result? We have finally left the EU.

And, in 2016, this is what I wanted.


I have been a student of politics for twelve years, and even before then was more involved with it than most. From the age of 13, I read the Daily Mail – its sensationalist headlines and passionate editorials were very alluring. I only gave it up when I realised how biased and unnecessarily racist I felt it to be.

…Martin Samuel was a cracking sports editor, to be fair.

After shunning the Daily Mail, I moved to The Times – the newspaper of balance, supposedly. Around that time I started studying politics academically. This progressed from AS level, to A level, to an undergraduate degree at Durham University. I studied the Arab Spring during the overthrow of Mubarak, German politics at a time of great introspection in the German system, and US politics during the Obama era.

But nothing meant more to me than the bare-bones, nerdy-as-hell, nitty-gritty analysis of the British political system.

I first learned about the EU (properly, that is) at the age of 17. We had been a member of this supranational institution for the best part of forty years, but I had some major misgivings.

We gave up our sovereignty to be a part of this group. What had started as a trading bloc had slowly but surely become a major influence on policy across the continent, influencing everything from trade deals to human rights.

While the policies the EU dictated were largely admirable, they still weren’t being dictated by us, who I still thought to be a major international force. I didn’t like this one bit. Nor did I understand why our Great Britain was no longer being recognised as a world leader in international relations.

Over my studies, I became more and more concerned about how little say we had in the grand plans of these Brussels-based bureaucrats. “We’re the United Kingdom, though!” I thought. “We won World War II, we are the major players here, we deserve to be heard.”

I learned about UKIP. I learned about how there was a faction, relatively small, who wanted to leave the EU, led by a strange man called Nigel Farage. They were hell-bent on leaving this “misbegotten entity”, and restore the United Kingdom to its former, international glory.

I didn’t much like UKIP. I especially didn’t like Nigel Farage. But I conceded that they had a point.

And, in 2016, when I heard that there was going to be a referendum on whether or not we should remain in the EU, I thought, “Actually, this could be a really good opportunity for us. What has the EU ever done for us?”

Clearly, I wasn’t alone. As it turns out, millions of people across the UK had exactly the same worries and concerns as me: we eventually voted to leave the EU.

But, in between the calling of the referendum and the vote, I decided to listen. I wasn’t sure of my convictions, and I thought that if there could be a good, solid reason to stay in then I would give it the chance it deserved.

And it wasn’t easy to find it. The “Remain” camp were incessantly negative, with their arguments focussing far more on the “If we leave, x will decrease,” rather than “We will increase x if we remain.”

It was appalling. But the Leave campaign was far, far worse.

The second that the word “Empire” was used, absent-mindedly or not, alarm bells started ringing with the fervour of Big Ben’s bongs in an amphitheatre. The protagonists (or antagonists, depending on your view) of the Leave campaign, led indefatigably by the other-worldly Dominic Cummings, sought to “Take back control.”

This concept of restoring former glory was what, ultimately, resonated with a country where millions of the population were left bereft by Tony Blair’s erstwhile-yet-elitist push towards globalisation.

And, what’s more, this idea should have resonated with me, too.

This is what I was concerned about, after all. Finally, after decades of incremental influence upon our democratic systems by the unelected “EUrocrats”, we would be free from oppression.

But it just sounded hollow. I didn’t know why, at first, but the more that I read, the more I understood.

I started to learn that the textbooks that had made me wary of the EU were out of date. Technological advances had irrevocably and irreversibly changed the world of international relations. What used to be a group of autonomous, easily-defined states had started to congeal into a forever-undulating, insanely-intricate web of supranational checks, balances, and regulations (all, ultimately, to benefit our wellbeing).

It took a lot of reading to understand just how intricate this web had become. But the more I read, the more I understood that being a part of the EU was an irrefutable positive, not a negative.

For instance, I started to learn about how we, as citizens of the EU, are protected from free-market capitalism, where profit rules over morality.

When we buy a sandwich from Tesco, we know that we are not eating something that contains damaging chemicals or low-standards of production. Products will be checked as a part of EU regulations to ensure high standards are met (hence the issues around chlorinated chicken, should we form a trading partnership with the US).

When we browse the internet, we now know that our personal data cannot be harvested without our consent – GDPR protections are an EU directive.

When we are worried about people who come to our country to spy on us, cause damage to us, or even kill us, the EU’s criminal data network makes us exponentially more effective at stopping them. Europol is an incredibly effective network that can track, arrest, and convict those who seek to do us harm.

Being a part of the EU was, indisputably, a trade-off. We gave up a part of our sovereignty, but, in return, we were protected from a multitude of forces that would do us harm.

And I was no longer ready to assume that sovereignty trumped our best interests. There was, is, and never will again be a scenario where we are worse off by being a part of the biggest supranational institution in the world.

So I fought against leaving. I voted against it, I persuaded friends and relatives that it was a bad idea, and I started this blog.

It was already too late.


The last few years have been eye-wateringly embarrassing for our nation. We have seen a gridlocked Parliament consistently reject the pushes of a Government that assumed it had power where it had none. We have seen a Speaker of the House be dragged into political discourse by his own hand (regardless of whether or not you think he was acting in the interests of democracy or his own hubris). We have seen our Government lie to the Queen, to the public, and to the wider international community.

We have become a laughing stock.

But, despite the mayhem, there was a glimmer of hope. It seemed, for a moment, that these decisions around Brexit would be revealed to be as insane as they were jingoistic – a delusional afterthought to the nation that once ruled the world.

Britain will never have another Empire, and thank Christ on a bicycle for that fact.

But the idea that it might remains a beacon. To the Mark Francois’s. To the Tommy Robinsons. To those who think that this country can do better.

And do you know what? This country can do better.

But not in that way.


I was there at the moment we left the EU. I was in Parliament Square, surrounded by thousands of people who were overjoyed at the prospect of us being independent once again.

There were cretins, for sure. Cries of “MILLWALL, MILLWALL” cried out as this happened:

…And that is objectively funny.

But I listened to the people around me. Young, old, white, BAME… largely, the feeling was of liberation. Like this was about to be the start of something. The dawning of a new era of British politics.

In many ways, they weren’t wrong. This is going to be one of the most seismic changes in British politics in the last century. But there is one thing that must, always, be reiterated:

Not a single person at that rally wanted Brexit to happen because it would make us worse off.

Every person there thought that this will only be a positive for our country from here on out. And now, we will find out if they are right or not.


So, what next?

We can’t know for certain what will actually happen. The “Sunlit Uplands” might really be around the corner. I hope they are.

But the world is due another economic downturn. Slowing growth will damage everyone, from China, to the US, to the EU. But one thing is for damn sure – being a part of the EU’s regulations and safeguards protects those within it.

We do not have those protections anymore.

We are now alone. Maybe the British spirit can prevail, and I truly hope it does. No patriot wants anything ill to fall on their country just for the sake of being proved right.

But, if every economist worth their salt is to be believed, we are about to enter one of the most dangerous periods in our economic history.

What will actually happen is open for debate. I, for one, hope my initial instincts end up being correct, and leaving the EU opens us up to be an independent powerhouse again.

I’m not sure they will be though.


Goodbye, EU. You have your faults, by the bucketload in fact.

But we are about to take responsibility for ourselves. And I’m not sure we’re ready for it.

T-MINUS TEN : Brexit Bill Passes Parliament

And there it is.

Yesterday, MPs passed the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (or WAB, a WABsolutely brilliant acronym built for satirists). This is the same Bill that Theresa May failed to pass three times through the House.

This time, there was never any doubt. Johnson’s swinging majority bismarcked Brexit into British law. As Jozzle Bonkz himself said last night, we have now, “Crossed the Brexit finish line.”

We are now less than ten days away from leaving the European Union.


DUB(side-)STEP

For this to make sense, we need a refresher on the legislative system in Parliament. In the words of Blue Peter presenters past, present and future, “Here’s one I made earlier”:

You might have heard that the Bill had already been passed, and you’d be right – it had passed the first, second and third stages of reading in the House of Commons. Then, the House of Lords stepped in to scrutinise.

And it was more controversial than you might have thought. And should be more widely reported.

But that’s another story about the media for you, for another day.

Johnson’s version of the WAB has been accused by its detractors of being a worse deal than May’s – and unnecessarily cruel, too. The House of Lords, using its capacity as a scrutiniser of law, sought to make five changes to the WAB.

The most notable suggestions were:

  • Give EU citizens who live in the UK automatic right to stay, rather than having to apply to the Home Office;
  • Not allowing UK politicians to disregard judgements made by the EU Court of Justice, which is currently more powerful than our Supreme Court, after Brexit;
  • And the Dub(step) Amendment, which sought to allow unaccompanied refugee children to live in the UK if they have a relative here so they can be reunited with their family.

It all sounds rather reasonable, doesn’t it?

Don’t stick two fingers up at the EU, our future trading partner. Don’t tell EU citizens who have lived, worked and contributed here for decades that they need to apply to remain a citizen. Allow children who are terrified and alone to be reunited with those who can care for them.

I mean, it sounds fair enough? What arguments could there be agains–

Oh no. Here comes the Johnson, flapping in the wind.


BOZZMARCKED

Johnson has total control over every last one of his MPs, and over his majority. And how do you think he ordered his troops to deploy?

Every amendment from the House of Lords was defeated in the House of Commons.

No introspection. No collaboration. No remorse.

Now all that remains is for Royal Assent – a mere formality. Unless the Megxit Saga has finally done it for Lizzo and she declares herself Empress and invades the Faroe Islands.

Anyway.

Yesterday’s vote sets the tone for the Johnson Premiership – my way or the highway, chaps!

For all of the rhetoric about “Bringing the country together” or “healing the division,” not one inch has been given to any sort of dissent. Criticism, valid or not, is to be thought, and not heard.

And even then, Dominic Cummings might pick up the thoughts with his ridiculous, Mars Attacks, telekinetic forehead and sack you anyway.

Cummings Enjoys Naptime After a Hard Day of Telepathically Making Larry the Cat Speak Spanish to Terrify No. 10 Staffers

It looks as though this is the way things are going to continue. Johnson at the helm, naysayers be damned.

Whatever you make of Bonkey Jong, though, he’s got a direction. We are, finally, marching on. Not just endless, repeated faffing about.

And, by refusing to acknowledge the opinions of anyone other than Dominict Cummingberbatches, he has also done what we all thought he might: placed the success of Brexit, and indeed his own Premiership, firmly onto himself.

If he cocks it up, he will try to pass the buck. I think, in that instance, he won’t find too many takers.


EU Give Love a Bad Name

I was in Bulgaria recently. Sofia, specifically. It’s a city with a frankly ridiculous amount of history, having seemed to have been passed around from empire to empire until the record stopped with the fall of the Berlin Wall.

And so, when given its independence, what did Bulgaria then do?

Its absolute damndest to join the EU, that’s what.

Now, some of you might joke that this is a kind of imperial Stockholm Syndrome. “They don’t have an identity without some big daddy ruling over them, hahaha, poor sods, so they joined the dogmatic EU empire because they bloody love it,” said a Mr N. Farage, The Dog and Duck, Kent (unconfirmed).

But it’s not that at all.

Bulgaria is clearly a post-Communist state. Huge, stark buildings still pepper the city centre, with only the Red Star removed to hide its past. But it’s an EU state, too – with imported beers, aprés-ski bars, and European department stores in abundance.

Tourism is on the rise, its economy is on the rise… Bulgaria, in general, is on the rise.

It’s clear what EU membership means for this country. And that’s why it was all the more profound to be somewhere like that for the last time as a citizen of an EU member-state.

Leaving Bulgaria felt very much like my own physical manifestation of leaving the EU.

Many G&Ts were drunk on the plane.


What Next?

Brexit Day. 31st of January. Will Big Ben Bong?

No. Probably not. Nor bloody should it.

But, as of that moment, we are no longer an EU member state! Praise be to Jeebus / Oh God why (delete as appropriate).

Then begins the fun part – the transition period. Can Johnson really negotiate a full trade and relationship deal with the EU in just 11 months? We’ll soon see. If progress has stalled by the summer, there might be a few leathery squeaks from the Tory benches in the Commons.

But one thing’s for sure, squirm as they might, if it goes tits-up, they’ve only got one man to blame.

And if he’s going to take the fall, he’s going to pull the whole damn stage down with him.