Suspicious…

I was left somewhat confused when Sir Kim Darroch stepped down as British Ambassador to the United States. Leaked documents had shown that Darroch had called the President of the United States, Donald Trump, “inept” and “uniquely dysfunctional”. After much pressure from Donald Trump, who retaliated by calling Darroch “the wacky ambassador” and a “very stupid guy,” before claiming that “we will no longer deal with him,” Darroch handed in his resignation letter.

Before Donald Trump’s visit to the U.K earlier this year (in fact whilst in the air on his way to Stansted Airport) Donald Trump took to Twitter to openly accost Mayor of London Sadiq Khan calling him a “stone cold loser.” This is alongside comments made regarding Theresa May regarding the Brexit strategy in which he all but trounces her for not listening to his advice on how to proceed regarding withdrawing from the European Union.

So why is it that a diplomat speaking in confidence is bullied to step down when a president can openly proffer trash-talk and see absolutely no retaliation?

Writing for the ‘i’ (09/07/2019), Kim Sengupta raises a very important issue regarding the backlash faced by ambassadors whose primary role is to comment honestly and freely regarding issues within the respective countries in which they are placed:
“The real risk of the UK being ill-served will come from an ambassador who fails to send a transparent, candid account of what is happening in Washington because of ideological reasons, such as adherence, for example, to the jihad of hardline, doctrinaire Brexit.”

Ambassadors are required to give honest accounts of their host countries. Are we prepared to believe that ambassadors within the UK are not reporting back to the superiors commenting on the shambles of Brexit or the ineptitude of the current government?

Perhaps the most controversial part of this story is that of the leak itself. It has been reported that two years-worth of emails had been stolen, stored and eventually leaked meaning that the information gathering had been taking place since roughly the time that Donald Trump became president. This is not an act of whistle-blowing (since it has already been ascertained that Kim Darroch was simply doing his duty) but is instead an act of political sabotage.

This became much more plausible when Brexiters called for a more Brexit-minded individual to take up the ambassador role. Nigel Farage used his LBC segment to call out Kim Darroch and push for someone else to take up the position. This is all the more severe when assessed alongside the recent finding that the leak of Kim Darroch’s emails were from Isabel Oakeshott, Brexit Party MEP Richard Tice’s partner.

Could we in fact be witnessing a political coup?

The End of GDP?

‘The GDP was contrived in a period of deep crisis and provided an answer to the great challenges of the 1930’s. As we face our own crises of unemployment, depression, and climate change, we, too, will have to search for a new figure. What we need is a “dashboard” complete with an array of indicators to track the things that make life worthwhile – money and growth, obviously, but also community service, jobs, knowledge, social cohesion. And, of course, the scarcest good of all: time.’

– Rutger Bregman – Utopia For Realists

One of the problems with GDP is that it does try to combine all of human welfare into one number, and fails…

– Annie Quick

Social scientists often recommend that measures of subjective well-being should augment the usual measures of economic prosperity, such as GDP per capita.’

Esteban Ortiz-Ospina & Max Roser

The GDP model was invented in the inter-war years before being properly adopted in 1941 as a means to understand how much economy activity was taking place in order to determine what resources could be allocated for the war effort.

Since then GDP has become a globally recognised measure of progress and prowess. With a high GDP should come a better standard of living, the general consensus being that hard work pays off.

With polarisation between the rich and the working and welfare “classes” widening, with fiscal inequality rising and with social care, health and welfare systems being drastically underfunded. The trickle-down economic system – the system by which wealth is created in the upper echelons and eventually trickles down to smaller businesses whilst providing welfare support through taxes for those in need – has been shown to be more or less fanciful thinking than a reliable model.

The trickle-down economic model relies on the philanthropic and altruistic endeavours of wealthy individuals and organisations, companies abstaining from using automation and, most importantly, everyone paying the correct amount of taxes and not squirrelling their money away in off-shore tax havens.

Recent research suggests that off-shore tax havens are hiding half of the world’s money.

If the trickle-down model theory was put into practice, the United States, China, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom (the top 5 strongest economies) would not be experiencing such vast levels of criminality, an abundance of mental health issues, homelessness, shortages of social care for the elderly, strangled social-mobility and ever-increasing levels of “working poor.”

Perhaps an answer to the failings of the GDP measuring system and to the trickle-down economic model; last week New Zealand made public that they were going to replace the GDP model with a new “welfare budget” in which the plan is to ‘prioritise well-being over economic growth.’

The change was announced last week by Prime Minister Jacinda Arden as part of her reformist agenda. Jacinda said: ‘Today we have laid the foundation for not just one wellbeing budget, but a different approach for government decision-making altogether.’

The Welfare Budget will focus on 5 key areas:

– Improving mental health
– Reducing child poverty
– Supporting indigenous people
– Transitioning to a low emissions economy
– Thriving in a digital age

There has been opposition to the welfare budget by (none other than) opposition parties who claim that the budget will starve essential services, including healthcare, education and housing. It has also been pointed out that the welfare budget has come at a difficult time, as the trade crisis has worsened between the United States and China – New Zealand’s biggest trading partner. Critics have also pointed out that the N.Z government are also putting more money into defence and army departments which seems to be at odds with the welfare budget.

Amy Adams of the opposition National Party had this to say about the Welfare Budget: ‘Apparently it’s about measuring your sun and moon feelings, improve you locus of control, and understanding your ability to be yourself…I have no idea what that means and, outside the Wellington bureaucracy, I’m not sure anyone does.’

A particularly derogatory statement but not one without reason. After all the welfare budget moves from providing immediately available and quantifiable results to a long-term approach at battling NZ’s dominating issues. It is a fact that budgets cannot provide cash injections of equal value into every aspect of life, but the five prioritised areas outlined above have been highlighted as New Zealand’s most pressing problems.

However, upon closer inspection, the welfare budget is arguably a more comprehensive system to improving New Zealand’s economy than through small, intermediary solutions.

20% of New Zealand’s population struggle with mental health issues, a figure not that dissimilar from the U.K. Countless studies show that preventative measures, or early-intervention, would help save billions through both easing the pressure on reactive healthcare services and also on businesses. Globally, mental health issues are the leading cause of work days missed.

By approaching and dealing with mental health issues in the early stages pressure would be alleviated from New Zealand’s health service (on which they currently spend 5% of GDP or $12 billion on acute mental health services) and businesses would benefit by avoiding the costly disruption of absenteeism and lost productivity.

The same can be said for reducing children’s poverty. By providing children with means, with education and with access to services, the welfare budget may break the poverty cycle thus easing welfare costs in subsequent generations and, more importantly, improving the lives of New Zealanders.

Whilst certain branches of capitalists might consider the idea of properly funding the welfare state “fluffy”, the truth is that the new welfare system would do more to combat the inequalities faced by New Zealanders than relying on the aforementioned trickle-down system which does very little to tackle social issues head on. When talking on podcast ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’, senior civil servant and economist Gus O’Donnell said; ‘People using GDP as a measure of how well you’re doing really do need to kind of grow up…’

New Zealand’s plan to move to a low-carbon economy is not revolutionary. It is, if anything, well overdue. Green energy economic models have been put forward for decades in pursuit of a sustainable future and it does not take a great deal of insight to see that the green energy market is being gripped by nations and companies alike.

Wind-farms, electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel-cells, hydrofoil technology, wind-sail and of course solar power are shaping domestic and business infrastructure and green energy design, production and maintenance will likely take the place of oil production and distribution as the dominating global market force.

In an age of nanotechnology, biotechnology and gigafactories, it is nothing short of embarrassing that we are still using fossil fuels to power our cars and aeroplanes.

So no, New Zealand is not doing anything revolutionary, it is simply taking a step in the right direction. When it comes to the future of the planet, the battle to fight rising temperatures, rising sea-levels, rising levels of pollution and particulates, the only people who would see this move as in any way reductionist behaviour would be those who have interest in fossil-fuel companies or else those economists who fail to see the necessity and profitability of a green energy market.

The long-standing argument that the move to green energy would lead to a loss of jobs is demonstrably true because, yes, of course it would lead to a loss of jobs, within that sector. However, within the U.S, solar power alone employs more people than oil, coal and gas combined. By offering to teach new skill sets or by altering knowledge to suit the new green energy market, job losses would be minimal and the production of new jobs would far outweigh any interruption during the changeover.

In regards to thriving in the digital age, Yuval Noah Harari speaks widely of the issues that humankind will face in the rise of the digital world. From recognising and combating ‘fake news’, the rise of automation, the change from a product-driven economy to a service-driven economy to the proliferation of biotech (the exploitation of biological processes for industrial and other purposes) and information technology. In the face of such vast and complicated change, any nation, business and individual would do well to prepare themselves.

By making “thriving in a digital age” an objective of the welfare budget, New Zealand is taking a step toward future-proofing their economy. Digital education has the potential to increase business reach and maybe even divert some of the entrepreneurial talent from places like Silicon Valley. There is also the benefit of teaching people how to spot fake news articles, recognising malware, and safeguarding children from malicious intent/content.

Social media has the ability to change the political landscape. The influence of Russian bots on twitter and facebook throughout the referendum of 2016 to leave the European Union and throughout the presidential campaign of the same year cannot be overlooked or underestimated. MP Bob Seely noted in his paper put before parliament; Russian Federation activity in the UK and globally, the danger of Russian interference within political processes throughout the world. China is also doing the same.

Having protection against this kind of intervention (digital warfare?) is absolutely key in a world where 2.1 billion people use facebook or facebook owned services every day.

There has been no hiding the fact that the welfare budget is an attempt to stymy the progress of populism within New Zealand.

Changing from the GDP to a more representative model (or from objective well-being to subjective well-being) has the ability to continue allowing nations to monitor their progress, but also take into account sustainable and improved living. As said by Christoph Schumacher; ‘GDP is a good measure of economic growth but doesn’t provide us with any information about the quality of the economic activity or the well-being of the people.’

The extra benefit of the welfare budget is that it means politicians can no longer use the GDP as evidence that all is well. It is the difference between objective well-being and subjective well-being.

Nobel Prize winning economist and inventor of the GDP system, Simon Kuznets: ‘The welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income.’

The creation of wealth is integral to our way of life but the problem with only focusing on the GDP model is that it does not provide solutions long-standing problems. At least, not in decent time. Trickle-down economics has, until the date of writing this piece, never officially worked. So the hell with it. Why not try something new?

Is the Queen going to be dragged into Brexit?

It is almost written in stone that Boris Johnson is set to be the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Boris has claimed to be dedicated to the Brexit cause countless times and his campaign to become the next PM rests solely on his ability to convince the people and the Conservatives that he is willing to keep a No Deal Brexit on the table.

The choice to keep a No Deal Brexit comes as a bid to secure support from the Euro-sceptic European Research Group (ERG) which is headed by Jacob Rees-Mogg – who has endorsed Boris Johnson – as well as support from other Conservative leave-leaning Conservative members. Boris Johnson has said that he would prorogue if negotiations were not secured which would provide the U.K with some kind of deal.

Proroguing is essentially the act of suspending parliament in order for the acting Prime Minister to pass a bill without contest.

By offering this result if negotiations are not successful, Boris Johnson is effectively appealing to both sides of the Conservative voters; those who want a soft Brexit and those who would prefer a No Deal scenario.

Proroguing is a means of circumnavigating parliament who are entitled to exercise their rights (and sovereignty) to vote on the outcomes of bills. This is no longer the case as Boris Johnson has claimed that he is not against proroguing. However, if this were to occur, the only way that Mr Johnson would be able to push through a No Deal, is if the Queen herself allowed it to happen.

This scenario does raise some concerns.

Proroguing would pull the Queen into matters of state which is against the notion of impartiality that the British monarchy is demanded to uphold by government.
If the Queen is asked by government to speak for the country and she denies the right to a No Deal Brexit, we are not only back to square one, but there will also be resentment from staunch Leavers and Euro-sceptics toward the Queen and the monarchist system.

The right to exercise one’s own power, to uphold sovereignty and to run with the empirical history of Britain’s past were crux issues of the 2016 referendum. If the Queen exercises her power and moves against No Deal, will the people decide that they no longer want the monarchy or will they accept the Queen’s decision to exercise her power, a cause for which the Leave vote was cast?

If, on the other-hand, the Queen moves in favour of No Deal, the U.K will be looking at a (already proven) decline in trade, transport and services as major service providers have already sought sanctuary on mainland Europe to continue to offer their trades to the rest of the trading bloc. Staunch Remainers would also be dismayed and morale and national spirit would undoubtedly hit rock bottom.

Abortion in the U.S

Criminalising abortion is evidence of Americans moving against their own Constitution.

Article IV of the Constitution:

‘N(o) religions Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.’

1ST Amendment:

‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.’

The Constitution is America’s guiding document. A revelled piece of history that is constantly used to link the American people with the foundation of their great country. The Constitution is quoted time and again when protecting the people’s right to “bear arms” but there has been a mass looking of the other way when it comes to upholding the 1st Amendment when it comes to religion having a place in matters of state.

Governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, recently signed off on the law and followed it by stating that the bill was “a powerful testament to Alabamian’s deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.”

As highlighted in the 1st Amendment, whilst the practice of religion is a personal liberty, it has no place as a governing force within the United States and yet this is being ignored. Donald Trump tweeted a response to the motion in Alabama to criminalise abortion by claiming it as a victory for “pro-life” groups. He also tweeted against Doug Jones in Alabama by using the argument that Jones was Pro-Abortion as a smear tactic.

86% of Alabamians identify as Christians.

Why are proud Americans going against the decisions as outlined by their very constitution? Might it have something to do with the Pledge of Allegiance?

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which is stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

The often used phrase; “one Nation under God” was not part of the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954.

The State is flexible and, though sometimes wavering (nothing is perfect), it is the closest thing that we have to a true representation of the people. The State considers many factors such as protecting the rights of victims of rape and incest and the impact on children born into unsuitable and perhaps unloving environments. It also takes into consideration the stages of foetal development and the safe (and unsafe) periods of termination.

The economic benefits cannot be overlooked either.

The abortion law is going to hit low-income families the hardest. This is because a lack of funds meaning that they cannot afford to go across state lines to undergo the procedure elsewhere, unaffordable contraceptive methods and because people in low income areas are more likely to be subject to attacks such as rape.

Raising a child when finances are tight will also be extremely tricky which could result in myriad problems including depression in parents and children, resentment or malnourishment. School lives could be dramatically affected and quality of life for parents, children or families in general could diminish greatly.

The welfare system would then have to intervene, at great cost. Social care would soar as children face difficult upbringings and inhospitable living conditions. Parents, especially mothers, would have to be given extensive counselling to help come to terms with rape and its repercussions or to simply help manage a stressful life brought around by an overabundance of children.

Hospitals would have to increase staff numbers in order to be able to manage anything from kids coming in with scraped knees to vaccinations and that is before we even consider what physical issues children born through incest might have. And then there is of course the problem that women will lose any anonymity that abortion could have provided. Now, with abortion illegal, women will have to continue within their communities with their children as any evidence of past trauma.

Pro-life groups are overwhelmingly religious and use religious doctrine to dictate their actions in choosing to fight abortion, or end it altogether. When religious beliefs start to infringe upon the liberties of others, it is no longer the practice of religious freedom but the imposition of one’s own belief on others. It becomes what the late Christopher Hitchens called; “theocratic bullying.”

As of the date of release, the following states recognise abortion as illegal (in varying degrees):

Utah

Montana

Alabama

Kentucky

Missouri

Ohio

Arkansaw

Arkansas

Georgia

Indiana

Mississippi

Louisiana

North Dakota

Boris Johnson, the next PM?

Theresa May has been a stalwart lynchpin keeping certain dangers at bay. She has managed to perform a variety of duties in the national interest; slowing down the progress of the European Research Group (ERG) and keeping Boris Johnson out of office.

Since the moment she laid down her Chequers Deal, the people understood that there was no deal that could be made which would appeal to both Leavers and Remainers. Despite this she has slugged on, her ideas appealing to no majority.
Because of her inability to lead the people through Brexit, Theresa May has been forced to stand down. When she does, Boris Johnson is the most likely to succeed the position of Prime Minister.

Since a recent scandal emerged regarding Boris Johnson’s adultery, the former mayor of London has blended into the background, no doubt letting the sting of said scandal blow over before he decides to run for the top job. With a new haircut and a new posture (those sad old tactics still used by politicians) Boris Johnson kick-started his new Back Boris campaign this Monday amidst the turmoil of another scandal. This one regarding his spreading of disinformation during the referendum to leave the European Union.

The court order was raised by Marcus Ball who took to crowd-funding to get the case put through legal proceedings. Boris Johnson’s lawyer has argued that the summons was “unlawful” and wants the case to be suspended for a judicial review. One might guess that it will be once again for review once Boris Johnson is Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson sees himself as the next Winston Churchill. A great leader in waiting who will steer the U.K to greatness. Whilst this might appeal to many people who believe that the U.K will become a vast superpower after separating from the European Union, we must not forget that Boris is still a career politician whose primary goal is to become Prime Minister and be remembered for greatness.

Before the referendum of 2016 started, Boris Johnson wrote two papers. One paper championed the benefits of being inside the European Union whilst the other championed leaving the European Union. On the eve of the campaign, Boris Johnson made the decision to publish the latter paper in a bid to appeal to the more nationalist leaning voters. He pushed for Brexit thinking that the leave side would not win, but he would come out the other side and say that he fought for the people. A ragged fighter for a lost cause.

Boris Johnson’s decision to support Leave was not one that would benefit the country but, as a career politician, would instead benefit himself and his standing in the country’s hearts and minds.

Speaking to Robert Peston, Johnny Mercer said that Boris Johnson “is one of the most self-serving politicians our country has ever seen” and that he “panders to prejudice knowing it wins votes.”

When the vote came through and the U.K found out that we would be leaving the European Union, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove were filmed on stage. Neither were celebrating.

Boris Johnson does not want Brexit, but he does want to be seen as a staunch leader. He wants to be seen as a man standing up for the so-called “will of the people.” Theresa May, for her ills, made sure that Boris Johnson was put in a position where he could live up to his words and forge new relationships throughout the world by making him Foreign Secretary.
Boris Johnson was met warmly by many who regarded him as the fuzzy, personable man who they had seen on television. However, that was the only thing that they got. Boris had a habit of turning up, shaking hands, posing for selfies and making jokes.

There was a widespread disappointment by officials within the countries that Boris visited who commented that Boris had provided nothing of substance.
This was feeble attempt of international relations by the man who had championed Brexit. But, keeping in mind, what could Britain offer the rest of the world that it could not have offered while being part of the E.U? The answer; far less. The world wanted to know that they could get access to us and, through us, access to Europe.

Boris Johnson’s one and only role was to make the best out of Brexit by becoming a face of the nation and telling the rest of the world that all was well and thriving and that Britain was still open for business. James Lansdale commented that “it is a task that few historians will conclude Mr Johnson achieved.”

This profile does not match that of a Brexiteer. And if it does, then he is startlingly incompetent. Either way, the man made a mockery of the U.K when he visited other countries and could offer nothing of substance. What was he going to tell them anyway? He could not secure any trade deals or organise anything substantial whilst the process of unfolding ourselves from the E.U was going on.

Author of politics.co.uk, Ian Dunt, wrote a piece today titled “This prime minister was destroyed by Brexit. And the next one will be too.” In this stark and worryingly bleak piece, Ian Dunt highlights the only two reasonable options which must be considered by the next prime minister in order to sort out the Brexit mess:
“Either cancel Brexit, which they will not do, or be honest with the people what it entails, which they will not do either.”

Boris Johnson will not be the person to do this (neither will anyone else) but the primary concern is that Boris is self-serving and lacking any real substance. When he doed show substance or make concrete decisions, his choices are somewhat questionable. For instance; the Garden Bridge, purchasing water cannons in response to the London riots, multiple counts of sexual promiscuity, claiming Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was teaching journalism in Iran instead of being on holiday which would result in spending more time in an Iranian prison instead of coming back to the U.K, calling black people “piccaninnies”, backing Brexit and using a thirty year-old argument about bananas – which was false – tojustify it. The list is extensive.

Donald Trump arrives in the U.K in the midst of controversy

Donald Trump was in U.K airspace when he tweeted about Mayor of London Sadiq Khan:

Before President Trump landed, LBC’s Rachael Venables spoke to Jeremy Hunt (who was ready at Stansted to greet the president) regarding the tweets. Jeremy Hunt brushed off the behaviour with standard there-or-thereabouts remarks in a bid for democracy. Hunt sided with Trump stating that: “He” (Trump) “has been shown great discourtesy.”

Donald Trump has previously endorsed Boris Johnson for Prime Minister and Nigel Farage to lead Brexit and has recently offered platitudes on the Queens grand-daughter in-law, Meghan Merkel. Despite this, Trump is due to meet Prime Minister Theresa May and have a reception at Buckingham Palace.

MORE Brexit Party uncertainty

Illuminations from the The Sarawak Report

The Brexit Party has come under more scrutiny after it was found that donations could be made to the party from anywhere in the world, without having to provide any “prior information of their identity, nationality or address to provide basic safeguards against money laundering, before directing them to the PayPal site.”

Not all funding comes through PayPal however. It has emerged that Nigel Farage has asked for any and all support from wealthy donors who have strong links to Donald Trump but, more worryingly, Vladimir Putin.

As pointed out in the last blog post regarding Brexit Party funding, the ties to far-right populist groups and Russia seem to be building.

The Brexit Party claims to be patriotic and democratic and yet the actions undertaken in its name speak louder than Nigel Farage’s bombast. Those that voted to leave the European Union did so because they “believe in Britain.” Does believing in Britain come at the expense that Britain should become subject to international meddling, the very thing that Brexit was supposed to eliminate in the first place?

The Brexit Party is participating in securing funding from far-right and populist groups at the same time as eliminating the transparency that should accompany any democratic undertaking by refusing to provide information on donation from overseas. So far the only answer that has been given is that the “establishment” are out to get the Brexit Party. A smear tactic on an ambiguous idea that allows die-hard followers to ignore any negative coverage of Brexit or the Brexit Party.

It is worth noting here that ChangeUK (formerly The Independent Group, may be known by another name tomorrow) is also somewhat silent on their financial backers.

What is clear is that Nigel Farage has utilised PayPal’s exchange functions to muddle and confuse the source of donations. As highlighted in the Sarawak Report (also linked above): “There is nothing to stop the same person donating repeatedly from the same account.” But that is only taking into consideration humans. For instance; bots can and have been used by Russia and foreign parties with invested interests in the U.K democratic process and the Sarawak Report has come to the conclusion that bots could be used to make multiple payments.

Showing that donations can be made from across the world in all currencies and without any declaration of British citizenship

Nigel Farage’s last campaigning escapade, Leave EU, received illegal donations from Arron Banks (who then went on to fund Nigel Farage’s meetings with America’s business and political elites, security and chauffer costs and accommodation in Chelsea – all of which has not been declared because it is “personal” according to Mr Farage.)

The Brexit Party now seems to be pulling the same kind of stunt by using an online money transference and banking system.

PayPal can convert currencies into sterling. The Brexit Party are using the natural functions of money exchanging by PayPal to allow the free flow of money into the party, and declaring it as a donation made in sterling. This is misleading because, under electoral law, the donation is still coming from abroad and from people who do not have U.K citizenship. Much like Nigel Farage’s Brexit project; Leave EU, the Brexit Party could very well be breaking campaigning law.

Another startling realisation that was made by the Sarawak Report is that the Brexit Party payments do not go to a politically recognised party, but to Brexit Party Limited. The Brexit Party, much like Gordon Brown stated (please see last blog) is a private company.

Shot of payment to Brexit Party Ltd

The primary shareholder is Nigel Farage.