The Johnson Family Drama

Nigel Farage recently tweeted:

“Bloomberg has more money than sense. Only ideas and personality win in politics.”

Farage is a man who consistently dances the line around what is real, and what is not. He is a man who has blown trumpets and raised noise when it comes to political and – whilst his reasoning and facts are simply not there and whilst you may not agree with his politics – he has been extremely effective.

Nigel Farage, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson all have one common trait among them; they are personalities. Nigel Farage wears tweed, chimney sweep hats and walks the British countryside in order to stand up against his beliefs, and people can join in for a fee. A strange business model. Donald Trump acts like a successful businessman and professes to stand up for the average American. Boris Johnson bleeds a persona of a well-spoken, stuttering toff.

In the last week we found out that Boris Johnson’s partner, Carrie Symonds, is now pregnant with Boris Johnson’s child. The Prime Minister is about to enter a new phase of his life as a father.

From here on out the optics around Boris Johnson will change and this change in optics will help him and his cabinet greatly. It might sound very low-brow, but as Nigel Farage says, personality wins in politics, and the United Kingdom are about to see not a calculated, power-hungry man like his closest colleagues know him to be, but a bumbling, fuzzy-haired figure become a father.

Cue the “Exclusive” from The Telegraph (or is the Daily Mail that scores all those family photo sessions?) showing Boris as a new father, cradling a newborn alongside Carrie Symonds. And then of course there is the possibility of marriage. No doubt a large televised event that will have everyone yapping on about what kind of dress Carrie Symonds will be wearing. Of course, not forgetting the Telegraph/Daily Mail photo shoot.

This isn’t a sniping attempt. It is just a fact that this change in Boris Johnson circumstances is bound to unfold into something much more than the standard Prime Ministerial story. The UK is about to become witness to a drama.

I can’t help but think that the minds of Dominic Cummings and whatever “weirdos” he heaves up from the dregs of the advertising and marketing world (to which he has shown a substantial preference) will work the angle of the forming family unit and turn it into some kind of national drama.

A man who has spent much of his adult life in the spotlight curating and perfecting the personality of a lovable rogue, has also used this jokey laid-back approach to shrug off allegations of racist and derogatory comments. The sad truth is; (and again I must say that this is only a matter of circumstance and not some master plan) that Boris Johnson’s fatherly personality will change him even further in the eyes of the public as a loving fatherly lovable rogue, whilst the truth is entirely the opposite.

Dominic Cummings is very aware of just how effective optics are in getting what he wants and Boris Johnson’s upcoming fatherhood will be front and center whether the Prime Minister likes it or not. Considering Johnson’s usual spaff, pay-off and run, it is hard to imagine how he feels now that this child is being held front and center in the world’s media.

This is all a prediction, and maybe I’m wrong, but we know that narratives are a clincher. Donald Trump was a bolshy character who came to the limelight by promising to lead a kind of revolution against the “elite”. Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage both did the same -the contradiction of elitist fighting the elite is not lost on most people – and they invited the people to come along on the journey with them as they pushed a neo-empirical story-line of fighting the good fight.

Britain is now going to follow unkempt lovable daddy Johnson showing smiles to the camera whilst turbulence rides below.

Spectating The Spectator: Trading places

Image source: Pindex

The Spectator’s 10th August, 2019 edition of The Spectator opened up with a piece called Trading places.

The article considers the argument that the UK should look positively on a trade deal with America in place of the trade deal which we already have with the EU.

“The reality is that free trade is almost always on balance a good thing, regardless of which country is it conducted with. That said, there will always be compromises to be made. Vested interests to be tackled. Product standards have to be reviewed…Good trade deals can even destroy native industries – but the overall effect of global trade is to boost the creation of wealth…The important thing is to make the right concessions.”

The U.K already has these concessions with the European Union but with the extra added benefit that, as a democracy, the United Kingdom also has a vote and therefore a voice in the passing of European law. The author of this piece is essentially trying to argue for a position that would make the UK worse off.

“Free trade with the US is opposed by some Remainers for no better reason than because it is advocated by Leavers.”

The author is clearly a hypocrite. What kind of bias does it take to argue that getting away from our closest allies (culturally and by locality) and toward the US would be preferential over the kind of deal we already have? To say that Remainers oppose a deal with America for no other reason than Leavers want it seems exactly what this piece is arguing…only the other way.

‘…the NHS has always outsourced some of its services – which last year accounted for 7 per cent of its budget. There is no reason why US providers should not be allowed to compete for this work on equal terms with British companies.”

That was not the line towed by Leave supporting parties and groups throughout the 2016 referendum and there is also solid reasoning why the US should not be competing on the same terms with British companies: American health care standards are lower than the UK’s. Not only are American health care standards lower, the introduction of more private interests within the NHS goes against public polling which shows that people want private companies kept the at the biggest possible distance from health care system.

The NHS is not the author’s only area of attack. On GM foods:
‘No one can point to ill-effects, and for good reason: GM foods are subject to far more scrutiny than non-GM foods.’

The reason for the GM foods being held to higher scrutiny is because…well…they are genetically modified. A crop created as opposed to one grown is no doubt going to undergo far more scrutiny because it has to pass myriad tests that would decide whether said food was safe for consumption.

The simple truth is that America uses GM crops as it helps mass production which ultimately makes the crop cheaper to make. European food standards are among the highest in the world whilst America have been time and again castigated for packing out their foods with copious amounts of highly addictive and highly fattening corn-syrup.

‘Then there is the practice of washing chicken in chlorine, which has been continuously cited as a reason why we shouldn’t do a trade deal with the US. Even the EU, when it banned chlorine-washed chicken in 1997, came to the conclusion that the practice was perfectly acceptable from a food-standard point of view – but banned it anyway on the flimsy pretext that it might provide farmers with a sense of false security. A better explanation is that it spied the opportunity to snuff out US competition for less efficient European producers.’

The pretext was far from “flimsy”. For instance, the European Commission decided that using chlorine to wash chicken dramatically lowered standards because it allowed farmers to get away with providing poor conditions. As highlighted by Ben Chapman writing for the Independent (Sunday 3 March, 2019) – “Advocates of this approach” (not washing chicken in chlorine) “say that it leads to higher standards of hygiene and animal welfare because farmers must take care at each stage of the process rather than relying on a chemical bath to kill any harmful pathogens after animals are slaughtered.”

The idea that European farms are supposedly “less efficient” is exactly because European standards are higher and do not lower themselves to mass-production quality levels, which results in questionable practices like washing chicken in chlorine. The author also argues that the EU was being protectionist in its endeavours, something which many conservative thinkers is one of the best outcomes of Donald Trump’s America. When the EU tries to put EU farmers and food safety levels first, it is chastised.

What it comes down to is facts. Is chlorine washed chicken okay to eat? Looking back on Ben Chapman’s piece for the Independent, the answer is quite clear.

Are we so loathing of the European Union that we would opt for subservience to the US and lower not only our standards but our global standing?

A new nuclear power struggle

On 8th August, the inhabitants of Moscow were surprised when their televisions flicked from their standard programmes to a blue screen with a single star. It was a weather warning telling the people to find shelter. It then disappeared leaving people wondering just what had happened. At the same time in Severodvinsk, a small town in the North-West not far from the Finnish border was exposed to gamma radiation 3x higher than is permissible for human health after an explosion at the nearby Nyonoksa top-secret testing facility.

The explosion at Nyonoksa facility killed several including nuclear scientists. Russian weather service, Rosgidromet, recorded levels of radiation 16x higher than normal levels within the vicinity of Nyonoksa. In true Cold War style, residents were quick to stockpile iodine, known to stop the Thyroid from absorbing radiation. The explosion killed several including nuclear scientists working on the project.

After more correspondence it was finally let on that the explosion was down to the failure of an “isotope” power source. Russia was testing the infamous Storm Petrel missile at the Nyonoksa site. The Storm Petrel missile – called Skyfall by NATO – was unveiled by Russian president Vladimir Putin at the State of the Union address in 2018 and boasts a propulsion system powered by a miniature nuclear reactor which gives a potential flight time that could be measured in days, weeks or even months.

Having extended range plus cruise-missile capabilities – meaning that it can change direction, move around objects and evade interception – would mean that the missile would be harder to detect and defend against.

Another new and chilling piece of kit that Russia are working on – Poseidon – is an autonomous drone submarine which is programmed to unleash nuclear warheads on key enemy locations on the US west coast should Russia “go dark.”

Due to a series of agreements, Russia and America have not tested nuclear devices for twenty years. However, Russia have breached the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. Donald Trump responded by removing America from the pact. The New Start agreement which ensures Russia and the US have a limit on how many intercontinental nuclear missiles they can produce, runs out in 2021 and may not be renewed, thus giving America and Russia free reign to progress their arsenals and potentially make another power grab.

The US has been stepping up spending in nuclear warfare infrastructure with former President Barack Obama developing a $1.2tn plan to “maintain US air, sea and land-based nuclear weapons.” Donald Trump has gone much further putting an additional $500bn including $17bn for the production of a “low-yield” tactical nuclear weapon, essentially a mini-nuke that can be used on the battlefront.

It is rumoured that some factions within the Pentagon and within the defence contractor sector believe that Russia’s move away from agreements is a step in the right direction.

America’s nuclear defence capabilities are ageing and therefore, like many wars before, this will drive innovation and strengthen America’s standing.

Tensions are rising not only between the US and Russia (who between them hold little over 90% of the world’s nuclear arsenal) but with China, Iran and North Korea all flexing their muscles, we could be looking at the age of a new Cold War with new frontiers.

The point by point scaling up of nuclear armaments is not the only evidence of a new Cold War. Russia and China flexed their muscles during the Brexit and Presidential election campaigns with industrial scale levels of spreading disinformation. Seeing their success during these campaigns, Vladimir Putin is pushing further. At what cost?