One strike, and you are out

May 3, 2017

Fencing

Unfolding news stories.  President Trump celebrates his first hundred days in office. He says there is a chance we have a major major conflict with North Korea. His words. The Doomsday clock clicks  closer to zero

A republican Governor tells the BBC that Trump would be advised to stop mere saber-rattling and take more direct actions to remove Kim Jong-un. He admitted he didn’t know what the steps might be, but there would be very bright guys in the Military who would.

A plausible theory is that President Trump is following the rule book about getting a good deal, say on a used car. Talk tough, kick a tyre disparagingly, and ask for more than you expect to get.

The threat of global annihilation puts in the shade the General Election campaign in the UK. It has been called by the Government to obtain a renewed mandate for its upcoming negotiations with the EU. The Government has an overwhelming lead in the opinion polls, and the PM has settled for a a rope-a-dope strategy against the unpopular opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, designed to allow him to defeat himself. The strategy involves minimum risk of making Mrs May look anything but a strong leader. She is well-programmed to avoid policy commitments and stick two small number of sound bites about needing a huge majority to avoid the chaos if Corbin becomes Prime Minister. The likelihood of that is low, odds on it are roughly thirty to one against.

Mr Corbyn helpfully provides policies that often have appeal for their social progressiveness but too easily trashed as unworkable and financially implausible. He avoids traps clumsily on nuclear defense, a major Labour backer is reported as willing to stand against him if the local elections beginning this week are as bad as predicted.

The architect of the government’s success was the voter switch to UKIP, which is now being deserted according to those polls, giving the Government even greater prospects of electoral success.

Nevertheless, UKIP candidates are proving themselves independent souls. One Scottish Ukipper announces she is standing on a platform of re-opening public toilets, abolishing golf courses, and reintroducing the death penalty in a humane way, possibly using a guillotine.

It is not clear if a pre-emotive strike strategy helps the cause of world peace, when you are trying to stop a nuclear war, rather than trying to get a best price for a second-hand car.


Nigel Farage defines his role in the EU referendum process

September 26, 2015

Nigel FarageNigel Farage gains media attention and a reappraisal of his role in the EU referendum process at the UKIP conference at Doncaster

I listened on radio to the early stages of his opening address to his party’s annual conference. It was delivered in a convincing charismatic style. By that I mean one that appeals at an emotional level and which somehow minimizes rational evaluation of its implied assumptions.

Then I watched and listened to the later stage of the speech on BBC TV news. The theme had changed, and with it the impression it made on me. The naughty Nigel had crept out.

For a moment Nigel was nonplussed

The change occurred when he offered up some rather weak jokes about Jeremy Corbyn, and then targetted the leaders of the YES grouping in the forthcoming EU membership referendum. He began these with a mention of Richard Branson in only a mildly dismissive way.

Then he moved on to Tony Blair, this reference winning more reactions, jeers (presumably against Blair) and applause (presumably for Nigel). He was obviously building up to the third and most repulsive of the gang of three, none other than David Cameron.

He earned the desired increase of jeers and cheers which rather petered out, not helped by an off-colour remark about recent lurid publications about the undergraduate Cameron’s close encounter with a dead pig. For a moment Nigel was nonplussed at the ambiguous reaction to his joke.

“Well I liked it”

His customarily confident smile was replaced with a rather guilty smirk.   Or, at least that was how it came across to me.  He quickly sensed he had struck a false note.  But he is a consummate platform performer. “Well I liked it” he said, and switched back to being a selfless and visionary leader.  Nevertheless, a little magic had somehow slipped away.

The shift in style during the speech may have been calculated.  The early part of the presentation was rousing knockabout stuff.  UKIP has done well, and I and the party have been sorely traduced. The second part was a skillful presentation of a cause that even transcends direct loyalty to UKIP, namely to work to save the country by putting all energy into winning the EU referendum vote.  He identified the wider movement within which they would operate. This would be the  umbrella movement, Leave.eu funded by the wealthy Aaron Banks, who is a former influential backer of UKIP.

 He glossed over the recent more strained relationship with Mr Banks who seems to be attempting to minimize UKIP”s and Mr Farage’s influence in the EU referendum.

Conclusion

Edit out the weak passage, and you have an impressive performance. Nigel had decided to speak without notes.  This is a style that offers greater scope for empathic communication, and it mostly worked.

 The interpretation being placed on the speech is that Mr Farage  has indicated willingness  to become part of a wider political movement, and if requested will be persuaded to play a leading role in the referendum over EU membership.

UKIP leadership drama: Coriolanus meets The Thick of Things

May 16, 2015

The week’s leadership struggles in UKIP have echoes of a Shakespearean drama combined with and a modern political satire Nest of vipers

A week ago [8th May,2015] I noted that twenty four hours is a long time in politics. The high-velocity drama has continued throughout the first week of the new Conservative government.

Among the various stories is the remarkable series of events surrounding Nigel Farage and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). These could be summed up a defeated leader honouring his pre-election pledge to resign, and then reversing his decision, within another twenty four hours. Internal warfare erupts among his colleagues.

Background

Farage led UKIP to a very successful electoral result in terms of four million votes and unsuccessful in seats, won. Douglas Carstairs, the Conservative defector remains as sole elected UKIP Member of Parliament.

Farage himself, having failed to win the seat at South Thanet, confirms his earlier intention of resigning as leader of UKIP if he were to lose the South Thanet contest.

Dark Humour from The Thick of Things

As the drame unfolded, I felt I was witnessing a rerun of an episode of The Thick of Things. One deposed Farage aide, Raheem Kassam on Radio Five Live’s breakfast show (14th May 2014] gave a passable imitation of Peter Capelli as the scary Malcolm Tucker.

Then I found further connections with Coriolanus, one of the less-celebrated of Shakespeare’s dramas.

Farage and Coriolanus

In leadership style, the chummy Farage could hardly be further removed from that of the tragic Shakespearean figure of Coriolanus. Yet
the tale of triumph and ultimate failure depicts political unrest, with dangers to the ruling elite from the discontented plebeian masses of ancient Rome.

Although dismissive of the common people, Coriolanus wins their approval, but he is eventually killed by plotters against his dictatorial ambitions.

There is often dark humour to be found in Shakespearean tragedies. The unfolding UKIP drama has its darker moments, part Shakespearean, part The Thick of Things.

The resignation of Farage is accompanied by the entry on stage of assorted figures attempting to justify their efforts and conflicts. Farage is vilified as ‘snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive’ by one former ally Patrick O’Flinn

Farage’s advisors proceed to accuse each other of having mislead their leader, in the execution of campaign policy, and in particular over the headline-grabbing but divisive attacks on immigrants.

The noble Carswell resists

In one sub-plot, attempts are made to involve the residual UKIP MP, Douglas Carswell, in setting up a large staff at Westminster with money made available as a consequence of the 4 million votes obtained by the party. But the noble Carswell considers the money inappropriate for a one-MP party and rejects it, remaining aloof and beyond the fray.

Nigel is urged to return

As the plots and counter-plots develop, Farage is urged to remain. After a secret conclave, Nigel reluctantly accepts he must take back the leadership by overwhelming demands from his followers. Assorted plotters and counter-plotters with different views resign from the party.

Auditions for a new drama

Auditions are now taking place for the modern-dress version of Julius Caesar, with roles to be filled for Caesar, (offered the crown but who only reluctantly accepts it) Brutus, Cassius, Antony, and Calpurnia (soothsayer anticipating her husband Caesar’s sudden and bloody removal from power).

Casting possibilities: Nigel, Dave, George, Nick, Ed., Nicola, Boris, Natalee …

Later

The drama continues with more attempts to dislodge Nigel Farage.


UKIP win sets scene for recognition of political realities beyond the English borders in the omnishambles by-election

November 21, 2014

The voters of Rochester and Strood returned Conservative defector Mark Reckless to parliament as their new UKIP MP

The result is seen as a defining moment in UK politics.. Perhaps, but it certainly was no surprise. Polls had anticipated the result well in advance.

An omnishambles vote?

For the traditional political parties, the episode has seemed another example of an omnishambles. This was the term capturing the political mood of the nation, according to the right-leaning Daily Telegraph.

It captured enough of the mood after its first recorded use in the political satire The thick of things to be voted word of the year in 2012 by the Oxford University Press.

The Conservative omnishambles

The Prime Minister vowed ‘to keep his [Mark Reckess’s ] fat arse out of Westminster’. His instructions to love-bomb the election were apparently treated by his cabinent and MPs to the political practice of obeying the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit of it.

The labour omnishambles

The labour omnishambles included an attempt to change leader in mid-shambles. It ended with the resignation of an MP whose tweet seemed to be a sneering reference to people who vote UKIP, drive white vans, and display Union flags on the front of their modest homes

“Longer term, its labour will suffer” a subscriber to LWD and a student of the political scene told me. “Social media and technology will make it hard for them to keep the old loyalty of voters”

The Liberal omnishambles?

The Liberal Democrat coalition partners in Government won a humiliating 1% of the vote. One rather sympathetic headline among the majority of withering comments suggested they had conserved financial and political capital for the upcoming general election

Beyond the borders

My suspicion is that the voters recognized the failure of those in power to deliver. The single issue dominating was that of immigrants as the primary source of disaffection. If so, the outcome mirrors a mood against the much-reviled EC system within many of its member states. I’m inclined to extend the dissatisfaction to the omnishambles in the American political scene as well.

To be continued

This first-reaction posting replaced the planned post on F1, which will follow shortly.


Boris Johnson’s speech to the Conservative Conference raises morale

October 1, 2014

It is widely reported that Boris Johnson is positioning himself to become the next leader of the Conservative Party and then Prime Minister. His Conference speech illustrates why.

His speeches are coded messages. They are also irresistibly witty. Today [September 30th 2014] he addressed the Conservative Party annual conference. You can see a report of the speech here.

On the eve of the Conference, UKIP announced the defection of a Conservative MP Mark Reckless to its Party. Boris brushed aside this near-crisis PR story with a humorous nautical riff about throwing the Kippers overboard along with [Alex] Salmond.

Boris banishes bad thoughts

The assembled Party activists roared their approval. Boris had banished bad thoughts. Wit had magicked away melancholia.

Compulsive watching

It was compulsive watching. Like any great performer, he succeeded in captivating his audience. I suspended disbelief. I warmed to Boris’ World.

The world beyond Boris

But I didn’t believe a word in a world beyond Boris. Particularly when he outlined why there was the only one man to lead in Europe. He was building up to saying that man was David Cameron. And he did, with a touch of irony suggesting that his words are funny and charming and not to be taken literally.

And I did find his words funny and charming and not to be taken literally. And if I had been in the Hall, I would have smiled and clapped. Just like David Cameron did.

These are my leadership questions

Will Boris influence the influencers? Will The Conservative party decide it needs Boris as leader before the General Election? Will he be in good position to take over from David Cameron if the Conservatives lose the next election?

Perhaps. And if so, he will deploy an unmatched skill at making people forget their problems. Until, sadly, they have to re-emerge from Borisland.


Clegg v Farage April 2nd 2014

April 3, 2014

Instant and unedited thoughts on the second TV debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage

Missed first two minutes …these were their opening statements. Oops.

I liked the BBC’s structure, well-selected audience and questions, with limited response time, distinguished chairman David Dimbleby.

Initial exchanges were rather unengaging for me. Although prepared statements, not strong links with reasoned argument.

The Farage comment about Putin seemed dangerously distracting ground for Clegg to get on to.

Clegg seems to be making it too personal.

Immigration. Farage rather vague. ‘Didn’t recognize’ a leaflet from his party which Clegg waved..

Disappointing low-level debate too close to Any Questions format.

Clegg clear loser for impact on audience including me.

On reflection

At first, I thought the BBC had come up with a sensible format that would produce a watchable programme that would interest and enlighten. On reflection it achieved that to some degree. The disappointment was that the event was too revealing of Nick Clegg as a leader in unconvincing mode. His passion seemed channelled too much towards belittling his opponent. His prepared barbs were embarrassing. His focus for attack poorly judged.

I felt that Mr Farage had far more self-belief. It was the self-belief of the charismatic individual. His style was the style of the demagogue. One instructive difference. When an elderly member of the audience asked Farage a question which might have been supplied by a UKIP speech writer, Ferage turned his attention completely to her. She was made to feel the most important person in the world for an instant. Mr Clegg lacks that sort of display of personal warmth. Or at least, he did last night.

‘Exit polls’ within minutes of the debate confirm my view that Farage had been far more successful than Clegg.


UKIP offers a lesson in leadership: but what is it?

May 6, 2013

NIgel FarageThe United Kingdom Independence Party [UKIP] made considerable gains in the County Council elections this week. The three major parties have their reasons to fear its continued advances. We assess the leadership lessons for them and for UKIP

Last week, [Thursday May 4th 2012] I suggested that the County Council elections and the performance of UKIP were blogworthy, noting:

In the UK, local elections this week are seen as a measure of protest votes away from the traditional political parties. The anti-immigration and (even more anti -European Union) party UKIP is tipped to poll well under the leadership of its somewhat unconventional leader, the ebullient Nigel Farage

UKIP polled better than was expected

Results justified my interest. UKIP polled well enough for their success to be the main media story.

The bare statistics [BBC summary] show that UKIP won over 140 seats and averaged 25% of the vote in the wards where it was standing. Projected to a dubious concept of projected national share of the vote, the figures in a general election translate to the Labour Party in the lead with 29% of the vote, the Conservatives with 25%, UKIP 23% of votes and the Lib Dems with 14%. Mr Cameron’s conservatives are the most vulnerable to a voting switch, and UKIP’s policies on immigration (bad) the European Union (very bad) have appeal even among as many as a hundred Conservative MPs. Labour has concerns that the popularist line is attractive to some proportion of its own working class constituency.

Most commentators share the view that the results do not translate easily to the next general election, which is two years away.

What might be happening?

An attack of UKIP votes as clowns may have strengthened the resolve of some voters, although in a dozen or so interviews I heard this was mentioned more as source of belated satisfaction rather than a vote-changer. What was more widely mentioned was the view communicated via the candidates that UKIP was the only party listening to the electorate.

Was it Nigel wot done it?

Nigel Farage , the leader I described as unconventional and ebullient, at very least seized the headlines during the last weeks of the campaign. His style is pure charisma, plausible, utterly convinced of the rightness of his opinions, appealing to his supporters. I suppose I should confess it is not a style that appeals to me, whatever I may think of the broadly social conservative position he presents. He rather blatantly chose to be filmed in pubs, pint in hand, a man of the people contrasting with the privileged class from which, he suggests, all his opponents come. His successful candidates repeated this view with equal conviction.

Did Nigel make a difference?

I suggest that he did, for better or for worse. It is hard to find another factor that converted general discontent into so many votes. Even that is not totally convincing, as in the same interviews I mentioned above, Farage did not figure as prominently as I expected

What happens next?

Espoused theories

The downside of a charismatic leadership style is sometimes a tendency to espouse the common touch while losing it in private. The social scientist Chris Argyris distinguishes between espoused theories and theories in use. One disenchanted defector from UKIP suggests that this is already the case.

Mr Farage dismissed the defection of Marta Andreasen , a senior figure, in these typically robust terms

‘Having left the OECD, the European Commission and UKIP in unpleasant circumstances the Conservative Party deserve what is coming to them. The woman is impossible.’

A Harbinger?

One defector doth not a battle lose. But if this is a harbinger of what might happen, I expect to be writing more about Mr Farage and UKIP.