A quick word about Boris Johnson

If you think Boris Johnson wasn’t making a carefully staged comment in regards the burka to appeal to a certain demographic then I have a bridge to sell you. Boris Johnson was making a very well prepared comment to act as a dogwhistle not just for out and out racists (as Johnson enjoys a support there already) but from people who are ordinary voters.They may not be EDL, or Stephen Yaxley-Lennon worshipping mouthbreathers but people like old women sitting in a waiting room or just people like the one’s you and I live and work with.

Ever since Michael Howard’s Conservatives were rightly trounced after their horribly racist campaign in 2005, mainstream politicians from the right, and the left, have struggled with how to deal with immigration or just be plain outright in their beliefs, or just jumped on board the UKIPisation of UK (or to be specific, English) politics.

Brexit was always an opportunity for the hard right as well as the far right,to enable themselves and beliefs openly among as large a number of people that they’ve ever had access to in the UK, and people lapped up the racist bullshit. At the head of that campaign were a number of people but Johnson was one of the leaders pushing for Brexit at that point for his own goal which is to become Prime Minister. He still clearly wants that job, but now we’re two years down the line from the EU referendum there’s a lot that was once considered abhorrent becoming normalised as specifically England is gripped by a anti-immigrant hatred, though thanks mainly to Ruth Davidson and her Tories, we’ve got our own issues here in Scotland.

Johnson is positioning himself to be the strong maverick Trump-like leader who’ll do the job Theresa May can’t, and if you think that won’t get votes may I point out polls that show the issues Johnson is dogwhistling about have some support, and that’s from people willing to admit their bigotry. Right now there’s just a few steps away from the UK being run by the likes of Johnson with a far right support in the shape of Steve Bannon backed of course by Putin who has a thing for puppets like Johnson.

I said over two years ago Johnson was out to become a real life Adam Susan. I think by next spring we’ll see Johnson as PM, or at least on the cusp of becoming PM and he knows exactly what he needs to do to get there. So when you think he ‘mispoke’ think again. He wants power and he doesn’t care if that means turning the UK into a dystopia to get it, and worse, stay in power.  This is why Brexit needs to be opposed because once that happens the gloves are off…

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How Brexit will kill you

I’d written out a big old blog about how Brexit will affect those of us who need prescription drugs to have a better quality of life, or to just live in my case.Then this article by Ash Soni, the president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society popped up in the Guardian.

The jist is simple enough. Over the last 45 years we’ve built up links across the EU so drugs are not manufactured in the UK in the numbers they were, but here’s Soni to explain.

Let’s take a look at how medicines get from the factory to our local pharmacy. This is, by its nature, an international business. The active ingredients needed are often manufactured in India and the far east. These are then transported to manufacturing plants that turn them into the tablets and liquids that come in prescribed form. Many of the factories that supply the UK are elsewhere in Europe. From there, they are sent to wholesalers here who then distribute them to pharmacies and hospitals to be dispensed to patients. The entire process has to be carefully managed to ensure that everything happens in a timely way – particularly for medicines with short shelf lives, such as lifesaving EpiPens needed for those with severe allergies; or those with special requirements, such as insulin, which needs to be kept at between 2C and 8C at all times.

The goods that benefit from free movement across Europe include medicines. The pharmaceutical supply industry has adapted itself to these arrangements. So any big, sudden change, whether it’s leaving the customs union and single market, or negotiations breaking down resulting in no deal, has the potential to create major problems. Delays at ports, increased costs and legal or regulatory differences are among the issues.

It’s one of those things the Brexiters, and the Lexiters, dismiss. ”How did we cope before the EU?’. Well, the answer is we coped within the limits we had then which means 45 years ago when we joined the EU (Or the EEC as it was then) the life expectancy of a man was 69 and a woman 71 compared to 79 and 82 now. In short, the development of new drugs and a general raising of standards of living not to mention the fact there’s not been a Europe-wide conflict since 1945 means we’re living longer, and thnings that used to kill us are now treatable.

Break down the finely-tuned supply chain, or even delay the drug supply for a day or longer will lead to ill people suffering, even dying. In my case I take eight pills a day to keep me alive. To take just one, thyroxine, there are two companies with the license to import it into the UK where it is branded accordingly. In liquid form it can be stockpiled up to 32 weeks, in tablet form 28 weeks.  Not bad you may think but millions of people take it to help with conditions like an underactive thyroid to people like me who had their thyroid removed because of cancer. Pharmacies only hold stock for a week at a time, sometimes less in smaller branches and right now nobody is stockpiling or starting up manufacturing of the drug in the UK. To quote Soni again;

So what are the solutions? There is some manufacturing capacity in the UK but not nearly enough to meet the entire country’s demand for medicine. Trying to increase capacity can be done but would take a considerable amount of time, as any new facility needs to be approved for producing high-quality, safe medicines. Some, such as those that produce insulin, have very particular specifications. As a result, “just making more medicines here” cannot be the solution.

There is some discussion about stockpiling, but the immediate question is how could such vast quantities of drugs be stored in the appropriate environments (remember that some, for example, need to be kept cold)?

Then there is the issue of paying for the medicines. A stockpile lasting three months equates to around £4.5bn, which is an incredible amount of money. At the moment pharmacies don’t get paid until the medicines are dispensed. How could they afford to buy the amounts required? That’s before you even get to the question of shelf lives, which for some medicines are short.

The UK could leave the EU with no deal in March 2019. Overnight we become a sole nation with no infrastructure to deal with this, so if you’re a diabetic you’ll be one of the first to feel the shortages which will hit and hit hard.

All of this was warned about when the EU referendum was taking place. All of it is avoidable but the Tories, helped by a supine opposition, rushed into invoking Article 50 with no plan and the last bit of control the UK had went so we’ve been on a course for no deal for nearly two years and only now are people taking it seriously because it may hit them. For Brexiters and Lexiters there is no reasoning with them. For them it is now a matter of faith. Indeed some Brexiters are looking forward to this self-imposed immolation because the prize is so close for them that vast numbers of people suffering needlessly and dying is worth it.

And this is only one way Brexit could kill you. I’ve not discussed how food standards, and health and safety legislation being dropped leaves the population open to the sort of thing that’s common in the US, which is where Brexiters are looking to provide us with food. So I ask, I even implore you to contact your MP and if they’re not already against Brexit then push them. Make it clear you hold them culpable for anything that’s coming because I hold every Brexiter/Lexiter responsible however we’re entering the time where we cannot turn back so do what you can and prepare yourselves.

Giving into the far right because of Brexit

I’ve tried to avoid blogging about politics of late, especially about whatever the hell is going on in England as it’s complex enough here in Scotland, and anyhow, it’s summer so I fancied a break but there was an interview on Newsnight the other night that featured Ash Sarkar, a contributor to Novara Media, a self-professed ‘radical left wing’ website that is in effect a public mouthpiece for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour. It’s a site easily ignored here in Scotland as when it does venture into territory outside England, fuck it, outside London, finds itself flailing and lost.

But the last few weeks have seen a debate about whether communism is worth a comeback, and the ludicrous idea of ‘luxury communism‘ (it’d never be a joyous time for workers, but the sort of folk running Novara because I’ve read my Orwell and learned from history) which provides a fully-automated utopia where everyone has the ability to do what they want. A nice utopian idea ripped out of Science Fiction of the early 20th Century and as we know from history, Communism leads to dark places so dig that Orwell out again because we as a society don’t seem to have learned from it.

Now I understand the point that for a generation who didn’t grow up seeing the horrors of Communism that any sort of alternative to what we’ve had for the last decade where austerity, and the post-9/11 rush to more authoritarian societies has left people who haven’t known better to look at all options for a way out. And this brings me to  the Sarkar interview.  The idea that a second referendum won by the Remain side would embolden the far right so we shouldn’t do it is simply put, capitulating to the far right for the gain of your own chosen political party. It also ignores the fact that the far right are already emboldened, and are in fact winning what should be clear, is a war upon post-WW2 values, society and culture by the far right. Brexit is a line in the sand. Lose this and the future isn’t utopian.

So the idea that we shouldn’t carry on fighting Brexit for fear of the far right is just capitulation. It’s handing the far right an advantage because to be blunt, you’re too scared of losing votes for your chosen party so this is a more acceptable position for you than carrying on the fight against far right extremism. There can be no giving into the far right and there can be no capitulation.

We’ve now had two years of Brexit

Two years ago the UK, well, England mainly, voted to leave the EU and the world went mad.The vote was won with no plan, no idea of how to leave and with experts promising total collapse if we just up and leave with no deal, but hardline Brexiters from the right and the left on the morning after the vote demanded Article 50 (the procedure that kicks into motion the UK leaving the EU)invoked and the UK leaves with nothing more planned than the fact we’re leaving. Two years later this is sort of the situation we’re still in. Both the right and left of Brexit want to leave ASAP to bring about some sort of nirvana based upon their own political ideology so both push the line about ‘respecting the result’ because to veer off course now would mean they don’t get what they want.

Problem is ‘respecting the result’ means buying into the fact the referendum was built on racist lies and possible (probable?) criminality and corruption. This Bloomberg article reveals part of the problem, while the work of journalists like James Patrick and Carol Cadwalladr are exposing what is a massive perversion of democracy, not to mention people’s real concerns about being stuck in eternal austerity which has lasted a decade with no end to come.

Tens of thousands marched the streets of London at the weekend just gone protesting Brexit but with the Tories locked in a death spiral trying to put off the day when the likes of Jacob Rees Mogg gets his cold hands on the PM job, and Labour stuck in a nostalgia trip there is no way a political end to Brexit can be found. Anyhow, it’s far too late. As soon as Article 50 was invoked the UK lost any control on what will happen, apart from the ‘no deal’ option where the UK walks and carnage happens overnight. Business is making that clear with a series of warnings falling on arrogantly deaf ears. Basically the type of country you want to live in is at stake and frankly, the extremists have all the Trump cards.

We’re heading towards reality with a sickening thud. When the smoke clears and things calm down we might not like the look of where we are, what we’ve done and the irreparable damage done to people’s lives. So, I’ll be blunt. Be prepared for next year as if we do drop out with no deal and off that edge, or even just take what we’re given because we gave away any power in March 2017, we could face something people in this country haven’t faced since the early to mid 1970’s. I hope I’m wrong but unless something major happens we’re fucked.

Solidarity for Scotland

After Wednesday’s extraordinary events where the SNP walked out of PMQ’s, we have a situation where yet again in a matter of days everything that seemed fixed and certain is nothing of the kind. The walk-out is international news as well as the talk of buses, workplaces and every corner of Scotland and the UK, while Yes groups are reporting boosts in membership to go along with the SNP reporting a sharp increase in new members since yesterday afternoon. People now know the Tories plan to grab powers devolved to Scotland and the walk-out did more to raise the issue than anything else has so hopefully this don’t give a fuck attitude carries on.

We even have Murray Foote, the originator of the infamous ‘Vow’ in 2014 coming out now in support of independence. Not just supporting efforts to protect devolution, but actual independence.

Basically if the man who helped win it for the UK government and the establishment in 2014 goes ”fuck this, give me a Saltire, Indy now!’then we’re at the point where anything is possible.

But before we all get ahead of ourselves let’s remember that although the Tories are against the ropes, they still have the entire UK establishment (and other useful idiots) supporting them, and the Union. Then there’s Labour eternal promise of jam tomorrow which, for now, has the supposed ”radical left” (though I don’t see anything radical about Labour supporting a system designed to create poverty and inequality) still making doe eyes at it in the hope that it’ll work out. Support needs to be won but right now it does seem like the tide has turned and maybe, just maybe we may find ourselves getting out of the mess we’re in.

So caution for now, but a wee bit of positivity is allowed.

Devolution in Scotland is over

At the start of the year, Scottish Secretary David Mundell promised (in as much as one can take the word of a Tory) as debate on the EU Withdrawal BIll and the return of powers from the EU to not go to Holyrood as they should, but to Westminster.

To make devolution in Scotland simple, the settlement (contained in various Scotland acts) means that what is not reserved, is devolved and Westminster can’t ‘normally’ touch anything devolved. The EU Withdrawal Bill contains a clause where that’s ripped up and they can walk all over the devolved powers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There’s a whole load of powers Westminster wants control of that would, bluntly, make life in Scotland a fuckload harder for people, and in many cases people who have a fucking hard life now as it is.

Yesterday the EU Withdrawal BIll was debated and devolution was allotted a whole 15 minutes, but that was filibusted by the Tories so devolution effectively began being dismantled but a vote took place and the chance to oppose it was laid out. Sadly only all the SNP and Plaid Cymru MP’s voted against it, with a lone Lib Dem, Caroline Lucas of the Greens and one lone Labour MP in the shape of Dennis Skinner. Labour abstained and the Tories won.

This also happened last night.

During the debate SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford asked: “Mr Speaker, what options are available to us in this house to ensure that the Government understands real concern among people in Scotland at this unprecedented power grab, and how can we make sure that our voices are heard?”

In response, an MP can be heard shouting “suicide” back at Robertson.

Today during PMQ’s, Ian Blackford, leader of the SNP in the Commons, was asked to leave by the Speaker, which prompted the entire mass of the SNP ranks to walk as one in protest, solidarity and disgust as to how they, the Scottish Government, Holyrood, the principle of devolution and indeed, the people are being held in contempt.

Yes, the walkout was a stunt but it’s a stunt that got this issue into the headlines and now more people know what’s going on, not to mention the sight of Tory MP’s (and their useful idiots on the Labour ranks) jeering and sneering at Scottish MP’s will have caused blood pressure to rise in a good number of people, and indeed, the SNP are reporting a surge in memberships today off the back of this.

I’m glad this has happened. I was getting tired of the SNP sitting around doing little, and seemingly doing little and I was getting tired of them being polite in the company of arseholes that make up the Tory benches, and although I appreciate Nicola Sturgeon’s cool head, she was in the middle of a pincer movement between Ruth Davidson’s loyalist hard right Unionism and Jeremy Corbyn’s outdated ‘socialist’ Unionism. The last few weeks there’s been positive signs of something happening to fight this power grab, and now finally we’ve got something which took bollocks but only happened after years of Scotland being repeatedly being ignored, bullied and treated like contempt.

Well, the genie is out the back now. The Tories tonight seem to be closing ranks but the question for the Lib Dems and Labour (who voted in Holyrood to fight the power grab) is where do they stand? For now this isn’t about independence (though that’s the nuclear option) but preserving the place of Scotland in the UK so does Jeremy Corbyn especially think his MP’s sitting on their hands while he pushes for a Brexit, Scotland never wanted, a good thing for a democrat and a socialist. Fact is this is the time to stick your neck out. The Scotland Act is effectively over bar the kicking and screaming, unless we all unite against the Tories but I fear this won’t happen so next up will be using the mandate for a second referendum because bluntly, the UK can go fuck itself.

Antisemitism and the left

One of the things about now living in Scotland that looking in on what happens politically in England  makes the utter insanity of Scottish politics seem sane and sensible, well, as sane as politics can be in this world dominated by Brexit and the aftermath of that. In this case the Jeremy Corbyn antisemitism row is one I look upon with interest as it seems most everyone involved in this are at some level, an arsehole.

It’s clear that some of those attacking Corbyn are doing so not because they’re fighting antisemitism, but they’re doing so to land lumps upon Corbyn. This of course isn’t true for all of Corbyn’s accusers as a number of people have very clear concerns with how Labour’s failed to deal with an issue that shouldn’t arise in a supposed party of the people like Labour. However as those of us in Scotland know, Labour are peachy with the like of Hugh Gaffney in their party and although it’s fair to say all parties have eye-popping racists and bigots in them, it is how they deal with them that’s the mark of a party. I can see that if I were Jewish that a party I’d normally consider safe refuge seems to be not treating bigotry aimed at my people as seriously as they should.

But the problem is that instead of an informed debate about antisemitism we now have a polarised shouting session where the decreasing voices of sanity are being drowned out by folk on all sides of this debate.

Do Labour, and the left as a whole, have an issue with antisemitism? Yes. This Guardian article provides some context for Labour, but parts of the left need to address this head on and no, that doesn’t mean turning the subject to Israel or mentioning Zionism. The comedian David Schneider make a wee test for those of us on the left and I think he’s nailed it.

I’ve been at Stop the War meetings not long after the second Iraq War where Tony Benn would agonisingly spell things out for people along similar lines to Schneider and when the floor was thrown open to questions, it would be guaranteed one of the first would be mindbogglingly antisemitic. At one in London around 2003 myself and my then partner (who was Jewish) left raging after folk ignored Benn’s message which meant she left before getting into a fight, and in Bristol a few years later myself and a mate left because we couldn’t be arsed arguing with people about ‘THE JEWS’ with spittle-flecked anger.

A section of people on the left have a blind spot for Jews. Do I think Corbyn antisemitic? No, he’s trying to protect his party and in doing so he’s fucked up because he’s never confronted the problem head on as it’d mean tackling allies, just as Gaffney isn’t tackled as it means he loses an ally here. It isn’t all Corbyn’s fault as no Labour leader in my lifetime had truly tackled the issue head-on but the issue sits within Labour and needs sorted. The left as a whole has the same issue and this leaves a massive open goal the Tories are only too glad to take advantage of. Of course the Tories have issues with every sort of bigotry going but the difference between us on the left and them is we’re supposed to care about people as people rather than find ways to get round this. Basically, we’re supposed to be better but I think some folk just have a blind spot which is why they need called out if they can’t be educated as Tony Benn used to try to do.

We have the worst government in a succession of awful governments which has wallowed in lies and corruption. A Prime Minister in Theresa May unfit for the job leading us to a Brexit nobody with sanity and compassion backs and yet the official Westminster opposition can’t break a lead because they can’t keep their own house in order. It’s a sad, pitiful and hopeless situation but if the left learns something from this then at least it may just have been worth it.

It won’t of course.