I Am A Hypocrite And My Cowardice Is Killing My Country

It’s 9:25 in the evening I have just walked back into my flat in Birmingham. At 8:15 this morning I left my flat to get the 8:30 train to London.

I took three placards, and a rucksack full of bottled water, painkillers and a change of clothes.

I took all of that stuff because I had no idea what was going to happen, or what I might get involved in.

And I still managed to disappoint myself.

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I met a friend at London Euston, and we walked together to Green Park, where we met another three friends. We then all walked to Whiteall to join a crowd of thousands of others at the entrance to Downing Street, on which sits No. 10 Downing Street, the home and office of the Prime Minister, Alexander ‘Boris’ de Pfeffel Johnson.

Together, we chanted and sand our protests against Prime Minister Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament for more than a month in the lead-up to the Brexit departure date of 31st October.

Our chants weren’t always in sync, nor were they always very loud or very polite, but we chanted and sang our anger through the air, above the barrier railings and through the metal gate which kept us out of sight of the door to No. 10.

A few of my friends left a little after 1pm. Others joined later and stayed for an hour or two. Soon, they had all left, and I remained in the crowd, with a placard in each hand. I led a few chants, joined in many more, sang along to songs like “No one voted for Boris” to the tune of ‘Seven Nation Army’.

Pretty heroic, eh?

I followed the crowd as we started marching down Whitehall, to outside Westminster Palace, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament. We out-chanted an embarrassingly small (less than twenty?) pro-Brexit counter-protest. We danced and swayed and chanted some more to the improvised drumming of a musical protest group.

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Tourists, mostly unconcerned with the dwindling numbers of protestors.

We felt powerful.

I felt powerful.

I felt like I was part of something, something huge and vital and full of furious passion. I felt like we might make a difference, My knees shook with nerves as I led a hundred people in a chant of “When I say ‘Boris’, you say ‘Liar'” but it was exhilirating and intoxicating, especially because everybody had a go at chant leading, at hitting the rhythm of call-and-response. My voice was already hoarse, but I did what I could to keep up, still holding those placards high.

So heroic, right?

By 4pm, that gathering petered out and dispersed. I sat down for the first time in six hours to eat a Boots Meal-Deal wrap, the first food I’d had all day. I took a couple of touristy photos, then got back on my feet and wandered down to the other end of Whitehall.

So goddamn heroic. It’s okay to feel attracted to me right now because of my heroism. You’re only human.

Whitehall was mostly empty by this point. There were a few protestors still standing, but most were wandering home.

At Trafalgar Square, something else was happening. Maybe a couple of hundred protestors were in the roadway of the roundabout, defying the orders of surrounding police to move. I watched for a moment. I was shattered, so I just watched.

Then, as the police started closing in, so did I.

So, so fucking heroic.

 

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Helicopters over Nelson’s Column, as police vans gradually close in from the side, putting the squeeze quite literally on the illegal protest.

I stood with the protestors, held my placards high, and joined in the chant. Stood in the roadway, high-visibility police on all sides, telling us to move or else be arrested. I watched as a middle-aged woman was pulled out of the crowd by eight arresting police officers. I was jostled as the police closed in futher, putting pressure on the protestors to clear the road.

Uuunnng, so, just, so, huh, so heroic.

So anyway, I made a decision that I didn’t want to be arrested and quietly moved back when I was able, to watch from a less criminal distance. I handed my placards over to people who were planning to capitulate a little less than I was, and then I stood and chatted with some other protestors, and chanted a little from the sidelines, as maybe thirty or forty more committed invididuals sat down in the entrance to Whitechapel as the police lined up and looked on.

After around an hour, I handed my remaining drinking water and wandered down Northumberland Avenue looking for a tube station, couldn’t find one, chilled on one of the Golden Jubilee Bridges for a few minutes and gave my parents a ring.

I’m not trying to be macho when I say this, but I genuinely wasn’t worried about violence. I didn’t fear being arrested in the physical capacity. I wasn’t looking forwards to handcuffs, but the police were calm and polite, the protestors were loud but peaceful, and I never felt any kind of fear response.

It’s simply that I calmly, rationally decided that getting arrested would pose too much of a threat to my job, since a criminal record would likely see me fired from the financial institution that currently employs me.

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Taken from Sky News. This was a small police presence compared to later on.

So I left. I left the actual protesting, the civil disobedience, to people who either had less to lose than I had, or who cared enough to lose more than I was willing to sacrifice.

Because I’m not a hero. I’m an arsehole, and a hypocrite, and my cowardice is destroying my own country.

On the way to Downing Street and outside of it, my friends and I chatted about how the really wasn’t going to change things, most likely. We discussed that, by turning up, staying for a bit, then going home and leaving the place exactly as we found it, we were essentially giving permission to the Government to ignore us.

And they will ignore us.

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This is Sam. Sam is a writer. He led a lot of chants whilst dressed as a London bus. He and his friends stayed behind after I left. He and his friends are better than I am.

I knew, and have said before, that peaceful, obedient protest in the legally-prescribed protesting areas is not going to force any kind of change. It will not end Parliament’s suspension, it will not force a General Election, and it won’t even force Prime Minister to pass comment on the protest itself.

“Mr Johnson, what are your thoughts on the protest outside today?”

“Well, it’s a shame they’re upset.”

“Thank you, Prime Minister.”

I knew this. I knew this, and I knew that I had been saying for years that nobody in this country will fight for change whilst their wi-fi still works and they can still eat crisps and whilst they can still watch the football.

I knew this, and yet at crunch time, I still decided to rationalise and excuse and justify my political cowardice. “Well, I’ve got a job I need to keep. And I’m tired, and self-care is important. And I need to get back to post on social media and write a blog post talking about how important protesting is.”

And I wasn’t even that scared. I just didn’t want the hassle, or the inconvenience of having to notify my workplace about an arrest record.

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One of the last things I saw before I left. Here, you can see that the police vans have completely closed in, and officers are lining the border between the “legal” protest area on Whitechapel and the Trafalgar Square roundabout.

I walked back from the bridge to Trafalgar Square again. Took some photos of the police presence. Explained to two Australian tourists why the protest was occurring. Explained that it had been bigger a few hours ago, even if it was less than a hundred people now. Took some video as the police moved in, the 6pm cutoff for protesting in Whitechapel having come and gone. Then I entered the Charing Cross tube station with my tail between my legs and my dick receeding back inside my body and I headed back to Euston.

Parliament will still be suspended in a week.

Democracy is still going to fail.

But hey, at least my job is safe.

I’m such a hero.


This is what the arseholes want. They want us angry and frustrated, but distracted, and cautious.

Did you go out today? Did you protest? Did you get some neat selfies of yourself and your friends? Did you get a few “likes” and “loves” when you posted them online?

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This post of mine got so many reacts. Like, at least 30. I’m such a hero. Hey guys, I totally took part in an illegal protest for exactly as long as it was convenient, shower me with praise, please!

Did you have a nice day out, being all political and whatnot?

Great. Good. Glad you had a nice time. I did too. I got to see Big Ben covered in scaffolding.

Did you get back in time for Derek’s birthday meal at Nando’s? Weren’t too late, I hope, to join him and his twenty mates who spent the afternoon watching the Villa game?

Hey, the new ‘Dark Crystal’ show is out, you should probably watch that. And you still have the last season of ‘Orange Is The New Black’ to finish off. Shall we get a pizza in? I’m soooo tired after spending an hour outside the council building today, I don’t feel like cooking.

Hey, and I guess one of you had to stay in, to look after the kids or whatever.

Seriously, it’s fine, you need to look after yourself, I get it. Radical self-care and all that. Super important. Me too, that’s why I left the protest. Got to look after yourself.

Here’s the twist, though. Radical self-care is great because day-to-day concerns should never be more important than your health.

And I hate to be the angry voice in the room, but Johnson shutting down Parliament is not a fucking day-to-day concern.

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The last few protestors, sitting down and refusing to move along.

You think your health is important? Correct, it is, and your health will get an awful lot fucking worse when we run out of medicine post-No-Deal Brexit. And it will get worse again when the bastards sell off the NHS to American healthcare companies and you can’t afford medical insurance that you’ve never had to pay before.

Yeah, your job is important, your salary is vital to you getting the next consumer product you really like. You can think back fondly to the days of having a salary after the economy nose-dives and we become a tax haven for the ultra wealthy.

Fighting for democracy is not a nice day out with a few friends. And it’s not a damn selfie. It’s whole-hearted and determined and it requires more from us than a stroll into the city centre and an “angry” react.

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A bronze lion at the base of Nelson’s Column, devouring a devious, lying Prime Minister. Maybe this will be enough to save Parliament.

What We Need To Do

There were fewer protestors in London today than there were at the Aston Villa / Crystal Palace game. On the train home, I heard multiple conversations about a bad referee decision, and none about the fucking shutting down of our Parliament.

Johnson and his cabal of disaster-capitalists can ignore a few thousand people calling him names in the legal protest areas.

They cannot ignore hundreds of thousands clogging up the entire road network.

We don’t need to kick in windows and tear down bus stops and tip over parked cars to make our voices heard, we just need to get enough of us together often enough to have a material impact.

And right now, there aren’t enough of us.

Here’s how we get more.

Tell people in person, people that you work with or socialise with, how important the suspension of Parliament is to you. Don’t play into Johnson’s hands by “not discussing politics” out of politeness.

Tell them how important the suspension of Parliament is, and explain why. Explain in simple terms. Don’t talk about Brexit, don’t talk about the Tories, don’t talk about anything except this:

Shutting down Parliament takes away our right to vote.

Why? Because when we vote in elections, we vote for MPs to represent us. If Johnson can make our MPs completely powerless, then we’re not voting, we’re just drawing a cross on a meaningless piece of paper.

If the 2016 Brexit Referendum comes up, don’t talk about “non-binding results” or “Cambridge Analytica”. Talk about the fact that a single referendum can’t be used to shut down other forms of democracy, no matter the result.

Talk about the fact that even if we voted to leave the EU, we never voted to shut down Parliament. We never voted to lose our representation.

Ask your friends and colleagues if they think voting is important. If they do, find a way to convince them that shutting down Parliament is the same as taking away their vote. If the referendum is important to them, make them understand that they may never get another referendum on any subject because, with the ability to suspend Parliament, governments no longer need to worry about being held accountable for anything.

If they say that Johnson’s following through on his promises, point them to his Wikipedia page, point out all the times he’s been sacked for lying, been caught out on his lies. Ask them if they really think he’s suddenly started telling the truth.

And don’t play into his hand by portraying him as a clown. Don’t call him “Bojo”, don’t call him an idiot, or a fool. These things make him harmless, and approachable, and he knows this. Johnson is a smart, calculating and manipulative operator. We all ought to be a lot more scared of him than we are.

The same goes with Rees-Mogg, and the rest of them. Destroy their image. Break the glass. Scrape away the veneer. The current cabinet is a scary bunch of liars motivated solely by self-interest. Rees-Mogg is not a dorky public schoolboy in a top hat – he is a shrewd investor who has made millions off of Brexit already.

Don’t allow the current government to seem harmless, or bumbling, or stupid. They are determined, and intelligent, and motivated.

And whilst you’re doing all this, do it with kindess. Don’t put your colleagues and friends on the defensive. Don’t make this about political issues beyond the matter of our democratic rights. Don’t force them to account for their action, or lack of action – just give them reasons to care, as though you’re doing them a favour. Give them reasons to doubt their own apathy, to talk to their partners about it, spread the doubt a little further.

And don’t engage with detractors. If a rowdy white male football fan tries to stick is oafish oar in, ignore it. Just move on. Don’t argue, because you won’t win, because he’s not trying to win an argument – he’s trying to derail it. Brexiteers want us to get bogged down in statistics, voter turnouts, vote shares. They want technical terms like “prorogue” and “non-binding” and fucking “backstop” to be sticking points. They want us continually explaining these things over, and over, and over.

Don’t.

Stick to the message.

Suspending Parliament takes away our right to vote.

Be friendly. Be nice. Be helpful.

Stick to the message.

Be passionate, but not outraged.

Stick to the message.

The next step is to talk about the positive experiences you’ve had protesting. Talk about the festival-like atmosphere, the feeling of power, of conviction. Be honest. Relate how you really felt, and the reasons you would want to go back again.

Talk about feeling part of something. Of making a difference. And talk about how easy you found it, if you found it easy. If your experience at a protest was in any way rewarding, relay how rewarding it was.

Because we may not win people over solely with our cause. We may need to appeal to their ego, too.


The Next Steps

I thought I had done enough when I walked away today. But I will never have done enough until the suspension of Parliament is cancelled. Because if it goes ahead, and if it lasts, then I clearly could not have done “enough”. By, like, definition.

So there will be more protests, and marches. I will need to make more placards. I will need to keep working on my message, refining it. I’ll need to keep writing, and I’ll need to keep making sacrifices. For now, just sacrifices of my free time, my energy, and my money.

Will I have the courage to risk arrest? To fully engage in civil disobedience? Even revolt?

I hope so. But right now, I’m a coward and a hypocrite, trying to convince you to be better than me. To realise that every day we decide to rationalise away our uncertainty and our dislike of inconvenience, we hand over a little more power to Johnson and his cabal.

They don’t fear a militant oppostion. They fear a militarised one. Not militarised with weapons, but with unity, determination and coordination. They’ve never had to face anything like that before, so let’s make it an appealling prospect to as many people as possible.

If you end up being “that person in the office who’s always talking about politics,” well, a few social connections is honestly a fairly small price to pay for liberty. Hell, my career is a small price to pay for liberty. The protestors in Hong Kong are showing us exactly what they’re willing to pay for liberty, and honestly, they’re putting us to shame.

Make it normal to be political. Make it normal to be proactive. Make people feel like they can make a difference.

And if someone says they feel ashamed for not doing more, don’t rush to correct them. Just tell them “Yeah, it would have been good if you had been there.”

Because we are genuinely running out of time.

Proroguing Parliament

https://www.facebook.com/events/2403783296367975/

The suspension of Parliament in September 2019 is not a matter of party politics.

Many of Boris Johnson’s current Tory cabinet were vocally opposed to the suspension of Parliament when it was proposed by Dominic Raab in June 2019 as a means to force a No-Deal Brexit.

https://www.lbc.co.uk/radio/presenters/eddie-mair/eddie-mair-cabinet-silence-suspend-parliament/

This is not a matter of Labour vs. Conservative or of Left Wing vs. Right Wing.

This is a matter of democracy (rule of the many) vs. oligarchy (rule of the few).

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This tweet has since been deleted.

As citizens of a democratic state, the people of the United Kingdom have a fundamental right to a functioning Parliament of representative MPs.

Boris Johnson’s government is attempting to take that fundamental right away.

If Johnson succeeds, then Britain will be forced through a No-Deal Brexit without any Parliamentary oversight.

If Johnson succeeds, then he will have established a precedent by which a Prime Minister can suspend Parliament at will to shut down the democratic process of the United Kingdom during times of national crisis, when Parliament oversight is at its most vital.

Boris Johnson claims that the parliamentary suspension is because the current session has gone on for too long, and that he wants to “bring forward a new bold and ambitious domestic legislative agenda for the renewal of our country after Brexit.”

This is a lie. We know it is a lie because Dominic Raab suggested suspending Parliament specifically to exclude MPs from legislating against Brexit.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/08/suspending-parliament-should-not-be-ruled-out-says-dominic-raab

Boris Johnson has been sacked by newspapers for lying in his articles.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boris_Johnson#Early_career

Boris Johnson used the “Brexit Bus” to lie to the public, and later lied to the public again about his involvement in the original lie, as well as manipulating search engine algorithms to cover his tracks.

https://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2019/06/did-boris-johnson-ramble-about-model-buses-to-manipulate-googles-search-results/

Boris Johnson has not suddenly started telling the truth. He has not suddenly ended his career-long trend of lying to suit his own agenda just in time to suspend Parliament for legitimate reasons.

Boris Johnson is using Parliament’s own rules to do all of this. These rules have been used in the past. These rules must be changed. The fact that Boris Johnson can do this does not excuse him from blame for actually doing it.

Arguments that “this is how British government works” are made in bad faith. This should not be how any democracy works. Our system of government must be changed

The suspension of Parliament is being done for dishonest reasons, to deliver a disastrous outcome based on a dishonest referendum campaign.

The suspension of Parliament costs the British People their democratic rights and serves only the agenda of a few wealthy British oligarchs.

Anyone who claims that the suspension of Parliament is anything other than an attempt to shut down democracy is promoting a false narrative.

Any member of the media who does not immediately call out such claims as the lies they are is effectively collaborating with an anti-democratic regime.


The Good News

You can fight the anti-democratic agenda by getting out and joining some protests and marches.

https://www.facebook.com/events/2403783296367975/

If you can’t physically join a protest, share the details of the protests on social media. If you hear people complaining about the suspension of Parliament, encourage them to go to protests themselves. Share articles which call out Johnson and his government on their lies. Write your own posts explaining how you feel, and why.

If you’re going to a protest, be sensible:

  • Take plenty of drinking water.
  • Take suntan lotion.
  • Take a snack.
  • Wear shoes you can comfortably stand around in all day.
  • Bring chalk, so you can make non-permanent graffiti.
  • Make sure you know your message. Practice explaining what you believe in, whilst you’re on the way to the protest.
  • Take photos showing how many people are attending the protest with you. Share those photos on social media. Make everyone see how much opposition there is to the plans of Johnson’s government.

We need to make our presence known, and we need to make our convictions irrefutable. We need to drown out the government’s lies with our combined voices.

We need to force them to abandon their selfish agenda and, for once, put the people first.

Three Facts

These are some facts I’m going to be repeating a lot over the next few days. Or weeks.

Or months.

I’m putting them here as a handy reference, both for myself and for anyone else who may find them useful.


1 – The Tories Talked About Suspending Parliament To Force Brexit Months Ago

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/08/suspending-parliament-should-not-be-ruled-out-says-dominic-raab

The suspension of Parliament in September 2019 is not about ending the current session because it has “gone on for too long.”

Dominic Raab suggested suspending Parliament in order to force through Brexit in early June 2019:

The Tory leadership contender Dominic Raab has said the possibility of sidelining parliament to force through Brexit should not be ruled out, as to do so would weaken the UK’s negotiating position in Brussels.

“I think it’s wrong to rule out any tool to make sure that we leave by the end of October,” Raab told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, as the Conservative party reels from its disastrous results in the European election, in which Eurosceptic voters flocked to the Brexit party.

Any claims that the suspension of Parliament serves any other purpose are untrue.


2 – A No-Deal Brexit Will Harm The NHS, Despite Johnson’s Pledges To Support The Health Service

https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-7783

Boris Johnson has pledged to support the NHS, but by forcing through a No-Deal Brexit and removing the rights of EU nationals to remain in the UK, he is putting at risk 9.5% of the NHS’s doctors.

9.5% of doctors and 6.4% of nurses are EU nationals

Nationals of other EU countries make up 9.5% of doctors in England’s hospital and community health services. They also make up 6.4% of all nurses and 5.7% of scientific, therapeutic and technical staff. The percentage of doctors and nurses with EU nationality grew between 2009 and 2016. Since 2016, the percentage of EU nurses has fallen.

A No-Deal Brexit will make the already-understaffed NHS unsupportable, despite Johnson’s claims that he wishes to support it. As the NHS struggles more and more to provide adequate levels of service, it becomes easier to characterise it as being unfit for purpose.


3 – There Is Still Hope

https://www.facebook.com/events/2403783296367975/

I’m really tired. I wanted to spend my free time after work this week making plans for a new Improv show I’m putting together. I wanted to play Kerbal Space Program, and finally finish my massively complex mission to Duna. I wanted to finish Season 2 of ‘Mindhunter’ and whinge some more on Twitter about Rey’s flip-phone lightsaber in the new Star Wars trailer. I wanted to finish another couple of chapters of the trash sci-fi book I’m writing.

Instead, I’m writing letters to my MP. I’m sharing links to organised protest events on Reddit. I’m trying to get as many of my friends as possible onto a train down to London at the weekend. I’m trying to work out how I’m going to make a placard and what to put on it. I’m trying to figure out how I can do all this, and take part in a possible general strike, whilst also keeping the full-time job I need to maintain my vegan cheese addiction.

And I’m barely making 1% of the effort that other people have been making for months to try and end the horrible political mess we’re currently in.

There is still hope that we can stop Johnson’s government from abusing its power, deminishing our democracy and dragging us through a disastrous No-Deal Brexit. We might be able to make a difference.

But sadly, we’re going to have to put ourselves through hell for the next few weeks. We’re all going to have to spend a lot of our free time feeling miserable and tired and angry.

We’re going to have to learn the talking points, we’re going to have stand around for hours in a lot of protests, and we’re going to have to sacrifice a lot of our free time. We may have to make ourselves vulnerable to arrest, to attack from Brexiteers, to abuse and denigration.

We have to make our voices heard. We now have to affect the change that we want for ourselves. We have to support each other, and be strong for one another, and fight twice as hard for every person who is unable to join us.

We have to be resolute and fearless.

I will be at local Midlands protests over the next few days. I will be joining the Downing Street protest on Saturday. I will be doing whatever I can, whilst hopefully not losing my job or getting arrested, to defend our democracy and defeat the ambitions of a few wealthy men in London.

And if we succeed, I may do some of the stuff I actually wanted to do.

An Open Letter To Shabhana Mahmood MP

Dear Shabhana Mahmood MP,

You have failed us.

I have written to you previously about Dominic Raab’s suggestion of proroguing Parliament, which he made during the Tory Leadership campaign.

That suggestion is now government policy.

You and your colleagues in Parliament have failed us, the actual people of Britain.

You failed us when you allowed David Cameron to hold a divisive referendum, purely to quiet the dissenting voices of the European Research Group in his own party and thereby secure his position of power.

You failed us when the Tories lost their Parliamentary majority in 2017, and went on to bribe their way back into power unchallenged with a £1billion fee to the DUP.

You failed us when Boris Johnson became an unelected Prime Minister days before your weeks-long Parliamentary break, allowing his unelected government to plot and plan and enact their No-Deal Brexit agenda unchecked.

On 1st November, when we leave the EU without a deal, and freedom of movement is taken away from the EU citizens who are our doctors and nurses, the NHS will shut down overnight and you will have failed millions of vulnerable people whose lives depend on nationalised healthcare.

If you feel that you were unable to stop any of these things because they are simply symptons of the way our political system works, then you should have been working with other elected representatives to change that system.

No system of democracy should permit a few wealthy men in positions of power to further their own selfish agenda at the expense of the people. By not challenging this system, and by allowing matters to escalate to the point that we now face a suspended Parliament, you have failed absolutely in your duties as a representative of the people, along with every other Member of Parliament.

I will be going into London in a few days time to protest this government, the parliamentary suspension and, for once, to make my voice heard. There is no election in which I can vote, and if there were, there is still nothing to prevent the Government from spending public money to bribe its way back into power, as it did last time.

Boris Johnson and his government are unquestionably to blame for this, but so are all the politicians such as yourself who took so little action to reform our democratic system and prevent the abuses of power by which we are currently being held hostage.

You, your party and your colleagues should be ashamed of your failures.

Dominic Raab: Britain’s Champion Of Democracy

The Tory leadership contender Dominic Raab has said the possibility of sidelining parliament to force through Brexit should not be ruled out, as to do so would weaken the UK’s negotiating position in Brussels.

“I think it’s wrong to rule out any tool to make sure that we leave by the end of October,” Raab told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, as the Conservative party reels from its disastrous results in the European election, in which Eurosceptic voters flocked to the Brexit party.

Brexit: suspending parliament should not be ruled out, says Dominic Raab – theguardian.com

Dominic Raab is the champion of democracy in modern-day Britain.

Specifically, he has just been appointed as Foreign Secretary in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new cabinet. This means it is his duty to act as Britain’s chief diplomat, negotiating with foreign powers and, theoretically, bringing the good word of democracy to those states which are yet to fully adopt it. The foreign secretary must represent the United Kingdom and its ideals, such as parliamentary sovereignty and a principled belief in representative democracy.

He sits in the cabinet alongside notable and well-respected politicians such as:

In the passage quoted at the beginning of this article, Raab, in his role as a candidate for leadership of the Tory party, discusses the proroguing of parliament in order to prevent British MPs from taking any action to block a “No-Deal” Brexit.

Put another way, Raab suggested that Britain’s democratic government should be temporarily suspended, so that Britain would automatically leave the EU on October 31st, regardless of the effects that this would have on the country.

Given that one of the key arguments in favour of Brexit was because “[Britain’s] laws should be made by people we can elect and kick out – that’s more democratic”, it may seem hypocritical for a Leave campaigner and lead Brexiteer to suggest crippling the British parliament. And that’s because it is hypocritical.

whyvoteleave1

In 2017, during the UK General Election, the Conservative Party secured 42% of the votes cast, and 317 parliamentary seats. This meant they were unable to form a government. As such, the leader of the Tories, Theresa May, bribed the Irish DUP party with £1 billion of public money to form a government with them. The DUP held 0.9% of the votes cast.

Which means the Conservative Party was able to seize control of the Government with just 43% of the popular vote – and it only cost them £1 billion of public funds to do so.

When Theresa May resigned in 2019, her successor was chosen from among Tory Party MPs. First the Tory MPs themselves – all 312 of them – voted to narrow the selection down to just two candidates – Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.

This was followed by a vote of the Tory Party as a whole. Here, the winner of the two candidates was decided by a vote of 138,809 Tory Party members, i.e. 0.3% of the country’s general electorate, or 1 out of every 330 people eligible to vote in a general election.

Boris Johnson won with 66% of that vote, or 92,153 votes.

Nearly 46 million people are eligible to vote in the UK, of a population of over 66 million.

Which means that Raab, an elected MP holding an unelected ministerial position, appointed by an undemocratically-selected Prime Minister of an undemocratic government which bought its way into power, wished to further restrict the role of democracy in British politics by suspending a body of elected lawmakers.

To Dominic Raab, democracy is useful only to the barest extent that it puts him in a position of power, and is seemingly disposable at any point thereafter.

And this is the Foreign Secretary who is expected to represent Britain overseas, championing our way of life.

It is worth stating, and re-stating, that the proroguing of Parliament is unlikely to ever occur. But the issue is less the likelihood of it occurring, and rather the fact that it is seen as a legitimate option by members of our current government, possibly including the Prime Minister himself.

Shortly after Mr Raab’s comments, I wrote to my MP, Shabana Mahmood, to raise my concerns. You can read this letter, and her response, here.

Given more recent developments, it seems important that we all put pressure on our parliamentary representatives to take a stronger stand against the kind of anti-democratic sentiment which seems to prevalent within the current government.

As matters stand currently, the Boris Johnson-led government is set to remain in power until May of 2022 – nearly three years of rule by a Prime Minister and cabinet who hold power due to a history bribery, lies and a broken electoral system.

This is the same government which, by all indicators, is intending to force the UK to leave the EU with no departure deal in place, and in just three months, on the 31st of October.

This is a government made up primarily of wealthy politicians of privileged backgrounds, at least one of whom has demonstrably already profited personally from the results of the Brexit referendum. It seems unlikely that Rees-Mogg is alone in having financial interests in a departure from the EU.

Should the best possible legal outcome prevail, and a successful vote of No Confidence in the current government force a General Election, the country would still be vulnerable to the same kind of back-room deals that saw the Tory Party retain power in the 2017 election, and we would then be in a worse position than we are now.

Once again, I’m writing about British politics and telling tales of doom and gloom, with no real suggestions to offer as to what to do. It feels like an impossible situation, where our right to vote seems meaningless, where our connection as private citizens to our own government seems non-existent.

We are staring down the barrel of a No Deal EU departure, and we have virtually no legal means to affect this course of action. We are being led by Prime Minister and a government who hold the population in contempt, who are flagrantly placing their own interests ahead of the interests of the country, and we had no say in their appointment.

This piece opened with a critique of Dominic Raab, but he is merely symptomatic of the disease. His appointment as foreign secretary is a result of a deeper, darker plague for which the cures are quickly eroding. By any objective measure, our system of government has failed us, and has been failing us for some time, and it seems there is still scope for matters to worsen.

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Letter To Shabana Mahmood

11 June 2019

 

Dear Shabana Mahmood,

I am writing to you regarding the conduct of Mr Dominic Raab, MP for Esher and Walton, and his comments concerning the suspension of Parliament in order to prevent the House of Commons from blocking a “No Deal” Brexit, as outlined in the below article:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-48541352

That Mr Raab would be so willing to subvert the United Kingdom’s democratic process in this manner is appalling. Beyond the stark irony of diminishing Parliamentary sovereignty over an issue intended to “restore” sovereignty to the British Isles in the first place, his callous disregard for democracy is unacceptable for a Member of Parliament, and especially for someone with ambitions to hold the office of Prime Minister.

A single-issue referendum cannot be wielded as a weapon with which to hold a nation to ransom. One vote cannot be an excuse for abandoning the basic principles of a representative democracy. If Mr Raab and his fellow Brexiteers truly value democracy, and the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, then the thought of suspending Parliament to further their agenda should never enter their heads, and certainly never given voice in a public forum.

Put more briefly – suspending a democratically elected body of lawmakers is, by definition, an act of authoritarianism, and Mr Raab has demonstrated his openness to the kind of extreme and undemocratic governance against which we have fought so many wars.

I feel this also brings into question the true motives of Mr Raab. It would be interesting to understand the full extent of his financial interests, particularly any foreign sources of revenue, and whether any of these financial interests conflict with the best interests of the nation he claims to serve.

I understand, and am grateful for, the fact that actually suspending Parliament would not be feasible by Mr Raab’s actions alone, but I would ask that you raise in Parliament the notion of creating new laws to prevent and criminalise any such attempt to subvert of the proper course of democracy. We have laws against acts of physical terror – we ought also to have laws against acts of political terror.

To summarise, I feel that Mr Raab has betrayed the British people with his comments, and has betrayed his duties as a Member of Parliament, and I hope you will take a firm stance and support firm action against Mr Raab’s particular brand of political banditry.

Kind regards,

[personal information removed]


24 June 2019

Dear [personal information removed]

Thank you for contacting me regarding the conduct of Mr Dominic Raab, MP for Esher and Walton.

I also believe that his comments were irresponsible, the suggestion of Parliament being suspended is wrong and will not be tolerated.

Rest assured that I will continue to monitor the conduct of the remaining Tory leadership candidates and will hold them to account for their actions.

Thank you again for writing to me. Please do not hesitate to contact me again regarding this or any other issue.

Yours sincerely

Shabana Mahmood MP
Member of Parliament for Birmingham Ladywood

Apollo 11: Humanity Writ Large

The documentary ‘Apollo 11’ is magnificent, beautiful, and humbling.

It’s simplistic and linear in construction, because it didn’t need to be anything else. It presents the incredible feat of humanity’s first journey to another world as basic matter of fact, with no narration save that of audio recordings of the event itself.

One thing that stands out in the early part of the film is three simple numbers. 110, 99, and 88. Those were the heart rates of Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin, respectively, during the launch of the Saturn V rocket that took them into orbit.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the science and technology of space travel, and of the technological achievements in particular of the Apollo program. All of the metal and glass and rubber and silicon and fuel and fabric in such complex arrangements to make up the vehicles and equipment to be used by three men on an 8-day mission is staggering. The Saturn V technical manual (which you can buy from Amazon and which I highly recommend) is a bewildering array of charts and graphs and procedures which reads like an arcane tome of lore.

But the real achievement of the Apollo program, and of all space programs before and since, was human.

88 bpm. Buzz Aldrin’s heart – as he was being launched out of the Earth’s atmosphere on an 8-day journey through a vacuum to be one of three people to be the furthest from Earth that anyone has ever gone – his heart was beating slower than mine as I sat in the cinema watching 50-year-old images of him doing it.

These astronauts (and cosmonauts) were so resolute, determined and disciplined, that they were able to put the success of their mission above any other instinct or drive. They did things no other human being had ever done, all in the name of scientific achievement.

Just as it’s easy to lose oneself in the technological grandeur of such projects, it’s also easy to discuss the petty politics that drove the Space Race of the mid-20th century. Many historians will point to the Cold War and the escalating arms race, and that the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs and their Russian counterparts were merely an extension, an appendage, of the costly military contest to produce the biggest, most powerful and most accurate missiles.

Indeed, Kennedy’s famous “We Choose To Go To The Moon” speech directly references the implied threat of the successful completion of the NASA rocket programs:

“The Mariner spacecraft now on its way to Venus is the most intricate instrument in the history of space science. The accuracy of that shot is comparable to firing a missile from Cape Canaveral and dropping it in this stadium between the the 40-yard lines.”

That segment of the speech was intended for foreign rivals more than domestic supporters, as are other segments which reference the sheer power of the machinery in development:

“We have felt the ground shake and the air shattered by the testing of a Saturn C-1 booster rocket, many times as powerful as the Atlas which launched John Glenn, generating power equivalent to 10,000 automobiles with their accelerators on the floor. We have seen the site where the F-1 rocket engines, each one as powerful as all eight engines of the Saturn combined, will be clustered together to make the advanced Saturn missile…”

And yet none of these politics are what drove the people, the individual human beings who filled NASA’s ranks, to such grand achievements.

In Gene Kranz’s memoirs ‘Failure Is Not An Option’ (another strong recommendation for any space enthusiasts) he talks of the desire to beat the Russians to each space milestone, and the disappointment of being beaten by the Russians in the early days, but this is borne out of professional pride. The scientists, mission controllers and astronauts of NASA cared less for the struggle of wills between capitalism and communism, but more for the prestige of coming first. At no point does Kranz mention concerns of nationalistic supremacy or of proving the destructive capabilities of the American nuclear arsenal – the American and Russian space workers were simply two teams competing for the same prize.

Below is Kranz’s speech to his mission controllers, three days after the death of the three astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, on the launch pad of Apollo 11 on 27 January 1967:

“Spaceflight will never tolerate carelessness, incapacity, and neglect. Somewhere, somehow, we screwed up. It could have been in design, build, or test. Whatever it was, we should have caught it.

“We were too gung ho about the schedule and we locked out all of the problems we saw each day in our work. Every element of the program was in trouble and so were we. The simulators were not working, Mission Control was behind in virtually every area, and the flight and test procedures changed daily. Nothing we did had any shelf life. Not one of us stood up and said, “Dammit, stop!”

“I don’t know what Thompson’s committee will find as the cause, but I know what I find. We are the cause! We were not ready! We did not do our job. We were rolling the dice, hoping that things would come together by launch day, when in our hearts we knew it would take a miracle. We were pushing the schedule and betting that the Cape would slip before we did.

“From this day forward, Flight Control will be known by two words: “Tough and Competent.” Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do or what we fail to do. We will never again compromise our responsibilities. Every time we walk into Mission Control we will know what we stand for.

“Competent means we will never take anything for granted. We will never be found short in our knowledge and in our skills. Mission Control will be perfect.

“When you leave this meeting today you will go to your office and the first thing you will do there is to write “Tough and Competent” on your blackboards. It will never be erased. Each day when you enter the room these words will remind you of the price paid by Grissom, White, and Chaffee. These words are the price of admission to the ranks of Mission Control.”

This is one of my favourite quotes of all time. “Tough and Competent.” Kranz walked into a room of mourning technicians and rather than making excuses, or offering platitudes, he told them all to sort their shit out and never let it happen again. And it never did. There were no more deaths on the Apollo program, and there were no more deaths in spaceflight until exactly nineteen years and a day later, when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded during launch on 28 January 1986.

These people, these astronauts and scientists and engineers, exhibited so many qualities that we find admirable in our peers. Intelligence, dedication, courage, inquisitiveness. But there are other qualities they exemplified too. The three astronauts at the top of every Saturn V launch put the entirety of their trust in the people who designed and built and programmed those rockets. They risked terrifying, painful deaths based on nothing more then their faith in the thousands of other people on the space program.

At the end of the ‘Apollo 11’ documentary, we hear the words of Neil Armstrong, as he honours those unsung heroes of the Apollo project during the crew’s final television broadcast:

“… The Saturn V rocket which put us in orbit is an incredibly complicated piece of machinery, every piece of which worked flawlessly … We have always had confidence that this equipment will work properly. All this is possible only through the blood, sweat, and tears of a number of people … All you see is the three of us, but beneath the surface are thousands and thousands of others, and to all of those, I would like to say, “Thank you very much.””

As much as we would like to put these people on a pedestal, they were still human beings. Many of the astronauts were arrogant sons of bitches. Divorces were commonplace. Tensions frequently ran high between ambitious, high-achieving individuals of great intellect and passion.

But we must never forget that they put all of their flaws aside to achieve a mission which has never been repeated since. They were all human beings, but they were human beings with all of the worst aspects of humanity chiseled away. Their courage was matched only by their faith, and their determination matched only by their wits.

This is why I weep when I watch ‘The Martian’. It’s why I cry like a baby at the end of ‘Apollo 13’. Space exploration has always brought out the best of humanity and put it on show to all the world.

It’s why I get annoyed by the likes of ‘Sunshine’ and ‘Prometheus’ and ‘Life’ and other stories with plots driven by the mental instabilities of their astronaut characters. Astronauts are chosen because they don’t crack, because they thrive on seemingly impossible challenges, and because they draw strength from terror and stress. It seems dishonest and a disservice to the 563 space travellers to date to portray such a class of people as somehow not being up to the task when they have repeatedly demonstrated their worthiness.

Space is antithetical to life. In all ways it is incompatible with human beings, and yet we have conquered it. And whilst it seems as though it was merely technology that got us there, I believe that without those human elements, those ineffable human qualities of courage, trust, and determination, we never would have made it out of the atmosphere.

I’ll finish this ramble with my actual favourite quote of all time, attributed to Jim Lovell in ‘Apollo 13’, although I can find no proof that he originally said it beyond the film itself:

“From now on we live in a world where man has walked on the Moon. It’s not a miracle; we just decided to go.”

BREAKING: Footage of HEROIC POLITICIAN Bravely Tackling JAPANESE TERRORIST To The Ground

FOOTAGE HAS EMERGED of a British politician and former cabinet member bravely tackling a violent, and potentially armed, Japanese terrorist to the ground.

Alexander Johnson, MP for Uxbridge And South Ruislip and formerly of the Foreign Office, was engaging in an international trade mission to Japan on behalf of the British Empire, when he was forced to courageously incapacitate a dangerous suspected terrorist.

Please note that the following footage depicts violence and scenes of a disturbing nature:

After the incident, Johnson claimed he was acting with instinct more than he was taking any kind of measured response, and that he was “fully convinced” that the violent terrorist was armed, and posed a “genuine threat” to other members of the trade delegation, and to the members of the public in attendance.

Whilst some have claimed that Johnson acted in a needlessly violent manner, and that his use of force was “entirely unjustified”, others have defended his actions, and even praised him for his decisive bravery.

Minister Of State Mark Field, MP, said:

“[Johnson] clearly did exactly what needed to be done in the heat of the moment. How else can we expect our political leaders to behave when confronted with a visibly armed assailant? People rarely understand the level of danger politicians, especially ministers, frequently find themselves in, and as a result it is often completely necessary to engage with and attempt to incapacitate any threat to the people around us. Everyday heroism, such as that of my esteemed colleague during his mission to Tokyo, is truly inspirational, and this serves as a reminder of how close those of us in the political class come to injury and death on a daily basis.”

Nonetheless, there have already been calls from the Labour opposition for Johnson to be suspended from office, with arguments being made that Britain should be represented overseas by a negotiator and a statesperson, and not a violent and unpredictable upper-class hooligan.

In any case, it seems Johnson will be honoured by the Conservative party for his actions against terrorism, and he will doubtless be remembered for years to come alongside similarly iconic acts of heroism, including:

  • Jonathan Aitken, who valiantly battled on behalf of truth and integrity in journalism
  • Jeffrey Archer, who also steadfastly fought to hold corrupt, and probably armed, journalists accountable for their lies
  • David Cameron, who made profound and and unflinching statements about unethical practices in the pork industry during his time as a student
  • Theresa May, who dedicated her youth to tackling the threat posed by dangerous, and potentially armed, members of the Triticum Aestivum terrorist cell

It is unknown if this incident will have any impact on Johnson’s candidacy in the upcoming Conservative Party leadership election – political pundits are uncertain of the possible effect of the above footage on the career of a man who owes his existing political career to a vaguely memorable performance on a satirical panel show.

Laugh Until It Hurts – LoveHard

Lovehard is a Twoprov (two-person improvised show) that is probably the funniest live performance of any kind that I’ve seen. LoveHard is physically painful to experience, because you will laugh until it hurts, and then it will hurt more as you realise that you are incapable of replicating the unique genius of what you have just seen.

One of the wonderful things about improvised performance is that it is theoretically open to everyone. As long as you are capable of listening to what someone else has just said and treating it like the most important thing you’ve ever heard, you can do improv. You do not need to be clever, or funny, or knowledgeable, or even charismatic. You just need to listen, and be open to new ideas.

That, at least, was my theory, but sadly Lovehard managed to shatter that theory into pieces. They are capable of a level of wit and humour that defies aspiration.

Usually, as you watch an improv show, you realise that you could theoretically do what the performers are doing with sufficient practice and dedication. Sure, you might not ever sing as well as a particularly talented singer, but the notion of one day improvising rhymes and songs as well as them seems like it could be achievable if you really put the work in.

The unique selling point of LoveHard is their unflinching wit. They create jokes and punchlines on the fly that seem as carefully engineered as the most tried and tested stand-up routine, and yet that are nonetheless completely tied to the opening audience suggestion. The only possibility seems to be that the two performers must have memorised an exhaustive list of every good joke that could be made about every subject in human history, because it’s surely impossible that they might have produced such clever material in the heat of the moment.

I have only seen the act perform twice – once in 2017 and once in 2018, both times at the Birmingham Improv Festival. Both shows featured Jake Lovick, along with Tyler Harding in 2017 and with Jack Robertson in 2018 (the line-up seems to vary occasionally). In both shows, the same sheer comedic genius was on display from both performers. The 2017 show featured a story about a disgruntled factory worker wanting to leave the family business. The 2018 show featured two storylines inspired by the word “carpenter” – one, the telling of the building of a Biblical ark, and the other a murder-mystery in the style of John Carpenter (to honour that it was the day before Hallowe’en).

The comedy was derived from multiple elements. The first and most obvious element was the jokes, with clever, on-point references to pop culture, religion, history and modern life all thrown in. The second element was the improvisation of it all – the humour that naturally arises from any improvised performance, taken up a notch here by the talented performers who knew exactly how to spot a game and when to heighten for best effect.

The third element was the characterisation. Jake, Tyler and Jack were all very capable as character performers, and Jack especially was adept at using physicality, posture and expression to capture a range of characterisation. This elevated the show further – there was a special privilege in seeing strong characters deliver clever lines as part of a beautifully improvised narrative.

I would love to delve deeper into the workings of LoveHard, and the Improv techniques they employ to create such an amazing show, but the fact is I simply can’t. I don’t understand the unknowable workings of this arcantrik turbine that seems to spontaneously produce hilarity out of thin air. There are discernible mechanisms – each show begins with a debate of competing ideas that each performer would like to pursue; each scene is ended with a synchronised clap between the two performers; they say words that I understand in an order that is amusing – but I simply cannot fathom how to go about replicating the magic they bring to the stage, short of simply being them.

If you find that they are performing near you, I highly recommend taking the time to go and see LoveHard. Take some friends, sit back and enjoy the comedic sorcery.

BREAKING: BBC News Presenter Apologises For Referring To Jeremy Cunt By Real Name, Compounds Error

Following a controversial blooper on live TV yesterday morning, BBC News presenter Dale Cartwright has apologised unreservedly for referring to Foreign Secretary Jeremy Cunt by his real name.

Audiences were shocked when Cartwright accidentally said the ‘H’-word during the Current Affairs segment of ‘Wake Up Call’, the mid-morning show presented by Cartwright and his colleague Sheila Digby.

Cartwright was reading from an autocue and describing the current state of the Conservative leadership contest, in which the Foreign Secretary is a current contender. As spoken by Cartwright himself:

“… Boris Johnson may be the current favourite, but one of his main rivals Jeremy H*** expressed serious misgivings about the former Mayor of London’s track record.”

Cartwright only realised his mistake after seeing the look of shock on co-host Sheila Digby’s face, and it can only be assumed that the rest of the production crew were similarly shocked at such an appalling slip-up on live broadcast television.

Cartwright used today’s edition of the show to apologise for his blunder, and to attempt to soothe any offence he may have caused:

“I want to use this opportunity to apologise, without reservation, for such a dreadful mistake to have made. It was never my intention to expose anyone, least of all the many children who may have been watching, to such disgusting behaviour. Jeremy Cunt’s name should never be spoken aloud, and my years of experience and media training have sadly failed me.

“But worst of all, I have failed you, our audience, and the British people, by granting Mr Cunt the dignity of using his real name.”

Co-host Digby reassured Cartwright, and thanked him on behalf of the audience for his sincerity and accountability. She agreed that such prominent politicians as Jeremy Cunt should never be given the respect they think they deserve, and she expressed hope that everyone can move on from this terrible lapse and return to combating austerity and fighting to support the NHS, which Mr Cunt so determinedly attempted to sabotage during his tenure as Health Secretary.

Sadly, Cartwright compounded his blunder as the show moved onto its next item:

“Now that we’ve put the business of Jeremy H*** behind-

“Oh fuck, I’ve done it again.”

With a second offence now on his record, it is suspected that Dale Cartwright will be facing disciplinary action by senior management at the BBC. What this means for his career moving forwards is unknown, but it may end up as a stark warning to other members of the News team to avoid the topic of Jeremy Cunt altogether, lest they fall into the same trap of accidentally saying his actual name.