10 Steps To Eradicating Racist Murders and Honouring the Life of George Floyd

Stay Alert. Control the Police. Save Lives

You could be forgiven for thinking America is at civil war judging by the pictures on our news screens last week and this week following the cold blooded, calculated murder/manslaughter of George Floyd on 25th May 2020.

Earlier in the same month, on 8th May 2020 Europe celebrated the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Victory over Europe day, when Germany admitted defeat in World War II. Defeat of Hitler’s Nazi army and white supremacy vision. The parallels are clear. Europe decided it had had enough of appeasing Hitler. America, in particular African-America, with its Caucasian allies, is standing together and saying enough is enough. They have to defeat the stain of racism in their nation. The fires raging across the nation are a deliberately violent demonstration that the period of appeasement and tolerance is dead and buried.

The shocking video of George Floyd’s last 8 minutes alive as his life was literally squeezed out of him by former Police Officer Mr Derek Chauvin has shocked the world. In a civilised society we surely cannot allow his death to be in vain. My earnest, deepest hope from afar, in England is that America fights this battle with the same vigour, vitality and commitment it and nations all over the world have adopted to fight the deadly corona virus.

George Floyd

It has been open warfare on the Black man in America for too many years by far too many of its renegade Police Officers. This is a battle that isn’t going to be won by physically taking on the might of the US Police force, which make no mistake will be backed up the US military if need be. President Donald Trump has made that abundantly clear in his infamous tweet (censored by Twitter for potentially inciting violence – I think we can safely strike out the word ‘potentially’) – “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

While I fully understand the immeasurable, un-containable anger and frustration leading to the burning of police stations and police cars – which has a certain logic and justice to it, the looting, rioting and burning down of cities and places of employment, I have less sympathy for. I consider it folly to destroy your own communities at the best of times, more so during the middle of a pandemic which has chucked millions of people onto the unemployment register. That is undoubtedly a factor in all this, as so many have been cooped up indoors for months on end, so many more have nothing to lose, that this was just too much for them to bear.

Let us pray and hope there is not a spike in corona virus as a consequence of these actions where it is clear social distancing is not being maintained.

Many others, such as Daily Show host Trevor Noah, may disagree. Nevertheless the swift show of strength and anger is clearly not going un-noticed. The whole world is watching and waiting to see what America will do next. It is waiting to see what President Trump will do to address this monumental problem within the Police Forces of America.

I understand the point Noah’s making in his excellent Daily Show video on the killing of George Floyd, the protests in Minneapolis, the domino’s of racial injustice and police brutality, and how the contract between society and black Americans has been broken time and time again. It’s right to link all that’s going on in the United States, or should that be Diss-United States, as Ahmaud Arbery, Amy Cooper and George Floyd and countless others haven’t happened in isolation. They all inter-sect at the crossroad of rabid racism and gun control (lack of) right across America.

Gun control enters the equation as the only reason Floyd and bystanders were unable to stop the Officers was because they were all armed and Chauvin and Tou Thoa showed a willingness to use their guns. I was very, very unhappy and uncomfortable watching people be bystanders just filming and pleading with the officer to stop. A robust, far, far quicker, more threatening, more heavy handed response was required and was lacking with tragic consequences. 

I just can’t see how burning down the city you live in, in my view, stupid at the best of times, can be the correct course of action especially in the middle of a pandemic, in week when the United States reached a horrific milestone of 100,000 deaths, by far the highest number on the planet.

This economic violence needs to cease forthwith and I would strongly argue that anyone who is that angry should without delay unite, re-direct and re-purpose their collective anger into something that will generate the far more productive, constructive, tangible and long lasting change they want to see. Surely that will be the best way to honour the memory of George Floyd, Ahmaud Abery, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Philando Castile and countless others who’ve been murdered by racists. That is precisely what I want to focus on in this article.

Justice for George Floyd

First and foremost we need to secure justice for George Floyd. It’s excellent news that the irresponsible former Police Officer Derek Chauvin was been summarily dismissed from his post, arrested and charged with 3rd degree murder. Why it isn’t 1st or at least 2nd degree murder is a major concern, as are initial reports citing Mr Floyd had underlying health issues. Please? The authorities will be saying next he died of covid-19.

What about the other 3 officers, including Officer Tou Thoa who acted as a shield to prevent anyone stopping Derek Chauvin, plus Officer J.K. Kueng who held Floyd’s back and Officer Thomas Lane who held his legs while Chauvin put his knee on Floyd’s head and neck area for 8.46 minutes including 3 minutes when Mr Floyd had stopped talking and moving? It’s tremendous they were all summarily dismissed unprecedentedly quickly, the very next day – 26th May 2020, but again it’s of great concern that they too haven’t been arrested and charged with, at the very least, aiding and abetting a murder. That surely is a serious miss-step and needs addressing ASAP. I cannot see the protest marches, fire burning and destruction ending until that happens at the very least.

10 Steps to Permanent and Lasting Change

One hopes and need to ensure that state/nation-wide legislation plus internal policies and procedures will be implemented, if they aren’t already, in every single state of America so that should there be future unlawful murders of innocent Black men, the Police Officers responsible, directly or indirectly, are summarily dismissed or at the very least face internal disciplinary procedures for gross misconduct and then go onto face the full force of the judicial system, just as any other citizen would. We must not lose sight of the fact that Police Officers are employed to serve and uphold justice and protect American citizens, not kill them. What we’re seeing in such cases is anything but that. It’s the exact opposite. An abuse of power by Police Officers who don’t deserve their position’s.

We need to look at other initiatives, think outside the box, for ideas perhaps not yet considered and implemented. Effectively, to borrow from the corona virus campaign in the UK, America needs to ‘STAY ALERT. CONTROL THE POLICE. SAVE LIVES.’ To that extent I propose the following measures aimed at bringing a halt to racist murders of innocent men and women in America and elsewhere in the world where the police are abusing their authority and duty to uphold the law and protect its citizens.

1. Report America to the United Nations and ask that they go in and investigate racism within the US Police Force with an aim of Reducing Inequalities – one of their 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

2. A commitment for strong and effective leadership to enact and enforce these and other appropriate measures proposed from the President of the United States, the legislature, senators, Police Chiefs, mayors, governors and local Council Leaders.

3. Punish Officers not only by taking away their employment, but punish all Police Officers across America until the message gets though that they are one united Police force and if action needs to be taken to address this then all have to be in this together and all need to feel the pain financially, not just the guilty perpetrators. I recommend that every single one of the 52 states pass swift and immediate legislation to enable this. President Trump should be lobbied to sign an executive order to make this mandatory from June 2020. If he has the power to do so, he needs persuading by the senate and public to exercise it. He has shown he can move swiftly to flex his executive authority with the corona virus. In that light I am proposing the following immediate actions:

(i) – Introduce an immediate pay cut of 5% for all Police Officers each and every time there is an unlawful murder or manslaughter of an innocent Black (or other man/woman for that matter). Right across all Americans states. That is to last for 1 year and they would only be eligible for future pay rises if there are no further incidents in America in the 12 months following the pay cut.

(ii) – If that is not feasible USA wide, then at the very least enact that across the state in which the murder/manslaughter occurs.

(iii) – If that can’t be passed, then introduce a pay freeze – USA wide ideally or at least within the State in which the murder/manslaughter occurs.

4. Hold Chiefs of Police and other leaders more accountable for the actions of their officers. If that isn’t already in place, that would force them to do more to root our racists and racist, murderous actions of the officers under their command.

5. Investigate whether annual appraisals are taking place and re-enforce the equality and diversity principles and core values that every officer is meant to be upholding. I would recommend that that needs reviewing so that this is monitored and measured on a more frequent basis. It is seemingly all too easy for Officers to hide their true colours, get employed, pass their probation, then revert to type. By then it’s too late. You have an armed racist patrolling the streets of America with a license to kill. Literally. For instance, with only 1% of Officers in Minneapolis ever facing charges, they act like they know they’ve got a 99% chance of getting away with it. No doubt that’s why they made little attempt to stop the mobile phone filming of Mr Floyd’s murder. The fact 7 days later only 1 out of 4 of the men has been arrested and charged rather proves the point at this very early stage.

6. Review recruitment and probationary procedures. I would hope that 95% of Police Officers are honest, law abiding, non-racist Officer seeking to uphold law and order fairly and justly, but their good reputation gets dragged when the likes of people like Mr Chauvin rear their ugly head. That speaks to something just not being right with the Police’s recruitment and probation policies. Are they robust enough to identify and weed out racists and racist behaviour traits? Is there a need for more intelligent psychological profiling to assist in this regard? America’s a sophisticated society when it comes to such things. It shouldn’t be beyond the wit of man or woman to come up with something useful in this regard. This includes as a matter or great urgency reviewing the legislation that lets dismissed officers be re-engaged at a later date, especially the rules which preclude employing Police forces from knowing why an applicant was dismissed. That is a huge loophole that needs closing.

7. Ensure that lessons are learnt and disseminated right across America from the states where they’ve been very successful in reducing, if not eliminating racist murders/manslaughters. This should be enacted with a view to ensuring there is standardisation of approach across the USA’s 52 states so that it gives them all the best long term chance of success and protecting African-American citizens from racist Police Officers.

8. Mandatory monitoring and publication of complaints, unlawful murders and other relevant data that would assist.

9. Ensure that lessons are studied, learnt and implemented based upon successful strategies deployed in the corporate world around issues of diversity, equality and tackling racism.

10. Enlist the support of White Americans. The marches and demonstrations in the past week show that so far White America is as appalled by what they say as African-Americans. There is a need to unite and work together to eradicate the fatal effects of racism, both individual and institutionalised.

All of the above can be applied not just in the USA, but in the UK and any other nations where lawless Police Officers are operating.

Today we can read this article. We can breathe. Whilst we can breathe I feel it is incumbent on all who truly care about this matter to take action, however big or small to push forward on any of the above initiatives and of course add to them where there are additional ideas that might advance the movement and ensure Mr Floyd’s death is not in vain.

I close with the words of Bob Marley’s song ‘War’ (1976) based on Emperor Haile Selassie 1’s ‘War’ speech on 4th October 1963, calling for world peace at the 1963 United Nations conference in New Your City.

“Until the philosophy
Which hold one race superior and another
Inferior
Is finally
And permanently
Discredited
And abandoned
Everywhere is war
Me say war.”

STAY ALERT. CONTROL THE POLICE. SAVE LIVES

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Links:

  1. Should Youngsters Be Leading the War on Gun Control in America? – Battle of Ideas Tiemo Review –  28th October 2018 
  2. Detroit – Harrowing Civil Unrest Drama –  Tiemo film review 3rd September 2017
  3. 3.5 Minutes, 10 Bullets – Tiemo film review – 10th October 2015
  4. 12 Reasons Why  Dominic Cummings Kept his Job – Tiemo article – 31st May 2020
Posted in Legal, News, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

12 Reasons Why Boris Johnson Was Right to Stick with Dominic Cummings

1. The Successful Strategy and Numbers

Congratulations to the Government and Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister, Dominic Cummings. The numbers are going down. Obviously any deaths as a result of Covid-19, or anything for that matter – other illnesses do still exist – is very sad and one too many, however considering the numbers we were seeing in April, the death rate for 24th May 2020 was a remarkably low 118 – the lowest it’s been for 2 months since 74 died on 23rd March 2020. The following day it was 121, on the 26th May – 134.

Although that landmark achievement has been overlooked by mainstream media, I think it’s important to point it out for context in the Dominic Cummings story. We know the numbers have been falling consistently since the peak on 10th April 2020 and last week confirmed it emphatically. It would have been mightily ironic and unjust in that momentous week if one of the architects of that success was jettisoned. Cummings should not have been fired or forced to resign for numerous reasons outlined in this article addressing all of the key issues and more raised.

2. Ungrateful Critics & The Furlough Scheme

For that outcome to have occurred would have spoken to a perception of a nation totally ungrateful for the support its government, advised by Cummings had provided. The Conservative government had already pumped in an eye watering £100 billion into the economy by 30th April 2020. The furlough scheme alone is costing around £14 billion per month, plus there are numerous other initiatives to financially support the nation through this crisis. The final bill could be as much as £298bn just for this financial year (April 2020 to April 2021), according to the Office for Budget Social Responsibility. The final total could be even higher. Leaked Treasury documents suggested the figure could be as astronomical as £337bn.

The UK has gone a lot further than many other nations in supporting its workers and I think the critics should bear that in mind when attacking the government and individuals within it such as Cummings who most likely had a say in and influenced the furloughing decision.

In a really big week of announcements – significant extra funding for transport infrastructure, announcements about schools re-opening for all age groups from 15th June 2020, furlough extensions and amendments, non-essential retail to open up etc… all of them were well and truly over shadowed by the Cummings story surrounding alleged breaking of the lockdown rules.

Dominic Cummings, Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister

3. Legitimate Reason covered by the Regulations

My opinion on this both before and after watching his press conference on Bank Holiday Monday 25th May 2020 was that Cummings had legitimate reason to go to Durham and I fully support the Prime Minister in giving his fulsome backing to Cummings. As you will recall at the Downing Street Press Conference later the same day, the PM insisted that Mr “Cummings had acted responsibly and legally and with integrity.”

I never saw or thought there was any clear, objective reason to sack him or even demand his resignation. Furthermore, it matters not a jot in the grand scheme of things and particularly considering the stage the nation was at in its battle against covid-19. Please refer to Impact section below.

In his statement Cummings said that his wife had suspected covid-19 and he feared that he could be next as it was rife in Number 10 and was extremely concerned that should both become incapacitated at the same time there would be no-one to look after their 4 year old son. They considered the best thing to do was go to the family home in Durham. This he believed would be covered under the ‘exceptional circumstances’ caveat in section 6d of the government’s lockdown regulations. 

4. He Was Backed by Jenny Harries and Durham Police

Furthermore, Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England defined such “exceptional circumstances” as being those involving child care. She confirmed this at the Downing Street Press Conference on 23rd March 2020, the day the lockdown was announced. Whether or not the public people knew of or agreed with section 6d, that was his rationale.  Even Durham Police in concluding their own investigation last week stated on 28th May 2020 that he did not breach the lockdown rules by driving to Durham.

Lack of Respect

5. It was solely the decision of his Manager, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson

I think one of the things highlighted by what I can only describe as a witch hunt against Cummings is the complete lack of respect for authority figures, both the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and his Chief Adviser. Whilst I accept a degree of legitimate scrutiny and interest in public figures is part and parcel of a democratic society, whatever people think of this case, the PM alone is Cummings’s line manager as well as PM. He considered all the facts as presented to him by his employee and decided to retain him, insisting that Mr Cummings had “acted responsibly and legally and with integrity“. That’s in his gift entirely and should have been the end of the matter, but oh now, the critics – media, MPs and general public were having none of it and harangued and hounded both men all week.

On top of this there was a lack of respect and empathy shown for the fact he’d lost is Uncle during the pandemic and also the fact that he, his wife and 4 year old son all got very ill during their self-isolation.

6. The Nation was Facing the Peak of the Epidemic and Needed Cummings to be at the Heart of Government with the Prime Minister and Many others in Downing Street catching Covid-19

Cummings is the Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister. This isn’t some menial, junior job. It’s obviously an important job that carries a lot of pressure. Judging by his bosses staunch defence of him, he’s doing very well at it and wasn’t about to be sacked over something so relatively minor. He wouldn’t say it himself, but he could argue an exceptional circumstance was his role in the government especially at the very peak of a national crisis, on top of which, the PM had covid-19 at the same time and his health was visibly deteriorating. Further adding to his worries was the fact that so many in No 10 had gone down with covid-19.

In fairness I have to say one of the problems around this was the fact that the PM is not trusted to be truthful on all matters, hence his saying he knew all the facts and had reached a decision wasn’t enough for the media and other critics. That is regrettable, although in this age of distrust of politicians and scepticism I suspect any PM would have been questioned robustly about the story.

7. Legitimate Reason Within the Rules – Cummings Presents his side of the story in the Downing Street Garden on Bank Holiday Monday 25th May 2020

Prior to Cumming’s press conference in the Downing Street garden I had a sense that there may well have been other personal, health related reasons that Cummings has disclosed to his boss, the Prime Minister, which he did not want made public and quite rightly were none of the public’s business to know about. For instance it’s been revealed that his Uncle Sir John Laws died on Palm Sunday, 5th April 2020. That in itself would not have been a reason to make a separate, specific trip up to Durham, but might have been a factor in his thinking considering Sir Laws had been ill in London for some time.

Until the 25th May 2020 we did not know the full extent of his 24th May 2020 conversation with the Prime Minister, suffice to say it seemed to go on for a number of hours and the PM must have been satisfied with what he heard for him to announce at the  Downing Street Press Conference that he was “not marking him down as he had acted responsibly and legally and with integrity… They were the actions of any reasonable father.”

I think it would have been and still would be grossly unfair and disproportionate to dismiss Cummings based on this. He’s provided his account and his boss has accepted it. Whether the media, MP’s or the general public agree or not is of no great concern. They aren’t his employer. Considering the significant financial sums at stake [One Rule for Cummings’ section] that’s no trifling matter.

Maybe Cummings over reacted and panicked in response to his wife’s sickness on 27th March 2020 as she was soon over the illness, yet he got ill himself, plus his little boy. To quote from his statement:

I drove the three of us up to Durham that night, arriving roughly at midnight. I did not stop on the way. When I woke the next morning, Saturday the 28th of March, I was in pain and clearly had Covid symptoms, including a bad headache and a serious fever. Clearly I could not return to work any time soon.

For a day or two we were both ill, I was in bed, my wife was ill but not ill enough that she needed emergency help. I got worse, she got better. During the night of Thursday the 2nd of April, my child woke up, he threw up and had a bad fever. He was very distressed, we took medical advice which was to call 999. An ambulance was sent, they assessed my child and said he must go to hospital. I could barely stand up, my wife went with him in the ambulance, I stayed at home, he stayed the night in hospital.

In the morning my wife called to say that he had recovered, seemed back to normal, doctors had tested him for Covid and said they should return home.

There were no taxis. I drove to the hospital, picked him up, then returned home. I did not leave the car or have any contact with anybody at any point on this short trip. The hospital’s – I don’t know what, roughly five miles or something away, two miles, three miles, four miles, something like that.”

Arguably this is the crux of the matter and what lockdown was meant to avoid. I appreciate his reasoning but clearly he got worse during or within 24 hours of the journey and less than a week later his son was being driven to hospital in an ambulance. This is hardly an endorsement or encouragement to the public of travelling such a long distance during a pandemic with strict lockdown rules in place. You could say that was punishment enough.

8. Is there one rule for Cumming, another for the General Public?

I don’t think there is. However if he was to lose his employment over this then I would have to agree with that statement and the one rule for “the public” would be in favour of the public and discriminate against chief advisers, for I know of no member of the general public who has been fired or forced to resign from their job for breaking lockdown rules, or simply being perceived to have broken the rules and I am certain many have in their own small way and that is on them and their conscience. Some footballers have been fined for breaking the lockdown, but that’s it.

9. Risk of Unfair Dismissal Claim

If that happened to Cummings he would have a case to say he’d been unfairly treated and claim unfair dismissal. It’s worth reminding ourselves that the fine for a breach of lockdown was £60 at the time (this increased to £100 in England from 13th May 2020). That initial figure is equivalent to a parking fine in London. This indicates the government don’t view it as a serious criminal act. There have been almost 17,000 breaches to date. I suspect not one of those people lost their jobs.

There is no logic or legitimate reason why what “might have been a minor infringement,” as Durham Police described the trip from Durham to Barnard Castle on 12th April 2020, should cost a man his livelihood. It would be grossly disproportionate and if Boris Johnson were to sack him on these grounds, he would be risking an Employment Tribunal claim for unfair dismissal and breach of contract. The government could be looking at a £1/2 million pound claim just for a minor breach that the government decided was only valued as a £60 fine!!

If the media is so keen on maintenance of strict lockdown rules, perhaps every single reporter and photographer in the media scrum outside Cumming’s house much of the final week of May should be fired for not maintaining the 2m distance between one another? Or is it one rule for the press pack, another for political advisers?

Similarly, are we going to be fair and take into consideration all the sun lovers packing out beaches up and down the country from Brighton to Bournemouth and from Southend to Southport last week? They weren’t maintaining 2m social distancing. Should they all be fined to and forced to quit their jobs? Or is it one rule for special advisers, another for the general public?

Has he been a hypocrite?

Has Cummings been a hypocrite? I don’t believe he has been for as far as I can recall he’s not spoken at any press conferences or other public forums and told the British public what to do and how to observe the lockdown. If he has please share the evidence.

Even if he had, he’s explained his reasoning and that’s been accepted and understood by his line manager, the Prime Minister, within the legitimate context of “exceptional reasons.” I got the strong sense if the situation arose again he’d do exactly the same. The journalists should have asked him but failed to do so.

Did he bring the Government into disrepute?

From an employee relations perspective you could argue, as many MP’s, commentators and members of the general public did, that he did bring his employer, the government into disrepute. Unquestionably the furore over this has detracted from the vital ‘Stay at home/protect the NHS/Save Lives’ message the government has promoted since March, the falling death rate, track and trace and gradual lifting of the lockdown. However that is only the case if there has been a clear breach of the rules and it’s been decided by the PM, Cabinet and Durham Police that there wasn’t.

In fact, it’s been used as an opportunity to re-emphasise the importance of the guidance. I think that trip was twofold. He might not have been feeling 100% to drive 260 miles back down to London, but I suspect Barnard Castle is a favourite place of his that he’d not been to for a long time and he just fancied going there as he was so close to it. I don’t blame or condone him for that after all he’d been through in the previous fortnight. That is speculation on my part, but sounds a more plausible reason. It may or may not be true, but if it is in part, I daresay his critics would have had more respect for him if he’d openly said that – even if the testing if he could drive OK reason was also genuine. In such a febrile, poisonous political, media atmosphere one can hardly blame him for wanting to not provide his full rationale.

If you compare his misdemeanor to many of the things someone like President Donald Trump has done and survived, what he did or didn’t do, doesn’t bear comparison.

What was the Impact of the alleged breach?

10. No Evidence His Visit Had Any Negative Impact on the Infection or Covid-19 Death Rate in Durham

There’s been much talk of the negative impact keeping him in post will have on the enforcement of the lockdown going forward. I don’t accept that at all. There is no evidence for that whatsoever. If you disagree, I would love to see the evidence that his visit increased the spread of the virus and death rates in his home city.

As I said at the start, far from criticising him, if he is perceived as the behind the scenes architect of the strategy the country should be applauding, not castigating him, for the effective strategy and messaging what has resulted in falling death rates over the past week and in fact ever since the peak was reached on 10th April 2020.

Moreover, the public have had long enough to work out the importance and value of the strong instructions issued. If carelessness and reckless breaches of the guidelines results in a second spike then sorry, but that’s on the general public, not Dominic Cummings or anyone else.

If anything the biggest impact Cumming’s action took were personal – on himself and his son. He said he caught covid-19 the day after the long 260 mile drive to Durham and for reasons undisclosed had to take his son to hospital during his 14 day self-isolation. By being in the close confines of a car with his sick wife Mrs Wakefield for a minimum 5+ hours drive it’s hardly surprising. That’s a pretty clear warning and lesson in itself for Cummings and the wider public. Perhaps it might have been better for the media to have highlighted that last week.

Why is no 10 Downing Street a Hotbed of Covid-19?

One of the many interesting things revealed during his press conference was that he feared catching covid-19 due to many of the staff working within close proximity of one another and most having had symptoms of covid-19. “At this point most of those who I work with most closely – including the Prime Minister himself, and others who sit within 15 feet [sic 4.5m] of me every day – either had had symptoms and had returned to work, or were absent with symptoms.

I suspect they’re working a lot closer than that as transmission should not be happening if people are keeping the minimum 2m social distance from each other. Why was that? How far within 15 feet of each other do staff work and meet in Downing Street? Were they not following the advice created in and emanating from that building? I remarked at the time and still notice it now. During the daily press briefings the 2-3 speakers simply do not appear to be standing a minimum of 2m apart even when it’s just two at the press conference. It’s not as if there’s not sufficient space in that huge room. It’s as if the herd immunity strategy, denied by the government, was and still is in operation inside Number 10.

11. Does Strict Adherence to Lockdown Restrictions Truly Matter?

This is symbolic and all of this furore, including the actions of those below, who resigned, demonstrates that there might be a lack of genuine belief in the requirement for such a strict application of lockdown and social distancing rules for those who are fit and healthy, without underlying health issues. Their actions in a way have shown that an omission to strictly follow it is not automatically a death sentence and does not automatically equate to transmission of the virus. Admittedly Boris Johnson stretched that point a bit too far for his liking, so too did Cummings, but by and large there has been no significant health consequence whatsoever of people driving long distances to visit parents, second homes or meet lovers for secret trysts. In spite of all that, the death rates has fallen significantly, the lockdown is lifting and even today the government, from nowhere, has just announced that those 2 million people shielding can now leave their houses from 1st June 2020.

At the same time I fully respect and acknowledge the importance of the restrictions and failure to follow them has had consequences – we saw that with the PM’s ending up fighting for his life in hospital for a week and the Cummings family all getting very ill.

12. What is the Point of Resignations?

Regardless of where you stand on this issue, what really would be the value of the resignation or dismissal of Cummings? As stated earlier he’s not breached the regulations in such a significant way that it should cost him his job (even allowing for his key role); neither has he breached his contract of employment. He’s not the face of the government strategy in a way that Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock, Dominic Raab, Michael Gove, Professor Chris Witty and Professor Sir Patrick Vallance etc.. have been, speaking regularly from the No 10 podium advising us all how to behave during this lockdown.

After a similar furore, on 5th April 2020 Dr Catherine Calderwood resigned at the Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer. So too did Professor Neil Ferguson, the epidemiologist whose modelling helped shape Britain’s corona virus lockdown strategy. Exactly one month after Dr Calderwood resigned, on 5th May 2020 he also resigned as a government adviser after breaching the rules (lockdown and marital – well his lover did anyway) by receiving visits at his home from his married lover.

We’re 1 & 2 months on respectively from each resignation. Can anyone tell me what difference it’s made as I can’t think of any? Other than quickly shutting down a story that the media would have made a meal of, in practical terms I saw no benefit of their resignations. If anything it’s been a negative as the respective governments have lost key advisors at the worst possible time. An apology and moving on was all that was required.

With Cumming’s all the media and critics want is a sacrificial lamb, a scalp, before they  await their next victim. I salute Cummings, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet for standing up to their critics and the bully boy tactics of the press pack seeking to unjustly hound the man out of office.

A Word to the Adviser

When all is said and done, whilst Cummings had every right to stand his ground based on the regulations, on reflection it might have been wiser to apologise for the offence his actions undoubtedly caused to those who perceived him to be blatantly breaching the rules and/or at the every least the spirit of the lockdown. This might have helped shut down the story and create a more harmonious pathway forward. As it is there’s still  a great deal of disquiet over this and it’s taken the heinous murder of George Floyd in Minnesota on the same day as his press conference and the announcement of a number of much welcomed lockdown restrictions being lifted from 1st June 2020 to push this story of the front pages.

As I said at the start, the rapidly falling covid-19 deaths rates, dropping as low as 118 last week-end, were the most important numbers of the week to focus on, not the 260 miles to Durham and 30 miles to Barnard Castle.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Photo – Courtesy of BBC

Links

  1. Dominic Cummings full statement and video – Express & Star – 25th May 2020
  2. Corona virus: How Much will it cost the UK? BBC News/Business – 22nd May 2020
  3. 10 Steps to Eradicating Racist Murders and Honouring the Life of George Floyd – Tiemo recommendations – 31st May 2020
Posted in Employment law, Legal, News, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Royal Treat as the Prince of Hip Hop Brings Joy to Sting the King of Pain

*** World Exclusive ***

Message In A Bottle – The Musical
Rating: *****
The Peacock Theatre
Portugal Street
Holborn
London WC2A 2HT
Tickets from £14
Ticket office: 020 7863 8222
Choreography by Kate Prince, based on the music and lyrics of Sting
A Sadler’s Wells & Universal Music UK production with ZooNation: The Kate Prince Company
6th February – 21st March 2020

I should have known this right from the start. Right from the moment the idea of a musical based around the music of Sting there should have been no doubts about its success, for as Sting himself sings in the eponymous title track ‘Message in a Bottle,’ “only hope can keep me together”.

Well I’m sure Director and Choreographer Kate Prince went into this project with a great deal of hope and faith, firstly that Sting would give his seal of approval for her to proceed and realise her vision, then for it to be written, produced and choreographed and ultimately make it onto the West End stage.

On 7th February 2020 the TV news reported on the UN Refugee Agency announcement that only 29 states offered resettlement places, with the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Sweden and Germany accepting the largest numbers of refugees. That happened to be just the second night of the Message in a Bottle musical I was at. It was quite timely as the theme of Zoo Nation’s latest show is the story of refugees. Its starting point is a village that is alive with joyous celebrations finds itself suddenly under siege. Everything changes forever. Determined and daring, three parted siblings step out on their own extraordinary adventures.

Message in a Bottle is of course the perfect title and song choice to base the show around as its theme is of “a hundred billion castaways looking for a home,” to be “rescued before they fall into despair.”

Kate Prince, Director and Choreographer, was keen to tell the human side of the international refugee crisis through dance and music, specifically that of Sting and The Police, with the main goal of humanising stories and showing empathy for a story often reported in terms of raw numbers, politics and civil war. Without a doubt she achieves that and provides a counter balance to the popular media portrayal of refugees as a problem for the UK and other nations affected, plus conflate the economic migrant situation with refugees merely seeking a safer place to go to just stay alive.

In the song ‘Inshalla‘ from the show and on his ‘57th and 9th’ album (2016) Sting sings about the refugees arriving in Europe from the war torn Middle East. Speaking with NPR’s Michel Martin in 2016, he explained: “The migrant crisis is something that isn’t going to disappear tomorrow. It’s driven by warfare in the Middle East. It’s driven by poverty in Africa. It may be driven by climate change in the very near future. So it’s not going to be something can we can hope to end tomorrow. 

I don’t have a political solution, but I feel if there’s a solution to it, it has to be grounded in some kind of empathy for those people in those boats. Because we as a species all migrate. We’re all migrants. Everyone in this country is a migrant, I’m a migrant, our ancestors were migrants. It’s not going to stop, that’s what we do.”

I was so blown away by the opening of this show that I knew within the first 15 minutes that this was a show I’d want to see again and again. Was I being a little premature? I don’t think so.

Message In a Bottle is a captivating, spectacular fusion of stunning hip-hop and balletic dance enhanced by the vibrant, outstanding music of Sting and The Police. What stood out like a giant neon lit bottle washed up on the shore was the lucid freshness of the music. It was such an unexpected joy and revelation. There’s a reason it felt like this which I won’t spoil by revealing here, suffice to say that fans of Sting and/or The Police will be in for a real treat. Even if you’re not the biggest of fans but just enjoy the big hits or some of the less well known songs you will find this riotous cacophony of outstanding music and dance to be an absolute blast. Remember, many of these songs are up to 30 plus years old but you would not have thought so watching this show. It brought back fond memories of first hearing the songs. You find yourself listening more carefully to the lyrics than you might otherwise have done in order to follow the unfolding story on stage.

It all sounded so current, so modern and all the songs were relevant in furthering the story. Where this was somewhat hard to follow visually from observing the dance alone, the lyrics helped to provide the context and meaning. The chosen songs were individually written and recorded at various stages of Sting’s careers and were never intended to form a thematic story, yet this is precisely what Kate Prince has done. She hasn’t gone for the perhaps relatively “easy” option of just creating a random story simply to shoehorn in hit songs. What’s on stage is the result of the effort (or rather pleasure for super fan Kate) in studying Sting’s extraordinary back catalogue to select the most appropriate songs to fit the story. This culminated in the curation of a wide range of songs and musical styles from the up tempo ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’, ‘So Lonely’, ‘Englishman in New York’ to the beautiful, reggae infused ‘The Beds to Big Without You’, to the more melodic, reflective, ballad songs such as ‘They Dance Alone’, ‘Fields of Gold’ and ‘The Empty Chair’. Not only that but, not surprisingly, all the big hits are there including of course a rousing rendition of the titular song ‘Message In a Bottle’ which, as with many of the songs, was gloriously acted out through hip-hop dance. It was tiring just watching the dancers incredibly athletic, thrilling, balletic movement in perfect synchronicity to the music. The range of dance styles and fleet of foot dance work dazzled and amazed in equal measure. It was simply outstanding.

There’s a part of the show where one husband is missing his wife and ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’ is playing and being acted out which was reminded me of some of the scenes from last year’s hit movie ‘Blue Story’ with a number of menacing, hooded characters on stage. In a curious way it was quite poignant and amusing to watch at the same time. The story had plenty of humour and moments to bring a smile to the face, not to mention moments of pathos that saddened the heart.

One of the key highlights was just listening to Sting’s distinctive, powerful and emotive voice enthusing his songs with a new vitality, relevance and urgency that we haven’t seen before in this format as you catch yourself listening to something that feels quite different despite having heard many of these songs for so many years. His voice truly carried the show to heights it would otherwise not have been able to reach.

Fans will have seen many concerts and TV performances over the year but never before choreographed to dance music and certainly never putting them together to form a story based on so many “bloody brilliant songs” as Prince described them, from such an extended period of time.

There are plenty of neat musical surprises too, including lots of teasers … one moment hinting at one song to come, then sharply and subtly seque-waying into a completely different song.

Sting is quoted in the programme notes as saying he was really moved by watching a workshop of the show in the initial stages pre giving the project the green light. “I was blown away by it. The response for me was very emotional not just because I was honoured that they were using my music to express something, but there was something happening at a deeper level beyond understanding.” I totally got that, particularly as someone who’s been listening to his music from The Police to the present time. I too was moved in a way I hadn’t expected. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from the evening, but it exceeded any expectations I had a hundred billion times.

 

I refer to Sting in the review title as the King of Pain after one of the songs from the Synchronicity album (1983) but if you look at a number of his songs Sting truly is the king of crafting songs of pain with the uncanny knack of imbuing them with an upbeat, cheerful melody which are often the polar opposite of their melancholy lyrical content. ‘So Lonely’ ‘Every Breath You Take’ and ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’ for instance are all sad, somewhat dark, melancholic songs really, yet their tempo is upbeat and almost joyful. When performed live these are some of the songs that get fans up on their feet dancing away. In their own way Kate Prince and her Zoo Nation production have pulled off the same uncanny trick with this musical. It’s clearly about the tragic international refugee situation yet it’s cloaked in the multi-coloured coat of a barnstorming high energy song and dance hip-hop musical. Speaking in the programme notes Prince states that Message in a Bottle is not a depressing story. It offers hope. “It’s there to uplift and inspire like all our work, because all our works is really about one thing: love. Everything comes back to love and the power of love and the healing power of love, forgiveness and acceptance. This is a piece about the strength human beings have to keep going, to find peace again in their lives despite trauma. It’s about resilience.”

I reflected earlier that within 15 minutes I felt this was a show I’d want to see again and again. Was I premature in that assessment? I think you’ve gathered by this point that it was far from that. It is currently on a 7 week run in the West End but I suspect there will be deafening calls for an encore.

Sting famously sings in ‘Message In a Bottle’ “I should have known this right from the start.” I did and I will certainly be going to see this again for ‘Message in a Bottle: The Musical’ is an exciting, complex, enjoyable and multi-layered show. ZooNation have delivered a breathtakingly stunning performance of stellar music, songs, dancing and energy that undoubtedly merits a further viewing or two. Maybe even a hundred billion!

© Tiemo Talk of the Town
Photo’s courtesy of Helen Maybanks

Links:

  1. United Nations Refugee Agency Briefing – 5th February 2020
  2. Sting and Shaggy Star at the Roundhouse – Tiemo Review – 28th May 2019
  3. Paul Simon and Sting – On Stage Together – London 02 – Tiemo Review – 16th April 2015

Posted in Arts and Culture, Concert reviews, Politics, Theatre reviews | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will Roger Federer Always Be The Greatest (Even if He’s Not)?

What do you think? This great article from Michael Steinberger  in the New York Times sums up the thoughts I’ve had for some years now. As the almost inevitable, but to Federer fans, almost unspeakable, seems ever closer to becoming reality, do Federer fans have to re-evaluate their feelings, highest regard and #1 standing they hold for him in tennis history as the Greatest Of All Time (G.O.A.T) ?

I speak of course of the fact Rafael Nadal on 19 Grand Slams currently may level with Roger Federer on 20 Grand Slams if he wins the Australian Open 2020 which kicked off yesterday. If he achieves that goal can you really see a seriously fired up Nadal being stopped from going on to win his 13th French Open title this Summer, 21 in total and being #1, the new G.O.A.T in the history of winning men’s Grand Slams?

What surprised but really impressed me a lot from the piece was the fact that Federer also seems to have been having the same thoughts and is fully expecting his amazing haul to be superseded not just by Rafael Nadal, but by Novak Djokovic as well and perhaps by some distance too.

Surprisingly he seem at peace with that and realises that the previously unthinkable may well come to pass this year or next unless he starts adding to his Grand Slam haul. That he can observe this with such equanimity is such a measure of the great man’s coolness, maturity, level headedness and the mindset that’s seen him achieve so much both inside and outside of the game and become the superb global sporting ambassador that he is.

What are your thoughts?

Posted in News | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Posh Reggae at The Palace from the Saxophone Queen

Posh Reggae at the Palace from the Saxophone Queen

Star Rating: *****
Alexandra Palace
Muswell Hill
London N22 7AY
Review date: 29th November 2019

On a chilly night in North London saxophonist YolanDa Brown warmed the heart with a wonderful, high quality night of musicianship she entitled ‘posh reggae.’ It certainly felt posh in the august setting of AlexanDra Palace.

The large audience for this, the final show of her 10th Anniversary Tour, was thoroughly entertained with a selection of songs from her last album ‘Love Politics War’ (2017) as well as numbers from ‘April Showers May Flowers‘ (2012). The music was beautiful, melodic and relaxing. YolanDa and her band were every bit as classy as the AlexanDra Palace they were performing in.

I loved her description of the music as posh reggae. Clearly a reggae fan, she regaled the audience with snippets of Bob Marley songs, jazz, more reggae and RnB tinged music. Her sax playing was stupendous, as was her supporting cast of top quality musicians.
I would have bought her ‘Love Politics War’ CD there and then I was so impressed, but alas they had no e-payment system set up, which was perhaps the only slight mis-step of the night.

She was supported by Omar who joined her for a couple of songs. His voice, as always, was superb. The singers were in equally fine voice and looked to be having a blast on stage.

YolanDa’s Band Jam win RTS North West Award

There were 3 very big announcements on stage too. Firstly that her CBeebies children’s TV Show YolanDa’s Band Jam won Best Children’s Programme (Pre-School) at the Royal Television Society North West Awards on 23rd November 2019.

Not only that but she announced she was expecting a baby girl next month. You’d never have guessed by looking at her and observing her energetic performance. A highlight was when she went into the aisles playing the saxophone so fans could observe her playing up close and personal.

The last, but not least, of the big announcements was that YolanDa will be performing on Jool’s Holland’s annual Hootenanny show on New Year’s Eve, always one of the NYE highlights (well, for those not going out on NYE anyway!) Other guests include Pauline Black, Ruby Turner, the Stereophonics and Stormzy.

Jools Holland and YolanDa Brown

It was a great co-indicence to be at this iconic venue as just a few weeks earlier I was enjoying the skating scenes in the hit movie ‘Last Christmas‘, which were filmed at the AlexanDra Palace skating rink.

This was a tremendously enjoyable show and although the album’s entitled ‘Love Politics War’ the evening was filled with love(ly) music but was refreshingly politics and war free.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Links

  1. YolanDa’s Band Jam – All 24 episodes on BBC i-player
  2. Last Christmas – Tiemo review – 20.11.19
  3. Bob Marley & The Wailers Honoured with Blue Plaque – Tiemo Review –
  4. Marley  The Movie Stirs it Up – Tiemo review – 31.05.12
  5. April Showers, May Flowers – Tiemo Hammersmith Apollo YolanDa Brown review – 21.02.12
Posted in Arts and Culture, Concert reviews | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Brexit a Revolution By or Against the Establishment?

Are the Conservative Establishment now the revolutionaries? Does Brexit be understood as representing a genuinely revolutionary moment in British history, or are there much deeper, longer-term trends that explain the current moment?

Conservatives as rebels and revolutionaries sounds like a contradiction, but if you think about it that’s what it has come to with Brexit.

It can be argued that the EU Referendum of 23rd June 2016 upset the apple cart, the established order of things. It wasn’t supposed to turn out that way. It’s been well reported that even Boris Johnson and Michael Gove didn’t really expect to win. This in part goes some way to explaining the curious post Brexit aftermath and the absence of rousing, triumphant victor’s speeches that set out the road map towards arriving at the Brexiteer’s vision of the nation’s future.

The reality proved that there was no plan or road map as Brexit wasn’t actually defined. It just meant leaving the EU. Perhaps the wrong referendum question was asked in the first place. Maybe we were all too gullible thinking leaving wouldn’t be that complicated. In retrospect the practice and ability to leave needed to be spelt out far more clearly in terms of the hows and wherefores.

It is not difficult to understand people’s wish to leave but I don’t believe it was clear to anyone how this could work without it being more detrimental than remaining in the EU. No one can deny that the Brexit campaign and overriding message was based on the implicit and stated expectation that, as D:Ream famously sang, ‘Things can only get better’ (1993).” However it’s clear that that is not necessarily so and no one, not even Brexiteer’s, was keen to leave if things were only going to get worse, in the long run.

That harks back to the initial poorly put question. It was never considered or put as a question such as – ‘Do you only want a Brexit that is better for the UK and doesn’t place an invisible hard border between Ireland and the island of Northern Ireland?’That obviously was a huge stumbling block and although that appears to have been removed with Boris Johnson’s October 2019 deal, still wasn’t enough to get through parliament.

Democracy

This throws up questions re the efficacy of democracy, for it has as yet simply not been possible to deliver Brexit and it’s hard to see how this week’s General Election, without the referendum + General Election that Tiemo Talk of the Town called for as a proviso for holding the election, will resolve it. Strictly speaking we are and have continued to remain in the EU for a full 3 years since the vote and barring a clear Liberal Democrat victory in December’s General Election this is more than likely heading towards a 4th year of remaining post 2016 referendum.

Brexit

Professor Anand Menon recently commented at one of the Battle of Ideas (BoI) 2019 Brexit debates that the problem with Brexit was twofold: “(1)the idea of Brexit – what it meant and how to implement it and (2) there is a dislike of the Establishment and how they’ve gone about trying to block it happening and it’s been impossible to reconcile the two.”

Professor Anand Menon

Actually we have many establishment figures on both sides of the argument. For once there is not a united establishment. We’re in a unique place in history where one can be a conservative Brexiteer and be perceived as a revolutionary seeking to overturn the established norm. We’re living in a time when people such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House of Commons and Nigel Farage, The Brexit Party Chairman are pro Brexit. Normally such establishment figures would be pro-Europe – pro-remain. Big, corporate businesses are generally in favour of the settled status quo they are accustomed to.

If you accept that the referendum question asked was too simplistic and lacking in the detail people needed and if you take into account how difficult it is proving to leave (bear in mind none of the other 27 EU nations are looking to leave. In fact 7 European nations have applied to join and their applications are in various stages of progress that have so far been going on from between 3-10+ years to date per nation) then maybe the question ought to have been one of ‘How could the UK and other nations reform the EU?’ Former Prime Minister David Cameron tried hard to do so and as they didn’t budge on their position Cameron felt he had to call the referendum he threatened to call if they didn’t reform. Calling the EU’s bluff hasn’t as yet worked out so well as we’ve not left and the EU hasn’t changed a bit! In fact the now former European President Jean-Claude Juncker recently joked that he left the EU before Britain did, on 30th November 2019, after 5 years as President.

The current election battle was initially thought likely to be primarily a Brexit battle and ought to have been Conservative v Liberal Democrats, but the media and to be fair, the opinion polls as well, have created the sense that it’s the traditional Conservative v Labour contest for the keys to Downing Street. This means in reality it’s a decision for the electorate between Brexit with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s deal or no Brexit (Conservatives) or Labour’s position of a referendum and Brexit or Remain depending on the decision of the 2020 referendum Labour would call if they win.

Battle of Ideas Brexit Panel – Professor Anand Menon, Alistair Donald (Chair), Bruno Waterfield, Assistant Professor Lisa McKenzie and Daniel Moylan

The clarity of the Liberal Democrat message will appeal to many I’m sure as it couldn’t be clearer. If they win, they’ll revoke Article 50. Naturally that will be appealing to Remainers, but I would imagine it could also be appealing to un-decided’s (are there any?)* and those who just want this over and done with (including Brexiteer’s who don’t want Boris’s deal and realise there is no better Brexit deal likely to be had by re-commencing negotiations with the EU.

I value democracy but sometimes one could argue that the great British public get it wrong. If you look at the naming of the RRS Sir David Attenborough ship. It was put out to the public to vote for via the internet by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). The public voted for Boaty Mcboatface. That was understandably deemed too silly a name for a prestigious £150 million polar research ship and so the NERC decided against that and named it, far more sensibly in my view, after Sir David Attenborough instead. Whilst that was a relatively minor matter, does not the same principle apply to EU membership? I cannot name one single economist or historian in favour of Brexit. I’ve yet to hear of real, tangible, undisputed benefits to be had from leaving the EU. On that basis the Liberal Democrats position is principled and democratic as they are standing on a crystal clear, revoke Article 50 ticket.

*’ – Lisa McKenzie, Assistant Professor in Sociology/Researcher, Durham University said, rather amusingly at the BoI debate, “I’m not a Brexiteer or Remainer. I hate all of them! I’m an anarchist.” Lisa Wrote an essay entitled ‘The Class Politics of prejudice: Brexit and the land of no‐hope and glory’, which, in part,  highlighted that all roads lead to the M1.

Assistant Professor Lisa McKenzie

These were EU funded roads in the North of England, which had no pavements or bus stops so to Lisa’s mind they were not really built for the people. Lots of EU blue plaques were put up along the road. So who was the road for if not the people? Well soon enough one of Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct stores popped up. Her answer is that the road was a connective road for commercial purposes, for big businesses’ benefit. This, for her and many others, symbolises the problem with the EU. It’s perceived as for big business, not for the benefit of regular citizens.

 

The Reaction to Brexit is the problem

It is said that it’s not Brexit in itself which has been the problem, but the reaction to it causing all the furore.

This was started and highlighted by the killing of a Polish man Arkadiusz Jóźwik on 27th August 2016 which was widely reported as being Brexit-xenophobia related. To have exposed the so-called reality of English racism. Doubts have been expressed over that interpretation as he was reported to have hurled racist insults resulting in the attack on him, but nonetheless there was a well reported spike in Brexit related racism in the wake of the referendum vote and it’s often been said that whilst not every Brexit voter is racist, most racists voted Brexit.

The Establishment’s fear was and is that the vote was a threat to their status quo. The reaction to it has been one of profound hostility which created the current situation. Those favouring leaving were viewed as morally less superior. Perhaps that tells us more about the character and mindset of the Establishment than anything else.

The left behind

Professor Anand said one of the problems for former Prime Minister Theresa May was that she made a great speech outside 10 Downing Street on the day she became Prime Minister, 13th July 2016, but then never did any of the things she said she would.

 

Professor Anand doesn’t see the General Election as the key to resolving Brexit. “Whoever gets in after election, won’t resolve Brexit. I don’t see this as a moment of change. I see a quick return to status quo as the leaders will do exactly what they wish to do. Taking back control would surely be about giving more power to local government. That would make a difference.”

I agree with this and said as much in my blog last month calling for a referendum with the general election. Anand raised an interesting point regarding why so many EU leaders prefer to remain in the EU as that gives the impression they are ceding their power to Europe. “Why do Prime Ministers give away power to the EU? That’s because it’s a lot easier to get laws through the EU than their own parliament!”

Conclusion

I started out by asking is Brexit a Revolution By or Against the Establishment? I think the answer is that the Brexit vote was a vote against the EU establishment, by the ordinary working people and by a fair few traditional Establishment figures, whereas most of parliament is pro-Europe, pro-remain. That’s created a big tension and thus far a hugely unresolved problem.

Arguably this positions the Conservative Party, the party representing the traditional establishment as the revolutionaries against the establishment they represent!

I think it’s uncovered something seismic that is about much more than ordinary politics as we are accustomed to. As Captain Kirk might have said, “It’s politics but not as we know it.

I can think of no other issue in my lifetime that has so stumped parliament and the country. We’ve voted on massive, hugely divisive issues before such as going into war (Iraq, 2003), not going into war (Syria, 2013), whether or not to renew our nuclear weapons (2016), the poll tax/revoke of poll tax (1991) … and parliament and the nation have made decisive decisions and moved on. At times public outcries have been acted upon e.g. revoking the hugely un-popular poll tax. Why is this different? This leads me to conclude that perhaps there is a spiritual element to this as the usual logic is just not applying.

If you look at the EU building. It was deliberately designed to mirror the Tower of Babel. Babel means confusion and thus the tower represented a tower of confusion, of a people thinking they could do without God. God was not happy with that and so the world went from a place with one, common language to one with many languages which was obviously confusing for people who didn’t speak the many other languages created. This is explained in far more detail in ‘The Rape of Europe‘ DVD, 2004) but could be seen as symbolic of the current period of confusion. Wherever you stand spiritually we are and have been living through highly confusing times since the 2016 referendum, of that I think we can all agree. How it will all end is anybod’s guess and I’m not convinced that this Thursday’s general election will bring forth the clarity to Get Brexit Done as some would want us to believe.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Links

  1. Any General Election Must Now Include a Referendum– Tiemo – 29.10.19
  2. Brexit: A Solution to Break the Deadlock – Tiemo – 11.03.19
  3. The class politics of prejudice: Brexit and the land of no‐hope and glory – The British Journal of Sociology – 08.11.17
  4. Brexit: A Revolution by or against the establishment? – Battle of Ideas debate and video – 03.11.19
  5. The Rape of Europe – Eurovision Mission to Europe by David Hathaway (2004)
Posted in Debates, News, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blue Story: A South Side Love Story

Star Rating: ****
Director and Writer: Rapman (Andrew Onwubulo)
Review date: 16th November 2019
Producers: Damian Jones and Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor
Executive Producers: Rose Garnett, Paul Grindey, Eva Yates, Charles Moore and Andrew Onwubolu (Rapman)
Starring: Stephen Odubola and Micheal Ward
Production: BBC Films, DJ Films, Joi Productions and Paramount Pictures UK
Distributer: Paramount Pictures UK
Classification Rating: (15) 91 minutes
Released: 2019

Blue Story tells the story of school friends and best mates Timmy (Stephen Odubola) and Marco (Micheal Ward, ‘Top Boy’) who had nothing to do with local gangs, but find themselves on opposing sides of an escalating, vicious, deadly gang rivalry. Both are from the neighbouring South East London boroughs of Peckham and Lewisham. They’re proximity resulted in them attending the same school. However things take a turn when Timmy is set upon by a gang including some with links to Marco.

In a very illogical, Othellian way, logic is booted right out of the park and Timmy finds it impossible to believe that his best friend Marco had nothing to do with the attack and is hell bent on getting revenge against his perpetrators. The viewer is taken on a journey that will see if their friendship will stand this testing incident or be jettisoned in the name of gang affiliation and keenly fought post code wars.

Despite the public perception of the movie and the impression given by the official trailer, Blue Story is effectively a South Side love story wrapped up in a gangster rap and street warfare that owes a lot more to West Side Story than Goodfellas, sharing timeless themes of friendship, love (romantic and brotherly) and gang rivalry. The face hiding black bandana is as ubiquitous as the numerous gang members. It’s the de rigueur clothing item of choice in this urban, gangland drama. Blue Story is a gripping, edgy, fascinating story with many of the relationships between characters very well portrayed and developed; the best friends, the friendships between their group of friends, those friendships and connections with tensions linking people from opposing ‘endz.’ This brings trouble where lines are blurred between genuine personal connections and what are effectively meaningless “postcode wars” but which in the interests of survival on the streets, carry serious weight and necessitates that some young people can’t be friends with those from rival postcodes. As one character memorably says when denouncing the frutility and stupidity of such gang rivalry: “You are fighting for a postcode you don’t even own.”

Blue Story is Director/Screenwriter Rapman’s (Andrew Onwubulo) debut feature film. It’s a well earned progression from his successful and hugely popular Shiro’s Story; a three-part YouTube series that explored the world of rap music, drugs and violence. It has had an incredible 20 million views to date, which will no doubt increase as those previously unaware of it go and catch up with the trilogy.

One pivotal storyline is that of the blossoming relationship between Marco and Leah, which was very well acted by Micheal Ward and Karla Simone-Spence. Their relationship is tested by the conflict between Timmy & Marco with deadly consequences.

Thanks to the excellent story and plot lines, convincing and authentic acting of lead characters such as Marco and Timmy and many others, it is an engrossing film. Although it’s not always a pleasant watch (and nor is it meant to be), that’s not just down to the brutal violence, but the aggressive language too. With regards to the later I can see why it’s in there, though I feel the messages could have been conveyed in equally harsh but less profane ways.

Marco (Micheal Ward) & Leah (Karla Simone-Spence)

I found it interesting that the mother of two of the key characters seemed blissfully unaware of the dangerous and illegal activities of her sons. Lesson #1 in the startlingly obvious – mothers and fathers must make it their business to know where their children are and who they are hanging around with. That is their parental duty and responsibility. No one else’s. The father’s in this case were not around, which is often significant, particularly when boys are going off the rails. I think any analysis of the problem with youths, men in gangs has to highlight the critically important role of the father or male role model/father figure.

Blue Story is a brilliantly told film with humour, love, aggression, violence, youthful boisterousness and a storyline that keeps you totally immersed and engaged from start to finish. The interjecting between key scenes of Rapman’s rapping was a novel, most welcome Shakespearean innovation. I loved the party scenes, the lively, noisy, night bus banter and goings on, plus seeing different areas of London on screen aside from the usual well known film set/tourist locations. There’s even the added bonus of a scene stealing cameo (party) from a well known comedian.

The film clearly highlights the gang lifestyle lived by some young people on the streets of London. Although it’s a London story, it is by no means unique to the capital and could have been set anywhere where gang rivalry exists.

The film is a terrific watch and a real eye opener for the many for whom this life is far removed from their own experience. For the critics who’ve been suggesting otherwise (most likely those yet to watch the film), this movie actually does precious little to glamorise the gangster lifestyle. However I do accept that for a significant minority, they will be undeterred, having weighed up that it is their best way forward to survive.

There was of course a lot of well documented controversy during its first week of opening from 22nd November 2019, with Vue Cinema’s reporting ‘25 significant incidents in 16 cinemas within 24 hours of opening’ resulting in it being banned in all 91 of its UK wide cinemas (60 had been showing it) between 25th – 28th November. Vue Cinema’s stated: “This decision is not, as some have alleged, based on biased assumptions or concern about the content of the film itself. At Vue, we believe passionately in bringing people together and using the power of the big screen experience to entertain, educate and inspire all of our audiences. Blue Story is a fantastic film and one with a very powerful message. It is a film that has the opportunity to change lives. We hope that Blue Story achieves the success it deserves and importantly its message does not get lost.”

On 27th November 2019 (within an hour of Tiemo Talk of the Town seeing the movie and giving it the thumbs up on social media … #JustSaying!) the chain lifted its ban on the proviso that security would be increased at Vue cinemas. Whilst I have no reason or evidence to doubt their stated reason, it’s of interest that to date they have not elaborated on these 25 incidents and I’m only aware of one reference (on social media) to an incident in Plymouth Vue on 23rd November 2019. No others have been reported in the mainstream media or social media as far as I’m aware which is very surprising in this day and age when people would be quick to tweet or Face book any disturbances.

Many people vociferously complained and campaigned on social media and elsewhere for the ban to be overturned citing the unfairness of this decision when it wasn’t considered to be the fault of the film or even the genre of the film. Some went further. Maryvn Harrison, founder of the Dope Black Dads podcast (Black Fathers movement) wrote directly to Vue Cinema. His letter and the public campaign succeeded. Vue listened and re-released the film in it’s venue’s last Friday 29th November 2019.

Despite the initial ban the film’s done exceptionally well for an independent production, grossing £1.3 million in its first week-end, making it the #3 most popular film, behind only ‘Last Christmas’ which took £2.2m and Frozen II which took a stonking £15.3m! Blue Story broke records for the most any British ‘urban’ film has made in that space of time. By the end of it’s second week-end it had more than doubled its box office takings to £2.9m.

Many flinched at the thought of ‘yet another gangster film.’ I admit I was one, but I have to say having now watched the film, this one’s different and really has the potential to be a game changer, one that can positively change lives for the better. It’s undoubtedly aimed at a certain demographic, 15 – 20 something’s, but its appeal is likely to be far broader.

Blue Story has a very serious and important message that needs to be heard by those involved in gangs, those wanting to understand how and why gangs exists, plus, without a doubt, those tasked with solving this and the wider socio-economic issues associated with gangs and communities from which members are drawn.

You see that a number of characters don’t really want to get involved but for understandable reasons, including persuasive peer pressure, find themselves drawn in to a life they know probably won’t end well. The film depicts how hard it can be to get out once caught up in the line of fire or even just because of where you happen to live, which as a schoolchild, they have absolutely no say in.

I would also add that it’s not just adults, politicians, who have a responsibility for tackling the problem. I think older school children (girls and boys) do too. They have a particular role and responsibility if their peers are involved or hanging with the “wrong crowd” which makes them susceptible to joining gangs. That might of course be far easier said than done, but they’re quite likely to be more influential than well meaning adults, authority figures, trying to step in and solve the issue once it’s become a criminal problem.

Whilst I, like many, would love to see a wider representation of more positive, less negatively stereotypical Black British lives on screen – think of Venus v Mars, Sunny D, Baby Father, All About the McKenzie’s, At Home with the Adebanjos, Black-ish (USA) – to name but a few hit shows, that’s another debate altogether. For now, for the reasons outlined above I strongly feel that Blue Story is such an important, superbly told story of our times, that it deserves to be a hit movie, not only in the UK, but internationally where violent, deadly gang warfare is a serious, criminal issue that needs tackling and defeating. Far too many lives are being lost and numerous communities have been blighted because it hasn’t been successfully tackled.

Blue Story is not just another gangster film. It’s a South Side Love Story that packs a powerful message.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Links:

  1. Shiro’s Story – 2018
  2. Dope Black Dads podcast
  3. Yardie – Tiemo review – 3rd September 2018
  4. Residential Movie: The Only Way Out Is In – Tiemo review – 24th September 2016
  5. Legend – The Krays – Tiemo review – 8th September 2015
  6. Ghetta Life – Tiemo review – 15th September 2012

If you wish to receive regular updates as soon as new Blogs are posted or join our mailing list please complete the form below.

Posted in Film Reviews, News | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Last Christmas: Review

Star Rating: ***
Director: Paul Feig
Writers: Emma Thompson and Greg Wise
Screenplay: Emma Thompson and Bryony Kimmings
Review date: 16th November 2019

The much anticipated early Christmas present for fans of Christmas movies, rom-com’s and the late George Michael/WHAM! is out just in time for this Christmas. Curiously it’s set in 2017 despite a known release date of 2019. Perhaps that’s a nod to George’s untimely death in 2016. George Michael was aware of approved the film being made based on his famous Christmas hit.

Kate, played by Emilia Clarke, 33, (Game of Thrones) is a frustrated young Londoner for whom nothing much seems to go right. She works as an elf in an all year round Christmas shop in London’s Covent Garden.

Things begin to look much brighter when she meets Tom played by Henry Golding, 32, (Crazy Rich Asians) a charming, handsome young man who seems too good to be true. This grows into a yuletide romance between the two with all manner of interesting events in between.

There’s a lot to admire and really enjoy about this movie including the outstanding music from George Michael and WHAM! including over course the title song, though sometimes they did seemed to have been forcefully shoehorned into the movie – as much as a marketing exercise to sell the soundtrack as anything remotely related to the film.

Aside from the music and actors, the major star of the movie is London in all its beautiful night time glory. It was a particular delight to see not just traditional sights – such as Covent Garden and Regent Street, but the many, many beautiful, interesting and far less well known sights.

There were fine performances from Henry Golding and Emma Thompson (co-writer) as Kate’s Yugoslavian mother. She delivered some of the best lines and was a wonderful breath of fresh air and vibrancy to the film.

A disappointment and a big one at that was the relationship between Kate and Tom. Whilst pleasant, amusing and believable enough, I felt that as much as Tom oozed cocky, self-assured confidence, Kate’s performance lacked that sparkle and as a consequence meant there was an absence of genuine chemistry between them. Ultimately I would say that’s just bad casting as Clarke is not exactly known for her romantic comedies or comedic acting skills. However she did provide comedic entertainment in a sense via the considerable hilarity found in the many mishaps of her unfortunate life that is seen spiralling out of control.

There was an attraction between the two but it wasn’t a convincing romantic chemistry a la Julia Roberts-Richard Gere (Pretty Woman) … but then how many have pulled that off? Though their relationship held the interest and kept you wondering where it was leading to, for me that was a major flaw in the movie. It didn’t stop it being a good movie – for it effortlessly held your interest throughout, but it meant it couldn’t be considered a great one.

Another relationship between Christmas shop manager Santa, played by Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians) and The Boy, played by Peter Mygind was somewhat undercooked. There was certainly unexplored potential, both comedic and romantic, with those two characters.

Santa’s relationship with her wayward employee Kate had rather more bite and spiciness to it than even Kate and Tom’s. At times it was more mother-daughter than owner/manager-employee, but fascinating all the same.

The film moved along rather nicely, too nicely at times and lacked dramatic tension. It didn’t seamlessly flow. As with the music randomly shoe horned in, so too were a number of scenes that weren’t really vital to the storyline.

The aspects that focused on homeless were a nice touch and I’m sure George Michael would have approved as he was a big fan of supporting the homeless and occasionally gave exclusive interviews to The Big Issue, as did his sister, Melanie Panayiotou, earlier this month in a very rare interview.

There have been very good movies based upon a band’s music – where the story’s great and sequeway’s nicely with the music – think of A Hard Day’s Night (The Beatles), Mamma Mia (ABBA) and quite possibly Yesterday (The Beatles) and Blinded by The Light (Bruce Springsteen) but regrettably this isn’t one of them. Nonetheless Last Christmas is very watchable and entertaining, with plenty of laugh out loud moments. It’s uplifting too in its message to “look up” and explore horizons beyond the obvious, but this appetising film could have been so much more filling if all the various ingredients were better mixed together.

George Michael was quite the perfectionist – as is evident from his body of music, videos, tours and appearance. This film was nice enough but failed to touch the very high notes of excellence George Michael reached with much of his output. Although he gave his backing and input into the film whilst he was alive I do not believe he would have approved this film going out in his name if he were still alive and the further work needed to make it a far better film would have been insisted upon. Perhaps, like the classic single that inspired the film, it needs a ‘pudding mix’ and/or sequel … Next Christmas or Last Christmas II anyone?

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

If you’ve seen the film perhaps you can add your comments in the section below and discussion can ensue. Spoilers can be revealed as it will be assumed those reading the comments have watched the film.

N.B. Those yet to watch the film – please avoid reading the comments until you have seen the film to avoid any spoilers!

Posted in Film Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Walking Good at 80 – Rudolph Walker’s 80th Birthday Celebration

Star Rating: *****
Hackney Empire
Mare Street,
London E8 1EJ,
Review Date: Sunday 20th October 2019

Starring: Caroll Thompson, Chris Tarrant, Curtis Walker, Glenda Jaxson, Janet Kay, Jermain Jackman, Kat B, London Community Gospel Choir, Lurine Cato, Paulette Tajah, Richard Blackwood, Slim, Tobago Crusoe and Victor Romero Evans.

Director: Sarah Moore
Producer: Geestor Productions
Comperes: Eddie Nestor & Robbie Gee

Oh what a night sang the Four Seasons back in late December 63. That song title well and truly summed up the spectacular night’s entertainment laid on to mark the 80th birthday celebration for legendary actor Rudolph Walker OBE.

It’s quite something to think that Neville Chamberlain was the Conservative British Prime Minister when Walker was born in September 1939, the year World War II started. Chamberlain resigned in 1940 when he was unable to generate support from the Labour and Liberal Democrats for his stance in the war. He was replaced by Winston Churchill and the rest is history. Literally. Brexit has echoes of this historic period all over it with our current and previous Prime Minister’s unable to secure the backing of the leading opposition parties and replacing one Tory Leader (Theresa May) with another (Boris Johnson) mid-way through an historic national crisis.

I am making the point that the state of the nation 80 years ago was in a similar dire crisis to that existing now (albeit without the life and death consequences of a World War). Anyway, digression over … although a little more on Brexit will follow.

Rudolph Walker

A packed audience of over 1,000 people at the Hackney Empire certainly didn’t get side-tracked by politics as they lapped up a feast of entertainment served up by the cream of the Black British entertainment industry including top comedians Curtis Walker, Glenda Jaxson, Richard Blackwood and Slim who brought the house down with their wickedly funny sets. Curtis Walker was on especially fine form, especially when taking the mick out of his mother in the audience and her response to her husband’s death in 2012. It doesn’t sound so funny at all in Black and White but trust me it was. As she set sail on a post funeral cruise to recover and her son waived her off, she shouted out the name of the Island she was heading to. I won’t repeat it here as it’s a family friendly blog, suffice to say thought, when Curtis mentioned it, it took a moment or two to gradually sink in and then you just saw wave upon wave of laughter reverberate right around the theatre from the stalls to the circle to the upper circle right up the gallery. It was so hilarious it brought tears to my eyes. Walker had been on cheekily edgy form when referring to the no swearing rule for acts but might just have inadvertently crossed the cruise line!

Curtis Walker

That was a feature of the night which went down well with the audience. Slim slipped up once but quickly corrected himself. That was a nice mark of respect for Rudolph Walker and the occasion. That he and everyone else delivered fine performances without having to use profanity just goes to show it’s not necessary and that talented performers have the ability to avoid such language and when doing so, are thereby able to reach out to and be inclusive of a far bigger audience who might otherwise be put off attending live comedy. To curse on stage is actually to curse your audience, even if that is not the intention. There’s little distinction in the impact of a curse word whether deliberately aimed at someone or liberally used for impact in a joke or theatrical scene and I can’t imagine comedians really wish to curse their fans and paying customers but effectively that is what they are doing when swearing.

Richard Blackwood was funny in his relatively short set. However I didn’t quite see the need or expect toilet humour from him – no matter how amusing it was as part of a tangled web of a yarn. It didn’t seem appropriate for this occasion.

All four comedians showed exactly why they are hugely loved on the comedy circuit and despite the nature of some of the material it was great to see Blackwood back doing stand-up again after his recent more serious acting roles in Typical and Eastenders.

I found Blackwood’s comments about the importance of being your “authentic self” quite significant. In a world which wants you to confirm, where your “otherness” be that skin colour or accent can separate you from employment opportunities it’s heartening to see that Rudolph Walker retained his distinctive Trinidadian accent in Eastenders, when he could have been asked to tone it down or lose it altogether to get the role of Patrick Trueman. Being his authentic (literally a true man!) self allowed his acting talent, dedication and professionalism to shine through and enable him to remain a key figure in the show for 18 years since joining the cast in 2001. That’s a very long time in the soap opera world. Blackwood highlighted this amusingly when recalling a scene in the Queen Vic between June Brown (aka Dot Cotton) and Rudolph Walker (Patrick Trueman) when he was trying to quieten her by saying “Oh woman”. It’s the way he said it – not just “oh woman” as the script writer had it but “Oh wooomaan” in a terse Trinidadian accent loaded with meaning and frustration!

Diane Parish and Lindsey Coulson

The Lovers Rock segment was superb with some of the Queens of Lovers Rock performing their greatest hits and getting the crowd up on their feet and joining in – including Caroll Thompson, Janet Kay, Lorna Gee and Paulette Tajah, plus one of the Kings of Lovers Rock, Victor Romero Evans. Although this wasn’t the comedy section of the night Lorna Gee clearly hadn’t read the script and turned the singing segment into a light hearted comedy moment as she bravely struggled to avoid a major wardrobe malfunction whilst singing. Early on in her first song, she had to stop the music, turn round and adjust the top half of her little black dress mid song, then start all over again! Not good as you could sense she was trying to literally reign herself in and be less mobile and expressive than she wanted to be. That’s a pity as her voice was certainly impressive when she hit those high notes.

A highlight of the night was when some of the singers sung personal renditions of Happy Birthday (whoever wrote that must be raking it in with the royalties!!) especially Opera singer Anne Fridal and Paulette Tajah. There was even some musical poetry with a topical, witty and funny Brexit poetic calypso song from Tobago Crusoe. See video below.

An unexpected surprise appeared in the form of TV and radio legend Chris Tarrant! He came on to pay tribute to Rudolph Walker … well only just as Robbie Gee amusingly did his best not to let him get hold of the microphone… the show needed to finish on time after all but Chris was fine, succinct and praiseworthy in his speech.

The acting community was unsurprisingly extremely well represented. With countless Eastenders on stage it’s a surprise we didn’t hear the ‘duff duff’s and that this wasn’t broadcast on the BBC! Diane Parish, Dona Croll, Ellen Thomas, Tameka Empson, Ricky Norwood were all on stage. It was interesting to hear that Ellen Thomas had at various points of her career played Rudolph Walker’s daughter, girlfriend and wife! Not a lot of people can say that!

Victor Romero Evans

The evening showcased the wide range and depth of talent across the Black British entertainment industry. That so many came out to perform and play tribute to Rudolph Walker was a demonstration of the high regard in which he is held. Many commented on how young Walker looked and that must be a tribute to good living, diet and positive state of mind. There’s something in that that we can all learn from as getting to aged 80 is far from guaranteed. Victor Romero Evans pointed out that he always sees Walker smartly turned out, well spoken, never swearing and generally carrying himself well. Romero Evans (whose age is a mystery) is also an evergreen performer himself, who doubtless is a lot younger looking than he really is as he seems to have been around forever too.

I’m sure that many of those who graced the stage would say they owe a debt of gratitude to Rudolph Walker for breaking down barriers and opening doors for them to walk through in their respective careers. One of the main breakthrough shows for Walker was ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ (ITV 1972-76) which Walker said attracted huge TV audiences and was the ‘Eastenders’ of its day in terms of popularity and viewing figures. I don’t know if the title was meant to be a biblical reference but the term ‘Love Thy Neighbour’s appears frequently in the New Testament e.g. Matthew 19:19. “Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” The programme was about neighbouring couples – one Black, one White, constantly at war with the battlefield being race and lack of racial harmony between warring neighbours. The same message applies today and I think that’s one of the points the show tried to convey, that people need to love their neighbours irrespective of their racial origins and colour (people in general not just literal neighbours) and importantly, as Walker said, when it comes to our young Black youth and the terrible press they get, “It’s important to celebrate young talent when there’s a powerful media that seeks to stigmatise our young people.”

Ellen Thomas and Dona Croll

The show was not just an occasion to mark Rudolph Walker’s 80th, but equally importantly it’s aim was to raise money for the Rudolph Walker Foundation and it achieved that through raising £2,120 in a raffle. GeeStor Productions put on a super show and it was notable that they also put up a huge video screen on stage and made great use of it to display showreels of Walker’s early life, aspects of his family life, career to date and the live action from the stage. Far too often big theatres fail to think about those in the rear seats for whom the action on stage feels a million miles away and screens make the show more inclusive for all.

Oh what a night indeed. This was one of the best shows I’ve attended in many a year in terms of the wide variety and quality of acts on stage. With that, plus so many BBC stars, past and present, in attendance, this show was most definitely worthy of TV broadcast and I hope it does get shown before the year’s out.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Photographs © Tony Attille

The Rudolph Walker Foundation exists to nurture and develop the creative and technical skills and talents of young people by providing them with equipment and facilities which will enable them to produce and distribute audio visual programmes and other types of digital content relating to their culture, history, music and the world in which they live.

Comperes: Robbie Gee and Eddie Nestor

Links:

  1. To Brexit or not to Brexit – That is the Question? – Tiemo – 29th October 2019
  2. The Rudolph Walker Foundation – RW Foundation

If you wish to receive regular updates as soon as new Blogs are posted or join our mailing list please complete the form below.

Posted in Arts and Culture, Theatre reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Any General Election Must Now Include a Referendum

MPs will vote again today on whether or not to agree to the Prime Minister’s offer of pre-Christmas General Election on Thursday 12th December 2019, or even Monday 9th December 2019, the alternative date requested by Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democratic leader.

This must be very tempting if you have your eyes on Boris Johnson’s new job. He’s not yet out of his 6 month probation period (we’ll, if only the role came with that, but that’s another matter altogether) but is clearly keen to put his job out to advert. Either he’s a fool or supremely confident (does the Pope pray?) that he’d win a clear majority that would enable him to (a) Get Brexit Done and (b) more effectively govern the nation and push through his Government’s new legislative bill passed last week.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Up till now Labour and other major parties had thus far refused to agree to a General Election until the possibility of crashing out on 31st October 2019 without a deal was taken off the table. Well there’s more chance of Tony Blair returning to lead the Labour party than the UK leaving the European Union (EU) this Thursday! That we could leave never ever seemed remotely likely based on the parliamentary and EU timetable in place at the time Boris Johnson was elected to the top job in July 2019 with a predetermined Halloween extension granted by the EU in June 2019.

Conditional General Election with Referendum

If I was Labour, Liberal Democratic or Scottish National Party (SNP) leader I’d only commit to a General Election if it included a referendum with a clear set of questions, the result of which would be binding and have to be enacted by the party that is triumphant in the General Election, regardless of whether or not it accords with their party’s position on EU membership. That is the only way to most expeditiously bring closure on the matter which is what both parliament and the electorate wants and seems to be the most practical, sensible way forward that gives the Government and parliament the General Election it wants and the electorate of the United Kingdom a final say in the matter via a referendum, rather than the potential for a General Election followed possibly by a referendum and/or further stasis depending on the outcome of a General Election.

It’s been widely reported that organising a referendum takes a minimum of 6 months. As the Prime Minister believed it was possible on 17th June 2019 to review the major EU-UK agreement reached that day to leave the EU in less than 3 days, I should think organising a comparatively simple and straight forward referendum should not require 6 months and I’m sure can be accelerated to fit in with a General Election.

This referendum should have to include a clear set of questions agreed in advance by Parliament. Tiemo propose the following for consideration:

General Election

1. Which party/candidate are you voting for in the General Election?

Referendum

Please tick one, or more as applicable, of the following:

1. I wish to leave the EU (Brexit) based on the deal agreed by the Government and European Union on 17th October 2019.

2. I wish to leave with no deal by 31.01.20.

3. I request the Government to renegotiate a Brexit deal [Ideally the questions would specify what those new terms are i.e. those that would get through parliament] and leave by 31.01.20.

4. I request the Government revoke Article 50 by 31.12.19 and that Britain remains in the EU if no deal is agreed to leave by 31.12.19.

5. If no deal can be agreed by Parliament to leave by 31.01.20 I request that Britain remains.

6. If a deal agreed by Parliament is not agreed and ratified by the EU by 15.01.20 that the UK should (a) leave with no deal by 31.01.20.

7. If a deal agreed by Parliament is not agreed and ratified by the EU by 15.01.20 that the UK should (b) unilaterally revoke Article 50 and remain by 31.01.20.

8. If none of the above can be agreed that by 15.01.20 I request that a decision on Britain’s future is delegated to the Supreme Court for a final decision, to be ratified unchallenged by the House of Commons and House of Lords, within a month of the Supreme Court decision.

N.B. – If remain is to be an option, it would be better still to list the conditions upon which we wish to remain and start a whole new negotiation on the terms of the UK remaining as opposed to leaving … difficult I know, but this would require the EU to shift its position for it was their previous intransigence that resulted in former Prime Minister David Cameron calling the 2016 referendum in the first place. This might include a request for a reduction in the annual sums of money paid into the EU as well as other regulatory and general EU reforms we would like to see.

I don’t think December is a great month for the nation to be focused on a General Election, for notwithstanding the obvious difficulties, as mentioned above there is no guarantee it will resolve Brexit at all which is an entirely separate issue to the purpose of a General Election. That said and it appears to be heading that way, that there will be a December election as the Labour Leader has this morning agreed to one, I’m certain the nation would consider it a great Christmas present to get Brexit or remain completed so the country can move on.

The EU could have ended this paralysis by declining the further extension agreed on 28th October 2019. The nation had plenty of notice of this week’s deadline. The Government and EU chose to take it right up to the wire. I suspect they’ll do the same again and take it to the new 31st January 2019 deadline rather than looking to get this resolved well before then.

Election Outcome?

Judging by the outcome of recent elections I suspect the outcome will be highly unpredictable. Who’s to say there won’t be a hung parliament? If as is likely, it did become a Brexit v Remain election/referendum by default, technically it should be Conservatives + Brexit Party versus Liberal Democrats + SNP v Labour (whatever position they’re taking). However it is not certain judging by past voting and opinion polling that most Remainers will automatically vote Liberal Democrat to stop Brexit. Why that is, is a whole new debate and one for that party to focus on and look to capitalise on.

Even if the Conservatives win by a landslide it doesn’t automatically follow that Boris Johnson gets his way and that Conservative MPs will simply agree to his deal. So far I’ve seen very little in the way of support, less still anything significant, for the deal.

The Deal

Watching the so called super Saturday debate on 18th October 2019 I recall only a couple of MPs supporting the deal. Assuming that widespread opposition to the deal doesn’t change once MPs have really taken the time to scrutinise it doesn’t bode well for the deal which appears to be is as dead as the former Isis leader Abu Baker al-Baghdadi.

Furthermore, one reason for the delay in approving any deal was to allow parliament sufficient time to scrutinise the agreement, so calling for a December General Election will only serve to remove 6 weeks out of the next 7 weeks for parliament to properly scrutinise the agreement, for if MPs vote for a General Election parliament would be once again suspended for parliamentary business from 6th November 2019 until the date of the election and formation of a new Government.

As parliament has not agreed a deal to leave and blocked a no deal Brexit the default ought to have been remain but parliament is curiously unwilling to follow normal logic.

A United Kingdom

It’s ironic that the Government is officially pro-Brexit and the break up of the European Union (well, for the UK as one key member leaving) yet it doesn’t welcome in the slightest the prospect of Scotland leaving and breaking up the union of the United Kingdom … Stronger Together as they say … yet when it comes to the EU it sings a different tune.

Is Brexit the Best Way Forward?

Without getting into all the immense detail, let’s look at it this way and ask how many of our fellow EU members are trying to leave the EU? The answer is zero. Nil. Nada. 0/27.

What makes the UK so special that it alone should need to get out whilst the other 27 proud nations choose to remain? Have we spotted something the others haven’t?

This doesn’t mean the EU is perfect and doesn’t require reform but if anything the UK’s Brexit stance and negotiating hand would have been far stronger if we’d acted in concert with other nations threatening to or even voting to leave as well. As it is we’ve gone it alone and the remaining 27 have stood firm … stronger together literally and figuratively.

Who Wants to Join the European Union?

Seven countries in fact have applied to join and are currently at various stages of the process of trying to meet the highly complex and stringent EU membership criteria. This shows there must be something about the EU that other countries see as worth joining. If not, why have they applied to join?

The seven include Albania, The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. For some like Turkey, negotiations to join have been going on for the last 14 years since they applied to join in 2005. All have been in negotiations for at least a minimum of 3 years, most for far longer, in one form or another. If it’s taking that long just to join … and align your values and economies with the EU’s we can only imagine how long it is going to take to leave the EU and untangle oneself from such intricate trade, environment and numerous other international agreements.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Posted in News, Politics | Tagged , , ,