The Union can only be saved by exhaustive localism, outing devolution as the centralism that it really is

When it came to the dark side of Blair’s devolution, the genie was out of the lamp as soon as the structures of the new devolved Scottish and Welsh administrations were defined.

The great irony is that the genuine consequences of Blair’s adoption of the EU strategy for breaking up the nation state didn’t register with him when he looked in the mirror and only saw what he wanted others to see. So myopic was his understanding of his own political class, he failed to see the existential threat that his actions would be to Scottish Labour and therefore how difficult a UK-wide Labour Parliamentary majority would soon start to become.

Today, Nicola Sturgeon is sabre rattling yet again, voicing her plans for another Scottish Independence Referendum. One that in a post-COVID-19 world where lip service to localism and communities is no longer enough, the outcome is increasingly likely to go her way – whether it has questionable legality or not.

What Sturgeon and the SNP’s way actually is or rather will be is something that her Party has yet to define. But for as long as the Scottish First Minister is able to speak with authority and give apparent truth to the suggestion that the Scottish Nationalists are providing the only legitimate local voice, the journey towards Scottish Independence is building up a level of momentum that no politician in Westminster will be able to stop by choice.

Whilst it may not yet be easy for many to see, the COVID-19 Pandemic is pushing localism back to the top of the political agenda.

Under the economic and political climate now evolving, we are likely to see a very different kind of governance in the UK unfold. The change that is coming is inevitable and those politicians who seek to ignore this are unlikely to find themselves on the ‘winning’ side.

Regrettably, what people need and what will work best for our communities in the post-Covid age does not sit well with the power-centric type of politics that exists in Westminster, Edinburgh and Cardiff. Its exponents do not see the need to devolve power as far as possible as the most democratic way to get things done.

What we have witnessed through the devolution process, whether it has been to the Welsh and Scottish administrations created by New Labour, or through the metropolitan and City Mayors that the Conservatives have established since, is the creation of alternative centralised power bases that have created new tiers of government at significant public cost. Their existence has made decisions over public policy ever more political whilst moving power further and further way from people as they do.

Whatever your opinion or view of Nicola Sturgeon, she is without doubt one of the most capable and successful politicians of this political class.

Sturgeon’s ability to outplay her political opponents in a game and debate that they continue to allow her to frame has completely hidden the incompetence and unsuitably of the SNP as a Party of representative government.

Sadly, with Westminster feted to continue in just the way that it is, it remains distinctly unlikely that Scottish Voters will be given a credible alternative view of the Sturgeon vision before the departure of Scotland from the UK has been confirmed and the factual evidence begins to stack up just as the Scots realise that it’s already too late.

Turning what is quickly becoming a very serious situation around would require the Westminster Government to stop ignoring the claims of the Nationalists and talk seriously about what another Referendum and the outcome of Scottish Independence would mean. They must begin to insist that the Scottish Nationalists publicly outline exactly how Scotland will function economically outside of the UK, operating with its own currency, tax regime and removal of any kind of subsidy from South of the Border when and if they do.

If Scotland can demonstrate that it can function independently and without the intervention of a foreign power or any other part of the UK, the Scots really should be given the chance on that specific basis to make their choice. But not before.

However, if the Government doesn’t feel able to give the SNP the opportunity to demonstrate how they would succeed at going alone, it cannot allow the destructive thinking that is now manifesting across communities right across the UK to continue unchecked.

Westminster must deal with the question of localism and bringing power to the lowest tiers or most direct forms of government possible – not just within Scotland, but throughout the UK.

Power and responsibility in decision making should rest as near to the people as it is possible for it to be.

The argument that decisions affecting or relevant to everyone should be made at the highest level is flawed by the lack of local knowledge that decision makers have about the lives and experiences of those they are making decisions for.

Whilst the reasoning underpinning Sturgeon’s campaign sounds unassailable to an increasing number when Westminster decision making appears to be so out of touch, the argument for Scottish Independence would evaporate if power were to be restored to the lowest tiers of Government possible.

Such steps would make the need for regional government of any kind redundant and show the existence of centralised and out-of-touch legislatures at this level for what it really is.


The Free School Meals and Child Food Poverty fiasco: Too much is being taken from too many – not because it’s right – but because those profiteering from misery are allowed by our Politicians to do so

It was too easy for politicians to initially dismiss the absence of food of an appropriate quality in the lunch packs that have been distributed to parents during the Lockdown in lieu of free school meals.

Excuses such as ‘this is the best that the contractors can do on a budget of £30 per child in these circumstances’ are not the words of people who care for others and about the impact of the responsibilities they have.

Such arguments underline just how out of touch the political classes are, in one sense with the experiences of the life that so many people lead. In the other, how private contractors who have been commissioned to provide a service to the public are wilfully stripping the value out of everything that they provide, doing so because their master is profit rather than the welfare and benefit of the people for which their services and products have been employed.

The horrific truth is that the Free School Meals story is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to questions over how and why services to the public are provided as they are.

Child Food Poverty is an issue that uncomfortably sits in just a small part of the spectrum of issues stretching from poor service provision and our negative experience of the public sector at one end to the tragedies like Grenfell that exist at the other.

And it doesn’t end there.

The institutional malaise which enables this ‘let’s take whatever we can or add more because we can’ culture stretches out across the commercial sector too.

This rot is a feature that is now an intrinsic part of supply chains and the provision of all the services and products that we buy, particularly when we cannot see what hands have handled the products being used or that we buy before they reached us.

It is because greed has been allowed to inflate prices and reduce content of the products and services that we buy, that the real rise in the cost of living goes up exponentially. Meanwhile our politicians’ thumb through the statistics they rely on – rather than the genuine experience of life they should, and use them as the basis to deny what is really going on for the people they were elected and trusted to represent.

COVID-19 is no excuse. Lockdowns and Social Distancing are just another example of mismanagement and mishandling by people elected to represent the public who should simply know, behave and represent others much better than they do or have ever really intended to.

The people elected to govern us do not understand the realities of life.

The ruling Conservative Party today governs on the premise that unemployment is the same thing as poverty.

This goes a good way to explaining the very questionable financial strategy that has underpinned the Chancellors decision to use public money to keep people furloughed in jobs that Boris Johnson’s Lockdown has long since ensured no longer exist.

Sadly, and very regrettably, the work that Marcus Rashford and his supporters are doing and the outcome from the influence that they are having is but a very small drop within an ocean of problems that normal people are facing each and every day. Any fix or isolated change in legislation that comes as a result will be no better than a temporary fix because politicians do not understand and do not want to understand the consequences and impact of what they do.

People need food for themselves and their children. They need it now and for as long as they cannot put food on plates at each and every mealtime.

This situation simply shouldn’t exist. Footballers and Food Banks should never have to intervene to support not only those on benefits, but people who have jobs but find that food is a luxury that they simply cannot afford.

There is a tragic irony in Free School Meals contractors skimming every penny they think they can off the top of food parcels because they thought nobody will notice or care. It demonstrates the very same mentality that exists across all forms of business and public service which has grown exponentially with the switch to business being undertaken online.

Excess profiteering and outright greed is making life avoidably challenging even for the middle classes and self-sufficiency and financial independence is a basic human right that the poorest members of society simply cannot afford.

The people who sit at the fat, bloated end of the money system and the perverse pyramid structure that supports it do not need anywhere near the money or material wealth that they already possess in order to have very good standards of living and materially-rich lives.

The cash and property hoarding that they continue with at pace is causing mayhem for everyone else at the levels of that pyramid below them, making the money that does still exist at the bottom rapidly lose value whilst they can only continue to gain.

Until government stops what those either controlling money or manipulating it are doing by reintroducing appropriate financial regulation, morality and ethics into the money and financial system to stop profligate profiteering and plundering of everything that these greedy people touch, the basic or humane standard of living that most people would be happy and content with – that excludes the need for debt, borrowing or seeking the support from charities or others, will simply be a standard of living that is too expensive for increasing numbers of normal working people to afford.

Every person who works in a full-time job should be able to provide themselves and those they are responsible for with a home, power and warmth, communication, clothing, transport and entertainment, along with everything necessary that would allow anyone to function and contribute to positively to society in a fully independent and self-sufficient way.

Those who require support from the state because they are unemployed or unable to work should receive support equal to the same with the only caveat being that appropriate steps and conditions should be applied to ensure that nobody can enjoy that basic standard of living as a preferred or indefinite choice.

This outcome or solution is one that should be realistic. Yet it is not, simply because the way the value of goods, services and property are today being mismanaged deliberately for profit and prices have been pushed up and inflated to levels which far exceed their real value and to the point where basic and personal independence or financial sustainability is something that too many have no way to afford.

The political class – that’s all Political Parties that currently control Westminster – are themselves a significant part of the problem, simply because they function to pursue and represent their own ideas and ways of thinking. It is an approach that does not understand or accommodate the life experience of others and is set up to further interests only that align with their own.

Reform or Rehash? Is the Brexit Party name change just adding insult to injury or is this where real change in the UK begins?

Perhaps the one thing that has been most difficult to understand as the life of lockdowns has progressed, has been the complete absence of or failure to launch of any political movement that has even a hint of what it is going to take to overturn the damage that this political class has done to the UK.

Yes, it’s a big ask to see the first signs of growth or early genesis of that which will make the changes and new starts right across government and the public sector that this Country (or what will soon be left of it) will need to make it work best for everyone in the 21st century, post-COVID age. But you would hope that near 10 months of this would at least have seen a start.

For the growing number of normal people who quietly oppose everything this Government is doing – whilst also having the civility to do what they are told, the chilling and rather disconcerting reality is that the anti-lockdown groups and ‘new reformists’ that have emerged since March are falling victim to their own madness. Conspiracies abound amongst them, being used to explain the ongoing chain of decisions made by Government that should instead just be attributed to stupidity or the disfunction of the current political system in some other non-emotional way.

Abuse or misuse of a public platform upon discovering that you have one is nothing new. Part of the problem within British Politics today is too many Councillors and MPs have the habit of believing their own hype the very minute that they are first elected. For many of the would-be leaders finding that social media has been the first medium to give them a voice, the effects are very much the same.

Good leaders continue to listen when they have ‘power’ or ‘influence’. They observe, ask questions and remain very open to the possibility that everything around them that they already know could otherwise be easily explained.

Regrettably, this has meant that through the COVID-19 Crisis to date, many of the figureheads of the anti-lockdown ‘movement’ have reached their critical mass based on nothing more than their own existing thoughts and viewpoints. They have not looked anywhere else for answers to understand why the anti-lockdown movement or change of any kind is suffering a terminal lack of groundswell amongst the public and therefore a complete failure to launch.

Now enter Nigel Farage and Richard Tice off the back of the Electoral Commission finally approving the change of name from The Brexit Party to Reform UK on 6th January.

With ‘reform’ as the name for a ‘new’ political party, it would be very easy to imagine that what comes next will be the vehicle or movement for change that everyone across the UK now need and can therefore relate to.

But can it really be so?

Farage exhibits what arguably looks like deliberate amnesia, increasingly appearing to suggest that a 4-step evolution to Reform UK didn’t involve either The Anti Federalist League or UKIP, and that it has only been the transformation from the successful and apparently cross-party Brexit Party to Reform UK that was involved in this political move.

Sadly, many of the same people who will jump up to back him and Reform UK now and put themselves forward as candidates for this new movement will be the very same who have been travelling the same road and the same journey all along. Many are just wannabe politicians, not unlike like those still flocking to the banners of the establishment Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat causes too.

The question must therefore be asked what exactly it is that could possibly have changed from what we have seen before where this new political vehicle is concerned?

Don’t get me wrong. We should value the fact that the new Reform UK Party is at least shining a light in the direction of the institutional and establishment wrongs that are heaping layers of injustice right across society.

Indeed, what made the Farage narrative so powerful as the Country came out against Membership of the European Union was his possession and use of a voice that appeared to describe the effects of how this relationship was doing us all wrong in almost clinical detail.

The argument that this narrative and the succinct solutions that it offered helped to win our departure from the EU did not focus on or explain the causes. Issues that could have – once communicated properly and in terms that those who are willing to listen would understand – created much more significant buy in and made far more sense than the case made by the Leave side of the debate ever was.

Sadly, this is the Farage, Brexit Party and Richard Tice formula through and through. Therefore, you can safely assume that it will in time prove to be the Reform UK formula too.

We can see how this tried and tested formula is about to be rolled out with key Reform UK policies such as electoral reform, where the elephant in the room that gives the lie to the supposed fairness of Proportional Representation does in fact underscore that First Past The Post is much fairer when politicians behave as they should. FPTP is the most reliable way to gain democratic consensus rather than damming government to the permanent need for compromise between many marginal and opposing parties and their ideas which almost never have thought for consequences or the collective good involved.

These first policies from Reform UK are not about reaching across the political divides and being inclusive where our current political system has failed. Through measures such as targeting market liberalisation and neoliberal thinking, they are inadvertently seeking to compound the problems we have where those who control the money rule and everyone else is disadvantaged – despite all that we are being told.

Farage appears a sell-out to the finance system that he was once a trader within and therefore a part of. That much is clear from the adverts that easily find you today on YouTube where he appears to be talking up a better way, but where self-interest and selling financial packages that profit somebody is clearly involved.

This isn’t about making Farage or his new Party wrong. But self interest and ideas driven by disenfranchisement and anger with the establishment – no matter how badly the Politicians in power today are treating us – is not what this Country needs now.

A name like Reform UK will surely be wasted on this vehicle if it should remain in this form. That is a great shame for us all, given that top to bottom reform is exactly what everything beyond our basic freedoms in this Country is what we collectively – and quickly need.

Indeed, the irony should not be lost on anyone that the Electoral Commission approved the change of Party Name despite the well-established existence of the think tank called Reform – which has long championed change at a smaller level – but has arguably failed by only achieving what it has been politically fashionable within the ‘mainstream’ to do.

Reform UK has its work cut out if it wants to make any kind of significant mark on the local elections that as I write are still scheduled to go ahead in May.

It is surely no accident that the approval of the name change was held up until after Brexit was done and that the announcement came itself at almost exactly the same moment that the Conservative Party declared that there would not be any kind of physical campaigning taking place for its own candidates at any time between now and Election Day in May.

The Conservatives may indeed wish to rely on the power of incumbency to see them through these elections and keep new pretenders away from what would otherwise be a crowded door. But now that this political gauntlet has been thrown, the Reform UK Party would be wise to forget its first run at elections as being in May 2021, unless they already possess the organisation and leadership behind the scenes to run a fully online campaign at local level, ensuring that distance campaigning is theirs to own in 2021.

An educated guess would be that Reform UK simply don’t have either the expertise or the time to do it. And that their presence and entry to the political field now will not only fail to make the impact in the long term as an alternative that the country needs. But that it will also discourage and distract others who could make a real difference from seeing this time of great uncertainty as the right moment to step forward and be part of what could otherwise be genuine change.

Farage has undoubtedly helped deliver that which he has always been about. He should be Sir Nigel at the very least. But in reality, should have been advising government on the exit from the EU and should now be sat in the House of Lords.

The management of our future is in no way anything like the binary question which Farage championed as his cause on one side of the Brexit debate.

The future of the UK is complicated to a level that even our politicians and decision makers fail to understand.

We need a new and human way of driving our future forward that uses experience to give a voice and new reality to all others, rather than heralding the idea that this is just another group shouting loudly that this is ‘our time’ and that anyone else will simply have to wait for theirs in turn.

We are in this together is a phrase that can no longer be used as a hollow form of words.

Did China give us COVID-19 knowing it was no worse than severe flu; confident of exactly what weak-minded Governments in the West would inevitably do?

Much earlier in the Pandemic, I wrote about the stupidity of trying to pin the blame for Coronavirus on China. I said that chasing reparations of any kind would never do anyone any good, and that the best value that the West could take away from the experience would be to conclude that the Chinese Government could not be trusted and we should not do or encourage business with them of any kind.

I have never bought into the establishment narrative of what Covid is and how it should have or now should be addressed, but I wrote this giving a nod to the possibility that the Virus could be different and significantly more severe than the ‘normal’ respiratory infections that we see each and every year.

What became clear very quickly is there is very little technical and statistical difference between the genuine impact of this respiratory infection and any severe seasonal flu, other than the classification and virus type itself. It is the way that it has and continues to be interpreted, translated and communicated that is key.

Uncomfortable though the truth may be, the only difference between Covid and a flu outbreak that we would experience in any year is the way it has been handled. COVID -19 has been publicised and pursued with the fears of weak- minded politicians and civil servants being dressed up and sold to us in a wholly indoctrinating, if not brain-washing form.

We live with threats that are much worse and much likelier to kill or even affect us in some way. We actively and willingly embrace many of them each and every day. But those threats are presented to us logically, without emotion and in ways that make sense of the level of risk in terms of what it takes for us to live and experience a ‘normal’ functioning life, accepting that there is an accompanying level of risk to us in virtually everything that we do. We drive or ride in cars, travel on planes and undertake jobs that make us vulnerable because that’s the only way the we get things done.

Stand back and view the Government response and reaction to Coronavirus objectively and in the sense that it could have been framed differently as something we would simply have to live with rather than than simply allowing it to dictate life.

You can perhaps then see how a real understanding of how the western mindset works could be weaponised against us or our political leadership, if it was played out and utilised against us and our leaders in precisely the right way.

This is where the real story of what China has done and why it has done it could begin.

It is difficult not to admire and have a very begrudging respect for the ruthless nature and strategic approach employed by the Chinese.

We have only recently been made very well aware of how they have embedded people who are friendly to their cause right across industry, academia and government, and the lessons that our Australian friends and cousins are now exposing through Chinese material interests in their Country point to a growing threat to western culture, business and freedom itself. All of it being levelled at us from the starting point of being an enemy already present within as we sleepwalk with the believe that Chinese money has a different value and is created differently to our own.

The Chinese have historically valued knowledge and respect the power that it gives them. It is therefore no great stretch of the imagination to be able to see and understand that they have been carefully observing our culture and our behaviours for a very long time. The Chinese have become very well aware of our weaknesses.

Our cultural susceptibility to manipulation using mass propaganda has been exposed along with how inept, self-serving and out of touch our political and government leadership has become.

The Chinese have been aware of the opportunity to destroy the West from within using the fat, entitled hierarchical structures that rule the entitled, take-everything-for-granted mentality of the West for a very long time.

With confidence in the knowledge and understanding that the Chinese have, it is far from impossible that they would see the overreaction of Western political leadership to a viral epidemic as the best opportunity to overtake the West without going to the lengths of having to engage in military conflict.

Yes, it all sounds far fetched. But the interest the Chinese have in its relationship with the West is in control and gaining that control in whatever way necessary to get the job done.

With their own people it’s easy for the Chinese Communist Government to inflict the authoritarian view. But without literally invading and taking over countries by using physical force, with consequences for their own Country that could easily destroy them, by far most sensible route to destabilise the countries that stand against them is to use the weaknesses of those countries to attack them from within.

In truth, we may never know the answer to the question of how or indeed why the COVID-19 pandemic began. It is not in the interests of the Chinese to provide Western Governments with any form of help that might prove to shine any spotlight on the truth of what really happened.

What we should keep in mind however, is that no country inclined to use aggressive force against others for the purpose of gaining control is likely to weoponise anything that it couldn’t either control or understand to be harmless to the people it considers to be a beneficial use.

Wuhan in China is now back to operating as if the outbreak from within its boundaries simply didn’t exist.

Today we should be asking ourselves who has most to gain from the deference paid to neoliberalism and the global economy if weak minded Western leaders come out the other side of this Pandemic and behave like nothing has changed and everything remains the same?