Bristling Brock speaks out...


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Well, the Queen’s Speech has now been delivered.  Some argue that it’s a political campaign bit of propaganda whilst others see it as a catalogue of decisive and powerful initiatives designed to transform Britain at economic, social and industrial levels.  Whilst the Queen herself has to keep something of a dead-pan tone to her speech delivery in situations like this, behind the narrative is something we haven’t seen in British politics since Mrs Thatcher stalked Downing Street - and that is passion, verve and expectation.  And whilst Bristling Brock holds no torch for any current political group in this country, it is refreshing, even uplifting to hear the Prime Minister speak with gusto, conviction and a sense of pride in what is being proposed.  There is no evidence anywhere else in our rusty and corrupted parliamentary system that throws up any individual, from any political party, that is able to speak with the same passions, beliefs and values.  I’ll give the PM full marks on that exam paper.

Now it is equally the case that much of the speech content is unlikely to reach the statute book.  By a mixture of parliamentary arithmetic and an almost feral desire amongst the Opposition parties to vote against anything the PM puts before parliament, much of this potential legislation will be blasted by our arcane parliamentary system and its equally arcane members.  But that should not deter the rest of us from holding the vision of a glass half full rather than one half empty.  The months and even years ahead will undoubtedly be problematic in many areas - it has ever been thus long before Brexit was ever mooted - yet if we approach our future with gloom and doom in our minds then that will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If we have belief in our national capacity to overcome difficulties and turn them into opportunities then we will at least be approaching the future positively and with an attitude that is constructive rather than destructive.  It is difficult, nonetheless, when surrounded by doomsayers and negative opposition politicians who endlessly bleat on about disaster.  Disaster will come to those who wish it.  Where is the pride in our national ability, where is the confidence in a future that can be made to succeed, where is the calibre of political leadership that this country’s Opposition needs, where are the genuine, sincere and passionate souls, who may hold different views to those of the government, but can recognise the moment when cheap political point scoring in a chamber of errant juveniles is not the way forward ?  They are nowhere to be seen on the Opposition benches for sure.  There lies the tragedy of our politics - the wrong people in the wrong place in the wrong moment in time.  The time to rid parliament of these so called politicians is long overdue.

President Trump is an extraordinary character.  He certainly courts controversy, and his literary capacities sound like the outbursts of an Ayatollah rather than that of the so called leader of the free world.  Those of rational mind and considered thought will likely never quite understand the train of thinking that goes on beneath that hair lacquered straw thatch but what is a constant in his utterances is his commitment to the ’America First’ ethos.  Whether that is behind his decision to withdraw from the Syrian conflict and let the bandit Erdogan have his unfettered way with the Kurds we will likely never know.  We must presume that there may be a reason why this sudden and death dealing decision has been made - for the greater good ?  Frankly, it is hard to recognise the greater good in America at this time, after all, they are pursuing ‘America First’ and to hell with the rest of the world.  On a certain level if that is the policy then there is some sort of weird logic to it, but nobody believes it really.

The Scots are rebelling - again !  If we believe Nicola Sturdylegs then Scotland is now emphatically in favour of independence and needs to disconnect itself from the perfidious machinations of the rest of the United Kingdom.  Good luck with that.  It would be interesting to see how many in England would breath a sigh of relief were they to ‘go’ and it would be interesting also to see how many saw the Union as being something that has a clear role for the future.  Change is afoot whether we like it or not, and holding on to a Union such as we have for historical and traditional reasons is great for the historically minded (including Bristling Brock) but may not be so great for the future well being of the nation states it embraces.  Maybe we should have a referendum upon that ?  BB suspects that will never happen....just a wild thought !

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As a complex argument gets batted back and forth it is sometimes salutary to stand back for a while and review what is going on and where the outcome might fall with as objective a pair of eyes as it is possible for most of us mere mortals.

Brexit or no Brexit or, something in the middle with a flabby, loquacious (and largely meaningless) pledge about compromise or concession.  These are the pressing options Britain is facing up to as the clock ticks on toward its prescribed final moment on 31st October.  And the trouble is - naturally - that we are no nearer any consensus on a course of action now than we were three and a half years ago.  The arguments for, against and middle ground go around and around but never quite touch base.   And to add to this connundrum, everyone in the country is having their say in ways that prolong the process to the bitter end.   So, we might ask, what has caused this most extraordinary division of impassioned feeling in Britain ?

Perhaps the simplest answer is a one worder: Referendum.  The idea that on certain, specified matters, the course of a nations future strategy can be or should be determined by a mass public vote appeals to the very roots of a sense of democratic involvement and practise.  After all, don't we British espouse constantly the very freedoms that democracy encompasses ?  So why not have referendums, the retort might be, permitting the people to have their say ?   This is where the problem might begin to occur because as a nation we are extremely diverse in social, economic and political thinking, all of which influence our outlooks and preferences, our values and underpinning belief in ourselves as a nation state.  Let's consider quite what we are - for good or bad - so that we might begin to recognise this immense scope of diversity...

We are a kingdom, with a monarch and a parliamentary system of applying governance.  We have a constitution that is not written down - anywhere - and one that was forged in an era of nation building almost a thousand years ago.  It is imprecise, it is often dictated by historical convention and precedent, and, perhaps above all, it is interpretable with no absolute definitions of objective.  We are a grouping of four quite different national entities - the English, the Scots, the Welsh and the (Northern) Irish - all of whom have historically grown from different external influences which have imbued those nations with quite different national characteristics.  We have a distinct north-south cultural divide exaggerated by economic bias and we have an economic cycle once dominated by industrial manufacturing that is now dominated by a less well prescribed service sector where the transience of employment is a hallmark of new and highly mobile social structures.   The list may easily go on and on, but those above possibly highlight that the very notion of achieving consensus through the mechanics of a public referendum is pretty unlikely.  In short, we are never likely to see a definitive choice in a political referendum.  We will remain divided and we will remain encamped within our own perceptions of the 'tribe' we think we belong to.  It is human nature to wish to belong to something, so posing a huge and life-changing political decision upon such a broad spectrum of our population is almost certainly going to produce opposing camps around all points of the compass.  And it has ! 

A second referendum on Brexit would achieve the same outcomes - division, resistance, hostility, endless discourse and positioning and a fracturing of the political process.  Whilst we have the political and parliamentary systems we have, this is counter-productive and resolves nothing and though some of us might aspire to significant reform of that political machinery we are some way off that becoming a meaningful course that might have solutions to the eternal Brexit issue.   As the saying oes, 'we are where we are'.

How Britain might satisfactorily tackle these current challenges is, of course, the stuff of sleepless nights and deep thinking by those we entrust to lead and govern.  Not everything they do will be to our liking, sometimes they will do stupid things and sometimes they will do the right thing.  They are human like the rest of us with all the same frailties but unless we stand with our government to enable them to push a way forward without daggers being drawn at their backs, the process will not advance and we will default to the wish of the most vocal and organised factions of opposition to Brexit.  And that is not in the spirit or intent of democracy.   Brexit is mainly about our vision of democracy.  It embraces many other collateral feelings alongside, but the root of it lies in our expectations of what democracy delivers to the people.  If Brexit fails - for whatever reason - then we have failed in upholding our interpretation of British democracy and we will all be the worse for it.  Whilst deciding such matters through public referenda is crucially flawed, we do now need to get done what has to be done and learn from this episode of chaos not to repeat it again.  To repeat, 'we are where we are', so let us handle where we are with vigour and purpose and deliver that which was mandated.

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There are very excitable views everywhere across the political stage and amongst the public.  Everyone has an opinion, everyone thinks they are right and all others are wrong.  Everyone believes they are informed, knowledgable and on the right track with their views.  In some respects it is good that there is a wide expression of feeling and viewpoint - that is the very essence of freedom of speech, a freedom that we have as a nation long fought to uphold and protect.  Yet it also signifies how unclear the issues under debate are, how polar extremes have become the focus of our social dialogue and, as illustrated by the recent Supreme Court ruling, how confused the boundaries of constitutional involvement in our overall governance matters have become.  This is not entirely new....

Such political upsets have occurred throughout our evolutionary history, particularly over the last three centuries or so, and each of those has resulted in some significant political reform, enfranchisement or shift in the balance of power.  And that is what is happening in Britain now.  The fact that Brexit is the focus of all the wrangling is, in part, coincidental, but what we are really witnessing is a groundswell of public fervour for political and governmental change.  That change is not merely an election that foists another new set of existing politicians upon us and perpetuates the same old system, it is change that demands a major re-think about how our parliamentary system works now and what it should look like for at least the century ahead.  It is in part about how our parliamentary representatives get into the House of Commons, selection procedures, the % of votes that they need to acquire the position, whether they belong to specific political party’s or not, whether MP’s should be allowed to cross the floor and vote according to the constitutional mandate they hold rather than the Party Whip enforced procedures we now have.  And the list can go on and on.  It is a very complex matter to bring about meaningful reform and it needs serious and broadly minded people to be involved in that reckoning.  And hanging like the Sword of Damocles above all is the law - not just the law of the land as we see on a daily basis, but the constitutional law that sits - in theory - above the political strata and independent of it and guides the complex interpretations of practise and convention.  In this area, what the BBC has dubbed the ‘triangle of power’ that notionally joins the executive in Downing Street, the legislature in Westminster and the judiciary in the form of the Supreme Court is somewhat peculiar insofar as this triangle - if it really exists - draws the courts into the political arena on matters of constitutional interpretation.  Quite apart from their recent judgement upon the lawfulness of the government proroguing parliament, their inclusion in the determination process of what a government can and cannot do for political purposes distinctly involves them in partisan politics, and by extension this injects bias into their legal judgements.  

Now in a dynamic of political reform, it may well be that a reform of the judicial structures might also need to occur - the Supreme Court, for example, is not an historical institution and has only existed for a handful of years - and the decision as to whether the judiciary at this highest level of appeal should remain politically embraced or not would need to be made.  Historically, of course, the judiciary has remained outside of the political sphere, so the Supreme Court has found itself to be in the peculiar position of having wilfully stepped into that arena - and as far as Bristling Brock is concerned that has set a dangerous precedent.  Britain is facing a period of political upheaval and shifting sands.  Reform will not come in a singular thrust, it will take a decade, perhaps more, to take incremental steps toward a better, more representative and more effective system of governance and parliamentary oversight, but during that time it is important for public fervour to be sustained, for the evidence of societal demand to be ever visible to government and the judiciary.  Brexit has provided a touch-paper to ignite passions - from all viewpoint positions - so we should not waste this once in a lifetime opportunity to take the opportunity to re-shape and reform our nation state.  After all, we’ve been doing that endlessly for a thousand years already...




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