Q and A daily, part 16

I am angry. More so than usual. We are at the end of a week of remarkable revelations in Westminster. After revelations about the systematic sexual abuse and sexual harrassment perpetrated by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, the social media #metoo campaign demonstrated the scale of the problem across all walks of life. And accusations from the corridors of power here in the UK came to the surface. The Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, resigned this week. The de-facto deputy PM, Damien Green, is accused, as well as a number of other Conservative politicians. Labour politicians don’t emerge unscathed: Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins has been suspended pending investigation (and there are still questions whether Jeremy Corbyn ignored the warning of the whip Rosie Winterton that his conduct was unfit for office), and the Labour activist Bex Bailey disclosed that she had been raped and told not to report it by a senior party figure. The whole thing stinks, and makes me so angry. The response to it of so many in the public eye and the media makes it worse. What has been heartening is seeing the response of female politicians across the political divide, calling for a change. Real evidence that representation matters. As Hillary Clinton says, ‘the only way to get sexism out of politics is to get more women into politics‘. I have particularly enjoyed the interventions of Jess Phillips, Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Harriet Harman. Go sisters! I can only hope that this will lead to a substantial change in the way politics is done. I can only hope.

Meanwhile elsewhere in British politics, the minor reshuffle caused by Fallon’s resignation outlined the incredibly weak position of the Prime Minister Theresa May, with many Tory backbenchers openly criticsing her choice to promote chief whip Gavin Williamson, and some cabinet ministers briefing against her to the press. All of which makes this article from the New York Times seem absolutely correct.

In my last post, I talked about the impending crisis for Spain and the Catalan declaration of independence. We came to the brink when the President of the state of Catalonia, Carlos Puigdemont, declared independence, but Spain soon moved to take direct control of the regional government. Puigdemont fled to Belgium and today handed himself over to the Belgian police. So disaster averted for now, but the issue of Catalan independence will not be going away anytime soon.

Meanwhile, in ridiculous American politics, we saw the first round of indictments in the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in last year’s presidential election. I haven’t got the energy to go into it at the moment, but as the lead investigator Robert Mueller said today, there’s more to come.

We’re almost at one year of this diary and blog. I’m looking forward to seeing how things change over the years as I revisit previous questions. For now, the last original responses:

October 17th question: What’s the most valuable thing you own?

2017 response: Monetary value – flat. Sentimental value – gran’s ring. All of my artwork from various holidays.

October 18th question: What famous living person would you want to meet for drinks?

2017 response: Ooh hard choice! Helen Lewis, Tony Blair, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Ed Miliband.

October 21st question: What new word have you learned?

2017 response: Fake news is the Collins dictionary word of the year.

October 22nd question: Write a haiku about your day

2017 response (written 5th Nov): Westminster sex pests, Allegations come to light, Government at risk

October 24th question: How are you? Write it in a rhyming couplet

2017 response: Sir Michael Fallon made his exit, I hope it means we don’t do Brexit

October 25th question: What is the most honest thing you’ve said today?

2017 response: Brexit is a load of shit. (ok, I didn’t actually say this out loud, but I definitely think it every day).

October 28th question: _______________ is completely ridiculous.

2017 response: British politics – especially our constitution.

October 30th question: Are you able to tell when you have enough?

2017 response: Sometimes. Depends on what – I’ve had enough of everyday sexism at the moment.

October 31st question: Halloween plans? What’s your costume?

2017 response: Mary Poppins inspired sister suffragettes with Jenny & Frances.

November 1st question: What was something you couldn’t do today?

2017 response: Stop Brexit.

 

Looking back on a time when I hadn’t started this project, and I still thought Hillary Clinton would be US president. I hope as I come to the second, and all subsequent years of this project, that I see the treatment of women in public life, and in all sectors of life, improve.

Q and A daily, part 15

It’s almost 2 months since I last posted, and once again, there has been so much happen that it is hard to keep up. So I will try and keep to only the most significant geopolitical developments, as well as some mildly amusing domestic politics. I spent the first two weeks of this hiatus on holiday in northern Spain, and it was glorious. A road trip through stunning scenery that changed dramatically as we meandered through it, stopping in beautiful historic towns and villages, eating delicious food and drinking delicious wine. What struck me, as someone who has been to Spain a few times but never hugely explored Spanish culture (like a lot of Brits who visit Spain..), is just how varied the landscape, culture and experience was: from the Basque country, through Castile & Leon, La Rioja, Navarre, Cantabria, Asturias, and Galicia. When we were there we heard the news that Catalonia was going to go ahead with a referendum on independence that the Spanish government ruled illegal. It took place on 1 October, with a low turnout, but an enormous majority voting yes, and horrific violence from the Spanish national police trying to suppress voting, injuring hundreds of innocent people. The whole thing is so difficult to comment on as an outsider, but I am both supportive of self-determination and worried that this conflict could destroy Spain as a country, and potentially the whole European Union. It may sound dramatic, but it does feel like we’re in dramatic times, and anything could happen. As I write this, the Catalan leader has declared independence but delayed it for talks with the Spanish government, who are rejecting the legitimacy of independence. It all seems intractable. I hope it isn’t.

In UK news, we had party conference season, where the Labour party conference was to all accounts triumphant, if in places a little bit Jeremy Corbyn-culty, and the Conservative party conference was miserable, fuelled by rumours of leadership challenges, and crowned by a disastrous speech by the PM where she struggled with a cough, was handed a P45 by a prankster, and the letters of the slogan fell off the wall. All hilarious, and I’d spend more time on that if I wrote this blog a week or two ago, but feels irrelevant in the place of real stuff happening in the world. Like the stalling of Brexit negotiations, and the prospect of a ‘no deal’ Brexit being an actual possibility.

Let’s not even get started on the US. Trump has had three natural disasters to deal with (in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico), and has for some reason got into twitter storms with the leaders of Puerto Rico. He has taken a stand against the NFL players taking a knee to protest the inequality African Americans face, extended his travel ban to further countries, signed an executive order on healthcare that will undermine the Affordable Care Act without any legislation to replace it (and the Republicans’ third attempt to pass a healthcare bill, the Graham-Cassidy bill, couldn’t get agreement), proposed a HUGE tax cut (incidentally, if you google search ‘Trump tax plan’ vs ‘Trump tax cut’ you get very different results..) that basically screws over everyone except the very rich, and I’m sure more that I’ve missed. Outrage is the new normal, and outrageous activity from the White House is also the new normal. Oh yes, the biggest insult to injury – Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, among others, were found to have USED PERSONAL EMAIL ACCOUNTS whilst in government service. Remember Hillary’s emails?! Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton published a book, What Happened?, about the 2016 election, which I just finished listening to on audiobook and am all pumped up about.

So, onto the basically irrelevant questions from my Q&A diary:

August 30th question: What’s your simplest pleasure?

2017 response:  A glass of red wine and the New Statesman podcast.

September 3rd question: Where have you found evidence of a higher power?

2017 response: Despite what’s happening in UK & US politics, there’s been a lot of progress in disease eradication and poverty reduction.

September 4th question: Where do you see yourself in five years?

2017 response: Definitely keeping up with the blog. Hopefully not talking about Brexit and Trump any more.

September 6th question: What was the last online video clip that you watched?

2017 response: Kate McKinnon’s SNL open Hallelujah as Hillary Clinton. Bawled my eyes out.

September 9th question: What comes to mind when you think of fear?

2017 response: What will happen to the UK when we leave the EU. Seriously, it’s terrifying.

September 21st question: Where do you think your road is going?

2017 response: Me: I hope to a head of L&D role. UK: To a no-deal Brexit [though I really hope not!] World: Despite nuclear escalation, to a better place.

September 22nd question: What shocking news have you recently learned?

2017 response: Hahahahahahahahaha. Not enough space. The shocking has become nornmalised now.

September 23rd question: Write down a quote for today:

2017 response: “To all the little girls who are watching this: never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance in the world to pursue your dreams” – Hillary Clinton, concession speech 2016.

and there’s a whole lot of questions I find uninteresting, until:

October 13th question: You have no patience for: _________

2017 response: Conservative party squabbling. Sort it out & negotiate Brexit!

Well it seems like there isn’t enough time to cover everything, but then also not covering everything as it happens makes me think about what is truly relevant and might acutally be interesting five years from now. It’s hard to know what will last, maybe something I’ve emitted from the past two months will come to define the era in retrospect. I have tried to choose to cover here what is important, but who knows?

Q and A daily, part 14

Well if a week is a long time in politics, a month is even longer. I remember when August used to be the ‘silly season‘ (and we have had some of that in the UK, to be fair – note the current furore that the Big Ben bell in Westminster tower will be silent for four years whilst repairs are carried out. Apparently this is a big deal and HEALTH AND SAFETY GONE MAD because we don’t want the engineers working on the repairs to be deafened by the gongs. Good job we’ll have Brexit to save us from these terrible beaureaucratic regulations that protect people, eh?)

However, since my last post, a month ago, I can’t help but feel there hasn’t been enough silliness. Silliness would be welcome in the current climate. Remember Boaty McBoatface? Instead, we get (today is only the latest), Brexit ‘plans’ from the government that really just betray embarrassing and scary ignorance of what we’re getting ourselves into (see: Euratom, a transitional Customs Union deal, the ‘unprecedented solution’ for the Ireland/Northern Ireland border, chlorinated chicken -as a terrifying proxy for what’s to come with any sort of food/agriculture related trade deal with the US).

In a departure from my embarrassingly Anglo-American-centric view of current affairs, there were a couple of important international stories over the summer that cut through in the UK media (although inevitably were covered with a lens heavily skewed to what it means domestically) – the increasing tyranny of President Maduro in Venezuela, and the 70th anniversary of independence for India and Pakistan, and partition. I watched the coverage of India and Pakistan in the UK with much interest – as a country which doesn’t always have the most accurate or balanced collective historical memory when it comes to the Empire, and I feel like the BBC did a decent job of covering the events (the radio dramatisation of Salman Rushdie’d Midnight’s Children was a particular highlight). The historian Alex von Tunzelmann is very good on partition (her book on the subject is also a great read and she is good on twitter too).

Despite Trump being on holiday on a golf course for a lot of it, the US decided to skip silly season this year (or alternatively, they’re in permanent silly season and can’t tell the difference any more). Just a few of the things that have happened, from potentially world-destroying to comparatively benign incompetence:

  • At the news that North Korea tested a nuclear missile that could reach the US territory of Guam, Trump threatened them with ‘fire and fury’, making the rest of the world terrified of nuclear destruction.
  • He announced on Twitter, allegedly without consulting anyone in the State or Defense departments, that he would ban transgender people from serving in the military. And is now planning to move forward with it. (because twitter is not *yet* the place where official US policy is made)
  • Neo-Nazis, white nationalists and neo-Confederalists marched on Charlottesville, Virginia, ostensibly to protest the removal of a Confederate statue (prompting the US to have their own discussion around collective historical memory). Trump was widely condemned for the way he dealt with the situation, in which one counter-protestor was killed, by assuming moral equivalency between extremists and those protesting extremism.
  • Of minor relevance by comparison and providing the closest thing to light relief US politics seems to have had all summer, almost all of Trump’s closest, non-relative advisers have either quit or been sacked, starting with Press Secretary Sean Spicer (whose days were numbered, some say, since the infamous and brilliant Melissa McCarthy portrayal of him on SNL). Reince Priebus departed as Chief of Staff. Anthony ‘the Mooch’ Scaramucci had a very short-lived term as Director of Communications, and latterly, Steve Bannon, who no-one was sorry to see go.

All in all, too much news for August. Thankfully I’m now off on holiday to recover from it all. Some of the interesting questions from the last month:

July 17th question: How can you help?

2017 response: I feel like I could help more. But honestly, I don’t know.

July 19th question: What do you need to throw away?

2017 response: Old pants. And probably my Labour party membership card, after the next leadership election.

July 20th question: Does anything hurt today?

2017 response: Labour’s Brexit policy – what do we do now?

August 9th question: Write down your last sent text message.

2017 response: (WhatsApp message to #StrongandCableLeadership group): I am sure Vince doesn’t do his own tweets. After that story I read about him not knowing how to use a mouse.

August 11th question: How many stamps are there in your passport?

2017 response: 4 – Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand (x5). There’ll be more after Brexit…

August 16th question: What question (or questions) do you love to answer?

2017 response: What’s your karaoke song? or – Tell me about the partition of India and Pakistan… (70 years!!)

August 23rd question: Yes or no: everyone should have a backup plan.

2017 response: If you’re David Cameron, HELL YES. 

It always comes back to Brexit! For those of you mourning Big Ben’s bongs, here is your solution.

Q and A daily, part 13

It’s a tired cliche that a week is a long time in politics. But it is true, and it has been an exceptionally long week for some. Theresa May, obviously. It’s always a long week for her now. This week she marked one year as Prime Minister, dogged by gossip of potential leadership challenges, and reached out to other parties for support and ideas in the hung parliament (and was mocked by Jeremy Corbyn on twitter for it). It all felt too little, too late. However, May had some strong contenders for the Tory politician who’s had the worst week prize. Not least the racist Anne Marie Morris, or the public sector-hating Chancellor, or the completely un-diplomatic chief diplomat (not well-recieved abroad, astonishingly).

But the dysfunctional circus that is British politics all pales in comparison to the US. Donald Trump Jr plummeted into the limelight this week by tweeting out an email chain that proves he, along with Trump’s presidential campaign chair Paul Manafort and son-in-law/advisor/prince of darkness Jared Kushner met with a Russian lawyer during the campaign. Did the current US president collude with the Russian president to interfere with the US election? We still don’t know, but these emails get us one step closer. And impeachment rumours (and odds, if you’re a betting kind of gal) have ramped up.

So, this week’s questions (a more interesting crop than usual):

 

July 9th question: Today was delightful because ________.

2017 response: Hanging out with old friends in the sun @ Red Bull Soap Box Race at Ally Pally.

July 12th question:  _____________ is perfect

2017 response: Stephen Colbert on Trump Jr’s email tweets.

July 13th question: What are you sentimental about?

2017 response: Online abuse, particularly of female politicians. [On reflection, I may have misinterpreted sentimental here to mean ‘what makes me tear up when I see it on twitter?’]

July 14th question: Do you have a secret? More than one?

2017 response: Of course. Not as many as Trump though.

July 15th question: What is your heroic downfall? Your Achilles’ heel?

2017 response: My close relationship with Vladimir Putin.

 

Q and A daily, part 12

It’s been a while since my last post, a variety of work and personal challenges that I won’t go into. Reading over my last post, which was around 9 weeks ago, already so much has changed. I can’t even imagine what I’ll be writing in this news summary section in a year’s time, never mind five years. I also learnt that I have no capacity for predictions. This is a standard trope now amongst political commentators, and whilst I don’t have illusions that I am in any way a significant political commentator, I have abandoned my belief that I am somehow not quite in the London bubble because I have family in the north east.

So, since my last post – Macron did win in France, the Conservatives cleaned up in the local elections – including the Conservative candidate winning the Tees Valley mayoral election! The UK was rocked by awful terrorist attacks – at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, in London Bridge and Borough Market, before the general election, and an attack in Finsbury Park after the election. Corbyn found his mojo in the election campaign and Theresa May did not. On 8 June the Conservatives lost their majority, demonstrating that the British public do have an excellent sense of humour. ‘Strong and Stable’ Theresa May is now in a ‘coalition of chaos’ (ok, confidence and supply agreement of chaos, but that doesn’t have the same poetic quality) with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, agreeing a deal for £1.5bn extra investment in Northern Ireland, where the magic money trees famously find fertile ground. There was an absolutely devastating fire at Grenfell tower in Kensington and Chelsea in west London, and it continues to be a devastating story of the neglect of the poorest in society. I went past the tower on the tube the other day, and it is an absolutely haunting sight. Also, Brexit negotiations have started.

There’s not enough space to discuss all the crazy stuff that’s happened in the US. Trump has pulled out of the Paris climate change agreement. The Senate is pushing a healthcare bill that will remove healthcare from millions of people. The Supreme Court gave Trump’s travel ban a lease of life. North Korea gave the US an independence day ‘gift’ on 4th July by successfully testing a long-range missile.

All of which makes these questions feel completely trivial.

May 3rd question: If you could have a superpower just for today, what would it be?

2017 response: Bring more hours to the day. And time travel & somehow make Ed Miliband PM in 2015.

May 18th question: If you could go back in time and change something, what would it be?

2017 response: Brexit. Trump presidency. Are these Q/As too broad and predictable now?

May 26th question: List the things that nagged you today:

2017 response: personally, not much – holiday! In the world, the entire election campaign. #GE2017 #strongandstable

June 2nd question: Should you trust your instincts?

2017 response: Me, yes sure. Trump, hell no.

June 4th question: Today you wore…

2017 response: a smile – the best of people showing in the worst of times.

June 8th question: What makes you miserable?

2017 response: I fully expected to write ‘Tory landslide’ today. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

June 13th question: Something that made you worry today …

2017 response: Brexit negotiations with a totally dysfunctional government.

June 20th question: Write the first sentence of your autobiography:

2017 response: Rebecca first rose to fame with her #QandAdaily blog…

July 4th question: ______________ is funny.

2017 response: Theresa May losing her parliamentary majority..

 

Thankfully, UKIP did not win Hartlepool. And they are in a mess. That’s also quite funny.

Q and A daily, part 11

Well, my prediction of the general election campaign being horrible has so far been wrong. Instead, it has just been fairly boring. The Conservative election slogan is ‘strong and stable leadership’ to avoid the ‘coalition of chaos’ that Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP would form if the Conservatives don’t win. Which is hilarious, because what could be more chaotic and less stable than Brexit. Journalists and the twitterati are mocking how often all Tories are using the strong and stable leadership line, which probably means it is cutting through to the normal people who don’t obsess about politics.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn is doing a lot of campaigning, but the most significant policy that has cut through is a promise for four more bank holidays, rather than school funding and economic policies. Probably because of lack of a grand narrative to win voters over. Meanwhile the biggest cut through so far for the Lib Dems is Tim Farron’s views on gay sex.

We also have local elections this week, including for the first combined authority regional mayors. Which very few people are paying attention to.

Speaking of things that are important to us that most Brits barely notice, France is in the middle of the presidential run-off between outsider Emmanuel Macron and neo-fascist Marine Le Pen. The final vote is Sunday.

Meanwhile across the pond, Trump hits 100 days. Many of his key policies have been delayed or defeated, but his popularity amongst his voters looks pretty stable. The Guardian are doing an interesting series of articles reporting from Northamption County in Pennslyvania, which went for Trump by 4 points. The comedian from the Daily Show Hasan Minhaj eviscerated Trump at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the first president to skip that event.

Questions from the diary –

April 21st question: What do you say when someone asks “What do you do?”

2017 response: Not got job ‘elevator pitch’ right yet. Politically – sit on the sidelines and comment.

April 22nd question: You wish you could stop _____ from happening.

2017 response: BREXIT. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Trump’s presidency.

April 24th question: Is life fair? Yes? No? Sometimes? Not today?

2017 response: For me, very fair. For the world, and the poorest, not at all.

April 27th question: What “type” of person are you?

2017 response: One who is currently obsessed with current affairs. And always trying to be a bit better.

April 28th question: Who would you trade places with for just one day?

2017 response: Michael Palin. I think he is the coolest. Maybe Trump. Just to see.

April 29th question: Who can make you happier? How?

2017 response: Trump. By resigning. And my family, by being daft and making me laugh.

 

I hope UKIP don’t win Hartlepool.

Q and A daily, part 10

Once again, the news has gone into overdrive. Since my last post, in the US:

 

In the UK, we are having a general election on 8th June. It was a surprise to many (including me), but when I think about it from Theresa May’s point of view, of course it makes sense, she has such a small majority and no mandate for the Brexit she wants, it’s a no-brainer. I’ve been struck by how many Labour MPs are choosing not to stand again – including Iain Wright of Hartlepool, my family’s constituency and he who was opposed by UKIP Hartlepool candidate Phillip Broughton, the subject of the very first post of this blog. I’m really sad about Iain Wright, he did a brilliant job as Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, holding terrible people like Philip Green and Mike Ashley to account. Someone who really cared about and stood up for issues that affected his constituents and the country at large. Politics will miss people like him, who don’t always hit the headlines but work hard and push for real change.

The last sentence in my last post, on 9th April, was that there is too much news. So much so that I omitted the Westminster terror attack from my descriptions of significant events in the last two months. I was in London that day, and headed to Westminster for an event at Waterstone’s Piccadilly that evening. I was proud that London was resilient and resistant, and apart from Rachel Reeves MP not being able to attend the event because of the security procedures in the Palace of Westminster, all went ahead as planned. And I am proud that London did not shut down.

It all seems so long ago now. Highlights from the five year diary questions since my last post:

March 20th question: What was the last book you read?

2017 response: Fortress Europe by Matthew Carr – explaining Brexit whilst pre-dating it.

March 22nd question: Jot down a news story for today.

2017 response: (a few days later but significant): UK PM Theresa May formally triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty for the UK to leave the EU.

April 1st question: Who are you fooling?

2017 response: The government are fooling everyone over Brexit.

April 4th question: If you could wish for one thing to happen today, what would it be?

2017 response: Ed Miliband to be Prime Minister. [looks like I’m not the only one here]

April 5th question:  ________________ was inspiring.

2017 response: The strong women leading my company. They inspire me.

April 11th question: What sound effect are you more like today?

2017 response: A klaxon. What is happening? [disclaimer: already just over a week after this I can’t remember what this was about. Politics moving so quickly..]

April 12th question: Write down a new fact you recently learned.

2017 response: A young person who has 4 or more workplace or employer encounters are 86% less likely to be not in education, employment or training.

April 15th question: Which celebrity would you like to interview? [this was my birthday question!]

2017 response: Trump. I’d honestly be fascinated by having a real conversation with him. Not my ideal birthday present though.

April 16th question: What’s a political issue that interests you?

2017 response: Ha! Brexit, the impending end of the world.

April 18th question: Write down a problem you solved today:

2017 response:  The Prime Minister announced a general election today for 8 June 2017. No problems solved today.

April 19th question: What famous person would you bring back from the dead to have dinner with?

2017 response: Annie Besant. I think she’d be really cool. [A nice interlude question here!]

April 20th question: How many times did you curse today?

2017 response: Out loud, not many, I don’t like it. In my head, looking at Labour’s general election chances: many, many, many times.

I’m not sure what to say to sign off. Except that there will be no shortage of news in the next few months. And I think this general election will be horrible.

Q and A daily, part 9

I have missed a few weeks, and since I last wrote:

  • Republicans tried and failed to pass a bill to repeal and replace the American Health Care Act (Obamacare), despite President Trump’s backing for it.
  • Trump tried a new version of his travel ban, which was intended to remove the legal obstacles from the first one. But it was blocked in courts again.
  • US Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigations into Russian interference in the US presidential election, following revelations he had contact with Russian contacts he hadn’t disclosed.
  • The US Senate abolished the filibuster rule for Supreme Court nominees in order to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch, an historic decision in many ways, and the so-called ‘nuclear option’.

US politics is increasingly resembling a kids’ creche. The real nuclear option is in the delicate balance of US-Russia relations. Whilst the closeness or potential collusion of the US adminstration with Russia has been a feature in the news, the recent decision by President Trump to deploy airstrikes on Syria in response to a Sarin gas attack that has been attributed to the Assad regime.

Meanwhile, in British politics:

So not much then. The best questions from the last month or so:

February 17th question: If you could change something about the world today, what would it be?

2017 response: Trump not president. No Brexit.

February 19th question: Who is the craziest person in your life?

2017 response: Trump.

February 20th question: What word did you overuse today?

2017 response: Brexit. I overuse it every day – followed by ‘fucked’ (and I hate swearing)

February 21st question: What is the current buzzword?

2017 response: Post-truth/post-fact. Fake news. Brexit. Left behind.

March 1st question: How could today have been better?

2017 response: No Muslim ban (now it’s happened!)

March 7th question: It’s not a good idea to experiment with…

2017 response: electing a psychopath President. Toying with our futures by leaving the EU.

March 9th question: A person you wanted to ignore today

2017 response: Trump. Farage. Douglas Carswell, Piers Morgan. 

March 14th question: What is true?

2017 response: To Trump, anything he says. To the rest of us, we’re post-truth so we don’t care.

March 15th question: What do you not want to talk about?

2017 response: Brexit. Well that’s a lie, I can’t stop talking about it.

It feels like there is too much news at the moment.

Q and A daily, part 8

Since I last posted, Trump’s travel ban was suspended by a federal judge as unconstitutional – as it emerged that the ban caused chaos for hundreds of people, including US green card holders, at airports. It’s gone a bit quiet on that front, because it then emerged that during the transition period, National Security Adviser Mike Flynn discussed sanctions on a call with Russia, then lied about it to Vice President Mike Pence, who defended Flynn on TV. The whole thing is quite complicated, with a lot of ‘who knew what when’ speculation, but there is a whiff of scandal about the whole thing. In the Senate, Mitch McConnell stopped Elizabeth Warren speaking, when she was reading a letter written by Coretta Scott King. In a glimmer of hope for us liberal snowflakes everywhere, the explanation McConnell gave of ‘Nevertheless, she persisted‘ has become a rallying cry.

On this side of the pond, the House of Commons voted to trigger Article 50 – the official process for leaving the European Union, in the second reading (so it has another stage to go). Depressingly, an amendment to protect the right of EU citizens already living here was defeated, meaning the estimated 3.3 million EU citizens currently living in the UK are in a place of legal limbo, and bargaining chips in our EU exit negotiations (though as I write this, there is some hope the House of Lords might be able to change this in the third reading. My thoughts on the role of the House of Lords are for another time, but I am happy about this). Also as I write this, voters are going to the polls in two significant by-elections where Labour are defending their seats – Stoke-on-Trent Central and Copeland, Cumbria. It’s touch and go for both seats, the former challenged by UKIP and the latter by the Conservatives. I’ll write more about them next time. Doesn’t even feel like there’s enough time to get into the NHS and social care crisis, the problems facing schools, the famine in South Sudan. Or the hugely significant news that Leicester City have sacked Claudio Ranieri.

All of which overwhelms the interesting questions from the last few weeks, so I will again choose the highlights, and try to blog more frequently. I can’t promise to sound less sanctimonious in my responses (though to be fair, some of the questions pretty much invite sanctimony – like the first one below).

January 31st question: Who do you want to be?

2017 response: Someone who doesn’t stand idly by whilst the world goes to shi*t. This is how it starts.

February 1st question: What is your resolution for tomorrow?

2017 response: 2nd reading of Article 50 bill passed in the House of Commons today. Resolve to try and do my bit in engaging with the political system.

February 5th question: What are you obsessively listening to?

2017 response: BBC Radio 4, NPR politics podcast, and some political comedy to lighten things up.

February 10th question: If this day was an animal, which animal would it be?

2017 response: Daft question. I watched a Tory 1997 election ad on YouTube with only a lion throughout, which then cried blood at the threat of the EU social chapter.

February 12th question: What is your biggest obstacle right now?

2017 response: A conversation with Middlesbrough fans on the train (following the Spurs-Boro game at White Hart Lane on 4th Feb): I was asked by some drunk Boro fans if I am more scared of Trump or being raped by Muslims. I said I thought neither of them were a direct threat to me but they weren’t satisfied by that answer, and said I was lucky that I was with three men who would protect me (my brother and his friends who had come down to London for the match). This is not my biggest obstacle in life, but is an example of some of the horrible things that are happening right now.

That last one is distressing to write about, I think a lot about what I should say in these sort of situations, whether I should challenge bigotry when I see it or ignore it for an easier life, and I can’t deny that having my brother and his friends there did make me feel safer to challenge those horrible men than if I had been on my own. I like to think I’ll always challenge, but I know this isn’t always true.

 

Q and A daily, part 7

So much has happened since I wrote part 6 that I can’t capture it all. The inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States on 20th January. Probably the first inauguration I’ve ever watched in full, with a hateful speech about America First. Theresa May was the first foreign leader to visit President Trump this week and was criticised in the UK press for holding his hand (which I think misses the point) as much as for failing to stand up to him. Trump has issued so many executive orders it’s hard to keep track, but the ban on all immigration from seven majority Muslim countries has caused the greatest international backlash, not least in the UK (among its citizens at least). Olympian Sir Mo Farah and Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi were initially affected by this ban, until an exception was agreed for Brits by our Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. An exception, not an outright condemnation of a policy that is clearly against international law and the Geneva convention.

All of which makes my reflections on the questions of the day seem utterly trivial. I feel like I’m writing the dust jacket of a dystopian novel. Nevertheless, I am persevering with this project. Here are the highlights from the last couple of weeks. The main highlights being before the inauguration.

January 11th question: Today you lost _____.

2017 response: Trump’s first press conference as President-Elect. We all lost today.

January 18th question: What was peaceful about today?

2017 response: Walk along the river in the sun with Caro. Obama is still president.

January 20th question: Are you holding a grudge? About?

2017 response: YES! With the US electorate. Trump sworn in as president today.

January 21st question: What are you looking forward to?

2017 response: Personally – new job. In the world – inspired and hopeful about the women’s march. So great to see love and solidarity.

January 26th question: Today you needed more _____.

2017 response: Patience. Hope.

January 30th question: What do you want to forget?

2017 response: Today, 1.5 million Brits signed a petition objecting to Trump state visit until Muslim ban* is repealed. Don’t want to forget that. #proud

A week is a long time in politics. I’m starting to contemplate just how long the next four years will be.

*It’s not officially a Muslim ban, I’m using this as shorthand