Just what I say: Brian Nicholls

Date: Monday 8th May 2017

THE strangeness of this world cannot be measured. It matters not whether it is Eden, Cumbria, Britain, Europe or the world and I know that reads like the address we used to practise and write for ourselves when we were kids, including “the Universe” as the last line, but in all of those places there are grown-up people behaving like self-centred, spoilt adolescent kids who are pretending that what they do is actually in the public good while what they are really interested in enhancing their egos and self-interests.

The juveniles in question are actually mature individuals in terms of years, but mentally they are still members of primary schoolyard gangs who enjoy nothing more than a bit of a push and shove with their rivals. That is a reasonable description of politicians, even though I do say so myself, and it has also been recorded here previously that, no matter what anyone may believe about this column’s underlying political ideology (although they are probably correct), the one consistent theme is that all politicians of all persuasions are regarded with equal suspicion and usually with equal contempt.

That contempt and suspicion was never more exercised than over the opening “he said, she said, no, she didn’t, yes, she did, so sucks and yah boo to you” revelations of the no it didn’t happen, oh yes it did, dinner at Downing Street with the Prime Minister, Mrs. May, and Jean-Claude Junker, EU Commission President.

If these really were the opening steps in the Euro exit waltz then the metaphor of posturing schoolboys is accurate, but, boy, is it pathetic.

No matter how anti-EU some of us may be, we still know and the Europeans know that no matter how miffed some of them may be about Brexit, it is in everyone’s interests for there to be a good deal because any other outcome will have a devastating effect on jobs and economies in all 28 countries. Yet both sides are hyping up the rhetoric and appear to think negotiation is more likely to succeed in an atmosphere of adversity and animosity than in one of quiet and mature respect.

The British people are not daft and we realise that the simple arithmetic of 27 v. 1 is daunting and that we should have been getting on with working out with Europe what the ground rules were going to be to achieve a constructive dialogue.

What have we got instead? A general election supposedly in Britain’s best interest so we can have “strong, stable leadership”, or is it perhaps just to get another five years of a Theresa May government safely in the bag before the wheel comes flying off.

It would be a good plan except for one thing — it’s hogwash. The Europeans have made it perfectly clear they don’t give a damn how many seats Mrs. May has in the House of Commons. This is about Theresa May, her page in history and if she does win a big majority we will have to endure Iron Lady 2 — The Return of Atilla The Hen, which is just what we don’t need in delicate negotiations.

The EU appears to be shaping up to play hard ball and has already agreed a united position on all the major issues and there is a growing body of opinion that the EU holds all the cards, but that is not true because we have the ace.

If they are going to be inflexible, though that is doubtful, then perhaps the way to derail the EU’s unity will mean Mrs. May doing the exact opposite to what she has said, which is to negotiate at the outset of negotiations and ensure the right of EU citizens to remain here and keep the privileges and benefits they have enjoyed while Britain has been a member.

The eagerness of the EU to get this issue settled betrays its one weakness. It knows that about four million EU citizens currently in the UK returning home all at once would swamp and devastate the economies of a dozen EU countries. Personally I dislike the idea but needs must when the devil drives.

The other thing Mrs. May should have done when Junker pulled the Canadian trade deal out of his briefcase to demonstrate how difficult such agreements are was to call her car and take him for a drive on the M25 and the M40, pointing out that six out of every 10 trucks on those roads are from the EU bringing their goods to the UK. She could have told him: “Yes, perhaps you have more to lose than us.”

IT is reassuring to find out that you are not just the only grumpy old man with strange opinions nobody else shares. Even the BBC felt constrained to air the almost unanimous beliefs of its viewers that the corporation’s coverage of the general election so far has been biased in favour of the Tories and prejudicial to just about everyone else, which is exactly what I was thinking.

Goodness knows why the BBC should favour the party of government but it has given the Tories an almost free ride so far while taking every opportunity, including creative editing, to paint Jeremy Corbyn in particular and Labour in general in a bad light while sidelining the Liberal Democrats.

If you are a democrat you believe in fairness and would agree that an article by John Pienarr inferring that Labour appeared uncertain about the direction it was taking over a policy ended with an unrelated film clip of Corbyn asking an aide as he left one meeting, presumably to go to another, “Where are we going”, is totally unacceptable. Very clever of the little boys who edit the news but can’t spell and acceptable if it was a satirical show like Have I Got News For You but it is not the standards we expect from the main news.

On one Six O’Clock News bulletin Theresa May was in South Wales. The report showed the main points from her election speeches and then moved on to Corbyn followed by Tim Farron, both of those reports being followed by a Conservative dissing what they had said. I waited for the BBC to return to Mrs. May and a Labour or Liberal Democrat spokesman to comment on her but it never happened.

It might not be bias, of course. When you look at the election so far the Prime Minister has said nothing about anything except to repeat over and over that a vote for her is a vote for “strong and stable” leadership. We can’t criticise her policies on education, the NHS, tax and pensions because she is being tightlipped about them. Perhaps it is the fact that the others are talking about these issues which allows the BBC to question them.

One thing which has been totally out of order has been the obsession with Tim Farron’s Christian beliefs, particularly in relation to gay sex. One thing is for sure, if Tim was a Muslim or Jew his religious beliefs and their relevance to his abilities as a politician would be completely out of bounds.

Can we get on with the election and start talking about policies other than Brexit and let’s have the media treating all sides equally or, at least just like me, with equal contempt?

WE hear these things on the national news but it tends to pass right over our heads because we are so used to the public services prophesying doom and telling us they need more money and what will happen if they don’t get it.

It is a different matter when it is well-known and respected professionals who teach our own children and grandchildren, and who may have even taught some of us, who are the ones telling us how inadequate the funding of schools has become and that choices will have to be made which will mean reductions in subjects, jobs and even the school week.

These are people who only care about the quality of the education and life chances they can provide for our young people. They are not prosecuting political agendas, they are just pleading for adequate funding.

The Government’s stock reply to any criticism of funding of education or the health service is to say that spending is at an all-time high. That may be true but so is demand for those services.

We must fund education properly. Schools should concentrate on teaching, not on penny pinching.

If Labour is the party of tax and spend, then the Conservatives are the party of tax and cuts. Somewhere in the middle of those two positions would do our schools very nicely.