McLaren: How did it come to this?

Back when I was 4 years old, I was introduced to Formula 1 by my father. He got me 3 VCR recordings of the sport. One was highlights of of the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix, one was a review of the 1992 F1 season named “Well Done Nigel” and the other was a compilation video named “Murray’s Magic Moment”. Although the 1998 Grand Prix images of the massive crash of the first lap, and Schumacher trying to punch David Coulthard stay with me, the other main things which stay with me is the dramatic Suzuka collisions between Senna and Prost, and Senna again miraculously keeping Nigel Mansell behind him in the 1992 Monaco Grand Prix. Then when I was 11, McLaren were at the front again, with a young, fresh British driver who would capture my imagination like no other, Lewis Hamilton, you may have heard of him. The point I’m trying to make is apart from the small time when I supported Jordan, my favourite team has been and always will be McLaren. Growing up, they were always creating the most dramatic, exciting moments at the front of the sport, from Kimi Raikoneon’s storming drive at the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix to snatch the lead on the last lap, to Hamilton’s dramatic championship win, to Button’s crazy race in the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix. These facts to me makes it hurt more that after 7 races, McLaren find themselves bottom of the constructors, with a slow, unreliable car.

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Hamilton winning in the better days for the team

So how did the once great dominators of the sport become the laughing stock of the pit lane? It would easy to blame everything on Honda, who have been hapless since their return in 2015, indeed, this year’s car seems strong other than the engine. However, just blaming the engine would not tell the story infighting and instability which helped lead them into this position.

The downfall of McLaren really began after Hamilton won his first, and McLarens latest championship in 2008. When this season ended, Ron Dennis, the chief principal stepped down, to let his deputy, Martin Whitmarsh, takeover. This was the beginning of a rivalry between Dennis and Whitmarsh which would lead to turbulence for the team for years. Once Dennis left, he still owned a 25% stake in the McLaren business and, although he had left the front line, always wielding influence over the company. The infighting stayed behind closed doors for years, but the signs were there that things weren’t quite right in this era, and Whitmarsh later revealed that he had to deal with constant interference from the top. In the Whitmarsh era, one of the biggest issues was that McLaren did not just lose Ron Dennis, but in this era lost a series of talented technical individuals – most significantly Pat Fry to Ferrari and Paddy Lowe, who went on to help mastermind the dominance of Mercedes. It was telling that McLaren after Whitmarsh never properly replaced these two individuals with other highly rated engineers and designers like James Allison – the mastermind of Ferrari’s success this season, who was at lowly financed Lotus at the time, James Key or Pat Symonds.

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Paddy Lowe was a big loss for McLaren (Photo: LAT Photographic)

The straw that broke McLarens back and really led to the shambles it is in now was the 2012 season. In this McLaren had the chance to give Lewis Hamilton his 2nd championship but failed due to reliability – in two different races his car broke down while leading – a series of terrible pit stops and under fuelling him in Spanish Grand Prix which lost him another win. In the fallout to this missed opportunity McLaren lost Hamilton and Paddy Lowe to Mercedes, and rest became history. In 2013, Whitmarsh backed Sergio Perez to replace Hamilton, and with a sub-par chassis, Perez failed to replace the star factor of Hamilton as McLaren stumbled to a distant 5th, failing to score a single podium, certainly their weakest performance as a team in over 30 years.

Following this season, in what must be look on as a knee-jerk reaction now, Dennis staged a coup, eliminating Whitmarsh not just from his team principal position but also as CEO for McLaren. Once Dennis did this, he then also went about dismantling Whitmarsh’s plan the future. Although he did not match perfectly up to Button first season, Perez was a driver of great potential, as proven more recently. Despite this, Perez and his sponsor money were first out the door while an inexperienced Magnussen was put in his place. Dennis then, trying to build a second legacy and made the greatest mistake of all – dumping the strongest engine in the sport of Mercedes to try and recapture the McLaren – Honda glory days with a manufacturer who had not been in F1 since 2008. Although Dennis got possibly the greatest driver alive in Fernando Alonso to sign up to this project, McLaren had put themselves in the position where they had designers not as strong as the main team and an engine far behind its rivals.

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The war between Dennis (Left) and Whitmarsh (Right) was a major lead to McLarens troubles

To make things worse, Dennis rushed Honda into rejoining the sport a year only, meaning that in 2015 the engine was underdeveloped and unreliable, and they’ve been trying to unsuccessfully play catch-up ever since. The McLaren owners, and Whitmarsh were not blind to what was going on, and ultimately in 2016 there was another coup, McLaren seemed to have become a Latino country in the early 1980s. This caused more instability in the back end of 2016, where staff that Dennis had hired in his three years, like ex Volkswagen Motorsport boss Jost Capito, were then sacked. This meant that in the build up to this season McLaren had been through two dramatic overhauls in three years.

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Alonso watches his Honda engine break down for the 50th time (not even an exaggeration)

In hindsight, it would have been a miracle if McLaren had turned up close to the front runners this season, so it actually is a huge surprise that the McLaren chassis is as strong as it is, but what it means is McLaren have ended up in their current situation. An engine which is light-years behind Mercedes and Ferrari, no superstar designer, a superstar driver likely to leave, a struggling rookie, and the team itself, a fallen giant. I hope McLaren turn it round, but I fear, that even with a star signing to the designing team, and a return to Mercedes power, McLaren will struggle to be in a championship battle for at least another five years.

FPTP has failed its only brief – it’s time for a better voting system

For generation, we have voted in General Elections through an archaic, unfair, and disproportional voting system, with the trade off that it creates stable governments and elects local MP’s to represent the interests of each constituency. However, in 2010, and now more significantly in 2017, this voting system has failed to achieve part one of that, creating stable governments. In 2010 the government got away with it by the fact that it had a stable coalition partner, but in 2017 it has created possibly one of the most divisive government where a party voted by 0.9% of the electorate is holding a party with 42% of the vote to ransom while majority of the electorate have no voice in government. Knowing that this voting system has now failed the only real justification for its existence by making the most unstable British government since at least before the 2nd World War, it is time to look at Alternatives. After all, the system has been infected by all types of tactical voting which stop people from voting for the party they actually believe in as well as many seeing their vote as a wasted vote, and with it, voter apathy has developed.

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This graph will make sense later, I promise

Of course, Brexit supporters like to boast about the fact that there has been a referendum and my side lost, supporters of First Past the Post (FPTP) will point out there was a referendum to choose a different voting system which failed. The fact is however, AV, or the Alternative Vote was not a strong voting system which Nick Clegg, who led the AV campaign, himself called “a miserable little compromise”.

AV ultimately would not have changed everything because 1. it is still ultimately majoritarian voting system which only demanded that there was a majority in each constituency by second preferences. 2. there is no guarantee that AV would have made voting any more proportional and 3. it did not change the fact many would be stuck with a wasted vote. As it is, with the exception of STV, it is too difficult to cut up the results of the most recent election without intelligent data that I don’t currently have, I will base my argument towards the different electoral systems in the 2010 General Election in the graph bellow.

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Picture: Election Reform Society

As shown, in 2010, apart from giving Labour a disproportional advantage and giving a modest rise to Lib Dem seats, AV had little effect on how proportional the result was. Furthermore, tactical voting in current elections further diminishes the overall difference AV would make to how things are now.

The most popular form of alternative voting system which is put forward, and the one the Liberal Democrats wanted and if they were a bit more gutsy in negotiations probably should have got in 2010 was full proportional representation. There are two forms of electoral systems based on a fully proportional representation. There is the list plan, which is far too silly, complicated and confusing to get into other than saying in Dutch elections there are 72 names on the ballot paper; and then there is Single Transferable Vote (STV). STV is basically one vote per person, where you vote for an individual party, and do not vote in a constituency. Parliament is then comprised by proportion to how many votes each party gets. According to almost all elections in British History, this would render no party getting an overall majority, but instead will force parties to go into coalitions. This, as I have argued before, would be a good thing, as it would force parties to work together in the national interests than their own interests. It will also mean, by using the example of Italy for example, that there would be a broader selection of parties to choose from comprising of different ideologies which gives the electorate a wide choice of parties to fit with their views, in the knowledge that their vote will not be wasted.

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Above shows how the 2017 Election would have more or less looked if under STV, although, with the knowledge that every vote would count, more people may have voted for smaller national parties. Now, I personally I have a couple of problems with straight Proportional Representation. Firstly, although I feel the current system is wrong, I like the idea of having a local MP who looks after my areas interest. Under STV, that element is lost. Secondly, we have the issue of stable coalition governments. If you look at the seat structure of parliament under STV above, it is difficult to see coherent coalitions. The Conservative numbers, with support of UKIP and DUP would be 300, 26 short of a majority. With the knowledge that the SNP, Greens and Sinn Fein would never ally themselves with the Tories, and that the Liberal Democrats would never align themselves with UKIP or the DUP, it would be impossible for the Conservatives to have a coherent government. On the other hand, Labour would not have enough seats from the Liberal Democrats and the Greens to command a majority, and would need the SNP to prop up any agreement, which would be another unstable 4 party coalition. If you look at the turbulence of many European Countries with proportional representation, particularly Belgium, who were left without a government for 589 days, and Italy, where one of the main coalition groups contains 9 different parties which if in government one party could drop out at any minute and topple the whole thing, it is possible that STV is not the solution.

So if FTFP is too disproportional, AV is too similar to FTFP, but true proportional representation creates the loss of local politicians, gives small % of the population a power swinging say to the whole government, and causes instability, there surely needs to be a middle option? Luckily, the most efficient country in the world, Germany, has thought of the most efficient way to trade of proportional representation with stable governments with the Mixed-Member  Proportional Representation System (MMP). MMP, or as it’s known in the UK as the Alternative + Vote, allows UK voters two votes, a vote for an individual to govern your constituency, and a vote for a national party, meaning it is a direct trade off between FPTP and STV.

As seen above from the example of the 2010 General Election, this would had given a differential between the Conservatives and Labour which reflected the difference of the amount of votes each party got, and at the same time would give the Lib Dems a fair reflection of their vote count in that election while also creating a sustainable form of coalition. In 2015 as well, the same voting system would have created a workable coalition (either Tory-Liberal or Tory-UKIP) while proportional representation would have only created a Tory-UKIP-DUP-UUP coalition. MMP also does tend to create stable governments. Since Germany introduced MMP in 1945, it has hosted less elections (18) than the UK (20) and Canada (23) has through FPTP.

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Like all systems, there are issues with MPP. For example, The German system has 5% threshold of the vote needed by each party to be allowed into parliament, and this would marginalise parties in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which may need to be addressed if the UK was to adapt it to stop the chance of wasted votes. MMP also does not solves all the other constitutional issues of how we select our governments like fixed-term parliaments and dealing with the House of Lords. It also would be unlikely to that MMP woul have created a stable government from this months Election result. MMP however is certainly the fairest compromise of how to select governments and far better than the system we have now.

The 2017 General Election : The Rudrum Ramblings Verdict

In possibly the biggest bottlejob in political history, Theresa May has managed to scrape back into number 10 with no authority over her own party, let alone of the rest of the country. From a poll lead of 25 points, the Conservative Party have ended up losing seats, and have to govern with Democratic Unionist Party, who like Sinn Fein used to back terrorists but are also racist, homophobic, catholic hating climate change deniers. Basically the DUP are UKIP with terrorist links.

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I bet you miss the idea of the 2010 coalition now don’t you?

Before discussing the two main parties, a quick word on the more minor parties. For my own party, last night saw a rise in seats but a loss in vote share. I think the Liberal Democrats will keep Farron on the basis that there is an acknowledgement as like the Greens, we were the victim of the surge of Labour support (like in Nick Clegg’s seat) and a rise of seats isn’t the end of the world. The move towards two party politics will be a worry though.

The Greens, as touched on, were a victim of a Labour surge, and with Labour shifting leftwards, and both Labour and Lib Dems being very environmentally minded in outlook, you have to question if there is any place for The Green Party in British politics now – all their voters in 2015 who I know voted Labour this time around. It is delightful to see that UKIP is dead, the Party has done enormous damage to Britain already and their demise couldn’t have came too soon. In a few years Paul Nuttall’s name will only be brought up as a pointless answer on a certain BBC game show. Those who think this vote spells the end for SNP and Scottish Independence may be disappointed. The SNP’s vote share only dropped by 2% altogether and the losses can only be explained more heavily by tactical voting rather than a grand demise of the Scottish Nationalists. This election also makes the current voting system in the UK unfit for purpose, as for the 2nd time in three elections First Past the Post has failed to fit its one brief of delivering stable majority governments, but this issue will be covered in a separate blog next week.

Leading up to the election I was predicting the seats in parliament to stay roughly the same, and after the personally crushing disappointment on 2015, where the youth vote did not turn out for Ed Miliband like I thought it would at the time, I was braced for another rough night as someone on the left. Obviously this pessimism was wrong, as for once, my generation came out to vote, and its result was great. I suspect if the youth vote was around 44%, as it was in 2015, the result would still have been an increased Conservative majority.

Starting with Labour, I have an apology to make to my many Corbynista friends and family members. I have called the Corbyn platform as unelectable since he became leader, and although they did not win, this election result suggests I was wrong. What this result does is make the Blairite faction of the Labour Party redundant, and means Labour must now embrace fully the anti-austerity platform, even if this year’s manifesto was overreaching a bit economically. It is also true that Labour may have had a greater vote share without the 2nd leadership contest in 2016. One word of warning for Labour though, I still talked to many people – work colleagues, friends, random acquaintances, who wanted to vote Labour but couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Corbyn. Maybe this election more than anything else, shows that Owen Smith’s analysis was correct when he ran for leader: that the policy agenda of the Corbyn leadership was correct, but the man at the helm was the problem.

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Apparently Jezza is the Saunders of the UK after all

In the future, especially if there is another election soon, I believe Labour and the Lib Dems must sign an alliance pact to maximise the chances for a future progressive government, as they did before the 1997 Election. In Norwich South, Norwich North and Norfolk North, we saw how the progressive alliance could work. Traditional Lib Dem and Green voters flocked to Labour in the Norwich seats to protect Clive Lewis and to almost oust Chloe Smith, who had a 12,000 majority previously, while in Norfolk North, the Greens stood aside to help Norman Lamb protect his seat for the Liberal Democrats. I think Labour will spend the next how many years until the next election as the government in waiting.

This election has been an absolute disaster for the Conservatives, both for present and future. Although they increased their vote share, the Conservatives had a disastrous campaign, their policies were deeply unpopular, Theresa May was found out as a poser, Tory heartlands such at Canterbury and Kensington voted against a vague, hard Brexit and the obsession of soundbites and dog whistle campaigning turned people ultimately off.  The 2015 – 2017 Conservative government found itself as completely dysfunctional with a majority of 6, so with only 2 seats majority if you include the DUP is a very daunting position to be in, especially with the likely infighting. Theresa May has always has critics on the long-time Brexiteers within the party, so it’s not a surprise that Johnson is already manoeuvring from the right to displace May. More worrying for May is that the left of the party, now led by Ruth Davidson is also moving against her, outraged by May’s position on Brexit and decision to ally with the DUP, this group would try and bring about a Cameron style leadership again, something much more tolerable. I personally don’t see May lasting 6 months, but see her attempting to hold on to power in the party like a dictator at the last days before the revolution.

The DUP coalition could spell further trouble for the Conservatives as allying with such an extreme party could alienate many in the centre-ground, the voters Cameron and Osborne worked so hard to gain back in 2010 and 2015. The irony will also not be lost on people that they harked on about Corbyn being a terrorist sympathiser to then finish the election by going into coalition with another group of terrorist sympathisers. And to top off Tory misery they still have to deal with Brexit on a weaker footing, and as I have said many times, Brexit will almost certainly be a disaster whoever is in power, let alone a disunited Conservative Party.

If the Conservative-DUP coalition does dissolve into a shambles, which I believe it will, we could be voting again next year, and providing the Tory leader in that election is not Ruth Davidson, they will probably lose. The Conservative Party love to elect the wrong leader, since the turn of the century the only good leader they have had is Cameron, and there is currently little talent on the Tory front bench. As for Labour, the same questions of Corbyn will be there, although the Sinn Fien animosity would be lower due to the Tory alliance with the DUP, and I suspect the seats between the Conservatives and Labour would be almost directly reversed. If there isn’t an election until 2022, I do not believe Corbyn will be leader, after all in 2022 Jeremy will be 73, and the next heir – probably likely to be either Clive Lewis, Keir Starmer or Emily Thornberry, who had a very good election campaign, will likely lead Labour to a healthy majority, providing Brexit is the disaster I suspect it will be. It would be for the good of the country if there is an earlier election, as Keir Starmer is far more equipped and talented to negotiate a good deal for the UK than David Davis, but it would probably be better for the Labour Party if there isn’t an election until 2022, as it will give them a real chance at a Blair sized majority.

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Norwich’s own Clive Lewis could be Labour party leader going into a 2022 election

Back to the present, it is clear that the clear winners of the election are Yougov (for correctly predicting a large youth turnout) and the future of the Labour party, while the real losers are the future of the Conservative Party, Theresa May and UKIP. And for the first time since I have been able to vote, I have not sat through a UK democratic event to be left depressed, even if my party only has 12 seats.

The Rudrum Rambling Election Endorsement: Ignore the leader, vote for a strong Liberal voice in a progressive coalition or opposition

4 Days to go. Unless, like me you have a postal vote, it is judgement day across the country. Before I get in to who to vote for, I would like to point out the state of leaderships in the current leadership of major UK Parties. When Theresa May was ‘elected’ leader of the Consevative Party, I commented that she was a safe pair of hands, I am sorry to say I have been wrong. The woman is certainly neither strong and stable, and as you probably already know, has made more U-turns than Rally Drivers. Jeremy Corbyn, who may have had a good campaign, still does not look or feel like a leader, and after watching his business in parliament extensively as a student, I doubt he will be able to be a competent prime minister. Tim Farron, has, apart from one great put down at the end of the BBC leadership debate, not convinced me of why the membership voted him in rather than the far more assured, credible Norman Lamb; while Paul Nuttall just looks, sounds and acts like the type of person you find at Wetherspoons each day at 11am in the morning. The only good leaders we have, are the two Green Party leaders, who unfortunately have had their vote share mainly eliminated by Labour’s shift to the left, and Nicola Sturgeon. Sturgeon is the only party leader who looks prime ministerial, and she is the only one who doesn’t want to be PM.

Now down to the business end. Rudrum Ramblings, from the start of this election, has championed the idea of a Progressive Alliance, and this does not stop here. Although I am not overly keen on seeing Jeremy Corbyn, and less keen to see John McDonnell and Diane Abbott in power, I would much prefer that to the poser that is Theresa May, the tax haven advocate Phillip Hammond, the worker rights opposer Liam Fox, the NHS privatiser Jeremy Hunt, the nutcase Boris Johnson, the economically illiterate David Davis, and the rest of the Tory cabinet. Back in the Cameron days, although I disagreed with most of their policies and the effect they had on people, at least they were to a degree economically sound, and that their manifestos made logical sense. Now, as commented on the last blog, we have a Conservative party which is not strong on any policy area, other than immigration, which it is economically and ethically repulsive over. To add, the last coalition government, whatever you make of it, has been far more competent at managing the country than either the Cameron or the May administration with a Tory majority.

Coalitions to me have always been a much fairer way of running the country. The 2010 – 2015 government was the first time a government represented over 50% of votes since the great wartime government of 1940 – 1945. Due to the atrocious performance of the Conservatives, there is now a small chance of the coalition government between Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats (and the Greens). For me this would be ideal, as there are parts of the Labour manifesto I prefer to the Lib Dems, and parts of the Lib Dem manifesto I prefer to Labour. The Brexit negotiating team, led by Keir Starmer, surely a potential future PM, is actually a lot more capable than the team led by David Davis as well.  However I do have an overarching concern that the Labour manifesto is ultimately unaffordable, and some (certainly not all) parts of it will need to be put aside if they were to lead a coalition.

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Keir Starmer – the Man I believe to be the potential next Centre-Left PM (Picture: The New European)

Ultimately, whatever the result between Labour and the Conservatives, we will need a strong Liberal movement for the future. Put your issues with Tim Farron aside, because firstly, he is not going to be Prime Minister, and secondly, whatever your stance on his flip-flopping over his moral thoughts on gay marriage, he has always voted, as a Liberal should, for the extension of their rights. The Liberal Democrats this time round, from the way they have attacking the Conservatives relentlessly over Labour, will not join the Tories this time round, and if they did, I would be the first to leave the party. The Liberal Democrats also are the only party who has a sound economic policy, yet at the same time has some radical progressive policies such as cannabis legalisation, the reversal of the snoopers charter, the expansion of community policing and the housing investment bank. Ultimately the Liberal Democrats are RIGHT on healthcare (the only way to fund is by a small rise in taxation), RIGHT on Brexit (that it is going to make us ultimately worse off and that there should be political representation to those who voted remain), RIGHT on Drugs, RIGHT  on constitutional issues, RIGHT on Policing and Terrorism, RIGHT (as are the Greens and Labour) on the Environment, RIGHT on Civil Liberties and have a lot of good to say as well on Education, Housing and the Economy.

If you live in a constituency in which either Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens or the SNP are in a direct competition with the Conservatives, please vote for whichever party is most likely to win and stop the reckless right getting a blank check. But if you are in a safe seat, or in a seat which is Labour vs Lib Dems or Lib Dems vs SNP for example, I implore you to vote Liberal Democrat and create a good presence for a Party which were the only major parliamentary opposition to the Iraq War (and the first to advocate action is Kosovo), always the first to come up with original popular policies such as bringing the lowest out of tax, a party which contrary to opinions in my circles did limit the damage of the austerity driven Tories between 2010 -2015 and have since 1997 have been the most forward thinking party in British Politics.

Would a Labour victory be down to the new “longest suicide note in history”?

Back when the up-and-coming election was called, I claimed that, against my best wishes, that Theresa May would walk the general election, that the Labour Party would collapse, that the Liberal Democrats would make a convincing comeback, and that UKIP would collapse. With just 9 days to go, it seems that only the latter of those predictions appears to be the truthful case.

Back in 1983, The Labour manifesto which led to their worst defeat since the 2nd world war was described as the “longest suicide note in history”. Looking at what has happened in the polls since the main two parties released their manifestos this time round, you can say the same thing about another manifesto. However, this time, it seems that the Conservative Party have decided to take some political cyanide. Labour may have been gaining in polling before May 18th, but, as demonstrated in the Ipos poll on that day, Labour were only gaining vote from the Lib Dems and UKIP, while the Conservatives were staying constant. In the last 12 days since this manifesto has been released, the Conservative have lost significant points to Labour in every poll. In average polling in England this gap has shrunk from 16.7 points (47.2 – 30.5) to 10 points (44.7 – 34.7). While average polling for the Liberal Democrats, UKIP and the Green Party has stayed fairly similar since May the 18th, it suggests that Labour have gained most of its progress through either Conservative voters or undecided voters. In individual polls this change is more striking. In the Welsh voting poll following the release of the manifesto saw the Conservatives fall 7 points (down to 34), while the Labour rising 9 points (up to 44), a massive 16 point swing which took Labour from a losing position to a comfortable lead. Last night, YouGov even predicted that there would be a hung parliament after the election. If Labour keep catching the Conservatives at this rate, we could have the scenario which only 2 weeks ago was unthinkable of Prime Minister Corbyn on June 9th.

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Picture: YouGov

Now, why is this happening. Well firstly running an election campaign on the slogan “strong and stable”, before performing a U-turn on the first unpopular policy and crumbling in your first major political interview of the election is probably the easiest way to lose votes other than punching a baby or taking a wee on a Mosque perhaps. So Theresa May being uncovered as a bit of a con artist in terms of leadership stature has certainly not helped the Tories. It also has to be said that other than stumbling on is history with the IRA, the one thing which I think will still probably cost Labour this election, Jeremy Corbyn has done well to convince people he has some fight, and was very impressive on Jeremy Paxman’s verbal assault program Monday. Although I’m not totally convinced by him, I acknowledge he has gone some way to confounding expectations. The Labour manifesto, which although is economically unachievable all in one go, also is filled with popular policies and actual vote winners like ending tuition fees, the increase of bank holidays and the renationalisation of the Royal Mail.

However, I see the closing gap in this election mostly down to the absolute farce that is the Conservative manifesto. Say what you like about the Cameron-Osborne era, but at least their manifestos were coherent, understood the trade off between vote winners and in their minds necessary unpopular policies, and actually bothered to cost the manifesto. Starting with the so-called Dementia Tax, it made absolute no political sense for the Conservative policy, when it should have followed an independent report to instead ignore the report and put through a policy which alienated many of their core voter base. It also made absolutely no sense for them to alongside this unpopular policy to also include a vote on legalising fox hunting, which over 80% of voters, including the majority of Conservative voters, are against.

With the route down hard Brexit, combined with the fact they didn’t even bother to cost their manifesto, the Conservatives also have shot themselves in the foot by following down a rhetoric of that they are the only party which can offer a stable economy, while at the same time following down policy lines which are economically careless. Even their ex chancellor, George Osborne, has labelled the Conservatives immigration policy as “economically illiterate”. It is striking that JP Morgan, a bank which would in more usual times would be ardent supporters of Conservatives, have said the so-called “coalition of chaos” would be better for the British economy.

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Going on to Brexit and Immigration, I do not need to tell anybody that the Conservatives are going after the UKIP vote on this issue, but as the way they are going is, as George Osborne rightly says is “economically illiterate”, they are taking a huge risk on this. By the day, Conservatives are risking a policy which are risking themselves losing the old floating voters who Cameron/Osborne used to target to beat Labour and the Lib Dems.

On the economy, the Conservatives have even tried to alienate their free market base, by promising the rather Keynesian policies of putting workers on company boards and the Miliband idea of energy caps which their supporters labelled last election as “Marxist”. This slightly more left wing economic policy has also failed to win any voters as every other party have gone more left wing than them combined with the fact there is no public confidence that the Conservatives will do any of these things promised.

To add to their struggles, the economy, immigration, Brexit and elderly care are the things the Tories are seem by the general public as better at than Labour. So when you go onto health, where the Tories are the party who has promised the least investment to the NHS, and education, where the Tories are following the policy which goes against evidence of better general attainment of bringing more grammars schools rather than supporting all schools, the Conservatives look just as incompetent if not more incompetent on those issues than before. At the same time to all this, the Conservatives are failing to offer anything again to young people, who, according to polling, look to have registered to vote in greater numbers to vote against the Conservative Party.

As I mentioned before, I still don’t necessarily think Jeremy Corbyn can win this election. If he does though, from a Conservative perspective you will have to put this down as the biggest bottle job in modern political history, and if that does happen, they can only have themselves, their poser of a leader and their stupid, nonsensical manifesto to blame.

Elephant Talk EP – Six Tracks to Start Summer

On my 7th day of university, myself and a couple of friends headed out late, already worse for wear, to the gloriously rubbish bar on our halls of residence, Venue. When we got there, it was closed, but for some reason we bumped into a big group of people from the digs opposite us. When we head back to our halls, and three people we had not met before from the flat opposite followed us. One of them didn’t really speak and we have never seen him since, some wonder if he got lost, ended up in Dewsbury, and never found his way back. Another we did see many times again, then there was the third of these people who followed us back. This guy came with an incredibly indie 2013 look, of denim jacket, chinos and a Hawaiian shirt, was very easy to talk utter shite to, and would not stop talking about the fact his dad was in a band called Kajagoogoo. This man Courtney Askew-Conti, who 5 days later would console me over my first university era romantic failure with the only way 18 year olds could (Jäger bombs and 80s music), and go on to become one of my best friends at university, sharing many trips to our love/hate relationships with our Yorkshire towns establishments.

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Tokyos, a club so bad, it made three middle class students form a hip-hop collective to dis it (Picture: The Mirror)

Courtney has had musical acts before; before he went to university he fronted an Indie Band named ‘Ego Trip’, which were everything a late 00’s indie band made up of teenagers should sound like. Courtney also was part of a  joke amazing three man hip-hop group called ‘The Camele Clube’, which the song ‘Tokyos (What Do You Want From Me) apparently is still played in certain societies pre drinks in UoH. Most importantly to Courtney’s latest incarnation was his short lived 2013 project ‘Terrapin’, which included the Disclosure inspired music, such as ‘To The Lions’, which you can find bellow:

Four years later, after completing a Music Technology degree and spending a year working for Warner Bros music London, Courtney has released his new effort, under the guise of ‘Elephant Talk’. Leighton Buzzards finest has also returned with what is objectively his best work to date. When talking to  me about music as he has done his degree, Courtney often said to me that the most important thing about original music is to sound authentic, and not to be caught down by sounding like someone else, or as a stereotype, but that does not mean reminding you of something else is a band thing. Interpol remind people of Joy Division, that doesn’t make ‘Turn on the Bright Lights’ any less of a masterpiece. And in some tracks, Courtney’s influences do come out. For example, ‘Cabin Fever’ invokes Late of the Pier, who produced one of Courtney’s favourite albums, and opener ‘Recently’ has first album Disclosure vibes which we saw before in his ‘Terrapin’ project.

However, I am delighted to report that the album is full of 6 great summery tunes, where it is clear my friend is having a lot of fun. It comes to no surprise to myself that Courtney could write decent lyrics knowing that he used to just randomly freestyle in smoking areas of clubs, but nonetheless, the simplicity and catchiness of the hook to ‘Too Much’ is excellent. Stand out track is a fight between ‘Take Me Over’, which features a saxophone solo and very slick production values, and ‘Broken Arrow’, where the impressive outro includes the most joyful hook outside Elbow’s album of 2017 so far.

Overall I shouldn’t be surprised that a man who managed to turn Alan Partridge saying “Are you on an E” into a hook for a hip-hop song in first year could create a decent dance record, but it has still surpassed my expectations. I implore all to give the EP a listen, and see for yourselves.

Rudrum Rating: 8.4/10

Elephant Talk EP is available on Spotify, iTunes and Soundcloud Now.

iTunes: http://apple.co/2rdeDWG
Spotify: http://spoti.fi/2qfBn3z
SoundCloud: http://bit.ly/2q6JeFt

Rudrum 2017: An Alternative Manifesto?

Today begins the cycle where the political parties finally reveal what they will do in government, and give us a true reflection of what government or party they want to be. This is the week where policy positions become known and we find out all the promises which will be inevitably be broken. For someone as nerdy about policy about me it is a week where I will read an awful lot and will over-analyse all the manifestos and write blogs on them. But before the circus which bores anybody who is not me starts, it is time to get an alternative manifesto, from a leader which Britain doesn’t need, but the one it deserves. It’s the Rudrum Ramblings Manifesto. Let’s start with the most irritating subject in the universe.

Brexit

Now us (me) here in Rudrum Ramblings, as every political party claims to do, respects the will of the people to leave the European Union. However We (I) at Rudrum Ramblings do not accept that out of the 51.8% of the population who voted to leave that there was not at least a 1.9% who voted to leave the EU but wanted to remain in the single market. We (I) also see a WTO style leave to be a major setback in every way for the country, as we would be now forced to spend years renegotiating trade deals with less power than before due to not being a member of a major trade block, leaving the country with weaker trade deals, and in the knowledge of history that economic isolationism always ends in financial ruin.

Therefore the Rudrum Ramblings will seek to stay in the Single Market or as close to the single market and customs market as possible with the one condition of the freedom of movement of people to be rephrased as freedom of movement of labour, thus going back to the routes of the European project. On the subject of immigration, we would also reverse the decision of Theresa May to include foreign students in the immigration figures, something which has exaggerated the level of net migration. Once our (my) Brexit policy is in place, the people will realise in this damage limitation form of the strategy what a pointless ordeal leaving was, and hostility towards Europe will subside.

Drug Policy and Policing

Not many Political Parties put drug policy near the top of their manifesto, but Rudrum Ramblings is different. Having studied Drug Policy, at particular length, including writing a dissertation on it, Rudrum Ramblings understands that Drug Policy interacts with Economic Policy, Police and Crime, Health, Tax and even Education. Currently, Britain currently spends £3 Billion each year fighting drug trafficking directly. This does not even intersect the amount of police money, time and effort spent on raids, dealing with low level drug offenses and offenders. Current UK Drug Policy, through low level drug offenders also rises crime unnecessarily, stigmatises users, and undermines rehabilitation of addictions, and that is without even mentioning that the current drug classification system has no correspondence to the comparative harm of each drug. Drug Education is also currently geared towards scare tactics rather than facts, which delegitimises the arguments and makes Drug Education less trustworthy than Alcohol or Tobacco education for example. And then there is the fact that medically advantageous drugs, in particular cannabis, are illegal to sell even for medicinal use. Rudrum Ramblings would firstly decriminalise drugs as Portugal did back in 2000, ending the thousands of police hours wasted on petty drug crime, and helping pile efforts from the money saved and the safety of legal use to help protect heroin users for example against the chances of infecting Hepatitis for example, and to rehabilitate addicts, as well as redistributing funds to other resources to help employ more police officers and reinstating legal aid  for example. Decriminalisation can also protect drug users from knock off drugs and so called “legal highs” which have flooded the market due to the lack of regulation which comes with drug prohibition, for example police forces will be free to work with clubs more to identify knock off and potentially dangerous substances. Rudrum Ramblings will also call for the legalisation of medicinal cannabis in a regulated market immediately for 5 years, which will pave the way to create the infrastructure for a heavily regulated legal cannabis market for both medicinal and recreational purposes. From the example of Colorado, which produced so much money through taxing its cannabis market that it ended up giving tax back to its residents, this market will created a great source of revenue for the government, and this money will go straight into helping fund the NHS, mental health and social care. A Rudrum administration will also legalise nitrous oxide, a drug with relatively little harm attached compared to most and also consider the legal standing over other recreational drugs with low addition rates in the future. In terms of education, with the knowledge that the current figures of recreational drug use around young adults that is inevitable that many will do drugs in their life, the aim of drug education will be to simply educate students of the effects and the risks of drugs, rather than teaching the worst case scenario.

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In terms of more crime ideas, fox hunting will remain banned as its for silly upper class people with too much time on their hands; freedom of speech laws will be more readily protected (even if people say disgusting things they should only be prosecuted for it if what they say equates to a threat); the snoopers charter shall be reversed and the European Court of Human Rights will be continued to be protected under our unmodified constitution. There will also be a recruitment drive to help the police deal with cyber attacks in particular.

The Economy and Tax

I think everyone reading this will be aware that over the last 40 years the richest 1% have got proportionately richer rather than the rest of the population have got  proportionately poorer. To add to this there is a lack of funding for effectively every area of governance and the economy in generally. To deal with this Rudrum Ramblings will start with Tax. Firstly, 2p will be added to income tax, while Corporation Tax will be raised to 22% to be in line with everybody else’s tax incomes. To add, Rudrum Ramblings would raise the highest rate of tax back to 50% for those earning 6 figure salaries (instead of £80,000 upwards), will introduce a bonus tax which will correspond at the same rate of income tax at every level (ie anything bonus less than £12,000 is free, everything from £12,000 – £100,000 is 22% tax and anything £100,000 upwards is 50%) Rudrum Ramblings will also reverse the Bedroom Tax, changes to inheritance tax and will also introduce a high tax on battery farming goods. In terms of the economy, Rudrum Ramblings will firstly raise the minimum wage for 16 – 25 year olds to be equal to the rest of adult workers. More importantly, Rudrum Ramblings will ban zero hour contracts for full time staff, but remain its legality for part time and student work, and take a world lead in tax avoidance by closing tax loopholes in British overseas territories.

More ambitiously, Rudrum Ramblings will incentivise small and big businesses to raise the wages of its workers by offering grants to help bring up the average pay of employees, this should in turn raise productivity with a happier workforce and therefore create more wealth and in turn bring more money back into the economy. Businesses will also find more government support in return to significantly reducing their carbon footprint. More regulation will also be introduced to properly scrutinise the financial and business sectors and make sure that they are making decisions which do not lead to a long term public loss in return to short term gain. Rudrum Ramblings also endorses the Conservative, former Ed Miliband policy of a cap on energy bills. In terms the renationalisation, I believe the Labout policy on the railways and the Royal Mail is spot on, and that with the railways in particular, a system closer to the running of the ultra reliable continental services, the better. In my opinion the German system of running an economy, and indeed a country, is the most effective in the world, and in doing so, a Rudrum Ramblings government would encourage British businesses to be structured more like German businesses, this includes encouraging and making it easier for independent trade unions to buy 25% of a business, to give the average worker a greater say in how a business is run. Some may say this is a mad socialist dream, but this is how Volkswagen in run, and VW is one of the most successful businesses in the world.

Defence and Foreign Policy

The Rudrum approach to defence recognises that a nuclear deterrent is needed partly to the fact that it protects Britain’s standing in the world and that in the current climate having no nuclear deterrent is unelectable. However, we don’t need as many nuclear weapons as we do now and certainly the price of replacing Trident could be used much better on funding other programs such as conventional weapons, supporting the economy and welfare or education for example. Therefore Rudrum Ramblings would seek to replace only two of the submarines of the current Trident system, and also buying from America rather than designing our own more expensively. Halving of weapons would save £5 billion over a parliament, taking two submarines out of operation now would save roughly £600 million, and not having to pay for the R&D for nuclear weapons would likely double the savings made on trident. £2 Billion of the budget saved will go on conventional weapons, including supporting the army, while another £2 Billion would go on building up cyber defences.

In terms of foreign policy, The Rudum policy on refugees will mirror the Liberal Democrats, promise to take in £10,000 a year for the next 5 years. We will cease to trade arms with Saudi Arabia and other nations which use our arms to cause huge suffering on innocents. Having said that, in recognising that China is becoming the world’s dominant superpower, we will attempt to have closer links to them, as well as establishing closer links the other emerging economies such as Brazil. A Rudrum government will also only support military intervention if there is a clear plan and endgame at the end of the intervention, and above all else, Britain will support closer international cooperation in both military and in the attempt to tackle international tax dodging, fraud and crime. Finally, our policy on the Trump administration will be to keep within a friendly distance without jumping into bed with it like Theresa May has done, and that we should not be afraid to criticise an ally for some controversial policies.

Housing and Benefits

In terms of Housing, Rudrum Ramblings understands the biggest issue is supporter 1st time buyers. That’s why Rudrum Ramblings proposes subsidising construction companies to then build affordable housing, recognising that the reason construction companies don’t do so now is because there isn’t money to be earned in it. Rudrum Ramblings will also place restrictions on 2nd home buyers and landlords, to make it harder for those who are simply just buying to rent out harder to rip people up, drive up the housing market and make a profit. Rudrum Ramblings will keep the current coalition government scheme of help to buy.

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What the Daily Mail Thinks is going on

In terms on benefits, Rudrum Ramblings will reverse the cuts to Disability benefit, and change the way people on disability are assessed compared to the inhuman way they are assessed currently. We will also allow for  anybody at taxpaying age to have the right to a housing benefit safety net in order to fight homelessness, will reverse cuts to tax credit, which effects low paid workers more than anyone else, and to not stop Child Benefit after a certain amount of children in one family, and rather have a sliding scale where the amount extra you get in child benefit decreases with each child. Rudrum Ramblings will also get of the triple lock for those who have pensions totaling £100,000 a year or more, and will take away free bus passes to the same demographic as well, but will protect the majority of pensioners. Unfortunately Rudrum Ramblings does conclude that the rise of the retirement age is necessary to keep expenditure down and to invest in other areas.

Education

First things first, tuition fees. I am for the scrapping of tuition fees and the reintroduction of grants to help support poorer students BUT I also believe that to maintain some of the best universities in the world, there needs to be some extra income rather than just government funding. Because of this, Rudrum Ramblings proposes scrapping tuition fees and replacing it with a Graduate Tax equaling a 2% charge on earnings over £25,000, 4% on earnings over £50,000 and 8% on earnings over £100,000. This system would not saddle people with years in debt, creating economic uncertainty and poor credit ratings, but will still create the revenue needed to maintain a successful university system. The Government will also invest extra money into university and science to cover the cost of the money lost by EU investment. Rudrum Ramblings will also put in legislation which demands that degrees in business and economics must offer a mandatory first year module in ethics.

In terms of Primary and Secondary education Rudrum Ramblings fully endorses charging VAT on Private Schools, unless they actually are charities, to help fund better education for the masses. Rudrum Ramblings also sees the idea of free schools as a waste of money, and the idea of Grammar Schools as toxic and counterproductive, and will fully support investing money into existing schools only, and following the model which has been successful in London. At Primary School and lower High School level, Rudrum Ramblings will, minus the teaching of Basic Maths, English, Science and IT skills, allow teachers more freedom to teach more freely, sticking less to a curriculum and more on the idea of learning rather than just being able to pass tests. Rudrum Ramblings will also encourage more mixed ability classes, as those were the ones which helped myself out the most when I was at school.

Government and Politics will also become a mandatory subject to be taught at Secondary School, as it is shocking how many people of my generation have no understanding of politics or the political system.

Finally Rudrum Ramblings will give teachers a 5% raise in salary and promise to allow wages to increase at the same speed as inflation.

We also have a problem of a lack of manual skills such as mechanics in the UK for example, so a Rudrum Ramblings government will increase the apprenticeship levy and launch a 3 year long recruitment campaign to encourage more young people to get qualifications and apprenticeships in motor trade jobs, as well as other jobs we are short staffed with such as the NHS.

Constitution

Away from the EU, which was covered earlier, there are three important constitutional issues which Rudrum Ramblings would address.

Firstly, it is clear through all the talk of tactical voting, the fact that in 2015 the Party with 36% of votes got a majority and in 2010 a party with 23% of the votes only got 8% of seats, that first past the post is no longer fit for purpose. However I also understand that true proportional representation has in European countries such as Italy has created unstable, multi-party coalitions, and there is a fear it can cause instability. To add, this system also loses the positive note of local representatives in government. Therefore on the voting system there needs to be a compromise. Luckily this voting system already exists in Germany, where every voter gets two votes, one for a constituency, which works like our current system, and one for a political party, which works proportionately. Those votes are then split 50/50 to create the composition of parliament. This makes voting more proportional but is also likely only to create two party coalitions, which has worked in the past in the UK.

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(Photo: Daily Express)

The Second issue of the House of Lords, which Rudrum Ramblings would make half democratic through proportional representation but keep the appointed side, which will actually be 80%  elected through specialist expert organisations through industry, science and health for example, and 20% party peers.

The third issue is the Scotland issue. Rudrum Ramblings would follow Gordon Browns suggestion of a fully federal system of Scotland, and revamp local government across the UK to create a fully federal system, to allow flexibility in policy to suit the needs of individual areas. If the UK is able to stay in the single market, Rudrum Ramblings would deny Scotland a 2nd referendum, but if we fail to do that, because of the promises made in the last referendum , it would only be politically right to let them have a second one.

Transport

As mentioned earlier, I 100% agree with Labour’s policy of renationalising the trains and the approach of simply waiting for contracts to run out is also a good efficient way to renationalise as it gives time for governments focus on each railway area at a time and therefore give the proper time and investment to each line. However, having been a passenger on Southern Rail, where my supposed 30 minute journey from London to Woking and return was actually 45 Minute and 1 hour 30 minutes respectively, would buy the franchise straight away, simply because of the level of disaster it currently is. Sticking with Public Transport, Rudrum Ramblings endorses councils to run half of its bus services, like my university city of Nottingham currently does. The bus services are efficient, frequent and cheep – I could get from Nottingham to Derby as a student for a single £1 in 45 minutes. I would also reinvest the money saved from the revoking of some bus passes to subsidise village routes and students. Furthermore, in appreciation that Boris Bikes are an excellent idea, I would also encourage the system to be rolled out in all major cities.

Rudrum Ramblings will also support a third runway at Heathrow and the completion of HS2.

In terms of the Motor Industry, I would reinstate the subsidies on green energy cars. I will also add further tax on Diesel cars and would also demand Formula E back into London, to encourage the evolution of Electric Cars to suit both environmentalists and petrolheads alike.

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Supporting Sport which encourages the future of sustainable energy is vital to the transport sector.

Other

Rudrum Ramblings will allow the decriminalisation of prostitution and would also support the lowering of the voting age to 16, even if not enough young people vote as it is.

We will back a ban on fracking and will also support an abolishment of safe space zones, a phenomenon which stifles freedom of speech and debate at university. We would also follow Norman Lamb’s suggested reforms for mental health.

Finally, we shall cut funding to the royal family, as quite frankly, the royal family have more than enough money of their own to be funded by the state as the world’s richest benefits family.

Why Theresa May is right to call an early election and who will be the winners and losers of it

At 11:15am on this cold, Tuesday morning, surprise and shock spread across the recruitment office I work in, as the news started to seep through. Yes, we had just found out that Harry Redknapp had been made manager of Birmingham City. But just before we could recover from the news that one man was going to make Deadline Day great again, we find out that Theresa May had called a new election. At this point, on my desk, group chats meant my phone was vibrating so much it could be used in adult films, twitter exploded which a mixture of attempts of wittiness and annoyance, and people at work stopped working (well only for 5 minutes, as even in the days like this you can always count on an office to produce political apathy).

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‘Arry Announcing that he is running for Prime Minister with the promise to build a statue of Nico Kranjcar outside Downing Street

One of my friends questioned where the logic of an election at this point was. Indeed, it is true that Mrs May could crush Labour more if Corbyn is still leader in 2020, and this is damage limitation, and that a sudden election when the Tory election machine wasn’t prepared for it could backfire. However, from where I see it, Mrs May has timed this decision perfectly.

Firstly, as unfortunately everything is at the minute, Brexit has a huge reason for throwing this election. Firstly, by 2020, The Conservatives, particularly with the incompetence of the hardcore Brexiteers, may have made a dogs meal of the negotiations and could leave the Conservatives vulnerable to a loss, even if Corbyn is still leader of Labour. May also wants a mandate to govern, which would hopefully allow her to put forward a more moderate position on Brexit and weaken the likes of Liam Fox and David Davis, who are currently dragging Britain into a downright silly position of denial that there is any danger within the next 2 years. Currently the extreme Brexiteers are getting away with this due to the Conservative’s tiny majority and that if May was to question them, due to the fact she voted Remain, they could easily turn on her quickly, or become as John Major would put it, “the Bastards” who will stab her in the back.  The news that those individuals power could be weakened has already led to the pound to climb since the announcement of a new General Election.

The current political climate also suits May’s party. With Labour and UKIP both competing on who are the most incompetent, the Conservatives can in theory clear up many of the votes from those two parties and grow its majorities, which, as mentioned earlier, would limit the amount of disruption on policy. Since 2015 this government have been the most incompetent in my lifetime, and more MP’s would help them actually to be able to do anything which is not to do with Brexit. On the same note, May needs a new manifesto to create a mandate to put her own agenda through. Currently, with in particular Grammar Schools and the u-turn on NIC’s, when the May administration wants to do something different to Cameron which could upset some in her own party, a back bencher yell “you’re breaking a manifesto pledge” and she drops it faster than Red Bull dropped Danil Kvyat last season. If she had her own manifesto, she could then put forward her own policies, rather than spending another 3 years treading water and failing to get anything done. I have seen some share the Vice article titled “look at all the awful things the government has done since Brexit”, but if you look down at it, compared what a government with an opposition in disarray should have achieved, the list of things they have done can be only described as a disappointment.

As noted, Labour will suffer, knowing they are literally losing votes left right and centre, and I predict if the Election goes ahead they will lose in the region of 50 seats. UKIP will also fail to get elected, and the hilarity of their situation will be the one ray of light in the gloomy outlook of British politics.  One thing that May has not taken into account is the rise of my party, the Liberal Democrats, who since Brexit have seen their membership grow by over 20,000, and a further 1000 in one hour after this election was announced. The Lib Dems have already showed that our pro-EU strategy has paid dividends in Local Elections and in particular by-elections, and are already predicted to get 200 extra Local council seats in May As well as taking 400,000 Labour votes since the last election, 40% of those who have joined the Lib Dems voted for the Conservatives last time out. Knowing that over 20 of the seats the Lib Dems lost in 2015 went to the Tories, and with the view of what happened in Richmond Park, Lynton Crosby, the Tory election strategists, has warned May that the Lib Dems could take up to 30 Conservative seats. Just if Labour had Keir Stammer or Clive Lewis, there could be an opportunity to beat the Tories right now with the Progressive Alliance with that level of Liberal Democrat threat.

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Picture: Liberal Democrats

Instead of Stammer or Lewis, Labour has Corbyn, so expect the Tories to end up with close to 400 seats, with Labour on around 150, the Lib Dems on around 45, the SNP to still dominate Scotland, and the rest of the minnows to stick in their own status quo. Of course, legally there shouldn’t be an election until 2020 so this conversation could and should simply be academic, funny how opportunity always seems to trump principle in Politics.

 

Coming up on Rudrum Ramblings:

Inevitable criticism of the incoming Conservative manifesto

The Comedy section (UKIP)

Probably a last minute plead to vote for Progressive Parties

The obligatory angry post following the election result

Brexit: Forget Post-Truth, we are now witnessing the Politics of Self-Delusion

Last year, following the EU Referendum (and the American 2016 Presidential Election), many outlets said we were living in the period of Post-Truth. This was a very generous way of saying that claiming that leaving the EU would save £350 Million a week for example, were utter nonsense. However, I think the term Post-Truth AKA blatant lying, is still far too generous to what is actually going on as we embark on Brexit. Instead, we now live in the world where the victors of the last democratic results in Britain are now in a world of Self-Delusion.

I say this because firstly Post-Truth has been a thing for a long while now. In the TV Show last year which covered the trial of OJ Simpson, Johnnie Cochran (played brilliantly by Courtney B. Vance) said that winning a criminal case wasn’t about presenting facts, but presenting a better story than the opposition. This quote can sum up much of what politics has been for the last 40 years. The rise of Reagan and Thatcher in the late 1970s and early 1980s was caused by painting a convincing narrative which to an extent did correspond with some facts. This can be seen as also the reality to the rise of Blair and Cameron through their respective parties and to government.  Governments have used smoke and mirrors to distract opposition parties and the public to get parts of their agenda through, or simply sack experts who put forward information which contradicts their agenda, like Alan Johnson did to David Nutt for putting forward scientific evidence suggesting that Cannabis wasn’t quite as harmful as Alcohol, let alone ketamine. And then being a Liberal Democrat I don’t think I need to remind anybody of my age group about the fact broken promises are nothing new either. Therefore the idea of bending the truth or False-Truth or whatever you want to call it isn’t anything new.

This now leads on to Brexit, where we have so many contradicting noises coming from Conservatives, the Party that, if we like it or not, are in control of the Brexit negotiations. They are so all over the place, they probably would manage to put forward Nuclear Disarmament and the Death Penalty on the same page on their next manifesto. I, as many, was relieved when Theresa May was elected Conservative leader, as I thought there would be at least competent leading Britain through its most traumatic political event since the end of the 2nd World War, and that she at least addressed some of the social imbalances which led to people voting the way they did. However, Theresa has not manage to stop the reckless right of her Party running riot over Brexit. We have been forced further away from the EU than we originally wanted to.

Seeing May speak today, she came across like a Football Manager who had just took charge of a team in the relegation zone a few games before the end of a season, trying to get the crowd behind the team nervously. I actually feel quite sorry for her, she didn’t want Brexit, and she certainly didn’t want the likes of Liam Fox and David Davis in the position to dictate things, but if she had blocked their involvement in Brexit her reign would not have lasted long.

In the last couple of days, hard pro-Brexit MP’s have walked out of the select committee, complaining that the bipartisan report was “too negative”, and today have disregarded any dangers about leaving the EU. Before that, they humiliated Phillip Hammond in his budget on purpose, simply because he warned caution towards Brexit within the cabinet. This isn’t the politics of a smart Conservatism or even “Post-Truth” politics; this is the politics of delusion. As well as being a great name for a heavy rock album, the politics of delusion is perfect analogy to describe the approach of the hardliners in the EU negotiators. They seem to think that after effectively giving a massive middle finger to the EU, we can somehow leave all its institutions and somehow get a sweetheart deal; and thinks that anyone who says otherwise is an unpatriotic snowflake (or something like that). Even the most ardent Brexit supporters should surely be realistic and know that these two years will come with major challenges that will take strong government decisions and negotiations to get round?

Self-Delusion politics in the UK does not just stop with the reckless right of the Tories. The supporters or Corbyn still believe he can win an election, and numerous Labour MP’s have to repeat it to not be called “Blairite” or “Tory” until they give up the will to live. It is beyond me that some people still believe that Corbyn has any chance of improving the performances at the ballot box for Labour. I worked out he wasn’t good enough just by watching David Cameron (remember him) walk all over him each week at PMQs. With how incompetent this government has been since 2015, they must count their lucky stars that is main opposition is seemingly from Scotland or a Party which has 9 MPs. And to top off the politics of Self-Delusion in British Politics, following the Stoke By-Election, a UKIP activist claimed that his party will be a majority government in 2020.

 

I want whatever these people are drinking when they wake up.

F1 2017: Pre Season Preview + Predictions

By Kieran Rudrum (@Kieran_Rudrum) and Jake Dewbery (@JakeDewbery)

The New Formula One season is almost upon us, and unlike last year, everything isn’t doom and gloom. Yes viewing figures dropped again last year, yes Bernie Ecclestone ludicrously gave Sky Sports exclusive rights to every race, rather than just half the races, and yes Mercedes dominated again in 2016. But this year the sport has new ownership, and they’re saying everything fans like ourselves want to hear. If pre-season testing is anything to go by, we also have a multi team championship fight on the horizon with faster, more dramatic looking cars; much like what was the case in the mid-2000s. So unlike last year, instead of moaning about all the issues in the sport and how to fix them, we are going to do a good and honest season preview and team by team guide. We shall start with the reigning champions.

Is a Hamilton-Bottas combination perfect for a Constructors fight?

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Firm favourites again this season?

KR: For the first time since 2012, it appears we may have a title fight on our hands which doesn’t just involve one team. With the choice of Bottas, it’s almost like Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda saw this threat coming. When Bottas was chosen as Nico Rosberg’s replacement, I, as many, was sceptical at the choice, feeling that Mercedes missed the chance to get a star like Alonso or Vettel, or even bring through a young gun like Wehrlein or Ocon like Red Bull did with Ricciardo when Webber retired. However, going into the season, Mercedes may have the perfect balance. Analysts have gathered through testing that Bottas is about 2 tenths a lap slower than Rosberg was compared to Hamilton each lap, meaning he will be less of a threat, but still be in striking distance to score big points for the team. This means Mercedes effectively have a clear number 1 driver in Hamilton to lead the charge in the drivers’ championship, and a reliable, steady driver in Bottas to help in the constructors, a luxury their perceived rivals won’t have. Hamilton will be out for revenge this season, after not winning last season’s championship through reliability, and he is certainly my preseason favourite.

JD: Bottas definitely didn’t join this team to be a number 2 driver and he will relish the opportunity to prove all of his doubters wrong. However I fear Hamilton and the potential pressures of a title will cause him to succumb to our initial reservations. Should this happen then Mercedes will have a distinct driver hierarchy which I believe will give them the upper hand on the chasing pack helping them to secure both titles yet again.

Verdict (KR, JD)

Mercedes: 1st, 1st

Hamilton: 1st, 1st

Bottas: 5th, 5th

 

Red Bull: The Unknown Quantity?

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KR: Nobody quite knows where Red Bull are right now. The team look behind Ferrari and Mercedes in pace but are bringing big updates to Australia. Their engine is behind Mercedes and Ferrari, but promises more in the opening race of the season. It seems we won’t know where Red Bull will be until we get to Australia itself, and with probably the strongest, certainly the most exciting driver line-up on the grid, you would hope they will challenge. Wherever they end up, one thing to watch out for is the inter team battle with Ricciardo and Verstappan, both tipped as future world champions.

JD: Despite Renault apparently making big performance upgrades over the winter Red Bull looked rather timid in preseason testing and seemed to be lacking that quiet confidence that Ferrari and Mercedes have oozed. Nevertheless the base performance of their car looks strong, which combined with the grids strongest driver line up and an in season development team arguably second to none will surely see them pick up at least race podiums. If Red Bull are within 0.5s of Mercedes on average after the first three rounds then I would count on them to secure wins and challenge for the title by the season conclusion. Despite this, I think both titles will elude Red Bull for at least another season.

Verdict (KR, JD)

Red Bull: 3rd, 2nd

Ricciardo: 3rd, 2nd

Verstappan: 4th, 4th

 

Will Ferrari’s Drivers and Strategists let down their impressive car?

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Ferrari have not won a championship since 2008

KR: For me, it is clear, Ferrari will arrive in Australia with the fastest car for the first time since 2008. Despite not much noise coming from Maranello before pre-season, the attitude of the Italian team is now one of growing confidence. However, as seen in many races last season, there are a couple of things which could let the prancing horse down. Kimi Raikkonen is widely regarded to be past his best, and has struggled for consistency in recent years, while the once all conquering Sebastian Vettel was absolutely horrendous in both 2014 and 2016, making Red Bull’s cars in his glory years look to have as much as a pace advantage as Mercedes have had in the last few seasons. The other issue Ferrari may have is strategy; in two different occasions last season (Australia and Canada), Ferrari threw away the chances to win races with poor strategy calls. These factors together could make the difference between contenders and champions.

JD: It would appear from early testing that the sinking ship that was Ferrari last season has finally been resurrected, however only time will tell if they can make it through a full season without collapse. I personally don’t think they can, as much as I’d love to see the Iceman secure a second championship title I fear it will continue to elude him, through a lack of sustained top level pace, desire and team strategy. And I don’t think Vettel is currently the driver to stand up and spearhead a Ferrari title challenge either. His innate frustration at the team and others over the last two seasons have been reflective of a broken man who’s lost control of his emotions when it’s not going his way. Maybe success will calm and cure him to reignite his Formula One reign, or maybe those title winning Red Bull’s simply flattered his success. I can envisage Ferrari actually winning the first race of the season and really pushing Mercedes for the title early on before spontaneously combusting midway through the season and losing out to Red Bull too. Ferrari, if you are reading this humble East Anglian blog post, then please prove me wrong.

Verdict (KR, JD)

Ferrari: 2nd, 3rd

Vettel: 2nd, 6th

Raikkoneon: 6th, 3rd

 

Can Force India keep up the momentum?

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What were they thinking with this monstrosity?

KR: The best pound-to-pound team in the sport return with a hideous paint job and an equally ugly car design. Force India managed to finish 4th last season despite having only the 9th largest budget, but with new rules, and teams like Renault and Williams looking fairly rejuvenated, I see repeating this achievement unlikely for this coming season. It will also be interesting to see how Force India fair without Hulkenberg. With Perez-Hulkenberg, Force India had undoubtedly the best line-up possible for a midfield team, and although they still have Perez, Ocon is an unproven quantity who did nothing last season to suggest he was a superstar. Force India will still be pumping above their weight this season, but they might not be able to quite punch as high as last season.

JD: I largely agree with KR, Force India were superb last season and I believe they will be again this season too, however through no fault of their own they’ll slip down the constructors order. I think this simply because the midfield around them is so so tight that any shortcomings become magnified tenfold, and Force India have two gaping shortcomings. One is the lack of budget, and two is their driver line up, whilst Perez will probably excel again but Ocon is an unproven quantity, who could falter or prosper. Should he do the latter then Force India could again claim some big team scalps.

Verdict (KR, JD)

Force India: 5th, 7th

Perez:8th, 10th

Ocon: 12th, 16th

 

Can Williams Overcome their line-up weakness in transitional season?

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KR: It has been all change during the pre-season for Williams. While head mechanic Pat Symonds has left, Mercedes key man Paddy Lowe has been drafted in as a replacement, something which can only be described as a coup. All change as well in the driver line-up, as 17 year-old Canadian Lance Stroll gets a debut while following the loss of Bottas, Williams elected to call Massa out of retirement instead of going for a second unknown quantity like Wehrlein or Giovinazzi. You would imagine this will be Massa’s last season in the sport, and that a driver as young of Stroll (one with a reputation for being erratic in junior formulas as well), this will be a season of transition for Williams. One thing is clear though, Williams have a strong car, it is just a case of will the line-up reach its potential. Massa looked like the initial decision to retire last season was perfect timing in corresponding with his declining ability, and Stroll looks set to struggle with the increase of performance of the 2017 cars. Williams will need to hope that they’re rather exaggerated version of youth and experience doesn’t backfire.

JD: As mentioned above Williams will go either one of two ways this season, and after initially seeing their very conservatively designed car I did think it was going to be backwards. Fortunately preseason testing has looked largely positive, with Massa not looking ‘past it’ just yet. Whilst Williams will likely start strong I can see them dropping away as the season wears on, with their success likely to hinge on Stoll finding his feet and taking over from a wilting Massa.

Verdict (KR, JD)

Williams: 6th, 4th

Massa: 9th, 9th

Stoll: 16th, 12th

 

Can Honda save its relationship with McLaren and Alonso?

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The rare sight of a McLaren with something other than smoke behind it

KR: We are both deep down, Norwich fans in football, and McLaren fans in Formula One, and currently, it’s hard to tell which one infuriates us the most. After the cue against Ron Dennis (the Arsene Wenger of Formula One), McLaren come with a fresh new leadership, and from the sounds of Alonso and new team principal Zak Brown, a great chassis. However, as well publicised, there is one huge problem with McLaren, and that’s the continuing failures of Honda power. From the outset, the Honda-McLaren relationship has been an understanding of short term pain (2015) as Honda played catch up, for long term gain. Unfortunately if pre-season testing has anything to go by, things are only getting worse. Brown, Boulier and star driver Fernando Alonso, possibly the best driver not to ever have driven the best car in the field at any point of his career (maybe with the exception on 2007), are getting more vocal of their criticism of Honda, and from the sounds of it, if Honda don’t sort things out by mid-season McLaren will leave them for Mercedes.

Either way, I expect a slow start for McLaren and for them to be competitive late in the season, and hopefully Alonso, and Stoffel Vandoorne, who will surely be the best rookie on the grid this season, will be able to show their talent at some point.

JD: I don’t know how many more seasons I can watch this fallen Mclaren shaped giant dragging its feet across the floor as it flounders to recapture the former Mclaren-Honda glories days. After first seeing the pictures of the new car I thought this might be the season they strike back, with a design as aerodynamically intricate as only the current big three the signs looked positive. Unfortunately in order to race in Formula One an engine is needed to accompany the elegant body, and as has been the case for the last two seasons the Honda power unit has waned chances again. ‘No power’ and ‘no reliability’, I fear for the amount of P45’s that will be issued. After a slow start I do believe that Mclaren will again surge up the midfield towards the end of the season, with Alonso the leading beacon and Vandoorne not shining too dimly behind him.

Verdict (KR, JD)

McLaren: 7th, 8th

Alonso: 10th, 11th

Vandoorne: 13th, 14th

 

Can Kvyat save his career in this year’s striking Toro Rosso?

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KR: Personally, I don’t like the new Toro Rosso paint job, but at least now we can tell the difference between it and the Red Bull. The junior Red Bull team embark on what will almost certainly be a season of strong expectations which will be eventually crushed by a lack of development later in the season, but what is more interesting for this team has always been the brutal rivalry between drivers over who is the future for Red Bull Racing. After a disastrous 2016, Dani Kvyat is under pressure straight out of the blocks to perform more on the level of his highly rated teammate, who Red Bull turned down offers from Renault and Williams regarding a drive this season. If Sainz dominates Kvyat again, the Russian could find himself replaced by GP2 champion Pierre Gasly before the season is over.

JD: I think James Key has done a very good job at Toro Rosso overseeing their technical development and I think that he will continue to do so, helping them to build on their strong successes of last season; where they only started to struggle once their year old Ferrari engine lost competitiveness. With this in mind they have a solid foundation to build upon and with the new Renault engine they should have a competitive engine for the whole season. This combined with one of the best up and coming young drivers in Carlos Sainz Jr should yield some very high points scoring finishes. If Kvyat can recapture the form which led Red Bull to sign him in the first place then Torro Rosso could go very far this season indeed.

Verdict (KR, JD)

Torro Rosso: 8th, 5th

Sainz: 11th, 7th

Kvyat: 17th, 13th

 

Would improving on their opening season be too much to ask for Haas?

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KR: In their second season, Haas have one of the best looking cars, and also have a very solid driver line up. with Kimi Raikkonen out of contract at the end of this year, lead driver Romain Grosjean will be a desperate for a good season to make himself the lead candidate for a Ferrari drive next season, while Dane Kevin Magnussen, a marked improvement on Esteban Gutierrez, will need to prove he can match his teammate to secure a long term future in Formula One. Haas will also be helped by their links with Ferrari. Even so, with Renault in particular looking stronger this year, and concerns on brakes which plagued Haas last season were still ripe in testing, improving on last season’s 8th in the constructors looks difficult for the American outfit.

JD: This season will arguably be even tougher for the Haas team than their opening venture last season, and despite possessing two very capable mid table driver talents I can see them struggling this year. Like Force India I feel that Haas will through no fault of their own struggle to contend with the likes of Renault and Williams and in an incredibly tight mid table battle, resulting in them languishing near the back of the pack.

Verdict (KR, JD)

Hass: 9th, 9th

Grosjean: 14th, 15th

Magnussen: 18th, 17th

 

 

Hulkenburg’s time to shine in first de-facto Renault car since return?

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KR: After soldiering on with a subpar car designed by a broke Lotus team in 2016, Renault return with their first de-facto effort since taking over the Enstone outfit for the 2nd time in its existence. Looking at pre-season testing, this effort looks far stronger than last season, it looks reliable, in terms of pace at the front of the midfield and the engine looks stronger. It must also be remembered that last time they were in F1, Renault were famous for being able to out develop other teams throughout the season, and that their budgets are among the highest outside the top 3. They also have the man who up until he was beaten by Perez last season was season as the best midfield driver money could buy; Nico Hulkenberg. It is amazing to think that the Hulk has never got on the podium in his career, and surely, knowing he is the clear lead driver going into this season, it is his chance to get on at the very minimum the 3rd step of the podium. On a side note, expect 2014 GP2 Champion and Ipswich Town fan Joylon Palmer to be beaten by Hulkenberg even more emphatically than he was by Magnussen, and for him to bow out of Formula One at the end of the season.

JD: As discussed above I fully expect the Renault to be contending for the coveted 4th position Arsenal trophy; with Hulkenberg leading the line and obtaining his first Formula One podium this season as he dominates the midfield and his teammate. I was very surprised that Palmer was retained by Renault for this season, and I think this decision will ultimately cost them 4th in the championship, in this very close midfield brawl.

Verdict (KR, JD)

Renault: 4th, 6th

Hulkenburg: 7th, 8th

Palmer: 15th, 18th

 

Year of transition for Sauber

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KR: After struggling to stay afloat since 2013, Sauber finally have a stable backer behind them to give them some financial footing. The bad news for them is that it has come far too late for the design of their new car, and you would expect Sauber to be running round at the back again this season. Instead of keeping Nasr, who’s points in Brazil effectively led to Manor folding, Sauber have elected to keep the lowly rated Marcus Ericsson as one of their drivers. Mercedes loanie Pascal Wehrlein, probably still  bitter from being snubbed by Mercedes, Renault and Williams this season, knows he has to absolutely annihilate Ericsson this season in an attempt to put him as a frontrunner for the likely vacancies at Renault and Williams at the end of the season. To add to Wehrlein’s pressure, he has one of his main rivals for those seats, highly rated Italian star Antonio Giovinazzi, as Sauber’s third driver, a man who’s Friday performances in comparison to Ericsson and Wehrlein will be watched by the whole grid this season.

JD: Initial impressions of the Sauber suggest that whilst they appear to have designed and adjusted to these new regulations well they’re still a long way behind the closely contested midfield. It’s going to be another tough season for them as they seek to scrape the bottom end of the points paying positions and remain competitive. As  mentioned above this is a make or break season for Wehrlein, who desperately needs to live up to the hype surrounding him and focus on breaking into the midfield and not looking behind him at the ever looming Giovinazzi.

Verdict (KR, JD)

Sauber: 10th, 10th

Ericsson: 20th, 20th

Wehrlein:19th, 19th

 

What Will This Season Bring?

JD: Whilst I think we all hoped these new rules would upset the established order and promote some unpredictability within the race results I don’t feel that’ll be the case. Mercedes look to have done a tremendous job in terms of their power unit and intricate aerodynamic design, which I think will yield them another title double over the much closer chasing pack.

KR: This preview could turn out to be completely wrong, as in previous years where there have been massive rule changes (2009 springs to mind), nobody knew exactly where each team were until Australia Qualifying. Whatever the result, hopefully we will be in store for an intriguing season.

 

(All Pictures Courtesy of Autosport)