As someone who has spent a lot of time in and around Coventry in the last few years, I can sincerely congratulate the city on becoming Government’s designated ‘UK City of Culture 2021’. I can also predict with absolute confidence that the city will make a success of the title. However, coming in the immediate aftermath of the determination that UK cities cannot be European Capitals of Culture in 2023, Coventry’s success raises some uncomfortable issues. A serious UK Capital of Culture-designate needs to surface, explore, and try to resolve these. I hope Coventry will rise to the challenge.

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The terminal decline of representative democracy has been a theme of this blog for  a couple of years. Does the 2017 General Election (GE2017) and its unfolding aftermath change this at all?

On the face of it, voters have managed to give a considerable rebuff to an arrogant Governing party who had wilfully misinterpreted a supposed Brexit mandate, and to their Leader’s cynical power grab. The overwhelmingly hysterical coverage of the right wing newspapers was significantly ignored, and there is growing evidence that young people up to at least 35 years old engaged electorally to neuter the innate backward-looking little Englander sentiments of much of the old.

Coming weeks will provide further evidence whether this is a major turning point, or a hiccup. Whilst hoping for the former, this blog considers work that needs to be done if we are to avoid the latter.

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This blog first announced the terminal decline of representative democracy in May 2016. Since then, the EU referendum, Trump’s election, Erdogan’s referendum, amongst others, have enabled sizeable but minority intolerant inward-looking electorates to empower authoritarian-leaning leaders, promoting xenophobic and ultimately right wing elitist agendas.

The expectations are Theresa May will ride a reactionary populist wave to landslide parliamentary success at the UK general election on June 8th. There are many reasons why this is a further nail in the coffin of UK representative democracy as a political vehicle for progressive social change. For the purposes of this blog, however, the focus is on the vagaries of who can actually vote in the impending parliamentary election.

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Anyone who has ever seen me dance will know that my going to Buenos Aires to learn tango is absolutely insane. If you haven’t ever seen me dance, think May’s Brexit madness – an awful idea, atrociously executed, leading to a gratuitous infliction of massive self-harm – and you’ll more or less get the picture of my BA diversion.

Which raises an interesting question – why would someone as irrevocably opposed to Brexit tyranny as I am do it?
The differences between my tango experience and Brexit are more important than the similarities – or at least that’s my story!

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On 17th January 2017 Theresa May delivered a well-trailed speech outlining her Brexit negotiation principles for delivering a ‘stronger, fairer, more united and outward-looking’ United Kingdom.

May’s whole preamble of the referendum as the ‘eyes wide-open choice of citizens to leave the EU and embrace the world’ is a plain lie – and she knows it. 26% of the UK population voted for Brexit – mostly for a mix of little-Englander, racist or opportunist reasons, or to give Cameron/Osborne ‘two fingers’. And she knows too, with absolute certainty, that, however the negotiations pan out, we shall in the foreseeable future be weaker, more divided, less fair, and more inward-looking than hitherto – and she’ll need someone to blame for that (like the NHS, someone other than herself).

May’s ‘principles’ need robust challenge domestically, and a determined response from ‘Europe’.

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Posted by: davidjmarlow | 17/11/2016

The plot against Europe: Part Three – The fightback

Probably the least convincing part of Roth’s ‘The Plot Against America’ is the denouement.

Lindbergh’s widow appeals for a turn away from KKK-led violence; Roosevelt is reelected; equilibrium (and the ‘American way’) is restored. In the epilogue, it is explained quite plausibly that it was a Nazi plot all along. I await Mrs Trump’s corresponding intervention with anticipation!

In Part One of this series, Trump’s fascist coup was described. In Part Two, the Brexit virus and the US/UK shared need to destroy ‘Europe’ as a tolerant, consensual model of global leadership and decision-making was diagnosed.

Is there a credible strategy to neutralise and turnaround US/UK intentions?

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On October 21st 2016, Leonard Cohen released his last album – ‘You want it darker’. He passed away on November 7th, a day before Trump’s extreme kind of darkness descended on the US. ‘You want it darker’ reconfirms his 1992 analysis of the US as a laboratory where confrontations between race, class, gender, sexual orientation are still to be resolved before ‘Democracy is coming to the USA’.

Part One of this series demonstrated how the veneer of representative democracy was manipulated to mount a successful coup in which extreme right wing forces take control of the apparatus of the US state. Had Cohen wanted a more graphic vision of what ‘darker’ looks like in redneck, Anglo-Saxon, failed democracy, he only had to look across the pond at UK experience since June 2016

Part Two of ‘The plot against Europe’ restates the unfolding progressive critique of May’s UK coup. It suggests how the toxic combination of Trump and May governments are likely to assault a tolerant, civilising Europe, and most likely also Cohen’s Canadian homeland.

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Posted by: davidjmarlow | 12/11/2016

The US/UK plot against Europe: Part One – Coup d’etat

In 2014 I read Philip Roth’s ‘The plot against America’. My memories of its political backdrop are of Charles Lindbergh – the famous aviator (and populist ‘hero’ of his day) becoming an unlikely Republican presidential candidate. He beats Roosevelt in the 1940 election on an America-First, anti-war, anti-semitism ticket. As President he signs non-aggression pacts with Germany and Japan. He begins programmes to deconstruct and disperse Jewish communities, colluding in KKK racist violence. [WARNING SPOILERS] Whilst flying himself back from a speech, his plane disappears, and his Vice President, based on German news releases, suggests a Jewish-UK conspiracy. US forces mobilise, threatening Canada. Eventually, though, the Lindbergh presidency is exposed as a Nazi plot. Roosevelt returns to restore US values and global position.

The uncanny prescience of Roth’s book to the 2016 presidential election has been remarked elsewhere (although I was not aware of this until commencing this blog). My piece – of which this is Part One  – seeks to build on the Roth narrative. It argues that we have seen a fascist coup in USA; there is considerable read-across to the BREXIT tyranny we are experiencing in UK; and the implications of both for a civilised, tolerant Europe in the future are high risk and negative. It concludes with considerations of what might be done to mitigate and turnaround these risks.

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Posted by: davidjmarlow | 01/11/2016

Nissan, CETA, Heathrow and the BREXIT virus…

I hate to start a piece with a cliche, but ‘we live in extraordinary times’. With a rampant BREXIT virus it is almost impossible to make any sense of the feverish narratives of post-referendum Britain.

This piece considers three ‘decisions’ last week – the Nissan announcement of new investment in Sunderland; the signing of the EU-Canada CETA; and the resignation of Goldsmith and by-election in the aftermath of Government’s Heathrow announcement. It explores some alternative ways of looking at these events, and seeks to challenge the Government and media orthodoxy in all of them.

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Posted by: davidjmarlow | 15/10/2016

How Brexiteers gave Haiti a veto on the UKs future?

The BREXIT victory in and since the referendum is as pyrrhic as it is tragic. As of October 2016 it rests on four fundamental falsehoods (and three ‘killer clowns’). These shall destroy this country if they are allowed to endure in the upper echelons of the May government.

First, sovereignty in an era of globalisation is relative and post-BREXIT relativity is far, far inferior to pooled sovereignty within a reforming EU. Second, the ‘global trading powerhouse’ is abject nonsense – because there are neither the trading partners nor the architecture who will want it to succeed. Third, the current three Brexiteers mediating UKs new relationship with the world are dysfunctional in every sense except Tory/UKIP party politics – and that is no way to run a country. Finally, there is little evidence Government either has or will assemble the competence to manage the complexity and tactical details of BREXIT effectively.

This piece illustrates these four ‘truths’ with respect to the major trade and consequential aid issues that the May Government needs to address over the remainder of the decade, and the awful start they have made during and since the Tory party conference.

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