A Tale For Our Times…..

by Gareth R Roberts on July 31, 2017

Pick, as they say, the bones out of this….

I was in Court last week – the case involved a horrible road traffic accident, where a young Albanian delivery van driver had attempted to overtake a HGV when it was clearly dangerous to do so and ploughed headlong into the path of an oncoming car tragically killing the elderly driver.

Most barristers hate these cases – my client, a young man of impeccable character, had made a catastrophic mistake, but had no intention to cause any harm, let alone the death of another person. He wasn’t a drug addict or a drunkard, he wasn’t dishonest or violent – he was, for a period of about ten seconds, stupid.

I met him outside Court – he was besuited and bookish looking, with an equally bookish looking girlfriend nervously touching his arm in an attempt to comfort. His English was excellent and he told me that he had been living with his girlfriend in the UK, lawfully and productively, without incident for the last 7 years. He told me that his Father was a Palestinian Doctor who had fled to Albania in the early 1990s when it became impractical for him to work on the West Bank – he, himself had been a law student in Albania and had come over to the UK because it was far more lucrative to drive vans delivering parcels in Britain than appear in a Court in Tirana.

He cried, silent undramatic tears, when I asked him about the incident and he explained that he didn’t really want me to mitigate, saying that it was right that he receive whatever punishment the Court imposed – I told him I respected this, but that it was my duty to let the Court know everything I could that would help the Court impose the right sentence. He then reluctantly, and with obvious shame, told me that he was on a zero-hours contract delivering goods for a massive, global on-line company, and that as part of his contract his wages would be docked if his van was in any way damaged. He told me that as he was driving behind the HGV, it was kicking up chippings and that he was nervous that they would damage the van and see a reduction of his wages, something that he could ill afford – so, he made the fateful decision to overtake.

He then asked me if it would be possible for him to write to the widow and family of the deceased to express his sympathy and sorrow, and I told him, that i’d ensure that that could happen.

He then asked me, with thin lipped stoicism, what sentence he could expect and I told him that he would go to prison for between two and four years and he nodded – he asked me if this meant that he would be automatically be deported back to Albania and I told him that it would. Then surprisingly (because in the past this has been a negative thing for EU citizens convicted of criminal offences)  when I asked him if that was a bad thing and started to advise him of his right to appeal against that – he shook his head and told me that he wanted to go back home now because the UK had nothing left for him any more – ‘we,’ he told me, ‘are no longer welcome.’

As I said, pick the bones from this tragic tale.

 

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Forgive me readers for it has been bloody ages since my last blog.
In that time, I have committed many sins, including the sin of confusion, hopeless optimism, blind despair, excessive elation, false elation and wicked gloating.

Why?

Because I, like every other poor bastard in this country of ours, has been subjected to the most misconceived general election that we have ever seen, and the result has seen us plunged into a state of chaotic uncertainty beyond what any of us could have foreseen.

As we know, as a result of Cameron’s desperate desire to remain in power and destroy the Lib-Dems and Ed Miliband, Brexit happened; a process in which he managed to successfully destroy himself as well.

As we know, Jeremy Corbyn happened – something that has caused massive divergence of opinion amongst those of us who have written on these pages. For what it’s worth, I started out with a sneaking admiration for Jezza, I was drawn to his authenticity, honesty and passion – at last, I thought, here was a politician who actually believed in something. But, as the months wore on, I became increasingly disillusioned and feared that if all the Labour Party were offering was a cultish leader with more baggage than the carousel at Heathrow, and a set of policies that were more geared towards a Student Union debate than a genuine stab at winning an election, then it was actually betraying the people it is supposed to represent.

But, I’m happy to say, that, as the election campaign got under way, Corbyn did what many others have failed to do, by putting together a set of coherent and popular policies that managed to enthuse many of the electorate in the same way I was initially enthused so many months earlier.

And this, together with the awful campaign run by the most arrogant and clueless Conservative leadership that any of us have ever seen saw the electorate (or at least 40% of it) slowly turning its guns towards the Tories, until at 10pm on Thursday night, we received the most incredible news that many of us have had in a long time – not only had Theresa May failed to obtain the landslide she was predicted, but she managed to lose seats to Labour in such a way that Parliament is now hung.

So what now?

Well, let’s start with Labour.
Ok, at the moment we’re all swept away with the euphoria of giving the Tories a kicking, and Jeremy Corbyn is enjoying an exalted status of semi-national treasure and favourite uncle – but, let’s not forget that as a Parliamentary Party and Opposition, Labour under Corbyn has been woeful; and, let us assume that next time around the Tories will not make the same mistakes again – the next election will see a far closer scrutiny of Labour’s manifesto and the fitness of its spokespeople, some of whom just weren’t up to the mark (let’s not mention Diane Abbott, bless her).

Jeremy Corbyn can use his position of strength to move the party forward – if he and it are genuinely serious about forming a good and progressive government, then now is the time for him to bring back some really good people – the likes of Ed Miliband, Yvette Cooper, Dan Jarvis, Chukka Ummuna, David Lammy are all a step above some of the current Labour front bench spokesman in terms of their experience and political skill – bringing these people back, assuming that they are happy to continue the thrust of the party that was so well articulated in the manifesto, will not be a concession to the right, but, rather a demonstration that this is finally a truly socially democratic party that is serious about turning the country around after years of right-wing hegemony.

My fear, is that Jeremy Corbyn may instead, under the influence of the likes of John McDonnell and Seamus Milne, see this as an opportunity to push the party further leftward, which will alienate many of its supporters and make it much easier for a currently embattled Tory Party to rally.

But, if the Labour Party Leadership has some difficult decisions to make, they pale in comparison to the problems that the Tories are now wrestling with.

The reality is that they have the lamest leader and PM that ever waddled down Downing Street – the irony and hubris of her decision to make it an election between her ‘strength and stability’ and the Labour Party’s ‘coalition of chaos’ is worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy. I find it inconceivable that any sensible politician could ever try to form a government that relied upon the DUP. Despite the attempts of Theresa May (who really has become a serially dishonest politician), to paint the Paiselites as traditional unionists, they are not, the DUP have a history of religious fundamentalism, zealous social conservatism and a fair old dollop of support for para-military violence. But, even if we can get over that, there is the little problem of the Power Sharing Arrangement in Ulster, which has relied (when it has worked) upon an equal share of power between the DUP and Sinn Fein and neutral intervention when necessary from Dublin or Westminster – this can’t happen if the DUP are part of the Westminster government, even if it is only in the form of a supply and confidence arrangement – just considering the problems of the Renewable Heat Incentive Scandal alone creates a massive headache.

Despite this nightmare solution to her problems, Theresa May seems desperate to cling on to power – and she will try to explain this by saying that it is in the public interest during the Brexit negotiations for her to remain in 10 Downing Street.

And therein lies Theresa May’s greatest weakness – when faced with any problem, large or small, Theresa May’s answer is always the same: Theresa May. Only Theresa May can sort out Brexit, only Theresa May can deliver economic stability, only Theresa May can provide good public services, only Theresa May can be the voice of the Northern Working Class (yep, she actually said that).

The answer to the mess that the Country currently finds itself in, does not lie in some awful ham-fisted coalition between a busted flush PM and a handful of religious lunatics – things are too important for this kind of continued arrogance.

Now, perhaps, the time is right for a genuine coalition across the parties – a national government if you like, designed to get us through the next few months so that a deal can be put together with the EU, a deal which would then have to be properly ratified by the people in a second referendum.

Imagine how strong a negotiating team that consisted of the likes of Keir Starmer, Damien Green, Sarah Woolaston and Ed Miliband would be compared to the rag-bag of clueless ideologically driven loonies whose lies got us here in the first place. It would mean that the process of negotiating our way out of Europe (still the single most stupid thing this country has done in a couple of hundred years in my opinion), could be done without the pressure of tribal party allegiance and point scoring that has blighted our relationship with Europe.

It is right that this general election has been the first for over a decade that has made us on the left smile, but, now the laughing has stopped, we all have to work out where to go next.

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