The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Sir Keir Starmer, KDB, KC...PM

A few hours ago, HM King Charles III invited Sir Keir Starmer (Lab) to become his Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury, and form a government in his name:

Keir Starmer has said the “sunlight of hope” is now shining in Britain again as Labour won a landslide UK election victory, bringing a crushing end to 14 years of Conservative rule.

Labour had won 411 seats, while the Conservatives were on just 119, with five left to declare by 9.30am. The government’s likely majority is set to be about 170 seats. The party dominated in Scotland, with the SNP reduced to eight seats so far, while the Liberal Democrats gained at least 71 seats – their best performance ever.

There were five shock victories against Labour for pro-Palestine independent candidates, with Jonathan Ashworth, one of Labour’s election chiefs, voted out in Leicester South, and the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn winning in Islington North. Plaid Cymru was expected to win four seats.

At the last general election, in 2019, the Conservatives had a majority of 80, with 365 seats to Labour’s 203. The SNP won 48 seats and the Lib Dems had just 11.

Former PM Liz Truss lost her seat, as did former leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, incumbent leader of the Commons Penny Mordaunt, and Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps. Outgoing PM Rishi Sunak has resigned as leader of the Conservative Party.

It wasn't all good news: racist demagogue Nigel Farange (Reform) won a seat in Westminster, and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, expelled from the Labour party for anti-Semitism and also leading the party to its worst loss in generations, won election as an independent in his constituency in Islington. (For US readers, Islington is the Logan Square or—and I am aware of the irony—SoHo of London. So exactly the kind of area that would elect someone like Corbyn.)

Proportionally, the Scottish National Party had the worst night, losing 38 of its 47 seats, while the Liberal Democrats jumped from 8 to 71 seats and will get to ask questions on Wednesdays again.

Right now, Labour front-benchers are meeting individually with Number 10 to find out what exciting new jobs they get in government. But as the Zen koan that the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg just posted, "none of these appointments are confirmed, until they are confirmed." Angela Rayner has become the deputy PM, and it looks like Rachel Reeves will has become the UK's first female Chancellor, an office that often leads to election as PM later on.

It took 14 years for the UK's voters to remember why right-wing governments suck. I just hope the Labour government takes at least that long to fall apart. We all need a strong center-left government somewhere in the West while Putin still breathes.

Good morning, United Kingdom!

The UK general election is going on right now. UK law prohibits editorializing or publishing poll results while polls are open. The major exit polls will come out at 22:00 BST (4pm Chicago time), at which point I will be madly refreshing The Guardian.

For now, if you live in the UK, just vote. No matter which way it goes, I'll still visit.

Holiday weekend

I'm about to leave the office for the next 4½ days. Happy Independence Day!

And who could forget that the UK will have a general election tomorrow? To celebrate, the Post has a graphical round-up of just how badly the Conservative Party has screwed things up since taking power in 2010:

There’s a widespread feeling among voters that something has gone awry under Tory government, that the country is stagnating, if not in perilous decline.

Nearly three-quarters of the public believes that the country is worse off than it was 14 years ago, the London-based pollster YouGov has found. More than 46 percent of people say it’s “much worse.” And to some extent, economic and other data back that up.

Before Brexit, a different word hung over Conservative policy: “austerity.”

Cameron pushed spending cuts intended to reduce government debt and deficit. The goal was never achieved — public debt this year hit its highest rate as a percentage of economic output since the 1960s — but austerity had many side effects, including huge cuts to local governments that hit services such as schools and swimming pools.

Britain’s beloved National Health Service was one of the few places to see funding rise in real terms during this period, but it mostly failed to match pre-2010 trends, let alone keep up with spiking inflation, immigration and the needs of an aging population. Under the Conservatives, waiting times for treatment have surged.

I'm sorry I can't be there tomorrow, but I will be there in September, eagerly questioning my friends about the election and its aftermath.

For this weekend, though, expect some Brews & Choos reviews, and probably some blather about other things as well.

Finally get to breathe

But only for a moment. I've spent most of today trying to fix things, or at least trying to figure out what problems need fixing. One of the problems has generated a comment thread on a vendor website, now at 44 comments, and I think after all that work I found the problem in an interaction between my code and Microsoft Azure Functions. If I'm right, the confirmation will come around 3pm.

Naturally, I haven't had time to read any of these:

I wrote the intro to this post around 2:45 and had to pause for a while. It's now 3:25, and I appear to have solved the problem. I will now document the solution and apologize to the vendor. Fun times, fun times.

Tories throw it in

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Cons., Richmond-Yorks) has gone to His Majesty and requested to dissolve Parliament, calling for an election on July 4th:

Rishi Sunak has called a surprise general election for 4 July in a high stakes gamble that will see Keir Starmer try to win power for Labour after 14 years of Conservative-led government.

Addressing the nation outside Downing Street, Sunak said it was “the moment for Britain to choose its future” as he claimed the Tories could be trusted to lead the country during a time of global instability.

The rain-soaked prime minister was almost drowned out by the New Labour anthem, D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better, blasted out by the anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray, as the surprise early election was called.

Sunak’s words were met with alarm by senior Tories who are concerned that their party, trailing 20 percentage points behind Labour in the polls, could face electoral wipeout, with some MPs even considering submitting letters of no confidence.

It will be the first July election since 1945, when Labour leader Clement Attlee won a majority of 145. The campaign will also be fought during the Euro 2024 football tournament, with polling day falling just before the quarter finals.

Two things. First, it's about fucking time, as the Tories have driven the UK into the ground, giving the country two of the worst PMs in history and certainly the worst Home Secretary in my lifetime.

Second, what bliss only to have a six-week public campaign period! But then again, the UK government does get things done even when the ruling party has such low polling numbers.

I remember the big vote the UK took in June 2016 and what that said about our own politics. I will watch the July 4th election intently for clues about our own future.

How a sane party deals with its extremists

The UK Labour Party's National Executive Committee voted today to de-list former party leader Jeremy Corbyn, meaning he cannot stand for election as a Labour candidate from now on:

A Labour spokesman said the leader’s motion passed by 22 votes to 12, meaning it is now down to Corbyn to decide whether to run as an independent candidate.

Corbyn, the veteran left-winger who has represented Islington North since 1983, had criticised the move as “undermining the party’s internal democracy” before its approval.

The motion says he “will not be endorsed by the NEC as a candidate on behalf of the Labour party at the next general election”.

Some may recall that Corbyn's combination of incompetence, leftist extremism, and anti-Semitism made the party essentially unelectable during his run as leader, tipping the votes towards Brexit and professional clown Boris Johnson's Conservatives in 2016 and again in 2020. After driving Labour's vote share down to 32% the party finally sacked him as leader in April 2020.

Corbyn will likely stand in the next election as an independent, though I would expect Labour to run someone against him.

The Tory clown car

Guys, you really need to go to the country now. You're making Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party look like a model of competence:

Liz Truss started her premiership with a mad dash for growth. She continues to insist that boosting Britain’s growth rate is her mission. But whatever remains of her time in office is now focused on a different goal: restoring the faith of the bond markets in Britain.

Ms Truss’s reversal is a humiliation. She had spent the Conservative Party leadership campaign promising to abandon the planned rise in corporation tax. She brushed aside warnings from Rishi Sunak, her rival, that her plans for unfunded tax cuts represented a dangerous “fairy tale” which would stoke inflation. In the end the fiscal statement on September 23rd included cuts worth £45bn ($50bn), an even more lavish giveaway than the one she had dangled during the contest.

Much of her party is determined to get rid of her. Her project of deficit-funded tax cuts and a smaller state always had shallow support in a party that combines a new-found taste for state intervention with an old liking of sound money. Even those Tories who backed her project now have little reason to keep her in place, save for the embarrassment of installing its third leader in a year. The question preoccupying MPs is not “if” but “when”: should they move against her now or wait until after the fiscal plan on October 31st?

In a public letter thanking Mr Kwarteng for his 39 days as chancellor, Ms Truss declared that he had “set in train” structural reforms to planning law, as part of her mission of lifting Britain’s parlous productivity. In truth, those reforms exist only on paper and face a difficult battle through Parliament. “We share the same vision for our country and the same firm conviction to go for growth,” she wrote. Convictions are all she has left.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer didn't hold back:

In an interview with the Guardian, the Labour leader said Truss had driven the economy “into a wall” while “trashing our institutions”, and changing the prime minister again without allowing the country to vote would not be acceptable.

However, Starmer said he had told his shadow cabinet not to be complacent about the party’s 30 points-plus poll lead, and that Labour was “not going to sit back” but fight for every vote.

He said people were “looking to Labour for the answers to the next election” and the party needed to carry on putting in the work to win the contest, rather than assuming the government’s incompetence would cause the Tories to lose.

Asked if a general election was necessary immediately, or if Truss is replaced, Starmer said: “Yes … We are in the absurd situation where we are on the third, fourth prime minister in six years and within weeks we have a got a prime minister who has the worst reputational ratings of any prime minister pretty well in history. Their party is completely exhausted and clapped out. It has got no ideas, it can’t face the future and it has left the UK in a defensive crouch where we are not facing the challenges of the future because we haven’t got a government that could lead us to the future. For the good of the country we need a general election.”

Of course, the Tories have no requirement to call an election until 2025, so I expect we're about to see which bozo comes out of their Mini Cooper to move into Number 10 before Christmas. Maybe Jeremy Hunt?

Fallen on Hard Times

I've just yesterday finished Charles Dickens' Hard Times, his shortest and possibly most-Dickensian novel. I'm still thinking about it, and I plan to discuss it with someone who has studied it in depth later this week. I have to say, though, for a 175-year-old novel, it has a lot of relevance for our situation today.

It's by turns funny, enraging, and strange. On a few occasions I had to remind myself that Dickens himself invented a particular plot device that today has become cliché, which I also found funny, enraging, and strange. Characters with names like Gradgrind, Bounderby, and Jupe populate the smoke-covered Coketown (probably an expy for Preston, Lancashire). Writers since Dickens have parodied the (already satirical) upper-class twit and humbug-spewing mill owner so much that reading them in the original Dickens caused some mental frisson.

Dickens also spends a good bit of ink criticizing "political economics" in the novel, as did a German contemporary of his, whose deeper analysis of the same subject 13 years later informed political philosophy for 120 years.

It's going to sit with me for a while. I understand that Tom Baker played Bounderby in a BBC Radio adaptation in 1998; I may have to subscribe to Audible for that.

Leaving on a jet plane

Now that I'm more than two weeks past my second Pfizer jab, I'm heading to O'Hare tomorrow for the first time since January 2020. I remember back in September 2018 when I finally broke my longest-ever drought from flying of 221 days. Tomorrow will mark 481 days grounded.

But that's tomorrow. Today, I'm interested in the following:

And finally, Chicago's endangered piping plovers Monty and Rose have laid three eggs. We should see baby piping plovers in about four weeks.

Political news out of London

The UK Labour Party has suspended former leader Jeremy Corbyn after an independent report found he presided over, and did nothing about, an increase in anti-Semitism in the Party:

The suspension was provoked by a statement from Corbyn that rejected the overall conclusions of the Equality and Human Rights Commission report, saying the problem was “dramatically overstated for political reasons” by opponents and the media.

That statement set the former Labour leader directly at odds with his successor. Moments after Corbyn’s statement was released, [current Labour leader Sir Keir] Starmer spoke at a press conference where he said those who “deny there is a problem are part of the problem … Those who pretend it is exaggerated or factional are part of the problem.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission report found Labour responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination over antisemitism. It cites “serious failings in the Labour party leadership in addressing antisemitism and an inadequate process for handling antisemitism complaints”.

However, the former Labour leader said he had been obstructed by party officials in trying to tackle the issue. “One antisemite is one too many, but the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media."

When a party leader takes his party into the worst election defeat in a generation, while doing nothing about systemic problems in the party that contributed to that loss, there is usually a reckoning. The only thing the failed leader can do at that point is show contrition, or be sacked. I hope the US Republican Party undergoes a similar realignment next year, for similar reasons.