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It’s not over until the fat lady sings

Who is the fat lady? I don’t know, do you?

I’m not an American. I’ve said before that I feel some connection to the result of the US elections because of the influence of the US on Britain, but it is to Americans that it matters most, and I can’t begin to imagine what it feels like over there.

Waking up on Wednesday morning and seeing the closeness of the race was an oh shit moment. But by Wednesday evening, UK time, there was excitement as a different picture emerged, and by Thursday things were looking dicey for Trump. The glee turned swiftly to impatience. An election happens incredibly quickly in the UK. The whole process, including the campaign, takes less than a month and the time between casting your vote and having a new government can be less than 24 hours. To us, the US election seems to have been going on forever.

The map hasn’t changed much in two days, but there is calm today. The process needs to reach conclusion, but result is virtually inevitable. Democracy is exhorting its will, state by state, box by box, vote by vote.

I’m trying to resist hyperbole, but it does feel like a small weight is being lifted from the world.

I don’t know about you..

..but this just about sums up the last two days for me.

Holly Figueroa O’Reilly / Twitter

Good luck, America

Approximately twice a day, I head over to 538 to check the latest polling data on the US election. It should calm my nerves, but recent events have proven that nothing is inevitable and that polls are only fleetingly reassuring.

UK politics is inextricably linked to that of the US, perhaps even more so now that we’ve left the EU. America is our largest and most powerful ally, so where they go, we usually follow. We share the big things: language, culture, democracy & love of McDonald’s — but are perplexed by the guns, the crazy health care system, intense evangelicals and FOX News. We accept these as American foibles. It’s not like we don’t have our own problems. Even so, the Trump presidency has been intensely worrying for many in the UK. Deep down, we worry that it might happen to us.

The election of Trump did something, just like Brexit did to us. It turned cracks into fault-lines. But Trump, I think, is the symptom rather than the cause. The fuel for discontent has been gathered for generations. The air was primed to burn. He was the spark, and an unwanted reminder that order and chaos are precariously balanced.

I’ve been trying to think of the standout moments for me. At first, there were the lies – which at first seemed outrageous, but now seem normal. The moment I remember most is Charlottesville and the image of young men – the new face of the far right – carrying tiki torches in the dark, eyes burning with hatred. There was something medieval about it, and I’ve never been able to shake it off.

Yikes

How do you fix America? From this distance, it seems a problem too big to solve. But the first step, surely, is to evict that orange twat from the White House.

Good luck, America. Please, god, make something nice happen this year.

✌️🇺🇸

Wired interviews Bill Gates

Stephen Levey’s interview with Bill Gates in Wired is something. Any interview with Gates is worth reading. He’s smart and knows what he’s talking about. He is usually careful with his words, which makes it all the more surprising that he is so blunt about the failure of politicians to get to grips with the most significant economic and public health crisis of our lifetimes.

On vaccine sceptics:

Yeah, you’re right… They do it in this kind of way: “I’ve heard lots of people say X, Y, Z.” That’s kind of Trumpish plausible deniability. Anyway, there was a meeting where Francis Collins, Tony Fauci, and I had to [attend], and they had no data about anything. When we would say, “But wait a minute, that’s not real data,” they’d say, “Look, Trump told you you have to sit and listen, so just shut up and listen anyway.”

On the quality of US testing:

The majority of all US tests are completely garbage, wasted… When we tell them to change it they say, “As far as we can tell, we’re just doing a great job, it’s amazing!” Here we are, this is August. We are the only country in the world where we waste the most money on tests.

On the CDC:

We called the CDC, but they told us we had to talk to the White House a bunch of times. Now they say, “Look, we’re doing a great job on testing, we don’t want to talk to you.” Even the simplest things, which would greatly improve this system, they feel would be admitting there is some imperfection and so they are not interested.

The full thing is worth a read: Bill Gates on Covid: Most US Tests Are ‘Completely Garbage’

Video from the front in Portland

‘Great civilisations are not murdered. Instead, they take their own lives’ – so concluded Arnold Toynbee after investigating the fall of different civilisations through the ages.

Whatever your political persuasion, scenes like these from the City of Portland yesterday must give you the chills. To an outsider like me, this just looks like a country at war with itself.

Au revoir, auf wiedersehen & arrivederci

I’m hesitant to see politicians and politics in entirely black and white terms. I believe that the majority of politicians are hard working, and in general want the best for their constituents. I don’t expect them all the share the same views as me. I’ve voted left and right, depending on my outlook at the time and have no particular love or hate for any political party. The single quality I’m looking for is competence.

It’s been a while since we’ve had anyone competent in charge. Boris survives on bluster, and that falls apart pretty quickly under challenge. May was.. well, I don’t really know what May was. Cameron was competent, though I didn’t agree with all of his policies and certainly not with some of his latter decisions.

Tony Blair was probably the last Prime Minister that was both competent and closely aligned to my political thinking, though we all know that he had his faults too. Despite his errors he was thoughtful, intelligent, charismatic and competent. Why is it that leaders with such qualities are so few and far between? I suppose a better question is: why do we not vote in people with those qualities?

Here he is effortlessly dismissing a eurosceptic MP with an off the cuff quip. There’s a warning for David Cameron here too – which he probably didn’t give enough thought to at the time.

Here’s a bonus video of him giving Nigel Farage the same treatment.

Christ. It seems such a long time since the UK has had a leader with anything about them.

Time to show restraint

Michael Gove says that we will have to ‘show restraint’ in our shopping habits when stores reopen in mid-June. We won’t be allowed to try on clothes & shoes, or test make-up. Essentially, don’t bloody touch it unless you’re going to buy it – like my mother used to say. It’ll be like internet shopping, but you have to pay for parking and then run the risk of catching a deadly disease. Such fun – buy one shoe, get one fatal lung malfunction free.

People will also be allowed to meet others in private gardens, so long as they stick to the physical distance guidelines. Good news, particularly for grandparents, but it seems to me that most people started doing this weeks ago and that the public as a whole is a few steps ahead of the official guidance – which nobody has really tried to enforce.

The problem is with the quality of the messengers. None of the cabinet inspire any confidence that they have the remotest clue. Take Matt Hancock, our beleaguered Health Secretary, for example. You can tell that he’s as surprised as we are that he’s in this position because he looks completely bewildered when the press asks him a question – like a supply teacher faced with a precocious class that knows more about the subject than they do.

But that’s what you get when you relegate anyone with a spine to the backbenches, and all you have left to choose from to form your government is a small group of supine but spineless cretins.

Election 2019

I’ve been trying to put my finger on what it is about this election that I find so bleak. I wrote, and then binned, about four hundreds words on why I think the whole thing sucks – because I figure enough has been written on the detail by people much smarter than me.

At it most basic level an election is a simple choice. Just choose a tribe: Lib Dem, Labour, Tory, Green – depending on your view of the world at that particular time. I’ve always been pretty sure who I will vote for by this time and that choice, and its certainty, is like being embraced by a warm coat on a bitter day – except this time the choice is between a coat that smells bad, one that fits poorly or one with arms missing.

So, for those that are struggling to make a choice like me it all becomes a little disconcerting – especially as the media cranks up to fever pitch during the final few days. Make your choice. MAKE. YOUR. CHOICE.

I will, but for the record, all my options suck.