Episode 109 – Davis gone, Boris gone, it’s almost making Brexit seem positive. Almost. Tiernan (@tiernandouieb) looks at all the political mayhem of the past week, let alone day. Plus a chat with Professor Steve Tsang of the SOAS China Institute (@SOAS_CI) all about Chinese politics.
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Episode 109 – Davis gone, Boris gone, it’s almost making Brexit seem positive. Almost. Tiernan (@tiernandouieb) looks at all the political mayhem of the past week, let alone day. Plus a chat with Professor Steve Tsang of the SOAS China Institue (@SOAS_CI) all about Chinese politics.
Links and sources of info from Steve Tsang’s interview:
All the usual ParPolBro stuff:
Hello and welcome to the Partly Political Broadcast, a podcast that is the bit in the middle of a Venn diagram of circles saying politics, comedy and people who don’t understand Venn diagrams. This is episode 109, I’m Tiernan Douieb and yes, the man composed entirely of rolled up bits of tissue you find in your trouser pockets after you wash them David Davis and canvas bag full of warm custard creams Boris Johnson have resigned from their posts in a move that I describe as ‘almost making me like Brexit a bit.’ Davis left his post as Brexit Secretary claiming he ‘wouldn’t have done a good job’. It’s hugely telling that he doesn’t seem to realise he’s been doing the job badly for the past two years already. It really does sum up his entire career that he’s been threatening to resign for a long time and now only just managed it with probably no plan of where to go to next. There is every chance David Davis is still wandering the halls of the Department of Exiting the EU unable to find an easy way out and blaming everyone else for that. Meanwhile Number 10 announced Boris’s resignation before he did, meaning for the first time ever he had nothing to say, much to everyone’s relief. He had described May’s new Brexit over the weekend plan as an absolute stinker and said that anyone agreeing to it would be polishing a turd, before then agreeing to it making me very much wonder if polishing turds was just another Bullingdon Club exercise. But no, he then resigned. Judging by this I expect he’ll be back in his position by tomorrow, then resign again tomorrow night ad infinitum until he works out whatever’s most popular.
This all happened just two days after Prime Minister and what if someone pushed a cormorant through cobwebs Theresa May got her cabinet to agree on her new Brexit proposal which overall could be summarized by saying it’s pretty much the same as what we have in the EU, only less of it and for more money. I mean, when that happened with Freddo’s, the British public were pissed. May’s plan is essentially a soft Brexit, but with some added cherry picking, general fudging and cake eating. Essentially if it was being served up in an ice cream parlor during the heatwave it’d be a hit, but otherwise finding out that the government still don’t have a workable Brexit solution is a disappointing scoop. The plan did the incredible job of disappointing everyone as Remainers have accused her of a plan that the EU won’t agree to as it just takes the bits she wants rather than an actual solution and it’s really pissed off the Brexiteers who don’t think it sounds anything like whatever it is they have in their heads that they never seem to be able to express except in nonsensical sound bites. Over the weekend Environment Secretary and flesh sponge Michael Gove praised May for uniting the cabinet, though I’m pretty sure he only went along with the Chequers plan because it was far too many pages to tear up. He went as far as to say that the deal was not perfect but it is the best that can be achieved’ which also could’ve been a brilliant description for EU membership two years ago. No one resigned on Friday but that could have been because May said that if anyone did, they’d lose their ministerial car and have to get a cab, knowing full well that Transport Secretary and Gollum Chris Grayling was in attendance and therefore any transport methods would crumble to dust. But David Davis resigned at midnight on Sunday stating that it was looking less and less likely that the government could deliver on the mandate of the referendum. You know, the mandate that had absolutely no fucking detail to it. Considering David Davis only spent 4 hours negotiating with the EU in the past 7 months I’m surprised he’s got any idea what the mandate is any more. It’s like asking a teenage Saturday staffer at any shop anything more complicated than what time they get to go home. It turns out that what Nadine Dorries meant all those weeks ago when she tweeted that Davis is ‘ex-SAS. He’s trained to survive’ she meant his survival skills involve going AWOL the second things get heated. If anything, the only reason Davis shouldn’t have resigned is because really, he should’ve been fired ages ago for saying there were no Brexit reports and then there were and then there weren’t, or you know, for suggesting the Irish border was ten miles wide basically reducing Northern Ireland to someone’s back yard and half the Titanic Museum. When asked if Davis’ resignation was a problem, the EU Commission spokesperson said ‘not for us’, probably completely unaware as to who he was with such infrequent visits. They probably saw the man that fixed the printers more often. Three other ministers in the Department of Brexit also resigned after Davis, because it seems they just love leaving things without any sort of plan as to what to do next.
Meanwhile Boris has resigned over, well mostly his own leadership dreams as it’s definitely not for any of the other things he should’ve resigned for over the past two years. Nor is it to do with the finding by the electoral commission that Vote Leave, the campaign Boris was part of, broke the law by illegally channeling £600k of funds to a smaller organization in the last few weeks. What you mean the campaign that lied on a bus may have done some naughties? Any more shocks like this and I might need something to stop me falling into a deep nap. No, it turns out the only thing that can get Boris out of his post is his fragile ego worrying that another cabinet minister might show him up. If we’d known that, we could’ve encourage them to get on it ages ago. Boris’s resignation letter warned that the UK was heading for the status of a colony, proving exactly why he needed to resign as Foreign Secretary, before pointing out that we need EU laws for the health of our economy, as though he’d mixed up which letter he was writing for his resignation and which he would’ve written had remain won two years ago. Fellow dogwhistler Zac Goldsmith backed Boris by saying that he could throw himself in front of a bus, and no, sadly it doesn’t end there. He could throw himself in front of a bus to save a child and his opponents would still accuse him of being opportunistic. But we all know the reality is, he’d only do that to rugby tackle the child to prove a point and he probably wouldn’t even notice the bus unless he’d written the lies on the side of it.
Davis has already been replaced as Brexit Secretary by Dominic Raab, a man who looks like the mean maitre’d in a restaurant or hotel in a children’s comedy film who gets thwarted by a clever dog and a 6 year old with a catapult and somehow loses his trousers and falls face down in soup. Raab is probably best known for trying and failing for years to abolish the Human Rights Act with replace it with almost anything else despite having no ideas for what, so he’ll be perfectly suited to a dealing with a complicated tricky deal that has absolutely no decent alternative. Theresa May needed to hire someone with the creativity and imagination to see Brexit through and with Raab she’s got someone who’s imagination can’t make it past having the same lunch from Pret every single day. Raab’s a hardline Brexiteer who’s made comments before about how if the EU want to play hardball, it is them who will suffer, so I’m sure we’ll be progressing through this deal at a rapid pace now him and his realistic viewpoint are in charge. Can you smell that sarcasm? It absolutely reeks of it in here. Oh wait, sorry that’s me. Still though, he’s stupid enough to take Davis’s now poisoned chalice of a job, even though he’s unlikely to drink from it unless it has a Pret vitamin volcano in it.
And in Boris’s place, May has made Jeremy Hunt the new Foreign Secretary, which is like letting a two year old go to the shops by themselves. There’s every chance he’ll come back from diplomatic missions with just a toy he bought in the airport and nothing else. Saying that, I’m sure there’ll be much rejoicing that this means he can no longer damage the NHS, something that we’ll all take back when we realise he only took this new position so he directly flog off large chunks of it to other world leaders. Hospitals in other countries must be gutted. No we said send aid, not replace Doctors Without Borders with a some branded Virgin Care sofas and a surgeon who’s only trained in hairdressing but smells nice. What does Hunt as Foreign Secretary say to the world? Previously with Boris we said ‘Here’s Britain, it looks like someone filled an old bra with hard boiled eggs and it can’t stop being racist.’ Now May’s saying ‘Here’s Britain, it looks like someone elongated a dead gerbil and it hides when scared.’ What does he have on May? What on Earth does he have on her? Is pictures of her in the field of wheat? Is it?
One unnamed Tory MP told the press that if Theresa May doesn’t scrap the Chequers deal another cabinet minister will go and then another, all of which makes it sound like a really preferable option. Though I bet if Disgraced MP Liam the Disgrace Fox resigned no one would notice for several months at least. He’s probably already gone.
Davis and Boris’s resignation now jeopardies the possibility of a soft Brexit, and May’s leadership. So is the PM in jeopardy or will she continue to hang on to Number 10 like the weird limpet that she is, eventually having to be removed by force once the whale that is the Tory party is beached? And who would replace her if she went because who on Earth wants to deal with Brexit when there’s only weeks till the white paper, months till the final deal and us leaving the EU? Creation from HP Lovecraft’s Book Of Felting Jacob Rees Mogg? Would he do because he has no concept of time otherwise he’d stop living in 1853? Scottish Conservative and the kid from Up Ruth Davidson who has told Tory MPs to put their shoulders to the wheel and back the Prime Minister proving she’d be a terrible driving force if that’s how she thinks cars work? Or will BoJo continue the trend in the Western world of electing a blonde mop haired destructive ego dinghy to be in charge?
Of course, all of this has prompted sea urchin trapped in a bag full of cow sick Nigel Farage to threaten to return to politics and become UKIP leader again, and let’s be fair, that is what the country needs right now. A common enemy to unite against. Farage said that he never wanted a career in politics which is odd considering if he returns, that’ll be his umpteenth time having a career in politics. If anything I’m sure he’d have even more backing if he stopped trying and fucked off. Let’s try and persuade him to not have a career in sweeping mine fields with his face and fingers crossed he’ll be raring to go within days.
Meanwhile One person has died and another is still critically ill, after they were poisoned with Novichok in Wiltshire, three months after Sergei Skripal and his daughter were attacked with the same stuff. Police think they may have come into contact with the container that held the substance, while Home Secretary and man who’s head was the stunt double for all of the poddington peas, Sajid Javid has accused Russia of using Britain as a dumping ground for poison. Hooray we’ve found our post Brexit use as a country! Well done everyone! With this attack in Amesbury, I’m certain this is part of a Russian plan to ruin Stonehenge and poison all the druids, so they’ll forget when the seasons are and curse the country. Though judging by the weather and the current state of things, this may have already happened.
And lastly US President and stupid cheese popper Donald Trump’s talks with North Korea have collapsed, a sentence that is so hard to say without revealing just how unsurprising it is. Just hours after US Secretary of State and what if you drew a face on a big toe, Mike Pompeo said the denuclearization negotiations were ‘productive’, North Korea complained that the US had a gangster like mindset and their attitude was regrettable. I don’t know if Trump is smart enough to have a gangster like mindset, but then he does have an incredible ability to run down and ruin casinos.
Trump is making a state visit to England on Friday, or as I like to call it ‘a fucking state of things visit’. It seems he’ll be avoiding London on his trip to avoid all the protests that will be happening, and I for one hope he spends 6 days trapped in traffic on the M25. A giant Trump baby hot air balloon has been given the go ahead to fly over the capital during the protest, causing many idiots who often complain about the oppression of free speech to say this shouldn’t be allowed. To be honest, I don’t think it is appropriate either, but only because in reality Trump can barely keep hot air in for a minute before violently expelling it from at least one end, usually during a press conference. Who knows though as the Queen is currently unwell, Theresa May may not even be prime minister by the end of the week, so there’s every chance Trump will arrive and have to face walking up and down stairs all by himself with no hand to clutch his tiny fist to.
Still though, who’s paying attention when football is apparently coming home, and more importantly, have we got enough milk in for when it returns and is it aware its bedroom is now a storage cupboard?
Howdy ParPolBrods. How are you? WHAT A WEEK EH? And it’s only Monday! Here I was thinking ‘oh well, not a lot to pop on the podcast this week and then SLAM, Davis finally resigns and it’s not so much shit hitting the fan as using a fan to unblock a vast sewage network and forgetting to pop your goggles on. It is weird just how happy I get that when these things happen just before the podcast comes out, though it does seem with this week there is every chance this week’s entire show will be irrelevant before you’ve even heard it. But if that happens and you want to give me a call for updates every 5 minutes, just ring me on 0779…ha, as if. I mean, as if I’ll have any clue what’s going on either. I’ve currently got a very blocked right ear, I mean, not that you want to know this, but it has meant that certain bits of news, selective things my wife says and most of my daughter’s worst noises have been completely ignored by me for the last few days. I mean, not on purpose, much, but I suppose I could have pointed my left ear more directly at the source of sound rather than pop a finger in it and temporarily pretend the world is calm. But there is every chance you’ll notice something on this week’s show and think ‘they didn’t say that’ and it’s just because I thought that’s what it sounded like to me and I probably should’ve double checked. Reason number 7843 why I’m not a reliable news source.
Big thank you this week to whoever left this review on Podbean last week. I don’t have an account there so no idea who to credit this to, but it really really made me laugh so thought I’d share. They’ve put about last week’s episode ‘A laugh a minute podcast, except for the big bit in the middle about the horrific war in Yemen.’ Yep. That about sums it up. Thank you for that anonymous person. And don’t forget if you want to leave a review for the show, you can do it on Podbean, Castbox, Stitcher, iTunes and others I’m probably not aware of and please do just give it a five stars and say something nice, like, er, ‘plinth’ I always think that sounds nice. It does really help get other listeners to the show. I read the other day that constantly asking people to review and donate is a real turn off for new listeners, but if you’re new, how will you know I do it constantly? So just quickly, if you do want to donate to the show, go to patreon.com/parpolbro for a monthly thang, or ko-fi.com/parpolbro for a one-off thang and links to both of those are on the website partlypoliticalbroadcast.co.uk as well. Has that put you off? Have you gone already? You’ll miss whatever exciting word I’m going to say next. Plinth. It was plinth again, sorry. What a let down. You were probably right to leave.
This week’s show is whatever the one before the penultimate one before the summer is. Penpenultimate? Pencilultimate? Who knows. But yeah there’ll be two more episodes after this before a summer break probably till mid-September. The reason for that is that parliament goes on recess on July 24th and getting guests is much harder when they’re all on holiday. Also, I’m doing some exciting kids and hopefully adult comedy gigs in Hong Kong at the beginning of September so won’t be able to record this again until I’m back, which should be just in time for conference season, so I can play this jingle again:
I know you’re all very excited. I might put out a few mini episodes for the Brexit white paper reveal and any else particularly interesting because I hate leaving ya’ll with nothing else to listen to for a month, but you can always go back through the archives on the website and check out any you’ve missed and laugh about how sadly irrelevant the jokes have got because everything is now worse. But this week’s show has Professor Steve Tsang in a very speedy interview about China and of course, there’s so, so much Brexit Fallout, I’m not even sure if there’s anything left to fall out of it. It’s more just an empty Brexit tube, but not even a fun potato one. And that’s it for this week because I have spent my entire day writing then deleting bits as the news has changed every five minutes. I genuinely think in the next election for the first candidate to promise ‘less news’. Although that sounds pretty authoritarian, so I won’t. WHY IS THERE NO WINNING? Let’s get on with this:
INTERVIEW PART 1
According to the average person, China is the global power to watch right now. Of course, with a population of 1.379 billion, the average person is Chinese. The Chinese government announced that China is now a global power just last year – something that I had no idea you could do yourself, I mean, can I just announce I’m a global power? Hey guys, I’m a global power now, hope that’s cool – but alongside the growing economy, China also gained a leader, Xi Jinping, a man who is regularly mocked as looking like Winnie The Pooh only thankfully Jinping wears trousers, who’s foreign policy has been hailed but his insistence on changing the rules so he can remain in power indefinitely, has not. China continues to breach human rights regulations including press freedom, the legal and political status of Tibet, political oppression and use of the death penalty for non-violent offences. But at the same time, they’ve really cracked down on pollution. So, swings and roundabouts eh? I mean, sure Chinese people are pretty oppressed but at least they can gulp down that tasty air, at least until they’re probably arrested for breathing in the wrong place. But in recent months China have become involved in a trade war with the US, due to Trump’s insistence on America First for everything except his MAGA hats, ties and all of Ivanka’s clothing. Obvs. While the government have put things in place to deal with it, they’ve now entered a bear market, something that even my limited economic knowledge knows means things have got grizzly. Meanwhile countries like New Zealand and Australia are rushing through policies to stop the rise of China’s military power in the Asia-Pacific. So, will the Chinese bubble burst? Or will the President’s ethos, known as Xi Jinping Thought, something that sounds a lot like the beginning of a children’s story, carry them through? Is pragmatic authoritarianism the only way to save the climate and if so, how do we add the pragmatic bit to the UK and US? Are bears for sale in a bear market or do they run the stalls? So many questions, so little time.
So who better to answer some of those questions, in a very limited amount of time, but Professor Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute, which is the world leading centre for China expertise and the largest community of Chinese scholars in Europe. Steve is a political scientist and a historian, with a number of published books including his most recent ‘Taiwan’s Impact On China’ and ‘China In The Xi Jinping Era’. You’ve probably seen Steve on the telly at some point, discussing Chinese politics. So I was extremely chuffed that he had time for me to chat to him, though I should say, he didn’t have much time as he’s a very busy man. When I spoke to him, he told me we had pretty much exactly 20 minutes to run through everything, but while there’s a lot more questions I would’ve liked to have asked, I think Steve gives a pretty thorough and indepth overview of China’s current political situation. Two quick things, one is that we spoke a couple of weeks ago and the trade war with the US is still continuing and escalating, but I think everything we discuss is still relevant. Second, because we were rushed, idiot me panicked and forget to hit record till after I’d asked my first question, so I’ve re-recorded that separately. Oh and also I think I sound a bit too pro Xi Jinping a few times in this, which wasn’t intentional but is largely to do with me trying to find any positives for this show, and my lack of knowledge that even the progress in terms of climate change is still all a bit awful. Oh well. I did try.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy, here is Steve:
INTERVIEW PART 1
Tiernan Douieb: What lead to China declaring themselves as a global power last year?
Steve Tsang: After the global financial crisis and the Chinese government saw the comparisons of how China dealt with the global financial crisis and how the west fails to deal with it quite as effectively, they were gaining in confidence and then there was a change in leadership in China in 2012. After the new leader Xi Jinping had been in office for 5 years and had managed to consolidate his power in China at the 19th national congress of the Communist Party in October 2017, Xi Jinping decided that China’s moment had come and therefore it was no longer necessary for China to continue with the Deng Xiaoping approach of hiding China’s capabilities and biding for time. Instead, Xi Jinping declared that China should take the centre stage.
TD: So it was largely to do with Xi Jinping’s thought or the way in which he chose to conduct foreign policy, was it?
ST: Yes. A lot of it really has to do with Xi Jinping. There was a change in the international context with the west appearing to be in decline, democracy not doing so well and the declarations of the end of history at the end of the Cold War now appearing as a bit rather silly. The gaining in confidence of the Chinese government that their own model works and Xi Jinping feeling so confident therefore he made this change on China’s foreign policy.
TD: In respects to Xi Jinping, if he’s the person that’s boosted the country, a lot of the news that we get in the UK is the fact that he’s not got indefinite rule, that could be seen as pragmatic authoritarianism, I’m guessing a lot of people in the country seem him as a good leader because he’s boosted things?
ST: Xi Jinping has been a very, very lucky leader and let’s not underestimate the importance of luck in politics or military affairs. It was no less a significant person as Napoleon who said, ‘Give me a lucky general rather than a capable one.’ Xi Jinping came to power at the end of China’s golden decade under Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao when the Chinese growth figure was higher than anybody ever imagined possible for a big major economy like China’s. Therefore, Xi Jinping came in while the going was really good and, in those 5 years, the rest of the world wasn’t doing quite so well and therefore, in relative terms, China was doing fantastically well. That gave people the impression that Xi Jinping is delivering so much and therefore able to do so much more. Whether Xi Jinping is a pragmatist or not, I think that remains to be seen. In a very important sense, Deng Xiaoping and the 2 other leaders who followed Deng Xiaoping were much more pragmatic and Deng was the ultimate pragmatist, he was the man who thought that whatever works would be fine. Xi Jinping, in a sense, is much more ideological, much more idealistic, he outlines a vision for China and he expects China to move in a direction that he directs and takes China to reach the vision that he has painted for China. Deng Xiaoping never did that.
TD: Is that now at the cost of democracy in China? Does the removal of the term limits as president essentially mean that democracy in China has gone or do you think that Xi Jinping plans to only have a limited term time with that?
ST: I would put it in a slightly different way. After the repression of popular demand for change and better governance and democracy in the spring of 1989, the Communist Party of China had demonstrated that under no circumstances would it tolerate and accept a democratic transition. Therefore, from 1989 onwards, there really wasn’t any chance of China moving in the direction of democracy, which is quite different from the latter part of the 1980s when such ideas were actually openly discussed in China, including some senior members of the Communist Party. What the removal of term limits for Xi Jinping has meant is not that the Communist Party becomes anti-democratic because it’s always been anti-democratic since 1989 anyway. The difference is in terms of quality of governance. One of the key features since the end of the 1980s, a key factor that’s allowed China to do so well was that even though it was not democratic, the Communist Party increasingly allowed for larger and larger scope for internal discussions and debates so that the party avoided making mistakes by accepting criticisms by fellow leader in closed door internal meetings. The removal of the term limits has also meant Xi Jinping consolidating his power so much that we’ve seen the top echelons of the Communist Party, now there is nobody who can and will dare to openly disagree with Xi Jinping. So, the scope for internal debate amongst the policy leaders in China has now narrowed significantly, and with that reduction in the scope for internal debate, the risk of a policy going wrong has become much higher. I think it’s the most important result of the ending of the term limit of Xi Jinping as leader of China.
TD: Is that why there is current talk that China has now entered a bear market this week? I regularly see articles asking if the China bubble is going to burst. Is that partly to do with now Xi Jinping not taking any criticism whatsoever?
ST: I wouldn’t say that any particular current problem the Chinese economy is facing is the result of Xi Jinping consolidating his position even more and reducing the scope for policy debate even more because that’s been going on for quite a while now. Contemporary current economic troubles often happen for all kinds of reasons, the intensity of the trade war with the United States, particular problems that come up with the market and all that sort of thing. But, in the background, is that steady drumbeat of the consolidation of Xi Jinping’s position and the consequential reduction in the space for internal policy debates and therefore the opportunities to remove policy mistakes being made before policies are implemented.
END OF INTERVIEW PART 1
And we’ll be back with Steve in a minute, but oh dear, here oh god we go:
I find that old adage about how politicians are out of touch is used a bit often, especially when most people are out of touch about a lot of things because they have other shit to do. There’s no way I can even attempt to be woke when I’m so tired all the time. But this time last week I read an article about how Theresa May has asked the Treasury and the Bank of England to assess the impact of Brexit on the UK and I spent about 10 minutes double checking that it wasn’t an article from 2016 because everyone and your mum knew it should’ve been done then. Right? But no, it had only just occurred to the Prime Minister that maybe, just maybe, we’d better see what the outcome of this shitstorm they’ve whipped up with whisks, fury and a bucket of fresh fecal horror, before throwing ourselves headfirst into it and being surprised that our eyes sting. Not so much out of touch as no longer living here and has nerve damage. And now here we are, a week later with tweedle dum and tweedled arsehole having resigned from the cabinet, a Brexit plan that likely still won’t be accepted by the EU and hard Brexiteers frothing at the mouth like they’ve been bitten by a radioactive cappuccino maker, all because they don’t like a plan that softens Brexit all the while still completely unable to say what their better plan would be. I always feel they’re a lot like a two year old who says no to everything because it’s the only bit of power they have, then when offered an ice cream they shout no, then cry for days because they didn’t get an ice cream and have no idea why.
So here’s what the Chequers agreed deal is. There are 12 main rules, and these include: When anyone says Europe, we have to immediately say ‘my rope?’ and look confused. A tariff on French Kissing, Dutch courage, Brussel Sprouts and people saying it’s all Greek to me. Fish need passports and all customs borders replaced by Morris dancing borders so goods can only pass through if they then do two steps back over again. Ok, none of those are in it, but I wish they were. Instead it’s a really soft Brexit deal, with ‘harmonisation’ with EU goods rules but only the ones necessary to allow for frictionless trade, of which Parliament would have the final say over, not the EU. There would be different arrangements for different trade services such as financial products with greater regulatory flexibility and strong reciprocal arrangements all of which I’m not sure actually mean anything but sound very clever. There will be a combined customs territory which is like a customs union only different letter. The UK will control its own tariffs and have an independent trade policy. The European Court Of Justice will no longer have jurisdiction in the UK but it also will in areas where we use similar laws. And finally, Freedom of Movement will end but there will be a mobility framework which is again, like freedom of movement but if you asked an arsehole to describe it. So basically, the whole thing is ‘hey we’ll just rename a few bits as I’m sure no one will notice and then you won’t mind if we dictate all these trading things by ourselves and you just deal with them, right?’ which I’m entirely sure the EU will go for. You can see why everyone’s miffed. It’s like if I knew you loved your pet dogs but you also collected expensive porcelain and so for a present I got you a clay cat that I’d made while drunk. So what are the alternatives? Well the Brexiteer Conservatives think the best plan would be to, er, well, er, leave and then cross fingers for a bit? Remainers obviously don’t want any of this and then the Centrists kind of want what May is asking for but with even less free movement because they’re racists. Again there is no solution but the one there is isn’t good enough because it’s shit.
Now we have Dominic Raab as Brexit Secretary and he is a very ardent Brexiteer who wanted to get rid of the EU working time directive so there’d be no limit on work hours and to scrap rights for agency workers, as well as scrap the European Human Rights Act and replace it with the British Bill of Rights. So, it’s great he’s in charge right? I’m sure he’ll be right there saying to the EU ‘look do whatever you want with trade, just tell me for sure I’m going to get to dick on the little people otherwise I won’t get my kicks.’ But fact is, he probably won’t actually get to do much as since David Davis so spectacularly did, well, nothing, most EU negotiations have gone via Olly Robbins, the permanent secretary of the Department of Exiting the European Union and a man who’s always pulling a face like he’s smelled something awful. But I guess he has been working with Liam Fox. With so little time to go it’ll be him and number 10 dealing with most Brexit stuff and so I’m guessing they’ll just take Raab on trips to Brussells so he can play in the fountains and run around the parks.
But Davis’s and Boris’s resignation mean all of this isn’t simple because now May’s plan for a softer Brexit is in jeopardy, which might explain why David Lidlington held a cross party meeting to get Labour MPs on board with the Chequers plan too. May’s leadership could also be at risk, although we all know she’s harder to remove than blood stains off your sacrificial robes. If her leadership was challenged that’d just mean a party vote for a new leader followed by possibly a general election to justify the change in Prime Minister all of which would take months. And there isn’t months. And there’s a parliamentary recess in a few weeks. And if there was a people’s vote on the final deal, when would you fit that in? It’s taken over two years just for David Davis to realise he was bad at his job. Time is of the essence. But the essence sadly is whatever Olly Robbins keeps smelling and I think it’s bad.
Couple of other interesting things from the past week, as if times weren’t interesting enough. Firstly, a biggie, rather than a tupac. The Electoral Commision have found the Vote Leave campaign broke the law by illegally channeling £600,000 of funding to a smaller campaign BeLeave in the last few weeks of the Brexit campaign. Under electoral commission rules, campaigns can work loosely together but not have a common plan, and £600k is much more than a common plan and much more intimate kissing and touching in the same places. So that’s now the Vote Leave campaign breaking the law, plus the Leave.EU campaign breaking the law, and all of human colostomy bag Arron Banks’s secret meetings with Russian officials and with such a small winning margin to Leave two years ago, you have to really question now if the result was legit. And if it isn’t legit, is it too not legit to quit? I thought all of this was about British values and there is nothing British about rule breaking. I bet all this lot push in in queues as well, and openly say they don’t like tea. Will the electoral commission do anything? Probably not, but it may get passed to police, like the Leave.EU case has been so we’ll see. But by then we’ll probably already have left, but hey, at least we’ll be able to tell the grandkids about how funny it is that illegal maneuvers tore the country apart and the government legitimized it, which will surely make them giggle before they gear up and go out to fight for water.
Stephen Bush at the New Statesmen ran stats to check if Labour went full remain if they’d gain more votes and worked out, well no, not really. Conservatives are currently 2-3 points ahead depending on which polls you don’t trust. Three quarters of Tory voters backed leave and a quarter backed Remain, so if Labour stole them they’d gain a ten point lead and Tories would lose 10, but Labour would also lose their quarter of leave voters, who may go Tory, thus leaving everyone in exactly the same position they were before. Hooray! So, what should Labour do to get ahead in the polls? I have no idea. Challenge May to a jousting fight maybe? Start a plan to make sure that on the next voting day, no Tory voters can find their keys? Honestly, much like Theresa May, I’m out of ideas. But if things keep going as they are, it may just be a question of who’s still got enough ministers that haven’t resigned yet in order to lead.
And finally, if you’re interested and this isn’t really a Brexit Fallout but more a, I dunno, weird archaic Conservative procedure.
WEIRD ARCHAIC CONSERVATIVE PROCEDURE
That’s better. If enough MPs want May out, then they have to destroy her horcruxes. I mean, sorry, 15% of Conservative MPs, aka 48, or 47.4 if you want to be precise so I think that means Gove brings his familiar or something, have to write to the head of the 1922 committee, so called because that’s when all their policies are from. If Graham Brady, the head, gets enough votes, it triggers a vote of all 316 Conservative MPs and May would need half of them to vote for her to keep going and more than have to vote against to trigger a leadership contest at which point everyone realizes that as much as they hated May, her replacements are even worse. That hasn’t happened this time round though and if anything, May had a lot of support at the 1922 meeting, probably because they’ve all already met Jacob Rees Mogg and the idea of him getting a whole shelf of the staff fridge to put bottles of his nanny’s breast milk into makes them feel sick.
Davis gone, Johnson gone, several others no one cares about gone, Raab arrives, May stays put. There’s every chance this was all the storm before the calm before the storm but how I do know as like a total political amateur I’m only aware of the current day and age.
And now back to Steve…
INTERVIEW PART 2
TD: I wanted to ask about that. You mentioned the trade wars with the US, do you think that because of China’s rise that it’s now become a threat to other global powers? I know Australia proposed new laws to tackle Chinese interference, obviously we’ve now seen Trump’s war with China, do you think this has made other countries more cautious of China in some ways?
ST: I think it certainly has made other countries much more cautious with the rise of China. Again, what Xi Jinping has done makes a huge contrast with his immediate predecessor, Hu Jintao. When Hu Jintao became leader in 2002, one of the first things he did was to reassure the rest of the world that the rise of China would be peaceful, then he even changed that and said they’d better avoid the term ‘rise’, in China we’re talking about a peaceful development and then modified that to become a commitment to promote a more harmonious world. He did everything he could to try to reassure China’s international partners that China is not trying to rise and compete against them and then potentially threaten anybody. The assertive approach that Xi Jinping has taken goes in the opposite direction, it’s more like the Chinese government under Xi Jinping requests and requires the rest of the world to pay it due respect. In that process, in taking a much more robust stance, the Xi administration is also reaching out to the Chinese communities outside of China and demanding them to show their loyalty to Mother China whatever the nationality of those Chinese outside of China hold. Again, that sort of thing causes a fair bit of concern in various governments.
TD: I can imagine. Do you think the way in which China are currently dealing with the US trade war is smart? I know they’ve just pumped quite a lot of money into their own economy to try and help small businesses, do you think that’s going to help them out? Are they going to be less affected by the US tariffs as a result?
ST: The single biggest helper for the Chinese in dealing with the trade war with the Americans is probably President Trump himself. The basic problem the US has with China, which is the lack of reciprocity, is a problem that other major western economies also have with China. Any of the major European economies and Japan will share the same sentiments that the US administration has about a lack of reciprocity. By focusing on the issue of trade imbalance and tariff, Trump has managed to antagonise every single major American airline who would potentially have a problem with the Chinese government and persuade them that in the contest between China and the US, the Chinese government is taking a more reasonable approach than the Trump administration is. Now, this gives the Chinese a huge advantage in how they respond to the Trump administration in the trade war. Of course, the Chinese administration has also been preparing for a trade war for well over a year, from ever since they knew that Trump was elected as president of the United States. Because of the rhetorics of Trump as a candidate, the Chinese government knew this would be coming at some stage. So, they’ve been preparing for this for well over a year and therefore they know how to target the major constituencies that would hurt the Trump administration most in how they respond to the American escalation.
TD: That seems incredibly savvy and I suppose that’s one thing you can always have one up on Trump is actually being prepared for a plan. I wanted to ask, we were discussing earlier about other countries seeing China as maybe a threat, also now other countries need to trade with China because they’re such a power, do you think that’s going to mean that attempts to tackle abuse of human rights is going to be lessened because of the need for trade instead? Does it stop campaigning, for example, for Tibet’s freedom because they don’t want to be at risk of trade issues?
ST: I think we are already seeing that as a reality on the ground. We don’t really hear much of major western countries taking on the human rights issues in China in a big way at all. Of course, the UN Human Rights Council itself has changed substantially in the course of the last 15 years, China is now a leading player in the Human Rights Council, which therefore sets and agenda that really directs the Human Rights Council’s attentions away from the kinds of problems that China is having with human rights to some other issues. I mean, we’re in a situation where in the autonomous region of Xinjiang in China, the kinds of surveillance police state has become so severe that practically 1 in 10 able bodied male (? 14.49) would have been put in a concentration camp at some stage in the last few years. So, we’re talking about very serious tightening up of controls that have very significant negative implications on human rights but that’s not really being mentioned much. Now, compared to say 10 or 20 years when in fact the scale of the abuse of human rights in China might have, in some cases, less intense/
TD: That’s quite horrific hearing about that. Does that mean that, for Chinese people, times are quite hard? Would the average Chinese person be pro Xi Jinping or quite upset with the way things currently are?
ST: The average Chinese citizen is pro Xi Jinping, the average Chinese citizen is still having a better tomorrow than today. Xinjiang is a very unusual province because Xinjiang autonomous region is essentially a minority populated region. Now the migration of the Han Chinese into Xinjiang has changed the population mix but, by and large, it’s the weakest in Xinjiang who are facing the brunt of the surveillance state and the police state. The Han Chinese in China proper, in the rest of the country in China, they really are not facing the same intensity of control. I mean, they may be facing the social credit system and enormous amounts of electronic monitoring like the regular installations of face-recognising cameras all over the cities. So, if you jay walk, you could find your face being flashed up on the big screen TV shaming you and then you have you social credit being reduced and you may have your capacity to buy air tickets to travel being restricted. But you’re still talking about a minority number of people being affected in that way at this stage. The overwhelming majority of people in China are still seeing their living standards being improved and therefore they support Xi Jinping.
TD: I just wanted to ask, obviously there are many aspects of Xi Jinping’s authoritarian rule that are quite terrifying but one good side that I understand is that Beijing has reduced a lot of its pollution and this direct rule means that there isn’t any arguing about making more environmentally-friendly procedures. So, is China now leading the way in terms of being environmentally-friendly?
ST: Well, Xi Jinping made it one of his policies to make China greener and more beautiful, and therefore some factories simply have been ordered to be shut. Last winter, coal burning was banned in Beijing and therefore a very large population in Beijing had to go without proper heating. It was certainly improving the air quality in Beijing. Last winter it had more blue sky days than people could remember for a long time.
TD: So plusses and minuses, obviously that’s a lot of people who have lost work as well, I assume, with the coal mines closing.
TD: My very last question that I wanted to ask you, apart from yourself and your books, is there anyone that you’d recommend listeners follow or read up on for good reporting on Chinese politics?
ST: Elizabeth Economy is always worth reading and (? Jianbo) is also a good scholar on China. Joseph (?) Smith and Barry Naughton as well
END OF INTERVIEW PART 2
Big thanks to Steve for having a tiny window in his day for us to speak. I highly recommend you check out his books ‘Taiwan’s Impact On China’ published last year, and ‘China In the Xi Jinping Era’ published in 2016 and available from all bookshops irrespective of their moral standing. Steve doesn’t appear to be on any social media sites because well, he’s obviously clever and has better things to do, but the SOAS China Institute is on Twitter @SOAS_CI and you can find their website at www.soas.ac.uk/sci/. All the other people Steve recommends will be listed and linked on the partlypoliticalbroadcast.co.uk website by the end of the week.
Next week I think it’ll be all about Mexico, then about political online targeting and then it’s the summer break. But it’d be great to know who to get in for the autumn and what subjects to be looking at, you know, other than endless Brexit. So if you have any recommendations for interviewees or political areas to talk to someone about, please drop me a line at email@example.com, the contact page at partlypoliticalbroadcast.co.uk, the @parpolbro twitter or the partly political broadcast facebook page. Or, as I’ve seen online in the past week you could scratch your message into a banana skin and then if I buy that banana the message will appear as it ripens, however unless you sign it, I will likely think it’s some sort of political targeting from a banana republic and ignore it, so best, as always, to just email.
Aaaand that’s all for this week’s Partly Political Broadcast podcast. Thank you once again for receiving these human squeaks into your head flaps, and please don’t forget to review the show on Castbox, Podbean, Stitcher, iTunes, Pod Liver Oil, The Podimite, Bohemian Rhaspody and any others I’ve just made up. If you can, please donate to the ko-fi or patreon pages and don’t forget to check out partlypoliticalbroadcast.co.uk for all the links, transcripts and everything else to do with the show.
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This will be back next week when Boris Johnson goes on holiday and forgetting he’s no longer Foreign Secretary, gets his wife arrested by saying she’s lying about her job to passport control.
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