Climate change

Built of an unsailed warship;
Grown of a door that will now never open;
Made of a cluster of courage unshown,
the oak hangs, ancient, in the orange air.

The summer storm is over now, boiled to nothing by a rage of sun that once warmed me.

By my side Baxter sags back home.
His heart, like mine, is a begging bowl.

But still the noise: within a canopy heavy with wet sorrow dew, rain taps on, hidden from all.

Baxter feels it, and stands askew by my side.

The climate of my life has changed. This oak cracks in the heat, and must remain at a stand.

Weep: it’s our next Prime Minister

Current candidates for Prime Minister are:

1 Boris Johnson

Artfully dishevelled tribunal-magnet whose ego can be seen from Venus. Caught on tape conspiring to break journalist’s ribs, up in court for electoral fraud, and described as the worst and laziest minister in modern history. Obviously: favourite.

2 Dominic Raab

Dead-eyed “shifty colonel” straight out of central-casting, who resigned in protest at his own achievements, and whose remarkably honest pitch is to abolish parliament and become a dictator. Makes 72-year-old Tory youngsters briefly moist, and they love it.

3 Michael Gove

Haunted Pob action-figure with suspiciously powdery nostrils. In a crowded field, also described as the worst minister ever, but is considered relatively progressive because he once grudgingly agreed that burying the planet under plastic bags might damage profits.

4 Penny Mordaunt

Magician’s assistant, working class person’s best guess at what “gymkhana” means, and possible minor Addams Family character. Primarily famous for not being as ludicrous as Gavin Williamson, and her ability to swear for 37 minutes without repeating herself.

5 Andrea Leadsom

Successful conscience donor, effortlessly terrible melted waxwork of Thatcher and – lest we forget – handsomely beaten in the last leadership election by the most inept PM for 100 years, where her pitch was “vote for me, I’m fertile”. Was 53 at the time.

6 Jeremy Hunt

A Picture of Dorian Gray if Dorian Gray was a venomous Murdoch apparatchik bent on auctioning your health to… I’d like to say the highest bidder, but he’s not that competent. Third of the pack to be described as worst minister ever.

I had 7 attempts to type his name in a way that wouldn’t get me suspended from social media

7 Rory Stewart

Undoubtedly the smartest, but still dim enough to join in this fiasco. Has the bearing of a man who phones in sick because he went out in the wind and got a runny eye.

8 Sajid Javid

Feral gonad who ejaculates raw ambition, and will let babies die in a refugee camp to please the Daily Mail. So ruthlessly efficient he reused most of his first name for his last name. The other 3 horsemen of the apocalypse can’t fucking stand him.

9 Esther McVey

Physics-defying vacuum which actually repels ideas. Breakfast television’s loss is also everybody else’s loss.

10 James Cleverley

One-man campaign to disprove nominative determinism, who actually gave up his leadership ambitions when he realised – and you should read this out loud, cos it’s amazing – that he’s considered less capable than McVey.

11 David Davis

Not standing, to be honest, but I listed him to afford me the opportunity to say: David Davis, so good they named him once.

12 Sam Gyimah

Filibustered to block pardons for gay men, filibustered to stop the teaching of first aid in schools, made up lies about censorship in universities. In other words: perfect Tory material, except black and a Remainer, and therefore toast.

13 Matt Hancock

The answer to the question: whatever became of the volleyball from that Tom Hanks On A Desert Island movie? His passport photo is the curtains behind him. His x-ray says “404 error”.

14 Steve Baker

Complacent cyborg created from bits of old psychopath in a socialist laboratory, and designed to say ludicrous things that turn the world against capitalism. Went rogue. Now says ludicrous things of his own devising.

15 Mark Harper

Some are born obscure. Some achieve obscurity. Some have obscurity thrust upon them. For Mark Harper, it’s all three. You will forget Mark Harper exists by the time you’ve finished this sentence.

The winner will be selected by membership of a party that gets more donations from dead people than live ones.

120,000 will be able to vote, or 0.2% of the electorate. Their average age is 72, and 20% of them voted for a different party last week.

The loser, obviously, is you.

This is hysterical

When my dad reached 65, the whole family, plus dog, went on holiday as his retirement gift.

We were a working class family from Manchester, and even though dad was a highly skilled engineer who had worked on missile systems and the world’s first supercomputer, he never received the kind of salary that bought international travel. That’s how much we valued the manufacturing sector in my dad’s day. Plus ça change.

So as a treat, we flew him to Edinburgh, carefully coordinated our journeys so one of us could meet him there in a rented people carrier, and then we spent the week touring The Highlands, as he’d always dreamed of.

We had rented a quiet cottage near Ft. William, settled in, had a few drinks, and went to bed.

That was 30th August 1997. I can be sure of that date because, in the small hours of the next morning, Princess Diana died in Paris.

I remember my mum waking me with the news. I got dressed, and stood in the cottage’s small lounge with my family, watching the rolling news for half an hour. It was sad.

And then we made sandwiches and set off on our holiday.

When the week was over, the cottage owners arrived to collect their keys, and were in tears, which stunned me. “What a terrible time to have a holiday”, they said, while we shuffled our feet and looked around awkwardly. “It must have been awful for you”, they said, and we looked at each other, puzzled, because we’d sort of… well, we hadn’t forgotten about it, exactly, but…

Diana and all her attendant dramas were, for me and my family, like a soap opera we didn’t watch. To be honest, we didn’t watch any soaps – we were a bookish, nerdy kinda family – but we definitely didn’t watch royal soaps.

Obviously we knew who the main cast-members were, but we didn’t care very much about them. We didn’t follow the details of who was shagging whom; didn’t care what Major or Butler or Celebrity Gal-Pal had sold what story to what tabloid; didn’t notice how tragic the eye makeup had become during any specific skiing holiday.

I felt no emotional connection to Diana. I wished her no harm whatsoever, but she didn’t enter my consciousness very much. I don’t buy tabloids, I tend to skip celebrity gossip, and I’m vaguely republican in a shrugging “does it really affect me” kinda way. To this day, I genuinely have to concentrate to remember which one of “the boys” is heir to the throne and which is only tangentially related to Charles. I know they’re called Harry and Wills, and I recognise their faces, but their names are interchangeable in my mind.

Diana was as important to me as, say, John Lithgow is to you. You are aware what he does, he seems quite nice, and you’d be surprised and saddened if he was killed by a roaming gang of photographers in a Parisian underpass one Saturday night. But that’s as far as it goes.

So the blubbering reaction of the holiday cottage landlords a week after her death perplexed me. I assumed they must be particularly ardent royalists, or have, to a crippling degree, some sort of congenital emotional diarrhoea. But this was just a taste of the ocean of histrionic slurry awaiting me as I drove back to Manchester again, on the day of her funeral.

The world had gone fucking mad.

Perhaps you still admit to being one of the lunatics, in which case you’re rare, and this blog will infuriate you. Sorry about that.

But I maintain you’d lost your collective minds. Literally millions of people were stood on the streets wailing and rending their clothes. I saw them actually tearing at themselves in grief, on streets in Eccles, for Christ’s sake. Lairy Mancunians called Gaz, Gaz and Gaz, with faces like a knuckle and knuckles like a ball-pein hammer, sobbing en-masse outside the Pig and Fetlock.

On arrival home, my neighbour, a man I scarcely knew, ran from his house in his underpants to throw his arms around me and cry, while I stood patiently holding my suitcase and wanting a wee. It was as if every single person in Britain had been given a puppy for a month, and then had to watch it being fed backwards, alive, through a bacon-slicer one morning, and I’d turned up just as the procedure was ending.

It bore no relationship whatsoever to the actual event, which in essence was: the pretty star of a popular reality show died in a car accident, and then show was unceremoniously cancelled while you were asleep.

Great for the press, though. Sold a lot of newspapers. The BBC’s Jennie Bond must’ve had a field day.

Could the insane coverage perhaps explain the insane public response? Hmmm, I wonder.

It’s possible I was always going to be immune from the cataclysm of weeping that descended over the nation, due to being a bit of a geeky cynic; or perhaps my family was like the guy in Day Of The Triffids, and our isolation from events during that critical week left us the only ones unaffected by the blinding meteor shower of Dead-Diana-Mania.

But today, I meet almost nobody who admits to being swept up by it all. Sad, sure. But hysterical? Nobody I meet was hysterical. Yet at the time, millions were.

Globally, 2.5 billion watched the funeral. Literally half of the people in Britain watched it, and almost a quarter of us had to take time off work due to the grief.

So surely at least one person in 10 would today admit to being part of the festival of sobbing. But no: practically everybody seems to remember their husband, wife or friends being overwhelmed, but they themselves were models of British dignity, detachment and reserve.

I report this because in my life I remember two instances of mass hysteria, and two instances of mass political protest. And, like a Venn Diagram, mass hysteria and mass political protest overlap in Brexit, right now.

The hysteria is Diana. The protest is Iraq. The cause, with Brexit, Iraq and Diana, is wildly inaccurate and demented press coverage.

54% of us supported the invasion of Iraq a month or so before it started. Today, 38% remember doing so. The war was built on lies, had no plan for what happened after victory, was widely predicted to be a disaster, stoked by loathsome right wing press, secretly promoted by even more loathsome American right-wing pressure groups, opposed by almost every expert, brought millions of protestors onto the streets, nearly broke the governing party, and revolted most of Europe… but scraped together a tiny public majority at one key moment, which then fell apart during implementation.

Good job we’ve learned our lesson, eh? Won’t make that mistake again.

Brexit feels like a cross between the manufactured consent of Iraq and the manufactured hysteria of Diana. And just like them both, Britain is already feeling embarrassed that it got so carried away and has been taken for such a fool. Our cynicism for Britain’s press knows no bounds 99% of the time, but come a war, come a celebrity death, or come a chance to feed our 1000-year-old suspicions about the bloody French, and we’ll lap up any bullshit The Daily Mail spoonfeeds us.

It’s time to slap ourselves in the face, realise the bollocks we’ve just fallen for, and stop this demented moment of collective hysteria. Cos tomorrow, you’ll deny you were ever taken in: but like Diana’s untimely death, Brexit is permanent.

Brexit cannot break the Iron Triangle

In all the chaos surrounding Brexit, I keep coming back to the same, simple fact: this is essentially a basic failure of project management.

Experts are out of favour right now, but what I’m about to tell you is not expert knowledge: it’s something you instinctively do every day, but perhaps don’t have a name for.

But in Project Management, something I did for 22 years, there is a name for the decisions we all make: The Iron Triangle.

I’ve managed projects to deliver everything from air-traffic control software to stock management and distribution for the world’s largest toy manufacturer. I’ve worked on software for Intel, Microsoft, international charities, hospitals, pension services, banking and warehousing.

At the start of any project, I would draw this diagram. It’s called The Iron Triangle because it has three points, and describes an absolutely unbreakable rule: you can only have 2 things from the Iron Triangle.

Never all three. All three is impossible.

I would show this to the client, and ask: which of these three things do you want to sacrifice.


The reason you can’t have all three is simple: imagine you have a project to build and launch a spaceship.

You can have the spaceship quickly and cheaply: but if you do, we have to reduce the number of things it does. There won’t be enough time or money to do everything.

This is sacrificing quality.

You can have the spaceship cheaply, and with all of the promised qualities and components (speed, payload, safety, etc). But “cheaply” means we have to employ fewer engineers, and can’t invest in the latest tools, so it will take three times longer to complete.

This is sacrificing schedule.

Or you can have your spaceship with all of its qualities and components, and very fast: but that means we have to throw thousands of engineers at it; pay overtime; invest in the latest time-saving gadgets. And that means it will be very expensive.

This is sacrificing price.

I’ve described a complex project: building a spaceship. But the same rule governs something as simple as building a shed in your garden. If you want it cheap, you have to make it yourself, and that means it takes time, because you’re not an expert carpenter. If you want it fast, you can pay an joiner to build it, but that costs more. If you ask your mate Dave to do it, because he’s free on Sunday and has a drill and a book on woodwork, it might be quick and cheap. But the quality will suffer.

You may not have heard of The Iron Triangle, but in every aspect of our lives we make these decisions constantly: price, speed or quality.

The fundamental problem with Brexit is not that it’s impossible: nothing is impossible, and if Remainers tell you it is, they’re not being honest. Of course we can leave the EU. Obviously we can.

But we cannot leave the EU on the basis it was sold to us.

The entire Leave campaign was built around the promise that leaving the EU would be fast, cheap, and give you all of these benefits. It was politically expedient to tell you that, and it won the referendum: but it’s false. And voting to build a spaceship (or deciding you need a shed) is nowhere near as complicated as actually doing it. So at this stage, it really doesn’t matter who won the referendum. I know Leave won it. I’m not arguing about that: what matters is how to deliver it.

We have experimented for 2 years with breaking the Iron Triangle – and this should not shock anybody who has ever attempted to build a shed – we have found it cannot be broken. The lie underpinning Brexit still needs to be resolved.

Theresa May’s deal attempts to resolve it by sacrificing quality. She offered Brexit cheap and fast, but only by slashing away at the things the project was intended to deliver.

And Leavers hate it.

Remainers have repeatedly explained the costs of Brexit, and the price Britain will pay in jobs, investment, cuts, debts, tax increases, security, the NHS, or any combination of those things.

And Leavers hate it.

And finally, there are moves in Parliament to extend the schedule, so we can attempt to meet the quality and price requirements.

And Leavers hate it.

Leavers hate these things because nobody has told them that they have to make a choice. The “what do you want to sacrifice?” question I asked of clients at the beginning of a project was always difficult; but failing to have the conversation made everything far more difficult later. Theresa May should have told voters the truth from the start. She should have set up a cross-party group to find solutions, and she should have set them the task of explaining The Iron Triangle to the public, and ascertaining what the public actually wanted to sacrifice, so we all knew what to expect.

But she didn’t, because she’s a terrible leader who isn’t honest with the public, the press, her party or – probably – with herself. Jeremy Corbyn didn’t explain the Iron Triangle either, for the same reasons. In fact, I can’t find any example of a politician or journalist explaining this, possibly because not one of them has any experience of actually doing this shit.

Avoiding awkward conversations is not leadership: it’s the abdication of leadership, and it’s been going on for far too long in a crisis that is both highly predictable (most people predicted a crisis from the beginning) and highly unpredictable (you can predict chaos will occur, but not what form that chaos will take).

We have no option now but to ask “the client” to choose what to sacrifice. And “the client”, in this case, is the Leave-voting public. We’ve tested to destruction the theory of delivering three mutually incompatible things, and all we’ve found is that it’s impossible – which we knew from the start, but kept on pretending. And now we’ve got even less time and money than when we started, and the question still needs to be faced. The difficult conversation with the client must happen.

It’s your project, Leavers. And this is your Iron Triangle: so it’s up to you to decide what to do.

If you’re a Leaver and are reading this, you may have decided that you want all the qualities you were promised, and don’t want to pay more tax or lose your job: so you’ve decided to extend the schedule. That’s the decision I’d make too, if I was forced to pick a form of Brexit. We don’t have money to sacrifice, not by a long shot; and a limited Brexit has already been rejected by everybody Theresa May has asked.

But there’s really no time-limit on Brexit, except a random one we decided for ourselves. Schedule is the thing that’s easiest to sacrifice.

(Although one year won’t do it: if we need to train to replace the 10,000 EU doctors and 60,000 EU engineers and computer scientists that we rely on every day, we need to start training 11 year old British kids right now. We don’t even have the teachers or schools to do that; by the time they’re qualified, we’ll be able to leave the EU with minimal cost and disruption; so we should plan to leave the EU in 15 years, not 15 months).

But even if you make the choice to sacrifice schedule, at best only 1 out of every 3 Leave voters would agree with you.

Others would demand we leave with all the bells and whistles in 60 days, regardless of cost. Some would insist Brexit should be fast and cheap, and they’re prepared to give up some of the promises made. And obviously, many would completely fail to agree with the premise of The Iron Triangle, and continue to vote for the impossible, then blame reality for being treacherous. As a vocal Remainer on Twitter, I bump into these people constantly, and frankly I’ve given up attempting to reach them. If you want Brexit, it’s your job to reach those people. They simply will not listen to Remainers.

You may not want a Second Referendum, and I don’t blame you for that. It has the potential to be incredibly divisive; and as the question is currently framed, I’m not convinced it will resolve anything.

But the only way to decide which impossible, Iron-Triangle-Breaking part of the Brexit promise we sacrifice is to ask the public.

A People’s Vote could specifically ask voters to choose:

  • Leave the EU now, based on Theresa May’s deal (sacrifice Quality)
  • Postpone Brexit to give us more time to prepare (sacrifice Schedule)
  • Leave at once with no deal (sacrifice Price)
  • Remain in the EU (decide the project is pointless if it doesn’t deliver those impossible promises, and cancel it)

There’s no avoiding this. The decision about the Iron Triangle will happen, whether you vote on it or not. Either we have another referendum and the public decides, or Parliament makes the decision, and you end up feeling cheated.

Or, as is increasingly and terrifyingly likely, the decision is made without any control by anybody – not you, not me, not MPs, not Theresa May – as we crash out without a deal. And that’s the equivalent of the spaceship crashing into a mountain 10 seconds after lift-off: it will be the only impact big enough to shatter every corner of the Iron Triangle, costing us vast amounts of money, a generation of time, and every aspect of our quality of life.

And nobody voted for that.

Brexit: like Christmas every day

Strangely, for someone who bangs on about the catastrophe of Brexit every day, I don’t want to reverse the Brexit referendum. 

I want it to plough on regardless, and let Brexiteers learn the consequences for themselves.

Unfortunately the Brexit crowd are – and I genuinely don’t mean this offensively – like 12 year old children. That’s fine. We were all 12 once, and many of us (including myself) occasionally revert. We want and we want, and refuse to see that all those sweets will rot out teeth. We just want.

But the truth is, Brexiteers have suffered 25 years of having their every bad impulse reinforced by the nastier end of the British press, like the child-catcher offering sweets. And it’s been very convenient for every government to blame the EU for screw-ups created in Westminster.

After a generation of that, it’s not going to be possible to sit down and explain consequences to the Brexiteers, no matter how hard AC Grayling tries. Nobody wants to listen to the consequences. They voted for Christmas every day, and they want Christmas every day. 

If we – the grown ups – attempt to cancel Christmas, the tantrums will be epic. Better let them find out the hard way.

So my advice is: wake every day and force feed them the reality of “Christmas every day”. The reality is: you’re sick of a family of people “just like you” by the 28th. By the 1st January you’ve had your credit cards stopped due to unusual activity. In mid-January your home is repossessed, and your kids are in a diabetic coma by Valentine’s Day. 

But even hearing that, any 12 year old will stick fingers in their ears and refuse to accept the truth.

The only way back is forwards. We have to let Brexit play out and stop attempting to reverse the decision. It feels undemocratic. It feels rejectionist. The mood music of Remainers is Scrooge-like, and all Brexiteers want is plum pudding and custard.

Instead, I want sensible grown ups to focus on the opportunity for a second referendum when the consequences become clear. Because at some point average Leavers will see that even with all the power of government and an army of Brexit negotiators fighting the good fight, Christmas every day is a godawful nightmare.

Why aren’t Leave asking these questions?

10 simple questions.

If we don’t find answers for these, Brexit will fail, even on it’s own terms. 

Why is nobody from the Leave campaign asking these?

  1. 26% of NHS doctors are migrants. It takes 7 years to train a doctor. We plan to expel even skilled immigrants after 5 years. So where are the courses to urgently train 23,000 replacement doctors?
  2. 11% of othe NHS staff (nurses, midwives, therapists, lab technicians etc) are migrants. Where are the training bursaries to attract the 50,000 replacements we need? The new colleges? The new teachers?
  3. UK has a 19,000 mile coastline. To keep out migrants – a key promise of Brexit – we need thousands of border security staff. We are training none. Why not?
  4. The National Farmers Union has warned that a lack of migrants will affect food security. Where are the apprenticeships to train the 80,000 seasonal workers farming needs?
  5. The Dept of Transport anticipates 150 miles of daily tailbacks in Kent after Brexit. Where are the road widening schemes? The lay-bys? The traffic management investment?
  6. The Civil Service Managers Union estimates we’ll need 28,000 additional civil servants to replace EU provision. Where are the job adverts? The buildings? The training?
  7. The UK currently has 92,000 care home staff vacancies, and 150,000 carers are immigrants. Where is the funding to train 240,000 new care home workers?
  8. The UK hospitality industry employs 456,000 immigrants. Where are all the spare Britons willing to clean rooms and serve food for minimum wage?
  9. 200,000 migrants work in UK construction. We’re in the middle of a housing crisis. Where is the funding to train British replacements?
  10. 320,000 immigrants work in financial services. Where is the training to replace their skills in the next 12 months, especially as 11% of tax revenue relies on that industry? Without them we have to make cuts bigger than the entire education sector.

In case it’s unclear, that’s at least 1,397,000 jobs – many highly skilled – that we need to fill in 12 months… or start training two years ago.

And that’s just the direct jobs: it doesn’t count all the additional teachers, administrators, quality controllers and examiners required to attain the quality we expect from so many of these vital skills. 

Removing or barring immigrants – as the government plans to do – is only half the question.

Replacing those immigrants’ essential contribution to our economy and national fabric is the bit the Leave campaign has never explained.

And even if migrants aren’t banned, our attitude to the world is already driving them away. Its already happening, and Brexit hasn’t begun yet. Reports show a 48,000 fall in immigration over 3 months to June 2017. Over 12 months, that’s a loss of 20% of the vital roles we’re clearly unable to replace from the British population. 

If you back Brexit, you should be asking this stuff, not asking about Labour or terrorism or democracy – all important issues, certainly, but ultimately not related to keeping the UK going day-to-day. Having enough workers to get food into the supermarkets, however, isn’t optional. That’s the stuff we need from day one, and on literally every subsequent day.

I have heard absolutely nobody from the Leave side ask these questions, or make any attempt to answer.

I have seen no job adverts, or announcements of plans for new nursing colleges, training programmes or building schemes. 

So one last question: if Brexit is happening, why is nothing essential to Brexit happening?