Sometimes there’s nothing more uncomfortable than being inside your own brain. The as-yet unreplicable machine up-top that runs on a diet of oxygen, adrenaline and nostalgia; that quite literally makes you feel alive whilst simultaneously fostering a feeling of internal entrapment. Forever locked inside your own carefully and powerlessly curated thoughts. Or, you know, maybe that’s just me. But my own very obvious issues aside, this is why The Museum of Cathy, from Orange Prize-shortlistee Anna Stothard can occasionally make for uncomfortable reading as a raw, intricate look into a young woman’s beautiful, broken world. At times the reader can feel like a human pinball, being fired through the erratic psyche of the three main characters, stuck in their innermost thoughts in desperate need of fresh air and a faster pace.
Anyone seeking reassurance after Donald Trump’s election will not find it in his initial foreign and security policy team selections. Rather than surrounding himself with the wise counsel essential for a President with no international relations experience, Trump is identifying candidates who reflect his own combination of naivety and aggression. The result looks more like the cast for a remake of “Dr Strangelove” than a capable national security team. Trump’s choice of General Michael “Firehose” Flynn as National Security Advisor is particularly alarming. Flynn’s nickname was earned during the Iraq War and denotes his tendency to spray off dangerously in all directions unless firmly held down. His last official post saw him sacked as Director of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) in 2014.
The Autumn Statement was highly anticipated - the first after the Brexit referendum, the first for Philip Hammond... No more Osborne and his Long-Term Economic Plan. We do have some changes from the old regime. Banning letting agents from charging fees to tenants for example will be welcome news to the growing number of those who are subject to their mafioso, wide boy methods, even though this was a Labour policy that was opposed by both Hammond and Theresa May. Brexit, which this administration is blindly but doggedly implicating us in - despite nobody knowing what it really entails - means that the Chancellor is being forced to borrow a staggering £122bn more than expected whilst growth forecasts slip from 2% to 1% in 2017.
The substance of Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement was less about the economic agenda of Theresa May and more about the legacy of David Cameron and George Osborne. After the six wasted years under austerity since 2010, the government has failed to meet its own targets on deficit reduction. Growth has fallen, borrowing is up and the national debt is set to reach £2 trillion by 2020, with an additional £220 billion black hole in the economy being attributed to the impact of Brexit. All thanks - bear in mind - to a referendum Cameron only called to appease UKIP and his backbenchers, but lost due to the false promises of Vote Leave.
Donald Trump’s presidency is already a roaring success. According to Donald Trump, that is. His complete lack of political experience - the very quality that made him so ill-poised to be Commander-in-Chief - is one thing a stunned world took solace in. “He’ll have no idea what he’s doing,” we told ourselves. “Maybe he’ll be an impotent President, unable to turn his words into actions.” We forget, though, that Trump is a man who, at best, has a complicated relationship with the truth. At worst, he’s a pathological liar. The truth is whatever his supersized ego says it is. And he’s shameless in peddling his truth. Though estimated to be worth $3.7bn, Trump insists he’s worth in excess of $10bn. A video emerged of him bragging about sexual assault, yet he maintained “no one respects women more than I do.”
When the Vice President-elect of the United States went to the theatre he probably did not expect it to become an international news story. On entering he was booed, then at the end of the show one of the cast members delivered an impassioned plea on behalf of minority groups left frightened by Trump’s election. That in itself would have made a big news story. The sequel ensured that it lasted. The President-elect called it harassment. Clearly having no idea that in Ancient Athens political figures sat in the front row as satirists brutally lampooned them, he said that must always be a “safe space”
In the aftermath of Trumpageddon, one story provided some much-needed comic relief from the feeling that, to quote Peep Show's Mark Corrigan, "Everything's just completely fucked." On 9th November, it emerged that if you had placed a £10 accumulator bet on Leicester City topping the premiership, Brexit winning and Trump being elected President, then you'd have bagged yourself a frankly outrageous £30 million. However, this isn't the 'Big Three' we should be most concerned about. The real 'Big Three' hasn't happened yet: Brexit, Trump and a win for Marine Le Pen, the Front National's candidate, in France's Presidential elections next May. Unfortunately, this triple threat carries considerably lower odds than the former.
They say that you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Admittedly, I have never tried. Nor do I know anyone who has tried. However, I assume that the dictum is correct. What one can create depends very much on the ingredients one starts with. Since 23rd June Labour has not been left with many good ingredients. Theresa May’s assumption of the premiership has allowed the Tories to present themselves as a fresh government. The prime minister herself has outrageously claimed that her government will implement a Brexit policy as the “will of the people”. Of course, what she means is that she will implement the will of the 52% who voted to leave the EU. Internal and external critics are derided as anti-democrats; judges who try to impose some degree of constraint upon the executive are denounced as “Enemies of the People”.
Theresa May had little to say about the election of Donald Trump as US president, other than the usual platitudes about the government maintaining the “special relationship” between America and Britain. There was no hint of reaffirming David Cameron’s censure of Trump’s xenophobia during the presidential campaign as “stupid, divisive and wrong.” In contrast, when it came to making a formal statement about Trump’s election, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel was unequivocal in setting out Germany’s terms for cooperation with the Trump White House: "Germany and America are bound by common values - democracy, freedom, as well as respect for the rule of law and the dignity of each and every person, regardless of their origin, skin colour, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or political views.”