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zompist bboard • View topic - A Very Brief Explanation of the British Election

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2017 4:39 pm 
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So, after the summer, politics are ramping back up again. On Thursday, the Withdrawal Bill goes before the House, the first serious test of the government's ability to deliver and control Brexit.

But more exciting for journalists is the fact that, shockingly, the PM has just announced she doesn't intend to resign, and will fight the next election. This has encouraged a new round of talk of getting rid of her, though it's still not clear who could take over.

This in turn has led the PM to leak rumours of an impending reshuffle, and this is relevent to the thread as it displays one way in which politics here is very different from that in the US.

As you know, the Cabinet are (mostly) MPs, and the PM can "reshuffle" the Cabinet at any time, not needing approval from anybody. Since MPs want to be in Cabinet, this gives the PM a sort of power than the President doesn't really have: Presidential nominations to Cabinet have to be approved, and other than at the start of the administration are rare - usually when there's been a scandal, or someone has gotten bored and resigned to look for a better job. And they're often given to people who aren't directly involved in national politics - Governors, former politicians, industry specialists, career civil servants, etc. But in the UK, cabinet ministers are ultimately the most direct rivals to the PM. Remember, the Opposition can only replace the PM in an election, but Cabinet (and her party) can get rid of her whenever they want.

You might think that what a PM should do is punish her most ambitious enemies by kicking them out of cabinet. Sometimes this happens*. But what May is instead rumoured to be planning is to identify her enemies and promote them. Jacob Rees-Mogg, for instance, is apparently in line for a big promotion.

Why? Well, two reasons. The general reason is that it makes rebellion harder. An MP can't just refuse to serve in Cabinet. They'd look disloyal, and like they were putting personal interests ahead of the national interest. They could refuse to serve under the PM, but that would effectively trigger an immediate leadership contest - if you say you don't have confidence in the PM, everyone else will be asked that question, and they'll have to either back her (and hence attack you) or attack her (in which case she's gone and there's a leadership election). And nobody's quite ready for that. Besides, MPs all WANT to be in Cabinet. So they'll say yes. But if you've just agreed to work for someone, you can't immediately turn round and say they're unfit for office. Six months or a year from now you can do that, you can say that they've been impossible to work with, but if you take the job today and then call for her to be sacked tomorrow, you look like a backstabber. Plus, everyone who isn't in cabinet can say that you're not just a hypocritical lickspittle, but you're also part of the problem by serving in the failing regime. So putting someone into Cabinet is a good way to shut them up and keep them on your side, at least in the short term.
But also, more specifically, there's a steep curve of public profile in UK politics. A guy like JRM has fans, and politicos know about him, but the general public only has at best a general impression of him. The PM is counting on the fact that the more power people have, the more the public sees what an idiot they are. In recent times, it's worked with the PM herself, and also seems to be working with Boris Johnson, promoted above his ability to Foreign Secretary just in order to expose him to the harsh light of publicity. So now it may be Johnson's turn to be demoted (allegedly to Party Chairman, a good, respectable job that gives him lots of time with his fans in the grassroots of the party, but which has no power or authority and which is traditionally a poor platform to launch a leadership bid from), while guys like Rees-Mogg get shuffled into the destructive limelight.

However! Actually HAVING a reshuffle is something that may never happen. We're already being told it may be being put off from 'right after Party Conference' to maybe a little time after that. Because when you do reshuffle, you have to demote people out of Cabinet, and out of government, and that then create a new cadre of people who hate you and want you replaced by someone who might promote them again. So the ideal is to always have a reshuffle tomorrow, but never today - that way everyone in an out of cabinet has to work hard to impress the PM, and doesn't dare rock the boat too much lest they lose their job.

So the fluid UK system, compared to the much more stable US system, both gives the PM power (if Trump could just dish out cushy Cabinet posts to anyone he wanted whenever he wanted as rewards, he might have been able to get Trumpcare passed...) and also undermines her (Ryan and McConnell can't easily remove Trump, and most of congress has no personal reason to anyway, as they were never expecting to get jobs from him in the first place).





*Most famously in the Night of the Long Knives, in 1962. One evening, the PM, Macmillan, sacked his Chancellor; the next day, he sacked seven more Cabinet ministers (including the Lord Chancellor and the Secretaries of Education and Defence), before sacking nine junior ministers a few days later, and then laterally-'promoting' his Home Secretary to First Secretary of State (theoretically second in command of the government, but in practice it turned out he was instead in charge of relations with central africa...). The Night badly damaged the PM's popularity, and though it did recover it contributed to the series of disasters (see "Profumo Affair, the") that led to the Conservatives losing power two years later.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 24, 2017 3:42 pm 
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Leadership rumours are surfacing again.

The big beast here is Boris again, who has woken from his quiescent slumbers. The week before The Big Speech by the PM about Brexit, he gave his own "vision" of what Brexit should be - not necessarily agreeing with the PM - in a lengthy article. He allegedly then backed that up by threatening to resign if his demands weren't met. The speech is seen as, while not agreeing with him entirely, nonetheless giving way somewhat to his demands, and he's now apparently "set red lines" that the PM must adhere to over the next two years.

[some details: apparently the two-year transition period the PM is asking for was meant to be longer, and she had been going to leave open the possibility of continued payments to the EU to buy continued access to the single market, but Johnson vetoed this.]

Now, a Foreign Secretary talking about foreign policy shouldn't be a huge thing. But this is foreign policy that the PM has taken personal responsibility for. What's more, it's foreign policy that she specifically took OUT of his remit by appointing a separate Brexit minister outside of Johnson's Foreign Office.

If May sacks Johnson, she's in trouble: it looks like the government's in chaos, plus Johnson still has a huge grass-roots support, even if the shine has come off him a bit over the last year. One MP is quoted anonymously in The Sun as saying that Boris "is a martyr. He put his neck on the line to save Brexit". If he declares war against her, it'll be hard for her to survive. On the other hand, if she doesn't sack Johnson, she's in trouble, because it looks like she's under his thumb. Plus, that won't make his rivals happy.

So far it looks like she's not sacking him (one compromise would be to keep him fo now then sack him when the cameras are turned off, over some trivial issue). But his rivals are clearly angry. The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, has openly attacked him for 'backseat driving'. The Brexit minister, David Davis, refused to comment on that attack, except to joke/not-joke that the Brexit car only has two seats, for him and for the PM (so Boris isn't in the car at all). Davis has also claimed that Johnson's article/threats have had no effect on the policies. Old big beasts like Ken Clarke and Lord Hague have condemned Boris in particular and factionalism in general - they're not active power players, but they're famous enough to be heard.

Also angry is the Chancellor, Philip Hammond. Johnson has claimed, it is claimed, that Hammond wanted a five-year transition, and that only Boris saved Brexit by insisting on two years. Hammond, however, is claimed to claim to have always wanted two years. Aides and allies of Hammond have been quoted saying "this is total bullshit", "I fucking hate having to deal with Boris", and "now fucking Boris is gloating."

Also wading into the fight? Sir David Norgrove, Chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, who has condemned Boris for "a clear misuse of official statistics". The issue here is the infamous "£350m a week". In the referendum campaign, Leave claimed that with Brexit we would get back £350m every week, which could be spent on the NHS. Since then, people have noticed that a) there isn't £350bn (that's the gross payments to the EU, not taking into account payments back from the EU to the UK), and b) nobody has any intention of spending any of it on the NHS anyway. The number has been quietly shelved. But now Boris' "vision" repeats the claim, and he's even been claimed to have claimed to have forced May to promise that all of the £350m a week that we'll get back (which, reminder, doesn't exist), will be spent on the NHS (which it won't). Freed from the purdah of a referendum campaign, Norgrove has taken the opportunity to, almost without precedent, slap a cabinet minister around the head a bit.

Now, all of this would be pretty chaotic stuff. But for some extra fun? It's just been revealed that Johnson, Rudd, Davis and Hammond were all plotting together to sack May after the election result came in - apparently Hammond texted Boris at 4am to pledge his support if Boris wanted to execute May. Technically this doesn't really matter - it was a long time ago, in political terms, and everyone knew that some plotty stuff was going on, it was inevitable. But the revelation that all these people snarling at each other in public not long ago were plotting together in private, and that they're all on some level willing to backstab the leader they're all so publically devoted to, has come out at a really inapposite time!


--------------

Meanwhile, there have been a few mutterings over goings on in Scotland. A while back, the leader of the Scottish Labour Party (structurally autonomous, though affiliated to the national Labour Party), came out as a lesbian, and this has cause some unrest. First, because she now claims that she was outed against her will by a left-wing newspaper - she says that, yes, she has always told everyone who asked that she was a lesbian, in multiple interviews, but that it was meant to be kept secret from the public. Specifically she says she told the paper that she'd rather they not tell people about it because she didn't think it mattered. The paper has apologised. Others, however, have suggested that a) if a politician makes a statement on the record, it's legitimate to report it, and you can't take it off the record retrospectively, and if she didn't want it on the record she shouldn't have answered the question on the record, it would have been easy enough to ask for the question not to be asked (since everyone In The Know already knew the answer), and that b) if a politician really wants something taken off the record for personal reasons, maybe a general comment about "I don't think it really matters" maybe isn't the best way to communicate that, and that perhaps as a result setting a theoretically friendly activist paper up for lynching for having failed to understand that hint isn't entirely fair.
And on a sillier level, second: nobody really cares that she's dating a woman, or even that she broke up with her long-term partner just a few months after proposing to her, but apparently there's been some disquiet among Labour activists that she did this to go out with another MSP (member of the scottish parliament)... from a rival party. Labour aren't in their happy-clappy love-your-neighbour phase right now, it's fai to say.

Anyway, she didn't officially give that as a reason for resigning. She didn't really give much of a reason at all, but she's specifically denied that she resigned because she was about to be sacked by Corbyn-allied activists. She's the third leader of the Scottish Labour Party to resign in the last three years!

So now they need a successor. The frontrunner from her right-wing branch of the party is a guy who's been attacked for the fact he was until right now the co-owner of a company that refused to pay workers a living wage. And his supporters are blaming the acting leader of the party for setting him up (making a public statement about the party needing to side with the people, not with millionaires, while knowing that the frontrunner for the leadership is a multi-millionaire with a record of exploitation).

And now the acting leader has turned on the former leader, very politely, by complaining about the the fact that she resigned having given him only ten minutes notice...

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2017 11:36 am 
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2017 1:06 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2017 2:13 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2017 4:29 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 12:47 pm 
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Sal, I wish I knew how you made these descriptions of power politics so compelling. Every time you post, I end up reading it all the way through even though this is normally the kind of news that bores me into a coma. (Keeping abreast of the German election was like a nasty homework assignment that I couldn't get myself to do for love or grades.)


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2017 7:58 am 
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Same.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2017 8:34 am 
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Same. Sal has a way with words and a knack for analysis - I don't always agree with him, but his analytical posts are always a great read.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2017 5:09 pm 
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Same

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 3:02 pm 
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Aww, thanks, people. That's really sweet. [and unexpected!]


And in British political news, we have some theoretically important developments! Though the emphasis there may be on theoretically...

So, after a long and viciously bitter campaign, UKIP have elected their new leader, and it's.... nobody anyone has heard off. [When the two highest-profile UKIP figures have to independently appear on TV to reassure people that their leader is "a man of real substance" (per Farage) or "a very substantial figure" (per Hamilton), it doesn't bode well...]

This is a surprise, because the bookies were confident it would be Anne Marie Waters, who ended up getting only around 20% of the vote (the guy who was meant to be her closest competitor came third). Then again, after Brexit and Trump, the bookies tend to assume the worst - you'd probably get surprisingly good odds on Goebbels winning the next general election right now, on a joint Nazi-ISIS ticket...

Waters - a "proudly British" lesbian, feminist Irishwoman who migrated to the UK after stints living in Germany and the Netherlands - represents the hard edge of UKIP in her denunciations of the EU, immigrants, and above all Muslims. The co-founder of Sharia Watch and of Pegida UK, she views most politics as a struggle against a Muslim/paedophile conspiracy to achieve "world domination"; she sees Islam as both a military organisation and a disease, and is a support of Le Pen and Wilders, and a writer for Breitbart, and her campaign has been openly assisted by current and former members of the BNP and EDL. Water began her career in the Labour party, but left four years ago when she accused the party of sheltering left-wing elements; she was twice deselected (prohibited from standing for election under the UKIP brand) by UKIP leaders.

She has, unsurprisingly, reacted to her defeat by branding it a victory for "Jihad" over the forces (i.e. her) of "Truth".

Instead, the new leader will be Henry Bolton, or "Henry Bolton OBE [union jack emoji]", as he calls himself on twitter. Until now, the greatest claim to fame of Bolton, whose only former political experiences have been failing to be elected as a Lib Dem MP, failing to be elected as a UKIP district councillor, and failing to be elected as a police and crime comissioner*, was that his wife (one Tatiana Smurova) once gave birth on a train. His other relevent experiences include a stint in the British army, a longer period in the TA**, and some time as a police officer, as well as a period as an EU bureaucrat - this is all quite vague because nobody has literally any idea of who the man is. However, he was personally backed by Farage, so, here he is.

[Bolton, for his part, hailed his victory as saving his party from being "the UK Nazi Party".]

For the non-Kipper observer, this is both bad and good. Good, because one of England and Wales' leading parties isn't now run by a total Nazi. Bad, because a win for Waters would probably have doomed the party. It would have ensured that one of their chief millionaire backers, Arron Banks, would not return to supporting the party. It would have, hopefully, crossed a line in the public impression of the party and tarred it with too much bigotry to shake off. In more concrete terms, it was heavily rumoured that Nigel Farage, who predicted that a win for Waters would kill the party, was personally planning to launch a new, rival party in order to destroy UKIP.
[Bolton has already expressly denied holding the leadership only temporarily until Farage chooses to return]

Nevertheless, it shouldn't be thought that this marks any reversal on the subject of Islam: several of the candidates made Islam the main topic of their campaigns, and even Bolton has made speeches warning of the existential threat posed by Islam, though he has held back from the kind of blanket condemnations of Muslims that Waters has indulged in. Since his election yesterday, he has insisted that Brexit must be the primary issue for the party; but the party chose to instead begin their party conference with a debate on the terrible threat posed to the nation by the rising tide of female genital mutilations.

It's possible, however, that none of this matters. Bolton will be their fourth leader in a year: Farage resigned, his successor resigned after 18 days protesting that she couldn't continue "banging her head against a wall" any longer, Farage returned, Farage left again, and his next successor resigned after losing all 145 council seats they held and seeing their national vote plunge from over 12% to under 2%.

Then again, the party's not dead yet. The media certainly treat it as a major force in British politics - Bolton's had more coverage in a day than Lib Dem leader Vince Cable has had in months. And this isn't entirely delusional. Although their main issue may, in theory, have been resolved, the demise of UKIP leaves a gaping void in right-wing politics, and Bolton will be hoping that UKIP can rise again to fill it. The paralysis of Theresa May, and her inability to follow through on her intimations of a more centrist, nationalist-populist ("One Nation", in old Tory parlance) Tory party, are leaving open a door that six months ago looked to be closing fast.

[in other UKIP news: their leader in Wales, disgraced corrupt former-Tory sleazebag Neil Hamilton, has himself provoked some headlines by dismissing the female leaders of other parties in the Welsh assembly as "political concubines" who had "sacrified their virtue" to the male leader of Labour in Wales. But, he suggested, fortunately for them the Labour leader was impotent. He's a charming man.]


*a pointless job recently introduced: elected by the people from a list of candidates nobody has heard of, to do a job nobody understands, with no clear responsibilities or powers.
** the Territorial Army. They were basically the Army Reserves, and thus have now been renamed "the Army Reserve".

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 3:44 pm 
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 3:51 pm 
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I'm eagerly awaiting Sal's pithy comments about Boris's latest pitches to be leader of the Conservative Party, and Ruth's heretical views on leaving the EU...


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2017 10:12 am 
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2017 10:51 am 
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Mmmmm, that was just what the doctor ordered. Another detail is that Bombardier, one of Northern Ireland's biggest employers, has just been hit with a sizeable tariff by the USA despite the PM's entreaties. This will not be welcomed by the DUP.

In fairness, if the stress gets too much for poor Theresa and she quits, I won't blame her.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2017 10:59 am 
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2017 2:26 pm 
Avisaru
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Last edited by Frislander on Wed Oct 04, 2017 1:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2017 7:10 pm 
Sanno
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I forgot to say: more news today! Well, I meant to say 'tomorrow', but now it's 'today'. Today, Boris will be delivering a speech entitled "Let the Lion Roar!".

I can't see that anything could go wrong...

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 12:20 pm 
Smeric
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 2:19 pm 
Smeric
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He's actually from İstanbul, but never mind.

Also, just happened.

This thread should probably be renamed, by the way.

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ìtsanso, God In The Mountain, may our names inspire the deepest feelings of fear in urkos and all his ilk, for we have saved another man from his lies! I welcome back to the feast hall kal, who will never gamble again! May the eleven gods bless him!


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 2:21 pm 
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ìtsanso, God In The Mountain, may our names inspire the deepest feelings of fear in urkos and all his ilk, for we have saved another man from his lies! I welcome back to the feast hall kal, who will never gamble again! May the eleven gods bless him!


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 3:57 pm 
Sanno
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But the river tripped on her by and by, lapping
as though her heart was brook: Why, why, why! Weh, O weh
I'se so silly to be flowing but I no canna stay!


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 4:17 pm 
Sanno
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So anyway, the PM has given a Strong and Stable Speech that has quashed and quelled all queries about her leadership, her strength, and her unparalleled powers of organisation and competence.

Only joking.

Actually, nobody really knows what her speech to Conference said, because everyone was too busy laughing at her.

The two main themes of the commentary? First, the fact that a TV celebrity "commedian" and serial attention-seeker was able to wander up to the Prime Minister while she was delivering her televised speech, hand her a P45*, and tell her that Boris sent him, all without anybody thinking to stop him. [he then was allowed to wander off into the crowd until he found and spoke to the Foreign Secretary himself.]

And second, the fact that she is now literally as well as metaphorically weak: she was barely able to get through the speech due to constant coughing and loss of voice. This is presumably just a cold she's picked up, but it doesn't look good at a time when she needs to be giving the impression of strength and power. But what looks worse? The fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to get up partway through her speech to pesonally give her a cough sweet. Yeah. THAT makes you look organised.

Of course, if that hadn't happened, perhaps more attention would have been paid to the fact that she was speaking in front of a sign saying "Building a country that works for everyone". Or that DID say that at the beginning of the speech, but that by the end of the speech said "Building a country that works or everyon" [sic], because the 'f' and the 'e' fell off behind her as she was speaking. A strong and stable government, this, just not one that's able to competently glue two pieces of plastic together even for their biggest publicity opportunity of the year...

[oh, and Boris apparently had to be told to stand up and applaud the PM by Amber Rudd. Who, in other news, has totally not comissioned private opinion polls in her constituency in preparation for a leadership bid. I mean, she totally HAS comissioned private opinion polls, but that's just a coincidence, she's totally not planning to run for the leadership, no. (Rudd is generally considered a future prospect, but her own majority** is pathetically tiny, and the party won't pick her as leader if they think she might lose her seat at the next election, since that would be a nightmare news story)].


*a 'P45' is the standard government form provided to employees when they leave their employer, and which they in turn provide to their next employer. It enables companies and the government to streamline the payment of taxes (certain taxes are paid directly out of wages by the employer before they reach the employee/taxpayer).


**do Americans and others use this term commonly? A politician's majority is their margin of victory (usually expressed in total votes, not percentages) over their nearest rival in their own consituency at the most recent election. So they might 'increase their majority', for instance, or have their majority 'slashed'. A seat that regularly sees small majorities is a 'marginal' constituency. I'm sure Americans (and others) must refer to these concepts, but I don't know if they use these terms exactly. Obviously, since all our politicians are locally elected, including our PM, and from (by American standards) very small and often volatile constituencies, we probably worry about a politician's majority more often than in the US...

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But the river tripped on her by and by, lapping
as though her heart was brook: Why, why, why! Weh, O weh
I'se so silly to be flowing but I no canna stay!


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 4:26 pm 
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 4:40 pm 
Avisaru
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