...with a dash of Trump bashing for good measure.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Emotive Subjects

Whenever someone utters the word ’emotive subject’, you can safely wager that what they really mean to say is ‘everyone just calm down, please’. Or ‘this topic is probably best avoided’. The subject will often be about money, religion or politics. Or a rage inducing mix of all three. Brexit is an emotive subject. Exceedlingly so. Partly because of the money angle – we’re going to be poorer. And almost everyone, on both sides of the debate, now agrees on that point. But Brexit is emotive beyond the financial implications it will have upon our lives.


Like most people my age, I was brought up on an ideological diet of British exceptionalism, maintained in part through xenophobic denigration of our European neighbours. For an all too brief decade or two, within the EU, we became an open, inclusive and outward looking nation. A place where casual prejudice was called out, not embraced. And yet here we are in 2018, turning inward and looking backward yet again. A place where bigotry is once more being normalised and accepted as part of British life.

I stood at the stern of the ferry, gazing back at Cherbourg as we sailed away from the French coast. I watched the Tricolour flap in the wind. And I thought to myself, “I rather wish I were French”. And I further thought, “I’m probably not the only one”. How did it come to this? Well, Brexit is an emotive subject. Shall we talk about something else for a while?
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Friday, July 27, 2018

EU Ref 2

If there is to be a second referendum on membership of the EU, as I hope there will be, then prepare for controversy galore. The original question on the ballot paper – This or Not This – may have been vague, but it was simple and the campaigning straightforward. I can think of a number of significant and unavoidable differences next time round that will rustle a few feathers.  The most obvious complication being caused by a potential third choice on the menu – May’s eventual deal with the EU, when and if that ever comes. Remain, Leave Hard or Leave Deal.

The Campaigns Teams

In 2016, all four of the main UK political parties campaigned for Remain. Both the government and the shadow government supported Remain. The campaign for Leave was left to UKIP and stray renegades like Boris Johnson and Kate Hoey. But how would they line up in 2019? One would imagine the government will campaign for the Leave Deal. But almost everybody outside No 10, Remainers and Leavers alike, are contemptuous of this ‘Deal’.

I suspect that May will permit MPs outside her cabinet to join whichever team they like. If she demands that cabinet members campaign for Leave Deal, I suspect there will be a significant number of resignations. She may indeed be unable to form a cabinet fit for purpose. Which would lead to interesting times. As for Labour, there will be similar divisions. Which may leave the Lib Dems leader, Vince Cable, to take charge of the official Remain campaign.

We are not finished yet. How about all the persons who committed various dubious, illegal and unethical acts in the original referendum? Some of them may have convictions or pending court cases in the event of EU Ref2. Can they participate?


The Ballot Paper

Life will be so much easier if there are, once again, just the two options on the ballot paper – Remain or Hard Brexit. We all now know what Hard Brexit is, what it entails and how stupid that would be. It’ll still have decent support, but I would be genuinely surprised if they managed to get 45% of the electorate to vote stupid. A more likely total would sit nearer 40% in my humble opinion.

As I’ve said though, there’s the distinct possibility that there will be those three options. Remain, Leave Hard or Leave Deal. The prospect has been raised that voters should choose a first and second preference. So imagine if you will, that Remain wins with a total of 60% of the vote based on those two preferences. Yay! And if the first preference shows that Remain tallied 40% and the two Leave options gained 30% each….well, the bitching would go on forever, wouldn’t it?

There are a multitude of methodologies for applying weight to different preferences, but ultimately, unless Remain wins off its own back, the arguments will rage on. Divide and conquer is a great way of getting a quick result, but an awful way to find a long term solution.


The Manifestos

A breeze for Remain. Just get a chap up on stage to wave his arm at the horrendous Brexity mess before us and state, “Let’s not go there again, old beans”.  But exactly what have the Brexiters got to offer as an inducement to voters given the admissions made by the likes of Ree-Mogg? They simply can’t trot out the same nonsense that they did last time. It’s not true, and we know it’s not true.

The Brexiters acknowledge that Brexit will make us poorer in both the short and medium term. So how do you sell benefits that are 50 years away? You can see the problem, right? But I can tell you the answer. They will continue with the ideologocal slogans that have become the bread and butter of a Brexit movement devoid of policy and substance. “Believe in Britain!” And the crazy thing? There are people who will vote for that.
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Thursday, July 26, 2018

The People's Vote



In 2016, the UK held a referendum on our membership of the EU. Problem number one: the question was vague. It was a this or not this binary option. At no point was a choice offered on the wide spectrum of possibilities encompassed by the not this option. But that's not to say that the various Leave campaigns failed to provide opinions on what they believed would happen. They were often contradictory, regularly disreputable and sometimes just downright untruthful. But a picture was painted, even if the result did rather resemble a Rorschach test. A test that elicited visions of joy and prosperity from 17 million participants, and doom and gloom from the other 16 million people who took part.

Pre-referendum quotes by prominent Leave campaigners can be found in abundance across the web. They haven't aged well. Only a madman would leave the single market; even in the worst case scenario, we will be better off after Brexit; we'll get exactly the same benefits from the EU after Brexit; the Norwegian (EFTA) option is looking increasingly the best for the UK; this will be the easiest trade deal in history; we'll be able to give £350 million a week to the NHS. I could go on. And on. Brexiters provided enough verbal ammunition for a political genocide. But in this brave new world, the New Trump Order reigns supreme and facts are something to be derided.


But compare those shameless boasts to Brexiter claims today. To stay in the single market would be a betrayal. A no-deal Brexit is not just a possibility, but the preferred option for a significant number of MPs. There is no Brexit Dividend to invest in the NHS. Planes may not fly. Food and medicine will be stockpiled. There are possibly preparations for rationing. We will not see any benefits from Brexit for 30 to 50 years. No one said Brexit was going to make us better off.


The question on the EU Referendum ballot paper became troublesome the moment the result was called for Leave, and the ghost of a second referendum has hung over the political scene ever since. Those on the winning side do not, unsurprisingly, want a second referendum. Why would they? But their claims that the will of the people must not be defied is a slogan that belies the facts - how many Leave voters thought that we would leave the Single Market? We simply don't know. A soft Brexit would be a betrayal, they say. That directly contradicts many of the statements made by Leavers.

These arguments are an affront to democracy. A referendum can be irrevocable or democratic - it cannot be both. A second referendum on the final deal was always going to be a moral necessity based on the This or Not This question. That the Vote Leave campaigns have been found guilty of cheating, with further controversies including conspiring with Cambridge Analytica, bribery, Russian influence and other undemocratic allegations, a final deal referendum is fast becoming a political necessity. But it's the incredible disparity between what Leave promised - Instant Success! - and what they now acknowledge can actually be delivered - Benefits After You're Dead! - that makes a second referendum absolutely vital for this country to lay any sort of claim to being a modern, viable democracy.

If the UK were to tumble out of the EU without a deal, history will not be kind to the perpetrators. They will have duped the nation and forced through a policy of enormous and detrimental consequence. The undercurrent of prejudice that has engulfed the country courtesy of some Leave campaigners leaves not just a bad taste in the mouth, but combined with the subversion of democracy, the stench of fascism in the air.

I have some support for a second referendum, from unlikely sources. It was Nigel Farage who declared, before the referendum result, that a 52%-48% result would be unfinished business. Too right, Nigel. But more interesting is a speech made in parliament by arch-Brexiter David Davis in 2003. I'll leave that below for you to read. Whilst historical tweets are sometimes used against people unfairly, or even out of context, this is a detailed and thought out argument made on a point of principle. It would be interesting to know how Mr Davis reconciles that speech in the last decade with his opposition to a People's Vote in the current one.

“Let us deal with the major problem with the Bill. The Deputy Prime Minister says the Bill will bring about more democracy, but, in a democracy, voters have to know what they are voting for. They need to know what the choice is, to use his own word. For that to happen, the proposition has to come before the vote, but with the Bill, it will be vote first, proposition afterwards. The Bill proposes that referendums should be held without voters knowing the structure or powers of the assemblies for which they are asked to vote. Even the Deputy Prime Minister would have a hard job to convince anyone that that is democratic.

Referendums should be held when the electorate are in the best possible position to make a judgment. They should be held when people can view all the arguments for and against and when those arguments have been rigorously tested. In short, referendums should be held when people know exactly what they are getting....

We should not ask people to vote on a blank sheet of paper and tell them to trust us to fill in the details afterwards. For referendums to be fair and compatible with our parliamentary process, we need the electors to be as well informed as possible and to know exactly what they are voting for. Referendums need to be treated as an addition to the parliamentary process, not as a substitute for it.”
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Monday, July 16, 2018

The Trump Protests

I enjoyed my first protest. It’s one more thing crossed off life’s bucket list. It was a worthy cause. It was a great opportunity for a photo walk. It was a successful protest, to my mind. Different folks might have different opinions on what counts as a success. You could possibly argue that a protest commonly called Stop Trump failed when Trump arrived. However, in the key areas that I would consider critical when judging whether the protest was a successful or a failure, the protest hit the mark.

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Did it capture the imagination of the people? Perhaps as many as 250,000 turned up, so yes. Definitely. Did it make Trump feel unwelcome and force him to steer clear of London? Yes. Did it really piss off the right-wing media and personalities? Yes, fabulously so. Did it bring the worst parts of Trump’s policies to the media’s attention? Yes. Ultimately, did it change anything in particular? On its own, no. But that’s not how protests work, even when they do work.

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By this stage, one either understands who and what Trump is, and what direction he is leading the US and the world, or one doesn’t. I remain surprised at how many still sit in the ‘doesn’t‘ camp. Nevermind. I’ll share some of my observations of the protest with you. The crowd was very diverse. Latin Americans, LGBTs, hippies, pro-Palestinians, #metooers, Muslims, political figures and anti-fascists were out in force. But there was an almighty number of ordinary folk there too. Lots of people, many of whom have just one thing of note in common – they despise Trump.

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The protest was a good natured affair. Profane, but fun. Feelings were genuine but the modd was genial. In short, it was exactly how a peaceful protest should be and was in stark contrast to the much, much, much smaller pro-Tommy Robinson/Trump rally the following day. Which was nasty, hateful and loaded with prejudice. Again, those in the wrong camp need only to look at the nature of both sides of the argument to see which side they perhaps should be on.

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Putin, needless to say, featured on many banners, almost always in the role of puppet master. My thoughts on Russia and the Trump campaign have progressed from suspicious through questions must be asked and on to case to answer. Today, I am fairly convinced that there has almost certainly been some level of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Who dunnit? How deep does it go? Is there kompromat? These are questions that Mueller must be allowed to answer. Regardless, if there is any level of collusion at all, then Trump is guilty of obstruction. There is a traitor in the White House. Whether this can be proven only time will tell. Whether the Republican party – some members of whom may be complicit – allow the investigation to be completed, the same.

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I used to read Scott Adams blog, when he provided commentary on Trump’s campaign. I stopped on three counts. Firstly, he now prefers to produce rambling videos. Secondly, it became apparent to me that his commentary on Trump amounted to little more than political astrology. Thirdly, he was wrong. I make this claim based on one tweet shortly after the election, proclaiming that in six months it would be really awkward to be anti-Trump. Adams premise was that Trump is a Master Persuader. He would get results and win people over. Or at least, the results would make it difficult to argue against his presidency.

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The evidence is in, and it remains awkward to be pro-Trump. The man is utterly toxic. He is Novichok in human form. He’s not a deal maker. His speciality, as repeatedly demonstrated, is in reneging on deals. I sincerely hope that Americans see the error of their ways in November. And again, if necessary, in 2020. Because so far, the only unity Trump has produced is in opposition to him. Morally and economically, he is isolating the US and the consequential risks are high.

I mentioned Adams because I want to make my own prediction. It’s a much safer prediction than his.  In sixty years, once the history books are written, it’s going to be really awkward for Trump voters when asked to explain their vote in 2016. I dare say they will use the one tool that Trump has really promoted with success. They’ll lie. Because But Hillary! just won’t cut it…
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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Brexit Observations

What exactly is the Proper Brexit of which Nigel Farage speaks? Pre-referendum, Nige declared that even the worst case scenario would leave Britain better off economically. He now believes that the Brexit we are heading for will leave us worse off that we currently are within the EU. The truth of the matter is this: Farage’s entire premise was entirely dependent on the EU ‘banging on Britain’s door to do a free trade deal’. And this would happen because ‘the German car industry would force the politicians to do so’. There was no real Plan B (as detailed in one of my most prescient posts of the last decade) should it transpire that the German car industry would not be leading the Brexit negotiations.

Was there ever a way to do a ‘Proper Brexit’? Possibly, but that opportunity was blown in March 2017. Brexiters liked to repeatedly declare that ‘the UK holds all the cards’. But the moment we triggered Article 50, the UK showed its hand – and there was a distinct lack of Queens, Kings or Aces. The clock started, the pressure was on the UK – the EU were, and remain, in control.  Things might have worked out better, for the UK at least, had they not invoked Article 50 quite so quickly. Things might have worked out better had the UK dedicated itself – from its place within the EU – to forcing the EU to develop an exit process as a supplement to Article 50, which in itself is simply the mechanism for leaving.

I’m aware that the EU would not negotiate Brexit prior to Article 50 being invoked. For good reason – see above. But within the EU, the UK could have been a stifling presence, blocking progress, cutting budgets and making itself a pain.  The sort of pain that the EU would eventually like to see the back of. The sort of pain that would likely lead to a much better deal than we’ll get now. Such a policy would have provided a much more reasonable timeframe to unravel forty years worth of partnership. The trouble, from the Brexiters point of view, is that this would take years, multiple governments and much conversation amongst a population with an increasingly pro-EU demographic. As a result, Brexit done properly would in all likelihood, mean no Brexit at all.

Which is why Nigel and Co urged for Article 50 immediately. Which is why ‘no deal’ is acceptable to them. This is ideology at play, and consequences be damned. The only plausible Brexit is and always has been a Bad Brexit. And I’m sure they know it. Let us cross our fingers that there is another referendum. One hopes that a sufficient proportion of the population now knows it too.

People on Twitter with something intelligent to say that I recommend following: Carole Cadwalladr, Steve Bullock, Ian Dunt, David Allen Green, Gina Miller, Jo Maugham, Steve Analyst, The Columnist, The Secret Barrister, Steve Peers,
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Saturday, June 9, 2018

It'll Be All Wight

In a few short months I will reach something of a milestone. It’s a slightly notional milestone, some would say. It’s not so much that I will turn 46 years of age. It’s more to do with identity and how I see myself. If you were to ask me where I’m from, my answer might depend on where you’re from. To a Mexican, I’m British. To a Scot, I’m English. To an Englisher, I am a Londoner.  To a Londoner? Perhaps I’m a bruv. I’m not sure. It’s been a while since I tuned into Eastenders. But anyway, given that I left the capital in favour of the south coast at age 23, in a few short months I will reach the point where I’m just half a Londoner, and then a day later I will become less than half a Londoner, and more than half something-else. If we are to be precise, I will be 50% Londoner, 37% Dorseter and 13% Mexican.

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When I moved to Dorset in the autumn of 1995, I would go down to the beach often. It had huge novelty factor to a (until recently) city dweller. And on the horizon loomed the Isle of Wight. For 17 years I have regularly looked out across the English Channel at the cliffs of the Isle of Wight and made plans to visit. Last weekend, I finally got around to it. It’s a very pleasant 40 minute ferry ride from Lymington across to Yarmouth, which gave me time to ponder what the Isle of Wight might have to offer the world. And that’s when it struck me. Now hear me out…

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It’s a commonly held principle that before introducing something particularly radical, be it software or policy, one trials the process first to see how well it works. Or how well it doesn’t work, as the case. It’s just good practice. And what better place to trial Brexit than the Isle of Wight? The small island could declare independence, Wixit, becoming the Republic of Wight. They’d install a few pompous elderly chaps and chappettes in various leadership roles and push them infront of microphones to pronounce the brave new vision of the RoW. Wixit Means Wixit! In the British Isles, not in Great Britain. Taking control of the borders. Global Wight.

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The Republic of Wight will revert to non existant WTO tariffs with the rest of the UK, shunning existing trade deals with the former motherland. And why not? The UK is a stagnant economy. It’s a whole brave world out there. There are literally millions of peasants in Peru, the Gambia and Myanmar who would love the opportunity to buy paintings of old ships, fifty year old cracked mantlepiece clocks and Union Flag bunting. They could spend a few million pounds advertising in Egypt and Panama to encourage a new breed of tourist to replace the tight fisted lot from Dorset and Hampshire. And it will be surely just a matter of time before container ships full of Cream Teas leave port on their way to Australia.

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Nigel Farage will be invited to make speeches to audiences packed out with literally tens of nearly-dead rabble rousing pensioners. The Republic of Wight is open to the world, diverse and ready for the challenge. With grand posters showing a range of smiling elderly caucasions headlined ‘Wight Might!’ And then the little island will go bust. Farage will disappear.Excuses will be made.

Economic ruin will see numerous care home residents perish from lack of care. Enough of them to ensure the youth vote wins the second referendum. Wight will go back to being part of Britain, and start with ‘Isle of’. And the whole experience will be enough to convince 10 Downing Street that holding a referendum on full blown Brexit would be a thoroughly foolish thing to do. Perhaps.

This is all wishful thinking. Brexit will have no trial run. And the Isle of Wight makes for a jolly nice day trip. I learned that there was once a railway line from Yarmouth, long since closed down. The station has been converted into a restaurant, Off the Rails, which serves good food at extortionate prices. There are nice river walks. And lots of swans, which will beg for food. If begging doesn’t yield results, then they will quickly resort to mugging. You’ve been warned.
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Monday, April 2, 2018

Benefits of Brexit

We Brits are now less than one year from exiting the European Union. Sort of. And probably. Should I begin to accept the inevitable and embrace Brexit? Nah. Only when the inevitable is truly and unstoppably inevitable. I’m still holding out for a Breversal. But, just for a change, I thought I’d write a post to highlight the true benefits that Brexit will definitely bring us. Ready?
Duty Free Booze Cruises
Once upon a time, Brits would swarm on to ferries to cross over to the continent on day trips. For a change of scene? A taste of real culture? The sophisticated cuisine? To try out the French they’d learned on cassette courses? No, don’t be silly. They were all off to load up on tax free beer, ciggies, rolling tobacco and boxes of Blue Nun and sherry. Alas, the EU put an end to that. But once we’ve left the EU, one presumes that normal service will be resumed, with a new generation of chavs and chavettes enjoying the freedom to buy vast quantities of products which, in most cases, will be put to good use in shortening their lives by a few years. And costing the NHS more of its scarce resources.
Fun fact: At one stage in the 1990s, Drum tobacco was the most smoked rolling tobacco in the UK. Despite not actually being sold here.
Passport Stamps
I’m currently in the process of renewing my passport. It’ll be my third passport, and my renewal couldn’t have come at a better time – I’ll be able to get a British made red European Union passport rather than one of the ghastly new European made blue British passports. Got your head around that? I know…it’s hilarious. But this is by the by. The real benefit is that I’ll be able to collect stamps in my new passport at customs points when I travel in the EU. My first passport was almost filled with exotic stamps and paper visas. But due to my travelling mostly within the EU for the duration of my second passport, it’s half empty.
Fun prediction: My new EU passport will last 10 years. By the time it expires, I’ll be able to get a new EU passport when we rejoin and totally skip ever having a British passport. Maybe…
I Told You So
There’s no escaping this for Brexit fans. Every time something goes a bit wrong, us Remainers will be able to gloat, mock, point fingers and say ‘told you so’. It’s the one positive that comes from a negative result at the ballot box. Brexiters will soon be grumbling about the growing numbers of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent that are needed to replace the dwindling EU workers. The brown faces are even worse that the Polish ones? Well, we told you so. They’ll be grumbling that the NHS doesn’t appear to be benefitting from the promised £350 million a week cash injection. What, the fictional £350 million? Well, we told you so. They’ll be grumbling that their pensions don’t stretch so far. Everything’s just so much more expensive now, isn’t it? Well, we did tell you so.

Fun fact: Arch Eurosceptic Nigel Farage, who has spent the better part of his adult life campaigning againt EU largesse, and has campaigned for us to leave the EU without paying a penny towards our agreed committments (eg EU pensions) intends to collect not one, but two EU pensions


You might think that another benefit, once we are finally, actually, really out of the European Union is that the argument over our membership will be over. Peace and quiet at last, right? I’ll bet that before the Brexiters have had time to finish their first cup of post-EU tea, the debate over Breturn will be raging. But is it likely?
Brexiters are of a certain age. We are highly likely to have to endure another decade, at least, of austerity. Whilst there is always the chance that unforeseen events (or predictable future possibilities that we prefer to ignore – take your pick) might put paid to Breturn,  I’d say it is otherwise almost certain.

And doesn’t that lead us to the most ironic conclusion? The UK at present mostly has the deal it wants with the EU with key opt-outs. Out of Schengen and the Eurozone. And then there’s the UK Rebate, reducing the financial costs of full membership. The Brexiters have kept us out of those over the last couple of decades. Breturn will, in all likelihood, mean the end of those ‘special deals’. So whilst the Brexiters won the battle of 2016, ultimately, it may well be the Arch Europhiles who win the war.
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My Brexit Diaries

...with a dash of Trump bashing for good measure.

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Emotive Subjects

Whenever someone utters the word ’emotive subject’, you can safely wager that what they really mean to say is ‘everyone just calm down, p...

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