Totally Free, Totally Independent

Totally Free, Totally Independent

A lot of territorial changes are anticipated in the wake of a letter from Theresa May to Donald Tusk. By triggering Article 50 it clear that the political map of Europe will need to be redrawn. There is a great deal of uncertainty of how Britain’s leaving of the European Union will be managed, what form trade arrangements will take, what new international arrangements will be made, how will new opportunities be handled. Although slightly apprehensive, I am optimistic that this is a step in the correct direction and one which will allow us to become more democratic, more responsible and able to have relationships with a wider range of people and places.

It is also likely that this change may lead to changes in the make up if the ‘United’ Kingdom itself.  The S.N.P. see Brexit as an opportunity to push for a second independence referendum and, were they successful, Plaid Cymru may follow suit. Although this is rather opportunistic of the S.N.P., I have no concerns over this. Smaller is better in terms of democracies and, in the absence of a federal or canton system in the U.K. , four smaller nations would be less undemocratic than one large unit. These smaller states would be more flexible and responsive than their larger progenitor. This could possibly, though not necessarily, lead to better economic and social systems.

My only concerns are that the S.N.P., with its large state policies and plans to seek continued membership of the European Union, is not promoting policies which bode well for an independent Scotland’s future. On the one hand their policies suggest a future reminiscent of the nightmare of Venezuela (Inefficient oil-backed socialism) while Europe’s policies sugest and equally unsavoury prospect of a Greek future (of externally imposed austerity and reduced public spending).

If we are going to try to use nation states to break up bigger units and bring power closer to people we have to be careful that we manage to do this. Break up the United Kingdom by all means but break up the European Union also.  Don’t bring powers back from London simply to send them further away to Brussels. If we are going to ‘Cry Freedom’ lets go for full freedom and independence. Fully free we can work out our economic and social plans for ourselves.

 

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Territory

Irked rather than enraged.

Irked rather than enraged.

via Daily Prompt: Irksome

It seemed apt that the Daily Prompt today was irksome as, like many others in the UK (and probably the majority), I had been feeling irked by the success of the legal challenge raised against aspects of the process of Brexit. I say irked, as opposed to irate or enraged,  as this is a minor, and possibly inevitable and necessary, annoyance.

Why am I not enraged alongside many in the media ? Because this is haggling over minor details and unlikely to do more than cause a minor delay in the triggering of Article 50. Yes, I agree that it is having an adverse effect on the economy by extending the period of doubt and uncertainty – we have seen the effects of this already on the effect on the FTSE. Further, yes, I agree that will weaken Britain’s bargaining hand when they negotiate in Europe – it will be difficult to present a strong and resolute front when the negotiators on the other side of the table know there is so much friction and uncertainty at home.

However, these are small issues compared to the issues of democracy and sovereignty. It was these major issues on which the Brexit campaign was fought and won. I know that many feel that parliament handed authority back to the people when it agreed to a plebiscite. With a referendum the normal mechanics of representative democracy are changed to permit an episode of direct democracy. However, it appears that the wording of the Act was not sufficient to ensure this in law, leaving the referendum with an ‘advisory’ status despite the statements made that its results would be binding. We now need to amend this error. We will do this and then move on. While doing so we should ensure we do not damage our democratic institutions, it was for these that we fought. Any righteous anger that an error was made, or that we were mislead, should be kept in check.  We should be careful that we do no win the war and lose the peace.

So, if this is only tidying up a minor legal error, why is it even irritating or irksome ? It is irksome because it was not necessary. No-one was acting with malevolent intention by planning to use the Crown Prerogative (which had been used to usher in much of the EU legislation before – it could have been a delightful irony). The government was not planning anything underhand but rather trying to deliver what it thought it had promised. It is irksome not because of the governments actions but because the actions of those who brought the legal challenge acted in bad faith. They had no desire to fine tune the legal process of Brexit they wished to impede or halt it.

Gina Miller, who raised this challenge (Along with the Orwellian doublespeak group ‘The Peoples’ Challenge’), was a remainer who described herself as “stunned”, “shocked” and “alarmed”  by the results of the referendum. She was thus galvanised to to do something about it, to try and subvert the results of the democratic process by legal pettifogging. This subversion will have some negative impacts, but in the greater scale of things their effects will likely be minor. She did not act to protect our sovereignty nor to promote democracy, she, and they, acted to thwart the choice made by the majority of those who voted and to try and stem the transfer of powers back to Westminster. They used the powers we have to keep us weaker but it will be in vain. Once the people have spoken their words can not be unsaid and, after jumping some legal hurdles,  Article 50 will be triggered and the process started.

However, if I am wrong, if I have misjudged the situation and predicted wrongly, then I may be using the wrong word by saying it is “irksome”. If, albeit very unlikely, the House of Commons stood in the way of the expressed will of the people then irksome would be the wrong word. Or, if the un-elected House of Lords decided, like suicidal lemmings, to reject the results of the referendum and enforce their greater authority on the people, then irked would not be the appropriate word.

Should frankly anti-democratic steps such as those be taken then much stronger adjectives will be needed. Perhaps furious, enraged or livid might be more appropriate. However, even in the Daily Prompt proffers these words as cues it is unlikely I will see them as I, alongside many others, will not be at our screens but out on the streets.

The Child is Father to the Man

The Child is Father to the Man

I was enfranchised and able to vote for the first time in 1975. It was a time of turmoil and unrest. Unemployment was high as was inflation (at one point inflations reached 24%). Young people felt that their futures were bleak and many felt society was becoming increasingly unequal. The European Economic Community was held by many to be one of the major causes of the many problems of the time; it was seen as a club designed to benefit business and the wealthy at the expense of the poor.  As a young man I allied myself with the progressive forces and campaigned for a “NO” vote in the EEC referendum on the 5th of June 1975.

We had a major battle ahead of us. The big money was against us and all the media, except the Morning Star, had sided with the YES campaign [1]. But we fought on. Our experts warned of increased food prices as a consequence of the Common Agricultural Policy, syndicalist groups warned of the effects for labour and statesmen of every hue warned about the loss of political power which would follow a shift of power from London to Brussels [2]. The nationalists in Scotland, Wales and Ireland joined the fray and warned against loss of sovereignty [3].

Our experts were correct, but we lost. We lost heavily it was a “landslide” for YES [4]. The young, the better educated and the left had been outvoted by the rest. We saw what had happened and knew what to do. We needed to continue to work to see if it was possible to change the European project from the crony capitalist support network it was becoming, to see if our criticisms were correct and our fears did indeed manifest, and to build a political consensus. In the next 41 years we discovered that the EU could not be changed from within, our fears were in fact correct and we had been able to build a political movement.

4o or so years later, we young voters, now more experienced, older and wiser, got a second chance and we took it. The youth had grown into the man and the man was able to look to the youth’s future.

 

 


My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold

William Wordsworth

My heart leaps up when I behold

A rainbow in the sky:

So was it when my life began;

So is it now I am a man;

So be it when I shall grow old,

Or let me die!

The Child is the father of the Man;

And I could wish my days to be

Bound each to each by natural piety.


1         Walsh J. Britain’s 1975 Europe referendum: what was it like last time? The Guardian. 2016.http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/feb/25/britains-1975-europe-referendum-what-was-it-like-last-time .

2         News B. EU referendum: Did 1975 predictions come true? – BBC News. BBC News. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36367246 .

3         Meyer J-H. The 1975 referendum on Britain’s continued membership in the EEC. cvce.eu. 2016.http://www.cvce.eu/obj/jan_henrik_meyer_the_1975_referendum_on_britain_s_continued_membership_in_the_eec-en-eb67b6cf-33ef-4f79-9510-b6fab56d2509.html.

4         MacKie D. Anatomy of a Landslide. The Manchester Guardian. 1975.http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2015/6/3/1433347013098/Mckie-7-June-1975-001.jpg

As well hung for a sheep as a lamb

As well hung for a sheep as a lamb

We are some weeks after the EU referendum and we are still in murky waters. Those who won the referendum are slowly developing a strategy for a future outwith the EU but have been handicapped by the need to select a new leader of the conservative party, to act as Prime Minister, to start the negotiations around Article 50. However, those who lost the referendum, the minority, have not given up yet, despite their petition for a second referendum being soundly rejected by the government [1]. They continue to fight for a reversal and, while some continuing argument is to be expected and reasonable, increasingly they are being counter productive.

The Remainers scaremongering over the economy has not fully settled. There is much gloating and “I told you so” when they seem to take pleasure from seeing the graphs of Sterling’s decline [2,3]and the significant drops in the stock market [4,5]. Despite the rally that occurred on the UK share market and despite the obvious weaknesses that have been shown in the European markets (and the Euro) at the same time they have continued their onslaught. They are indeed right that markets in shares and currency are influenced by factors such as confidence and expressed opinions and by their shouting and doom-mongering they can be expected to make their prophecies come true. It seems worrying, that they appear to be happier being seen to be correct in hindsight than to start to work out how to promote our economy in its new relationships. They seem keener to see people hurt and punished than to help sort out problems that they profess to understand.

However, worse than this effect on the economy, which will only be short term, is the damage that they are doing to our society. They are actively promoting inter-generational discord, encouraging the young to blame the elderly for a blighted future. Unpleasant pieces have suggested that they “blame granny” for “screwing us over again” [6,7]. Hopefully time and experience will stop this rift widening or this wound festering. The young get older and, as a consequence.  more experienced and wiser. They will realise the folly of this these calls to bias the vote towards the young and employed for the anti-democratic step that it would represent.

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But, the most dangerous game that they have played is to falsely fly the racism flag. During the campaign Leave voters were castigated as racists and following the result this has continued [8–10] with reports that Britain is more racist society in the days following Brexit. This flies in the face of the fact that Britain is clearly a less racist country than it was in the past. The heyday for racist parties like the NF and BNP, and more recently EDL, is well past [11]. This is not to say that the problem of racism has been eradicated, it clearly has not as recent events in America and Europe can testify[12,13] . However, racist thought is now clearly on the margins of British political life. Though racists may wish to garner the support of their fellow country men and women their views are considered beyond the pale and thus they have great difficulty in spreading their bile.

However, there are ways we could make this easier. One way would be to devalue the word “racism” itself. At present it is a heinous slur to be thrown at anyone and rightly people shudder when they find racist ideas being promoted. However, if we start to use the term to describe over 17,000,000 people, to describe people worried by the effects of terrorism, or to describe people who fear for the capacity of their local services, and have these fears without animosity to people because of their race, then we will devalue the term. If people are falsely accused of racist intentions they will have to deal with the distress somehow. Some will argue and explain why their concerns are not based on racial prejudice and they will hopefully be successful in this. Others might wonder why they are being so slandered and thus doubt the accuracy or honesty of their accuser. They might think “if they can be wrong about that perhaps they are wrong about what these racists intend”. In this scenario the barrier to thinking the unthinkable is weakened and they may help the racists disseminate their ideas. Further, racists, hearing that the majority of the UK population is racist, could start to feel emboldened and given the succour and push to climb out from under their stones into the sunlight of what they imagine to be an accepting world. This factor, I fear, may underpin some of the recent increased racist violence and vandalism.

It is time for those who wanted to remain in the EU to start to be productive, to engage in politics rather than cry “foul”, to propose strategies rather than cause damage to prove their point, and to stop playing with fire because it is not just their fingers which will get burnt.

 


 

1         Cockburn H. Brexit: Government rejects second EU referendum petition signed by 4.1 million. The Independent. 2016.http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-government-rejects-eu-referendum-petition-latest-a7128306.html 

2         Monaghan A. Sterling hits new 31-year low against the dollar. The Guardian. 2016.http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jul/06/brexit-pound-plunges-to-30-year-lows-as-eu-fears-bite-into-global-markets-again 

3         Sheffield H. Pound sterling could slide below $1.20 because of Brexit, Goldman Sachs warns. The Independent. 2016.http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/pound-sterling-dollar-exchange-rate-lows-goldman-sachs-forecast-brexit-eu-referendum-a7122541.html .

4         Chu B. Thought the worst was over for the economy after Brexit? Think again. The Independent. 2016.http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-economy-ftse-value-of-the-pound-is-the-worst-over-think-again-europe-a7120891.html .

5         Wearden G, Fletcher N, Thielman S, et al. Brexit panic wipes $2 trillion off world markets – as it happened. The Guardian. 2016.http://www.theguardian.com/business/live/2016/jun/24/global-markets-ftse-pound-uk-leave-eu-brexit-live-updates .

6         Ridley L. EU Referendum Data Shows Youth ‘Screwed By Votes Of Older Generations’. The Huffington Post. 2016.http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/eu-referendum-results-age-data-young_uk_576cd7d6e4b0232d331dac8f .

7         Helm T. Poll reveals young remain voters reduced to tears by Brexit result. The Guardian. 2016.http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/02/brexit-referendum-voters-survey .

8         Versi M. Brexit has given voice to racism – and too many are complicit | Miqdaad Versi. The Guardian. 2016.http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/27/brexit-racism-eu-referendum-racist-incidents-politicians-media .

9         Moritimer C. Hate crimes surge by 42% in England and Wales since Brexit result. The Independent. 2016.http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/brexit-hate-crime-racism-stats-spike-police-england-wales-eu-referendum-a7126706.html .

10         Norton B. How neoliberalism fuels the racist xenophobia behind Brexit and Donald Trump. Salon. http://www.salon.com/2016/07/01/how_neoliberalism_fuels_the_racist_xenophobia_behind_brexit_and_donald_trump/ .

11         MikeH. The End of the BNP? | www.debater.org.uk. 2016.http://www.debater.org.uk/?p=431 .

12         Noman N. Racism in America Today Is Alive and Well — And These Stats Prove It. Mic. 2016.https://mic.com/articles/140107/racism-in-america-today-is-alive-and-well-and-these-stats-prove-it .

13         Kotkin J. Who’s Racist Now? Europe’s Increasing Intolerance – Forbes. Forbes. 2010.http://www.forbes.com/sites/joelkotkin/2010/10/18/whos-racist-now-europes-increasing-intolerance/ .

The Gilded Cage

The Gilded Cage

I do not feel that I have been so engaged in the politics of the country as I have over the last few months. During the referendum campaign I found myself torn between two options both of which carried risks and potential benefits. I started the process as someone who would be likely to vote to “remain” because of my economic cautiousness and someone who felt themselves to be an internationalist. I ended the campaign putting an “X” in the box against “leave”.

During the campaign it was clear that the push to remain was based on arguments of prosperity, that we would all have more money and more security of wealth, if we remained in the EU. Strong though these arguments were they did not settle my growing unease as I read of the anti-democratic nature of the EU and the clear evidence that the EU works to foster ‘crony capitalism’ rather then free trade and internationalism. There was good evidence that the EU is one of the drivers for the increasing unfairness of capitalism when success arises from rent-seeking by corporations in close cooperation with government agencies.

For me, immigration was never a major factor in my decision on how to vote. I support free movement of people and think that, in economic terms, immigration is usually a net benefit to an economy. However, we have to be careful that free movement is not an excuse for companies to undercut wages of local workforces by importing cheaper labour, nor an excuse to allow companies to force labour to move across the continent, often breaking up families, in the search for a decent wage. The differences in various nations’ welfare state provisions mean that taxpayers, via the government, can end up paying to allow the luxury of companies to drive down their labour costs – the companies do not pay the costs of the “social wage” that is often a large part of the differential that makes the migration attractive for workers.

I did find the paradoxical accusations of “racism” annoying. All my life I have fought against racism wherever I have encountered it. To find the term bandied about, simply as a term of abuse, to scare people in a campaign was distasteful and  probably put the first cracks in my decision to vote “remain”. The EU has done dreadful damage to farmers in non-european countries and caused many problems for potential migrants from non-european countries. It would be easier, and more accurate, to level the charge of racism against the EU with its “free movement” so long as you are Caucasian and were born in Europe.

But my worries about the financial aspects remained even when I was clear that for fairness, free trade and democracy I’s have to vote for “leave”. Though I did start to More of the house and garden 007recognise I was being offered a gilded cage – stay here, it is rich and safe, don’t worry about those abstract things they matter less than material security. But I also knew that gilt fades and gilded cages usually end up as plain prisons as time goes on. In the early days Greece would have found the EU money a wonderful incentive to participate and who would not want to be in this pretty organisation with its largesse. Most Greeks now find their cage pretty oppressive, as do increasing numbers of others (for example the large numbers of unemployed youth in southern Europe).

It felt increasing like going through a divorce. There were all the fears, stoked up by an annoyed spouse – that “how will I cope” fear, that “perhaps he’ll change” glimmer of hope, that “things are not all that bad after all” grasping at straws. This has been even more apparent in the first week apart with the erratic behaviour of the EU staff at times threatening retribution and revenge then trying a more conciliatory approach. When couples find themselves at this point in a relationship they nearly always part and almost never remarry. The gilded cage often keeps one partner there for longer then they should but eventually they recognise that some things are more important than money.

Tony Benn once said “Better a bad democracy than a good King” and he was right. To have democratic power over those who rule us is more important than short-term wealth. To have the ability to contest the rules which are made is also the best way to secure long-term prosperity. We will fare better out of the EU and may also help other countries to recognise that they can also.

The first week after the vote has strengthened my resolve and reassured me that my decision was correct. To read the response of the “remain” group has confirmed how anti-democratic they were with their calls to ignore or re-run the referendum, with their hostility to the elderly, with  their distaste for the poor of the country, and with their arrogant self-assuredness that they were correct when the majority was in error.

Whatever happens we have taken the correct first step.