8. Understanding the Pound

18 10 2016

Brexit Blog 8:  Understanding the Pound

Why is the Pound Important?

For many talk of ‘the Pound’ is confusing so here is an ultra-simple approach to ‘understanding ‘the pound’:

Imagine these exchange rates – we’ll use big figures for ease (but they are never this big):

  Pounds Sterling US dollars Euros
Week 1 1 4 6
Week 2 1 3 4
Week 3 1 2 3

What this imaginary table means is that

In week 1 you could exchange your pound for 4 dollars or 6 euros

In week 2 your pound will now get 3 dollars or 4 euros

In week 3 your pound will now get 2 dollars or 3 euros

In the language you see in the press,

In week 1 the pound is strong

In week 3 the pound is weak

A stronger pound is shown by a lower figure for pence per euro/dollar, as it takes less sterling to buy a euro or dollar

A ‘weaker pound’ is shown as a higher figure for the other currency, as it takes more sterling to buy that currency.

(The exchange rates go up and down according to international trade in currencies, rates of inflation and various other international economic factors)

See below, the cost of buying 1 dollar or 1 euro according to the above example table:

   1 US dollar 1 Euro  
Week 1 25p 16.6p Stronger pound
Week 2 33.3p 25p  
Week 3 50p 33.3p Weaker pound

Good news or bad news?

Let’s consider different people:

1. Holiday maker

In week 1, going to France you could have got 6 euros for your pound – lots to spend for few pounds used

Week 3, you only get 3 euros per pound, i.e. you either need to spend twice as many pounds to get the same number of euros or accept you will only take half the number of euros.

2. French Business man

He sells his item at home for 6 euros.

Over here his price tag will be £1 in week 1 but £2 in week 3

i.e. it will be less attractive (more expensive) here in week 3.

Consequences:  with a ‘weak pound’ imports are more expensive and will either not sell so well (luxury goods) or will push up cost of living (essential goods)

 3. British Business man

He sells his item at home for say £1

Over in France his price tag will be 6e in week 1 but 3e in week 3

i.e. it will be more attractive (cheaper) there in week 3

Consequences: with a ‘weak pound’ exports are less expensive and thus more attractive abroad. Good for British manufacturer who may expand his business, take on more staff, helps employment, puts more money into pockets for spending in UK.

(In reality the price ticket changes would not happen so quickly as there are usually a number of buffers [in money or goods held] that means prices take a little while to react.)

And what did the Press say?

Pound hits 31 year low as hard Brexit fears grow  (Oct 4th)

(Sounds bad news)

Sterling fell to a 31-year low against the dollar today amid fears over a so-called hard Brexit. Philip Hammond, the new chancellor, has warned the economy faces a “rollercoaster” ride.

(and then later….)

a 31-year low of 1.2643 against the dollar last night   Oct 7th

(but….)

Sterling stuck in Brexit-inspired spiral (Oct 11 2016, The Times)

(a bad sounding headline followed by….)

The pound fell by half a cent against the dollar to $1.2382 yesterday as traders continued to worry about a possible “hard Brexit”.

(But near the end of the article….)

Lord King of Lothbury, the former Bank of England governor, told Sky News yesterday that fears over the behaviour of the pound since the referendum were overblown.

He said: “The economy was slowing somewhat before the [Brexit] vote and we are in a position where the rest of the world is not offering us much help. I don’t think we should fear [Brexit]. It’s not a bed of roses, but nor is it the end of the world.”

Indeed, a former International Monetary Fund executive has claimed that the slump in sterling is a blessing in disguise after years of overvaluation and helps to break the stranglehold of the financial elites over the British economy.

“The idea that Britain is in crisis or is on its knees before the exchange rate vigilantes is ludicrous,” Ashoka Mody, a former IMF deputy director for Europe now at Princeton University in the United States, told The Daily Telegraph.

The UK economy is rebalancing amazingly well. It is a stunning achievement that a once-in-fifty-year event should have gone so smoothly.”

(and also interestingly, reporting the same….)

Pound needs to fall further’  (The Telegraph – 11 October 2016)

The slump in sterling is a blessing in disguise after years of overvaluation and helps to break the corrosive stranglehold of the financial elites over the British economy, according to a former bail-out chief for the International Monetary Fund.  “It is desirable from every point of view. The idea that Britain is in crisis or is on its knees before the exchange rate vigilantes is ludicrous,” said Ashoka Mody, the IMF’s former deputy-director for Europe and now at Princeton University.

Conclusions?

Don’t Panic – think!

 





7. More on Immigration and Borders

18 10 2016

Brexit Blog 7:  More on the Problem of Immigration and Borders

Picking up on Racism & Immigration

Without doubt, although one of the main planks of the Leave side was to do with curbing immigration and having secure borders, this does in fact present us with difficult areas to work through. We started thinking about racism earlier on in these blogs but I believe we need to emphasise a crucial point in much of today’s public thinking and argument. Our earlier definition about racism spoke about feelings of superiority and inferiority. I suggested that it is not racist to merely speak of the differences between nationalities. Indeed, I would go on to suggest that we should relish and enjoy our differences. I believe we will lose something if we lose our differences.

I hinted at or suggested that some nationalities on main-land Europe, even though being part of the bigger body, resent influences trying to make them the same as others on the other side of adjoining borders. Perhaps they don’t realise that this must be the ultimate goal of those who would want one and only one Federation of Europe. If you really follow the argument through, different languages and different practices speak of division and division is the anathema of those working for one Europe.  Possibly it has been some sense of this feeling that has resulted in a majority vote for leaving the EU in Britain and is also being seen in (at present at least) vocal minority parties in some of the EU nations, as we noted in an earlier blog.

The Particular Problem of Assimilating into a Country

Now perhaps I may also pick up on one further thought that I missed in earlier writings. It is on the question of assimilation of people who come from abroad and want to be part of our community. Now maybe at some later date I will wax eloquent on some of what I believe are good features of this green and pleasant land but for the moment I think it is fair to suggest that if someone wants to come to our country to benefit from job opportunities or benefits generally they should also be asked to truly become part of this community as it already is. As commented before, I realise we have not done well in this respect in the past but it is never too late to start thinking about it.

Now note the wording there – ‘this community as it already is’. Now I accept that communities in a modern world are likely to be changing all the time but – and I believe there is a big area here for debate and discussion which has not yet happened – there are likely to be a number of ‘norms’ of the beliefs and lifestyles of any particular country which it may wish to hold on to and therefore it is reasonable to accept they want to take steps to hold onto.

A number of times over the past thirty years various Prime Ministers and their governments in the UK have warily approached this subject with talk of citizenship and the like. The USA, after all, requires this of immigrants wishing to become American citizens. Our own governments have been wary about this because most have not wished to link what appear to be moral issues with nationhood. Nevertheless, the recent referendum threw up the issue of feeling excluded or not being cared for by government, which some have suggested was at the root of the referendum result, certainly in the Midlands and the North.

In her closing speech at the recent Conservative Party Conference, the Prime Minister used the word fairness some sixteen times I believe in her speech. Now that is certainly an indicator that she has taken note of various polls and research papers about how people felt, but one might hope that it is more than a mere political knee-jerk reaction and might in fact be a sign of a nation that isn’t afraid to face moral issues, talk about them and do something about them. It has to start somewhere.

So how do you bring people into the country and help them assimilate into the existing community and accept its norms? An intriguing model for this can be seen when desiring to be a permanent resident of the Cayman Islands, known in films at least, for being a ‘tax haven’ south of Cuba.   Having lived there for eight years an application for permanent residency will involve the individual showing that he/she is, to put it in the simplest of terms, a benefit to the islands, by way of such things as having an occupation that benefits the islands, no doubt including education, experience and training that will benefit the islands, perhaps have local investments and certainly be financially stable, and be able to show they are the local community minded and are involved in activities that benefit the community.

Don’t laugh, I am not going to suggest those rules are applied to the UK because half the population, I suspect, would fail!  Nevertheless, it may not be unfair to ask would be immigrants who intend to stay here more than a set short period be asked to show some sort of similar intent. Speaking reasonable English would be a good start. Good in theory but perhaps difficult in practice – which is why we should be talking about these sorts of things when we are talking about immigration, and we need to acknowledge we have a lot of years to catch up!

General Problem of Border Restrictions

But back to the problem of borders.  There appear to be three particular problems that we, and Europe generally, are struggling with to do with borders. They are as follows:

  1. The problem of security

France and Belgium have demonstrated painfully over the last few years, the problem of keeping out terrorists when you have open borders. As much as there has been co-operation between security forces of different countries (and it would be a foolish continent that would exclude Britain from such cooperation in the future), it has clearly been inadequate.

The Leave side has seen control over immigrants from across the Channel as a means of making the country more secure, although very much more needs to be done even if there were stricter border checks. But we have a unique problem in the existence of Eire and Northern Ireland where traditionally border security has been relatively low key. Without fencing the entire border between the two countries, this is always going to be a problem area.

  1. The problem of a mobile work force

Much recent rhetoric has focused on the need – as declared by some employers at least – for there to be an open door policy for migrant workers. Recent proposals by the government sent out ripples of concern: “Amber Rudd, the home secretary, put forward plans for a visa-entry scheme for skilled migrants. Her plan would close the door to low-skilled migrants from the EU.” (The Times 17th Oct 2016).  Philip Hammond suggested that members of the Brexit cabinet committee should continue examining options and the media immediately leapt on apparent divisions.

But there is the dilemma over migrant workers. Do we

  1. Allow in only skilled workers
  2. Allow in some low-skilled workers who already have jobs to go to
  3. Allow in anyone regardless of work skills

In addition to these, despite living in a heavily technology- reinforced society, there is always the difficulty of keeping tabs on people who enter or seek to enter the country simply to visit family and friends, or even refugees who might be hear short-term. The fact that we have ghettos is not only a reminder that we have not assimilated people very well into our nation, but also that is has become very difficult to keep track of people who wish to stay hidden. No wonder the security forces constantly ask for more money to expand.

  1. The problem of trade barriers or trade tariffs

Here tariffs are taxes imposed on imports and have been traditionally used to control imports. Of course to do this we need to have agreements with other countries to whom we might wish to export otherwise they may retaliate an impose high taxes on our goods going into their countries. The idea of such taxes is simply to make the goods prohibitively expensive so they will not be bought. That helps our Balance of Trade (Imports versus Exports) but not if we have restricted our own exports as we have tried to limit imports.

And So…

Wherever you look at the issues pertaining to Brexit, there are questions needing answers and more often than not they do not appear easy questions, which means that those in power in the Government and the Civil Service will be working very intensely to work out what the questions are, as well as looking at what potential answers may be.

The issue is complicated by three significant factors

  • The other EU leaders, some worried more about the state of their own countries
  • The general world economy which will influence our economy regardless of Brexit,
  • Both sides – Leave and Remain – who will feel defensive or attacking, simply because it is ultra-clear that there are those who purport to have a voice in the country who want to sound off and influence the outcome, one way or the other.

This leaves one wanting to shout to shout to those within that last group

  • Shut up and let the powers that be get on with it without having to constantly fend off your rantings (media, parliament, nervy business, etc. etc.)
  • Be patient and allow them to have time to formulate questions and answers without being under pressure from you; you are hindering a good outcome!

And a final word. Remember, with all the focus on Brexit and the UK, there is a danger that we fail to see the economic and financial turmoils still gently simmering in a number of the EU countries.

 

 

 

 





4. The World of Posturing

9 10 2016

Brexit Blog 4:  The World of Posturing

Posturing: Dictionary Defn: Bravado, Bluster, Pretension, adopting a bold posture or stand

One of the difficulties, it seems to me, is the stance that the many groups with vested interests in Brexit take, or to be more precise, the motives or reasons they have for taking those stances. When listening to, and then responding to, the various outpourings from these groups I would suggest that we need to bear in mind their motivations before getting all hot under the collar about what they are saying. There are five particular groups that come to my attention in this respect:

  1. The EU – preliminary to negotiating

From all of the reporting that has gone on at least for the last year, I would suggest that a number of parties on the continent are as much in a place of fear and trembling that I have previously suggested some of our Remain people are in. At least two of the leading countries of the EU have serious financial problems and in the run up to the referendum I watched a number of experts (unfortunately before I was recording such comments, so you’ll have to take my word for it) using such words as ‘potential bankruptcy on the horizon. There may be more than those two. There are at least two leading EU nations who are facing a major crisis with an aging population with inadequate future pension funding. There may be more than two. The EU has problems of its own and time may reveal those problems are terminal. Wait and see.

But the next biggest problem the EU has, and it’s equally big as our own, is how to go about and negotiate our departure. Views on how to go about this for the benefit of both sides (anything less will produce stalemate) are many and varied.

Mathias Döpfner, German chief executive of Axel Springer, the publishing house, recently said “I very simply think that in the long run continental Europe may suffer more from Brexit than England itself,” he said. “We should not take this whole Brexit decision as a way to blame the Brits. We should take it like a wake-up call for Europe to refresh its political approach. I count on the pragmatism and the free-market orientation of the British people and they will find ways to attract foreign investment and be an important business hub.” (The Times 27th Sept 2016)

Every time Angela Merkel or some other EU leader launches off about Brexit negatively, remember they are setting out the table for negotiations, and you always start from the hard or high end of bargaining. If you read the report that said, “Angela Merkel won thunderous applause from hundreds of German business leaders yesterday as she warned that Britain could not retain full access to the EU’s single market unless it allowed free movement of people,” (The Times 7th Oct 2016) remember she is setting the table for negotiations and that one aspect may not run with everyone. The truth may well be that actually German car makers want to be more open to us and us to them, than their present chancellor ‘appears’. Again, watch this space.

  1. Labour (including labour-sympathizing newspapers)

Recent rumour has it that Tony Blair is talking about coming back into the fold to make a bid for the Labour leadership. I suspect there would be many who would forgive him Iraq if there was a saviour on the horizon who might have a chance of pulling Labour back from its apparently extreme left wing tendencies at the present time. Is David Milliband too entrenched in the USA to ever think of coming back?

Whatever the realities of the Labour party’s anguishes, one thing is sure: it makes life easier for the Government to just get on with the business of working out Brexit without too many distractions from the Opposition. But remember whenever you hear rumblings about Brexit from the Labour fold, bear in mind they are the Opposition (just) and Brexit is always a good target to throw things at – but that’s what Oppositions do, don’t forget.

But my heading also includes labour-sympathizing newspapers. Let’s steer away from potential law suits and simply say, you know who we mean. If you are looking for unbiased, objective reporting and comments, this is not where you should be looking and if you do read them, remember their bias.

  1. The General Media

In some parts of the media there is this thing which is supposed to be healthy but on one side can appear boring and on the other, if you only spot one side, very biased. It is called balance. Watch the BBC interviewing people in the street over any particular ‘hot’ issue, and you will probably find equal numbers on both sides being picked up by the reporter.

The Times also appears particularly good at this. On one day a ‘comment’ article appears slating the PM’s approach and then the next day there is another writer saying how well she is doing. It can be a confusing world and it can be negative if you miss the ‘positive day’. Be careful.

But all newspapers live by creating interest and sometimes replace ‘interest’ with ‘controversy’. Watch for apparently terrible headlines and then think about the reality of what they are saying. Consider for example the headline from various papers: “Brexit negotiations may cost £65m.” The implication is how terrible this is. It is in fact quoting a Report called ‘Planning for Brexit: Silence Is Not A Strategy’ from the ‘respected’ Institute for Government and one paper includes the line, “The new Prime Minister is also criticised for her “silence” on her position and for not beginning exit negotiations.”  Perhaps someone in that think-tank needs to think a bit more about what happens when you line up for important negotiations;  you don’t rush, you take your time and don’t let foolhardy or less experienced negotiators influence you. This is a new day and none of us – on both sides of the English Channel – have trod this ground before. Yes, it will take a time to settle and that includes within the workings of the Government and the Civil Service. Give them a chance!

  1. Remain Enthusiasts

I have already touched on the ‘sour grapes’ mentality but it is there without a doubt, those who say, “I told you so,” the moment the pound goes the wrong way, as well as those who take any opportunity to remind us that they said it was a bad thing to leave. These doom-sayers are still around and they will no doubt pop up regularly on the roller-coaster it is suggested we are on. I think in the last war they were called fifth columnists

  1. ‘Experts’ who spoke contrary to Leave

Allied to the Remain Enthusiasts are the ‘experts’ who said, “It is wrong” and who are now nursing their wounds because we the great ignorant British people ignored their counsel.  In the light of what I have reported under heading 3 above, you do sometimes wonder if people simply say or write things because they have a job reputation to build, an ego to appease, or simply be seen to be doing ‘something’.

We live in a world where image and ego often rule and, yes, it may be right, what that report quoted above said. Perhaps there have been ‘turf wars’ over who does what, as they struggle to find out what they are supposed to be doing.  Perhaps individual ministers do yet need to learn to say nothing until they’ve all agreed it, but as I’ve said, it is early days and a number of these people have never trod this ground before. Let’s have some grace to give them space to learn the ropes, because the odds are that neither you nor me would want their jobs with the hours they put in and the pressure they are under to perform.

 





3. The Great Unknown

8 10 2016

Brexit Blog 3:  The Great Unknown

The Bizarre Nature of the Referendum

The most bizarre thing about this referendum has been the great uncertainty factor. The government led by David Cameron and George Osborne in particular made big play about how terrible it would be if we left the EU and they rounded up and pressurized a whole bunch of influential leaders all of whom produced a whole variety of prophecies of doom. In the short term at least these have been proven to be very wrong.

In the debate between Nigel Farage and David Cameron, the then-leader of ukip was first asked why all the experts were saying leaving the EU will be a catastrophe. He cited the advice years ago from the experts to join the ERM which went wrong and then later advice to join the euro with warning of how bad it would be if we didn’t, and they were wrong.

While not wanting to rely upon a leader who appears to move in and out of the leadership of a party which some say has outlived its original purpose, there is a truth that is quite evident that actually trying to forecast how the future will work out is a mug’s game, and in the short-term at least that forecasting has been largely wrong.

The campaigning before the referendum, on both sides, was often frenetic with wild statements being made while the rest of us looked on and knew deep down, NO ONE KNOWS how it will work out either way.

Blinkered Vision – Limited Knowledge

Looking back on the campaigning it seems like there was either a loss of reality that personal bias brings or things were being said with the intention of steamrollering truth for the reason I’ve just given and so the outcome was, “We must say anything to win our case because we don’t actually KNOW what outcomes there will be, but we are sure WE are right!”

There have been those who have said, “We need to have another referendum because the  Leave people were not told the full facts and the vote was taken on imperfect information.” I like the old adage that says, “The one thing about history is that history teaches us nothing.” I say this because if this is true – and it is almost certainly true of both sides because neither side could see with a certainty what will happen – then history is indeed repeating itself.

Andrew Marr in his weighty tome, “A History of Modern Britain”, makes an interesting point when he covers the referendum that took us into the EU when he says, “More than thirty years later, the bigger question both about Heath’s triumph in engineering British membership and then about the Labour referendum, is whether the British were told the full story and truly understood the supranational organisation that they were signing up to. Ever since, many of those among the 8.5 million who voted against, and younger people who share their view, have suggested that Heath and Jenkins and the rest lied to the country, at least by omission.”

He goes on to suggest that may not be entirely true yet concludes, “Yet both in Parliament and in the referendum campaign, the full consequences for national independence were mumbled, not spoken clearly enough.”

From all he says, going on his information, no doubt voices were raised in all directions but with such monumental decisions, it is almost certain the entire truth will never be known.  Back then we took a leap of faith. This year we have taken another one. The past forty years have suggested many ups and downs of life within the EU and no doubt, in the next however many years, there will be similar ups and downs but now on the opposite side. The question has to be, will we do all we can to make it good? Some of the ramblings on this blog may, hopefully address some of the aspects of what is happening and what might happen.

Self-fulfilling prophecies of doom or success?

In the aftermath there have still been predictions that it will yet go pear shaped from doom-mongers of Remain which somehow feel like ‘sour grapes’, we didn’t get our way so we’re going to make it sound bad so it might go bad and we’ll be proved right and you wrong.

IF this is true, then surely this is the equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot. Fact 1: We had an election. Fact 2: That election was won by the Leave side.  Fact 3: We don’t rerun elections because we didn’t like the outcome. Fact 4: The present Prime Minister in her desire to honor the will of the majority people as shown by the referendum result has decreed we will honor that and Brexit means Brexit.

It is always possible that this decision will turn out to be the worst decision made by the country for a long time (although I personally don’t think it will) but surely it is in all of our interests to do all we can to see that that decision works for us as a nation, and for Europe as a close trading group in the rest of the world.

One with the EU?

In a remarkably statesmanlike and somber mood, Boris Johnson on the morning of the result said the following: “it does not mean it will be any less European. I want to speak directly to the millions of people who did not vote for this outcome, especially young people who may feel that this decision involves somehow pulling up the drawbridge because I think the very opposite is true. We cannot turn our backs on Europe. We are part of Europe, our children and our grandchildren will continue to have a wonderful future as Europeans, travelling to the continent, understanding the languages and the cultures that make up our common European civilisation, continuing to interact with the peoples of other countries in a way that is open and friendly and outward looking. And I want to reassure everyone Britain will continue to be a great European power, leading discussions on defence and foreign policy and the work that goes on to make our world safer.”

Who back then, at the time of the referendum could have guessed that the wisdom of a new woman Prime Minister would ever make that speaker the next Foreign Secretary?  Whether those words can be fulfilled will, in a measure, be determined by the EU itself, and that subject must be part of a separate discussion. Watch this space.





2. Why we voted as we did

7 10 2016

Brexit Blog 2: Why  we voted as we did

Why we voted as we did: an initial response

From the outset many voices have been raised in trying to explain the outcome. Bearing in mind, the referendum occurred on Thursday 23 June 2016 with the results coming out on the 24th, the following is a remarkably apparently accurate ‘instant’ assessment: “Although the vote has to be interpreted as an instruction to withdraw from the EU, it sounded in the early hours of Friday more like a howl of rage and frustration by one half of the country against the system of power, wealth and privilege perceived to be controlled by an elite residing, well, elsewhere.” (Rafael Behr – The Guardian – 24 June 2016)

I say this in the light of the Rowntree Foundation report that came out in August 2016 and which stated, “Put simply, older, white and more economically insecure people with low levels of educational attainment were consistently more likely to vote for Brexit than younger people, degree-holders, minorities and the more secure middle- and upper-classes.” (Rowntree Foundation Report: Aug 2016)

Both follow the idea that there was a divide in the nation that has been variously been labelled as London versus the rest, or north versus south, or rich versus poor, or old versus young.

Why we voted as we did: wonderings

Having said what we have said, I have my own personal wonderings, and that is all they are. Before the vote I was aware that in my family, my sons, and to a lesser measure my son-in-law, were all verging on definitely remain while I, the patriarch of this family was definitely for “let’s leave!” This seemed to conform to the patterns above but then as there were soundings being taken around the country on TV, I was surprised at the number of young people who were saying they wanted out – but it is of course possible that they fitted into the lower educated or economically insecure groups that Rowntree spoke of, who really know?

If it was young versus old, then here is my take on that. I am absolutely certain that for the last fifty years there has been a trend in demeaning Britishness (I will look at this again in a later blog on racism). On one hand we have become more affluent and multicultural while on the other hand we have become less secure and less proud of being British, and subsequent governments have allowed ‘foreign investors’ to take over large parts of industrial Britain so we are very much tenants of a land increasingly owned by others.

One of the surprising features of the post-referendum period has been the violent opposition to Brexit by those who quite obviously voted to remain. Never before have we seen the idea of “we don’t like the result of this election so let’s have another one until ‘we’ get our way”. I would suggest that behind this is fear of going down a slippery slope of isolationism into poverty because we are no longer being nurtured and cared for by the EU. (I believe that is an inaccurate perception anyway).

My own voting to leave came purely from a gut feeling that this was better for us as a nation, providing a possibility of challenging us (and our young people) to think better of ourselves and take on a new national pride (which I will no doubt refer to again in the future) and all the good things that can go with that.  I have a punchline comment to all this but will leave it to the next blog as I want to limit the length of each one to make it more readable.





Brexit: 1. Intro & Referendum Results

6 10 2016

Brexit Blog 1: Referendum Results

Why write

I suppose before I really start writing I ought to acknowledge why I am writing about this particular subject on this blog. I suspect it is because I have a feeling that history is rushing by and, as I have come to notice recently, so often we miss so much of what is going on around us, and then we look back with a sense of loss. It is, I suppose, the inevitable outcome of being in a news saturated society, and a world that is so busy and constantly changing.  One of these days someone will, no doubt, write a book cataloging just what went on in this momentous year for Britain but all I hope to do is catch up in a most basic way on some of the key aspects of the referendum and the Brexit phenomenon.

Unlike my other blogs, this one has no intention of being spiritual as such. My qualifications for writing are that I have a background of Law and Economics which have given me a certain ability to read and legalese and to observe the goings on of governments, and I am a keen observer of the reporting of the media. It is my intention to pick up on a number of aspects of the referendum and of Brexit, noting particularly what others say and making some basic comments thereon. In this first blog of this subject, I will simply catch up on the results of the referendum as a starting point.

What Happened

It is now over three months since that momentous vote that said ‘we want out’. To remind ourselves the results for the UK as a whole were

                      51.9% (17,410,742 votes) votes for out, and

                     48.1% (16,141,241 votes) voted to remain.

The results for the individual parts were:

England: Leave 53.4% (15,188,406 votes) Remain 46.6% (13,266,996 votes) Turnout: 73.0%

Wales:  Leave 52.5% (854,572 votes), Remain 47.5% (772,347 votes) Turnout: 71.7%

Northern Ireland: Leave 44.2%(349,442 votes), Remain 55.8%(440,707 votes) Turnout: 62.7%

Scotland: Leave 38.0% (1,018,322 votes), Remain 62.0% (1,661,191 votes) Turnout: 67.2%

England and Wales went for Out, Scotland and Northern Ireland went for Remain. It is interesting that the two ‘Out’ regions both had higher turnouts than the other two.

The Significance of the Vote

I realise I have now used the word ‘momentous’ twice above. The dictionary defines that as of great importance or significance, especially in having a bearing on future events,’ which I think is a pretty fair description of what has happened this year and is why I am now writing.

A Guardian writer called it ‘historic’: “The UK’s historic decision to end its 43-year love-hate relationship with the European Union represents a turning point in British history to rank alongside the two world wars of the 20th century.” (Patrick Wintour – The Guardian – 24 June 2016) Dictionary: ‘historic = famous or important in history, or potentially so’.

What is interesting about those two words is that one seems to look forwards to the future outcomes and the other looks back and compares it with comparable events in the past. Whether it ranks alongside the two world wars, I’m not sure and only time will tell.





The Folly of a Godless Society

22 07 2012

I once thought that as our society here in Britain degenerated,  people would cry out for an alternative and turn to God.  Well it may be that we have got to cry some more before we will come to our senses.

These days I only write on this blog when it seems my level of frustration has reached such a peak that, like a boiling kettle, I need to vent.   The past five years have been a revelation but it seems that for most of us we don’t have eyes that can see. Every single major national institution has been discredited during this time and the reason for that is because people have been exposed and shown to have been acting unrighteously – government, media, police, the money-world, people generally.  Again and again our papers and TV news channels have been full of the failures of people.

On one recent political analysis programme recently two journalists both asserted that that nation is in a state of giving up and both warned that this could have repercussions in the collapse of society.  Increasingly people are asking, “What is wrong?” The answer of obvious but unpalatable for godless men and women.

I have written this before but it bears repeating.  Thirty four years ago I started teaching Law and for seventeen years I started off the course (which in those days meant two hour periods!) by getting the class of usually 18 to 23 year olds to imagine a new society, and I asked them to consider in small groups whether they needed rules, and why and who should make them. After an hour of deliberation they then fed back their answers. They always agreed we need rules to protect the weak. The crucial point was that at the beginning of that period, thirty four years ago, 100% of the class always said they believed in absolutes so there were some thing that were definitely right and some wrong. Over that seventeen year period they were a gradual shift until by the early 1990s probably only 5% believed in absolute right and wrong and the majority now believed it was just what you thought it to be.

A variety of writers (apart from me) have linked good ethical behaviour with belief in God, and declining ethical behaviour with a loss in belief in God. Humanist optimism has been proved to be hollow and empty and our society is proving it day by day. When you remove the one base for ethical standards is it any wonder that we are left with an ‘anything goes’ mentality.   You can scrabble around for whatever temporary fix your can dream up, but it won’t be a fix. We are learning that a society reaps what it sows, and if you sow godlessness, you find that unrighteousness, greed, injustice and folly spring up.

Those are not necessarily the primary reasons for turning back to God, but they certainly point us in the right direction. We are about to start the Olympic Games and yet again – but now with ordinary people – we are being exposed as a shallow, self-centred, greedy people.  The fiasco of the security firm failing its mandate is only made worse but many of those supposedly being employed not bothering to turn up for the work. On the other hand we have passport control staff threatening to strike just before the Olympics start. Greed and self-concern rule OK!

No, not OK, but we are reaping what we have sown but I suspect that it will need the grace of God for those in authority to have their eyes opened.  In the meantime, get ready for the next plug to be pulled to let flow away any self-confidence we have left. When, oh when, will we come to our senses and realise that actually, God’s design and God’s way works

Consider for a moment what is found so often in ‘the world’, see it through some of the things we’re warned against in the New Testament,  for example, “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, …. anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language.” (Col 3:5,8)  Which sort of community is it best to be living in, that one or one that is described as with, “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive … put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Col 3:12-14) It’s pretty obvious really, isn’t it!

Those are two glimpses that the New Testament gives of the two possibilities; we could have used many other similar verses. The first Colossians quote cites just some of the things seen in our modern godless society; that’s the lifestyle we’ve chosen as a society, egged on by the media. The second is the world of the Christian believer, a world that works because it is how God has designed it.  So, I ask again, when, oh when, will we come to our senses and realise that actually, God’s design and God’s way works, and is best?

 

 

 

 





Three Levels of Christian Experience

31 10 2011

There is a song that goes with a mine that i have have seen a couple of times over the year called, “Sitting at the Window Praying” and is all about Ananias, a Christian  who lived in Damascus minding his own business until the Lord sent him to meet Saul.  I have the feeling that I’ve gone through a period of life when I’ve just been, “sitting at the window praying” and minding my own business and wondering what God was about. I’m probably still there but something has been seeping through to me.

We are at an ‘interesting’ time in our nation (rather like the Chinese curse – ‘may you live in interesting times’). We are in financial difficulties but I hear calls for rich people to become givers. It set me thinking. There are three levels of the Christian experience that we ought to be aware of – and you’ll see where this is going in a minute.

The first level is the foundational level – the basics of the Christian experience, founded in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Without that nothing else makes sense.

The second level of that which is our response to that level and what happens to us. This level is the level of testimony. The epitome of this  is the blind man of John 9 – “One thing I know – I was blind but now I can see.”  This doesn’t try to rationalise it, but simply state it. We’re often not very good at this – recognising the amazing changes that take place when a person is born again and becomes a new being (as Jesus put it in John 3).  The reality is my life has been dramatically changed and, if you’re a genuine Christian, so has yours been. We just to stop and give serious thought to the various ways they have changed so we can verbalise it when challenged.  There is an ocean of testimony out there that is of immense value.

The third level is the good life that I can now live and, again, we’re often not very clear about this or very good at working it out I may risk saying. The truth is that God has saved us to be salt and light and we are that when we express His love and goodness to the world around us. Now this is actions far more than words.

When I consider my Christian experience of the past forty years, I think we in the Christian world have  focussed on level 1 a great deal, level 2 of little bit and level 3 not much – there are notable exceptions –  but for the vast majority of us, we have been happy to tell about Jesus life, death and resurrection, but haven’t been  very good at articulating the changes that have come about within us, and therefore have had little confidence to be major players in bringing goodness to the world.

Briefly yesterday I heard Baroness Cox on an early morning radio programme and was struck by her brilliant clarity to speak some of what I have been saying here. Very often we Christians have focused the “Good News” on the historical events involving Jesus but it is staggeringly more than that – it is about life transformation and then even more of bringing God’s goodness into this world.

And that’s what bring me back to this whole question of giving or, for that matter, bring goodness and help in whatever we can into our ailing society. When Israel were carried into captivity into Babylon, God’s instructions to them were,  “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.”  (Jer 29:7).   The call was to look for the good of this godless nation and through that God would work.

So what talents and abilities are we sitting on that God can take to bless this nation?  What resources do we have – money, possessions, talents, businesses etc. – that God can take and use to enable us to be salt and light. When the world sees our genuine goodness (not that done to impress) they will ask, what is it about you that has you doing this? Then we will testify about the life changes that we’ve experiences (WHEN we’ve genuinely thought through what they are) and then they will be open to believe the level 1 foundational information which will then start the process off in them.

Jesus did the good (healed and changed people) THEN taught (testified of his Father’s love) and THEN gave his life as a ransom for us all, and on which we now focus our faith. Let’s genuinely love and serve this world and then they might ask questions and then thing might change. Have a good week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





Truth is a Strange Thing

3 05 2010

I’m writing this simply because I haven’t written here for some time and if I don’t soon the General Election will have come and gone. This election appears to be unique within living memory. It looks like it will be very close for the three main parties and it has been portrayed in the media as a presidential campaign with the three main contenders appearing in three live debates and their daily activities being reported – but virtually none of that by other leading members of their parties, except on special mini-debates. It has been a media run election.

It is also unique, I believe, because of the nature of the economic situation we find ourselves in.  There is only one of the three main leaders, Gordon Brown, who is in any real position to accurately say what he and his party will do in terms of our economic future because he alone of the three has access to all the current government figures. The others are haphazarding guesses. The suggestion has been in the media that all three have not been able to say accurately how they will deal with the present economic climate. One wonders therefore of the value, in reality, of all of the talk of policies, and of how they will all be slid to the side in the face of reality in say a year’s time. The truth may be ‘out there’ but I am sure we don’t know what it is.

For that reason I suggest that when all the shouting is over the simplest and most logical approach is to say, Brown has failed to bring in the goods over fourteen years,  and has even contributed to the bad state of affairs, and so is a non-runner.  Clegg is a new boy on the block who though appearing charismatic has no experience behind him and the thought of letting lose a bunch of untried brand new politicians as government is scary. Which only leaves Cameron who doesn’t appear everyone’s cup of tea, but is the only alternative. He does at least have a lot experience in those who stand behind him. We’ll see if the electorate comes up with this conclusion later this week.

If the media are half right, then whoever is the next leader will have just picked up one of the worst jobs in modern history for whoever is in power we ARE going through stringent times it would appear.  The best bet option appears to get business back into a thriving position so they make much money, employ many people, produce much tax revenue and thus provide income for government to spend and help pay off debts and sustain services . Everything else is of secondary importance it seems but, yes, we will worry about education, pensions and the health services but unless we generate income we are lost. So who will do it and will they be able to do it? Time will tell.

Another thing I am certain of and that is that it’s going to be a painful time and in painful times people squeal and look for help. The Church, the sole keepers of the truth, has the opportunity to be seen as the gold nuggets in society as it provides an alternative caring lifestyle that brings security in a way that no one else can bring. Is it possible that God has brought us to this point of history so that, as Jesus said, the fields are white for harvest? If so, is the church ready, waiting and watching. Let’s not miss the opportunities of the years immediately ahead of us that may be so difficult for so many who may at last start coming to their senses and reject the materialistic and godless lifestyle that have adopted for so long.