9. Democracy Assassination

30 10 2016

Brexit Blog 9:  Democracy Assassination

And so it goes on

In the fourth of these Brexit blogs, titled ‘The World of Posturing’ I warned about the various groups who sought to undermine the democratic will of the British people. I also, in Blog no.3, wrote about the impossibility of prophesying the future outcome of Brexit. Put these two together and look at what some very public figures have been saying recently and you provide an x-ray of the person in question, if I may put it like that.

Let me put before you three such figures who, in recent months, have stuck their heads up over the parapet of public awareness and revealed characters that, very mildly, are lacking (at least based on their most recent performances.)

Ken Clarke

Unwise Speaking:  Let’s start with a gem from the Times: “Mr Clarke, who first entered government in 1988 and left in 2014, claimed that the prime minister had no plan on how to execute Britain’s exit from the European Union.  Nobody in the government has the first idea of what they’re going to do next on the Brexit front,” he told the New Statesman.” (The Times 29th Sept 2016) 

He then went on to say, ““The idea that I’m suddenly going to change my lifelong opinions about the national interest and regard myself as instructed to vote in parliament on the basis of an opinion poll is laughable.”  So Ken Clarke has been made a member of Parliament over the years merely on the basis of “an opinion poll”? Here was a man we all thought to be intelligent and yet who puts this referendum, possibly the most important vote in thirty years, down as a mere “opinion poll”!!!!!

Accepting the majority in a democracy:  One of the comments at the end of that article rightly went on to question the idea that Ken Clarke could read the mind of the Prime Minister and, we might add, especially when his own mind is so closed.          For at least a century we have lived with party politics, and before that individuals, who disagreed with one another. It’s what democracy is about – being able to voice a view and letting there come a consensus of the majority, which the rest abide by.

I have often in this blog in the past commented how in this country we have moved away from ‘absolutes ethics’ or morality, and we are now observing the fruits of this in the anarchistic attitude that says today, you are wrong, I am right and I will do all I can to overturn you.  That essentially is what Ken Clarke has been saying. That is legitimate up to an election but after that, live with the majority decision; that’s what elections are all about.

Understanding ‘Negotiations’: Again and again, and I have commented on this more than once, there is this complete blindness, it seems, in some as to how you go about negotiations, and you do no show your hand until you have to. Even more, if you are not part of the policy making group in government, of course you may express an opinion, but beware of looking stupid if what you say ignores these obvious things.

Tony Blair

The Times speaks again:

The former prime minister risked angering supporters of Brexit by suggesting today that a vote could be held in parliament, or in a second referendum, on the new deal Britain strikes with the rest of the European Union. Mr Blair insisted that it was right to “accept the verdict of the people” delivered on June 23, but claimed that public opinion could change once the “reality” of Brexit becomes clear. The issue is not whether we ignore the will of the people, but whether … the ‘will’ of the people shifts  

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “When we held the referendum on June 23, we knew what we didn’t like about the European Union.  “But we haven’t yet seen the alternative. We don’t yet have the details of it … the reality of it.”  He said that if it becomes clear that the new EU arrangement does not make leaving “worthwhile” or tariffs will punish British business, “there has got to be some way, either through parliament, an election or a referendum” to rethink. Mr Blair has repeatedly made clear his opposition to the decision of 17 million voters to leave the EU.”

This is the man (admittedly looking every year of a ninety year old) over whom public opinion has been divided ever since in his wisdom he led us into a war against a despot who had – but didn’t have – weapons of mass destruction, without any real understanding of the workings of the Middle East and without any real plans how to help the country after the war was over. The result has been constant conflict and, some have said, been the breeding ground for militant Islam in the form of Isis. This is the man who now has the temerity to suggest that if you don’t like the outworking of an election, you can annul the election. If that had been applied to his time as PM it might have been considerably shorter! Apply that to Margaret Thatcher’s time in 10 Downing Street and she too might have departed the scene very much earlier with workers of all kinds breathing a sigh of relief.

Nicola Sturgeon

Now Nicola Sturgeon, head of the SNP, often comes over very well in the media. She has a winning smile and quite clearly, often has winning words. Without documenting her comings and goings over recent months, suffice it to say she has been playing the tables but for what end in mind, may still be a mystery.

If she was heading up a country that had wanted Independence a year or so back, and if she headed up a country in a strong financial position, her posturing might be understood. But to quote another source, “Just a few weeks ago, her officials released national accounts which show that, thanks to low oil prices, an independent Scotland would have the worst deficit in the EU, worse even than Greece. Independence would mean sado-austerity for Scotland.” (The Week 22nd Oct 2016) Scotland’s leaders appear to place their hopes after Brexit in going independent and attracting investment from the EU but the imponderables of that have had economists wondering.

The telegraph reported earlier this year, Income taxpayers in the rest of the UK will continue to subsidise Scotland by billions of pounds every year even after the Scottish Parliament wins control of the levy, a major new report published today has concluded.” (Telegraph 22nd March 2016) Since then Nicola Sturgeon has been pouring our reasons why their government is not overspending and seeking to make a case that greater freedom would enhance Scotland’s chances of increasing tax revenues. Highly speculative and equivalent in throwing more chips on the table at a poker game.

What haven’t we learnt?

Early on in these blogs I wrote about how so often the ‘experts’ and those in the know actually don’t know and are proved wrong. The falling pound, which I covered in the previous blog, is good news for exporters and bad news for home consumers and so, as I have watched recent articles, yes, yet again we have those bewailing the falling pound and saying nothing about how it has been benefitting others more generally, but still the articles come.

I referred not long back to Andrew Marr’s “A History of Modern Britain” and have just started to reread it. The opening page screamed at me, “We learn nothing from history.” He was writing about how everyone expected Winston Churchill to be re-elected in 1945: “Few people thought the wear leader could lose power. Most Labour leaders assumed he would be returned. So did the apparently well-informed City experts, the in-touch trade union bosses, the self-certain press, the diplomatic observers passing back the latest intelligence to Washington and Moscow.” They were all wrong!

Our last general election in which David Cameron came through triumphantly was a complete fiasco as far as the pundits, pollsters and the BBC prophesying throughout the evening, were concerned. I hear the echoes of a song from last century, “Oh when will they ever learn.”

A final conclusion: Question: How can journalists, MPs, columnists, commentators, and others pontificate so constantly about outcomes? Answer: Because there is such a tidal wave of reporting and commenting and abusive demeaning of the ‘others’ that there is little possibility in the years to come that anyone will be held accountable for these days of uncertainty, and so maybe Andrew Marr will write a history of this period and all that has gone on in it, with a starting page line, “We just didn’t know.”





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.





6. The Problem of Immigration and Borders

12 10 2016

Brexit Blog 6:  The Problem of Immigration and Borders

In the previous blog I started pondering some issues to do with racism – what it actually means and how it may not be a cause of defensive feelings over perceived job losses. I also noted that most obviously there can be a link between racism and immigration – but not necessarily. This last point is important because some arguments for curtailing immigration – which has clearly become a big issue both before and since Brexit – have purely economic reasons behind them and not racial reasons.

Part of the EU concept has been to remove borders as far as free access to people is concerned but this raises a variety of questions. Immigration (Dictionary defn.: the action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country’) is clearly a contentious issue so let’s try to identify some of the basic questions that arise in respect of people wanting to come into this country.

Basic Questions about Immigration:

One aspect of the basic problem of immigration was neatly put by Matthew Parris in the Times (24th Sept 2016) in an imaginary discussion between a Minister and his advisor:

Minister: “You what? Take me through this one more time. We should make a reciprocal treaty with every other nation in the world to accept any of their citizens with “a well-founded fear of persecution in their own country”. Every country? Any of its citizens?”

  1. Who should come?

In the fifties and sixties, we opened the doors to refugees from the war, e.g. Poles, and then later those we needed to fill jobs that no one else was taking, e.g. from the Caribbean. So we have two groups to consider: refugees and workers.

  1. How many should come?

Initially we didn’t worry because the numbers were not great. Indeed, today, if we were talking about a mere thousand Syrian refugees, we would not be debating the subject. What worries us is unlimited numbers and the effect that such numbers might have.

  1. What effect will they have on this country?

Here for many is the biggest worry.

  • Some focus on the thought that immigrants will take jobs at lower pay and thus undermine our employment economy. Linked with this are concerns about putting a strain on our housing supply.
  • Some worry that we have just not been good at bringing immigrants into our population and assimilating them in such a way that the characteristics of ‘British-ness’ are not diluted.
  • A closely linked worry from an historical perspective is that large numbers of immigrants from a particular country or race, tend to huddle together and ghettos are formed.
  • Some suggest there is no coincidence that criminal gangs, whether exploiting drugs, sex or whatever, often have a link to a national immigrant grouping.
  • Perhaps closely allied to that worry is the worry that with the influx of people from Middle Eastern countries, will come a number who are already terrorism orientated.
  • Another vaguely related worry (in that such people come from similar Middle Eastern countries) is the worry that some immigrants from those particular countries come bringing in practices that are alien to a civilized Western culture, e.g. various negative aspects of badly treating women (bride purchase, female circumcision etc).
  • Others (and David Cameron worked against this at least for a 5 year period) worry about a straining benefits system being broken by immigrants needing care.
  1. What forms do the arguments take?

On one side we hear, “We need to be caring and compassionate and take in all these needy people” while on the other we hear, “We need to distinguish between economic refugees looking for British jobs, and genuine political refugees but also recognize that we are a limited island with limited resources.”

The problems of refugees

Matthew Parris’ article focused on the persecuted and went on to suggest that a radical overhaul of the Geneva Contention Protocol on Refugees should come about, joining those who, to quote Wikipedia, “have argued that the complex nature of 21st century refugee relationships calls for a new treaty that recognizes the evolving nature of the nation-state, population displacement, and modern warfare.” i.e. the world has changed so much that to take in massive numbers fleeing from the world’s war zones is putting an undue strain on receiving countries.

Angela Merkel is an example of a national leader who has been suffering in the polls for her open doors policy which is clearly disliked by a number of Germans. The sight of the refugee camp at Calais has evoked, I suggest, three different common responses:

  • Compassion and anguish, especially for children there,
  • Anger at the hijacking of lorry drivers by apparently ‘desperate’ fleeing refugees,
  • Anger at the sense that just maybe Calais is part of the international chess game that nations play, in this case, France, to put pressure on other nations, in this case, England.

The Reality of a Combined Europe?

The ultimate goal of the European Union must be, as some have already suggested, the complete removal of all borders and the uniformity of all laws, taxes and tariffs, but while there are pressure groups within each country fighting for their own cause that is unlikely. Indeed, even prior to the referendum an article in the Telegraph declared, “Voters in France, Italy and the Netherlands are demanding their own votes on European Union membership and the euro, as the continent faces a “contagion” of referendums.” (Telegraph 23rd June 2016) Not everyone in the EU is as enamoured with it as the Remain protesters would like to think.

Even more, as some of the most economically stable countries look at the less stable countries and wonder how it will be before they are called to bail them out, the reality is that everything in the EU garden is not as rosy as many would like to think.

Not only is it in respect of general economies, but also when it comes to trade across borders. Beyond those three countries mentioned above, that same Telegraph article went on to note, “business leaders handed a considerable boost to the Leave campaign by saying it would be “very, very foolish” to deny the UK a free trade deal after Brexit. Markus Kerber, the head of the BDI, which represents German industry, said that 1970s-style trade barriers would result in job losses in Germany.” Varying views about all aspects of Brexit appear across Europe as well as in the UK.

We will pick up on further specific problems with border restrictions in the next blog.

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.

Not more???

23 11 2011

Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s there were various Christian commentators, Francis Schaeffer being one of the most notable who said, as more and more our Western societies become godless, the moral base will be eroded and we will see more and more examples of human greed, selfishness and so on. Now I know I have rumbled on in this blog about this many times already, but until something changes I’m going to keep on rumbling about until hopefully my voice, alongside others, will stir consciences and generally add to God’s voice speaking to the nation.

These thoughts have been provoked yet again by this morning’s Times newspaper with the headline, “Rotten culture at heart of England rugby” and the comment about the failed England World Cup Ruby team, “Many of the England players … were motivated by greed rather than ambition”. Also on the page is the story of yet another cabinet member in a lobbying controversy, the second in the last month. Meanwhile on the inside pages the investigation into press phone tapping continues. The concerns over grooming young teenage girls for sex work continues as a worrying story.

All told we have ongoing echoes of self-centred behaviour (that the Bible would call ‘unrighteous’) that emanate from a godless society – and the two thing DO go together. This will be sufficient to just tap in another of those markers that say to this society, “Weighed and found wanting”.  The thing is that wherever you look in our society here today, these self-centred and godless markers are appearing, in every level of society.







Hedge Fund Betting?

16 09 2011

I have on this site at various times over the years found myself making two comments. The first is that sin is equated with stupidity. The second is that Hans Christian Anderson’s story, The Emperor’s New Clothes, is the best parable to summarise so much of what goes on in the modern world.

In the last few days the news has broken about a dealer for a Swiss bank who has accumulated a debt for the bank of two billion dollars. How did he do it? According to the press by ‘betting’ on the direction of share prices and other assets.  Once upon a time banks were the pillars of society and trust was the name of the game. Now banks are mere gamblers.  Excuse me but didn’t dodgy trading have something to do with the whole financial crisis of three years ago?

Hedge funds I am told have only been around a decade or so and were the canny idea of a bunch of financial smart characters sitting around (literally) one day reflecting on money management. But who at the top agreed to this practice of money laundering, because that is what it is.

Stop and think about the very basics of money economics. At any one time there is only a finite amount of money in existence. If you go into the bizarre world of money handling it can be infinite as long as it remains on paper or on a computer screen and as long as it doesn’t have to be called up.

So here we have ‘the emperors clothes’ that don’t actually exist except on computer screens. Banks tolerate or encourage  it because it means that at the end of the day their funds have gone up (if the dealer is clever and clever here means able to make other silly people believe there are clothes there). But here I find a problem, a very basic problem I referred to above. Money is finite so if your pot gets bigger someone else’s gets smaller, so if at the end of the trading suddenly your ‘clothes’ become real and you are in hock to the tune of 2billion, (not even millions!!!) that means your pot has a big hole in it while somewhere somebody else is smiling happily with a bonus of 2billion.

So where do these ‘pots’ come from to start with?  Well if you are an ordinary bank, from the assets they hold which may be money, stocks and shares or property – and that is where you, me, companies etc. etc. come in because much of that is ours. If you are are hedge fund trader you either accumulated large sums by some means or you conned others with large sums to believe in you with the believe that you are a great gambler and can increase their money for them – and it’s better than going to a casino – but it is gambling.

So a bank or whoever has this finite pot which goes, they hope, up most of the time by clever gambling – but Casino’s don’t lose money because the odds are always stacked in their favour – yet as re cent years have shown the system is not foolproof and sometimes the charade is shown for what it is – a means of a very limited number of people getting very rich and if the pot is finite, it means ultimately that a lot of others of us are not as well off as we could be because they used our money  and got it for free.

Isn’t it time somebody shouted stop? You see, it seems that again and again this charade is being brought to the public’s attention and again and again, we the mass of the public are thinking, “We’re being conned,  and these fat cats are ripping the  rest of us off – and it can’t go on,” and that may have far greater social consequences than most of us realise. Stop this world, I want to get off before it gets really nasty!





Time Moves on

7 11 2010

There are, I guess, a number of reasons why people post blogs. I suppose the simplest is that they feel they have something to say and for some it is obviously a means of communicating with a wide group of friends, acquaintances or even watchers. Strangely I write this particular blog for none of the above reasons. I write simply as a ‘diary note’ for myself and because I haven’t written here for over six weeks.

My last writing here simply noted some of the good things that the Pope said in his visit to the UK at the end of the Summer, but that seems a long time ago now. The seasons have moved on and the days are now shorter, the clocks have gone back, and the leaves are rapidly turning yellow or red and falling. This morning we had our second frost of the Autumn.

Time doesn’t ‘feel’ like it flows smoothly.  We’re planning to be away for a couple of days in December with some of the family and one of them commented yesterday, “It’s less than a month away now” and I felt shocked. Where had the year gone? How had we arrived in November this quickly? There are those who say the older you get the faster time seems to fly and yet I am sure that there must be some elderly people with little to do for whom time drags.

I probably ought to note, just for the record, that on the first Sunday of October we launched a new website – http://www.rochfordlife.com – the purpose of which is to build and bless our town by proving a platform on which to show any and every shop, business, club, group and organisation in the town. Yes, it is a long-term project! It has been a fun month and I have found myself talking to people I never even knew existed. It has perhaps been one of the busiest months of my life, and it has been good. I have met and learned about people. I have enjoyed the people as never before.

Time has thus flown by. Yes that has been one thing, but there have been bigger issues along the way. These have been nice people I have met, good people, people who are good to be with. Ah! There is the deception! They may feel the same about me (I hope) but there also is deception.  Whenever I have taught about us being made in the image of God, I have always marvelled at the shear wonder of the potential of us human beings. We have the potential to be incredible, to write incredible music  or stories, to invent wonderful life-saving machines, develop life-saving medicines, do great and glorious things for one another, even laying down our lives for one another….but!

There we are, looking so good to the outward world and yet for so many of us, full of doubts, questions, worries, fears, anxieties, dislikes, even hatreds. There inside for so many there is an inner emptiness that should be filled with the presence of God – but we have bought into the lie that He is not there or if He is, He doesn’t care about us or, even worse, that He’s out to get us – and because we have, there is such a difference between what the world sees on a good day, and what we are like on the inside.

I live in a society that has bought into this lie and I am here to love them and do good for them and if one day, they ask me why, I’ll tell them about the One who loves them so much, He sent His Son to put things right between Him and them. But for the moment, I’ll enjoy them and just serve them and let Him move as He will.  The most important thing in life is that I do what He says – and then I can leave the rest to Him. He loves this town of mine and He loves every individual in it. One day I hope many of them will believe that, but it’s early days yet.

So there it is. It’s on the record. God is Good, and God loves us. If you need some encouragement to believe that, then may I recommend Philip Yancey’s recent book, “What Good is God?”  Personally I think it is is his best yet. Enjoy.





The Artist

12 09 2010

The Artist

Once upon a time there was an artist, a young man who was a Christian. Being a godly young man he prayed, “Lord, take me and use my work to glorify your name.” Day in, day out, month in, month out, he laboured at his art and people came from far and wide to see the young man’s work. His works of art weren’t about spiritual things but he believed they honoured his Lord who was the creator of all things.

One day he wondered how he might yet reveal his master more clearly to the world and so started to develop spiritual themes in his work. He sometimes added texts to his work to clarify even more the purpose of his creations. His works sold well and his name became very famous, yet, as the years passed, within he had a sense of frustration that somehow there was a goal that he was missing.

One day when he was alone in his studio working on his latest work, early in the morning before most visitors came, a young woman quietly entered and walked around the gallery looking at the works. Unusually the middle-aged artist stopped his work and watched her. “Do you like what you see?” he asked. “Like isn’t the right word,” she replied, “I am moved by what I see.”  He walked over to where she was standing and saw tears running down her face. “What is the matter?” he asked gently. “Your pictures are so beautiful but they reveal the ugliness of my life,” she answered. Together they talked for a while and eventually he explained how his Lord had come to take our ugliness, and a light seemed to come on in the face of the soulful woman. She left hastily. He returned to his work and thought, “I must catch up; I have wasted time this morning.”

Another day a similar thing happened but this time it was an elderly man. Again a conversation ensued and again the artist shared his faith. At the end of the conversation the elderly man asked, “Would you pray for me?” The artist was startled; he was an artist, not a priest, yet he honoured the old man’s request and simply asked his Lord to help this man in his dark years. When he finished praying, there was a look of peace on the face of the elderly man.

Many year later, outside of time, the artist stood with his Lord in a great gallery in heaven and shared how he had never felt that he had reached the peak of his ability. “Lord, I sought to honour you with my paintings and I sought to improve my work, yet I never had a sense of having achieved that. I wanted to glorify you with the gift that you gave me but I never felt that my painting truly did that.”

There was a smile on the face of the one who stood beside him. “My son, your works were merely the means that I used to attract people to you. It was not your paintings that I used to bring glory to heaven. Come see.” And he led the artist through an archway that opened out onto a balcony overlooking a beautiful room full of people all talking animatedly.

“Who are these, Lord?” the artist found himself asking. “They are the people you stopped and talked to. The ones you gave time to, gave a word to, and prayed for. All these ones found me through you. It was not your paintings but you who glorified me.” And tears of joy ran down the face of the artist who now understood.