Lovely, lovely grudges

I hold many grudges. Truly, I do. There’s the grudge that I hold from way back in infant school, where a teacher falsely accused me of the crime of walking on the newly planted flower beds. She moved to South Africa a few weeks after the incident. (The incident that didn’t happen, except in her mind, I hasten to add). I still held onto that grudge even as she was weeping her goodbyes at a school assembly. And guess what? I started to hold a grudge against South Africa – just because they were letting her move there. I haven’t revisited that particular grudge recently, but I suspect that it’s still there, fueled by their many recent cricketing victories over England.

I hold grudges against people who I’ve never met and don’t know. For example, there’s the one that I hold against the English O level examiner who had the temerity to ‘only’ award me a grade B. The aftermath caused me immense pain, both at school and at home. The confidence I lost in my academic abilities on that fateful winter morning as I was handed the results slip has taken me the best part of a lifetime to recover from. Well, not really, but I’m not going to let a nebulous concept like “truth” get in the way of me and my grudges.

However important these issues may have seemed to me at the time, neither could be said to have had any lasting impact on my objective well-being. Yet the hair still stands up on my neck when I think about them and the blood courses furiously in my veins.

So just imagine for a moment the strength of the grudge I hold for the dissembling politicians who lied and conned the country into supporting a vote to leave the EU. It’s almost as strong as the one that I now hold for the politicians who half-heartedly supported remaining, but who are now doing everything in their power to make sure that we leave on any terms – good or bad. However, I definitely don’t hold a grudge towards the growing number of leave voters who feel (rightly) that they were duped by these folk. I’m looking forward to seeing them punish this “elite” at the ballot box for many years to come as their lies are exposed.

But perhaps these feelings about the liars for leave aren’t really grudges. For me, a grudge that I can brood over and milk for years has to be completely irrational and relate to circumstances that I can do nothing about. A bit like the feud in Romeo and Juliet between the Montague and Capulet families perhaps. That’s a proper, irrational grudge that none of the protagonists understand the origins of or can fix unilaterally. But, I am, at last, starting to do something positive in politics again, to try to change things. It’s been a few leaflets here and there in 2016, but now the MSc is out-of-the-way and provided my health holds out, I hereby resolve to become rather more active in 2017.

 

This rant was brought to you courtesy of the 105th Post 40 Bloggers writing prompt. Please don’t hold it against them.

I believe that the devil is ready to repent

I haven’t really felt like writing much about politics since June 24th gave a narrow, but important victory to those who believe our future is better outside of the European Union. Well, either that, or they wanted to give the mythical ‘liberal elite’ a good kicking. There’s increasing evidence to suggest that some who voted to leave regret their decision. I’m pleased that some people feel like that, but as time travel is impractical, regrets without action seem rather pointless. However, the general increase in support for the Liberal Democrats (in real polls rather than opinion polls, fortunately) continues and membership numbers appear to be healthy too. I suspect that some of those who now regret their decision on June 23rd and want to move beyond such feelings and into constructive action have joined the party – welcome!

And then November 9th arrived. After the initial shock I felt, I’ve been avoiding the news like the plague. Classic fm (at least, for 55 minutes every hour) has got a new devotee. News programmes are too depressing, particularly when they endlessly turn to Farage and others of his ilk for their opinions. I’m genuinely concerned for my many colleagues, friends and acquaintances in the US who have already been affected by Trump’s rhetoric. I hope his success doesn’t inspire his followers to turn hateful words into hateful actions(*). Like Brexit, the narrowness of Trump’s victory makes it all the more frustrating for those of us who believe that misogyny, racism, homophobia and xenophobia have no place in this world.

But that’s where the similarities in the triumph of the new right on both sides of the Atlantic stop. The American electorate can throw Trump out in 2020 (or chose to keep him on until 2024 of course) – assuming that he doesn’t do something really stupid and dangerous in the meantime. Indeed, the one piece of news I did watch this morning was Christopher Meyer, a former UK ambassador to the US, talking about how the UK government should approach a Trump presidency. He was quite clear about the importance of our political leaders and diplomats ensuring that they get to know the Trump camp really well now, without delay. May has been rather slow off the mark with a call due sometime today, 10th in the queue, well behind other world leaders. The UK needs to retain as much influence with the US as possible to dissuade him from turning what I hope was campaign bombast into, well, bombs.

The problem with Brexit is that it is very likely to be permanent. Once we’re out of the EU, it will become impossible to return with anything like as good a deal (no contributions rebate, for example) as we have now. That’s assuming that the rest of the EU would have us back on any terms, anyway. But return we will want to. The loss of freedom of movement and the resulting economic decline will eventually be too much for us all.

Since the US election results came in, I’ve been humming the tune to ‘I believe’. This song featured on an episode of Not the Nine O’Clock News some 37 years ago, after the election of Ronald Reagan. If you’ve not heard it before, the YouTube link is below. Some of the references are a little out of date – “I believe that JR really loves Sue Ellen” may not mean much to some, but the sentiments of the song still hold. Especially if you substitute Ronald Reagan for Donald Trump in the last line.

I’m proud to be a citizen of Britain, Europe and the world. These things were never contradictory and they never will be. Patriotism is not the same as petty nationalism. I’m convinced that finding ways to win the arguments for Liberalism with good grace and humour is the best way to defeat the demagogues.

 

(*) The discursive psychologist inside me knows that words accomplish social action, and so such distinctions are moot.

Pauline Latham MP was seduced by Leave’s propaganda

Pauline Latham, my MP in Mid Derbyshire, wrote an article for the Derby Telegraph just a few hours before the EU referendum. In it she finally came out for Leave, stating that she’d carefully studied the pros and cons of membership. However, it would appear that even a professional was seduced by Leave’s propaganda, which if nothing else shows why no-one should blame the electorate for coming to their decision based on the series of half-truths they spread. Some of these, including the claim that the EU has never signed off their accounts, are naturally repeated in her article.

Leaving the half-truths aside, it’s the conclusions she makes that call her judgement into question most. Here’s an example:

One of the strongest arguments for remaining in the EU is that it provides economic security and offers the UK stability and a strong position in the world as part of a powerful trading and diplomatic bloc.

 

Ultimately I think such arguments undersell the strong position of the UK in the world and the clear power and potential we have to remain in this position. With more heat than light being generated in the debate about our place in the EU has everyone forgotten that 170 countries exist outside it? To say we cannot succeed on our own is wrong.

I’m not sure that any sane person would suggest that the run on the pound, the turmoil in the stock markets, the flight of capital from the UK economy and the downgrading of our credit rating that has resulted since Thursday is success. Maybe she’s hoping that things will get better? But hope is not a strategy.

She also claimed that one of the reasons for leaving would be to take back control over immigration. Her fellow Leave campaigners have been furiously rowing back from that assertion of course, and I wonder if she had realised that residual migration in Derby (of which her constituency covers part) meant that the population declined by 200 in 2013/14?

I’ve met a lot of shell-shocked people in Oakwood and around the city since the result was announced. People are naturally concerned about their prospects, pensions and livelihoods.

Now that Leave have won the debate, I think she owes it to her constituents to explain in clear terms what the plan is to restore prosperity. If she is unable to do that then she should apologise now and make way for someone who can.

Two thoughts following the referendum result – and what to do next

This is a quickly written post as I really need to get on with my dissertation today. However, here are two thoughts about what not to do, and what to do following the EU referendum ‘leave’ result.

First – the what not to do. Don’t sign the petition arguing for a second referendum on the same question immediately. We may not like the result (that’s possibly the biggest understatement I’ve ever made), but a second referendum isn’t the answer. At best it would be a sticking plaster that fails to address the underlying causes of the dissatisfaction that many people feel about their situation. At worst, it looks like sour grapes. In fact, I’m in full agreement with the good Lord Bonkers (a.k.a. Jonathan Calder) on this – referendums on anything are a really bad idea in a parliamentary democracy. Read his piece published before the results were known to understand why.

Secondly – the what to do. With the Conservative and Labour parties ripping apart at the seams, an early General Election seems like a real possibility, even with the fixed-term parliaments act in place. If you think that the UK should remain in (or rejoin) the EU, I hope that you’ll join the Liberal Democrats. Come and work with us to create an optimistic, liberal and positive vision for the future, that addresses the underlying problems in our country with real solutions, not just cheap slogans.

Bloggers and friends for Remain

I’m all out of inspiration at the moment. It’s been sucked into a black hole known as my dissertation and hopefully will reappear at some point after September. But it is really important to vote – and vote Remain on Thursday. So in lieu of me being able to write something sensible about the referendum, can I heartily recommend these two posts written by fellow bloggers – and friends – instead.

I want my country back – fellow post40blogger Tattooed Mummy writes about her reasons for voting Remain and what she hopes the UK can regain:

I want my friendly country back, the one that can laugh at itself when we meet a foreigner who speaks perfect English while we wallow in shouting and pointing. I want the country back, the one that welcomes the lost and the scared.

Europe, you’ve got my vote – written by a good friend of our family (often referred to as our third daughter).

… in spite of arguments about trade and economy, it needs to be said that it is okay to reason from an ethical position. I support the remain campaign because the EU keeps us together in spite of our differences; it says that we stand together instead of standing apart.

However you come to your decision, I hope that you’ll vote Remain too. Whether you believe the reason to vote Remain is the peace we have enjoyed in Europe since the end of the second world war, the benefits of trading in a single market, EU environmental protections, support for workers’ rights, the freedom to travel within the EU without visas, carnets and other red tape while retaining control of our borders, the security provided by working together to defeat criminals and terrorists, or something else, we have a lot to lose if we fail to vote Remain this Thursday.

Why #RemaIN may be failing the “pink tuna” test

The current batch of opinion polls make worrying reading for those of us backing the remain camp in the forthcoming EU referendum. It’s not lost yet of course – far from it – and I remain convinced of the good sense of my fellow citizens. However, some of the remain tactics do seem to be somewhat less than optimal. I feel that a bit of “pink tuna” may help.

One feature of the campaign that is obviously gratifying to the remain campaign, but has perhaps been a little overplayed, is the welcome endorsement of our continuing EU membership by vast numbers of European and world leaders. However, on reflection, I don’t think that these endorsements are necessarily working in favour of a positive vote to remain in, as they seem to me to fail the pink tuna test.

Let me explain. When my youngest daughter was very much younger, she refused to eat salmon. Nothing we or our family did would convince her that salmon was delicious. But she did like tuna. One of us (almost certainly not me) came up with the idea of re-branding salmon as pink tuna and suggesting that she wouldn’t like it. It worked like a charm and woe-betide anyone who came between her and her pink tuna.

Perhaps if all of these European and world leaders had instead told us that they wanted us to leave, it might have had a positive impact on the remain campaign, by convincing undecided voters that the only reason anyone would want us to leave is that they wanted to keep all of the good stuff that the EU brings to themselves – the pink tuna. Of course, such a ploy would have had no impact on those of us wanting to remain (as we know that salmon and pink tuna are one and the same, and is delicious). But for the tuna eating waverers, it may just have helped them to take a few mouthfuls and discover what the convinced know already.

Undecided voters – pink tuna is delicious, so I really don’t want you to have any of mine.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Why remaining in the EU is the proud, patriotic choice

I’m proud to be English. It’s the country that I was born in, that educated me and that I’ve always been proud to be able to contribute to through my work, taxes and voluntary efforts. It’s home.

I’m proud to be British. Being British is about being welcoming and inclusive to everyone who calls our islands home and who contributes, in whatever way, to enriching our society. We’re brilliant at being able to work well with others, in pursuit of the common good, just as we did when we defeated dictators of all political colours in the last century.

I’m a proud European. The freedom to live and work more easily than ever before in countries across European Union has already benefited millions of us, as well as enabling our European friends to live and work here so that they too can contribute to our society. In particular the NHS and most importantly, the sick and elderly who rely on it, would be in an even more parlous state without the efforts of our European friends adding to our own.

In an increasingly uncertain world, it is our friendships and ability to work together with others that will be essential to defeating extremists of all types, including Daesh, who try to threaten our way of life. If we turn our backs on our nearest neighbours, we risk our border being overwhelmed. It is our duty to continue to build on the sacrifices made by our parents, grand-parents and great-grand parents that succeeded in freeing our country and those of our European friends from the ever-present threat of tyranny and authoritarianism last century. We would be abdicating our responsibility to all of our fellow British Citizens if we turned our back on these sacrifices now.

Why would we want to throw away all of the advances we’ve made as proud Britons over the last few decades? Why would we choose to leave the EU and sacrifice our security, prosperity, freedom and sovereignty to an uncertain future in an uncertain world? Voting to leave would damage all of these things, but the rich, including the unlikely fellow travellers of Farage, Johnson, Gove and Murdoch, would be able to buy themselves out of the consequences of their treacherous actions.

It is clear to me that voting to remain in the EU on June 23rd is the only truly patriotic choice.

Post-40 Bloggers