Sunday, 26 June 2016

England, bound in with the triumphant sea

I hope the 52% are right and, along with the other 48%, I’m wrong

Nothing lasts forever. Everything changes. Change – whether slow and gradual or sudden and violent – is an unstoppable natural force. In every local council election I’ve ever voted I’ve been quite content with the outcome – I’ve always seen a Labour or Green Councillor elected where I’ve been living. In the nine General Elections where I’ve had a vote (1979, 1983, 1987, 1992, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2010, 2015) I’ve only been happy twice: yes, that’s you, Tony Blair (or at least Chris Leslie who was the young Labour MP who ousted long-standing Conservative Marcus Fox from Shipley in 1997 and then kept the seat in 2001.)
Tony Blair, Chris Leslie, Marcus Fox and Philip Davies

The AV Referendum in 2011

Now I’ve had the experience of two national referenda (one on AV in 2011 and the EU In/Out vote in 2016) and in both cases I have experienced a disappointing outcome. In the first referendum I think the wrong question had been asked for what the majority of people polled wanted (instead of “Should the ‘Alternative Vote’ system be used instead of ‘first past the post’?” the politically actively-engaged wanted something like “Should parliament debate and implement a system different to ‘first past the post’?” The choice in the referendum was between the status quo and a choice that was not a popular alternative. And there was a low turn-out and very many young people were angry with Nick Clegg for climbing into a coalition with the Conservative party.



The EU Referendum in 2016

The recent EU referendum was called primarily to put an end to in-fighting within the Conservative party. The result turned out to be, in my opinion
  • a protest against the Labour and Conservative governments’ inability to manage the consequences of immigration
  • a class revolt against the perception of globalisation
  • an inability of the Remain campaign to counter the oft-repeated (mythical) Brexit slogan of “Take back control”
Sadly the Brexit campaign persuaded the electorate to Vote Leave on a series of advertising promises and slogans that were misleading or impossible to achieve so, even in the space of two days after the result, key Brexit figures were admitting that
  • £350 million per week cannot be put back into the NHS
  • immigration levels will not be changing very soon
  • economic conditions are likely to be unstable for an unspecified time
  • Cornwall and South Wales will not be receiving UK funding equivalent to their EU grants
and, within hours of the decision sinking in
  • The Prime Minister resigned
  • Scotland announced its intention to reopen Scottish Independence plans
  • Northern Ireland’s fragile peace settlement stirred up sectarian arguments about the border with Ireland
  • Brexiters were publically wishing they hadn’t voted leave
  • Donald Trump and Marine le Pen congratulated Brexiters
  • Other far-right organizations throughout Europe rejoiced
  • Racist attacks increased in public throughout the UK according to social media postings
  • The pound dropped to its lowest level against the dollar in 31 years
  • £122bn pound was wiped from the FTSE 100 within minutes of the result
  • Europe made it clear that they wanted Brexit sooner rather than later to end uncertainty
  • France is pressing for Britain to take charge of its own border instead of processing migrants in Calais
    Dangerous politicans and ordinary people who have been hoodwinked, imho

The big statistics

  • 17,410,742 voted to leave 
  • 16,141,241 voted to remain 
  • 13,047,993 could have voted but didn’t (72% of people voted)

One way of looking at the overall figures is that 29 million didn’t vote to leave and 17 million have voted to leave. I know that is not the way democracy works but, if we decide to an adopt an Australian-style points system for immigration (which incidentally increased the number of immigrants settling in Australia….) I hope we can also adopt their voting policy which says that if you are eligible to vote it is mandatory and you get penalties for refusing to vote (you can spoil your ballot paper if you want to protest about the voting choices.)

The age statistics (the saddest statistics of all)

  • 18 – 24 year olds: 27% Leave; 73% Remain 
  • 25 – 34 year olds: 38% Leave; 62% Remain 
  • 35 – 44 year olds: 48% Leave; 52% Remain 
  • 45 – 54 year olds: 56% Leave; 44% Remain 
  • 55 – 64 year olds: 57% Leave; 43% Remain 
  • 65 – 99 year olds: 60% Leave; 40% Remain
In other words, people over 45 (who won’t live with the long-term consequences) voted to deny people under 45 (who WILL live with the consequences) what they wanted. And don’t get me started on the fact that 16 and 17 year olds can join the army, give blood and pay taxes but still don’t get a vote….

Pyrrhic Victory

A pyrrhic victory is one where even the commanders wish they hadn’t won because the costs have been too great. The term is used as an analogy in fields such as business, politics, and sports to describe struggles that end up ruining the victor. There are already signs that the Brexit leaders are unsettled because David Cameron has unexpectedly resigned without triggering Article 50 - and they are hurriedly meeting to formulate the Brexit plans, speculating about who would be brave enough (anyone?) to trigger Article 50. In the case of King Pyrrhus of Epirus, he defeated the Romans at Heraclea in 280BC and Asculum in 279BC but his army suffered irreplaceable casualties. And the Romans kept coming. And coming. And coming. In Plutarch’s account he cries:
“If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.”
The Romans kept coming. One anxiety I have is that the people who voted Brexit will gradually realise that the country is not suddenly Ye Olde Merrie England and
  • Immigration will continue much as before (unless there is a proper overhaul of tax evasion, zero hours contracts, minimum wages, working tax credits, back-to-work programmes, the education system, the entire welfare system including pensions – all of which could have politically happened whilst still being a member of the European Union)
  • Laws will continue much as before (unless there is an erosion of workers’ rights, health and safety recommendations, extra laws to try to get the same rights as we currently have for trading as part of the European bloc)
  • All the changes to the law, to trade agreements, to infrastructural and cultural investment will take many years, a lot of money (I wonder where that will come from?) and, oh yes, a great many bureaucrats to work it out. Who has the skills to do this sort of work? (People working for the European Union…. Or, more worryingly, Brexiters who don’t have a clue….?)
    In a few years time....

I hope the 52% are right and, along with the other 48%, I’m wrong

I started with the above sub-heading and it is worth repeating. I find it very easy to admit when I’m wrong and I always apologise if that happens. I hope the dreams of the Brexiteers are realised, as long as that doesn’t mean England becomes a mean-spirited, inward-looking, isolated land that gets stuck in the past. Past blogs have outlined
I'm not traumatised by being on the “losing side” (I like being in a minority and an underdog) although, quoting from my blog about "Amsterdam, City of Sin":
“It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.” (Anne Frank)
Financial Times reader Nicholas Barrett's viral post

What have we done? (John of Gaunt in Richard II says)

This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,

Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,
For Christian service and true chivalry….
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out….

Like to a tenement or pelting farm:
England, bound in with the triumphant sea
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
The United Kingdom, Great Britain, Little England (and Wales) - what does the future hold?