Politics

Our history tells us who we are

Blog 82

Ok, there’s a debate to be had about the value and role of public statues but, personally, I’m way up for the one just unveiled in Parliament Square.

Women’s suffrage campaigner, Millicent Fawcett, has to be one of the great Britons of the 19th and 20 centuries. Why has it taken so long?

Millicent Fawcett, who, through her untiring efforts, helped to improve the lives and prospects of millions

… and therefore not to to be confused with

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At least, in the positivity aroused by the unveiling, we have a counterpoint to the horror show circulating around what is being called Windrushgate, or whatever.

That the country should have allowed itself to sink to the point where politicians feel that developing a deliberately hostile environment to selected legal, invited, recruited immigrants and their descendants – those who not only fill vital jobs but, through their taxes as a “working age” population, subsidise the rest of us ageing “white folk” – will be a vote winner is nothing short of a national disgrace.

Promoted by our lowest political life forms like Farage – and there are plenty more – it brings shame to a once decent country and is clearly reflected in the ridiculous, self-destructive Brexit vote, the worst thing to happen to this country in my lifetime.

This is so far from being the country I grew up in and could take some pride in. Brexit will, if it happens, ensure we continue our shift towards economic, social, environmental and political marginalisation. What an achievement.

Meanwhile “in other news”:

While awaiting the start of radiotherapy (and many thanks for all the warm wishes), I have had to undergo a few, what are known as, MRI and CT scans. Essential of course – and I’m totally indebted to our largely immigrant staffed and funded NHS – but, to a lifelong claustrophobe, this is an additional hurdle to negotiate!  In my case by swallowing a couple of sedatives first in the hope that I might not notice that I was being inserted into something like a Chilean miner escape tube.

After one scan we had arranged to meet up with a friend and I was embarrassed to be told later that I’d twice fallen asleep at (on?) our table, due no doubt to my over-enthusiasm for sedation!

While off work I have been able to do a lot of reading and am grateful for the suggestions you have been giving me.  I have always read a lot of non-fiction and now find myself devouring more and more. This week, having last week finished off a biography of Clem Attlee and Helen Pankhurst’s Deeds Not Words,

I’ve read a full account of the disastrous Donner Party (a 19th century California bound wagon train complete with added cannibalism. What, as they say, is not to like?

My experience is that, while I start out thinking that I know something about the subject that I’m reading about, I )soon realise how little I do know and want to dig deeper. Life, it seems to me, is an ongoing learning experience!

But there is plenty of lighter stuff out there! I have a Miles Jupp book (!) on order and a locally based crime thriller, because you just can’t beat a bit of pre-Scandi noir, especially if you recognise the places and even the characters being worked over…

In a previous post I mentioned Stuart Maconie among my list of favourite authors. Very true. But with one reservation. After completing my own book, Northern Soles, about a 2016 coast to coast walk, I was hoping to come up with an idea for another long walk with some kind of social/political relevance and hit on the thought of doing my own re-enactment of the Jarrow march. A little later I discovered that Stuart M had beaten me to it and his book was already in the pipeline! Bummer! Swallowing my instinctive resentment, I simply ordered it and it’s a splendid read.

Very much enjoyed watching the Commonwealth Games on telly through the night (I have a lot of time on my hands just now) and, having a netball-bonkers (and top quality player) for a daughter, there was never a chance that I would miss a single second of the gold medal match against the Aussies! Brilliant stuff!

And my beloved Liverpool FC ain’t doing badly just now either!

Have also been using my “enforced leisure time” to carry out some long-overdue clearance of old papers and now unwanted books. Very therapeutic. And, as a treat, provided Mrs Blog is out of the house at the time, I’ve indulged myself by buying a cheap retro turntable to play a selection of my old 45s!

We had to cancel our June holiday in Barbados but insisted that blog daughter and her boyfriend should carry on without us.  They still need and deserve the break. Mrs Blog has asked them to send us pics of our favourite places on the island so we can share the experience.  I’m not sure about that!!

But we are still arranging to go, or at least be available for,  the odd local event on the basis that it will be better to focus on what I can, or may still be able to do, and not what I may not be able to do.  Indeed we have just booked to see our favourite, canal based Mikron Theatre near Oxford in the summer. I first saw them perform about 50 years ago and the company is, thankfully, still going strong. I have blogged enthusiastically about them before and they featured in my coast to coast walk.

By the way, we sometimes talk about Britain being “overcrowded”.

I thought you might be interested to know (2011 landscape report by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology):

Grassland: 38%

Arable and horticulture: 25%

Mountains, heath and bogs: 16%

Woodland, coniferous and broadleaf: 12%

Urban areas: 6%

…leaving 3% for what? Decking, roundabouts and old mattresses??

Of the urban 6%, over half is defined as gardens, parks, verges etc, meaning that around 2.27% of England is actually built on.  Just thought you might want to know as being “overcrowded” seemed important to some people during the Brexit “debate” (debate??)

Again, many thanks for all the kind words of support during my illness and for the interest shown in Northern Soles!

Shameless plug: very much available through all usual channels!

http://www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk/product/9781781327562/northern-soles

 

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Politics

“No other persons, but many women”

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That this year marks the centenary of (some) women’s suffrage will have escaped nobody’s notice. A feature film, books, TV documentaries and numerous articles online and in magazines and newspapers, have informed those who hadn’t been aware, and reminded those who were, of the  sickening lengths that the male establishment in this country went to in order to keep their own grip on the democratic process, and the physical measures, including torture, they were content to deploy to that end. For, what was force-feeding (as authorised by Home Secretary and future “Greatest Ever Briton” Winston Churchill) if not torture?

Great Britain, early last century…

If we are ever tempted to decry the (seemingly second class) status that some other cultures afford to women, let us remember how relatively recent is the period described in the suffragist narrative. And how many European and Empire countries were ahead of us in “granting” women the vote.

The key elements of the Votes for Women struggle have been well enough rehearsed and this blog can add nothing of value to that story.

But, within that narrative there are nevertheless nuggets which may deserve a wider audience.

A “No vote, no census” campaign was mounted around the 1911 national census: “If women don’t count, neither shall they be counted”.

Emmeline Pankhurst urged women who were at home on census night to refuse to complete the return (and risk a £5 fine or a month’s imprisonment), or they should avoid the census altogether by making sure they were out of the house. Many responded to the call by returning spoiled, witty or sarcastic census forms while others arranged to be away from home, often in social groups. Emily Wilding Davison, who was later to lose her life in the cause, famously hid in a broom cupboard in the Houses of Parliament for 46 hours so that she could record the Palace of Westminster as her place of residence.

Suffragists from Merseyside (this blog is always happy to celebrate the combative side of his native city) gathered in a house in Birkenhead. The organising secretary took charge of the census form, filled in the name of a manservant on the premises and then added, “No other persons, but many women.”

“No other persons, but many women”…

A less celebrated aspect of the suffrage campaign is the energy devoted – by women as well as men – to opposing any move towards women having the right to vote. The following words have been unequivocally attributed to Queen Victoria:

“I am most anxious to enlist everyone who can speak or write to join in checking this mad, wicked folly of ‘Women’s Rights’, with all its attendant horrors, on which her poor feeble sex is bent, forgetting every sense of womanly feelings and propriety. Feminists ought to get a good whipping. Were woman to ‘unsex’ themselves by claiming equality with men, they would become the most hateful, heathen and disgusting of beings and would surely perish without male protection.”

I guess if you’ve been promoted to the position of Queen with, as far as one can judge, very little effort on your part, you may feel there are other ways open to you to make a difference without having to borrow a stubby pencil and mark a cross on a sheet of paper in a draughty community centre.

Octavia Hill, co-founder of the National Trust and prominent social reformer who should have known better, wrote in a letter to The Times, “a serious loss to our country would arise if women entered… political life”. She worried that the vote would take women away from “the quiet paths of helpful, real work….”  Hmm.

This author has long been absorbed by this element of our nation’s story and, when living in Manchester, paid more than one visit to what is now known as the Pankhurst Centre – numbers 60 and 62 Nelson Street, one time home of Emmeline and her daughters, and the location for the first meeting of the Women’s Social and Political Union which became the militant, “suffragette”, branch of the wider “suffragist” movement.

When undertaking a sponsored coast to coast walk in 2016 from Liverpool to Hull, it was a given that, in walking through Manchester, I would opt to visit both the excellent People’s History Museum (sometimes referred to as the Museum of British Democracy) and the Pankhurst Centre, mission statement:

 

To ensure that the powerful story of the women who won the vote continues to inspire those who dare to challenge gender inequality and the violence and social injustice this fosters.

 

To work to ensure that people suffering, or at risk of, domestic abuse receive appropriate support.

In writing up my visit to the Centre for a forthcoming book I was indebted to Dr Helen Pankhurst (great granddaughter of Emmeline, granddaughter of Sylvia – possibly the most radical of the three Pankhurst daughters) who kindly and swiftly checked and improved my narrative and furnished some generous and most supportive words for the front cover. Mrs Blog and I were, naturally, delighted a week or two ago to attend Helen’s launch, at the Centre, of her own book Deeds Not Words: the Story of Women’s Rights, Then and Now.

 

Seldom, perhaps, has someone inheriting a name and an image so keenly lived up to the challenge of honouring it. In this of all years Dr Pankhurst will have her work cut out meeting the demands on her time to lead marches and rallies on women’s rights and issues and respond to media requests. And, through her own daughter, Laura, a fifth generation of this remarkable family has taken up the cudgels on behalf of women – though in the circumstances that may not be the best word.

On a lighter tack, I’m currently reading, and can thoroughly recommend, Swell: a Waterbiography, Jenny Landreth’s account of the “swimming suffragettes” who demanded equal rights with men to swim in the sea, rivers, pools and baths, took on the status quo and won. It’s a story of fantastic swimmers, amazing achievements and really silly costumes.

Changing subject altogether, Mrs Blog and I were on Teesside last weekend on family matters and I will mention just two highlights.

For this year’s Valentine’s treat I took Mrs B for a trip on Middlesbrough’s historic transporter bridge. You cross the Tees on what is referred to as a gondola and I guess it’s possible that Mrs Blog may have been misled about our destination. But it was well worth the £2.60 that cost me for the two way trip for car and passengers.

The bridge and gondola, Middlesbrough

Not Middlesbrough

I’m just an incurable romantic and would welcome your suggestions for how I might possibly better this next year.

And secondly, a very worthy addition to Middlesbrough’s culinary scene, The Fork in the Road not-for-profit restaurant, non-alcoholic bar and social enterprise which aims to generate training and employment opportunities for recovering addicts, ex-offenders and the long-term unemployed, while never losing sight of the need to provide paying customers with great food and superb service in a fine setting at extremely affordable prices. One might, I suppose, think of The Fork in the Road as a Big Issue of restaurants. Whatever, it’s brilliant and deserves every success.

http://www.theforkintheroad.co.uk/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tees_Transporter_Bridge

 

 

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Two wrongs don’t make a summer

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Strong and stable, my nether regions. That’s two huge miscalculations by Tory Prime Ministers whose sole aim was to benefit the party and retain power. In Teresa May’s case, of course, the “worst manifesto in living memory” (and that from her friends in the party) and the idea of basing an election campaign on her personality when she clearly doesn’t possess one and had to be hidden from the press, the public and, basically, the world, was guaranteed to fail. But none of that compares with the folly and incompetence of David Cameron for adopting a core policy of blaming the EU for his government’s failings, calling a referendum on our membership and being taken by surprise when he found that many people had believed him.

With a year having passed since the referendum, no potential benefits having yet been identified and the huge costs – financial, social and environmental – becoming increasingly clear, it’s not surprising that those supporting Brexit are reducing by the day.  Nevertheless my social media space is regularly invaded by an ever diminishing band of hardcore Leave voters claiming victory, as if claiming the accolade of “chief lemming” were a great line for one’s CV.

And yet. Because our two biggest political parties fear a voter and tabloid backlash if they were to act in the interests of the nation and terminate the absurd Brexit process, we press on into the mire with our friends in Europe and across the world shaking their heads and wondering how a once moderately respected and influential country could shoot itself so determinedly in the foot.  At the time of writing the government’s plan appears to be to spend many billions of pounds, firstly on a divorce settlement and thereafter on a trade agreement with the EU on significantly worse terms than the present one while – of necessity — allowing for little change in immigration levels, and, as a non-member of the club, with no ability to influence any future EU policy. After two years of “negotiation” a “deal” will no doubt be presented to satisfy the Leave vote and pretend that something has been accomplished, as is the way with these things. To be in serious competition with the US as global laughing stock does us no favours.

At a recent public debate which I attended in my own town involving local politicians of the significant parties (I choose my words advisedly – UKIP weren’t there) the speakers were invited, having had at least a year to think about it, to indicate what, if any, benefits might flow from Brexit.  After musing on the opportunities which would now surely open up for us to work with China to improve their human rights record, the chief merit identified by our sitting MP – herself a self-confessed Leave voter and therefore at odds with her own constituency — was that the anomaly of French nurses having priority for jobs in our NHS over, say, Philippinos would be ended. Eh? Say again? At least that worrying problem seems to have been solved: in the light of the referendum result the NHS has seen a 96% fall in job applications from nurses overseas. Result! The fact that our MP is herself a nurse I throw into the pot to assist your understanding…

One hopes even at this stage that politicians might display statesmanship and either act directly against Brexit or at least ask the nation if this lunacy is what they actually want. The wellbeing of the UK matters far more than party unity and our younger citizens will not forgive us for treating their future with such disdain. Politicians who allow this absurdity to proceed will have it on their conscience for many years to come. The rest of us won’t forget. Never in my lifetime have the prospects of the nation seemed so bleak. And I’m someone who can remember Lynsey de Paul in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Two constructive themes did however emerge from the general election. The nauseating and preposterous garbage which has been the stock in trade of waste paper producers like the Express, Mail and Sun for so long appears to have had its day and seems to have influence on nobody below the age of 50.

At last, a respectable use for the Daily Mail

And, very sadly, it has taken the Grenfell Tower atrocity to highlight that there is nothing inherently beneficial about cutting taxes, local authority budgets and regulatory standards.

Also in a more positive vein – though not a jolly one – was the news last week that there will be criminal prosecutions arising from the 1989 Hillsborough stadium atrocity (apologies for reusing this word from the previous paragraph but words like “disaster” may suggest just an unfortunate accident or freak of nature).

Personally I’ve always felt more anger about the malicious, organised and sustained cover up by the police and others that followed Hillsborough than the fatal mistakes and incompetence of the authorities on the day. Justice has been too long in the coming but we seem to be getting there.

But in Brighton the sun has been shining, and not just because an excellent young man and good family friend has been elected as one of the city’s MPs. Go Lloyd!

Mrs Blog and I, on our current (modest) exercise kick, took a five mile stroll along the city’s seafront at the weekend, taking in the ambitious programme of regeneration and renovation, an excellent bacon and egg roll and a mint’n’choc chip ice-cream. Mrs B also liberated from the beach, without the benefit of planning permission, several nicely rounded pebbles. These are key elements in the continuing struggle to defend her birdfeeders against the predations of squirrels. The pebbles, you should understand, are not intended to be launched at said grey rodents, either manually or through the mechanism of tripwire and crossbow, but are to be lowered into place on top of the seeds in the feeders to prevent the grey b*st*rds going headfirst down the tubes, from which one has already had to be rescued. The adorable little chaps are nothing if not determined and resourceful but Mrs B is their intellectual equal and they provoke her at their peril. Marguerite Patten is silent on squirrel recipes but hey….

The sun has also brought ‘em out a mile or two along the coast in Saltdean – to be precise, to the newly reopened Grade 2* listed, 1938 lido close to the seafront. Having closed and reopened more than once before, let us hope that the present incarnation will prosper. The specially constituted charitable body that acquired the lido on a lease from Brighton and Hove City Council has worked its socks off, secured millions of pounds from the National Lottery and other sources, reopened the two heated pools to great acclaim in June and is still pursuing grant applications to enable the full restoration of the gorgeous Art Deco buildings next year. Brilliant people, brilliant project.

Talking of restoration (see what I did there?), Blogdaughter and I paid a visit in June to another Grade 2* listed treasure — Wilton’s, just east of the Tower of London, the world’s oldest surviving music hall, evolving over the years from Victorian sailors’ pub to music hall, from Methodist mission to rag warehouse. Reopening – and not for the first time – in 2015 as a multi-arts performance venue, Wilton’s is, like Saltdean lido, a jewel, saved and adapted by devoted volunteers.

This Blog waited to visit Wilton’s until it was scheduled to host an event of particular interest to him – in this case, a Tom Lehrer tribute act. For those unfamiliar with his oeuvre in the 1950s and 60s, Lehrer – a professor of Maths at Harvard – wrote and performed at the piano such evergreen gems as “Fight Fiercely, Harvard”, “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”, “The Old Dope Peddler”, “We’ll all go together when we go”, “Masochism Tango” and the immortal listing of the periodic table to the tune of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General” known as “The Elements”. Lehrer said of his musical career, “If, after hearing my songs, just one human being is inspired to say something nasty to a friend, or perhaps to strike a loved one, it will all have been worth the while.”

So, Blogdaughter and I arrived early to take in the ambience, appreciate the history, the beautifully conserved architectural features and a leisurely drink in the bar and eagerly await the “turn” in our front row seats in the gallery.

Shame about the acoustics that evening but, as most of us could have sung the words in our sleep, little matter – I think it was a one-off issue involving something technical with amplifiers and cooling fans. Don’t let it put you off the venue. You can, and indeed should, buy the Tom Lehrer CDs. In your car they let you sit right at the front and the only one singing along annoyingly will be you.

Tom Lehrer is, as they say in Private Eye, 89.

 

 

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Is there a Point??

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Wiktionary: Remoaner: One who complains about or rejects the outcome of the 2016 EU referendum on the UK‘s membership of the European Union.

Sounds good to me. Where do I buy the t-shirt?

If “Leave” voters are to be believed (I know, why would you, but stay with me), we should give up. They won, we lost, get over it. Or, more likely from what I see on social media, “p*s off to yuropp, yoo w*nnk*”.

We all have lives to get on with (sort of) so perhaps we should focus on what we can actually do something about. Like my team’s football results…   Probably not a good example.  Like the price of — what is it that “Remain” voters eat, samphire?  Like the weather then – what do they say, “everyone complains about it but nobody does anything”?

I’ve reached an age when I ought to be gurning contentedly into my milky night-time drink and carefully monitoring Scandinavian police procedurals after the 9 pm watershed. If I stay up that late. But I find myself strangely moved to “action”, if that’s not too lively a term, politically.

I suspect, looking back (I know, I can sort of remember so I obviously wasn’t there) to my student days, that I was quite “straight”. More rugby and beer than forcing the Yanks out of Nam. And no free love. Though that was mainly because they wouldn’t have me.

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This blog: the babe magnet years

So I’ve been in no position to complain if more recent younger generations appear to have been too preoccupied with making money (or, more recently still, even getting an income at all) to care enough for the important things in life, like protesting or wearing kaftans. But one major plus – perhaps the only positive — from Brexit has been the awakening of interest, rage even, among those seeing their futures casually blighted by those who evidently feel that bringing back the florin, destroying the NHS and shouting abuse at foreigners will make us great again.

I didn’t really go in for marching or demos when young though I did break that rule for Margaret Thatcher’s decision to do away with my job, which seemed only fair. But I appear to be taking to it now. Joining my daughter and her friends on the big march in London immediately after the EU referendum was a joy and a privilege, and had therapeutic qualities for this person of mature years. Today’s youngsters have a whole new range of songs, chants and European food-based jokes that Joan Baez would surely have been impressed by.

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I’ve signed up for a “March on Parliament” taking place just before Teresa “I have no idea what will happen next” May is due to invoke the start of the process towards making the nation a poorer and more divided place. Happily Mrs Blog and I are of one mind on this. Mrs B supports the idea of me getting out of the house more, provided I wrap up warm, but has a mild distaste herself for the idea of being kettled. Particularly in the company of people to whom she hasn’t been properly introduced.

One of the more daunting weapons in Mrs Blog’s own armoury of protest is the prospective withdrawal of her purchasing powers. A minor twitch in her patterns of credit card patronage would make tyrants and unprincipled heads of business quail. She assures me that she will deploy this power selectively and that M&S are safe for now.

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It would be like losing her right arm but….

Sadly my own social calendar doesn’t currently feature any awards ceremonies, in Hollywood or anywhere else, but I have drafted an acceptance speech for a neighbour’s daughter’s Brownie citizenship badge that I can guarantee will inflict lasting damage on Donald Trump.

Along with nearly two million others in the UK (or fewer than two dozen, according to the Spin and Alternative Facts Department of the White House), I have been concerned enough about Trump’s history, particularly with regard to women, to sign the online petition to prevent him getting anywhere near our Head of State if he sets foot here.

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And, if he is rash enough to invade, the Scots are ready….

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.…including Mrs B who is hard at work preparing in her own way

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These may all appear pinpricks of protest but we must each do what we can. It is not enough to assume that the very existence of Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway  in Washington render satire impossible. Ridicule is a powerful tool. Where is Spitting Image when you need it?

It is tempting to head for the underground bunkers and wait for four or more years to pass and to accept that one-third of the UK’s eligible voting population has the right to bugger up the nation’s economy, welfare state, environment and belief in decent values for a lifetime, but that temptation should be resisted.

Altogether now, where’s my beads? Where’s my hair? We shall not, we shall not be moved….

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Five things I like about Britain

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Five things I like about Britain

  1. The countryside: maintained largely by farming, dependent primarily on European markets, supported by European funding and subject in environmental terms to EU directives.
  2. Eating out: catered for in my part of GB by underpaid, exploited, possibly illicit immigrants.
  3. Sport: watching and supporting GB teams comprising multi-ethnic athletes and players and a Premiership football side made up largely of foreigners whose skills and contributions make me happy.
  4. Being able to travel relatively cheaply and easily abroad and with free health cover over much of Europe.
  5. Accommodating both our colonial past and a unique position in Europe.

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Now that’s what I call a proper British meal…

 

Things I used to like about Britain but we don’t have any more

  1. The national health service
  2. Trains
  3. Industry
  4. Billy Fury
  5. Political leadership, except in Scotland
  6. Newspapers with integrity, with only one or two exceptions
  7. An informed electorate
  8. “British values”
  9. Social welfare and a sense of community
  10. Racial and religious tolerance
  11. Council houses
  12. Detached parts of Flintshire
  13. Fry’s Five Boys Chocolate

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Traditional British values coming to the fore again.

 

Five reasons we shouldn’t feel too bad in Britain in 2017

  1. We didn’t elect Donald Trump as President
  2. We didn’t elect Theresa May as Prime Minister
  3. Parliament can act in Britain’s interests and reject the self-inflicted economic, social and environmental horrors that the Daily Mail, Express and Farage seek to inflict on the nation beyond my lifetime.
  4. Young people.
  5. Jose Mourinho may be gone by the end of the season.

 

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The new leader of the western world in full statesman mode

 

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The British PM reminding us that Brexit means Brexit and she has absolutely no idea what to do about it

… but it’s good to know that we have men of stature and integrity to see it through

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Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln….

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Can’t you be trusted to do anything right? I mean, all you had to do while we were away on holiday was feed the goldfish, water the plants and DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING IMPORTANT! And what did you do? Oh yes, in case we need a reminder, you managed to crash the economy, play havoc with Mrs Blog’s pension pot, sacrifice the pound, further reduce the employment prospects of Blogdaughter and others of her generation and make GB the laughing stock of the rest of the world. As others have said before me, at least we voted for this recession. Not bad going for one careless Thursday, was it?

So, when friends and work colleagues ask how our holiday went (and of course we had voted postally before we went), it was ruined, thanks very much. I’ve certainly never returned from any holiday in such low, angry spirits. I could really use a holiday right now – if I could still afford it…

A dozen things we learned over this past week or two:

  1. That passionate conviction coupled with an absence of knowledge and understanding may have dire consequences.
  2. Information, facts and expert opinion are no longer to be a major consideration in our politics. As a substitute for these many are content to believe whatever the Mail, Express and Sun are keen for them to believe.
  3. Contrary to what this blog has previously claimed, you may actually find things in the Daily Mail that are true. Admittedly they have been appearing in very small font at the foot of an inside page, confessing that the previous day’s front page banner headlines were in fact untrue – but hey, a step in the right direction?
  4. Future funding of the NHS can at last be made secure, now that we’re all going to be worse off and the government’s going to have less money available. Oh no, sorry, that canard only lasted until the Friday.
  5. That half of our voting population is very keen to re-establish the 1950s as our Golden Era of choice, presumably complete with the widespread poverty, malnutrition and disease as we’ve become quite used to those again recently. Because beer cost 1d a gallon, Life with the Lyons was so hilarious, wasn’t it, and we used to beat everybody at “international sport” before others took up the game.
  6. Not to go to a sports bar while abroad on holiday to watch the England football team immediately after an EU referendum.
  7. That it’s not OK to vote Leave to see what happens then change your mind and “have another go” when it all turns out the way the Remain people told you. If you wanted to “send a message” to the politicians, why didn’t you write an email?
  8. It’s quite OK to be a racist provided you begin each sentence with the words, “Of course, I’m no racist but…”
  9. That keeping swarms of Bangladeshis (remind me, are they from the EU?) from taking over Wiltshire is worth making a huge financial sacrifice for a few decades. Or was it the Scots that were doing the swarming? Or Vikings, or Anglo-Saxons? Or keeping Syrians out of Iraq, or Turkey out of the EU? Or getting rid of young people from the UK, or banning the 21st century from reaching our shores? But above all, we don’t want any racists here. Because they’re awful people. And we’re not.
  10. That Scotland can come up with statesmanlike parliamentarians in the way that England can now only envy.
  11. That David Cameron, who after all was only trying to deliver what was best for the Tory party by holding the referendum, and whom this blog always believed to be at the toxic end of the “Rubbish Prime Ministers” spectrum, will surely be remembered as truly decent once we’ve experienced whoever is set to follow.
  12. We lost the right to laugh at politics in the USA. Until November?

 

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 Ah, if only we could return to those good old days…

 

But, to return to football terminology for a moment, it’s been a game of two halves. On landing at Gatwick on Saturday morning after an overnight flight, this blog set off jetlagged and unsuitably attired into London to meet up with Blogdaughter and some of her friends to take part in the big anti-Brexit march/demo. Not something I’m prone to but you have to do something – and it’s surely in the economic interests of Brexiteers as well as Remainers that a halt be called to the nonsense triggered by the vote.

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My long experience of taking part in the Lewes bonfire processions made me want to line up the walkers in smart lines of three with blazing torches but they weren’t having it. But what a lifting of the spirits. To be accompanied by tens of thousands of predominantly young people, with plenty of older folk thrown in, committed to ensuring that the nation retained some modicum of belief in toleration and a viable future – economically, socially and environmentally — despite all that society has dumped on them in recent years, was nothing short of inspirational. We have a better “younger generation” than we deserve.

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Let’s Not Hear it for the Silent Majority!

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During my years of what I like to call “public service”, on reading that the general public had been consulted on some vital issue or other and had expressed a range of unfathomable and almost certainly contradictory views, I was generally inclined to feel charitable. Some of my best friends were, after all, members of the general public and they couldn’t all be wrong all of the time.

But the Silent Majority?  Give over, as my father would have said. If ever there’s a reason not to bother to read on, it’s finding the words “I’m writing to you on behalf of the Silent Majority” at the head of a letter or email. Actually does the Silent Majority do email? Or does that belong in the same rather scary world as, say, asylum seekers, teenagers, eastern Europeans, or indeed anyone beyond the front door?

How shall we recognise the Silent Majority if we should pass in the street? What shall we talk about? Oh no, silly me.

C’mon Silent Majority, engage! What have you got to lose? What is there to be frightened of, other than having to think, read and perhaps even listen?

Ten things you should know about the Silent Majority:

  • They support Donald Trump

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….from my favourite publication, the Onion

Actually, that’s all you really need to know, but here are a few other helpful pointers:

  • The Silent Majority believe “we’re all in it together” and the UK has a government of “one nation Tories” devoted to the wellbeing of all
  • They know that foodbanks are just a conniving, political trick
  • They’re certain that global warming is (a) a good thing, (b) a myth or (c) something we shouldn’t be expected to do anything about in this country as the Chinese are still going hell for leather
  • They’re sure that immigrants are generally a bad thing, especially if they live in Lincolnshire or Northumberland and probably won’t meet any
  • They may well, for crying out loud, vote UKIP on the basis that at least that’s a party that can’t follow what’s going on either
  • They’re not on Facebook because you have to have friends to do that and be able to communicate, although not necessarily with joined-up writing
  • They’re confident that, unlike all other nations, at least our history of engagement with the rest of the globe has been an uninterrupted narrative of ethical intervention
  • The Silent Majority (US branch) knows that the way to reduce gun crime is to arm all of its citizens

 

  • And, most important of all, they’re absolutely NOT A MAJORITY OF ANY KIND! And thank heavens for that.

 

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Trump’s majority support gather in their tens of thousands…

 

 

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The Republican Party candidate for the Wild West constituency seeking out ethnic minority groups to canvas

 

Well, that’s that off my chest. Some other seasonal thoughts:

Mrs. Blog and I went to see our much lamented former MP Norman Baker last week promoting his political autobiography at the Lewes Speakers Festival, just one of the ways in which our little town regularly punches above its weight when it comes to (mainly left of centre or green) politics, the arts, fireworks, beer and bloodymindedness. When this blog posed the question to the speaker, “How should any Guardian reading pinko liberal in Lewes position him/herself tactically to achieve political success at the next general election?” Norman replied that all hope should be abandoned and that despair was the only reasonable response – or something to that effect, I recall.

Blog spoiler: I bought a copy of Norman’s book “Against the Grain” and asked him to sign it to Blogdaughter (that’s not her real name, by the way, but I think she might recognise herself) with the words “Sorry that I didn’t make your Save the Manatee fundraiser, Regards, Norman.” Children’s memories run deep, you understand, and I didn’t want her resentment from 1997 to continue to fester. Well, she’ll get to unwrap that on Christmas Day on our cruise ship off Madeira and Boy will she be surprised – she’s expecting a new winter coat.

Spot that seamless link to Christmas? It’s a gift.

Mrs. B is as usual stockpiling the holiday essentials – eyeliner, facial cleansers, that sort of thing, while I just deal with the trivial but “boy” stuff like tickets, passports, guide books, maps and euros. And unlimited supplies of Boots Muffles Earplugs — I’ve heard that the cruise is “family friendly”.  We’ve paid a decent amount of money for this trip so it goes without saying that we shall take a dim view if we hear that the weather here has been fine while we’ve been experiencing Hurricane Ethel.  Provided Santa is able to trace us out there on the foamy brine this blog will report back in due course on the huge array of presents which it expects to receive. But no more nasal and ear hair clippers this year, thanks: I haven’t really done justice to last year’s.

And, for the benefit of any would-be burglars, a warning: Clint Eastwood, no less, has offered to provide homeland security for us while we’re away, so, make my day, just try it…

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