Midsummer madness: Brexit

Stop Exit Only

I posted this nearly three years ago and apart from Theresa May becoming (and now unbecoming) Prime Minister and foolishly triggering Article 50, aided and abetted by — we now see — a duplicitous Leader of the Opposition, nothing much has changed: Britain is still in a state of omnishambles.

My faith in Parliamentary democracy has been severely dented, and I can’t see that a General Election would solve anything nor that another referendum could be offered since there is no agreed deal to vote for or against.

All I can do is bleat “Revoke, revoke, revoke” in the hopes that somebody sane will listen and make that happen.

In general I try not to include anything too overtly political or religious in my blog as I know it can either cause offence or lead to fruitless argument as respective parties take up a stance one way or another. But the recent political earthquake in Britain — with its continuing aftershocks — has at the moment left me bereft of much enthusiasm for literary matters, at least until I begin to recover some equilibrium. Hence this exception to my rule.

I’ve already made some of my position clear in an earlier post “No Man is an Island” where I talked a bit about xenophobia. A Pandora’s Box has been well and truly opened now with the 52:48 vote in favour of Brexit: already racist attacks — mostly verbal so far — show a sudden and alarming rise, no doubt because many see the result as validating their appalling behaviour.

Just as alarming is the political vacuum that has emerged with the shock result. The so-called protest vote (at least a million but probably a lot more) that sought to punish certain Westminster politicians — the Prime Minister in particular — assumed from polling predictions that the Remain vote would, even if with a narrow margin, win the day. It only, as many are now acknowledging too late, pushed the Leave voters into the majority. But much more alarming is the meltdown that is happening in the two main parties, sidelining the issue of what happens now. The fact is that — with the leadership of both left and right parties being questioned — it is apparent that there is no Plan A, let alone a Plan B.

Here we have a classic sequence of political blunders. Anti-European sentiment (so-called Euroscepticism) has long been rearing its head. It contributed to the downfall of Labour prime minister Gordon Brown (remember him?) and the rise and rise of demagogues like Nigel Farage (ironically a descendant of Huguenot and German immigrants). To deal with the Eurosceptics in his Conservative party current prime minister David Cameron offered a referendum to follow his attempts to wrest concessions from the EU in favour of the UK. This was his major miscalculation, thinking he could assuage the public like this. He had underestimated the power of the scaremongers: all the talk of ‘floods’ of immigrants ‘swamping’ the country, taking jobs, draining the social and health services (to be fair, Cameron had himself used similar language) was willingly played on by a poisonous rightwing press, whipping up fear in many of the less cosmopolitan and traditionally disadvantaged areas of the UK.

The question one should always ask when your average politician weighs in on an issue is “What’s in it for you?” With a few honorable exceptions most of them are self-serving, acting with an eye towards further or future self-advancement. Too few have real altruism in their blood, just as too few care that not only has the UK’s reputation been severely tarnished but that the wishes of younger generations have been disregarded, the prosperity of its citizens jeopardised and the stability of the world order compromised, all for — what? That Britain becomes “great” again? So that Britain “takes back control”? For a United Kingdom that may well break up into its constituent parts? That power continues to shift inexorably towards the obscenely rich? (That’s who will be really taking back control.)

I may be ranting. I’m sorry. In common with 48% of UK citizens I’ve run the gamut from shock to despair, from anger to depression. If you ask a stupid question you will get a stupid answer: by offering the option of leaving the European Union this government (which we look to for leadership, not game-playing) suggested that this was a perfectly sensible choice. But when you have a citizenry who have not been properly educated in citizenship they may not realise the consequences of such a choice; and this is exactly what has happened here. All the fine talk of working out a favourable deal with the EU after Brexit ignored this truism: when in a marriage one partner out of the blue says he or she is thinking that divorce might be on the cards it’s hardly likely the other is going to like it, and instead may well want to make any break as awkward as possible.

There is a possible lifeline, and sadly it’s not a second referendum. That is the question of sovereignty. Not the UK sovereignty so puffed up by Brexiters, but Parliamentary sovereignty. The referendum is not binding, merely a sounding-out of opinion or preferences. Only Parliament can trigger Article 50 giving notice of the UK quitting the EU. Most Parliamentarians favoured remaining because they collectively knew what advantages accrued from EU membership, unlike the Great British Public. The crucial thing is, will they have the guts to stand up for what they know is right, or will they cave in to worries about their political future, the anger that will undoubtedly face them from some members of the public?

It’s an uncertain future for all of us, at home and in the wider world. Unlike a general election, where the country can if they so chose periodically change who governs them, this referendum — if followed through to a true Brexit — is a one-way door: there’s no going back.


First published 28th June 2016

66 thoughts on “Midsummer madness: Brexit

  1. The crucial thing is, will they have the guts to stand up for what they know is right, or will they cave in to worries about their political future, the anger that will undoubtedly face them from some members of the public?

    And this is why it is very important for politicians to hear from their constituents at the moment. We can’t just assume they know that there’s a bunch of us out here who’re sane. They might know that, but they don’t know whether we’ll speak for them.

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    1. Absolutely, Nikki. I have written to my constituency MP before, but as he gave a bland government statement before in answer to a query and favours leaving the EU I don’t have high hopes. A concerted approach is what’s needed, and I’m keeping my eyes peeled for that.

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  2. Hi Chris, I understand you, I am still in shock myself. My humble opinion is that this kind of matters should be discussed in parliament only. The referendum was not a display of an advanced democracy, but rather the political shortsightedness of the Prime Minister.

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  3. Like most of my friends, in the US as well as the UK, I’ve been watching the run-up to the UK vote, and then the vote, with a great deal of worry. Already, on this side of hemisphere, there’s talk of whether the UK vote hints at how the US Presidential election will turn out. It’s a world gone mad.

    H L Mencken wrote this nearly 100 years ago: “When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost… All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

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    1. H L Mencken seems to have had it right, Lizzie, being prescient not only about presidential candidate Trump but also the present incumbent of the UK’s premiership. Let’s hope the madness stops now before we descend into utter chaos — or violent revolution — as nations get split right down the middle on their radically different principles.

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  4. earthbalm

    I worry about the future. I liked Lizzie’s quote from H L Mencken (I need to look him /her up) and worry how the rest of the world now views UK citizens.

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    1. Well, the comments here so far range from the US to the antipodes and back to Italy, and the voices suggest the rest of the world is equally stunned. We’re not the only ones to be worried.

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  5. Chris, you should write about politics more often – that was one of the most eloquent, exacting and precise opinion pieces I’ve seen on the subject.

    I’m with your 48%, swearing I would emigrate to the ROI on Friday morning, seriously thinking I don’t belong here anymore if the majority of my fellow citizens feel so opposed to everything I believe is right.

    The entire campaign (on both sides) was so filled with scaremongering, is it any wonder the public felt ill informed and went with their gut? Many people voting leave didn’t seem to consider the economic implications, that we may now face another downturn, that countless projects and groups have been built or run on funding from the EU. And did they really believe that fabled 300 odd million a week would go straight to the NHS? Farage back tracked pretty quickly on that one.

    Unfortunately, I can’t see anyone blocking Article 50. They will be too scared for their futures, they’ll say it would be ‘undemocratic’ to go against a public vote.

    As if it wasn’t undemocratic to scare, misinform and mislead people into voting for your side.
    Dark days.

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    1. Thanks, Lynn, I just wish I didn’t have to be so eloquent and precise about such a dreadful result. I know there was some exaggeration on the Remain side — I don’t see World War III happening just yet — but I despaired of the downright lies that were perpetrated by the Leave campaign, not just the NHS spend (which pretty much all of them have disavowed) but on Turkey’s imminent EU membership (not true) and the rest of the world welcoming us and our trade with open arms (what have we got to trade when businesses go under?).

      Dark days indeed.

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      1. I don’t think Remain helped by joining in the scaremongering – people needed facts but all the politicians were so worried our poor inadquate brains couldn’t cope with anything too complex, so they mushed up the truth and popped it out to us in headline grabbing terror bites. 🙂 Now, won’t SOMEONE take control of the situation, for heaven sake? All sense of responsibility has left the building, it seems. All we can do now is hunker down and enjoy the weather and the football. Hang on …

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        1. Ah, the football … at least Wales are hanging in there! Not that I follow it. 🙂

          The facts were there, if one looked for them but the whole issue was too complex to reduce to a simple for/against choice to which most people would go with their gut feeling anyway.

          I think what we needed was a proper debate, where people’s concerns were answered with straight facts from one of those experts so dissed by Michael Gove. Questions like how much money do we actually send to the EU after our rebate, and what proportion of national spending does it truly represent? (Miniscule, in the scheme of things.) What do the prominent supporters of Leave stand to gain from Brexit in terms of money, influence, power? Why do some leading campaigners peddle blatant lies and yet are not called to account for them?

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          1. All good points, Chris. Just signed a petition calling for politicians to be held to account if they run their campaigns on lies. We rely on these people to inform us on difficult issues – misleading us to swing votes is despicable.
            Now it looks like Gove is in the running for PM, lord help us. And I see Boris has run away back to his corner – I wonder if that really was shock and shame at the result?

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  6. Oh God I despair! I was concerned before hand that even if the remain campaign had won, it was clear that there are so many people in the country that are not just hard done by but that are then willing to take it out on others through hatred. That’s what so much of the campaigning was about too – whipping up more and more hatred. One of the worst things is that is splitting up friends and families along the way 😢

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    1. I agree, Alastair. It’s been an absolutely divisive decision to run this ill-conceived and unnecessary referendum. If you have sixteen million on one side and seventeen million on another (let’s ignore the millions who didn’t bother to vote one way or another at all) how are we ever going to heal the rift? It’s not like general elections where you hope that family, friends colleagues and acquaintances who voted differently to you may see the error of their ways before the next election: this is forever. There is a huge democratic deficit going on in the UK, and it comes from ignorance about how true democracy should work and the responsibilities that attach to enjoying this system.

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  7. It has been very concerning here in Aus to read about the rise in public racism, the divide between young and old, between London and the north, the apparently cavalier way in which Boris Johnson has gone into this without any planning as to how it will be handled, and the backtracking on the claims that money now paid to the EU would be freed up for the NHS. There have been some great pieces on the LRB blog if you care to seek them out, the latest entitled “Bullxit” and discussing Johnson’s recent newspaper claim that Britain (?England in future) will be able to keep all the good things and throw out the bad. Good luck with that, Boris.

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    1. Bullxit is exactly the right term to describe what has been going on here, Gert; if only all those voting Leave had the same perspicacious overview that Australians seem to have demonstrated.

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  8. Been a bit shocked here, mostly by the level of ignorance displayed in voting (according to Google’s published search results).

    Had a bit of a funk last night as I came across a collection of social media updates (collected by a 48%-er) reporting verbal abuse, threats, and the like. It hit rather close to home as some of those targeted could easily be distant relatives–I have some distant cousins of my grandparents still in Poland (or they could, potentially, be in the UK).

    Here’s hoping Parliament gets it together and listens both to what’s best for the UK, Europe, and the world as a whole.

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    1. Thanks for your hopeful words over Parliament, Brent, though from the tone of many in the public eye sense doesn’t seem in generous supply. Do hope none of your distant cousins have been in the firing line as it were, and that a halt has been called to the belief that thugs now have carte blanche to vent their thuggery over all and sundry.

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  9. Thank you so much for an intelligent thoughtful discussion about the Referendum results! Britain’s ‘Brave New World’ is so broken it has made me feel unable to write. What’s the point of writing fiction when my country feels like a ridiculous farce?
    I don’t write dystopian stories, but on Friday I felt like I was living in one. However, reading the posts on your blog and the positive, hopeful journalism elsewhere I am feeling slightly better. If the lunatics have taken over the asylum, we all need to find ways to escape and art and literature are the best ways! Hope you agree.

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    1. I don’t write dystopian stories, but on Friday I felt like I was living in one. It did indeed feel like a living nightmare, Yasmin. Art and literature have always been ways to both escape and to venture forth — if either can help salvage what little remains from this fiasco then it’s all to the good. It pointless wishing they can rewrite what’s happened, but I hope they can help us fashion something positive over the coming days, weeks, months and years. Somehow.

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  10. I was intending returning to blogging with a piece on how the referendum has affected me. I may not have to bother. This piece goes a long (and eloquent) way to expressing my feelings as well as yours. Best wishes, Simon.

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    1. All best wishes to you too, Simon, and to all of us. I think the value of such posts — and there will be others, though I’ve not looked for them yet — is that they show that each of us as individuals are not as isolated as this dire result suggests, and that with a collective will and a lot of hope we may be able to shape through the expression of our feelings a future that is less bleak and less daunting than at present appears.

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  11. Great post Chris!

    It might surprise you that this has been a hot topic of debate here in the states. We are paying more attention to the referendum than our own current political nightmare. And, just like in the U.K. many who argued that leaving is the answer are shocked to find the emperor has no cloths, no plan. I can only hope that this serves as a wake up call to those who think Trump is our answer.

    Has the world gone mad? It certainly seems that way. I assumed that the U.K. would have voted to stay in, and that the racism and fear-mongering would be drowned out by sensible voices. So much of what is going on over on your side of the pond mirrors our own politics. Sadly it shows me that we are globally connected not just by economics and culture but the ugly side of human nature. I am stunned to hear people admit they voted in favor of leaving but really don’t want to go. This is what happens when we allow our emotions to rule our minds.

    We can only hope that your Parliament steps up and becomes the collective “grown up in the room” and does what is right, not what feels right. Lizzie’s quote is chilling, as we see its truth in action everywhere we look.

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    1. I’m not surprised the US public took notice, Sari, this referendum was potentially a massive game-changer to the world order — and a game-changer I expect it to be. Whether it will wake up Trump supporters (remember that he was all for Brexit, and crowed about the result as he arrived at his Scottish golf course) I don’t know — the impression I get is that, as with thoughtless UK voters for Leave, he appeals to those who want to give a kicking to what he calls the Establishment, and that they don’t really listen to whatever non sequitur pops out of his mouth.

      That certainly was largely the case here over Brexit. But it seems that too many people like clownish demagogues and not enough respect true statesmen and stateswomen. Especially when they’re in short supply.

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  12. I agree, Chris has written an excellent, measured opinion piece. Like you, I can’t see anyone blocking article 50, and the EU have made it clear they won’t tolerate backtracking anyway.

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    1. The ameliorating avenues are closing down fast, aren’t they Sue? Thanks for your appreciation — as I said earlier, I just wish I didn’t have to be in the position to write this piece.

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  13. I agree with you about xenophobia and the current political vacuum….I feel sick to the stomach and more than a little fearful for the future….

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    1. I too keep rising towards equilibrium and guarded hope until yet more negative news sends me downward again. There’s an astute phrase written by Michael Frayn for the film Clockwise that encapsulates it all for me: as John Cleese’s character says, “It’s not the despair — I can stand the despair — it’s the hope!”

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  14. Thank you for this concise and well-ordered post. As I read through so many thoughtful articles, I am struck by the sickening parallels between the Leave folks in the UK and Trump supporters here in the US. When has isolationism, ‘building walls,” closing off borders and so on, ever been a solution to the challenges a country faces? And they are certainly unworkable as solutions in the global marketplace of the 21st century. We cannot go backwards to some idyllic time (which was never so for the majority) when we were all the same, because we never were! And that only sparked revolutions, anyway, so it’s a ridiculous circle and not the way forward.

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    1. Some of the rhetoric has certainly been the same on both sides of the Atlantic, Laurie, which too often stokes up fear of otherness as much as it evokes a Golden Age that never was. It’s mostly irrational, and certainly doesn’t allow for nuance.

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  15. Hello Calmgrove,

    I was led to this post by my friend and fellow Australian writer, (writing duo, actually), Gert Loveday. Congratulations on a very sensible, as well as heart felt post. I was amazed to wake up this morning to find that Boris Johnson isn’t going to contest the Conservative Party leadership. Surely this will be seen as an act of cowardice?

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    1. Hi Dorothy, good to hear from you — Gert has admirable coterie of friends it seems to me! Boris Johnson, it was suggested by one interviewer, was/is “a nasty piece of work” and I suspect — nay hope — that he’s been hoist by his own petard. The best I can say about him is that he’s disloyal; disloyal to his erstwhile friends, his wife, his party, his country, Europe, all of which he has espoused (literally or figuratively) but abandons as sacrifices to his own vanity and vaulting ambition. Nevertheless I bet that he’ll be jumping up again at some future point and that he’ll still command a sizeable following, such is his buffoonish charm. Let’s hope he doesn’t fool too many people.

      Of the other contenders I despair: we have one candidate who has five times denied he’d ever stand for leadership and who singlehandedly further demoralised the already demoralised teaching profession (the pro-Brexit campaigner who said the country had “had enough of experts”; another who’s in charge of health but believes in homeopathy and who’s further demoralised an already demoralised cadre of junior doctors; another whose stance is in the mould of Margaret Thatcher (the less I say about her the better); another who though brought up in a council house is keen to betray all those who are reliant on social welfare … I could but won’t go on.

      You’ll gather I’m not altogether happy!

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  16. Thanks for responding to my comment. We may despair, but these politicians do make us laugh.

    You may be aware that here in Australia we had a double-disolution election yesterday, and the winner’s still unknown, but we’re going to have an extraordinary collection of buffoons and crack pots in the Senate.

    I watched an item on the French news about Theresa May, whom you mention as possibly stepping into Thatcher’s shoes. And referring to shoes is appropriate, because it seems she had something of a fetish for them!

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    1. Ah, I didn’t know about her shoes — I’m sure there’s a joke or apt metaphor there if I didn’t fear that for the intolerant further rightwing direction she would take her party and thus the country. Oz politics always has me confused and bemused, Dorothy,especially as it’s really clear who one should cheer for. But then that’s true of most politics … We’re a great fan of Aussie comedian Adam Hills over here (he hosts a satirical tv show called ‘The Last Leg’) and I’d welcome his take on politics downunder anytime!

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  17. I have been very sorry to see how this have played out. While I never thought Brexit would be a good idea, I have been surprised by the mess it has turned into. I can see why they would feel that they have to deliver a Brexit, but surely their job then is to deliver the best Brexit they can and minimize the disruptions, not turn everything into political games?

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    1. Unfortunately there is not, and never has been, a “best Brexit”, and certainly not within the ridiculously short time frame that Theresa May set herself, given that it took forty years to properly embed the UK within an evolving EU (or Common Market, as it was then). It’s a bit like saying “Would you like to stay in the comfy house you have now or slam the door behind you and find something, we don’t know what but something will turn up, it’s bound to be better but it’s preferable to be homeless than in this house with a lot of other tenants.”

      And this nonsense about delivering Brexit ”because it’s what the people voted for”: since when have politicians not felt happy to jettison manifesto promises when the conditions dictated that they do so? Such as now, when economically and socially the country is disintegrating and politics is in a state of, at best, stasis, at worst, crisis? Surely the politicians advocating No Deal don’t have ulterior motives for their stance — such as already being comfortably off or with tax-free offshore investments or allied to foreign powers?

      Sorry, Johanna, it’s hard not to be cynical. Either that or despair.

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      1. I don’t believe in a good Brexit either, but I note that although Norway’s position just seems impractical to me, most Norwegians seem to like it. And it gives them some more room to do things like limiting dairy import from the EU to protect their farmers which is important to them (resulting in the occasional butter crisis and in a cheese culture where you only need to differentiate between “yellow cheese” (bland) and “brown cheese” (sweet)). It makes no sense to me but it is a compromise that works for the Norwegians.

        I think that finding such a compromise for the UK would be much harder, probably impossible, but it surprises me that there has been so little effort to attempt it. If the politicians had been willing to take responsibility, rather than shifting blame and sowing further divisions, they may have started with cross-party talks or even public commissions to find out what they wanted, negotiated with the EU based on a clear and realistic plan with broad support (or at least a compromise that they could agree on), and eventually put the result to the public in a second referendum (with revoke as an alternative). Unfortunately that’s not what happened. I definitely understand why you are feeling cynical…

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  18. While I agree that it would be better if we weren’t leaving the EU, I really can’t see it as the disaster that some remainers portray. We’re one of the largest and most innovative economies in the world and will survive at least as well as the likes of Canada, Australia, etc. I must say that it depresses me when remainers (of whom I was one at the time but with whom I find myself increasing out of sync) continue to insist that people who voted leave are somehow stupider or less well-informed than they themselves are. It’s this attitude of assumed moral and intellectual superiority that leads to the divisions in society. I’m pretty confident that what most leavers voted for was an end to uncontrolled immigration – and that doesn’t make them either racist or xenophobic as remainers always claim. It just means they have a different, equally valid, view of how they would like society to develop. And probably also means that their lives are more directly impacted by immigration than many privileged remainers who can take positions on philosphical, rather than practical, grounds, never being affected by the actuality.

    The more people get called racist, the more racist they are likely to become. We have to try to understand people’s genuine concerns rather than rubbishing them for holding different views. Unless we want to drive people into the hands of the far right, of course…

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    1. I don’t think I talked about migration or racism, or even about those who voted leave supposedly being stupid, as I truly tried not to muddy the waters. Rather than go into discussion about these valid I’d just like to make a couple of points, and those briefly (though that may be impossible).

      1. Perception is everything, regardless of statistics. If people perceive changes in their neighbourhood or are persuaded by their daily newspaper (or indeed by politicians) that communities are being ‘swamped’ by immigrants, then pointing to actual figures for immigration and emigration, the fact that Britain has always been able to control who enters from outside the EU, that immigrants are less likely to claim benefits (are indeed more likely to benefit the local economy), and that including temporary residents like students, many on visas, in immigration statistics skews the numbers — will weigh less in the balance. I lived for three decades in what would be described as an inner city area of Bristol (albeit in a shabby chic street) where I rubbed shoulders with longterm residents whose backgrounds were Afro-Caribbean, Ugandan Asian, Indian subcontinent, Pacific rim, African and even North America. I think I’ve been in that position of being ‘affected by the actuality’ that you mention. But I also understand the psychological downsides of those feeling that they are increasingly part of an out-group when they were brought up to feel they were part of an in-group. That’s not an indication of stupidity but of a raft of many interrelated social factors.

      2. Immigration aside, while we were a significant player in the world economy three years ago, all the experts — and I’m inclined to believe experts, along with daily headlines of job losses and foreign investors disengaging from the UK — these experts suggest that the mishandling of Brexit is going, has indeed started, to have a negative impact on our global economic position. Allied to decades of failure to invest significantly in R & D means that any amount of innovative talent will wither on the vine.

      3. What I thought I was coruscating in my piece (and I may not have made this clear enough) was the political decision made by David Cameron to hold the referendum, specifically to deal with the extreme right neoliberals in his party, individuals motivated almost solely by a wish to increase wealth and political power. If the accusation of stupidity is to be levelled at anyone it is should be at him and his advisers.

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  19. I’m despondent enough about the wholesale sellout by Australian voters in our recent election, rejecting the possibility of a progressive and fair Australia for one led by a do-nothing government whose biggest political idea is tax cuts for the wealthy – but I simply can’t imagine how I’d feel in your position in the UK. I’m surprised that there hasn’t been harsher condemnation of David Cameron, who brought the whole thing on as a political ploy, and I’m utterly amazed that anyone could think Boris Johnson can fix it. I don’t think he even knows himself, he’s just thinking something will turn up. And doesn’t really care if it doesn’t as long as he gets to be PM. I used to be very interested in politics – but Trump, Brexit and now our election result have made me despair of the possibility of intelligent democracy.

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    1. It feels as though a large majority of mankind, regardless of nationality, has a collective death wish, careless of those who realise what a mess we’re making of this world and its inhabitants.

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  20. Chris, I always love what you write, specially on politics and religion, because we think so different yet I am able to see your humanity and how I also care for the same basic things even if our thoughts or convictions differ.

    And I think how different it could be if those who decide our fate had the ability to listen.

    In any case, I am sorry things have taken that turn for the UK.

    I’m one who dislikes the EU, but admit that the Brexit is nothing happening well. I know too well the damages the EU has done. But it may have been the fault of the country (Spain, Malta…) I’m pretty sure there’s a lot I am missing too.

    Again, it would be wonderful to sit down and talk about this together. I will call my husband, Steve, to join. He can add a lot to this conversation (he loves history and politics, and we both love a good discussion, specially with those who bring a different point of view).

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    1. Thank you for replying to this post, Silvia, and I too hope that despite our different convictions we agree on what is our common humanity.

      As an institution the EU I’m sure has much that many another institution has: things that are wrong, imperfect or corrupt. But as a conglomerate that has evolved to harmonise standards across states such as human rights and consumer rights, environmental considerations and so on, not forgetting maintaining the longest period of peace in Europe among its members, I think that overall it has been a force for good.

      Sadly it has been rent recently by resurgent faux nationalism under populist parties and leaders, voted in by populations who have forgotten the bitter lessons of the past, favouring instead a Golden Age of cultural exclusivism that bears no relation to historical realities.

      When too I see young people passionately demonstrating their belief that we face an existential threat to both mankind’s future and to our environment I despair of my generation’s failure to capitalise on the idealism of the 60s, reverting instead to the kind of tribalism and prejudice of the worst kind that led to devastating global conflicts. In a year when we’re marking 75 years since the end of the Second World War why are we returning to the same tub thumping that began it in the first place?

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      1. I’m with you. It’s the failure to ground our beliefs, to uncover our biases, to understand our position and specially the opposite one which will be our demise. You see the danger of those nationalisms based in fear and prejudice, and we in the States see the same in socialisms that don’t even understand the basics of economy and how countries work.

        I guess what scares me is ignorance.

        I just see you are justly tuned to the benefits of the EU, (and I can’t disagree with you), I hope I could convey to you for example, how much we need a healthy dose of patriotism here. We are immigrants and the few who every year we do more than barbecue on Memorial Day. We go to a small celebration at the park where we see different people talk. This year it was a man in his nineties. People die in America (my adopted country for 22 years now), so that others can live and express their state of incomformity and displeasement with things. My lament is the lack of respect for law and sovereignty, and taking things for granted. I also am on the States rights side of the spectrum.

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        1. I’d rather not be sidetracked into discussing the desirability or not of socialism, especially as its manifestation and our experience of it in our respective countries may well be different — and my inclination is left of centre anyway! But I don’t have any beef with patriotism.

          At least, I don’t have any problem with patriotism as I’ve perceived it in the UK — pride in achievements, for example, or aspects of its culture such as tolerance, and so on. And such patriotism for us Brits has usually been quiet, restrained and understated (we don’t have the same rituals concerning the union flag for example as you do for the stars and stripes).

          My worry is when patriotism starts morphing into nationalism and jingoism, and pride into arrogance, exceptionalism and superiority. That’s not only extreme but also dangerous, as we can see in so many developments around the world: Hungary, Turkey, North Korea and so on.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I’m with you Chris, I don’t want to open the socialism can either, 🙂 With our different experiences, it’ll be even an impossible task to hold that conversation.

            What prompted me to include that in the conversation, was this young senator we have in the states who claims to be socialist when she has no clue what the ideology means, no clue about the historical examples of it or what role socialism plays right now in the States. I respect socialism, -or better say I try to understand those with experiences that land them there politically. Actually, while I lived in Madrid I voted socialist. My ‘second’ life in the States, in Texas in particular, has placed me in a different political position. And the alternatives are sadly closing down on me, I feel a disconnect with politics, -even though my husband and I are involved in local politics as an expression and fulfillment of a civic duty. Again, we are in the small minority that votes every three months (school bonds, small local voting times), while people around only vote every four years. As I said, nobody seems to realize we have citizen obligations and rights. Oh, well.

            It’s so refreshing to be able to talk to someone like you who, for example, understands there’s a healthy expression of patriotism, and I agree with you about the dangers of it morphing into what you mention. I hope I also profess the same respect for socialism or whatever leans to the left in the politics spectrum. I just wanted to point to the same dangers that I’m seeing in my country coming from the left when it goes to extremes. If exceptionalism and superiority are cancers any right wing person needs to check, the suspicion of any majority to the point of sanctifying certain minorities, and favoring “the other”, -the non American-, at the expense of the hard working middle class citizen, or the application of tolerance laws and behavior as long as the issues fit our agendas, and the totalitarian behavior whenever values or perceptions clash with others in the opposing side, it’s what makes me want to cry of desperation. The left is not the only place where all “defenders of humanity” reside, -tongue in cheek! You know what I’m talking about, while there’s many right wing ignoramus who are full of hatred and all you mention, there’s those who have real ideals, and the need to be heard in their beliefs, values, and initiative, (even if they don’t seem to be crazy about all the issues the left wing is crazy about). We all have a ‘religion’, and humanism can be such too. It’s not THEY, defenders of all that’s right, and US, bigoted christians, narrow-minded right wing soup nazies, ha ha ha.

            I guess my point is that all possible positions have their right to exist to the extent we are grounded in respect, rooted in a minimum understanding of history, willing to do introspection and check our biases…

            I also don’t see me as extreme right either, more right to independent, (I don’t think America has a center, to my chagrin, ha ha ha). Right now, I don’t feel represented by either party. Local politics have been a huge disappointment for us in my county. Our elective politicians have not pushed for those things they campaigned for and were voted to do.

            Thanks a lot for listening! (It’s rare I want to converse about politics, so thanks so much for your post. It really enriched me. In the end, I wanted to tell you that, how much you enrich me because of how different experience and views you have, which are so selfless)

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Thank you for your kind words, Silvia, and you know I appreciate what you have to say too. There’s a sense in which extreme left and extreme right are Tweedledum and Tweedledee to each other in that the outcome for the ordinary citizen tends not to be favourable. But enough of party politics: what you say about civic obligations and rights, and about mutual respect, should be at the root of all government, large-scale or small. Without them we are all diminished.

              Liked by 1 person

  21. This I wholeheartedly agree with: “Golden Age of cultural exclusivism…

    You can say that some left-wing figures in the States suffer from that too here, they bear socialism as an emoji or bumper sticker. Have no idea of the historical realities or the origins of the different positions. Have no idea of history, period.

    I understand that I need to be complimented in my point of view. The radicals live in the air, pick some quotes and opinions and run with them, disregarding age, experience, understanding, honor, a concerned view of issues. Sigh. I guess if it were up to many like us, we could do something.

    At least we can vent and discuss it here.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Predictive text and/or trigger fingers… your sub dialogue about the problems of fast typing, auto correct, etc, always make me laugh and make my day. Typing comments may be close to wearing an astronaut suit (my idea of it), I feel like I’m ‘walking in the moon’ while typing, then I see it posted, and it looks so clumsy, so blah.

        Liked by 1 person

  22. (sigh) Both our countries have quite the cocked-up governments, don’t they? I’m hoping some folks get their shit together for the 2020 election. If the Republicans have the gall to actually put Trump up for re-election…ye gods….but the Democrats need to get their shit together, too. They can’t just say “We’re not Trump” and expect to win. Such an f’ing mess here.

    Liked by 1 person

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