A Voter’s Dilemma

If you are resident in UK, you will probably be voting in a General Election tomorrow.

As, come rain, snow, hell or unacceptably high water, shall I.

I cannot add anything to the litany of high principle that has bombarded the people of Britain for the last eight weeks, or comment meaningfully on the scheming, conniving and legal wrangling of our Members of Parliament throughout the last three years.  You will have formed your own opinions.

So how can I contribute?  How can I, personally, decide which box to tick?

One thing I can offer is memory.  Not ‘nostalgia’, simply memory.  I was already an adult when UK decided to join the Common Market, then a tariff-free trading relationship with a half-dozen Western European nations as signatories.  I have voted in more General Elections than I care to count.

Here are some thoughts.   The day before UK linked arms with Europe, £5000 would buy a very reasonable house, a cup of coffee was the equivalent of 12.5 pence, and £6 to £7 would cover the weekly ‘shop’.  Make no mistake: the price/wage spiral started there, and it was led, of course, by prices.

In a few years, back there in the 1960s, the cost of living escalated by 100%.   In a very few more, UK had lost most of its industrial base and an entire fishing industry.  In a handful of decades, the German hegemony that likes to entitle itself the EU has asset-stripped UK mercilessly, while we, as the only other net contributor to the EU, paid them for the privilege.

We weren’t doing brilliantly before the EU, but we were doing all right.  Without us the whole Tower of Babel is likely to come crashing down, anyway.  I can’t think of one solid reason to stay locked in with them, nor can I imagine why we have to pay them even more to get out.

That single influence should dictate the destination of my vote.  The Conservatives are the only electable party with a determination to press forward.  The others are advocating one or another form of surrender to the Bergers of Brussels.  Well, let’s see.

The Labour Party is the only other real contender for government.  Putting aside its neo-Marxist leader’s extremely extreme views – his support of the Irish Republican Army, his reluctance to maintain a nuclear deterrent, and his past associations with Hezbollah, plus his party’s, if not his own, anti-Semite history – the party he would lead into power is to the left of left-wing Socialism.  I remember the Labour governments of the 1970s.

The Labour Party is, and has always been, led by the creaky democracy of ‘Conference’ in which the powerful trade unions have a disproportionate say.  In the current campaign their Chancellor-in-waiting, John McDonnell, has twice mentioned ‘collective bargaining’ as insurance that everyone should enjoy a decent standard of living.

I remember the true effect of ‘collective bargaining’.  I can shorten it to one word: strikes.  The threat of industrial action will have teeth again if Labour re-nationalizes such services as the railways.  ‘Collective bargaining’ means forcing up wages to a point where productivity is stifled and prices mushroom.  ‘Collective bargaining’ means one disaffected railway worker in Crewe can bring the whole national railway network to a halt.

So, not Labour then.   The other parties, Liberal, UKIP, the Greens – no, I’m afraid not.  I want my vote at least to have a chance of counting.

Which brings me back to the Conservatives, even knowing their only real interest is in perpetuating the worst aspects of the British tradition – class, unearned privilege and the preservation of wealth of a chosen few.  I am not, by instinct, a Conservative, especially at this junction in our history, but I accept they will generate business growth and get back at least some of the country we had and have lost to the EU.

Which is better for all of us, in the end.  So thereto I plight me my ‘X’, albeit, I think, for the last time.

Let’s see what happens…

This ‘Ere Eupo

Now, my Darlin’s, ‘tis like this.

Other year we had a vote, see?  ‘Twas like ever’body got to ‘ave a say about how us felt about the immigrants an’ our sovinty an’ that, an’ we all turned out and we told ‘em, no uncertain fashion, like, what us thought we ought to do.  Leave that there European Onion thing from the Brussels!   Yes!   An’ it turns out we didn’t want nothin’ more to do wi’ no onions, and ‘ow we wanted to go out by ourselves.  Aye!

Well, turns out we were wrong, see?   ‘Cause all these ‘ere thinkin’ people says we should stay in, an’ ‘ow we faces certain ruin if we don’t.   An’ we says to ‘em, see, it was a Democratic Decishun, but they say that don’t count, ‘cause apparently they won’t get so much money if us makes ‘em leave, and they won’t be able to live in they there nice London apartments no more, or travel around this ‘ere Eurpoe to get better jobs, and stuff like that.   They says we bin lied ter, an’ un-screw-pew-lus people, they led us up the garden path, an’ that.  We jus’ voted ‘cause of the immigration, an’that.

So they goin’ to change wha’ we want to what they want, and that’s on’y fair, ‘cause we’m jus’ ord’nary people, ands not great and good like they is – are.

So, seems to me that all these ‘ere clever people, they on’y peddle that there Democracy to us when they want us to see things their way; and if we don’t, then they got to twist it about until we do.  Lawyers, and Ac’demics, and that, they knows what’s good for us, don’ they?  An’ learned people, they thinks we’re too thick to unnerstand ‘bout Eurpoe.

See, I voted ‘cause I didn’t think that there Onion was goin’ anywhere.  I thought that my country is what serves me a livin’ an’ not none of the Brussels.   They’m got strange money that they keeps printin’ with no vaalue behind un, they keeps poorer countries strugglin’ for a livin’ an’ it’s not long afore we becomes one of those, if we stays in, like.   They’m sittin’ there with smirks of their faces, takin’  our money and givin’ us less back than what they takes; they makes rules we can’t keep up with, and my sheep dip’s more ‘ficient at keepin’ out the nasties than their imm’gration pol’cy.  They destroyed our fishin’ ind’stry, they put the cost of livin’ up for all of us an’ they make us tax things we shouldn’t, don’t they?  And we can’t take so many people!    Now, that’s not racist, nor nothin’, but us as dooty to house and keep the people we already got.  It makes sense, see?  If my neighbour, he don’t put no fence up,  his sheep gets all mixed up wi’ mine an’ they overstocks my land.  Seems simple sense to me.

But there.  I don’t know nothin’.   I’m jus’ the peasant who’s ‘pinions you thinks you can ignore – I’ll jus’ tug my forelock as I passes you by and you can try to forget it’s me who does all the work, who keeps your nicely feathered beds stuffed an’ makes the country run.

Let’s drop the accent now…

So, overturn the will of the people with your contrived arguments and Machiavellian tactics.   Buy your politicians and your expensive lawyers to find a case for you to make.  But if you do, and you succeed in controverting the will of the people you will finally write the obituary to democracy, and prove the lie you have been trying to disguise for so many years.

And I, at least, will stand against you, tooth and claw.  And if you succeed I will never bother to mark a ballot paper again.  I wonder if anyone will?

A Time for Change?

A report by the Hansard Society, the UK’s leading source of independent research and advice on Parliament and parliamentary affairs, should give everyone pause.

Interviews conducted with a representative sample of 1000 British citizens found 63% agreed that “Britain’s system of government is rigged to the advantage of the rich and powerful” and in response to the statement “Britain needs a strong ruler willing to break the rules”, 54% agreed and just 23% said no.

Only 25% of the public had any confidence in MPs’ handling of Brexit,  (see my post ‘Let’s Discuss Nationalism’) Fifty-six per cent of respondents said they believed Britain was in decline, while  47% felt they had no influence at all over the national direction.   The public feels strongly that the system of governing favours the rich and powerful and that political parties don’t care about the average person.

People are not confident that politicians act in the public interest.

When, in 2016, it was suggested a referendum concerning severance from the EU should be held, 77% of the population surveyed were in favour.  The current figure in favour of referenda has slumped to 55%.

Although many have chosen to do so, it is unfair to blame the Brexit issue for ‘breaking Democracy’ when all it has really done is shine a spotlight upon flaws that were already there.  Democracy, inasmuch as it is a recipe for governing which ‘carries out the will of the majority while having regard for the needs of the minority’ probably never existed at all.  Our much-vaunted ‘world’s oldest democracy’ was a sham from the start – Members of Parliament only started receiving an income for their services in 1912.  Prior to that, right back to 1721, the time of Sir Robert Walpole, only those of significant means could afford the honour of representing a constituency, being bought and paid for by the local landowners.

Twentieth and twenty-first century political history has no place here, although I am happy to trade blows with anyone who would vie with my observation that the Conservative and Unionist Party, or a close imitation of it, holds and has held the Golden Ticket in the UK for the best part of the last hundred years, at least.  That is too long – at least, that is too long.

Does the freedom of information the internet provides spell the death of Democracy?  The lies no longer convince – the truth is harder to hide.  Understandably, there are many who will see the proposition “Britain needs a strong ruler willing to break the rules” supported by 54% of a representative sample as dangerous. They will hold up the spectre of intervention by right-wing extremists, Marxists, anarchists, and any other ‘ists’ you care to name.  They will warn of the breakdown of law and order – little realising, perhaps, that it is their law and order, no longer the law of the people.

A strong ruler.  Maybe it is time; maybe Democracy has failed to withstand the test of truth, and maybe even dictatorship is better?  Does Churchill’s quote ‘Democracy seems a very bad system until you examine the alternatives’ hold good in 2019?  Personally, I cannot see myself casting another vote until radical changes have been made.  We are already stabbing each other in the streets; if we take no action now, when does the shooting start?

So, What Now?

Well, it happened!

Those of us who did not sit up through the night of 23rd June woke in the morning to a country that is new to most of us:  an independent nation no longer huffing obediently at the heels of the ‘burgers’ of Brussels.   The UK has voted to leave the European Union.

And the question that engages me is – what happens now?

I have no doubt that the creature emerging from its chrysalis is a shadow of the voracious caterpillar it once was, in those days before a grocer’s elitist son glued it to an over-tenanted portion of the northern hemisphere known as the Common Market, more than sixty years ago.  Small, damp and rather blousy, it must spend time drying its wings before it can become what?  A glorious and beautiful butterfly, or a trundling, zeppelin of a moth?   Does the Britain that now looks so crippled soar brilliantly into the sun, or sacrifice itself to the naked flame?

What comes next will depend upon who leads.  Prime Minister David Cameron’s rather pathetic attempt today to persuade his nation that he would fall on his sword was tempered by his intention to wait three months before doing it.  He will, in his own words, ‘steady the ship’, thinly disguised rhetoric for ‘I will delay this as much as possible’.  And those of us watching got the uncomfortable feeling he has not given up,  though we may rest assured that, even if he succeeds in his tactic, the Tory Conference in October will have a finely honed blade ready.  So who?

Boris Johnson seems the obvious candidate, Theresa May is also in the running, as is Michael Gove, despite his insistence he seeks no high office.   Exciting enough, but there is an odd further possibility, which I will explore, if only because I like odd possibilities.

There is no doubt the referendum on Britain’s EU membership was the result of discontent within the Conservative Party.  Nonetheless it would not have happened had not Nigel Farage’s UKIP party given it voice.

What occurred on June 23rd was a rare example of true democracy.  For a large proportion of UK population government is an irrelevance, something to amuse the ‘educated’ which costs them money, but about which they can do nothing.  They are unrepresented, principally because the British Labour Party is a grotesque, stuck in a quagmire of trade union megalomania and neo-communist dogma that was rejected by a thinking working class (there – I’ve used that damned word ‘class’) thirty years ago.   The referendum gave everybody a simple, straightforward access to a political process:  ‘yes’ or ‘no’.   It brought The Unrepresented from their houses, many of them for the first time in thirty years.  It gave them an influence otherwise lost to them, and it raised a political map of the United Kingdom which showed starkly how little Unity there really is.

In all of England only London really came out strongly in favour of the EU.   The Superdome, the Bankers’ Bubble stood tall amidst a seething sea of doubt and dissent.  Atom City against the real world.

It is futile to even imagine the Conservative Party, or any leader arising from it, will do more than quantify the risk that carpet of inconvenient intelligence outside the dome represents.  And then dismiss it.   But they’ve been wrong before!   Suppose they decide to reinforce their post-EU mandate by calling a General Election, and suppose Farage’s UKIP steps into the breach the Labour Party have left unguarded?   Could UKIP manage to draw those same Unrepresented from their houses – is it possible UKIP could form a government?

It is intriguing, and I admit very unlikely, but what a proposition a Nigel Farage-led government presents!   A commodities trader turned Prime Minister is a very Trump-like prospect for a future independent UK, and I relish the thought because the pot needs stirring, and I can think of no better man than Farage to hold the spoon.

So there we are.  Newly independent of Brussels, free of EU federalism.  Brushing fantasy (and Farage) aside, I honestly don’t know what the future holds, but I am experiencing the optimism of youth once more, and I love it!

Referendum

I can’t avoid it.

All talk in UK this week is concerned with a forthcoming referendum vote – a choice to ‘remain’ with the European Union, or ‘leave’.   Still, at this very late stage, there is a thirst for information from those who want the element of chance eliminated entirely from their decision, which suggests there are large numbers who want to vote to leave, bbanker 2ut daren’t.

This nervous indecisiveness is, of course, prime meat for the ‘remain’ campaigners, who wade in with dire warnings of financial Armageddon, forfeit of international influence and a variety of other terrors lurking in the black chasm that awaits a friendless UK, condemned to wandering in outer lands.

Why, they reasonably plead, take that chance?  Why leave the safe harbour of your European friends and brothers for the sake of an experiment;  why follow where the inexperienced shepherd leads?   Is it not safer, more prudent, to remain obediently within the fold, where nations may work together for a brighter future?  The EU will progress, will improve and prosper, with you or without you:  why sacrifice your part in that process?

It’s a challenge I can’t resist.

Let’s question the position if the ‘remain’ argument prevails in the vote.  If UK stays Brussels sees all 28 member nations coming under the umbrella of a federalist alliance which must, eventually, mean one government for all (presumably in Brussels, BTW) and one currency for all.  Otherwise any major step forward will be lost in a quagmire of conflicting interests.  28 separate governments, all with their own electorates to appease, already provide plenty of ready examples of this.

The UK is a major culprit.  The Westminster government has exemptions essential to its national interest in many matters, including that vital component, free movement.   The UK will not surrender the pound sterling, nor will it agree (it says) to the admission of further member nations.  Thus it is, in a sense, already halfway out.   It occupies precisely the ‘offshore island’ position Brussels has threatened it will have if the ‘leave’ vote holds sway.   And that is a position that would be untenable anyway, if the federalist plan comes to fruition.

But there is another pivotal question:  just how stable and secure is the EU?   Terrorist activity is on the rise, government response sluggish.  Growth within the EU is negative, decision-making is ponderous, its government unrepresentative of its people.  Greece, Italy and Portugal are treading close to the edge of liquidity, and the cost of living, especially in Greece and Italy, is prohibitive.  Unemployment, especially amongst the young, is outrageously high.  The immigration issue is seriously destabilising, with no prospect of diminishing in numbers in the immediate future.  To grasp the immigration issue the EU has to renege upon Schengen, to resolve its financial imbalances the Franco-German Alliance has to consent to a very much smaller slice of the cake.  Neither of these are feasible without the collapse of the EU.  So, how ‘safe’ is an offshore island tethered to this leaking hulk?  How long, indeed, will it stay afloat?

By contrast the UK scores highly in its ability to trade.  Unemployment is low, growth is positive, and where diplomacy and guile will secure a new market, or negotiate a lucrative deal, the British will succeed:  this is their history as one of the world’s great maritime trading nations.  Although the playing field may have changed, those innate abilities are never lost.  The UK also harbours one of the world’s great financial centres – liberated from EU constraints, its banking sector faces a profitable future.   So, fiscal chasm there is not: a process of levelling, maybe, a lot of sound and fury, maybe, but ultimately signifying nothing.

In making this case I have not emphasised the UK’s status as the EU’s largest trading partner, a market they will be unwilling to forgo.  Nor am I, despite your thoughts, a ‘Little Englander’.  I don’t harbour dreams of national glory, or seek to relive the days of Empire.  I do remember times before the EU, though, and I have some perspective upon all the UK has lost.   With others of my age (I, too, was young and optimistic once) I enthusiastically declared myself a ‘European’ when the clarion call came, and even absorbed gladly the sudden rise in the cost of living that came with it.   But now?  No.  For too many years I have watched various European interests – mainly French, German and Spanish, and more recently Eastern European – rape UK’s assets for their own advantage; and I have watched as the UK gave way, too many times.

The nation has a chance to begin to reclaim some of its own resources.  Maybe it can regain some of its plundered fishing industry by reasserting its territorial waters:  maybe it can subsidise and remodel its agricultural policy, begin to police its borders properly, deport the foreign criminals it is forced to detain here by EU law.

I am all for breaking down the insularity of nation states, all for the ideal of a united world.  I also see these are ambitions that can only succeed when component nation states refrain from using them as a tool for conquest, and show respect for the needs and views of people, rather than their own financial gain.

With regret I have to say of the European Union;  this has not happened – it will not happen – here.