Thursday, June 30, 2016

Until now omnishambles was a joke on TV: but welcome to a real complete, 24-carat omnishambles as Britain votes to ditch the EU and no one, but no one knows what to do next

Haven’t written here for a while, because I would only have been writing about one thing and would simply have been repeating myself. In fact, I did repeat myself.

If I remember wise old me was advising everyone who would listen and many who wouldn’t that of course Britain would remain a member of the EU and that the whole referendum business would bring home to the other 27 members just how much they needed Britain and what a tight escape they had had when Britain voted to remain. I quoted odds - they were along the lines of 4/11 to stay and 7/2 to leave - and wise old me pointed out that anyone can tell ‘the polls’ anything, but that when folk are prepared to part with money to follow their beliefs, the pointers are pretty copperbottomed.

Well, they weren’t.

To everyone’s surprise, including the gang of politicos who were urging Britain to ‘seize its destiny’ and ‘regain control’ - both slogans are vague enough to mean nothing but stirring enough to do the job - Britain voted to leave. That many of those dubbed Brexiteers were simply not expecting to win the vote has become apparent over these past six or seven days in that none seems to have a clue as to what to do next.

My position, I might remind you, was ‘to stay, but through exceptionally gritted teeth’, and I still doubt whether there will be any economic advantage to Britain in the short and medium term by leaving. And, as Maynard Keynes said, in the long term we are all dead (another quote which means less and less the more you try to understand it, but which sounds good).

I have to admit, too, that over these past six or seven days I have come to realise that I don’t give a monkeys either way: the rain will still be wet, the poor will still be shat upon, many a politician will be caught with his dick up the wrong arse, and, as the Arabs say, the dogs will bark and the caravan will move on. In the few days after the ‘shock result’, I came across two rather good pieces in the Guardian which both go some way towards explaining why large parts of Britain voted to get out. They also tend to kill off the myth that the Brexiteers were racist, xenophobic scum.

Some, of course, might well be, but many, it would seem, were not. Many were simply fed up with not being able to find work - this was especially true in the North of England - because EU citizens from member states, eager to make a new life for themselves in Britain, were willing to take jobs at low wages here in Britain simply because those wages were often damn sight higher than those they were paid in Lower Ruritania. A headline which appeared this morning in the Daily Mail sums it up perfectly:

You might think I have now gone over to the dark side. I haven’t, but after reading this piece and this piece in the Guardian, I did find myself viewing the whole matter a little differently. Read them and perhaps you might do the same. And it is worth pointing out that, as you probably know, the Guardian is not some Tory apologist rag like the Daily Telegraph. Bear that in mind when you read them.

. . .

As for what is going to happen really is anyone’s guess and I, for one, my fingers well and truly burnt by my ‘it’s a cert that we will stay’ prognosis, have taken off and thrown away my Mystic Meg hat. Truly no one can no how this will all play out. And what happens next week or next month or even in six months will still probably be no indication as to the final outcome. If you meet someone who gives you a rundown of how it will all develop, give him or her a wide berth (it’ll almost certainly be a ‘him’): they are talking complete bollocks.

Over these past few days Britain has been turned on its head: more or less all of Labour’s MPs have told their party leader Jeremy Corbyn that he’s a useless twat who could’t organise a piss-up in a brewery and that he should leave. He’s refusing to. In the Tory party several are vying to take over David Cameron’s crown, after the Prime Minister - very, very wisely - announced he would resign at the October party conference.

A certain Boris Johnson, who has long seen himself as a Prime Minister in waiting, although few others have, was favourite to take up the crown yesterday, but today was stabbed in the back by his best friend and putative campaign manager and has announced he will not be standing. There are few tears, especially as Boris had previously stabbed his best friend David Cameron in the back but ditching the Remain camp and joining the Brexiteers in what was all too obviously an opportunistic move to get seat on the bandwagon.

Well, he choose the right bandwagon, but today it was made clear to him that few like him and fewer were prepared to support his candidacy. Exit one Boris Johnson.

. . .

As for the Liberal Democrats, reduced from several thousand MPs to just eight at the last General Election, they are making noises about making opposition to leaving the EU a central plank of the manifesto for a general election everyone expects to see called once the Tories have their new leader in place. That way, the Lib Dems calculate, a great many of the Tory or Labour supporting Remainers will for once throw in their log with pink pussycats through the land and the Lib Dems can regain some of their previous clout. Who knows? I don’t - see above about making predictions.

. . .

Labour are in a very odd state: Corbyn, a principled lefty of not much consequence, was elected leader by pretty much a landslide over four identikit Blairite candidates. The point was that he didn’t even then have the support of many of his parliamentary colleagues but became the darling of the college left and right-thinkers up and down the land.

Despite a vote of no confidence in him yesterday, he is refusing to resign and even if a new leadership election is forced, he says he will stand again and, some fear, might well win again, meaning the party is back to square one and, more to the point, still unelectable. I don’t think that will happen. The trades unions are not daft and no a loser when they see one. And Corbyn is that loser, so I really don’t think he can count on their support.

As for the millions of idealist lefties who are expected to rally to the banner again, I rather think - admittedly going on only the comments of on once-ardent Corbyinista who is ‘disappointed’ in the man - that isn’t going to happen. But still leaves the problem of who to elect as Labour Party leader. So there you have it, disarray all around.

. . .

As for the jilted bride, the 27 remaining EU members to whom it was made quite clear by Britain that the relationship it had with them was merely a marriage of convenience which, to be blunt, Britain no longer found convenient, matters are not as rosy with her, either. ‘Europeans’, supporters of ‘the project’, like to portray the club as in good health and that any upsets are minor matters. But they aren’t. There are more than enough eurosceptics to go around to make life rather less comfortable for the suits in Brussels, there have been several calls for more referenda on membership elsewhere, and the euro crisis is anything but over given that unemployment among the young in the Med member states is still over 50pc.

What makes it all the more uncomfortable for the suits is that however much they might resent what amounts to a British V sign - such gestures do not go down well with what has become the new European aristocracy - they are keenly aware that Britain’s membership helped stabilise the ship. Without Britain, ever the pragmatist, it might be rather less easy to balance interests. At the moment - the V sign was only flashed seven days ago - there is a lot of fury from the jilted bride and dire threats of how she will never speak to us again, but in time, when push comes to shove, and tempers have calmed, I do believe she might come to be a little more reasonable.

The trouble is that however much lip-service is paid to ‘the free movement of labour’ being on of the pillars upon which the EU rests and however much the Germany or France might be tempted to conciliate a little on that score, the president of Lower Ruritania and his other ex-Soviet bloc fellow members will have none of it, for the simple reason that having their young folk head for Britain to work is just what the doctor ordered: those young folk send money back home and with those young folk out of the country there is less pressure on jobs back home. Britain’s loss - pressure on housing, schools and our health service - is their gain. And why give it up? Why indeed.

. . .

Then there’s the ticklish problem that Scotland, itching for independence from the English bastards and Northern Ireland, much of which is itching for reunification with the Republic in the south both voted, by some margin, to stay in. And both are saying . . .

good Lord is that the time? And I have not yet even told you about my short trip to Hamburg. Well! . . .

After posting the above, I went on the net looking for a suitable cartoon to nick to illustrate this piece. And bugger me if all the ones I found on Google images do not somehow miss the point by a country mile. Take this one:

OK, it seems to say something - the Britain is in a dire state and it can only get worse -but it wholly misses the point: it isn’t just Britain which is in dire state which can only get worse, the EU is, too, and that means Europe. Unless there is a hell of a lot of fancy - and intelligent - footwork and dollops of that supposedly quinessential British quality ‘compromise’, the EU is fucked. I said I had thrown away my Mystic Meg hat, but let me put it on again briefly just to repeat the point: it isn’t just Britain which is in a very bad place at the moment.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Should we stay or should we go? Or should we finally start using our heads a little more?

Well, Brexit day is today. It happens only to be 1.28am on June 23, but the excitement is due to start at 7am when the polls open for the good folk of Britain to decide whether the majority of them want to carry on taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest and to carry on enduring the humility of getting nul points for their efforts, or whether we, as a nation determined to sieze our destiny (©Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson) declare in one voice ‘Enough is enough - British songs for British people!’ OK, you all know what I am talking about.

My one reaction is merely resigned irritation. Make that total irritation that both sides, total bloody irritation with those who declare that the EU was born of the Devil and that Britain, God bless her, must cast off the shackles of Brussels and take back control of her destiny, and an equal irritation with those who declare that if we leave the EU it will be curtains for us all, OAP throughout the land will die overnight, children will be eaten by wolves and all of us, from the Queen down will find ourselves on the dole queue. To be blunt: both sides are talking complete bollocks and it is scandalous that neither side was prepared - ‘was’ because the vote will take place later on today - to spell out rationally why it believes Remaining/Leaving is rationally the best option.

Me, I shall vote remain. That’s not because I believe in ‘le projet’ or that ‘our destiny is in Europe’, but because 1) economically Britain would be mad to sever numerous trade relationships and exit a working system of trading; 2) the EU, a good and worthwhile idea however flawed the current set-up is, will crumble without Britain and her unwelcome, although very necessary input of Anglo-Saxon common sense. I am, and always shall be for as long as is necessary, in the forefront of those critics who say the EU needs fundamental root and branch reform.

To use a colourful phrase, the EU, or rather those who like to pull the strings in Brussels, have disappeared up their own arse. It is, or should be, pretty obvious to them - as Donald Tusk, the polish politician who is the current president of the European Council has plainly pointed out - that there is no universal popular clamour of an ‘ever close Europe’.

The citizens of the various member states, both those whose countries were founder members as well as the newcomers who have only recently thrown of the shackles of totalitarian control, are very happy with the EU when everything is fine and dandy and are only too happy to enjoy the fruits of whatever goodies the EU can push their way, but when push comes to shove - surprise, surprise - national interest as always takes precedence. Bugger the tainted idealism of the superannuated

 one-time Sixties hippies about establishing a European brotherhood of man, what they are interested in is how a tariff-free Europe-wide trading bloc can benefit their farmers, small and large business and peoples generally.

It should have been obvious a few years ago on what shaky foundations the EU is built when more or less a million migrants - call them refugees if you like, and some of them were - barged into Europe via Greece and Italy more or less demanding a piece of the action (and who can blame them? Not me. They, too, bleed when they are cut).

It was at that point that the various member states showed their true colours: Germany, God bless Merkel, or at least part of Germany wanted to welcome them. Hungary and Slovakia were less charitable. So much for the brotherhood of man. And Germany, too, realised that it wasn’t going to be all that easy playing the European saint. ‘Migrants’ played an unsavoury part in the propoganda put out by the ‘Brexiteers’, those who want to leave the EU. It’s true that our national health service, housing and education system is under great pressure, but that, as far as I can see, is not the fault of EU migrants coming from poorer parts of the EU looking for a better life: it is because Britain spends less on its health service as a proportion of gross domestic product than other EU countries and because we are underinvesting in schools and are simply not building the number of houses needed. Migrants are not the problem, and never were.

Anyone accustomed to bullshit and the vague sloganising of politicians should have been warned at he outset that the Brexiteer leavers were almost to a man and woman a set of nine-bob notes. When you are approached for support by folk declaring that Britain must ‘sieze its destiny’ and ‘take back control’, it is high time to count the silver and check the locks.

Sadly, those campaigning for Britain to remain were equally as dishonest: why not come clean and declare that in its present form the EU is a bloody mess, but that essentially it is a good idea and that Britain cannot just prosper better taking part in its trading arrangements, but can also, with the help of allies in the EU, tidy up its augean stables? There are plenty out there who sympathise with Britain and her complaints, but who would rather Britain blazed the trail, thank you very much, so they could follow.

Tomorrow night we shall see if I am right: that Britain will remain a member of the EU. Furthermore, if the 28 members have any nous and are prepared to use a little common sense, the next few months will see some wholesale changes in the EU and how it is run. If not, they are fucked, not least because the Brexiteers won’t take defeat lying down.