Yorkshiremen

I have just finished reading a book called “ How I became a Yorkshireman”. It was given to me by a very good Yorkshire friend of many years, to help me to understand this race of people, who live in the back of beyond of our wonderful country.

It is hilariously amusing in that it tells the story, of a young man who came to Yorkshire in the 1960s, much like me, and was introduced to the ways of Yorkshire folk. His introduction was both daunting and strange for a “soft, effete” southern lad, who because of economics had inadvertently strayed over the border from south of Bawtry, into the misgiving territory of God’s own County.

To be fair the book title is a misnomer, in that one cannot become a Yorkshireman. You are either born one or not, and if not, one is destined to a life of inferiority in one’s own country forever. Putting that aside, there are some interesting truisms which are as relevant now as then in the book and from my own experience remain and always will remain of living in Yorkshire.

Let me explain.

I first ventured foot into God’s own County in 1967 when I joined the Army and upon receiving my rail warrant was overjoyed to see I only had to travel to Richmond. As a Londoner I was pleased I did not have to go too far from the bright lights and big city known to us cockneys as “the Smoke”. Upon arriving, bleary eyed at Richmond railway station Catterick,  I soon realised my mistake.

There was nothing except dark and gloom and everything seemed to be a black and white photograph that my parents showed me of their childhood days before the War. I then went on to spend sometime in Yorkshire off and on over the years with the Army, but never for too long and I always looked forward to leaving it and going somewhere warm, sunny and lively.

That was until the dreaded day I was posted permanently to Yorkshire and the city of York.

Everyone told me I would love it. I have come to realise in that time, several lessons, enthusiastically taught to me by ever willing throngs of Yorkshire folk, how astute Yorkshire people are. I have now been here over 30 years, in the same house, in the same village, where I know most of the people and whenever I open my mouth I still get the same retort from everyone I speak with.

Tha’s not froom rownd ere, are ye?

I now realise how perceptive Yorkshire folk are and this lesson is constantly reinforced on a daily basis.

I also learnt very quickly how “Brass” or money plays a big part in Yorkshire life. A good friend of mine, who lived in our village until his passing, was a Yorkshireman through and through. We would often go to the pub on a Friday evening at the end of a long hard weeks work. One Friday as we got to the pub door in our village, he propelled me in through the door quite forcibly to the bar in front of him. I was non-plussed to say the least. I duly bought the round and we sat down. He did not seem upset and chatted away amicably as usual about the wonderful Yorkshire cricket side, the beautiful Yorkshire dales, good Yorkshire eating pubs and how much food one got for the lowest price, the best Yorkshire beer to be had and how much it cost, and lastly Yorkshire!

I then tentatively posed the question. “ Why did you push me in the door like that when we arrived, have I upset you or something”?

He duly replied, “Nay lad, but Ah bort last rownd last week”!

A salutary lesson never to be forgotten.

I love living here and Yorkshire folk are no better or less friendly than people anywhere else in the country. There’s some real good uns and some others, who will remain nameless, exactly the same as anywhere else in my experience. It is a beautiful county and the dales are breathtaking all year round, the seaside towns like Whitby and Scarborough are very bracing, the food is traditionally cooked, and I never tell my southern friends how good it is, in case they come “oop north” and the house prices go up. I will not be leaving God’s own County ever.

But, the most important lesson ever taught to me by a gruff Yorkshire lad was the Yorkshire motto, which holds true for all Yorkshiremen to the day eternal, and it is this.

“Ear all, eat all, seh nowt and if tha does owt fer nowt, do it for thissen”

Hear ends the Yorkshire lesson from a lad “who’s not from round here”.

 

The Real Brexit

We have been given lots and lots of reasons by the powers that be for Brexit and in order for that to be achieved, lots and lots of people in positions of power, across the political divide, lied to the general public. A few examples are; The £350 million to the NHS bus slogan, the impending immediate economic crash, right through to the picture of thousands of migrants queuing to get into UK and most perniciously the statement by the now Foreign Secretary that millions of Turkish people would be eligible and want to enter UK when Turkey became a member of the EU and we would be helpless to stop it.

Lies, lies and more lies creating and exacerbating the fear of “johnny foreigner”! This was the predication of the means to get us to vote “Leave”.

But what were the real reasons? From Farage to Johnson to Gove the mantra was incessantly, “take back control” and “Get our country back”.

So what exactly do these phrases mean to those who were espousing them?

Clearly, they were appealing to the voters to become independent again, to regain our sovereignty, to remain Great Britain, the superpower in the world and a force to be reckoned with, in our own right internationally. I am suggesting that the back-story to this, as reiterated constantly by the people making those claims, was subtly different.

The establishment, throughout history, has had carte blanche to run the country in their own way and to meet their own self interested needs and expectations. The law was accessed via their wealth, lobbyists ensured government listened to their wishes, legislation was created in their favour, taxes were adjusted so they could accrue more wealth. They did this by, sending their children to public schools, taking all the best university places, creating incestuous networks that ensured the few retained power at the expense of the progress of the majority. Holding onto land and lobbying government through their wealth to ensure their continued dominance.

The establishment through the “Nine Principles” achieves this by;

  1. Wealth wields power via elections. (Battles buses, call centres, breaking election rules)
  2. Legislation increases wealth.
  3. This reduces democracy handing more power to the wealthy establishment.
  4. The welfare state is reduced.
  5. Shaping ideology.(business good, state bad)
  6. Redesign the economy. (Reduce regulation, increase worker insecurity, protect financial institutions from market forces)
  7. Shift the burden. (Increase tax burden proportionately for precariat, reduce tax burden proportionately for plutocracy)
  8. Attack solidarity. (Reduce social security, privatise public services)
  9. Run the regulators. (Lobbyists influence legislation to favour business, e.g. bail out banks not manufacturing)

This is the pernicious cycle of establishment as outlined by Chomsky.

That’s what “Brexit “ is really about. A return to the old order, which the EU threatened by usurping the institutions which were historically, set up by the establishment, populated by the establishment, run by the establishment and perpetuated by the establishment for successive generations.

That’s what you voted for, when you were duped into voting Leave!

One clear example recently of this at work was on Newsnight on Friday 23rd June 2017. When Andrea Leadsom, the failed Tory leader candidate and now promoted to the Cabinet in May’s weak and lacklustre government, when being questioned closely by the interviewer about the current Brexit negotiations said.

“The media needs to be more patriotic”

What she really meant was, know your place, just as you did in the old days when we ran things and you did as you were told.

Well I have some news for Leadsom and it ain’t good.

We are never going back to knowing our place; our mothers and fathers did not fight two world wars, and our sons and daughters did not fight your wars around the world, which has now created this mess, for you to reassert the old dominion. Britain is now an egalitarian country and we will fight you tooth and nail for our new freedoms and the extension of them. Whether that is with EU assistance or not!

The General Election -2017

Teresa May, the Prime Minister has called a general election hoping to make it a one issue election around Brexit, in order to obtain an overwhelmingly large enough majority for the next five years in the House, to be able to continue the Conservative political philosophy of “Small State and Low Tax” government and put any reversal of that philosophy beyond reach of any incoming political party.

The situation that she feels favours this approach in the current political environment is, a weak opposition led by a an uninspiring leader, impending criminal actions against current Conservative politicians, who may lose their seats as a result of election expenses from 2010 and endanger her majority. Also very good opinion polls in her favour and a feeling that she has now defeated finally the outcry of the 48% who voted to remain in Europe. Who at every turn in the media are decried as “Remoaners” and whingers and who will not fall into line with the democratic process, which is alleged to be final as a result of a referendum, which incidentally had no legal basis for action by the government? (Read the Law!)

 

That aside, what are the issues in this election?

Well, May would have us all believe it is only about “strong and stable leadership” her constant party mantra for the election, as that is the only thing that can get us the right deal from Europe and she is the only person to do it. The fact is strong and stable leadership is always required from government, in order to ensure the prosperity and security of the nation. The conservatives do not have a prerogative on leadership, it all depends what kind of strong and stable leadership we want in terms of the type of country and society we want.

 

So, lets look at the options.

The Conservatives will have us believe their leadership is the best. What do they base that on?

 

The Economy.

We are currently running Net Debt at 86.6% of GDP, up from 66.9% in 2010 when the government took office.

The poorest households paid more of their disposable income in indirect taxes (such as Value Added Tax (VAT) and duties on alcohol and fuel) than the richest (27.0% and 14.4% respectively) and therefore indirect taxes cause an increase in income inequality.

Inflation stands at 2.3% and the trend is up. This will almost certainly continue whilst we negotiate our way out of Europe and the pound remains weak costing imports more and more.

More than 1 million people are on zero hours contracts.

Benefit Fraud costs the country £1.6bn

Tax Fraud/Evasion costs the country £43bn.

HMRC employ 3800 people investigating benefit fraud.

HMRC employ 700 people investigating tax fraud/evasion.

Housing.

The coalition government promised to build 200K homes per year. They built 70% and that figure is falling. People who cannot get a mortgage are consigned to short term lets, (6 months to one year).

The number of first time buyers has declined from 600,000 in 1985 to 200,000 in 2012.

Private Landlords number 27m and their income is £14.2bn from 5 million homes.

NHS.

The budget for the NHS in England for 2016/17 is £120 billion.

In the 2015 spending review the government announced that funding for the Department of Health would increase to £133 billion by 2020/21, a real increase of approximately £4.5bn once inflation is taken into account. *

Though NHS funding is growing, it is slowing considerably compared to historical trends. The Department of Health budget will grow by only 1.2% in real terms between 2009/10 and 2020/21. This was far below the long-term average annual increases in health spending since 1949/50 of 3.7% (in real terms).

Looking forward, between 2017/18 and 2019/20 the Department of Health budget will increase by less than 0.5% each year in real terms. This will place increasing pressure on the NHS, as demands for services are still projected to increase.

*This is significantly less than the funding the government claims it has given to the NHS over this period, mainly because ministers have chosen to highlight the funding provided to NHS England only, rather than the Department of Health’s total budget.

The NHS England chief executive, Simon Stevens, has said that under the government’s current spending plans, per capita health funding will fall in real terms in 2018-19, the year the NHS will turn 70.

Education.

Schools are now so disparate and diverse that many parents who just wish to send their child(ren) to a good school are at a complete loss. Spending per pupil is set to fall significantly and the introduction of Free schools and the new Grammar selective schools are not a real choice for all parents but the select few who can afford tutoring and on school costs for extra-curricular activities. If that really is meritorious then perhaps we have all misunderstood the word.

A parent is quoted as saying to Burbalsinghe a renowned head of a new Free school. “ I could not afford to send my child to a private school and thank god you have opened this one”

 Crime.

Some 4.8 million offences of all types were recorded in 2016, up 9% on 2015.

Key statistics for 2016 include:

32,448 knife crimes recorded – an increase of 14% on the previous year

39,355 rapes recorded, up 13%

5,864 firearms offences, up by 13% largely due to a rise in crimes involving handguns

55,824 robberies, a rise of 10%

92,868 car thefts – 16% more than in 2015

Since 2010 there are nearly 20,000 fewer police officers, a reduction of nearly – 14%.

Overall funding for policing has been cut by 15% between 2010 and 2016.

Leadership.

Leadership is about honesty and integrity and whilst it is understood that politicians may need to adapt to the changing circumstances of the economy and world politics and trade, the electorate deserve an honest answer to why that is needed and not a continuous denial of the obvious.

This government has cut child benefit, promised tax-free childcare, a budget surplus by 2019, and no changes to NI and no tax increases.

All these promises have been broken without a comprehensive explanation.

 

So, we all have a choice on the 8th June, this fact is undeniably right.

If you believe in small, uncaring, individually, privatised state and pull the ladder up low taxes and let the poor and vulnerable fend for themselves. Vote Tory.

If you believe in a country, which is willing to spend more to look after others, is facing peacefully outwards to the rest of the world, recognises the need to borrow whilst we invest in our economy and skills base, vote Labour or vote tactically for the alternative parties to form a caring alliance against May and her cronies.

Corbyn is not a poster boy politician or Labour leader or Prime Minister in waiting, but if like me you want people to be honest and principled, he is that man.

Not once during the times I have followed his communication in the media or at live PMQs or meetings have I ever heard him be abusive or personal towards other politicians of any party. He addresses the issues and stays firmly on the issues and what his alternative vision for those issues are and what he and his party will do to fulfill them.

He wishes to debate and when debating is never flustered, always calm, affable but committed and generous to others.

May on the other hand is a poor communicator, flustered when off message and unable to think innovatively and on her feet. She prefers to remain scripted and that is why she does not want her government’s record questioned by the other parties in open debate during this election campaign.

Is this really the style of leadership we want?

Finally, if we make this a personality contest and not an election about policy, we will end up with an authoritative, completely mandated government, which will be able to do whatever they want for 5 years. There will be no effective opposition to the policies and subsequent legislation and the threat to this country from that scenario is far greater than anything seen in the past and since the end of the Second World War.

Be careful what you wish for because you just may get it.

  1. Out of Europe with No Deal.
  2. Reduced public services resulting in a crippled NHS, more crime, less housing, two tier education, failing infrastructure and transport, a bigger deficit, tariffed trade with the rest of the world, a failing economy.
  3. A Prime Minister to ride roughshod over any dissent both internally and externally who will say “You voted for strong and stable leadership and this is my vision of it irrespective what anybody else thinks!

 

I think we have seen this before in other countries. It is not called democracy!

Royal Prerogative – A Threat to our Democracy

Let us first of all understand exactly what we are talking about here.

Constitutional theorist A.V. Dicey gives the standard definition of what prerogative powers are:

 The remaining portion of the Crown’s original authority, and it is therefore, the name for the residue of discretionary power left at any moment in the hands of the Crown, whether such power is in fact, exercised by the Monarch him/herself or by his/her Ministers.

 Therefore:

The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege, and immunity, recognised in common law and, sometimes, in civil law jurisdictions possessing a monarchy, as belonging to the sovereign alone. It is the means by which some of the executive powers of government, possessed by and vested in a monarch with regard to the process of governance of the state, are carried out.

That is to say in layperson’s terms, as I understand it:

Ministers may act in the name of the Sovereign in a discretionary way as they see fit and without the agreement of Parliament.

This was most clearly demonstrated recently, when May the Prime Minister, who incidentally has never been elected by the people of this country, wished to use Royal Prerogative to exercise her personal view of the referendum result. She wished to be allowed under Royal Prerogative to exercise an exit from our long established treaties with Europe without recourse to seeking The House of Commons view on what that exit should look like, even though over 16 million people had voted against the motion. She wished to use Royal Prerogative to override the views of 16 million people in this country without any debate at a representative level (their elected representatives) and instead be able to say that the “will of the people” (the 17 million who voted for the motion) was to exit Europe under her personal guidance.

Clearly, this is not an acceptable way to conduct any representative democratic process.

As a result of May’s impertinence, Gina Miller took the government to court to question this process and the court after a government appeal, again found in Miller’s favour, that the government could not use such a prerogative to action a referendum result arbitrarily. As a result a government white paper was produced in Parliament and our elected representatives voted in favour to trigger Article 50 and put in process the two-year negotiations to leave the European Union, as decided by the majority of the public in the June 2016 referendum. I have no argument with that process; my argument is with Royal Prerogative.

David Pannick QC, who represented Gina Miller, (who should be honoured by the public for upholding the rules of representative democracy and not vilified) felt very pleased that the government could be held to account in this way and that through the law, no misuse of process would be allowed under a prerogative, which should have been rescinded (in my opinion) the day that Charles the First was executed. The whole purpose of the English Civil War and the subsequent reinstatement of an alleged benign Sovereign, answerable to Parliament, under the reign of Charles the Second, was to dispense with exactly this manipulation of process under an egotistical Prime Minister and her Cabinet flunkeys.

But, Pannick’s naivety is breathtaking. How accessible to the many people who may have felt aggrieved by the way the process was being conducted by May and her cabinet, is the law, particularly at the highest civil level? It is laughingly not accessible at all, unless one is extremely rich and able to engage a highly paid barrister initially and pay the costs in the event of failure! The government will not disclose how much of the public money was used to defend the use of Royal Prerogative and so it’s pretty certain it was a huge amount of money and Pannick also chooses not to say how much they charged to bring the case. However some recent reports show QC’s charging as much as £5000 a day for their services. It is also a long and drawn out process where there is no written constitution by which to judge the issue, involving a large amount of court time and public expense.

Therein lies the nub of the problem, Ministers can exercise Royal Prerogative and there is no written Constitution to provide a check and balance against this excess of power, unless one has access through extreme wealth to challenge the process under the law.

Let us now take the example of a country with a written constitution and a newly elected President who wishes to exercise a power through an Executive Order, which is contrary to the constitution. Elected representatives are able, within a very short time of less than a few days, to test that Executive Power in a court and the court is able to overrule that excess of individual power resoundingly, within the confines of the Constitution. This means that the President who has been elected, is always subject to the power of the Constitution through the legal process.

As was recently stated by an eminent judge in the USA, “We elected a President not a King”

He said that, because clearly a Sovereign is not elected and is therefore unaccountable to anyone or any representative body in the country. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that the Freedom of Information Act does not apply to the Sovereign or his/her family. No ordinary citizen is able to hold to account any financial or personal action of the Sovereign or his/her family for anything, which we, the people believe, may infringe on our democracy. There are numerous examples of this at the moment including, Charles lobbying government, the cost of the refurbishment of Buckingham Palace from the public purse to name just a few.

Therefore the question raised by this article is “Who holds power in our country if politicians can glibly quote Royal Prerogative when wishing to exercise unrepresentative power”? And the answer must be that power ultimately still resides with the Sovereign as long as there is no written constitution.

So, if that is the case, why are we still persisting with such an outdated institution as the Monarchy? When it is clear that the resumption of Monarchy as prescribed by the aristocratic nobles who brought Charles the Second back to power, was only to support their position as the authority in the land.

We have now had nearly four hundred years of supposed benign power exercised by the Monarchy, surely if we are a country that can stand on it’s own two feet as advocated by the vote to exit the European Union, why do we need the Monarchy, Royal Prerogative and what is fed to us as benign power anymore. Let us stride forward into the sunlit uplands as a country and an independent people, provided by a written Constitution and a Presidential Republic!

La La Land

I went to see this film today, much against my better judgment (I am generally not crazy about musicals, finding them excruciatingly embarrassing) and lo and behold, how pleasantly surprised and uplifted I was by the whole experience. From the moment the film opened I was smiling from ear to ear, not realising the import and how subliminal the messages about life today, I would understand from this seemingly simple film.

The opening on a packed and stationary motorway (In USA, but it could be anywhere) so resembled our crowded, packed and meaningless lives today and was then transformed through song and verse into a wonderful cabaret of joy and happiness. It appeared to be so easy, and maybe that’s exactly what it is.The story follows two very young and very ambitious, struggling pair of male and female artists who are reaching for the stars. Trying to find that one moment when they are not only accepted but also “found” which will ensure their individual fame and success.As you may expect, they encounter all sorts of rejection and obstacles. They constantly question themselves. Why am I doing this? Am I good enough?

They never ask themselves, however, why they are not happy just to be themselves.

There is one moment in the film where they have found each other and not realising it, have a conversation about not staying together because of their own individual dreams of stardom.

Such a poignant moment, as I reached across to hold my wife’s hand, of 46 years, just to say thank goodness we never lost each other.

They did.

The film then charts their individual “success” and “fame” and closes when the woman who has by now married another and is a successful playwright, walks into the jazz club where the love of her life is being feted by all around him. Their eyes meet. He then plays their favourite song. There is then a montage of the “what might have been” if they’d stayed together and worked and triumphed together, because of the bonded love they would have created together. And so, it is of course wonderful to dream, to struggle, to work, very very hard to achieve all we want in this life, but if at the end one does not share the end of your life with people who love and care for you, with whom, you have built care, understanding and love over many years, why bother?

My greatest happiness is found in sitting down to a meal with my children, grand children and wife on special and those not so special occasions, comfortably in our own special cocoon, to laugh, discuss politics, religion, the media and any other rubbish we want to talk about, with lots and lots of laughter and loud voices and seriousness and most of all fun in the complete understanding, that no matter what happens, the love we have for each will always transcend any difficulties we may have.

Where am I going to buy that?

Is my name in lights, lots of money and the platitudes of admirers ever going to replace that?

I think not!

TRUMP

I woke this morning to another devastating blow to democracy and freedom. Another shift to the right, that emphasises the differences between us all and highlights not what brings us together but which polarises us all apart.

The “Land of the Free”, the country to which the rest of the world look to for examples of democracy and true representative freedom have elected a man who has openly stated throughout his campaign, racist, misogynist and homophobic views about his own countrymen and women. Those he wishes to lead.

I am at a loss as to say what this will mean for the rest of the world because Trump has not articulated any political policies merely hatred of others. The worry of course is that so many people who then went on to defend or condone those views and voted for him to attain the highest office in the world, have ignored this.

I believe we can relate all of the seismic political shifts over the last few years, to the bankers who devastated the economies of the world through their greed and whilst they continued to collect their mega bonuses after a short period of contrition, more and more people lost out and became poorer and poorer. In the biggest capitalist project in the world this is unforgiveable and it only needed a Trump to emphasise those differences and create the necessary unrest to give us the result we have today.

Career politicians just don’t get it! We do not trust them. We don’t trust them to tell the truth, we don’t trust them to answer the question, we don’t trust them to act on our behalf, we don’t trust them to collect the taxes due from the rich, we don’t trust them to regulate the behaviour of bankers and other greedy capitalists and we don’t trust them to behave appropriately with their expenses.

 

And so we get BREXIT and Trump. Well Trump’s theme tune throughout was The Stones classic track “You don’t always get what you want” and that maybe true but perhaps we’re getting what we deserve?

 

“Black Lives Matter”?

Well actually all lives matter, you might say and of course you would be quite right. It isn’t just black lives that matter in any caring, democratic society but all it’s citizens irrespective of their difference. Surely that isn’t what the “Black Lives Matter” movement is trying to say, is it, that only black lives matter?

It’s trying to say that all lives do matter and in our society and throughout the world we live in, that if you are black or from a minority ethnic background, (BAME) your life does not matter as much as the others who inhabit the uplands of power and wealth, hold sway over your life as a black person, and are mostly white.

Over 1000 black people killed by police and only a minor number of prosecutions.

5 police officers killed by a lone gunman.

Virtual unfettered access to high-powered military assault weapons.

The civilian deployment of military technology, against citizens, in order to kill, rather than arrest.

Over 3000 people killed every year where guns and assault weapons are available to anyone who walks in off the street, with minimum checks on their suitability, to own such a weapon.

All this in the land of the free where all men originally and now women, are born equal!

It couldn’t happen here could it and why should it? We are not the USA and all people irrespective of their background are treated equally and we have legislation to ensure that fairness happens.

Right?

You may believe that, but for BME people in this country that is not how it feels. If one is black or Asian or from an Ethnic Minority (BAME), then what can you expect in this country?

You can expect: –

A higher risk of being stopped and searched by the police.

To be more harshly dealt with in a criminal court sentence than one’s white contemporaries.

To be more likely to receive a custodial sentence.

To be less favourably treated in job interviews, if you get to the interview stage.

To be less likely to rise to high political, legal, military or establishment office.

To be less likely to be well educated than one’s white peers.

To be less likely to own one’s own home.

To be more likely to be involved in crime and drugs.

If you believe that this is untrue then here are some statistics.

 

The UK population is some 63million. 13% are from a BAME background.

Custodial Sentences at Court. 27% White, 30% Black, 32% Asian.

Prison population is 25% BAME.

Judges, 6% BAME.

Police Chief officers, 5% BAME.

FTSE 100 Directors, 1.9% BAME.

Members of Parliament, 3% BAME.

Teachers, 6% BAME.

Military, 7% and Military Officers 2.4% BAME, with none above Brigadier rank.

University Professors, 92% are white.

There are over 500,000 stop searches by police per annum and 86% result in no arrest.

One is 7 times more likely to be stop searched by police if one is Black.

One is 5 times more likely to be stop searched by police if one is Asian.

 

All these statistics are available from current government sources and have not improved dramatically whatever political hue has been in government in the last 50 years since the Race Relations Act outlawed race discrimination in the 1960’s.

Yes that’s right!! The 1960’s!

I would argue that discrimination or systemic processed racism in society is so subtle and so nuanced that even some BAME people do not see it.

Let’s take the 2012 and 2016 Olympics as an example of this subtlety. There is a great feel good factor and adoption of many black icons in Olympic sport, which fulfills our need for nationalism and pride in our country. Mo Farah is proclaimed ‘one of us”, British and proud to bear the flag and most of the population will be pleased to see him knighted. None or little mention of his Somalian, Muslim heritage.

The great British public has assimilated Farah into the epitome of Britishness and there can be no room for anything else. One of the worst things a white person can say to a person of colour is “I don’t mean you, you’re one of us,” when referring to BAME people in general.

Returning to the Olympics, Rowing, Cycling, Equestrianism, Sailing, Tennis, Rugby, Hockey and Golf all have one thing in common. They are generally the preserve of the white middle classes, why? Because they cost a lot of money and so why be surprised when the people who dominate the medals in those sports for our country are white and middle class.

Which are the sports that cost very little to participate in and are almost always community based and not dominated by elite clubs and money and so indirectly lack of opportunity? Boxing, Track and Field.

Where does all the money go? To the elite sports where people who are privileged have the best opportunities, not to finding great BAME Hockey players, or Rowers or Cyclists, or Sailors etc from those communities, that because of systemic disadvantage cannot even show what they could do.

In the Sunday Times today 21/08/2016, quite rightly the contribution by LGBT competitors was highlighted. What a pity that all the pictorial representation was, you guessed it. White! Whenever gender imbalances in society are mentioned, again all the pictorial and anecdotal references are of white professional women

Cameron proudly proclaimed “One Nation” and we are all in it together, May declares to govern for all not just the privileged few.

Words are cheap and sound bites sound very nice to welcoming ears.

It is change we want and so when Black people stop holidaymakers heading to the ports blocking the roads by laying down in them under the banner of “Black Lives Matter” –they do!

 

 

 

BREXIT- Disaster or Opportunity?

We are now in uncharted waters and our country faces the biggest constitutional crisis for over 500 years. This is bigger than the abdication crisis in the 30’s because we have a huge proportion of the population (under 40 years old) who have always been European and British.

The debate whether intentionally or not opened up the deep schisms in our society and the fault lines lie along age, wealth, education, race, social mobility and opportunity.

It is a very blunt instrument when one is in the privacy of the ballot box to place a cross because of personal anger based on lack of housing, jobs and job security, a good education and self esteem based on the fear and blame of “other”, or to place a cross which says, “I’m alright Jack” I own my own house, my kids go to a good school and I know they will have unlimited opportunities to be a success both personally and professionally.

Is it any wonder that if people like Farage, Gove and Johnson who conflated constantly during the debate, the racist attitude towards people from Europe, that the electorate will also do so, not realising that the fault clearly lays with the national politicians that they put in power in the first place. Who then pursued a policy of ideology of small government, big business, tax avoidance and evasion and low personal taxation which stripped our public services, which of course they do not use and only wish to put in place as cheaply as possible, irrespective of the service they provide, because actually they want everyone to pay for them directly.

This has never been a one-nation government and quite clearly it has always been a part nation government. A government of the haves, of the educated, of the homeowners, of the specialist holidays, of the professional elite, of the internees working for nothing, of those who exude privilege and entitlement. Is it any wonder that the other half of the nation, because surprisingly it is half the nation, have stuck up two fingers to indicate very clearly, NOW are you going to listen!

What of the future?

As an analogy, in any divorce, if people indicate they do not wish to live together, they separate tout suite, there are no long goodbyes because both parties feel hurt, rejected and worthless. So you don’t want me anymore, then be gone and you are not having the car, the house or the kids and believe this, I will fight you tooth and nail for all those things that we built together with so much love and care because I sweated and toiled to create them. They are more mine than yours.

Europe has already indicated how hurt and angry they are. This constant carping child we raised for the last 40 years has now come of age and we are no longer responsible for what they do or say, so be gone. This is my house, my money, my family and you are no longer welcome. But can I come back periodically please and have the benefits of your food and shelter, of your money and friendship? NO! Go and set up your own house, earn your own money and create your own new family! That’s the nature of a divorce.

Our “new’ Prime Minister is then going to go to Brussels and beg to be allowed into the EEA but significantly reduce the free movement of people. The “Brexiteers” still do not understand that that is nonsense. The fundamental purpose of the EU is Free Trade and Free Movement of Workers and our PM will be negotiating from a position of weakness. What exactly is it we have to offer that cannot be gained from elsewhere within Europe?

If I am a tomato farmer in Spain, will I sell my produce to a marketplace of 26 countries and 450 million people with little or no encumbrances or into a marketplace of 60 million where it will be difficult to sell because of trade barriers? That is just the economic case.

What will happen in our home?

Scotland has indicated very clearly that a 2nd referendum is on the cards, as they do not want to leave the EU. It may or may not be successful for the SNP but what leader did not see this precipitation of future possibly cataclysmic events?

The Tory party will lurch to the right because that is the heart of a BREXIT government. There will then need to be a General Election, no new PM can govern for a further 3 years without a mandate. This creates huge uncertainty in the negotiations with the EU.

We do not have a credible opposition or government in-waiting under Corbyn, so again more uncertainty.

Irish Republican politicians are taking the opportunity to move for a United Ireland. This is perfectly understandable in the circumstances, and so we may see the break up of the UK within 5-10 years.

How has this hubris been created?

  1. Lack of political leadership.
  2. Lack of engagement with Europe.
  3. Lack of engagement with the electorate.
  4. Individual posturing of an egocentric and ethnocentric without precedence.

 

What needs to happen?

  • There needs to be a period of calm.
  • We need a stable coalition government.
  • We need to make peace with our European partners.
  • We must not leave the European Union and the next government must manage that process.

 

Can we draw a straight line between now and the perceived imperial nature of our long history? I believe we can and some of the things I have heard over the length of the campaign lead me to believe that the xenophobia and sense of superiority over others is reflected in these words.

 

An Englishman

The Zulus have their thumping impis, crushing the baked earth under stamping feet.

The Germans have their phalanxed formations of marching elite,

But an Englishman, is just English

The Indians philosophise and bring us nearer to nirvana,

The Americans have their raucous Stars and Stripes reminding all of Boston and that party.

But an Englishman, is just English

The Australians have their sports stars, driven by chipped shoulders draped in green and gold,

The Arabs have their God who they say is very bold.

But an Englishman, is just English

The West Indians have their cricket and tinkling steel drums,

The Canadians have their quiet and unassuming aplomb.

But an Englishman, is just English

The Irish sing and reel endlessly for the craic,

and the Scots Ceilidh from the first light until the sky is black.

But an Englishman, is just English

The Welsh have their boyos crossing the try line,

And the French have their tricolour gaily entwined,

But an Englishman, is just English and inexorably apace,

has trod in all those places, of earth’s great space.

 

Tod O’Brien September 2013

The European Referendum

The EU referendum is probably the most dangerous of times that we as a nation have ever lived through since the Second World War. The result may mean if we leave, that we then become isolated, unheard, lacking global influence and inconsequential on the world stage, both politically and economically.

Firstly, lets be honest, this referendum has nothing to do with Europe. This is much more to do with the machinations of our internal political parties and the lack of leadership and honesty around their pursuit of power in government.

The debate has been toxic and dominated by old white men of a certain class overall. Where are the voices of ordinary people throughout this debate? Why would a certain elite wish to return to the days of warm beer and skittles, deference and class, them and us, the haves and the have not’s? I suspect they hanker for the days when everyone knew their place did not question their “betters” and the rich got richer and the poor did what they were told and asked nothing because “That’s just the way it is”.

However we are now saddled with this referendum and it is important that our national decision is the correct one, not just for some sections of the public but also for the greater good of all, now and in the future. The long term future of our country hangs in the balance like never before and it is not the foreign jackboot and gunfire which is the threat but the jingoism, isolationism and xenophobia of our own citizens which may cause the greatest damage to our country ever.

The “LEAVE” camp conflates EU membership constantly with immigration and at every opportunity. Why? Clearly to pander to the fears of ordinary people that immigration is the root cause of all our national problems. Conveniently, they ignore the greed and endemic, culturally, unethical behaviour of the bankers who caused a global financial crisis which led to a government which ripped the heart out of our public services in the name of “austerity”, causing more and more suffering to disabled people, reducing the income of the working poor and made housing the aspiration and investment cachet of rich, tax avoiding/evading oligarchs.

Let us deal with trade. It is quite right we have always been a trading nation. Most of that trade has been founded on our Empire, which we no longer have and we need to trade on equal terms with the rest of the world. Do we want to trade with a common market of 500 million people who set standards about working conditions, pay, workers rights and manufacturing standards or do we want to trade with people who employ 58 million children in child slavery and 200 million children forced to work and not be educated because they are the main breadwinners in families who are desperately poor. Do we want to trade with countries where there are factories run like sweatshops and degrading conditions just so we can have the latest must have “designer gear” at rock bottom prices?

I do not want to do that!

Let us also examine “Unelected bureaucrats”.

The complaint put forward by the “LEAVE” camp is that we (interestingly, who exactly are “we”, is it the politicians and business mandarins or “we” the public?) have no say in how laws are made in our own country.

The EU Commission is a body of experts who are authorised to environmentally scan the global environment and devise legislation to be put to the European parliament for acceptance. No laws are passed without the authority of the MEPs. That is democracy.

I heard Michael Gove recently answer, when this point was put to him by an interviewer “Yes, but we keep getting defeated in the votes and overlooked” You can’t have it both ways Gove, that is democracy. Work with our European partners, form coalitions and get our point across in Parliament, that is the role of our MEPs! Maybe our national parliament should work with our European MEPs more closely?

Who devises our legislation?

I do not believe that our MPs sit up all night reading and writing new laws, guess what, it may actually be the faceless bureaucrats called “Civil Servants” who do all the donkey work. Are they elected? No!

This system is no different to the European system. What our political classes really dislike is being held to account by the Human Rights Act and the European Court of Human Rights. Are you really happy to trust your Human Rights solely to a minority elected British Parliament elite, which is in thrall to big business?

I for one do not want that either.

Conclusion.

What is clear overall is the lack of leadership displayed by all our political parties over the last 40 years in engaging with the European political system to get adequate reform of the things we don’t like and support the things we do, to get the best deal for the citizens of this country. They have let us down and now blame the European Parliament for their failure. Disgraceful!

“REMAIN” is the only option if we want to be secure, economically stable, kept safe as individuals from government and big business and part of a club which commands the world stage, setting standards for business, public office and individuals.

Action or Apathy?

When I am asked, as I often am by people discussing politics and the state of humankind generally “Why are you so angry?’ my reply is “Why are you not?”

I find it astounding the acceptance by others of inequality and injustice and just general unfairness in our and other societies as greeted with “It’s just the way things are and we cannot change it”.

If we can’t, who can?

The lack of quality of leadership and gravitas exhibited by people in the institutions and the business world is breathtakingly arrogant and exudes entitlement and privilege. There is currently in recent times a litany of this as demonstrated in;

MP’s expenses, with very few prosecuted for what is theft, the referendum on Europe, prompted only by the internal machinations of the Tories and UKIP and which if BREXIT happens, to use the current parlance, will result in an inability of ordinary people to take their case to a higher European Court, thus reducing individual Human Rights even further. The LIBOR rate fixing scandal for which no-one has ever been prosecuted except a minor player but none of the big Bank bosses who organized it, the lack of accountability exacted against the instigators of the Iraq war, Blair and Bush, who in any other realm would be facing charges at the Hague Court, (perhaps that is why the Chilcott report is taking so long to produce) the current Investigatory Powers bill being whooshed through parliament which will invade our privacy beyond belief in the name of “Security” , The shrinking of the Freedom of Information Act which will prevent us from knowing more and more about what our elected leaders do and hold them accountable for it. Further afield, the FIFA fiasco in which millions of dollars have been illegally appropriated by a few corrupt people and again no prosecutions yet, the IOC debacle where the Deputy Seb Coe has now been elected to oversee a reform when he originally did not want the extensive doping revelations publicised by The Sunday Times and insists he knew nothing about them, tax evasion and fraud on an industrial scale by the rich and corporations, depriving ordinary hard working and tax paying citizens of their right to good healthcare, education, infrastructure and security The litany goes on and on and still the privileged elite continue to dominate our societies, impervious to any sanctions either legal or imposed by their peers.

Furthermore, the unelected in this country deciding on new legislation and having access to government to lobby policy decisions, as endemic in the Business Corporations, the House of Lords and the Monarchy.

Why wouldn’t one be angry?

Clearly the only non-violent way for this to be overturned and to increase the accountability of the elite is more transparency not less. 25 per cent of people voted for this Government, which is not 25 per cent of the country but only 25 per cent of those who voted, which was 66 per cent. How can this be democratic?

7 per cent of the people attend public schools and then go on to populate by over 50 per cent the best universities and then through their networks occupy all the best and elitist positions in society across all the public and private institutions. How can that be democratic and demonstrate equality?

So, how do we answer this? Perhaps the people of Iceland most recently have answered, by causing their Prime Minister to resign due to the overwhelming demonstrations against him in light of his family involvement in the Panama tax evasion/avoidance scandal currently rocking the international media.

We need more internationally agreed transparency in all business dealings so that no longer will people and corporations be able to move money around anonymously and avoid the tax in the country in which they earn their money.

All countries should legislate a form of the Freedom of Information Act to cover all public services and businesses.

Genuine democracy in the form of Proportional Representation, which causes politicians to work together, and not against each other for the benefit of all people should be the norm.

And so nationally in Great Britain: –

  1. Give wider powers to the Freedom of Information Act and include companies.
  2. Bring in proportional representation now.
  3. Reduce Government spying on it’s own citizens.
  4. Hold the Police and Intelligence agencies accountable for their actions.
  5. Get rid of the Monarchy and House of Lords.
  6. Set up an open business register for all companies showing all associated companies and locations and the Directors.

 

Conclusion.

We are sick and tired of the lack of leadership, which puts self interest before ethics as constantly demonstrated by the rich and powerful of the world. We can only change things by holding them to account. That can only happen if we insist our politicians enact legislation, which allows that to happen, and wrongdoers are punished in the courts, either nationally or internationally.

We can only ensure this happens if we hold politicians to these principles in their manifestos and what they do in office and if they do not then vote them out. As demonstrated in Iceland, the people can be very powerful without violence.