Category Archives: Europe

At last, it’s all over. For now.

I’ve been waiting a long time to write that headline, or something like it. The recently held, unnecessary, ego-driven election to determine who runs the UK seems to have gone on forever; like some kind of degenerative, wasting illness that has to be endured.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve heard politicians speaking (or in some cases, barking) about almost everything, but we haven’t heard any of the detail we want to hear. For example, there’s been virtually no mention of the kind of country we can expect to be living in. None at all. At least, none that I can relate to.

Instead, we’ve heard only that we can expect ‘strong and stable leadership’ from an administration led by The Maybot, Theresa May, (what a joke that empty mantra seems now, after so many climb-downs on her part!) or one that’s ‘for the many not the few’ from ‘Jezza’ Jeremy Corbyn (at least that one sounds plausible, even though it seems to have been invented by a marketing guru).

It’s still a great shame we were not offered a No Confidence space on the ballot paper. For all that the turnout was encouraging to those that would clutch at any straw blowing in the wind, that’s where a great many Xs would’ve ended up.

After all, do we really want a government lead by a woman who looks and sounds as if she is the product of a machine? One that was made on the home counties production line, with all the small-mindedness that that implies? Do we really want to be governed by a person who, at the outset, looked like a young middle-aged woman dreaming of past glories and future triumphs but, by the end, looked like an old middle-aged woman, broken and sad, contemplating her own mortality?

Do we want a government led by a person who was once described by Ken Clarke as “bloody difficult”? By someone who refuses to debate matters on tv? By someone who tells us that ‘strong leadership’ will be needed in the now-stalled negotiations with the European Union, when we must know (unless we are all ostriches) that She Who Tells Us will not be at the negotiating table herself (just as she wasn’t in the tv debate), but that a person with the mindset of a man like David Davis, who describes Brexit as “the defining issue of our age”, will lead the team? Or might it be a member of the DUP?

Or do we want a government led by a person who, at the outset, looked like a broken old milddle-aged man not knowing what to do with retirement but now looks like a young middle-aged man rejuvenated by the thought that the even younger civil servants will do most of the heavy work, and that there are equally pressing issues, other than the dreary one of  leaving the EU, that have to be attended to?

The Conservatives made almost no mention of Britain’s housing crisis, our failing mental health provisions, or child poverty.

They didn’t even have the guts to present themselves as a team. The Supreme Leader was the only one we were asked to think about.

And now we are stuck with that thought; with her. For another five years, or for as long as it takes for her to change her mind – yet again.

Those of us who can’t abide the woman will – like my late mother who used to turn off the telly every time Mrs Thatcher hove in view – have to bear her as we bore Mrs T and survived. I guess we’ll survive Mrs M.

But will she be remembered? Margaret Thatcher

Now that the election is all over, we can only hope that she will disappear into obscurity.

I doubt there’s much hope of that. We all still recall ‘That Woman’. But Mrs May is likely to be remembered as The One That Got Away. For now.

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Choice or debate

Nearly six months now and I – like so many others – remain frustrated.

Why? Because no-one has yet resolved whether we’re In or Out of the European Union. If we’re In, what role do we have? And, if we’re Out, how will we live with the rest of the world?

On the In hand, we could look forward to being part of an admittedly flawed grouping of vaguely like-minded states. Growth would be slow, but it would at least be collective. Squabbling in the group would continue, but ultimately all arguments must end, and they usually do.

On the Out hand, we don’t know what to look forward to. Will our place in the world have changed that much? Will we, the UK, be a small trading nation having to make our way in the world much as Portugal might’ve done before it became part of the European Union?

The prospects are very confusing.

And they’re not made any the less so by the seeming inability of anyone anywhere to tell us what’s going on.

I know the UK voted on June 23 to Leave, but we still Remain. But in what guise?

It seems to me that we should have had an informed debate about the future of the UK before we were asked to vote, with everyone from all walks of life being asked to contribute to the discussion. That way we would have known what we were being asked to vote on. Instead, all we heard was people arguing about what kind of Europe – and thus, by extension, what kind of world – we would be living in, without considering whether or not we wanted to be In or Out of it.

As it was, no one really debated or discussed the relative merits of the European Union before we were asked whether or not we wanted to Remain in it or Leave it. They seemed to shout at one another, brandishing facts which have since proved unsustainable. It’s only now, after we have made an ill-informed decision, that Europe’s pros and cons are being fully aired. And it’s too late. We have decided. Leave is what we shall do, whether we like it or not.

The next few years are going to be regretful, that’s for sure.

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Sipping tea, but not talking turkey

It’s over three months since a slim majority of the British people voted to leave the European Union.

Yet nothing has happened.

Instead, we sit at the edge of the ice pool, sipping tea while the representatives of some 30 countries mill around, debating with each other, sometimes shouting and all looking for a theme to unite them.

If we’re not careful, the ice will break, we shall all sink, and that will be the end of the European project.

It’s a frightening thought, even sitting on the edge.

We really ought to get on to dry land. But, at the moment, we don’t know what that land is like and how we will fare in it. We could easily be a forgotten people who made their way onto the land by accident.

We have to know what kind of country Britain wants to be, post European Union membership, before we can offer anything useful to those who are already on dry land.

It’s time, therefore, to make our minds up; for those who would be in charge to take responsibility for being in charge.

 

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We still don’t know

Back in August I was worried we didn’t know what was going to happen to us, now that we’ve voted to leave the European Union.

Today, I still don’t know.

Like a lot of other people, I’m in the dark about what our relationship with Europe will be like. Will we be in the free trade zone, or out of it? Will just anyone be allowed to come into the UK from Europe, or will they have to prove they’re wanted? Will we have to pay to travel outside the UK?

There are so many unanswered questions, it’s as if we’re being deliberately blind-sided.

True, it would help to know who we are dealing with. So we’d better wait until after the Germans have decided on their future. Likewise the French. And anyone else who’s got an election coming up.

But should we wait until after the Americans have decided on their president? That would mean waiting until late November, at the earliest.

It seems a long way off. But then, Europe seemed a long way off at one time. It was a foreign place, the other side of a stretch of water. Now it’s only a tunnel away and we (us Brits) are part of it.

At least, I think we are.

I’d like to know, one way or the other.

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Will someone please tell us what’s going on?

It’s a few weeks since Britain was asked to vote IN or OUT of the European Union, and we were given to expect swift action following the result.

Yet nothing has happened. We are as we were before: stuck in a land of uncertainty.

All that has changed is the leadership of the Conservative Party, and thus the Prime Minister. Where once we had an Old Etonian in charge, who rolled up his sleeves and wanted to be one of the blokes, we now have a well-dressed, state-educated woman in the post, who seems to  want to be a lady.

All that has happened is that the government seems to have lurched to the right. The Prime Minister has voiced her support for grammar schools and her concern about the Chinese investment in our nuclear future, and the Transport Secretary has described as ‘militant’ those who would try to get a better deal for their members.

It seems that, if all that we see comes to pass, we shall be living in a land where the elite get all the top jobs (because they’ve been to a better school) and the rest are believed to be militant. Or, at least, malcontent.

Cameron has disappeared. Some say that June’s referendum on IN or OUT of Europe was called by him to placate the right wing of his party, and that he was convinced he and his beliefs would win. Now, it looks as if he left the job in an hurry because he didn’t want to have to clear up the mess he left behind, or be called on to deal with the big beasts of the right who would probably savage him. May was what the backbenchers would call “a safe pair of hands”, although she is best remembered for being a smart pair of shoes.Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 17.06.54

It also looks as if we don’t know where we’re going. Or with whom.

Isn’t it time someone – I don’t much mind who – told us a few truths about the future.

At present, we seem to be drifting, with a weakened currency and no political direction.

 

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Which game next?

In the weeks since Britons were asked to vote whether they’d like to stay in or leave the European Union, we have been in a state of limbo. And that’s no place to be.

Almost as soon as the referendum result was known, David Cameron resigned. Some would say that was cowardice; others that it was the sign of a shrewd mind that knew chaos would follow a national vote called to placate his right-wing enemies.

In the meantime, the Labour Party has been going through a leadership argument, with some two or three people wanting to assume Jeremy Corbyn’s mantle as spokesman for the government’s opposition – a job he hasn’t done terribly well by anybody’s judgement.

Being in or out of the European Union will come at a price.

To stay in means having to pay our dues. But then, anyone who plays golf knows that it is better if one pays a membership fee.

Being out means that we shall have to face up to being a bit like Portugal before it joined the EU.

The best option is to tee off, if you know how to.

Being in limbo is no place to be, unless you are a dancer.

 

 

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Going, going nearly gone

It’s nearly gone. The sky can be seen, and clear light is in the area. The views are changed. Way over in Hammersmith, the Novotel is visible from West Brompton station.

Earls Court is almost down, and with it our hopes of ever seeing this part of London look as it does are down, too.

With them, all of them, goes part of our identity. It’ll soon be the case that it won’t be enough to say to anyone from abroad that one lives in or near Earls Court, to explain whereabouts one comes from in London – ‘in London’ meaning anywhere from Harrow to Hayes or from Woodford to Weybridge. Too many times one will have to answer something other than simply “London” when one is asked where one’s from. Before too much longer, the understood rider of “Earls Court” will mean nothing at all.

Of course, the developers will be glad to see the back of the unsightly old lady. But will those of us who have lived in its shadow for years be as glad? Would we be as comfortable if we were living with the ‘deconstruction’ of Whitehall or the Houses of Parliament? And yet, people live in their shadow, just they do here, in the shadow of Earls Court.

For now, the illusion lives on. Even on the trains – overground as well as underground – the announcer still advises travellers to ‘alight here for the Earls Court Exhibition Centre’, when there hasn’t been an exhibition at the centre for ages. Indeed, the ‘centre’ hasn’t been there for ages. It’s being ‘deconstructed’.

The developers will be glad to see a a new ‘district’ emerge. But how long will that take? And how many of us want to live in its shadow? The old Earls Court was good enough to entertain many of today’s, and yesterday’s, most popular acts. How many will flock to see who perform at what in the new ‘district’?

Earls Court was a good place to be, years ago. Now it’s becoming the same as anywhere else in London. It never had much of an identity, but now it has even less.

The sky may be clear, but the future – at least round here – is somewhat murky.

 

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Vote, don’t shout

It’s been a while now since those of us who count ourselves as UK citizens first heard we were going to get a vote on staying in or leaving the European Union.

Since then and more recently, there has been a lot of shouting.

But not a lot of speaking unto truth. Even now, with less than two weeks to go, no one is telling us how things will be. They’re all willing to say – or, rather, shout – “If we stay it will be so and so”, or “If we leave it will be so and so”, but no one is prepared to tell us how it will really be after June 23.

I tend to agree with one young person who, it was reported a few days ago, said that it sounded like a lot of old men shouting at each other.

For that’s what it has been: a lot of middle-aged, if not older, people shouting at each other, here and elsewhere, in the press and on the television as well as on the radio.

People shout at each other, instead of having a rational, even quiet debate about the issues. Someone said the other day that Hillary Clinton won’t get elected because she doesn’t shout enough, and because she’s not good-looking enough.

Was Mrs Thatcher good-looking? She was glamorous, for sure, but I’m not sure if she shouted. She did, at least, sound strident.

Was Golda Meir good-looking? That depends on your point of view, but I don’t recall her shouting.

Angel Merkel is neither a hot-looking woman, nor given to shouting.

Hillary Clinton is good-looking enough for me.

But doo we have to have a good-looking person in charge of the leading nation in the Western World?

And do we have to have a voice in what’s being said, despite being “the fifth most prosperous nation in the world”, as one shouty middle-aged man put it?

Of course, we want to be taking part in the world. Who doesn’t, or wouldn’t?

But, do we have to shout about it? Can’t we just vote?

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He’s at it again

It’s hard to believe, but last week he put his foot in his mouth again.

For one who supposedly wants to be leader of his party, George Osborne is making a pretty poor go of it. And it gets worse and worse.

His Budget last week was, in itself, a bit of a mishmash of old ideas muddled with new thinking. He had trailed some of it already. Not much of it came as a surprise. He continued to favour the better-off in British society and failed to help those less able to help themselves.

As result, the present Cabinet has lost one member – Ian Duncan-Smith, for whatever reason – and may lose more before his Master, it’s chair, David Cameron, decides enough is enough and retreats to whatever ‘retirement’ he choses.

Meanwhile, George seems to think that all he has to do is grin and we’ll like him.

Personally, I’ve always been a little circumspect about people who grin too much. They seem to be hiding something else behind the façade of friendliness.

Sometimes it’s no more than politesse. At others it’s malice; it could be idiocy.

In George’s case, it seems to be a combination of the last two. He looks like a malicious idiot.

And he did it it again last week.

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Defiance and deaf ears

Watching the news last night and hearing again this morning that upwards of one-and-a-half million people were on the streets of Paris yesterday reminds me that, in 2003, a similar number of outraged folk marched through London to protest their rejection of the war on Iraq.
Back then we carried placards declaring “Not in my name”, yet no one listened and the perpetrators of that invasion, who remained in office for some time yet still didn’t listen, have since been branded war criminals.
Yesterday, in a similar expression of solidarity, the placards declared “Je suis Charlie”.
Now I wonder if those who have already been described as criminals, and those they’re associated with, will listen.
My hope is they will. My expectation is they won’t.
Does this mean I despair of ever seeing peace and tolerance being accepted as two of the basic planks in the structure of any civilised society?
No, it doesn’t.
What I fervently hope for is a world in which open minds – and wide-open ears – are generally accepted as virtues and signs of strength rather than vacillation and signs of weakness.
Until then, like millions of other, I remain defiant and wholly on the side of liberty, freedom of expression and the truth.

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