Monday, 11 July 2016

Weekend of Sport

Great Britain has just had an excellent weekend - of sport. I listened to the last story before 8am on R4 Today. It was not thought for the day, it might as well have been. It was Sir David Brailsford in Andorra for Team Sky. It was as if he had Britain's political parties in mind. Team members do not have to be buddies but they do have to be ALIGNED to the objective and critically they need a shared united vision of what the team aims for. Team GB does not have (and has not had for decades, not since Mrs Thatcher came to power) a united all islands, all the people, those who work and don't vision. I noticed how May is positioning herself for all WORKING people. It has been the Tory One Nation mantra for a while but it still omits huge numbers of people. It justifies forcing disabled people into work. Meanwhile the Labour party is in an existential fight over whether Socialism should triumph. JC says never in his lifetime has Labour had a socialist leader. That should tell you all you need to know about his relevance to most of us. To cap it all UKIP iis having a leadership race as well. To anyone from "Westminster" who reads this. You are all cracked! Every one of you who thinks now is the moment for a leadership race just having voted to just leave the EU, you have missed the point entirely. The whole nation rich and poor needs leadership dedicated to EVERYONE in these islands. Corbyn is not, I doubt Leadsom would be. May may be. Anyone in UKIP dedicated to everyone in these islands? It comes to a rich pass if one even thinks Sturgeon could make a better job of it (FACT she does not in Govanhill). I hated compulsory sport but I am suggesting every MP needs to take it up.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Painted People

The early news from the UK Saturday 9th July 2016 was dominated by two threads. Conservative Premier hopefuls Leadsom and May in a tussle led by the former about whether motherhood gave her an added edge over May A most ill advised tack to take in my judgement. I set this beside listening to Simon and Garfunkel The boxer and moved to the next story, thousands of naked blue painted people parading through Hull to create art . I do not warm to Leadsom (the cruel part of me thinks Lead Baloon (no more cruel than denigrating the childless May)) but I did warm to the strippers in Hull. Hull might seem a tad unlikely, with the backdrops of the muddy River Hull (think Struncheon Hill Lock), elderly commercial shipping and caverns of brick warehouses. One part of the pose involved swinging a bridge full of nudes.
We have always been an eccentric nation - us Brits - never particularly wanting to bear the burden of conformity and a European super state. The blue was meant to symbolise the river and seas that surround our islands and in their own way join us to the continent. The blue also reminded me though of two more disparate groups, the Tories whose bizarre politicing over Europe has boiled over these last weeks and shows no signs of bating. And the other group was much older, the painted people, the Celts of these islands whom the Romans reported on.
It is not difficult to see the Euro referendum as a judgement on our willingness to conform, I do not want to be part of a European super state, nor have I ever sought to be part of the European Church. Globalisation and corporatism give me the heeby jeebies. The thousands of painted nudes expressed both rebellion and a different deeper conformity. The conformity of shared humanity stripped of the suits, a return to the waters of the womb, a humble conformity. And certainly not one where the body beautiful, a particular shape, was to be praised. All bodies were present, all ages, all genders. 

This was not some weird celebration of motherhood in pursuit of political ambition. This was a humble statement in the context of one of Britain’s cities where the past and its decline still remain very present. So many ships and crews have left the Hull and the Humber. So many memories of the deep sea trawlers heading north west. The packet ships of Associated Humber Lines like the Kirkham Abbey heading to the Low Countries . The barges sailing and motor heading into the Yorkshire hinterland and up the Trent. The amorphous water world of the Humber expressed in its citizens on a dull July morning far from Westminster.
None of us know what the future holds. By a narrow majority we have said that the bureaucracy of the European Union is not “us”. But I doubt “us” is really blue suited Tory ladies “experienced” in London’s money markets point scoring about motherhood. Somehow I have more faith that “us” is about blue painted nudity and I should be pleased to join in such an installation one day and not care too much over Westminster shennagins.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Two mornings after

So a government, elected by I think 24% of us, offered a straight in/out one vote counts referendum on the BIGGEST subject imaginable. Yes, there has been an answer which has to be respected so the next question is how is one of the most fearsome peacetime tasks you could generate achieved? The Tories will naturally argue for stability so that power can move from one Etonian to another one (who has been scheming to this end for God knows how long). Our friends and allies just look on jaws dropped. It is not insignificant that young versus old seem pitted against one another (the age demarcation chart the BBC had). 

There have been some very sad moments in recent weeks. For me one was seeing the 80 year old ex soldier in tears because he had got his country back. The anti German feeling has been a constant undercurrent. But he is wrong. He has not got his country back, it has been sold under his feet, a point made endlessly on this timeline for weeks. I try to imagine what my own ex soldier father would say. Essentially Tory but also a European he would not wish anti German or anti immigrant sentiments to rule anything. He was a realist, a lawyer. GET THE DEAL. Cameron's deal was terrible. For the life of me I fail to understand why a common market NEEDED tax harmonisation and free movement of labour. National government's controlling borders and using fiscal instruments to compete against one another seems to me a market - not making everyone subject to the same exact rules.

I always wanted to be a member of the Common Market and not the European Union. If that could become the case (and I was asked again, although I do not relish that), I would likely vote not to piss on everyone else from all other the world who has become involved in our affairs. However the end question is do the Tories in any sensible sense have the mandate to do this? Everything they said you could rely on up to and including the Union of this Kingdom, they have smashed in the most inane way through simply not hearing ordinary voters. I know another election adds more discomfort to the mix but I would be really surprised if that does not happen before Christmas.

A comment on some numbers. Was my not voting (one of the 1 in 50) rather insouciant? I was not impressed by Cameron's deal, I did not want to vote FOR the EU. I detested the whole process and campaign in which a Tory party bunflght was inflicted on everyone else (and then I got a Kidney stone so I am typing this and not heading for a railtour from Hexham). However there were surprises, for the second time (why did not Cameron learn?) there was no "Labour vote" to rely on. Their parliamentary party is disconnected to the root. And then in places like Blackburn, Lancaster and Preston the leave figures were really big. It makes me wonder whether in some key places not only was Labour not voting remain but were the ethnic communities staying well away? Were sizeable numbers of people (Muslim women) whose votes might have mattered and whose interests would be served in rather than vote, not even on registers?

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Labour and Leave

What would you prefer? Liberal gun control laws or liberal sexuality laws. I know exactly which way I would fall. Which is more than I know about the EU referendum. On that subject two things happened over the weekend. Premier Christian Radio's Ian Britton buttonholed me for an interview. And a firm Labour activist from Blyth (which town's ethnic composition is?) set out to me how he saw things which rather chimed with what I heard on R4 just now, although painted by the gentleman more starkly. His argument approximates to this: if Remain win then Cameron will have pulled off a trio of victories and there will be a Tory government for years to come.

Therefore Corbyn's only chance is to see Cameron unseated and a snap election called. So two strands come together to fill a flood of Labour leave voters, tactics and actual feelings that migration at a quarter a million a year net for the next twenty years is not in the interest of most Labour people. It may be in the interests of the elites, of those whose "EU" connections academic and political take them criss crossing the continent but on the ground where the chaos of EU competition law is worked out for instance on the railways, what a Labour voter sees is simply not what they wish to see. This is a raw argument about what people see in their own lives every day. This is a mass of voters for whom all the economic numbers and warnings don't resonate. You can warn about a pension in the future but what use is that if a Roumanian or a Turk has your job. Remain don't want migration to be the issue, but the raw fact of accomodating a quarter of a million new persons each year will make sure it is. Free movement of people and the free market should not have been connected. Great Britain will need immigrants for years to come but it should be able to choose who they are and to expel them when it has to. Control of Borders is fundamental to a nation state and if we don't have it, the nation state will be Europe, that is the choice. And yes we do have a special relationship on Borders with the EU but it is not preventing a global mass movement into Europe and it is not allowing us to tell people their time is up and remove them.

I truly don't know today how I will vote next week but after this weekend, I probably feel I am becoming clearer where the vote will land. If substantial numbers of Labour are themselves set on ticking Leave, then the story is over and what British politicians will have to do is settle down to implementing the will of the people and many will feel an election will be required for a new set of leaders prepared to undertake this to be chosen. At which point Mr Corbyn can reveal his authentic anti EU colours! After which given the Leave instruction, as a matter of fact the vote does not mean Britain leaves. It is a "guidance note" which then has to be negotiated and that means whoever is in Number 10 can go and seek some rather different end result to the binary in/out question being asked. In a few months time someone might be saying to the EU "oh yes, we will keep our membership, you can have a lot of money, but the right of free movement is not on the table". And there again Remain may win and none of this will be said...........................

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Nearer the referendum

The day inches nearer. My w/e summary. It has been a bad debate because the alternatives are unpalatable. To leave the EU does throw away certain real benefits: ease of travel, even roaming charges! It really does run the risk of substantial economic damage (although the threat to house prices seems as much a benefit as a loss and that "house" business underlies so much).John Band's demonstrations of how much we depend on inward investment weigh heavily with me, So be clear vote leave for a substantial and possibly rough readjustment. It may well also imperil the UK. Scotland will very conceivably go. Ulster will join the smuggling front line. We will bring the chaos of EU land borders onto our own islands. Strong arguments to stay,

And to leave there are two very strong ones. Democracy: the EU is certainly not that. It is a very poor class organisation. It has shown itself inept in managing its own currency and its borders. On those two alone it is very tempting to say fie on you. And there is the numbers game, back to the houses, population growth. I do really think that the UK population growth is a very serious matter. For years in the 1980s, we managed an equilibrium. A nation must control its borders, the world without borders is a progressive's naive dream. You may think I live in the Tyne Valley far from these realities. As we showed last week Fiona's upbringing pitches her right into the heart of it and here in Prudhoe we are promised 800 new homes with NONE of the associated quality infrastructure planning needed. We live in a town whose "town centre development" has been a decades long wrangle. Our road access north and south is prehistoric. Everything should be sweet and rosy in our town, The hillside zoned for a town centre could be one of the best new developments in Britain. We have a Garden Village already existing fit for re-use. It is being flattened, slowly. The much loved three tier schooling is being brought down to two tier LCD. So both poor development and uncontrolled population growth (whether reproductive (and worse at religious behest), EU, non EU) make me think the Great Britain I was proud to grow up in appears headed to a south east akin to Hong Kong with warring Celtic fringes going their own way. Not a well balanced place able to trade around the world WHICH IT WAS.

I am sorry if that sounds gloomy and what it means for my vote, even if I choose to exercise it, I still do not know.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Auden's Paid on Both Sides performed

Last night I attended my first ever performance of an Auden play. There's 5/6 to choose from. All rarely performed. They are a challenge to do. Paid on Both Sides on the hard side, Hadrian's Wall probably the easiest. Was it worthwhile? You bet. The energy and drive Prudhoe's Sixth Form dramatic students put in was powerful. With people in all corners, things happening everywhere, it was an immersive experience. If you approach this work expecting to understand it all, you won't "get" it. It is a wild, even haphazard romp.A ripping yarn, a reiver's tale written by somone who understood our Borderlands and their heritage: "Some say that handsome raider still at large, A terror to the Marches, in truth is love" . Despite the drive of love, this was a broken society, crashed out: if you want to get a feeling for what the inter-war period and specifically the roaring twenties was like down to the actualness of 1928, then this is powerful stuff. This was chaos envisaged for a country house charade. A place of toffs and public school boys, drunkenness, ordinary people trying to go about their business, all conducted under menace. And it does not have a happy ending. It did not have a happy start "For where are Basley who won the Ten, Dickon who tarted the house". Dead Sedburgh School boys from World War One?

The performers offered a warm up act reprising (and singing) their way through some short better known pieces of Auden. One choice was especially apposite September 1st 1939 "the low dishonest decade". A poem Auden distanced himself from, but one people keep returning to. Because it is appropriate. 20 years of "peace" became another World War in which millions died. I have just been reading about the awfulness of Yugoslavia then (not in the 1990s). The power of the ancient rivalry, the feud that would not let go, overwhelmed ordinary lovers by the million.

I always think that all work read or understood by viewers acquires its own interpretation (what the writer means is in an odd way secondary). Approach Paid on Both Sides determined to take what you need and not to try to fathom all of Auden's allusions. Respond to its energy, remember the tragedy that composed it. Remember our landscape and its own tragedies behind it. For a well respected understanding of the work, John Fuller's discussion in W. H. Auden: A Commentary is recommended. Two more chances to see this performed this week. See .

Monday, 18 April 2016

EU and Chancellor's forecasts

Two from my Facebook today

1 The problem with the Chancellor asking me to believe him today is that many of his previous forecasts have been woefully wrong (vide the amount of borrowing) so I am left scratching my head (and that is before a wider history of the Treasury e.g. their views on ERM). However if I follow some convoluted speak, he is saying that in 2030 each household might be £4,300 p.a. worse off (not against their income today but against what it might otherwise be (inflation vectored in? and what otherwise might it be in toto?)). This is hardly telling stuff and it is certainly very biased. How much do you value your independence and the democracy of saying our Parliament ought to be our supreme governor (under our constitutional monarch of course)? Words, words, Wordsworth.

2 The EU debate figures don't really seem to me to run conclusively either way. So why are so many of the big boys like the IMF, the French Economics Minister Macron, Obama, leaning on us so heavily? It has been suggested on my wall (scroll down) that all sorts of shennagins will take place to turn back our No vote if we head there. I don't know about that, I would prefer evidence rather than assertion. But it does occur to me that the sense of desperation by the stay campaign and from these big voices comes down to this? Is Europe sanguinely confident it will prosper without us? Is it going to be unphased at our departure? Perhaps the issue these big boys and elites are not keen on facing is whether our departure exposes the Emperor's new clothes of Europe. It exposes the EU as the fundamentally undemocratic operation it assuredly is, it reveals the weakness in its finances, its fundamentally uncompetitive nature. Germany basically carrying the rest. In other words a No from Great Britain really would precipitate a wider European crisis in "the project". Perhaps it is this prospect (more than whether Britain would really be worse or better off which seems very difficult to call) which is the absolute driver in propelling the remain camp to utter its strident warnings and to seek to involve the American President in our affairs. At some point on this logic, (and following the last Referendum Precedent) our Monarch may be discretely called upon to utter some words. What they are and whether they are issued will be so telling. If She refuses to say anything, I might conclude She thinks the British Commonwealth is worth more to the United Kingdom than the Europundits reckon.