Friday 24 June 2016

"Someone had blundered"

100 years ago this morning, the British guns began their preparatory bombardment in what was to become known as the battle of the Somme. Despite firing 1.5 million shells over 5 days, when the British began their attack the Germans were waiting for them. Roughly 20,000 British infantrymen were killed in a single day, and tens of thousands more wounded. The slaughter became infamous - men sent to charge against machine guns with bayonets, gaily leaving their trenches, in places kicking a football before them in expectation of an easy victory against an enemy their officers told them was already destroyed by the bombardment. As Tennyson wrote of another battle "someone had blundered".

 The immediate result of yesterday's narrow vote for the UK to leave the EU will not be nearly so disastrous, at least immediately (who knows in the long term?), but they will be bad indeed. The intial chaos in the markets, the threats of secession from both the SNP and Sinn Fein, even the threat to Gibraltar from the Spanish, all show this to be so.

 The blame lies with poor leadership and deep self-deception. Despite multiple detailed, factual warnings, many of the people voting leave genuinely seem to have believed the assurance that they would lose little financially from leaving the EU. The supreme threat that this vote has created to the continued existence of the United Kingdom is something they either did not believe in or did not care about. They either believed the promises coming from the Leave camp of more NHS spending and lower immigration, or simply wanted to thumb their noses at "the establishment" (whoever they are). 

Their disillusionment will be swift. The promise of an imaginary £350 million pounds a week extra being liberated for the NHS has already been disavowed, and the idea that immigration will actually be eliminated or reduced significantly down-played, by the same people who loudly pronounced both as facts only a few days ago. The people who will be hurt by the economic trouble that Brexit will inevitably cause will be the ordinary men in the street, not the "establishment".

 Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Winston Churchill, summed up the feelings of many on the Remain side about the vote:
This of, of course, is not the end of the story of Britain in Europe. There is still much to fight for, not least because the Leave campaign, in their supreme mendacity, did not bother to publish any kind of real plan for what would happen after a vote to leave. As a bare minimum people who value our deep economic and cultural ties with Europe have freedom of movement and membership of the EEA still left to fight for. There is now talk of a general election this year, which will hopefully precede any invocation of Article 50 (which automatically triggers the process of leaving the EU). Any party running on an EU-friendly platform is sure to attract votes from people aghast at the vote of yesterday's vote - and there will be more of these as the realisation of the true consequences of Brexit sinks in, even amongst Leave voters.

 For me this is bad both personally and a professionally. My job is in a Europeanised profession for a company that does much business in Europe. My wife and I are of two different European countries, our son holds the passports of both. I took solace in her hugs and his smiles this morning. I am British and proud, but I cannot help also being a European of sorts, and the simple act of removing the UK from the EU (possibly shorn of Scotland and Northern Ireland as a result of this madness) will not change this.

Thursday 16 June 2016

I want my country back

Yesterday, as I watched the rival fleets of Bob Geldof and Nigel Farage tussle on the Thames in bemused disbelief, I was also angry at the way we had somehow managed to import the worst elements of the US's toxic political culture to the UK, but it was at least something you could laugh at.

Today the laughter fell silent. Today would see the murder of an MP who was a champion of refugees and the remain campaign by a gun-wielding man who witnesses claim shouted "Britain First". Her last published article was entitled "Brexit is no answer to real concerns on immigration".

We are yet to see what this man's motive's actually were. It is of course possible that they had nothing to do with the referendum with which this horrific murder coincides, and is nothing to do with Jo Cox's views on immigration and the EU. It is certain that the Leave campaign did not intend for something like this to happen and will deny that anything they might have done has contributed to this.

However, you cannot repeatedly use the language of anger, hatred, and violence and, having created a chaotic atmosphere in which people can seemingly no longer tell the difference between the truth and lies, then be surprised when people act on what you have said. You cannot talk about immigration being an "invasion" and not expect that some disturbed person might take you at your word. You cannot talk about an EU "dictatorship" to which we have "surrendered" without having to consider that you might actually be talking about a real dictatorship to which we have really surrendered.

Here's Alex Massie -
 If you spend days, weeks, months, years telling people they are under threat, that their country has been stolen from them, that they have been betrayed and sold down the river, that their birthright has been pilfered, that their problem is they’re too slow to realise any of this is happening, that their problem is they’re not sufficiently mad as hell, then at some point, in some place, something or someone is going to snap. And then something terrible is going to happen.

Enough of this. I want back the country in which I thought I lived until this referendum came along. The one where, whilst debate was always been boisterous and forth-right, it was not (outside Northern Ireland) violent or bare-facedly dishonest. The monstrous dishonesty and xenophobia that the Brexit campaign has unleashed must be put back in its box.