asymmetric power licks its lusty lips

Brexit is all smitten
With the label ‘Global Britain’
Reminiscent of the time the Sun
Was always in position;

Gonna give EU a kicking
If it doesn’t get its way.

[Every self-entitled bulldog has its day]

Gonna threaten, preach and overreach,
Cajole and whine and then beseech,
As self-inflicted victims,
Sudden keen on Foreign Aid.

Gonna get an awful shocking
At the mocking they engage,
When the only offers knocking
Are from profiteers and souvenir
Collectors making hay.

Having doubled down on doublespeak,
Perfidious Blighty’s gonna reap
Some karma as alarming sway
of asymmetric power licks its lusty lips
And squeezes dry
A desperate pipsqueak’s isolated
Pips.

Lull me a lullaby

Lull me a lullaby
Sand in my eyes
Buy me a mockingbird
Give me the sky

Betcha by golly
Wow, build me a folly
Bring me some Kool Aid
And fill up the trolley

Sprinkle the pixie dust
Set up a blind trust, go
Short of a picnic
And cut off the crusts

Pipe me a loony tune
Red, white and blue my shoes
Kansas is dying
Jump over the moon

There are no unicorns at the end of Brexit’s rainbow

Since the EU referendum and, indeed, during the campaign, itself, Britain has been operating in a fog. Brexit has cast itself as a dangerously befuddled character, hiding behind enormous bravado. All the wishful declarations are now bumping into conundrums of reality. Brexit gets angrier by the day, at any challenges to its hubris; Remainers become ever more bemused, concerned and vilified.

Everything that could and should have been discussed and understood, before the referendum, is now being tossed around in disconnected parcels. If the expectations, possibilities and consequences had been even vaguely prepared for in a Brexit plan, before the referendum campaign began and if the Media had not been too partial, lazy or acquiescent to properly scrutinise, the chances are that Leave wouldn’t have stood a chance or that there simply would not have been a referendum, at all.

Political Remain was never going to do its cause justice, though, was it? Its politicians preferred to allow Leave to scapegoat the EU rather than have to admit that it was years of inadequate housing, undermined public services, crappy employment that does not even make life affordable, generous policies that help those who least need it, excessive corporate deference, etc, etc. They preferred that the discontents and “left behinds” should misplace blame and jeopardise the national interest rather than trash their own appalling records.

Not a single thing that Brexit complains about can be adequately solved, if at all, by leaving the very club that already affords us as great a global advantage and clout as we could possibly have. Bar teaming up with that proto-despot, over the pond, perhaps. What looks likely or possible about leaving is why an initially eurosceptic me voted to stay. The world is a confused, frustrated, paranoid, precarious place, right now and Brexit is pompously treating it like a game of Jenga. There is no deal outside of the EU that can be a real, sustainable and ethical improvement on what we already have. The best place to safeguard and improve our lot is from the established base that Brexit so disdains.

Yes, the European Union is flawed. Derr. British democracy is pretty flawed, too. Both are best reformed from inside. Yes, the Eurozone is an asymmetrical basket case but it is, nonetheless, an established global currency and unlikely to just disappear. And we are not in the Eurozone, nor do we have any intention of being in it, though, if it does collapse, we are no more protected from all the repercussions than anyone else outside of it. Some Brexiters like to claim that leaving is saving Britain and they have often boasted about being an encouraging example for other EU member states. The possibility that the Eurozone might collapse and that so much of Leave is, even now, ideologically keen to contribute to that earthquake, is really nothing to be proud of. Playing god is not wise. And if the entire European Union were to implode, the consequences will cause a global tsunami. Our hissyfit referendum result would be moot and our place in history possibly reduced to being the self-proclaimed catalyst of a monumental fallout.

Those that believe they have so little to lose that they’d waste democracy on misdirected protest or take a chance on any unqualified change: who will they blame; to whom will they complain when the monster they have unleashed leads to less control over what little they did still have? If they are lucky.

And fancy insisting that you knew what you were voting for. And then having the nerve to claim that that was what every other leaver was voting for. Watch any political interview or discussion and it is clear that, apart from the childish utopianists and nihilists, they did not know and still do not. Apart from chaos and confusion, no one really knows. Least of all those in charge of implementing “the people’s will”. To insist otherwise seems pretty foolish or cynical. What else but foolishness or alright-jack cynicism votes for something it either does not fully understand and probably can’t control or to whom the outcome makes little difference?

Brexit is not simple or straightforward, no matter how hard or often its cavalier protagonists imply otherwise. There are almost impossible numbers of mind-bogglingly complex administrative, legal and trade elements that simply cannot be addressed, one at a time, by bureaucrats, learning on the job. Britain is firmly on the self-inflicted back foot just as a whole-picture understanding is urgently required. A picture that the EU negotiators understand better than us.

We need proper, serious Parliamentary, Public and Media scrutiny of expectations, options and their consequences. Then, largely because our muddled official opposition cannot be relied upon, we will need a second plebiscite to confirm consent or to withdraw it. Only then should Article 50 be invoked. Article 50 must be the first end point (the final starting point?) because, currently, there is absolutely nothing, beyond suggestion, to guarantee its reversibility. Once Article 50 is triggered we have two years, guaranteed maximum time. How stupid it would be to start the clock before we need to.

And no, we shouldn’t comfort ourselves that we could just rejoin the EU when we discover there are no unicorns at the end of Brexit’s rainbow. Well, we could rejoin but imagine how bad the mess would have to be for taking up the Euro and participating in Schengen to look like the best option.

And no, we can’t just console ourselves with the World Trade Organisation. That is pretty much the whole world and a whole other convoluted can of worms. Besides, the tone of our future, outside of the EU, is contingent on the very observable manner and settlement of our divorce.

If, via a fresh vote, the public still favours a Brexit, then, so be it. Yes, of course I am leaning on my faith in people’s desire to be better informed and their enthusiasm for not sabotaging themselves – sufficient, at least, to reflect with more than emotions and the nebulous rhetoric of populists who play with them.

Brexit froths, daily, with ever-increasing paranoid indignation, at every bit of bad news, at every reasonable question or observation and at the slightest possibility of a fresh plebiscite. But then, froth is proving to be its strongest currency. One might think they’d lost confidence in that overwhelmingly teeny majority.

thinks it has me pegged

The political commentariat thinks that those who despair of Brexit and President-elect Trump are the “liberal elite” and that those who have voted for either are the “left behind”. Deep political, philosophical, cultural and, I’d say, spiritual angst, are being reduced, wholeheartedly, to a dangerous binary that exploits the overlaps and suppresses the nuance.

I’m fifty years old. I was born in the South-East of England. I come from a loving, blue-collar to fairly ambitious middle-class family. We moved around the country a fair bit, when I was a child, for opportunity’s sake and I had some adventures, travelling abroad when I was a young, independent adult. I now live in Cornwall, having arrived here through marriage, twenty-plus years ago and then not leaving, when it ended.

I’ve been to eight different schools: two of them in Scotland and two of them small, private ones, in England – an infant/junior and a secondary. I know a bit about being “the new girl”. Albeit a bit disjointed, I still had a pretty good education. I went on to college, all expectations on me to go to University but I chose a badly fitting course and left to join the London commute when a job with professional opportunities was offered.

I’ve done a myriad of jobs, from menial to skilled, waged and salaried, both front of house and behind the scenes. I’ve been paid and voluntary. I’ve been trained, respected, cheated, head-hunted (not for anything particularly exceptional), bullied, well-rewarded and undermined along the way.

I’m a divorced, single mother of grown-up children, for whom I was, pretty much, the only unconditional, available and accessible constant, during their childhoods.

Since a stupid accident, these last few years, I have daily issues with pain and mobility and all the fatigue, frustration and depression they bring. I’ve had to battle my way through the constant stress of uncertainty and hostility of DWP assessments.

Just before I started this blog, I achieved a first class honours degree from the Open University.

It’s rare for me to reveal personal information, so why am I telling you this? Why the sudden, potted overview? Because each side of the binary that thinks it has me pegged, speaks of me but does not speak for me and is barely even speaking to me.

For one: I am not the “liberal elite”. ‘Liberal’ is not quite the same as just do anything you want and ‘elite’ is as different from elitism as ‘popular’ is from populism. I am liberal because I value the freedom of will and expression of everyone and I only wish I were an elite because it would mean I am actually, truly excellent at something.

And two: if there is a tick-box form to qualify for the Brexit/Trump “left-behind” – a clear demographic of the “forgotten” – I can probably tick a lot of their boxes. I’m a straight, white, middle-aged (I hope!), financially poor, vulnerable, female, single parent, with a good degree, living under years of governmental incompetence and malfeasance, in an area of the country quite lacking in ethnic and cultural diversity and with serious issues of neglect, poverty and deprivation, that voted for Brexit, despite years of EU funding.

But I do not like UKIP. I don’t like the Conservative Party (though I like some individual MPs). I’m monumentally disappointed with Labour, yet I’m not “a Blairite” and I don’t support Jeremy Corbyn (though I did try, for a little while). I think he fronts the kind of populist Left that leads, ultimately, to the same effects as the far right: oppressive bureaucracy, authoritarianism, virtue-signalling, censorship and fear.

I don’t think Capitalism is an evil, of itself (what we currently have is not even proper capitalism, anyway) but I don’t think it is the panacea for a sustainable and ethical socio-economic system, either. I’m not against making healthy profit. Just against profiteering. I have no problem with other people having more than me. Just not at my expense; by exploitation.

I think globalisation makes the World connected and accessible. I think that where it has undermined my quality of life, it is because of the policies of governments and international entities. The likes of Amazon, Sports Direct and Uber can only exploit me because my government lets them. Wealth and influence take unfair advantage because they can.

I believe in and love Humanity, Liberty, Law and Justice. I believe in universal Human Rights and equality of respect and dignity, regardless of nationality, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability, politics or religion – particularly and at least under Law and from those who administer policy and public service.

I respect and revere Science and the Arts. I believe in God and the sacredness and divinity of all things but I’m not religious and I support pluralist, secular governance. I believe in the State because I believe, perhaps poetically that, in a democracy, the People are the State.

I’ve become more cynical than I really want or ever expected to be but I don’t have a tin-foil hat.

I love my country, not blindly but warts and all. I bear her shame as I enjoy her pride. I am not a traitor to my country or an enemy of the western world because I cannot and will not compromise my principles to appease misguided hysteria and foolish vitriol, sweeping up with a jingoistic broom. Being concerned, even fearful about my country’s current trajectory and those of my neighbours, is not unpatriotic.

I am not “the liberal elite” that half of the political commentariat likes to imagine I must be. I am more like one of the “left behind” that the other half likes to patronise, fret over and console themselves with.

But I didn’t vote for Brexit and I would never have voted for Donald Trump and I despair of the crony socio-economic status quo as much as anybody. So, who, in Power, speaks for me? Where do I fit, in my country? Is this my country?

John declared the Jezerendum was his finest conversion.

My mind wandered as I read ten minutes of inspired paranoia and vitriol pick ‘n’ mix that is Labour Twitter… I fantasized that we had a Jezerendum and that the country voted overwhelmingly in favour of giving Mr Corbyn one of our small islands. I don’t know which one it was, only that it required a ferry to access the mainland and that it was big enough for all his personal staff and every adventurous, ardent believer. The offer was extended to the rest of the Labour Party but all sides were affronted so that was quickly settled.

Through an excruciating but often hilarious week of hotly tweeted debate about whether this result was down to the magnanimity of a democratic, reason-minded nation, or another covert neoliberal plot by the Blairite BBC (peak purge, Matt noted, wryly), much of the grassroots came to the conclusion that it didn’t actually matter: the momentum was with them.

Jeremy called a rally. He told his congregation that he accepted the result as proof of faith in his will and a definitive mandate for his kinda politics. John declared the Jezerendum was his finest conversion. Jeremy waved his hat: “Jam for all! And bread-making academies! Come, comrades: we shall build ourselves a socialist allotment. Our momentum has just begun! From now on, you are in charge. Our rallies shall be our news, your placards our policies. Everyone has a right to Utopia!” He looked up from his notes, to drink of the rapturous crowd… “Seumas, I’m not sure this is a great idea…” The country held her breath and crossed her fingers.

And then, suddenly, they were off, the haunting sound of ‘The Reg Flag’ fading into the watery mist.

A collective wow… was exhaled throughout the mainland..: Maybe Brexit would fit on the Isle of Wight..?

Labour Twitter is right: Mr Corbyn does inspire. Or, at least, his grassroots do.

The baby is Labour, not Corbyn

I’m not as convinced as Corbynites that New Labour is what is lurking in the Party’s shadow, or even that it still exists with much strength. It certainly isn’t accurate to say Labour is full of Blairites and even what remains of the Blair years does not advocate Thatcheresque views with anywhere near the same force and conviction. Some of this is down to the influence of Corbyn’s and McDonnell’s economic policies and a lot is down to the fact that the flaws in political economic thought are now so abundant that they are speaking for themselves.

The Labour Party’s recent record on many issues, first as a government and now as Opposition, should make many of its MPs feel ashamed, yet I’d prefer for those MPs to be asked if they have now changed heart, mind and direction, rather than just lazily assuming they haven’t, when the whole country is beginning to call out the consequences of Conservative recklessness. Merely projecting history and ignoring any capacity for renewed insight does little to enlighten the present and is not an inevitable blueprint for the future. The Party is full of fresh blood and progressed thought. One might well say that Corbyn has made a difference but, so, too, has mainstream comprehension, even if it took Brexit’s fallout for the News to begin voicing it. It is a timely marriage of opportunity. Sadly, I can’t see how Corbyn is strategically poised to effectively capitalise on this opportunity, short of continually firming up his existing support and saying ‘’told you so’ in front of a camera, now and then.

Corbyn’s most ardent supporters behave as though he were the only light and way. They have elevated a messenger above the message and, by persisting in doing so, risk making sure the message never manifests as any government’s policies. They appear not to have noticed the change in perception and acceptance of sensible economic philosophy across their party and they do not seem to take into account how the Media and Public are finally acknowledging the nonsense that passed for Conservative competence, these past six years. Corbyn’s social justice policies risk coming to nothing if he can’t manage his party or be taken seriously and then fails to beat the buccaneering Conservative and UK Independence Parties. When you are the Opposition, you are a de facto party of protest but you have to be united, competent, informed and well-organised. That is not just so you can hold the government to account and influence change. It is also one of the ways you persuade the electorate to give you a go, next time. The electorate needs an available and viable alternative and Labour is failing, dismally, to be it.

The country doesn’t need an evasive and elusive leader who resents even perfectly valid scrutiny by the Media, cannot organise with any semblance of professionalism and cannot manage the small but immensely strong tail that wags him. Of course I understand that if the Party machinery had assisted him from the very beginning, he may have come to be seen as a sustainably fresh breath of air. Instead, they wrung their hands and left him to invest his reputation in a superfluous ‘movement’ and a God-awful staff of naivety and ulterior motives. He has been helped, mostly, to make schoolboy error after error. And the Parliamentary Party still wrings its hands. They are responsible for a good deal of the present mess, to be sure and they should have seen it coming: that to resent him and petulantly leave him floundering would compound matters and bite them all on the arse. But there is no time machine. And time, however inconvenient, is of the essence.

I don’t know how this is reconciled: whether the Party prevails or splits or dies. I’m not sure if there is a credible and workable compromise to be had that can serve the members and work for the wider electorate; how much either side really believes it can find one – or wants to. I’m not in either of their bubbles. The Party seems to have the most impractical and ill-thought-out constitution imaginable and the PLP is at an understandable loss as to the safest, best course of action, considering the consequential risks. All I have to go on, to make a judgement, are the Media and my own experience as a citizen witness and wannabe Labour voter. The whole thing reminds me of the Judgement of Solomon: I want the baby to be saved but, then, I think the baby is Labour, not Corbyn and the Corbynites seem to think their first “duty of care” is to Jeremy. It is a terrible thing to see him being chewed up and spat out by all sides; yes, even by his own. The paranoia and myopic insistence begins to feel like a lead weight on the very progress I want to see and had thought they most desired. It’s awful.

I think it’s too late to try to give Corbyn the kind of makeover required to appeal to a whole electorate but it is vital that his general narrative and intentions do not die with his demise – be it now or later. I suppose he could stay on as part of the shadow cabinet, either in an advisory role that honours his mandate, or as a minister of something, if either side would wear it. Or, if he is so confident in the breadth and depth of his support, he could go off and lead Momentum as a new party. It seems to have made a pretty good start, already. [Why the doubling up/outsourcing of a role that Labour should be able to do, for itself, through its constituency offices, anyway?] If Corbyn is determined to stay, though, maybe the first best thing he should do is to sack the carrion and clueless among his personal staff and ask the PLP to help him. If, really, he wants to go, of his own accord, he could seek to negotiate a way out, based on assurances from the PLP that he could give to his grassroots: that Labour seriously understands, wishes and sincerely intends to take forward the most sensible of his policies and visions and that he has done the job he set out to do. Gods, it’s depressing.