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.

promises and piecemeal

Direct Democracy and Devolution sound so grown up, don’t they? Like no-brainers, especially in the 21st Century, where we think we’re all so miraculously connected and enlightened. We complain incessantly that we want more control; that we need it; deserve it. I’m sure we do, in a parallel universe. But, while it is clear that political and civic power are too concentrated in some places and persons, I suspect that most of us wouldn’t have a clue what best to do with more power if we got it. After all, we don’t use what we already have, that smartly.

The People do not always know best. We just don’t. In fact, sometimes we are downright stupid, no matter the consensus that it isn’t good or wise to say so, out loud. For instance: I live in a Cornish constituency where, in the last general election, my shortsighted, albeit understandable hissy fit at the Lib Dems of Coalition merely allowed the Tories to swan back in. It must be really difficult, sometimes, for politicians to feign their respect for the voters.

The human world is a frightened and frustrated place. We can all feel it, or at least see it. The world shook after 9/11 and shifted irrevocably on its axe when the financial crises came to light. Since then, the pace of consequence has accelerated and intensified under our cowardly, short-termist leadership. They – we – build on mistake after mistake. Nearly the whole world is doing the same, on some level. We’ve facilitated ideological hubris and complacency, compounding misery and instability. No wonder there are grassroots collectives pushing for individuals to gain more democratic control. No wonder those who can are keen, or keen to pretend to offer it.

But the People are too busy living, or trying to, to spend 24/7 digesting every connection and implication involved in even the simplest idea. A lot of people don’t even have time to properly absorb a primetime news broadcast, let alone have the inclination to connect the dots around a plethora of single (-seeming) issues and assume direct agency. To participate responsibly, you have to be actively engaged and prepared to contemplate more deeply than on catchy soundbites and echo chambers. In the last general election some people thought they wanted the Conservative Party’s welfare reforms until they realised they had voted for cuts in their own income. Parents opening and running schools sounded like a great idea to a chunk of the populace until they actually tried it and realised how much expertise and time most of them did not have.

We need managers. No matter our sovereignty as individuals, we need leaders and overseers and at least some hierarchical structure of accountable authority to make a Society run. As much as we might feel that ‘’for god’s sake, I’ll do it, myself/could do it better, myself’ impatience, in the face of such overt fecklessness, we are also half hoping that something, someone, will take it off our hands.

Negotiating even our own lives can be more than enough occupation. We want someone else to take care of the other stuff. We don’t all want to have to run schools, sit on every committee, attend every blasted meeting that might affect our lives, keep up with every minute amendment to vote on every policy, engage with every whim and crackpot suggestion, tick-box endless, simplistic questionnaires. Well, I don’t, anyway. It may sound good in the abstract but, in practice, well: observe the EU referendum. Or imagine every category of Labour member having policy input on behalf of the rest of the electorate.

To imagine that the incoherent mishmash of support for Brexit is a thing worthy of unquestionable respect or that, even if Trump’s supporters should not be called out as ‘deplorable’, so much of their motivation clearly is, or that the utopian fanaticism for Corbyn, as the only 21st-Century light around which all the Left must orbit: these are symptomatic of our neurotic times. It took us years to create this anti-intellectual mess. There is no simple fix that can be also universally palatable.

But people tend to cling to hope where they think they have found it. We like to imagine that there must be a magic fix, if only someone would discover it or if we could just make a certain person, the whole country, the whole of humanity see it our way. If only x would happen then everything would be solved. It’s little wonder that idealists and charismatics are popular. They tell us what we should be worried about and who and what to fear and they offer simple yet dramatic fixes with casual and confident ease. This is attractive, particularly to those who think they have nothing left to lose and to those seeking the short-lived catharsis of vitriol.

Still, our leaders are the People, too, despite the quite concerted efforts of some to convey or perceive otherwise. Whether we see those currently charged with shaping our present and future as heroes or villains and all in between, they are merely a reflection of the human spectrum that they claim to serve: weak, sincere, ignorant, greedy, perceptive, compassionate, arrogant, clever, paranoid…

I don’t want ‘Brexit’ but, if we must have it, I obviously want the best achievable version, not an appeasement model for its bulldog fantasists. I want mature democratic reforms but not to serve some partisan agenda and not as a superficial sop to pacify a confused and frustrated populace. The fallout discussions around the Scottish Indyref and Brexit show how the promises and piecemeal of panic and short-term politicking, are downright disrespectful of both the electorate and our constitution.

The awful consequences of decades of causes are threatening, again, to become the new causes for decades of even more dreadful consequences. Unfortunately, a significant number of the electorate does not care and tragically, some have not even noticed.

Live long enough, though and you can feel like you’ve lived it all before. Be careful what you wish for.

suits you

Love how your cap fits;
How it sits,
Fixed on the bias.
You’ve got that I’m a quirky rebel thing going on.
It suits you. Have you tried a thinking one?

Before we just Brexit

You know when you toss a coin or do eeny, meeny, miny, moe and it isn’t until you have your decision made for you that you truly know you feel about it? Well, I think that same effect has just occurred in a large number of people who will not be the only ones forced to bear the consequences.

This EU referendum is advisory and is not legally binding and it is not too late to stop this fiasco, though to ignore it would obviously cause uproar and insult a great part of the electorate. Mind you, I’m insulted that a 52-48 split was ever considered acceptable, either way it might have fallen.

The whole campaign was a travesty of democracy, so perhaps it should be rendered void on grounds of political malfeasance. Brexit voters were fed a pack of non-issues, half-truths and outright lies by Leave campaigners who voiced hardly any unified opinions between them and the Remain campaigners who completely squandered the opportunity to provide information that could have encouraged real understanding and critical thinking. The right-wing Press were despicable and primetime Media was often pretty unhelpful, even on its better days.

You know I already believe that having the EU referendum was a mistake in the first place, both in timing and necessity. Just a four percent difference between the Ins and the Outs is intolerably close and the worst possible outcome, that can only highlight the polarisation in the country and eventually undermine the result. The country is split in two: the losing side is very distressed and the winning side has been scandalously misled. Both sides are more likely to become angrier than accommodating as the days slip into weeks and the full implications surface for scrutiny. Social justice is what a great many Leave voters thought they were choosing but it will soon sink in that they have voted for the opposite; that globalising banks and corporate businesses have not been vanquished; that they have just reinforced the establishment of more elites.

But, to transform the result into deed, Article 50 needs to be invoked and some experts, yes, experts say that we can avoid leaving by just not activating it. There is talk of a second referendum, both as an ask-until-you-get-the-right-answer solution and as a matter of our withdrawal process. And there are stories, everywhere, about people who are only just realising the consequences of their will to Out and are anxiously regretting it.

I think we should let the Tories choose their new leader, as soon as possible and have a General Election. This would have the same effect as a second referendum. Labour could stand on a campaign platform promising that a vote for them is a mandate for voiding the result. The Greens, SNP, Plaid and Sinn Féin could support this and do the same.

The referendum did not include a manifesto, a reasonably detailed plan, a programme on which to vote. The Conservatives and UKIP, from which most Brexiters come, must clarify, both to their voting base and the Remain side, what we are getting. Those from the left, who chose Brexit, would then have the best chance of being able to vote for the direction in which they actually wanted to travel.

This would have to be done fairly swiftly to minimise instabilities and before the notification of Article 50 made it a futile exercise. It would give space for the entire electorate to take a breath, reflect and consider what they want and how best to achieve it. I know some will think this is adding to the risk and that it wouldn’t guarantee that we wouldn’t still leave the EU – and if the decision were still for Brexit, then so be it – but it would give Britain’s people a chance to test their confidence and check their expectations. It seems the more sensible course of action and a more palatable risk than the constitutional, democratic, diplomatic, economic and social crises we are facing right now.

Referendum Day!

Hey quibble quibble,
The vote is a wriggle,
The ciao slumps over the tune,
The whistle fog barks in Adlibport
And the wisps damn away in the gloom.

The binary choice is upon us

I did not need this referendum on the European Union. Not at this time. Not over the issues of immigration, the economy and red tape and not even over sovereignty and democracy, now that I’ve informed myself sufficiently.

I wouldn’t vote to join the EU now, not least because of the compulsory Schengen and Euro elements but that is not the choice we are making. I do understand the desire in trying to regain absolute self-determination but it’s quite unrealistic. The only way I’d entertain really going it alone – enough to vote for it – is if I truly thought there was no alternative for our well-being or perhaps if the rest of the world’s nations were isolating themselves, too. Albeit there’s been a rise in pro-secessionist regions, I don’t see all the world’s parts simply turning away from collective cooperation. I can’t see them deliberately choosing a self-ghettoising course and then making a success of it. Such a disconnecting seems a bit late in the day to be even possible; like not being able to unknow something.

I think being forced into making such a simplistic in/out choice over a jumble of complexities is an unnecessary and reckless distraction. I resent it. It’s having to pre-empt and then try to control not only what Britain and the European Union will look like in the future but the entire globe. We’re a small world, irrevocably intertwined and we are all dancing on a rapidly shifting carpet. There are conflicts at every turn, vital resource scarcity, environmental challenges and great shifts in individual and collective consciousness. No one knows how anything of the world will turn out, beyond that nothing happens in a vacuum and that there will be multi-dimensional consequences that will become tomorrow’s causes.

I know that Remain has played some aspects rather badly – many of my alignments have been coincidental and conditional and barely have my personal reasons been represented. But that Leave campaign: well, it’s all a bit much, really, isn’t it? To the Right we’ve got authoritarian Gove with his disdain for experts, IDS with his bulging hubris and record of contempt for the disabled and working poor and Boris who doesn’t give a fig for facts or accountability. Then we’ve got the likes of Gisela Stuart and Kate Hoey on the Left, who naively believe that everything will be alright because they are putting their trust in people voting sensibly and the possibility of a Labour government. And bridging the sides of Brexit, the hollow keystone that is Farage, with his shamelessly irresponsible propaganda and populist nostalgia. He started this reckless, ill-informed, pseudo-patriotic nonsense that has turned the country against itself.

Nearly every mess that Brexit wants to “take back control” over has been created by the socio-economic ignorance and injustice of our very own governments, not immigrants and the EU. They are our governments who have undermined good will, public services and vital infrastructure. And, just because a load of people are repeatedly proclaiming “take back control” doesn’t mean any of it will be given to the electorate, or that it even will be used in our interests. Just because they are promising to spend (the same) money on everyone’s pet projects while upholding, nay, increasing current funding levels in key services, doesn’t mean that they will be able to or always want to. Social justice? Simply look at the last few years.

Of course the EU and the Euro zone are both in need of reform. The Euro zone is in a sorry state but that’s because the same relentless, neoliberal, false economy nonsense has been meted out there as here and exacerbated by its currency union. But we’re not in the Euro. And we are not in Schengen. We have vetoes and protections; we have trading clout. We’re not even attached by land, except by way of the two Irelands on another island. No one in the EU is arguing against reform and neither are their minds solely and unanimously fixed on “ever closer union” as the solution. For Leave to say it is not reformable is disingenuous. Have our MPs ever seriously and earnestly tried to lead a proper, EU-wide campaign for reform of its institutions, structures and processes? Or even explain them? I’ve witnessed decades of them mostly carping from the side or flapping over relative mundanities. We could easily make a much more effective fuss about what we want and decisions we don’t like. We could even just refuse to comply when our interests are compromised. What would happen? A court fine? A meeting to plan a meeting to talk about sanctioning us? We could leave at the drop of a hat if we thought we were in actual danger. Despite effort, I can’t find a risk in being in the EU that Brexit’s champions would properly solve. And anyway, if a credible risk does ever present, enough to invoke a Treaty mechanism or to warrant immediate escape, then, THEN a referendum might be justified – if not already rendered moot.

Given that we appear not to have enough actors with the experience and capacity, let alone the integrity and wisdom required, what confidence can we have in their ability to untangle the political, diplomatic, legal and technical knots involved in leaving? All that while simultaneously trying to create new deals and relationships? While simultaneously managing the day-to-running of a country? And an impatient electorate’s understandable frustration and much incited but unrealistic expectations? Personally, I can’t afford another lost decade, especially after the last six years which have seen enough time, money and opportunity wasted.

Demanding people make an unnecessary, ill-informed choice, based on neurotic sections of the Press and the hyperbole of political fools and charlatans, likely undermines our already fragile democracy. The BBC should have commissioned an Open University series that explained the EU’s structure and processes and broadcast them on BBC1 at peak viewing time. That would have cut through a great deal of rubbish and provided a commonly known foundation for much better questioning. What we’ve had, instead, are historical rhymes and speculation, non-issues and appeals to baser instincts, little-challenged opinion-by-rote and facts either given erratically and too late to make an impact or flimsy find-them-yourself signposting.

But it’s too late, now: the binary choice is upon us and I have to hope that the turnout is high and that the percentage of whichever side wins is great enough to be considered definitive, otherwise the nasty divisiveness that we have already endured in our communities; the tawdriness that has diminished our social fabric and reputation: they will be mere prologue.

What is amusing, perhaps, is that, regardless of which side prominent people declare for, they can vote the opposite, once at the polling station. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Boris Johnson stepped into the booth on Thursday and voted ‘Remain’ once he’d got his little pencil out in private. I shall vote to remain. I want to wrest control from Brexit. I, too, want my country back.

Post-mortem

Post-truth
Post-expert
Post-nuance
Post-fact
Post-mortem
Post-route map
Post-context
Post-democrat
Post-trust
Post-logic
Post-expat
Post-welcome mat
Post-satire
Post-hoc
Post-optics
Post-thermostat