UNDESIRABLES?

UNDESIRABLES?

I haven’t written on politics in recent months because events have had an unbelievable element (you could just about guarantee that whatever was most unlikely would come to pass.) It is difficult to poke fun at something that would be hilarious if only it weren’t so serious. One cannot really castigate the Americans for being so stupid as to elect Trump, when we have ended up with Brexit (which was not, I believe, our intention.)

We voted blindfolded for Brexit with no real understanding of what it would mean. Although I do hold it against the politicians for not unearthing more facts rather than just attempting to frighten us into voting as they desired, I think as the complexities of the matter unfolds that it would have been impossible to predict accurately what was likely to happen. We still don’t really understand what the outcome will be and our politicians have no idea either. Matters are too complex and inter-related and unpredictable. It’s rather like a meeting of the Mafia with too many Families present.

I watched Nigel Farage interviewed by Piers Morgan. In spite of his dismal reputation, I think Morgan is one of the finest interviewers operating today. I always find him almost more interesting to watch than the interviewee. He has enough empathy and charm to lead the person into dangerous areas of their hinterland before they realise where they are headed (in spite of their wary experience and skill in being interviewed); he actually listens to what they say and will pause to explore anything interesting that turns up; but for all he participates in the conversation, when you watch him you can see that throughout he also retains an editorial detachment.

Although I have never voted for Ukip, I can understand why people did. Farage, who is I think genuine in that he sincerely believes what he says and is not particularly motivated by personal gain, is an interesting character. I have never heard him say anything which I personally found offensive. I do not think wishing for us to have control of immigration, is in any way racist; nor is a desire for Britain to remain recognisably British in culture and language, welcoming in-comers but expecting them to speak English and to recognise that while their history enriches our own, ours is the dominant culture, and we wish it to remain so. If they so disapprove of our culture, why have they come here? They should go somewhere else that is more to their liking.

No doubt there are undesirables within Ukip, but they also lurk in every other political party.

And talking of undesirables, did I hear Tony Blair being so bold as to talk to us – actually offering advice – on Brexit? Does he not realise that we have left him unchallenged for answers to the charges against him only because we are ashamed he was our prime minister and we have not got the stomach to endure the humiliation of going through all that again? Advice for Tony Blair. Don’t talk to us. Don’t comment on our affairs. Don’t come here. Don’t presume to give us advice. We don’t want your advice. We took it before and look where it got us. What you should do is lie very low, forever, in case our anger overcomes our shame, and we come after you.

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STANDING IN A PLACE OF GRACE

STANDING IN A PLACE OF GRACE

I’ve been thinking on the nature of democracy which, while an imperfect institution, is better than any known alternative. I was rather alarmed to hear people (good people in my estimation) stating that the result of the referendum ought to be disregarded. If you profess to be a democracy, the will of the people has to be accepted, even if it were by only one vote. Otherwise it’s the thin edge of the wedge: reject one result because you deem it unsuitable or inconvenient and you could end up in a one party state before you could say Vladimir Putin.

David Cameron seemed, when he started out, an example of the best you can expect from the Tories. Courteous and calm, with compassion, having suffered grief and loss in spite of his privileged background, loyal to his friends, untouched by financial or sexual scandal, you thought as he took office, he’ll do, and good luck to him too. Yet he has proved to be that most worrying of failures – an incompetent, and of poor judgement. He has gambled with our future stability and well-being – and lost – but even had he won, the risks he took were not worth what he might have gained.

Referenda would appear to be a blunt and unsubtle instrument. In the Scottish referendum on Independence, Cameron he did not lose outright. But the putting of the question and the size of the vote that it attracted effectively legitimised the Independence position, and strengthened their case even though they did not win that vote. The issue has certainly not gone away. I was surprised on our recent travels in Scotland to see the Saltire flying all over the place, and a fair number of car stickers saying, Ask me now and I’ll say Yes. It was apparent that people who a year ago were vehemently antagonistic to the idea of independence were far more relaxed about it now. It is my belief, if the question keeps being put in its present form, that the Scots will eventually vote Yes and then it will not be possible to deny them. It is undeniably the case that the question can be put however many times it takes, and regardless of the intervals, until the desired answer is given, but the electorate only has to say Yes once, for the outcome to be virtually irrevocable. Westminster should have remembered this. There are two other factors that were overlooked. The electorate believes in fair play, and it does not respond submissively to bullying.

We have seen with referenda that the electorate will vote Leave or Remain as instructed, but that it is not necessarily giving those answers to the questions which it was asked.

My guess is that so far as Brexit is concerned, London and the South being prosperous and near Europe largely voted Remain it being convenient for them. Scotland voted Remain to the last county and it has always been pro-Europe as a counter-balance to England, but the Scots also voted Remain in support of independence. The Irish in Northern Ireland voted for Remain in support of a United Ireland.

The English Midlands and Northern counties voted Leave in a spirit of dissatisfaction with Cameron’s government; and English coastal areas voted Leave because of their despair over having to cope with an unending influx of migrants with no government acknowledgement of their difficulties or help with the accompanying problems.

I’m quite sure that a fair proportion of those people who voted Leave for the reasons I have argued, did not actually expect that the overall vote would be to Leave and so got a result that was unexpected. Protest votes are dangerous and best kept for bi-elections!

George Osborne, of unlamented memory, was always described as being a wily strategist, which clearly was NOT the case, since the outcome here has been a catastrophe for him. But you cannot enjoy such a reputation for no reason. I’ve come to the conclusion that to be a good strategist, you need to be able to predict the reactions of a wide variety of people, including ones unlike yourself. People, as I have attempted to argue, vote from different motivations. Some vote for self interest; some vote altruistically; some vote in hatred or prejudice; some vote in family tradition. George Osborne, I suggest, understood extremely well the turpitude of his shoddy colleagues (of all parties) in Westminster, but he had no understanding of the hopes and dreams his fellow countrymen carried in their secret hearts.

Every incoming British prime minister, I believe, sets out with the goodwill of the British people.   Mrs May, I think, has so far conducted herself (and God knows I have no sympathy for the Tories) so that she still stands in that place of grace where we will give her the benefit of the doubt and wish success to her endeavours. Let us pray then that she continues as she has begun, for she is going to need all the good will she can muster to steer us through the rough times ahead.

THE EU REFERENDUM

I’m heartily sick of the whole business of the EU Referendum.     You can’t switch on the television without some pundit telling you how to cast your vote and forecasting catastrophic consequences for the country and perdition for you personally if you cast your vote the ‘wrong’ way.      The American president came and told us to vote to stay in or America would no longer smile upon us.   We hadn’t noticed that much gain from heir smiles up until now, and I suspect (and hope ) that a general reaction was, And what business is it of yours?

Going back to the groups attempting to influence the decision, I’ve come to the conclusion that NONE of them have the least idea what the outcome will mean for the country, and so they’re commandeering certain facts. proposed future actions, predicting the reactions of ‘our brothers in Europe’ and translating these nebulous results into a forecast.   There’s no proving or disproving these scenarios, of course, so they can be made with relative immunity except that the protagonist knows he’s just made it up and looks stressed.

Talking about self induced stress, into this toxic mixture wanders one A Blair on Andrew Marr this morning.   I couldn’t believe that he would be so bold (Is he talking to us?   Well, tell him we’re not listening.)   He told  us we should go to war in Iran because they had weapons of mass destruction, and how wrong was he about that?   He should go back to whichever tax haven is harbouring him these days and lie low and hope we never come looking for him.

Coming out of the EU won’t solve the problems of migration.    The reasons we are having these problems include

  1.   world over population
  2.   extreme poverty of some countries compared with others
  3.   instability of Middle East (to which we have contributed) rendering formerly pleasant countries uninhabitable
  4.  religious intolerance.

None of these will be improved by our exit from the EU.

Cameron has been hoist by his own petard.   He announced the Referendum to appease the rabid right wing dogs of his own party, and now they’re running wild in packs and threatening to destroy him.

Whatever your view, go out and vote.   It might just make a difference.

 

 

 

BLOOD ON OUR HANDS?

BLOOD ON OUR HANDS?

We have all been watching in horrified sympathy the ghastly events unfolding in Paris. One wonders what can have been DONE to those people – citizens of Western countries – to motivate them to take part in a shocking and brutal act of merciless mass murder, and then throw their own lives away as well?

My personal reactions are: horror – it was a disgusting event; sympathy for and a desire to support the French; unease – it could be us next time; anger – how dare they and do they think WE are a people who can be bullied and intimidated; determination to preserve our liberties and customs; and finally, absolute incomprehension.

There are many unanswered questions within the issue. One of the most depressing and alarming statements I have heard is that there are large sections of the Muslim population who secretly have sympathy with the aims of the terrorists. Can this be true? What proof is there of this? I can’t personally believe that our fellow citizens, enjoying the rights and privileges of being British alongside ourselves, would condone such wickedness. I believe the vast majority of our Muslim

and indeed other religious residents are decent people and as appalled at these atrocities as we are.

Governments are quick to label as ‘terrorists’ groups whose political aims are in opposition to their own policies, and while we may deplore the violence of the struggle, one can have sympathy in some cases with their cause – a united Ireland, for example, or South Africa free of apartheid and in charge of its own affairs. But there is no stated objective that we could from a judgement of in this case.

I heard George Galloway on this subject on Newsnight, talking sense for once, so you could see his formidable intelligence, his quick thinking, his skill at oratory, his indomitable courage, and you could just glimpse how great he might have been, had he only not succumbed to vanity. Undoubtedly he had much to be vain about, but sadly vanity destroys one’s judgement. He had some interesting insights, but no credible soluion . I find myself (I despise my own foolishness) listening hopefully to Cameron, Putin, Obama, the army, the police, the intelligence officers, seeking some sign that some of these experts will emerge and lead us out of this hazardous war zone we seem to have landed in. I come to the reluctant conclusion that none of them has any idea how to solve the problem.

Bombing? I don’t think bombing ever solves anything. It just lays waste to people’s homes and infrastructure, kills large sections of the civilian population who did not take any action against us; and the British population at large is not comfortable with bombing people in their country when they haven’t bombed us in ours. Over the last quarter century we’ve bombed several countries and none of these campaigns have been regarded as successful. Plus, after Blair’s fiasco, we’d need to get a UN mandate (surely Cameron would not proceed without one?) and that might be problematic.

Boots on the ground. I think Cameron should by now realise that the country is extremely unwilling to put the lives of our own men at risk in a country far from our shores. The enemy would have to be at the gate. Of course in a sense the enemy is already within our gates, but your man in the street, who in spite of being thought of by politicians as the great unwashed and ignorant, exhibits considerable sense and sound judgement, does not believe that sending troops to fight in other countries will enhance our security at home.

A policy of shoot to kill. Obviously if our policemen or soldiers are facing a terrorist on his murderous spree, they do need to shoot to kill, both to preserve the lives of our citizens caught up in the event, and that of themselves and their colleagues. The problem is that the nature of terrorism means that these events rise up out of the blue, so our defendants do not have time to collect their arms and their authority. They must be prepared at all times. But having a carte blanche shoot-to-kill policy can lead to grave miscarriages of justice, and once an innocent person is dead, there is no restitution can be made to him in this world. This is a grave matter, and not a trifling issue which can be sacrificed in a spirit of needs must.

What we can do is demonstrate love, tolerance and support for those affected by this issue. We should show solidarity, not only to the French, but to those of our own citizens who came to us from these countries, for they are not the people who have harmed us; but if we allow our country to be split into factions because of this, then the terrorists will indeed have damaged us. We should send expertise and funds to those countries we have bombed and damaged and help them rebuild their infrastructure. These things are long term and difficult and first of all you have to subdue rebellious insurgents so that you can carry out the necessary work and it will not just be promptly destroyed.

But can we understand it? Indeed we should acknowledge that we are not blameless in this crisis. Over the past century we have meddled where we should not have done, and we have interfered to support our own interests and not those of the local inhabitants. We have blood on our hands. But whereas we could perhaps understand if our attackers were defending their interests intent on adding to their territories, increasing their wealth, making their people healthier, richer, better educated: we might resent them pursuing those things at our expense – but we could see the point of all that. But this does not appear to be their aim at all. Their purpose is simply to destroy us.

What is the answer to this riddle? I’m afraid I don’t know, and what is more I haven’t heard any expert speak that gave me any confidence that he knew either.

THE LION ROARS

We woke at 5.30 am on Friday morning after the election, in our gite in Brittany, to hear Peter Hain announce in lugubrious tones, ‘Scotland is lost.’ But we felt – glad, confident morning – Scotland was won.

We appreciated the irony that Scotland’s SNP had swept the board – an extraordinary swing which we did not expect – but had retained one token presence each of Labour, Tory and Liberal. I was delighted that Gordon Brown’s seat (which he had not contested) never the less fell from his previous majority of 23,000 to an SNP candidate with a majority of 10,000. I felt sorry for Danny Alexander who lost his seat – I would have found him acceptable as Chancellor of the Exchequer – but I thought that Douglas Alexander (part of that ignominious and largely despised group of persons who have been Secretaries of State for Scotland on behalf of the English) deserved his fate when he was felled by a 20 year old Glaswegian girl student. Alex Salmond won his seat but then that was no surprise at all. If that lone Tory MP becomes Secretary of State for Scotland he had better enjoy his tenure for he is most unlikely ever to be re-elected to any post in Scotland.

And yet though we rejoice that our countrymen stood up to be counted, when you look at a map of the Disunited Kingdom, its polarisation is rather frightening.

In England, I think the Tories won (and let us not forget it was a most meagre victory) because:

a) the country did not forgive the Lib Dens for throwing their lot in with the Tories and abandoning their principles (though this may have been an unfair judgement)

b) the country, even although times are hard and nobody wants to see people resorting to food banks to feed their family, did not trust Labour with its end-to-austerity slogans, and wishes to               continue the slow haul out of our overspending (and future administrations should remember this.)

c)Ed Miliband did not appear to be sufficiently confident, competent or charismatic to be Prime Minister. An in-coming prime minister, to successfully bring his party into government, has to           appeal personally to voters beyobd his own party, and not only did Miliband fail to do this; he did not even seem to have great appeal for his own party.

d) the country was afraid of an unholy alliance between Labour and the SNP leading to God knows where

e) Cameron had run a steady-as-she-goes ship, managing to put us (he said) on the road to recovery, without mass unemployment, rip-roaring inflation and riots on the streets.

But in Scotland, I think the dynamic was quite different, although I believe they shared the English dissatisfaction with the Lib Dems. But if, in more peaceful times, Scotland and the Lib Dems were friends, Scotland and the Labour party were lovers. Their spectacular parting, more over the Labour party sharing a platform with the hated Tories than their actual support for the No campaign, plus the undeniable realisation that Labour merely regarded Scotland as a bank of in-the-bag votes to bolster their power base in England, will be far more difficult to heal than will its relationship with the Liberals. I heard some female Labour spokesperson, asked what the Scots were saying to Labour, reply: They don’t want us to be more Scottish; they want us to be more Labour. I thought, Madam, you still don’t get it. They just want you to clear off. They’ll carry on without you, and I should think Labour as it is currently constructed will never be welcome in Scotland again. It is not good of course to be a one party state, but when they’re ready they’ll construct another party.

So, as Alex Salmond has put it, the Scottish lion has roared. I believe it’s saying to the English establishment, which has ruled over it for 400 years: We intend to be taken seriously. Deliver as you promised. Do not mess with us.

We need to proceed cautiously here. We should listen to one another. We should aim to consider the desires and wishes of each of the four nations. We should aim for a Federation which would both give each of us more control of our affiliations but preserve our common aims and objectives.

To those of you who still hanker after a United Kingdom as formerly; that is lost. It cannot be recovered. Yet much can still be saved that Is of great benefit to us all.

FREEDOM

The SNP, so opposing politicians repeatedly declaim, is ‘intent on breaking up the union.’ This is rather like saying, of someone setting out to make an omelette, that he’s ‘intent on breaking eggs’. The SNP’s aim is to obtain a greater measure of independence for Scotland. Breaking up the union might well turn out to be collateral damage, but it is not the purpose of the enterprise. And indeed one option – the federation – would give Scotland greater independence without breaking up the union. It was not the SNP who refused to have Devo Max as an option in the Referendum questions.

When you are in a private discussion with someone on this subject, generally the last objection offered is, why should 90% of the population of Britain be obliged to change custom and practice they are quite content with, because 10% of the population of the UK wish it to be done?

I suggest we people of the four nations identify firstly according to our nation. So, I am a Scot. But I am also British and proud to be so. I suggest most British people of whatever ethnicity feel much the same. We believe that to be British makes us the equal of anyone. We believe that we are a just and fair-minded people. We regard ourselves as being ‘the mother of parliaments’ and that we offered a model of democracy to emerging nations. We regard ourselves as free citizens who have chosen to live within the union, which is an honourable estate. (We have the occasional lapse of morality; illegal wars, MP’s expenses etc – but everybody has those regrettable lapes – and on the whole, we feel good about ourselves.) We’re glad that we’re British.

We also accept that we are four nations, united by common consent within the United Kingdom. Any-one from any of the four areas, mistaken for one of the others, would immediately correct the error.

In particular, within the union, Scotland’s rights as a separate kingdom have been jealously guarded. We have a separate legal system, a different education system, a different royal regalia, a different church hierarchy. We are another country without a doubt. (I cast no aspersions of the entitlement of the other countries of the UK to be regarded as separate countries.)

So it follows then that since we are a free people of a separate country, (Scotland) which therefore belongs to us, and we live in a democracy, we are at liberty to choose whether we remain within the union or not. We recently voted on this issue, and we did not choose to leave the union, and being the democratic people that we are, we are still within it. But if we were to be denied the right to make this choice, then we would not be free British living by choice in a democratic union. We would be a vassal state belonging to England.

So this is why 10% of the population can choose to leave the union. We have not encroached on England’s rights. We are not proposing to annexe northern counties of England. It is also a democracy. It can choose how to run its own affairs.

So I suggest the English people stop frettng abou the SNP and consider how they wish to run their own country. Do they want to continue having their administration in London, or do they want it rotated through their principal cities. Do they wish the whole of England to be one administrative body or would they prefer a different arrangement. Do they wish to stand alone or would they like to join their neighbouring states in a federation? (Terms to be negotiated.) Only the English people can decide on these matters. We Scots will certainly uphold their right to do so. These questions are not being asked yet, but they are coming.

Meanwhile let us remember the words of Rule:Britannia. Britons never shall be slaves.

PS   I should point out that the assertion that we are ‘united by common consent within the UK’ is a moot point.   James VI, who sold his birthright for a mess of potage, decided on our behalf.   The Scottish people have NEVER been asked if they consent to the unio.   But let us not be petty.   We have not objected and therefore our comsent must be assumed.

TIME FOR QUESTIONS

TIME FOR QUESTIONS?

I watched a recording of Question Time from Glasgow, which I think was broadcast on 5 March, and am still reeling in astonishment.

I am no longer resident in Scotland (although still Scotland Forever in my heart) and therefore I cannot claim to read the groundswell of current opinion on any issue of the day. I discuss these matters with family and friends of course, but I do not claim to have a typical Scottish reaction any more.

Since the Referendum, the issue has subsided somewhat I thought (and certainly here in the Deep South most people sincerely hope it’s dead in the water) and I wondered if the Scots would lose their stomach for the fight, and just settle for the status quo. Judging by the passionate response of the audience, this does not appear to be the case. (I should state that the city was Glasgow, which voted Yes, but I still believe the views expressed by the audience were representative of Scots views in general.)

Scotland, since the dark days of Margaret Thatcher, has loathed the Tory party with an intensity that I doubt if our fellow nations realise, far less understand. Whereas once the Tories had a strong presence in Scotland, since that unhappy time their support has dwindled to a paltry one or two MPs.

Labour, on the other hand, has always been the natural party for the left-thinking Scotland. I had wondered if after the failure of the Yes vote in the Referendum, Scotland would revert to its ‘normal’ position. I was astounded at the outright hostility the audience repeatedly displayed towards Labour, almost indeed that same intensity of loathing it has for the despised Tories. One characteristic of the Scots – I have it myself and it’s not one of our more charming attributes – is that once our resentment is aroused, (and believing ourselves to have just cause) we can hold to our position in perpetuity and be spectacularly unforgiving. I was quite shaken by the depth of feeling which accompanied the audience’s loss of trust in Labour. I think this resentment will take decades, if not actual generations, to dissipate.

I was also extremely surprised that all the politicians of whatever party admitted that they thought their party would lose to the SNP in Scotland and quite evidently the majority of them felt they were at a high risk of losing their own seat in the first following election that would affect them. Since politicians are generally tiresomely upbeat about their prospects even in the face of the most discouraging of polls, for them to admit these fears in public before the election was unprecedented.

I can think of three possible reasons for this reaction. (All three may apply.)

1 It is possible that the Scots despised the Tories so much that even for Labour to share a platform with them would lead to condemnation by association.

2 Since it appears that Labour’s sole preoccupation in its support for the No vote was to preserve its power base IN WESTMINSTER, it was evident to the Scots that though they had supported Labour for decades, their loyalty was not returned, and that Labour did not give Scotland first priority or have its best interests at heart. I think Scotland felt like a woman who discovers that her fiance has only proposed to her because of her wealth, which he plans to spend on another woman whom he actually loves.

3 It would seem that more people than the 47% who actually voted Yes wanted either independence or (more likely in the case of No voters) devo-max; and were persuaded by Gordon Brown that they could still obtain this if they chose the safer and less disruptive No option. But as soon as the vote was cast and the immediate danger over, Cameron (he is a politician after all, what did they expect) began re-adjusting his position, and Scots whowanted Yes but voted No may have felt duped. They can’t dislike the Tories any more than they already do, but they feel Labour has betrayed them and they intend to lay the full burden of their resentment on Labour.

In a previous blog, (Referendum: Winners and Losers) I listed those persons whose reputations I felt had suffered damage in Scotland because of their actions in regard to the Referendum. I counted the loss of Gordon Brown as a champion of Scotland as our greatest grief, although even his neutral advice would have been acceptable if that was all he felt he could in conscience offer. But behaving as he did, I felt he was the greatest betrayer of our trust and affection since Bonnie Prince Charlie. However, I thought this was just my private opinion, as I had read no public condemnation of him. But I begin to suspect that this judgement is more widely held than I had supposed. Gordon Brown is not standing for his Westminster seat in the May elections. I wish he were. He had a majority of 23,000 and I’d really like to see him lose.

We are not a nice people when we are well and truly offended and once we are in that mindset, empires can fall and kings be overthrown and it all makes no difference to our view. On reflection, I think those politicians have good reason to be pessimistic on their chances of retaining Scottish seats.

Scotland forever!