“I read the news today, oh boy…”
When I saw this on the BBC News website on the morning of the 24th June 2016 I shuddered and experienced a very uncomfortable epiphany…
I suddenly realised that not only did I have a sense of my own innate British nationality, I also became horribly aware that the damn thing was sensitive. I’d always regarded most outpourings of nationalism as political tub-thumping, the summoning of a fleeting arousal of bravery in a body of men marching off to almost certain death. It’s also the oddest buttress to any argument. Nationalism is tribalism dressed up in more formal attire. The word ‘patriotism’ is a cloak of feigned nationalistic respectability but while you can’t deny the influences of the society in which you were raised, it is possible to relinquish a sense of nationalism to a degree. I’m a Brit and a European but deep down geographically I’m also Welsh but I don’t publish that fact too often for no other reason than my belief that most non-Welsh Brits are prejudiced against the Welsh with an astonishing, familiar and humour-based impunity. Is it because I is white, boyo? But it is true that I was filled with a great shame to be part of a nation that votes to be so regressive. I had to acknowledge that the spectre of nationalism was never far from my own primary defensive wall. The word also sails close to the political far right (there’s no coincidence it features as the ‘N’ in ‘BNP’) so let’s just say it’s a problematic word and concept. It ranks as the 2nd ‘N’ word to be so troublesome, the first of course being ‘Nigel’… Let’s put another word after ‘National’ and remember that extraordinary few weeks in 2012 when the entire country was gently but firmly gripped with an unusual benevolence and social cohesion that can only be defined as ‘national pride’. The Olympics pumped warm honey through the veins of the entire United Kingdom and xenophobia was only something people suffered having an aversion to warrior princesses. If we’d had the referendum vote that week, I suspect the yellow bar above would be contaminated with hardly any blue at all.
Context is everything.
We’ve had four decades plus of the public being drip-fed news stories of the wanton waste and ineffectual nature of the European Parliament. Brussels is now not so much the capital of Belgium but a synonym for endless and unnecessary red-tape and inefficiency. That negative deluge, that ‘repeated over and over and over until it’s true even if it’s patently not’ aspect bubbles in the back of all our minds. In fact, this invidious psychological water torture was used brilliantly in a sit-com and burned so brightly, no shadow remained where any common sense could lurk. If the term ‘high fat, emulsified offal-tube’ means anything to you then you’ll know the sit-com I mean. In the final episode of the BBC’s wonderful Yes, Minister, MP Jim Hacker had become the front-runner for the big job once the two ‘real’ candidates were forced to drop out of the running. But he secured the public and the media thumbs up by thumbing his own nose at the European gravy train. The Great British Sausage (really?!) was going to be renamed the ‘high fat, emulsified offal-tube’ by some European mandate. Of course, even in the context of the programme, this wasn’t true but it was a wonderful way to invoke the national outrage that propelled Hacker into No. 10. You can’t help thinking that there are unwieldy nuggets of truth in this scenario, not least how easy it is to sway a crowd with clap-trapping bromides. In the eyes of most Brits, the EU was a wicker man all too flammable and opportunists like the ‘N’ word Farrage and Johnson fumbled with the matches. “Oh, Jesus Christ!” as Sergeant Howie might say.
Hacker attacking the High Fat Emulsified Offal-Tube!
2016 seems to be the year of demented demagoguery with the US playing a dangerous game of trumps with the country’s future and the UK giving in to a smart but mendacious charlatan whose alarming roster of truth-benders are on the public record. Good God, is Boris really going to be PM? “Vote for me because, like the Daily Mail, I’ll say exactly what you want to hear!” and to hell with common sense, the common market and common or garden logic. Leaving the EU puts me in mind of a diner at a restaurant. Let’s say you’re thoroughly enjoying your meal. The ‘Leave’ waiter brushes past every few minutes and lists the meal’s individual ingredients and how bad they are for you (when they are not). One ingredient in particular is underlined as being the main offender, an ingredient you cannot taste and may never taste. The ‘Remain’ waiter simply watches you enjoying your meal and resists the temptation to remind you that you’ve been happily coming here to eat for decades with no complaints. Some of the ‘Leave’ waiter’s facts are errant lies but nevertheless, despite having enjoyed the meal without really being aware of the ingredients for forty-three years, you eventually give in to the barrage of bullshit and declare that you will never eat at that restaurant again. It’s gestalt in reverse (and what’s that nasty German word doing in this English piece? Smiley irony face, people). Take away some of the parts from the sum of the parts and the whole blows up in your face.
I read the news but am not involved in any political activity. If asked to vote, I try my best to weigh up both sides of an argument (while sub-consciously holding on to my gut-feeling). Of course, your own prejudices get in the way and in voting ‘Remain’ I realised that the overriding reason was that being a part of something was much more important to me personally than being apart from something. It was only after the result did I metaphorically smote my forehead unable to believe that not one ‘Remain’ campaigner had purloined the Joni Mitchell song Big Yellow Taxi, and used the chorus lyric to drive home a point that never seemed to come up in the campaigns… (forgive the grammar but she’s a pop star) “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone…” There are many stories of ‘Leave’ voters who now bitterly regret their decision. I find it comforting that no ‘Remain’ supporters have reported a change in heart.
Wood will no longer be allowed to be stacked haphazardly…
After the start of the Arab Spring five years ago, Syria imploded. To date, there are almost five million refugees who were forced to flee the country leaving behind over six million still at the mercy of military intervention and the barbarity of sectarian violence. Europe was forced to absorb the millions of displaced people, people like any other people – like you, yes you – who suddenly found themselves without a home, income or country. Just stop for a moment to imagine what you may be forced to do with two bags and young children in tow and nowhere to go. All you would have to go on would be your impression of the freedoms throughout Europe (again gleaned from the media), that northern bloc of countries that seem to be free from regressive and imposing regimes. Where else could you go? The Syrian refugee crisis intensified the feeling of the UK being invaded – page after page of fear-mongering newsprint on how leniency on immigration will be the end of the British character. Of that five million, Britain has taken in – up to the end of last year – five thousand give or take. That’s a frightening 0.01% of the refugees and a further terrifying 0.008% of the UK population. Not sure if the British character can stand being hammered by those figures… OK, let’s add the EU rule allowing free movement between member states which according to friends of mine has the result of slacker foreigners drinking beer hanging around the streets. Really. Then there’re the legitimate and illegitimate asylum seekers. These terms seem to bleed humanity from the individuals until the whole becomes some benefit sucking creature from the id that is responsible for everything that doesn’t work in our (on the whole) stable infrastructure. It’s a real issue, a problem and something that needs smart minds focused on solutions but it’s not the lion’s share of what being a part of the EU represents. You wouldn’t get that impression from the ‘Leave’ campaign.
To hear the ‘Leave’ voters give their reasons for their vote makes you weep with frustration. I’m assuming those who chose to post some of these idiotic reasons do so with a ‘Remain’ agenda. Well, the first chap says that the UK will sink with so many migrants. I couldn’t read his expression. It scares me that he may not be taking the piss out of the interviewer. Others put forward simplistic and jingoistic reasons for voting to leave, none of them sensible in any shape or form. They seemed to be pushing the idea that British genes are superior to any others and that despite the thousands of very smart people in the EU, they were content to trust in a British idiot more than a genius outsider. This is moronic xenophobia writ large and democracy in action.
That shade of violet will have to be returned to Spain now…
For the first time in my life, I feel personally responsible and somewhat ashamed for being a small part of a country that has chosen to deny progress and cooperation. I’ll leave you with what you may have seen many times already on various blogs and Facebook pages.
In the Guardian comments section on the 25th June, the contributor Teebs came up with the following. How I wish it were true…
If Boris Johnson looked downbeat yesterday, that is because he realises that he has lost. Perhaps many Brexiters do not realise it yet, but they have actually lost, and it is all down to one man: David Cameron.
With one fell swoop yesterday at 9:15 am, Cameron effectively annulled the referendum result, and simultaneously destroyed the political careers of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and leading Brexiters who cost him so much anguish, not to mention his premiership.
Throughout the campaign, Cameron had repeatedly said that a vote for leave would lead to triggering Article 50 straight away. Whether implicitly or explicitly, the image was clear: he would be giving that notice under Article 50 the morning after a vote to leave. Whether that was scaremongering or not is a bit moot now but, in the midst of the sentimental nautical references of his speech yesterday, he quietly abandoned that position and handed the responsibility over to his successor.
And as the day wore on, the enormity of that step started to sink in: the markets, Sterling, Scotland, the Irish border, the Gibraltar border, the frontier at Calais, the need to continue compliance with all EU regulations for a free market, re-issuing passports, Brits abroad, EU citizens in Britain, the mountain of legistlation to be torn up and rewritten … the list grew and grew.
The referendum result is not binding. It is advisory. Parliament is not bound to commit itself in that same direction.
The Conservative party election that Cameron triggered will now have one question looming over it: will you, if elected as party leader, trigger the notice under Article 50?
Who will want to have the responsibility of all those ramifications and consequences on his/her head and shoulders?
Boris Johnson knew this yesterday, when he emerged subdued from his home and was even more subdued at the press conference. He has been out-manoeuvred and check-mated.
If he runs for leadership of the party, and then fails to follow through on triggering Article 50, then he is finished. If he does not run and effectively abandons the field, then he is finished. If he runs, wins and pulls the UK out of the EU, then it will all be over – Scotland will break away, there will be upheaval in Ireland, a recession … broken trade agreements. Then he is also finished. Boris Johnson knows all of this. When he acts like the dumb blond it is just that: an act.
The Brexit leaders now have a result that they cannot use. For them, leadership of the Tory party has become a poison chalice.
When Boris Johnson said there was no need to trigger Article 50 straight away, what he really meant to say was “never”. When Michael Gove went on and on about “informal negotiations” … why? why not the formal ones straight away? … he also meant not triggering the formal departure. They both know what a formal demarche would mean: an irreversible step that neither of them is prepared to take.
All that remains is for someone to have the guts to stand up and say that Brexit is unachievable in reality without an enormous amount of pain and destruction, that cannot be borne. And David Cameron has put the onus of making that statement on the heads of the people who led the Brexit campaign.
The original comment seems to be buried in the Guardian website where search engines fail me so here it is in a sort of secondhand situ as quoted by the Huffington Press.
If all that’s depressed you, here’s another picture of Rosie…