ET TU BRUTE

 

johnson gove

 

 

Assassination is rare in Britain. But do not doubt that the political knife slipped into Boris Johnson’s back was anything other than a carefully crafted assassination. It began, supposedly, with a leak.

Mr Gove’s wife, Daily Mail journalist, Sarah Vine, e-mailed her husband. The e-mail urged him to be sure to get ‘specific assurances’ from Boris as they were needed in order to guarantee support from Mail editor Paul Dacre and Rupert Murdoch. Inadvertently, this e-mail was copied to a, as yet unnamed, ‘member of the public’ from where it swiftly found itself in the hands of Sky News.

This is a risible proposition. It involves believing that Mrs Vine, who spends her life working at a keyboard, managed, by accident, to type into a copy list, the name and address of someone she did not know. This would be a difficult trick to pull off with the most anodyne e-mail let alone one of the most sensitive e-mails this experienced political wife can ever have written.

It is much more likely that one of Mr Gove’s own staff, with his approval, passed the e-mail to a friendly journalist.  Some effort would have been made to keep Gove’s fingerprints off the ‘leak’. Few journalists today would pass up such a tasty story despite its total implausibility.

It is a mark of the contempt our current crop of politicians have for the British public that they think they can get away with such an obvious manoeuvre. One reason is that they have managed to so often before. Another is that they can rely on the media not to probe too deeply for fear of not being able to run the story.

The purpose of this tortuous stratagem was the sly introduction to Tory Party members of the idea that their house magazines had doubts about Mr Johnson’s suitability to lead the country. Though widespread among MPs, such doubts had not yet seeped out to the Party’s base.

As implausible, and equally contemptuous of British common sense, is Mr Gove’s explanation for his action, delivered with stomach-turning sincerity to the media. Somehow, this experienced politician, now proposing himself as our Prime Minister, had not noticed Mr Johnson’s flaws until hours before he himself was due to lead a campaign to elevate Mr Johnson to the country’s highest office.

It is not as if these flaws were not the subject of much high profile discussion, most notably by Matthew Parris. Either Mr Gove does not read the newspapers, never talks to colleagues and has very poor judgement or he is lying about his motives. In either case he is not fit to be Prime Minister.

Fortunately, as he himself has said on at least nine occasions, it is not a job for him. So why risk all the pain and notoriety in pursuit of a job he doesn’t really want and probably won’t get? This is better understood if you remember that Mr Gove is not just keen to get Britain out of the EU, he would like to destroy the whole thing. Among the true believers in Brexit there were real doubts that Mr Johnson could be trusted not to sell them out in the negotiations.

Their problem was Mr Johnson’s popularity with the 150,000 rank and file members of the Conservative Party. The rules for the election of a leader require its MPs to agree a shortlist of just two candidates from among all those who put themselves forward. The members then choose.

There was real anxiety among the Tory brexiteers that if Mr Johnson was on the short list he would win. Thus the only option open to them was to keep him off the shortlist. But how to guarantee that without risking the ire of a membership deprived of a popular icon?

Given his popularity and his role in winning the Brexit campaign it would be difficult to explain to your constituency party that you had voted against him. Many, perhaps too many, of the Tory MPs would have required a lot of persuading to take the risky course of not supporting Mr Johnson in the ballot.

Better, then, if he were not to compete to be on the shortlist in the first place. So, how could this be arranged? Well, we have just seen how, live on TV. This is exactly the kind of scheme that would have come quickly to the mind of Mr Gove’s controversial advisor, and leading Brexit organiser, Dominic Cummings.

As always when such murky events occur, ask yourself cui bono. Who would benefit most from the defenestration of Mr Johnson?  We know the answer already: Theresa May. Mr Gove is too experienced with the Tory Party’s ruthlessness to have had any illusions about his chances of seizing the crown. So why help Theresa May despite their well-known spats?

Never underestimate to ability of politicians to overcome personal aversion in the pursuit of power. Mr Gove’s dishonourable act makes Theresa May a shoe-in for leader. It is not only possible; it is probable, that there is a deal. Do not be at all surprised if Mr Gove ends up in a very senior position in a new government playing a leading part in negotiating our exit from the EU.

I have no idea whether what we are witnessing is a carefully constructed operation or just political rats behaving as they are wont to do. We will never know for sure, even when all the memoirs have been published. But I do know that the current Conservative Party leadership is yet again demonstrating its appetite for putting its own, and its Party’s interests above those of our nation.

 

 

Tom Burke

London

June 30th 2016

 

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ON MEDDLING WITH EUROPE

 

forward together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone Joni Mitchell

 

The Second World War welded Britain into a united nation. The pre-war divisions so well portrayed in Downton Abbey were swept away by a successful defence against an existential threat. The bonds forged to unite the nation were the welfare state and the Butler Education Act.  They were the foundations of my journey from a council estate in Plymouth to university in Liverpool and a life spent protecting our environment.

Those bonds have been corroding for some time. Last week they burst. Deciding to leave the EU is as momentous as was the decision to fight on alone in May 1940. Then, as now, it was fiercely contested, albeit out of sight of the public. Halifax, the Foreign Secretary, mounted a vigorous campaign to cut a deal with Hitler and keep the Empire.

In the end, Churchill prevailed and Britain decided to fight on. Then, as now, the consequences of that decision weren’t just unknown, they were unknowable. Then, as now, there was no plan. We made it up as we went along.

There is no plan for how we leave the EU. British voters were not asked to choose between two carefully planned paths to their future.  They were simply asked if they liked what they had or would prefer something else. Given the corrosion of those war forged bonds they took the opportunity to send a compelling message.

A brittle carapace of deceptively bright headlines had long concealed a seething stew of discontents. The Prime Minister’s decision to hold a national referendum on EU membership drilled deep into this reservoir of misery. The pressure released blew away the carapace and revealed the sorry state of the bonds which unite us: young against old; city against countryside; graduate against labourer; Scotland against England; affluent against poor, career against zero-hours contract.

Choices have consequences. The British people have yet to learn those of the choice they have just made. Today’s world is very different from that of 1940. For a start, then there were just over 2 billion people on the planet now there are 8 billion. It is very much more complicated. Our lives have become much more entangled, economically and digitally, as all of us struggle to survive and thrive. It is much harder now for the rugged individualist to do well, whether as a person or a nation.

The voters who chose, whether to leave or remain, on Thursday all did the best they could to do what they thought right for themselves, their families and their fellow citizens. There is something very encouraging about a 72% turnout – more than at the general election. It says much for the strength of our democratic culture that so many of us worked through the confusion created by sometimes malign newspapers to make a choice.

But it says less for a Conservative Party that offered them a choice most had expressed little interest in making and few felt fully ready to make. The constitutional consequences for Britain of the decision to leave the EU are larger than any since the 17th Century. They will reverberate for as long.

It is ironic, therefore, that it should have been a Conservative philosopher, in many ways the intellectual father of the Conservative Party, who warned so forcefully against meddling rashly with hard crafted constitutional settlements. In one of his famous essays, talking about the sovereignty of the people, Edmund Burke wrote:

‘An ignorant man, who is not fool enough to meddle with his clock, is, however, sufficiently confident to think he can safely take to pieces and put together, at his pleasure, a moral machine of another guise, importance and complexity, composed of far other wheels and springs and balances and counteracting and cooperating powers. Men little think how immorally they act in rashly meddling with what they do not understand. Their delusive good intentions are no excuse for their presumption’.

I could not have put it better myself. I have little reason to believe the Boris Johnson has any more idea of how to put back constitutional relationships he has disturbed, to Europe, to Scotland and Ireland, or to the rest of the world, than he does about how to reassemble a clock. But he has played a merry part in taking those relationships apart. The least he owes us for his presumption is his plan for putting them back together.

 

Tom Burke

London

June 26th 2016

 

Posted in Brexit, Business, Campaigning, Changing the Politics, Cities, Domestic, E3G, Economics, Economics, Energy, EU, Europe, European, Finance, In the media, Migration, People, Politics, Poverty, Referendum, The Human Cost | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tribute to Jo Cox – ‘Where we see intolerance we must drive it out of our politics’

 

jo cox guardian

 

Here is the full text of David Cameron’s speech.

I first met Jo in Darfur in 2006 where she was doing what she was brilliant at, which was looking after and saving the lives of vulnerable refugees. And here we are today commemorating her life that’s been lost.

And of course the most profound thing that has happened is that two children have lost their mother, a husband has lost a loving wife, and parliament has lost one of its most passionate and brilliant campaigners, someone who epitomised the fact that politics is about serving others.

Today our nation is rightly shocked. And I think it is a moment to stand back and think about some of the things that are so important about our country. The fact that we should treasure and value our democracy, where members of parliament are out in the public, accountable to the public, available to the public, and that’s how Jo died. She died doing her job.

I think the second thing is that we should recognise that politics is about public service. People who go into public life, they want to act in the public interest, to pursue the national interest, to do things for other people, to make the country, make the world a better place. Politicians disagree with each other. We often disregard what politicians say, disregard each other and the rest of it. But at the end of the day that is what it is about, and that is what Jo showed it is all about.

But, perhaps, most important of all we should value and see as precious the democracy that we have on these islands where 65m of us live together and work together and get on together. We do have peace, we do have stability and we do have a measure of economic wellbeing better than other countries, obviously still to be spread far more widely. And it is all underpinned by tolerance. So where we see hatred, where we find division, where we see intolerance we must drive it out of our politics and out of our public life and out of our communities.

And if we truly want to honour Jo, then what we should do is recognise that her values – service, community, tolerance – the values she lived by and worked by, those are the values that we need to redouble in our national life in the months and years to come.

 

This speech was originally published in The Guardian

 

 

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A message from Smokey. Why I’m #infor Europe @weareeuropeuk

 

smokey pic

 

smokey infor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

smokey pic 2

Posted in Brexit, Campaigning, Changing the Politics, Climate Change, Domestic, Energy, Environment, EU, Europe, Finance, In the media, Referendum, The Human Cost | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Climate Change Activists Should Be Nervous About Brexit

BY EVAN POPP

 

Remain shoot

 

With voters in the United Kingdom heading to the polls June 23 to decide whether or not to leave the European Union, polls are showing a close vote in the offing between those who want Britain to leave the EU and those who want to remain.

“Brexit” would have many implications for the U.K., politically and economically. But another less-discussed impact a vote to leave the EU would have is an environmental one, as experts say Britain exiting the EU may have stark ramifications on the fight against climate change.

“Britain has been the most significant country pushing a higher ambition inside the EU and if you took Britain out of the EU there’s nobody who would really replace the role Britain has played in driving up ambition and the European climate targets,” Tom Burke, chairman of the environmental organization E3G, told ThinkProgress.

The U.K. was the first in the world to set long-term, legally binding guidelines for dealing with climate change when in 2008 the government set a goal of slicing emissions 80 percent by 2050. Burke explained that given Britain’s active record on the issue of climate change, a vote by the U.K. to leave the EU would create a hole in the political forces driving the EU to continue to adopt forward-looking legislation battling climate change.

“Take Britain away from climate change, and you’ve lost quite a lot of the high octane fuel for the whole process,” he said. He added that as a voice outside the EU, Britain wouldn’t have nearly as much clout as it currently possesses.

In an editorial in The Guardian, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Co-Founder of E3G John Ashton struck a similar vein when they wrote that Brexit would cripple Europe’s ability to enact tough climate rules. “Those who cling to an energy future based on coal, oil and gas will now fight all the harder to protect the value of their assets. Just when we need a redoubling of effort, Brexit would gravely weaken Europe’s capacity to act on climate. And its consequences in the U.K. would be calamitous.”

David Baldock, director of the Institute for European Environmental Policy, a research organization that analyzes and develops policies aimed at creating a more sustainable Europe, agreed that Britain leaving the EU could have serious impacts on the European approach to climate change. He told ThinkProgress that Brexit could provide more political latitude for members within the EU that are hesitant about the strictness of the EU’s 2030 climate and energy goals.

“It may provide countries like Poland, who are more skeptical of the 2030 targets, an opportunity to question them,” Baldock explained.

Baldock also said the EU is trying to agree how to meet its 2030 climate goals and Britain leaving the EU during that would be a huge distraction. “If Brexit comes about it’s going to disrupt those proposals,” he said.

The U.K.’s 2008 climate initiative contained efforts to transition Britain to a low carbon economy. However, aside from taking key political muscle away from the EU’s push for climate reform, Brexit would also harm Britain’s own efforts to transition to a low carbon economy, Burke said. He explained this would come as a result of the economic hit the U.K. would take if it leaves the EU.

The economic impacts of Brexit on the U.K. are well documented, with most independent observers predicting an economic downturn if Britain leaves. Burke said Brexit will cause a large degree of economic uncertainty, leading to a freezing of many investments of all different kinds and a diminished amount of funds available.“You’ll have a government that has no money to invest in a shift to a low carbon infrastructure,” Burke said.

An economic crisis would instead make Britain less apt to move away from investing in oil and gas, Burke said, which are larger revenue generators. As ThinkProgress previously reported, the British government has strongly supported fracking amidst increased anti-fracking activism, and the current conservative government has opposed subsidies for renewable energy and permits for wind power. Burke said an unwillingness to move away from oil and gas could lead to Britain being left behind in the transition toward low carbon energy.

It’s worth noting that many of the leading campaigners in favor of the U.K. leaving the EU are climate change skeptics.

Additionally, Brexit could potentially have an impact on the EU Emissions Trading System. Britain could opt to stay a member of the EU ETS if it leaves the EU, but would lose its seat in negotiations regarding the system. At the very least, Britain departing from the EU would complicate matters for the EU ETS.

Baldock noted there has been very little conversation about the environmental consequences of Britain leaving the EU. The debate over the impacts of Brexit has instead primarily focused on the economic ramifications of the vote as well as questions about Britain’s role in the refugee crisis.

Burke added that print media has done a bad job explaining to the public the stakes involved in Brexit. “You are looking at a public that’s pretty poorly informed about the actual consequences and has been, in a sense, left to see this as some sort of internal battle within the Conservative Party, which to most sensible people doesn’t sound like a compelling reason to join in,” he said.

A decision to leave the EU is one that could haunt the U.K. in years to come, Burke said. “You can’t reverse this, if this happens, if the voters decide to leave then you’re talking about a complete change in Britain’s position in the world with very long term consequences.”

 

 

This article was originally published by ThinkProgress

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It’s a cruel deceit to blame all our problems on immigration

By Owen Jones

 

Brexiters cynically attribute social ills to incomers. Those who believe them may soon face a harsh truth

 

jobcentre

 

Our country is simmering with anger and frustration. There is no shortage of social grievances that, long unaddressed by politicians, are a source of considerable bitterness. But whether it is a lack of affordable housing and secure jobs, stagnating living standards or underfunded public services, all these grievances have increasingly been seen through the prism of immigration. And that is what the passions generated by this referendum are really all about.

Consider my hometown of Stockport. Here is a post-industrial town with many problems but few immigrants. According to the last census, just over one in 20 of the town’s inhabitants were born outside Britain or Ireland. The biggest single group of foreign-born Stopfordians are Pakistanis, and they represent less than 1% of the population. People are not flocking to my beloved hometown: in fact, its population is slightly falling. And yet in the last general election immigration was enough of a concern to secure Ukip third place in Stockport. In the impending referendum, a substantial proportion of Stopfordians will vote to leave the European Union – above all, because of immigration.

The story is repeated elsewhere. Clacton is the only British constituency to have returned a Ukip MP, and yet the proportion of immigrants living there is far below the national average. London, on the other hand, is a city of immigrants: nearly four in 10 of inner London’s inhabitants are foreign-born and white British people are now a minority there. In London Ukip is a fringe party and polling suggests the capital will decisively vote remain. London is awash with social problems: a housing crisis, increasing levels of low pay and insecure employment. But these problems are not overwhelmingly seen through the prism of immigration – unlike my hometown, where the number of immigrants is low.

Take some of Stockport’s problems. Thousands of families are trapped on social housing waiting lists. Nearly a quarter of the town’s workers are paid less than the living wage, and low pay has been increasing. In the ward I grew up in, nearly one in three children live in poverty and public services are under pressure. However, while the reasons include a failure to build council housing, the lack of an industrial strategy to promote skilled secure jobs, economic policies that have slashed living standards and cut services, these culprits are not readily identified. Immigration has become a convenient framework to understand ever growing social and economic insecurities. And many of Stockport’s citizens believe that the best opportunity to overcome problems that make their lives harder is to vote to leave.

In the run-up to last year’s general election I met a woman in Southampton whosebenefits had been sanctioned. She had been driven to food banks. But she did not blame the government’s policies on social security, she blamed immigrants, because she believed they were taking jobs, leaving her with insufficient job interviews to satisfy the jobcentre. This is not to berate her, or my fellow Stopfordians. This is the fault of people like me.

We have failed to present a compelling story about the causes of the social problems that scar British society. We have argued that these are the consequences of a nation rigged in favour of a tiny elite; a society that prioritises market forces over human needs and aspirations. But if people even heard us, they were not convinced. And in that vacuum immigration has become a catch-all explanation for grievance after grievance. Whatever the result in two weeks, this referendum is only cementing the role of immigration as the root of injustice.

The leave campaign knows all this as it continues to conjure up demons that will be difficult to lay to rest. It is offering dishonesty, snake oil and outright deception. Those expecting that a British exit from the EU will diminish the insecurities they face have an unpleasant surprise in store. Most immigrants come from outside the EU. The leave campaign argues that non-EU immigrants are discriminated against – if the leavers are not being disingenuous, this means that the number of non-EU immigrants would increase after Brexit. In fact we are forced to employ immigrants because of government policies: last year Britain was recruiting one in four nurses abroad after slashing nurse training places.

One of the main concerns about immigration is a fear of wages being undercut. But agency workers are only guaranteed the same rights as full-time workers because of our membership of the European Union and its agency workers directive. The Conservative party resisted the implementation of this directive, and a future rightwing Tory government led by Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith would cast it on to the bonfire, along with other workers’ rights – so allowing the wholesale undercutting of wages.

The leave campaign even cynically toys with the rhetoric of leftwing populism. Its opponents are bashed for being the stooges of Goldman Sachs: the very people who zealously oppose limits to bank bonuses, and champion deregulation and lower taxes for the City of London.

If Britain leaves the EU, the people I grew up with will not see social housing waiting lists diminish, because the Conservative government will not build the council housing we need. They will not see secure jobs materialise, because there will be no industrial strategy to create them. They will not enjoy a surge in living standards, because the cuts policy will only be accelerated. A vote for leave has become a vote to slash immigration to solve Britain’s multiple problems. Searing disappointment awaits.

Jeremy Corbyn is berated for not speaking loudly enough for remain, and for not making common cause with the prime minister. But emulating Scotland’s Better Together campaign – where Labour linked arms with the Tories in a campaign of fear – could have calamitous results, with Eurosceptic Labour voters being lost to Ukip. Still, whatever the result, Labour has much to fear, for years of mounting social and economic insecurities have been funnelled into opposition to immigration. Ukip hungrily eyes Labour’s support base for tasty morsels. Corbyn’s party will have to address the bitterness shaped by this referendum – and do it fast.

 

This article was first published in The Guardian

 

 

 

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If we’re to win the climate struggle, we must remain in Europe

 

cop21_agreement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Concerted EU diplomacy helped secure a landmark agreement at the Paris climate change summit. We should not leave the field just as the battle is turning.

Our security and prosperity depend on a successful response to climate change, the most urgent challenge of our time. So does any prospect of a transition to a way of living together that is just and sustainable. And if we fail on climate, we lose the very capacity to shape our destiny that makes sovereignty worth having.

Today’s European Union is, yes, tired, damaged and in need of reform. But without the EU the climate struggle would have been lost already.

It was almost lost at Copenhagen in 2009. But European nations had the vision to stick to the commitments they had put on the table. Acting in concert they avoided a race to the bottom between member states. Europe’s example strengthened the hand of those in Asia, Africa and the Americas who wanted their own countries to do more. European diplomacy helped forge the global coalition that in Paris last year finally forced ajar the door to a post-fossil age. And throughout, European social movements have mobilised across borders to keep governments honest.

The UK was at the forefront of these efforts. Far from undermining our sovereignty, our membership of the EU made it possible to secure our national interest.

Paris was merely the end of the beginning. Those who cling to an energy future based on coal, oil and gas will now fight all the harder to protect the value of their assets. Just when we need a redoubling of effort, Brexit would gravely weaken Europe’s capacity to act on climate. And its consequences in the UK would be calamitous.

Brexit would leave the field clear for those on the right who always hated the idea that by intervening in the economy for the public good we should build an energy system that is clean, efficient, decentralised and driven by the needs of households and communities, not overbearing private corporations.

They would demand the repeal of the Climate Change Act, the dismantling of the Department of Energy and Climate Change, a new dash for gas with even more fracking than is currently in prospect, and the removal of any remaining measures to encourage renewables, energy efficiency and community energy. The record of the leading Brexiters, in whose image a post-referendum government would be shaped, offers no reassurance that they would resist any of this.

This referendum may feel like a Hobson’s choice between rival factions of a self-absorbed establishment, each equally out of touch with how most of us live our lives. Neither faction has much to say about who we are, or about what kind of country we should be trying to build, let alone how to deal with climate change.

But in reality the choice between remain or leave will be as momentous as any we will ever have to make. Those who say this is a choice about democracy are right. We have an electoral system that, far from bringing us together, now widens the divisions in a country too divided already. Our ruling Conservative party, catapulted into office to its own astonishment by fewer than a quarter of eligible voters, is busy dismantling our public realm, while doing its best to rein in our civil society, our trade unions, dissident local authorities and anyone else who might have the audacity to challenge their profoundly antidemocratic project. Even, irony of ironies, our unelected House of Lords.

Our democracy is indeed broken. But it is we who have broken it, not the EU.

Those who say this is a choice about sovereignty are right. The same establishment that talks down to us about the EU from its entrenchments across politics, the media and business fell in thrall long ago to the illusion that markets not people know best; that no public authority, only business, can be trusted to interpret the will of the market; and that the market should never be thwarted in pursuit of the public good.

The market is like fire. It can serve us well if we control it. Otherwise it consumes everything in its path. The crash of 2008 was an invitation to build a better fireplace. But as soon as the fire was brought back under control, those who lead us have chosen instead to keep pouring petrol on it.

Our sovereignty is indeed compromised. But it is we who have compromised it. We surrendered it not to the EU but to a market cult whose high priests are to be found not in Berlin, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Warsaw or Brussels but rather closer to home.

We can win our democracy back. But to win it we must work with democratic forces across Europe, not cut ourselves off from them by leaving the EU.

We can win our sovereignty back. But to win it we must escort the high priests of the market cult from their citadels here at home, not strengthen their hold by leaving the EU.

We need to believe in our democracy and our sovereignty if we are to win the climate struggle. We need to play our part in building an unstoppable coalition of like-minded forces across our continent, as we have in halting (for now) the ill-conceived TTIP trade deal.

If we can do that we will inspire a new generation of Europeans, and reawaken a European project we all now need more than ever in a world more dangerous even than it was 60 years ago.

We should opt for hope by voting to remain.

 

 

This article was first published in The Guardian

Posted in Brexit, Business, Campaigning, Changing the Politics, Climate Change, Conflict, Domestic, Economics, Economics, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Energy Security, Environment, EU, Europe, European, Finance, Oil and Gas, People, Politics, Referendum, renewables, Security, Sustainability, The Guardian, The Human Cost | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our own bad habits have brought Britain to the brink of Brexit – The Guardian

By 

This article first appeared in The Guardian

 

Whether voters decide to leave or remain, we must address failures in our media, culture and politics

 

BORIS PINT

 

Trust the people, that’s what I always say to myself. By and large, over the long term, they will do the sensible thing. Or so I like to remind myself when British voters, as they often seem to do, choose a government I haven’t voted for. But the EU referendum isn’t like that. Its implications feel far more dangerous. And the contest is too close for comfort. Brexit may win.

If this happens, with all the chaotic and uncoordinated consequences it will have for both Europe and Britain, it won’t be because the leave campaign has the better arguments: it absolutely hasn’t. Or because the weight of evidence is on its side: it emphatically isn’t. Or because it is clear what Brexit actually means: it’s a complete leap in the dark. Or because it is masterfully led: that’s not true either.

If Brexit wins, it will be because a majority of British voters have simply lost confidence in the way they are governed and the people they are governed by. That loss of confidence is part bloody-mindedness, part frivolity, part panic, part bad temper, part prejudice. But it is occurring – if it is – in a nation that has always prided itself, perhaps too complacently, on having very different qualities: good sense, practicality, balanced judgment, and a sure instinct for not lurching to the right or left.

So why is this happening here? Absolutely nothing will get better as a result of Brexit, so the closeness of the polls says something new is afoot among us as a people. Why, when it comes down to it, do more people in this country not start from Delia Smith’s wonderfully common sense assessment of the EU last weekend as “in essence … a group of democratic countries attempting to work alongside each other”? Why is it so hard to persuade the British electorate that a corner of the globe in which such quantities of blood have been spilled for centuries, and where life is mostly incredibly secure, is better off together not apart?

We can all write about a Brexit vote being part of a wider trend in modern politics. It’s about globalisation, the crisis of capitalism, widening inequality, fear of the other, rejection of political elites, and the empowerment of the web. Up to a point, these things are all present in the Brexit campaign.

And there is no question either that the EU is far from perfect, not working in fundamental ways, failed in some particulars, too easily beguiled by the head-in-the-sand centralising notion of “more Europe”, and scandalously passive about the needs of its people. The EU certainly has to change.

And yet if Britain walks away, it will be an act of immense political impulsiveness by one of the last countries in Europe that many would expect to behave that way. France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Hungary maybe, according to the old stereotypes. But Britain? How come? We need to be far more honest and questioning about the specifically British things that underlie such an irrational and irresponsible impulse.

British opinion is where it is on Europe because it is paying the price of past and present bad political habits. What goes around comes around. Partly it is payback time because since James Callaghan there has been no British prime minister, not even Tony Blair, who thought of Europe as “us” rather than “them”.

Margaret Thatcher set the template in her campaign for the budget rebate. Ever since British ministers have gone to Brussels to stop things, get opt-outs, cut budgets and scupper common projects. We have never had the confidence to be a team player rather than act the diva. David Cameron’s EU reform package is merely the latest example. Even Blair, who was certainly more comfortable in Europe, preferred to talk about Britain leading rather than playing its part. And we are reaping what they all sowed.

It’s payback time in other contexts too. We are flirting with Brexit because, more than 50 years after the observation by the US secretary of state Dean Acheson, there is still too much lingering truth about Britain losing an empire and not finding a role. The more reluctant our embrace of our Europeanness, the more exceptionalist colonial-era British habits of thought and culture linger on, still subtly influencing the way parts of this country think about defence, hierarchy, schooling, foreigners – and Britishness.

We are paying the price of our media. British journalism thinks of itself as uniquely excellent. It is more illuminating to think of it as uniquely awful. Few European countries have newspapers that are as partisan, misleading and confrontational as some of the overmighty titles in this country. The possibility of Brexit could only have happened because of the British press – if there were no other good reason for voting to remain, the hope of denying the press their long-craved triumph on Europe would suffice for me. But Brexit may also happen because of the infantilised and destructively coarse level of debate on social media too.

It’s payback time too for our failure to modernise and regenerate our politics. Modern Britain is ensnared by a complacent view of the past. We are not a democratic republic, with shared values, rights and institutions, a common culture and an appropriate modesty about our place in our region and the world.

Ours remains a post-feudal state on to which various democratic constraints have been bolted through history. We therefore lack a shared culture, a settled civic sense, a proper second chamber, symmetrical devolution, effective local democracy and, until the human rights act, a clear and enforceable code of citizens’ rights – which of course the anti-Europeans wish to abolish.

And we are paying the price of the failure of each of our political parties. The Conservatives have never been brave enough to move beyond Thatcherism, a failure that will bring Cameron down soon. They remain trapped by an English-cum-British exceptionalism and, in Tory terms, a historically aberrant disdain for Europe.

Labour, trapped in its own industrial-era past, has never fully embraced the reformist potential of its place in British politics and government, and it shies away from any difficult question about the modern world, especially under the backward-looking Jeremy Corbyn, as his speech on Thursday exemplified. The eclipse of the Liberal Democrats and the marginality of the Greens deprive the debate of positive, modern pro-European voices.

Maybe remain will win in the end. I profoundly hope it will. I still just about trust the people to get it right on the night. But unless, and until, this country stops being so passive about these tenacious bad political habits, a remain win won’t make as much difference as it should, and we will continue to sneer and snigger our way towards becoming a broken Britain in a broken Europe.

 

Posted in Brexit, Business, Campaigning, Changing the Politics, Domestic, Economics, Economics, Energy, EU, Europe, European, Finance, In the media, People, Politics, Referendum, Security, The Guardian, The Human Cost | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You need to apply to postal vote by THIS FRIDAY! #POSTIT

You need to apply to postal vote by THIS FRIDAY!

 

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Did you know the recommended deadline to mail your postal vote application is this Friday 3rd June?

Nor does anyone else.
Do it now at j.mp/PostItEU

Although the postal voting deadline is technically 5pm on June 8th, we’re deeply concerned that this date is misleading. To apply for a postal vote you need to register online; find the postal form; print it; sign it; mail it – and then wait for the postie to deliver it to your council.

That takes longer than just doing it online, which is what most people expect. For voters in England, Scotland and Wales* the official guidance is to mail your postal vote application by this Friday June 3rd! 

Luckily for you, today we’ve launched our #POSTIT  campaign and video, so you can let all your friends and family know THIS WEEK. Share our video below on Facebook and YouTube – tell everyone why you’re voting by post, or why others should.

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Why postal vote?

This referendum is going to be close. Every single vote matters and everyone deserves to have a say. Yet hundreds of thousands of voters, mainly young people, will not be at their registered address on June 23rd – whether they’re in Glastonbury, at the Euros, at home with family or holidaying it up in Spain. For these people, to #POSTIT may be the best option. j.mp/PostItEU

Still not convinced?

That’s fine, we’ve always got more data. In last week’s Austrian election Green candidate Alex Van der Bellen defeated far-right Eurosceptic Norbert Hofer by just 0.6% of the vote to become President. Before the 700,000 postal votes were counted … he was behind by 3.8%. (tweet this | share this on Facebook)

So #POSTIT. It can definitely make a difference. Let’s avoid waking up on June 24th outside of the EU by complete accident – share this far and wide today! And of course, if you want to register to #POSTIT yourself, there’s a big red postbox to click below.

 

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Published and Promoted by Tom Burke on behalf of We Are Europe 47 Great Guildford Street London SE1 0ES

Copyright © 2016 We Are Europe, All rights reserved.
We are Europe

Our mailing address is:
We Are Europe
47 Great Guildford Street
London, SE1 0ES
United Kingdom
Add us to your address book

Posted in Brexit, Campaigning, Changing the Politics, Climate Change, Domestic, Economics, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Energy Security, Environment, EU, Europe, European, Finance, In the media, People, Politics, Referendum, renewables, The Human Cost | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Are Europe – You need to apply to postal vote by THIS FRIDAY! #POSTIT

 

You need to apply to postal vote by THIS FRIDAY!

Did you know the recommended deadline to mail your postal vote application is this Friday 3rd June?

Nor does anyone else.
Do it now at j.mp/PostItEU

Although the postal voting deadline is technically 5pm on June 8th, we’re deeply concerned that this date is misleading. To apply for a postal vote you need to register online; find the postal form; print it; sign it; mail it – and then wait for the postie to deliver it to your council.

That takes longer than just doing it online, which is what most people expect. For voters in England, Scotland and Wales* the official guidance is to mail your postal vote application by this Friday June 3rd! 

Luckily for you, today we’ve launched our #POSTIT  campaign and video, so you can let all your friends and family know THIS WEEK. Share our video below on Facebook and YouTube – tell everyone why you’re voting by post, or why others should.

See and share the video on YouTube – click on the image below
See and share the video on Facebook – click on the image below
Why postal vote?

This referendum is going to be close. Every single vote matters and everyone deserves to have a say. Yet hundreds of thousands of voters, mainly young people, will not be at their registered address on June 23rd – whether they’re in Glastonbury, at the Euros, at home with family or holidaying it up in Spain. For these people, to #POSTIT may be the best option. j.mp/PostItEU

Still not convinced?

That’s fine, we’ve always got more data. In last week’s Austrian election Green candidate Alex Van der Bellen defeated far-right Eurosceptic Norbert Hofer by just 0.6% of the vote to become President. Before the 700,000 postal votes were counted … he was behind by 3.8%. (tweet this | share this on Facebook)

So #POSTIT. It can definitely make a difference. Let’s avoid waking up on June 24th outside of the EU by complete accident – share this far and wide today! And of course, if you want to register to #POSTIT yourself, there’s a big red postbox to click below.

*This applies to England, Scotland and Wales. If you’re in Northern Ireland, your application actually needs to be received by this Friday at 5pm – so you probably need to post your form by first class by the end of today. (Share this with your mates!)
*If you’re overseas, the forms may not reach you in time, so the recommendation now is to apply by proxy. (Share this with your mates!)
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Published and Promoted by Tom Burke on behalf of We Are Europe 47 Great Guildford Street London SE1 0ES

Copyright © 2016 We Are Europe, All rights reserved.
We are Europe

Our mailing address is:
We Are Europe
47 Great Guildford Street
London, SE1 0ES
United Kingdom
Add us to your address book

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Posted in Brexit, Campaigning, Changing the Politics, Climate Change, Domestic, Economics, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Environment, EU, Europe, European, In the media, People, Politics, Referendum, renewables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment