Think again

At the time of the vote I said; the Brexit campaign has no plan.  There was a huge chorus that said; the Brexit campaign has no plan.  We now know that there was no plan for Brexit. 

During the EU referendum there was no clear vision as to what constituted Brexit.  Several different views cobbled together in an awkward coalition made-up what became the Brexit protest vote.  There was no coherent vision of a world after Britain left the EU.  Except to say that every economic model that had been run showed a poorer Country after the event. 

Today, it’s unbelievably preposterous to criticise the Government for not having a Brexit plan.  It’s those advocates of Brexit who should have had a basic plan who are the critics.  I find this situation the epitome of hypocrisy.  Instead of getting down to work to save the Country, the Brexit camp are carping on the side-lines. 

In June, the Government of the day firmly backed a Remain vote.  Just imagine a national football team going into Euro 2016 with a game plan to loose.  All efforts were rightly dedicated to remaining in the EU.  Being serious about winning means committing 100% to winning. 

The strength of the Brexit protest vote swung the result by a small margin.  People angry about issues that had little or nothing to do with the EU came out to protest.  If there’s fair criticism of the campaign to Remain it’s that these issues were not adequately addressed. 

However, if the EU referendum was re-run in the coming months there would be a clear win by the Remain vote.  Having tasted just the first part of the chaos to come even the most hardened protest voter is likely to think again. 

Getting it wrong

Firstly, my thoughts are with all those who perished as a result of the war in Iraq.  It’s little consolation to say that the Liberal Democrats were right in opposing this war.  I joined the million that marched the streets of London on a cold day in 2003.  We were roused by stirring speeches that the Government of the day promptly ignored.  As is the tradition, the jingoistic newspapers of the time shouted in their nastiest voice.  Not much has changed in that respect. 

I think the relationship between Britain and America is extremely important.  However, what of Sovereignty, a word used frequently during the referendum campaign, if Britain does whatever an American president asks?  Going with the flow is hardly the act of an independent State.  When “group-think” takes hold there needs to be a powerful counterbalance but we don’t have one. 

Learning the lessons from history is absolutely vital.  It’s shocking that it takes so long for the facts and truth to come out when major events are concerned.  Delay in justice just protects those who are negligent and allows the dangers of reoccurrence of poor decision-making.  We need to redouble our efforts to use proper scrutiny in Government and in Parliament. 

In Britain, we do seem to have the capacity for making the most appallingly poor decisions.  Huge ones that shape our destiny.  For a Country full of so many able, well-educated and talented people it doesn’t stop us from screwing-up big time.  The fault line is not with the people but with our prehistoric manner of governance.  Yet, reform meets a high wall that blocks any attempts at a more progressive approach. 

Looking ahead; I suppose I will be nearly 70 when the report is published on the disastrous choice to leave the European Union.  Maybe they will call it the Cameron report to remind the Country of the gambler who plunged us into an abyss.  It will be those people who are 20 years younger than me who will be carrying the burden on their backs.  Adjusting to being a poorer nation in the world will not be easy.  Now, slowly we are heading towards £1 = 1 euro = $1.  Expect one British industry to succeed in this new world order – tourism.  Time to open a B&B or Tea Shop. 

Our place

IMG_0886The outcome of the EU Referendum has left many of us shocked.  There’s still a sense of disbelief that a small majority is driving such a massive change in this Country.  The emotional bonds that bind Europeans are deep rooted.  That’s a reason why having this terrible divorce forced upon the nation is overwhelmingly depressing.  One foolish gambling British Prime Minister threw the dice and lost his shirt and ours too. 

Every citizen in the European Union is European.  Granted the EU is one part of Europe.  Our European family comes together in different ways and it can be counted as over 50 Countries.  Although Britain sits at the North West corner of the continent its every bit as European as the continental mainland.  There isn’t a moment in our history when our affairs haven’t been intertwined.  Even the builders of Stonehenge traded with tribes beyond these islands. 

It was fascinating to listen to the author Clive James on Channel 4 News, last evening.  Although he edged towards the leave camp his overwhelming reflection was how embedded we are in European culture.  Any view from afar places Britain firmly and squarely in Europe.  Socially, culturally and geographically our place can’t be denied. 

Now, in these uncertain times there are more questions than answers.  Uncertainty isn’t just about numbers it’s about how people feel about the future.  Ironically, prolonged uncertainty may be one of the only certainties in the next couple of years. 

My truth


There’s a difference between lies and exaggeration.  Oh yes there is.  I faced the argument that – both sides lied in the EU referendum didn’t they?  It not uncommon for people to become cynical about politics and politician’s and that’s a reason they give; none of them can be trusted.  Post referendum this notion is embedded more than ever it was in the minds of the British people. 

We might ask – what is truth.  Equally – what is exaggeration?  There’s a real distinction.  It’s reasonable for a passionate argument to spill over into exaggeration but it’s NOT when it moves to downright lies.  Say for example, we have a whole pile of adjectives in the English language that emphasise the largeness or smallness of a number but they don’t change that number.  If I said; an “extremely large” number of people instead of a number of people, you’d take it as read. 

Newspaper headlines that scream: “£350 million a week for NHS” quoted from those with no intention of delivering that funding are deliberately false promises (lies).  Soundbites that say: “Brussels tell us what to do” are crude distortions – that’s a kind of selective lying.  Like saying; “I hold a banana in my hand” when in fact it’s a beetroot. 

The EU referendum was won by only a tiny margin.  That tiny margin of British voters were swung by misinformation, distortion and deliberately false promises – yes; lies.  It isn’t clear where to go from here but it’s a dreadful place to start any journey.  Humpty Dumpy really has fallen off the wall. 

My biggest concern is that capable, honest and passionate people will become silent because they have been drowned out by unchallenged cheaters.  Good people will steer away from public life because it’s so horribly tainted.  Talented young people will seek their fortunes elsewhere as a new British “brain drain” kicks off. 

It will take more time for the “dust to settle” but this should not stop us challenging the result. 



Yes, I did go to Sunday school.  At the small parish church in Horsington.  St John the Baptist’s has all the features you would expect of an English village church.  Back in the 1960s a small area was set aside for Sunday school.  I hear there’s still a children’s corner in the Church.  Also, as a family we attended the Methodist Chapel in South Cheriton.  Contrasting with the CoE, this was a place where animated lay-preachers offered a more down to earth view of heaven and hell. 

I’m telling you this just to give a little background on what shaped my view of right and wrong.  A lot more than this youthful experience seeped into my subconscious as I became agnostic about religion.  Being sceptical probably came more from non-conformism, my secondary school teachers and my argumentative nature than any sermons or doctrine. 

Out of a vibrant mix in the 60s and 70s, I developed a rational way of looking at the world and a strong sense that people should tell the truth.  That there are such things as provable facts.  That progress is the natural order.  And that you help yourself by helping others.  Now, this all sounds strangely retro as I reflect on what has happened over the last few weeks. 

Taking the UK out of the European Union will be hugely complex.  A lot of people said it would be hugely complex.  Many sound arguments were set out as to why it would be hugely complex.  Regardless of all that this is the path that has been chosen by a majority of voters in the UK all but by a small margin.  That said, I can’t help but think that a deception has been practiced on the British people.  So many half-truths and nefarious speculations were put-up on banner headlines.  Dubious statistics and manipulated facts presented bright and colourful did sway the direction the vote took. 

Now, a flurry of back tracking is underway.  Quick comparisons with before and after interviews make it clear: a week really is a long time in British politics.  Outcomes are manifold but one is to reward those who made the biggest exaggerations and told the dodgiest selective stories.  So, how can this be right?  I guess, it isn’t. 

How do you feel?

Difficult to put into words but here goes. Let’s be clear, this is NOT a minor political disagreement.  It’s right to be angry on behalf of the people who were deceived.  It’s right protest against the legitimisation of xenophobia.  It’s right to disagree with the referendum result.  If we had just voted to restore the death penalty or instate apartheid, I’d continue to be strongly against it whatever the chance of change.  Especially if that change happened by a vote with a small percentage margin.

Some are feeling helpless and disillusioned but that’s not me. I sit with tempered anger and a seething fury with the dishonesty of the LEAVE campaign.  A lot of the LEAVE campaign leaders are scoundrels and they should not be rewarded for their actions.  There’s also the terrible feeling of – couldn’t we have done more – that’s always there when the clock stops.

Transforming the raw emotions of the last few days into motivation and action is going to happen. It just might take a little more time of pain and grieving.  I haven’t lost the last four decades but may have to reflect of them as a golden era.  A time when grand ambitions could be realised. Yes, I know I have been exceedingly fortunate in life. Being in the right person in the right place at the right time.  That was back in mid-2004 at the interview for a job in Europe.  I then joined a new organisation that was starting up in Cologne in Germany.  For a decade the comradery and sense of common purpose we had was exceptional.  I don’t use that word lightly; it truly was exceptional.

My own experiences of working in a multicultural place is that its complex. When it’s well managed the results are world beating.  Overall the rewards far, far ever outweigh the difficulties or the costs.  I’m not just being selfish and talking about personal rewards.  The whole of our society reaped the benefits of the work that we did and will continue to do so.

Now, with this vote to leave the EU we are stuck in a “No Man’s Land”. There are no solutions in a kind of British mono-culture.  Similarly, and taking note of why people voted the way they did; there is no solution where big business and newspapers owners get to dictate Government policy.

The fight for this referendum may be over but the fight to determine the kind of Britain we want to be has only just begun.

Divided Nation

I’m suffering the tail end of a summer cold. It’s an annoying inconvenience which, at least, thanks to nature has a beginning and an end.  I started to feel less than 100% on Wednesday and Today; Saturday it’s on its way out.  Ironically, this morning was my first NHS health check-up in a while.  That took place in the surgery around the corner.  Basically, I’m happy to say that was a – you’re fine come and see us again in 2021 affair.

That’s my physical health. If only everything was so simple because early Friday morning it felt like I’d been hit by a large truck.  Went to bed on Thursday night in the expectation of waking-up to a predicable radio alarm and the BBC news rattling off the referendum results as; REMAIN win closely followed by LEAVE.  What I got was exactly the opposite.  What I got was a violent hammer blow.  What I got was frankly unbelievable.

What a blind idiot! I’d said; “trust the people” not knowing the naivety of that remark.  I genuinely thought that there was enough collective wisdom out there to mean that the British people would make a good choice.  The vote didn’t worry me.  I never thought we would all have to live with a result that led to Great Britain leaving the EU.  Hell no – together we couldn’t possibly be as crazy as to make that irrational choice.  Everyone would laugh.  Then everyone would panic.  Then a heavy cloud of sadness would fall.

Here we are on these islands in a truly incredible place. The gravity of events hasn’t yet sunk in.  Monumental changes have been set in motion.  I live in a Country that’s as ideologically divided as North and South Korea.  As divided as East and West Germany was in the past.  As divided as the English were in 1642.  Two completely opposing visions of Britain stand facing each other.  Only one has been given the green light to move forward.  I’m sorry to talk in such binary terms but there’s no other way of looking at the lay of the land.  A small three letter word keeps going around in my head – it’s sad.

Next, I’ll pen some words on why this situation is wrong looking at it from a rational, emotional and an ethical perspective.

Final hours

Hours tick away and the drama of the moment is not lost on anyone. Last night, Ruth Davidson, Sadiq Khan and Frances O’Grady held the Leave campaign to account for their fibs during this long referendum campaign.  Every time I hear a broadcast about the referendum, I can think of more reasons to vote REMAIN tomorrow.

I hope that we can get away from the politicians’ habit of constantly repeating a lie until it becomes a perceived “truth”. If anything that’s the real tragedy of this national referendum.  That said, most independent fact checking favours REMAIN facts far more often than LEAVE assertions.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Those wanting to leave the EU with no plan for Britain are asking for a leap in the dark.  That’s not a wise choice for either the optimist or the pessimist.

I’m fed up with British politicians saying the EU they built is a failure. It’s not.  So many people across the world look upon what Europe has achieved with great admiration.  If Britain chooses to leave the EU, it would not only have an effect inside Britain but also on the rest of the world.

The EU is not perfect. What human institution is perfect?  Our seat at the table means we can shape Europe.  How can we break away and negotiate new deals if we can’t make sound deals next door?

This referendum is a great exercise in democracy. However, let’s not do this too often as it forces divisions between people that will be hard to mend but mend we must.

We need to keep Britain in the driving seat. We must lead, not leave Europe. Vote REMAIN.


“Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear”. William E. Gladstone wasn’t half right. Every time I read an article from a Brexiter its about fear and failure.  There seems to be an obsession with both.  Lines like: “voters cowed”, “never get what it wants …”, “Cameron blew his big chance…”, “We don’t need trade deals…”. Generally, they aren’t an optimistic bunch.  They’re rather gloomy and pessimistic but hold a glossy romantic notion of the 1950s.  True there a few like Johnson who might best be described as a dangerous adventurer or buccaneering buffoon but who would want to put our Country in their hands?  Britain was in decline before it joined the EEC so let’s not go back to those days.

Personally, I’m highly optimistic that Britain in the EU will thrive and grow. The evidence of my experience living, working and travelling in Europe makes this a perfectly prudent thing to say.  Today, it’s in the news that the unemployment rate is the lowest since 2005.  The status of the world’s 5th largest economy was achieved whilst part of the EU.  London remains a cosmopolitan global city. There’s a host of reasons to be optimistic.

World beating engineering companies like Rolls Royce want us to stay in the EU. They value the stability that ensures they can make long-term investments in new technology.  British universities not only gain financially from the EU but profit from a collaborative approach. We are a smart nation.

One chance is all we get at this EU referendum. More than anything else the impact will be felt by those who are just leaving school or university.  For the next 40 years, their world will be shaped by the decision that people will make.  Just as my future was shaped by the 1975 vote. Have confidence and Vote Remain.

Sleight of hand

WP_20160602_07_38_13_ProWith only a few days left to register to vote for the EU referendum, it’s sad to see doorsteps hit by glossy misleading propaganda. The leave campaigners are telling massive whoppers at every turn.  Here are a few examples from a newspaper that came through my letter box this week.

They say: “Britain will retake its empty seat at the World Trade Organisation.” However, the 28 Member States of the EU are WTO members in their own right.  Yes, they speak as one but no seats are empty!  This is a gross distortion of the facts.

They say: “Britain is one of the biggest exporters in the world.” Truth is Britain is 9th in ranking, only just above Canada.  EU Member States Italy, Netherlands, France and Germany are bigger exporters.  Leaving the European single market will not take Britain up the ranking!

They say: “It is estimated that leaving the EU will boost our manufacturing by £45bn a year.” That’s more than a 25% increase!  UK is currently the 11th largest manufacturing nation in the world.  EU Member States Italy, France and Germany are bigger manufacturers.  The prediction is nonsense when compared with the best done by the fastest growing countries in the world.  Better to work with our European partners rather than spurn our successes.

They say: “UK science is not reliant on EU funding”. Just about every scientist you may talk to will disagree with these words.  A great deal of collaborative research work will be lost as the advantageous terms and conditions we have currently will be lost if we leave.  Just at a time when the EU is shifting spending towards innovation and research.

They say: “Agricultural subsidies will be kept.” That’s a huge percentage of existing monies coming from the EU.  So, where’s the bonus that will end fuel poverty and mend the NHS and fund a shortfall in research spending?  The leave campaign are promising the NHS £100 million a week but are they talking about printing money that doesn’t exit?

None of the predictions given by the outers are believable unless you believe in magic. Either that or we have a pack of jokers who are not at all concerned about the facts.  I trust that the British people will not be hoodwinked by such sleight of hand.

The way to grow our trade is negotiating as a powerful European bloc at the WTO.

The way to export more is grow the single market of 500 million that’s on our doorstep.

The way support manufacturing and research is to work with our partners in Europe.  As the expression goes: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Britain will only be better off by remaining in the EU. Proudly I say; we are not quitters.