Act togther?

WP_20170725_004Farce, insanity and slapstick, they have it all.  But what they have in spades is confusion.  Keir Starmer says one thing then Jeremy Corbyn says something else.  The Trade Unions mumble in the background.  A chorus of different voices sound off in every different direction.  Its near on impossible to figure out exactly what policy the British Labour Party has on Brexit.  Just taking one part of the debate around the Single Market and within ten minutes you’ll be totally confused.

Since colourful metaphors seem to be the order of the day and trade is at the heart of many discussions, here’s a maritime one.  Yes, a storm is raging and the Conservatives are the dangerous navigators who are pointing the ship of State towards the rocks but Labour are the wreckers on the beech who are luring the ship to its doom.

I have no care for the Labour Party but I do wish they would get their act together.  They need to look in the mirror and ask themselves the question: what is it we stand for?  It matters for future generations what happens over the next months.  If the Government goes for the most extreme form of Brexit then the outcome will severely impact everyone.  Now, it maybe that the Labour Party fully intends to continue to ally itself with the Conservatives.  They are even receiving warm praise from UKIP.  I call that insane but it’s their choice and they had better be clear about it.  In such a case millions of progressive British people are being betrayed.

Don’t Carry On – Change

WP_20170725_001One definition of “stupid” is to keep doing the same thing but, at the same time, expect a different outcome[1].  There’s a time when change is not just desirable but necessary without delay.

On the backfoot, the defensive stand being taken by Brexiters is now a simplistic yell of – stop being negative – be negative about climate change – be negative about media bias but don’t be negative about a failing pet political project.  Social media is full to the brim with this chanting.

The insistence that everyone should be positive about the gloomy daily diet of Brexit news is repeated constantly.  At the same time, it’s no real surprises that the latest official data on the UK economy shows bad news.  This is a familiar story as there have been plenty of warnings about gathering storm clouds.  Many have been prompted to take contingency measures or hunker down.

Now, the messengers are being targeted for sounding their warnings.  Somehow speaking clearly, calmly and objectively is equated with being unpatriotic.  The Brexiters formula is that, on all occasions, people should smile and be upbeat regardless of the impact of this self-imposed calamity.  To not do so is to let the side down or to support a, so called, “enemy”.  The wise know that the cold reality is that shutting our eyes to negative information doesn’t make it go away.

My response to this thoughtlessness is in aeronautical terms.  If a warning system is telling us to take emergency actions then it’s imperative that it be taken.  No delay.  Now is the time to change.  There are far too many who have ignored warnings and as a result are not here to tell the tale.  Exit Brexit without delay.

[1] “Stupidity is doing same thing and expecting different results” said by Einstein.

What’s being lost?

WP_20170719_008We do seem to be getting a lot of Brexit related announcements.  There often of this flavour: “Great victory – things stay the same[1]”.  Or “Success – something is not getting as bad as predicted”.  This is most peculiar.  Never has the status-quo been so advanced as a shining example of achievement.

The other strange phenomena are the; it was going to happen anyway but look how wonderful we are – we made it happen.  It’s our great achievement.  Passing off actions as their own, Government sidesteps the facts for the real propaganda value[2].

The problem is that a lot of people are swallowing this boloney hook-line-and-sinker.  Ministers are putting their foot down all over the place to elegise about everyday continuity.  I would not be surprised to read tomorrow’s headline as reading: “Sun rises again due to the popularity of Brexit.  Minister says; predictions of Armageddon were misplaced (for now).”

I’m not a one for reading lots of business books but there are one or two on the shelf.  By the way, we have an Austrian economist to blame for coining this phrase: Opportunity Costs.  If a country, like ours, loses the opportunity to earn income, whereas it could have done so by making a different choice, we can call that income lost Opportunity Costs.

I wonder if anyone is doing the sums to add up the lost Opportunity Costs of Brexit.  It’s not easy because the sums should include investments that weren’t made or businesses that didn’t start-up. That said, the tangible items, like; businesses that moved away or trade deals that will be exited should be easy to add up.  I guess, the answer is a huge and growing number and one that Ministers can’t face.  Now wonder this Conservative “magpie Government” must steal news from the everyday.

[1] BMW to continue to build cars in Oxford.

[2] EU action on unfair credit card fees.

Good and Bad

WP_20170719_010There’s some good news.  It’s not often that can be said in this rather peculiar time.

There’s some bad news too.  So, let’s go with the bad news first.  It occurs to me that an enormous amount has been written about Brexit but little of what’s written is getting any traction in turning around the ridiculous situation we find ourselves in.  It’s assumed that the rift between IN or OUT, Remain or Leave, Pro or Anti is unbridgeable.  However, day-after-day, people are leaping over that rift and regretting their vote to leave the European Union but, now, not much is changing.  I want to add one more reason why people need to take that leap forward and reject Brexit.  The reason comes in this shape and it has much to do with my experience with rules and regulations.

Whatever you do in life things go wrong.  Accidents happen.  Errors get made.  Failure occurs.  It really doesn’t matter if you come from the left, right or centre of politics.  Stuff happens and one of our expectations is that Governments, wherever they are, will fix problem stuff.  You might say; what the point of them if they don’t?

What’s concerning and dangerous about the current Brexit obsessed Government has hit us before.  It’s the phenomena that is so easy to see in hindsight but difficult to see when it’s happening.  It’s often called; groupthink.  Laws get made, regulation get amended and decisions get taken in a way that doesn’t consider the impact.  That’s where we are today and its really is bad news.

Next for the good news.  I welcome Vince Cable as the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the UK.  There’s a huge gaping gap right at the heart of British politics.  A massive vacant spot to occupy.  The right is in its fox hole.  The left is up on the barricades.  Nobody is addressing the clear majority of sane, sober and honest people who just want the best for their community and their Country.  The good news is that there’s an opportunity to offer an alternative to the blind groupthink of the extremes of left and right.  A positive, progressive internationalist centre ground Party will go far.

Not long at all

Remarkable again – yes, it’s less than three and a half years to the year 2020.  It doesn’t seem five minutes ago that the millennium was all the talk.  That strange construction; The Dome was the darling of the newspaper columnists.  At the turn of the Century, I had imagined we would have flying cars by 2020.  Just like that crazy flying taxi driven by Bruce Willis in the 1997 movie The Fifth Element.  Incidentally, his screen character was called Korben – sound familiar?

What I’m getting at is that there aren’t many really big projects that get launched and delivered in only three and a half years.  Hang about, it’s just over three and a half years to the next UK General Election.

One might reasonably suppose that the mechanics of Brexit are going to prove to be massively more complex that even a latter day managerial pessimist might think.  Three and a half years to rewrite a vast catalogue of legislation.  Three and a half years to deploy world class negotiators left, right and centre.  Three and a half years and no other monumental events get in the way?

This could be 42 months of; let’s see how it goes.  There’s a grand number from the book of science fiction humour – 42: The answer to Life, the Universe and Everything.  I wonder what Douglas Adams would have thought about the referendum and all its characters?

We are in a period when the ship of State is sailing through a storm that rises and falls in an entirely unpredictable manner.  As the Brexit project gets underway it will be shaped by the frequent storms ahead.  By the time we get to the run-up to the next General Election what we call Brexit is likely to be a very different thing from what it’s imagined to be today.  The public mood will be different too.

I’m hopeful that the reality of this situation is that a new accommodation can be found that doesn’t disconnect the UK from the rest of Europe.  Our shared problems will remain our shared problems.  Our shared solutions may continue to be our shared solutions.  All but the precise shape and form of our international relationships will be different.  Let’s be positive and optimistic.

High Summer

IMG_0485Isn’t it remarkable?  One month has passed, a lot has changed and yet not much has changed.  It feels as if the thick dust that was kicked-up by the European Union referendum might be permanently in the atmosphere.  Gravity just doesn’t want to do its job.  There’s enough hot air rising to counteract anything gravity can do, at least for now.  You could say the debate continues.  The burning issues have not been resolved, it’s more a case of shaken and stirred and then repeated. 

I’ve been driving between Staines and Reigate and there are still plenty of signs of the referendum around us.  Today, I passed a roadside bin with a blue “Stronger IN” board sticking out of the top.  Traveling down the M25 motorway, or up depending how you look at it, there’s a couple of large Union Jacks in the hedge rows.  One or two cars display campaign stickers and the subject is never off the radio as I sit in the endless stream of traffic in the hot weather. 

I can hear someone saying – why don’t you take the train?  There’s one answer to that suggestion and it’s called: Southern Railways.  Everywhere the high summer heat is taking its toll on travellers.  In the South East, there’s a reason for annoyances and short tempers.  Add a whole truck load of uncertainty.  Then see the Pound devalue just before holidaymakers’ rush for the beaches and the mix is bound to produce a sour mood. 

Delay is needed.  The case for saying that little of any sense is going to be said for another month isn’t too far short of the mark.  Some cooling air is needed.  Gravity must do its job and settle the dust too.  Then reasoned arguments for and against courses of action can be heard and properly debated.  Whichever box people put their cross in a month ago they have a right to expect a level of sanity to prevail in cutting the best deal for the Country.  In my mind that means everything is still on the table before any declarations are made with respect to the triggering of the famous Article 50 and beginning the real process of the UK leaving the EU.

Don’t crash

Pride kills a lot of people.  What I mean is the refusal to take advice in the face of overwhelming evidence.  In flying that’s ignoring bad weather and pressing on regardless.  Alternatively, it could be; not seeing the ground rapidly come up to meet you.  Yes, flying into hills or mountains a common way of crashing a plane.  It’s often fatal.  Experience shows that; being too slow to react to an oncoming threat is a sure fire way to crash. 

To try to prevent pilots accidentally flying into terrain of any kind a clever piece of kit was developed that shouts out a warning.  It calls out “pull up” when it thinks the aircraft is in peril.  Even with this stern warning there are still cases where the warning is ignored and an accident happens. 

This goes back to stubborn human pride.  At what point would you admit you’re wrong and turn back or in the case mentioned forcefully “pull up”?  For able and confident people, it’s hard to admit that maybe we made an error.  Being objective, accepting a mistake was made and then correcting it is a successful strategy but it’s not at all easy. 

I’m putting this notion forward as an analogy to Britain’s current situation.  I have difficulty imagining at what point we would say; that’s enough social and economic damage, we were wrong.  Now we are going take a deep breath, step back and fix the problem. 

Political pride can be even more dangerous than professional pride.  There’s a huge set of barriers to being objective and taking the long view.  The recent EU referendum was all about short-term issues.  A hunger for a quick fix overtook a majority of voters and drove us towards danger.  The pending problem of Brexit is like that mountain in front of the aeroplane.  Today we are flying right at a steep mountain cliff.  So, at what point will the British Government say; right that’s enough? 

At what point will the damage done be so great that the signal to turn back is sent?  Surely there must be a point.  If there isn’t one, then a crash is certain. 

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.