straighten up and fly right

WP_20170826_008When I hear Mogg, May, Fox, Hannan and other right-wing Tory politicians talk it reminds me of the fable of the scorpion and the frog.  Actually, that’s not quite true because, although that fable was deep in my subconscious somewhere, it wasn’t until my wife remined me of it that it truly came to mind.

All of this started with me listening to “straighten up and fly right” by Nat King Cole in a coffee shop this morning.  What a great song, by the way.

The story goes like this: A scorpion asks a frog to carry it across a pond.  The frog says; “But won’t you sting me?”.  Reassuringly the scorpion answers; “No. if I did that we will both drown”.  After a moment of hesitation, the frog agrees to carry the scorpion.  Then half way across the water the scorpion stings the frog.  Alarmed, the frog goes; “Why did you do that?” and the scorpion replies in the only way it can “Because it’s in my nature.”

Well having given the controls to the ship of State to right-wing Tory politicians at General Election, what do you suppose is happening in the UK?  The way the situation is panning out, I think we might all be the frogs.  It seems illogical, irrational and downright stupid to dooming us all with Brexit but it doesn’t take five minutes with the evidence to see what’s happening.

If ever there was a time we needed to say to the Government either “straighten up and fly right” or go, it’s now.  Our situation is no animal fable but it is the economic success of the Nation that is at stake.  The creature’s nature is becoming evident as we find ourselves midway in the Brexit negotiations.


Like it or not

WP_20170826_006I shouldn’t start a sentence; whether we like it or not.  It’s too easy to say that a state of affairs is unchangeable and give no proof to that effect.  C.S. Lewis said: “Whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want.” I don’t agree with him but there it is again; no evidence needed because God is invoked.

So, I’ll get around this conundrum and offer some reasons why we just must accept we cannot change a situation that is proving to be more than challenging.

It’s a technocratic world.  Or you could say; the geeks have it.  My reference goes back to the mid-70s.  In that time, we lived in an analogue world.  Yes, there were exotic computers being used and predictions coming from science fiction about robots and endless leisure time ahead but most day-to-day experiences involved simple stuff like a pen and paper and a telephone.

To an extent, early digital equipment started to bring more structure into work life as kitchen table management gave way of planning tools and schedules.  In the 1980s, the widespread take-up of personal computers meant that the creation of elaborate Gantt charts and spreadsheets became every day.  A need for structure and systems gradually overtook the “seat of the pants” way of working.

This was not for everyone, as some organisations considered themselves immune or languished in a holding pattern.  A danger of decline faced those who resisted adopting the latest technology and ways of working.  Generally, the institutes of Government were slow to change.  In particular, the long-lived democratic institutions struggled with the wave of systematic ways of working that have become the mode.

What’s my point?  It’s evident to me that, this week, the signals coming from negotiations in Brussels are not good.  That part of what is going on is a clash between the new and the old.  When systematic and methodical people meet casual, make-it-up-as-you-go along people there’s inevitably a clash.  Who’s in the right or who’s in the wrong hardly matters at all if two parties can’t see eye-to-eye.  Let’s go back to my initial assertion; it’s a technocratic world.  Well it is and the laissez-faire people who try to deny that fact aren’t going to be winners.

Why, oh why, oh why?

WP_20170818_009Given the realisation that Brexit leaves a bad taste in people’s mouth and slowly but surely the public are turning against the politicians who are driving the Country off the cliff, its surprising that those who choose a different course of action are not having more success.  When asked: Brexit would you vote the same again?  It’s clear many people have changed their minds but why are they not being adequately represented?

I think there’s a whole series of reasons.  Like a scatter gun I’ve listed a few here bellow.  Some are big but changeable, some are small but irritating and others hang around like a bad smell.  Here’s my list of mistakes made by pro-European campaigners.

Firstly, recognising that forming ghettos of self-affirming friendly parties hasn’t worked.  Multiple voices in multiple places all with nuanced differences makes for chaos and despair.   Most of all, the inability to form one big coherent group to rally around still evades us.  Yet, pages of history show that one or two great orators can capture a moment and transform a situation.  So far, the great British orator to speak forth on Europe just hasn’t got to the right lectern.  All I can say is; don’t leave it too late.

Secondly, wasting time arguing with trolls, wind-ups and opponents whose wilfully tactics are to keep other people’s wheels springing on unproductive and soul-destroying activity.   It’s so human to want to engage and state why we think and feel the way we do but the web is full of scoundrels who will just tie you up in knots.  The fear of the empty chair is real.  It is to think that by stepping back one’s opponents will have a free hand.  Often the reality is that they will just have an empty room.

Third, is starting off on the wrong foot.  That’s accepting to reason on the ground set by opponents.  It seems obvious but a great deal of time is spent defensively arguing a point of view from the back foot.  I say; Brexiters must justify themselves.  Those forcing changes of massive proportions on a reluctant Country must be made to answer tough questions.  Where they fail to do so, then that’s the place to shine a bright light.

Fourth, backing down when hit with the nastiest of aggressive insults and vile behaviour.  Bullies love Brexit.  It gives them an outlet for anger and rage from deep inside.  The perpetual blaming of “others” but mostly the EU for everything that make people unhappy is just cheap and twisted.  Unfortunately, this taps into something that lingers in the dark condors of human nature.  In the end, the only way to deal with this phenomenon is the way to deal with any bully – stand your ground.

Fifth, not presenting HOPE as the vanguard.  It fundamental that, to win we need a better plan.  Not just a return to the ways of old.  Not just a call for calm and stability, although that’s important.  Not just to dismiss the concerns of others but something bigger.  Projecting a vision of a better Europe where we come together to solve common problems is part of the equation.  Standing on the foundations of western civilisation to make a better world Europe can and will succeed.  Our best hope is a hopeful vision.

Now my list is random and misses a lot but there are points here that need attention.

The scale of the problem

WP_20170818_019Many people are aware of the Richter scale is used to rate the magnitude of earthquakes.  As I waked into a supermarket this lunchtime, I happened to glance the front page of the Daily Telegraph.  It was plastered with another one of those stories about how much safety and richer we are all going to be because of Brexit.  I didn’t have a chair to fall off but if I did I would have fallen off it.  I know it’s the silly season but the ludicrous notions that are spread by the right-wing Press, as a monster face saver, are just beyond belief.  The detail isn’t worth bothering about but the effect of such plagues of wrongheaded wibble are real.  Normality isn’t normal anymore.  It’s disturbing.

It got me thinking that we need a scale to judge the ridiculousness of a Brexit story.  A minor bit of fake news about a foreign cat up a tree could be down at one end of the scale.  Up at the other end is a front-page story so utterly monstrously absurd that it ruptures the fabric of reality for everyone who reads or hears it.  There may even be a potential for developing a Brexit News Story warning system.  Now, following Mr Richter’s wise thinking, a scale of zero to ten might just do it.  Let’s say:

Between zero and one, not much is felt.  Rationality isn’t disturbed.  Emotions are not aroused.  Any instrument of measurement hardly flickers.

Between one and four you know something crazy is on the table.  It gets a bit tricky just to pretend it’s not happening.   You are starting to feel slightly annoyed.

Between four and five loud expressions, such as; “they can’t be serious” start to become usable.  You really feel you are in the company of strangers from another planet.

Between five and six, damaged reputations are common.  Heavy handed “newspeak” is all over the place.  Bogus university prophets come out of the woodwork to justly the impossible or improbable.

Between six and seven the straight jacket needs to be on hand.  Tin foil helmets are mandatory.  Everything is scribbled in fine green ink.  Fever pitch anger oozes out of radios upsetting even the hardest heart.

Between seven and eight the total devastation of normality starts to occur.  Lemmings fling themselves off cliffs.  A rift in time and space seems inevitable.  All British cats become millionaires.

Upwards of eight is a place no none sane wants to go.  Monkeys at keyboards really do start to write better stories than journalists.  The largest ever read or heard piles of nonsense rarely go this far.

My forecast is that over the next 12 months there will be a storm of fives with one or two sevens in certain areas.  We should avoid the eights but there is no guarantee.

Inaction & Confusion

WP_20170814_009There’s so much to indicate what’s going wrong that I’m amazed people are not making more noise.  Pound down, inflation up, pay going nowhere, companies moving off-shore and a trade secretary eulogising about selling sunglasses to the world.  I know it’s the annual silly season but these are real and not imaginary events.  If we don’t take heed of such indicators then further troubles will results with certainty.

Last night, travelling back from Victoria station, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation that made me think that we are living in strange times as a dangerous passivity has swept over the nation.

To my side there were two well-dressed couples probably in their early 60s.  I am guessing that they had been meeting friends at a nice London restaurant for the evening.  Conversation ranged from what their friends were doing to the local church.  Then politics came up.  Loudly one of the men said: “no one is going to invest while we have an unstable Government”.  That struck me.  Here we have a sample of prosperous middle England strongly voicing the opinion that the current Conservative Government is going nowhere.  It’s like people know the Government is failing but they are sitting on their hands waiting for better times.  It’s almost as if middle England has gone into stasis.

Another interesting meeting, I had last night was talking to a young Spanish student at the Proms.  He was from Madrid but had been taking advantage of the Erasmus Programme studying maths at Warwick.  The Erasmus Programme is European funding, offering university students a possibility of studying at European universities.  He spoke some German and was an amateur musician.  I couldn’t help but think how insane it would be to make it difficult for young people, like him, to study in the UK.

The mindless insanity of Brexit continues.  Day-after-day examples show just how wrong the direction we are headed continues to be.  Yet, public inaction is the response to the confusion presented by the present Government.  There ought to be a huge outcry calling for Mrs May to go.  Where is it?

Not too late

WP_20170806_001I don’t believe the story that many of those we voted Remain have come around to the idea of Brexit.   What I do think has happened is a lot of people have been turned off the whole debate because of the crude conduct of a great number of Brexit advocates.  There’s the unfortunate “it will be all right on the night” thinking too.   Somewhat because we haven’t been accustomed to extreme politics in Britain there’s an underlying assumption that however crazy the talking, sound, solid and sober people in the background will work it out.  The reality is that assumption no longer stands.

The Leave campaign know what they did. They were singularly cynical about the campaign they ran. Except for the master manipulators most of those who did vote for Brexit had no idea what it meant.

However, in all 48 million did not vote for Brexit.  It’s the future of the whole Country that we should be thinking about and not appeasing the few.  That’s the difference between real democracy and mob rule.

It’s now important to campaign for a reversal of this ill-fated path.   Failure to do so is almost unthinkable.  Young people, now coming of age will be the ones writing the history books.  That story can be one of a new dark age or a brighter internationalist era.  The choice is ours.  As one great, European leader once said: “This is not yet the end … … but it may be the end of the beginning”.

Beginning to awaken to the fact that Europe is better together.

Better Steps

WP_20170804_006What is needed more than anything else now is a good strategy for backing out of Brexit.  It would be ironic if those who criticised the lack of planning for Brexit didn’t have a plan to get out of it.  A road map to turn the ship of State around would help to give confidence to the world.

In the mix are legal niceties, political realities and social upsets but none are insurmountable.

The first of these, legal means, maybe the easiest.  Since there’s so little written to explain what Article 50 intended in terms of detailed process and procedures then invention is possible.  Add to that the fact that those who came up with the original words have expressed the view that the mechanism is reversible.  So, when the moment is right it’s a simple matter for the negotiators to close the books and walk away from the table.

A second factor, the politics, is difficult but day-by-day the whole Brexit road trip is becoming more and more unpopular in the UK.  For a politician worth their salt there must be the sense that, to be on the winning side, the time is right to move away from the hard liners.  To be part of the future it’s time to start making those speeches that spell out what comes next.  Not to be reactive and wait for an almighty crisis but to get out ahead and describe a better future.

On the third point, the social element, the shift could get complicated.  There is no doubt there would be a degree of revolt orchestrated by the diehard supporters of Brexit.   Even if a significant majority clearly show a wish to drop Brexit a powerful, monied and noisy group would kick out.   Unfortunately, that means some conflict may be unavoidable but it would be short lived and sporadic in its nature.

Weighing up the costs and benefits of the above, I believe there’s a clear case to drop Brexit before more damage is done.  The ways and means are not so complicated and are achievable over a couple of years.  How to make all this move forward?  The excepted wisdom of the moment is that a second referendum is needed to test the public mood.   Equally, a General Election could be the trigger for the change.   Alternatively, a realignment of the political parties may be another way to take this step.

Let’s see a confident Britain in Europe and in the rest of the world and do it now.

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.

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.