Posts Tagged ‘Tony Blair’
Welcome to August. At least it wasn’t raining as we arrived at the allotments, but the feeling that summer is passing us by grows by the week. Having seen the forecast for the next few weeks we consoled ourselves with the thought that September can be the perfect time for holidays, but out wretched Monday morning inner voices responded with pigs might fly.
But never mind, it is harvest time here. Our Epicure potatoes have yielded a record crop, our sunflowers are reaching for heaven and the runner beans are longer than Albert’s arms and show every sign of reaching normal lengths. It all prompts us to believe that, given a little effort, man can still fight back against the downward trend in nature’s bounty.
In this regard we drew encouragement from news reaching us from friends in Colchester. The Blackwater estuary has had an oyster fishery since Roman times, but numbers have dropped so badly that catching them has been banned. The devastating decline is due to overfishing and pollution, causing an astonishing 95 per cent reduction in numbers. Determined to fight back fishermen and local conservation groups have teamed up to seek ways of restoring the species, and have just released 25,000 farmed adult shellfish and the plan is to leave them to spawn and keep spawning. It will be their progeny that hopefully will enable the oyster ecosystem to eventually be restored.
Our hope is that initiatives such as this will inspire others. And in terms of just marine life they are badly needed. Research published by the University of Palermo reveals that fish spawning rates are being hit as rising levels of CO2 are absorbed by the sea. “Ocean acidification” is significantly reducing the rate at which monogamous fish couples produce sperm and eggs – known as pair spawning. This wider problem will require a good deal more than local initiatives but maybe, just maybe, our world leaders will pause from their political games to realise that unless we act in unison future generations will have rather more to worry about than borders and national self-interest.
Just words, we hear you say. And you are right. But someone in government needs to begin to consider what is happening in a logical fashion. The verdict of history on our past governments will be damning in that regard. Did Osborne really think through the supposed logic in handing control of our energy supplies to China? Did Blair think through the logical aftermath of invading Iraq? Did Cameron think through the economic implications of talking Britain down in his referendum? Did Hunt think through the potential effects of slashing health and social services? The collective answer is surely no, yet now we hear of honours all round to celebrate failure.
And as gathered in the hut for our breakfast amongst the fertiliser sacks we focused in on a specific example of lack of logical thinking. Without doubt the Brexit vote was heavily influenced by the growing evidence of a great divide in our society with the wealthy becoming obscenely so, and those at the other end of the social scale sliding into poverty. Forget for a moment the moral implications and think instead about the supposed economic logic.
A report published today by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reveals that poverty is costing Britain £78 billion a year. The effects cost £1,200 for every person, and £1 in every £5 spent on public services is needed because of poverty’s effect on people’s lives. The £78 billion includes £9 billion in lost tax revenue and additional benefits spending to address the symptoms of poverty.
Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Foundation, said today: “It is unacceptable that in the 21st century, so many people in our country are being held back by poverty. But poverty doesn’t just hold individuals back, it holds back the economy. Taking real action to tackle the causes of poverty would bring down the huge £78 billion yearly cost of dealing with its effects, and mean more money to create better public services and support the economy”.
There are of course many potential actions. Financing local work initiatives, creating environmental clean-up units, building local health centres …the list is a very long one but there would be just one aim. The creation of near-full employment would reduce that £78 billion by increasing the inward flow of tax, increasing productivity and a general sense of fairness and incentive.
Far greater intellects than ours will have ideas. All we ask is for logical thinking instead of the patronising me-first closed minds of those who supposedly lead us ..to nowhere!
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it’s precisely the opposite”…J.K.Galbraith.
We codgers are gathered in the allotments hut in the manner of cricketers at Old Trafford waiting for someone to turn off the heavenly tap. We have opened all the coop doors but the hens have thus far contented themselves with peering out, and who can blame them? If Brexiteers are determined to dissuade the entire population of Roumania from coming here they should perhaps show them a video of this British Monday morning.
Sooner or later, having eaten our doughnuts at gannet-like speed, boredom will kick in and some of my colleagues will venture out to dig holes in the sea of mud. Those of us more attuned to ennui will stay right here and will ponder on the obsession that so many have these days with the need to feel busy even when doing nothing is the saner option. And what, we who have sat through a zillion sermons will ask, is wrong with boredom. In doing so we will be prompted by the charge being hurled around amongst the toffs – namely that the sainted Theresa is boring.
Given the tumultuous events of recent weeks, it seems to us that being boring might be exactly what Britain needs by the bucketload – boring people steering the ship, making calm decisions that will impact on our future in a positive way. people who are at home with complex issues, who can ignore petty rivalries, and who are more interested in team building than enhancing their own reputation or power base. Sod Tony Blair-style charisma and the cult of the passionate leader. Look where that got us! Sod David Cameron’s unctuous PR or the perpetual posing as a bricklayer by Gorgeous George. We need a lengthy period of careful low-profile government, not an unending version of ‘Love Island’ or ‘Gogglebox’.
As if to reinforce our conviction that our elected ones would be better for a dose of May-like boredom, we read this morning that a whole bunch of them are now propounding the theory that it is their duty to reject the referendum result on the grounds that they don’t agree with it. We had always laboured under the apparent delusion that they are in parliament to enact the will of the people. Sadly egos loom large in the Westminster bubble and, worst of all, such as Eagle, Gove, Watson, Hammond and Clegg imagine that we plebs are sufficiently dimwitted to believe their guff about acting in the country’s interests as they tear the place apart in pursuit of their own vanities.
Determined not to be left out of the spotlight Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin rushed into print yesterday to reassure us that HS2 will go ahead as planned, albeit at costs somewhat different from those originally proposed. “I cannot imagine why some people think it is unlikely”, he boomed. That could just be because on the same day they read announcements that the NHS budget is to be cut yet again, or even the Treasury admission that balancing the books is no longer feasible. It could even be because most rail users would prefer earlier improvements to our abysmal services in their lifetimes, even if top speeds are reduced a tad. But Mr McLoughlin does not do boring, he has a soap-box and intends to use it even if by 2030 all those dynamic businessmen he bangs on about are conducting their deals via virtual reality video-linking.
But be of good cheer – at least we have a Wimbledon champion, and a good one at that. And remember that off the court Andy Murray is a subscriber to the art of boring. And so, on the playing field itself, are the Portugal footballers. On Friday we suggested that the “exciting” stars of France would leave them standing. We didn’t allow for good old boring stubbornness – and we once again proved that we are to predictions what Eric Pickles is to hang-gliding..
On looking out of the mucky window I see that the monsoon has eased. Perhaps we should now join our soaking-wet ‘exciting’ companions, pausing only to mention that being dry keeps one dry?
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” With women now in the ascendancy, against all the odds, the “boring” tag is being trotted out as a way of subtly reducing reputations. Theresa May has been labelled “difficult” by Ken Clarke – a badge of honour, as calling any woman “difficult” means she sticks to her agenda and knows what she wants. Boring? she just gets on with her job, coping with the boy’s club in Whitehall, Old Etonians in power, and a network of Masons at the top of the police force”….Janet Street-Porter.
Albert, the fearless thrower of buckets at foxes as large as sabre-toothed lions, apparently returned to the allotments last night, but there were no more tales of valour this morning. Like many a girl friend in his long-gone youth it failed to turn up a second time. It was, he told us as we cleaned out the hens this morning, clearly frightened out of its wits. We suspect boredom. Either way the episode is rapidly losing its appeal as a topic of conversation.
Bur even that was a more comfortable topic than our prowess as forecasters. Over the past week or so we have used our expert knowledge to foretell victories for Boris, England’s footballers, and an “inevitable” European cup victory for Germany. Last night we completed a hat-trick of failures. From now on we should perhaps temper our traditional scorn of weathermen, pollsters and tipsters.
Thus we were in a somewhat chastened frame of mind when we settled in the hut for our Sir Eric snack. If truth be told we appear to be part of that great British host of don’t knows. But even to us some things are evident, not least amongst them that the decision of Tony Blair to respond to the Chilcot report with a two-hour response including a virtuoso show of emotional torment, followed by a long apologia, followed by a defiant claim that he would do the same all over again, was a mistake. The Great Persuader was spitting in the wind and the media had already written their damning headlines.
Like us vast numbers of people recoil from the worst example in recent history of the blatant abuse of the democratic process, and the lies that led to the deaths of half a million innocents. We still recoil from revelations that British troops were sent into action in ‘mobile coffins’. We still recoil from the realisation that, with a few honourable exceptions, ministers and MPs alike lacked the wit or courage to demand the so-called evidence of weapons of mass destruction that could be launched “within 45 minutes”.
Now those responsible must be held to account. But another priority looms. Democracy requires an effective opposition and right now the state of the Labour Party renders that impossible. Each morning brings more evidence of terminal decline. Today we learn that senior Labour officials are desperately seeking an answer to the question: who owns the name “the Labour Party” and who controls its assets? And against that astonishing background comes news that party membership has climbed by more than 100,000 since the EU vote and now stands at over 600,000 – the highest level since the 1970s. And the word is that most of the new recruits are supporters of Jeremy Corbyn as are most of the existing ones. In the constituency of Angela Eagles – the most prominent challenger to the throne – the local party membership has announced that by a large majority it intends to deselect her.
It all points to one conclusion. Her Majesty’s opposition is about to split into warring tribes and the United Kingdom is about to become a one-party state. And why? Because its elected representatives believe that their democratically elected leader is incapable of leading them to victory, evidence of which was provided by his ‘failure’ to do just that in gaining a ‘Remain’ vote. They have seen the breakdown of the referendum voting patterns which show that Labour voters in their millions voted ‘Leave’ and choose to believe that all it needed was a passionate Blair-like performance to make amends for years of neglect and lack of a champion.
We are not making a party political point here. We really believe that every government requires an effective opposition to hold it to account. If there is one lesson above all others to be derived from the Iraq war it is surely that.
Is it too much to ask that Labour MPs come together to resolve this fiasco. If a leadership election takes place and Jeremy Corbyn wins they should put away their knives and unite in the interests of the country. Or are they so preoccupied with their own interests that they prefer destruction to sanity?
Jeremy Corbyn is not everyone’s cup of tea, but he is an honest and principled man and he and the party faithful deserve better than a lynch mob. And it is perhaps worth remembering that he fiercely opposed the Iraq misadventure which is more than any of the righteous figures now demanding his head did at the time!
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” If two men agree on everything you can be sure that one of them is doing the thinking”…Lyndon B Johnson.
The answer to the question we posed yesterday is Yes – the Welsh valleys are echoing to song. Sadly Ronaldo ended their European Cup dream in last night’s semi-final, and they will long wonder what difference the absent Ramsey and Davies would have made. But either way their achievement will be celebrated by anyone who loves football and its legendary underdogs. The power of team spirit and never-say-die resilience have made this tournament something to remember for ever and Welsh hearts are bursting with pride. As we watch the seemingly inevitable Germany triumph it is those lion-hearted Dragons that we shall quietly acclaim.
We codgers are above all else disciples of the beautiful game, and there was time for little else in the way of conversation as we cleaned out the hens in the driving July rain. By the time we escaped into the sanctuary of our hut we resembled the washing-up dishcloth prior to being wrung out. Our sense of reflected glory had been washed away to be replaced by one of fury. For yesterday had brought two stories that reflected nothing but ignominy and shame.
Everyone knows that the NHS, which in times of trouble represents every family’s lifeline, is in deep trouble. And we know it better than most, having been without an emergency A & E department for two months. Everyone who has had occasion to use an NHS hospital also knows that our junior doctors are the key to its survival. Well almost everyone, for the man supposedly at the helm seems to regard them as toy soldiers in an imaginary war. Jeremy Hunt has followed the example of his predecessor Andrew Lansley in ‘reforming’ the NHS to the point where it is merely staggering along, beset by “efficiency savings” and inhabited by dedicated medical staff whose attempts to cope with the ever surging tide are turning them from saviours into exhausted zombies.
In all the years that I have spent working in NHS hospitals I have seldom met a doctor who is other than dedicated to their patients. But all now carry an air of bitterness and fear at the potential task they are being obliged to carry out. It was no surprise that an overwhelming majority refused to accept the negotiated new contract, and even amongst those who voted Yes one meets many who say that they simply feel “cornered”.
Mr Hunt has for months been banging on about EU membership rather than attending to the real crsis. If the prime minister any longer cares what his health secretary is up to, he should now intervene and prevent the final madness. Hunt now gleefully announces that he intends to impose the contract. If he does there will be a mass exodus and the already dangerously understaffed service will collapse. This is not about pay, it is about hours worked and the safety of patients. The choice lies between loss of face and loss of lives. Hunt must reduce doctor hours to safe levels and in so doing make the most important job in the country once again attractive to young men and women deciding on their career paths. Or he must step down and allow someone else to rescue the sinking ship.
By now we had finished our Eric Pickles sized breakfasts and, with the cursed rain still beating down outside, we lingered to mull over the Chilcot report. Our first reaction is that this is no whitewash – it is thorough and detailed and, in a polite fashion, pulls no punches. There are of course no real surprises. Prime Minister Blair was determined to identify himself with George W Bush and accepted without question ‘intelligence’ about weapons of mass destruction based on the fantasies of a James Bond film script. No thought whatsoever was given to the aftermath of an invasion, and our troops were inadequately equipped. It was arguably the greatest fiasco since the Suez affair, and it cost thousands of lives and untold suffering which continues to this day.
And the man who led this was the very man who just days ago paused from his fortune-hunting to patronisingly lecture us on EU membership. But he was not alone. His ministers failed to question his supposed ‘evidence’, the MOD failed to provide protection for our troops and, with the honourable exception of Jeremy Corbyn and the Lib Dems, the massed ranks of MPs acted like nodding donkeys.
It was not within the remit of Chilcot to trigger charges but human justice demands that they follow. If the authorities decide to sweep all this under the carpet as they did with Doctor Kelly, we pray that the bereaved families will find the inner strength displayed by those of the Hillsborough victims.
It is now beyond doubt that what happened was a war crime. Be it a criminal or civil court those who condemned so many families to perpetual grief must answer for what they did.
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” The consequences of this deception will echo for decades. The invasion unleashed sectarian conflict, destroyed the Iraqi state infrastructure (and people’s future allegiance to it) and created the vacuum in which Isis has flourished. In the UK it has undermined public debate and trust, damaging our political and social fabric”….Oliver Duff. Editor of Independent.
Will they be singing in the valleys come ten o’clock tonight? As we cleaned out the hens this morning my fellow allotments codgers talked of little else than the incredible presence of our Welsh friends in the Euro2016 semi-finals. Their passion and sense of togetherness has brought them to this point, and just might take them to the greatest shock that professional football has ever witnessed. We shall see, but one thing is assured – the megastars of England are hanging their heads in shame.
The thought of a Wales versus mighty Germany or France held our attention until we eventually retired to the hut to hear yet again the heroic tale of little Albert taking on a gigantic fox, but politeness has its limits and in no time at all our attention had shifted to weightier matters. Racists. Some 17 million voted Leave in the referendum and we take great exception to some ‘Remainers’, whose disdain for anyone who dared to take a view other than their own becomes more obsessional by the day, who have taken to branding them racists. Nothing could be further from the truth – to believe that population growth must be controlled to match capacity is not racism.
But it has to be admitted that the people’s rebellion has encouraged some very unsavoury creatures to crawl out from under their stones. Yesterday some of them defaced the memorial to Michael Foot with swastikas and references to the thankfully defunct BNP. Others have taken to hurling abuse at people who are every bit as British as they are. They are few in numbers but their odious presence shames us all. We welcome the prospect of Theresa May as prime minister and hope and pray that she will order the police to crack down on these vermin as never before. If they must daub moronic slogans let it be on cell walls.
Meantime we note with interest that there is now talk of a two-tier EU in the wake of the impending UK departure. The remaining major powers are now talking of “ever closer union”. But many of the “new” EU members oppose any change that involves any loss of the sovereignty and border control for which many of them have fought for so hard. According to Brussels insiders the result is likely to be a two-tiered Union with the Euro confined to the likes of Germany and France. The irony is that in departing, the UK is triggering the very structure that would have persuaded it to stay.
But all eyes today are on the Chilcot report, a tome that has taken longer in its construction than Hadrian’s Wall. At £750 a copy we will have to rely on the media for an early analysis. Yesterday we reported on claims that only our troops will be subject to vilification. That would represent injustice on a colossal scale for one man triggered the events that led to so many deaths and mutilation.
Our dream for today is to see Blair in the dock and Wales in the Final. But then again pigs may fly.
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Life is something that happens when you can’t get to sleep!” …Fran Lebowitz.
Apart from dark clouds the size of Bessie Braddock’s bloomers all seemed well as we arrived at the allotments this morning. Then we noticed the smashed geranium pots. The mystery was solved when Albert arrived. It seems that when he turned up last night to lock the hen-coops he discovered a fox patrolling the perimeter fence. He happened to be carrying a galvanised bucket which he hurled at the would-be slaughterer. Of course he missed his target but managed to destroy our lovingly constructed pyramid in the process. Never mind – at least he didn’t follow the example of Chris Packham and company by reaching for a camera. It seems that the intruder followed the age-old example of News of the Screws reporters by making his apologies and leaving at Usain Bolt speed.
As we cleaned out the intended victims we noted that ‘stepping down’ has suddenly become the in thing. First our dear leader, then Boris and now the dashing Nigel. Without doubt he has built Ukip into a major political force, the threat from which almost certainly led to the Cameron pledge of an EU referendum. But it still has the air of a one-man party and it is hard to imagine other than a sharp decline from hereon.
Meantime the bearded one stubbornly refuses to join the rush for the political exit door. The problem for Jeremy Corbyn seems to be that he is not the usual oleaginous hypocritical politician and that makes a lot of oleaginous hypocrites angry. Their rationale seems to be that he is unlikely to win an election and that his policies are outdated. Right on the first count, but on the second? Helping the oppressed seems a reasonable aim to us. In desperation the would-be assassins point to alleged skeletons in the moth-infested Corbyn wardrobe. Clearly the 2,000-year-old advice about him without sin casting the first stone has passed them by. Even such saintly figures as Kinnock and Blair are now hurling stones.
On yes – Blair. As we gathered in the hut for doughnuts and more tales of Albert’s brave encounter with a fox big enough to eat a lion, our thoughts soon turned to the Chilcot report. It is due out tomorrow, not before time having taken seven years and costing more than £10 million. But the hopes of many bereaved families are resting on it. For far too long they have lived with not only the fact that someone precious has been lost for ever but also the suspicion that they died unnecessarily and in vain. Few doubt that we were taken to war against Iraq on a lie. Even fewer doubt that we did so without any plan for the aftermath. The terrible events in Baghdad of this week remind us that the demolition of every aspect of Iraqi security opened the door to Isis and every other group of madmen in the region.
We realise that we are jumping the gun but we are absolutely appalled by claims in the media that the long-awaited report will be used to prosecute British troops – while Tony Blair will escape scot-free. Prosecutors in The Hague, who usually try dictators over genocide, have confirmed that they plan to examine the 2.6 million word report for evidence of ‘war crimes’ by British troops. This will give fresh impetus to the witch-hunt conducted for years by compensation lawyers briefed by people who claim to have witnessed atrocities. In the heat of battle terrible things do happen, but to date there has been little that could not be pure money-grabbing invention.
But here comes the really appalling part of the speculation. The International Criminal Court has said that our former prime minister will not face charges, even if he is found to have duped Parliament into backing the 2003 invasion that cost the lives of 179 British personnel and tens of thousands of civilians. And caused thousands to suffer life-changing disabilities.
Typical amongst the early reactions was that of Roger Bacon, whose son was killed by a roadside bomb in 2005. “It is outrageous, it is double standards. These soldiers have gone out to do their best for us and yet the guy who took them there is not being looked at”. Another came from Demi Catterall, whose father ex-sergeant Richard is too unwell to speak: “If anyone should be held to account it is Tony Blair. I’m absolutely outraged. The soldiers simply did what they were told – why should they be held responsible for somebody else’s orders? I don’t think they realise the mental torture that these man go through when they’re questioned. They should be celebrated not punished”.
The next few days will bring enlightenment. One glimmer of hope that all sense of justice has not been abandoned is provided by the news that a cross-party group is considering using an ancient parliamentary mechanism to impeach Mr Blair for misleading Parliament.
Meanwhile we can only fume and suggest that if the chattering classes want a real cause for marching this is it!
QUOTE FOR TODAY: “Mr Blair seems puzzled as to why people think he is a war criminal, why people don’t like him. The reason is 179 British dead, 150,000 immediate dead from the Iraq conflict, the Middle East in flames, the world faced with an existential crisis on terrorism. He should face a judicial or political reckoning”….Alex Salmond.
On this beautifully sunny Monday morning we drew comfort from the clear signs that women are about to take over the shaping of our future. The two leading candidates for Number Ten seem eminently sensible and likely to handle the tricky water ahead in a calm and compassionate manner. Across the channel Angela Merkel has let it be known that she has had more than enough of the gloating and adversarial Juncker, and all three seem to recognise that points-scoring and hysteria are not the best way to negotiate implementation of a democratic outcome. As if to confirm the inability of men to face reality Tony Blair – just days from publication of the Chilcot report – toured the TV studios to lecture us on the need for honesty in government. Even as he gabbled, another huge atrocity was taking place in Baghdad.
Meantime the chattering classes were on the march in London. Having been disappointed at the rapid recovery of the financial markets they talked mysteriously of children in tears, imminent food shortages and the growth of a police state. Even worse several complained that it was the great unwashed of the north that tipped the scales for Brexit and World War 3. They are in no mood to listen to anyone who dares to question their own view but perhaps on that point at least we can enlighten them.
At least half of our allotments group voted for Remain, but we do understand the feelings of alienation that undoubtedly influenced many inhabitants of the imaginary Northern Powerhouse to reject anything said by the spin doctors in Downing Street. Heaven knows the Blair and Brown eras were bad enough, but it was almost worse under Cameron’s Conservatives. Headed by a man who openly boasted of being the “heir to Blair”, it has consistently focused its attention on the interests of London and the home counties. And working-class Northern socialists who voted Brexit will have felt equally ignored and betrayed by the various Labour administrations which claimed to represent their values but so obviously didn’t.
Any societal divide is worrying, and as we gathered in the hut for our re-enactment of an Eric Pickles breakfast we reflected on what now appears to be a North/South chasm. But, with the exception of Albert, we are never downhearted for long and in no time at all we turned to the old fallacy about folk being tough up North. And guess what – we have found evidence that even our feathered friends up here are also in the class of Desperate Dan.
Research in the Royal Society’s journal ‘Open Science’ this month covers the wren – that hedgerow dweller of bombastic song whose tiny frame makes it particularly susceptible to frozen winters. The research concluded that the body mass of wrens was approximately five per cent lower in the warmest areas of the South West compared with the coldest in east Scotland. Those in the North could cope with about 70 per cent more days of frost than their southern cousins. This is the principle known as Bergmann’s rule, whereby those species that reside in boreal climes tend to be of a larger size.
In short, they make them tougher up north. Of course anyone who has spent a few days of winter here knew this already. Newcastle, for example, where bare bellies turn blue on the football terraces and young women trot out for the night in skirts and strappy tops impervious to the howling gales whipping in down the Tyne. In London, meanwhile, anything below a muggy 10C is enough to make most pull on their thickest coats and hunker down in the Tube. The wren study cements these cliches in physiological truth.
At the very least the findings should cheer up the football fans who are still in mourning about getting pasted by the minnows of Iceland in the European Championships. We had already guessed that our players are so useless because of their pampered lifestyle, now we can only pray that we don’t draw Greenland next time.
To avoid the risk of offending our readers from the sunny South we hasten to say that in this age of social mobility and indoor loos we are less than convinced about our supposed Northern toughness. But when it comes to our Northern Powerhouse wrens ….!
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” A person who trusts no one can’t be trusted”….Jerome Blattner.
Glorious blue skies and dazzling sunshine greeted us as we trooped on to the allotments this morning. But reports from the south east told us that others are less fortunate. A few days ago our dear leader suggested that a Brexit vote could lead not only to World War 3 but also to the wrath of God – clearly He is rehearsing at the expense of the madrigal singers of Essex. But here all was peaceful and calm, and even the hens seemed happy as we performed our usual rituals.
Once we were settled in the hut for our daily assault on our blood sugar levels, conversation inevitably centred on the referendum and its aftermath. Should the vote go in favour of leaving we suspect that the attitude of the Brussels mandarins and commissioners will change noticeably. The reality is that they need at least the impression of British support to offset the growing rumblings of discontent from many of their member states. Despite the image painted by our Remain campaigners the UK is not an enfeebled nation incapable of facing the world alone. We are the world’s fourth largest economy and many EU countries regard us with admiration, and with their dream of a United States of Europe hanging in the balance the last thing Merkel, Hollande et al need is a seemingly hostile powerful neighbour. And they need our trade for despite the impressions given over the past two months they sell far more to us than we sell to them.
But we suspect that they can discard their worry-beads for the great British public has been frightened witless by the orchestrated campaign of fear. Yesterday we detected signs of that. One lady told us that whilst she dislikes the concept of being ruled by others she must vote Remain for fear of war. Another said that her job in Tesco is the only means of support she has and the prospect of being fired next week is more than she can bear. Yet another said that Mark Carney’s warning of total economic meltdown and subsequent loss of her lifetime’s savings have changed her voting intentions. All complete fantasies of course, but not everyone has the capacity to realise that.
What fascinates us even more than the outcome of the attempt by Boris, Gove, Duncan Smith and the rest to take on the vengeful might of the establishment is the political aftermath. How David Cameron will hold together a government with a tiny majority when around half of his MPs feel affronted by his behaviour remains to be seen. But for us the bigger question concerns the fate of the Labour Party.
Unlike the Conservatives its leadership has shown no sign of recognising the deep divisions within its supporters on EU membership. We are, people such as Hilary Benn, tell us united in our resolve to remain part of the EU. He should try talking to traditional Labour voters. Many feel betrayed, many are bemused by Jeremy Corbyn’s apparent conversion and his admission that there can be no limit to immigration. Yes he did add that the answer is to build far more hospitals, schools and houses but they see this as a pipe dream dependent on a Labour government. And much though many of us long for that day its prospect has been fatally damaged by the autocratic behaviour of the leadership.
Time will tell but we fully expect to be writing tomorrow of an historic event. One in which the Labour leadership saved the skin of our dear leader, and one in which the British people decided that we are simply not strong enough to face the world alone and with our eyes filled with a sense of adventure and pride.
But then again how could any campaign featuring such inspiring leaders as Tony Blair and John Major fail? And at least we will be spared war and plagues of locusts.
QUOTES FOR TODAY: ” Whilst our opponents were busy playing the man rather than the ball, our ‘Leave’ team focused on the questions being asked”,,,,Andrea Leadsome, MP/ “Forget the doom-mongers. One question matters above all else. How should Britain and every other country be governed? Today we must reject technocracy, and vote Leave to rebuild our democracy”….Allister Heath, Twitter @AllisterHeath.
We had some overnight rain – make a note of our thankfulness to use against us when we next launch into fury about having too much. It is often said that gardeners and farmers are never satisfied and there is some truth in that. Our constant dream is of a combination of warm sunshine and gentle precipitation but it seldom happens. But there is no charge for dreaming and right now we have the feeling that we are living in a world of dreams – most of them deeply disturbing.
Like most people we are being constantly reminded that the nation is preparing for a very important decision. That at least must be true since Tony Blair and John Major tell us so. Mind you, as we cleaned out the hens, we did reflect that of all the twosomes we can imagine this is the one that we would be least likely to believe. The referendum campaign rattles on but we have virtually dropped out – an example being our decision to watch last night’s reruns of Black Adder rather than the widely publicised big debate on ITV. The extracts that we saw later seemed to validate our decision. Politicians from both sides of the issue poured venom at each other, and there was no serious attempt to have a reasoned debate.
As we settled in the hut for our daily re-enactment of an Eric Pickles breakfast someone threw down a challenge. Name one politician that you trust. Answers came there none. Never in our long lives have we heard so many lies and ridiculous scare stories. We all know why our dear leader promised a referendum, but it is proving a giant mistake. The electorate is beginning to feel patronised and affronted. Just how gullible do they believe us to be?
Our mini opinion poll may or may not be indicative but for what is worth we are split evenly between Remain and Leave, with Albert certain to maintain his record of never voting. Intentions are unlikely to change now but we are concerned with two issues that never seem to merit mention by the succession of ‘experts’ being wheeled on to centre stage.
Serious economists – as against propagandists – tell us that the economies of at least six Euro currency members will inevitably implode over the next five years. Does that mean that in no time at all there will be no EU to remain part of? Or will a reversion to individual currencies avoid a crisis? It surely merits consideration.
Our biggest concern centres on the ruling by European judges concerning illegal immigration. They have decreed that illegals entering one EU state from another cannot be jailed. They must be left free while deportation proceedings take place, and the eventual granting of the right to deport must be subjected to human rights considerations. It seems to us that the ruling carries enormous security implications for an island that already has the greatest population in Europe.
But no one is likely to provide rational analysis, so we shrug and turn our attention to the Euro 2016 tournament. By way of an appetiser we loved yesterday’s Private Eye which features, on its front page, a picture of the England squad lining up to board their plane. The headline reads “England Backs Brexit”, and a bubble emanating from the team reads “We’ll be out of Europe in no time!”. Let us hope that for once the ‘Eye’ is wrong – in regard to the football anyway.
Meantime how is your list of trustworthy politicians shaping up?
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Immigration is placing a very heavy burden on parts of Britain. In many communities there is a genuine fear such as ‘Can we get our children into schools?’. There are areas of significant deprivation bearing a very heavy burden from immigration”….Archbishop of Canterbury, 7/6/16.
Another beautiful morning. How different everything looks when it is bathed in sunshine! Apart from we codgers, who are to fashion what Eric Pickles is to hang-gliding, the whole of our little world sparkled as the bees rushed from one flower to another in the manner of paper-boys intent on getting home for their breakfasts. Oh to be in England now that June is here – for now at least since the forecasters are suggesting that temperatures are about to fall to long-johns depths. We’ll see, but for now all is warm, all is peaceful.
Meantime we are intrigued by the sudden re-emergence of Tony Blair who is presumably attempting a pre-empt exercise in respect of the long awaited Chilcot report. This morning we read of his virulent attack on Jeremy Corbyn who, he says, is a placard carrier rather than a world leader. For the sake of all those who lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan we can only respond by wishing that a placard carrier rather than a world leader prepared to lie had been in charge when George W Bush called for accomplices. If you watched ‘Reg’, the BBC story about a grieving father whose son was massacred in Iraq when deprived of bullets or radio, you will surely agree. Reg subsequently stood against Blair in the general election and was, at the poll declaration, able for the first time to tell Mr Blair what he thought of him.
Meantime the Army itself is in the dock. More than 20 years after the death of Cheryl James, it has been called to account for the litany of failings that put her and other young recruits at risk at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey. While the coroner, Judge Brian Barker, last week ruled at Woking Coroner’s Court that for some inexplicable reason the “bubbly” 18-year-old trainee soldier turned her own weapon upon herself, he also said that Cheryl should never have been placed in the “dangerous situation” where she could do so.
Formally recording a verdict of suicide, Barker was critical of Deepcut’s highly sexualised, chaotic regime, the lack of welfare facilities for teenagers and shortage of supervising staff that sometimes left only one on duty for each 200 recruits. The Army had failed to fulfil its duty of care. There was an “unacceptable abuse of power” by the non-commissioned officers(NCOs), and a heavy drinking and misogynistic atmosphere.
The inquest revealed that at its best Deepcut was, to steal the words of playwright Phil Ralph, “like freshers week with firearms”. The family had argued that evidence from other victims was relevant to the “highly toxic” culture into which their daughter was thrown. But evidence that Cheryl had been victim of harassment or assault by an NCO at another base was ruled out of scope.
However, BBC2’s ‘Deepcut: The Army’s Shame’, screened last Friday after the verdict .filled in the detail. Former recruits and soldiers – both men and women – gave harrowing accounts of horrific rapes, assaults and abuse. All now in their forties, some were still obviously traumatised and had never had the courage to speak out.
Eighteen months after Cheryl’s tragic death the then armed forces minister John Reid pledged to provide a safe environment and rid the army of bullies and those who preyed on its vulnerable recruits. Since then there have been numerous reports of problems culminating in a 2014 sexual harassment survey, in which a staggering four out of ten servicemen and women said they had suffered a “distressing experience” involving abuse.
I recall my own period of training and ‘square-bashing’. On many occasions I witnessed sadistic bullying of recruits by NCOs. We were told that we had the right to see an officer, but warned of the subsequent consequences should we choose to do so. On no occasion did we ever receive an informal barrack’s visit by an officer of any rank. It seems that little has changed.
This situation cannot be allowed to continue. There must of course be discipline but it must be fair and honourable. And it must be under the control of commissioned officers. Only a Public Inquiry will bring about the changes necessary to prevent yet more tragedies!
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” We have absolutely no doubt that Cheryl would be alive today if she had not gone to that poisonous place”….Des James, Cheryl’s father.
Another beautiful morning to start the day on the allotments but – and it is a big But – friends on the east coast have texted news of monsoons and the cheering comment that they are heading our way. On the assumption that there is a half-chance they are right we stepped up our work rate and dug our trenches with the enthusiasm of geezers preparing for Custer’s last stand.
The result was that we were sitting down in the hut somewhat earlier than of late. Our addiction to doughnuts having been satisfied, we turned to the daily comics littering the dusty benches. One story above all others caught our attention. On Saturday night 18 Albanians had to be rescued when their inflatable boat sank off the Kent coast, and two men are in custody. It prompted naval chiefs and immigration officers to reveal that large parts of Britain’s coastline are vulnerable to people smugglers bringing migrants over in small boats and dinghies.
It turns out that, as a result of cuts, we have just three Border Force vessels to patrol more than 7,700 miles of coastline. According to Lucy Moreton, general secretary of the Immigration Services Union, emphasis has been placed almost entirely on airports and rail-trafficking routes out of Dunkirk and Calais, and our coasts are facing the biggest ever threat of people-smuggling. The former head of the Navy, Lord West, has told the Daily Mail that: “It is a complete mess. Traffickers are using smaller ports and remote coastline and I’m sure terrorists are aware of the routes too. We need to get a grip”.
Frankly the whole issue of immigration and illegal entry is spiralling out of control, and it is no surprise that the latest referendum poll, published in today’s Daily Torygraph, shows that the voting intentions gap is narrowing dramatically and that immigration is emerging as the prospect worrying most people. As Lord West infers there is a major security implication, but the issue goes beyond that. Even those who argue that population growth is acceptable are beginning to wonder just how our already overcrowded hospitals, schools and infrastructure are going to cope.
The Remain camp is reluctant to even discuss what begins to look like a major threat other than to bring to centre stage employers who contend that without Eastern European labour they couldn’t function. Since no one is suggesting that anyone with promised employment would be barred this a red herring of gigantic proportions.
Yesterday Migration Watch issued a report entitled ‘The Refugee and Migrant Crisis in the UK’. It predicts that, over and above EU citizens exercising their right to enter the UK, around 10 per cent of those granted asylum by the EU will use their new status to arrive in the UK. That amounts to around 480,000, each of which is “likely to be followed by between four and eight family members”.
Sadly the referendum has damaged the credibility of the Prime Minister’s credibility, and that of the leader of the opposition. Their prime responsibilities lie in the nation’s security and public services. To deny the implications of immigration – be it legal or illegal – amounts to dereliction of duty. They choose to demand that we instead consider the economic implications of ‘Leave’. And here we come to another dereliction.
Sir John Chilcot’s report into the Iraq invasion is expected to highlight the novel structure of government created by New Labour following its landslide victory of 1997. As Tony Blair started to make the case for war, he began to distort the shape and nature of British government – the most notable being the deliberate debasement of the traditional idea of a neutral, disinterested civil service. Under Blair, civil servants were told to concern themselves less with the substance than the presentation of policy. We all know what happened next.
Sadly the present government has continued in this vein. The alarming result is that Whitehall integrity is in collapse again. It is troubling that the Office for Budget Responsibility has not come anywhere near the two Treasury civil servants ‘dossiers’ that make the case for the EU. Had it done so it would have pointed out that the Chancellor has engaged his staff in fabrication. Had a company director presented a prospectus on the same basis as the Treasury case against Brexit he and his advisers would risk prosecution for fraud. Civil servants, once the guardian of rectitude, are now being used as propagandists.
Lying disempowers and therefore debases those who are lied to. Politicians who, free of the restraining factuality of the civil service, lie to voters and deprive them of the ability to reach a well-informed decision. In doing so they convert them into dupes. But as has proved to be the case for Blair, those who achieve a ‘Remain’ majority on false premises will one day share his fate in the history books.
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” The PM and Chancellor are using every dirty trick in the Blairite book to win a Remain vote”….Peter Oborne, The Spectator.
It is certainly true that being at one with nature is a recipe for a happy life. Back in our working days we codgers gave little thought to the creatures with which we share this planet, but over the ten years since we set up our chicken cooperative we have become increasingly aware of their habits and habitats. Top of our pops are undoubtedly the birds. No talk of border controls for them – they come and go as they please and they regularly display powers of navigation that elude us even in the age of Satnavs. Mankind does its best to endanger them with pesticides, the destruction of hedgerows and the building of wind-farms but they adapt and continue to survive. A world minus bird song would be a very sad place.
And today comes news that even many of the species that have long been marked in our natural history books as extinct are in fact still very much alive. The blue-eyed ground dove fits that bill precisely. Pictures of this beautiful creature with its cobalt-blue eyes, dark blue wing spots and reddish-chestnut plumage have for all of our lifetimes been just that – pictures. Now Brazilian ornithologist Rafael Bessa has released a video featuring 12 of the doves. Wonderful evidence that birds have the capacity to survive come what may. Man continues to wage wars and destroy the environment but the birds of the air fly on undaunted.
It may seem strange to readers for whom the human world is the only show in town, but the news lifted our spirits considerably this morning. As we settled in the hut for our Desperate Dan-sized snack we reflected gleefully that our avian heroes survive and flourish without the help of health-promotion experts or the constant prattle of politicians. Cause, we concluded, to follow the advice of Ena Sharples to “think on”. Thus stimulated we passed the doughnut tray round again.
Inevitably our conversation soon drifted to the EU referendum, hardly surprising since the claims and counter-claims fill every news programme and daily comic. We have noticed that many of the most vociferous backers of the ‘Remain’ campaign owe their income and careers to the EU. Lord Kinnock, Baroness Kinnock, Lord Mandelson..there is a long list of daily spouters who benefit significantly. Throw in all those who in effect report to the Prime Minister – heads of the Bank of England, the NHS, the military, amongst them – and the wisdom of Mandy Rice Davies comes to mind ( “They would say that wouldn’t they?).
But that apart it is becoming increasingly clear that both camps are lying through their teeth. Osborne’s claims of Brexit costing each household £4,300 a year is laughable, as is the Brexit claim that £360m each week would be available to “build hospitals”. The actual net figure is in the region of £150m. Meantime our dear leader is telling dangerous porkies about Turkey and talking of inevitable war and genocide. In reality the only implication that anyone can be sure of is EU migration, and the inevitable consequence of terrorism and the overwhelming of our schools and hospitals.
But all that is, as they say, politics and the reputation of that art form is sinking into the dust. What concerns us far more is the clear evidence of electoral malpractice. For the first time in recent history the British electoral system is in danger of becoming corrupt.
Some of us are registered for postal votes, and yesterday we received an official looking governmental card entitled “Referendum Communication”. The cards were individually addressed so official confidential records have been accessed. The card announces that we will shortly receive our ballot papers and claims to provide important guidance. It then proceeds to provide “Important information”. What follows is blatant propaganda. Like the earlier £9 million ‘Government’ brochure issued to every household, this amounts to a breach of electoral rules, both in terms of permitted cost ceilings and use of the term ‘Government’ rather than Party.
Incidentally the list of ‘experts’ photographed and quoted includes Cathy Warwick, the Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives. Staying in the EU is, she tells us, “better for midwives”. No reason is included. By chance I was speaking yesterday to a group of local midwives at a seminar. They had no idea as to what a Chief Executive of Midwives does, and even less idea of the reasoning behind her claim. One robust lady suggested career prospects.
But propaganda and lies are one thing, fraud is another. We are not alone in believing that what the Prime Minister is now sanctioning is on a par with that of Tony Blair when he misled the nation via fraud.
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” At the heart of Treasury calculations lies a serious attempt to deceive the British people. Its figures are garbage”…Patrick Minford, Professor of Applied Economics, Cardiff University.
The sun was still with us this morning, but there was a definite nip in the Spring air. It seems that the weather is now coming from the Arctic and it felt that way. But it was a positive so far as productivity was concerned, and the hens were cleaned out and the eggs collected at a rather less leisurely pace than is usually the case. In less time than it takes to say Eric Pickles we were in the allotments hut enjoying our breakfast around the fire.
I have to report that the air was blue in more ways than one. Our long-time hero Barack Obama is suddenly immensely unpopular, and whilst many of my colleagues identified with what he said there was a great sense of outrage at the fact that he chose to say it. At best it was a discourtesy to the Queen who he and the First Lady visited within hours of lecturing us. At worst it represented an attempt by him and our dear leader to involve her by implication in a political issue, the like of which she has devoted a lifetime to avoiding.
It was no surprise to us that the President was accused of hypocrisy. If he really believes that strength in today’s world depends on burying the false pride of sovereignty in a wider collection of nations it seems reasonable to ask why he doesn’t recommend a similar arrangement involving the United States, Canada, Mexico and others. The answer is simple – he would be howled down by his countrymen. And how they would respond to a British prime minister arriving to tell them to get on with it hardly bears contemplation.
Many people are still scarred by memories of what happened when George W Bush and Tony Blair decided to connive together, and it is hard to avoid the thought of here we go again. People on both sides of the EU debate have strong feelings, and the likelihood is that around half of them feel affronted this morning. During his period of office the President has struggled to implement the promises he made when he cried “Yes we can”, and we have sympathised knowing how difficult it has been. That sympathy has evaporated and now our inclination is to suggest that he focuses on persuading his own people before presuming to tell us what to do.
Within hours of his staged performance it became clear that many leading Americans found his claims about Britain “being at the back of the queue” ridiculous and inappropriate. Be that as it may it seems to us unlikely that his words will influence many either way. All he has done is to sully the grandeur of a state visit and destroy the admiration of many such as us. Suddenly that “Special Relationship” doesn’t feel very special at all.
Having vented our wrath we turned our attention to our usual Saturday tensions. For some weeks we have been caught up in the exciting prospect of ‘little’ Leicester City winning the Premiership without a millionaire player in sight. Suddenly we fear the worst. Thanks to an unbelievably inept display of refereeing by Mr Moss the gap has closed, and the team that just one year ago was facing relegation have lost the services of their star performer.
We hope that our fears prove misplaced, but the odds surely are that in two weeks time Messrs Moss and Obama will no longer feature on our Christmas card lists.
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Obama’s election in 2008 inspired the world. But after eight years, it’s hard not to blame his abrasive style of politics for the rise of anti-politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Americans are rebelling against the emergence of an imperial presidency. As Barack Obama offers his hand to the Queen this week, and lectures the British on their place in the world, voters here might feel somewhat resentful too”….Tim Montgomerie, The Spectator, in “Obama’s overreach”.
Welcome to the first day of what the Met Office regards as the meteorological Spring! Hopefully its first morning is not a portent of things to come, for before we were even half way through cleaning out the bedraggled hens we were wetter than Darcy in that memorable scene, and a good deal less appealing in appearance. Being a superstitious bunch we decided against a monsoon laden omen, and postponed our opening of the long-awaited season to the equinox. And so another miserably wet morning became nothing more than the tail-end of a wretched winter. Like the Downing Street spin-doctors we are not averse to a U-turn.
In no time at all we were inside the warm and dry hut, which quickly resembled a Turkish bath as the steam from us, our piping hot Yorkshire tea and Albert’s foul pipe combined to produce a reminder of Dickensian films where Fagin can never see beyond the end of his false nose. We wiped the steamed up windows and gazed in despair at the mini-lakes covering the ground that was to have been the scene of our first March plantings. Perhaps it was meant to be, suggested Tom as he rubbed his aching back. It was a good enough rationalisation for the rest of us, and we sat back to devour both the daily comics and enough sugar to see us summoned before our GPs – if we still had any.
In fact the first report to catch our eye involved the medical profession, nurses to be precise. It seems that our local hospitals have over 2,000 unfilled nursing posts and right now are carrying out a recruitment drive in the Philippines. Meantime they are spending money they haven’t got on enriching agencies. Apparently the number of British youngsters taking up nursing has plummeted as a result of the decision to discontinue the Department of Health funding of university fees in favour of student self-funding. This inevitably leads to a debt on qualification of around £50,000 – a formidable burden given a nurse’s initial salary of £21,000. The subject was aired on last night’s ‘Inside Out’ programme on BBC1, but Jeremy Hunt declined to be interviewed. Perhaps he is as mystified as the rest of us.
Our attention flicked on to the latest threats of doom from our dear leader who is maintaining his record of a daily prophecy about the misfortunes that await us should the great British public decide to jump from the loving arms of Aunty Merkel. Today the farmers are in his sights. If we leave they will lose their annual subsidies of £3bn. Sadly he forgot to mention that we currently pay £6bn each year to the EU Common Agricultural Policy. Doesn’t that mean that should we leave, the UK taxpayer could still pay the subsidies and save £3bn into the bargain? Never mind, tomorrow there are to be official warnings that invaders from outer space will arrive here once we are no longer protected by the EU little green men early warning system is denied us.
It was at this moment that we spotted the coverage of a biography by acclaimed investigative journalist Tom Bower, which is this week being serialised in the Daily Mail. Entitled ‘Broken Vows’ the book does what the Chilcot inquiry into the invasion of Iraq has failed to for six years. The story it tells is a shocking one.
Bower reveals that Prime Minister Blair kept his invasion plans hidden from most of his Cabinet and senior civil servants, because he did not want his true intentions to leak out. He ignored pleas to make proper plans for post-war Iraq, saying that “the Americans have it all sewn up”. He attempted to get rid of senior military figures such as Admiral Boyce who questioned the plan. He told MI6 head Sir Richard Dearlove, to bring raw intelligence straight to him as he tried to strengthen the case for regime change. He told Sir Richard, who helped to compile the notorious ‘dodgy dossier’ on Saddam’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction, “Richard, my fate is in your hands”.
In March 2002, Mr Blair’s adviser David Manning briefed the British Ambassador in Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, that the prime minister favoured ‘regime change’ – and that failure wasn’t an option. Yet, at a Cabinet meeting on March 7, Mr Blair spoke only of bombing Iraq. In July Mr Blair denied to Parliament that any decision had been taken. But in private he had committed to war. He told President Bush that “We will be with you come what may”. Manning told him: “You can’t say that because you’re committing the British Army to an invasion which no one else knows about” – Mr Blair was unmoved.
Most catastrophic of all was the prime minister’s decision not to allow the military to begin planning for invasion for fear of ‘leaks’. Bower points out that British soldiers later died because of the lack of sufficient body armour and appropriate vehicles.
Clearly we cannot do justice to what is an exhaustive and lengthy book. But we are astonished that despite all the resources poured into Chilcot, it has taken a journalist to unearth so much damning evidence. Some of the people who were close to Downing Street at the time have already responded, and we were particularly intrigued by a comment from Andrew Turnbull, who was at the time about to take over as Cabinet Secretary. He looks back and says: “I wouldn’t call it a lie. ‘Deception’ is the right word. You can deceive without lying, by leaving a false interpretation uncorrected”.
Read the detail and judge for yourself. Pause to note such things as the first draft of the 2002 dossier by John Scarlett’s Joint Intelligence Committee which admitted there was “very little intelligence” about Saddam’s WMD programme. Then note a sharp shift when just two weeks later the comment had changed to “Iraq could produce more biological weapons within days…and nerve agents within months”. Then note Alastair Campbell’s demand to Blair’s chief of staff Jonathan Powell that the first report required a “substantial rewrite…it has to be revelatory”.
Our impression is one of sickening lies, serial deceit and blood on the hands of a man holding the highest office in the land.
QUOTE FOR TODAY: “The Iraqi military are able to deploy these weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of the decision to do so”…..Scarlett dossier comment fed to media and not contradicted by the Prime Minister.
We had no need to carry buckets of boiling water this Saturday morning. Excessive amounts of the colder version cascaded from heaven as we cleaned out the hens and not for the first time this winter we found ourselves wishing that our co-operative had invested in ducks. Life would have been so much easier but the problem then, and now, is that none of us like duck eggs. Given that we are all developing webbed feet perhaps that will change, but it is too late to change now so the regular re-enactment of rescuing our Black Tail Columbians from their equivalent of Noah’s Ark must continue.
We were mighty glad to escape to the dry hut, where the area surrounding the fire soon resembled the Flying Scotsman under steam. We steamed, our mugs of Yorkshire tea steamed and those who resent Saturdays devoted to what has become a reserve team FA Cup steamed metaphorically. As did those who, behind a facade, of neutrality had hoped that our dear leader would be beaten to a pulp in Brussels.
Inevitably the EU charade dominated our noisy chatter. Even his greatest critics had to concede that David Cameron has worked hard at his mission. When it comes to giving an imitation of a Whirling Dervisher our esteemed prime minister has few equals. Only the unlamented Tony Blair could have hurled himself around with such vigour, and his motives were somewhat different. Yes we realise that personal ambition rather than the cause of Europe has driven him, but the effort level has been impressive. And now he has his piece of paper, his passport to a brave new world in which every citizen of these islands can look forward to a new age of brotherly love on a continental scale.
Well, almost every citizen. Already those politicians who focus on objectivity rather than ideology have broken cover and made clear their intentions to campaign to retain independence. Not least amongst them is Michael Gove, our Dervisher’s closest political ally. And Boris? He is of a more cynical bent and faces a difficult choice. If the noes win Cameron falls and he gets to ogle the Downing Street maids. But if he joins Gove and the rest and they lose, his dream of even becoming a minister will disappear at the stroke of a vengeful pen.
All of which may well have little impact on the great British public to whom the choice falls. Every survey of public opinion shows that it cares little about much of the stuff covered in the latter day Munich piece of A40. The overwhelming concern is immigration from Eastern Europe and nothing in the agreement addresses this. Adjustments to benefit rules will have little impact – the simple fact is that our economy is the strongest in Europe and the wages available, although much derided here, represent a King’s ransom to people struggling to survive. So the big unanswered question is how we going to fund huge increases in funding for our hospitals, schools, roads and local authority services as the population surges. Border controls or open doors is the simple choice.
Of course the politicians will now launch into their campaigns of spin. And one feature will be the unveiling of celebrity figures who will tell us which way to jump. Leading the glittering parade will be none other than President Obama. The Americans are anxious to see the UK in a position to influence Europe in a free-trading Atlanticist direction, and the last big act of the pre-Trump era will see them try every trick in the book to persuade us to share Aunty Merkel’s bedroom if not her bed.
We codgers have a lot of respect for Barack Obama, but we do have a suggestion. Since “unity is strength” would he like to propose that the United States should forthwith be united with all the countries in their continent north of the Panama Canal – Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador and Panama – into a vast customs union governed by a transnational, unelected civil service. Lets call it the American Union, or AU.
It would show that America is not small-minded, zenophobic, protectionist and isolationist. The sight of the new AU flag fluttering alongside the Stars and Stripes would surely lift many an American heart, and the good old USA would still be sufficiently influential to obtain opt-outs from the worst excesses of the new powerful block sending shudders down the spine of Vladimir Putin.
We apologise for being so tetchy but we really do think that before you lecture us Mr President you should perhaps put your money where your mouth is!
QUOTE OF THE DAY: ” Defending the truth is not something one does out of a sense of duty or to allay guilt complexes, but is a reward in itself”…. Simone De Beauvoir.