In response to Alex Clark The Observer 26 August 2918
Perhaps MPs should add the odd novel to their reading lists…
Technology seems to precipitate a decline in the quality, focus and intellectual capability of our politicians. I used to say they tended to open their mouths before they engaged their brains; now it has become more dangerous. They tap on their smartphones before they engage their brains.
They easily incite hate, create uncertainty in financial markets, abuse and lie about opponents publicly, all for the sake of publicity and to show that “they are on the ball”. Quite frankly, I can’t see how they have time to do any work, let alone read a book. Could this explain the slow progress in the BREXIT negotiations? Maybe they have been too engaged in keeping abreast of the WhatsApp and Twitter accounts to focus on the interests of their country.
Unfortunately, we seem to be governed by a bunch of publicity seeking twits (the vowel can be changed!). I have tried to explain this to Italian and Danish friends but there is not a similar pronunciation between Tweet and their language equivalent of twit. Although, an Italian speaking English may easily pronounce the word Tweet as Twit. (A constant embarrassment for me as a child when my Italian mother used to ask me in front of friends to collect the sheets off the washing line).
Without interfering with the right to free speech, safeguards against politicians abusing social media are needed. The antics in Italy this week are a prime example. A Minister incites hate and racism, when rumours circulated of him facing indictment, members of his party responded by threating to attack the prosecutors and of course the press, very reminiscent of Trump’s approach.
Yes, politicians (and their electorates) should read more; and, in the current environment of hate, a few history books wouldn’t do any harm.
As an ordinary person in the street, I’m becoming extremely confused. For quite some time, we have been bombarded with news that the Russians interfered with the US Presidential elections and that somewhere along the line, the newly elected President may have gained financially. To confuse the matter further, it seems that one of the promoters of BREXIT had contacts with the Russians and may well have received some financial assistance to promote the exit EU project. Several hundred kilometres away in the sunny land of Italy, there have been constant rumours that one of the current coalition parties, apart from apparently securing the support of the Mafia may have been involved in some financial chicanery to the tune of 49M€, and have received support financially or in kind from the Russians.
It transpired this week that President Trump is so impressed with Italy’s anti-immigrant stance that he has intimated at US support to pay the Italian debt. The other coalition party in the current Italian Government has made a similar claim regarding Russia’s apparent willingness to underwrite some of Italy’s debt.
This all sounds a bit Mickey-Mouse to me, or is it? But the question is why? What can explain these gestures (or jest-ures) of international philanthropy towards a country that seems to be constantly in the headlines for all the wrong reasons (increasing racism and associated political instability that is impacting on the economy (Spread) and future FDI? Of critical importance, one needs to wonder who are the puppet masters (Russians and/or Mafia) and what leverage do they have on the likes of Trump, BREXIT promoters and the Italian Government? And, who has the upper hand?
A very interesting triangular relationship – but then it could be the sunny season and all those Spritz and G&Ts! Even reporters are human and make mistakes.
However, it does seem that my prologue to Triple Edge is not so far-fetched (written some years ago!). Note also my blog post of four years ago Strange Bed Fellows – The Rise of European Right Wing Parties and Russia’s Influence
This dilly dallying is not going to serve anyone other than the speculators (think how much they have made over the last week) and cause even greater harm for that segment of society who voted BREXIT because they are at the receiving end of the UK government’s austerity programmes. There is no point in believing that the terms both Johnson is proposing and Cameron basically repeating yesterday in Brussels will be met. Cameron has already been through a negotiation process and that was not accepted by the electorate. So why believe that the outcome of a future negotiation process is going to be any different?
So for the good of the UK (or whatever may remain after a BREXIT) and for the countries of Europe who want to push ahead with a more integrated Europe, just get on with it. One can keep on about the narrow majority but how many times has Britain been governed by governments that have received less than 40% of the vote in elections?
Neither the UK population nor the Europeans should be held to ransom as a result of a bunch of men with bloated egos who don’t have the interests of the country as their priority. This goes for both sides. The current work plan of the Commission http://www.politico.eu/article/junckers-ten-priorities/ is interrupted each time the UK wants special conditions or opt outs. UK voters decided that they did not want to part of this plan but for the benefit of 400+ million Europeans allow them to get on with it.
BREXIT has been a wake-up call for Europe and hopefully there will be some move towards the original philosophy of the founding six countries and in particular “jobs, inclusion and a new democracy”. It is still early days but there are some indications that this may happen; including a re-assessment of the relationship with Russia which has always been shackled by the UK pushing the US agenda.
In the days following the Referendum result I have read the opinions of many left leaning commentators whom I respect. However, just to criticise EU as being a block that represents the interests of multinationals is not going to go anywhere. How are the left and trade unions in an isolated UK (or England & Wales) going to have any weight in the fight/discussion to return Europe to more human values? There is a growing momentum across Europe to roll back the power of the multinationals, major tax evaders, banks and the financial speculators; unless there is a strong left within Europe to take up a united front, the risk is that the far-right, such as UKIP, will increase their appeal through distorted information; and not serve the interests of the majority of the populations of Europe and future generations in an increasingly globalised and technological world.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, an immediate start to the BREXIT process is going to minimise the impact on the angry part of the population who voted to Leave. It may also bring about important changes to how the UK (and its parts) are governed and above all how Europe is governed.
I have been following the events in the UK leading up to the referendum from another country; I have to ask myself what has happened to the country I grew up in and love; one that has been looked up to for its democracy and openness? A country that gave me a free education and support to postgraduate level; an education system that allowed and encouraged access to universities that were previously confined to the so-called elite; a free health service that saved my life; I could go on. When I saw the presentation of UKIPs poster with a smug Farage and then shortly after heard of the assassination of Jo Cox; I was just stunned. Can this be the country where my family and some of my best friends live?
When did this all happen? When did the rot start? Britons were responsible for the founding of major international humanitarian organisations such as Amnesty International and Oxfam. At the time, there was an overall consensus that this was the right thing to do among the broader population. Despite the welfare state having been introduced by the Labour Government after WWII, it was not wiped away when the Conservatives came into power and was sustained throughout their fifteen years of power through to the mid-1960s and at the time was the one that offered the most comprehensive coverage in Europe.
So back to the question of when the rot set in. I remember clearly during my last undergraduate year in the late 1970s a friend saying to me “if that woman (Thatcher) gets in. she is going to change the face of Britain as we know it”. And he was probably right. The concept of consensus disappeared; social partnership (kill off the unions-if you want a job “on-your-bike”), a healthy and functioning public sector (privatise) and a sense of responsibility of the State towards its citizens in the broadest sense. She started the culture of the “them and us” whether it be the unions or Europeans; the lazy and the industrious (those who can make money); immigration/race (if you don’t support the English cricket team you can’t be British). Above all, she was smart in understanding how to use the media to manipulate popular thinking. Has anyone asked themselves what might have happened to Britain outside of the EU and Thatcher been given a totally free hand? Remember many of the BREXIT supporters in the Conservative Party have views of where Britain should be moving that are not too distant from Thatcher’s.
Since that time, the media has supported and encouraged the policies of the small elite, irrespective of the party in power. And politicians have played to the power of the media; including Blair who flagrantly abandoned the interests of the working class and the broader philosophy of the role and responsibilities of the State and the concept of social mobility (e.g. student loans that paved the way for student fees). Politicians sought the support of newspapers whose owners openly supported Fascism in the 1930s and, not surprisingly, whose present owners have much to be worried about if the EU with the OECD seriously tackles the issues of tax transparency (evasion).
These are problems that are not confined to the UK but have been exacerbated by a very powerful press that represents interests that are not necessarily beneficial to the broader UK population. So whilst politicians and certain political commentators have appealed to moderate the language, it will be very difficult to change a mindset that has carefully been cultivated for the past 30 plus years.
It is a very sad moment for Britain that these divisions in a fundamentally open and caring society have been opened up for egoistic motives and the interests of a small (elitist) group that has been able to misinform and manipulate. Unfortunately, these scars are not going to be easy to repair. It is clear from the comments to articles in newspapers (including the Guardian and Independent) are based on an ignorance of how Europe works and how national politicians pass the blame onto Europe when they have themselves been the architects of the policies. And remember it has been the UK Government that has been the main driver of the neoliberal policies, both in Britain and Europe, that have contributed to austerity (and immigration); not to mention de-regulation that caused the 2008 financial crisis. But with the help of the media, governments can always point the finger at somebody else; governments that increasingly have distanced themselves from the broader population and politicians who willingly have allowed our democracies to degenerate into a system of “divide-and-rule” for the benefit of a few and a return to the agenda of the Victorian era.
All this does not mean that I embrace the EU blindly with open arms; it needs urgent reforms if Juncker is to live up to his statements of “open and inclusive Europe”. Maybe the BREXIT referendum will give that push; certainly the comments of the newly elected President of Austria are a positive sign. In the meantime Britain is going to have to deal with a gaping and divisive wound to its society which going to take a long time to heal.
Blairites follow Tory neoliberal policies and also their behaviour. Only a week into the job, the new mayor of London Sadiq Khan is trying to emulate Boris by clearly making a pitch to be leader of the Labour Party; just as Johnson has done with the Tories.. When will these politicians grow up and put the country before their own bloated egos
The new mayor of London is already giving Corbyn advice. So there is a new London mayor and the first Muslim mayor of a major European capital. I wonder how much will change? I can remember all the promises Blair had made; but in the end what happened? He virtually continued the Tory economic policies to keep big business and the financial sector happy – result 2008 crash which everyone (apart from the 1%) feels the consequences of on a daily basis. Blair joined the USA and led the country into a military conflict in the Middle East and the era of “politics of fear” that we also are made aware of on a daily basis. Despite these disasters we are still told that the Labour Party should continue the New Labour Blairite Line. Is that what we really want? Shouldn’t there be an opposition that has a clear set of policies that take us down the road of a more equitable society? Let’s hope that after the referendum Corbyn may start to spell out what those policies might be. Just dangling in the middle road is going to turn more and more of our democracy over to the finance and corporate sectors. If Corbyn and the Labour Party are not prepared to come up with alternatives we may as well have a grand coalition; or come out in the open and admit that we have a dictatorship that is run by a junta comprised of the Lord Mayor of the City of London Corporation in partnership with the head of CBI, banks and the Big Four accountancy firms.
How much of the furore around Ken Livingstone’s supposedly antisemitism comments is being manipulated by vested interests under the shield of “political correctness”. I say shield because political correctness is now being used to stifle debate. Livingstone was not referring to a particular group (ethnic, gender, gay etc.)to which certain advocates of political correctness would respond (correctly) by saying “tut-tut” or taking even stronger offence (incorrectly) as in the particular case. Ken Livingstone was referring to the Israeli-Palestine problem. We must not forget that Israel was the key ally of the Apartheid government in South Africa; a major supplier of arms and collaborated on a nuclear programme; obviously with the blessing of the US who, along with Thatcher, was not too keen on the dismantling of the Apartheid regime.
If Ken Livingstone did insult Jews he should be remanded; but if he was referring to Israel being a fascist state, he should be free to say so. Israel’s behaviour towards Palestine is not too different to the politics of Apartheid; Palestinians are being deprived of water; have their land grabbed and above all their fundamental human rights are abused on a daily basis. Stifling debate using a phoney “political correctness” bandwagon only serves the interests of certain media magnets who want to manipulate the public and control their puppet politicians; stifle debate; and continue the myth that it is all the fault of the Palestinians.
This (voluntary) Saudi Arms Embargo by the European Parliament is probably one of those areas that the pro-Brexit campaign will claim to be “Brussels interfering” in national policies. I wonder how Boris Johnson; Osborne, Farage et. al. will comment on this; probably something along the lines “Brussels puts British jobs at risk.”
John Bercow accused of hiding details of MPs’ and peers’ alcohol abuse. This appears to be another example of irrelevant news.. Would it not be better to hear about the manner in which the MPs are serving the country, whether sober or otherwise; and who is deciding for them with corporate puppet strings?
I have no comment to the content of this article that appeared in the Guardian today, other than to say that certain Danish newspapers are questioning the logic of the DK Government. This type of headline reporting in the Guardian supports the newspaper’s policy of continuing to walk on the tight rope of trying to keep both sides of the argument happy. The Guardian did not allow comments to this article; had there been there would have been a majority in support of the Danish action. This would really have tarnished the image of the newspaper. Anyone who has taken the time to read the recent comments pages, especially those relating to the German and Austrian so-called welcoming of the refugees, will have been shocked by the racist and inhumane comments by an apparently “enlightened” readership. These comments are often shrouded in anti-EU statements and link the German decision to take the refugees with a German desire to dominate European policies. So, one can only conclude that by having the Danish story as one of today’s headlines, the Guardian is attempting to appease its increasingly isolationist and intolerant readership. One has to ask how is it possible to arrive at this situation? Obviously, it is the content of the newspaper itself that through badly researched and often very subjective “breaking-news” style reporting has been able to subtly shape the opinions of the once “enlightened and socially aware readership”. One also has to ask whether there are hidden sponsors for this type of journalism.