Brexit, Mountains and Molehills.

 

I never cease to be amazed by politicians and their endless tortuous arguments about nothing at all.  There is great deal of posturing about Brexit. The Labour spokesman wittering on about wanting to know what the terms of the UK Government stance is going to be.  The answer is clear and everyone agrees, ‘the best we can get’.

What does that mean?  It’s simple, well not quite, but simple enough for an elected MP?

  • Best trade conditions we can get – a customs union- details will need refining. The situation on financial services is a key area to be negotiated. There are endless implications on trading standards but UK is a leader. There may be costs or contributions demanded by the EU – maybe they’ll be worth paying, maybe not.
  • Control of our borders – our border controls are completely unfit for purpose though every one denies this. (Mrs May former Home Secretary struggled here and she knows it.) We will take at least ten years to get this under control. Control means accepting people who we need, and people who need to be here on humanitarian grounds. Free movement will be phased out.  Sooner than later.
  • UK laws will be UK laws, subject only to agreed treaties approved by Parliament.
  • UK will remain an anti-terror intelligence hub for the west including Europe.
  • We will sustain our Interpol links and criminal intelligence.
  • Intellectual traffic will continue with the UK paying into the research funds in proportion to its input.
  • UK will remain a leader in NATO, our defence expenditure will remain at 2% of GDP.
  • There are many more issues of minutiae – all of which may be the subject of a Walloon objection. Who knows?

 

All this of course is a simple base but highly complex in the detail.  And there is no particular order of preference here as all these issues are interlinked.  But the principles are clear the UK wants to return to a concept of an independent state in a customs union or free trade area – full stop.  The UK does NOT want federalism in any shape or form (especially military).  The UK does NOT want fiscal union of any sort.  The UK does NOT want involvement in a single currency or the support thereof.

The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish views and influence are essentially no more important that the regions of England, considerably less than the city of London.

Nicola Sturgeon in particular threatens the UK with a breakaway if she doesn’t get what she wants.  Well tough!  Scotland is, by the will of the Scottish people, part of the UK.  Sturgeon cannot hold the UK Government to ransom every time the mood takes her. Both Scottish and Welsh regional governments should spend their time better managing the NHS and Education budgets in their control, than meddling in UK government business where regional MP’s are there to look after regional interests.

If the ‘Remain’ MP’s don’t get it, these basic ideas, then they should wrap up their tents and go home.  Their job is to constructively support the government in its efforts to get the ‘best’ results for the UK.  By all means argue about the detail but not about the principle which anyone with any common sense can see.

The Government could of course share the basic objectives. The PM must have freedom to negotiate, and come back to Parliament when she feels she will need approval and support.  The knotty issue will be if Parliament decides it knows better and rejects the final agreement as not being in the UK’s best interests.  Then I suppose it will have to be another referendum – God forbid!

Mrs Merkel knows what the terms will be. So what’s the secret?

 

A Nation of Xenophobes.

In my blog “Children in Calais.” I asked the question, ‘Does the political will to bring a few hundred children to the UK exist at all?’ Well it clearly doesn’t, the UK Government made what can only be described as a shambolic and weak effort to bring these children (who have families in UK already) home.

The civil service, who I assume were tasked to get this done, failed miserably, another example of the establishment dragging its feet, I assume because no one really cares and they (the establishment,) don’t want any more immigrants in our green and pleasant land.

Shame on the Government, Shame on the Home Office and Shame on the Civil Service, Shame on us all, the Brits!

In truth the British people have not covered themselves with glory over the post war years.  From the shameful treatment of Caribbean immigrants after world war two, to our opt-out of the present migrant crisis largely (not exclusively) caused by US/UK foreign policy of the last twenty years.

Brexit was fuelled not by rational argument about sovereignty, fiscal integration, and anti-federalism but by the issues of immigration.  Large parts of the UK electorate voted out of a misinformed xenophobic fear.  Yes, there are many rational grounds for leaving the EU but surely open borders is only one, and then only valid when related to infrastructural and social services.  Immigration has immeasurably enriched the UK and continues to do so.

What we see is a nation of xenophobes who have been mollycoddled over the years by a misplaced welfare dependency which has split the country into haves and have-nots.  The less well-off are jealously guarding their slice of the national cake and woe betide any person or politician that threatens their share.  Hence we have a political class that guards the status quo.

We would do well to examine our national psyche and review where our international compassion has gone.  Our nation and its international influence were built largely on the backs of slaves and the conquered colonies.  We owe the world a lot and we still have a lot to give.  By closing our hearts and minds we are denying our place in the world.

 

Gun boats and other fantasies

 

As a diesel belching aircraft carrier ploughs the English Channel, one might be persuaded to think the cold war is alive and well.  Maybe you’d be right, except that there seems to be a one way paranoia.  As another crazy man might say “This guy Putin is nuts.”

He’d have a point.  One has to concede that Putin is at best putting the world at extreme risk, continually pushing the West into tight corners and daring the Americans and their allies to confront him in Syria.  Even if he has to bomb aid columns and kill children in the process.

The Russian propaganda machine insists that Putin is supporting the legitimate government of Syria against terrorist forces and that the annihilation of Aleppo is simply a necessary military tactic.  This an argument which might have some validity if the slaughter of innocent civilians was in doubt.

The motives for Russian support are well known, Putin is desperately trying to maintain a Mediterranean base in order to prolong the idea of Russia as a world power.  Likewise Putin is proliferating the spread of Russian troops along the borders of the new NATO members of the Baltic Region.  His invasion of Ukraine and the Crimea went well for him, there was no meaningful response from the West at all.  He even had indirect responsibility for the shooting down of a civilian airliner and no one batted an eyelid. Again he is trying to aggravate the West to a point where the West responds aggressively, if for no other reason than frustration. In the meantime of course children continue to die in Syria.

What to do?  Well firstly my American friends don’t elect Trump, one lunatic leader is quite enough.  Secondly keep talking, the long-time “jaw-jaw” of Ambassador Kerry must have been one of the great trials for any diplomat in any age.  It is easy to say he has achieved nothing, but the alternative, namely a military response could well have led to a ghastly nuclear war.

Russia is in a poor economic state and Putin blames everyone else except, of course, his government.  His increasing spend on militaria’ will do nothing for the standard of living of Russian citizens, and this is ultimately where his power lies. There only two ways to go for the West,

1) Exert benign investment into Russia to improve the lot of the ordinary Russian or

2) Exert sanctions which will exacerbate the pain of the populace and make life so miserable that they will demand change.

The first option is the most difficult, showing the hand of friendship to a paranoid leader certainly has its downsides, massive corruption being just one of the issues.

The second option is easier and to some extent has been used already.  However this is akin to baiting the Bear and has some very obvious downsides.

Whatever we do,  let’s keep talking.

I will won’t I!

‘I will.’  Two little words that mean so much.  Most of us remember our marriage vows, other will remember resolutions at the turn of the year or promises made to friends or teachers.  ‘I will ’

What we sometimes forget that a promise made is a debt unpaid and that keeping promises is sometimes much more difficult that we expect.  Easy to say but often hard to do, ‘I will’ requires a conscious commitment that can sometimes be washed away in the sands of time.

We are all brought up in the context of a belief system, and there are many of them. Each of them requires an ‘I will’ response which we carry consciously or otherwise through our lives. Despite this cultural mind-set we drift from what were once our core values.  We compromise the resolutions of our youth, we break our promises and often forget the ‘I will’ which was the bye word of our forefathers.

Internationally, do many nations to uphold values?  Do the great alliances EU or NATO and the UN have the collective will?  Despite them all, we watched passively the horrors of Bosnia, Srebrenica, Rwanda and now Syria and Yemen.

Now there seems to be suddenly accepted lack of collective will.  The will of the people is to avoid conflict even when war crimes are committed day after day whether in Yemen or Syria.  When children die and mothers starve, and hospitals are bombed, there is no will, no promise of humanity upheld.

Being reliable and sticking to our core values requires an act of the collective will, and to exercise that will we need leaders who will carry the weight of our consciousness and our belief of what is right.

‘What is right’ is sublimated too often into ‘what we want’ which is seldom coincident, when what we want is so often driven by greed, malevolence or even just self-protection. If there is a vacuum of ‘good will’ then that malevolence will win.

Is there someone, somewhere, who will lead us and say ‘I will stop the carnage’, ‘I will do what’s right’ simply because I believe in humanity?

The World, the news and Wales.

 

Having careered round the world for the last half century my return to damp gorgeous green Wales has been one of the revelations and delights of my life.  There is a sweetness here that I suppose is there because it is the land of my birth.

My early view was – ‘yes, it’s nice but it’s small and it doesn’t matter in the wider context’. The Bronx has a bigger population, there are lakes as big as Wales.  There are city councils with bigger budgets than Wales, there are even better rugby teams than in Wales.

Yet, and yet, there is no place on earth that can replicate Wales.  The news here, as broadcast locally sounds as if we are on another planet.  And there is the brave struggle to keep the lyrical Welsh language alive. There remains a healthy scepticism about this struggle to keep the Welshness of this tiny nation afloat.

Did you know they have commissioned a new Band Stand in Aberystwyth? This was headline news on BBC Wales. It must have been a sparse news day I hear you say. Not a bit of it.  The Aberystwyth Band Stand is splendid news.

Amongst the turmoil of Brexit, Dump Trump, I hate Hillary, International mayhem and the sad flow of refugees, the Aberystwyth Band Stand is a refreshing splash of comfort amongst the torrent of depression that is the everyday news.

I confess my first response was a sneer – who cares?  Well on reflection- I care.  I care because I need to be reminded that in the micro communities such as in Wales there are a million good things happening every day.  The problem is, these good little things aren’t news.

My good neighbour is not news-worthy but a lady with a huge celebrity bottom is.  A kind gesture in the village hall goes unnoticed whilst a burglary is headlined.

Where will this forced feeding of bad news and superficial celebrity take us?  Well for sure not into euphoria, rather into a vortex of depression where we all will nurture our envy and only expect the worst.

I’d like to thank BBC Wales for the band stand item, and yes, it may have been a day of no burglaries or road catastrophes, but the band sounded pitch perfect (as you’d expect in the land of song) and my sneer was gilded with a smile.

More things to smile at, please!

 

Brexit home to roost!

It never ceases to amaze me that politicians can be so obtuse. The front bench opposition Foreign Secretary took up a serious share of ‘Question Time’ on the BBC to talk vacuous nonsense.

We shall respect the vote of the people, all the politicians bleat about the potential negativity of the outcomes.  It is as if they are the walking zombies who’ve been unconscious throughout the last four to five months. They are seemingly unable to break away from their previous mind-set that the EU, on balance is/was good.

Well tough, I wrote on this blog on the 25th May, the following;

When David Cameron promised a Brexit referendum he must have been unwell or at least seriously ill advised. 

Well here we are, the Tory party very close to melt down and the UK preciously close to a vote to leave Europe.

The consequences of the Tory party collapse is a serious long term issue that will perhaps will heal in time – say ten years assuming the Brexit vote is clear.  If the vote is very close as is predicted then God help the Tory party who will bicker on forever.  So no benefit there for the Conservatives or the country.

If the vote is for out, then again we can all see the Scots heading for the door and Ms. Sturgeon beating the drum for independence.  That will be no good to anyone not even the Scots.

So far not very good whichever way you look at this catastrophic political decision of the Prime Minister.

The vote then will be decided on ‘gut feel’ it will be entirely left to chance.  The intricacies and arguments surrounding the Eurozone, the Schengen zone, macro-economics, world trade et al. for the most part will be known and understood by a modest number of voters.  In short confusion reigns and our futures will be decided by an ill-informed (for the most part) and ignorant voters.   Democracy wins!

It seems that the Conservative party has got itself into a lose-lose situation.  Not the greatest political judgement by its leader.”

How prescient was that!

It must be obvious even to the half-witted politicians that we have to get the best deal we can predicated on, Control of our laws, Borders, and Courts.  The consequences may well mean we have to leave the single market.  We have to wait and see.

One of the issues which all the politicians seem to be ducking is the effect on the Euro and its comparative value both to the Dollar and the Pound. They will stabilise in time I suspect with the Euro at the bottom of the pile.

The negotiations will be horrendously complex and chaotic with each of the 27 EU countries attempting to get their spoke in.  Of course we don’t know what our plan is except that we want Sovereignty, control of our borders and laws, at the best terms we can get.- Simple, no, but empiric -yes.

Let’s get on with it.  The miserable opposition from Labour and the SNP is exactly that, they want their cake and they want to eat it.  Why don’t they grow up?

 

 

 

The lost Children of the Calais Jungle

 

The UK Government, like all Governments is a bureaucratic leviathan. Actions ares driven by political will and delivered by a rigid and conservative civil service.  As far as the children stuck in the Calais refugee jungle and their rescue to join relatives already in Britain are concerned, one has to ask if the political will really exists at all.

Amber Rudd has much on her plate, as do all the members of Mrs May’s government however, on the 50th anniversary of the UK’s greatest children tragedy of Aberfan you might think that compassion for lost children who’ve already been through hell, would be at the top of the agenda.  It seems not.

Rudd says she wants names and details of connections.  Well get a civil service person to get over to Calais and get cracking.  It should be well with our Governments’ ability to act with rapidity.  All these children are existing in dreadful conditions and all are vulnerable to all sorts of exploitation.  Let’s get a grip!

Yes of course there are many other just and deserving causes at home in UK.  These needs are not mutually exclusive.  The Calais issue is well defined and relatively easy to manage and these facts alone should be enough of an incentive.

Britain has always been an open and charitable community, what we seek here is simply that families are reunited and that children who are lost can be found again. Why wouldn’t we act and act quickly?

Aberfan 50 years on.

 

The world needs to know, that when the darkness comes, how black it is.

How a town like Aberfan, so small, so modest, with its peaceful tumbledown streets could

be struck by such an ghastly, catastrophic tragedy.

Aberfan, a soft and lovely name, serene in the black of a coal hewn valley, in a coal hewn

place called Wales.

 

They lived their lives in the shadow of the great hill of spoiled land,

they sang and went to Chapel and believed in what they had.

They knew and loved their neighbours from habit and

the comfort of a known tomorrow.  They were content.

 

Children were the treasure of that place. Nurtured in a hard

but lovely family that spanned the town from end to end.

In the shadow of the filthy tip placed by skilled and knowledgeable men.

They trusted and cared for one another, a village of togetherness

 

All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small.

They sang, they believed. Tomorrow was to be half term,

what joy, what sweetness in the coming day;

at home, no school, just a chance to play.

 

And then, with the Devil, riding down the hill, the blackness came.

A monstrous surge of filthy slurry.

Half the village children, teachers and carers too

Wiped out, gone, slaughtered in a trice.

 

 

This was not a war. It was much worse, it was the sin of carelessness.

The arrogance of an ignorant establishment.

Worse still it was a sin of omission,

a sin of ‘we don’t care’; until it will always be too late.

 

Buried alive! Buried alive in that black filth!

Sacrilege, obscenity!

A pain that’s worse than death for those who mourn.

Now we care. We weep, but we cannot take the pain away.

 

Fifty years have passed, and still the guilty live

Guilty because they live, because they didn’t lose,

Guilty because they couldn’t cry

Guilty because they didn’t die.

 

They queued to find their dead,

wrapped in blankets in the Chapel morgues

A grief unreal in its magnitude

Where each heart beat for one another.

 

Aberfan is torn apart,

where modest heaven has descended into hell.

Where the future is no more.

Blackened and drowned into foul oblivion.

 

The sepulchre of love now sits high on the hill

Where parents join their loves at last.

Memorials sweet cannot and never will,

wipe out the blackness of that dreadful day.

 

 

 

Brexit Jitters!

The pound sterling has taken a pounding this week for reasons which are not entirely understood by the economics fraternity.  The ‘Flash fall’ could be anything from a computer glitch to a very smart house making a killing on the exchange markets.

However the context of the vulnerability of sterling many believe is an artificial crisis and others believe that sterling is now properly valued at around $1.20.

What is a bigger issue is what is happening to comparative currencies especially the Euro which seems to be escaping the attention it deserves.  Whichever way the Brexit works out, hard or soft, there will be no relief for the Euro’s inherent weakness of the PIGS situation.

The Italian Premier can prattle on about no help for Britain, and Hollande witters on about doing no favours, they should look long and hard into a mirror.

If for example the UK should strengthen its ties with the Commonwealth Markets and drink more Australian and New Zealand wines, then Italy and France would certainly feel the pinch. If the UK should reciprocate import tax increases from Europe then those Europeans would or might have to cut base prices to remain competitive and maintain market share in the world’s fifth biggest economy.

The UK’s contribution to military defence in NATO and counterterrorism intelligence is by far and away the most effective in Europe and is vital to European safety.

British Universities and Research institutions will not suddenly be excluded from research discourse though funding is an issue but not one that cannot be resolved with good will.  The UK will still have a constructive contribution to make to science and environmental affairs.

So why is everyone including the chancellor being so jittery?   The idea of a ‘hard’ Brexit simply means that UK must do what is best for itself as an independent and thrusting power. The UK will remain a leader in many spheres and will continue to be a player in all the key theatres such as NATO and The UN.

A strong UK economy can still contribute hugely to sustaining the EU and minimise the disaster that is almost bound to accrue in the Euro zone.

If the worst happens in the US presidential elections the pound may well be a great opportunity for the wise long term investor.

What’s a child’s life worth?

What is a child’s life worth?

 

Today has been a glorious autumn day in Wales.  The sky is a brilliant blue and the sun reminds us of the promise of life.  So today, my wife and I visited Aberfan where fifty years ago 128 children and 18 adults died in an accident so dreadful, that we still weep and recoil with shock when we recall that ghastly day.

There are many of course, who do not recall this day at all, they live with it day by day.  They awake to the loss of their child or children, their friends and families.  The poignant memorial garden and cemetery will wrench any visitor’s heart, but for those whose children lie there, there can be no respite. Such pain is unimaginable, for each parent, every day is one of loss. There is no momentary sadness, there is a gap never to be filled, and there is despair that wakes with every morning.  The community, so brave, has bound the wounds but will never be able to banish the pain.

Yet despite this and other tragedies that have struck all around the world, the world seems powerless to stop the war criminals who murder children deliberately every day.  It is almost too much to take in!  How could anyone countenance the murder of hundreds of innocent children not once, but day in and day out.

It matters not what Putin and Assad pretend to see, it is each child that screams with fear and pain that does.

It matters not what the rebels claim, if the cost of their glory is the agony of just one child.

There is not much else to be said, except to cry – no more, no more!