Tag Archives: britain

Enough is Enough

It’s time for the British to go French. I know, I know. They’re arrogant, they’re rude, they don’t like it when you try to speak their language. But here’s the thing. They don’t put up with any crap. Sorry, merde.
French people are really defensive of their way of life. It’s easy to be critical of French lorry drivers when you’re queuing at Calais and they’ve shut down the roads because they want a pay rise. And it’s a pain to be stuck at the airport when French air traffic controllers are striking for better work conditions. But these are the consequences of people standing up for what they believe in and I, for one, think it’s worth the rest of us putting up with a little discomfort to support them. After all, perhaps next time, it will be ¬†us who needs THEIR support.

How is this relevant in Britain at the moment? Well, it’s time to say, to quote our vainglorious leader: “Enough is enough!”

Remember when the referendum vote – that slim, barely noticeable majority – got turned into “the will of the people?”. It’s not so long ago. That vote for Britain to leave the European Union got hijacked into a “hard Brexit” where Britain left not only the European Union, but the single market, the protection of European laws, a respected and (relatively) stable economy and perhaps most stinging, the status of a country respected the world over as sane and tolerant. Now the Tory party are trying to do it again. The minuscule lead they have managed to maintain after an election campaign foisted on an unsuspecting nation and opposition party was designed to get a blanket mandate for all sorts of damaging policies. The dismantling of the NHS to be speeded up. The disintegration of the education system manoeuvred through increased examinations, more private schools and university tuition fees. The undermining of the police force. The shoring up of the wealthy elite with tax cuts, loopholes. And the erosion of privacy laws which protect society from human rights abuses. And how we got to this place is becoming clearer and clearer. The ideological and information systems by which people set their moral compass are rigged. The billionaires who own our newspapers, corporations and who sit on the boards of hospitals, schools and religious institutions have set the dial in their favour. We the people are effectively being screwed and we are finally waking up to the fact.

The thing about consciousness is that once it is raised, it is difficult to put it back in the box. Apartheid, Ghandi’s India, women’s liberation, the Arab Spring. Once the people have that awareness, it’s only a matter of time before it is expressed. Whether it is a slow or quick revolution depends a lot on the conditions. What freedoms are in place. How draconian is the oppression. In Britain, we have been given an opportunity. A window into a world free from austerity, oppression and divisiveness. That window is the Labour movement under Jeremy Corbyn. In just two months, he has turned a country sick with fear and anger into a country filled with hope and aspiration. He has ignited imaginations and that may be his most important gift. He has helped us see how a better future might come about.
While the US still struggles to find valid reasons to remove Trump, Britain has the chance to remove May before she makes her coalition of chaos. The union with the DUP is ill advised, not only because of their militant right wing ideologies ( anti-abortion, anti-gay rights) but also because it contravenes the hard-won Good Friday Agreement. This alliance is the height of cynicism and a desperate attempt to hold on the power. They are trying to tell us that once again it is the “will of the people”, but we’re not falling for it again.
Are we?

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jocox

Brexit? No Thanks

For the past three weeks, I’ve been in the UK. It feels like longer than that, with long sunny days spent on the beach with friends, magnificent hikes along the cliff path near my home and cosy nights in my little wooden chalet. When Summer finally arrives here, there’s no better place in the world to be.
I arrived in Britain from Spain, passing through the passport control as a citizen of the European Union. I’ll travel back that way too, but for how much longer? Throughout these three weeks, whilst I’ve been swimming in the calm blue seas of Wales and listening to the chatter of morning birdsong, the rumble of something sinister has been a constant background noise. Whether it’s from newspapers, radio, or just listening to conversations, it’s been hard to avoid the mutterings of Brexit talk. Brexit. What a simplistic, inane word to describe such an important decision. It sounds like a new chocolate bar or a sugary breakfast cereal. The chatter is just as inane, as major political figures try to scaremonger the public into voting this way or that, based on arguments that are about as substantial as the candy floss in the beachfront kiosk. I’ve seen two other recent referendums in recent years – one to decide whether Britain should switch to proportional representation and one to vote whether Scotland should stay part of the UK. Both failed to budge a recalcitrant public out of their comfort zone. We humans, especially Brits, generally like things to stay the same. The trouble with Brexit is that the argument to leave the EU is like an offer to return to some hazy, nostalgic past that even its proponents can’t be sure ever existed.

When I was growing up, one of the popular slogans was “Nuclear Power? No Thanks”. It was such a polite way to decline a technology that threatened to hover its toxic future over our country for generations. So British! Today, as an activists blockade of a nuclear bomb factory turns into a new peace camp, we’re reminded that these threats don’t go away just because we ask them too. Those in charge will keep pushing for what they want and it’s our job, as busy, preoccupied, struggling-just-to-survive citizens, to try to keep one eye on what they’re doing so we can still try and head them off at the pass. Whilst the lies and deceit peddled from Westminster and via the national papers is not hard to see through, it takes some time to arrive at some clarity as to what the story really is. It’s a constant sleight of hand, where the left hand is dealing arms whilst the right hand is waving poppies, or beating a war drum, or pointing a finger at somebody else to distract us. “Look over here!” they scream, and we do, whilst deals are made to dismantle the National Health Service, privatise the woodlands, or sell all remaining national industry to China.

Which is why we need to treasure the few progressive voices in the political area. The ones that challenge the dominant messages defending hatred and war and speak instead of tolerance, compassion and a more egalitarian society. The ones that help us navigate our way through the minefield of shameless politicking and speak from the heart. I was living in Australia when I heard Mhairi Black’s maiden speech in July 2015. I was moved to tears to think that finally, finally, someone was speaking with a reasonable tone about things that mattered. As I hit ‘replay’ to listen again, it crossed my mind that her courage may not be allowed to stand. That her passion may yet be her downfall and that maybe, just maybe, some one would find a way to silence her.

How was I to know just how close that fleeting thought would fly to the truth? The murder of Jo Cox, just a week before the EU referendum, is almost certainly the outcome of her brave stance against racism, her support for Syrian refugees and her campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU. In basing their arguments on immigration and trade, the Brexit campaigners have missed a vital purpose of the EU. Following the horrors of World War Two, it was thought that bringing countries together as trading partners would foster trust and help prevent future wars. It turns out they were right. In 2012, the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its role in promoting reconciliation, democracy and human rights. Since the EU was established, there have been no wars between European member nations. Yes, that’s right. No wars. Throughout a region that has historically been in almost constant conflict, there have been no inter-national wars. That’s seventy years of peace and counting and to me, that’s worth a lot of trade, whether in Euros, Pounds or Drachma. In those seventy years, a lot of tomatoes, cheese and wine has flowed between us, but only because we have been at peace.
In the wake of this tragedy, I would prefer the EU referendum to be postponed, but if it does go ahead, a vote to Remain will serve to honour the maintenance of peace in our region, the tradition of sincere, heartfelt politics and the memory of Jo Cox.

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