Europe is our playground

Tomorrow the UK and EU will engage in Brexit negotiations which is like trying to negotiate with an accountant about what part of your body needs to be cut off needlessly while Nigel Farage sits laughing and wanking over pictures of Donald Trump in the background. We’re seeing a government with no plan, no clue and in the wake of a disastrous election result and the fallout from Grenfell. For a skilled, strong leader this would be tough. For someone like Theresa May this will be impossible.

Yet the political landscape is that most parties are now talking only of the least shittest outcome or a ‘soft Brexit’ as it’s called. It’ll still hurt, inflict poverty and have austerity for a generation, and that means politicians of most parties are trying to sell it. Here’s journalist J.J patrick pulling up Jeremy Corbyn’s latest Tweet about how a soft Brexit will be a world of soft absorbent puppies and gold coins.

Brexit is going to cost. It’s already cost us an estimated £100 million, and as Patrick says, hard and soft is an irrelevant distinction. If I cut your leg off with a razor sharp blade or an old rusty sword, one might be better and quicker in the short term but both leave you without a leg.

So we face Brexit negotiations starting tomorrow with both main UK wide parties in favour of a massive act of self-harm that will bring upon us crushing and lasting poverty for the most vulnerable yet people on the left and right carry on for ideological reasons. Never has the phrase ‘may you live in interesting times‘ felt like a curse.

Does the SNP and the Independence movement’s ”Scottishness” frighten people in the rest of the UK?

I was following a Twitter conversation the other day and it hit an interesting point.

I’ll explain what I mean but it does involve a bit of a read to get there so be warned…

Barring Labour supporters outside of Scotland angry they’ll never ‘win Scotland back’, there’s a chunk of people in England (and much of this is anecdotal on my part but it supports what others have found) who do look at the SNP (and Plaid Cymru in Wales) as something alien.

I spent 28 years living in England. Until the advent of the internet I could only pick up what was going on in Scotland via visits or more normally, though second, third, fourth, etc hand reports. Upon visiting Scotland in 1999 I was amazed there was any serious support for the SNP as although by this time my eyes were opened to the shitshow that was Tony Blair’s Labour, I’d shuffled over to nominally voting for the Lib Dems. The SNP for me, were ‘Tartan Tories’. Independence was a joke and barring the odd shining star like Margo McDonald the SNP were as much a threat as the Tories or Labour.

At this point I was a nominal supporter for the Union. True, I wanted full devolution, even a form of federalism, but independence seemed divisive as I truly felt the people of the UK worked better together. I had seen the slow destruction of Scotland continue on visits home (the sight of seeing the blue towers of Ravenscraig gone still shock me) but I was seeing the Tory destruction of parts of London, the Midlands and the South West. I thought the only way to fight the Tories was finding a UK alternative to them yet I never really included the SNP as part of that because I saw them as a ”Other’. They didn’t want solidarity, and the idea that cultural identity was as important as beating the Tories meant that had I lived in Scotland at the time, I’d be against the SNP.

For years I’d lived in England and never (bar one time in Staines with a drunken arsehole) had any xenophobic abuse. Yeah, there was banter with mates, but that was what mates do when they’re having a drunken session and it was both ways, not to mention it wasn’t serious. It wasn’t real, actual, xenophobic abuse. Around 2009 I had UKIP supporters in Bristol speak of Scots as a second-class race essentially. Then their bottom-feeders, the English Democrats, produced an election broadcast which was so xenophobic towards Scots that I complained to Ofcom. Everything changed & I blame a lot of that on UKIP. I no longer felt there was a level of equality in the UK, and my eyes were opened that for a section of people in England they clung onto a form of imperialism where Scotland was the property of an Empire. What I found equally extraordinary is that this wasn’t now coming from the right, but friends of mine who I knew were lefties were pushing a similar line.

Then the Scottish independence referendum campaign happened and the concept of even a Scottish identity in the UK was challenged. You didn’t accept a version of the UK where you plead fealty to the UK and suppress any lingering cultural identity of your own. For some on the left in England especially, multiculturalism didn’t extend to people from the UK as your identity as a Scot threatened the UK identity. That was the default as after all, as I’ve said, if you live in England you’re not exposed to the daily routine of Scottish politics and life. Sure, the advent of the internet meant it was easier to catch up with what was going on but you never experienced it first hand.

Last November I returned to Scotland to mainly recuperate from a stroke and deal with cancer. I saw the day-to-day life of Scotland. I saw ‘Scotishness’ first hand and some reactions were initially that some of it felt parochial however this was a relic of my thinking that the default situation for these islands is the UK. The SNP’s inability to conform to the default position and thinking of many in England antagonises people, in the same way some people are antagonised by Muslims wearing veils or speaking Polish in the street. It’s a failure to accept there’s other cultures in the UK and a reluctance to accept that Unionism (because this is what I’m really talking about) naturally involves crushing other cultures to be assimilated like some red, white and blue Borg.

So the SNP could be a right wing party that supported independence and promoted a Scottish identity separate from a Unionist one. They’d be equally despised by some. It’s the independence that rankles them because it challenges their own default identity. Their centre-left platform isn’t that much different from Tony Blair’s early days when he dabbled with social democracy but because they propose that there’s alternatives in these islands to Unionism (and everything that comes with it) they rile people up to the point of blind hatred. I’ve come to see independence as a political solution and a natural state for all countries to have, so although I won’t vote SNP (except in the general election as I think they’re the only way we’ll fight off the Tories in a Westminster election) I don’t see them as scary bogeymen any more.

And that’s where we are in this election campaign. Identity and culture will play a massive part of this election not just in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but across the UK as a whole because this is where we are thanks to Brexit. Corbyn’s Labour haven’t realised this, but Theresa May has hence why she’s called this election when a default position for many is a form of uber-Unionism that sees the UK as the centre of the world.That position may not be popular when the realities of Brexit kick in, so in Scotland I think we get what’s at stake here. Back in England any attempt to fight this solely on policies without dealing with Brexit (and everything that comes with it) hands the Tories an advantage. In this election identity is all, and it’s a straight fight between a hard/far right Unionist one and one Yes supporters offer. Make your choice.

A word about the snap General Election

After writing this I thought things couldn’t get weirder or more scary. Then Theresa May calls a snap general election on the 8th of June and the arse falls out of any idea we might be hitting a phase of relative sanity.

Using the line The country is coming together but Westminster is not May obviously sees a chance based upon current polls to have the sort of majority that we’ve not seen since the Tony Blair years. May is essentially going to have to scrap the Fixed Terms Parliaments Act to hold this snap election which may well provide some more interesting snippets as although the Tories are putting on a united front, there’s a lot of Tories out there (Hi David Mundell!!) sitting on paper-thin majorities in areas that thanks to Brexit may well be facing unemployment in June.The Act was designed to stop PM’s doing just what May is doing which is hold an election when the polls are favourable.

Problem is polls can be read wrong. Take the Scottish independence referendum. David Cameron happily let the Scottish Government hold a referendum in 2014 the polls showed only around 20% support for independence. That changed over the campaign as more people became informed of the issues, so May’s taking a risk but this is a risk which if it pays off means she personally has an eye-watering majority (if the polls are accurate around 100) not to mention she intends to change the makeup of the Lords, while Brexit hands her the sort of power no Prime Minister should have.

So this is about Theresa May grabbing power. See all that bumf about ‘division’? That’s about creating a state where the opposition is muted and ineffective where it needs to be in Westminster. There’s also the matter of the Tory election fraud scandal which menaces the Tories and taints their 2015 victory, though as Michael Crick points out, this means the hard decisions are now in the hands of the CPS.

The question you have to ask yourself is what sort of future you want for yourself and for others? This is a general election where the future of the UK itself is up for grabs. If you want a future where Tory Prime Ministers have the sort of power where they can sail through whatever they want unopposed though Westminster then look to see where your vote belongs.In Scotland that means voting for the SNP, a party I reluctantly will give my vote to in June (I find their economic policies to be far too conservative) because their social policies are good and they’ll beat not just the Tories, but a hopeless broken Labour Party who’ve run up the white flag on Brexit.

Elsewhere in the UK its down to you to make the choice. I hope Corbyn’s smart and takes the offer of a progressive alliance Ed Milliband refused in 2015 but I fear the Labour Ultras won’t do that. I hope I’m proven wrong. Whatever you do make the right choice because we have a choice and if that choice is Tory (or UKIP) then we’re heading down the same path as Turkey, America, Russia and possibly France in having a hard authoritarian leader who stamps over human rights. Do we really want to be on the dark side in the years ahead?

Götterdämmerung

In Wagner’s Ring Cycle, Götterdämmerung, is the final act. It means ‘Twilight of the Gods’. That’s relevant because on Saturday morning I went through to Edinburgh and the news-stands were full of papers heaving with the threat of war, in particular the nuclear kind, or the realisation one gets at 8am in the morning when your brain processes the reality of what’s going on which is something like this train of thought; ‘ohmyfuckinggodtheresaloonintheWhitehousewhomightactuallyfuckingdoit!’ . Or to put it more succinctly…

So what the fuck is going on? Is Donald Trump mad enough to actually use nuclear weapons and will North Korea be mad enough to push a madman far enough to do it? Will Putin step in and what about the wave of far right authoritarians in Europe from Erdoğan in Turkey through to Le Pen in France and Farage and May here in the UK?  Where does Brexit fit into what’s going on? Is there a grassy knoll I can hide behind?

It does feel like it’s either a massive series of unconnected events which makes me a paranoid conspiracy theorist (which means I should move into a basement somewhere and live in my own filth) or there’s a load of stuff going on and various people/groups are taking advantage of what is a breakdown of the old social and economic order which has placed us in a time of chaos. So a twilight of the old ways as it were. Whatever is going on one thing is clear; we’re living in a future dystopia that if this had been written about in the 90’s would have been dismissed as bollocks. Trump in the Whitehouse? Aye, right. UKIP a powerful force? Oh fuck off. The far right on the rise across Europe? Oh fuck…

As future dystopias go this is more the 1984 type than the Threads type, but it doesn’t seem it’ll take much to push it towards that which as someone who lived through the 1980’s scares the crap out of me. See, we went to sleep with nightmares of nuclear wars which bled into every aspect of 80’s culture from film to comics to music which at times was positively Wagnerian in its scope.

We’re never going to grasp what’s going on because everything is just too huge and our minds aren’t built to process the scale of it in the same way that we can never see the entirely of a fractal shape or all of our life at once. We can only pick and choose what it is we want to see and how we want to interpret it, but either consciously or unconsciously we dismiss the scale of what we’re looking at. The reason I’m probably more scared now than I was in the 80’s is there’s too many wild cards out there and there’s a lunatic in the Whitehouse, the Kremlin, North Korea and smaller (but no less worrying) lunatics across the world, including our own Theresa May, who are driven by ideology, faith and an uncritical way of thinking. Reagan and Gorbachev look like giants compared to these people who seem to be intent on taking us down a path where we end up in caves drinking our own urine as it’s the least radioactive liquid available.

This is an unstable time where we’re governed/ruled by unstable people influenced by populist, hard/far right religious views from all the faiths you’d like to imagine.If this is the twilight of an age then lets make it the end of these people rather than us or democracy. We have to ensure things like Brexit, and people like Trump and Putin don’t walk us into the end unchallenged. We’re in a fight and it won’t be nice, easy or simple and it will involve many on the left, especially the liberal-left pulling themselves out of their echo chambers too. Because the stakes here are massive and quite frankly I’m not keen in spending my remaining decades on this planet living in fear of what may happen if one of these lunatics goes that step too far that takes us beyond the twilight and into the night.

Theresa May fights the War on Easter

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has taken her time out of her busy trip selling arms to Saudi Arabia to comment on the frankly astonishing story that the National Trust have axed the word ”Easter” from their annual egg hunt. Disgraceful you may say. ”Islamisation” you may drool. It’d certainly at least be odd.

If it was real of course. It isn’t.

eastermay

 

On Cadbury’s website the word ‘Easter’ is everywhere. The campaign people are being offended by is just part of a larger campaign and anyone spending more than a second looking into this would find this out.

Now Theresa May could have said ‘no comment’. She could have laughed it off. She could have said ”I’ll look into it” and find out the truth. No, she said;

“I’m not just a vicar’s daughter, I’m a member of the National Trust as well,” she told ITV during a visit to Amman, Jordan. “I think the stance they have taken is absolutely ridiculous. I don’t know what they are thinking about frankly.”

This is the Prime Minister getting outraged about a non-story in a country where human rights abuse are insanely numerous. This frankly is insane. She’s in a country where if you tried to celebrate Easter you’d be imprisoned or worse and she’s jumped blindly onto a argument generated by far right commentators who’d get offended at anything.

Consider this; if May jumps blindly into this fairly trivial piece of bullshit, imagine what else she blindly jumps into without thinking?

Pick your own Brexit meme

Someone once said there isn’t a Wile E.Coyote gif that doesn’t represent Brexit perfectly.

This seems to be the case.

After all, it’s clear the likes of Theresa May and David Davis are out of their depth.

And that we’re facing ignoble failure as the EU makes it clear the Brexiters plans have obvious barriers.

It really is remarkable that virtually every single Wile E. Coyote gif sums Brexit up for the pitiful failure it is.

But we’re on the road to hell now and the drivers are imperialistic, Unionist xenophobes with delusions of greatness.

Still, this is only the start. It’s going to get much worse.

Good luck everyone!

 

 

Should there be a second Scottish independence referendum?

Brexit is coming and a second Scottish independence referendum is on the cards, assuming of course UK Prime Minister Theresa May doesn’t block it, though that opens up a massive constitutional crisis as effectively that would be a UK PM denying the right of Holyrood to make democratic decisions. It effectively destroys the principle of devolution and that may well be something the Tories want to avoid as that would drive people to supporting independence based upon the principle of self-determination.

Yet there’s a hardening of attitudes from some Unionists. Here’s a quite astonishing interview between a Labour activist, Jon Proctor (opposing independence) and David Jamieson, a journalist who supports independence.

Watching Proctor steam furiously is entertaining but the fact is this is the level of debate. One side says they have a mandate (and they do), while the other goes on about ‘division’ which in itself seems extraordinary for people involved in politics to complain about division when the entire idea of democratic political debate is division. It’s about opposing views. Those places with a singular point of view tend to be run by people with moustaches or bad haircuts.

But the point is whether we in Scotland should have a second referendum to decide not just whether to be an independent country, but whether we support whatever deal is proposed for Brexit? Yes we should.It’s clear from May’s actions and lack of transparency that the intention is to ram things through with as little democratic accountability as possible. That should be deeply concerning to any democrat regardless of where you stand in the independence/Brexit debate. The fact so many are intent on ignoring that worries the hell out of me and here we are on the verge of the biggest thing a UK government has done outwith of a war and there’s little democratic accountability.

So yes, let’s have a second referendum. Let the people of Scotland at least have a say in their future rather than be railroaded into something we don’t want.