Sunday, 5 February 2017

A Whine And A Moan

I don't know about anyone else but the last few posts have been a bit heavy going.  Pulling all that information together and trying to weave a path through it all made my head hurt.  I'm not a professional writer so I can easily imagine that trying to understand my scribblings was a bit of a challenge, too. Isn't it time to put up our feet for just a few days?  That might seem odd given that there's just been a huge vote at Westminster to trigger Article 50 but, you know what, I really don't care about that at all.  The outcome had been certain since last August so it barely even bleeped on my Brexit radar. It might seem even odder given that the UK Government just released their White Paper on leaving the EU. I did read it but it is just filled with the same non-committal sophistry that they've been emitting on a regular basis since the middle of last July. I think we can take our foot off the accelerator pedal for a couple of days and just have a bit of a whine and a moan.  Yes, let's have a right old moan.  There is a particularly dry joke at the end so watch out for that.  Can't wait that long for a joke?  Well, here's a pop pun right now.  Enjoy.

This whole Brexit malarkey is really shit, isn't it?  Right from the beginning and all the way to the bitter end it has shown the UK in the worst possible light. We've had outright lies from both sides of the debate; the rise of an inarticulate right wing; the normalisation of xenophobia and racism; more lies from media barons counting their cash in tax exile;  a supposedly liberal media staffed entirely by interns who can't tell a trade tariff from a treaty; a Labour Party led by a spineless buffoon trapped in a 1970s Bennite fantasy; the revelation that the Scottish Parliament has no actual powers; myths becoming facts by sheer repetition; demagogues and narcissists appearing on the TV without critique at every opportunity; national registers of foreigners; MPs silently dropping manifesto pledges steadfastly held by their parties for 50 years; statements redolent of Nazi Germany like "the will of the people"; the UK Government refusing to stand up for the rights of refugees under the Geneva Convention.  I could go on and on but we all have lives to lead.  It's of interest to nobody but me but I find this enormously depressing.  It is depressing.

An emoji is highly inappropriate given current events but, hey, it's 2017 and this is how we communicate now.
While I'm moaning I might as well carry on and get it out of my system.  What else is profoundly depressing about Brexit?  On a few occasions of misguided optimism I've tried to engage with Leavers and convince them that a specific assertion they made is false.  I know twitter is a poor platform for debate but it's enough to learn that the divisions of Brexit are a modern day manifestation of CP Snow's "Two Cultures".  The UK is most definitely split into two opposing political groups:  those who look at a scatter plot and ask questions about the data gathering methodology and those who don't know how to interpret a graph in any meaningful way at all.  Group A supports their arguments with peer-reviewed research; Group B argues back with personal anecdote filtered through their own prejudice.  Group A post links to government data; Group B respond with a link to a mercifully short youtube video of a pro-Leave MP tutting at a Civil Servant. Group A discuss the merits of extrapolation and the error bars in trade statistics; Group B label domain experts as members of a shadowy liberal elite.  These two groups have no idea how to talk to each other.  We are lucky to have an abundance of cheap technology that allows us to reach out and connect with all sorts of different people.  When we do that, however, we realise that half of them have only a slender grasp on the concept of numbers but also possess the arrogance to think that what they don't understand is of no value.  These are the people who hold power right now in the UK. Everything is going their way.

I sometimes wonder where this will all end up. I know I don't live in the UK but I have friends and family there and still feel connected to it, especially to Scotland.  Where will it all end up?  Thinking too long about the direction of today's politics can make me momentarily fearful. Thinking about how quickly it turned makes me momentarily fearful, too.  The real fear is that leaving the EU won't solve the problems that led to the EU referendum in the first place. Leaving the EU won't increase the hourly rate of low-skilled workers; it won't build social housing; it won't reduce unemployment; it won't lead to a generation of benevolent employers intent on improving working conditions; it won't give the UK fresh powers to solve its very real problems.  Where will all that anger go when the UK finds itself in a worse position, when it's tied to the cut-throat economy of the US? I can't see the UK realigning itself to the progressive politics of the EU any time soon.  How much further to the right can a country shift before democracy itself is under threat?

Great, two versions of the same song but they sound exactly the same to me.
The stratification of UK society is dangerous. I've started to remember if an actor is a Leaver or a Remainer and I'll turn over the telly if I don't agree with their position.  I know that Johnny Marr voted Remain but I'm led to assume that Morrissey voted Leave. What do I do with my Smiths playlist on Spotify?  Do I just listen to the instrumentals? I know that Michael Caine is a UKIPper but that's ok because I've already seen any of his films that are worth a watch.  Ray Winstone also said he was  a Kipper a while back but I've never had any interest in watching anything he's ever been in. Will Self, of course, voted Remain so I can carry on reading his books.  Hang on a minute, this is no way at all to life your life.  I've fallen foul of a prejudice just as dangerous as the xenophobia of many Leave supporters.  Is it true that voting Leave means you are a xenophobe? An idiot who doesn't understand logic or know how to read a graph?  Someone who thinks refugees are to be expelled back to their own countries? A blind follower of demagoguery and narcissism?  I used to joke with a friend that he couldn't separate artist from art.  To make my point I'd make him listen to "Do you wanna touch me" by Gary Glitter. Now I'm left wondering if Gary Glitter voted Leave or Remain.

 Over and out,


PS I'm glad that's out of my system. 

PPS I have half a post prepared on the Brexit White Paper.   It's actually not quite as dull and featureless as I made out. I just said that for dramatic effect.  What is missing is actually far more interesting than what is present.  More next time.

PPPS "Do you wanna touch me" by Gary Glitter is a brilliant glam stomp but I honestly can't bring myself to listen to it any more. Luckily, Joan Jett did a terrific version so there's always that.  The Human League also covered Rock'n'Roll so that's all the essential tracks covered.


  1. I know it's all grim, Terry but you made me smile! It becomes very difficult not to take the most egregious members of group B round the back of the pub and give then a good bashing with bound copy of Economics for Idiots. Sheesh.

    1. I don't have the advantage/disadvantage of real live contact with any of these people but I'm sure I would have exactly the same urge. Do they plan their annual holidays with such a relaxed attitude? Who needs tourist visas? They'll just let us in, won't they? I mean, we're British. Who wouldn't want us coming to stay?

  2. Terry, there are so-called professional writers who couldn't shine your shoes for content or entertainment value. You articulate what I, and I suspect many other yes/remain voters, think and feel while providing valuable insight into these Brexit matters that is nearly completely lacking from the MSM. It is bleak, what you are considering and articulating, but there is nothing in history to suggest dreadful things won't come to pass of we are not all bloody careful. Keep up the good work!


    1. Thank you so much.

      I really don't understand the complete failure of MSM at all. The liberal press is just a disaster, completely unable to get to grips with the pace of change. I read a lot about cutbacks and low staff morale at the Guardian but that alone doesn't explain their truly woeful attempts at reporting on Brexit. After all, they still have a multi-million budget, a huge news room and thousands of eager journalists prepared to write for them. They're only actually good for harvesting quotes from politicians. Platforms like twitter are starting to take over even that limited role. It's a worry that it is becoming increasingly irrelevant, that there is no common voice to counter the Daily Express.

      I think we're reaching peak bleak. I would guess in a couple of months a 2nd indyref will be called and spring will be in the air (ok, it might not be all that present in the Scottish air but there will be hints of it here in Zurich). Scotland still has a fighting chance.

      I've been thinking about blogging more about Scotland's place in the EU. That will be a lot less bleak.

    2. Having you blog about the positive place Scotland has/could have in Europe would be greatly beneficial for Indyref2.

      I think the MSM have simply become part of the establishment & anything that challenges that is seen as something to be shut down. I must admit to being very disappointed by the Guardian during 2014 & beyond as I thought they, at least, would be able to be neutral, balanced, thoughtful & challenging on what Scotland is & was trying to do but they just came out with so much knee-jerk unionist stuff that it is clear they can't think anymore than the rest can.

    3. The editorial tone of the Guardian is definitely disappointing. Beyond that, though, the quality of the journalism in it is really dreadful. Just dreadful. I've really noticed that on all matters Brexit. They have no chance to challenge the government if they are equally as befuddled.

  3. During the Scottish referendum there were many who said that Alex Salmond (like he was out there on his own and none of the rest of us counted) had split the country in two.

    I argued that the country had always been slit in two (or slightly more) over other things. Catholic or Proddy (despite the fact that almost no one goes to church); Rangers or Celtic, Hearts or Hibs, royalist or republican, Tory or Labour (or something else), old or young...for example.

    The vitriolic cover given to YES by the BBC and the written press every day caused divisions. If anyone stirred up real division, it was them, not the relatively affable Eck.. But of course the differences had always existed. There had, for a long time, been those who wanted independence and those who didn't. The referendum simply brought divisions to the fore by giving them prominence.

    It was the same thing over the EU. The differences had always been there. Years ago I used to shudder when the press ran stupid stories about straight bananas, or berated the EU for its "health and safety" or "human rights" if these were bad things. And it has never hurt that UK government to have the EU to blame for unpopular rules, even if, as we have seen more recently, they were lying through their teeth. But there were a lot of us whose salaries were paid by EU money; who saw the benefits that came from the EU's interventions and the power of being in the most impressive trading block in the world.

    What worries me most is the racism that has always existed here, but has, in recent months, been given some sort of respectability by the press.

    People are afraid to speak in their own language in the streets for fear of being murdered for being Polish.

    There is a shortage of labour in some areas because Europeans (not just from the East) went home at Christmas and didn't come back. You may have seen the FT article about it. Nurses and doctors have sopped apply for posts. University lecturers and researchers are looking elsewhere to take their brains.

    I wonder if people here know what they have done. The shortage of labour will be come more acute. Some of the more ridiculous right wing Tories have even suggested that OAPs be forced to pick fruit for their pensions. Of the 1.6 million unemployed in the UK, nearly a million are over 50. Employers prefer younger people who can work faster, learn more quickly, be more adaptable and generally fit in more quickly to a work place that has changed so dramatically over the last 15 years.

    As you say, both sides lied in the campaign. Sometimes it was the same lie. If we leave interest rates will have to rise; if we stay interest rates will have to rise. (Not that that would be a bad thing for some of us!) And both sides were led by people who (with the exception of Boris) you'd cross continents to avoid... Cameron, Osborne, Fallon... Gove, IDS, Fox!

    It's a bit of an unhappy place to live, and the future really does look orange.

    I can't say I liked Gary Glitter much. I'm not sure why. Like with Saville, I can't claim any foresight. I just thought both were creepy, without having any notion why. Certainly what turned out to be never even crossed my mind for a second.

    And lastly in this rambling post, I'd like to agree with what Kade said. Your posts are at once informative and amusing. You manage somehow to make complex issues simple to understand.

    Thank you for that.

    1. There has always been disagreement but Brexit feels more like division. To me it feels far more divisive than the indyref. I know people who voted both ways back in 2014. There were legitimate arguments on both sides. I don't divide people into Yessers and Noers (?) because I understand why people did vote No. I don't know anyone who voted Leave back in June. I'm led to the conclusion that the division is between people who for a long time have nothing in common, nothing to say to each other, no shared values or links to each other at all. The split is by geography, age, levels of education, wealth, occupation. I almost feel like I could guess at people's vote if I just know 3 or 4 facts about their life. This is very unhealthy. A country split in two can never be a happy place.

      The EU ref has brought racism and xenophobia into focus. It's probably always been there, as you said, but until recently it wasn't acceptable to be open with these types of view. This change is enormous and sudden. It is also dangerous. People are prepared to vote against their own interests, to accept economic harm, just to get rid of foreigners.

      Enoch Powell was worried about communalism, the idea that incomers to the country would vote along ethnic allegiances instead of in their own self interest. He believed this would undermine the democratic system in the UK. What he didn't anticipate is that 40 years later it would be white English voters who would vote by ethnic allegiance. What a mess.

      The 70s seem like a particularly creepy decade now. Chris Morris was ahead of the game when he did his Brass Eye "Playground bang-a-round" spoof of 70s glam rock. I'm glad the Top of the Pops re-runs have moved onto the 80s. Another win is seeing Altered Images on the gogglebox again.

    2. Aye, the 'creating divisions' thing. I lost one friend in 2014 because of this. She is a very nice lady who happens to be English & fortunate enough to be fairly well off. I never asked but she was probably a Tory, but one of the decent ones. During indyref1 she moaned in one Facebook post about the independence campaign causing divisions & stirring up trouble when everything had been fine before. She didn't take kindly to be pointing out that for an awful lot of poor Scots, things were not fine as they were & if they were making affluent people like her uncomfortable then that was a good thing. Because she was genuinely a nice person she would never say to poor person that they shouldn't want for more but the reality was that she didn't want to confront what society was really like & would be happier of everyone kept on pretending everything was OK.

      This is the same with brexit & Trump. The world has not suddenly become a worse place because of these two votes: these votes have highlighted just what a mess some parts of the world are already in. But they also allow the intolerant views of some to be legitimatised & vocalised where as they used to be kept quiet for fear of what others would think.


    3. That is very sad to lose a friend over the indyref. It seems that it was a bit more divisive than I imagined.

      The world is definitely a worse place because of Brexit and Trump. A friend here takes the view that everyone needs to find out what it actually means to unpick all of the institutions and certainties that have guided the post-war years. Only the reality of the alternative will pull people back to understanding the advantages of experts and laws and courts and international cooperation. It's going to be a bumpy few years if reason is to win out.

    4. Oh, I lost more than one friend in 2014. I don't regret it as I feel I acted honorably and with integrity but what I saw in some people I thought I knew was very sad. Some people harbour an incredible sense of entitlement or disregard for other people, not to mention a frightening degree of tribalism. Or maybe that last is something they and I share but I just happen to be a member of the 'other tribe' in this context.

      I am crossing my fingers and hoping that Trump will be the best thing that happened to America in a way. That country's citizens have been politically asleep for a long time and taking their freedoms for granted and not realising the costs that others are paying around the world so that we in the west can enjoy the lifestyles that some of us do. Indyref1 woke up a lot of Scots who have remained awake (I hope sufficiently so) and while I am beyond hoping that the rUK will wake up over Brexit I am hopeful that the rest of the EU will look at Brexit Britain and Trump's America and have a good think before they unravel the EU any further (though of course the only real information I have on the disunity within the EU comes through the UK media and that is a tad biased and may be over-stating things a wee bit).

      Time will tell.


    5. I'm starting to think that I'm acting tribally over Brexit. I think this is a very unhealthy situation. It hasn't affected my personal life directly because I don't know any Leavers but it has affected my outlook. Even labelling people as Leavers and Remainers is bad. I don't know what to do except reason to myself that extraordinary times need extraordinary solutions.

      It does appear that Scotland never went back to sleep. This is something to cheer about. rUK, on the other hand, is lost to Brexit. I just don't see this changing. More than anything, this is about identity. I honestly think they would happily be poor if they felt more English. America is a strange one because the UK feels an affinity to the US not shared by many Europeans. I can easily imagine plenty of people in the UK thinking that Trump is a good leader but I really don't see that happening in the EU. That kind of flash and ostentatious wealth and swagger plays badly here. He might be bad for the EU but he won't be bad for EU unity.

      Greek debt is still a serious problem for the Euro. The EU, of course, is always beset by problems because its job is to resolve problems that individual nations can't solve on their own. Sometimes it just contains problems and kicks the can down the road. It's rather good at that, in my view. A real criticism of the EU is that it does that too often and is too good at it. I don't see the EU falling apart any time soon.

    6. Also some good news for the EU. Well, actually the Eurozone.

      Still problems with banking debt but lots of consistent growth and easily outstripping the US.

    7. I couldn't get that (not being a subscriber to the FT. However, any FT link 'tweeted' can be read by non subscribers, as used to happen with the National.

      As we are swapping links, I thought you might be interested in this article:

      Hard border it will, at least to an extent, be. More likely with random border checks than full body searches at every post.

      But it's back to declaring goods. And the problem is that for so long (before the two countries were in the EU), there has been an open border...even when the troubles were on.

      People naturally shop across the border, and many manufactured goods take raw material from the other side of the border and re-export a finished article.

      Another little conundrum for Tess of the Horrorvilles.

      (Added to which the Speaker has dropped her in the whatsit with Trumpy.) Ho Hum... who'd want to be PM of Little England?

    8. Interesting article. The customs border is a given. It's a genuine worry that the independence movement points at the intention for there to be no border and then argues that there will be no customs border at Carlisle. Both borders will be customs borders.

      The rule here is that 300chf can be brought across without declaration. That's just to allow personal shopping trips. I would imagine that can be implemented in Northern Ireland too. Obviously, that needs random checks on trains and cars, and more rigorous checks for lorries and trucks. Definitely bad news for business to business trade. The White Paper on leaving the EU is quite vague about all of this. Filled with wishes and hopes but no actual strategy. .

      The PM has her own troubles for sure.It looks like Trump's visit is proving to be a bit of a headache.

  4. Well, Terry, I think you did a splendid job of putting into words a lot of what many of us feel. I hope that writing it has been as cathartic for you as just reading it was for me. Thank you.

    1. Thanks!

      I do feel better for having a bit of a moan. I'm going to do this more often.


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