Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Brexit is the birth of a new era for Europe

The Berlin Wall

History can be read in many ways. It’s all a matter of interpretation in which case names, places and dates take on their own significance and become era defining. Though the Second World War dragged on for some months after the fall of Hitler, the defeat of fascism is the landmark that has the most significance to the UK; VE Day. By normal reckoning this is viewed as the end of the war in Europe.

That war though was never completely resolved. General George S. Patton wanted to continue the war and fight the Russians. He may well have been right. It might have resulted in a united Europe that included Russia. But Europe was war weary. The defeat of Hitler was enough for us to call it a day.

Consequently, a cold war raged until 1989. As a child of the 80s I remember sitting on the Yorkshire moors watching the Tornado jets practicing for the event of war. The skies were seldom quiet. For a young boy with dreams of being a fighter pilot these were exciting times. The cold war influenced popular culture in many ways. It spawned the James Bond spy series along with films like Rambo and The Fourth Protocol. It was a good time to be a boy.

For the adults though, life was more frightening. My grandparents had known the horrors of World War Two and they knew, like my parents, that war could once again erupt at a moment’s notice. Only this time far more deadly.

This, though, came to an abrupt end in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down. As a ten year old I have only distant memories of it but I was old enough to know I was witnessing something significant. As much as it marked the fall of Communism, it was in many respects the real end of the Second World War.

In that time between 1945 and 1989 all of our foreign policy and international institutions had been built as part of the post-war settlement as part of Europe’s “peacetime” architecture. In many respects life had been much simpler. We knew who the enemy was and our culture was bound by a recognition that we all faced a common threat and forged a common bond in the face of it.

From that Britain had great pride in itself. The institutions of state were dripping with prestige and authority. We had what was perceived as one of the finest navies in the world and one of the most active. Britain had a presence that was felt the world over and I knew I was growing up in a very distinctive country that I was proud of.

But when that wall came down, that common threat and that common binding began to slowly disintegrate where national pride became unfashionable and in fact something to be scorned. The new altruism of European Union became fashionable. The nineteen nineties were marked by stuffy old Eurosceptics fighting the tide of history as we signed ever more elaborate treaties building the new Europe.

Back then there was a real energy to the EU as we realised something big was being built in our name. One that threatened to subsume the Britain I had always known – the Britain that had defeated Hitler and faced down Communism. The EU introduced its own passport, its own flag and anthem and British debate was centred on whether we were going to join the Euro to become part of a federal Europe.

The ideology at work was that for our future to be forged in unity, our past must be erased. For Germany to depart from the stain on its soul, the old Germany had to be erased along with the British Empire that had defeated it. It was an attack on national identities with a view to forging a new European demos. So grand was this ambition they weren’t going to let a thing like public consent get in the way.

But we Brits were never on board. We wanted open and free trade with Europe but we did not want to end our island story there. We didn’t want their blue flag on our car registration plates, we didn’t want their purple passport and we definitely didn’t want their currency. Had the EU been content to be a Europe of free trade and customs cooperation we would not now be leaving.

Instead of heeding the people successive governments signed away ever more power to this emerging supreme government of Europe. In 2008 the Treaty of Lisbon was ratified on the basis that it was a mere “tidying up exercise” when in fact it was a constitution bringing about a Europe only one treaty away from being a superstate. We were taken in on a deception by a government that had no intention of seeking permission via a referendum, not least because they knew we would say no.

The then Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague said the prime minister had "no democratic or moral authority to sign Britain up to the renamed EU constitution". It was "a total breach of trust with the British people and a flagrant breach of his solemn election promise to the British people", Mr Hague added. From that moment in history Brexit became a certainty even if we didn't realise it at the time.

Not long after the EU would face would face its first real test as the full force of the global financial crisis made its mark on the Euro currency. Subsequent events showed how completely incapable the EU was in forging a coherent and unified response. For a moment it even looked like the Euro itself could collapse.

A row then broke out at the suggestion that Britain may have to contribute to the bailout of Greece and prop up a currency we advised against to begin with. That has remained in the British consciousness ever since. It was the moment British voters realised the EU was an authority in its own right and we were indeed subordinate. I think this is when the prospect of an in/out EU referendum became a political certainty.

What was once a fairly anodyne political project ticking along in the background was suddenly very real in the minds of voters. We were being asked to pay for the hubris of our political masters - to bail out their vanity project that nobody ever asked for and didn’t want to join and were taken into without seeking consent. Fast forward to 2016 and at the first opportunity to have a real say in the matter and we voted to leave.

In that regard I think the 23rd of June will in the future be viewed as a turning point. Perhaps not as significant as the fall of the Berlin Wall, but as the beginning of the end of the EU - and consequently the end of the post-war settlement.

The lesson here is that humans form communities and institutions of their own. Only the people themselves can bring legitimacy to those institutions. Legitimacy is not won through voting rituals. Legitimacy is through consent.

An ideology was superimposed on the peoples of Europe and was advanced by deception. You can, for a time, subvert the will of the people and deny them a voice but in the end the people will have the final say, one way or another.

What is won in war is a distinct shared bond, through experiences and through family and through joint struggle. It is integral to that identity and from that is born a national story and a sense of shared values and purpose. It is stronger and longer lasting than the machinations of bureaucrats. It passes down through the generations and weaves its way into everything we do.

Zealots looked down upon this as old fashioned, primitive, even racist and sought to replace it with something fabricated, assuming that the baubles of statehood would forge a new story and a new people. They were wrong.

Rather than bringing peace through forced integration they have shattered the unity of the UK, bankrupted Greece, endangered Ukraine and hung eastern Europe out to dry. Having antagonised and alienated Russia, we are once again sleepwalking back into a new cold war.

In this, it is our collective memory of who we are and what we can achieve that will deliver us from another destructive war, not the artificial constructs our rulers impose upon is. Like 1945 and 1989 we are turning a corner into a more uncertain world but this time we really are departing with the past. We are free and clear of the old dogmas and the stains of our past have faded. Now we get design a new future of our own. As we move forward we must never forget that democracy is our best hope for peace and prosperity. Trust in the people and we will have peace. Push them into a corner and they will fight back.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

I would (very reluctantly) vote for Trump

I have semi-deliberately tuned out of the US presidential election. In years past I have paid very close attention if only to learn about the US democratic system. This year though I have largely tuned it out to experience what it is like to be a disconnected voter who doesn't take much interest in politics. I know I can take my eye off the ball because blogger Samuel J Hooper has provided extensive and thorough coverage.

As a deliberately uninterested party to it all, I only really pick up on the surface noise. I know that Clinton is a warmongering, corrupt tyrant and I know that Trump is a shallow, manipulative attention whore.

Policy wise, assuming either would actually adhere to their stated policies I actually find Trump's general thrust to be more appealing largely on the grounds of non interventionism and attempting to open up a dialogue with Russia. I reckon the racist crap is all for show and there is no way the US constitution would let him do half the things he wants to. I also reckon that the UK would get a better trade deal from Trump than Clinton. But that's an abstract assessment as a Brit.

They reckon that Trump could be dangerous but then Clinton is a hostile hawk in a long line of them who have created a singular mess from Libya to Iran. I wonder if the world might benefit from the US parking its army toys for a few years.

But what has swung it for me is the general anti-Trump smug superiority in the media. Were I an American I would be very tempted to give the whole sorry bunch of them the two fingered salute. I think possibly it could open the door to open racism and it would lead to a period of soul searching for the US establishment and it may lead to a corrective rather than maintaining the status quo - which is an ongoing pretence that the US is a stable country. America never really resolved its race problems and democrats have used blacks as an electoral crutch and have kept them in sustained poverty for decades.

In this I don't see Trump doing anything useful but he could break the cycle where the pretence is dropped, the peace disturbed and a new settlement could come out the other side. I think Trump is about right in that he is "Brexit times five". He is so offensive to the US liberal establishment that they would go into full blown hyperventilation as our remainers have. This is very much a democratic cleansing exercise in that you really do get to see the contempt they feel toward ordinary voters.

I would see a Trump presidency as an act of creative destruction that the US needs about as much as the UK needs Brexit. It's not that I think he is a good man or a competent man I just think that Clinton is the last dregs of a dynasty which has opened the door for US corporate power to effectively take over government. If it isn't Trump this time around then next time it'll be someone as bad or worse simply because the US is crying out for genuine democratic reform as a corrective to a system that has lost its way.

I don't know what the email scandal is all about. That's another of the things I have tuned out but in this age of cyber warfare the thought of a commander in chief playing fast and loose with data protection is sheer incompetence. And the worst thing about Hillary is that people assume she is competent when she is about as thick as Trump. At least with Trump there will be government officials and supervisors watching him like a hawk. They will give Clinton too much leeway.

In the end I don't really care either way. America is rotten and very broken and in need of its own Arab Spring. If it doesn't happen now then it will happen next time around. Like the UK, America has stored up a number of deep running problems that cannot be solved without airing them all in public and having a serious debate about the nature of power and who wields it and for what ends. That debate is unavoidable and we will see civil strife the likes that we saw during the 1960s. Trump will be a catalyst to that. I would rather see America start that process now.

Democracies are always better off airing their demons rather than pretending everything is fine. The EU for us as been a linchpin so that we can sweep our problems under the rug. It takes a moment as seismic as Brexit for it all to come out. That's what we needed and that is what America needs. The US "liberal" left offend me in more serious ways than the utterly superficial Trump. Their influence has been corrosive and insidious. At least Trump will be brutally obvious.

Were I an American I would be pretty depressed by the choices in front of me, and I would be reluctant to gratify the process, but if I wanted change, I would cast my vote for Trump just to set the ball rolling. I would not enjoy doing it, but in the long run, this is a cultural dispute that needs resolving and America should not shy from starting that process. I just feel sad that it has come to this.

Controlling our borders shouldn't be controversial

The Sun, the Guardian and the Mail are all running variations on the same story about segregated communities. It was front page news for the Guardian yesterday. To anyone who doesn't live in medialand, it isn't news.

The Mail takes it as a cue to print pictures of Savile Town in Dewsbury which is pretty much a Pakistani tribal ghetto. It's a shithole and it is dangerous for white people. If you're in the mood to be mugged or beaten or generally abused that's where you'd go. The men from that community control it and they make sure everyone knows it. They use intimidation to drive whites out.

This is a particularly northern phenomenon. I know of no equivalent in Bristol. I have been a victim of it. When I lived in Manningham in Bradford I used to get death threats.

These are people who have no intention of integrating or participating, all of their major transactions are in cash, they launder money and exploit holes in the immigration system to bring in whoever they want. The lousy impression Brits have of Muslims is because of these people and people like them. That's why the "left behind" want immigration controls because they do not want their districts fully colonised and they want their streets to be safe. Like they used to be.

Immigration is something that isn't measured. It is experienced. Everyone has different experiences. London professionals will likely meet other young professionals from elsewhere and will largely welcome open borders. These will tend to be fairly well off folks who don't venture into the scarier parts of London where there are Somalis battering each other with wooden bats in broad daylight. This I have seen with my own eyes.

There are some districts in Bristol which are mixed communities where the whites tend to be working class or students. The divisions are not as acute. However when the white liberals who live there start a family and mummy gets baby-brain she insists they move somewhere like Filton. A white area which is ultimately boring but very very safe. The foreigners in Filton are mainly aerospace contractors working at Airbus. They aren't a problem to anyone.

As with Eastern European EU migrants, nobody really cares that I know of. They do integrate (apart from their shitty taste in music) and nobody but the absolute thickest in society claims that these people are stealing their jobs despite what some slovenly fuckwit at the Financial Times says.

As to the Black community, it's interesting that we still commonly refer to them as "the black community". They do seem to have their own shindigs. In London and Bristol you find entire clubs which are almost exclusively black. I don't know what that's about and I don't really care either. Generally they don't appear on my radar. I expect these would be Jamaicans and the descendents of 1950s immigrants. For the most part they have assimilated if not integrated. Nobody really gives a shit that there are still black areas. Nobody writes double page spreads about black ghettos because really there aren't any. Not that I know of anyways.

So really the elephant in the room that the Guardian has gone to lengths to avoid, and the Daily Mail has talked about non-stop is the Pakistani/Bangladeshi Muslims. How relevant the faith is I can't really say. What I do know is that a mosque in a community can be disruptive and the frequent congregations are antisocial.

And that is what really offends me. These people are generally all round antisocial. Not knowing much about Jewish communities in London I wonder if Londoners have the same impression of Jews. I tend to find when any tribe dominates one area then there is an inherent belligerence. I really don't know, I'm just talking about my own perceptions and experiences.

When it comes to northern ghettos though I can't help wondering why we are open to importing more people from these regions where the people who come are barely toilet trained and intermarry to such a degree that Bradford Royal Infirmary has a specialist unit for birth defects.

I know I am supposed to marvel at how culturally enriched that makes us but it seems to me like allowing more of them to come will ultimately result in Northern towns becoming absolutely alien, less safe, uglier, more crime ridden and dirtier.

Having said that I have to balance that with the fact that as they become richer they, like the rest of us, improve their own communities, smarten up shop fronts and gradually learn to take better care of their immediate environments. But then there is an inherent disadvantage for working class whites.

One thing one notes is that the Muslim communities in the north are not actually short of cash by any measure. There are reports of them buying houses with carrier bags full of cash. I believe that. Whatever they are doing to get that money, it certainly isn't legal. And that is what offends the "left behind". The left behind have the not unreasonable expectation of a quiet life if they work hard play by the rules and get on with things. But then in comes a tribe of Muslim immigrants who don't play by the rules, don't pay taxes, generally wreck a neighbourhood and then take it as their own. Obviously if you complain about this you are a racist.

We are told that we should not discriminate. But the glaringly obvious fact is that we should discriminate quite heavily and though tolerance is generally considered a good thing there is no reason why we should tolerate an immigration policy that simply pours more petrol on the bonfire. These people may contribute to GDP but they contribute nothing to the community. They set up communities within communities and then gradually take over as they make life less pleasant for everyone else, parking where they like, making noise at all hours of the night and spitting on white women.

We really do need to be quite hostile toward that kind of behaviour. We're not because we are still haunted by holocaust guilt. We have the holocaust drummed into us at an early age as though the actions of Germans more than seventy years ago has any bearing on British contemporary culture. The thought of taking a robust stance against a minority community fills us with hesitation.

I am by nature fairly libertarian but the liberties we enjoy such as safely walking down the streets in our own towns is one we should fiercely defend. If that means compulsory purchases of property to break up ghettos and tightening up immigration from countries whose exports are clearly and deliberately incompatible then that is what we must do.

I would rather we had a liberal immigration policy but being liberal should not mean we abandon any sense of self preservation. We not not want the riotous knife wielding thugs we see attempting to board lorries in Calais. We don't want London turning into Paris.

It is not unreasonable to want an immigration policy that is mindful of the social pressures that immigration does create. It's all very well for virtue signalling politicians to hold up placards welcoming refugees but the councils are telling us they have nothing in the budget to house them. It's not unreasonable to want to keep your hometown safe.

When Michael Gove said that "we've had enough of experts", he's absolutely right. The data might say one thing but our eyes tells us something else. We do not hold these views because we are mindless zombies who slavishly absorb everything the Daily Mail tells us. These are the places where we live - and data crunching academics do not.

We can enjoy the vast melting pot of London and celebrate its diversity as a global city but most of us do not live in London and we are the ones who absorb the consequences of policies made by London.

It is said that Brexit has emboldened racists but really all it has done is remind people that these views presented are not the domain of jackbooted fascists. They are the views of the majority of people and what they want is a bit of fairness. These are not racist views. If you have a better idea of how to deal with these social problems then go right ahead and make your case but don't pretend that these majority views are those of unenlightened backward provincial types.

In fact, the fact we want our streets safe for people to live their life free from intimidation, regardless of gender of sexual preference shows that we are more willing to defend liberalism than those who would call us regressive and reactionary. But then I can live with being called a reactionary. Reacting is absolutely necessary and it is long past the time when we reacted.

Brexit will probably not see much in the way of restrictions on freedom of movement - and that's really a good thing - but if the government wants to take it as a cue to deal with immigration then its non EU immigration we should be concerned with and we should not be afraid to discriminate against countries whose human exports threaten our safety and store up problems for the future.

We were told that these northern ghettos over time would dissipate. It's not happening. So now we need to act. Policymakers are engaged in forelock tugging asking what we can do, looking to se if we can bend over any further. We are worried that we may infringe on their rights. No bad thing you might say, but what about the rights of everyone else? If there is an obligation it is on the residents of these ghettos to respect the fact that we are an open and liberal and tolerant country. If they feel no such obligation then we ought to remind them that our tolerance does have limits.

The reality is, in the absence of better ideas, that we need a robust immigration system, the pace of change needs to be managed and we have a right to expect that our doors are not open to people who have zero interest in contributing. This isn't about hating foreigners. This is just the basics of civics. We have a decent, safe country and we want it to stay that way. Why is that so controversial?


Some interesting counterpoints to this rant about foreigners can be found here by Bradford Councillor, Simon Cooke.