Articulating the problem of getting through horrendous home office bureaucracy that has been ill-fit for purpose for many years now and that has led me to encounters including a unpleasant hectoring from Andrea Leadsom and an exchange with Theresa May before she became Prime Minister. We must stop this nonsense of parading bureaucracy as a fix-all, esp when the assurances we give in public are contradicted by the paperwork people are required to fill out and the opaque “investigations” that then take place which effectively cannot be challenged. Too much money and respect is wasted on this sort of nonsense.
What we promise, we simply need to deliver. No ifs, no buts, and no mindless pen-pushing.
After 5 resignations, Jacob Rees Mogg has just threatened the Prime Minister in a curious way. He asked whether it was time to write “to the member for Altrincham”, who is Graham Brady. Brady is the chairman of the 1922 committee which oversees a leadership bid. In other words, a direct challenge from one of her own on a difficult day. Astonishing!
Rather pleased to hear a member of the Conservative party advancing exactly the same argument I have been peddling for nearly 4 months! It has now been aired at the highest level and I hope will be considered seriously.
Today Gina Miller who led the Supreme court move a few weeks’ ago is on TV again saying that Politicians of various hues have exacerbated the problems of brexit, mostly by demeaning her “legitimate concerns” about the way Brexit is triggered.
In fact, she has been proven correct. At least legally as justices have ruled that article 50 of the Lisbon treaty cannot be invoked without the approval of Parliament as a whole. No doubt the Government has allowed for this ruling so nothing will be delayed in the Government’s overall plan.
However, I have never quite understood the nature of the national debate that has taken place since the Referendum. If the Referendum was actually so decisive, I do not understand why politicians of almost every background have been so feverish to rehearse again and again the varied reasons for leaving the EU. It is actually as if even the winning side cannot quite believe what happened or why.
The actual debate that should have been happening over the last few months has been ignored so I want to spell it out. 48% voted against Brexit on 23rd June. (out of 30 million voters or 71.8% turnout). This was exactly the percentage breakdown in the referendum held in Greenland that led to their exit from the EU in 1982. In England and Northern Ireland, the leave vote was less marginal, with 53.4% and 55% respectively voting for Brexit, though in contrast Scotland voted decisively to remain by 62%- not a marginal decision at all and something that should be respected. But I am confident that among that 48%, there was a high proportion of voters who, like myself, feel that the EU as it currently stands is in serious need of overhaul and that Brexit was only one of a number of fixes that we can all agree is needed. Indeed, I have not spoken to anyone in the UK or in mainland Europe who “hand on heart” thinks the EU is currently doing the best job it can.
Rather than bullying those who lost the Referendum and branding them “remoaners” or whatever, we should have spent the last few months enlisting their support, and persuading those who like Mrs May voted to remain that their views would still be represented in the triggering of Article 50. Article 50 is not an either/or scenario. It is one solution to a problem that an overwhelming majority of people in Britain and abroad have identified for years. It is just one solution of many and it is the solution we voted for in the summer. There is no need to gloat or to silence those who did not agree with Brexit. Instead, clever politicians would take these people along with the popular mood.
As for the fate of EU citizens currently resident here- (currently increasing at a rate of 184000 a year) if the negotiations linger on for maybe two years after the allotted negotiation period, by no means an impossibility, so five years from the referendum date itself, then anyone who was legitimately here in June will have a right to full residence anyway. There is a simple solution!
But instead of looking for solutions and fostering collaboration, we have been encouraged into a disturbing climate of “them and “us”. We can do better than that!
Michael Gove today penned a piece in the Times suggesting that he had access to Mrs May’s latest thoughts, indeed the very words she might utter in only a matter of days.Quite apart from the irritation of finding senior politicians jumping on the bandwagon of false news, his piece simply repeats arguments that were surely sorted out at about 8am on 24th June.
I think much of what he thinks the PM will say will remain wishful thinking, but it is still deeply mistaken and misleading.
I think Mr Gove’s greatest mistake lies in a misunderstanding of what it means to lead the country, something he aspired to do and that Mrs May is now doing. Mr Gove thinks that what matters is “the truth”, but truth is a relative and constantly changing concept. What matters instead is “responsibility”, or “trust”. I think this is a single concept though expressed in two words. For it is not possible to have one without the other. It is something Mr Gove failed to earn and, moreover, a concept that is much bigger than the referendum and certainly bigger than Brexit. It is about doing the right thing at the right time and with confidence. Today, when Brexit is presented, a number of politicians, and certainly Mr Gove, seem to abandon not only reality and rational thought but also a belief in the primacy of Parliament for naive demagogy as if they are still not sure they won, and have to rehash the same arguments over and over again.
Put bluntly, has Mr Corbyn not been a sufficient warning to you?
Mr Gove sets the tune of his piece by referring to Ronald Reagan and Mrs Thatcher. Reagan’s plan for the cold war- “Simple — we win; they lose.” But that is not quite how it panned out, was it! Let’s look back a little further:
While France and America embraced revolution, Britain quietly changed from one leader to another. The “glorious revolution” may not be quite all it was cracked up to be, but it demonstrates a way of behaving that Mr Gove absolutely forgets. Revolutions, if pursued relentlessly, are out for blood and that has not been the British way. We want to forge a quiet rethinking of the status quo, and if possible, seemlessly merge from one form of rule to another, maybe, if absolutely necessary with a mild embellishment to the union flag.
Mrs May is quite right in repeating her mantra that “Brexit means Brexit” just as she is quite right in being tight-lipped about exactly how that will play out. Even if she triggers the process in a month, we still must wait two years for that act to play out, and during that time, much of the Europe we know today will have changed beyond recognition. Catalonia lingers, Le Pen lies in the penumbra of perceptual power and Germany smoulders with discontent to say nothing of Greece, badgered and badgered until it is made to feel like a poodle puddled in the Aegean. The only thing that we can be certain about is the Responsibility Mrs May has been given as our leader and the trust we place in her.
What I find most disturbing is the claim that we know what “the electors wanted” when they voted for Brexit. The fact is, we can never know just as we can never know what they wanted when they voted for Mr Corbyn. All we have is the result which in and of itself says nothing about immigration, control of borders, the single market, hard or soft Brexit. It is simply a mandate for leaving the current arrangement, a recognition that the EU as it stands is failing. A referendum is not a result in itself – it needs interpreting and circumstances will change. That is inevitable.
Also, though I hesitate to point this out, the Brexit vote was far from uniform throughout the country and a clever Brexit will allow for, and placate the 48% who voted to retain our place in Europe.
But I hope we are fast approaching the day when we will stop hearing what Politicians think the electors voted for. No one really knows. Equally the obsession with anticipating the way we leave Europe needs to stop. We need to leave the negotiating team to do its job.
The obsession, drummed up in part by people like Mr Gove and Mr Farage, about how we leave in fact allows Brussels to avoid the full force of the blow of that Referendum decision. Indeed, this obsession gives a platform to Mr Junker, who rather than falling on his sword as one of the architects of modern Brussels, can join Gove and Farage and pontificate about HOW we should be going. What folly for Junker to be mocking Milord, when his own house is burning down.
Mr Gove gave a tv interview a few weeks ago and demonstrated what a thoughtful, centred man he really is. I do not understand, therefore, why he needs to play to the gallery like this when what we really need is his keen intellect and analytic support at the centre of Government. What Mrs May does not yet say is that any form of Brexit means a re-ordering of Europe because she knows the European project is bigger than the EU. Because the future of Europe and the role it will play beside us is as much our concern as the manner in which Britain will be defined two years’ hence.
John Donne writes,
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
The Guardian thinks it is going to cause trouble by personalising an issue that I have mentioned a few times.
The story of Dom Wolf, a British born man of 32 who accidentally has a German passport, however, makes uncomfortable reading. He is not alone in finding himself embroiled in an expensive, frustrating and time-consuming battle with the Passport office. His story comes hard on the heels of Sam Schwarzkopf and Monique Hawkins, both of whom received rather aggressive form letters telling them to prepare to leave the country as far as I can tell because they had not included their original passport with the application form, an option, incidentally that was advised or at least permitted.
To be honest, the Passport office has already issued an apology to Schwarzkopf but it is not quite enough: this is what he was apparently told:
“My MP got involved in this, writing letters to the Home Office, and this was very helpful. At first they explained that this was simply the way they write their rejection letters, but eventually someone wrote back with an apology. More importantly, they said they would take this issue on board and consider changing the phrasing. From the story in the Guardian, it sounds that at least so far they haven’t changed it yet.”
The Monique Hawkins issue raised another anomaly which her husband explained:
“As a British citizen, I had the expectation that marrying someone from abroad would automatically give them the right to become a British citizen. That seems to be the case unless your wife happens to come from the European Union,”
The issue is not really about the chaos of the bureaucracy but about our failure to grasp the moral nettle. We should certainly not be waiting for the EU to decide whether British nationals can legitimately remain in EU countries after Brexit before we decide the fate of those EU nationals who have been staying here often for many years. We should take the initiative and leave the EU officials to play catch-up. It should not be a game of tit-for -tat and this is not the major negotiation we should be having with the EU. Success or failure on this point would be cheap and cruel. There are some issues that simply should not be up for negotiation- a line should be drawn in the sand and we should move on from there. If the EU does not agree, then the EU will be the one to look morally shoddy.
We need to “man up” and seize the moral high-ground here because the longer we wait to see whether “brexit means brexit” on this particular issue, the uglier it will become.
Yesterday, Dr Wollaston changed sides. I quite admire people who change their opinions especially in the middle of a race. It is rather noble, I think, to defy the school 400m, turn tail and run backwards to the starting point. It requires guts and self-judgement as well as a fair degree of élan to pull off this sort of manoeuvre successfully.
It is also something that, quite frankly, you can only do once. (I did it so that is the end of that)
In this case, I think Dr Wollaston has actually drawn attention to a disturbing trend in the Referendum campaign. She said that she was not comfortable with the claims being made about the potential money, potentially £350 million a week, available to spend on the NHS (and the simple fact is that she is right). This is what she has said,
“For someone like me who has long campaigned for open and honest data in public life I could not have set foot on a battle bus that has at the heart of its campaign a figure that I know to be untrue.
“If you’re in a position where you can’t hand out a Vote Leave leaflet, you can’t be campaigning for that organisation.”
This is all well and true, however, and I have been saying this for a while, but the problem here is that the claims made about the £350 million were being made quite a few weeks’ ago, so her sudden defection seems a bit tardy. Was it that she did not think the claim mattered as long as it was not plastered over her own bus? The timing of her move is just not quite right.
Dr Wollaston is quite good with warnings – she warned us before the General election about the need for a £15 billion spend on the NHS to avoid the whole system imploding during the present parliament. So prophetic and right again, but late, and she is doing the same here.
We also heard about fraud (£670 million lost last year with 9000,000 Euros lost to dishonest EU staff!) but the figures were drawn from Olaf, the EU fraud office, which presumably is in the process of catching the fraudsters and putting the money back where it belongs.
Boris has made the £350 million claim fairly often-“We send the EU £350 million a week – let’s fund our NHS instead.” -that is 350 million a week going to Brussels (17.8 billion a year), but with the rebate (1984) the actual figure is closer to £240 million and the rebate takes place before any money is sent to the EU so the claims made about Britain sending £350 million a week to Europe are blatantly false.
More than that, the £240 million odd that is sent to Brussels does not include the money spent by the EU on UK projects. Scientific research (in 2013 was £1,4 billion a year), education and the arts all benefit from EU investment and bring the overall net fee to around £130 million a week- still arguably alot of money, but significantly less than the claims made by Boris.
The UK Statistics Authority wrote rather apologetically to explain to the leave campaign that their figure was wrong, but still the sum is peddled out…
But there are other more serious errors. The first is the simple fact that even if we save £350 million every week, there is no guarantee it will be used in the NHS or can be ring-fenced at all. If a “Leave” result causes the economy to tumble as some predict it will, then much of that savings will be lost anyway and the reality of the post-Brexit negotiations certainly does not guarantee any substantial savings if we follow Norway . So the simple fact remains- if I do not spend money as it is currently spent, that does not automatically mean I have saved it- It may mean I no longer have the money to spend at all.
The Philosophical problem
There are good reasons for voting “Leave”- supporting our declining fishing industry is one of them, and I contributed advertising to that end.
I still think this is an important cause, but on reflection, I am not sure it is enough to see us quit the EU. That alone is not enough- a big negative gesture will not bring about anything positive. Again, back to the Wollaston issue- saving £350 million does not mean we can or would automatically use that money on the NHS.
Here is the mistake of the BREXIT campaign in this instance and it is a serious one: not doing something bad does not mean we are automatically committed to doing something good.
And back to Statistics
But the Remain side has been equally plagued by dodgy statistics, so once again Dr Wollaston’s desire for honesty is compromised. The Osborne claim that families would be £4300 worse off after Leave is again fairly spurious and based on a misreading of Treasury data. Jacob Rees Mogg is someone I respect a great deal and this is his conclusion-
“I care nothing about the bus. I am not concerned about charabancs. That is not at the heart of the debate.
“I have always used the net figure. What is far more shocking is that the Chancellor has been using a figure he knew would be misleading.” Mr Rees-Mogg is in the Brexit camp.
I got asked by the Conservatives to do some animation for the “better off out” campaign.
After the last election, I must admit to being cautious about my position on Europe, and I think it is very difficult to get this across to the public as I fear my own position is probably one shared by many people in the party. Specifically, I worry about excessive and crippling bureaucracy as well as the attacks on Greece by Germany and others that frankly undermine her sovereignty- it does not matter what Greece did to provoke such a response. The fact is that the European project should also guarantee our own individual national sovereignties, even as we move towards greater union, politically and economically. The Captain cod image seems to me to target one of these bureaucratic issues head on, and I have a third video planned where I hope I will be able to refer to Greece’s plight in some way.
While I can imagine a Brexit, I think the practicalities of following that path are worrying and the much better solution is an undertaking to reform the whole European project. This means, though, that we need to be prepared for any eventuality and we need a more robust argument. If the whole thing is catapulted into a discussion of migration, then we have missed the point. The migration issue will affect us whether we are in or out of Europe whatever those in UKIP claim. But more than that, the migration crisis of today will be gone in five years time, while the Europe question will still be important. We were side-tracked at the last election and the agenda was set largely by UKIP’s diet of racism and resentment. We have to control the argument and the discussion now.
Here is the link to the making of Captain Cod
here is the film, link:
some preparatory images
the captain cod film:
a few more preparatory sketches
a picture of Max Miller, one of my heroes, not so much for the naughtiness of his subject matter and innuendo, but for the immediacy of his delivery. We can still all learn from what he did and his influence is seen directly in the work of Frankie Howerd, Larry Grayson and Julian Clary.
You will see all the music hall connections of course and meanwhile I am ploughing on with the project to animate “Burlington Bertie” and “the Night I appeared as Macbeth”, both songs by William Hargreaves from the heyday of the Music Hall. Check my music hall lecture here. Part 2 is on the way.