Monthly Archives: August 2016

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Sorry, it wasn’t me who broke it.

Team GB’s success in Rio did something to raise the mood but there has been a somewhat somber tone to the UK this Summer. Now the athletes are back home polishing their medals the national news returns to the political turmoil.  

Through ineptitude, some of our very senior politicians broke Britain and severely dented Europe. The referendum result, on June 24, was a classic example of uninformed democracy with one side promising billions of pounds to the National Health Service and to stop immigration (all total lies because they never believed they would win and have to deliver). The other side decided to ignore the positives of us being in the UK and patronised the electorate with ridiculous doom scenarios (the EU may be crap but we’d be worse off out of it….). A significant number of people who voted to leave only did so to give the Prime Minister a bloody nose – never actually believing that they would be on the winning side. The shock result of 52% leave and 48% remain has divided the population down the middle. The Prime Minister, who called the referendum to silence the swivel-eyed loons on the right of his party, promptly resigned to be replaced by a rather canny politician, who kept her powder completely dry during the referendum campaign. She inherited a government and a country who has no plan for leaving the EU. No plan was drawn up because no one believed we would need one.

We shouldn’t have needed one. We may be sat on a little island but we are still European. We are lucky to have a language that others choose to speak. We are a significant world economy and punch well above our weight diplomatically and in terms of soft power. We are world leader in creativity and the arts and are very good at elite sport as evidenced by the GB medal tally in Rio. On the whole we are quite nice really – we tend to be a bit conservative and traditional but that’s not the worst trait in the world. None of this is possible without cooperation and collaboration. Much of our economic status cames from being the financial managers for the rest of the world. Diplomatically people listen to us because we are collaborators, we bring membership of the EU, the Commonwealth, NATO etc to the discussion. We need trade and conversations to be creative.We can’t be good at track cycling if no one will compete with us.  

There are some important lessons about democracy in the UK here. Firstly, we live in a parliamentary democracy. This means that we elect politicians to represent us. We give them the resources to research and become the experts and vote accordingly. We don’t have a tradition of referenda as they undermine parliamentary democracy. The referendum was decided on the basis of uninformed democracy. Secondly, the vast majority of members of parliament in the UK recognised that the only sensible course was to stay in the EU. Our out of date ‘first past the post’ electoral system, rather than a sensible proportional system, means that we are largely a two party democracy with the Conservative Party on the right and the Labour Party in England and the Scottish National Party in Scotland on the left. The Conservative Party includes a range of people from One Nation centrists to the swivel eyed loons on the far right. Labour range from Blairites in the centre to Trotskyists on the far left.

One Nation Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, promised a referendum to placate the far right of his party. If we had a system of PR, as exists elsewhere in Europe we would have a larger number of parties made up of people who broadly agree with each other. Mr Cameron would not have needed to recklessly put Europe at risk to retain the support of a few right wingers unless he’d chosen them a coalition partners. All this has thrown the left into disarray. The lackluster left wing leader of the Labour Party has lost the confidence of 80% of his MPs but refuses to stand down. This leaves the new Conservative Prime Minister, Theresa May, with almost no opposition. We’ve long needed a PR voting system that will allow all our parties to divide accordingly.

What a mess!

Without a plan there is no clear timescale for or idea how we will leave the EU. The referendum was not binding. The UK parliament is sovereign and will have to make the decision. May has put three men, who all campaigned for Brexit in charge but they are clueless. Boris Johnson, former London Mayor and the new foreign secretary speaks from the hip and over the past few years has managed to insult just about every foreign leader. Look up what he has said about Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton and worst of all Turkey’s prime minister, Erdoğan. The new International Trade Minister was kicked out of the last government for fiddling his expenses and taking his boyfriend on trips at government expense. The Brexit minister has just admitted that when he was campaigning he genuinely thought we’d be able to negotiate individual trade deals with other European partners. We can’t we will have to negotiate with the whole EU. Trade deals usually take about 10 years and most specialists claim that you cannot do more than one concurrently as they influence each other so – 10 years for a deal with Europe, another ten for a deal with the US, then China, Japan, Canada, India…..  It will take about 300 years to get to where we are now as members of the EU. On top of that every single law that has been passed in the UK since 1974, when Britain joined the European Economic Community, will have to be re-written as then all enshrine European law into the detail. Because we have been in the EU since 1974 we don’t have any trade negotiators employed by the government.

The world is a better place if we talk, debate and share rather than argue. The UK is a big player but we are so much stronger when we look outwards and sit alongside our friends rather than fall out with them.

Will we ever leave – I certainly hope that someone will come to their senses, realise what a mess this is and find a way of reversing the decision. Perhaps the threat of Scottish independence, major financial institutions leaving the UK etc will be a catalyst. Perhaps it will just be delayed then somehow overturned at the next general election. Who knows. I have another year on Pancake Street. If nothing improves I may need to apply to the Netherlands for asylum. It wasn’t me that broke it – honest.

Back by popular demand

Or I soon will be. My first year in Rotterdam was fantastic – I’ve loved almost every minute. Sorry for my absence from your screens. I have been duly reprimanded and will endeavour to try harder.

After a Summer break, back in the UK, August turns and I start to think about coming back to Pancake Street. I’ll be sharpening my pencils and filling my fountain pen in readiness for the MA proper. At the end of June the results were in – confirming that I had cleared the hurdle of passing the Pre-Master year.

My Pre-Master thesis was on the relationship between CEOs and boards of arts organisations. I got a good grade but gratefully take on board the feedback that I made it a bit too complicated. This is great learning for next year when the thesis element will be twice as long and worth a third of the grades for the year.

20160606_181421Since I last tapped a key on this site I have also completed courses in Academic Writing, International Arts Markets and Advanced Economics of the Cultural Industries. I feel academically well equipped and a little nervous about the year to come. Most of my Pre-Master friends will be returning with another thirty five or so new faces who will be coming straight onto the Master year. Lots of new friends to make and new people to learn from. I can confidently say that I have learned as much, if not more, from my fellow students as I have from the formal lectures and assignments – that is how Universities should be.

I will be flying back to Rotterdam in about ten days time. Sue is coming back with me for the weekend and I’ve got a few days to re-orientate myself before the learning begins in earnest. I fear that my limited Dutch has rusted over during the Summer and I will be a lot poorer as the pound has plummeted against the Euro but I look forward to settling back into life on Pancake Street.