Thursday, 30 June 2016

Watch the world burn

"Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it! You know... I just do things." --- The Joker, The Dark Knight (2008)

The clowns of UKIP and jokers of the Conservative Party got their Brexit vote. They're the dog who finally caught the car. Now they have absolutely no idea what to do with it.

It didn't have to be this way.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Mad Hatter Democracy

I'm a big fan of the Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi, but I think he's seriously mistaken in his recent piece on the Brexit referendum. He lays into commentators who say the result should simply be disregarded:

If you think there's ever such a thing as "too much democracy," you probably never believed in it in the first place.

Taibbi has a point. It would be stupid to pretend the vote never happened, and nobody in a position of real influence is saying we should; but he goes wrong when he tries to draw wider conclusions.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Please Vote Remain

Houseboat with "Please Vote Remain" banner
Houseboat next to Stourbridge Common, Cambridge, with a "Please Vote Remain" banner.

I hope Britain stays within the EU, and fear the consequences if it does not.

The effect of a Leave vote on our economy might be catastrophic, or it might merely be very bad. Independent, knowledgeable economists are agreed it would be negative.

In the face of clear warnings from people who have spent their lives studying this subject, the Leave campaign covers its ears and chants, "La, la, I can't hear you." Yesterday, Michael Gove compared these economists to Nazis, simply for expressing their professional opinion. Boris Johnson said he agreed with Gove.

To review: One side has sober, thorough analysis backed up by facts and data. The other has a floppy-haired ex-Mayor who is entirely too fond of Hitler comparisons; and it has a pattern of making things up -- or more bluntly, telling lies.

Maybe all of the experts are wrong; but is it really worth taking the risk? Our jobs, savings, mortgages, and public services are on the line. So is the inheritance of our children and grandchildren. Why should we take the chance?

Monday, 20 June 2016

Rule Britannia, Vote Remain

I am about to make a deeply unfashionable argument for staying in the EU: The UK is a good place to live.

I am defying the British tradition of grumbling about how life is a bit rubbish. For the most part, I like this tradition. It's a nice contrast to the chest-beating patriotism so popular in the USA. But right now, it is getting in the way of a clear-eyed view of the EU referendum.

Image credit: Dave Kellam on Flickr

Friday, 17 June 2016

Cute Cat Friday 2016-06-17: Joni

Sunlit cat.

One Of The Best Of Us

I am sorry to say that, until yesterday, I had not heard of the murdered MP Jo Cox. I have no doubt that, given time, I would have done.

It is desperately, desperately sad that her obituary has been written when she was so young. It makes clear what a great loss she is to us all. She was a tireless campaigner for those less fortunate than herself, working for charities including Oxfam, Save the Children, and the NSPCC before she became an MP. The Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, a man with whom at first glance she had little in common, has written a great tribute to her energy, compassion and friendship. She represented the Britain that I love, a kind, generous and outward-looking country.

Cox was killed doing her job as an MP. The attack on her was an attack on our democracy as well. The count at yesterday's by-election in Tooting, held to fill the parliamentary seat of new London mayor Sadiq Khan, observed two minutes of silence in her memory.

She leaves behind a husband and two young children. If something similar happened to my wife, I cannot imagine what it would be like, or if I would be able to say anything at all. I can only commend the courage and eloquence of her husband Brendan, who issued a deeply moving statement about Jo's death.

I am glad that Tommy Mair, the man who attacked her, was taken alive. Being shot down by the police would be too easy for him. He needs to stand in a courtroom, see the grieving family of the woman he killed, and have a long time in a prison cell to reflect on what he did.

Mair's motives are not yet clear, but eyewitnesses say that he shouted "Britain first" as he shot and stabbed Jo Cox.

If Mair indeed had far-right political motives, then those politicians who have encouraged bigotry and hatred bear a heavy responsibility. I am thinking in particular of UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who has shown his bigotry time and again, openly speculated about anti-immigration violence, and yesterday unveiled a shockingly racist poster which said immigrants are bringing the UK to a breaking point. Yes, it appears Mair has severe mental health problems. But as Alex Massie observes in a powerful article, politicians cannot talk about breaking points and then act surprised when someone takes them seriously, and reaches a breaking point of his own.

We will have time to puzzle and argue over Mair's motives. Today is a day to grieve for Jo Cox. She was one of the best of us.

Jo Cox, 1974-2016

Friday, 10 June 2016

Cute Cat Friday 2016-03-10: Joni

Cats know they're cool.

Follow The Leader

The EU referendum campaign is heating up. Last week we had the rather splendid intervention of former Prime Minister John Major, who accurately said:

[Vote Leave] are feeding out to the British people a whole galaxy of inaccurate and frankly untrue information.

This is undoubtedly correct. For example, we have Vote Leave's infamous claim that the UK is paying £350 million a week to the EU. That is not true. Not even under the most generous interpretation. It's more than fair to criticise the Leave campaign when they start making things up in the hope voters are gullible enough to believe them.

Major joins in with a vast chorus of the great and the good, telling us we should stay in. This is a decidedly mixed blessing for the Remain campaign; it represents the establishment in a time of anti-establishment rage.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Cute Cat Friday 2016-06-03: Joni

I guess I'll have to sit somewhere else.

Diminished: The EU without the UK

Questions from Simon W on Facebook:

I'd also be interested in your thoughts on (a) whether it would be better for the EU (by which I really mean the other countries in the EU not the institution itself) for the UK for remain part of it, and (b) whether it would be better for the 'rest of the world' for the UK to remain part of the EU. 
Hearing David Miliband on the radio this morning arguing that for the UK to leave the EU would greatly reduce the UK's political influence in the world raised the question in my mind whether this might be a good thing. I have questions but no answers. 

Short answer: (a) Yes, (b) Yes, to the extent it matters.