Friday, 26 May 2017

Flavours of Brexit

Perceived wisdom over the last year is that our Brexit future comes in two potential flavours – hard and soft. At this moment in time, it seems rather likely we’ll be sucking on the hard version. But hard and soft is too simplistic, referring only to what parts of various European treaties we might remain beholden to or detach ourselves from. Economically, consensus is growing around three different flavours of Brexit – catastrophic, painful and Boris. The first two draw adherents in accordance with their belief on the likelihood of a trade deal with the EU. The latter is a rather fringe flavour, coated with euphoric optimism, based on nonsense and would barely be worth mentioning if it were not for the fact that Boris gets more airtime than your average Joe.

Theresa May attempted to paint Brexit red, white and blue at one stage. But socially speaking, Brexit is not a diverse, multicoloured creature. Welcome to White Brexit, a model based on Empire 2.0, nostalgic Brit culture, twisted history and a hostility to anything which is, or could possibly be perceived to be, antipathy to these notions. Notions which may seem vague, but which are clearly based to suit white, British born and bred folk, and to the explicit exclusion of ethnic minorities no matter from where they might originate. Notions which are based on positive ideals of the past while the many obvious negative aspects are aptly, and once again, whitewashed from public discourse.

This is not, I suggest, a personal opinion but a self evident fact which can be seen oozing from political debate, tabloid ranting, social media meddling and pub chatter like a form of societal puss from a national wound. The wound being a slight to the national conscience that being part of the EU suggests we are the same as and equal to our continental partners. That we are joined in a common plight. The very essence of Brexit is that we are seperate from and superior to ‘others’. When the Leave campaign cried “We want our country back!”, who exactly do you think ‘we’ refers to? Welcome to White Brexit indeed.

But even now, I have only ever so briefly touched on the many flavours of Brexit. We all have our own personal taste and I do not have the time and patience to investigate and report on all 65,471,598 (at the time of writing) different flavours of Brexit. I can tell you all about mine though. In common with (one assumes) every other working person in the UK, I would want to keep my job and for my pay to keep up with inflation. That’s a given. If I achieve the former, it is, due to the nature of my union dominated industry, likely I will achieve the latter.

My situation is simple. I am a year into a 25 year mortgage, currently on a fixed 2 year deal. This will expire next July/August – nine months before our formal exit from the EU – and I’ll either go onto the variable rate and pay more, or arrange a new fixed deal and hopefully decrease my monthly payments. Right now, and for the next 15 months, I’d like to see highish inflation, low interest rates and steady growth of house prices. All being well, come July 2018, I’ll have a low Loan to Value ratio that will enable me to get a better mortgage rate. I’ll fix it for five years. Given the economic uncertainty that is surely to come and the low interest rates that are currently available it seems sensible to me to fix a deal for as long as possible. Rates are far more likely to go up than down. There’s not much room for them to go down anyway, unless the government embarks on a toxic negative interest rate strategy.

That’s my good Brexit. You could fairly argue that it is just standard economics. But it’s Good Brexit based on it being the opposite of Bad Brexit. A worst-case Bad Brexit is a situation where UK-EU relations deteriorate to such an extent that negotiations end with a year still to go with no deal. Inflation rockets, taking interest rates up with it. Employment levels tumble, taking house prices down with them. And come next July, I am left with a property that is effectively in negative equity. As such I won’t be able to remortgage and will have to suffer the increased costs of those spiralling interest rates.

That would be the most bitter flavour of Brexit for myself and Mrs P. Difficult to swallow, to say the least. An unpalatable dish that I did not order and yet it is a dish that I cannot return. That is the point of this post. No matter how each person voted, and beyond the slogans and headlines, Brexit is going to be a very real, personal and potentially painful journey for every one of us bound up in it.

But no matter how bad the economic situation gets in the UK, I know that there will still be that hardcore, vocal Brexiteer celebratory chant of “We got out country back!” Things may not be alright. But at least they’re all white…
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Monday, 15 May 2017

The Trial of the Century

Last year, we had a somewhat controversial trial in the UK. You may have heard of it – the news services covered it fairly comprehensively. It was controversial for a number of reasons, not least that it even occurred. Instigated by a fairly small number of individuals, most of whom had a fairly questionable set of morals, on the basis of hearsay and dodgy data.

Nevertheless, their persistance paid off, the trial was arranged and the defendent was put in the dock. The controversy just escalated from there. Jury selection would normally weed out the prejudiced, the incompetent and those with a conflict of interests. But it was decided that the jury should in fact include a sizeable number of open racists and certifiable morons, despite the defendent being a foreigner and the case being complex. Whereas jurors would normally need to be open-minded, on this occasion it was deemed acceptable to include those who had already committed to a verdict before even hearing the evidence.

It just got worse though. Both defence and prosecution presented demonstrable lies as ‘evidence’, with very little done to challenge them, let alone strike their absurd claims from the record. Perhaps it didn’t matter, because it was also decided that the jurors could discuss the case as the trial progressed, not only amongst themselves but with anyone they wished. Even on social media.

Yes, that’s right. The jurors sat through most of the trial ignoring both defence and prosecution and just used their phones to browse social media and share internet memes of dubious origin as ‘alternative evidence’. Then there was also the rabid tabloid press, doing their best to interfere with the trial. It all descended into utter farce.

The jurors retired to consider the ‘evidence’, taking about 12 hours to deliberate before returning with their verdict. Guilty as charged! It wasn’t a unanimous verdict by any means. It was almost a dead heat. But the racist and moron contribution was sufficient to produce a 7 to 5 result in favour of the prosecution. Normally, this is an insufficient margin for a conviction, but on this occasion it was decided it was ok.

You might think there’d be obvious cause to record a mistrial and dismiss the verdict. But no, it’s been allowed to stand. Worse, it has been decided that there cannot even be an appeal. What sort of justice is this you might ask? To call it rough justice is an understatement. It’s becoming more and more apparent every day that the jury delivered the wrong verdict and that a miscarriage of justice has occurred. But it doesn’t seem to matter.

The defendent in the dock last June was a chap called the European Union. The sentence was that he should be expelled. It’ll cost a pretty penny to expel him, and we all get to pay that bill, Leavers and Remainers alike. You perhaps think that I should get over it and move on. But the facts are these. In less than two years, as things will stand, I will be forcibly stripped of my European citizenship.  I am already financially poorer for the decision, and I will get poorer still. The opportunities of Brexit are not as good as the existing benefits we get through the EU. The United Kingdon is threatening to rip itself apart. That’s an awful lot to ‘get over’, with not a lot to look forward to. It’s all stick and no carrot.

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The referendum should not have happened. It was a foolish gamble by David Cameron attempting to play the hero, and it backfired. It was a stupid question that provoked a stupid answer. We have general elections to appoint representatives, some of whom will form a government with the object of implementing their published manifestos. Together with the established civil service, these are the people with the experience and knowledge to plot the best path for the country. This is a system which generally works well to prevent uninformed, poorly thought out and extreme ideas from being foisted on the country.

Another by product of the EU referendum is another General Election on June 8th. Over the last couple of years, I seem to have had as many voter cards stuck through my letter box as pizza menus. Maybe I exaggerate. But you take the point, and my latest card is the featured image above. And it’s another vote that shouldn’t be happening. We have a Fixed-term Parliament Act which was created specifically to prevent opportunistic snap polls by the party in government to take advantage of the moment to launch a power grab. It is, frankly, a farce brought about by the Conservative party for the Conservative party.

But I will stroll along to the polling centre with Mrs P. I will cast my ballot for the Liberal Democrats, the only major party that is in favour of staying in the EU. Mrs P will make her own choice. I feel certain that it won’t be in favour of the Tory party. I’m equally certain that our votes will make no difference to the outcome. We’re not in a ‘swing’ constituency. It’s one of the Conservative party’s safer seats.

I’ll vote with more than a tinge of sorrow that the 48% who are Remainers have not united and gotten behind the Liberal Democrats in the same way that the 45% of Scottish independence voters got behind the SNP in 2015, trebling their share of the vote and taking 56 out of 59 Scottish seats in the process. That would have been an end to Brexit.
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Monday, 1 May 2017

The Republican, Translated

Yesterday, I went for a little Sunday drive with Mrs P. First port of call was to a little patisserie in Sandbanks which had recently been featured on television. The tables were packed and the shelves low on products. Perhaps because it had recently been featured on television. So we went into a coffee shop a few doors down instead. Second port of call, appropriately, was a little marina. Mrs P and I would love a little boat. But the cheapest we saw was half the price of our house. So this probably won’t happen.

Third port of call was Waitrose to do a little bit of shopping to top up the fridge for the week ahead. For a Sunday afternoon, a rainy Sunday at that, the roads were surprisingly busy. Something must have happened ahead, although we never did find out what. I know that there was a ‘something’ because the traffic came to a complete standstill. And then an ambulance came through, sirens and lights announcing its approach.

How does an ambulance make its way through the clogged tarmac arteries of our road network? Well it’s quite simple really. On my side of the road, all the cars moved over to the kerb. On the other side of the road, all of the cars went up on the pavement. It was such a fluid movement that had a drone filmed it from above it must have resembled an automotive version of the parting of the Red Sea.

The ambulance did not even need to slow down. Poetry in motion, it was. This is how it works in Britain and many other places in the world. Everyone participates. Rich or poor, Ferrari or Fiat, McLaren or Mini, Porsche or Peugeot. Everyone contributes to this modern marvel of social etiquette regardless of their political outlook, gender, religion, race or age. Indeed, what with the poor fuel economy and high servicing costs of Bentleys, Mercs and Audis, the rich contribute several times more than the poor, financially speaking.

We all contribute and participate in this system for a couple of simple reasons. Firstly, because if we don’t all participate, then it doesn’t work properly for anyone. Whilst the ambulance might not be coming for us today, it might be tomorrow. And we all want to be assured that if it does come for us, it’ll get there and get there quickly.

Secondly, because it is socially unacceptable to be the one who won’t budge and thus blocks the road. You’d be a motoring pariah. An object of contempt. Deplorable. Scum. Except in the United States. Where one would be called a Republican*. I find it amazing that some people wear this badge with pride. In the United Kingdom, if health policy continues in the same direction as it is currently going, one will be called a Conservative.

The entire health care system effectively works, or fails, on the same principle as I’ve described above for the ambulance service. It’s why a single payer health system works better than the alternatives. Don’t kid yourself otherwise. The alternatives are nothing more than word spells, cast on the populous by modern day political and media witch doctors. Trump’s American Heathcare Act is just such a word spell.

* Did I just say Republicans are all scum?! Ouch. Well, some are, I imagine. As is the case on all sides of the political spectrum. But don’t take it personally. I’m making a point based on a principle, not an individual.
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