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This will not be much. Thing is I have not really reacted to it up until now, as my mental “wiring” makes it rather difficult for me to form any kind of emotional response to events that aren’t happening right in front of me, and at the same time make it seem dishonest to try and feign one. Of course, I would like to hope that anyone I know in or around that area is safe. I offer my condolences to those who have suffered losing someone close to them in this attack. I can but imagine what it must be like to go out hoping for an enjoyable evening you were looking forward to for some time, only to have to be caught up in such a horrific incident. I might like to point out that, on the plus side from what I have heard, there have been some great positive examples of humanity being shown in people willing to go out of their way to help others. Including, lest anyone be prejudiced, from Muslims. This is certainly heartening

My main concern, as with any such attack, is the fall-out from all this. From the usual responses of hate or fear-mongering from the far right and professional shit-spewers like Katie Hopkins and the “final solution” tweet, and the anti-Muslim backlash that might result (it seems only hours after someone attempted to set fire to a mosque in Oldham, though of course whether it was connected, I dare not speculate). Or of the necessity of having the army drawn in to accompany armed police officers in patrolling key sites (perhaps slippery slope thinking this is one more step down the road to martial law). Or whether, with campaigning for the General Election rightly temporarily suspended, the Tories might try and gain capital from this the way the Thatcher government gained from the Falklands, in being seen to deal with this issue? (Never mind the possibility that cuts to police and security services in the regular sense upped the risk of this in the first place, and thus likely quelling any thoughts of the slippery slope nature). Is my saying this trying to make political capital out of the deaths of people? Perhaps, however at the same time do we pretend the aims of the bombers themselves are not political? That the inevitable fascist and far-right backlash is not political? That there are bound to be some people bringing up past associations with groups branded terrorist (rightly or wrongly is beyond the scope of this article and I dare offer no argument either way besides) to attack Corbyn and McDonnell with? That the nature of the government response is not in some way a political matter, subject to political scrutiny? Yes, there needs to be time to mourn, and time taken for the government to put in place some kind of emergency response, but as some people have said, it is almost like we are letting the terrorists get away with disrupting our democratic processes. 

In conclusion, yes, it is right to mourn. Fear and anger, moreover, are perfectly natural, understandable responses for those affected. But there is no reason to let go of what our true values are supposed to be, let the powers that be trample on our civil rights, or give in to misdirected hate or blame. And it is no reason for the rest of us to live in the abject fear some might suppose we should.

I am wondering, especially at this late stage, if it is worth asking people to register to vote. I always have in the back of my mind, for example, the anarchist types who don’t really agree with the state, think voting is a waste of time, and think direct action will do more good (if at all). I can sympathise with those people. In a way I can sympathise with those people who find the whole thing terribly confusing, or are sick of the whole thing, but…

At the same time, it still seems important to have some influence in the way the government is pushing things. Not just Brexit. Whether we want to see most of our major institutions and public services privatised or shut down. Whether we want a system which is fundamentally set up for rich capitalists, depriving those at the bottom of a decent life (or any life) or everyone. Whether we want a government which, in the nicest possible language, seeks to control the internet and undermine some of our civil liberties… maybe. And so on.

Much is made of the younger generations being the least likely to want to vote and there is a big push by some to get them to do so. This isn’t entirely a bad idea, as it means governments care more about the people whom they can win votes off. So, you get the triple lock on pensions but 18-21 year olds can’t get housing benefit, and tuition fees are sky-high. For example.

So, I’m not going to tell you you must register to vote, but I will say this- take an interest in how things are run, and be willing to make a change if you can. Don’t just fall back on the old excuses of “it’s not worth it, it’s too confusing”- just take some time to research. Read the manifestoes. Go to a local hustings event. Don’t necessarily follow the news, as it can be biased, but it is probably better than watching stupid crap that clogs up the airwaves and bandwidth elsewhere. Or read up on alternative ideas of politics.

And if you are going to register to vote- do it soon, as you only have until midnight. You  can do it here:

https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

Well, there’s only one day left to go before the dread EU Referendum is upon us Brits, and we decide once and for all whether we want to remain a part of it or not. Some of us will have already done postal votes and for them, the decision has already been made. Others will have already voted at the tradtional polling stations. For me, even with only a few hours to go before the close of polls… well, that’s another story.

To begin with I was definitely on the Leave side, and it’s quite surprising how much of this had to do with the one thing most secularists would be mortally afraid of if you mixed it with politics: my Christian faith. There are actually a few more conservative Christian types who actually think our membership of the EU contravenes the will of God, that when God divided the nations at Babel and later set their borders, this was somehow a good thing in order to prevent some of the worse abuses of power that sinful human nature could produce. This kind of argument I will best leave to one of my former pastors to make- see [1]. On top of this, there were even arguments to the effect that since the Queen had made in her Coronation Oath to do various things including upholding the Christian faith and so on, this was actually a covanent with God and the secularizing tendencies of pan-European institutions were somehow about us breaking that covenant. Even one book I read contained an alleged prophecy stating that we should come out of Europe because it would align itself with the Antichrist before The End. I kid you not.

Now, of course, when I looked into it, there seemed to be plenty of good secular reasoning to back this up. When you looked at, say, the Greek crisis and what the EU has forced (against the declared democratic will of the people) upon it in terms of austerity, to keep the Euro alive, we get one example of why it seems that this kind of power structure is no good- it undermines democracy and national sovereignty. How many referenda have we also had in the past on the EU constitution or other treaty changes, in various countries, where the EU basically said “Wrong! Do it again! Let’s hear the right answer!” And then there’s TTIP- the pending trade deal that might allow corporations to sue governments and force the privatization of the NHS. Not to mention the litany of regulatory blunders as part of things like the Common Fisheries Policy which, in setting quotas to conserve fish stocks, only forced fishermen to throw back perfectly good, and perfectly dead, catches of fish back into the sea. Or the various problems which the Common Agricultural Policy, farm subsidies &c. might likewise cause. (You hear little of butter mountains and wine lakes these days, however. Though that make a good idea for a short story- Jenny Everywhere in Surplusland, maybe?)

All this led to some pretty unpleasant conclusions- like voting for and supporting parties I was somewhat uncomfortable with, i.e. UKIP. The more I heard about it and the actuons of some of its members (everything from bigoted remarks to their voting records for MEPs inside the EU, which seemed counter-productive), the more I grew concerned, but, as I knew the candidate for our area personally, I thought maybe they’re not all that bad, and frankly, some of their manifesto ideas seemed to make sense at the time. Sadly, of course, their attitude to climate chainge (unrelenting skepticism) was not one of them, their economic ideas are unflinchingly neoliberal and this conflicted with some of my inner leftie tendencies which still remained after all this time.

Of course not all my Christian friends were in favour of UKIP and leaving the EU. Most of these being the leftty activisit types whom I knew through SPEAK or those who knew them, who probably had a very different idea of what Christianity was to some of my church friends- much more inclied towards social justice issues and less upon (where it infringed on worldly politics over evangelism at all) personal moral issues and would be religious liberty. Many of these people were astounded I’d even want to consider, at least, supporting UKIP. No matter how much I’d try to say they weren’t that bad really, I had to wonder.

Of course now I left the church (one of whose members is the local UKIP candidate), and with spending more time amongst those of a more radical leftist bent, I had reason to want to reconsider my views on the matter.

Now, when all that’s said and done, there are several things that really get me about this referendum business.

First of all, as has been pointed out in the mainstream media quite constantly, there have been claims of scaremongering from both sides. Typically one side will come out with some claim, and the other side will try and rubbish it or try to point out flaws. The Leave campign seem to provide some of the more egregious examples, like the alleged money we supposedly spend on the EU which when things like the rebate is taken into account and the fact we get some back anyway, and any savings we make from it form a minuscule part of government spending- we will not have all that much more to spend on the NHS. That even assuming the offset in economic losses will make it meaningless anyway.

Worst of all is all is the way in which the immigration issue has been so much of a big deal. The Leave side have been hinting, for example, that Turkey might join the EU and bring millions more immigrants to th UK, using the refugee crisis as leverage (even in spite of the fact that we are not inside the Schengen area and those trying to climb on lorries desparate to reach the UK are hardly going to be deterred by Brexit). Yes, it is true that there is ultimaely so much space to go around, so many houses, so many hospital beds. Perhaps free movement of labour does seek to drive down wages and conditions as immigrants might have a lower level of demands in terms of wages (which are naturally higher than in their home country anyway). But at the same time, immigrants can also pay taxes, start businesses, possibly fill the jobs British people would seek to avoid anyway, and actually be of benefit to our eeconomy instead of a burden. How much of the pressure on our poblic services is not in fact down to austerity? How much of the housing crisis is really down to bad policy or even markets? How much of the business with jobs is down to neoliberal notions of shareholder value trumps everything? Frankly, this is more about scapegoating those less fortunate than us instead of blaming the real people responsible- the rich and powerful. Exploiting xenophobia and Islamophobia.

Then again hte Remain camp isn’t so much better- even suggesting the security of Europe might be threatened if we left, that the economy would take a nosedive- admittedly, hough many economists back that one up. Typical of the tit-for-tat mentality in the debates, the Leave campaign immediately hit back and rubbished these claims, reckoning, for example suggesting that the economists who make such predctions also failed to predict the 2008 financial crisis. And the business interests who favour Europe? They said the same thing about is joining the Euro, didn’t they? And as history has proven, maybe our not joining it turned out not to be such a bad idea after all.

There is also the suggestion that Brexit is all about right-wing values and hate, which it should not be- it is not about personalities, who our awkwards bedfelows might be, but on the issues. Just like I could not care less about all the celebrities and political dinosaurs the campaigns wheel out (why should we care so much partiucularly about what celebritiess have to say any more than anyone else?) nor do I care if Farage, Boris and their ilk are campaigning for Leave. After all, I don’t like Cameron, Osborne or those dinosaurs as Blair (the man who brought us into Iraq), or all the heads of corporations who want us to stay in, but they are all supporting Remain.

One thing I am very skeptical of is the claim that the EU has ben instrumental in securing peace in Europe. Never mind that the institutions which would later develop into the EU were mostly a Western affair, and for the four and a bit decades after WW2 the biggest possible threat to peace was the tension between capitalist Weat and “communist” East, dominated by Russia/the USSR which covered a good chunk of eastern Europe and is satellite states a good chunk more? That, although the EU now encompasses much of Eastern Europe and some parts of the former USSR, there are yet more tensions between it (and the West in general) and Russia, which is not part of the EU? What about Ukraine? What about the former Yougoslavia 20 years ago? So what good has the EU done for peace? Can anybody really tell me if the last 70 years since WW2 has not had a resumption of major conflict on the level of the two world wars, has not been in spite of, rather than because of the EU? I would welcome suggestions.

So, what of the Left case for “Brexit”, sometimes referred to as “Lexit”? Wasn’t the Left traditionally Euroskeptic back in the ’70s? Well, we’ve seen sadly little of it. Despite the fact that there are a few trade unions (RMT?) supporting it, a few within Labour (not Jeremy Corbyn however, who seems to have gone over from his original euroskepticism to support the normal party line). There are of course a few on the fringes- George Galloway of Respect, the Socialist Labour Party (something to do with Arthur Scargill methinks) and the like. The Morning Star newspaper seems to have carried plenty of columns arguing a left case for leaving the EU. But we see little of this in the mainstream media- it’s all Cameron and Osborne on one side and Gove an Boris Johnson on the other. I mean, even UKIP has been complaining that Farage has been sidelined in the debates, but he gets more prominence than any on the left arguing for Brexit. The fact is that, for all the worker’s rights, environmental protections (you know, like those fishing quotas) and whatnot that came from the EU,  it still a neoliberal-oriented organization and no-one on the left who wants to remain in the EU argues for it without hoping for substanitial reforms. The only worry is that with a Tory government in power- and especially if Cameron has to step down- a lot of these may be eroded further. We worry about TTIP, but if we make the much-vaunted trade deals on our own, how do we know they won’t be as bad as if not worse than what we might get out of TTIP- which we cannot influence if we leave, along with our comrades across the Channel. But to suggest the EU is internationalist- well, it actually is a regional trading bloc at odds with some other parts of the world, and actually discriminates against those outside the EU with regards to things like free movement rights. Much hope for world socialism there? Doubt it.

Nevertheless, I came across a film which makes the case for “Lexit”, which might be worth a watch. [2]

And another article (shared through a friend) which suggested that we’re basically screwed either way. [3]

So, I’m out to vote. If you are eligible to vote (and are not an anarchist who doesn’t beleive in voting in principle), I encourage you to do so if you have not already. I doubt I can influence anyone at this stage with an article like this, and frankly don’t want to. I barely know myself. But there you have it. As ever, confused.

 

[1] http://riversofwater22.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/an-open-door.html?spref=fb

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pq72f81kkM4

[3] http://www.thecanary.co/2016/06/21/the-eu-referendum-is-one-of-the-cruellest-tricks-every-played-on-the-british-public/

Last night I began with what must seem like a somewhat desperate plea for the Scots to think of the rest of the UK when voting in the referendum today. I promised I would go into more detail about why I believe this is important. As I have left it too late in the day to affect the polls, which have now closed, and given that realistically an obscure blog with a handful of readers, written by an Englishman, is going to do much to change the outcome of the vote anyway, I wonder if it is worth it. But, a promise ought to be honoured; given my poor track record in previous years of posting what I wanted to post, this most definitely needs to change.

I am far from an expert on the situation and this is not an academic blog, rather meant for personal observations on life, the universe and everything so what follows here is only my understanding based on what I have picked up on the news. So, without further ado:

 

1. The economic uncertainty.

The Yes campaign of course claim they will be able to continue to use the pound in a formal currency union with the Bank of England continuing to be lender of last resort, etc., but as pointed out that will require the approval of the continuing UK. And given the whole debacle with the Eurozone crisis of the past few years, naturally there is some reluctance to enter into that. And given some reports that some of the alleged mainstays like oil reserves, access to ready markets in the EU if Scotland is denied immediate membership and so on (though whether a free trade agreement, like I’d hope for an exiting UK, could at least be negotiated I don’t know) and the fact of probable lack of investment due to all the uncertainty, will Scotland’s economy really be in the right shape to not drag us down?

Of course there is always the possibility that EU membership for an independent Scotland would mean them joining the Euro, and if not, they could use the pound anyway, as Salmond forced Darling to concede in the debates. Or even use the US dollar, or probably even the Turkish Lira or Bitcoin or come to that. There are threats that without the currency union, Scotland might not agree to take its share of the UK’s current national debt, which will further place a burden on the much smaller rump-UK tax base. I doubt we down here would care much for that.

Of course, all the tax revenue that comes from Scotland, and the probably dwindling oil revenue, cannot be passed to the rest of the UK, which is for Scots certainly a good thing, and probably seeing so much of that money going to further enrich the London elite won’t make us in poor old North-East England cry. But, a less than open border might well affect trade too, especially for those businesses close to it.

And all this uncertainty is probably going to deter investment even further, if we find out by tomorrow Scotland has voted Yes.

2. The political spectrum.

This BBC article suggests that without Scotland in the 2010 elections, the Tories would have a majority in the House of Commons, and would not even need to form a coalition in order to force through so many of the unpopular policies the Yes campaign claims to want rid of in Scotland (some of which won’t even affect Scotland anyway, like NHS privatization)

Or take a look at the election map from Wikipedia. Note that in England there are a few chunks of red in a sea of blue. Much more red and yellow in Scotland than the measly little bit of blue you can see. Also note where those chunks of red are-no doubt the old industrial heartlands that have been eroding over the years, and certainly hate the Tories every bit as much as your typical Scot. Yet none of us ae able to become independent.

Of course it is hardly like Labour has had a much better track record with popular policy decisions, and the Lib-Dems are in fact in coalition with the Tories which says enough. But certainly what we will see (if whoever it was that said that it might refocus the efforts of the English left-wing to appeal more strongly to English concerns and head off the current shift to the right) a shift in the near-term political spectrum of Britain which could mean the Tories are more likely to dominate, than it would otherwise have been. Not being firmly either on the left or right, and even being kind of a reluctant UKIP voter (not that I like all their policies and ideas, least of all on climate change, and am in two minds about others- simply on the EU question and one or two of their more social-conservative, if not economic-conservative viewpoints), this might not seem like a bad thing you might think, but I think a change in the corridors of power now and then might be good even if they all are as bad as each other in the long run.

3. Trident.

Of course, many English people I know don’t really want the questionable use of funds to maintain an independent nuclear deterrent we cannot under normal circumstances use and probably would never need to, let alone have terrible destructive potential if we did. But if Scotland becomes independent, then eventually we Sassenachs are probably going to have to go to all the trouble and expense of relocating the base of operations for it. I’d certainly not want to see it in my back yard either, thanks.

4. Effect on the North East of England?

There have been fears, right since suggestions the SNP might lower corporation tax might mean investment that would have gone to my area would instead go to Scotland. Already we have seen, for example in my hometown, a certain major business locating an office in Scotland it might have here. But with the economic uncertainty mentioned above, this might be a bit of a non-starter.  There have also been fears that a new international border might cause problems for businesses and workers on either side of the border.

There are, also on the other hand, moves by local authorities in the region to work more closely with Scotland to forge new links which might be in our economic interest, then perhaps independence might not be such a bad thing.

5. Good old Auntie?

Yes, there are many people who hate the BBC as biased, on both sides of both the border and the political spectrum. Or they hate the way it handled the whole Jimmy Saville thing, or the payouts to its executives, or the fact its current funding model is essentially a TV tax in all but name, irrespective of whether you want to watch the Beeb. But if plans to split off BBC Scotland to form a new Scottish Broadcasting Service, what does this mean for the funding of what is left? If the SBS does exchange programming, will it be forced to stump up the cost (and vice versa) commercially, and will that cover the shortfall?

6. But what about a No vote?

I have heard from certain people I’ve been talking to that as part of a sweetener to tempt undecided Scots to vote “No”, then even more funding could be diverted to Scotland than is currently delivered by the Barnett Formula. I certainly don’t think that will be too popular in the rest of the UK, if taxpayers have to foot the bill. And what of “devo max” type sweeteners, in the absence of a truly federal UK? Hardly think this is fair either but then, perhaps we might get stronger calls for an English Parliament, stronger powers for the Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies (unless reunification looks more promising after all), and a reduced Westminster in other words, a truly federal UK? I’d like to hope so, but it remains to be seen.

I leave you with two BBC articles on the issue, which probably will explain it much better than I can. Just to annoy all the anti-Beebists (as distinct from the Auntie Beebists 😉 )

I also invite comments, ideas, constructive criticism and especially corrections.

As basically anyone will know who has been following the news lately, Israel and Palestine- or more appropriately Hamas- are out to kill each other yet again. It seems to follow the same old pattern every time- Hamas fires rockets out of Gaza, Israel turns around and responds by trying to utterly blitz Hamas into the ground and ending up killing way too many innocent civilians in the process. Or maybe things are quite different than that. The pro-Palestinian lobby claims the Israelis are deliberately targetting civilians as part of a deliberate genocidal campaign to get rid of the Palestinians and turn the whole of the Occupied Territories into a complete Jewish state, the pro-Israeli side claim Hamas are deliberately using civilians as human shields (and get free international support for their side). As usual, it’s the ordinary folks, who may or may not otherwise be politicized, suffer, in huge numbers. Maybe the odd Hamas rocket, most of which are ineffective, get past the Iron Dome and hit somebody. Certainly a few Israeli soldiers have been killed.

And of course there are desperate pleas from the international community and all concerned for a permanent ceasefire for the sake of ending this dreadful suffering. Yet when all sides agree to a temporary ceasefire for three measly days to give the Gazans some time to patch things up, what happens? You go to bed hearing on the radio it’s going to happen, and wake up in the morning ot find it’s been broken yet again. Israel claims Hamas broke the ceasefire by firing more rockets, and responds with shelling; 53 dead. Hamas denies firing anything. Some civilians reported as acting as if the ceasefire was going on still, however. An Israeli soldier gets captured, 2 more are dead. And the whole bloodied roundabout goes on turning.

Now, as a Christian of the sort who believes the modern state of Israel to be some partial fulfilment of Bible prophecy, I really want to support them; I believe the idea of a restored Jewish state, in the wake of the centuries of persecution they endured, is a good thing, but not at the expense of those who were living there already. It does seem hard sometimes, when you see what the Palestinians have had to put up with since 1948, and when you see what is happening now (Gaza completely blockaded, settlements in the West Bank, seemingly disproportionate reprisals every time Israel gets attacked) you begin to wonder. Yet Israel has throughout its history been under threat, first from its Arab neighbours, now militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. Can you blame them for trying to neutralize the threat of constant rocket attacks? I wonder.

In all honesty, feelings in support of both sides run so high, and there seems to be two completely different versions of events, that you don’t know what to believe. As with the Ukraine in more recent days, everything gets lost in the haze of propaganda and the fog of war. What I do know, is that people are suffering, and that there seems to be no easy end in sight. I’ve almost come to the conclusion that, if both sides could stop their fanaticism, maybe the two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders might be the best stop-gap until the Lord returns. I know, somehow, it won’t. But we must try to make the best of a bad situation.

 

Of course I’ve missed bits out- the murders that started the whole thing off, the new phenomena like the tunnels Hamas are now digging into Israel to attack it, and the Israelis going in on the ground in response, instead of just the usual airstrikes.

 

In time I may follow up with comments on the general insanity of it all, with more mention of Ukraine; and certainly it would be worth a discussion on what makes a just war, if at all. (To my mind, whilst conflict may occasionally be necessary, few actual instances seem truly justified, all things being weighted in the balance.) But that is for another day. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matt. 6:34).