Roy Harper on Brexit:
Three days before the referendum vote, I wrote to a good friend of mine who is a continental European citizen to inform him of my view of the politics involved in Brexit, and to tell him just how conflicted I was about it. He had previously attended my birthday gathering at a local restaurant (12/6/16, eleven days before the vote took place), where we’d discussed it. In the letter I say a couple of times that what I’ve written should never be published. However, as I think that the world has now significantly moved on, whether it is published or not is irrelevant. It might even be a good way of starting the blog up again after a four year ‘hiatus’. Please note that this letter was written on the 20th June 2016. What follows the letter is a passage on what I’ve thought since then.
20th June 2016
I felt your disappointment with my attitude to the Brit referendum on my birthday (12/6/16). I feel that I owe you an apology for some of the language I used and an explanation. I’ve also re-examined my opinions and the reasons for them.
Basically, my position has been ambivalent. Eventually I’ve found myself sitting on the fence. I usually write essays about issues like this, but I haven’t ever really been able to nail down one opinion on it. At least not an opinion I can espouse without referring to the validity of the opposite point of view. I have always thought, in any case, that the ‘remain’ side will win. I still think that.
First off, I’d just like to say that at the beginning of this it seemed like a different proposition entirely to the one that has emerged over the last year. It began about a year before the last British General Election when Cameron, in order to placate the right wing (OUT)-Eurosceptics in his own party (+ UKIP), while also keeping faith with his coalition (IN)-Liberal Democrat partners, muted the idea of an in-out referendum to be held in the forthcoming Parliament. He thought that the likelihood would be that he would again be in a coalition with them. Eventually, to solidify the deal, everyone was promised that there would be a referendum on EU membership.
At that point, everyone quickly calculated that with his c.60 Lib Dem MPs + the europhiles in the Labour opposition, they should easily be able to control the terms and progress of any referendum. After all, in parliament itself the vote would have been approx 60/40 in favour of remaining in the EU. Still is.
Then fate dealt a couple of unexpected hands. The Labour Party, which had effectively been born in Scotland, was seriously undermined in Scotland after it had supported the ‘No’ campaign in the Scottish Referendum, (18th September 2014, in which a ‘no’ vote meant that “no”, you didn’t want Scotland to become independent). Tens of thousands of Scots who had previously been Labour supporters joined the Scottish National Party in the weeks following the victory of the ‘no’ vote: obviously feeling they’d been cheated out of independence by the Westminster based Labour Party.
In the UK General Election, seven or eight months later, The Scottish National Party experienced record swings of over 30% from the Labour Party when they won 56 of the 59 Scottish seats in Westminster. This changed the balance of power in Britain overnight.
The Conservatives won the election outright over a very much weakened Labour Party and no longer had to form a coalition. What this has meant, along with many other things, such as the fact that there is no longer an effective opposition, is that the eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party were suddenly in a position where they could force the promised referendum with no effective questions raised, or effective opposition to it within Parliament. Without fear of being challenged by any parliamentary vote.
The irony is that if the Labour Party had won the election, the referendum would have been buried, instantly.
What has happened since then is that the UKIP Party, with over 4 million votes but only one member of parliament, has found itself virtually without representation. The fact that it is roughly allied to the Tory right wing isn’t as important as the fact that the 3rd biggest Party of voters in the UK is marginalised. Visibly, and completely. Whatever you think of them or their views, this is a long way from being democratic. When 4 million people are virtually disenfranchised, the feedback grows to proportions not experienced since suffrage first became an urgent issue in c.1830.
This feeling has also now spread to the rank and file of the northern working people, a great many of whom feel that they are no longer represented in the way they were only a year ago. The distance between themselves and Westminster was at best tenuous. That gap has lately become as wide as Hadrian’s Wall was from Rome in 420 AD.
For many of them, this vote is their one chance to effect what parliament does. For many, it’s a chance in a lifetime. For a majority in some places, they have a feeling of being overrun. For many of them, their vote will not be about anything other than total disillusionment. Disillusionment with politics, with the system, with Westminster and with Europe. For a lot of them, the perception is that things can’t get any worse. I was out of order on my birthday in disparaging the religious invasion, but we have to stand by the facts. I’d also like to make it clear, however, that we’ve brought it on ourselves, not least by former colonisation and war.
I will never be a racist. That is anathema to me. I have written many anti-racist songs and poems. And for instance, I really enjoy the West Indian contingent in our country. They are special, wonderful people who have brought a lot to us. I’m pro-immigration, and that’s one thing in this morass that makes it even more complex. You have pro-immigration Brexiteers and anti-immigration remainers, and all shades in between, which muddies the waters considerably. I.e., there are a dozen camps and more, with no leaders.
Cameron has been mauled by the press in the last few days because the general and widespread perception of him is that he can’t be trusted. He is constantly undermined in front of millions of TV viewers. Osbourne is a very slippy character, Farage is totally embarrassing, Johnson is a likeable buffoon, Gove is a shy boy geek-cum-zealot, and Corbyn is a closet Brexiteer who is trying to convince himself that ‘remain’ is the best ship to be sailing on. There are NO outstanding leaders with outstanding messages. (That the government of 1948 who founded the Welfare State was much more honourable is without question). The public have their own view, which is often clouded by the facts of their own local reality.
The bureaucratic output from the EU is gigantic. It’s a mass of confusing red tape and directives that are in the main nothing short of dreams, coming from 27 different sets of dreamers. The cacophony is truly amazing. There are mega questions about it’s authenticity, including just how democratic it is.
The sovereignty we’ve been losing for decades follows on from this. This was illustrated for me when I saw some cynical ‘Inners’ in boats on the Thames haranguing some working trawler men who were protesting to get their jobs back. To be allowed to fish waters their forebears had fished for long centuries before sovereignty was removed from their shores and islands. Which could hardly be described as a retrograde step. In effect, the Austrians and Czechs are land locked and are short on cod, but with all due respect, the French trawler fleet has access to the Atlantic while the German trawler fleet has access to the Baltic and beyond.
There are hundreds of different versions of this bound up in expensive red tape. In effect, in my own opinion, we gave away far too much sovereignty far too quickly. Perhaps the other original 6 did too. We needed to move at a pace where adjustments could be gradually accepted as they naturally became facts of life. Please read that sentence twice. In the rush to bury the holocaust, we are stripping the fabric of our culture down to the bone, in the hope that new and more acceptable flesh will grow in place of what has been shredded.
The young can’t wait, I understand that, but the world is different than that. No one can trust those who have played the system for decades and might want to alter the fine print in ways that are partial. In the history of human culture, this is a common thread, and the young are the most vulnerable (to the sharp practice of the state). In the event, no one is being allowed any time in any case, because of the sheer pressure of people.. And I hate to say this, but there’s a cynic in every stride.
With respect to the facts, there were over 300,000 net immigrants into the UK this last year. This figure is roughly split between those from the commonwealth and those from the EU. The UK isn’t the only country in Europe that this has happened to over the last decade. This is the greatest migration of people humanity has yet recorded, including the one post WW2. What this means for the UK is that yes, there’s a decent supply of nurses, doctors and other skilled people, but there is nowhere near the growth in infrastructure needed to accommodate a new city the size of Nottingham arriving every year. Infrastructure is THE most important factor in all of the pressure being put on working people right now. I cannot stress that enough.
When you can’t even see a doctor after you’ve waited all day, or been left on a trolley in a corridor, (in some cases to die), you know that things have changed, and not for the better. Perhaps just as importantly, the new population will work for often much less than the average British worker. The average middle-aged British worker, meanwhile, has many more ‘overheads’, and can’t work for lower wages. In other words, millions of lives are now in the process of being changed, and many will never know the standard of living they had, ever again.
Put that together with the fact that most immigrants are younger, and you have a problem. The UK should be welcoming them, and in many instances, thankfully it does. But they have no idea just how they’re effecting the UK population, even though they help us in many ways, including by paying tax. And it’s the fault of successive governments that the infrastructure and many of its social services, (including the police), are no longer fit for purpose for its indigenous population.
But problems are compounded when large numbers of this new population don’t speak the language. This is again intensified by the fact that they are culturally hundreds of years adrift. So far adrift in fact, that many of them are appalled by our way of life, and seek to keep their children from being any part of it. Many of them are horrified by us. What this means is that there’s a big underclass of people living in the UK who have absolutely no desire to be part of British society.
They have virtually taken whole cities over. They have made some of these cities bright, colourful and desirable, but for different classes of people at different times of the day or night, there are no go areas within them. Plus they contain people being brought up in them who are fifth columners. 5th Columners, some of whom will grow up actively seeking to destroy elements of the original tolerant culture they don’t agree with.
There are undercover schools where no English is spoken. There are courts administering Sharia Law, where British law is absent, meaningless and incomprehensible. Not, in my own recent experience, that it isn’t in any case, but what we have in many instances are lives being lived in circumstances that we grew out of six or seven hundred years ago, and at the very latest haven’t experienced at all since the mid to late 17th Century.
Everything I detest about organised religion has come to haunt me in the twilight of my life. Organised authoritative dogma should now be on the wane. Instead, in a new age of flawed reason, it flourishes. This is indeed a bitter pill to swallow. The propagation of this latest wave of superstition is ensured by the information age. It’s long become the ‘armed superstition’ I’ve had to refer to for at least the last 28 years. (NB. I’ve been anti organized superstition for about 70 years).
We should be welcoming this huge exodus in the traditional human way. The vast majority are not visibly enemies. They need shelter. They have only themselves to give; but what does this really mean for the places they land in/on?
On the other side of all of this, a brilliant young woman was murdered on the street a few days ago by someone calling himself ‘Death to traitors, freedom for Britain’. I didn’t know of her beforehand, but she was obviously a shining example of humanity. I would love to have known her. So would millions of others. The knowledge of her and what she did will change minds in this referendum. There’s a great sorrow in this. I’m sure that there are not many in the nation who don’t feel that. What a wonderful soul. A life lived in charity. An example to us all.
So, in summary, it’s not so much that I’m disappointed not to be able to at least live a part of my life in the country I think of as my home, but that that country has truly become a country I no longer recognise. Obviously, things change over a lifetime, but I’m now totally estranged from the country my mother must have known so lovingly. I carry a great sadness of the passing of practically everything I knew. I accept that this is one of the consequences of age, but to be this alienated is truly signal.
When you catch me speaking like I did on my birthday, it’s because some of these things have been shaken and stirred. Disturbed. I know in my heart of hearts that I HAVE to be open to the greater possibilities of union with others, and that feckless nationalism exposes the very worst emotions and delusional mass behaviour. So although I totally side with my overrun northern countrymen, I will stop short of ever publicising my views because I would want to do the best for my grandchildren, (one of whom I know has a different view than my own). In the best of circumstances, the pain being felt by my older contemporaries will be short lived compared with the potential of sunnier uplands that might be experienced by unified generations who may be able to combat climate change, population growth and armed superstition with tools and knowledges we do not yet possess. (Or at the very least, are not yet willing to acknowledge). In my head, I’m a remainer, but in my heart I’m a raging Brexiteer. This information is for you and for you only. It will never be published.
I want to be able to visit jazz cellars in Soho again for pennies. I want to spend days dreaming by the north western sand dunes. Guitar in hand, watching a red sky in the evening. I want to hitch to the Nordcap again and see the cotoneaster on the Arctic Circle. That’s all gone.
The King is dead, long live the King.
Roy 20th June 2016
Since then, because a million old men and women and a million other disaffected and pressured citizens voted to come out of a remote entity that’s irritated them for decades, “A re-vote is necessary. And we’ll fix it just as soon as we god damn can. Right!?” – To paraphrase one young conservative MP.
The EU ‘experiment’ is just that. It isn’t the same as a federation of states that have grown out of nothing, expanded, populated themselves, and communicated in the main in one language for two or three hundred years. It’s a collection of 27 different nationalities, all speaking their own separate languages (23+dialects) and having often hugely different cultural identities, smashed together overnight after warring with each other for time immemorial.
It’s a bold dream built on the ashes of two world wars and an expression of hope engendered by the horrors populations experienced because of those wars. The first of those wars started because A Serb killed an Austrian Prince, the second because in the interlude after the first one, the German people were left to suffer while the rest of Europe drew breath and paid no attention, until it was too late, to an Austrian corporal from the first war who never understood why he should have been on the losing side. The fact that after he grabbed power, he was quite quickly corrupted by it and descended into deep criminality isn’t the point.
The point is that Germany (then West Germany) and France had to end the European civil wars by joining forces in a European block with 4 others, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, where checks and balances would preserve the peace until such time that war was not only a distant memory but also an anathema. That sentiment is well on the way to being established, but we are not quite there yet.
The Euro block has since exploded in numbers since 1975, and is now a very disparate group. The countries which in some way were involved in the Industrial Revolution that began in the 18th Century have the wealth of both industrial culture and resources, while the countries that were still largely rural at the beginning of the 20th Century have comparatively agrarian cultures and fewer resources. There are differing shades in between. They can be put into the obligatory table with Germany on top and Greece at the bottom. The attempt to share wealth between them is fraught with difficulty. Perhaps the wholly natural siesta culture still doesn’t easily equate with the snappy lunch break further north. And the richer north is hard pushed to totally support a perceived slower pace further south. Spain is now producing cars and corporations, but huge swathes of the young are out of work. Italy is a fantastic place. The ideals are lofty and admirable, but suspicion lurks in the reality. Is everyone in the EU pulling their weight? More importantly perhaps, is it even possible for everyone to pull, per capita, anything like the same ‘weight’?
The bureaucracy is huge. Does it have to be? There is cacophony in the great chambers. The ship sails simply because it was put to sea in 1975, but lately 27 times the deckhands are needed to steady it. But are they? Really? It’s an incredibly cumbersome raft, from which directives spring with good intention but often unintended destiny, perhaps. Not always of course. The chambers have honourable purpose, but their elite seem to live in theory, disconnected with the actual act of practice, and life, on the ground.
When I first saw the pictures of Alan Kirdi, the Syrian boy washed up on the Turkish beach, I was horrified to the core. Like most other people, I was very angry and incredibly sad at the same moment. Who could have put him in so much danger? If he’d come to my door, I’d have welcomed him, got to know him, taught him, made him laugh, opened the world for him, or tried to. So would millions of others. We adopted our cat. She came to the door. The second time she came, we let her in. She had no home. That was sixteen years ago. That boy could be growing up with us, but a boy cannot be a temporary guest. He comes with a responsibility to take care of him and all his needs across the long childhood. I’d have passed on before he knew me; and then there are the facts of who he might be attached to, and what other responsibilities I might inherit here in the twilight. But I’ll never forget him.
As I said above, he’s part of the biggest migration of people in the history of humanity. Torn from their homes by poverty, need, war, ambition and hope. So how do we fix it for everyone?
And what is going to happen with Brexit? There have been clues for months now, and the whole world continues to opine, but what kind of things can we begin to assume from these clues, and from the High Court argument in front of their 12 Supreme Court Lordships?
Well, Boris Johnson, David Davies and Liam Fox are big enough clues in themselves. Then there are certain new departments being created, including a ministry of ‘Foreign Affairs’, ministers and civil servants who are in the process of being posted, bolstered or seen scurrying. There are plenty of clues.
I have to make notes these days. I recorded (in sound) and made notes on the Brexit high court procedure/argument. I think that possibly it’s too full of quotations of precedent and etc., to be all that entertaining, and there are reams of it, but there were enlightening moments that opened up vistas or exposed someone’s real opinion, and indeed, finally, it wasn’t hard to surmise that in the end, it will come back to parliament for parliamentary approval. And subsequently that the boys and girls will finally give Brexit the go-ahead, regardless of what most totalitarianist parliamentarians thought they would automatically be able to do to change the verdict of the people six months ago.
Personally, I think that Brexit is the best thing that could have happened to the UK in the circumstances. There will still be business done between the UK and Europe. Lots of it. It might drop for a couple of years after Brexit, but in the long term, both parties will be better off. There’s a lot of hoo-ha. No one will have to leave either jurisdiction because of nationality if they’re already bona fide worker/members. The EU might splinter further, even though the Germans, and maybe even the French, will expend time, energy and cash keeping the status quo in place.
Let’s not be silly though, the EU will not completely splinter. It’ll probably move into a better shape in a couple of generations, when, as above, ‘…we’ve moved at a pace where adjustments have been gradually accepted as they naturally become facts of life’. It was a mess in 1975, when the first GB IN/OUT referendum was held, and it still is. In my song of the time, ‘Referendum’, which was satirical, I said that the average blue-blooded, and perhaps unwitting ‘conservative’ lemming had arrived in Brussels ‘..forgetting what he’d come for and in patronizing tones… gave them all his clothes and bread to stop their moans and groans’. I still think the same thing, although this time the even more conservative population, on both sides, has called the tune.. I’ve given up bothering with ‘left’ and ‘right’. As has been previously noted, equality and personal freedom are mutually exclusive. The goal has to be understanding, and fairness in the moment.
Either way, it’s not going to make much difference. Yes, I’m going to lose some wages for a while, and maybe I’ll have to cut back a bit and work a bit harder, but the opportunities for younger people will soon be manifold. Yes, there were EU advantages, but there was far too much waste, and too much loss. The loss I always felt the most was one of self-determination and self-worth. I have nothing in common with the drones of Brussels. They are here to impose, not just on GB, but on everyone, and they are an imposition. They are a body without a heart. A body that cannot afford to have a heart. Seemingly better for the smaller countries at the present time. In many ways, I wish that I was poor again, and that I knew exactly how many drachmas were in my pocket on the deserted beach in Corfu, but we must look ahead. In 1965, when I began recording, the world population was 3.2 billion people. It’s now 7.3 billion.. more than doubled. The beaches on Corfu…well.. it was a dream. I’m lucky that I’ve had so many.
I didn’t vote. I counted myself out. I’m sorry for the young people that the vote didn’t seem to happen in the way a lot of them wanted it to, but I can tell them all, and with a deal of confidence, that if you have the vision and the energy, it’ll be a great ride. And in the end it won’t really matter. The two sides, (the EU and the UK) will continue to threaten each other with what they will or won’t give each other for the next couple of years. In the end, they’ll both say they did the right thing, and in ten years time it wont have made any difference to anyone. Except perhaps the jockeys on the Forex wall of death. Did we really join? I never fully had that impression.
I’ve regarded politics as entertainment for a long time now. Without Adolf in charge it’s been possible to do that. Just the way that Vladimir walks into a room gives him away. He’s my size, and it’s stage fright jerky. Trump’s a rogue elephant, seemingly without the wit. He often makes me laugh though.. out loud. Preposterous. What fun it’s going to be to watch this circus. Almost as good as Man City. My only real concern is that I hope he has someone umbilically connected to Estonia.
There’s more: leastways there are copious notes. I’ve been hanging around with this for months now. I haven’t heard May’s speech, but I don’t need to. It’ll be more clucking fudge for the clucking newscasters to cluck to. It’ll be the same till 2019. Hope I make the finish line..
We went shopping today. I should make this public on the same day she made the speech, without knowing what she said. What the hell.. sorry, heck?
I’m trying to keep a diary, and doing a lot of reading, but I’ll try to get back soon.
RH Tuesday 17th January 2017 tbc..
PS. I don’t usually have breakfast, unless it’s free in the hotel and someone’s keen enough to drag me out of bed in time for some prunes.