Posted by: aboutalbion | May 31, 2017

EU referendum vote (14)

The 2016 UK referendum vote for a strong global UK fantasy future takes another step forward with a UK general election in a few days time.

At the moment, it is not clear to the pollsters where the votes of the ‘remain’ voters in the referendum [48%] will end up in the election next week.

What I think is clear is that only the ministers of the incumbent governing party [Conservative party] are in a position to begin Brexit negotiations a few days after the general election.

So far as I can see, any election result that does not renew the current government’s mandate will lead to fresh delay in the EU severance talks.

Posted by: aboutalbion | April 30, 2017

EU referendum vote (13)

It’s possible that my grandchildren and great grandchildren will be puzzled by the events of the twelve months following the UK referendum last June.  For example, there was nothing about a ‘snap’ General Election in the ‘Vote Leave’ manifesto.

And they might well be confused by the absence of any UK political party in the forthcoming General Election [on 8 June this year] to represent the 48% of the UK electorate who voted to remain in the EU just a year ago.  Why wasn’t there such a political party to argue for a bill to repeal Article 50 in a fresh sovereign Parliament?

But we are where we are …

In calling for a General Election, it seems reasonable to suppose that that the UK prime minister felt the vulnerability of her party’s slender majority in Parliament and the ever-present shadow of the slender referendum result itself [just 52% in favour of leaving the EU].  In addition, it also seems reasonable to suppose that the EU negotiators would exploit this vulnerability during the two years of forthcoming negotiations.

As if on cue, the former Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, advises the UK (in a book to be published in the UK next week) not to negotiate with the EU on an agenda drawn up by the EU.

He draws attention to Germany’s commitment to the Eurozone project as the vehicle for European political integration, and to the German Foreign Minister’s creed that “elections cannot be allowed to change economic policy”.  He further evidences Eurozone policies (a) to distribute losses by banks to vulnerable citizens, and (b) to encourage politicians “to extend and pretend” (that is, presumably, to extend national debt and to pretend that the economy has underlying strength).

I ask myself, at what point do these kinds of policies (in the Eurozone as well as the Sterling areas) become child abuse?  For it is my grandchildren and great grandchildren who will drown in debt and reap the harvest of associated social unrest.

Histories of the ancient world have identified a divinity to whom children were sacrificed.  My dictionary entry for “Moloch” is ‘a Canaanite idol to whom children were sacrificed’.  I am reluctantly drawn to the conclusion that the worship of Moloch is continuing in Europe today.

Posted by: aboutalbion | March 26, 2017

EU referendum vote (12)

With the UK Government poised to trigger Article 50 this coming week, I feel that it is time for all of us in the UK to fasten our seat belts on account of the turbulence ahead.

Several former Prime Ministers of several political parties have expressed concern at the prospect of leaving the EU.  The current Government have firmly ruled out a second EU referendum on the grounds that the electorate have spoken.

[Incidentally, I have not seen any research into the counting of the referendum votes by parliamentary constituencies, and then the counting of leave / remain MPs according to the votes exclusively in their own constituencies.]

However, I sense that a second EU referendum will take place because opinions are changing, and will continue to change, as the complexity and cost of leaving becomes more real.

And to my mind, whether the Government grants a second referendum or not, the common people of the UK will transform the next General Election into a second EU referendum.

So far as I can see, whatever the political parties contesting the next election call themselves, the next General Election will be between the ‘count me IN’ manifesto(s) and the ‘count me OUT’ manifesto(s).  [This of course assumes that there will be no military take over which suspends the supremacy of Parliament for a time during a period of martial law.]

If the OUTs win again (counting MPs this time), then the present policy is affirmed.  But if the INs win (by counting MPs), then a fresh sovereign Parliament can attempt to reverse leaving the EU – either by setting aside the ‘divorce’ proceedings (with the consent of the other EU members), or by asking to be readmitted (and that will pose a real challenge for the other EU members).

That is an outline of my picture of the severe turbulence ahead.  I am unable to imagine how life-threatening it will be to the UK.  If the UK does come through the next decade, then (sooner rather than later) an independent commission is surely needed to advise the UK on the relationship between a sovereign Parliament and a UK-wide referendum on a single issue.

Posted by: aboutalbion | February 28, 2017

EU referendum vote (11)

It seems that insider accounts of the EU referendum campaigns point to some uncomfortable conclusions.  There seems general agreement that Tim Shipman’s account is the place to start.  [Tim Shipman (2016) All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class.  Collins.]

First, it is clear that the Prime Minister’s view that the referendum debate would be all about jobs and the economy (and that his approach to this topic would prevail) was a mistake.

Second, it is clear that the ‘Vote Leave’ slogan of “£350 million a day for the NHS” connected emotionally with undecided voters (and seemed to answer concerns about jobs and the economy).  At the time of the campaign, the chair of the UK Statistics Authority described this NHS claim as potentially misleading in correspondence with ‘Vote Leave’.  It is noteworthy that key people of the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign have now re-named themselves ‘Change Britain’, dropped the NHS claim, and now claim the EU budget savings  are available to support “continued funding for farming, science, universities and poorer regions of the UK”.

Third, there is the strong suspicion (articulated by Alan Duncan) that Boris Johnson secretly wanted Britain to stay in the EU and that he just wanted the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign to lose narrowly.  For him, such an outcome would allow him to position himself as the heir apparent to the Prime Minister, and at the same time enable the Prime Minister to seek further concessions from the EU.

To my mind, these kinds of conclusions help me to understand that the actual referendum on Thursday, 23 June 2016, was a choice between reality and fantasy.  And somehow, fantasy won … narrowly.

Against those who subsequently have claimed that the result was clear and decisive, it should be noted that the ‘Vote Leave’ director, Dominic Cummings, has referred to the referendum outcome as “the close result”.

I have also noted that Sir Alan Duncan (currently a Foreign Office Minister working under Boris Johnson) has warned that the UK is entering “a period of deep instability and uncertainty”.  [And this view has been echoed in recent days by two former Prime Ministers using more colourful language.]

So if fantasy is the order of the day, what about the United States becoming the next associate member of the Commonwealth of Nations?

Are reports of this future development fantasy … or the way forward?  Why shouldn’t the US eventually join this informal grouping of 53 nations (only 16 of which have the Queen as head of state) in order to advance its interests?  And, for that matter, why shouldn’t the UK encourage some European states (who want to) to join the Commonwealth of Nations?  What if …?

Posted by: aboutalbion | January 29, 2017

Poetry

A chance reading of someone else’s newspaper this weekend brought this poem to my attention.  I am glad to have read what seems to be regarded as one of the poet’s signature works.

REMEMBER

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894)

Posted by: aboutalbion | December 21, 2016

2016 … a very short review of my year

I wish all who read this post the very best for the coming year of 2017.

In one sense nothing much has changed for me, but in another sense I feel that a lot has changed.

My children’s news can perhaps be summarised first.  One daughter’s school enjoyed a “Good” rating at a recent OFSTED inspection.  Another daughter’s son has made a smooth transition to starting primary school.  And my third daughter and her family relocated from Kuala Lumpur to Houston Texas over the summer, and her children have places at a British School there.  I keep in touch with all of them as often as I can.

Last year’s Christmas exchanges included an invitation to visit an old school friend in north Devon.  And in the spring, I found a GWR train to convey me to Barnstaple before noon.  I spent a most enjoyable day with him and his wife, including a walk to view the River Taw estuary.  Later, in the summer, I was pleased to welcome a distant relative on my mother’s side (and her husband) for a meal and a ‘catch up’.  They were on vacation from their home in the south of France.

One of the opportunities of living not too far from a teaching hospital is participation in medical research studies.  And this year, I have added participation in chronic kidney disease research to participation in Parkinson’s disease research.  Both research groups want to look at me in a non-invasive sort of way at occasional intervals.  Recently, one of these groups strapped a small movement recorder to the bottom of my spine for a week, and then I went inside an MRI scanner for the other group.

In my retirement ‘village’, I am just coming to the end of my allotted three years as Secretary of the residents association.  I have enjoyed the challenges of this role that have come my way, but I shall be relieved to be able to clear away (and take possession of) a large corner of one of my rooms.

My other volunteer roles have continued.  With the local children’s hospice, I have now passed my MIDAS test and have joined the pool of volunteer drivers.  And at the local theatre, I have enjoyed ushering for all the main shows.  For the Shakespeare anniversary, there was a memorable production of “King Lear”.  And perhaps because theatre goers are also cinema goers, I have (as an usher going rather bald) collected some comments this year from people of all ages that I am the splitting image of the film actor J K Simmons (the overbearing jazz band conductor in “Whiplash”).  When I looked him up online, I had to agree that some images do resemble …

I have had two politico-religious experiences this year.  I woke up on 24 June to find I was living in another country, and I woke up on 9 November to find I was living in another world.  On both occasions I was in shock for several hours, and then I was surprised at how shocked I had been.  My own study of the nature of history has taken me away from the ‘great man’ theory and towards underlying social and economic forces.  I am inclined to think that Farage and Trump represent underlying forces which are beyond their personal control.

May the spiritual mystery at the heart of creation give us all peace in the year to come …

Posted by: aboutalbion | November 30, 2016

EU referendum vote (10)

I am dismayed that the UK’s Prime Minister is continuing to believe that she can avoid affirming the sovereignty of Parliament in the matter of ‘triggering Article 50’.

As many have noted, her behaviour is reminiscent of a medieval monarch who believes that the referendum result enables her well-developed sense of the ‘divine right of monarchs’ to proclaim that she has a divine mandate to act without involving Parliament.

I expect her appeal next week to the Supreme Court to be dismissed, and I expect the Supreme Court to affirm the sovereignty of Parliament.

If her Article 50 plan is subverted by the Supreme Court, it will be within a system that can be presumed to be familiar to her.  I am wondering how I can have confidence in her (as yet) undisclosed plan to negotiate the ‘best possible’ deal for the UK in a European milieu which may well be not quite so familiar to her.

Posted by: aboutalbion | October 31, 2016

Quotation

“They are playing a game.  They are playing at not playing a game.  If I show them I see they are, I shall break the rules and they will punish me.  I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game.”

[R D Laing (1972) Knots.  New York: Random House.]

Posted by: aboutalbion | September 30, 2016

EU referendum vote (9)

I approve of Mr Justice Cranston’s decision in the High Court this week to order the skeleton arguments of both sides in the forthcoming hearing (scheduled to begin on Thursday 13 October) to be put into the public domain.  The public were invited to fully participate in the referendum, and I see no good reason for the public to be locked out of the build-up to the first round of the ‘civil war’ that follows the ‘leave’ vote.

The ‘People’s Challenge’ will argue that the Sovereignty of Parliament means that a vote in the Houses of Parliament is needed to authorise the Prime Minister to trigger the formal leave-taking from the EU (by invoking Article 50).  The Government will argue that there remain discretionary powers in the hands of the Crown, the so-called Royal Prerogative, which the Prime Minister can exercise without a vote on a statute in the Houses of Parliament.

In favour of the ‘People’s Challenge’ is the ceaseless consolidation over recent centuries of the doctrine of the Sovereignty of Parliament.  In favour of the Government’s argument is the absence of the use of an authorising statute which could be repealed by a later vote in Parliament, and a corresponding reliance that no future Prime Minister would allow a vote to re-join the EU (if indeed the EU survives).

Blackstone’s opinion in the eighteenth century suggested that the Royal Prerogative was limited to an action that no other person in the UK could take … and he had in mind the dissolution of Parliament.  Dicey’s opinion in the nineteenth century suggested that the Royal prerogative was the exercise of discretion by the Crown wherever statute didn’t prohibited it.

Whatever the High Court decision, I feel that leave to appeal to the higher courts needs to be given because the issues at stake in the reception and understanding of the referendum result are so foundational to our understanding that we live in a ‘rule of law’ society.

Posted by: aboutalbion | August 29, 2016

Chocolate Korma Gateau

When I was asked to engineer a special cake recently, I began to think of an adventure in the kitchen … and I wondered if tongues would dance with a combination of chocolate and curry … and with desiccated coconut throughout.

The moist chocolate sponge is surrounded by a korma flavoured buttercream.  You might even think about serving this interesting gateau with coconut ice-cream.

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The quantities here will make two 20 cm [8 in] sponges for a double layer gateau.

SPONGES

350 g self-raising FLOUR
80 g COCOA powder
2 t BAKING powder
½ t SALT
250 g caster SUGAR
50 g desiccated COCONUT

180 g vegetable OIL
480 g WATER
2T cider VINEGAR
2t VANILLA extract

FROSTING

250 g BUTTER (fridge cold)
500 g ICING SUGAR
3 t korma CURRY powder
2 T MILK
150 g desiccated COCONUT

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 190C.  Line (base and side) two 20 cm [8 in] ‘spring form’ sponge tins.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients for the sponges.  Make a well in the centre, and add the wet ingredients for the sponges.  With a large spoon, slowly stir from the centre [pancake method] gradually incorporating ever more dry ingredients into the mixture … until only a few lumps remain.  Use a hand whisk (or electric whisk) for a few seconds to disperse these lumps.

Divide the batter equally between the two sponge tins and bake for around 30 minutes (until the tops spring back to your touch).

Allow the sponges to cool completely in their tins, before turning them out.

To make the frosting, dice the cold butter into a large mixing bowl.  Whisk the butter until it is soft.  After mixing the curry powder into the icing sugar, gradually add (through a sieve) the curried icing sugar to the butter (whisking between each addition).  Add carefully just enough milk until the frosting is soft and spreadable.  Now stir in the coconut (and carefully use a little more milk, if necessary, to make the frosting pliable).

Turn one sponge upside down for the base layer, and use a palette knife to spread an even layer of korma buttercream over it.  Crown this with the second sponge, and use a palette knife to spread the remaining korma buttercream all over the top and side to compose the gateau.  Dust the top of the gateau with a little cocoa powder to finish.  Place the gateau in a fridge until a short time before serving.

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