Posted by: aboutalbion | October 15, 2017

Gardening

My new home on the south coast has a modest garden … a couple of small lawns and a few shrubs at the front, and a lawn surrounded by several shrubs at the back.

So I appreciated the endorsement of gardening in my newspaper this weekend.  It ran a leading article that suggested there was support for the prescription that the recipe for happiness might include responsibility for a garden and/or an allotment.  Here are the relevant extracts …

“Sales of chicken coops and beehives are taking off.  Greenhouse purchases have risen eight-fold since the spring.  …  Britain is turning back into an episode of The Good Life …  There is a lot of evidence that this is the most reliable road to happiness.  In studies of self-reported well-being people who do a lot of gardening are always happier than those who do not.  If government were to have a happiness policy then handing out allotments would not be the worst option.  …  The allotment [option] … has a philosophical heritage.  Is it really no more than a coincidence that … the title The Good Life [was] a direct translation of Aristotle’s concept of ‘eudaemonia’?  One of the vital components of the Aristotelian good life is purposeful activity such as can be found [on many allotments and in domestic gardening].”  [The Times, 14 October 2017, p29]

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Posted by: aboutalbion | September 30, 2017

Poetry

I have now moved nearly a hundred miles to a fresh home on the south coast of the UK.  So I have recently had to say farewell to.many friends in a commune, and I dedicate this poem [of unknown origin] to my memory of them …

“For every memory of friendship shared,
even for a short time, is a treasure,
like sunshine and warmth in our lives,
like a cool breeze on a humid day,
like a shower of rain refreshing the earth …”

Posted by: aboutalbion | August 31, 2017

Poetry

“I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.”

[verse 2 from ‘Sea Fever’ by John Masefield (1878 – 1967)]

Over the last four years, I have heard this ‘wild call’ to be beside the sea.  And in the coming days, I shall be moving to my final retirement home on the south coast of the UK.

Posted by: aboutalbion | July 31, 2017

EU referendum vote (16)

I am struggling to make sense of the current state of the UK at the moment.

My weekend newspaper included headlines such as “As a nation, we don’t know what we want any more” and “The Brexit secretary is playing it by ear with no guide to the melody” and text such as “On every level, from Westminster down to the street, Britain in 2017 simply does not know what it believes, what it wants, or what is possible”.

Is the film “Dunkirk” a straw in the wind?  The “every inch a British film” has opened to acclaim in British cinemas in the past few days.  However, critics in France are pointing out that the film implies that the evacuation from the beaches was a solo British triumph, by omitting reference to the 40,000 French soldiers who sacrificed themselves to defend the city of Dunkirk against superior German forces and the 120,000 French soldiers who were also evacuated at the same time.  “Dunkirk” would appear to be biased towards audiences of hard Brexiteers who seem keen to embrace isolation from the rest of the world.

Or is it dawning on the UK electorate that leaving a politico/religious cult (such as the EU) is in itself a disorientating matter for all?  Cults do not anticipate members leaving.  The EU (as a cult) has promoted the ‘reward’ of a Europe with no more wars, together with the mantra that the EU federal budget must always expand to increase its power and influence.

From this standpoint, the so called Brexit ‘divorce bill’ has an iconic status.  If the UK pays it, then the EU (as a cult) has had its creed affirmed, and the UK will be seen to have self-harmed in order to leave and to accept inferior trading arrangements.  If the UK refuses to pay, then the EU (as a cult) will have to be seen to excommunicate the UK and to make future trading arrangements as difficult as possible.

With the authoritarian EU claiming to be the representative power and voice of “Europe”, the alleged desire of the UK to also be good Europeans without being a member of the EU seems difficult to express itself in day-by-day living.

At the moment, I can see no end to the chaos and gloom that is descending over my country.

Posted by: aboutalbion | June 28, 2017

EU referendum vote (15)

The first anniversary of the EU referendum vote found the UK struggling with the outcome of a ‘snap’ general election.  I interpret this general election result as a tie.  On paper, it looks as if the two-party system has returned.  To me, the recent result feels like a repeat of last year’s referendum result in different clothes – a slight numerical advantage in an evenly divided electorate.

Over the past year, no plans for the UK’s future outside the EU have emerged.  I would expect the EU to continue to respond with statements such as, “That offer does not quite meet our expectations”, as the UK begins to table initiatives in the exit negotiations.  It seems inevitable that the present government will have great difficulty in securing parliamentary approval for any ‘final EU agreement’ at the end of the negotiations.

What will historians make of this first year?

I was drawn to the opinion this week that future historians will highlight with some amazement that one side in the 2016 referendum was not fronted by a political party that would take political responsibility for the constitutional change that a vote in their favour would require.

The official winning side in the referendum, Vote Leave, was a cross-party organisation formed about nine months before the referendum, and dissolved less than three months after the referendum.  The government in power (and the administrative civil service) had no plans in place for leaving the EU.

It is a breadth-taking example of the exercise of power without responsibility that a single issue pressure group can trigger such a profound constitutional change without in any way being responsible for.  It is a matter of record that reputable independent voices have judged the Vote Leave campaign as “dire” with “glaring democratic deficiencies” and as “one of the most dishonest political campaigns [the UK] has ever seen”.  However you look at it, I conclude that parliamentary sovereignty was stolen on this occasion by a referendum.

A year ago, I wrote …

“In 1978, Lord Hailsham [Lord Chancellor 1979-1987] wrote: “Referenda are of different kinds.  In what circumstances is it to be thought proper to have resort to one?  …  Is the referendum to be taken before, or after legislation has passed Parliament?  Is its effect to be conclusive or only advisory?  …  What subjects are to be referable?  Who may set the machinery in motion?  …  I do not claim to be able to answer these questions.  …  What is strange is that there has been practically no discussion as to how, or in what form, the institution [of a referendum] should be systematized.” [1979 (paperback) The Dilemma of Democracy. London, Collins Fount, p176f.]”

The UK’s present state of affairs has only been able to come about because Parliament has neglected to examine the place that a UK wide referendum might have in relation to the sovereignty of Parliament itself.  Parliament should take steps to ensure that its sovereignty is not stolen again.

Meanwhile, in the present political mess, it is probably the case that only another UK wide referendum can reverse the decision to leave the EU.

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)

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