Category Archives: Europe

A sharp turn to the right!

It seems that the world we live in is getting crazier by the day. Just this week we have seen the atrocious terrorist attacks in Spain, white supremacists marching in America and killing opponents to their despicable beliefs, and, to top it all, at home we have seen the growth of a campaign on behalf of that throwback Jacob Rees-Mogg; there have even been suggestions that he could be the next leader of the conservative party! Not that any of these events are truly surprising, but they do highlight the way things are at present.

The whole idea that America is a “white” country is beyond ludicrous. Europeans were the invaders, driving back the indigenous, non-white, population who they have treated appallingly ever since. The colonialist’s approach to the native population represented the worst of European arrogance, something we have seen time and time again as European nations spread their influence across Asia, Africa and the Americas.

North America in particular, has thrived for centuries on immigration. Don’t forget it is a comparatively new country and a large proportion of the population is probably no more than a couple of generations on from an immigrant. The continuing influence of white supremacists in the southern states just goes to show how out of touch with reality and the modern world these people really are.

America may claim to be the land of the free, but to some that only seems to apply if you are a white Christian. One of Donald Trump’s earliest blunders was his idea to place a ban on travel from selected, mainly Muslim, countries. This came in response to perceived threats from Isis. But coming at a time when the biggest threat to innocent lives is from home-grown, gun toting madmen, it is clear that the President either doesn’t understand the real issue, or, more likely, is choosing to ignore it and, like so many people before him, blunder about placing the blame for the nation’s woes on the most visibly obvious minority.

But once again, neither America or Trump are the first to react in this way, and they won’t be the last. When times are hard, or people face uncertainty, rather than look at themselves, they will look outward and seek an easy target to vent their fury and frustration. After all, it is easy to lay the blame for your troubles on others rather than yourself, particularly those who, for one reason or another, are outwardly conspicuous. If unemployment is high, blame the immigrants for taking our jobs. You can’t get on the housing ladder, blame the immigrants who are taking all our social housing stock. Long queues at the hospital, then it must be all those immigrants coming here for free treatment. To anyone with any sense, all of these statements are obviously untrue, but they are things we all hear said time and time again.

Some people don’t have the patience or the capacity to look beyond the overly simplistic rhetoric of the far-right and take the easy option of accepting a point of view that seems to offer a simple solution. But the simple solution is very rarely the best and, hardly ever, the right answer. Trump’s threat to tighten up immigration controls plays right into the hands of the extremists and legitimises their twisted view of the world. And is hesitation in condemning the neo-Nazi’s behind the killing last week of Heather Heyer just goes to highlight that it is not just the KKK that we need to be rid of.

Of course, we face similar, though much less overtly obvious problems of our own. We also have a leader whose position within their own party has been weakened by their arrogance and poor decision making. While Trump plays his dangerous games in the far East, Theresa May continues to flounder around over the issue that dominates the political arena, Brexit. A lot has already been said about the jingoism expressed during that particular campaign. It was just another example of the growing nationalism that we have seen right across Europe. Whilst we do not have the same issue in this country with neo-Nazis, the popular acceptance of right wing rhetoric as worrying.

Terrorist attacks like those in Manchester, London and Barcelona only add fuel to the nationalistic fire. Whether or not they are achieving their goal is hard to say, but what they can take some credit for is giving the far right, as well as those who seek simple solutions, ammunition to back up their calls for deportations and a clamp down on immigration.

And the last thing we need is the likes of Jacob-Rees-Mogg gaining any more influence than he already has. Mind you, if he ever did get himself elected as leader of the Conservative Party it would polarise political views in this country, particularly as the Labour Party is now led be someone from the left. It would ensure their policies were discernibly different.

 

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Invasion of the body snatchers

I finally have proof that aliens are here, taking over the bodies of humans as they lay their invasion plans. Only I’m not sure whether it’s my body they have taken over or Michael Gove’s!

You see, I find myself in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with one of his policies. During his time in Education and Justice, and the whole Brexit debacle, I was comfortable in the knowledge that his ideas and opinions were right-wing lunacy. We are still suffering from the damage he did to both departments, particularly Education. As far as I am concerned, Michael Gove epitomises the worst of the Tories. And then, out of the blue, he not only says something sensible, he goes and proposes a policy that I find myself agreeing with.

That is something I never thought I would say, and it pains me to even think about it.

So, what is it that Mr Gove has proposed that has gone against every principle of his career so far by being sensible? Well, he has announced that he is going to match the funding the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), but on a different basis. Rather than pay the subsidy based on the amount of land they farm, in future they will be paid for protecting the environment and enhancing rural life.

I am not sure how protection and enhancement will be measured, and knowing Gove it may not be quite what it seems, but let’s hope that, for once, he is going to do the right thing. Let’s face it, his approach in his previous departments have been aimed at appeasing the Tory right and getting the best deal for those least in need of help, whilst leaving the rest of us to pay the bill and suffer the consequences.

Farming is an important industry for the UK and it is vital that we protect it. Paying out millions of pounds to already wealthy landowners has never been an effective use of public money. With supermarkets putting pressure on producers to keep prices down, many farmers are being pushed to the brink of bankruptcy. And it’s not just the price of produce that is a problem. In many rural areas, the cost of housing means that low paid farm workers are being priced out of the market.

So, we can only hope that this time around, Michael Gove’s proposal is what it seem and he is at last going to do something positive.

Who is to blame?

Last night I caught part of a documentary item in which members of the public talked about their reasons for voting OUT in the EU referendum. Once again, the focus of most people’s arguments was immigration. It seems that in most parts of the country you can’t get a job, a doctor’s appointment or a school place for your child because of EU migrants taking everything.

And this must be true because we were told, or at least encouraged to believe this, by those paragons of virtue Johnson, Gove and Farage.

But let’s think about this. I live in a town with a reasonably sizable number of EU immigrants, mainly Polish, but with a fair sprinkling of other nationalities. And yes, I have trouble getting an appointment at my surgery, but from what I can see, it is the lack of doctors that is to blame, not the patients. Whenever I do get there, what I generally see is a lot of elderly British people. So actually, the problem lies with our aging population and a lack of funding and support for GPs over recent years. From my experience, if it weren’t for the migrant staff working in the NHS, the problem would be much worse.

But, by the Brexit argument, these European doctors, nurses and ancillary staff are actually taking our jobs from under our noses! I mean, if they weren’t here more Brit’s would have a job. Err, wrong! They are here because we have a shortage of people trained and willing to do the work. If you can’t get the job you want, maybe you are either under qualified, unsuitable or expecting too much.

Another problem being blamed on migrants as the lack of places in local schools. Yes, in some areas large increases in population have led to a shortage of places. After all, local authorities plan for future demand based on birth rate, and if a large enough number of families move into an area, this will inevitably lead to problems. But this can happen anywhere and not necessarily be caused by EU migrants. It can also be brought on by premature school closures and by a funding regime that does not allow for any slack in the way of extra places. Schools are encouraged to be full as this is the only way to secure funding. Consequently intake numbers are artificially reduced and staffing and resources cut to suit.

Cutbacks forced by the government have left many local authorities struggling to find even the minimum they need to provide health, social and education services in their areas. Whether there were migrants or not, these draconian cutbacks have devastated services all over the country. If you can’t get the health care you need, blame the government whose budget cuts have forced the closure of hundreds of centres and outreach services and drastically reduced training facilities. It is their policies that have led to disillusioned and underappreciated staff leaving the NHS and our schools in greater numbers than we can replace them. It is successive UK governments who have laid waste to many of the services we have some to rely on, not immigrants, and certainly not the EU.

Cameron and his allies were unable to retaliate against the Brexit claims about the effects immigration is having on our services and economy, because they knew, as did Outers, that Cameron himself was to blame for most of it. He was hardly going to stand up and say, “Actually folks, it’s my fault, not theirs!”

And what is all this about sovereignty? Yes, the EU is not perfect and it does occasionally pass some seemingly ridiculous laws, but nothing like what is claimed by the Eurosceptics. Most are aimed at levelling the playing field across member states, ensuring that free trade and movement can work effectively. It is the UK government’s policies that have resulted in a lack of housing (thanks to the sale of housing stock), under staffing and funding of emergency services, and cutbacks in health care and social welfare.

But the biggest threat to the Eurosceptics of the right is the EU’s on-going agenda regarding our rights. The likes of Gove and Farage want to return to a system that protects the elite at the expense of the workers. They don’t want any of this human rights or worker rights nonsense getting in the way of securing their fortunes and their life styles.

Does anyone actually think that Gove and Johnson give a monkeys about you and me? Of course not. From where I’m standing they look like self-serving elitists seeking power and influence. But now that all their lies and deceptions have been brought to light, I hope that any chance of leadership are now well and truly quashed. And as for Farage, hopefully this time around he will stay resigned! The less I have to see or hear of that egotistical maniac the better.

What next for GB?

Europe and immigration are two issues that have plagued right-leaning folks of Britain for years. If only we could get rid of both, we would be “great” again. Although it looks like the anti-everyone-who-isn’t-us brigade have got their way in truth the referendum result has done little to smooth things over. If anything the cracks in our society are actually getting bigger and more dangerous.

The country is in turmoil and what we need more than anything is strong leadership. Instead, what we have is a lame duck Prime Minister working out his notice, and an opposition tearing itself apart behind a leader who should never have been there in the first place. Add to this escalating racism, economic uncertainty and the prospect of an extremely right-wing Prime Minister, and you have all the ingredients for a damned good sit com. Except this is no joke, it is all too real.

With the Conservatives happily laying into each other, now would be a good time for the opposition to lead the charge against the Tory loonies. But, thanks to electoral gerrymandering, the left is as polarised as the right. And thanks to the fickle nature of British politics, the centre ground previously held by the LibDems has been all but wiped out and made irrelevant nationally.

Poor Jeremy Corbyn. He seems like a nice, genuine guy, but he has no place leading the Labour Party, Let’s be honest, he wasn’t elected for who he was, but for who he wasn’t, and because the membership wanted someone from the left. He faces rebellion from within the Parliamentary party but support on the ground. We will all watch how this unfolds with great interest.

And as for the Tories, internal wrangling over Europe is nothing new, but this time it’s different. This time they need a leader who can rebuild the bridges felled during the referendum campaign. Whoever wins the contest must also be able to connect with the public on both sides of the vote, and that certainly isn’t Gove!

Whoever is leading our political parties this autumn has some very difficult decisions to make. After all, the result of the referendum is not binding and in the end it is parliament that has the last say.

So what can we expect?

Looking back over the referendum debates it seems to me that a lot of people are going to be very disappointed by what comes next. Expectations are that once the dust has settled and divorce proceedings begin the migrant “crisis” will be resolved. There are a couple of problems with this view of things, the first being that there is no crisis! The Out campaign happily blamed all of the country’s ills on immigrants, blaming them for everything from the NHS’ financial troubles to shortages of housing and jobs.

Now, let’s get one thing straight, the problems within the NHS do not stem from rampant immigration, but from draconian cuts and lunatic policies implemented by our own government. If anything it is migrant workers who have kept our health and social care services afloat.

And if you want to point a finger at anyone for the lack of affordable or social housing, rather than wagging your digits at Poles and Romanians, shake it very firmly at David Cameron and George Osborne who have over seen the decimation of our social housing stock and failed to do anything constructive to ease the housing problems. It is government policy and budget cuts that have caused most of our current problems, not immigrants.

Each day brings new opinions and fresh ideas on the way forward, but in all honesty, nobody has any idea what comes next. Let Labour and the Tories have their summer of fun, in-fighting and back stabbing but come the autumn the people of this green and pleasant land will be demanding some clear decisions and strong leadership to get us out of the mess we have been landed in.

Who are the British?

The week of the Conservative Party conference is always good for a laugh, and this year’s has been one of the best. Or at least it would have been if what they have been saying was remotely funny. Now that they are back in power without the moderating influence of the LibDems we are beginning to see what they are really all about.

In their efforts to bring back supporters who have drifted into parties such as UKIP, they have ramped up the “little Britain”, approach that has always been there, but recently kept under wraps. But as the likes of Ian Duncan Smith, Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove pour out their idiotic and damaging ideas to an increasingly right wing audience, Theresa May’s approach to Immigration is not only laughable, it is frightening and divisive.

But even she was outdone by last weekend’s Mail on Sunday article that criticised BBC’s The Great British Bake off for having a Muslim woman in the final. It is not often that a newspaper article gets me angry, but this one did. Not that I read it first-hand! Heaven forbid that I would ever actually read a reactionary rag like the Mail – it was quoted in the “I” earlier this week, and repeated a few times online.

I have always felt proud to be British, to be part of a tolerant and multicultural society. But when I come across the likes of Britain First, UKIP and some elements of the Tory party, I just feel shame and embarrassment.

I remember a debate many years ago when one anti-EU campaigner said to me: “nobody asked us if we wanted a multicultural society.” Well no, they didn’t, but that doesn’t matter because they we born into it anyway. Britain has embraced multiculturalism for generations but often without realising it. Our society is built on a mixture of nationalities and cultures. From the early invaders (Romans, Vikings, Saxons and Normans) to the more recent migrations from the old Empire and those fleeing persecution (the Huguenots and the Jews), Britain has always offered a safe haven for those in need. Our language and culture reflect this continual influx of ideas and influences. That is the Britain I am proud of. Not the Empire building, jingoistic Britain that some would have us believe we are.

When things are tough, as they are now, it is easy to point to the finger at those in our society who are different or present and easy target and lay the blame for our woes at their feet. But it is not migrants fleeing persecution and war that have caused our economic problems, but greedy bankers and politicians. Our housing shortages cannot be blamed on the “foreigners”, but by the lack of investment and foresight by successive governments, both Labour and Conservative. And the NHS is facing financial melt-down because of a lack of funding and a top down culture, or by the growing costs of dealing with home-grown health problems related to diet and alcohol. It is not being brought to it’s knees by migrants.

We are an island nation, but we are also part of a much wider global community. Britain’s strength stemmed from our willingness to embraced new ideas and absorb other cultures and make them our own. Don’t let the radical ideas of a minority threated that great heritage.

I truly believe that the majority of people in the UK feel as I do, that we must continue to embrace people from other cultures. It is what has made us the nation we are.