Hello everyone! I’ve been back for a week now, and that’s a week spent mainly doing endless washing and recovering from a migraine after a very delayed flight. I don’t believe in an afterlife but if I did then being stuck in an airport waiting for a delayed flight (happened both ways) would be my idea of hell. I am such a bad traveller. But hey it’s nothing, I’ve recovered, it’s not a problem.
I’ll be showing you my dresses in a couple of days. But it doesn’t feel appropriate to be all frivolous and frothy with the assassination of our MP, Jo Cox, last Thursday, and the ghastliness of our Referendum leaving such a foul taste (in everyone’s mouth, I reckon). As you know this blog doesn’t usually have any politics in it (although I would argue that ageism is political) as I have another blog which is meant for my opinions and rants about policies and politicians. But not this post. No, we all have to speak up otherwise the trolls, the yahoos, the blustering falsifiers and dissemblers will truly have taken over.
Actually, I think people over the pond are just as discombobulated about politics as we are in the UK. We had some great conversations on our cruise with Americans about relative distances (my word, some had taken long flights to get to Amsterdam), TV shows (mutual admiration for The Wire, Breaking Bad and House of Cards). But, best of all were the conversations about Trump and Hillary, who no-one seemed to love. At, all. Mind you, no-one admitted to loving Trump either, but we sussed out the secret Trump voters, and especially the couple who, when I admitted I really rated Obama. Crickey, what a reaction! If I’d said something pornographic it couldn’t have been worse! OK, it was a tad cold outside (we’d crossed the Arctic Circle) but when I said that (about Obama) the icicles grew around, above and under the dining table, and the conversation was over, with the guy getting up and muttering that ‘it was those socialist countries that seemed to like the Obama abomination’ – phew, and I wish, brother!
Because heck no, we’re not a socialist country as we have a somewhat right-wing government that amongst other things (that I won’t go into here) has catapulted us into an exceedingly uncertain future with this Referendum about the EU (promised by both parties, so Cameron is not wholly to blame). And the debate and discourse around this momentous decision has been the absolute pits. The American cruisers, btw, were vaguely aware of the Referendum and really puzzled as to why we would want to leave, so we did our thing in trying to explain British politics, emphasising that the discussion around the Referendum had deteriorated somewhat into rhetoric around immigration and fear and loathing for the ‘other’.
The trouble is a lot of the discourse in the UK around immigration has been hijacked by a party that would be rather similar to the Tea Party over in the States. This is UKip, the United Kingdom Independence Party (you get its drift from its title) but it does say things about immigration that both our main parties have failed to grapple with. As a result, our two main parties run around like headless chickens, not doing very much apart from saying they’ll cut immigration and giving a projection of how many numbers they hope to cut. Then without exception the two parties fail to keep to that number, which makes people feel all sorts of emotions ranging from cynicism, to fear and anger. If you want some rational thoughts on this, I commend you to read Jo Cox’s husband on the subject. This is not his valediction; these are his thoughts on the debate around immigration which we on the left have lost – so far. Well worth a read.
Two things about UKip and its leader Nigel Farage (a former banker). The day of Jo Cox’s murder he unveiled a poster with an image of brown skinned people who are obviously going to pour into our country if we continue to be in the EU. Most people expressed outrage at it as it has Nazi overtones. And second, Farage predicted there would be violence. And then someone shot Jo Cox, which is so very shocking to us Brits, that doesn’t happen here, does it?
But it did happen.
Up to this tragic event the Referendum had unleashed an unhealthy, narrow, xenophobic debate on the rights and wrongs of the EU. And this is mainly because the Leave campaign seized upon people’s fears and worries about immigration and Remain felt obliged to answer. But it’s a difficult one to answer succinctly, or in sound bites, although it’s good to know that younger people are more supportive of immigration than older people (do read that article by Brendan Cox) so the easy solution for some is to think leaving the EU would solve our immigration problem.
Sigh. Actually nothing is easily solved these days. Perhaps if we step away a little and just look at those who support Remain – most economists, businesses, many MPs from both main parties plus their leaders Cameron and Corbyn. And the Leavers: Gove, hated by all teachers; Johnson, a boor and an oaf; Duncan Smith, a failed PM and Farage? Read the last name with an outraged Edith Evans lilt to your voice. I rest my case.
But before any of you voting to Leave get angry at me for hinting, you know, can I say, my greatest disgust lies with those who decided we’d have a Referendum in the first place. A pox on both parties for that decision. Why? Because, we elect people to become members of a Parliament and it is these people who should be making decisions and giving us guidance. But no, they listened to our unease about the EU and the growing desire to snipe at immigrants, courtesy of UKIP, and they found a solution – a Referendum. No. Politicians are meant to lead and in agreeing to this they abnegated their responsibility. We live in a complex interconnected global world of which the EU is just one small piece – and it is our representatives who should make the momentous decisions not people who are voting on a muddied debate, and their feelings about Britain and its place in the world.
How I despise politicians. I thought. But then again, I read about Jo Cox and heard her fellow MPs give tearful, heartfelt tributes to an exceptional human being and felt suitably chastened. Because, of course there are good MPs, as there are bad, and to tar them all with the same brush as those MPs who are corrupt and out for themselves is to fall into the trap of dehumanising groups of people (remember Hannah Arendt). I had become guilty or at the very least contaminated by this truly awful discourse around intolerance and small-minded partiality based on feelings. OK, what to do? I think, it’s not good enough simply to say we live in sad, difficult, challenging times – you pick a word. It has to stop, here and now. And I’m glad to say, to those of you outside the UK, that campaigning for the Referendum has stopped. And really I’m hoping for the duration. Not holding my breath.
On our cruise there was a distress call put out into all corners of the ship including cabins which I hadn’t heard before. It begins with bright star, bright star and then a cabin number and is repeated 3-4 times. Hmm, must be serious I thought when I heard it, as the ship’s officer had a wobble in his voice. It is. It means it’s a serious medical emergency. But this act of violence is a societal emergency. And Jo Cox was a bright, bright star.
So, I leave you with this, which could be read as coming through on a tannoy into your home, and your hearing and your mind.
Bright star, bright star, lost
Bright star, bright star, gone
Bright star, bright star, we will remember you
Bright star, bright star, we will recapture your ideals of tolerance and love
Bright star, bright star, we will make these ideals ours
Bright star, bright star, we will