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


15 thoughts on “Bright star

  • 20th June 2016 at 9:14 am

    What a brilliant thoughtful post. You put into words so much that I am feeling right now. We will, we must, do better, care more, before everything of value is broken.

    • 22nd June 2016 at 7:30 am

      Thanks so much, Sue. I felt I had to speak up. And yes, we can be better than this.

  • 20th June 2016 at 10:57 am

    How I agree on your view concerning politicians negating their responsibilities. Just giving licence to those with an axe to grind about immigration etc. And how depressing that a young, positive, hard-working MP should lose her life in the process. I don’t think I’ve ever known times such as these, & those whom it’ll least affect have the most say, not considering the future of our young people! We are in such need of good, positive, informed leadership to shape our future in Europe. It’s not for the uninformed, biased & misinformed to be taking these decisions. As for our local MP, what can one say??

    • 22nd June 2016 at 7:32 am

      I just heard on Breakfast that the politicians were reaching out today to those who are voting on instinct – huh!

      Another good reason to ban Referendums!

  • 20th June 2016 at 3:37 pm

    Over here in Canada, although I can watch BBC once in a while, no clear explanation of the situation has been stated. Your coments are a huge help, if only to pass along what I know. Mostly, we feel Britain is crazy to exit the EU and feel the citizens will thwart their politicians on this one…

    However, with what is going on below the border, we know we have to be ready to expect anything, no matter how alarming!

    But we do fear the consequences of both.

  • 20th June 2016 at 3:40 pm

    I have been at a loss to find the right words for recent events but you have done that for me, Penny. Thank you

    • 22nd June 2016 at 7:37 am

      Thank you June for saying that – we have to speak up. I believe we do all have the right words and feelings about life – it’s just that this Referendum has extracted the worst kind of debate from our nation. We are better than this.

  • 21st June 2016 at 7:04 am

    I started reading your blog for my normal reasons of seeing your latest finds. However I would like to thank you for this thought provoking and very articulate article on the current political chaos on both sides of the pond. The anger and hatred that is constantly being displayed by ‘leaders’ is horrific. Thank you.

    • 22nd June 2016 at 7:56 am

      I’ll be back to the usual at the beginning of next week, but this definitely isn’t a normal situation so I felt I had to say something.

      I think the thing is politicians ‘dumb down’ a lot and they shouldn’t – we ought to have some really difficult, wide-ranging, almost academic (I mean that in the best sense) debates, because we live in such a complex interconnected world. The politicians shouldn’t try and make things simple and easy, like asking us to put a cross on – In or Out. It’s not that simple, the EU is deeply flawed, but …. …. and …… ….. and so on. And also in the UK there are many depressed areas (in both meanings of the word) with heavy industries like steel, coal mining and ship building going elsewhere and so there are no jobs and people feel very unhappy about their situation. Equally there are the people who hanker for the past. A Referendum is not going to solve lack of jobs in those areas or improve our position in the world, but the implication is that it will – ‘we’ll take back control of our borders’ and so on. What a disgrace this Referendum is, but I will be voting. Thanks for your comment x

  • 21st June 2016 at 8:21 am

    Brilliant! Suggest you submit this to the Times for publication.
    Graham and Rosemary

    • 21st June 2016 at 8:52 am

      Thank you so much Graham – felt I had to say something. And thanks for saying that about publication but instead I’ve put the poem on her book of condolence set up by the Labour party x

  • 22nd June 2016 at 8:56 pm

    Wise, considered and thoughtful words, Penny, thank you. Who was it who said we get the leaders/politicians we deserve? I wish we had leaders we could trust and rely on. As it is, we are feeling our way. Whatever tomorrow brings, I pray it will not be the end of Great Britain.

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