Of Men and Mice

 

It is about 40 minutes’ drive to the nearest cinema, so we seldom go to films. A few evenings ago, however, we went to watch The Darkest Hour, and we are very glad that we did. It provides an extraordinarily perceptive close-up view of Winston Churchill in his first days as British Prime Minister as he makes up his mind on how Britain should react to the invasion of France, Belgium and the Netherlands by Hitler’s well-equipped forces. Thanks to impressively good acting, it felt as though we were watching a video of what was actually happening in May 1940 rather than a film shot over 75 years later!

A couple of years ago, I much enjoyed reading Boris Johnson’s The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History. I read it aloud over several winter evenings to my wife while she was ironing. It is highly readable, often entertaining, and paints a very convincing portrait of its subject, warts and all.

Like many others who have read Boris’ book, however, I could not help thinking that it was telling us not only about Churchill but also about its author and hinting at his ambitions. He waxed lyrical over Churchill’s extraordinary capacity to harness the power of the English language, whether spoken or written, to inspire others and rally their support for his actions. He admired his opportunism in switching political loyalties as well as his ability to tell blatant lies when it suited him. And he marvelled at Churchill’s capacity to find imaginative and very practical means of addressing problems for which there were no obvious conventional solutions.

Boris’ problem is that his huge admiration for Churchill seems to have convinced him that he could follow in his mentor’s footsteps and has nurtured an undisguised ambition to serve as Britain’s prime minister. Indeed, he shares much of Churchill’s skill as an orator and writer and these, combined with some Churchillian economies with the truth, served him well in leading the EU referendum “leave” campaign to victory in June 2016.

As we saw in The Darkest Hour, Churchill applied his genius as a speaker to stir up nationalist fervour in order to generate a vast wave of public support for his hugely daring approaches to confronting the immediate threats posed to the freedoms enjoyed by Britain and our close allies in Europe by Hitler’s Nazi forces.

In contrast, at a moment when Britain had no particular quarrel with its European allies, Boris successfully used his skills as an orator to fan public hostility towards the European Union. He (and his xenophobic co-campaigners from UKIP) persuaded voters to blame their many woes on the bureaucrats in Brussels rather than on their own government. He sought to propagate a vision of a proud British nation that would regain its true greatness as an independent trading country when freed of the restrictions implied by continued membership the European Union.

It seems fair to question whether Boris himself even truly believed in the story he told voters or whether his mind was simply focussed on building his own visibility and furthering his political ambitions. No more than two years before the EU referendum, Johnson wrote of Winston Churchill that it was his “idea to bring these countries together, to bind them so indissolubly that they could never go to war again – and who can deny that the idea has been a spectacular success?”. Even one week before the opening of the referendum campaign, it seems that Johnson was in two minds as to which side he would support.

For a moment, immediately after the referendum results were declared and Cameron had resigned as Prime Minister, it looked as though Boris might end up in 10 Downing Street. He still harbours this ambition and has continued, since being appointed Foreign Secretary, to use every opportunity to undermine the chances of Britain arriving at a new but constructive long-term relationship with Europe. Seemingly to further his own goals, he has bullied his Prime Minister to follow an approach to a “hard” Brexit formula that, apart from being non-negotiable with the EU, would, according to the Government’s own estimates, cause massive damage to the British economy. Claiming that he is following “the will of the people”, he is endangering hard-won peace in Ireland, risking breaking up the United Kingdom, deepening divisions in his own governing party and, most seriously, weakening the European institutions that Churchill foresaw would guarantee that we “could never go to war again”.

If you allow me to share my thoughts with you, what I have watched over the best part of two years are the egocentric actions of a clever and highly articulate man who is obsessed by a wish for visibility and power but bereft of any practical proposals of how to manage the complex situation into which he has put us.  He has emerged as a man of contradictions who has told people to “take back control”, to “regain sovereignty” and to make a bonfire of regulations, while doing his best to prevent the engagement of Parliament – where Britain’s sovereignty resides – in taking decisions on the most important issue now facing this country since Churchill’s victory.

Apart from occasional gratuitous remarks about funding the NHS, Johnson has shown little concern for the victims of around ten years of austerity.  As a Foreign Secretary, prone to gaffes and quirky jokes, he has diminished the respect and influence that Britain has enjoyed on the international stage. By repeatedly attempting to force Theresa May to tread the hardest of Brexit lines, he has deliberately undermined her authority and prevented her from engaging constructively in her negotiations with the EU to chart a future relationship that is in the long-term mutual interests of both Britain and our European neighbours.

Perhaps it is time for Boris to write his own confessional autobiography. The Clown with a Lunatic Fringe: How, in spite of being Winston Churchill’s greatest fan, I picked a quarrel with Britain’s closest allies and undermined the institutions that have cemented over 70 years of peace in Europe.

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Boris’ Fantasy Speech

(copied from London4Europe website – http://www.london4europe.co.uk/boris_fantasy_speech)

Sign the petition for Parliament to have the Option to Remain 

Our correspondent considers Boris Johnson’s fantasy speech and asks what we can do. Given the poor quality of the Leave arguments, Parliament must have the option to vote for us to Remain in the EU. You can sign the petition to that effect.

Boris is on his own

David Aaronovitch in his Times article on 15th February “Can any of us believe a word Johnson says?” states:

“The assessments from the Treasury, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, and the Bank of England are unlikely all to be wrong.
For whose benefit was the repetition of the fiction that leaving the EU frees up vast amounts of money for the NHS? Since no forecast makes us anything but poorer for some time to come, how does that work?”

15 assessments agree with the Treasury

Fifteen (yes 15) different assessments conclude that there will be LESS money after Brexit, not more – by 16% in some cases:

That means IF Brexit goes ahead, there will be LESS money for:
– the NHS,
– housing,
– infrastructure,
– carers,
– national security
– or anything else which voters were promised after Brexit.

We will be at the mercy of the big trading blocks

We will be desperate for trade deals, and have to accept whatever terms the USA, China, India, etc, will dictate:

Jason Langrish, Canadian negotiator, argued on 10 December 2017 on BBC Radio 4 “The World this Weekend” that the UK’s trade negotiators will be trying to defy economic gravity:

“Trade flows are going to be predominantly with those in your neighbourhood. So the idea of Britain leaving the EU and then replicating or replacing that trade with relations with other countries like the US or China or wherever is just simply not realistic. Countries trade with their neighbours, it is a physical reality. It is the costs of moving goods and services. It is also a cultural reality – you are more familiar with your neighbours.

“You would not be able to negotiate with say, Canada or the US, without knowing what your relationship will be with the EU. That relationship will in part dictate what is possible in other negotiations. Now the real problem will be if the UK comes out of these talks with the EU with a fairly average type of outcome, other countries with whom the UK wants to strike a deal will realise that there is a vulnerability there. If, say the Chinese come to the table and say, ‘If you want to deal with us, you have to allow our state-owned enterprises to buy your strategic assets’, or the Indians say, ‘If you want to deal with us, we want temporary entry for our IT and professional services workers’ – people in the UK will say, ‘That feels like a loss of sovereignty’.”

We are diminishing our power

Jim O’Neill (former Goldman Sachs Chief Executive and Commercial Secretary to the Treasury) said on 2 February on BBC News Radio 4:

“If you are doing a lot of trade with other places in some ways it is irrelevant whether you are in the EU or not and Germany proves that.

“We keep trotting out this phrase “global Britain”. We are diminishing that by removing ourselves from a very helpful trade relationship with 50% of our partners.”

We will lose out on favourable concessions

Dr Meredith Crowley (economist at the University of Cambridge) stated on Monday 5 February on BBC TV News at Ten:

a) UK firms are able to integrate themselves into cross European supply chains and have their manufacturing networks extend across countries.

b) Large multinationals co-located their investment and jobs in the UK in order to take advantage of the European market.

c) As part of the larger EU trading bloc, the UK was able to extract concessions in negotiating agreements with other countries like China that they might not have been able to extract if they were operating individually.

Conclusion: it is sensible to keep all options open

Until the Leave side can produce credible, factual, peer-reviewed Impact Analyses which prove substantial benefits of leaving the EU – the only logical, plain common sense thing to do is to keep all options open. You can sign this petition for the Option to Remain.

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Recording for Ben Chambers 16 Million Rising February 2018 Broadcast

To access the recording, spoken by Michael, click on this:

 

https://www.dropbox.com/s/6w5ptvdrv0b8lur/AMM_for_16M%26Rising.mp3?dl=0

 

The full broadcast can be found at: https://www.mixcloud.com/SixteenMillionRising/smr-ep17-go-west/

Our recording appears at 1 hour, 56 minutes

 

 

The text is as follows:

Theresa May is a not a very effective prime minister. Some feel she deserves pity because she is bullied by her ministers.

It seems that she is being allowed to stay in the job largely because there are no credible alternatives in her own party.

But the Tories also fear that, if she dropped out, this could provoke another general election that would be won by Labour. So, the propping up of the incompetent May is all about keeping Jeremy Corbyn out of 10 Downing Street.

Since June 2015, when Corbyn stood to be Labour party leader, he has faced a lot of negative press coverage. Now, as part of the process to shore up May, the right-wing papers continue to portray him as an IRA sympathizer, and brand him as anti-Semitic, pro-Muslim, pacifist and anti-capitalist. Some say that his re-nationalisation of the railways and the energy market would bust the British economy.

Members of his own party complain about his seeming ambivalence about Brexit.

 

I rather like the prospect of having a prime minister who cultivates his allotment and makes his own jam. Communing with nature provides space for vital reflection that tends to be denied by the hectic schedules imposed on most people in high office.

Wouldn’t it be good to have a PM who has no airs and graces, who is a good listener, who thinks before he talks, and who treats those he meets, especially when they are less exalted than him, with respect?

Corbyn’s great strength is that he has been consistent over the years. He is not driven by ambition and opportunism like Johnson and Gove. He has always stood up for his beliefs on social justice and on the futility of war, putting these ahead of any aspiration for high office. Now – as the gaps between rich and poor widen because of austerity policies and deregulation, and as we see how ill-judged the UK was to enter the Iraq war – he is “spot on”.

Above all, I respect Corbyn’s commitment to nurturing peace through dialogue rather than sabre-rattling: lasting peace can only come from engaging conflicting parties on an equal footing and building mutual trust.

The present government aspires to last till 2022, overseeing the country’s exit from the EU. However, it remains vulnerable to defeat. If Corbyn is to be able to pursue his goal of creating a fairer society, he must quickly stop Britain from leaving the Customs Union and Single Market, to guarantee the country’s prosperity and its ability to pay for reforms. A real possibility exists that he could win a vote of no confidence in the government’s Brexit negotiating performance if May continues to insist on Britain’s withdrawal from the present EU trading arrangements. This would trigger a general election which could give him a mandate to negotiate constructively with the EU. He should not exclude continuing EU membership, if he senses that this is what most British voters would then want.

 

 

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Deliberately steering us into a self-harming future?

Any firm or government department that is planning to make a big investment or change in its management practices carries out a feasibility study. I spent much of my working life undertaking such studies on behalf of governments in developing countries when they intended to borrow money internationally to finance agricultural and rural development projects. We had to rigorously examine the technical, institutional, social and environmental feasibility of the proposals, but, above all, we had to assess whether they made economic sense for the country and how they would impact on the earnings of people whose livelihoods would be affected for the better or the worse.

In such studies, estimates of economic and financial benefits are necessarily based on assumptions on future long-term price trends for the main inputs and products. Given the inherent volatility of international prices – for instance for oil, steel or wheat – it is normal to test the sensitivity of the estimates of economic and financial returns to possible variations in the value of future output. Tests are also routinely made about the impact of delays in construction or over-runs in initial investment costs.

One of the most extraordinary aspects of the Brexit saga over the last few months has been the series of attempts by the government to hide from MPs and the general public its own estimates of the feasibility of the Brexit project. At one stage, this behaviour was laughable, when David Davis boasted that his department was analysing the impact of various Brexit scenarios on almost 50 sectors of the British economy, only to turn around a week or two later to claim that the studies did not exist! When pressed, he released some bowdlerized versions of a few documents.

Now we find that a serious economic study has been carried out and a leaked version of the draft text has entered the public domain. After pressure from parliament, a very neurotic Number Ten eventually allowed MPs to get a glimpse of it in well-guarded reading rooms in Westminster: they tried to fob the Members of the Scottish Parliament with a single copy (initially available only in even-numbered pages) that they could view in strict privacy over a period of just two days!

In the meantime, senior Brexiteers, including junior ministers in the Department that produced the document, have been doing their best to rubbish the credibility of economic forecasting in general, and to question the loyalty and objectivity of the civil servants who undertook the work.

What the draft report apparently shows is that any form of Brexit will harm the British economy and that the areas of the country that voted most strongly to leave the EU will be the most badly affected. The worst-case scenario is associated with an exit from the EU without a deal.

If the analyses are credible – and they certainly make intuitive sense – this means that Theresa May and her government, in pursuing a hard Brexit strategy including exit from the customs union and the single market, is deliberately damaging the livelihoods of the majority of the British population, especially those living in areas in which incomes are below the national average.

It is, therefore, not surprising that the Prime Minister should wish to keep the figures under wraps. Unfortunately for her, the attempt to smother them and to treat them as secret information that can only be shared – fleetingly – with MPs can only add to the public curiosity about the report’s findings. It suggests that, even if her ministers try to dismiss the findings, she believes them but is unable to face the implication that she has to revisit the “red lines” that she has set in defining Britain’s future relationship with Europe.

If she persists in trying to keep us in the dark and in continuing to act as though her vision of Brexit will be good for our livelihoods, she will eventually go down as the first British Prime Minister to deliberately lead us into a future that she knows (and we suspect) is seriously self-harming.

Can you beat that?

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Letter from Femi Oluwole (Our Future, Our Choice!) to Jeremy Corbyn, as published by The Guardian (5th Feb 2018)

Dear Jeremy Corbyn, young people need your help to halt Brexit

You’re fighting to fix the broken society our generation has inherited. But that’s hopeless if you won’t fight just as hard against Brexit

Jeremy Corbyn campaigning before the Labour leadership election in September 2015.

 

Dear Jeremy, our generation is set to receive the worst inheritance in peacetime history. The NHS limps from crisis to crisis. The housing market excludes us further each day: in the 1990s, over half of 25-34s owned a home – today barely a quarter do. We might be regarded as the generation to go to university in record numbers, but we do so at the cost of an average £50,000 of debt. And still graduates are luckier than the 790,000 young people not in education, employment or training.

We live in a capitalist economy without capital. It is no wonder that over one in five young people now think that, no matter how hard they try, their life will amount to nothing. In understanding this crisis of optimism, you have given hope to many.

But understanding this is pointless if Brexit goes ahead. It is by far the worst aspect of our inheritance. It will make us much poorer, cut us off from our closest friends and leave us unable to address problems that require international cooperation to solve – such as climate change and rampant inequality. It will deny us opportunities and deprive us of the right to live, work, and love anywhere in Europe. It will rob us of the internationally engaged Britain that we know we want. These are just a few of the reasons why 75% of young people voted to remain.

In the 2017 election, your surge in support mainly came from those who are angry about what is happening to Britain. This extends beyond young people – anyone under the age of 50 tended to support remain in 2016 and then Labour in 2017. The reason for this surge is because we are our angry about our future. Like you, we are appalled by the problems our society faces. But leaving the EU will only exacerbate these issues. The Bank of England tells us that, because of Brexit, we will be £200m a week poorer this year. This is money that should have been channelled into fixing hospitals, schools, and prisons which warrant our urgent attention, and yet receive less by the day. It is hopeless to fight for the radical change society needs while supporting a Brexit that will leave us unable to deliver it.

Jeremy, you should remember that there will be a time when our generation ages. We will soon confront the reality of what we have been left, and if we do not like it we will simply reverse it. If it is a soft Brexit, which represents nothing but a minor loss of sovereignty, then we will return to our seat at the table. If it is a hard Brexit, we will be so furious with the wanton destruction inflicted on us that we will knock down any and all of the barriers imposed between us and Europe.

We need your help to persuade the country to democratically stop Brexit and deliver the radical change society needs. Brexit will define our country’s future, but will affect the young more than most. We need you to fight for our future, not facilitate a drastic blow to it. We need you to fight for a referendum on the withdrawal deal, and then join us in persuading our parents and grandparents to choose a constructive, not destructive, legacy. You have never compromised on what is right before, Jeremy, do not start on the most important issue of our time.

 Femi Oluwole is co-founder of Our Future, Our Choice!

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