Posted in Uncategorized

For Heaven’s Sake Man, Go!

This time last week we, as a nation, were all going to the voting booths to tick a box. We all came away from that, feeling confident that everything was going to be OK.We went about our day completely unaware of the complete shit storm that was about to kick off.

I’ve already detailed the beginning of this madness. The days that followed, the complete and utter madness of it all. However, I do want to discuss a few things that have happened since then.

Yep. David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn. Now, I’ll hold my hand up and say that I have never, ever, been a fan of the Labour leader, as he currently is. And it was with a certain degree of enjoyment that I heard the Prime Minister tell him bluntly that while Corbyn’s continued ‘leadership’ is in the interests of Cameron and his party, he needs to go.

https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/politics/video/2016/jun/29/david-cameron-tells-jeremy-corbyn-for-heavens-sake-man-go-video
http://www.theguardian.com/politics/video/2016/jun/29/david-cameron-tells-jeremy-corbyn-for-heavens-sake-man-go-video

Now I say ‘leadership’ – I am wondering if that word still applies. Yes, has the job still (at least at the time of writing he did), but can a man truly called a leader if nobody is following? From what I have heard, Corbyn says it is not in the interests of the opposition to the government, nor the country, to become headless when the elected government are is such chaos. While that is a fair point, isn’t it equally not in the interests of the country and his party for Labour to continue to be on the brink of civil war?

There are some of the Corbyn faithful that are saying there has been a plot for months to take him down, that it is a minority of Labour MPs that have done this to the party. To be clear, this minority seem to have grown rapidly. Since Sunday, 20 members of the Shadow Cabinet have either been sacked (1 member) or resigned (19 members), compared to the 10 who stayed. Additionally, Corbyn lost heavily by 172-40 (including his own vote in the 40) a vote of no confidence in his leadership. In other words, two thirds of those he works with closely, and 81% of those who he shares a party with do not trust him to continue. Indeed, it is rather remarkable that the man is still in office at all!!!

At the time of writing, there are no clear indicators as at who could replace him. Indeed, most of the focus is on the Tory Leadership, following David Cameron’s decision to announce his departure. There is now a clear line up of those who seek to replace him, and unlike the Labour leadership hopeful, the winner will not need to win a general election to be Prime Minister.

From left to right, Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb, Former cabinet minister Liam Fox, Justice Secretary Michael Gove, Energy minister Andrea Leadsom and Home Secretary Theresa May.

Interestingly, and I suspect, crucially Boris Johnson is not in the running. He has declared himself out of the race today. I’ll come to this later.

It would seem like a good moment to discuss the manner in which this will be fought, the records of each member. To be fair, I’ll discuss them in order that they appeared on the image earlier. So…

Stephen Crabb. Welsh raised, and unusual for a Tory in some ways, Crabb is something of an unexpected contender to me. Raised in a household that could be fairly described as struggling financially at times, following his mother leaving his father (I understand domestic abuse to be the reason), Crabb has a very different background to the former Eaton schoolboys occupying most of the Conservative benches. It is fair to say that this background may endear him to voters, who could see him as someone who understands both the rich and poor, and could perhaps strike a balance. At 43, his previous positions include Secretary of State for Wales, and Secretary of his current office Work and Pensions. Perhaps a good fit, until you consider his religious beliefs and the effect they have had on his voting previously. Having voted against Gay Marriage, and having ties to organisations that seek to ‘cure’ being Gay (might as well cure a need for oxygen, in the words of Lady Gaga they are born this way), this is perhaps not an ideal person to lead a country that needs to stop intolerance and racism rising, especially in light of the recent tragedy in Orlando. In recent days there have been a massive surge in racist and frankly disgusting behavior towards non-white citizens of the UK, even to those who are not and have never been immigrants. For this reason alone, sorry Stephen but this is not your time.

Liam Fox: Ministry of Defence wastes more than £300m of taxpayers' money through errors

Next, Dr. Liam Fox. The former Defense Minister, who stood against Cameron in the last leadership vote in 2005, has announced his intention to stand, which has surprised a few. Over the years there have been some scandals surrounding this particular individual, particularly the Expenses Scandal – where he became the member of the shadow cabinet with the highest expenses repayment – and the end to his time as Defense Minister. This came as a result of evidence coming out that he allowed a close friend, the best man at his wedding it seems, to take part in major department meetings and trips WITHOUT SECURITY CLEARANCE and without declaring it officially. It does not take a genius to spot why this might be a national security risk. I’ve put the first two stories to appear on these subjects when I do a google search below.

It will come as little surprise that for this reason, I would hope his campaign will be short, poorly run and never be repeated.

Which brings us nicely to Michael Gove. His supporters describe him as an “intellectual”, one of the great thinkers of the party. Which sounds great, we are facing a complicated situation and having a smart, experienced leader in charge sounds like a great idea. Some might actually call it a novelty. I happen to agree, having someone who fits this description would be ideal. But not Michael Gove. In fact, my reaction to him was more like this:

“OH DEAR GOD NO!!! NO!!! WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL?!!”

A strong reaction perhaps, but given that this guy ran the education department, and successfully upset the majority in it. I work in this sector. I understand fully why he upset them, he angered me too. But that is not the reason I do not believe he should be PM. I am fully aware that he was given the instruction to overhaul what was seen, for good reason, as an education system that was not performing highly. I am smart enough to realise that when a change is made, especially on the scales he was trying, it is probably going to upset someone. But here is the thing. To run a department/government, you need the support and cooperation of those within the department/government. When Gove saw the reaction of the teachers, which included votes of no confidence from the Association of Lecturers and Teachers (ALT), the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Head Teachers and strikes from 10,000 schools, he tried to force through his policies anyway.

You need to be strong to be Prime Minister. But you also need to be able to get people onside, to get them to see your way of thinking. You can only lead properly if you can get people to follow you, just ask Corbyn! Indeed, in the past Gove has admitted he is not right to be Prime Minister. Several times in fact.

“No, I’m constitutionally incapable of it. There’s a special extra quality you need that is indefinable, and I know I don’t have it. There’s an equanimity, an impermeability and a courage that you need. There are some things in life you know it’s better not to try.” March 2012

“I don’t have what it takes… I have seen David close up on a variety of occasions: he just has an equanimity and a stamina, a sense of calm, good judgment… The pressure of the job is phenomenal and it takes a toll on you and your family and I don’t think I could do that.” March 2014

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/30/michael-gove-denial-categorial-not-equipped-to-be-pm-candidate

That does not leave much wriggle room. So why is he now standing? Most had expected him to throw his weight behind Boris, now they are suggesting quite the opposite. I’ll come back to this.

Now I come to Energy minister Andrea Leadsom. A leading voice in the Leave the EU campaign, Leadsom seems a good choice in some ways. She has experience with the finances of Government, having been Economic Secretary to the Treasury, and working with agencies around the world through both this and her current position.

Sound a good start. She even looks like that friendly neighbour you used have, or your favourite aunt. Now there has been suggestion of some tax evasion stuff in the past while working for the treasury, but I do not know enough on the matter to make a judgment. It also is not really relevant. What is relevant is the issues on Brexit she as become so well known and regarded for campaigning on. I’m going to look at two quotes taken from the EU referendum debate on the BBC, shown on 21st of June 2016.

“We have voted against Europe 70 times, and those 70 times we have been outvoted”

A strong statement, but lets be clear. The actual importance of these laws will vary, and some will have little or no impact on the UK. However, here are the stats from Official EU voting records, which show that the British government has voted ‘No’ to laws passed at EU level on 56 occasions, abstained 70 times, and voted ‘Yes’ 2,466 times since 1999, according to UK in a Changing Europe Fellows Sara Hagemann and Simon Hix. The Leave campaign also counted  some others, which take the total to 72 ‘no’ votes. That is still not much difference, only about 2% of laws get forced on us against our will. And that is not counting the number of times a law has been altered with British suggestions. So to say we have been outvoted 70 times is perhaps true, but not even close to an accurate representation of the big picture.

“The truth is that 60% of our rules and regulations come from the European Union”.

Figures quoted on the number of laws that actually come from the EU vary from around 10% to 70%, and there is a simple reason for this. It depends on what you mean by EU laws that are in effect in Britain.  In 2010, the House of Commons library published a comprehensive analysis of the variety of ways this percentage can be calculated. There are difficulties with all measurements, but it concluded “it is possible to justify any measure between 15% and 50% or thereabouts”.

So why the confusion? If you take the total number of laws that are in effect in Britain, yes that figure will probably reach 70%. However, if you take away the laws that are irrelevant, such as on matters like pesticides used to grow fruit that cannot grow in UK climates, or Danish ships catching specific breeds of fish. Then there is a similar confusion over laws and regulations – such as including a specific type of customs code to match in with the common market.

Then of course there is issue that, when an EU law is made that clashes with a UK one, the EU takes priority because the UK GOVERNMENT MADE LEGISLATION DICTATING IT SHOULD BE SO. Our own government can choose the opposite, or open a debate on any of them.

The point here regarding Leadsom is that she has regularly over simplified issues or made grand statements that, on closer inspection, prove to be at best questionable if not outright lies. She does this to mislead the general public into doing what she wants. This is just being a politician I’m told, but frankly I don’t want a leader who has regularly lied to me (take note Nicola Sturgeon). I don’t want a watered down version of the truth, or a tainted version, every time something major comes up. There is a reason a lot of todays youth feel disengaged with politics in the UK – it is things like this that have done it. It is condescending – I might not have a degree in law or economics but I’m perfectly capable of making a judgment if given the facts.

Which brings us to the final candidate. Theresa May, Home Secretary for 6 years and, if I am honest, my preferred candidate. This is for these reasons.

1 – She has been Home Secretary for half a dozen years, a position of incredible importance, with authority over national security, security services like MI5, immigration and citizenship. 6 years, and no large casualty lists from terror attacks on UK soil. No major embarrassments with the Military Intelligence departments all over the headlines.  And given the issues in the middle east, and the uncertanty over Northern Ireland (unlikely we’ll see a return to the troubles but the Good Friday agreement is going to have to be looked at following BREXIT), someone with this kind of background would be useful.

2 – it is a rare thing in this day and age for someone high profile to not be all over the internet and news. Take Boris for example, photographed in ridiculous situations for publicity. She is not flashy, but she gets things done. She rarely appears on TV, but if she does it is usually straight to the point. There is a calm confidence about her, and a feeling she will not get bullied. She even stated as much when she was announcing her candidacy for the role. There is something very British about that. Additionally, despite being high profile, she has not been slaughtered or ridiculed on a regular basis.

3- I’ve already ruled out the other 4 candidates.

This is not to say that she has a perfect record. Earlier this year she faced investigation over the deporting of thousands of students, on the grounds that they had cheated to gain entry to the universities they attended. The investigation was focused on what appeared weak evidence of cheating. In 2011 she was accused of weakening of border controls that let terrorists in – something she clarified as a pilot project and that those running it had gone beyond what she had authorized. A lack of experience here perhaps?

She was also attacked by some in the media, such as Allison Pearson of the Daily Telegraph, over her suggestions that the UK security could be weaker post-Brexit. Personally, I felt at the time the person best placed to make such judgement and speeches was the Home Secretary, but like everything here that’s just my opinion. OK, so I couldn’t really see the EU not working with us on security issues, but I also knew that the issues of immigration in the EU are not as simple as made out, and that Cameron was making changes to the laws regarding borders. And to be frank, it is her job to warn people that these things might be more complicated post Brexit. Things like the European Arrest Warrent etc don’t help us if we are not in the EU.

As a man with allegiances to Liverpool, both the city and football club, I also do not forget that it is under Theresa May’s leadership of the Police forces that the atrocities of Hillsborough finally got cleared up. The powerful speech she made will not be quickly forgotten by anyone who watched. I know she did not trigger the new investigation, but it was under her guidance that the longest legal battle in British history was resolved. Scrapping an old investigation, an investigation that had been set in stone and, regarding the police she was in charge of, cleared them of responsibility for the deaths that day, that took a lot of nerve on her part.

It is this kind of nerve that we need now.

So who will win? I’ve made clear my preference, but the bookies favorites are Theresa May and Michael Gove.

Now, by his own admission, Gove is not someone who is suited to the job. While intelligent, he lacks that something… and is also disliked by many. I, and others, have alluded to the triggering of Article 50 and subsequently leaving the EU as political suicide. It will take a brave man or woman, a leader who knows that one action alone could end their career. So someone who believes they can guide us through it, or someone who does not intend to survive the results. This is my theory, perhaps insane but at worst would make for an excellent House of Cards plot.

Hypothetical situation – Gove runs, takes out most the opposition and wins due to backing from the popular Boris. Gove is PM. Gove triggers Article 50, all hell breaks loose. Gove struggles against it, tries everything, but is buckling. Up steps Boris Johnson, who steps in and fixes things up. Now seen as the hero who put us back together, Boris inevitably becomes PM in future.

Does this sound a bit nuts – yes even to me. But it is politics, and after this week would it surprise anyone?

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2016/02/less-shameless-world-liam-fox-s-career-would-have-ended-2011
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/7450738/MPs-expenses-Liam-Fox-becomes-highest-shadow-cabinet-repayer.html
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/politics/theresa-mays-brexit-warnings-are-increasingly-barmy/
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/powerful-hillsborough-statement-theresa-reduces-7844846
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London Bridge is Falling Down…

Ok not literally, which is good as I rather like the old, iconic architecture in the heart of London. But it is about the only thing still intact in the capital of a once great, now not really United Kingdom.

The last few days have been rather chaotic, and I want to write down the things I’ve witnessed and my reaction to each. I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for any bad language that follows.

As I went to bed on Thursday night, I was blissfully confident that the Remain Campaign would not fail, and I would wake to the news that the UK would remain a member of the EU. So, when I awoke at about 8am on the morning of the 9th, and switched on my TV, I had no idea of the chaos that was breaking out all over the UK. My timing was fatefully perfect, just in time to hear those words

“Well at 20 minutes to five, we can now say that the decision taken in 1975 taken by this country to join the common market has been reversed by this referendum to leave the EU”

 

I sat not quite taking it in. One thing goes through my head: “Did he… did he say leave?”

I openly state that I have a pretty low regard for human intelligence, it is my opinion that that particular phrase is a wonderful contradiction in terms, especially when dealing with large numbers of people. But even with my low expectations, it never occurred to me that a MAJORITY of people could…

The numbers come onto the bottom of my screen and it is there as clear as it gets. It took me about five minutes to move further than to reach for my glasses, before deciding (in a very British moment) that I really need a cup of tea to help take this in. As I watch, I hear that we are to expect a speech from the Prime Minister David Cameron later, as well as Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

As I finished my tea, I thought I was pretty confident what both would say. Cameron would say he did all he could, that would respect the will of the people. I had a feeling he might resign, a Prime Minister who loses a campaign of this magnitude is not one who will be around for long. Sturgeon would say that she would continue to do the best she can by Scotland. It was at this point that a lovely yellow and blue map appeared on screen. It showed Scotland as being completely yellow, along with parts of London. The rest was mostly blue, much like my mood.

_90081126_eu_referendum_maps_app_images_624_results_no_title

 

The tea had sharpened me up, getting something warm in me always does. So in that split second that it took for me to realise that this was showing the split of votes by area of the country, two words shot through my mind with the pace of a rampaging rhino on speed. “OH FUCK!!!”. As a Scotsman, it immediately registered that we had a different opinion north of the border compared to most of the south, and this would be the perfect grounds for another fecking referendum on Scottish independence. The Scottish nationalists could not have gotten a better excuse if they had written the script themselves. This constitutes a ‘Material change in circumstances’ which legally means the Scottish National Party had the right to demand it.

It also occurred to me, raising a small smile, that this did disprove one statement made by the SNP. London was not always differing in opinion in Scotland. This is perhaps the only time I can recall a general agreement between the two, but still…

Shortly later I watched sadly as the Prime Minister walk out the door of number 10 hand in hand with his wife. He didn’t have to say it, in that moment I knew he was resigning. Had he intended to stay on it would have been another politician in the background, perhaps in addition to Mrs. Cameron. He spoke well I felt, and as I reflected I knew I didn’t blame him. Well not entirely. That would be like blaming the Captain of the Titanic for not having enough lifeboats – yes they should have missed the ice berg, but he was let down by those around him and those who designed the ship should have done more to ensure escape was possible without drowning half the passengers. I wondered who the metaphorical ship designers were, and was forced to conclude it was the previous government and those in power abroad, along with bankers that had caused the recession. That was where a lot of the issues stem from.

cameron2306g

I smiled when I heard him say that he would not activate clause 50 immediately – Oh I thought, you will be popular in Brussels. It made sense, the person to lead should be the one to start walking first. It occured to be me that leader could be Boris Johnson, a man who’s manner of speech sounds confused and with the hair that I imagine Donald Trump would have if his toupee got dragged through a hedge. I wondered who else. I had thought Theresa May could be a future PM, prior to all of this, she handles herself calmly and clearly, and doesn’t ruffle easy. She has come through this madness well so far too.

By the time I watched Nicola Sturgeon, I was starting to calm down. The third mug of tea might be partly to do with that. She also spoke well. Although I have never liked or trusted her, I’ll admit I do hold a certain grudging respect for her political nous. Her taking a moment to tell those immigrants living here in Scotland that that they remain welcome here, that this is still their home and we don’t want to change that, I did like that. As I have mentioned on another blog page, the racism up here is shocking at times.

She played it well, saying that she would consult with experts and leading business people from Scotland before deciding what to do, but that another referendum had to be on the table. She had to discuss it, and by calling on experts right after the finally of a referendum in which we were repeatedly told by Michael Gove (wanker) that the British have “had enough of experts”, it was very reassuring to those of us who have had enough of Gove and his pals.

I got a message from a friend of mine after she finished, and I’ll copy it here “Guess you Scots can call on experts without being hypocrites. Lucky bastards, you lot might get to fuck off, and then we’re stuck with Gove and Boris FFS!!!”. I’m guessing he didn’t vote to leave.

The rest of the day passed with a sort of numb calmness, watching interviews and occasionally pausing to get more tea. At one stage I was asked how I felt, I replied I found my passport and I have a job offer abroad so it could be worse.

this-is-fine-meme

The day after was alright too. Not much was happening, which did surprise me. Nicola made another speech, didn’t say much that was new. I went to a wedding, that did cheer me up somewhat.

It was the Sunday really that things started to get fun. Well I say fun, its the kind of fun that the Joker has in The Dark Knight, you know, has he sets fire to Gotham City’s upper classes and turns its politics inside out. My first particularly entertaining moment came from Faisal Islam, Sky’s political advisor. A man who has been rather busy of late, I could not blame him for his reaction to this particular quote from an unknown Brexit levers politician.

“There is no plan, the Leave Campaign don’t have a post Brexit plan… Number ten should have had a plan.”.

The incredulous Faisal then followed with “It sounds like I’m making it up, that literally happened two hours ago… So the person with the most thought through plan… is astonishingly, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland”.

http://news.sky.com/video/1717859/islam-there-is-no-brexit-plan

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. The only person in power with a bloody clue what they need to do now the UK has voted to get out of a Union is the only one actively and vocally trying to get us back into that Union by getting us out of another!!!!!! 

Un. Fucking. Believable. There are no words. Even the lady he was talking to said she didn’t really know what to say to that and called for a break. I presume she was needing a cup of tea to help digest this. How the actual fuck have we got into this situation.

This did at least explain a few things, like why two and a half after the Brexit vote was announced nothing had really happened.

Of course, that wasn’t the only thing to happen. The gossip started to go round about Boris and his inevitable push for the top job at number ten. I saw a comment that made similar comparisons to mine between his hair and Trumps, and how the two could discuss hair with Putin, subsequently starting open war like the start of one of those really bad end of the world films. You know the sort, where the American President is an illiterate arsehole, the UK PM is a bumbling fool with no clue what is going on, and Russia is led by a guy who thinks a nuke will solve it. Little too real just now isn’t it…

The gossip surrounding Boris was the Michael Gove (wanker) would be chairing his push. I actually found myself impressed. Only in the UK could someone propose that the solution to all this shite is to put a buffoon in charge, assisted by a guy who has successfully pissed off nearly every single teacher in the country, prior to his removal from the Department of Education. He even annoyed the Scots, and they control their own education. He then proceeded to upset the Criminal Bar Association as Secretary of State for  Justice. Yes, this is the guy to help Boris rule. For fuck sake.

And the day continued in the same manner, as news started to drift in that a member of the Shadow Cabinet had been sacked. Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader and leader of the Shadow Cabinet, had apparently reacted to Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn telling him he had no confidence in him as leader. This sentiment was echoed during the remainder of day by almost half the cabinet, to a similar result. By midnight 12 members had been sacked or resigned, including Labours only Scottish MP. It was kind of like turning over the TV when Brazil got destroyed by Germany, ever time you checked the score had gone up.

So here we are. Its just gone 1am on Monday the 27th of June, 2016. In just three days: The government has gone to shit, nobody has  fucking clue what is happening, and I have drunk the equivalent of the Thames in tea. But it could be worse, at least we don’t need to sort trade agreements out for trivial matters importing herbs to make hot drinks. Hmm what’t that Mr. Secretary for Department of Trade and Industry? We import tea? Oh for fu…tea2-large

Why don’t you all Fence off

As a Scotsman I hoped to never hear the word “Referendum” again. Honestly I am sick of it.

During the last Scottish referendum I was firmly against leaving. The idea of splitting from the UK… as someone who sees his nationality as half Scottish, half Scouse, putting a wall up (metaphorical or otherwise) between Scotland and England sat very badly with me. I now find myself in a position of seeing us do that with Europe. The list of nationalities of the people I care about would be long. Scottish, English, Welsh, Irish, Spanish, Basque, German, Finish, Danish, Portuguese, Italian, Belgian, Russian, Aussie, Canadian, Greek, Norwegian, Argentine, Egyptian, Saudi, American and Latvian. That’s 22 without thinking, there are more. Without the EU I doubt that list would be half as long, and it makes me sad to know that the next generation may get a more limited pool of peoples life experiences to learn from. I know the difference it made for me.

As someone who is told I do not have a Scottish accent but who is living at least part time in Scotland, I am also someone who has been called “English”. Now, to anyone south of the border or overseas, this might seem an odd statement, so I’ll explain. There is a lot of Anti-English sentiment in places up here, and being called English typically is followed with the word “bastards” or some other variation. And this is stuff I’ve had thrown at me.

Here is the thing. I was born in Edinburgh, and have lived in Scotland for over half my life. I was educated here. And frankly, I’m rather thick skinned and care little what insults get thrown at me. I actually find the inaccuracy of them amusing. I generally take a note of who says these things, as such small minded people tend to either bore me or make such lousy conversation and I would rather not waste my time on them. But despite this, I know from personal experience that the last referendum was horrible for a lot of non-Scots up here. It got very hostile.

So it is with a certain degree of confidence that I can say I understand how a lot of people feel today.

On the morning of the 24th June 2016, I saw two posts that said basically the same thing. The authors of both had moved to the U.K. from abroad as a child, went through Primary and Secondary School here before University. Both are people I know reasonably well and care for a great deal. Immigrants who “contribute to our country” and make a difference. One is a nurse, the other a teacher. Both status said they had never felt less welcome here in Britain than they do today.

It makes me sad that so many people in Britain feel unwelcome. It makes me sad to know that there is now likely to be another referendum on Scottish Independence. I know the things I’ve heard so often in recent years will also provide the backdrop to the next few years north of the border.

I do not want another referendum up here, even though I can understand why maybe now this needs to happen again. I’m not even sure how I would vote next time, too many things aren’t known yet. But I don’t want to hear stories of children who listen to their parents nationalistic rants, before going into school and telling the kid from down south to “Go back home, we don’t want you English Bastards here”. Nor do I want to hear about drunken adults arguing about it on nights out, about things they clearly don’t understand even when sober.

I know a lot of people who voted Remain. I know a lot of people who voted Leave. Whatever you voted, it doesn’t matter now.

It doesn’t matter. Here is what does.

Right now, all over the country, there are millions of good, honest people who feel unwelcome. The way this campaign was fought did this. This is not acceptable. So can we please change the rhetoric, and take a moment to treat our neighbours as human. It is rare for me to praise her, but to her credit Nicola Sturgeon did take a moment to thank those from abroad to contribute, and make clear they are still welcome here. I know it was a political move, but still nice to hear, and so far the only one I’ve heard post-result to do so. It told me she knows we need them as much as they need us. I just hope they know some of us know that.

We, as a nation, have decided to leave the EU, for better or for worse. Let us not stick two fingers up to Europe on the way out the door, they are still family even if we don’t want to live together any more.

Fence

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A British Catalogue of Chaos

OK…

So it is unusual for me to publicly discuss politics, I typically find them to be a personal matter. But there are few things I want to write about, in part because I want to scream them and this just seems more civilized.

I will start by saying that I voted to Remain. And this is not particularly relevant to the things I am writing about, but I thought I should get it out of the way. The UK voted to leave, and that is the decision I have to live with. I don’t have a problem with that – it’s called democracy ladies and gentlemen, if you don’t accept the will of the people you might as well be in a dictatorship.

However there are a number of things that do matter going forward. As I write, two days after the UK voted to leave the EU, the country is facing what I would refer to as a political mess. On the day the vote was announced, our Prime Minister handed in his notice. Fair enough, he does not believe he can take the country forward after this decision and that new leadership is needed. Given the anger in parts of the Conservative Party, the fact that over half the country voted other way to him, I cannot say I would do any different in his place. Besides which, the EU are not going to be happy with him, and I imagine if he walked into the negotiation rooms in Brussels it would not be a warm welcome or particularly easy to get a good deal.

Nor did it come as a surprise, I recall a few months ago sitting in a coffee shop discussing matters with a friend, when we agreed that the PM would be finished either way. Unpopular with parts of his own party, having already made clear his intention to step down before the end of the current term and having led the UK into two massive referendums in a few years, both of which could have resulted in the UK being split up (still could if you listen to the SNP)… It is hard to imagine many surviving that.

This does however leave us with a bit of an issue. We need to start sorting out the EU departure negotiations, and we suddenly find ourselves with effectively a lame duck as a PM. So we need to sort that first so that we actually have someone to go into the negotiations from a position of relative strength.

It also means the person taking over has a massive job on their hands very early on. And it is not a job for the faint of heart. No matter who takes over, they know that just the result of the vote hit the markets and caused a political upheaval. Actually ‘pressing the button’ on an untested article 50 could go anywhere, with predictions varying from another recession to “ah we’ll be fine, its just a load of legal stuff”. Knowingly facing that uncertainty, and activating the clause, will take a brave person. If it backfires, it could end a career or set it back a few steps. Not activating it means ignoring the will of the people who vote you in or out – equally brave. Either way will upset Brussels.

On a more in-house level, looking at Westminster itself, things are no better. Normally, in the days following the PM handing in his notice, you could be justified in expecting the opposing party to show strength. To look like they are able to rule, to have the ruling party looking nervously over its shoulder and thinking “We have to get this right or we’re out”. That is the way the Shadow Cabinet is supposed to work, providing a strong challenge to those in office. However…

Since the PM announced his departure, several members of the shadow cabinet have either resigned or been sacked, there have been calls for the opposition leader to resign. Regardless of political ideals or beliefs, it is hard to imagine many times in recent history where the Opposition has looked so inept, ineffective and weak.

One could be excused for hoping that by now the UK government would have some sort of plan. As it stands, nobody from the BREXIT campaign has publicly announced a plan. This has inevitably led to a few jokes and dry comments such as “Following BREXIT, there are panicked cries around London of what happens next?!!! These are especially loud from Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage.” (who if you are not aware led the BREXIT campaign). There appears to be a worrying truth to this.

James O’Brian summed it up beautifully: “The single thing that we can all agree on now is that no one has a clue what happens now. Nobody has. It doesn’t have to be frightening, but nobody knows what’s going to happen next”

Aside from anything else, I have no idea who is actually in charge just now. Theoretically of course the PM is, but in reality? Who is running the show? The Head of Government is firing blanks, the opposition is all over the place, and the leaders of BREXIT are yet to say anything helpful. Although in fairness, that last part does sum up Nigel Farage rather nicely.

Of course, it is not fair to suggest that all the politicians are not demonstrating clear leadership and direction. Labour MP and Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham was quick to tweet “It is for our members to decide who leads our Party & 10 months ago they gave Jeremy Corbyn a resounding mandate. I respect that & them.” Fair enough, although he stopped short of saying he believes Corbyn is still the man to lead. That does not of course mean he doesn’t think it, it just means he wants to get on with his job, one of the few still able to do so it seems.

Meanwhile in Scotland… Oh bloody hell. In fairness,  Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has yet to say anything I don’t think she has a right to say. Elected to look after the best interests of Scotland, she is so far doing just that. Of course, given her party political view in favor of complete Scottish Independence, and that the Scots overall vote differed to the overall UK vote rather drastically, this is going to cause a few issues. Indeed, just this morning she announced that it was possible for Scotland to try and block the exit despite the result. This follows on from a previous statement that a second Scottish independence referendum, or IndyRef 2.0, would have to be on the table. A lot who voted stay in the UK did so on the grounds that the UK would remain in the EU. It is hard to argue that this does change things, although how exactly I’m damned if I can work out.

One thing is clear though. As it stands, if IndyRef 2.0 does happen, the Scots will have to choose between neighbours. Who do we value more – the English or the rest of Europe. That is not to suggest we would even automatically get into the EU if we split from the UK, that is a complicated position. I suspect the First Minister would like us to split from the UK before the UK is confirmed as a split from the EU, as that would mean a lot of the criteria for joining would already be in place here. There is also the difficult issue of the Oil in Scotland which as partially imploded since the last referendum.

Of course, as someone who has a rather cynical view of people, it is not going to be just politicians that have me banging my head against the wall. I’m hearing an alarming number of people saying that they “did not understand that a leave vote meant a leave vote” or that they voted leave in protest and did not really mean it. Just let that sink in. They did not realise a vote to leave the EU meant the UK would leave the EU. I would understand if people found the wording of the question difficult, but it was about as clear as it could be. “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”. Not “Do you like the European Union?” or “Do you agree with the setup of the European Union?” or “Do you agree with every decision made by the European Union?”

Now I am sure that the numbers caught in the media saying these things are not representative of the nation as a whole. Odds are, there are some who voted both ways that are thinking they made a mistake. How they got into this situation is beyond me. After months and months of hearing about it, of countless warnings that “this is not the time for a protest vote” or that “this is not about the UK politicians but about the EU” and that “this is probably one of the most important votes in years”… I’m not sure what more both sides had to do get the point across. I don’t care which way people voted, as long as you comfortable with that decision.

It is not like this vote came out of nowhere. Had the PM announced a week ago that “Oh by the way we’re voting next week.” I would get there being some confusion. We have known about this for years. Are you honestly telling me that at no stage it occurred to these people to do some research, speak to people, listen to those arguments on both sides, so they could make an informed decision? Or at least come to the conclusion that “I don’t know what I think is best, so perhaps we should vote in the way that is easiest to reverse?”.

There is a petition for second referendum to take place, ironically it seems started by a Brexit voter in case Remain won narrowly. Legally it has grounds – “We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the Remain or Leave vote is less than 60 per cent based a turnout less than 75 per cent there should be another referendum.”. It has enough names on it to force parliment to discuss it, if they can get organised long enough of course. News is coming out that there seems to be a lot of non-UK signatures, indeed the Guardian is quoted as “Despite Vatican City, a tiny city state, having a total population of just 800, over 39,000 residents of Vatican City appeared to have signed the petition.” Exactly how that will play out I don’t know.

Personally I find the idea frustrating, it will not help solve things. However, due to the numbers of people saying they would vote differently, the numbers who did not vote and so on… perhaps we need to?

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/26/petition-for-second-eu-referendum-may-have-been-manipulated?CMP=fb_gu
http://indy100.independent.co.uk/article/everyone-should-listen-to-james-obriens-brexit-rant–bkAVxuU6Vb
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-36633244
Posted in Me, Myself and I, Uncategorized

Pain Free

“Life is pain! I wake up every morning in pain! I go to work in pain! You know how many times I just wanted to give up? How many times I’ve thought about ending it?” – Dr. Gregory House, House MD, Series 8 Episode 21

To anyone familiar with the brilliant medical series that is House MD, staring Hugh Laurie, this seen is particularly powerful. To anyone who is not so familiar, I suggest you google the words “House life is pain” and watching one of the videos on Youtube that will appear.

To anyone who has been in Pain, I mean real Pain, this is even more emotionally powerful. It goes to the very centre of our consciousness because we have felt that way ourselves. We have wanted to scream at people who think they understand but never really do. You can have had all the training in the world, have read every book, watched a hundred people go through it… but unless you have been in there yourself…

To clarify first. I’m not writing about the ‘I’ve lost somebody emotional pain’ (which I do not dismiss, but it is not the focus of this particular page). I am not talking about the ‘I’ve stubbed my toe or got some small not quite injury pain’. I’m not discussing the more serious ‘I’ve just broken my arm/torn my ACL pain’.

I am talking about the kind of Pain that rips through you, makes it impossible to do things or even think. The kind that strips you of yourself, your pride, your dignity, that tears through your personality and makes you a harder, more distant person.

And I am talking about the kind of Pain that lasts. It never seems to end. You maybe get periods where you can do things but… it never stays away for long. Maybe you get a week, maybe a few months. Maybe a few hours. And it can come back with no warning, just hit you and that’s it, you’re down and out, your day/week is over.

My particular recurring Pain is in the form of Cluster Migraines. To those reading who have experienced a Migraine, you know how they can be. To those who haven’t:

Do not think of it as a bad headache. The comparison is akin to describing a leg that has been run over by a tank as “sore”. Instead, imagine a heard of elephants try to kick their way out of your skull. You go to move, but there is the nausea and dizziness. You somehow try to move, to get away, but that only increases the pressure in the skull, its like the elephants are coordinating to push together against the inside of your temple. A deep throbbing pain rips through your forehead. You taste blood, and realise dully that you have bitten your tongue in shock from the agony of it all. You have no balance, and struggle to move. Every muscle seems weak, your limbs impossibly heavy. The inside of your head is just a silent scream of pain. To protect yourself, you force yourself into a fetal position in the darkest space you can find. You need dark because even a candle light is like stadium floodlight two foot from your face. Even the soft red light of your digital alarm clock is like fire in your eyes.

Afterwards, it takes time to sharpen up again. You aren’t all there, seem dazed and disorientated. Your body aches, everywhere. The pain makes you tense us, and for a long period of time. As your body relaxes, the tension leaves the kind of ache you get when you have done some form of extensive obstacle course with no preparation or training. Some of us get short term memory loss from just before the Migraine hit, or may not be sure what day it is. Which just makes it feel worse, the worry of how much you have missed and what you need to do to catch up.

Over the years I have heard people speak a lot about pain management.  They talk from experience of other forms of pain, trying to be helpful. Allow me to say just this: Pain management is a wonderful idea, but talking applying most pain management techniques to a migraine is like talking about protecting your hands in a boxing match with oven gloves. I once had a scan on my brain during a migraine, the doctor told me later that my brain registered the similar levels of Pain as a woman giving birth. The only ‘management technique’ you can apply is to curl up in a ball and hope it doesn’t last long. Aside from getting a new level of respect for any woman who says she wants more kids after having a first child, these ‘experiences’ taught me a lot about Pain.

My first Migraines came in early teen years, as is often the way for sufferers. They come with stress, hormones and for some poor diet or allergies. My mother suffered with them from a similar age so we knew what they looked like and ‘treat’ them. At the time my family put it down to stress, coming in my first year at secondary school I was struggling to fit in and I always put a lot of pressure on myself to do well in class. Looking back now… I’m not so sure that was the cause.

Until I reached University, aged 19, my Migraines came very rarely, perhaps 1 or 2 a year and never lasted more than a day. When I started university, studying for a degree in a design and construction field, I found they increased in frequency dramatically. Again, this was put down to stress, in part as they got even worse when my personal life was going particularly badly. This turned out to be the wrong diagnosis.

During this time, I got several scans, tests and everything else the doctors could think of. I got scanned for everything they could think of. A few of the most notable included high blood pressure (damned right it was high, I was doing a degree while fighting off a Migraine), epilepsy (inconclusive three times), Cancer (thankfully that came back a clear negative), Non-Cancerous tumors (again thankfully negative) and cirrhosis (failing liver often due to alcohol, despite my being 19 and T-Total). Despite no diagnosis, we did eventually (6 months in total) control with beta-blockers.

For a few years this worked well. My Migraines, while they had receded to the old ‘couple a year’ frequency, had remained as fierce and harsh. Later, aged 25,  I did some time working in a wood and metal craft workshop. They quickly grew more common again, and more vicious than ever before. It transpired that I have an allergy to something in wood. Or at least that seems the cause. My Migraines always came within hours of being in the workshop. Doing my undergraduate degree, my Migraines had come at a time when the studio my course was based out of was next door to a workshop, literally yards from piles of wood and sawdust. At school, they had come when I started doing work in the workshop.

I suppose the question to ask is why am I writing this now. Well, in truth, I have a few reasons.

One, I was talking the other day to a friend, who I shall call Brian, about Euthanasia. They are deeply religious and follow the old line of “all life is sacred, who are we to decide when someone should die, Gods test” etc etc. I take a different view. Brian has never been in Pain. He has been in pain, but not Pain. I have. And I know that if I was told that the next 50-60 years would be lived like that, I would find the cleanest and easiest way to end it, I wouldn’t put myself through that. I found the ‘cure’, know how to avoid it and can get on with my life. I am not cruel enough to put someone else through that, especially if there is no hope of stopping the pain. Most people who say they think it is immoral to end someones life like that simply don’t know what that kind of Pain is like.

The second reason I am writing this is because I know I am not the only one to live with Pain. Maybe this will help. Answers can be found in obscure places.

But the real reason I am writing this, simply is because I am still coming to terms with the Pain. I cannot remember periods of the last 1o months. I remember nothing from early November until some time in December. I once stood in a corridor and shouted at a colleague that disagreed with me taking part of the day off that “I am in Pain! You can judge me when you know what that is. You can tell me I did the wrong thing when you have tried to work through it and had to listen to idiots about how they have shite to deal with too. I can’t think, I’m on 6 different drugs and I’m still close to screaming”.

 

Today I woke up Pain Free. I have done so for the last 4 months in a row. That is enough for me to be happy with my life.

Posted in Uncategorized

Changing Lanes

Two things happened yesterday. I was on a train and got talking to this random young woman, Katie. I spend a lot of time on trains these days, and chatting to people is not an uncommon occurrence.

In the evening I also decided to do something I had been meaning to do, and make a montage of photos from my albums. I just wanted to choose pictures of moments that made me happy and people I cared about. I wanted a new lock screen image on my computer.

That’s it, two things, both simple. But they give a great insight into me as I am today.

Anyway, Katie asked what I did for a living, and I told her. Like most people, she was surprised. Again, not uncommon, most people find the lack of stability/certainty unnerving and lack the spine to leave a ‘comfortable existence’. She asked why I do it…  I told her simply it makes me happy. She then asked how I decided to do this, so I told her.

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It was around the start of April three years ago that I visited a friend of mine in London. On the second day, I remember walking through a market with her, and remarking that it had been years since I had felt so relaxed and happy. She replied that it was on me to change it, up to me to walk away from the things that made me down.

Weeks after that visit I started a regular 9-5 job I would come to dislike (if I’m being generous), earning enough to be comfortable and counting the minutes until the weekend. Then those words came back to me, and having had dinner with another friend I decided to make a change. I quit, much to a lot of peoples surprise, and changed career. That led to me moving abroad and living in a beautiful region of Spain, meeting some remarkable people, working all over the U.K. and experiencing things I didn’t know existed before.

April three years on, I walked through that same market, I sat in the national gallery in London, had cake and tea before taking a walk around to look at the art. I think I found the painting used in the James Bond ‘Skyfall’ scene where Bond meets Q. Outside I found a massive monopoly board and chatted to someone about football manager tactics, a conversation she started. I visited Buckingham palace. I had tickets to the theatre, Phantom Of The Opera, my favourite musical which I was seeing for the second time in my life. I wasn’t on holiday, this was just a master class on how to do Saturday afternoon. I’m not certain where I will be in 6 months, cannot even say for certain which country. Which would terrify most people. But here is the thing.

Instead of a ‘permanent’ 9-5 job, I have a permanent smile, instead of a fair sized group of friends in one place I have loads of friends on 5 different continents. If I knew then what I know now… I was told by my boss when I quit I’d regret losing the routine and lifestyle I had. Now approaching 26 years old and the only regret I have is waiting so long to live like this.

Why am I saying this? Simple really. When I told Katie I do what I do for no other reason than it makes me happy, she replied “Oh man, I am so jealous. I would love to be able to do something that makes me happy and lets me do things I’ve always wanted to do. I’m sick of getting up to go to a job I don’t enjoy, to work for people I don’t like so I can do it all again tomorrow. But I’m too chicken to quit.”

I wonder how many people I know would live differently if someone pointed out that they have the chance to live another way. I wonder how many people just accept that ‘this is the way they are supposed to live’ because its what they see others doing. I learnt at a very young age that everybody dies, it took a lot longer to realise that not everybody lives.

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But most of all, I wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t had a friend to remind me what it means to feel alive. When you can see a painting of Venice and think “that could be fun for a few months”, in my mind at least you’re doing something right. To others that feeling comes from coming home to a family, or having a lot of money. Others find it in sports or in a good book and a mug of tea.

And that montage of happy moments and people? Nearly every photo I’m using was taken after that April in 2013.

Posted in Me, Myself and I

Who I am and why I write

 

Who am I? I have never really been sure how to answer that. When you ask people who they are, some will tell you what they do for a living.

I can tell you what I do for a living. I am a teacher of English as a second language, and I enjoy my job very much. It gives me opportunities that most never get, to work in different countries and experience different cultures. As a British bloke in his mid twenties, I have a mid of experiences from my life that I may (or may not) talk about. I have had the good fortune to work with students from 6 different continents (there is little call for English lessons in the Antarctic, apparently the penguins feel they are doing just fine, thank you very much).

I haven’t always enjoyed such work. In my I originally trained to degree level in a construction based subject and have worked in that field. I might blog about that one day, but probably not today.

But of course, I am only a teacher part of the time, but I am who I am all of the time. Or, at least, I think I am. Other answer can be that people say they are a family person, perhaps a parent. I am not a family person. Don’t get me wrong, I have every respect for those who are, but it isn’t really for me. It used to be, I wanted a family, a wife and kids. But people change, or to put it better, life changes people. So perhaps who we are is the sum of what life has done to us and our reactions to it? That seems fair, and explains for the diversity of people. I’ll go with that for now. And what has life done to me? Well that would take a while, as it would for everyone. In short, it has given me the chance to be in places like those photographed below, to work in places and with people I have loved. It has also taken away from me many things I loved and wanted, but then given me the chance to build something new.

 

I suppose the simplest answer to who am I is “I am happy, and cannot complain at that.”

So, why do I write? I have never claimed to be a great writer, in fact I would argue quite the opposite. Nor do I claim to present views that mirror anyone other than my own. I intend simply to present arguments that float around in my mind with, I hope, some degree of intelligence and make suggestions as I see fit.

I would not suggest anyone follow me or my ideas, you, the reader, are not the intended audience of them. I am. This is a diary of thoughts, a collection of ideas and my own frustrations. I would not suggest that these thoughts will be particularly well organised, or follow much structure, as the inside of my head does not allow for this. And I write because I want to understand myself, this is a kind of therapy for me. I might be happy, but that doesn’t mean I’m not rather screwed up in my own little way.