An Apology to Everyone Who Voted ‘Leave’ on June 23rd

If I have given the impression via my several comments on the outcome of the referendum that I think you are ignorant, or stupid, or racist, or xenophobic, I apologise unreservedly. I have no wish to insult your intelligence. I do believe that one or more of those epithets can fairly be leveled at some of those who led the campaign. I also believe that it is they who are guilty of insulting your intelligence.

I watched a woman on Question Time last night saying that she had listed the pros and cons and made a carefully considered decision on the basis of that list. I would have loved to have seen the contents of that list. I can’t help wondering how many of the ‘cons’ were based on the myths and misunderstandings that the campaign leaders and the media perpetuate about the nature of the EU.

In the same audience was a man who stated quite firmly that ‘we don’t want their socialist ideas’. And yet it is well documented that many who support Labour, and Jeremy Corbyn’s particular version of Socialism, voted to leave. You should not be surprised if I see something of an inconsistency there.

Others have stated that the EU exists to feather the nests of bankers and big business. The opposite of ‘socialist ideas.’ I wonder which of these diametrically opposed ‘cons’ appeared on that woman’s list?

The EU has been characterised as undemocratic, yet its governance is probably more democratic, with more checks and balances, than that of any member state. There is a parliament elected by a system of proportional representation. There is a Council of Ministers in which each member state has equal representation.

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It has been described as overly bureaucratic, yet employs fewer officials than Birmingham city council. (See panel. There’s more detail here)

Of course it has its faults. The idea of the parliament having to meet in two different places, is wasteful, since the location of the parliament has no bearing on the decisions it makes. The location does, however, gain some economic benefit from its presence, and the practice is a mistaken homage to the principle of ‘sharing’ where only two of the 28 members are able to reap the almost negligible benefit.

Getting 28 different nation states to agree on anything is difficult and demands a degree of compromise that is often frustrating. But it is worth noting that Britain has ‘got its way’ more often than not in key decisions. The article to which I have linked shows that UK MEPs were on the ‘winning side’ in fewer votes than those of any other member nation. Even so, they were on the losing side in less than 30% of all votes. Most decisions have a high degree of support across the board.

What I am saying here, is that much of the rhetoric of those who have opposed Britain’s membership of the EU since the beginning is based, if not on downright lies, certainly on distortions of the truth.

I understand that many people did not know which set of ‘facts’ to believe. When I say [some] people did not know what they were voting for, it is because of the disparity in beliefs between those who, like the man in last night’s Wakefield audience object to ‘the Socialist ideas’ they believe the EU stand for on the one hand, and those, on the other, who object to the austerity measures the EU has imposed on Greece. You surely have to admit they cannot both be right.

Why I’m an Unashamed Bremoaner

The very people who voted ‘leave’ in the UK, and for Trump in the USA, are the ones most likely to suffer as a consequence.

Élite (ĕlët’), n. The choice part, the best, (of)

The above is from my ancient copy of the Concise Oxford Dictionary. Confirming that ‘elite’ means best. So how did the expression ‘the elites’ become a term of abuse, used in contempt to describe those we believe have too much power and influence? And, if we accept that there are individuals who singly, or as a group, have too much power, what is the best way to deal with the situation?

For the most part such people are characterised by being better educated than the average citizen, having greater intelligence than the average citizen, being, in fact, the best at whatever they do. Whether they practice law or medicine, run successful businesses or become successful sportsmen or women, or entertainers, they are the leaders of their profession. Is that a reason to hold them in contempt? I think not.

And, when it comes to sportsmen/women and entertainers we take the diametrically opposite view, worshiping them like gods. It’s the lawyers, accountants and business people that we hold in contempt, not because they are the best at what they do, but because we believe they have access to the best of the resources that should be available to all. We want a bigger share for ourselves. So we take actions we believe will have the effect of taking away some of their power and influence, giving it to us instead.

That, of course, is a perfectly reasonable position to take. It’s the reason I involved myself in a small way in politics in the 1980s. But something strange has happened this year. Something that I simply cannot understand. In Britain people voted to leave the European Union. And, in USA, people voted in large numbers for Donald Trump.

Now, I am not going to say much about USA politics except this: faced with a choice between two members of ‘the elite’, one a billionaire property developer, the other a human rights lawyer, I have no doubt whatsoever as to which one is most likely to take actions to improve the lot of the least well off citizens.

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I do know rather more about the UK and Europe than about the USA. I know, for example, that one of the guiding principles of the EU is that very redistribution of opportunity and resources that those who voted ‘leave’ on June 23rd were seeking. The reason Britain is a net contributor to the EU budget is because it is one of the richest nations in the union. The European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund, are two examples of how the EU redistributes resources to the poorest regions. Some of those poorer regions are in the UK and have benefited from those funds. And yet the residents of those regions voted overwhelmingly to leave. That makes absolutely no sense to me.

Another way of redistributing opportunities and resources is for people in deprived areas to travel to places

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Richard Whittington, Lord Mayor of London. The real person behind the legend.

where there are more of them. It has happened throughout the ages, from the legendary Dick Whittington who set out believing the streets of London were paved with gold, to Norman Tebbit’s father who notoriously ‘got on his bike’ to look for work in the 1930s, to the many young men and women of my generation who took advantage of assisted passage schemes to travel to Australia or Canada in the 1960s. It is also what the ‘freedom of movement’ clauses in the EU treaties seek to encourage.

The EU has been characterised by those who supported the ‘leave’ campaign as a ‘rich man’s club’. If that is the case, why are there so many rich people, so many so called ‘elites’, who supported ‘leave’, among them the foreign domiciled proprietors of many of the UK’s newspapers? Take a look at all those ‘eurosceptic’ Tories. Are they not part of ‘the elite’? Are they likely to continue policies that help support deprived areas, or are they eager to continue cutting social welfare?

This is why I said, back in June, that many in the ‘leave’ camp were deluded. And, it is out of a genuine concern for their well being that I continue to hope, and to campaign, for the reversal of this terrible decision.

Reading for Remainers

A reminder that we share a European heritage that it would be incredibly damaging to deny on the basis of politician’s lies and myths perpetuated by foreign press magnates.

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We’ve heard so much recent talk about hard or soft Brexits. Call me a whinger, accuse me of not accepting a democratic result: I’ll still whinge, I’ll still refuse to accept. travel-books-2I don’t, as far as I know, have any “foreign” blood – unless being a quarter Scottish counts or my grandmother’s maiden name deriving (arguably) from that of a favourite of William the Conqueror’s. But since the referendum, part of my soul’s been torn out. I was brought up European before we’d even joined the Common Market. My parents lived through World War Two, just too young to be called up. My mother had to leave her school at 14 when so many pupils were evacuated it wasn’t viable for it to stay open. Trying to restart her education, she went as a paying guest to the French Massif Central in 1946, where she witnessed more that war had done. Later she managed a degree in…

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Technology – Guest Post…

Some thoughts about the way technology has changed the world in my lifetime – a guest post at Chris Graham’s blog.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

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It probably seems strange to younger people but, when I was born, motor vehicles and aircraft were comparatively new fangled. The first ever powered flight of a heavier than air craft took place a dozen years before my mother was born. Telephones, radios and gramophones were also in their infancy. Outside of large towns and cities, many homes were still without electricity.

In the decade before my birth men split the atom, thereby creating the possibility of unleashing an endless supply of cheap energy – one of many predictions that fell well wide of the mark. The same technology also offered the possibility of terrible destruction, a fact used to devastating effect, when I was just 3 years old, to end a brutal war in the far east. Throughout my childhood and teenage years Britain, the USA, France and Russia…

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Translate this site into your native language

If English is not your first language, never mind. You can now translate all my posts and pages into your language by clicking the button at the top of the side bar on the right.

And if you want the same facility on your WP blog, here’s how to do it,, courtesy of Chris Graham: https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2016/11/26/your-site-now-in-other-languages-introducing-the-google-translate-widget/

Robbie’s Million Steps

About 6 months after we arrived in Ireland the presenter of the early morning show on our local radio station left. Among the new voices that took his place was one with a very ‘posh English’ accent. But Robbie Donnelly did not do much presenting in the months and years that followed. He became the voice of promotional events. Indeed, in those first weeks, in the spring and summer of 2007, he would turn up at a randomly selected home each breakfast time to present, live on air, a prize to any householder who could show him a loaf produced by a particular well known Irish baker.

Originally from the Channel Islands, Robbie’s distinctive, friendly voice became part of the background to our new lives. One of the delights of local radio, perhaps especially for incomers like us, is the way you get to know something of the personal lives of the presenters and their support staff. Over the 10 years since we first heard him, Robbie we learned how Robbie got married and started a family. Because of his role in promotions, his face became almost as well known as his voice. I met him in person on a couple of occasions when I entered one or other of the crazy competitions he devised.

Around the middle of last year, we realised that his voice, ever present in commercials up until then, had disappeared. This morning we discovered why. Robbie came on to the mid-morning current affairs programme to talk to the long time presenter about the reason for his absence.

His and his wife’s third child, Harry, was born in May of last year with Down’s Syndrome. But that was not all. Harry also had respiratory problems leading to the need for a tracheostomy. And then the really bad news – Robbie’s youngest child has leukemia. He has never been home. The whole of Harry’s 17 months of life have been spent in one or other of Ireland’s pediatric hospitals.

Robbie and his young wife have to spend long days and nights at the hospital, too, whilst at the same time trying to hold things together at home for the two older children. Robbie told his story in matter of fact terms, with no great show of emotion. He and his family are living every parent’s worst nightmare. A nightmare compounded by the fact that they live 100 km from the hospital.

Home from Home

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But that was not the reason for his appearance on this morning’s Midlands Today Show. He has been helped enormously by a facility called Hugh’s House. It’s a place where the families of sick children can stay over at no cost. The hospitals provide limited accommodation for parents, but this is not suitable for families. Hugh’s House helps to keep families together in a ‘home from home’ whilst one of their children is undergoing treatment.

To show his gratitude Robbie is undertaking a fund-raising walk in January. He will take a million steps that month. To understand what this means, most people will take around 6,000 steps in a typical day. Robbie will be doing five times that number every day in January. About 25 km each day, whatever the weather.

Now, I know that not all of my readers are based in Ireland and that many of you have your own favourite charities that you support. But this seems to me to be a particularly worthwhile cause. Maybe there’s a similar facility serving families who live near you who have a child undergoing long term hospital treatment. I urge you to seek it out and offer your support.

And for those of you who are in Ireland, here’s a link to the GoFundMe page where you can join me in supporting Robbie’s appeal.

A Letter to the Weepy Left

This article is not the first to blame the self confidence and complacency of the left for the resurgence of the right – Trump in USA, Brexit in UK and Right wing candidates for the French and Italian presidencies. I am surprised that Mr Miller sees the US media as generally left leaning. My impression of, for example, Fox News, is the opposite and that is certainly the case with the UK print media (though not the BBC).

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I have said elsewhere that more wisdom might be found in arguing not with people we disagree with entirely, but with those who share nearly (but not all) of our opinions. That’s what I want to do here.

If you find yourself more left than right, but also find that the description given below of those on the left—whether on college campuses, in the media, or in entertainment—doesn’t describe you at all, we have to wonder just how that happened.

If there is even the smallest chance that Donald Trump’s election can bring into the mainstream something like uninformed white nationalism, anti-Semitism, and various other historically-ignorant ideologies, then the left must become more mature and less historically-ignorant itself, and more able to face the uncomfortable facts of history directly, rather than believing they can be cleaned up by renaming and banning things or people or ideas. If the decadence…

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