Brexit is an extinction level event.

So, I’ve been arguing on a talkboard about Brexit and Labour’s response to it. It’s of a piece with things that I’ve been posting on here so I’ve pulled my posts together into something approaching a coherent whole. Some paragraphs here are pretty obviously responses to other posters who I have no right to quote, so I’ve attempted to mould my answers a bit, but you can probably still see the joins. Sorry about that.

Here’s an important thing to remember, one that has been spelled out repeatedly to us by many, many unimpeachable sources. I’m going to put it in caps, and bold, so apologies in advance:

THERE CAN BE NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LABOUR AND A TORY BREXIT. THERE IS NO ACTUAL NEGOTIATION TO BE HAD. THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT WILL HAVE LITTLE TO NO SAY ON THE FINAL TERMS. LABOUR’S WIN CANNOT SOFTEN THE TORY POSITION BECAUSE THE TORY POSITION DOES NOT MATTER; A LABOUR GOVERNMENT COULD HAVE A DIFFERENT APPROACH AND DIFFERENT DESIRES, BUT NO CHANCE OF A DIFFERENT OUTCOME.

May was incredibly, astonishingly, and unintentionally, honest when she said “Brexit means Brexit.” It is what it is, and what it is will be determined by the EU, who will dispassionately and correctly determine that every single British person needs to be worse off as a result of this.

For myself, I vote labour, I’m still a member and I was overjoyed by how well we did. There’s a tribal thing there and I’m OK with that. But moreover, if we’re going to do this astonishing act of national self-harm, then the things I care about – NHS, education, social security – the forties welfare state, basically – will be much, much better off under a labour government than any other. The moral calculus remains the same, it’s merely the context against which those calculations need to be made that changes.

My fear, and I think I’m almost certainly right, is that however much of GDP a future, post-Brexit Labour govt. devotes to the NHS, the service that can be offered will still be worse than the one currently available under the most morally bankrupt government of my lifetime.

The remaining EU27 have a clear duty to make certain that the benefits of EU membership are restricted to EU members. As I said, there’s no substantive area for negotiation – terms will be dictated. Those terms will mean that we are economically disadvantaged in trade; that our personal savings are worth less whilst our personal debts increase; that we are socially, culturally and politically isolated; that we are militarily weakened; that our diplomatic international position is weakened; that we are less able to identify and defend against terrorist threats; that our individual rights of employment, representation and fair treatment are restricted; that our freedom of travel is restricted and so many other massive, life-limiting and unnecessary wounds that we’re likely to suffer that it’s practically impossible to lay them all out.

That isn’t hyperbole, by the way. It is genuinely impossible at this stage to list all of the ways in which Brexit will screw us. New wrinkles are being discovered every single day. Michel Barnier was only part joking when he said that it could conceivably take two years just to settle the issue of animal passports.

I will only say that if you can find an example of a people becoming less xenophobic as a result of being plunged further into penury then I’ll be astonished. Brexit is going to make us meaner and harder, more viscous and less open. People will be poorer, be more likely to be unemployed, be less likely to enjoy good education and healthcare and will be told (partially truthfully) that it’s because Europe demanded 100 billion euros as the price of our “freedom”. The UK is going to be a foul place for a very long time.

Also, there’s nothing exceptional about British xenophobia – it’s mirrored across Europe. Anywhere there is a history of privately owned press there is constant low level xenophobia, combating this is, in part, what the EU is for. There are many millions of French, Belgian, German readers of their DM equivalents and they don’t like FOM either. Their elected officials say fuck ‘em, and they are right to. Time was ours did the same.

It isn’t that the EU is an all-encompassing force for good, or that no light shines outside of its borders. If we’d never joined, then we’d be fine. But we did, and we are inextricably linked to it in literally tens of thousands of ways.

Practically every law and social provision in the UK passed in the last 25 years has some level of EU involvement. We don’t farm, fish, make, destroy, buy or sell but that we do it in some way under an EU aegis. Things which the UK did perfectly well on its own before EU membership are now meshed in EU processes; and extricating the UK from these hundreds of treaties and organisations and accommodations will be the slow, expensive and painful work of many decades.

For example – it’s entirely possible that once we leave the EU we may find that, for a while at least, we can’t actually leave our island. Almost every flight path out of the UK crosses an EU country. There are issues to do with air traffic control, with airline licensing, safety certification, pilot licensing as well as the more obvious passport and customs issues. Nobody wants to see this happen, not the UK and not even the EU, but it might genuinely be unavoidable. It isn’t that the pilots will become unsafe overnight, or the planes suddenly become unserviced, but the agencies which licensed them and certified the services might wink out of existence at the point of Brexit. Non-EU countries can fly over EU countries, of course, they do it every day, but they’ve made arrangements to do so which we haven’t, and can’t until the point of Brexit, by which point it will be too late. This is one example, and an extreme and unlikely one, but there is no short cut to answer it, no way of making it go away by deal making and negotiation.

I believe Brexit to be an illiberal and nationalistic act entirely opposed to the principles of the British labour movement. It will, in both the long and short term, impoverish the British people in every way, and that impoverishment, as is always the case, will fall most heavily on those already suffering. That the labour party is not only not opposing it, but is actively manoeuvring towards its implementation wounds and upsets me deeply.

I’ll still vote for them.

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Wimowey

Let’s try and talk about travel and foreign lands again. For a bit, anyway. I’ve got some more ranting to do soon, as well as a massive, I-told-you-so, victory lap about my last post. But for now: jungle.

the horror.

Took this on a boat trip from the city (village) centre. This is about two miles from the country’s central bank and only museum. It looks like a ‘Nam movie.

The joke in Beijing was that it had climate, and environment, but could seldom be bothered to have weather. It once went 100 days without raining, and that wasn’t considered that unusual.  Some days the sky was blue, some days the air was toxic; some days it was 30 degrees, some days it was -15; but it wasn’t windy, it didn’t hail or snow or sleet. Climate, but not weather.

This place has weather, though like everything here, it manages to be both impressively alien, and remarkably boring. Brunei, on the topside of the Island of Borneo, is nine degrees up from the middle of the planet. I don’t even live in the tropics anymore – this place is considered equatorial.  It’s really, really hot here, and it doesn’t change at all. Not at all – the whole country is as consistent and predictable as a German railway timetable. The sun rises at six and sets at six. The temperature is between 34 and 36 all day, every day. There’s close to 100% humidity all day long. It rains, nine days out of ten, at about six in the evening, for about an hour.  Every tenth day it rains for two hours. There are lightning storms about four times a week, and every fourth one of those is really impressive. Rich soil plus hot sun plus plentiful rain equals one thing; jungle.

The storms can make for very dramatic skies. There is no filter on this, it is just the colour of the estate before the rains came. Note looming wall of jungle in the background.

I basically live in the jungle. We all basically live in the jungle. Monkeys root through my bins, monitor lizards mean I can’t let the cat out and my garden ends abruptly at a metal fence, beyond which is just, well, the rainforest.

Small garden, endless jungle.

Driving through Borneo is a weird thing because of the jungle. Bandar Seri Begawan is not an especially green city – certainly not compared to say, Singapore or even parts of Beijing – there aren’t that many trees and parks.  But drive out of the city (I call it a city because they call it a city – you aren’t really allowed to have a capital village) and you realise that unless the trees have been intentionally cut down to build things, there’s jungle. The smaller roads run between impenetrable green walls, pulsing with life and radiating heat. The highways have wider clearance, because you can’t risk trees falling on motorways, and because of the regular forest fires (that lightning again) but even then there’s an eerie monolith, a greenish black barrier about half a mile from  the road. It looks, for all the world, like The Wall from Game of Thrones, only it’s made of trees, not ice.

Here are some pictures of jungly stuff.

This angry bastard was near my car.

Stupidly huge lizard. This is by the supermarket. It is about six inches off being a Komodo Dragon, I reckon.

Also by the supermarket. Note jungle in immediate background. There are two supermarkets – Supersave and Monkey Supersave. Obviously we drive the extra five miles to go to Monkey Supersave.

Borneo Black tarantula, and rat, for scale. This is not the supermarket, this is my bloody house.

Beautiful, arent they? They must be the most poisonous things in the world.

An open letter, God help me.

An open letter to Jeremy Corbyn.

RichardStilgoe

Dear Jeremy,

Firstly, sorry. I mean really. An open letter? Who do I think I am, some sort of self selecting group of elderly white male atheists? I hate an open letter; but I can’t shake the feeling that a closed letter, or as we used to call it, a letter, might not get through. I mean, it isn’t like you and I don’t converse, right? You send me emails, and I reply “resign”. Every time. Remember me now? It seems unlikely.

Here’s the thing, though. I might wish you weren’t the leader. I might have (did) voted against you twice, but, like a fat kid playing tag, you’re it. You’re what we have, and we have to dance with the one we brung. So put on your party dress, Jezza, and imagine I had the wordpress skills and the inclination  to embed that pic of you in tails by a sports car.

So, here we are. I hoped we’d never get here and you, surely, never really believed this day would come. And yet, you will now lead the Labour party into a general election. Let’s be clear here – this will certainly be your only one. I’d really , really love you to win. Prove me wrong, like Seymour Skinner says. Win or lose, you’ve one shot, so, how’s about we make it a good one, eh?

You can win this election. No, you really can. This isn’t a joke. Like most Tory Blairite traitor scum I assumed and said that your initial victory as labour leader was an event that fell somewhere between tragic accident and hilarious pratfall. I watched the campaign through my fingers, like the darker segments of You’ve Been Framed and, when the result was announced, I was certain that you were a blip, a footnote, a mistake. But you’re not. You won that election comfortably, and you went on to crush an attempted coup. I can’t, much as I’d like to, ignore that. You can win elections. In fact, as far as I can tell, you’ve never actually lost. Good. Be that guy. That guy definitely wants my advice, though, so here’s what to do …

  • Attack the Tories and only the tories. . Unity (or purity) in the labour party is a complete fucking irrelevance, as is the quisling sliminess of the libdems and the ideological unpleasantness of the SNP… none of this matters. Attack the tories.
  • Go hard. Use everything at your disposal. Theo Bertram wrote an article the other day about this; read it, actually call him. Actually, call Mandelson and Campbell. Do whatever you need to do to discredit, embarrass, harass and humiliate your opposition. They are the most divided and intellectually weak government in my lifetime – point this out.
  • Be everywhere – when John Humphries opens the door of his Powys farmhouse at 4am I want you sat on his doorstep, and I want your first words to be “… and another thing…” You have allowed yourself, your party and your views to be horribly sidelined. Be aggressive, or at least hire people to be aggressive on your behalf.
  • Insist on the debates – it won’t happen. She’s scared of debating you, and that’s gold. That’s win-win. She debates you, great – destroy her. She refuses, even better – point out her cowardice, her lack of belief in her views, her absence.
  • Sell yourself, and sell it hard to your target market – you’re here because you won two elections. May won’t debate you because you won two elections. You won two elections because of the youth vote. Mobilise that – 18-24 year olds must be your primary focus. We both know that you’re no Bernie Sanders; shit Bernie Sanders is no Bernie Sanders really. But you are an authentic ideologue, a speaker of truth and passion, the genuine article. This has power, especially amongst the young and unbiased – fortunately, these are precisely the people who you need to vote for you if you are to win.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Hire a whipsmart social media team, under twenty-five, and do it tomorrow.  Target your campaigning on, yes marginals, but especially marginals with a large young population. Skew your election promises – raid pensions for housing, basically. It’s right and proper anyway, but it will also endear you to the people with the votes you need.

 

  • Stick to your guns. This last couple of weeks you’ve introduced some really good, sellable and progressive policies. I mean, you’ve introduced them really badly, but they are good. You’ve managed to arrive at a situation where you are on record as wanting to feed hungry children, whilst the tories don’t. Surely you can’t fuck this up?

 

  • BREXIT -Forgive the caps/bold, but this is the most important political issue of our lifetimes, and you’ve already managed to fuck it up royally – you campaigned poorly, you capitulated early and you, for fuck’s sake, whipped your party to vote for it. I mean seriously, what the actual?

 

When I call it the most important issue of my lifetime, I’m not being hyperbolic. The remain/leave divide is far, far more important than the left/right distinction. You win this election, and by win I mean defeat the tories, by being as anti-Brexit as you can. I can’t see, really why you can’t change your position and simply be anti-Brexit. Any attempt by the tories to call you a turncoat leaves them open to massive retaliation on their many, many broken promises and lies in this campaign. So do it, point out the reality of what they’re doing to us, and make it clear it isn’t too late.

 

Calling this election now is a remarkable piece of political hypocrisy and cynicism on May’s part, but it’s also a mistake. It isn’t too late; Brexit could be stopped and you could win an election promising to do so. 48% remember, plus however many believed the bus, plus the 18-24 year olds that you can mobilise to vote for the first time. This is seriously doable, Jeremy. Give it all you’ve got,

 

Your pal,

 

Hazza.

 

 

Tweet response – Jeremy Fucking Corbyn

Alright, fine. Here’s the thing, or rather things.

  1. If you have to fake something to make a point, then your point is possibly not worth making, or is untrue. There’s no possible room for bias in this statement. No-one can accuse me of lying, or being sucked in by the MSM. I’m not necessarily responding here to any particular statement, tweet or video. I’m offering an opinion so juvenile, simplistic and unarguable as to be worthless. Lying is wrong, and bad.
  2. If you’re going to lie to make your point (or obfuscate, or confuse, or vilify, or grandstand) then at least be good at it. Being incompetent at questionable practice is not admirable; you lost your admirable status the moment you decided to try the thing you have recently been proven as being shit at.  It’s becoming clear that Corbyn, and his team, are not not politicians, they’re just really, really bad politicians.There’s a skill, a dark art, that they simply do not have. They offer an absence, not an alternative. They cannot do their jobs.  Nobody asked for that.
  3. The thing. The real thing. He’s anti-democratic. He clings to an idea of democracy that is mutable and shiftable and seems to mean whatever he wants it to mean at that time. Simple fucking maths – Corbyn was elected overwhelmingly by those under thirty-five; those under thirty-five (country-wide but especially those identifying as Labour) were hugely, almost entirely, remain. Corbyn made almost no effort to mobilise a remain vote, and on the day of the result sent an email to party members saying that, basically, we should suck it up and make the best of it. In all possible worlds, fuck that.  He ceded the only reasonable opposition position to Tim Fucking Farron and in doing so he, with one mail, gave away the next election. He also, more importantly, bloodlessly and mealymouthedly (yeah, it’s a word. I used to be Head of English at Harrow. Mealymouthedly) betrayed the interests and the desires of the people who make up his entire fucking mandate.
  4. I’m done. I’m done pretending that he represents some sort of alternative. He’s not outside the establishment, he’s just an irrelevant part of the establishment. He’s been an MP for 33 years; he has spent that time refusing to engage in party politics, utterly failing to influence or affect the discourse of the time. He was as much of a pointless little thorn in Kinnock’s side as he was in Blair’s. He argued with Tony Benn, for Christ’s sake. Benn, the unthinking idiot’s messiah. He’s basically been a paid irrelevance for thirty plus years, refusing to accept the legitimacy of any aspect of the system in which he is employed. He doesn’t acknowledge the will of parliament, or of the party; he isn’t Bernie Sanders, or Che Gue- Fucking-Vara: he’s Nigel Farage. Sorry, I know that smarts, but it’s true. He’s paid by people who’s opinions he disdains, to be part of a system he despises and his only value is as an irritant.

Enough. You asked a while ago whether to quit the party before or after you voted. I couldn’t tell you. I’m paying these people, every month, and I don’t like any of them. I don’t agree with any of them. Whatever – there has to be a better option that what we currently have.

So, long time . . .

Yeah, sorry. Been meaning to write. Busy though, you know. End of term, reports, had another son, that sort of thing. What shall we call this one? Verb? He is quite active. I think he can be Rat, actually. He doesn’t look like one, but it’s almost short for his name, and a good friend wanted that to be his nickname. It isn’t, because Jesus, you wouldn’t do that to a child. I wouldn’t call him louse or bacterium either, however well it fitted with his given name.

Where had I got to? China, right? OK, so the winters were unbelievably, and I mean unbelievably, cold. On my birthday this year I’d arranged a babysitter so Sarah and I could go out. We were going to go to Gou Lo, or Houhai, or one of the hip BJ suburbs that you couldn’t possibly have heard of. Bing Pong. There, that do you? Anyway, the plan was to get the tube there and then basically go bar-hopping.  It was minus 15. We went outside. We looked each other. We went back inside.That kind of cold is physically painful. The best example I can give you of the cold is the ice slugs. The building opposite my flat in BJ was the school sports hall, which was four stories high. The air would condense inside, drip from the edges of the roof and hit the floor, but before it hit the floor it would begin to freeze – it wouldn’t be solid,but it would have reached a sort of gel state that meant that whilst it wouldn’t spread, it also wouldn’t pile up. What you got was a sort of weird slug shaped thing of solid layered ice. Here’s a photo of it, with a small boy for scale. This is noun, not rat. But a year ago. Rat now wears the coat that Noun wears here, or would, if we lived in a place that ever needed a coat. More about which later

Bard Ice SlugThe cold, and whole load of other reasons, meant that we left. There’s a bit of “reader, I moved countries and geographic zones” here, but you’ll just have to live with that. I’m in Brunei now. They recently banned Christmas. No, for real. Look it up. It’s also dry, though I am drunk as I type, so not that effectively.  Obviously I’ll have lots of things to talk about – my house backs on to actual jungle, for a start – so I’ll try to update more often. 

I’m back, basically. See you soon.