Not Mid Morning Matters

JD in the Morning, off air…

Tag: EU

A kindly Brexit?

Today would have been my brother’s 66th birthday. Francis would have celebrated it in his unusual way, doing all the things he loved and being with those who loved him. But no, he didn’t make it as he died on the 6th December last year, my sister’s birthday. She would have been happier with a wash bag.

My brother lived his life on his terms and, when those terms changed, others helped him get back on track. Francis would be the first in your corner and the last to leave your side with his generous, kind, loving heart combined with creativity that knew no bounds or boundaries. His pictures, from various phases of his painting hang proudly on my walls. One water-colour that he painted 20 years ago when we were on holiday is one of the most precious things I own.

Francis was no saint. Who is? It would be trite to wax on about him yet, as I reflect on my brother and on my own last fifteen months, the one thing that stands out as the greatest attribute anyone can. It is kindness. Love is okay, but it is often confused with lust, sometimes mixed up with duty and invariably comes with strings attached. Generosity has the same conditions. Kindness is whole. In its true form it requires nothing than for you to show it. Kindness doesn’t even require acknowledgment. My brother was kind, truly kind. I try to be kind and I could do a lot worse than aim at his mark.

This year will see a lot happen. I predict nothing. Polls will tell us one thing and the opposite will happen. Bet against any poll. The world holds its breath for the 45th President of the United States to take office, start doing deals and building walls. As a country we about to divorce the EU and anyone who has been through a divorce (I have two under my belt) will tell you that you may start out in one place but you never, ever end up where you think and, long after it’s over, it is not. It might as well be called a Pan Fried Brexit. A kinder country would be a good thing, kindly respecting both sides of the argument. A kinder world would be even better.

This year I will try harder to be kinder. I urge you to do the same too. I thank my brother, my erasable, clever, creative brother for reminding me just how important being kind truly is.

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The Papers and Politics: If in doubt, make it up.

It is only when you look back you realise that things are not what they first appeared or how they were actually sold. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. If we learn nothing more from the last four weeks and the febrile previous months before the 23rd June 2016 it must be this. What any public figure says or is what written in our newspapers needs to be checked, at east twice and only then can you know it might be, could possibly be true. I wrote about this last year when my daughter had just died. And it has happened again to me with the news (is it actually ‘news’?) that I have split up with my fiancé. Grief is an unrelenting bastard.

The factual failures (again) of the Bristol Post, The Times, The Daily Express and The Daily Mail are in black and white for anyone to read and again the newspapers don’t care. You should care. You must care. Information does not come from one source. There isn’t only one book to believe. As a journalist you’re told should double source (at the very least) the facts of any story. If you can’t do this then you just don’t publish. Names, ages, time lines (all of which the Daily Mail and the Bristol Post could not have got more wrong if they had actively tried) are facts that can be easily checked. Then it’s down to you, as the reader, to check them again by reading, listening or watching another source. There really is no such thing as face value. Don’t read one newspaper and don’t believe one book. That is nothing but naivety.

The campaign surrounding the EU and Brexit was riddled with lies, half-truths and counter lies. Many of the wild claims made were, at best, beneath those who made them. The competing sides played on our naivety about EU, Europe and on our prejudices. From the black top tabloid papers to the extremes of both sides of the campaigns, the absolute nonsense and falsehoods that were trotted out as “truth” mean many who voted one way feel robbed and cheated of their vote and its result. Is it a surprise that by changing our relationship with the rest of the world, which we related to via the EU, it will cause problems for years? Did you think that the promises made about staying or leaving the EU, made as facts, were in reality nothing more that snake oil sales lines? Did you check them?

Despite the many falsehoods of the campaign the turnout for this historic vote was the largest since the 1992 General election. 52% voted leave, 48% voted remain and we must respect this democratic result. To campaign to have another vote because we don’t like the result is just silly. That would be like Germany campaigning to have another world cup final, as they didn’t like the result of July 1966. It is nonsense to have another referendum.

Maybe some of those who are calling for another referendum should have taken their actual vote in the last referendum more seriously. Maybe they should have all voted on the question being asked, having checked and researched the arguments being made by both sides? That hard-won X was not a protest against the government of the day or thinking it will get rid of immigrants from tomorrow or whatever other silly notion attached to the referendum question. If you are one of those who voted for anything other than then arguments behind the question and are thinking ‘’what have I done’’ then lets hope the next time you vote you will think long and hard about where your X marks the spot.

Now our leaders and politicians need to get on with it and stop asking us what they should do all the time. Why do they do this? To empower us? To blame us as it’s what we said we wanted? To abdicate the responsibility to us for their failures in leadership? Maybe we are just electing the wrong types of leaders and politicians. One thing is for certain. We are in serious times and while we deal with the result of the self-indulgence of our referendum the world is in a perilous state. The world is killing, creating hatred and division while we deal with this and years of self-inflicted uncertainty.

Again, whether you were an “Inner” or an “Outer” the result is the result. If you feel cheated or robbed then, maybe, you should have asked more questions, read more than one newspaper, listen to more than one politician. Maybe you should have thought more about your family and friends before you voted? Maybe the result of this referendum is the result of self in a the world of social media, which is all about self. Maybe that is the thing that needs to change most.

Decisions, decisions

Life can be seen as series of choices, right and wrong turns, decisions. We, as a nation, face a few in the coming weeks and months. Like all choices, turns or decisions they will have consequences and outcomes that we can never fully predict. Change is good thing and it is, mostly, a positive part of life. To not embrace change is to not embrace all life is or can be. Change is possibility realised.

It’s been a while since my last blog, before Christmas last year, and much has changed. And yet much more remains the same, constant, continues. Living with the loss of a child is dreadful. It’s not in the natural order of life. Having lost a parent, close family and friends both older and younger than me, this particular loss is consuming. At times it is all-consuming. Yet from this you have to change, evolve, make new turns and make decisions to combat it, to try to ride it or it will beat you.

This week I made the decision to take two days off work. I was tired, my mind is not as sharp as I want or need it to be (and has been this way for some time now) plus I could feel the hands of depression on my shoulders. I recognise these hands from times past and I am scared, truly scared of them grabbing me again. Work, my role, what I do with and for the BBC is a privilege and it has been my anchor since Polly was killed. For a few hours each day I can take myself out of my own porous wallow and help others, maybe. My fear of taking time off was that I would end up in my wallow with no escape. I was right. Yet I have made a couple of decisions to try to turn my one life around.

Firstly I have begun counselling. My fear of this was that I would end up popping the lid off the container of my life and may not be able to get it back on again. I liken it to a forgotten Tupperware container of leftovers at the back of the fridge that you should never pop the lid off to smell the contents, you should just throw it away, both container and contents. Well my lid is off and I shall see (and feel) what comes next. The hardest thing of all in counselling for me is answering questions, not asking them, and my not trying to control the conversation to arrive at the story’s denouement. I have no idea how this story will end and that is both frightening and comforting at the same time.

Secondly I have joined a gym. I don’t like gyms. They are not my tribe. Why would you run on a machine and not get anywhere? I needed to exercise though, lose a stone and paying to be a member of a gym means I have to actually go or I will fall into what gyms really want from their members, which is their money but not their attendance. I have often wondered what would happen to a gym is every member turned up at once? A week in and having been four times, including a great session of boxing, I can say that it is having a positive effect on me. I have only joined for three months so being a member of a gym has a beginning, a middle and an end.

And this is my biggest challenge.

Memberships, life, relationships, work, love all have a beginning, a middle and an end. The reality is that most of the time we don’t know where we are along this trio of progress and reality. Ends can happen unexpectedly. Sometimes you can see them coming and sometimes you can even avoid facing them. Sometimes you can even pro-activate them, such as our EU ‘in or out’ choice we all face on the 23rd June. But an end, any end is never as simple as that. Never.

The only thing we can all do is to try to make informed choices, to decide based on what we know and try to realise what we don’t. To blindly follow others, to make choices just based the past, on others or plain ‘leadership’ is both foolish and naive. Others choices are not our choices. You own your decisions and choices much like you own your vote.

My aspiration this year is to have the dullest year possible, to react rather than pro act (not ever my natural state) and this proving harder than I thought. I have some big decisions coming over the hill that may surprise me and others in their outcomes. One thing I have certainly learnt since my daughter’s death is that change comes in many guises. It is what you do when change comes that makes the next moment, the unknown, both challenging and revealing.

Here’s to the next choice, turn, decision and revelation.

You want out of the EU, right?

Then there were two. UKIP now have their second MP and it’s fair to say that neither of the defectors who are now UKIP MP’s were moderate Conservatives in the first place. They wanted out of the EU. They have their position and they don’t want a debate it. UKIP don’t want a renegotiation, they don’t even want to discuss what is good about the EU, they just want out. UKIP arrogantly assume you want out of the EU too. To UKIP it is a binary question with a binary answer, and that ‘out’ answer leads to a land of men in business suits, women at home, blue striped milk jugs on the breakfast table, corporal punixshment and lunchtime drinking in the pub. Where do I sign?!

Of course you want ‘out’ of the EU don’t you? Of course you do. The press says you want out, UKIP says you want out so that’s it. And you weren’t asked about the EU. You were only asked about the Common Market back in 1975. The EU is a bad thing. It takes all our money, makes all our laws and the entire population of continental Europe wants to come to the UK to take all our benefits and all of our jobs. The simple solution is get out of the EU and the UK is back to its 1950s heyday. This seems to be a UKIP vision of the UK, a sort of Kath Kidston brand of the past, a stylised pre globalised world of safety, empire and security, which never really existed. But it will have lovely spots.

Here are three of many arguments for staying in the EU.

Peace. Since the formation of cooperation over coal and steel production between Germany and France in the early 1950s the central tenet of the EU has been the free movement of people, to remove the need for formal boarders and denies any nations desire to expand the beyond them. The countries not in the EU but who trade within the block, such as Norway, also have to allow free movement of people. It’s part of the EU deal. This is something UKIP forget to mention, along with the rest of the political class and the press. The EU won the Nobel Peace Prize back in 2012.

The European Convention of Human Rights. This is nothing to do with tehe EU. It was born out of the atrocities of the WW2 and originally called the Treaty Of London. The treaty protects the rights of everyone beyond the European landmass. Winston Churchill was one of the instigators.

Cheaper labour. The reality is that if you want a pre made lunchtime sandwich, fresh seasonal British veg and fruit in the shops or decent service in a restaurant then you need cheaper labour from the EU. Simply, our UK work force can’t or won’t do these low paid, hard work jobs. British workers want more pay than is available and if you think it’s just a case of paying more for the job then you’re deluded. If it cost more to do the job it will cost you more to benefit from the product of that job. And if it costs you more than you will need to earn more to pay for it. This is called inflation. It’s a bad thing.

Being in or out of the EU is not as simple as UKIP are selling or as complicated as the other political parties are implying. The EU is far from perfect. The EU needs reform so free movement of people does not mean free money if you move to the UK. Yet to use immigration as the reason your lot is not how you want your lot to be is a delusion. UKIP’s ‘Kath Kidston 1950s Britain’ is no more real than the Labour or Conservative view of Britain’s place in the EU. A real, factual debate is needed.

If you could be made happier, healthier and wealthier by leaving the EU then don’t you think the other parties would be selling an exit too? Of course they would. It’s time to open our minds to what the EU is for and stop looking for simple answers to complicated questions.

UKIP have conflated immigration and the EU into a potent cocktail with a big kick. They offer a simple solution and an even simpler result. The other political parties have failed to answer their pitch.

It’s not the EU that has failed us, it’s our political class, again.

I’m not being racist but…

Immigration. It’s a complex word that strikes a deep chord, gets the media in a tangle and makes politicians worry about what they can say, or don’t say.

At the last general election in 2010 it was the third rail of British politics. Touch it and you will die. Bigotgate anyone? Ask Gordon Brown about immigration and see his jaw lock, as only it can. This year and the next general election this will and must change.

It is a painful reality that, as part of he EU, we have freedom of movement around the 27 member states and they do here. So we can no more pull up the UK PLC drawbridge and lock the doors with a sign on saying ‘No Vacancies’ than Spain can do the same to us. Maybe Spain, Greece, France, Portugal would like to send back all those British expats living in those warmer European climbs? Freedom of movement is a central plank of the EU and, without it, the whole project will fail. So for the UK not to be part of this fundamental part of the EU means we are out, even before you get be asked if you want to be in or out in 2017. It is a shame that the bill that would have made that law has now died a painful death at the hands of our noble lords. That is politics for you.

This last week has seen the Prime Minister commit again to ‘tens of thousands’ of net immigration just as parliament got itself into a total tis over the Immigration Bill. The sight of our Home Secretary having to sit on her hands and abstain on an illegal amendment to the bill shows how difficult this whole issue is, even for our law makers and party leaders.

So is it racist to debate immigration? The BBC gets itself in knots over the issue, as do most national newspapers and politicians. Is it racist to want border controls? If it is then most countries outside the EU are guilty as charged. ‘I’m not being racist but … can I see your visa?’ Is it racist to expect those who choose to the UK to pay taxes, to be part of the wider community, to speak the common language and respect the laws and traditions of the UK? Is it racist to ask those who come her to be part of our culture, life, and principles? Is it racist to send home those who threaten lives or incite hatred against the wider society?

Last year the retiring Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks suggested multiculturalism creates a society where “everyone is a guest”, and went on to call for a “multi-ethnic” society not multi-cultured. In essence multicultural means many cultures rubbing along together, all trying to understand and respect each other. But what happens when things rub? Friction, heat and then worse. Lord Sacks went on to say multiculturalism in Britain has “had its day” having led to “segregation and inward looking communities”. Is he a racist for say that? Am I a racist for expanding on it?

We must stop being afraid of a debate on immigration and the many unique cultures that live in the UK. We must control our boarders, know who is coming in and out and we must stop saying ‘I’m not being racist but’ every time we dare to express a view that might offend someone. Free speech is just one of the many reasons why we are all here and free speech might just achieve a multi ethnic, broad, mono cultured society that we can all live in, happily.

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