Tag Archives: David Cameron

Why I’m abstaining from the EU referendum

4 Mar

On most days, the main news story in the UK involves a rich middle-aged white man saying that the sky will fall on our heads if we leave OR remain in the European Union. The outcome is always catastrophic. It is never a case of ‘If you leave/remain in the EU there will be mild consequences’.

What is driving me to abstain from this whole referendum campaign is that the staging of this argument suits those in power. It suits them to divert our attention onto the EU issue while they continue with an anti-people agenda of privatising the National Health Service, taking benefits from the poorest in society, de-regulating the City of London, and dismantling universities. Every second of airtime given to this issue is a second that does not scrutinise a government of millionaires presiding over increasing homelessness, less care for the mentally ill, fewer police officers on the streets, and shoddy treatment of doctors.

So I am not playing the game. And this is a game. The issue of whether the UK remains in the EU is essentially an internal Conservative Party issue that the Prime Minister has decided to turn into a campaigning issue. It is an issue of choice. It is an unnecessary indulgence for a man who will leave office in three years and resume being what he is: a multi-millionaire elitist. It was entirely his choice to turn this into a major political issue. And to give him and his coterie attention on this issue is to play into his hands. Obviously, the media are playing into his hands. They love this issue. It is a simple binary choice. It pits supposed allies against each other. It touches on weather-vane issues beloved by the right-wing gutter press such as immigration, welfare, and ‘foreigners’.

If I were to vote (and I will not) I would vote to remain in the EU. My confidence in the European project was severely shaken by the patently undemocratic treatment meted out to Cyprus, Greece, Ireland and Portugal by the European Commission and the European Central Bank (but really by the German government). This foisting of bankers’ debt on populations was a crime against decency and democracy. This issue aside, the European project has generally been a good thing. The central message – that cooperation between states is better than unilateralism and nationalism – is an important one. After all, nationalism cost tens of millions of European (and other) lives in the twentieth century. The EU has been an important tool in blunting that on continental Europe.

What we are seeing with this UK referendum campaign is essentially theatre. The UK will vote to remain in the EU. If there is any doubt about this, take a look at what happened during the referendum on Scottish independence. The extent to which the people of Scotland were bludgeoned on a daily basis by London-based corporations, media and political parties was something that had to be seen to be believed. The corporations, media and political parties united to form a massive steamroller that bullied and threatened people about the ‘benefits’ of remaining in the UK. Cynically, the remaining in the UK campaign called itself ‘Project Fear’ – it was predicated on the notion that it would win if it scared people about tax, cost of living, pensions, and security. And it worked. Prime Minister Cameron and his rich white boy allies know this. Project Fear II will prevail and the UK will remain in the EU. And safe in that knowledge, I am going to concentrate on issues that matter – not on a sham referendum campaign.


David Cameron’s wonderfully fantastic superb victory (as scripted some weeks before the event)

21 Feb

There was something very scripted about David Cameron’s EU negotiations on Thursday and Friday of last week. It is as though the media unit of 10 Downing Street sat down beforehand and wrote the script. It went as follows:

Thursday Morning: Plucky David Cameron faces tough negotiations against the massive EU bureaucracy and various politicians from EU member states that want to protect their vested interests;

Thursday Afternoon: The leaders from members states are putting up stout resistance to Cameron’s common-sense ‘reforms’ but Cameron is persistent;

Friday Morning: Stories are released during the talks that show that the negotiations are tough but Cameron is prepared to hold-out. So we are told that Cameron had only 4 hours sleep on Thursday/Friday night and that UK negotiators needed ‘proper teabags’ to keep them going through the night;

Friday Afternoon: Downing Street – which usually only releases upbeat stories about how well everything is going – issues press releases mentioning that there are delays and that a deal is in jeopardy;

Friday Evening: Finally, Cameron’s persistence pays off and he gets a fantastic deal. Cameron returns to the UK to announce the date of the UK referendum.

The whole thing sounded suspiciously scripted. After all, the real negotiations were conducted by ‘Sherpas’ or civil servants who do the detailed negotiations. The term ‘Sherpa’ is somewhat self-regarding as real Sherpas risk their lives, carry enormous loads, and are often poorly rewarded. I doubt if we can say the same for senior civil servants, despite the privations of over-night negotiations. But the main point is that these negotiations were probably always going to succeed because of the prior-negotiations but the media story of ‘talks in jeopardy but rescued by tenacious Prime Minister’ plays well at home for a Prime Minister who must start a referendum campaign.

This issue of the pre-planned media opportunity masquerading as reality is by no means new. Evelyn Waugh’s novel Scoop (1954) features Lord Copper, a London newspaper magnate telling the novice war reporter William Boot how an ongoing African war is to be reported in his newspaper, The Beast:

“I never hamper my correspondents in any way. What the British public wants first, last and all the time is News. Remember that the Patriots are in the right and are going to win. The Beast stands with them four-square. But they must win quickly. The British public has no interest in a war which drags on indecisively. A few sharp victories, some conspicuous acts of personal bravery on the Patriot side and a colourful entry into the capital. That is The Beast policy for the war” (Waugh 1954: 42).

The 2006 Israeli war against Lebanon had a similar pre-determined media plan. The only problem was that the ground war and the media story did not match. Israel’s military suffered an unexpectedly large number of casualties and so the carefully-planned media story of a quick and easy victory fell apart.

In Cameron’s case, the heavy-lifting had been done by the senior civil servants, Angela Merkel was on-board, Cameron had already been on a diplomatic charm offensive in a range of European capitals, and so last week’s Brussels negotiations were largely theatre. There was dotting of ‘i’s and crossing of ‘t’s but was the outcome ever in any doubt?

After the Sousse attack: Where is the empathy from government?

30 Jun

Thirty Britons have been murdered: holidaymakers slaughtered when they were at their most vulnerable. The British government has swung into action. David Cameron has promised a “full spectrum” response (whatever that means). The RAF has flown some of the injured home. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has provided consular assistance to those affected (although has been much criticised). The police have sent officers to assist in the investigation (although this one seems like an open and shut case).

What is lacking, however, from the government response is any sense of empathy with the victims – a sense of the dreadful human impact of the attack. Heads of state and government leaders are, of course, often removed from the populace and erect and maintain barriers against the public. They depend on a ruling mystique.

Yet, at a time when thirty citizens have been murdered, it seems as though the State (the head of state, the prime minister and government agencies) are out of touch with the hurt that people feel. Yesterday we saw the quite ridiculous spectacle of the British Home Secretary and other interior ministers standing awkwardly on the beach at Sousse and laying flowers in the memory of the dead. They were dressed in business suits in the sweltering sun and, at one point, put their arms around each other in a visibly uncomfortable embrace. It was bizarre.

OK, you may argue that governments have jobs to do and that they should have no time for this soft-centred stuff; they should get on with the job of fighting “terrorism” and leave others to do the touchy-feely stuff. But what is the point of a government without emotional intelligence? If a government cannot feel, grieve, reflect and mourn what is the point of it?

Thus far, the British media have been superb in showing the human face of this disaster. There have been sympathetic interviews with victims, and lots of coverage of that puts a human face on the massacre. From the British government there has been a statement from the Queen of England, statements from a perplexed looking Prime Minister, and unseemly behind the scenes briefings that the police need more powers (have we ever heard the police say they need fewer powers?). Even when government ministers visit hospitals it all looks so stage-managed (because it is).

Yet, some heads of state can roll up their sleeves and look like a man/woman of the people. Obama can do it for instance. It may all be optics and for the cameras, but it matters. The British Establishment lacks the human touch. This might be excusable if it was capable and competent in other respects. But it is not. Its ability to influence events overseas is very limited. So what we are seeing and hearing (the statements and business-suited seriousness) is mainly theatre occurring in the absence of an understanding that the British government is impotent.

After a Yes vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum: A whimsy.

7 Apr

24 September 2014
The Electoral Commission announces that the Yes vote is carried by 50.1% in the Scottish referendum. The result is confirmed after the fifth recount. A legal bid by the Scottish Conservative Party to make the referendum result null and void was thrown out.
25 September 2014
Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, demands the immediate establishment of a transitional commission to expedite secession by 1 October 2015.
Nearly 17% is wiped off share prices of the FTSE 100 in the London Stock Exchange. The Royal Bank of Scotland announces that it will ‘re-headquarter’ in London. Gazprom announces that it will move its European headquarters to Edinburgh.
26 September 2014
David Cameron, British Prime Minister, says ‘we have listened to the people’ and agrees that the Scottish situation ‘merits further consideration’. His spokesman says that any change in Scotland’s constitutional status must wait until the after the next British General Election.
7 October 2014
Alex Salmond leads a ‘monster rally’ in Glasgow to demand ‘immediate and practical’ steps for Scottish independence. Police Scotland estimate that 320,000 people attend.
14 October 2014
A pro-Union rally in Edinburgh attracts 65,000 people. It is preceded by a ‘Comedians for the Union’ gig in which Eddie Izzard, Lenny Henry and Ben Elton perform their song ‘England loves Scotland’. There are skirmishes as the rally disperses. Three people are taken to hospital and 23 are arrested. The comedians’ tour bus is stoned. It is thought to be unconnected to their political views.
16 October 2014
A 23 year-old man, injured in a skirmish after the pro-Union rally in Edinburgh, dies from his injuries. Alex Salmond appeals for calm and blames the violence on ‘uncertainty caused by Cameron’s foot-dragging’.
23 October 2014
David Cameron tells the British Houses of Parliament that ‘It would be imprudent recognize such a wafer thin majority’ and announces another ‘definitive referendum’ to be held in March 2017. The Scottish Nationalist Party withdraws its MPs Westminster and says it will boycott ‘Cameron’s sham poll’.
28 October 2014
Vladimir Putin says, in a BBC interview, that David Cameron is ‘unbelievably weak’ and is ‘a girly man’.
4 November 2014
A previously unknown group, the Union Defence League, admits responsibility for sending five parcel bombs to leading Scottish Nationalist politicians and supporters. Four are intercepted, but a fifth explodes and kills 32 year-old postal worker David McKeechie.
5 November 2014
Alex Salmond declares a ‘Scottish Spring’. In an early winter, temperatures plummet to -16 in the Highlands. Protesters occupy George Square in Glasgow and the chamber of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. A campaign of civil disobedience spreads.
6 November 2014
Alex Salmond is arrested and charged with riotous assembly. David Cameron appeals for calm as protests and counter protests break out across Scotland.
7 November 2014
David Cameron, with the backing of his Cabinet, announces ‘special public order measures’ to be introduced in Scotland including the banning of all public gatherings. Alex Salmond goes on hunger strike but calls it off at lunchtime.
8 November 2014
Just after midnight, police attempt to clear the George Square protest camp in Glasgow. Five people (four men, one woman) are killed when a police van careers into the crowd. David Cameron, on an official visit to accept a ‘Defender of Liberty’ award in Bahrain, calls it a ‘regrettable incident’.
9 November 2014
UN Secretary general (a man so anonymous that no one knows his name) appeals for calm and offers UN mediation assistance. Russia introduces a Security Council motion calling for an International Protection Force for Scotland. Britain and US veto the motion. France abstains. There are reports of mutiny and dissent within the Scottish police.
10 November 2014
Amid unprecedented scenes of disorder across many parts of Scotland, the police call for military reinforcements. English regiments, rather than the Royal Regiment of Scotland, are mobilized for ‘public order’ support. The Royal Regiment of Scotland is sent for extended training in the Falkland Islands.
12 November 2014
Alex Salmond, upon release from custody, unilaterally declares Scottish independence. It is recognised by Kosovo, Northern Cyprus, Cuba, Iran and Iceland. Seventeen out of twenty-three Scottish local authorities declare allegiance to the newly independent Scottish state. Crowds in Dundee, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen and other centres occupy public buildings.
13 November 2014
David Cameron declares martial law in Scotland and appoints an Emergency Interim Manager to govern Scotland and report directly to the Cabinet in London. Former Labour minister Peter Mandelson accepts the job.
17 November 2014
David Cameron is ousted as Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister following a Conservative Party coup. Disquiet had grown in the Party and he was known as ‘the man who lost Scotland’. New Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, calls for ‘Unity behind this great English … er … I mean British nation’.
18 November 2014
US Secretary of State, John Kerry, on a visit to London to hold emergency talks with Boris Johnson, is uninjured after being hit on the head by a haggis thrown by a protester. In a joint statement, Kerry and Johnson announce that US military ‘advisers’ will help protect the UK nuclear base at Faslane and North Sea Oil.
19 November 2014
In a campaign spurred by social media, Scottish independence supporters begin a campaign of ‘laughing in the face of authority’ and laugh at all security officials upholding the Union. A US military ‘adviser’ shoots dead one protester who was laughing at him. In a statement, the US Department of Defense said ‘We do not understand irony and so shot the terrorist fundamentalist Scot who was probably Muslim’.
20 November 2014
Three people, alleged to be MI5 officers, are captured in the grounds of Alex Salmond’s house allegedly attempting to plant evidence of child pornography on his home computer.
21 November 2014
In a major split in the Scottish Labour Party, thirty-seven Scottish MPs call for independence and are expelled by the Party in London.
22 November 2014
Alex Salmond announces that actor Sean Connery agrees to become ‘the head ‘un’ of an independent Scotland. Buckingham Palace announces that the Queen will not holiday at her Balmoral Estate in summer 2015.
23 November 2014
The campaign of laughing, public ridicule and absurdism has now paralysed London-control of Scotland. Tesco stops delivering north of the border. Aldi and Lidl capitalize by announcing 100 new stores each.
24 November 2014
Amid unprecedented pressure from the City of London and the CEOs of Amazon, Starbucks, Exxon Mobil, and Google, Boris Johnson agrees to hold face-to-face talks with Alex Salmond on ‘A road map for Scottish independence’. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair offers to chair the talks but no one answers his calls.
25 November 2014
Alex Salmond arrives in London for talks with Boris Johnson. The talks break up acrimoniously after only a few minutes. Mr Johnson will only speak in Latin. Mr Salmond will only speak in Scottish Gaelic.
29 November 2014
At reconvened talks in the border town of Berwick-Upon-Tweed, Mr Salmond and Mr Johnson agree to the appointment of a five person Transitional Independence Commission – Scotland. Simultaneous translation allows the two leaders to understand each other. No one understands the representative from the self-declared Peoples’ Republic of Glasgow who speaks a version of English.
15 December 2014
An independent Scotland is recognized by the rump United Kingdom, hereafter to be known as ‘Kingdom’. The World Bank and IMF send representatives to Scotland to help with ‘financial stabilization’. They are arrested at Edinburgh airport and charged with ‘international fraud and money laundering’.
16 December 2014
Prince Charles, in his 40th year of unemployment, asks for asylum in Scotland and the chance that he can be declared King. A Twitter poll declares him ‘King Bawbag I’. He declines the honour and continues, in his private jet, to Germany which he describes as ‘the true family homeland’.
And everybody lived happily ever after.