I must explain the prolonged silence since last I blogged. I have been struck down by a virus, bred by Etonians, hatched by zealots. I refer of course to the Brexit Brexitus.
A quarter of British people, it emerges from a recent poll, have considered leaving the UK following the referendum result. For myself, I am trying to become an Irishman. “If you have an Irish granny” says your man in the Republic Government “you’re in and welcome. Just bring along her birth certificate.” I responded “Her certificate was stored in the Irish Public Record Office, which was blown up by the IRA in 1922”. Your Government Man: “Ah, that’s bad luck. A real blow, I’d say. Pity, because we would have loved to have had you.”
Complex routines are now underway to legitimise my descent from Rose Florence Murray, born in Limerick on 25th March, 1873.
The result has re-inforced my understanding that through most of my political life I have been on the losing side. In the exhilarating sixties, my friends and I had a strong sense that society was going to change radically and that Britain would become a much fairer, more egalitarian, less class-ridden country. Private schools and Oxbridge would no longer have their hands around the throats of ordinary people; business would be socially accountable; a genuine equality of opportunity would be achieved and the huge variations in wealth would diminish.
After the Wilson and Callaghan premierships, these prospects started to dim, becoming still dimmer after Thatcher and Blair’s embrace of neo-liberalism. They have continued to dim ever since.
What saddens the spirit is to see so much social regression. It takes enormous and prolonged effort to effect progressive reforms. Look at how hard it was to achieve protection for working people… From the corresponding societies in the early 1800s to the gradual recognition of trade unions and then with the arrival of Labour governments real protection from the whims of employers and markets. It took a century and a half to achieve. But it has been swept away in a few short years, so we are now in a country where employers offer jobs as gigs…short term hirings with no security or rights.
Social progress takes decades of hard work; social destruction can be achieved in months… Sociopath George Osborne arrives…bang goes your housing benefit. Headboy Cameron gets a hair-brained idea: bang goes Britain as part of the European project.
The most intractable problem is that radical social change is being effected by rapid technological development, which is hard to mitigate. Technology permits the gig economy; technology in the form of Uber has destroyed the London cabbies monopoly. Of course, the most able can use the new technology and create enterprises for themselves; but much of society is composed of ordinarily-abled people.
And of course, Brexit is an environmental disaster. Why did most farmers vote Leave? (The Herefordshire fields are around us were thick with Leave banners.) So that they can cut their hedges as hard as they like and when they like, so that they can spray chemicals currently banned in the EU. Ditto fisherman. On Radio 4 this week, a Cornish fisherman was extolling Brexit because “now we will be able to catch what we like and not sprats.”
Weep for the bees and the non-sprats. Weep for ourselves
Good spirits I find can be maintained by the company of good friends, by nurturing the garden and the farm, and by some sport. The new football season has not been a boost, the grotesque spiralling of English football down into the money swamp. The Olympics last month, the cycling especially, were a boost and I have maintained the lift by prolonged discussions with my grandchildren as to what modifications should be made to future Olympics.
We are agreed that tennis and football should go, since both have their own major summits and are in no need of more exposure. Ditto golf, on the same grounds but also that it is not a sport at all, rather a pastime and a form of networking and environmental destruction accompanied by grotesque dress-sense and absurd mannerisms, waggling bottoms and so forth. And we are amazed that Taekwondo was ever included, being a ritualised form of kicking people in the head. The police should intervene whenever a Taekwonda event takes place.
Our favourite candidates for inclusion are first, washing-up. This can be played in singles, doubles, mixed doubles, all genders. It is capable of fine gradations: not just the fastest but the most stylish and the cleanest.
Then there’s knitting. Speed knitting would put the 100 metres in the shade. And how about lawn-mowing? Some mowers make lovely patterns.This would have the advantage of actually being useful.too. Like washing-up.
The jury obviously is still out on Theresa May. Give her a chance, says a good friend in West Wales. I recall the early days, and hours especially, of Margaret Thatcher. After she appeared on the steps of Number Ten and uttered her emollient quotes from St Francis (“Where there is discord, may we bring harmony…where there is despair, may we bring hope.”), my old pal Richard Boston and I were listening in the offices of The Vole, Richard’s wonderful green magazine. Perhaps we should give her the benefit of the doubt, we said to each other. Perhaps she’s not going to be so grim. The Vole’s money man was listening. “Mugs” he said. “She’ll be dining off the babies of the poor in no time.”
I am not going to make the same mistake twice. Mrs May looks very bad news. She started badly by accepting the referendum result and pledging to exclude Parliament from any say in the invoking of article 50. Then came her idiotic appointments of Johnson, Fox and Davies. She plainly has no understanding of climate change, abolishing the department of energy and climate change was a poor decision; She has appointed the knuckle-dragging Angela Leadsom to run the department of the environment, a woman without a green bone in her body.
She seems illiberal, rash, very right-wing. I take no comfort at all that she is a vicar’s daughter. It is a little known fact that Lucrezia Borgia and Lady Macbeth were both daughters of Anglican vicars.