Brexit Is Broken – But No-One’s Going To Mend It

“BREXIT” ~ the act of leaving the European Union by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, has been a major topic on U.K. news channels ever since the vote to leave in June 2016. In every other nation on earth, including the member nations of the E.U., the news coverage has been slim indeed. In fact, Brexit is considered something of a bore to most Europeans, who see Britain’s departure as no big deal. After all, they got along very nicely without Britain from 1958 until 1973, and are happy to do so again.

The British media takes a different view altogether. Theresa May and her cabinet frequently announce how vital it is for Europe to maintain good trade relations with the U.K., far more so for Europe it seems, than Britain itself. This attitude of “how are you going to manage without us?” has created an impasse every time the two sides come together to try and discuss a future relationship. Not surprisingly, European leaders are becoming fed up to the back teeth with British arrogance and intransigence.

The latest outpourings from the Tory government, via the BBC and other government mouthpieces, is that the European car industry will fall apart unless the E.U. accepts a trade deal favoured by Britain, one without import duties on imported goods into Britain. Such farcical nonsense becomes obvious when it’s noted that 90% of the luxury cars using Britain’s motorways are Mercedes, BMW’s, Audi’s – all European models. The British car market is now virtually non-existent, and there is no British luxury car in the class of the above models. If import duty increases the price of E.U. cars substantially, what are the big corporations going to give their executives to drive about in – a British Mini Minor?

The latest spat to surface concerns the “European Capital of Culture.”

The BBC tells us:

The European Commission has cancelled the UK’s turn to host the European Capital of Culture after Brexit, disappointing the bidding cities.
Five places have already bid to hold the title in 2023 – Dundee, Nottingham, Leeds, Milton Keynes and Belfast/Derry.
But the commission has said the UK will no longer be eligible to have a host city after it leaves the EU in 2019.
The Creative Industries Federation said it was “gutted”, while arts minister John Glen called it a “crazy decision”.

Plans for the UK to host a Capital of Culture in 2023 were announced in 2014 – before the EU referendum.
In December 2016, the UK Government said the competition would “run as normal”, but did warn bidders that it “may be subject to” the Brexit negotiations.
Liverpool was the last British city to be a European Capital of Culture, in 2008, following Glasgow in 1990.

The title of European Capital of Culture rotates around eligible countries.
Cities from non-EU countries have held the title before – but if a country isn’t in the EU, it must be a candidate to join or must be in the European Free Trade Association or European Economic Area. [1]

And there you have it: after March 2019 Britain won’t be in the EFTA or EEA, and it’s unlikely to be rushing to rejoin the E.U., so it won’t be eligible to host a “European Capital of Culture.” Whether it’s actually “leaving Europe,” or not, is totally irrelevant. But, not so far as the U.K. government is concerned. Its minister described the decision as “crazy,” which is yet another example of a British government that considers itself above all rules and laws and believes it has some God-given right to always be a “special case.” Well, sorry Brit-land, but you’re not. Perhaps, after March 2019 you could apply to be considered to host an, “American Capital of Culture.” After all, as the newly-assigned ’51st State’ you should be eligible.

Yesterday was “Budget Day” in Britain. It’s the day when the Chancellor of the Exchequer sets out his spending plans for the next twelve months. He says his government are going to build over 300,000 new homes for young, first time, buyers. He’s reducing the taxes (stamp duty) the government takes on each house purchase to zero on any property valued at less than 300,000 pounds ($399,000).

According to latest figures for last year from ‘Rightmove’:

Last year most property sales in London involved flats which sold for on average £539,332 ($717,473) Terraced properties sold for an average price of £675,172 ($898,181), while semi-detached properties fetched £658,562 ($876,085).[2]

“STOP PRESS: Stamp Duty Abolished On Garages, Garden Sheds, and ex-Air Raid Shelters in London Area. Buy NOW!”

The British people are constantly being told by their government that Brexit is well in hand and Britain is poised to become a great power again once freed from the shackles of Europe. All but the most ardent Tory nitwit must be realising by now their leaders are lying through their teeth.

From the Guardian today:

The UK is in danger of suffering two decades of zero earnings growth as it struggles to cope with Brexit uncertainty and a loss of productivity, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned.

The thinktank said a downgrade in productivity and average wages for the next five years by the Treasury’s official forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), would lead to an unprecedented period of flat earnings growth.

Paul Johnson, the IFS director, warned that the impact on the public finances would be to extend the time the chancellor needs to take to bring the deficit down, and limit his scope to ease the pressure on welfare and public services…

“The immediate effects of all this on households are already being felt. Real earnings are falling this year as inflation has risen to 3%. The nascent recovery in earnings, which were growing through 2014 to the first half of 2016, has been choked off. That they might still be below their 2008 level in 2022 as the OBR forecast is truly astonishing. Let’s hope this forecast turns out to be too pessimistic,” Johnson said.

Earlier this month, the IFS said welfare cuts already in the pipeline affecting households with young families would mean the number of children living in poverty soaring by 1 million to a record 5.2 million over the next five years. [3]

In June 2016, 17,410,742 British people voted to leave the European Union. 16,141,241 voted to remain. Almost 13,000,000 U.K. voters failed to make it to the polling stations. Polls indicate the vast majority would have been ‘Remain’ voters. Many thousands of ex-pats, many living in Europe, were ineligible to vote due to a ‘disqualification’ law passed by parliament on all U.K. citizens living outside the country for fifteen years or longer (Theresa May has consistently said she would repeal this law, but has never done so).

As Adrian Low from the London School of Economics argues:

What has been largely ignored are the 12.9 million who did not vote. Had the democratic process been that of Australia where voting is compulsory, the polls indicate the result would have been to Remain from day zero, and would still be Remain (see no2brexit.com and businessinsider.com). Of course, there is a criticism of the non-voter but, for various very good reasons, some were reported as simply not able to vote.

Unexpected administrative, personal or employment circumstances disabled some members of the electorate on the day from voting. One Financial Times study pointed out that most university students would generally be encouraged by their university to register to vote in their university town and they may not have realised early enough that they would have to apply for a postal vote given that term would be finished by June 23rd. The non-voters were largely younger voters and all the parties agree that the younger vote was (and still is) far more likely to vote Remain than Leave by a factor of nearly 3:1.[4]

When Theresa May went to the polls in her post-Brexit general election of 8th June this year she did so confident she and her party would be returned to power with a greatly enhanced majority. She was sorely disappointed. Left in a minority position she was fortunate her allies, the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland (who had supported Brexit by funneling illegal funds from billionaire donors to the Leave campaign via Northern Ireland [5] ) held sufficient seats to prop her up. The result of that general election says way more about the British people’s view of Brexit than a contrived and politically manipulated E.U. referendum ever did.

If Brexit is allowed to proceed the years following will be bleak indeed for the British people. Wages have been stagnating since 2008, housing costs have soared way beyond the ability of ordinary folk to ever afford one, jobs are hard to come by and, if available, are poorly paid in service industries. There are more homeless people on the streets of the U.K. than immediately after the second world war, and the health services are falling apart.

Anyone who can still believe leaving the E.U. is a good choice really needs to seek counselling. So why is the British government hellbent on getting out? Simply, there’s a huge money bonanza for some if they can pull it off. American companies are poised to move in and take over. [6]

Certain government ministers have been scheming for years with their American business counterparts to make it happen. They’ll be well rewarded.

Will it be a good thing for the British people? Take a look at America today and you’ll find the answer.


[1] “Brexit ‘bombshell’ for UK’s European Capital of Culture 2023 plans” BBC, November 23rd 2017

[2] ” London house prices” Rightmove.co.uk

[3] “UK faces two decades of no earnings growth, IFS warns” Guardian, November 23rd 2017

[4] “Brexit is not the will of the British people – it never has been” LSE, October 24th 2016

[5] “What connects Brexit, the DUP, dark money and a Saudi prince?” Irish Times, May 16th 2017

[6] “Rogue State” Monbiot.com (Guardian), November 20th 2017

Sexual Harassment: The Latest Media Bandwagon?

For weeks now the media has been full of sordid tales, initially connected to the billionaire film producer, Harvey Weinstein, but more recently and thanks to a Twitter ‘campaign’, to almost anyone who is famous and/or holding a position of power. While any attempt by an individual to force their attentions (sexual, or otherwise) on another person is totally unacceptable, the media hysteria created by such revelations draws many ‘from the closet’ whose accusations are either frivolous, or intended to cause harm.

Take the case of Julia Hartley-Brewer and the ex-defence minister, Michael Fallon. Hartley-Brewer has accused Fallon of repeatedly touching her on the knee while at a dinner party in 2002. Okay, he’s a total pratt, was an utterly useless defence minister who wasted tax payer’s money on two new aircraft carriers and renewal of the Trident nuclear submarine deterrent, while leaving the army short of men, the air force desperately short of planes, and the navy with insufficient sailors to man the new aircraft carriers, which aren’t due to go into service before 2025, by which time they’ll be obsolete anyway.

It’s not the first time Sparrow Chat has been forced to call Michael Fallon a total pratt. There was that occasion earlier this year when he made prattish remarks about the Russian carrier, ‘Admiral Kuznetsov’, returning to its home port via the English Channel [1].

As a defence secretary he sucked, and it’s better for us all that he’s gone. But one has to question why Hartley-Brewer (k)need-ed to publicly recount her tale of woe after fifteen years? Was it, perhaps, a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to the media attention surrounding Weinstein, or merely an opportunity to settle a grudge she’d been harbouring for a decade and a half?

If we can believe a report in the U.K.’s ‘Sun’ newspaper (and that’s debatable):

Mr Fallon confessed that he was the minister who Julia threatened to punch for repeatedly putting his hand on her knee.
He has now resigned.
Julia told how a Cabinet Minister had “repeatedly put his hand on my knee during a party conference dinner”.
She added: “I calmly and politely explained to him that, if he did it again, I would punch him in the face. He withdrew his hand and that was the end of the matter.”
Julia said she did not feel like she was a victim of a sexual assault, and found the incident nothing more than “mildly amusing”.[2]

If she did not consider herself sexually assaulted, and found the incident ‘mildly amusing’, why did she jump on the media’s ‘sexual assault/harassment’ bandwagon? Or, was she simply gunning to make a little publicity for herself, and to hell with its effects on Michael Fallon?

Perhaps Ms Hartley-Brewer, and those others of her ilk prepared to jump on a media bandwagon without just cause, simply to gain attention, might do better using their positions and voices to attack the Indian government over the real problems suffered by women and girls in that country, that the authorities seem largely unable to address:

The scale of abuse in India:
A child under 16 is raped every 155 minutes, a child under 10 every 13 hours

More than 10,000 children were raped in 2015

240 million women living in India were married before they turned 18

53.22% of children who participated in a government study reported some form of sexual abuse

50% of abusers are known to the child or are “persons in trust and care-givers” [2]

Sexual harassment can be a traumatic experience for the victim, but the phrase covers a multitude of sins, some heinous, others less so. It’s time it was defined more clearly, and not left to the media (of which, the BBC and other U.K. TV news stations share guilt) to broadcast all claims to ‘sexual harassment’ as though equally heinous.

Perhaps Julia_Hartley-Brewer should spend some time observing what’s happening to women and girls in the more rural areas of India, and also Pakistan:

Pakistani police have arrested eight men for marching a 14-year-old girl naked through a village in revenge for her brother allegedly tarnishing their family honour.

It is the latest incident of Pakistani village councils using women to settle family disputes, bypassing the official judiciary system with parallel tribal rule that sentences hundreds of women to death each year in so-called “honour” killings.

According to police in Dera Islami Khan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the incident occurred, the girl’s brother had developed a romantic relationship with a woman outside marriage. A village council ruled that the woman’s family could retaliate by disrespecting his sister.

On the morning on 27 October, as the girl was fetching water, a group of men accosted her, stripped her and dragged her along the ground before making her walk around naked for an hour, the police report stated.

Village councils, called panchayat or jirga, are illegal but widespread in rural areas where the justice system is out of reach or perceived to be untrustworthy.

Three months ago, a 26-man council near Multan in Punjab province ordered a 17-year-old girl to be raped as punishment for a sexual assault allegedly committed by her brother. [3]

So he touched you on the knee, Julia? Oh, please!

While trolling through Google images seeking suitable material for this blog post I was inundated with images like this in the ‘sexual harassment’ section:

These, obviously, carefully staged images are from a law firm touting for business and a website entitled, “womenstribe.com”.

I find this offensive, as I’m sure other decent men do. When I was a general manager I would occasionally think nothing of placing a hand on a colleague’s shoulder, while looking at work on their desk or computer screen. I don’t believe anyone, male or female, found it offensive, or ‘harassing’. Since when has the shoulder become a sexual object? Apparently, only when used for marketing purposes, or by extremist feminist websites.

Let’s learn to define the difference between a friendly action, and that of a predator, before we all become paranoid about what is acceptable and what isn’t. The 21st century is becoming the era of rapidly disappearing humanity from our human species. Our politicians don’t help as they work to tribalise us more and more in their self-centred efforts to gain more votes.

In a recent BBC documentary on the Balfour Declaration and its long term effects on the Israeli/Palestinian situation, the reporter was travelling in a ‘self-drive’ car with the CEO of the Israeli company manufacturing it. She pointed out that, while Israel was a modern and wealthy state the Palestinians were living mostly in abject poverty. He shrugged and responded that it was a ‘zero-sum-game’ situation[4] and that was the way of the world now.

When did our world become that way? Why should one person, or one group of people, have to lose so another can win? Are we really incapable of treating life as anything other than a football game? Even in sport there is still the occasional draw. I wonder if that Israeli CEO would have been quite so keen on his ‘zero-sum-game’ had he been sufficiently unfortunate to be born Palestinian?

Tribalism, combined with that old adage of, “Stuff you, I’m alright Jack,” is becoming endemic in our societies. Are we really going to let the extremists, and the politically motivated feminists like Julia Hartley-Brewer, dig moats between the sexes until all trust between them is stifled? Men and woman are all human beings together, whatever their sexuality. It’s vitally important that law and order is upheld and crimes of a sexual nature properly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice, but it’s equally important that a man or woman can offer a friendly touch to a colleague without fear of being labelled a ‘predator’.

Harvey Weinstein was a known sexual predator. He was also a bully and a tyrant with an overly expansive ego. He was very powerful within his industry. We have another man just like him heading the White House right now. Neither are a good example to the rest of the world and the sooner they’re removed to where they belong the better it will be for the human race.

The Weinstein’s of this world are very much in the minority. Most men, certainly in the ‘civilised’ world, are decent law-abiding, women-respecting, individuals, yet by its actions and sensationalist reporting the media taints them all to some degree as potential ‘Weinstein’s.”

In a sense, the media is akin to the Israeli CEO with his ‘zero-sum-game’. Each news channel wants to be the most sensationalist to draw in viewers, or readers. That’s fine until one realises there are always losers in these sensationalist games. And when the game sets women against men, blacks against whites, or heterosexuals against gays, the media has the power to determine who should win and who should lose.

The overall result is a loss of humanity. Tribalism rears its ugliness. Unless we reverse the trend and bring basic humanity back into our societies the future will prove bleak indeed.

[1] “Question: How Many Total Prats Can You Get In A Government?” Sparrow Chat, January 26th 2017

“India uncles get life for raping niece, aged 10” BBC, November 2nd 2017

[3] “Pakistani police arrest men for marching girl naked through village” Guardian, November 2nd 2017

[4] zero-sum-game: In game theory and economic theory, a zero-sum game is a mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant’s gain or loss of utility is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the utility of the other participants. If the total gains of the participants are added up and the total losses are subtracted, they will sum to zero.

Of Two Men – And One Short Story

This is a tale of two men. The first of these men was brutally murdered. He was a good man who helped people. The second man cares nothing for others. He is egotistical, loud-mouthed, and uncaring of anything but enhancing his own power and success.

In 2004 I wrote a short story entitled, “The Room.”** It was, perhaps, the most harrowing piece of writing I have ever attempted. It was a work of fiction, but was inspired by the plight of a British man in Iraq.

Kenneth Bigley, alongside two American colleagues, was working there as a civilian soon after the U.S./U.K. invasion, when Saddam Hussein was toppled from power and al Qaeda moved into the country.

Bigley and his colleagues were captured by al Qaeda. The two Americans were beheaded soon after falling into their hands, but Ken Bigley was held in an al Qaeda hideout for weeks, in hideous conditions, while his captors tried to elicit concessions from the British government.

With its usual arrogant stance of never negotiating with terrorists, the British government failed to save Bigley’s life. Eventually, after three weeks of mental and physical torture, he was beheaded and his body buried in a ditch from whence it has never been recovered. He left behind a young Thai wife. They’d been married for seven years. It was to be Bigley’s last job before retirement. They’d planned to live in Thailand.

Ken Bigley didn’t deserve to die. He didn’t deserve to be abandoned by the country he came from. He went to Iraq to help the Iraqis through their trauma. He was a Liverpool man, and courageous. He needed every ounce of that courage during his imprisonment by the fanatical jihadists who held him, and who eventually took his life in the most brutal manner. Most British people were incensed that so little was done to try and save him. [1]

The other man in this tale used to be the editor of the British newspaper, ‘The Spectator’. He went on to become the Mayor of London. He’s now the British Foreign Secretary in Theresa May’s government. His name is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.

He comes from a family that would be called, “distinguished.” He married into another “distinguished” family. During that marriage he had a number of extra-marital affairs and in 2012 fathered a child to one of his paramours, Helen McIntyre, an arts consultant. He tried to gain an injunction to prevent the matter being made public, but three judges refused, stating:

“The core information in this story, namely that the father had an adulterous affair with the mother, deceiving both his wife and the mother’s partner and that the claimant, born about nine months later, was likely to be the father’s child, was a public interest matter which the electorate was entitled to know when considering his fitness for high public office.” [2]

Boris Johnson is keen to be the next British prime minister. Some consider him a likeable clown, a buffoon. He’s neither; it’s all an act. In October 2004, just days after Ken Bigley’s brutal murder, Boris Johnson the then paper’s editor, published this editorial in the The Spectator:

“The extreme reaction to Mr Bigley’s murder is fed by the fact that he was a Liverpudlian. Liverpool is a handsome city with a tribal sense of community. A combination of economic misfortune — its docks were, fundamentally, on the wrong side of England when Britain entered what is now the European Union — and an excessive predilection for welfarism have created a peculiar, and deeply unattractive, psyche among many Liverpudlians. They see themselves whenever possible as victims, and resent their victim status; yet at the same time they wallow in it. Part of this flawed psychological state is that they cannot accept that they might have made any contribution to their misfortunes, but seek rather to blame someone else for it, thereby deepening their sense of shared tribal grievance against the rest of society. The deaths of more than 50 Liverpool football supporters at Hillsborough in 1989 was undeniably a greater tragedy than the single death, however horrible, of Mr Bigley; but that is no excuse for Liverpool’s failure to acknowledge, even to this day, the part played in the disaster by drunken fans at the back of the crowd who mindlessly tried to fight their way into the ground that Saturday afternoon. The police became a convenient scapegoat, and the Sun newspaper a whipping-boy for daring, albeit in a tasteless fashion, to hint at the wider causes of the incident.”[3]

(The Hillsborough tragedy referred to in this quote occurred at the Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, on October 15th 1989. The venue was chosen to host a football match between Liverpool Football Club and Nottingham Forest F.C.. It was the worst disaster in British sporting history. Ninety-six people died and over seven hundred were injured. An inquest found “…that the supporters were unlawfully killed due to grossly negligent failures by police and ambulance services to fulfil their duty of care to the supporters. The inquest also found that the design of the stadium contributed to the crush, and that supporters were not to blame for the dangerous conditions.”)

I have had personal experience of the inhabitants of Liverpool. I worked in that city for five years, from 1963 to 1968. Even then it was a cosmopolitan city, a major port, and my interaction with people from all walks of life never failed to impress me. Their warmth, generosity, and kindness are, I believe, unmatched anywhere else in Britain. Johnson would never have known those sort of people where he came from – Oxford, North London, a family farm near Exmoor, upper class boarding school (Eton) from the age of eleven, before moving on to Oxford University (where else?).

The editorial in The Spectator wasn’t written by Johnson. He only passed it for publication. By so doing he signaled his approval of the content. The first draft was actually written by another sleazebag journalist, Simon Heffer, who like Johnson, writes to appeal to the minority ‘landed gentry’ rather than the ordinary folk who make our nations work.

But Heffer is just another puffed up, narcissistic, pseudo-intellectual, Oxbridge educated, right-wing Tory supporter, (he’s supported UKIP and Nigel Farage – but then it’s a known fact that rats run together) and deserves no more than a mention here due to his acrimoniously penned attack on Ken Bigley and the city he hailed from. Heffer will never be anything but an arse-crawler to the rich and powerful. Johnson, on the other hand, could become the premier politician in Britain.

This week marks the thirteenth anniversary of Ken Bigley’s death. Most will have forgotten him. If you were to ask Boris Johnson who he was, he’d probably look at you blankly. The people of Liverpool will remember – those who were around at the time. They’ll also remember the man who belittled his good name and libelled his city and its people.

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson wasn’t fit to lick Ken Bigley’s boots. He’s certainly not fit to be the next Prime Minister of Britain.

**The short story, ‘The Room’, can be accessed from the Sparrow Chat sidebar.

[1] “Hostage Bigley murdered in Iraq” BBC, October 9th 2004

[2] “Public has right to know Boris Johnson fathered child during affair, court rules” Guardian, May 21st 2013

[3] “Wikipedia.