Category Archives: UK

Voting Remain to build a better European Union

The EU is a beast that’s difficult to love at the best of times. And these certainly are not its best times. The weakness of its institutions over the last decade has meant that it has found it difficult to deal with a series of crises. But it has not been the abject failure that some would have you think. While I disagree with much of the fiscal policy pushed by the Troika, it must be remembered that the EU managed to prevent a Euro collapse that really was on the cards for a year or two. It’s easy to forget now that when the EU faces a serious challenge, it has the pragmatism and determination needed to find a solution. This spirit is what has saved the EU in the past and will help it move forward from its current stasis.

For months, I’ve been discussing disconnection, alone and with friends. I’ve been in Catalonia for fourteen years now, and my infrequent trips to England have left me worried about what’s happening there. Increasingly, I’ve felt disconnected from England. I don’t understand why there are Union Jacks everywhere, or why cool people I get along with suddenly shriek at me about the country being “full”. I don’t understand how people close to me can describe the EU as “horrible”, while they simultaneously contemplate handing power to people like Boris Johnson, Michael Gove or Nigel Farage. Victory for Brexit will be a victory for nasty right-wing populism – the repetition of old lies and the fabrication of new ones. Look how UKIP supporters pushed an ever louder, ever nastier anti-migrant message and then went into overdrive trying to claim that Jo Cox’s assassination wasn’t political. That party thrives on people’s fears, and has managed to poison debate in England in a way I never thought possible. And Brexit will hand Farage a huge amount of political capital.

Not wanting to empower Britain’s populist right wing isn’t enough of an argument for the EU, though. The other half of this narrative must be logic and fact – the LSE’s Nicholas Barr is as good a source as any for a sensible, evidence-based approach to remaining in the EU. How telling it is that some Brexiters are even calling on their countrymen to ‘Ignore the numbers!‘, as though that were somehow a noble way to approach this debate. It isn’t: it’s the very definition of small-minded ignorance, a quality which exemplifies the Brexit campaign. The numbers are, of course, vitally important. Which is no doubt why we’re encouraged to ignore them. “You can prove anything with facts!“, as Stewart Lee reminds us. Whether it’s trade, security, democracy or the economy, all the evidence and research points to remaining in the EU as the sensible choice.

If Brexit ends up winning on Thursday, the sky will not fall. But things will change. Britain’s democracy will have been dealt a major blow by arguably the most dishonest and hate-filled political campaign in our history – certainly since the Blackshirts. Voters will have sided with ignorance and demagoguery. Britain will, for perhaps the first time in its history, take a step backwards and explicitly reject progress and modernity.

This referendum will likely be my last chance to vote in the UK. It’s also by far the most important vote I’ve ever cast. If you have a vote, please use it to vote to keep Britain in the European Union and reject UKIP’s vile, populist propaganda. Vote for the hope that Europe represents for so many millions of people, and for the aim that together we can build a better Europe and a better Union. Vote Remain.

Those Brexit arguments in full

  1. Get rid of foreigners. Or maybe they’ll be allowed to stay. Or some of them. Come back to me on this one.
  2. All new trade deals to replace current trade deals. (TBC).
  3. Nothing will change but everything will be different.
  4. Get rid of pseudo-democratic, opaque government. (Not Westminster, obv).
  5. When Britain leaves the EU, it will be able to impose steel tariffs. We will then find someone to export our steel to.
  6. All else is scaremongering.
  7. Er…

10 Things WikiLeaks Should Tell Us About

I’ve not written anything about WikiLeaks recently because I’ve found the whole circus surrounding Julian Assange rather dizzying. Reading the commentariat on Guardian Cif has hardly helped my feverish state of mind over the last few days and I must admit that I found myself beginning to loathe my fellow man for a moment. That moment has passed, I’m glad to say.

Suffice to say, I do think that Julian Assange should probably answer these charges in Sweden, but I also have the feeling that this is indeed part of an obvious and concerted campaign to ‘get him’. None of this dizziness, however, takes away from the fact that WikiLeaks has been serving up some interesting, if hardly surprising, morsels in the diplomatic cables episode [this blog referenced WikiLeaks a couple of years back regarding the leaked BNP membership list – much more exciting]. Hearing that China isn’t a monolithically stupid country convinced that the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea is a bastion of like-minded souls against the world didn’t take my breath away. Nor did the revelation that Putin’s as corrupt as the Church, or that pressure was brought to bear on Spain regarding the Jose Couso case. Sadly, these are slightly depressing truths that we all kind of knew already, just confirmed in dull, bureaucratic language.

To cheer myself up, I’ve been thinking of some things WikiLeaks could reveal in the future. Here are mine. You can share yours in the comments…

  1. Memos that prove me right about there being little or no evidence of WMDs in Iraq prior to the war, and that Blair misled parliament.
  2. Stuff about the banks and how they’re all bastards. Ideally some memos proving that they laugh at the rest of us for funding their rescue. Because I’m sure they do.
  3. Something about alien life. I’m not a conspiracy nut, but after the important-but-nowhere-near-as-exciting-as-it-might-have-been NASA announcement last week, it would be great to read.
  4. Categorical confirmation that Aznar and the PP intentionally misled the country over 11M.
  5. Anything that makes Dick Cheney look even madder than he already does (like, he picked out crowns for himself and Bush or something).
  6. Clear evidence of corruption in FIFA, UEFA and European leagues.
  7. Anything they have on Dr. David Kelly. I more or less accept the suicide story but the whole case stinks.
  8. Proof that 9/11 ‘truthers’ are led by a 7-foot lizard.
  9. Material covering the huge increase in opium crop since the beginning of the Afghanistan war, which companies are profiting and by how much.
  10. Anything at all to do with Catalan politics. Just so we can see how special they feel.

How about you? What would you like to see revealed by WikiLeaks?

Should this be my last UK election?

This week’s general election in the UK has, according to most sources, turned out to be more interesting than was expected. The arrival of live televised debates (coming something like 50 years after the USA started with them), while rightly criticised for increasing the presidential X-Factor feel of the whole thing, has catapulted the Liberal Democrats into a likely ‘kingmaker’ role. Nick Clegg, a man for whom I have very little time, seems to have won over a large number of voters by pretending that his party is somehow offering ‘real change’ as opposed to the ‘change to old times’ of the Tories and the ‘perpetual change’ of Labour.

And the truth is that as something of a politics junkie, I’ve been interested to see just how this electoral race will pan out. But I’m simultaneously conscious of one glaring fact: despite still being English, I’ve been living away from the UK for nearly eight years. I visit the place, but should I really still be entitled to vote there? I reckon that as long as the next British government lasts for a couple of years, I’ll probably be a Spanish citizen by the time the next election takes place. And then, however much I’ll remain English and a citizen of the UK, I’ll have formally accepted that Spain and Catalonia are now my home and perhaps I ought to forfeit my right to vote in the country where I grew up.

This time, I will vote. I’ve asked my proxy (my beloved mother) to vote Labour for me – though as it will be cast in the South West Devon constituency, the vote itself is more of a gesture than anything else. I enjoy taking part in the democratic process and I genuinely long to be able to do so in Catalan and Spanish elections.

My hope is that should a socialist revolution fail to occur in the UK, a Lib-Lab coalition can be elected to reform Britain’s electoral system and the House of Lords, while trying to protect public services. Get that done and I may even vote again…

Volcanoes, peak oil, food and the changes we’ll all need to accept

The skies over London and most of the rest of northern Europe are quiet this weekend. Eyjafjallajökull’s ash stopped my poor sister from going to New York (a trip she’d been looking forward to for months) and has stranded several friends and colleagues. After the initial ‘wow, they’re really stopping all the flights!’ reaction, the press has now reverted to their usual scaremongering. Apparently, the UK might soon suffer shortages of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Sorry, I’ll say that again: the UK is apparently at risk of fruit and veg shortages. This is the UK, which has some of the finest and most fertile farmland in Europe. Obviously, it has been a pretty tough winter but to me this is a symptom of everything that has gone wrong in our modern world: we’ve stopped growing and eating the vegetables we can produce in March and April in England and instead we fly pineapples in from Ghana and baby sweetcorn from Thailand. This links in to everything: we’re no longer in anyway self-sufficient, we encourage poorer countries to produce food for foreign markets instead of their own, and we fly food in from all over the world: wrong, wrong, wrong.

It’s likely that the volcano’s influence on Britain’s supermarkets won’t last too long. But that doesn’t mean things will be fine forever and ever. With the US military warning that we’ll have passed peak oil production by 2015 (though we must bear in mind that this might just be some kind of move in a game we can’t see, like trying to invade Iran or something) – it seems to be totally undeniable that we’re all going to have to accept some pretty significant changes to the way we live.

Whereas in recent years, eating local, seasonal food cooked slowly has been a sort of retrospective pleasure of the wealthy middle class food snobs in Europe, I reckon that in a few years, that’ll be basically the only way to eat. We might have to accept too that baby sweetcorn and pineapple become birthday treats to be longed for and savoured. What we can’t grow fairly locally, or ship in the old fashioned way, we shouldn’t be eating.

But that’s not the only change I can see happening. As it’ll become more difficult and expensive to transport goods, most European countries will need to start looking once again to local manufacturing and industry. We’ll have to rely less on plastics and other polymers which are also sourced from the petrochemical industry: look around you right now and see if you can identify any item from the last 50 years which definitely didn’t rely on petrochemicals at some point in its production. We’ll have to accept changes in the quality and the quantity of goods that are available.

OK so this post may well sound a little paranoid and rambling. I suppose I’m still trying to organise my thoughts. But my point is that I think it’s very likely that we’ll all have to accept some pretty massive changes to our lives over the next few years and decades. In a way, this volcano is something of a gift because it can remind us of how unsustainable our happy European lives have become.

So who’s the Nazi and who’s the fascist? This gets confusing

South of Watford has a post today about an incident that I was planning to write about. Apparently, the British fascist party, the BNP, attended a meeting in Madrid on the 21st. Also present at the meeting were the Spanish fascist party, Democracia Nacional and the Italian fascist group Forza Nuova.

The meeting was nearly interrupted by another Spanish far-right group, the Movimiento Patriótico Socialista, 28 of whom were apparently arrested. The BNP issued a statement, claiming the MPS represents a ‘neo-Nazi’ agenda and are ‘aligned to the English Defence League’, a group of militant fascists which the BNP claims to disown entirely.

Now, on first sight, this might be a simple dispute between different factions of the far-right, doing a sort of ‘People’s Front of Judea’ style bit of in-fighting. And that would be very amusing.

I’m not so sure that it’s so simple. There are several problems here: first of all, it’s very difficult indeed to find any information about the MPS. That’s unusual because as any fule know, the very first thing any political group does these days is set up an atrociously badly designed and unusable website full of conflicting political statements. The MPS doesn’t have one and they’ve been around since at least March.

Democracia Nacional claim that the attackers weren’t the MPS but rather came from the Movimiento Social Republicano, a relatively well known neo-Nazi group (at least it is if you’ve ever spent any time browsing through fascist websites). MSR are in turn linked to the Italian fascist group Fimma Tricolore, which was in alliance with the Forza Nuova as recently as 2005.

The EDL themselves have been noisy this year, holding small-scale aggressive ‘protests’ in a few British cities, normally in the name of opposing ‘Radical Islam’. The BNP has said several times that it doesn’t support the bully-boy tactics of the EDL but at the same time various EDL organisers are known members of the BNP.

To me, this ‘split’ in European fascism could be one of two things: it’s either a genuine split caused by a sense of dissatisfaction among the more openly violent factions of the far-right, who have decided to ‘go it alone’ and fight in the streets. Or it’s a cosmetic split, designed to allow the ‘mainstream’ fascist parties to orchestrate street violence and then condemn it, satisfying their two main goals: appearing to be mainstream and beating up Muslims. And they all get press to boot.

Nick Griffin’s mates in Swansea

If you haven’t seen last night’s Question Time, you probably should. You can find it all on YouTube (UK residents, look on BBC iPlayer). Nick Griffin (whose ancestors were apparently travellers, not that that matters), was shown to be not the cunning demagogue that some feared, but rather the slippery, dissembling, sweaty fascist you and I already knew he was. I don’t think the BNP deserves a platform on primetime TV but I imagine the BBC got good viewing figures.

Over at Vice, there’s a bit of video about the Welsh Defence League marching in Swansea. I can’t embed the video, but you can see it here. The WDL/EDL are the street thugs of the BNP. Performing Nazi salutes, shouting racial threats and promising violence, these people are the real face of the BNP’s politics.

As a side note, it’s nice to see Andrew Fitton, SWP and Unite Against Fascism organiser in Swansea, on the video. I haven’t really thought much about Andrew or any of the other SWP activists since I left Swansea more than seven years ago… but seeing him on that video reminds me of both the joy of discussing and marching for something I believed in, and the bitter-sweet frustration that comes from being involved in a small political group. Seeing Swansea UAF on video reminds me that I need to get back to that kind of direct action right now.

So thanks, Vice, for that.

British patriotism alive and kicking on Facebook

While at work the other day, I stumbled upon a Facebook application called simply “I am British“. Emblazoned with a Union Jack, the app’s homepage shows that it has over 90,000 ‘fans’. So I had to install it and see what all the fuss is about.

The “I am British” app was produced by i2we, a San Francisco based app developer that has come up with dozens of similarly named apps like “I am soccer / futbol”, “I am lesbian” and “I am childbirth professional”. What these apps seem to allow you to do is (a) define yourself by your nation, sport or profession; (b) earn points by saying you’re doing stuff connected with your chosen app (like “I am toast and marmite” or “I am binge drinking”; and (c) socialise with like-minded people. So far, so stultifyingly dull.

But what really interested me about this app is what users of “I am British” say about the app and themselves. The app reviews are enlightening. They range from slightly confused but determined calls to preserve Britishness:

Must keep up our heritage remember the little things fish n chips on a friday,bacon butties fof breakfast.Support the local harvest festival.Donate to your local church.Most of all dont tarmac or blockpave over you gardens,people who do this are killing our green pastures our HERITAGE.

…to barely literate threats:

Born n bred british
i die 4 this fuckin country
so if u dont like it here fuck off i aint dying 4 u

…and there are even some opposing views:

You should be proud of what you achieve, not what you are. Saying you’re proud of your heritage is as stupid as being proud of your eye colour.

When one young guy says that he was “Givin shit to pakis :)” – he receives a high five. Someone else comments that he’s “Sick to death of the vile infection of freeloading scum washing up on our shores for a free handout!!!!:(” – which leads to a “Hear hear” and a further clarification from the original poster that:

At Present I find myself unemployed,All I
need to help fix this problem is a Gun and
an ammunition supplier that can keep up
with the demand for bullet’s. 🙂

I like how a vague threat of terrible violence is rendered fluffy by the inclusion of a smiley.

The problem with “I am British” is that racist opinions aren’t in the minority. Most reviews and many wall posts seem to espouse pure BNP ideology, though not couched in that party’s flowery language.

see if u look above there no black in the flag so is our country overrun with blacks

i work for livin an pay ma taxis unlike these fukin imagrantes thats what makes u british.this country is gettin raped

I no that many people class them selves British even the ones who was born in this country but i kida disagree because if you was born in England then you are English. Government wants us to call our self’s British even when we are totally the opposite. If the foreigners get to choose if they are Asian or any other race but we cant call our selves English. Personally i think it is terrible the why the foreigners get everything and we get nothing when we are the true citizens. I think there is going to be a big riot if the government dont do nothing because we are getting sick of all of it. Soon the white race will be gone if we dont do nothing. We aint racist we are realists. Bring back England


I know I shouldn’t be surprised by this sort of thing. But with Modbury suddenly flying multiple England flags and Union Jacks, I’m concerned that Britain is seeing an increase in a type of patriotism that seems to be predominantly based on race hate. Maybe I should “leave the country” (that won’t be difficult)? Or maybe I’m just over reacting and nothing has really changed.