Vale Angliae

ruralLandscape
A darkness descends…

I was driving to my office in Cambridge on Friday morning (24th June 2016), from Suffolk and across the land of a large estate owner.

The early morning sun was shining through the trees and looking, I saw the deer and pheasants abroad in the verges, seeking their early breakfast.

Having an historical sensibility I was reminded of that warm, sunny day I had read about, in the July of 1914 when war was declared. The one which became known as The Great War.

As then, after a climactic announcement, nothing seemed to have changed. There were still scones for tea and sport to be undertaken the next day. Yet then,within four years of complete military, social, economic and cultural destruction, millions were to lie dead from Flanders Fields to the harsh, dusty landscapes of the Middle East and Africa.

There was something of that ‘phoney war’ sensibility about the post ‘Vote Leave’ result. Nothing seemed to have changed, yet as the weekend progressed the markets and our currency were in freefall, we had lost a Prime Minister and within the Labout Party the Shadow Cabinet began to fall on their swords, in order to ferment a revolution in the palace.

The majority of the polity had voted, we were told, to endorse a strange ‘Faragist’ notion of good people declaring themselves against the ruling elite, big banks and an imagined anti-democratic Europe.

There had not been many celebratory banners for European achievements, or detailed analysis of the support the European process has tendered UK communities, workers and business. Populism had triumphed over rationalism and the certitude of achievement made clear.

For that triumphant electoral cohort dissapointment is due. There will be no new hospital built every week, £350 million refunds, or an end to entrance at Dover for the imaginary millions of newly joined Europeans.

We also learned that working class communities in Wales, for example Ebbw Vale, devastated historically by the economic politics of the right and with a history of grants in aid from the EU, running into many millions of euros which had transformed the infrastructure and landscape of whole towns and villages… even they too had voted to leave.

The end results for this referendum are that no assault has begun, or will begin, on banks, international corporations or the movement of individuals across borders. It is unlikely that there is any plan to replace EU funding from core UK budgets to continue the enhancement of disenfranchised communities.

That the next Prime Mnister may be another ex-Etonian, Bullingdon Club member, who enjoys an income and personal resources that would stagger ‘ordinary’ people, I suspect.

The most pernicious and subtle long term consequence is that The Tories, for all their One Nation rhetoric, and the Brexiteers in particular, have divided our nation as never before along new lines. Journalists and data scientists have shown us these new fault lines post-referendum.

The old and the young. The university educated and the not. The social internationalists and the not. The compassionate for immigrants and the not. The Europeans and the not. A constituent part of the UK, or not for Scotland or Northern Ireland. These new schisms could make the old fault lines of major party loyalty seem irrelevant.

I have long been a class-warrior for working class justice and equality, but have striven to achieve an education, to build a small social business, the both done in concert with and supported by other generous and compassionate individuals, that focused on cross community engagement and literacy. I have enjoyed a whole adult life of access to European culture and community which has enriched my economic and social existence.

The referendum has put me at deep odds with my neighbours.

It has shattered my belief and pride in being both European and English with, to the date of the referendum, no recrimination for my socialism, internationalism or multi-culturalism.

Simplistically, it is possible to see the conditionality for conflict in 1914, and on into the The Thirties, as prolonged economic depression, the rise of nationalism and the facism of the far right, all coupled to a resentful Germany. The whole propelling a continent, and our island, to war not once in the twentieth century but twice.

The fear and opportunities for racism the referendum campaign has now created will be abroad in our urban centres, where the newly arrived seek their homes and dreams, for a long time to come. The cross border tensions in our own island will open old wounds and emnities I suspect, as the Six Counties and the Scottish Borders contemplate a non-European future. Labour will be divided, instead of being the natural home for the compassionate.

My distinct personal fear is that the referendum will spiral us back into history, to a socio-political landscape that has more to do with the 1930’s than with the dawn of a New Jerusalem.


After Note:

When I began writing this journal about my inner political landscape only recently, I could not have envisaged the leaving of Europe or the tensions and divisions just taking the decision has engendered.

I could not have imagined writing a political journal from the personal perspective of an immigrant.

However, over the Autumn of 2016 we will be looking for a new home on the European mainland.

There will be a wealth of compare and contrast political assessment to come for a long while, as we mark our new  journey here. Copy I never voted to write…

Vale Angliae.

Tim Smith.


articlesignoffImage


This journal of comment and analysis is devised and published in the East of England...leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity...

Editor: Tim Smith MA, FRSA

Now living in rural Suffolk, I have wondered all my adult life why ordinary people like me, would vote to make the policies of the self-interested Right ascendant? I now think, older as I am, that I have pursued entirely the wrong question, despite voting Labour my entire life. Why on earth cannot collaborative socialism make the Left successfully ascendant? This is the new quest.

Tim is a Partner at SmithMartin LLP - a Cambridge based social business working to create projects which tackle inequality.

Collective Conversations is a not for profit, publishing project - the views and interpretations expressed are solely those of the individual contributors to the work.

No endorsement of any party or person is sought or implied...

Clarity in debate: The EU

In the short video below Professor Michael Dougan of the University of Liverpool, the School of Law, offers insights from his professional research on the forthcoming referendum.

This is twenty minutes of exposition truly worth listening to.

In his film Michael Dougan explains how the current, complex and historical engagement with the EU has benefited UK trade and infrastructure. How the tabloid headlines about sovereignty and the lack of democracy are simply wrong and how, in a Europe without the UK, the actual negotiation timetables and lack of formal agreements will stagger UK industrial output and threaten the welfare of workers and citizens.

Leaving the EU would, says Professor Dougan, give the government mandated power from Parliament to effect a root and branch redrawing of the legislatory landscape of our country.

With the right in ascendancy, and no ‘European’ voice of conscience to mediate legislation vested with self interest and the interests of Capital,  workers rights and welfare would be under attack, we would argue.

In another moment of clarity, we hear how the Swiss negotiated their first extra-EU Trade Agreement at the start of the Seventies. Their process is still ongoing. As a counter to the ‘free of regulation, free trade’ proclaimers, in reality many years would pass before we have negotiated our new position with the EU, post leave referendum, with our potential trade partners holding off in terms of their relationship with us until clarity for their interests, not ours, emerges.

The UK EU Referendum takes place on June 23rd, 2016.

Since the end of the Second World War, Europe has been a bastion of civil society development, a cultural and social focus for the proclamation of individual nation state identity and the cauldron of co-operation that has simmered gently for decades to create the single, most powerful, market bar none on the planet. It has been a defense against militarism and a bulkwark against social injustice.

Listen to Michael Dougan’s clear and objective analysis and Vote In on Thursday.

CollCon page icon - image

 

 

 


This journal of comment and analysis is devised and published in the East of England...leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity...

Editor: Tim Smith MA, FRSA

Now living in rural Suffolk, I have wondered all my adult life why ordinary people like me, would vote to make the policies of the self-interested Right ascendant? I now think, older as I am, that I have pursued entirely the wrong question, despite voting Labour my entire life. Why on earth cannot collaborative socialism make the Left successfully ascendant? This is the new quest.

Tim is a Partner at SmithMartin LLP - a Cambridge based social business working to create projects which tackle inequality.

Collective Conversations is a not for profit, publishing project - the views and interpretations expressed are solely those of the individual contributors to the work.

No endorsement of any party or person is sought or implied...

Speaking for Labour In

 

 

In a recent speech Jeremy Corbyn succinctly laid out why those of us on the left should vote to remain in Europe. Connected interests, whether for organised labour, educational organisations, social justice or ethical, market driven enterprise…all are more powerfully able to argue their case collectively, rather than in isolation.

In fact, the very basic tenet of a political party with a distinct and clear emancipatory view of the world. The Labour Party in the UK.

Challenges for people across the globe in the 21st Century are many and will continue to be immense. Jeremy outlined the work thus…

How to deal with climate change. How to address the overweening power of global corporations and ensure they pay fair taxes. How to tackle cyber-crime and terrorism. How to ensure we trade fairly and protect jobs and pay in an era of globalisation. How to address the causes of the huge refugee movements across the world, and how we adapt to a world where people everywhere move more frequently to live, work and retire.

(Source: Speech by Jeremy Corbyn, http://www.labour.org.uk/blog/entry/jeremy-corbyn-europe-speech  Accessed 15.06.2016)

The EU and its workings can, by default, often seem complicated and distant from the lives of ordinary people. If only to protect the interests of workers and to be able to have access to the largest market in the world for British enterprise, we should vote to stay in.

In a recent article, A Long Requiem for Europe, we looked at how the the threat of war with our neighbours is best prevented by co-operation. If your neighbour is responsible for a million pounds of your income, you are very unlikely to set fire to his property, in a civilised and ethically framed world of co-operation.

If war has receded forever from Europe, which many think unlikely we are sure, then the economic advantage, the pursuit of social justice and environmental protections needed for a sustainaible future rely on more neighbourly co-operation, not less. Jeremy said…

Britain needs to stay in the EU as the best framework for trade, manufacturing and cooperation in 21st century Europe. Tens of billion pounds-worth of investment and millions of jobs are linked to our relationship with the EU, the biggest market in the world.

(Source: Speech by Jeremy Corbyn, http://www.labour.org.uk/blog/entry/jeremy-corbyn-europe-speech  Accessed 15.06.2016)

If the labrynthine nature of ‘Europe’ causes despair, the cry of an anti-democratic rule by Europe is hollow in reality.

We elect MEP’s to represent our interests, the governments of nation states within the EU have an immense influence and veto rights on legislation. Being in the club, with a right to sit at the table is infinitely preferable to sitting outside shouting at the door.

There is a clear and refining statement of how the EU central processes serve our interests available on the pages of The Guardian this month, June 2016. It quotes research by the London School of Economics that, under Qualified Majority Voting, the UK ‘won’ legislative arguments 87% of the time.

See https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/13/is-the-eu-undemocratic-referendum-reality-check  Accessed: 15.06.2016

It may be that we need, in the UK, to embrace the concept of being European more actively, and support and engage with the European Parliamentary process more deeply and effectively. We need, perhaps, to press vigorously for reform in order to make understanding and engagement with our own MEP’s much more effective.

But you need to be in the EU to press for reform…

…democratic reform to make the EU more accountable to its people. Economic reform to end to self-defeating austerity and put jobs and sustainable growth at the centre of European policy, labour market reform to strengthen and extend workers’ rights in a real social Europe. And new rights for governments and elected authorities to support public enterprise and halt the pressure to privatise services.

(Source: Speech by Jeremy Corbyn, http://www.labour.org.uk/blog/entry/jeremy-corbyn-europe-speech  Accessed 15.06.2016)

Vote for the ethical left, vote for an end to tax avoidance, climates of fear and veiled special interests. Vote for social justice and workers rights. Vote for a powerful, democratice and effective collective market place.

‘Vote in’ on the 23rd June 2016.

articlesignoffImage


This journal of comment and analysis is devised and published in the East of England...leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity...

Editor: Tim Smith MA, FRSA

Now living in rural Suffolk, I have wondered all my adult life why ordinary people like me, would vote to make the policies of the self-interested Right ascendant? I now think, older as I am, that I have pursued entirely the wrong question, despite voting Labour my entire life. Why on earth cannot collaborative socialism make the Left successfully ascendant? This is the new quest.

Tim is a Partner at SmithMartin LLP - a Cambridge based social business working to create projects which tackle inequality.

Collective Conversations is a not for profit, publishing project - the views and interpretations expressed are solely those of the individual contributors to the work.

No endorsement of any party or person is sought or implied...

A long requiem for Europe?

Heading towrds Europe?

 

The European Union, the European experiment, emerged in the Twentieth Century from an unimaginable horror of war and destruction. The notion that England would withdraw from this partnership, and the largest single economic market in the world, is an idea that is fraught with socio-political tension, community fear and yes, even individual emotion.

No short article can encompass the macro-economic arguments and social disengagement consequences in detail. Indeed, neither it seems can current political debate in the UK. What it does strive to do is contextualise sixty years of being a European and the claim that economic history has on that journey.

Then we vote…

In England we have a long history of conflating a fear of others and economic malaise. William Cecil in a speech to Parliament in 1588, spoke ‘…for a Bill against strangers and aliens selling wares by retail‘(1).

Cecil was socially compassionate but economically rigid.

‘…in the person of the stranger, I consider the miserable and afflicted state of these poor exiles, who, together with their countries, have lost all (or the greatest) comforts of this life, and, for the want of friends, lie exposed to the wrongs ans injuries of the mailicious and ill-effected. The condition of strangers is that they have many harbours but few friends…’

None the less, Cecil was petitioning to ban newly arrived ‘strangers’ from retail sales for a period of seven years. An echo of contemporary embargoes and restraints in our own society?

A lack of humanity, or a disregard for it can, when coupled to a thirst for resources, mineral or geographical, propel states into the onslaught of war. The building of the European Union has its roots in an attempt to mediate the materials and processes of war production, in an attempt to deliver stability and peace for the wider community after 1946.

These are not just empty rhetorical devices from politicians. Although not lucidly expressed by politicians perhaps, economic connection and the duality of market development is our best guarantee of never seeing another European wide war.

In the Twentieth Century one only has to look at the example of Japan, with Imperial and expansionist aims, pitching neighbouring countries into devastating conflict to satisfy its thirst for war material and resources, human or otherwise.(2)

The economist J.K.Galbraith, in a later work, looked back at the emergence of Keynesianism after the Second World War, as a politico-economic philosophy. With the advance of Capital he argued ‘...full employment would no longer be considered the autonomous consequence of the competitive economy. The unemployment equilibrium would now be assumed, and henceforth it would be a deliberate purpose of government to break that equilibrium and ensure full employment in its place‘.(3) ( If only that had been true…).

The current debate on our membership of the European Union has continued elements of these three entwining historical strands. The fear of strangers and immigration, coupled to a failure of any one economic theory to master complex economic models in an everchanging world and the seeming ignorance of the imminence of war, as a pursuit of economic gain by other means.

When coupled to the false ideology and mythology of the plucky, independent island mastering its own destiny, these elemental strands might actually pitch us into an economic downturn, a rising tide of extremism from all corners of the political spectrum and a paucity of well-being, human and capital, for our citizens.

It is these skeins of history that bring us to the vote on European Union membership in June 2016. But it is the conditionality of the previous five hundred years of turmoil that serve as the backdrop for the reality, for the humanity, of our current situation.

Belonging to a group, being in a club of any kind, offers members advantages and constraints. Two hundred years ago the French Declaration of Rights defined liberty as ‘…the freedom to do everything which injures no-one else: the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits, except those which assure to the other members of the society, the enjoyment of the same rights’. ( A concept the writer Gilles Saint-Paul now argues is ‘long forgotten’). (4)

Railing against the imposition of constraints, against the imposition of restraint, is not a new thing either.

The philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder, in the 1790’s was ‘…scathing about any attempt by European Alliances to impose their notion of happiness despotically on all other nations on earth‘. Herder railed on ‘…the very thought of a superior culture is a blatant insult to the majesty of nature.’ (5)

Whilst some may see an echo of the contemporary argument about the restraint to sovereignty in Herder’s view, it is an argument leavened by the advantage of freedom of movement, entrpreneurial borderless endeavour and democratic representation that lies at the heart of the individual states that constitiute the EU. We are not dissolving sovereignty, we are enhancing broad geographical opportunities in support of our own interests.

We have heard, from the left, the argument that the EU is part of the global, capital conspiracy. The machinations of TTIP are often cited in evidence. However, surely, as part of the European social partnership, we must be better off with the concerted support of colleagues across the continent to ensure that there is no dilution of the safeguards to work practices and welfare, which can be chipped away by isolationist, idiologically opposed elites and pan-global companies? If capital is a conspiracy, are we not safer as a united family?

The ‘anti-democratic’ cry is also often heard. The EU is a parliamentary body, with elected representatives of our communities charged with voicing our interests. The fact that we might imagine examples of elected members to the European Parliament taking expenses and salaries whilst at the same time working to dissolve the very foundations of the body corporate smacks of moral cowardice and opportunism. It is not the pursuit of your interests or mine we imagined. It is not the fight against internatioanal restraints that hold back humanitarian and economic progress we had dreamed of.

Theories of conspiracy and self interest bring us into the realm of political economy. Utilitarian philosophies of state management, Saint-Paul argues, see their intervention ‘…whether aimed at correcting inequalities or externalites, consider the state as a abstract benevolent entity whose only purpose is to maximise the social welfare function‘.

Political economy, for Saint-Paul ‘…realises that the state is a coalition of real people who are equally self-interested. Instead of maximisation of social welfare, policy is determined by interest groups‘, with the application of policy which seeks ‘…redistribution in favour of powerful lobbies and political majorities‘. (6)

It is these two manichaeistic philosophies of interest and outcome that perhaps sum up the current EU debate. Self interest versus utilitarian social benevolence. We would cleave strongly to the view that the European constitution, the European experiment, is vital to maximise the social welfare functions of government. Vital to deliver this agenda in the midst of a maelstrom of free market, self interest and global corporatism.

We leave the last word to economist Mancur Olsen. He recognised in his research the overwhelming effect that a resurgence in entrepreneurship and innovation, particularly in information technology and communications, which was tempered by developmental pressures from intense foreign competetion, gave to the United States economy in the Twentieth Century.

His argument though was developed to encompass capital and special interests as ultimately being the drivers of paralysis, conflict and stagnation. (7)

We would argue that European aggregation of trade, movement of goods and people and the encouragement of entrepreneurship at the European level is, all at the same time, paradoxically, our best defense against special interests and regional economic paralysis.

and then we vote to remain in Europe.

Notes and sources:

1. The People Speak, Democracy is not a Spectator Sport. Ed. Colin Firth and Anthony Arnove, Connaught Books, Edinburgh, 2014, p.14

2. Japanese Economic Development – Theory & Practice. Penelope Franks, Routledge, London, 1992, p.68

3. A History of Economics – The Past and the Present. John Kenneth Galbraith, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1987, p.

4. The Tyranny of Utility: Behavioural Science and the Rise of Paternalism. Gilles Saint-Paul, Princeton University Press, 2007, p.1

5. The Romantic Economist – Imagination in Economics. Richard Bronk, Cambridge University Press, 2009, p.149

6. The Tyranny of Utility: Behavioural Science and the Rise of Paternalism. Gilles Saint-Paul, Princeton UIniversity Press, 2007, Chapter 3, Economics, Last Bastion of Rationality, p.39

7. Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalsim and the Economics of Growth and Prosperity. W.J. Baunol et al, Yale University Press, 2007, p.229

articlesignoffImage


This journal of comment and analysis is devised and published in the East of England...leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity...

Editor: Tim Smith MA, FRSA

Now living in rural Suffolk, I have wondered all my adult life why ordinary people like me, would vote to make the policies of the self-interested Right ascendant? I now think, older as I am, that I have pursued entirely the wrong question, despite voting Labour my entire life. Why on earth cannot collaborative socialism make the Left successfully ascendant? This is the new quest.

Tim is a Partner at SmithMartin LLP - a Cambridge based social business working to create projects which tackle inequality.

Collective Conversations is a not for profit, publishing project - the views and interpretations expressed are solely those of the individual contributors to the work.

No endorsement of any party or person is sought or implied...