Wednesday 2 March 2016

EU referendum .................. to see ourselves as others see us.

A month ago BelperStuff commented on the US primaries and likened them to Alice in Wonderland. Some might say that was a tad patronising but for many of us here in the UK the dynamics of the US political scene are impenetrable. There are similarities with this side of the pond but there are so many elements that feel very alien. We shake our heads at the rise of Trump or the dynastic nature of governance (Bushes and Clintons) and say that could not possibly happen here ............. but then we have the phenomenon of the Bullingdon Club, former Eton schoolboys joining a dining and party loving elite Oxford set (that's the Bullingdon Club) who then go on to become the apex of the UK government (see here:/iconicphotos.the-bullingdon-club/). Now the intention of this post is not to rake over ground that has been endlessly sifted through during the past decade; the Bullingdon Club is however an example of what the average American might point to in the British system and find the word "touche" hovering on their lips.

So it is a matter of perspective, your view shaped by where you live and how you define yourself. This reminds me of the last stanza of  Robbie Burns poem " The Louse" written after he espied a louse on a lady's bonnet:

Robbie Burns 1759 - 1796 (Wikipedia)
O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us! It wad frae mony a blunder free us, An' foolish notion: What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us, An ev'n devotion!

Yes if only we had that power; to step outside our own world and look upon ourselves, our country, our beliefs .......... as others see us. Of course there are some who can manage that feat, capable of stepping back and seeing things not from the perspective of a person within but as somebody without. At a basic, instinctual level this can be achieved by those blessed with the power to empathise, the ability to see a situation from the viewpoint of another. For those not so blessed there is an intellectual discipline that can be employed ........... objectivism (and I am not here referencing the word as used by Ayn Rand). Being objective entails rising above and seeing all sides of an argument and attempting to form an evidence based understanding of, say, the politics of a nation.

This post concerns the EU referendum so what do we see if we climb into our intellectual helicopter (please forgive this clumsy allusion) and rise up above the claims, the clamour, the bias and evidence poor EU debate ............... well it's personalities that come into focus. 

Since the general election in May 2015 the news has been dominated by the bloodletting in the Labour Party ............... the agonising search for the 21st century soul of the party following two defeats inflicted by a media backed Tory group that have managed to implant the idea that the ills of society can be blamed on the poor and therefore the party that naturally fights against inequality ........ the Labour Party, is wholly responsible for .............. well they would claim everything that is wrong with our country. The angst in Labour ranks is understandable as we try to understand the disconnect with the so-called middle of the electorate and chart our way through to 2020 and beyond.

With our rotor blades holding us aloft we look down on the left and not so left in disarray whilst the right surge on with confidence after the May 2015 win ............ but wait a moment .......... is that a serious fault line we see emerging in the Tory ranks? Yes ............ the vitriol and sheer bile with which Tory cabinet colleagues are now ripping into each other as they align themselves in the EU referendum debate is astonishing. Well perhaps not so astonishing for those of us who have been around for a few decades because this is not new; the Tory party is a coalition of opposites, far more than the Labour Party has ever been (and I am mindful of the militant tendency in the eighties). From idiotic statements such as "a stride into the light" if we vote to leave to "Brexit would affect the lives of millions" if we don't vote stay in. What is missing is clear and trustworthy facts.

Not very edifying is it. Politicians scrambling to outdo each other with inflammatory statements that add little of substance to the debate. But, as we start to descend from our lofty intellectual overview what's this we can see on the left? My goodness, the embattled forces that make up the Labour Party seem to have downed cudgels and are standing shoulder to shoulder in their belief that staying within the EU is the correct way for the 5th largest world economy to behave. Ok so there are the odd voices leaning towards Brexit but with 93% of the parliamentary party declaring for the remain in Europe camp this is a demonstration of unity (as opposed to the Tory minority of 44% who have declared for remain).

Nearly forgot that odd purple grouping that clothe themselves in patriotism and glorify under the name of UKIP. Their parliamentary group are 100% behind leaving the EU but as they only have one MP this is hardly newsworthy. They do however have a sizeable following in Britain so cannot be discounted but reading through their literature we find a claim that EU membership costs the average British household over £7,000 per year. The inference being that if we vote to leave each household will be better off to the tune of at least £7,000. Pure fantasy of course as their figures are spurious and highly selective ................ oh and much more ............. a subject that BelperStuff will return to in later posts.

So now we are back on the ground, standing in between the two forces. To the right we see ill informed infighting between self opinionated "big beasts"; to the left we see relative calm and unity.

Will the EU referendum be the bridge of understanding that the Labour Party has so desperately needed? The bridge that connects those who aspire to Momentum (if you don't know what Momentum is here is a link) and those who find a natural home within Progress? (Here is a link to the Progress website). I do hope so because looking deep into their souls they must surely find that they share many core beliefs and if they can agree on a social agenda that is best served by full participation with the EU then that spirit can be harnessed to weld the left and right of the party in the campaign to return this country to fairness and the job of reversing policies that have created such rampant inequality. It could pay dividends if all Labour Party members were issued with a copy of Robbie Burns poetry .............. with the last stanza of "The Louse" heavily underlined.

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