Tag Archives: EU

With friends like Barack and Boris …

Eddie Marsh, Winston Churchill‘s Private Secretary, offering advice to the then Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, said: “We should kiss America on both cheeks”; to which Churchill replied, “Yes, but not on all four”. I’m indebted to Boris Johnson for that quote, which you’ll find 19 minutes and 14 seconds into this video …

It would be very interesting to know what the British public made of Barack Obama‘s speech alongside David Cameron at No. 10 yesterday, doing everything he could to encourage the UK to vote in favour of staying in the EU.

The trouble is, the British people tend to react against being told what to do, whether by their own government or even more so by foreigners. Obama’s tone was gentle, not hectoring. He spoke in the guise of a friend, merely offering advice, notwithstanding the veiled threat that the UK would find itself at the back of the queue for trade deals with the USA if it went it alone. He has an easy manner, persuasive, analytical, with a breathtaking grasp of the geo-political landscape worldwide – and a winning smile.

But, as a Lefty who’s very much in favour of retaining EU membership – primarily because of our cavalier attitude to human rights, rather than the financial benefits which are the only meaty items on the EU menu as far as the media are concerned – it worried me a bit to see “David” sucking up to “Barack” in a way that might well have prompted another terse witticism from Churchill, were he still with us.

I’m not a great fan of Boris, but he’s such a wily campaigner, highly knowledgeable and a great communicator. He doesn’t really do gravitas, of course; but that’s a commodity that went out of fashion years ago, another casualty of the cultural revolution in the Sixties. Harold Macmillan and Harold Wilson did their best to resurrect the Churchillian style of oratory; but after Wilson’s infamous “Pound In Your Pocket” speech fell as flat as a pancake, subsequent leaders have tended to adopt a more relaxed approach – with the notable exception, perhaps, of Thatcher‘s successes with her Iron Lady persona.

Every now and again, politicians with real charisma bubble up to the surface. The “surface”, of course, is that cultural ocean we all nowadays swim in, called the media – broadcast, social and print. As time goes on, it appears that charisma is becoming more and more significant as a political weapon. Logic, analysis and basic communication skills can still hit the mark. But that magical ability to use the media to inspire and engender devotion can torpedo all purely rational approaches.

So if by chance (and I for one fervently pray it doesn’t happen), Boris Johnson runs for the post of Prime Minister after leading us out of the EU’s back door, he may well find that charisma will carry him through to the winning line.

Churchill’s greatest personal quality was perhaps his ability to translate his charisma – of which gravitas was a key constituent part – into the arena of global influence and world politics.

yalta

Whether a Johnson-led government of a Britain operating in splendid isolation could command such respect on the world stage is highly debateable, in my view. And after the British public made their feelings towards one particular candidate for President of the United States very clear recently, we must all surely doubt whether charisma alone could be a Trump card in what would have become a rather “unspecial relationship”.

 

 

 

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Should Britain leave the EU – and, if so, how many tugs would we need?

As the UK’s General Election draws ever nearer, the debate about Britain’s position vis-Ă -vis Europe is becoming yet more fractious.

Arguments around our ties to Europe stretch back many decades, of course – but of late they seem to have turned to outright political war, bringing a whole new meaning to Winston Churchill‘s strangely prophetic “We will fight on the beaches …” speech.

britanniaNow, with the fault lines in the political landscape becoming wider still and wider, it seems more than likely that Britain’s hitherto rock solid political system will soon undergo nothing short of a sea change.

Clearly, if freedom and liberty – the foundation of the UK’s unwritten constitution – are to be protected, and the settled opinion of the British people is indeed that Britain should disengage from Europe, an enormous effort will be required. Such a move will take us into uncharted waters, and a firm hand on the rudder will be absolutely essential. I believe that that hand should be mine …

So, “What about the practicalities of such a momentous action, were the decision made to steer such a radically new course?”, I hear you ask.

Well, voters, as the UK is the thirteenth largest land mass on the planet, the sheer size and combined weight of these islands will of course pose some major engineering problems, if you, the Great British public vote to “up anchor” on 7th May. But this needn’t be an insurmountable obstacle. The earthquake of 2008 provided all the evidence we need that dislodging ourselves is almost certainly feasible. In fact, according to the British Geological Survey, there have been nearly forty earthquakes in the UK in just the last fifty days – that’s 0.8 earthquakes per day, or 0.033 earthquakes every hour. And if, as I suspect, the geological underbelly of Britain is in fact prone to increasing amounts of borborygmi, should we not consider the rights of Mother Earth to treatment via the NHS and remove ourselves to a place which causes her less discomfort?

In terms of the tectonic technicalities, it seems to me that the brave new world of fracking could offer a significant opportunity to end the lives of more than one feathered friend with but a single missile. So often nowadays we see articles linking fracking to earthquakes, again underlining the way in which geological events are aligning themselves at a critical moment in political history.

I believe that a comprehensive fracking strategy would represent a simple and straightforward means of not only providing Britain with vast quantities of free energy, but also giving us hugely increased flexibility in terms of our position in the world.

Once the country is undocked from the European “quay” (as it were), we’ll need to turn our attention to the business of getting Britain moving again. Now on this subject I would like to take the opportunity to propose a three-pronged strategy.

First, we will need to realign existing sources of energy. For instance, the huge proliferation of wind turbines across our green and pleasant land is already providing an excellent boost to our energy resources; but my comprehensive plan envisages turning these propellers on their sides, in order that we can put them to even better use, capitalising on the growing updraft produced by global warming (cf the excellent article here on Solar Uplift Towers by W. Fox). In my view this piece of lateral thinking could give the country just the boost it needs at this critical moment – whilst introducing some typically British innovation to the world’s helicopter industry.

SS_GB_propellerSecondly, in the long term I see no reason to bar any part of Britain from exercising its God-given right to independence within a Commonwealth of British Islands, by launching its own move away from Europe, steering its own course and forging its own destiny whilst protecting its own vital interests – local, cultural and economic. In this instance I’m referring of course to regions such as Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Manchester, Rutland and so on. With further development of drone technology holding out the prospect of easy inter-island commerce, I see no reason why this nation of islands should flinch from such an undertaking. Take Scotland, for instance: by harnessing the power of the Gulf Stream, which travels at an average speed of 4 mph, it should be a relatively simple matter to enable that proud nation to drift further north, arriving as a near neighbour of Norway (not a member of the EU) within a matter of a fortnight or so.

But thirdly, I would like to look at the very long term. And here it is perhaps time to reconsider the words of our most famous Metaphysical poet, John Donne:

No Man is an Island

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

MEDITATION XVII
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
John Donne

And here I must ask myself the question: was Donne right? Britain is already parcelled out into well over a thousand islands – why shouldn’t all British citizens own their own piece of this land, to do with as they wish – and, via a new Right To Buy scheme, boldly go wherever takes their fancy, as this proud, seafaring nation finally meets its ultimate destiny?

 

 

Image credits:
Britannia – by Mageslayer99 (Own work by uploader.) CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons
SS Great Britain propeller – photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net). [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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