From Avowed Internationalist to Brexiter in a few easy steps

It was 1975, I was not quite 22 years old and my then wife and I were running our own retail business. Courtesy of what became the runaway inflation of the then Labour government, we were about to do rather nicely, thank you, as prices the following year would start to go up every week without fail. In truth, the inflation was of course a legacy of both the past Conservative government and our joining of the EEC two years earlier.

I had never taken part in the democratic process. I’d had a chance or two, both general elections in the previous year, but I felt no particular motivation to participate. This one was different. Despite the Brexit campaigners being wheeled out onto my TV screen today – who insist that when they voted in ’75 they thought they were just voting for a free trade agreement – I have a totally different recollection. A very vivid recollection, actually. I was born just a few years after the war, the second world war. My entire life to that day, and this, is significantly coloured by the events of that time. Back then, I was told all day, every day as a boy growing up in that depressed and shattered world that I should be grateful to every adult, grateful, respectful and obedient, because each and everyone had “fought and died” for my freedom. Well, apparently not. Given that they were, to a man and to a woman, standing there fully flesh and blood giving me this well-worn lecture. Of course they had a point but when you hear this, day in day out from the day you were born, well, it wears a little. I learned a lot of history, a lot about religion, about kings and queens and governments and the disagreements between each. I noted that in none of the recent wars of our continent had any of the protagonists actually sacrificed themselves for these fanatical beliefs they held but it seemed to me that they had been more than willing to sacrifice a great many others. Windsor

Much of it seemed to revolve around the incestuous sexual and familial relationships of Europe’s aristocracy and other hanger-on wannabes with rather too much wealth, power and privilege. You’d think that could turn me into a rampant socialist but I was lucky, I was born with a little too much savvy for that. I wasn’t, however, born with any more power to resist all this nonsense than any other mortal being. Those in power had power over me and I resented it, I opposed it and I shall continue to do so till my dying day which, thankfully, is a little further off than it might have seemed on some previous occasions.

It became clear to me at a very early age that it must take an incredible power to be able to convince lovely, warm, innately nice human beings to commit such acts of savagery and brutality as it takes to kill just one other lovely human being, let alone to kill them in their tens of thousands. Though there is of course much more to it than just this, the culprits, the real weapons were blatantly evident to this very young boy and thus to anyone with half a brain and the questioning need which we are each born to sate. Every army had a rallying call.

Every army needed a uniform to wear, a flag to march behind, and a god to fight for.

UnionFlag

For a light-hearted interlude on the topic you must check out Eddie Izzard  on the subject of flags and conquest but for now you’re stuck with this more serious rendition.  Is it any wonder that I grew up with an abhorrence of national borders, patriotic identities and don’t get me started on the religious nutters.  Here’s how passionate about this, I was.  I have in my hand my passport issued by the World Service Authority on 13th April 1973 in Basle, Switzerland.  Now here’s one for autograph hunters everywhere, it’s signed by the one and only James Haynes.WSA Passport 3

That’s Jim Haynes, co-founder of IT (International Times) and also co-founder with Garry Davis of the World Passport Authority whose document number 03543 I possess and cherish. Amazingly I discover Jim is still very much alive and well and some eighty-two years old but still the coolest of guys  who, it appears, is about to invite me to Sunday dinner at his home in Paris. In March of 1974 I travelled out of the UK (that was the most difficult part and a whole chapter in its own right) for the very first time in my life and through France where I was greeted as travelling royalty and then into Spain, where the immigration officer was too busy picking his nose to care about what passport I was carrying or even whether I had one at all. My wife (to be) and I had made it to Ibiza, where we would later have to run for our lives due to the lack of a work permit and the then legal foundation of denunciation. Later that same year the French government put an end to my most favoured passport office and found both Jim and Garry guilty of “confusing the public” – only in France, and after they’d been so magnanimous to me at Calais!

You might think I digress but I assure you not. The point is this, albeit a very long point and I’m sure to some a tedious one. It’s about the EU referendum. You see, what I recall of that matter in 1975, the very first referendum ever held in this country and, as now, for all the wrong reasons, was that a great deal was made about peace and security. Something which played to the heart of what I’ve been talking about. I probably didn’t mention it but I was also, at the time, a great advocate of coalition government. I’ve just had one recently, the only one in my lifetime and I must say, whilst far from my idea of perfect, it was probably the best government of that lifetime – and for exactly the reasons that this, then, seven year-old figured it would be, way back then. Not holding political parties in any esteem whatsoever, that’s another chapter, and not being a lover of monarchy or, in particular, the Pan-European monarchy headed by that illustrious family from Hapsburg and belatedly of Windsor, that most of us call simply “The Germans”, the idea of a coalition of nation states across Europe – especially involving the two key protagonists, France and Germany – seemed to me like a bloody good thing. A lot less chance of bombs across the border and a lot more chance of a good debate across the dining table. The clincher for me, however, was the promise, and I remember it as if it were yesterday, of “the dissolution of national borders, freedom of travel across Europe and the lack of any need to carry a passport”.

Coming just over a year since a Special Branch officer did everything he legally could to stop me leaving my own country and then, three month’s later, everything he illegally could to stop me re-entering – all because I’d had the audacity to carry a “Mickey-Mouse passport” as he put it – what other way could I possibly vote? I took up the democratic challenge with gusto and made my mark on the ballot paper. The very next day it was announced, I had been on the winning side! Any day now I would get my wish….my right….the fruits of my democratic labours…. One year …and then it went, a decade or four passed and to this day I still cannot leave my own country, despite any law to the contrary, without presenting a valid passport to, well, not even to the authorities, no, just to a fledgling flight attendant who will then allow me to board a plane, a bus with wings. Those with wheels are perfectly safe, apparently.

I could feel harshly treated. I do. I could feel that they didn’t exactly play the game, that this wasn’t exactly cricket. It wasn’t and I do. I actually feel cheated, rather badly betrayed. But then I remember, it’s democracy, init.

..and now I feel foolish. I played their game by their rules and I should know better. In 1979 it was too early to realise that. I was still giving them the benefit of the doubt, still waiting for it all to come to pass so when someone suggested that having a woman run the country might be a good idea, I agreed. I voted. I won. I’ve never regretted anything more in my entire life. Frank Skinner got it right on the eve of the ’97 election when he said, “The thing about Margaret Thatcher was, you always knew where you were with her. Shame I didn’t have a paddle”.

It was clear to me that this democracy thing was a tricky old bugger and perhaps I wasn’t clever enough to play this game. Or perhaps that’s all I really realised, that it was a game and that I was winning was just an illusion, shurely shome mishtake. I could cope with all of that but what really pisses me off? really? well it’s the fact that I’m now being told that we’re to have the same vote all over again, oh and why? Because people younger than me were never given a say, last time. This is true but only because they weren’t fucking born, you muppets! There must be a great many things they missed out on for the same reason. Luckily for them, penicillin was invented before they (and I) were born, should we do away with that too so they can experience life before antibiotics? Perhaps we could restart world war two, I’m sure Putin would play ball, then they could pick up a gun and play a full and equal part in that little tea party? Why stop there? We could bring back the Spanish Inquisition, restart the Crusades (oops we tried that didn’t we) the Witchfinder General, the Plague, the Great Fire of London, re-stage events at Runnymede and have the kiddywinks redraft Magna Carta in text-speak. Fuck it, Tony Blair got to do that, rewrite our ancient constitution and he’s the same age as me, much as it galls me to acknowledge it. The real “why”, of course, is anything but. That first referendum, the first the country had ever had, was all because the Labour Party of the day was split down the middle over Europe and Harold Wilson hoped to cling on to leadership of his party….and the real reason we’re having another one, the third in our history, (not to forget the little one on changing the electoral system) is because the Tory Party is split down the middle over Europe and David Cameron is desperate to hang onto leadership of his party…. But even that’s not it, no, what really pisses me off – apart from democracy, political parties, the European monarchy and religion, well it’s workers who won’t do the job they’re paid to do, continue to take the shilling but are constantly asking others to pick up their slack.

Call-me-Dave is currently paid £142,500 a year – by me personally, I think. Honestly, you should see my tax bills. On top of him we have twenty-one cabinet ministers and an unknown but ever increasing number of government ministers who are each paid £134,565/year. To that we should add that there are some six hundred more MPs each paid £74,000/year and then there’s the civil service….I can’t readily obtain a number but it runs into billions of pounds…

So, let me get this right. We all pay all of you. We pay you to keep the streets clean, keep us safe in our beds and to keep the hell away from our bank and Internet accounts. We let you play in “The House”, wield your “power”, enjoy your games, declare war on smaller defenceless countries when you feel like it and to keep the lights on, if you would, please. In short, we pay you to run the place whilst the rest of us are busy trying to earn enough money to keep you in this comfortable lifestyle. We pay billions of pounds so that you can be surrounded by the brightest and best university-educated civil servants, statisticians, researchers and economists so that you can do your job and have, at your fingertips, the very best information on hand to help you make decisions in the course of your work. Well, frankly, if all of that doesn’t buy enough knowledge and brainpower to figure out whether we’re better in the EU or without, then I hardly think the rest of us can help you out much. Nonetheless, you want us to make this decision for you so as to deflect blame or responsibility from you and your legacy? Is there anything you can do on your own? What is it exactly that we are paying all that money for? Didn’t we just spend a big fat sweaty wad of cash having an election to put you into those jobs in the first place? There. That’s what really pisses me off.

A plague on all your houses oh and while I’m at it, well done. I’m now an avowed Brexiter but it’s nothing that any of you said. No, it was Angela Merkel’s unashamed electioneering, handing a despotic nation like present-day Turkey the keys to our front and back doors (and another big fat sweaty wad of cash) using shell-shocked migrants as pawns on the European chess board and under the heel of her legacy. Closely followed, two day’s later, by Mario Draghi, head of the ECB, printing yet more imaginary, digital billions to hand out to zombie corporations and hapless banks. He and his lunatic colleagues in about 20 or more other EU nations, of similar philosophical belief, genuinely think that the route to prosperity is at the expense of the EU m, our children, and our great-grandchildren so he and his ilk can carry on riding this massive gravy-train. The truth, that neither he and none of these Central Bankers or politicians will admit to, is that they don’t have the faintest idea how to resolve the global mountain of debt they have collectively accumulated and under which we are all being suffocated. Their favoured weapon of choice is to create as much inflation as they can – that’s inflation that every man woman and child will have to pay rather than the real culprits. They do this in order to devalue that debt to a manageable number…and that’s going to require a great deal of inflation for a great many years. You know what happens to the rest of us when we can’t pay our debts, dont you? Unfortunately, as they very well know, if every over-indebted country in the world were to declare the truth – bankruptcy – it would be the end of civilisation as we have come to know it. Some claim he came late to this s conversion having had eight years to study the failure of similar policies elsewhere in the world….personally I think that after procrastinating for so many years, and in the absence of any good idea, just following the lead of others seemed like the one option he could take and claim that he was just doing the same as every other country. What he doesn’t seem to realise is that it hasn’t worked, anywhere so far. Japan is still in the same position as they were three decades ago but hey, at least he won’t be blamed for coming up with such a bad idea all on his own. So I’m for out and I can hardly believe I’m uttering those words but I am, I really am.

The one thing I promise I won’t be doing in this election/referendum, and haven’t since learning my lesson all those years ago, is to vote.  I would probably end up on the “winning side” but we’ve learned that lesson now, haven’t we.  As someone far better known than I once said, “You really shouldn’t vote, you know.  It only encourages the bastards”.

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NHS – A modern Anglo Saxon religion?

For decades now, spineless politicians refuse to state the truth about the NHS.  Every conversation starts with how wonderful it is, how wonderful are all those who work within it, how it must be protected from anyone who might raise a criticism, those who criticise it are out to destroy it, their goal is to condemn millions of vulnerable and elderly folks and their precious progeny to a painful and untimely death whilst the nasty Tories step over the piles of dead bodies strewn across every pavement in every city in the land on their way to the bank to cash their big fat cheques…..morons.  The politicians, I mean, the rest are simply playing out the story line they’ve been led to through lack of intelligent leadership.

Of course those that work within the NHS are wonderful.  They are our fellow human beings and by taking up this job they have illustrated that they might have an elevated degree of compassion and caring in their character, by comparison to the rest of us.  Most people have within then the capacity to be good at their jobs and the best way to squash it out of them and turn them into whinging, lead-swinging, unionised, bolshie ingrates is to force them to work in a nightmarish bureaucracy like the NHS, bloated with 1.5-1.7 million employees depending whose stats you believe.  If it were a country the NHS would rank as the 151st largest out of 198, larger than Estonia, Bahrain and many others, forty-seven others to be precise.  On another measure, that of the United Nations, out of 195 countries ranked by GDP, the expenditure of the NHS at a planned level for 2015/16 of £116.574bn would rank it 54th.  The 54th largest country out of 195.  Or put it another way, 141 countries support their entire population in every respect, every grain of rice they eat, every school book they use, every road built and maintained, every litre of fuel burned, every TV screen watched, every penny each individual earns, or that is saved in the bank or invested into industry, every single drop of water they drink – oh and their healthcare expenditure too – accounts for less money than we spend on the NHS.  One hundred and forty one countries…..one hundred and sixteen BILLION pounds, 116,000,000,000 pounds.  One thousand eight hundred pounds for each man, woman and child in the country.

Now, we’re a rich country, ranked fifth or sixth in the world depending on which table you rely.  So it stands to reason we can spend a lot of money on our healthcare, right?  Sure but it’s you that has to pay for it one way or another and here’s the problem, we live in what is politely and far too frequently described as a democracy.  That’s why all those politicians are saying such lovely things about all those lovely people working in our NHS, any less and, far from being elected, they’d be rounded up and marched to the nearest bonfire by hordes of flaming-torch-waving vigilantes.  It’s also why none of them ever got elected by saying that we need you to pay some more taxes so we can keep propping up the insatiable beast that is the NHS – poll after poll says people would be willing to pay for that but on election day we all get an attack of common sense and vote for the other lot.  As the old saying goes, ya pays yer money an’ ya takes yer choice.

You can’t turn around these days without bumping into some commentator or another deriding some fundamentalist somewhere who so believes the propaganda of their chosen voodoo that they are willing to kill others in its name.  Of course, we Anglo Saxons are over all that aren’t we.  We’ve had a couple of thousand years of civilisation to think this through and in the tail end of that, the last 50-60 years in particular, a few of us started to realise that this was, well, not entirely kosher.  We deride all theisms with pretty much equal vigour, admittedly we’re a little tougher on the muslim faith – fair enough – but if you dare say one word against the NHS, now THAT is blasphemy!  In fact, don’t say anything against it, just suggest that it might be a little better, perhaps, it might save a little money, possibly, the staff might actually treat us like respectable human beings, maybe, if only we talked to the private sector to see if we could make it, well, better.  Oh boy!  Run, run like the wind, they’ve got their scythes, their pitchforks, their flaming torches and they are coming – for YOU!

FFS!!

So, that proves it then.  The NHS is the best because I’ll kill you if you disagree, at least, I won’t vote for you and to a politician that’s almost worse.

Remember that annual cost per man, woman and child of £1,800?  The average age in the UK is currently 40 years, no really!  So if you were a forty year old person with a forty year old partner and let’s say you’ve got two kids of around ten years old, then that’s costing you £7,200/annum.  Sorry, it’s costing all of us £7,200/annum to look after the four of you.  On the other hand, according to moneysupermarket.com today, you could go and buy your own private comprehensive healthcare insurance from one of the top leading brands (one I can personally vouch for as having paid to save my life, twice, without batting an eyelid) and you could insure your whole family for just £2,800 or £701/each a year and save four thousand four hundred pounds – after tax!  I say, “after tax” because despite the fact that we’re already paying for the NHS through our taxes, those of us that ALSO pay privately, on top of our taxes, don’t even get any relief for sparing the rest of you from having to pick up the cost of our debauched lifestyles.

So what happens the minute anyone voices a sequence of words, formed into a phrase or sentence that might possibly imply leveraging the benefits of private industry to improve our health service?  Prior to the burning and lynching of course, which takes a little longer to organise.  Well, it stimulates morons and ignoramuses like Ken Livingstone on http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06qjnxw/question-time-26112015 to utter the immortal words: “The simple fact is that if we privatise the health system the profit that the companies take out will either have to come by increasing what we spend on it…” as opposed to the other possibility of spending it better. And “the reason why we’re not doing as well as Germany and France is that we aren’t spending as much as Germany and France”

“..but we tried this, Tony Blair got the private sector to provide the building of hospitals and then we basically rent them, it’s cost us 4-6 times more than if we’d bought them and done them ourselves” he went on.

Well, no-one’s going to argue over the insanity of asking politicians and bureaucrats to negotiate bad lease agreements on our most precious assets when we could have done much better if we’d done what governments are there for and borrowed the money on the open market but, to suggest that this has anything to do with using private enterprise to provide healthcare is, well, a little off topic, Ken and a perfect example of the lack of clever people in politics.

On the other hand, that amazing young American woman, Kate Andrews of the Adam Smith Institute (never dreamed I’d be mentioning them in a good light) had some stunning and insightful words that I never thought I’d hear uttered on the BBC.  Amongst the gems:

“The NHS is wildly out of date.”

“It’s not able to deal with those burdens anymore and it hasn’t been for a long time.”

“What Britain has seen is a serious drop in the quality of healthcare that it’s bringing to its people. It is sub-standard compared to its neighbours.”

“The NHS does not need to become privatised.  The government can continue to pay for healthcare and ensure everyone can afford [access] healthcare but what it has to let go of is this idea that the government is the best system to be the provision of healthcare.  They might be good with the money but someone else is better at running my CAT [CT] scan.

The important thing is that everyone gets access to that healthcare but they get to choose where they get it and if you choose where you get it you tend to get better service.  The UK is the third least efficient in the OECD.”

Kate, https://twitter.com/KateAndrs not only do I love you for saying those things I want the UK to marry you and for you to be the mother of all its children.  Thank YOU!

In a desperate bid to prove the lack of clever people in politics I received this https://twitter.com/Debbie_abrahams/status/670286841212493824 tweet from one delusional labour MP https://twitter.com/Debbie_abrahams whose “scientific evidence” for the superlative performance of state healthcare over private was the report she wrote of an inquiry she chaired on behalf of the labour party propaganda machine in the run-up to the last election.  Well, that’s that then, I stand corrected.

One day when I’m all fired up and you all want to be bored shitless then I will begin documenting the litany of appalling NHS experiences upon which a portion of my opinion on the NHS is based.  It’s a series of long and sorry tales of sometimes haplessness and sometimes arrogant ignorance which would be funny if they didn’t involve the potential loss of limbs, liberty and life that would surely have ensued had they been left to their own devices or, to put it another way, if I had bowed to their superior knowledge and skills.  Beware of experts, whatever else you do, beware of experts.  Question all, educate yourself, trust no one blindly, assume there’s always a better option or at least another option and make sure that you let them know that you and the professionals are partners in the process, not just actors and audience.

Don’t buy their voodoo or anyone else’s.

I’ve had the recipe for the new NHS for many years, I once sent it to Tony Blair but we don’t talk about him in polite circles, not any more.  It’s free at the point of use, funded from taxation, inspected, monitored and measured by central government and delivered by a plethora of small, manageable, intelligently run competitive businesses all vying to attract custom by being the best provider with the highest reputation for quality care and great service delivery.  Radical?  Not really but I’d be stoned to death if I dared spell it out in a public forum – what do you mean this blog is on view to the entire planet, how was I supposed to know that!?!