Multi-cultural Part 2

_PW_2578_79_80-EditNote – although published 15th July, this post was written before the dreadful Bastille Day attack in Nice.  I’ve no wish to make political points based on that tragedy so have left the post unchanged.  I’m sure those on both sides of the argument about our relationship with Europe will find justification for their views from it.

My visit to London coincided with Theresa May’s ascension to the role of Prime Minister, just one of the many unforeseen consequences of the recent vote to leave the European Union.  May kept a low profile in the campaign and allied herself with David Cameron and Remain, which allowed her to demonstrate to her peers a degree of loyalty that Boris Johnson, and Michael Gove did not.  At the same time her invisibility prevented her from incurring the enmity of those in her party who detest the European project and everything about it.

It could be argued that compared to those who lead the Brexit campaign she has played a very canny game – she can claim to be onside with those who wished to remain, but in declaring that she will deliver the will of the electorate (“Brexit means Brexit”) she has earned the respect of those who did not.  Would it be cynical to suggest that this week’s outcome was exactly what she sought, and the referendum was just a means to an end?

So much of what we have seen since that date in June has seemed to be about the pursuit of power at any means.  The inaccuracies in the information both sides shared showed that the result was more important than allowing people to make balanced judgements.  Consequently there were people campaigning in social media for the opportunity to go back to the days of eating fish and chips from newspaper because trying to understand the real issues and their consequences was impossible in a fog of misinformation.

_PW_2581Those who espoused that and similar arguments seem to think there is a Golden Age that our exit will take us back to.  An age before immigration (not sure how far back that age would be), when Britain ruled the waves, and a major proportion of the world map was pink.  These are the people who would staunchly defend our right to retain the Elgin Marbles referred in the previous post for no other reason than that we’re British and we were the prevailing world power at the time, so perfectly within our rights to take ownership.  They look to Churchill as our greatest leader and plunder his speeches for evidence of views on immigration.

_PW_2596We are already seeing an increase in racist attacks in the country as those of the far right take encouragement from our new-found insularity.  No wonder I spotted Mark Darcy, one of the BBC’s political correspondents, staring out into space from Westminster Bridge.  He must be wondering where this will lead.  Behind him on the other side of Westminster Bridge stands Boudicca, perhaps another inspiration to the xenophobic in our midst.

Boudicca Overshadowed
Boudicca Overshadowed

The great warrior queen of the Iceni who portrayed herself as an ordinary Briton whose freedoms had been lost to foreign invaders, rose to drive the Romans from our lands may be an exemplar to those who tell immigrants to go home.  They should remember that she failed.

My birth town of Sunderland was one of the most vocal in calling for Brexit.  It’s easy to blame the unemployment there on immigration, though in my experience there are more complex factors of education and motivation in the mix.  Will the vote for Brexit give them the cosy Anglo-Saxon nation they crave?  A walk around the capital provides the answer.

_PW_2612-Edit

BTW – the pic of the two guys playing with the basketball was shot in poor light and through some fencing so I was having to focus manually on a moving target.  That’s my excuse for it not being very sharp.  Nonetheless there’s something about the two expressions and the movement in the shot that I really like.  In the split second that followed it the guy in glasses shifted the ball around to his left side and made a perfect pass behind himself.  You’ll just have to take my word for it!

Proms in the Dark

In 2013 Darlington held its first Proms in the Park concert; an event aimed at bringing the people of Darlington together and promoting a sense of civic pride in the town.  This weekend saw the fourth of these events and brought me back to the town’s South Park.

The local newspaper’s headline from the 2015 event spoke volumes “Best of British on Display” for indeed this is a quintessentially British event; deckchairs and picnic blankets, champagne and ice cream, the gentle jingoism of a military band proclaiming that

The Army, The Navy and The Air Force have made old England’s name

Our soldiers, our sailors and our airmen have always played the game

They’re steady, they’re true and always ready

They fight for you and me

The Army, The Navy and The Air Force leading us to victory.

The irony of British  service men singing of what they have done for England went over the heads of most, but this weekend it had a particular irony.  We are no longer a united kingdom.  We have endured a bitterly divisive political campaign over our membership of the European Union, a campaign marked by lies, distortions and utter disrespect on both sides of the argument and we face an uncertain future.  Both of our main political parties are now riven by in-fighting, and politicians who have long know that the public lacked confidence and respect in them have behaved in ways likely to see their standing eroded further.  I fear this will result in greater division within the population too as more extremism gains a voice.  I may seem needlessly pessimistic – but Michael White, a political journalist who I have always respected if not always agreed with puts it well here.

The regional splits in how the country voted mean that Scotland has a justifiable reason to demand a second independence vote; they voted to remain in the EU.  Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, will pursue this vigorously, but she may not be alone in wanting to break away from the UK.  _PW_1681Across the Irish Sea, a majority in Northern Ireland voted Remain too, giving Sinn Féin grounds to pursue their agenda of a united Ireland once more, the Republic of Ireland being the only part of the EU where we have a shared border.

_PW_1664The band leader who fronted the performance explained that in choosing his programme he had opted for the theme of “music from around the world”, yet we have just turned our back on internationalism in favour of division and subdivision.

I have no idea how most of the audience around me may have voted (though there were some obvious indications), but it already seems that those who desired a Britain apart may well have a Britain torn apart.  Those who wanted to reject a European flag in favour of the “Union Jack” had better enjoy their victory while it lasts.  That flag may soon be missing the blue and white of Scotland very soon.

All of that seemed far from the minds of those celebrating Armed Forces Weekend and enjoying the music.

Or maybe we were just fiddling while Rome burns.