The great referendum lie and why a majority of the British never wanted to leave the EU

A majority of people who voted in the EU referendum did not want us to leave. Indeed many of those who voted Leave did not and do not give a shit about Europe. They have more pressing concerns – like how they’re going to pay their bills. 

So politicians who say they respect the result to leave the EU should stop and think about what they’re respecting. 
The referendum provided a perfect and unique opportunity for people to stick two fingers up to the political establishment and scream: ‘Listen to us, you bastards!’ It was not an example of a heroic democratic movement winning the political argument.

Many of those who voted Leave, it is true, actually wanted to leave the EU. 
Some wanted to leave on principle – arguing that our membership of the EU undermines the sovereignty of our cherished parliamentary democracy. These are known as the goggle-eyed brigade. 

Some wanted out because they genuinely thought our country would be better off economically if we were free of the EU. These are known as the Victorian free traders who also believe President Trump is a reasonable man who respects women and wants to improve race relations in the States and globally. 

Others wanted to leave because they hate Germans and French.

My argument doesn’t refer to these genuine Leavers. They’ve been with us ever since we joined the EU. 

They’re the backbench Tory MPs John Major described as ‘bastards’ when he was prime minister. They’re the know-it-alls in the pub who really don’t know it all at all. And they’re the conspiracy theorists and lonely bigots who just hate abroad. 

Fair enough. They voted Leave based on their opinions about the EU.
But not everyone who voted Leave had the EU at the front of their minds when they made their choice in June 2016. 

A referendum by definition demands that people choose black or white, yes or no, for or against. It attempts to simplify intrinsically complex questions. 

And of course it fails because the world is not simple. It is not black or white. Unless you are a cat whose aim is to eat, sleep and be stroked. (Cats see in black and white – hence the feline metaphor.)

It fails (the referendum’s objective rather than the cat metaphor) because people vote for all kinds of reasons in a referendum. 

And when you give people a question, many will not answer the question you have asked. Just ask anyone who’s marked GCSE and A-level humanities and social science papers. 

Why should voters answer according to the rules that have been set by others? Especially if they’re angry, feel powerless and are sick and tired of being told what to think?

Here, then, are five reasons many people voted Leave:

There are many more non-EU reasons why people voted Leave. But I’ll stop at five because the point I’m making is so bloody obvious (yet apparently so bloody difficult to understand for many experienced politicians who really should know bloody better). 

Many Leave voters thought David Cameron and George Osborne were (still are) posh, arrogant, privileged wankers. On this point, most Remain voters agree. 

The only people in the country who still rate these two are investment bankers who give them jobs and – at a push – their families. But it was Cameron who decided to hold the referendum, and both he and Osborne begged people to vote Remain. A Leave vote for many was therefore a: ‘Piss off, you arrogant turds.’ Nothing to do with the EU question at all. 

2

Some Leave voters who wanted to stop immigrants coming into the country were mainly concerned about immigration from the Indian sub continent, Africa, and the Caribbean. Not immigration from the EU. They were answering a completely different question – if it was an A-level they’d’ve got an F or a U or even an FU. 

3

Many Leave voters were (are) sick of ‘austerity’ – a ruse making the poorest people pay for mistakes made by the absolute richest. They were sick of cuts to local services, benefits to the most vulnerable and all the other unfair policies falling most heavily on the poorest. These cuts were made by the British government. They were nothing to do with the EU. But a Leave vote allowed the anger of many to register.

4

Mix in the fact that bankers in the City still earn utterly ridiculous money and the fact that the City was warning that a Leave vote would hit the financial sector – and it makes sense that a Leave vote was a resounding ‘Stick it up your arse’ to the mega rich from the poor, the very poor, the barely managing, the ‘managing with a very small amount to spare’ and ‘fairly comfortable – for now’. Nothing to do with Europe. More to do with a society that rewards greed and lies, and which contains ludicrous levels of inequality. 

5

Some people thought a Leave vote was a vote for a massive injection of cash into the NHS. The Leave campaign did promise an extra £350 million a week for the health service – so it’s not surprising that people who prioritise health care would vote Leave. The fact that this was one of many bare-faced lies during the campaign is beside the point for this argument.

In short, those politicians who say they are respecting the will of the British people by waving through article 50 and allowing us to hurtle towards the exit door of the EU are talking utter tripe. 

It is not the will of the British people to leave the EU. Given that 48% voted Remain, the vote was too close to make any such claim. Especially when just under a third didn’t even bother to vote. 

And millions voted Leave for reasons other than Europe. 

Many people in Britain do not care about the EU – it is an irrelevance to their lives. They don’t understand it and have more pressing things to worry about – like debt, health worries, job insecurity and the football scores. 

Some people are virulently anti-EU. A relatively small number. Similarly there’s a smallish number who are massively pro Europe. And many of these play out their arguments on Twitter calling each other ‘cockwombles’ and other rude names inspired by the Thick of It’s notoriously patient and reasonable Malcolm Tucker. 

The rest of us – the vast majority – are somewhere in the middle. For us, the EU has its good and bad points. But it’s confusing, nuanced and by no means simple. 

A majority are not screaming for us to leave the EU. No matter what certain parts of our sick, deranged, hyperbolic, immigrant-hating, far right, foreign-owned press say.

If nothing else, arguments about the referendum result being the will of the British people need to be buried. Many who voted Leave were answering different questions to the official EU one , and most of the British people don’t actually give a shit. 

But lots of us still think (know) Cameron and Osborne are wankers. 
Notes:

The author is a former student of Brasenose College, Oxford where he studied Politics with Professor Vernon Bogdanor. 

He would like to point out that he attended the college several years after David Cameron had left and does not know the man. His comments about ‘Dave’ and George (ne Gideon) Osborne are based on their public personas and actions rather than on any hatred resulting from any personal acquaintance. 

The author was a member of the Labour Party from 1996 to 1999 and worked as a research assistant for a Labour MP. He has no current political affiliations and says: ‘I lurch from despair on good days to numb paralysis when I think about politics.’
The author rarely responds to comments.


Advertisements

Can we be united in our divided world?

The UK and US are divided to an extent many of us haven’t seen in our lifetimes.

These divisions have gone beyond the historic milk v dark chocolate controversy.

Communities – even families – are being ripped apart over the relative merits of semi-skimmed v skimmed v full fat cow’s milk v goat’s milk v soya milk v almond milk.

Heartbreaking.

But if there’s plenty that divides us, is there anything that can unite us?

In short, can we hold out any hope for the human race?

Or should world leaders press their big red buttons now and finish us off now?

Here’s a list of things that unite us – things that perhaps could form the basis of a new optimistic future. Or maybe not.

We all want to be loved.

The only problem being that some people think they have the right to dictate who we can love. Keep your noses out of our bedrooms, you bigoted arseholes. Just because you’re not getting any doesn’t mean you have the right to deny other people the pleasure of a richly fulfilling sex life. Jesus Christ Alight!

We all get ill.

And in the UK, we still have a publicly funded health service that’s free at the point of delivery. The NHS is a shining monument to the absolute best of human collective endeavour. Some sphincters hate it on principle. These are often the same people who think the world is 8,000 years old and who believe Queen Victoria is still on the throne.

We will all die.

Indeed, several thousand Americans will die prematurely this year at the hands of gun-toting fellow Americans. Just saying.

So there we have it.

We’re all human.

And we’re all up shit creek – and if we had paddles we’d probably beat each other to death with them.

Write your own epitaph – and don’t be so grave 

There’s a psychological technique that gets you to write your own epitaph. 

The idea is that you think about what’s written on your gravestone – to encourage you to think about the person you’d like to be.

Then when you realise the massive distance between who you are now and the person described on the gravestone, you’re supposed to make huge changes in your life. 

Like stopping being an arsehole, devoting your life to discovering a new cheese or finally getting divorced. 
A Californian life coach would say this technique may help you ‘to live your best life’. Writing that phrase just literally made me gag. 

Another problem with the epitaph technique is that my family don’t do gravestones.

We’ve always been burnt. Sometimes at the stake. Other times at the crem. 

But we’ve always suffered from insufficient funds for a gravestone when we snuff it.

Still let’s not give up just yet. 

Here’s some inspiration:

‘I told you I was ill’ on Spike Milligan’a grave is really good. 

I also like these three:

Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) in St. Paul’s Cathedral:
‘Si monumentum requiris circumspice.’
‘If you require a monument, look around.’

Mrs Aphra Behn (1640-89):
‘Here lies a proof that wit can never be, defence enough against mortality.’

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967):
‘Excuse my dust.’

Actually this exercise has really got me thinking. So here goes with some I’ve just thought up:

‘He spent his life either nervous, angry or off his tits on hardcore painkillers and/or benzodiazepines.’

‘His haircuts never really suited him.’

‘Didn’t work out as well as we hoped – but not as badly as we feared. B+?-‘

‘He tried. He failed. He conked out.’

‘A transvestite until the age of four. Then things went downhill.’

‘Cats will miss him. (Actually, no they won’t.)’

‘Feared by no-one. Loved by a few. Ignored by many.’

‘He gave up the drink. He gave up the fags. And now he’s given up the ghost.’

Why not have a go at writing your own epitaph? 

If nothing else, you can marvel at your own mediocrity. 

7 ways to survive Trump and May’s transatlantic disaster

There’s no doubt that the UK and the US have entered a new era of arrogant stupidity. 

Of course we’ve been here before. Our countries have been responsible for genocide and imperialism on a truly horrific scale. We’ve invaded countries, killed native peoples at will, destroyed cultures, enslaved populations. You name a crime against humanity  our countries are guilty of it. 

And yet we still have this idea that we safeguard basic human rights and dignity.

We can’t even make sure all our own citizens have a roof over their heads, we can’t even treat our all citizens with dignity when they’re ill and we can’t even make our trains run on time.

But these are other stories. 

Here’s your guide to surviving the next few years – until this brand of moronic conservatism blows itself out, hopefully not taking the rest of humankind with it. Choose the ones that make sense for you. 

1. If you don’t have one already, get a cat and/or a dog. They don’t give a shit about politics. And they let you stroke them. They also have nicer breath than either Trump or May. 

2. Don’t start writing angry tweets about politics – you’ll just get angrier and angrier until your head explodes. And if that happens you won’t have survived the Trump-May years when they thankfully come to an end.

3. Do lots of small acts of kindness – both to yourself and to others. This could include masturbating when you would normally be cleaning the oven, or checking if old Mrs Smith at number 15 needs any shopping. Note: don’t get these mixed up and offer to get the shopping for your oven or …

4. Learn some relaxation exercises such as deep breathing, smoking vast quantities of weed and taking benzodiazepines regularly. 

5. Take up a new hobby like gardening (so you can grow your own weed), chemistry (so you can create your own synthetic drugs) or tightrope walking (as a metaphor for your mental health).

6. Get addicted to heroin and/or crack so you spend less time worrying about the future of the world, homelessness, public health catastrophes, etc – and more energy wondering where your next hit is coming from. 

7. Inherit lots of money. Give most of it away to people who are much worse off than you are. And spend the rest emigrating to somewhere more sane, like Canada or Iceland. 

Good luck!

10 new year’s resolutions for an anxious depressive

Here are 10 new year’s resolutions I think I can keep – these are mainly reminders not to be a dick. 

Feel free to borrow any or all of them – not that I’m calling any of you potential dicks. 

I’ll stop digging and start the list. 

1. Keep not drinking alcohol. 

2. Keep not smoking cigarettes.

3. Keep swearing profusely – swearing is big and clever. Sweating less so – despite autocorrect. 

4. Keep walking at least six miles a day. This aids sanity.

5. Keep meditating every day. This also aids sanity and makes me seem wise. 

6. Don’t lose hope. The world will always contain bell ends. It’s a matter of not letting them piss all over you.

7. Keep not reading the news. It really is designed to make everyone anxious.

8. Keep taking the tablets. 

9. Keep being as nice as I can be to other people – being generous and kind really is good for everyone. 

10. Don’t eat snow – it contains more pollution than expected. 

Happy new year!

Why you don’t need booze, presents or Christ for a happy Christmas

I love Christmas.

This is weird as I’m not into presents, I don’t touch booze, I’m not a glutton, I don’t like the telly and I don’t do God.

When I was younger so much younger than today, getting a bottle of beer shampoo or a soap on a rope was actually exciting – and not in an ironic way. But why do I only remember the cleaning products? I think we’ll leave that one for my shrink in the new year.

I also really liked Jesus.

Midnight Mass, singing carols and praying were a way of life – not a pissed-up, nostalgia fest. I believed the whole thing – angels coming down from heav’n on a cold winter night that was so deep, trembling shepherds and their equally scared flocks of sheep washing their socks by night, the Virgin Mary wrapping LBJ in swaddling clothes and laying him in a manger after giving birth in front of lowing cattle and the most famous cuckold in 0th Century Middle Eastern literature.

On the other hand – and equally Christmassy – I’ve been known to spend every waking hour for several weeks either side of 25 December  as pissed as a fart.

img_8612

I’ve also experienced severe meat sweats while overdosing on TV Christmas specials, downing After Eights dunked in brandy while simultaneously farting sprout fumes and chain smoking the 200 Marlboros I got as a present – and thinking I’m having fun. So much for a typical Christmas Day in the early 1990s.

‘What’s the big deal?’ you may be asking. ‘Most of this sounds like pretty average festive behaviour, TBH!’

Nowadays, I’ve stopped boozing and smoking and I’m not arsed about parties – even political ones. I enjoy eating without the sweating. I’m not materialist. I’ve been kicked out of the Catholic Church on the grounds of apostasy and heresy. And I don’t particularly like Xmas jumpers – whether traditional or sarcastic-ironic, Mariah Carey, Christmas crackers, Santa hats, board games or annual quizzes, tinsel,  smug round-robin letters, Quality St, Advocaat or even the Holidays Are Comin’ TV campaign.

So how come I’m still simply having a wonderful Christmas time?

Put simply, it’s just that – for however short a time – we’re nicer to each other. For a little while, we think about – and even try to help – people who aren’t the lucky bastards we are.

It’s pretty impossible to be unmoved by the humanitarian tragedies around the world – and Christmas makes us think about them more as charities do a great job reminding us about them. And making effective pleas for help.

These campaigns also remind us there are so many people doing good, brave, extraordinary things to make this barmy world a bit better.

The need to give a shit hits home especially hard after a year like 2016 that’s seen a concerted attempt to move the hatred and bigotry of the far right into the political mainstream. And when utter arseholes (even smellier more revolting than the usual ring pieces) have secured some pretty powerful jobs.

So Christmas is a much-needed kick up the arse to give something to people I will never meet in countries I will never visit who face horrors I could never imagine. Or to people I pass on the street every day who also lead lives of quiet torture.

It’s a reminder to stop worrying about the insignificant bullshit that tends to clog our brains and to work out what’s actually important.

So thank you to everyone who’s reminded me to stop and think. Thank you to everyone who is trying in trying times.

You’re my true Christmas heroes. And you’re why I still love Christmas.

Oh and the Christmas jokes

Improving your mental health one good memory at a time

2016 could have been better in so many ways. 

You’ll have your own personal, emotional, musical, political and environmental low points. 

Which reminds me of the Tim Vine pun: ‘Crime in multi-storey car parks is wrong on so many different levels.’

Anyway, there’s little point bitching now the year’s nearly over and the lunatics really are taking over the asylum. 

We’ve all made mistakes this year. My major howlers included having seconds of rhubarb crumble one dinner time in March when I was already pretty full. To make matters worse, all the custard had gone, so it ended up being a bit on the dry side despite the rhubarb juice and – to me at least – rhubarb without custard is like a fart without the smell: weird and slightly creepy. 

Bad simile. Second major mistake of the year. 

But no matter how angry, despairing and sad 2016 has made you, it’s good to remember things could get worse in 2017. They really could! 

But let’s park that, as chauffeurs often say. 

And instead of thinking about how shit 2016 has been or how much shitter 2017 could be, we could try a psychological trick that encourages you to concentrate on the good stuff that has happened to you. 

There is some evidence that by directing your thoughts to the happy, uplifting, bright part of the spectrum of your experience and away from the dark, dispiriting, draining part, you can make a positive impact on your mood. 

Get into the habit of doing this and you could make a permanent change to your default level of mental health. 

To start with, it’s harder than you think – especially if you have a tendency to think the world is populated by morons, that we’re all doomed and what’s the fucking point anyway. But it is possible to improve your default.

One technique is to imagine you’re the absolute opposite of the Daily Mail’s editor. Hopefully, this doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination. If it does, you may need professional help for anger issues, paranoia and cuntishness.

Now the next thing to do is to think of some good things that have happened to you or that you saw or heard or read about. 

Write them down if you can be arsed or just think about each memory for as long as you can. What were the colours like, the smells, how did you feel during the experience?

Do this lots and see if your mood improves – surely it can’t do any harm. Unless you start daydreaming while you’re chopping a turnip or flying a light aircraft.

To get you started, here are some things I liked this year and which I think about to make me happier than I otherwise would be. 

Growing a moustache – and people’s kindness, sponsoring the poor little ginger bastard. Also killing the little ginger bastard at the end of Movember was like taking off a pair of shoes that are a size too small after wearing them for 31 days. 

Giving blood – each time I felt a bit more connected to my fellow humans. A really good part of giving blood (as well as the salty and sweet snack selection after you’ve donated) is the text you receive a few days later telling you the hospital where your blood has been used.

Discovering Belgian chocolate options drink – at only 40 calories a cup it is a true taste sensation. I received no remuneration for this blatant plug. However if anyone from Options is reading this, I am open to receiving free samples in return for apparently natural mentions of the product in my writing. 

Voting – I absolutely love voting. I feel like crying my eyes out whenever I go to a polling station,  thinking about the sacrifices people have made on the long march to universal suffrage. And recently I’ve felt like crying my eyes out when the results have come in. But that’s going off-subject. 

Seeing three deer in a frosty field this very morning – totally unexpectedly. You can’t go wrong with deer in my view. 

Seeing any videos of any baby pandas. 

A squirrel starting to climb my leg presumably thinking it was a tree (I was wearing brown geography teacher cords) before realising its mistake and jumping off just after it had reached my knee. 

Throwing a scrumpled-up piece of paper at a bin that was quite far away – and getting it in first time. 

Eating a particularly good fried egg when I was particularly hungry. 

I could go on. They all bring a smile to my face. 

Write your own positive 2016, think about things that have gone right, then remember some more. 

Let’s see if we can look back on this year as not being that shite after all!