Friday 20 July 2018

Views from the Baltic

There have been no posts for the past few weeks as I've been on a boat trip up the Baltic, visiting, among other places, St Petersburg.  The ship's daily synopsis of world news provided an outline of events, which could be supplemented by the BBC's World TV Service (not, to my mind a patch on the Radio service, and with a far too high percentage of identifiers and advertisements for itself.)  The following comments are what occurred to me at the time.  Since anything worth saying has probably already been said, I admit that this post  is more for my own record than to add anything new to the debate.

The Chequers (Brexit) Agreement

This seemed to me to be the least worst option for those who (so very mistakenly in my view) believe that the flawed, unnecessary and minority referendum result must be obeyed - namely, technically leave the EU, so lose any say in its rules, but continue to observe most of its rules anyway. In other words, Brexit in Name Only, or BINO.  Mrs May is to be congratulated on having got the Cabinet to agree to this.  If we must go ahead with Brexit, this is the option which will do the least damage. Of course the best option is for the Government and MPs to acknowledge what they know to be true - that the whole Brexit process is a terrible mistake - and have the courage to take the action which is in the best interests of the country. So: apologise to the EU for wasting so much of their time, drop Brexit, and promise to be good and constructive members the future.

The Resignation of Davis and Johnson

It is hard to believe how these two can, as presumably they did,  support the Cabinet's collective decision and, within 36 hours, change their minds and oppose it  (in Johnston's case, in quite lurid terms.) What has happened to integrity, loyalty, "My Word is my Bond:" those British Values the preservation of which  their fellow xenophobes make such a fuss about?  Clearly we are not led by persons of integrity.  I'm not sure what the motives of Davis are, but Johnson's are clearly opportunistic. Had he not jumped ship Davis would have become the leading Brexiteer "outside the tent" so Johnson had to follow to preserve his leadership ambitions.  It should not be forgotten that before the Referendum Johnson allegedly agonised until the last moment as to which side to support, so if we take him at his word,  he must believe that,  for the country, it makes little difference either way.  His real motive must therefore be his personal advancement.

 €1 = £1

This was the exchange rate offered, without variation, on the ship.  I remember when  the Euro was introduced at €1 = £0.7075, predicting that we should probable mess about until parity was reached, and then beg to join.  I suspect few of my pupils believed me.The second part of the prediction has not yet been reached (though I hope it will) but I hadn't expected the first to happen so quickly. From the £'s perspective, that's a depreciation of some 30% .  The media claim that  UK economy is thriving whilst the Eurozone is fatally flawed.  Where are the cries of outrage, such as were hurled against Labour and Harold Wilson when the £ was devalued by a mere (by comparison)14%?  Given the silence from all sides on this issue, it appears that you can fool all the people all the time.

The Trump Visit(s)

Trump's dismissal of Mrs May's Brexit policy was totally outside diplomatic convention, and yet May referred to him as "Donald."  How low can we crawl?  For successful political  business there is a need for protocol to be observed.  That is why MPs must call each-other "Honourable" when debating in the Commons (and peers "Noble" in the Lords).  Fictions, but useful.  In my view the world is suffering from an excess of informality - even mateyness.

Such "pretend affability" enables Trump to say one thing in Putin's presence, and then the opposite when he gets back home. "Only joking Mate.  Surely you didn't take me seriously!"

Selective History

All the war memorials I saw in St Petersburg dated the  Second World War from 1941 to 1945. The preliminary skirmishes from 1939 to 1941 (including "Our Finest Hour" ) never received so much as a mention.  Of course, from the Russian perspective, there is some justification for this. Estimates vary, but between one and three million peopled died in the Siege of Leningrad (as St Petersburg was then known) alone.  UK losses for the entire war were, according to this source, 450 900.

Similarity our guide in Helsinki informed us that Finland was in no significant way allied to Germany in the Second World War.  It was  just that a few German soldiers came to help defend Finland from attacks by its former colonising power, Russia.   No mention of Finland's contrition to the Siege of Leningrad.

All countries do it.  The important thing is to be aware of it.

World Cup

I have no personal interest in football, but it would have been nice to have won the World Cup.  I did wonder, while victory was still a possibility, if  a win would restore or national self-confidence, and, that, even within the EU we were capable of success.  On the other had in the latter part of the last century, perhaps even longer, if was customary for British yobs to go rampaging around Europe shouting "Two World Wars and One World Cup."  Perhaps that would have been revived with Two World Cups.  I understand the team is young (and contains lots of Yorkshireman) so there is hope for the future.  I hoe we,re still in the EU when these footballers achieve the glory we think they deserve