Triggering Article 50: a historic moment of delusional madness and national self-harm

Triggering Article 50: a historic moment of delusional madness and national self-harm

‘This is a historic moment from which there will be no turning back,’ crowed Theresa May in her completely mad speech to the Commons this lunchtime. Yet in her speech and in the Article 50 letter to Donald Tusk, she reminded us of the value of what we are losing. ‘Europe’s security is more fragile today than at any time since the end of the cold war’, she intoned; yet the whole point of European integration has been to help maintain the peace in postwar Europe.

And after informing Tusk and the assembled MPs that the UK would not seek to remain in the world’s largest single market, she went on: ‘At a time when the growth of global trade is slowing, and there are signs that protectionist instincts are on the rise in many parts of the world, Europe has a responsibility to stand up for free trade in the interest of all our citizens,’ before asserting, ‘Perhaps now more than ever the world needs the liberal, democratic values of Europe – values that the UK shares.’

Is she completely bonkers? Or she displaying the symptoms of something more serious which some medical experts have suggested may sometimes be brought on by excessive use of cannabis? Doctors often describe schizophrenia as a type of psychosis in which a person may not always be able to distinguish their own thoughts and ideas from reality, and whose symptoms include hallucinations,
delusions, and muddled thoughts. Continue reading “Triggering Article 50: a historic moment of delusional madness and national self-harm”

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The story of a German POW and a missing chess set

The story of a German POW and a missing chess set

This is the story of a chess set carved from waste wood by a German prisoner of war, gifted to my father who had been tasked with guarding him below decks on a cargo ship bound for Egypt. Along with 1500 of his compatriots the POW had been captured after the D-Day landings. Later, in a POW camp in Egypt, the German soldier carved the chess pieces from scrap and gave the set to my dad when he was demobbed from the British Army three years later. The chess set is now unaccountably lost. Continue reading “The story of a German POW and a missing chess set”

Brexit: What the Hell Happens Now? Essential reading that will scare your socks off

<em>Brexit: What the Hell Happens Now?</em> Essential reading that will scare your socks off

Now that Jeremy Corbyn’s radical new populist approach is revealed – agreeing with the Conservatives on Brexit and immigration and promising that Labour would give the £350m of EU payments that never existed to the NHS – whether one of the 48% or the 52% all of us need clear answers to the question we’ve been asking since last June: What the hell happens now?

Set aside a couple hours to read Ian Dunt’s analysis of the Brexit mess in his aptly-titled book Brexit: What the Hell Happens Now? and you’ll get some answers. Unfortunately, they’ll scare the living daylights out of you. The question of whether we (that is, the government) know what we want, and whether we have enough people with the degree of negotiating skills to get it are key questions explored in Dunt’s book which ought to be required reading for everyone. The issues he raises are ones that should have been uppermost during the referendum, but which were hardly voiced by the lacklustre Remain campaign. Continue reading Brexit: What the Hell Happens Now? Essential reading that will scare your socks off”

Brexit, pursued by despair

Brexit, pursued by despair

I came across the title of this post in my Twitter feed; despair is the only word that can describe my feelings after the referendum vote on Thursday. Continue reading “Brexit, pursued by despair”

Brain cloudy blues

Brain cloudy blues

‘My brain is cloudy, my soul is upside down …’
– Bob Wills, ‘Brain Cloudy Blues’

The sun is molten in a shimmering sky. But we are driving through mounds of snow, banked in drifts along the carriageways and lanes: drifts of Ox-eye daisies. For mile after mile along the North Wales Expressway there are tens of thousands of these gently swaying flowers that seem to thrive – often deliberately planted, I think – turning what would otherwise be an extended wasteland along roadside verges into a summer’s visual delight. When I was a child in Cheshire these flowers – so bright that they appear to ‘glow’ in the evening – were commonly known as Moon Daisies. Continue reading “Brain cloudy blues”

Out of the Darkness: Remembering the Liverpool May Blitz at St Luke’s

Out of the Darkness: Remembering the Liverpool May Blitz at St Luke’s

There’s a ruined church in Liverpool city centre; only the husk of the building remains, lacking roof and windows, bombed and burnt out on the night of 6 May 1941 during the Luftwaffe’s May Blitz on Merseyside. Last night I joined crowds outside St Luke’s church to see a sound and light show – Out of the Darkness – transform the bombed-out church to mark the 75th anniversary of the May Blitz. Continue reading “Out of the Darkness: Remembering the Liverpool May Blitz at St Luke’s”

Is the EU worth saving?

Is the EU worth saving?

As if there wasn’t already enough to read in the Guardian, what with the acres of print devoted to the revelations from the Panama Papers, I felt obliged to read yesterday’s Long Read: Yanis Varoufakis on ‘Why we must save the EU‘, subtitled ‘The European Union is disintegrating – but leaving is not the answer’. The issue addressed by the former Finance Minister who represented Greece in the negotiations with the EU and the IMF over the terms of the bailout in 2015 is an urgent one for UK citizens facing the decision of how to vote in the June referendum.

Given the mauling that Varoufakis – and Greece – received at the hands of the EU his proposition is, perhaps, surprising. Continue reading “Is the EU worth saving?”

EU migration policy: ‘immoral and unworkable’

EU migration policy: ‘immoral and unworkable’

This week EU leaders agreed a new deal on migrants with Turkey. At its heart is a ‘one in, one out’ agreement that will allow one Syrian from a Turkish refugee camp to be resettled in the EU for every Syrian refugee returned to Turkey from Greece. For non-Syrians, the route to Europe is entirely cut off.

Donald Tusk, the President of the EU Council, has described the deal as a ‘breakthrough’ and ‘historic’. But in a new post on his Pandemonium blog, the writer and author of The Quest for a Moral Compass: A Global History of Ethics, Kenan Malik calls it ‘immoral and unworkable’. His post offers a forthright analysis of the deal, and is reproduced below. Continue reading “EU migration policy: ‘immoral and unworkable’”

Visions of a federal Europe: Ventotene and the ‘Resistance Spring’

Visions of a federal Europe: Ventotene and the ‘Resistance Spring’

In my previous post I wrote about the disturbing experience of visiting Vught Concentration Camp just outside ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands. Run by the SS, Vught served as a transit camp for Jews before they were transported east to the death camps.  But also incarcerated in the camp were large numbers of Resistance activists and fighters, many of whom were executed by firing squad at a woodland site just outside the camp.

On the morning I visited Vught the news was dominated by the first shots in the referendum campaign which will determine, in June, whether the UK remains a member of, or leaves, the European Union. Confronted at Vught by the stories of members of the resistance imprisoned or murdered there, I recalled that one of the overlooked origins of European integration emerged from within the wartime Resistance movement. Continue reading “Visions of a federal Europe: Ventotene and the ‘Resistance Spring’”

From Keleti station, Budapest: one refugee story

From Keleti station, Budapest: one refugee story

Last week, at Budapest’s Keleti station, the Observer’s Emma Graham-Harrison mingled with the refugees hunkered down on the concourse there. In today’s paper she retells eight of the stories she heard from those fleeing persecution and war. This is one of them. Continue reading “From Keleti station, Budapest: one refugee story”

This must be what it was like when German Jews were refugees

This must be what it was like when German Jews were refugees

This must be what it was like in the 1930s when Jews fleeing Nazi Germany created a major refugee crisis to which the response of Britain, the USA and other potential safe haven countries was a collective shoulder shrug of indifference – or outright hostility. This summer we have witnessed an unfolding crisis on a scale unprecedented since the Second World War, as desperate people risk their lives fleeing the civil war in Syria and the murderous advance of ISIS. With some noble exceptions, the prevailing response, especially here in the UK, has been once again to demonise fellow human beings. Continue reading “This must be what it was like when German Jews were refugees”

Greece wounds me

Greece wounds me

‘Wherever I travel, Greece wounds me.’
– George Seferis

After the ugliness of last few days in Brussels as we watched a country being humiliated and a new form of economic colonialism being imposed on a people who have struggled to assert their wishes by means of an impeccable commitment to democracy, it really does feel, as this morning’s Guardian editorial puts it, that Europe after the Greek talks ‘resembles a battlefield the day after the armies have stumbled away – wreckage everywhere, and everyone counting the cost.’ Continue reading “Greece wounds me”