No Country is an Island

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Song by Richard Tuley: Taking Back Control

 

By Richard Tuley

Perhaps it’s distasteful to mention Brexit. People are dying in droves, horribly. The Tories got a resounding mandate. Case closed. The British public bought the lie and now we will reap the whirlwind. We are about to hurtle out of Europe with no deal and we are about to discover quite how important our relationship with the EU was, after all. Too late to go back.


Over the last 40 years Britain has had a nasty habit of voting in right-wing governments. There have only ever been four Labour Prime Ministers (if you don’t count Blair and New Labour, and I don’t). Labour achieved a decent majority in 1945 and 1966 and that’s it.

The truth is Labour lost the referendum decades ago. They should have presented a more positive vision of what cooperation between European countries meant. They should have blown the ridiculous chattering about butter mountains, straight bananas and imperial units of measurement out of the water. They should have confronted myths about the effects of EU migration and a growing resententment of immigrant labour within its own ranks and the outright xenophobia of grassroots Tories, the same Tories who imagine that Farage is a great bloke to have a pint with.

Instead of looking for a brighter side, for so much of our time in the EU British governments looked for opt-outs and dragged their feet when it came to extending the rights of citizens. But for many of us, during the years that we were members of the EU, it often felt like the EU was a bulwark against the excesses of the wilder right wing appetites of the Tories in government: for deregulation, privatisation and speculation.

We are about to hurtle out of Europe with no deal and we are about to discover quite how important our relationship with the EU was, after all.


Brexiteers would like us to move closer to America. Brexit was, fundamentally, a right wing coup. Right-wing press barons now have a degree of control over British governments and have power they never could hold over the EU. The Daniel Hannans of this world saw salvation in a deregulated, free trade Anglo-sphere (those countries that watch Friends without subtitles).

The Right were the ones who pushed Brexit from a fringe issue to one which has left Britain more divided than it has been at any other time in recent history. Brexit may even lead to the break up of the UK (no small irony for supposed patriots).

So what is left to be said? Brexit has begun and will continue. It will bring nothing good. While they imagine the United Kingdom is still influential, right wing fantasists in British governments bend over backwards so as not to upset the Chinese. How many of us hide behind the sofa with embarrassment when British politicians start to talk about the “special relationship” we have with the US?

How many of us hide behind the sofa with embarrassment when British politicians start to talk about the “special relationship” we have with the US?


The sad thing is that, in leaving the EU we have lost real influence. Britain has abandoned its place at the decision making table, its opportunity to deliberate over the processes that really matter. This is a league in which there are only three teams that have any real chance of taking the title: China, the USA and the EU.

Size brings power and that power gets to call the shots. We are often told that the UK has the 5th largest GDP, but, let’s face it, that is a bit like saying St Johnstone are 5th in the Scottish Premiership. When St Johnston play Celtic or Rangers they won’t win – and neither will we. Other countries are at best ambivalent about the history of Empire, not as impressed as we are about England winning the World Cup in 1966 and strangely to ignorant of the Brotherhood of Man’s triumph in the Eurovision Song Contest a decade later. Just because we are obsessed by ourselves, it doesn’t mean everybody else is.

Just because we are obsessed by ourselves, it doesn’t mean everybody else is.


As members of the EU we made an impact. We had a chance to work with others to change laws and regulations if there were things we didn’t like about them. Leaving the EU will not address any of the real issues of inequality of wealth and under-investment in public services and infrastructure. At a personal level, I am extremely depressed about the whole thing.


But it wasn’t just the right-wing that brought us Brexit. They were aided and abetted by the Lexiters – who were in favour of a Left wing exit from the EU. Lexiters told us that membership of the EU prevented us from achieving a socialist Britain; though not quite as much as the British people constantly voting for Tory governments prevented us from achieving it, you might say.

But it wasn’t just the right-wing that brought us Brexit. They were aided and abetted by the Lexiters – who were in favour of a Left wing exit from the EU.

Against the available evidence, Lexiters claimed remaining in the EU would prevent state ownership. Being in the EU didn’t stop the French State, through EDF, from being one of the major players in the British energy sector, or the SNCF and Deutsche Bahn from running national rail services franchises. In any case it is a bit rich the British to criticise the EU for not allowing state ownership when our governments virtually invented privatisation in its modern form. It’s like Sky TV complaining that there is too much football on TV.


We can also blame pro-Leave voices in the Labour Party. They were too slow to realise that, far from splitting the Tory party in two as the conventional wisdom had it, it was the Labour Party that would destroy itself over Europe. Although we are now told that Labour lost it by becoming too close to the Remain side, they were never going to win an election opposing the vast majority of its own supporters on the central issue. Even in the ‘Leave’ seats, the majority of Labour voters were Remainers. People forget, but it was Labour committing to a referendum on the deal that pushed the Liberals over the edge. At that point they were a credible alternative for Remain voters, but Labour moving onto their patch forced them into saying they would revoke Article 50 without a referendum and this was when their campaign started to unravel. Had Labour gone full Brexit, there is every chance that it would have been the end of the Labour Party as we know it. Metropolitan voters, who live and work contentedly with people from all over the world and who consider themselves to be European to the core, could never bring themselves to side with the Farageists.


Some took Jeremy Corbyn’s near success in 2017 as evidence of electoral support for a Labour pro-Brexit position, but his undoubted popularity, especially with the young, was despite and not because of this. And let’s not forget that Corbyn was probably up against the worst PM in British History, Teresa May, who was a better dancer than she was candidate for Prime Minister. There is no other Tory leader in living memory who could have performed so badly and blown the 20 point lead that she did, yet she still won the election in 2017.

Corbyn was probably up against the worst PM in British History, Teresa May, who was a better dancer than she was candidate for Prime Minister.


The EU is far from perfect, but for all of its faults, Europe is certainly more progressive than most of the rest of the World and certainly a right wing Britain under the Tories. The arguments of the Lexiters were unsound. If you had to be poor, you would surely rather be in the EU than almost anywhere else and if you have to be poor and British, then you would surely rather Britain be in the EU than outside it. The EU has enlightened human rights and labour law legislation and consumer standards that protect Britons, too. These are the real reasons the Tories are champing at the teeth to leave the EU, all the better to exploit ordinary people without restraint.


Soon the myth of the sweetheart deal Boris Johnson claims he can get with the EU will be exposed for the lie that it is and we will suffer the severe consequences of a sudden departure. The Corona crisis has demonstrated that nations’ fortunes are interwoven to a degree that they never have been before and in ways that are hard to imagine being undone. The unraveling of European trade and co-operation will demonstrate clearly to every observer that no country is an island, not even Britain.


We’re going to take back control

 

We’re going to take back control
Like in the days of old
Like in the days of gold
We are going to take back control

We’re going to rule the waves again
Back to the glory days of when
The Sun would never set
Those days we can’t forget

Back to the days when the shops all closed
Before the colour TV sold all our souls

We’ll show them what we’re all about
We’re going to kick the bad ones out
No one will tell us what to do
We’ll rule the world from our front room

We’re going to stop them coming in
We’re going to judge them by their skin
We’re going to turn back the tide
We’re going to get back our pride

Back to the days when the lights went out
We sat with candles through the darkest hours

We’re going to bring back the steel
We’re going to make the greatest deals
We’re going to have the freest trade
We’ll have it all and still get paid

Back to the days when the pubs all closed
Before the satellite TV sold all our souls

We’re going to take back control
Like in the days of old
Like in the days of gold
We’re going to take back control

Back to the days when the lights went out
We sat with candles through the darkest hours

Back to the days with our hankies on our heads
We sat on beaches with our faces turning red




Released May 31, 2020
It’s me on everything…
license all rights reserved, Richard Tuley


Richard Tuley

Richard Tuley is a teacher and musician who has lived and worked in many different places, most notably France, Japan, the Middle East and England.



Categories: Brexit, Music, Richard Tuley, The Labour Party

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