Thank you for the sandbags

Winter is not my favourite thing. The cold hurts my joints, my skin and my teeth. The earth is dead and hard, everything is grey and damp. But most of all it is dark. Dark when you wake up, dark on the journey home, dark Sunday evenings and dark Monday mornings.

And the darkness penetrates where even the cold can’t reach; right into my core. It sits, angry and suffocating in the pit of my stomach, making it hard to swallow, making me heavy and sad and useless. It grows, it gets darker, it communicates and it hates. It feeds on the cold and the loneliness, it moves up my abdomen and it fills my throat.

That’s how winter feels to me. But I’ve had years in training and I know how to combat it: Plan. Fill the dark nights with things. See people. Move. Get up. Shout back at its angry, clawing, suffocating stench. Light a fire. Make soup. Have hugs.

I know how. And every year I win; every year there’s Spring.

This year, knowing I know how had a new consequence: subconscious anticipation. The darkness knew I knew how and evolved; the darkness woke up in August.

The darkness does not belong in August. I didn’t know it, didn’t recognise it, didn’t understand it. It was scary and I was useless and stupid and stuck. But I know me: I know my obsessive logic in working things out, know my need to write things down, to analyse, to find explanations. Why was I useless and stupid and stuck? There was sunshine, and holidays, and outside and friends. So why was I heavy and lonely and sad? I recognised the darkness; it had looked a little different in the light but it couldn’t hide its own qualities.

Battle stations. Too late for defensive manoeuvres; I needed attack.

Drown the darkness in the swimming pool. Smother it in sofas and series. Poison it with pills. Asphyxiate it with heavy does of friends and activity. Stamp on it when it tries to ruin them.

Realise that stamping doesn’t often work. Admit that big groups don’t drown out its nitpicking meanness as well as well direct hits of good friends. Regroup not retreat.

Sleep.

Rebuild defences:

Shield 1: good films.

Shield 2: lots of gigs.

Shield 3: hot water bottles.

Shield 4: Yorkshires and gravy.

Shield 5: crunchy, frosty, sunny mornings.

But just to be safe, I gathered up sandbags from friends, asked them to help me dig a moat, hoist up the drawbridge and share my castle with things that make them happy too.

Snuggling with pets, family and loved ones. Log fires, woolly jumpers and onesies. Soups and stews. Nice warm pubs with proper fires. Strictly Come Dancing. Putting on your PJs at 5pm. Mash. Pork Belly. Forward thinking: summer is on its way. Blankets. Baked cheese. Mugs of hot chocolate whilst sitting on the windowsill watching the weather with your feet on the radiator. Jumper dresses, massive scarves, kickin’ mittens, handmade hats. Fairy lights. Sparklers. Baked potatoes that warm the kitchen. Pie and mash. People’s faces when it snows. Candle lit bubble baths with wine. Knitwear. Winter coats. Cold, crisp walks ending in pub lunches. Trips to the theatre. Knitting. Lots of candles. Wearing layers. Reading a book in front of the fire. Beautiful coats. Dumplings. Going to bed at 9pm. Winter holidays. Christmas. The Apprentice game. Good books. Thick socks. Cheese and port. New wellies. Slow cookers. Christmas trees. Penrhyn Christmas. Snow. Mulled wine. Mulled cider. Baileys in hot drinks. Masterquiz. All the wasps die.

Thank you for the sandbags.

A Plague on Both Your Houses

A couple of months ago I wrote an intentionally polemical piece on why I may not vote to remain in the European Union. Partly a reaction to the social media-led culture of insular political confirmation which made last May’s exit poll as baffling as it was devastating, and partly to raise some questions of the EU in advance of a campaign that was clearly going to be a right-wing headbutt of no intellectual significance. It was my starting gun for thinking about where I stood in regards to the referendum.

I have spent the interim trying to find some genuinely positive and creative reasons to get up and shout about the benefit of the EU.

I want to return to the questions I initially raised but also to consider the referendum in the wider context of democracy and the current state of politics in Britain. I write having already cast my ballot by post, but prior to polling day and thus the result.

Raking over old ground

Trade

Trade and economics has dominated the mainstream debate. How much we trade with Europe, how devastating it will be to have to think harder about how to buy Spanish tomatoes and German electronics in the future, how big business and financial services wants us to stay in the EU, as do our financial services. And what a disaster it would be for all of us if they weren’t happy.

Nothing about the unfairness of trade agreements. Nothing about the charade of ‘free trade’ and its impact on poorer countries outside of the EU. I remain genuinely baffled by people who identify as internationalists and overtly defend the EU.

I completely switched off from the economic arguments very quickly. Economic predictions by people and institutions who were still gleefully backing sub-prime mortgages in 2007 were really of no interest to me whatsoever, regardless of who they’re backing.

Nationalisation

I didn’t discuss TTIP in my original post but it was a primary concern for me in regards to the EU. It was a key reason why I considered voting Leave; a secretly-negotiated trade agreement which favoured big business over workers rights and democracy was not something I was keen on.

But hearing from those with more expertise over the past couple of months has meant TTIP became one of the reasons I moved away from voting Leave. Trade Unions and other, more left-leaning, governments across Europe have been lobbying hard to reform and weaken TTIP. This solidarity of the left was something we see too little of but I have been convinced it does happen across Europe, even if Britain’s Trade Unions are too weak or too complacent to take an active part.

The current nature of our government, and the weakness and complacency of the British left, means that something as equally damaging as TTIP would probably be signed into law before we’ve had chance to blink if we left the EU.

Greece

I’ve spent some time considering the thoughts of Yanis Varoufakis, the world’s first charismatic Finance Minister and all-too-briefly bête noir of the European Bank. In an article published in April, he reflected on his attempts to negotiate with the EU over the Greek bailout, having just won an election on an anti-austerity manifesto. At a Europgroup meeting in 2015, his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schäuble told him, “Elections cannot be allowed to change an economic programme of a member state.”

Varoufakis believes both Greece and Britain should remain in the EU. To leave would lead to a fracturing of the entire Union, leaving a vacuum suited to ‘xenophobes, ultra-nationalists, the enemies of democratic sovereignty’. Instead he hopes his Democracy in Europe Movement can help spark a ‘democratic surge’ to push back both against the Brussels bulwark and hyper-nationalist tendencies.

That’s nice. It’s not an option on my poll card though; all I can do is endorse the EU in its current guise or walk away. Varoufakis acknowledges that his view is a utopian one but worth fighting for. If that’s his utopia, I’m disappointed by his imagination.

Them Blasted Foreigns

Speaking of ‘xenophobes, ultra-nationalists, [and] the enemies of democratic sovereignty’, since I last wrote the EU have made a nice little deal with Turkey. Every time I try to form words to discuss this deal, I just end up spitting. Suffice to say Turkey is not a safe third country. It’s not even a safe first country if you’re a journalist or Kurdish. Those refugees who have been deported there have been detained indefinitely and denied medical care. Those that remain in limbo on the Greek islands are no better off.

There’s a reason Médecins Sans Frontières are no longer accepting funds from the EU or its members; it’s because their attitude and policy towards some of the world’s most vulnerable people is grotesque.

Labour’s Referendum Campaign

The campaign hadn’t really started when I wrote my last post. Now it’s in its final throes of vitriol before the strangled death rattle of near-empty polling stations on Thursday. It’s been as dismal and intellectually void as the General Election last year. Before I stick the boot in to the two choices offered to me by the official Remain and Leave campaigns, a wee word about my fellow lefties.

I’ve seen a lot about human rights, workers rights, paid leave, paternity and maternity rights, equal pay all being protected by the EU. It’s what Labour have been basing their official campaign on (not that their ‘traditional voters’ would know, because they’re avoiding campaigning in white working class areas, for fear of meeting someone who doesn’t agree with them presumably). It’s what I’ve been informed about each time I’ve raised the possibility of not voting ‘in’.

This pisses me off. We don’t have these rights because the EU gave them to us. We have these rights because people fought for them. They fought long and hard. Some died for them. People unionised, petitioned, marched, went on strike, smashed things.

But it doesn’t piss me off because of its historical inaccuracies. It pisses me off because this language of protectionism is debilitating and dangerous.

The EU will not protect you from a state that wants to roll back gains we’ve made in social justice. It will not protect you from a state’s decision to restrict civil liberties. It will not protect you from a state that wants to infringe your human rights. Take a look at the Localism Act, the Welfare Reform Act, the Immigration Act the bill currently working their way through our parliament on surveillance, the manifesto promise to redraw the British Human Rights Act of 1998.

The language from the Labour campaign that the EU will protect us from the worst excesses of Tory rule are not only false but also encourage the complacency and disengagement that allows those excesses to go unchallenged.

A Plague on Both Your Houses

There are two choices on the ballot paper: to Leave and face economic meltdown or to Remain and have to sleep ten to a bed with Polish people. These are the two campaigns officially endorsed by our dear leaders. These are your two options.

Your choice is either to vote ‘yes, I thoroughly endorse the status quo’ or ‘no, I’m a racist bigot’.

The nuances of ‘yes, I’d like to stick around and help reform the EU so it is nicer, more just and more democratic’ or ‘no, I’d like to get away from this brutal neo-liberal monster and rebuild a more just society from the grassroots’ are not on the table, however much you want them to be.

Your choice is either to vote ‘yes, I thoroughly endorse the status quo’ or ‘no, I’m a racist bigot’.

That’s how our voting system works. In general elections, read the small print on your ballot paper and it will say, ‘I vote for everything in Labour’s manifesto plus some stuff they haven’t told us about yet’ or ‘I vote for everything in the Conservative manifesto plus some stuff they haven’t told us about yet’. They’re your only two options, however many candidates are listed.

The options in our voting system are always binary and always flawed. There is no nuance, there is no room for serious debate. There is no choice.

Voting is not democracy.

Your choice is either to vote ‘yes, I thoroughly endorse the status quo’ or ‘no, I’m a racist bigot’.

Engage with Politics

I had considered ending this piece with a conclusion which touched on where my own politics are at present and how that informed my actions in the referendum. But as I’ve been writing it, ‘where my politics are at present’ also required a ‘how they got here’ section and a much more difficult and potentially quite scary ‘where they are going’. It would start picking apart why Labour don’t go and talk to their traditional voters and why they seem to be encouraging complacency towards power-hungry monoliths. My internal anger would need to be better channeled to write that and it’s not there yet.

Suffice to say my politics have remained rooted to two fundamentals: democracy and social justice. Both options on the ballot paper are in flagrant opposition to my fundamentals.

So in conclusion, I don’t care how you vote on Thursday; it’s a scam, a nonsense and an intentional placebo.

Go out and fight for something better.

Revolution Girl Style…Eventually

I discovered Riot Grrrl a decade too late.

I love music. Music has always been a part of who I am and how I define myself. And yet I would never speak about it; I would avoid discussing it, writing about it, cringe at being asked ‘what kind of stuff do you listen to?’ and certainly never, ever read music journalism. It is only very recently that I’ve begun to step out of this self-made fortress and question why. Why is it that something I’ve always been so passionate about, so interested in and dedicated so much time to, been so private and shuttered? Why is it so utterly removed from how I talk openly and keenly about my other interests, even those in which I have controversial opinions? What I am going to say is not particularly novel, not ground-breaking, not revolutionary. But this is my experience of music as a gendered space.

I went to school in the mid-nineties. I didn’t fit in and I didn’t like the musical genres of my peers, whether it was Britpop, hardcore or 90s dance. Even the friendlier folk who found solace in grunge as it moved from Nirvana to Greenday didn’t seem to offer me a home. My brother was musical and from him I cherry-picked influences, from Guns ‘n’ Roses to black metal. My parents’ folk sensibilities, the splashes of Beatles, the Who, the Rolling Stones clung on in the background for a while. Black metal offered a reaction against my peers and a veiling fashion to hide behind. With hindsight, it offered nothing positive or constructive for an awkward, angry girl.

Eventually, through luck and a library card I picked up Sonic Youth, the Cure, Pavement at 70p a CD and began to build a small and secretive collection of neatly-labelled copied tapes. I later shook off the grotesque misjudgements of One Hot Minute, Placebo and Silverchair but too easily rejected the Beastie Boys and Debaser. I held a very personal and obsessive relationship with Blind Melon for some years and the chords of No Rain still have the power to sting my eyes with nostalgic teenage angst.

In my second year at college I made two friends. Music stopped being a solitary pursuit. We swapped intricately-constructed mixtapes, inflated phone bills downloading one song at a time from Napster, discovered the Strokes, the White Stripes, the Hives. Danced in public. Even to Debaser. One evening, listening to John Peel, I heard the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I have a very clear memory of the following day. Walking down the corridor between the cool arts side of college back towards our A Level block, cocooned inside the metal-framed windows and that functionary, comforting public-building smell, asking my two friends if they’d heard the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They hadn’t. This was my discovery, my value. I was on equal footing with my small, select, eye-liner obsessive, single-gender friendship group.

But our social lives were not a vacuum. There were bars, parties. There was dancing, drinking, smoking, boys. The boys knew we liked music. And they liked to tell us that they liked music too.

Boys liked to tell us what sort of guitar Jonny Greenwood played (‘Who’s Jonny Greenwood?’ ‘Who’s Johnny Greenwood? How can you dance to that song and not know who Jonny Greenwood is?’). Boys liked to tell us the intricate histories of musicians as though they were football players switching clubs (knowing Bobby Gillespie’s involvement with illegal stimulants and the Jesus and Mary Chain didn’t change my favourable opinion of either of these despite my disinterest in Primal Scream, much to the chagrin of one young man). Boys liked to tell us what music we liked and what music we didn’t like (‘Aren’t you going to dance with your friends?’ ‘I don’t really like The Smiths.’ ‘Of course you like the Smiths; you just said you liked the Cure. You can’t like the Cure and not the Smiths. And anyway, the Smiths are better.’1)

Boys talked about music as though it were a purely technical, scientific and academic subject with obvious and infallible family trees as sectarian and inflexible as Northern Irish politics. To like this, you had to like that, know him, recognise that riff, remember the acrimonious split with the other guy and thus not like his new band and understand all of this to be fact which must be memorised and repeated twelve times before you could even dare fight through the cellophane and play their new record. To like a band you had to know its members, its back catalogue, its record label and their musical relatives. Only then could you argue that they were good. To dislike a band would require similar knowledge but defamation could be further shored up by knowledge of a ‘Yoko factor’; for example, any band with the exception of Nirvana which had any link to Courtney Love was obviously awful because of her.

There were the grunge boys, the indie boys, the heavy metal boys, the hip-hop boys, the nu-metal boys, the goths. And ne’er the twain should meet. In some ways we had the better deal; we could and did commune with all groups (with the exception of the goths; both my own history with black metal and their particular defensive insularity meant that no one approached their corner of the bar without a suitable amount of dark lace and lipstick). But my musical opinions were of no interest or consequence beyond being corrected on the sidelines of a constant game of one-upmanship. I learnt to just stay quiet.

The music press was written in the same vein. It was uninteresting, intentionally obscure and impenetrable for beginners, and fundamentally misogynist. Boys in bands could talk about their effects pedals and their personal journeys. Girls in bands were often downplayed, frequently photographed but only given agency when involved in a ‘cat fight’ or a band’s demise. I stopped reading.

But still I loved music. I collected up people’s suggestions, spent significant parts of my student loan in Fopp, went to gigs in bars, in clubs, in made-to-measure gig venues. My interest and passion for live music grew. Even now there are times when I can go to upwards of three gigs a week. But I stopped offering my suggestions, I stopped asserting my passions.

I can’t think of a single occasion when I’ve gone to a gig with just another woman.

For a long time I would stand back at gigs. Partly to avoid being trodden on. But also because of a sense of inferiority; that I didn’t deserve to be up front, that I wasn’t a true fan, I didn’t know all the words, I might mis-tap my foot or nod my head out of time. There was frequently an atmosphere that reiterated this feeling. Even now, particularly at heavier gigs where the male:female ratio resembles indie pop gigs of old, there’s an identifiable masculine atmosphere of aggression and superiority.

(I want to take a quick sideline here. I am now assertive at gigs. I will happily go alone, at least if I am familiar with the venue and safe ways home. I frequently go with friends who are taller and hang back so I split off and make my way forwards. I like watching drummers so will move to get them in my sightline. I find the most annoying character at any gig is the over-protective boyfriend who sees everyone as a threat to his delicate lady who must keep being reassured with protective holds and unnecessary PDA. I also smile a lot at gigs. This may be a strange and unnatural reaction to enjoying myself which I think can be disarming.)

I discovered Riot Grrrl a decade too late.

I love music. I didn’t like talking about music. I didn’t like reading about music. I thought my views and tastes were invalid. I couldn’t make music because I didn’t have the technical know-how. And anyway, who’d want a potential Yoko in their band?

It’s frustrating because I have loved Sonic Youth since my teens and had picked up Fugazi. I was politically and socially aware and active. Yet I never knew I was that one step away from the music and ethos of Bikini Kill, Babes in Toyland, Huggy Bear and Sleater-Kinney. That small step in that blindingly obvious direction was blocked by louder voices and disinterested music journalists.

(Another aside. I eventually found a couple of these bands through a male friend. I actually owe a lot to him in terms of finding music and feeling happy to say when I did or didn’t like something. He even gave me Sara Marcus’s book on Riot Grrrl. We jointly and unconsciously created a small space for music which was not gendered. It was small because, until recently, never involved more than the two of us.)

Yesterday I attended an immersive event based around the screening of The Punk Singer, organised by an amazing collective of young women.2 It involved stalls, crafting, workshops, performances and a gig as well as the film. Assertively open to everyone, its primary audience was young women. Late in the evening, between bands, a male friend, intelligent and self-aware, commented that he had felt less welcome in the space than he was used to, almost an intruder; that the event wasn’t for him. I think he probably felt like I have done for years at gigs and music events without ever understanding or questioning why.

I wish I’d found the music and ethos of Riot Grrrl in my late teens, not my late twenties. Maybe it would have given me more confidence. Maybe I would have found more music. Maybe I would have shared more with my friends. Maybe I would have written about music. Perhaps I would have been more confident in my own creativity. Perhaps I wouldn’t have felt like I should be apologising for taking up space.

GIRLS TO THE FRONT.

There’ll be a woman in her 30s there, smiling disarmingly.

 

1The use of the semi-colon here is purely for my own pleasure; I am confident that this young man’s grammar was not up to such flourishes of beauty. Also, the Smiths aren’t better and I don’t need to know the name of the bassist to assert that point.

2Girl Gang Sheffield. They do amazing things.

Why I May Not Vote to Remain in the EU

I should be a natural supporter of the European Union. It was built on the back of the peace which followed the Second World War; a check on national governments, a union of nations, a collaborative enterprise. It supports the free movement of people. It defends human rights at a transnational level, protects employment rights, promotes gender equality… And for goodness sake, look at the nutcases, half-wits and downright contemptible folk who are campaigning to leave: Farage, Galloway, Gove, Johnson.

But these assumptions are misplaced. There is little to be gained from speculating whether or not Europe would have remained at peace after 1945 without an economic union between France and Germany (although it is worth pointing out we were hardly bosom chums with many of our fellow members until the 1990s). We have been at peace with our pals across the Channel. Well done us. Perhaps the EU has prevented us from our worst excesses. But as to the rest? We’re getting on so well with Russia right now…

It supports the free movement of people. Except it has a racist definition of people. It’s a check on national governments; isn’t that the judiciary’s job? It defends human rights; so does the UN Charter, the European Court of Human Rights (Hi! I’m the EHCR, I have 47 members and I am independent of the European Union [yes, that does include Russia and Azerbaijan, what of it?]) and, on a far more practical and effective level, our own Human Rights Act (1998). It protects employment rights, gender equality. So do trade unions, and have done for far longer, far more vivaciously and with a far stronger democratic mandate. And who supports staying in? Cameron, Osborne, May, Blair. All firm favourites of my imaginary boxercise regime.

I may not be a natural supporter of the European Union.

Ideals vs Reality

Trade

The EU began life as the European Coal and Steel Community, essentially an economic union tying together France and Germany alongside the Benelux countries (and Italy, because they needed something to do) with the rationale that if you co-operate in these key industries, you can’t start squabbling over Alsace and Lorraine again. So far, so successful. Trade and economic partnership have thus remained the bedrock of the organisation as it developed, first into the European Economic Community (1957 and the Treaty of Rome), then dropping ‘Economic’ and then into the EU with the Maastricht Treaty in 1993. Now there’s 28 members, including us since the French stopped being stubborn in 1973.

Free trade between member states, and those who play by EU rules like Norway, prevails. And free trade is good, right? It’s fair because it is the opposite of protectionism which gives unfair advantages to countries or industries to the disadvantage of other, often less advanced or wealthy countries. Except the free trade area in the EU is also a giant protectionist wall against non-EU countries. The Common Agricultural Policy keeps farmers in business (or, at least, landowners in credit) by preventing cheaper foods being imported from non-EU countries, principally poorer countries. So it’s unfair. It also keeps some food prices high because they are protected (any A-Level historians out there, recall the Corn Laws) and so do not compete to market value. So the EU’s economic policy fucks poorer countries outside the EU, and poorer consumers inside.

Nationalisation

The old left were right to be suspicious. Nationalised industries are considered to be unfair by the EU because they prevent a level playing field for industry and skew competitive tenders. Even ignoring the hypocrisy of this policy in light of the previous discussion, that’s nonsensical if you put people before profit; some businesses (F.K.A. services) could be more cheaply and effectively provided for by governments or subsidiaries of governments. But they’re not even allowed to bid to provide a train service or a water supply, because that would be unfair competitive advantage.

So instead of a non-profit organisation or an arm of government potentially making a profit to reinvest in a service (like the East Coast Mainline train franchise, for example), any profit made from providing a service gets pocketed by folks who can already afford to travel first class. Perfectly in line with the corporatist foundations of the ECSC; the EU is about business, not people.

Now, bear with me whilst I’m sounding like a (Tony) Bennite because shortly I’ll blow up the notion that I’m pro-big government or have a ‘the state is great’ flag. Or indeed think nationalisation is even a ‘good thing’; I’m just upset by hypocrisy and ripping people off. But before we get onto bureaucracy, let’s talk about democracy.

Greece

Blah blah blah, democratic deficit, blah blah blah. Any argument you want to make about the failings of the EU as a democratic entity can just as easily be made for our own national government. Someone duller and better versed in AV+ versus STV and purple ribbons has covered that aplenty.

It is one thing being a check on the excesses of national governments, it is another to complete fuck one over with a strong democratic mandate to do exactly the opposite of what the schoolyard bullies demand. The behaviour of the European Central Bank and the key member states, particularly Germany, to a member country facing financial ruin with a growing degree of desperation and destitution amongst its citizens – EU citizens – has been inherently vile. It’s also been economically unsound; the conditions placed on Greece for its bailouts may look familiar to international political economists who were around in the 1980s and 1990s because they closely resemble Structural Adjustment Policies imposed on various sub-Saharan African and Latin American countries by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. They were exceptionally successful at undermining democratically-elected governments, destroying fledgling national infrastructure and encouraging rampant corruption. They were less effective at helping states to rebuild and recovering their loans. Remember signing that petition for debt relief to a country you couldn’t identify on a world map in the early naughties?

I still believe that Greece would have been better to leave the Euro, it only lacked the confidence. But that’s another debate. This is only to point out that not only does the EU not give a flying fuck about democracy if it doesn’t make money, it also shits on its weakest members. I’ve never been a fan of schoolyard bullies and Greece doesn’t even have lunch money to placate them.

Them Blasted Foreigns

So surely a key function of a supranational body is to have solutions to supranational problems which are also national problems for its members? Maybe even have contingency plans for really obvious and predictable problems? Apparently not. The utter failure of the EU to have even done a back-of-a-fag-packet risk assessment for a spike in people seeking sanctuary is thoroughly baffling. It’s not like the clusterfuck currently occurring in the Middle East is in any way a surprise. And it’s never going to be a quick fix, not least as climate change is busily pushing people north and guaranteeing a longer-term problem of people heading to Europe for their own survival.

I’ve already said the EU’s take on the free movement of people is racist (yeah, I’m one of those No Borders utopian anarchist types dedicated to the collapse of Britain and all the values we hold dear like corgis, the right to queue for a Greggs pasty and rampant paedophilia for celebrities). My logic here is much akin to my earlier critique of the EU’s take on free trade (not the Greggs pasty bit) but it’s not just hypocrisy in this case, it’s also spineless rhetorically bullshit: The Schengen agreement is basically dead. Ask Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway and Sweden who have all ‘temporarily’ imposed border controls. Maybe Schengen could be saved if it just added the clause, ‘in reference to the free movement of people, the Schengen agreement defines people as rich white people’.

Bureaucracy

It’s all getting too emotive, right? This should calm things down. And also shake off that burning accusation that this is just the ramblings of someone longing for the heyday of state socialism. I don’t much trust government (nb. not the government, or this government, just government generally, all of them); I appreciate the judiciary acts as a check on the excesses of power in democracies although it too is far from perfect. I don’t much like nationalism; it is exclusionary and somewhat farcical. Does the EU also help with either of these things?

On the latter, no. As I’ve discussed in terms of ‘free trade’ and ‘free movement of people’, the EU simply acts like a giant nation state with the power to exclude very effectively. As to the former, I don’t much like bureaucracy; it tends towards the ineffective, the complex and thus corruptible, they don’t much appreciate transparency or democratic accountability. National governments show this on a regular enough basis; the EU has made it an art form.

I’m a democrat (not a Democrat, or indeed a fan of either Clinton), by which I mean I believe that power should be exercised as close to the people it effects as is feasible. I would like to see widespread and thorough devolution of power from political centres. Previously I had thought this made me a supporter of the EU; a Europe of the regions. But increasingly it feels like it makes me one of the EU’s biggest critics because the EU promotes a privileged, exclusive and unaccountable agenda. It is no better than a nation state, rather it seems to have taken the worst elements of such a political organisation and pumped them full of steroids.

Conclusion

The EU is about money and trade, not union and people. If you don’t really believe that consider the reforms Cameron’s managed to secure in his negotiations: safeguarding Britain’s financial service industry from Eurozone regulation. Because an unregulated financial service industry has proved so super for the people of Britain.

There’s 4 months until the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. The level of debate so far has been…crappy. I don’t currently know how I will vote. I do like change though. I’m a big fan of change. And I like being contrary so if I ‘should’ be voting to stay in, I’m sure as hell gonna play the devil’s advocate for a while.

Also, Tory infighting? My favourite.

suzammah