England out of European Cup and European Union … David Cameron barricaded in No 10 … Tories deflect blame onto Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn … Germany goes multicultural … Great Bores continued …
Brexit debacle followed by European Cup humiliation
It took a mere three days before England suffered the first backlash from its referendum vote to exit the European Union (EU). Tiny frozen Iceland, with a population of 330,800 people who are outnumbered by reindeer, seals and moose, knocked England out of the European Cup in a 2-1 humiliation.
England manager Roy Hodgson resigned immediately. However, Prime Minister David Cameron didn’t. He intends to remain in No 10 saying he will step down when Tory MPs elect a successor in time for the party’s annual conference in Birmingham starting on October 2.
That’s three months away.
After his sweeping General Election victory last year, the Old Etonian thought he would easily carry the referendum and that is what he told his own Cabinet, European leaders, US President Barack Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping. When he failed, his political career seemed over. England’s rulers have no time for failures, e.g. Neville Chamberlain, Anthony Eden, Edward Heath.
So what’s Cameron hanging around for?
His immediate priorities are to protect the City of London, the Stock Exchange, the pound and, most amazingly, his prime ministership. A former spin doctor for commercial television, he is attempting to spin his way out of trouble.
Everything he’s done since the fateful Brexit vote is aimed at delay, duck-shoving and buying time. This modern day Game of Thrones has several episodes left to play…
Cameron clings to No 10
After the Brexit vote, Cameron’s first visitor was US Secretary of State John Kerry who is buzzing around the Free World holding everything together for the Democratic Party and the Clintons.
Kerry’s message to Cameron was to hang on because, he said, the Brexit vote could be “walked back”. Oh really?
Emboldened by Washington’s support, Cameron headed to Brussels to meet European heads of state to negotiate a special status for Britain to stay in the EU.
His most significant statement was almost buried: “The British Government will not be triggering Article 50 at this stage.”
What was he referring to?
Article 50 of the 2007 Lisbon Treaty states: “Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its constitutional requirements.”
This controversial “get out” clause was inserted by the British Labour Government to appease its own left wing, influential Tories … and Rupert Murdoch.
It is now clear that Cameron’s mission is: 1) to strike a deal with European heads of state to allow Britain to remain within the EU; 2) to frighten Euro-sceptics into changing their mind; 3) to give the Foreign Office, Whitehall, the Defence Department and Euro-crats as much time as possible to negotiate an Euro-wide anti-refugee policy that is acceptable to the xenophobic English electorate; 4) to see off any challenge to his leadership.
But remodelling EU policy to conform to “Little England” insularity is anathema to committed Europeans. It represents a direct challenge to modern Europeanism and its commitment to human rights and open borders.
This London v Europe contest will determine the fate of the EU as a single market with a single currency.
In essence, it is a struggle between the historic striving for a multi-state Europe with free movement of people, labour, goods and investment and a nationalist Europe comprising competing single states.
Cameron’s plan to hang on to the prime ministership was clearly underscored on Thursday when his Old Etonian chum, Boris Johnson, announced he was withdrawing from the leadership contest. He joined Chancellor George Osborne who has announced that he too is out of the race.
Their decision gives Cameron the green light to remain at No 10 and pick off the five remaining leadership aspirants, with three months to do it.
Tories turn fire on Labour
After David Cameron led the Remain campaign to its inglorious defeat you could be excused for being baffled by the media coverage. It wasn’t, the pundits insisted, a crisis in the Tory leadership but in the leadership of the Labour Party.
The man held responsible for the referendum result wasn’t Cameron and his divided Tories but Labour and, in particular, its leftist leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Acting like a pack of hyenas, the political commentators descended on Corbyn demanding his head and the election of a new Labour leader.
Right-wing Blairite shadow cabinet ministers resigned en masse and demanded a meeting to oust Corbyn. They weren’t clear who should replace him but who cares? “It’s like a lynch mob without a rope,” Corbyn accurately observed.
Post-referendum media coverage was all about Labour/Corbyn and much less about the Tories/Cameron.
In the Commons on Wednesday Cameron directed his attack on Corbyn: “It might be in my party’s interest for him (Corbyn) to sit there, it’s not in the national interest and I would say, for heaven’s sake man, go.”
Hearing a Tory leader urging the Labour Party to ditch their leader was a unique parliamentary event.
There is a simple reason for his anti-Corbyn fury. Desperate English bankers, investors and manufacturers want a Labour leader totally committed to keeping Britain in the EU. They don’t believe that Corbyn is such a leader, and they are right.
A devoted supporter of the late Tony Benn, Corbyn has a long career as a political opponent of the EU, previously called the EEC and the Common Market.
The Tories need an Opposition leader who won’t press for Article 50 provisions to take Britain out of the EU or to demand Cameron’s resignation. Blairite remnants are in abundance to offer their loyalty to the Tories. And if it brings a future place in the Cabinet of a government of national unity (GNU), then they are ready to serve.
If a coalition with right-wing Labour can’t be stitched up, the Tories may call an early general election to delay things still further. However, it won’t settle anything either.
Britain, the world’s oldest capitalist country, has stumbled and the whole world is holding its breath.
The new Germany
Cruising down the Rhine on our way to Amsterdam, we were entertained by brilliant musicians who played Beethoven’s Piano Trio in E-Flat major, Op 1, No 1, Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No 1 in C minor, Op 8 followed by Brahms’ Piano Trio in B Major, Op 8. As a bonus we also heard a piece written by Russian Georgy Sviridov (1915-1998).
For the record Beethoven, born in nearby Bonn, was 21 when he wrote his piece; Shostakovich 17; and Brahms 22.
In other words, all of us “oldies” on board were listening to compositions by very youthful Europeans. Much like hearing the Beatles 50 years ago?
The musicians were interesting too: Jinsang Lee (piano), Mikhail Ovrutsky (violin) and Gregory Alumyan (cello) from the Beethoven Trio Bonn.
These weren’t your usual knucklewurst mit sauerkraut musicians; they represent the new multi-cultural Germany.
The evening concluded with an impromptu invitation for them to play in Australia. Without a properly funded Commonwealth arts budget, it seems a faint hope.
The magnificent on-board concert was due to impeccable scheduling by Hugh Hallard’s Renaissance Tours and our outstanding guides, Christopher Lawrence (ABC Classic FM presenter), Christopher Allen (The Australian senior art critic) and John McDonald (Sydney Morning Herald senior art critic).
The Plague, also known as the Black Death, ravaged Europe between 1348 and 1350 killing almost two-thirds of the population. One of the hardest hit was the medieval city of Wurzburg in Franconia, southern Germany.
As bubonic plague devastated the population, the devout burghers noticed an interesting thing: Catholics who constituted the overwhelming majority of the population were dying in droves while the tiny community of Jews suffered relatively few fatalities.
There was a good reason for this: Jews washed themselves seven times a day in accordance with their religious practice, while Catholics bathed perhaps twice a year.
The Prince Bishop of Wurzburg summoned his ecclesiastical court of bishops and priests to decide how to handle this delicate question which seemed to suggest, prima facie, that the personal hygiene of Jews was superior to that of the smelly True Believers (Catholics).
After earnest prayers, an explanation was quickly agreed upon. Surprisingly it was not that Catholics should wash themselves more often. On the contrary, they decided that Jews had poisoned the city’s wells, provoking one of the most savage anti-Semitic pogroms in Christendom.
Jewish men, women, children and babies were stabbed and clubbed to death by marauding mobs. Some terrified Jewish families locked themselves in their homes and set them alight. Survivors packed a handful of belongings and fled.
A wave of pogroms broke out simultaneously in France, Spain and elsewhere in the Holy Roman Empire. The basic idea was to protect the feudal rulers, find scapegoats and set loose the obedient faithful to punish them.
Does any of this sound just a bit familiar?
Quote of the Week
We all know what “getting our country back” means. It’s snorting a line of that most pernicious and debilitating Little English drug, nostalgia.
– A A Gill, London columnist
Great Bores 3: New series
I cried when I heard Nigel Farage declare “Independence Day”. As an Englishman I can tell you it was the proudest day of my life. When they played God Save the Queen on the telly, me and my wife Doris stood up and sang along with them. I’ve been in Oz for 30 years but I’m still an Englishman through and through. You know, bangers and mash, a pint of Theakstons Old Peculier and Vera Lynn singing The White Cliffs of Dover. I came to Oz 30 years ago as a 10-pound Pom and it’s the best move I ever made. I’ve always been self-employed, started as a builder and then became a developer. We’ve got our home at Haberfield on Sydney Harbour and four investment properties. All negatively geared, of course. Everyone needs a good accountant these days and then you don’t have to pay any tax. That said, I wouldn’t go back to England if they paid me. It’s an expensive shithole, filled with Pakis, Poles and Paddies.