Tag Archives: politics

Trump could be a good thing

What were you doing when Donald J Trump became the 45th President of the United States?

I was walking my dog. I couldn’t bring myself to watch it live. I just don’t know enough swear words.

Tim Farron wasn’t watching it either.

He made a video, though. And it was pretty uplifting.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 25 Comments

If – that awkward little notion

If Britain does undergo ‘hard Brexit’, what do we do next? If said ‘hard Brexit’ results in a consistent and high-reaching economic growth, what do we say? “Unlikely”, “highly implausible”, “outright impossible” might be the instinctive or well-thought through response of an expert (of the armchair or academic variety). But humour me. If something happens contrary to our expectations, how do we respond?

It’s a relevant topic, given the year we’ve had. The idea that the referendum would result in Brexit was surprising (though, for me personally, not shocking). The idea that Donald Trump would be elected President of the US really was shocking. In both cases, the presumption of many was that they could not lose; that a variety of factors and self-evident prepositions resulted in an inevitable conclusion. I do not want to raise here why your or my presumptions were right or wrong, but how we should respond when we are mistaken.

It seems to me that the underlying condition that arose in 2016 was how headstrong everyone became. Every political hue became convinced that everything they asserted was undeniable, unless you were a blithering idiot (or deplorable). Facts became relative, and forecasts became cast-iron; unless of course, I disagreed with them. When did we lose the respect for our rivals, saying “this is what I propose, but I accept you have an alternative”?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 11 Comments

Book review: Made in Spain, by Miriam Gonzalez Durantez

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez Made in SpainI was delighted to get Miriam’s part memoir part cookbook for my birthday last week.

I love cookbooks and have a stack of them not in the kitchen but by my bed. My favourite sort have a lot of commentary and background as well as just recipes. That’s part of the reason I’m such a huge Nigella fan. She puts a lot of herself into her recipes and writing.   The two women have cooked together before and Nigella’s “Gorgeous recipes” endorsement on Miriam’s front cover is a very useful thing.

The book is worth it for a mini rant on stock alone, but it has so much to offer. The food is appetising – although I might use a bit more garlic than she does – with gutsy flavours. I can see myself making a fair few of these recipes, although I’d have to figure out how to use less oil. From a vibrant gazpacho simple pasta with bacon and peas taught to her sons when she broke her elbow during the 2010 election to a delicious lamb stew to the most wonderful sounding dish with potatoes, garlic and saffron, to lemon curd muffins, to olive oil chocolate mousse, there are dishes that could make me very happy. You never know, I might just cook some and compare her photos with mine.

Her recipes are interspersed with personal anecdotes:

I was first introduced to guacamole when I helped to negotiate the EU-Mexican trade agreement.

is quite a claim to fame!

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Listening, not just hearing

I have had several requests through facebook from voters on both sides of the EU issue on how to find a healthy, positive way forward. As deeply upset as many of us still are, it is difficult to think in positive, helpful terms when there still so much anger about this referendum taking place at all.

But I have put some thought into this and wish to share some ideas. In conflict resolution and mediation, lot of weight is placed on listening. This is a deep kind of listening, not one in which words are heard and then our point of view put forward, ‘but, but, but….’ Having done a fair bit of EU speaking and hustings, I am familiar with the riposte and parry required in refuting arguments and arguing a case.

Deep listening is understanding what is behind the words a person is saying. Many have suggested that much of the ‘leave’ vote was an anti-establishment vote, not an anti-EU vote. Tim Farron has pointed out that worries over housing, lack of school places and an under-resourced NHS were salient factors in the ‘leave’ vote.

I would further suggest that fear is behind many of the views of those who voted against the referendum. We live in a global world, a shrinking world, one that is quickly changing with technological advances. Those who voted leave, among them the majority older people, I suggest would like a return to a simpler world of pen and paper, not email, where everyone knows everyone in the village and stays there their entire life. But that is not the world young people live in – we train in different cities and countries, we work around the UK and in the rest of the world, we fall in love and have relationships which transcend borders. Younger people understand and embrace a fluid, global world. Many older people are frightened by it.

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Seeking an antidote to poisonous politics

Why does poisonous politics keep winning in Britain? A glance down your newsfeed will tell you that, for many, it’s because people are stupid. Let me put this plainly: it’s not.

We all vote with our hearts, however much we may protest otherwise. Brains too rarely come into it, clever or otherwise.

The voters who take solace in the myth of us vs them are just people who feel afraid. People who feel disenfranchised, powerless, ignored. And until we can offer them anything that speaks to their concerns, nothing is going to change.

I believe liberalism is the answer. But saying liberal things in our little liberal bubble will only serve to unite us against them in disbelief. Instead we have to engage: we have to try to understand.

Liberalism is about trusting people. So if you trust people, what are you forced to conclude? That politics has failed us. That society has failed us.

Don’t hate the people that Vote Leave manipulated: find a way of bringing them back into the fold.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 15 Comments

Three ways our democracy is being undermined

The articles that have appeared after the BBC’s referendum debate in Glasgow have given a lot of prominence to that one man who blamed the state of political discourse for his confusion as to how to vote.

This was too interesting not to comment on.

The audience was divided into leavers, remainers, and undecideds.

Leave and Remain both have their own ‘Project Fear’. Leavers tout a cultural crisis in the form of mass migration. Remainers raise the spectre of economic catastrophe.

Fear Projects, whereever they come from, are a concerted attempt to sway the public with threats dangerous enough to repeat frequently in scarce media time.

On the face of it my generation ought to be the most engaged generation there has ever been. Social media has turned every one of us into campaigners and journalists: we auto-report our lives and volunteer our opinions publicly. We are also happy to parrot or share anything we agree with.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 4 Comments

Faith values in politics can be a force for good?

You don’t need to be a church going person to learn and practice positive faith values in the society. The separation of church and state is a phrase that’s often used in reference to politics in the context of religious faith. In the US, the distinction between religion and politics is often blurred – you only have to listen to Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio addressing party loyalists to see just how intertwined the two are. But here in the UK there’s something of a taboo about conflating the two. In fact faith values in politics can be an immense force for good, just as they can outside politics.

Here in the UK, unlike our cousins across the Atlantic, we have an established church and our head of state is also the head of this church. This dual rule has been much reduced since the days of Henry VIII. There was once a time when the UK politics was presided over by a monarch who was both president and pope. Gradually their role faded, and religion was replaced by political philosophy as the driving force behind British political ideology. It has led to something of an institutional silence by our political leaders to use the language of faith in political discourse. Think of the reaction that Prime Minister David Cameron received when he stated that he was prepared to ‘do God’ and take his faith into account when carrying out his duties. He was lauded and criticised in almost equal measure. But ‘doing God’ – or allowing your religious beliefs to impact upon your political outlook – does not need to be a negative thing. In fact, faith can be an immensely positive in politics and the society as long you interpret it correctly and of course you don’t try to force it on others. 

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 10 Comments
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