Sunday 13 November 2016

Donald Trump: A great leap into the unknown

For the second time this year, I went to bed quietly expecting a national vote to go one way only to wake up the next morning and discover it went the opposite way to what I hoped for.

Although I'm shocked and disappointed by Donald Trump's election victory it doesn't compare to how upset I felt after the Brexit result.

I understand and recognise that many of the same forces that led to Brexit are behind Donald Trump's election win. My main feelings over the last couple of days have been one of general uncertainty.

What does the future hold for America and the world with Donald Trump as President? It's this uncertainty that I find uncomfortable to deal with.

I've written about this before in earlier blogs and what's clear is that there is a growing movement and revolt against establishment politicians and global elites. Donald Trump becoming President is the biggest reaction against this.

We constantly hear about those people who feel left behind by the effects of globalisation, the disappearance of well paying manufacturing jobs in places like the American Mid-West and the North of England. People who feel the elites and establishments in London, and the East and West Coasts of the US don't understand or are interested in their lives.

Many people quite rightly feel that the system is no longer working for them anymore. I get this I just don't believe that Trump will have the answers to many of the problems and frustrations many people feel.

I know I'm not the only person who assumed his leadership bid would simply run out of steam, that it was a bad joke that wound eventually stop being funny but it's no longer a joke, Donald Trump will be the next President.

In terms of him implementing many of his policies, I'm convinced that when faced with the day to day realities of government some of his policy statements will either be abandoned or severely limited. The Wall along the Mexican border - surely that cannot happen?

I might be overly optimistic in saying I don't think Trump's Presidency will be quite the nightmare that many of us think it will be but at the same time it's not going to be great.

His election victory says a number of things about how America sees itself, both at home and abroad but also how we in the West choose to deal with many of the social and political challenges that lie ahead.

The outcome of Brexit and the US Presidential election tell me that the forces of reactionary right wing populism are on the rise. That in dealing with our challenges means that we become a nations more insular, fearful or hostile to others. That we're happy not to try and change the system to make things better but instead we'll smash the system up completely regardless of the consequences.

I feel deeply uncomfortable with the way things are going? What worries me is that Brexit and President elect Trump is simply the start of a domino process. We have elections coming up in the next 18 months in France, Germany and Italy.

Are we going to see a similar anti establishment backlash in those countries? Certainly in France the political climate appears ripe for Marie Le Pen's National Front to make major gains.

I feel that in historical terms we're coming to the end of an era in history. Since the end of the Second World War. We've seen countries come to together both economically, politically and militarily to ensure future peace and prosperity. The problem is that this consensus of free trade, the movement of goods people and capital around the world. Political and economic unions like NATO and the EU are in danger of breaking up as a result of these anti establishment forces.

After reading and listening to all the analyse on Donald Trump, part of me feels it can't be as bad as we think it's going to be but what I am concerned about is the future of international relations and the prevailing thoughts and values that are emerging.

Eight years ago Barack Obama was elected the first African American President. Rarely have I felt so much optimism, even though expectations on Obama were ridiculously high. After this week's Trump victory never have I felt so much pessimism.

Saturday 5 November 2016

Finally, a moment of sanity

This week's ruling on Article 50 by the High Court seemed to be a moment of sanity that us Remain voters had been crying out for since the Brexit result.

The decision by the three senior judges means that the Prime Minister, Theresa May cannot trigger Article 50 without approval from parliament.

This would seem a perfectly sensible and reasonable thing to do, before we go ahead with such a crucial decision. We should at least have some idea of the kind of Brexit we're going to get as a country and it's only right that Parliament has a say on such a significant matter.

This however is not the thoughts of your Brexit fundamentalists and the right-wing press. This week's decision for them was a case of unelected, out of touch judges blocking the will of the British people.

The reaction of the Daily Mail and The Express was ridiculous as they descended into a collective melt down. Not only was it totally predictable but I couldn't help but quietly laugh to myself. Brexit was never going to be an easy straight forward affair and so it's proving.

First things first, the UK will still be leaving the EU. Even as a Remainer I accept that decision. What's now important is the kind of Brexit we're going to have.

What annoys me is that Brexiteers think that because they won the referendum, those of us who voted to stay in the EU must now shut up. It's as if we're not allowed to debate or question the terms of Brexit.

What seems to have been completely overlooked is the vote for Brexit was only 52%. It's a majority but not a huge majority. A significant number of people in this country did not vote to the leave the EU and those thoughts and feelings have to be taken into account.

When I think about Brexit and those who most advocated the UK leaving the EU, I'm reminded of a chant commonly sung by football fans around the country.

Fans will be familiar with moments in matches when the referee makes a series of wrong and strange decisions in a short space of time that gives the impression that he's lost control of the game, a familiar chant of: 'You don't know what you're doing' rings out from fans of the team on the wrong end of these decisions.

I think about that chant in relation to Brexiteers and feel compounded to shout 'You don't know what you're doing' every time someone tells me that Remainers should shut up and that Brexit will prove to be a brilliant success.

It's quite clear that within the Brexiteer vote there are different visions of what a post EU world will look like for the UK; there's no clear consensus on what Brexit will mean.

Last week's High Court decision on Article 50 is about implementing the necessary checks and balances needed in this process. Applying appropriate scrutiny and ensuring that over the next 6 months we get some clarification on what the long term plan is.

If this country is now going to leave the EU then I'd like to leave in a way that I think is best for Britain. If you asked people who voted for Brexit you will find a whole range of different reasons for their vote. Immigration, more money for the EU, an end to EU red tape and regulation.

It's quite clear there is no clear consensus or idea on what a post Brexit world should look like for this country. Brexiteers and the right-wing press might want to remember this before they accuse Remainers of being enemies of the people.