Sunday, 10 July 2016

Paul Weller knew a thing or two about old Etonians

"What a catalyst you turned out to be. Loaded the guns then you ran off home for your tea." (Eton Rifles, The Jam)

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Has anyone else noticed...?

Actor Charles Dance and early 20th Century Ulster Unionist leader Sir Edward Carson.

I wonder if they could be related.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Brexit and the Irish Civil War

The pro and anti treaty debates and subsequent civil war in Ireland redefined the whole landscape of Irish politics for at least 70 years (in some ways they are still a defining factor today). The way the recent referendum has split our country into two opposing camps around a single issue has, in a small (and thankfully less bloody) way, helped me (as someone who is interested in early 20th Century Irish history) to understand how such a lasting re-entrenchment could have occured.

The new divide in UK politics

I've long been uncomfortable with the distinction in politics between the traditional categories of 'left' and 'right'. In the aftermath of the referendum it seems to me that a new political divide is becoming apparent, one that is perhaps more visceral or emotional in character yet in many ways more relevant to the current political scene. I would characterise the two camps on either side of this divide as follows.
On the one hand there are those who believe representative democracy is superior to direct democracy (which is really just a vehicle for populism); who tend to - as Michael Gove might put it - trust 'experts' to make the right decisions and who believe strongly in the importance of international and intergovernmental cooperation.
On the other, there are those who believe that the public as a whole is more qualified to make political decisions and judgements than any individual or select group, however apparently well qualified; who are more likely to question the opinions of experts however well educated or well established in their fields they may be and who are mistrustful of people or institutions weilding large amounts of power.
Although I think that most of the people who voted the same way as me in the referendum probably fall into the first category, I have to admit that I am not sure which of the two groups I would most readily place myself in.

My thoughts on A.C. Grayling's letter to Parliament

A friend today drew my attention to this article by the philosopher A.C. Grayling. Below are my comments on the article:

Interesting article but I would want to question a few of Prof Grayling's premises, eg.
1) Is membership of the EU actually a term of the UK constitution (such that we have one)?
2) Should the judgement of elected representatives be given superior weight over that of ordinary citizens even when those citizens have had months to independently study the relevant facts? If so, what does this imply about the intellectual capabilities of 'ordinary people'?
3) The fact that a majority of the electorate didn't vote for Brexit is a good point but people have a right to abstain from taking part in the decision making process and to trust those with stronger views to make the decision on their behalf. Does this really invalidate the decision of the majority of those who did vote?

I did not want our country to leave the European Union but, now that the majority have voted to do so, I think that to ignore their wishes would set a dangerous and highly divisive precedent. Far better, in my opinion, to try for a post-EU deal that sees the UK retain free movement and membership of the single market, thus keeping the best aspects of EU membership while assuaging the concerns about sovereignty held by many of those who voted to leave.