Empathy is the invisible force that holds society together. Roman Krznaric

A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall

Sitting in my favourite local café listening to Bob Dylans ‘It’s A Hard Rains Gonna Fall’ reminded me of the fundamental changes that have occurred since Great Britain had its first referendum on European membership. In the 70s there were no cafes serving ten different types of coffee to a clientele almost exclusively glued to laptop screens, running their businesses from flat white to cappuccino.

In the 70s there was still significant manufacturing and heavy industry including shipbuilding. The coal and steel industry was fundamental to the communities of Wales, Scotland and the North of England. The cafés were pretty empty during working hours, because most of those employed were in offices, factories and other places of work. The majority of British children had never shared a classroom with a black or a brown face and everyone at the doctor’s surgery spoke English. The big AND… There was no internet and the public got their news and information primarily from national newspapers and TV radio news.

In brief, I believe a ‘Hard Rain’ has fallen and continues to fall heavily on the have-nots in society. The majority of the world’s wealthier nations have sadly adopted the selfish society so encouraged by Thatcher and Reagan as the norm. In the UK most manufacturing and heavy industry has been completely lost, along with all the jobs and in many cases the loss of whole communities’ ways of life and hopes for the future. I find it very sad when value of life is defined purely in financial terms and people of all ages and demographics are obsessed by terms such as ‘austerity’ and ‘deficit’. In my view these words are mythical terms used in an attempt to disguise the exploitation of poorer people and rationalise their bad treatment.

Freedom to be second-class European citizens

I have witnessed another pertinent example of loss of hope and a way of life in parts of Eastern Germany. Communities ‘freed’ from the oppression of a communist regime experienced brief exploitative investment, which has since been withdrawn. Forty years of their lives were devalued in a gold rush fever for the DM and they have ultimately been devalued both financially and as human beings with second-class citizenship.

To conclude this attempt to put the referendum into context, I would like to say that at the beginning of my musical career I was a very strong advocate of European Unity and cooperation. I could identify with most of Europe’s issues and challenges and believed GB should be fundamentally involved in making the EC work. This conviction however was based on a smaller manageable sized Europe made up of old nations with common values and similar strength economies. I have become disillusioned by the sprawling sarcophagus that the EU has become. It is so broken that I believe things can only get better and ideally The UK should be involved in it’s reinvention, but it will happen anyway.

Brexit – No facts, no trust and no absolute truths

One of the big concerns for British people is handing over their destiny to an unelected legislature in Brussels. They want more democracy – more sovereignty. But when leave the EU the UK still has an unelected House of Lords and a parliament voted for by less than half the population! We are also run by civil servant bureaucrats, but at least there is some genuine political oversight. There are no black and white issues

The situation is so complicated. It’s not all good or all bad. Take immigration – After leaving the single market, it may well be a condition of a trade agreement with the EU that the UK have to allow the free movement of people. Without a seat at the EU table this will immediately be out of UK control. Then there’s the economy – It’s certainly riskier to leave than to stay but that’s not to say staying in is without economic risks, especially given the current state of the EC. Britain could end up being a more nimble economy unfettered by the EU or we could be left languishing on the sidelines licking our wounds after a bitter economic divorce! Divorce is always costly.

Arguably, the greatest achievement of the EU has been the creation of the Euro (Also its Achilles heal?) Over the last two years we’ve seen it to be an extremely hazardous undertaking. The Euro’s been in danger of collapsing, member states have been in danger of leaving and Europe as a whole has plunged into negative growth. Mass unemployment has been created in southern European countries resulting in migrants freely moving to Northern Europe where the jobs are. Is the European economy being run as a political project, not as an economy? The Euro is not about good economics but symbolically about creating a European state, arguably another project in progress. Consequences in short and possibly medium term are economically disastrous. So there are also enormous risks in being attached to this economy..

An Artist’s Opinions

Having discussed the Brexit issues as objectively as possible in the previous section of the piece, I will now switch into artist mode. I have often been asked why I don’t get actively involved in politics. The answer for me is quite a simple one. If you become part of the political process you are subject to the rules and restrictions that go with it. Also, party political systems inhibit uncensored political expression. I believe that as an artist I am in a stronger position to comment from outside the process and within the context of my art.

Integrity versus integration in the EC

Britain is a European country. I think Brexit is a manifestation of the need for the balance between integrity and integration common to all European countries. It could be said the European Community is in serious need of restructuring for all Europeans, irrespective of Britain’s role in or out of the equation or negotiations.

The principles of maintaining peace in Europe, removing obstacles to cooperation and trade between member states and providing a united economic front against the USA, Russia, China and the other emerging super economies of the 21st century are still valid. It seems to me that some European politicians’ dream of a centrally controlled federal Super State now sounds a lot like capitalist totalitarianism! The EC in its present form is not working and needs a total rethink for all concerned, irrespective of the UK’s involvement.

The UK referendum on June 23rd was less like a vote on Britain’s position in the world relative to its European neighbours and more like a vote on acceptable levels of xenophobia and a politicians’ leadership battle. Maybe I’m mistaken, but the same concerns are being asked right across Europe? The failing EU needs to be addressed. Aren’t a majority of Europeans concerned about being controlled by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels?

Are politicians themselves losing hope and courage?

Especially in the era of ‘Reality TV’ style politics and the PC society, most politicians seem to be scared to express their real opinions and stand up for ideologies and they are also reluctant to address unpopular but real issues. There is a lack of vision, long-term planning and courage. The apathy often expressed by voters based on the idea that voting makes no difference, that all political parties are the same and that all politicians are in it for themselves implies a hopelessness which seems to have spread to political leaders! This is not surprising perhaps against the backdrop of a malfunctioning but all encompassing EC, a decimated Middle East, a gangster-controlled Russia and impending Trump in the USA. The rise of the right in politics throughout the world has been precipitated by contemporary PC politicians’ refusal to accept racism as a reality that needs dealing with, especially when heartless and elitist economic policy leads to a disenfranchised white working class. The USA’s failure to confront racism has paved the way to the possibility of a Trump presidency.

Merkel’s Legacy

Did Merkel have an attack of ‘the Kohls’? Reunification in Germany seemed to be ruled by a rush of blood to the head with no forethought or planning, possibly with personal glory in mind. From an outsider’s (Auslander’s!) point of view Merkel’s skill has always been to get a sense of the way the wind is blowing and go with it. Her invitation to refugees was completely out of character and has inadvertently punctured a hole in the EC super tanker that could prove as ‘Titanically’ significant as the hole cut in a Hungarian fence which precipitated the fall of the Berlin Wall and ultimately the unravelling of communist Europe!

In my opinion in the short term, with respect to Europe’s great refugee challenge, the only answer is tighter border controls and much more money spent on interviewing all the migrants, but this is a real case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Wider issues like the Middle Eastern Conflicts

It’s impossible to consider Europe’s enormous refugee challenge without examining the causes in the Middle East. Recent Syrian developments illustrate the area’s crisis significance to the whole world. Since the generation of politicians who experienced the true consequences of military action in war has inevitably retired from power, the world has seen a number of ludicrous military campaigns instigated by world leaders devoid of any military experience or competence. I come from a military family. Soldiers are very aware of the consequence in human casualties of any operation they undertake. The military require politicians to have an intelligent long-term strategy. The last 15 to 25 years have been a very sad indictment of these diminishing statesmanlike skills. Lack of military expertise has led to mammoth mistakes. My personal view is that the dishonest warfare instigated by Blair and Bush and Putin could well subject them to accusations of actual war crimes. The Middle East has been decimated by supposed removal of despots and waging war on terror. Pressure to act quickly and punitively to avenge terror at home or abroad without justification or consideration of long-term consequence and sufficient international concensus has shown up the woeful inadequacy of much of the world leadership.

A dream Middle East solution – A truly international liberation force

In an ideal world, re-building the Middle East should be the responsibility of the whole international community. There could be a deployment of an authentically international force including the Russians and the Chinese, rather than America plus their Western allies to the Middle East to confront the IS situation on the ground and create safe states for the long suffering indigenous populations.

I imagine it would require at least 300,000 ‘boots on the ground’ supported by air power but with no indiscriminate bombing. It would ideally be a large military presence comprising troops from The USA, China, Russia, Great Britain, Germany, France, India, Japan – all nations in fact. What was the UN originally designed for?! Once stability has been re-established half the troops would remain as a peace-keeping military police force to supervise the rebuilding of the countries’ infrastructures financed by an enormous international fund. This would probably be a commitment of at least 15 years!

Unfortunately it’s not an ideal world and the recent foreign policy of the major powers has been so misguided that the fundamentalist genie is unlikely to return to the bottle. It should also be noted that no major power has ever defeated a guerilla army and as Nietzsche believed, when you fight monsters, you are in danger of becoming a monster yourself!

Poetic License – An artist concludes.


I originally believed a British exit from the EC would result in negative economic consequences for the Eurozone and that the British economy would be dragged down into the vortex. Having done extensive research I now realise not even the most eminent economists can make an accurate prediction of the economic consequences of a UK exit. The situation is very complex and it would have helped their credibility if the campaigners could have explained both the advantages and disadvantages of their viewpoint rather than present such a binary argument. Also the two major issues of economics and freedom of movement are not mutually exclusive.

A 2-Tier Euro and a fairly weighed European Parliament

For many years however I have advocated a flexible 2-tier Euro, a “deux vitesse” in Jacques Delors terms, which would enable the smaller nation economies to effectively devalue currency when necessary to avoid economic and national humiliation. This still seems like a practical idea. I also believe that representation in the European Parliament should be proportional to the population of the country, voted for by all Europeans not just there own countrymen and its to the EC budget. This will promote the election of worthy individual Les constrained by party politics.

Politics and prejudices

The UK referendum was a ludicrous exercise. Not even the top political analysts can accurately predict the effect of Britain leaving the EU. Cameron’s Tories led to a ‘trial by tabloid’. The British electorate are were frightened into voting for personalities and to express their prejudices without any facts. It should be remembered this was a referendum not an election. The rules of Reality TV and the culture of ‘trial by internet’ are dictating the tone of debate. This vote was a very big deal with major implications for the UK, the EC and beyond. Apparently some young Britons thought it was cool not to vote, such is the loss of interest in the political process. Blame my generation for having it so good Harold Macmillan style and taking it for granted for so long!

Read more in this debate: John Malcolm Watts, Polly Toynbee, Bill Cash.

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