What Brexit means

So we lost. I mean we all lost, not just Remain.

If you don’t follow politics, let me put it in a football metaphor. This was England vs England in the World Cup final: and England still managed to lose on penalties. 

Oh Christ, what have we done?
If it seems I’m laughing, I’m not: this is hysteria. This it terrifying. The consequences are appalling, and will last decades. I’m not prone to histrionics, but this feels like being tied to a madman who’s just gleefully hurled himself off a cliff. It’s gonna hurt. A lot. 

In the last week I’ve been retweeted over 42,000 times, sometimes on purpose, and I’ve had hundreds of conversations on social media (I avoided the real world after being shrieked at by a momentarily insane elderly in-law for suggesting Nigel Farage might not be honest). 

But in all those conversations I only reached Remainders. Leavers, predominantly, sent abuse, told me my data were nonsense, chanted “project fear” and blocked me.

Fine. I’m nothing special. But facts are. You can have your own opinion, but not your own facts.

It terrifies me that so many simply refused to accept facts. “We don’t believe experts”, you cry, then blithely plod into the Apple Store looking for a Genius with eccentric glasses who can sort out your basic shit. 

You need experts, you just don’t like to be challenged. It’s a horrifying glimpse into a Trumpian wet-dream of a gullible public drinking the Kool-Aid of belligerent, quasi-fascist lying monsters. 

But I accept: facts can be hard. Harder than gut feelings. But the thing about thinking with your gut: your gut literally has shit for brains. 

Now, I’m no genius; I belong in no Apple Store. I’m no better, richer, smarter or more moral than you are. And like most people, I find big numbers hard to wrap my head around. So my trick is this: turn them all into time. And then you can picture it. 

So if you’re talking about millions or billions of pounds, convert it into millions or billions of seconds. Google can do this for you, and it really helps. 

Let’s try it on the cost of the Brexit vote on its first day. Just on the 24th June. One day.

And to put it into context, I’ve included the cost of the UK’s membership of the EU. Remember, every £1 of cost to the nation is converted into 1 second. 

Annual cost of the EU
251 years

Cost to the Bank of England in one day
15,854 years

The cost to the global economy today
63,419 years

I’ll just let that sit with you for a moment. Just look at those numbers. Feel good about voting Leave?

Let’s move on.

I guess the good thing – I always look for the good thing – is that the people hit most quickly will be the ones drawing pensions today. It’s cost them 12% of their assets and 10% of their pension pot today. Just today. 

Gloating may seem stupid, given that my team lost. And gloating about the elderly losing money might appear unfair; hell, it is unfair to the many pensioners who voted Remain.

But it’s more unfair to the majority of their kids, who are equally affected, have to live with it for longer, and didn’t vote for it. 

Truly, they fuck you up, your mum and dad. 63% of under-50s voted to Remain. But their parents… Their parents have a lot to answer for. 

Their parents got free education, solid gold pensions, young retirement age, great healthcare, cheap, plentiful housing, the chance to travel the world, and an atmosphere you can breathe. And unless they’re 90, they did not fight in the war, no matter what they tell you, so they don’t even have the excuse of being the Greatest Generation. 

Not only are they getting their offspring to fund their largesse and clean up the godawful mess, they just voted to deny it to the rest of us.

Argue all you want. And I know it wasn’t all of you. But it was most of you, grandma. It happened. You did it. It’s true. 

Worse that that; in fact, if you’ve got a moment, the absolute worst thing I can imagine under these unbelievably stupid circumstances: it achieved nothing. 

It won’t change immigration, the Great Topic that looms behind everything. That will continue as before, because there never has been any alternative. Boris and Nigel are trying to find a way to park this particular knowledge-turd on your driveway right now. They know it. Now they have to tell you lot, without getting strung up.

Basically, we can’t not sell to the EU. We sell (or rather, sold) more to the EU than we sell to the USA, India, Saudi Arabia, China, Canada and Brazil combined. We cannot survive without that market. It would bankrupt us in months. 

But to continue to sell to the EU, we have to accept its rules. Including regulation. Including tariffs. Here’s a video that explains it all. You’ll hate it. It has facts. 

And those unavoidable EU rules include the free movement of people. Immigration. Just as before. It’s what Norway has, and Norway thinks we’re demented to vote for the same thing: all the costs of membership, no access to the clubhouse. For Norway, with great responsibility comes no power, like a shit Spider-Man.

We protested that you can’t change the EU from inside: apparently we decided that the best way to change it was from 500 miles away, having resigned, by shouting impotently at the sea and burning our pensions. 

So we lit a fire, we threw on kerosene, fried our industry, and cooked and ate our young around the conflagration, like heathen gods. 

And for what? A 2-hour smug feeling about kicking politicians, which wore off as soon as the markets opened. We’re idiots. And don’t say I didn’t warn you. I did. We all did. You were too busy kicking.

Britain is closed. Bereavement. 

National Pride

In 1938, Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, said of the crisis brewing in Europe that it was a “quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing

Nearly 80 years later, politicians of practically all hues are keen to adopt Churchill as their mascot. He’s held up as the exemplar of British stoicism and moral right. But not many people quote Chamberlain.

And that’s strange, given that so many of our nation are adopting his views; and given that today, as then, there are a number of appalling, intractable, violent wars destroying the lives of innnocent people on the borders of Europe.

Britain had a hand in stoking many of these conflicts. It armed, and continues to arm, many of the parties involved. Its policies contributed to the hatred tearing the Islamic world from the West.

Yet we run from the outcome. Turkey has taken 2 million refugees. Our policy is to take 6,000, and we’ve barely started even that pathetic process. Yet even such paltry window-dressing is considered a betrayal by those, like Farage, Gove and Boris Johnson, who claim Churchill’s mantle.
Neville Chamberlain

In 1939, to our nation’s eternal pride, we did not run from the world. We opened our doors to refugees. We fought despicable, angry, xenophobic nationalism. And at the end of the conflict, we led the process that healed Europe by first proposing, then helping to draft, the treaties that became the EU. It was us. We did it, because we were a great nation with a great vision. We were not, then, little Englanders terrified of foreign accents and jealous of our village green. We knew what was right, and we proudly did it.

The European Convension on Human Rights, which the Tories, UKIP and most Brexit supporters wish to tear up, was written by the British and based that Churchillian moral sense.

Brexiteers say they want their country back. So do I. That country. The country with that sense of what is right.

Today, and to our nation’s eternal shame, we slam the doors on refugees. We don’t want to welcome immigrants. We shun, belittle and abuse them.

And we ignore the compexity of the world; we conveniently forget the cuts we voted for, and the politicians we elected are leading to too few doctors, too few engineers, too few homes, too few skills. 

We try to forget the truth that, in the absense of investment, any business has to buy in services: which is exactly what we, as a nation, are doing. We’re buying in 26% of NHS doctors because we’ve been too stupid and short-termist to train our own.

That’s our fault, but we don’t want to admit is. We’re angry, but refuse resonsibility. We (yes we) voted repeatedly for parties – New Labour and Tory – which boastfully cut regulations that protected us from the worst excesses of the City. But we refuse to acknowledge that we gave politicians permission to risk our economy. We encouraged it. We celebrated  it. We rewarded it with electoral success.

But now we say: it’s not our fault. It’s theirs. Them. The other.

We are now the ethos we once fought; we are now that despicable, angry, xenophobic nationalism.

The desperate millions (and yes, I agree they are millions) find no help from Britain. Force-fed on a diet of lies about the benefits and absolute social and economic necessity of immigration (which are many), our people would riot if we did the right thing.

Dave and KatieKatie Hopkins writes in our biggest selling newspaper that she wishes to shell and sink the “cockroaches” crossing the Mediterranean, and a large swathe of our country cheers. Circulation rises. No politician dares to confront her, and many sidle up to her to bask in her radioactive, cancerous glow.

Politicians even more right-wing than David Cameron or Margaret Thatcher, such as Michael Gove and Boris Johnson (who both voted for less regulation before the 2007 crash, and who both propose privatising the NHS) now cash-in on the terrifying mood sweeping the country, and have the temerity to persuade Labour voters that the Tory Leave campaign is on the side of the poor.

They promise a rosy future of huge NHS investment, having spent a lifetime voting against it. They promise better communities and more jobs, having spent their entire careers undermining workers’ rights, with the aim of creating a passive, weak workforce for corporations to manipulate and expliot. In Europe, our nation alone voted against workers’ rights and against restrictions on bank bonuses. 

Yet now we blame godawful workers’ rights and out-of-control bankers on Europe. No. We did it. Us. Europe tried to stop us, but we arrogantly refused.

The Brexit camp promises that ejecting the EU will Make Britain Great Again. But it won’t. It’ll make it easier for people to exploit us, because the EU, in a reflection of its founding principles, is practically all that is protecting us from extremism. But now it’s our extremism.

What will Make Britain Great Again is compassion. Investment. Equality. Honesty about the value of the EU and its people, and our shared heritage, culture and values. Recognising that the world is out there, and longing to be part of it. Aiding the poor and nationless, treating them well, and helping to cure the ills abroad (and at home) as part of a larger movement.

It’s doing what we did during the war: taking in Hungarian, Latvian, Spanish and Polish people (like my grandfather, who came here to fight for us in the Battle of Britain) and making them love us rather than fear us, mock us and condemn us.

It’s doing what we did after the war: being part of a greater, international struggle to solve the crises on our borders and help build a fairer, stronger world.

Is the EU perfect? Of course not. I think of it in the same way I think of my gym: it costs me £65 a year (the actual amount the EU costs each citizen), it’s annoying sometimes, it’s a bit inconvenient. But it’s good for me.

Let’s do what’s good for us on June 23rd.

Let’s accept the pain of collaboration in the stoical way Churchill represents. Bullish and proud, fearsomely British, but with an arm outstretched to the world.

And let’s ignore Nigel Farage, just as we now ignore Neville Chamberlain.

Jo Cox

It’s a sad day, and I’m trying to focus on that, and not be angry.

Her poor kids.

Of course, it’s too soon to judge Jo Cox’s killer. He may be mentally ill. So I’m not judging him.

I’m perfectly happy to judge others though: the politicians who sacrifice peace and honour and public good for their ambition.

Are you happy now, Nigel? Sleeping well tonight, Boris?

img_3752Those things that used to define Britain… calmness, rationality, openness, kindness, thoughtfulness, intelligence, safety and peace… those things are being snuffed out.

But not by immigrants; by anti-immigrants.

By the angry, by the ill-informed; by the noisy, tiresome mob; the furious nostalgic pensioner who’s political curiosity is as deep as the front page of the Daily Mail.

By the raging middle-class who vote for cuts at home, then blame Belgium when little Cassandra can’t get into their favourite school.

By the Sun-reading, X-Factor-addled, mindlessly irate, who don’t recognise their own Home Secretary, yet regurgitate low-grade xenophobia about Bulgarians each day.

By the closed-minded, furious fools without even the courage to admit that skin-colour is behind their rhetoric.

Those thing that define Britain? They’re important.

And they’re being stamped out by the British: not by foreigners.

If you “want your country back”, start behaving how you want that country to behave.

You want it fair? Be fair to refugees.

You want it honest? Don’t tell lies about migrants.

You want it to be rational? Believe evidence, don’t dismiss it as the lies of the elite.

You want it peaceful? Don’t pour gasoline on the flames or racism.

RIP Jo Cox.

I don’t want to be the Nation of No

We can argue forever about immigration, economics or housing. I certainly don’t know the answers, and few people seem to agree about the data. 

But to me, it comes down to this: as a nation, who do we want to be?

Do we want to be the open, outward, sympathetic country? The people who help the desperate? The friends? The optimists saying Yes to opportunities

Or the country that is closed, inward, self-obsessed? The people who let migrants struggle alone? The enemies? The pessimists refusing to even try?

I don’t have expert knowledge on migration or economics. Nor, probably, do you.

But I don’t want to be the Nation of No. So I’m voting to Remain.

The war on tax


Tax avoidance is an arms race. If we spend more on collection, corporations will spend more on avoidance, and we’ll waste money on an unwinnable war against better accountants. 

That’s the argument.

But if it was a real arms race, even against a mighty foe, Mr Cameron would be touring the world with arms manufacturers. He’d be imploring us to compete, battle, never give up. He’d be railing against the enemy.

Instead, we get collusion and surrender, obfuscation and downright lies.

If this is an arms race, our government is, at best, sympathetic to the enemy. And at worst, actively fighting on their behalf.


Tory Story Lacks Glory.

Tory story
Lacks glory.
Vote blue
or fuck you.

Sell, sack,
Fiddle, frack.
Cut, slash,
Pocket cash.

Murdoch pander.

HS2, CO2,
Two for me,
None for you.

Green crap.
Migrant cap.
Dog whistle.
Fact dismissal.

Welfare slash.
Union bash.
NHS reduced to ash.

Don’t dare a wheelchair:
Rooms taxed
for home care.

Zero hours.
Zero hope.
Starting life
at the end of your rope.

They’ve presided.
We’ve divided.
Democracy has been derided.

Rake muck.
House for a duck.
Allegedly a pig fuck.

Earn less.
Eton mess.
Taking orders from the press.

Food bank.
Pay shrank.
Budget is a pile of wank.

School chum.
Pleb scum.
Protest letter from his mum.

Glass ceiling.
Government of dodgy dealing.

Closed door.
Bank whore.
Spikes to keep away the poor.

Market dictator?
Passive spectator?
They’ll come for you, mate
Sooner or later.

But no more.
Class war.
Get our own back.
Even the score.

We despise.
So organise.
And put their coins
Upon their eyes.

@willblackwriter inspired this with his #WriteAPoemAboutTories hashtag.

How dare I ask to pay?

I recently sent the following tweet. 

Hi @George_Osborne 

I pay top rate tax. I don’t want a tax cut. I want better benefits for the disabled. Tax me more, you inhumane twat.

Which was unwise, given the flurry of abuse it generated. Not, sadly, from George, but from the type of feral UKIP intellect which occupies that perfect grey area between being fiercely patriotic about Britain, yet totally unwilling to pay a penny to fund it.

I am not patriotic. I find patriotism very uncomfortable, in that it automatically assumes the specialness of this country and therefore the lesserness (not even a word) of everybody from other countries. 

But perhaps that’s why I’m a fan of taxation, and the patriotic right aren’t. I don’t feel I’m more special or more deserving than anyone else. Luckier, sure, in some ways (but also a cancer survivor, so not particularly lucky in the matter of kidneys).

It’s been pointed out to me that, if I want to be taxed more, I can just write a cheque to HMRC. And I could, it’s true. But this misses the point of taxation. 

Firstly, my excess money wouldn’t help much. Disclosure: my salary is £40,000, which puts me in the top 12% (just), but I’m fortunate to have the kind of job that lets me freelance, so in a good year I can earn another £8,000 or so, pre-tax. 

So my massive cheque to HMRC would amount to, at best, about £40 a month.

If everyone on £40,000 paid another £40 a month (and pretty much all of them could) it would fund university education for everybody, or better social care for the disabled, or… Christ, at least some improvement to our shambolic, crumbling, failing nation. But my forty quid on its own? Not so much.

Second: I have an old friend who works at HMRC, who tells me (and this is my only reference for this, so if I’m wrong, forgive me), that HMRC don’t want your bloody cheque unless it’s for about £20k. It’s too much paperwork. They have a facility to accept it, but not the manpower; not since the closure of 108 tax offices and 60% cut in staff. Cos Osborne is all about chasing those tax avoiders. Yeah.

But, say the right, I could give it to charity. They’re right. Except, well…

Third: how many bridges have been built by charity? How many hospitals? Yeah, I could (and do) give money to charity. I worked for charities for 13 years, gave up 20% of my earnings, built free websites for them (and still do, in evenings and weekends); and I do all the usual standing-order stuff.

Good for me, aren’t I a saint? No, I’m not, I’m a smug git, but sleep well knowing I’m doing my bit (and probably your bit too)

But my bit isn’t much, and isn’t mandatory. Tax is mandatory. What about the poor sods who need to know – not hope, know – that their disability allowance will be paid each week? Charity, on the whim of comfortable smug arseholes with spare time and HTML skills, does not replace a functioning society. Only those who assume they’re better and more valuable than other people could be so blinkered and greedy. Cough up, you self-centred git.

Fourth point: government is useless, wasteful, thick. It says so in the Daily Mail. Well… yes. It is. So is private enterprise, and to the same extent. This shows us that:

CEOs, no matter how much they are paid, have no effect on the performance of a company: the idea that they are worth what they are paid, which is gigantic compared to the average member of their workforce, is nonsense. A report in 2013 found that between 1993-2012 40% of the USA’s highest paid CEOs had either their companies bailed out by the taxpayer, had their companies charged with fraudulent activity, been fired for poor performance, or have overseen the death of their companies

Are charities any better? If so, why don’t FTSE100 companies headhunt charity CEOs all the time? They don’t. Inefficiency, failure, stupidity – they’re human factors, and exist everywhere. But collective taxation does things charity or private endeavour can never do. Those things have a vital role, but so does government; and if you don’t understand that, you’re an ideologue and there’s no hope for your mind: it’s ossified in the position chosen for it by The Sun. 

Fifth: lower corporation tax has not grown the economy. We have a lower rate than anyone in the G20, but still lose investment to Germany (with a rate 8% higher). Reduced tax receipts hit our deficit, and increase the debt (which has doubled under Osborne’s low-tax regime). Our tax income has fallen almost a quarter since George the towel-folder took charge. Reducing our tax income yet more is idiotic in the extreme.

And you know who has super low tax and super tiny government? Sierra Leone. I bet they’re all glad they saved a few quid on tax and had stopped funding the state, when the local warlord is demanding their daughters down the barrel of a gun.

Finally, there’s an assumption that champagne socialists like me (and, by the way, I don’t like champagne and am a pretty rational middle-of-the-road business owner who struggles deeply with Corbybism and thinks functioning capitalism is a positive thing) – there’s an assumption that we just want “richer people than us” to pay. Well… yeah! I do. 

I’m 45. But after 25 years hard work, often 2 jobs at a time, I can’t afford to buy a house. I can’t replace my 10 year old rust bucket of a car. I saved for 2 years for an engagement ring, cos I have no savings, no pension, and for 6 years I had no holiday whatsoever. And I’m lucky. I’m in the richest 12%. Most of us have seen no pay increase since 1980 (in real terms) even though the total amount of wealth has more than doubled.

But the richest 1000 Britons increased their wealth by £155 billion since the 2007 crash – coincidentally the amount cut from government spending is also £155 billion. 

Where on earth could that money have gone to? Gosh, it’s a puzzle.

I live in Knutsford, which is all posh’n’that: but I rent here because I need to be here for work. I can’t live elsewhere, it’s utterly impractical. And I’m no silver-spoon wet liberal: I was born and brought up in a tough working class place called Ashton Under Lyne, which has just about the lowest life expectancy and highest social deprivation in the UK (certainly in the lowest few percent). If I live in Knutsford now, it’s cos I worked damn hard for it. That’s how it should be – see: no communism here, mate. 

But there are many, many people much richer than me, who can comfortably afford to pay the same top rate tax that I want to pay on my own higher earnings. There is, for example, £13trillion – yes trillion – hidden offshore, untaxed, and squirrelled away by the wealthiest 0.1% of psychopaths. Can they not afford to pay 5% more on that, to secure food and heating for our poorest and most disabled? 

Yes they fucking can. 

So when I argue for higher tax for myself (and others who are doing ok-to-spectacularly-well), I do it from a position of knowledge about how much is out there. And from a moral understanding that I am not better than the people our best patriots are currently driving into starvation, poverty, misery and death.