The Brexit Blues

Brexit BluesI suppose I must be a little bit naïve regarding politics because I thought the referendum about the EU had been and gone, was done and dusted and that was that. Before the results appeared, I thought the whole thing was pretty simple: either we would leave the EU or stay in it. Oh well, how wrong I was!

The referendum result has triggered all sorts of things. Firstly the Prime Minister has decided he will stand down and rightly so I suppose. He campaigned hard to stay in the EU so how can he be expected to manage our exit from the EU?

Secondly, and rather strangely, the referendum has also triggered a Labour party leadership election. Not sure why that is but it seems to be a case of Labour somehow ‘lost’ the referendum so now we need a new leader. This is the 21st Century version of political hari-kari. No longer do politicians live to fight another day, now they must fall on their sword, drop by the wayside and give way to a newer leader. Jeremy Corbyn did win a leadership vote by a whopping 60% in 2015 but of course in modern fast moving politics, that no longer matters!

Here are the latest developments- as they happened!

Tuesday.
Jeremy Corbyn has lost a vote of no confidence, Nigel Farage has been booed in the European Parliament (he did tell the European Parliament that basically they are a waste of time and are in denial) and Nicola Sturgeon is already planning to force a new referendum about the Scots leaving the UK. No wonder somebody once said a week is a long time in politics. If you look at the Scottish results as a purely first past the post result, Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU. Looking at the actual returns, over a million Scots voted to leave and a million and half wanted to stay, hardly overwhelming was it? Certainly not a mandate for leaving the UK in my book but then Nicola Sturgeon is clearly reading a different book.

Wednesday.
Nicola Sturgeon flies to Brussels for meetings with EU leaders. Although the Scottish MEP Alyn Smith got quite an ovation in the European parliament when he announced that ‘Scotland hasn’t let you down’, Miss or Mrs Sturgeon didn’t quite get the welcome she anticipated. Various individuals urged Jeremy Corbyn to stand down, including former leader Ed Milliband. Corbyn steadfastly refused to bow to the attempted leadership ‘coup’. Good on him I say.

Thursday.
Boris Johnson decides not to try for the Conservative leadership and guaranteed Prime Ministership. (Bit of a surprise, that one.) Michael Gove throws his hat into the ring as did pro leave Home Secretary Theresa May. Interesting: Surely the next PM must be pro Brexit? Jeremy Corbyn is looking more secure as Angela Eagle (any relation to Eddie I wonder) decided to postpone her challenge for the Labour leadership.

Friday.
Angela Eagle is still considering a leadership challenge as is ex-shadow minister Owen Smith but they are still waiting for Jeremy Corbyn to ‘do the right thing!’ Jeremy Corbyn says he does not want to betray the labour members who elected him last year by resigning.
The Daily Mail described Thursday’s events – during which Michael Gove surprisingly announced he was standing for the Tory leadership, rather than supporting Boris Johnson’s campaign – as the party’s “most savage blood-letting since the fall of Thatcher. On a day of extraordinary bitterness, Michael Gove knifed Boris Johnson in the back – ending the former London mayor’s dream of becoming prime minister.”
Some conservatives are now suggesting that Michael Gove should stand down and let Theresa May run unopposed into the leadership of both the country and the Conservative Party. (That’s the same Theresa May that was part of the remain group, like the soon to resign David Cameron, isn’t it? ) Dear me, what has the referendum done to democracy?

One thing that has really surprised me in this referendum is the emergence of two distinctive campaigns, the Remain camp and the Brexit camp. I had thought that politicians would come forward and declare themselves for or against EU membership but I would never have guessed that fully fledged campaigns would emerge, each with their own publicity, leaflets, PR events and even their own ‘battlebuses’. Who paid for these campaigns I wonder?

Acklams Coaches, Beverley E14 ACK Boris Johnson’s Brexit Battle Bus on the sea front in Weston Super Mare. | by Gobbiner

Boris Johnson’s Brexit Battle Bus on the sea front in Weston Super Mare. | by Gobbiner @ Flickr.com

The strange thing is that even in the media there have been calls for the Brexit campaign to come forward with plans for a post EU exit UK. Do people not realise Brexit is not actually a political party? They haven’t won an election, they will not be running the country, in fact nothing has really changed because the same people who ran the country prior to the referendum are still running it!

The other thing that’s interesting is the talk of another referendum, as if we didn’t get the first one right so now we have to have another one! Don’t people understand that there is always a loser in a democracy?

The vote was pretty close, 15 million want to leave and 14 million want to stay, that’s 51.9% against 48.1% but even if it was 70/30 that would still mean 30% of people would be disappointed. Either way, we’ve had the referendum and we voted out, just like the one in Scotland where they voted to stay in the UK.

The previous election didn’t quite go the way I wanted it to but that’s the way of elections. There will always be winners and always be losers. Only a dictator gets all the votes, all the time. After all, everyone voted for Stalin.


Floating In Space a novel by Steve Higgins, available now from Amazon. Click the links at the top of the page to find out more!

3 Books you should read about the JFK Assassination

quotescover-JPG-43The 22nd November is the anniversary of the assassination of John F Kennedy; one of the most shocking events of the twentieth century. It’s something I’ve been interested in ever since I was a boy and I’ve collected many books about the subject.

I’m still fascinated by the mystery: Did Lee Oswald shoot the President? Did he act alone? Why did Jack Ruby shoot Oswald? Was the CIA involved? Very few of those questions will ever be answered but it’s clear that the findings of the Warren Commission, the investigative body set up by President Lyndon Johnson are not definitive. Indeed the senate investigation in the 1970’s concluded that the President was assassinated ‘probably’ by a conspiracy. Even so, no attempts to investigate further or take action have been made. If you want to find out more, what should you read? Well, there are numerous books on the subject you might try but here below are three key and classic books you need to read:

Mark_Lane_Rush_to_Judgment_coverRush To Judgement by Mark Lane
This was one of the first books to take a critical look at the Warren Commission report and say, ‘hang on, some things don’t add up here!’ Lane deals with a lot of the minutiae of the assassination and Lee Harvey Oswald’s activities.

One interesting element to me was the murder weapon; the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle bought through mail order and sent to a post office box that Oswald rented under a false name. The gun was oily. The scope on the gun was not aligned properly, in fact the FBI found that it could not be aligned at all and had to add metal shims in order to align the scope, meaning that it was test fired by the FBI in a condition that was not available to Oswald!

The first officer to find the rifle even signed an affidavit that the rifle was a Mauser and not a Mannlicher-Carcano! Quite a mistake for an American police officer who would surely be familiar with firearms.

sixsecondsSix seconds in Dallas by Josiah Thompson
Thompson argued in favour of a conspiracy by analysing the Zapruder film of the assassination. In the film shot by local businessman Abraham Zapruder the last two shots come close together, meaning that one of them could not have come from Oswald’s rifle because it took 1.7 seconds to eject the used cartridge and make ready to fire again. This clearly occurred to the people in the Warren Commission as one of its members (Arlen Specter, a lawyer not a forensic expert) put forward the so called ‘single bullet theory’ which argued that a single bullet hit President Kennedy in the back, exited his throat and then struck Governor Connelly who was sitting ahead of Kennedy in the Presidential limousine.

This bullet was found on a stretcher in almost pristine condition which many commentators have asserted means it could not have passed through two bodies and inflicted so much damage.

In 1979 the Select Committee on Assassinations heard evidence of tests that showed the firing could have taken place in only 1.66 seconds per shot. Oswald’s original rifle however, was in too poor a condition to be used for the tests and another was substituted. Even so, none of the test shooters were able to replicate Oswald’s marksmanship despite Oswald being at best only a reasonable shot. An interesting, readable and thoughtful book but rather rare.

Best Evidence by David Lifton.

best evidence

best evidence

This is an excellent book in many ways. It’s not just about the assassination itself, the author spends a lot of time describing his personal fascination in the Kennedy case and how his interest has evolved and developed. He has followed the growth of theories and new revelations over the years and made efforts to meet and interview many of the witnesses involved.

Lifton puts forward an argument that is a little unbelievable, certainly to me, that Kennedy’s body was spirited away and the injuries changed to fit in with the theory that Oswald shot Kennedy from the rear. The doctors at Parkland Hospital all clearly state that Kennedy had a massive exit wound in the back of his head indicating a shot from the front but the autopsy report concluded Kennedy was shot from the rear.

I can understand where Lifton was coming from, the autopsy result and recollections of medical staff at Parkland clearly don’t match, but altering the President’s body? I don’t think so. The President’s body would have had to have been pried from the Secret Service who were with it from Dealey Plaza, to Parkland, and Air Force One to Bethesda Naval Hospital.

Some of those whom Lifton interviewed claimed a helicopter landed and the President’s body arrived, implying it came by helicopter when in fact it came by motorcade in an ambulance with the First Lady aboard. One interviewee stated that at Parkland Hospital the body was wrapped in sheets and placed in a coffin. Another spoke of taking the President’s body out of a body bag at Bethesda so clearly these accounts do not match up.

This book also did a lot to help me reconcile the workings of the Warren Commission. It is often dismissed by many people as a cover up but in fact the Warren Commission reacted to the evidence presented to it by the FBI as any other court or legal body would do: It processed the assassination according to the evidence.

Did anyone see someone shooting from the grassy knoll? No. Did anyone see a shooter in the Texas schoolbook depository? Yes. Was a rifle found in the sniper’s nest at the Texas School Book Depository? Yes. Was it delivered to a PO box belonging to Lee Oswald? Yes.

As you can imagine, the Warren Commission found Lee Oswald guilty of the assassination. What else could they do? However, many people not heard or dismissed by the commission heard gunfire and shots from the grassy knoll.

One Police Officer dropped his motorcycle and ran up there only to encounter a scruffy man looking like an auto mechanic. The man had Secret Service credentials and the officer let him go. There were no Secret Service there that day. They were all in the motorcade or waiting at the Trade Mart where the President’s next stop should have been, so who was the man? What was he doing there on the grassy knoll?

As you read more and more about the assassination, more stories like that come to light and the accumulated weight of these revelations is what fuels the enduring mystery. I do love a mystery and my interest in the JFK assassination, like Lifton’s has endured for a long time.

I’m not sure just how to describe to you just how fascinated I am in this story but if you’ve seen that part in the Woody Allen film Annie Hall, where Woody is trying to seduce someone but finds himself consumed by thoughts about the assassination then you’ve got the idea.

To find out more about the assassination try the JFK Lancer website at http://www.jfklancer.com

On a less serious note, here’s the Woody Allen clip:

 

If you enjoyed this post why not try my book Floating in Space set in Manchester, 1977? Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

An Airliner, An IRA Bomb, and John F Kennedy

It’s a wonderful summer in the UK and school holidays have started so a lot of people will be wanting to fly away for their summer break. Wherever people are going though, they must be eager to avoid the Ukraine. I’ve not seen the news much lately and like many people I’m struggling to understand what happened. Why shoot down a commercial airliner? Was it a mistake? Did somebody think it was a military flight? Who did shoot the plane down and what will be done about it?

Things like this, needless death and destruction, are deeply upsetting. I remember years ago watching the New York Twin Towers terrorist attacks, 9/11 as it is now known, unfold before me on television and I’d forgotten really just how shocking it was until I picked up a DVD of Oliver Stone’s film World Trade Centre recently. I bought it at a car boot sale and watched it one night after a late shift and the scenes of people glued to their TV sets reminded me of myself, back in 2001, unable to move away from the TV screen.

Courtesy wikipedia

Courtesy wikipedia

One sad aspect of these atrocities, particularly the 9/11 attack in New York was that they are based on religious hatred, More than that, they are based on mistaken religious hatred because as far as I know neither the Koran nor the Bible incite murder or hatred. The Bible asks us to love our enemies, not so easy in the case of Osama Bin Ladin I admit but hopefully, in the next world the Almighty will grant his soul the compassion and understanding for others which he did not possess in this world.

A long time ago I used to have a small shop in the Corn Exchange in Manchester. It was called Armchair Motorsports and I used to sell all sorts of Motorsport memorabilia. When things weren’t doing too well I accepted an offer from a guy I knew in a similar business and sold up. He didn’t use my unit at the Corn Exchange, as it was only rented and anyway, he had his own premises. Just as well because some time later the IRA planted a bomb outside and blew the building up. The thing is, what I thought to be something of a blow was in fact a good thing. If I hadn’t sold the business I could have been going to work that day and been injured or even killed. Tragedy, world tragedy, sometimes makes you look at your own life and think just how lucky you are compared to some.

For you regular readers, you will know how I like to tie up my blogs with something faintly amusing at the end but this subject is a tough one in which to inject some humour so I thought rather than go down that route and fail dismally I’d finish with a few thoughtful and sober words from President Kennedy. Words spoken by him in a speech he gave shortly before his death and words which I think are important to this day.

Kennedy was looking for something with which to bring the Americans and the Soviet peoples together, to find some common ground, not an easy task in the cold war period. This is what he said and I think there is something here for everyone, whether you are a Muslim, a Christian, a Ukrainian Separatist or just an ordinary guy like me.

“So, let us not be blind to our differences–but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”