Monday 27 June 2016

The Party’s Over, but, Is It Time to Call It A Day? – by Patrick Brigham

Her Majesty with James Bond

They have certainly burst all the pretty balloons, but unfortunately, they haven’t chased all the clowns away. Is it time to wake up - all dreams must end - take off their makeup, the piper must be paid?

This evergreen song by Julie Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, easily sticks in our minds, and is so appropriate when we view the last few days in British politics; following the EU referendum. But the last few days have also given us all time to think why and how it happened, and to analyse all the hidden agendas – the cast list involved - and the probable outcome.

Since the changes, Bulgaria has managed to attract a large number of British expats, all happily living in the provincial districts, many of whom have come from fairly deprived areas in the UK where unemployment has been the norm. Forgetting the statistics about 5% UK unemployment, and other jingoistic government propaganda - representing an overall national calculation, which includes London and the major areas where jobs are in abundance - one of the good points about the British economy, is the somewhat absurd price of property.

These days, a retired couple or an unemployed couple with few prospects - struggling to survive on a poor pension or benefits, in the English Midlands - might easily discover that the proceeds of sale from their humble semi, can buy a substantial property in Bulgaria. With land and outbuildings attached, it can represent an opportunity they might never have dreamed of, in the normal course of events, had they remained in Middle England. Good! Now these pioneers - who wish to escape and enjoy a Bulgarian lotus eating lifestyle - will never look back. But some do, and what they look back on, may have been the main reason for the Brexit.

Boris and his Antics

The vast majority of people who traditionally live in the heartlands of industrialized Britain, are Labour Party voters. When the English Midlands became gradually less industrialized, during the last thirty years of EU membership – and with the advent of globalization - they not only saw company closures and the prospects for work diminish, but they realized that they had been put on the back-burner of British society. Margaret Thatchers yuppies couldn't care less about unemployed factory workers, and even Norman Tebbit told the unemployed to get on their bike. Blairs government didn’t fool anyone either – the UK was still being ruled by posh boys in suits – which rather brings us to the present, and our current government front runners. Old Etonians, Harrovians and a plethora of middle class want-to-be’s seem to have dominated the British political scene for the last six years, and now the party seems to be over. But why?

It seems that traditional socialist voters have concluded that The Labour Party has become so diminished, that it no longer represents the views or needs of ordinary working people. In a decade where they have seen their poster boy Blair becoming one of the worlds mega rich, and even grumpy old Gordon Brown – who I admire greatly – finally deciding that enough was enough, the referendum was a wonderful opportunity to strike a blow for ordinary people, for the forgotten industrial areas of England, to finally be noticed once more. Sick of posh boys speeches and the droll political Labour Party dinosaurs, being humiliated daily in the British Parliament, it was time to take things into their own hands. And, it worked! But this was because of a strange turn of fate.

Enoch Powell

What was odd, was that the traditional Conservative voters and the middle classes thought that it was a Conservative – so called blue on blue - referendum, and that they alone were dominating the Brexit campaign. Posing as true patriots and profound Eurosceptics, they imagined that it was the shopkeepers, factory owners and the professions, who were fronting the Brexit programme. With their absurd claims and downright lies about immigration - imagining that somehow they had become latter day disciples of Enoch Powell – they were in fact playing to an audience, with a quite different venue.

That audience was used to a multicultural society, because it lived quite happily, within it. These were people - who might have said, that their favourite English food, was Chicken Madras –were not influenced one little bit, by the antics of Boris Johnson nor were they in any way connected to the gormless and the glib rhetoric, of the gormless and glib, Michael Gove.

Back to our Balkan reality, one can easily see why so many Brits live in other parts of Europe, away from a blatant two layer society, which they inherited from their forebears after WW2. Seeing it as a society where the have-not’s, are often treated with contempt - laughed at and humiliated by members of a private club, who not only rule the roost, but glory in their easily acquired personal fortunes - no wonder those remaining in the UK, wanted to get even. Hopefully, Brexit will teach the very people who instigated it, a very profound lesson, and apart from knocking them off their perch, they will now have to look hard at the mess they have created for themselves, make amends, and move towards a more inclusive society. Do I want to live in the UK, good question?

Saturday 18 June 2016

Last Brexit to Nowhere – by Patrick Brigham

This is my last and final rant about the Brexit – stay or remain – until the final vote is cast. I will not complain, diminish, demonise, belittle or demean the referendum or its various players, after publication of this article, nor will I trivialize, satirize or lampoon the events as they unfold. I am sick of it.

The British Bulldog, is a formidable creature, and bred for Bull baiting – often eulogized during the Victorian era - it has a powerful bite. Intended to hang onto its quarry - at any cost - it has become synonymous with stubbornness, fortitude and resolve. With qualities ascribed to the British character in general, the question is:-

‘Does the British Bulldog still have any teeth left, or, is it only capable of administering a nasty suck?’

The Brexit debate has revealed all sorts of people and opinions, many emerging from their silent vigil, in the very background of British politics. But it has also exposed a plethora of half truths, innuendo and downright lies. It seems that many of the groups involved in this referendum – to stay or to leave - have either been driven by extreme levels of ignorance, wishful thinking, or the political classes are now so steeped in deceit, that the truth hardly matters any more.

Perhaps a global tendency - as we can see in the current US primaries - it nevertheless implies a total lack of integrity, honesty, and perhaps even a general trend, in many of the national leaders, both in the UK and elsewhere. The question is:-

‘Is it a determination to win at any cost, has the truth only been mislaid for the time being, and is it something to do, with the fog of war?’

This referendum is not about war. It is about the preservation of democracy, involving a properly informed public, voting with their heads, and not their hearts. So, let’s move on to the motivation behind many of these Brexiteers?

There are few who can honestly say that they are WW2 brats - although I can still remember seeing the odd Supermarine Spitfire, flying overhead during my childhood in Berkshire - and most of us have not experienced WW2, except latterly on certain evocative WW2, TV programs.

But in the post war period, a lot of the thinking behind the EEC – latterly known as the EU – was not, and could never purely be about trade, and diplomacy. It was also about peace – Churchills famous iron curtain - and the Cold War. Part and parcel of securing Europe, and adding to the looming presence of NATO, the EEC was then the greatest European threat against the Soviets, a matter which Mr. Putin still acknowledges, as president of the Russian Federation. Recently, he has announced, even he is confused about Camerons referendum, and a possible Brexit outcome!

Revealing that the great majority of present day referendum voters can only see Britains membership of the EU in monetary terms, surely common sense will prevail, because - should Great Britain leave the European Union – not only will the Union itself be consequently weakened, but so will the UK. Or, is the old Bulldog being fitted with some new dentures, which I haven’t heard of?

Monday 13 June 2016

Boris and The Goldfish Bowl – by Patrick Brigham

If the World was just a goldfish bowl,
Am I looking out or looking in?
Are the things I see,
As I should be,
And, shall I sink or swim.
Norris Throdes 1926 – 2015 The Bard of Wrexham, North Wales

As an old man, Norris Throdes became very angry. In his polemic written in 2015 and titled: “Not Another Bloody Referendum, Thank You Very Much,” he reached back into his past, searching for any plausible reason, why it was that the English permanently dominated British politics, and inevitably told The Welsh what to do.

At a time when few people had ever been abroad, Throdes cast his mind back to his past, in search of childhood clues, that might possibly explain the present state of affairs in British politics. Back in time - to the front room of his comfortable family home in pre WW2 Wrexham - he remembered his goldfish called Dave.

Somehow, he could imagine himself to be Dave, swimming around his glass bowl, casually wondering about the world outside. Was it true that the Earth was flat? Was it true that if you went far enough, you would drop off the edge, and land up in a horrifying place called America? Surely, it was much better to swim around aimlessly all day long, believing that you lived in perfect harmony with nature, in a perfect country, and in five litres of very clean Welsh tap water.

Norris Throdes mind started to race, and as it focused on his idyllic Welsh childhood, he began to adopt the goldfish’s persona, to ponder on his aquatic existence, and to speculate on possible life changing events to come. What would happen, if another goldfish was introduced into his bowl? Would there be enough space for two fish to coexist, and would it cause certain frictions to emerge - especially when it came to size and strength - and of course, the small matter of intelligence. That, of course, would rather depend on the second fish being a fellow male. If it was a female, of course it would be different, and Thodes could easily imagine himself swimming around after her, for all sorts of spurious reasons.

In order not to digress to much, Throdes finally concluded, that there had to be a second male in the bowl, in order for his analogous polemic to make any sense. His original goldfish he remembered, was called Dave, but what would be a good name for the second goldfish – if he were to introduce one into the goldfish bowl - that was his greatest problem. In the end the name Boris came to mind, and in his ever mushrooming dissertation on goldfish, Throdes could now see – in his mind’s eye of course - both Dave and Boris, happily swimming around together in a perfect harmony, in a shiny glass bowl in Wrexham.

Now the story began to unfold - in a very familiar way - because, in due course, Boris wanted to leave the goldfish bowl, and this was when the arguments started!

'You can’t get out, you're in!

‘You don’t know what’s out there Boris,’ Dave was becoming emotional, ‘and if you jump, who knows what will happen, because you will never be able to come back.’

‘Yes, but I want my own bowl to live in,’ Boris was beginning to sneer, ‘somewhere I don’t have to share with you, or any of the others. I’m sick of you all.’

‘But if you stay, we can look after each other, because we have everything we need. What’s wrong? Don’t you like me – is it because I look different?’

Boris’s eyes twinkled and although he had not fully considered the consequences, he laughed at Dave. ‘You’re pathetic,’ and he kept repeating it, as though Dave had no inkling about life or any future possibilities. ’Don’t you realize yet, that I am the greatest? I am indomitable, and not only can I foretell the future, I can leap into it.’ Having said which, he shouted ‘Goodbye Dave and the rest of you plonkers!’

Boris jumped out of the glass bowl and wriggling over the table, on which the glass bowl was standing, he landed on the floor with a thump. Soon the flapping noise became less and less, and finally nothing. Norris Throdes suddenly remembered his mother’s cat Tommy, and now - apart from the silence - all he could hear, was the sound of Tommy purring, and licking his paws.

I never knew what happened to Norris Throdes polemic, because a few days later he had passed away. His nurse, at the local ‘Home for The Permanently Bewildered,’ told me that, after I left, he had found it difficult to sleep. Apparently, being very short sighted, he had spent the night in the wardrobe, trying to find the light switch.

If the world is like a goldfish bowl,
Not looking out, but looking in,
Are those I see,
As I used to be,
And why they seldom win?

Friday 10 June 2016

Enoch Powell and The Crystal Ball – by Patrick Brigham

In the late 60s, Enoch Powell was undergoing some serious grief, for his so called ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, which he allegedly gave in Wolverhampton on April 20th 1968. At a time when social and racial emancipation was the keyword for any western civilization, bound on a course of post WW2 enlightenment, he chose a very poor time to give a warning about the probable result of too much immigration. His punishment was a trip to obscurity, the Denizens of free love won the day, and simply let it all hang out!

I was caught up in the middle. As a young jazz pianist – as I was then - black people were a part of my cultural life. I had experienced racial prejudice at first hand, but had also noticed how easy it was to vanquish, certainly by the drummer in my jazz trio. He was a Master Sergeant from the US air force base at Lower Wellford, and after a session at my family farmhouse in Burghfield one evening, we decided to go for a beer at The Hatch Gate, my local pub.

The pub landlord - who was famous for being cantankerous, truculent and rude - refused to serve my friend, stating quite clearly - and in a very loud voice - that he did not serve blacks. My fellow American musician was totally nonplussed by the whole event, and calmly stated: ‘If you don’t serve me now, landlord, tomorrow you will not have to serve fifty black American servicemen like me, so it is up to you; you decide.’ Of course he got his pint of beer, and a small local skirmish was averted. But, this was also a time – for me at least - that the 20th Century had seemingly arrived in provincial UK, and at a time when most of the student population and the prevailing intelligentsia, we're looking for a fight.

I know, because I managed to get my head thumped. It was on the occasion of a visit by Enoch Powell to Reading University, a speech he was to deliver on economics, and a subject he was very familiar with. The organizers, realizing that there could be some aggravation, asked me - along with others - if I would like to be one of his heavies for the afternoon, and very unwisely I said yes.

As soon as Enoch Powell entered the hall, the mayhem began. Placards appeared accusing him of racism, and a cacophony – reminiscent of a football chant – started, but Enoch wasn’t a Military Cross veteran for nothing, and gave as good as he got. ‘By now,’ he said to the chanting audience, ‘you must all be assured of a first class degree, in your chosen subject, but for one small deficiency which I have noticed in your behaviour. You see, it is the ear through which you gain all knowledge, and not the mouth.’

Enoch left the stage, and we, his secret army, pushed our way through the crowd - being bashed and beaten, by all and sundry - in order to form a passageway to the door and his waiting Rolls Royce. Bloodied but unbowed, we looked back to see where Enoch was, but he had disappeared altogether. An anticlimax for everyone, but not for Enoch, he had slipped out of the back door, and was on his way to Reading train station in a beaten up Mini! So, what is the moral of this story?

The phrase ‘rivers of blood,’ doesn’t appear, in the Wolverhampton speech at all, because Powell used words from the Aeneid: “As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood.”

Powell was also cause for a rethink about The Common Market, and his then famous, ‘Get Britain Out of The Common Market,’ speech, made at the New Century Hall in Manchester in 1974. Made before a sea of white faces, mainly from the older age groups, there was serious argument among the audience themselves about their reasons for not being in the pre EU club. But, what were they arguing about, apart from immigration, because there was a lot of ambivalence about bloody foreigners then too!

The Guardian, at the time, reported how, ‘Powell left no doubt that he regarded the preservation of British sovereignty and independence as an end for which “any disadvantage and any sacrifice are a cheap price.” He thus effectively warned Mr Heath – the then Prime Minister - that he was prepared to set the pace for a policy rebellion by the anti-Common Market wing of the party over the next year.’

Addressing a Conservative association meeting in Birmingham, the BBC reported that: ‘Mr Powell said Britain had to be mad, to allow in 50,000 dependents of immigrants each year. He compared it to watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre. The MP for Wolverhampton South West called for an immediate reduction in immigration and the implementation of a Conservative policy of "urgent" encouragement of those already in the UK to return home.’

I can’t help feeling that there is an ‘Enoch Moment,’ happening right now. It seems that the argument for ‘in or out,’ is only part of the political landscape, and that UK PLC, needs to decide whether it wants to stay in the 20th Century or live anew in The 21st Century.

If it stays in the 20th Century, we will all watch the slow disintegration of a fading nationalist and largely racialist society. If the UK chooses to coexist, in a shaky but more open minded 21st Century, it can help to lead a more enlightened EU, in which Great Britain continues to have its say. If it says nothing, then it is up to you to elect politicians who will be listened to in the Brussels Parliament, as well as listening carefully to the babble of the streets, and us; the great unwashed.

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Death in The Afternoon - by Patrick Brigham

The mindless piffle which is being peddled by Brexit campaigners in order to influence voters in the forthcoming EU referendum, has reached a point in its silliness, that I for one would like to see the entire gaggle of vapid politicians and glib speakers, out of a job by the next UK parliamentary election. Why? Because they are treating British voters like fools, and, do you really want your country run by people who do that? What they say may be funny, and some of their antics are rather comical, but when are they going to stop this absurd Victorian farce, and kindly leave the stage!

‘Of course, you will be much better off financially, and you won’t have bloody foreigners telling you what to do in Brussels, meddling in British lawmaking, and there will also be no further illegal immigration into Great Britain.’

Oh, really? You mean that illegal immigrants are residing within our sceptred isles, because of Brussels? That there will be no bombers arriving in the UK, because of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson. What a joke! Oh, by the way, I have got a good joke for you, now I remember it. This was told to me by an Indian friend from Amritser, just across the border from Pakistan and Lahore – it’s very funny.

You see, there was this jihadist who is an instructor for ISIS, and he is lecturing a group of would be suicide bombers, on how to blow themselves up using a suicide vest. ‘Now,’ he says, ‘I want you to pay attention, because I am only going to show you how to do this once…..

You think that’s funny do you? Well, the photograph above, is of a Taliban suicide bomber, who was arrested, somewhere in Kabul, because his vest didn’t detonate. When he was strip searched by the authorities, they also discovered that his wedding tackle was protected by a thick metal sheath. When he was asked why he had protected his private parts in such a way, he replied that it was so he could bonk the allotted 23 virgins, he would be blessed with, when he arrived in heaven, and was declared a martyr.

You see very ignorant and stupid people like this, haven’t heard of Nigel Farage, don’t know about Romanian Gypsys, and know little or nothing about the brain drain from Bulgaria and Greece, to the office markets in England. This is partly because they are extremely thick, their life is not worth living, and they are prepared to kill themselves at the whim of some mad Mulla with a big hat. An event which might take place in a Sainsbury’s car park near you; do you still think that’s funny?

What is not funny, is the way the British Government ignores Europol, and the great majority of bilateral assistance available from all the EU security services; a part of the silly argument, that we don’t need Europe as much as they need us. Our great leaders tell us that our security services are indomitable, and the best in the world. But, what is also not very funny, is that this very subject is fast becoming the pivotal reason for Britain leaving the EU, so, do you really believe that this is true.

In my recently published book The Dance of Dimitrios, my Europol detective Chief Inspector Mike Lambert is faced by two such radicalized terrorists. They are holding a young boy captive and threatening to kill him, unless certain conditions are met. Together with a specialist armed unit, DCI Lambert confronts them, a firefight ensues and although the boy escapes, Lambert is badly injured by hostile gunfire. In my tale of illegal immigrants and terrorists, I don’t disguise the fact that most of the Al Qaeda or ISIS soldiers are uneducated morons, who believe in a luxurious afterlife if they sacrifice their lives for their jihadist cause. What happens to these two radicalized clowns, will not surprise you, except where it happens. A car park in West London, is the unlikely setting, maybe offering my readers a portent of things to come?


Now for some light relief -

‘Mumbo, jumbo, rhubarb, rhubarb,
Prosti-rhubarb off the streets.
We will fight them on the beaches,
But we’ll lose between the sheets.’

Thus Spoke the Great Bard – Spike Milligan

Something for A Quiet Time- by Patrick Brigham

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