OH I WISH IT COULD BE 1965 AGAIN

Sang the Barracudas in 1980.  That, apparently, is also what a lot of Brexit supporters think according to one recent article. This seems to confirm what many of us thought, that Brexit is all part of a nostalgia for simpler times, when a policeman told you the time, when children did as they were told, when murderers got their just desserts, when Heinz tinned spaghetti was the nearest most Brits came to exotic foreign food.

I am not sure why they alighted on 1965. There is actually a lot to like about 1965. Consider the continuing post war boom, full employment, strong trade unions, in short rising living standards for everyone, greater equality too.  It was also a good year for music and fashion. This was the year The Who released My  Generation, the year that Andre Courreges and Mary Quant gave us the mini skirt. Each, in their different ways , were signs of the times, signs that Britain was shaking off the dead weight of the past in cultural and social terms.

It is true that Britian still had the death penalty but there were no hangings. Labour had returned to power in October 1964, two months after the executions of Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans and Harold Wilson appointed as Home Secretary Frank Soskice, a long standing opponent of the death penalty. This ensured there would be no more, particularly as Soskice secured government support for Sydney Silverman’s Private Members Bill, suspending the death penalty for murder for a 5 year trial period. This passed into law in October 1965 and was made permanent four years later. 1965 was, therefore, the year in which the death penalty for murder was finally abolished.

By this time Soskice had been replaced at the Home Office by Roy Jenkins and further massive change  was coming into view, including the decriminalisation of sexual acts between consenting adult men,  the decriminalisation of abortion, reform to divorce law, abolition of theatre censorship and so on. 1965 was also the year that the UK embarked on metrication, something that an awful lot of people seem to think was imposed on us by the EU. It wasn’t.

So, dear Brexit supporters, 1965 really isn’t the year for you despite what the Huffington Post says. Any point of time is a snapshot of something becoming something else. 1965 is a snapshot of a country in the process of becoming a freer, more tolerant, more exciting, above all, more civilised place.  Will the bloggers of 2069 be able to say that about 2017?

The Remains of the Day

As I don’t own a pair of leather trousers I suppose I can claim just two things in common with the Prime Minister, a second class Oxford degree and the fact that I was an unenthusiastic Remainer in last year’s referendum. I was actually active in the anti Maastricht campaign in the 1990s and have a longer Eurosceptic pedigree than she does. Yet I could see no advantages on leaving rather than  staying and fighting for reform.

Unlike her I remain a Remainer. Zeal of the convert is hardly an adequate expression for her change of heart and the way she has sided with the hard core Brexit headbangers, attempting to bypass Parliament altogether and then, when the courts reminded of what the law said, treating it with contempt with a 137 word Bill, guillotined debate and a three line whip. A narrow result in a flawed (and advisory) referendum has become the “will of the people”, immutable, immune from challenge, to be interpreted by Mrs. May and no one else.   She claims that the country needs to unite but apparently considers that the 63% of the electorate who didn’t vote Leave or the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland are of no account at all. She took over a bitterly divided country (some of my family are still not speaking to each other) and has made it more divided.

What bodes even less well is the refusal of Brexit advocates to take ownership of the situation they have created. As I commented before the referendum I thought much of what they were saying was wishful thinking. I have heard nothing to make me change my mind. Worse still, they seem prepared to blame everyone but themselves if it goes wrong.  It will all be the fault of their opponents, traitors, enemies of democracy, enemies of the people, talking down Britain etc etc.  If it has been nasty so far, it;s about to get nastier. Because we already know that the Government has no plan beyond platitudes, no adequately trained negotiators, no time either. The decision to trigger Article 50  by the end of March has no justification other than the need to keep the Daily Mail happy.  Nothing much can happen until the autumn because of pending presidential elections in France and then parliamentary elections in Germany and,with six months needed at the end for all the various national and regional parliaments across Europe to ratify the deal, they have a year to come up with something. It isn’t going to happen. The likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg will, of course, glory in this.

We don’t, of course. need the EU to shaft us as we have a Government that is doing that for us. I sometimes think I will wake up and find it was all a bad dream. Unfortunately it isn’t and I think that the 29th March 2017 will be the day the United Kingdom became a smaller, nastier place.  The problem is that I have to live in it.