Tuesday, 20 September 2016

In defence of Paul Gascoigne

Actually, Paul Gascoigne's request to his black bouncer (alleged to have been "can you smile please, because I can't see you") is indefensible. So no, I have nothing to say in Gascoigne's defence.

However just because I can't find anything good to say about Gascoigne's comment doesn't mean the ex-footballer should have got a criminal conviction.

Gascoigne was apparently charged under section 31(1)(c) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. A person is guilty of this offence if he commits an offence under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 which is racially or religiously aggravated.  That's to say to commit an offence under the 1998 Act you must have committed an offence under the earlier Act with some religious or racial aggravation added on.

Section 5 of the POA says you're guilty of an offence if (inter alia) you use "threatening or abusive words or behaviour . . . within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby."  Gascoigne certainly didn't use any threatening behaviour, so the allegation must have been that he used "abusive words".

Is "Can you smile please, because I can't see you" abusive?  It suggests of course that by reason of the bouncer's dark skin he was hard to see.  But that's not exactly abuse.  Calling someone a fat cunt is abuse. Gascoigne's words may have been humiliating and insulting, but it isn't an offence to humiliate or insult someone (actually we know this specifically in the case of s.5 because it contained the word insulting until February 2014, when it was removed from the Act).

If Gascoigne's words aren't abusive he hasn't committed an offence. And were his words likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress?  Harassment suggests a continuous course of behaviour; this was a one-off.  A bouncer employed by Gascoigne is unlikely to have felt alarm. Distress seems a bit nearer the mark, although I'm surprised Gascoigne's barrister didn't argue that distress requires a degree of extreme pain beyond annoyance and offence.

So it looks as if Gascoigne had a reasonable chance of acquittal on either the meaning of abusive or the meaning of distress.  And yet he, presumably on the advice of his brief, decided to plead guilty. Strange.

I worry desperately about the use of the law to impose liberalism's norms on public discourse.  In case you think I'm alone in this, here's Matthew Norman, writing on the Gascoigne case recently in the Independent - "Personally, I think the infringement of the criminal law into matters of taste is clumsy and generally counterproductive, and that the sanctity of freedom of speech outweighs the need to protect people from being offended . . . in what surreal madhouse is an offensive joke automatically conflated with a criminal offence?  Here we find the quality of mercy strained to destruction".

There is a place for constraint of free speech.  Well actually two of them.  The first is that if the words are defamatory you should be able to secure damages in the civil courts.  The second is where the words either put a person in fear of violence, or make it likely that violence will ensue.  Free speech is too precious to mess about with in any other circumstances.

And the best remedy for people like Gascoigne is to know them, pity them and, if persistent, shun and avoid them.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Grammar schools and the centre ground

Like a lot of people wobbling around the centre ground of British politics, I viewed the elevation of Theresa May with a certain amount of relief.  She was bright, thorough, hard-working and capable.  And she was not either Andrea Leadsom or Jeremy Corbyn.

But oh Theresa, what's this stuff about education?

Two quick points.  Grammar schools suck in the brightest and best.  Bully for them; but where does that leave everyone else?  One of the biggest problems besetting working class children is that they are more likely to be brought up by parents who never got anything out of education themselves, and are less likely to be committed to its benefits.  I know from my own kids' experiences that there is a strong anti-education ethos among some denizens of comprehensive schools. Bright, well-supported middle class kids are a modest corrective in such places.  Diminishing their numbers would be a disaster.

And letting faith schools select more children by religious practice runs the return of grammars close for stupidity. Leaving aside the injustice (it's unfair to tell people that their children can't go to the local school their taxes have helped pay for, just because they practice the wrong - or no - religion), what does such division do for integration?  It prevents it.  Labour MP Angela Rayner stood up in the Commons and accused May of "Segregation, segregation, segregation". Given Labour's dismal record of encouraging multiculturalism that's galling to hear. But Ms Rayner is right. What Britain urgently needs is 20 years or so of kids of all faiths going to school together, falling in love, doing sport, going out clubbing, drinking cider in bus stops and all the rest.

Personally I would do away with state-funded faith schools altogether. When I put this to a Christian friend he said, "Yes, but you're forgetting that C of E schools are the last repository in society for teaching Christian values".  Whether you think this is a good thing depends on your point of view; as a non-Christian I can value the immense contribution of Christianity to the Enlightenment whilst thinking that perhaps Christian values should sink or swim on their own. Certainly I think (and the Birmingham Trojan Horse experience bears this out) that Islamic schools are a catastrophe in the making (a family friend who works with the Government's Prevent scheme tells me he is very worried about radicalisation, which he says is breeding a society within a society; and this guy is staunch Old Labour with a lifetime's experience in social work).

I went to a private school (which, God knows, was like the Wild West in some ways), but I am not an enthusiast. Not even a Corbyn government would ban them (and I wouldn't want to live in a society so authoritarian), but their tax privileges are hard to justify. Private schools are not charities; not in a society where state education is freely available. They exist to provide safe haven and advantage for the children of the monied. Removing their charitable status would force many more bright, well-supported children into the state system. Those kids would cope, and their presence help the less fortunate.

Centre ground? Perhaps I've got so right-wing that I'm coming round the other way again. May out! Corbyn in!

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Conducting, the death of ambition and getting what you need

I can remember the moment when it first occurred to me that I could be a professional conductor.  I was round at a friend's.  His Mum was a music teacher and we were listening to some music, or perhaps watching it on TV. I suddenly thought, "I could do this", for I knew instinctively that I was musical enough, personable enough, confident, eloquent and manipulative enough to stand on the box telling other people what to do and basking in the attention.

I also thought, "Oh bugger", because I was about 20 and had just started a Law degree.

As it happened, about the same time I began writing classical music seriously, and, thanks to a startling piece of good fortune, managed in my mid-20s to get a second grant to study composition with John Tavener at what was then Trinity College of Music.  Swiftly I got my second study (piano) changed to conducting, and spent my last three years at College putting on concerts with other students.  I liked it and was quite good at it; at any rate I won the College's conducting prize twice.

However by this time I thought conducting a second rate profession in comparison to composition, and when College finished I knew I wouldn't have the time (or money) to carry on. I was living in London, scratching a living with temp jobs. My parents showed no sign of wanting to pay for post-grad study, which was perhaps not surprising since by this stage I'd been a full-time student for seven years. In truth, I had little appetite for it either - I was going to be a composer, and the world was there to be conquered.

Trinity had no kind of programme for trying to ease its most promising graduates into the profession (unlike the RNCM, which does pretty well now), but right at the end of my time at Trinity my conducting teacher, Bernard Keeffe, had made what now seems a very generous offer. "A choir of which I am President", he said, "needs a new conductor. They have a concert next week. If you would like to come along I'll introduce you to the Chairman". But I didn't want to be a choral conductor, I thought, and went out with my girlfriend instead.

I regret this not so much for the loss of opportunity it undoubtedly represented (which if modest was real - who knows where it might have led?), but because of the snub to Bernard (a man from whom I learned at least as much about music as from Tavener). It's true that we hadn't always seen eye to eye, but if anything that made his expression of faith in me all the more generous. He deserved better.

So that was that with conducting, for fifteen years, until 2003 when, thanks to the indisposition of a friend, I got the chance to take a rehearsal with an amateur orchestra in Manchester. On the basis of that rehearsal they gave me a concert, and on the basis of that concert made me Music Director. And so I began conducting orchestras again.

During the decade that has followed I've sometimes wondered whether I might make it into the profession. I've often conducted orchestras some of whose players have been paid, or some of whom have been ex-pros. I am usually paid myself (although I would willingly conduct a good orchestra for nothing).  But I've never conducted a salaried professional orchestra, and I've always wanted to, partly to find out whether I was good enough, partly because the better the players the more you can get into the really interesting stuff (as opposed to fixing the stuff which keeps going wrong) and partly because the money would stop my wife telling me to go and get a proper job.

It hasn't been a burning issue, but I hear so many stories from musician friends about incompetent, underprepared or downright nasty conductors who are out there (Getting work! Having agents! Earning good money!) that you can't help but think - why not me?

The answer to that of course is that, like most glamour professions, conducting is way oversubscribed. You are competing against people who always knew this was what they wanted to do, who were better looking, better resourced, better connected and possibly even harder working and more talented than you are. On the whole those are the kind of people who are going to get on, not composers who started conducting as a side-line in their early forties (and who now increasingly resemble Frank Dobson, the former Labour member for Holborn and St Pancras).

I sometimes think it's possible that I'll be asked to conduct a professional orchestra in one of my own pieces, and that, beguiled by my cheery attitude and insistence on short rehearsals, I'll be invited back to do a tour of Belorussia where we'll do Brahms 4 a dozen times in two weeks. But it hasn't happened. And until last year I minded. Slightly.

Then in 2015 I went to see the BBC Phil play at the Bridgewater in Mancester.  The repertoire was Beatrice and Benedict, the Brahms fiddle concerto, La Valse and Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements. I found myself thinking, I could conduct all these pieces, but it's a big programme. And God I'd have been bricking it the night before. I mean, all those time changes. The players won't know some of it all that well. They'll be depending on me. What if I go wrong? One mistake and we're all fucked. And that's just the Stravinsky. La Valse isn't easy. Neither is the Berlioz. And the Brahms concerto - well, you never know what soloists are going to do.

So while I knew I could do it all, I knew that it would have been a major undertaking. Yet the BBC Phil's conductor, a young Frenchman, made it look easy. He stood there, an elegant mess of beguiling dark curls, one hand on the rail, smiling at the orchestra, hardly looking at the score, a picture of the art which conceals art.

For I knew how much work it would have cost him to master such a programme so thoroughly. Hours and hours of labour - reading, learning and marking up the scores. Learning it not so that it would go right, but so that it could not possibly go wrong. And I thought, I do not have time to do this. Not and compose as well. And, knowing me, I would have found the job of learning the Stravinsky a terrible drudge. For I do not like Stravinsky much, finding a lot of his music devoted mostly to showing the listener how clever the composer is. And I am not very good at doing things I don't like.

As a conductor of amateur orchestras, some of which are pretty good, I can by and large choose the music I conduct. Moreover I get loads of rehearsal time. Over the years I've conducted all the greats. Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Wagner, Mahler, Sibelius, Nielsen - and quite a lot of my own music as well. Conducting has given me a mechanic's view into the engine of some of the greatest pieces of art Western civilisation has ever devised. What a privilege. When I look back at my early orchestral pieces I don't shudder at their incompetence: they're surprisingly good considering I knew next to nothing about how to write for orchestra. But conducting has made me far, far better at it.

I have also learned a good deal about myself. Before I became a conductor I was always one of the people who sat at the back of the room trying to be funny (sometimes) and clever (less often). Conducting forced me to take responsibility. I haven't enjoyed that part of it, but it's the flip side of being in charge. It still astonishes me that, often after many years working together, there are musicians who are not just willing to tolerate me but who appear to actually like me. How could that have happened? Finally it also taught me the limits of ambition. It turned out that actually I didn't want to be a professional conductor after all.

Of course I'm aware that the mind eventually finds ways of accommodating the unpalatable (perhaps even death, in due course), and that this could merely be some mid-life ex post facto rationalisation. But all the same I'm reminded of the Rolling Stones You Can't Always Get What You Want. For Jagger / Richards continued "But if you try sometimes / you might just find / you get what you need".

Monday, 22 August 2016

Orwell's statue and the BBC

The other day I learned that Westminster City Council has given planning permission for a bronze statue of George Orwell to be placed outside New Broadcasting House.  The BBC has welcomed this, although the initiative didn't come from them and has in fact been paid for by private subscription.

A rousing two and a half cheers. Orwell is clearly the greatest Left wing British writer, and one of the greatest British Left wing thinkers.  Whatever his shortcomings as a novelist (personally I think he's a much better essayist), 1984 and Animal Farm were books which changed the world.  Very few writers can say they've done that. These two books helped destroy the intellectual case for Communism and were, it's often forgotten, works which required great moral courage to write, given that the author was swimming against a flood tide of pro-Soviet consensus amongst his friends, colleagues and political class generally.

I like to think that, had he lived, a man as fearless and scrupulous as Orwell would have tempered his Leftism in the face of the way the world changed after the 39-45 war.  As Keynes famously said, "When the facts change, I change my mind.  What do you do sir?"  In Orwell's absence, the rest of us must look at the example of his method and try and live up to it.

But back to the BBC, where Orwell worked for two years during the war.  The inscription behind his statue is to be, "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear".

Worryingly, this is a principle which I would guess is more controversial and less widely accepted now than at any time since Orwell's death, not least at the BBC itself.  For the Corporation itself has a less than noble record of not listening to things it doesn't want to hear.

I'm thinking of immigration, where the BBC has repeatedly had to concede (In its own 2007 report From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel, and five years later in the Stuart Prebble report of 2013 for the BBC Trust) that it ignored the concerns of the general public.

Then there's Brexit, where the editorial staff seemed to have no idea that there were people beyond West London who might not actually benefit from EU membership; the look of shock on reporters' faces when the result came in spoke volumes for the collision they had just endured with the views of ordinary people.

So I would have thought another quote from Orwell might be more apposite behind his statue.  How about this from The Lion and the Unicorn?

"Underlying this is the really important fact about so many of the English intelligentsia - their severance from the common culture of the country".  

Or maybe a gloss on the original quote -

"If public service broadcasting means anything at all, it means listening to the people even when you don't want to hear what they're saying".

Monday, 25 July 2016

Brexit reflections #11 - the emergency brake redux

Yesterday the papers reported a startling fact.  "UK officials" had, as the Guardian put it, confirmed that an emergency brake on immigration was "on the table" in Brexit talks.

Most of the comment which followed this story (unspecific as to who "UK officials" might have been, but nevertheless so widely printed that you'd think it had some basis in fact) concerned the outrage of Tory MPs hostile to immigration.  They had not, they fulminated, fought for so long for Brexit only to have one of its principal charms taken away at the moment of victory.

I guess you can see their point; but for me the really astonishing facet of this story, assuming it to be broadly true, lay elsewhere.

David Cameron went to Brussels to ask for concessions which would enable him to sell Remain to the British.  He went to see Angela Merkel, we are told, and asked for an emergency brake on immigration.  Nein, said Frau Merkel.  Not a chance.  Cameron had to make do with minor concessions on benefits for migrants, which by the time of the Referendum hadn't been agreed by other EU countries (and would in any case have been dependent on their unanimous agreement). Britain duly voted to Leave.

So this is where we are. A variation on the principle of free movement which Cameron was refused in the months before the Referendum now suddenly appears to be possible, and may be combined with continued access to the single market now we have voted Leave.


If you assume it's true that other EU countries were mostly dismayed by the Brexit vote and would, whatever their reservations about Britain, have largely preferred us to stay, what are we to infer from this extraordinary volte face?

It must be agonising for EUrophiles to contemplate the effect this concession might have had if it been made, say, at the beginning of June. David Cameron would have been able to say, "Look! At last we have some means of stopping this unending flow of migrants. 330,000 net last year. A group of people roughly the size of Bristol. At last we'll be able to start bringing that figure down". A lot of people would have voted differently. The Referendum result would probably have different.

For EUrosceptics this change of heart prompts at the very least a grim shake of the head. For does it not show the staggering incompetence of the EU leadership? Migration might have been the most important issue in the Referendum, but an emergency brake, a sign that the tide might begin to slow, could have had a huge impact on the result.  You'd have to imagine that EU leaders are kicking themselves.

What does this extraordinary mistake make Merkel, Juncker, Schwarz and Hollande et al look like?

Well here's a few things. Proud, inflexible, ill-informed (what were their UK diplomats doing?), unimaginative and doctrinaire for starters.

What absolutely crap leadership.

Aha, say the old Brexit hands.  We told you that's what they were like.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Labour's troubles are even worse than we think

On a heady morning in May 1997, dazed from lack of sleep, I made my way to work up the Essex Road, Islington on the top deck of  a No.73 bus. It may well not have been the morning after Tony Blair's landslide election victory, but might have been the morning after that: for I was reading a column in the Guardian - of course - by Hugo Young, reflecting on Labour's historic triumph.

At the time Young, now long dead, was the Graun's big shot columnist. I wish I could remember his exact words, but their thrust was plain.  The Tories, he wrote, are now finished. Forever.

Even then, euphoric at Blair's victory, I remember thinking, "Oh come on. Life's not like that. Nor is politics".

As I write this Theresa May is about to be installed as PM after a mercifully truncated leadership campaign and the Tories are the only plausible governing party in Britain. Young was wrong. Tory exile from power lasted a mere 13 years.

On the other hand Labour's NEC met last night to establish whether its leader Jeremy Corbyn, hated by the majority of his parliamentary colleagues, needed their support to get on the ballot paper to contest Angela Eagle's leadership challenge. The NEC decided Corbyn could run as of right. This morning it appears that Owen Smith MP has thrown his hat in the ring too, an act of incomprehensible political self-harm.

Labour has been virtually wiped out in Scotland. The EU referendum result appears to confirm what the 2015 election suggested - that the party is now losing its core support in the north and midlands to UKIP. So is Labour finished?

In 1997 the Tories had merely lost an election. Labour's position is far, far worse. But actually I think it's even worse than the most of the party realises.

For me the overarching lesson of the 2008 crash was that our economy had been dependent for too long on borrowing, both public and private. Labour briefly ran a surplus inherited from the Tories, but in about 2001 Gordon Brown began to spend. Even while the economy was growing, he ran a counter-cyclical counter-Keynesian spending splurge. Public spending nearly doubled under Blair/Brown. The bankers assisted Brown mightily by lending to any Tom, Dick or Harry with a job. The economy boomed, and private debt levels rocketed.

Now the bankers must take their share of the blame, but people forget to ask what would have happened if they had behaved responsibly. Answer - the boom would have come to a halt even sooner. The 2008 crash distracts by its apocalyptic nature from the underlying reality, which is that our standard of living - as private individuals and as consumers of public services - had been kept artificially high by borrowing from future income streams. As Frank Field wrote long before 2008 (I paraphrase), "In future, public services will have to be provided for less money, not more". After George Osborne became chancellor his much vaunted austerity succeeded only in halving Britain's deficit. In other words, we are merely racking up debt at half the rate we were doing when he became Chancellor in 2010. We are borrowing about £1.5 billion every week just to stay afloat.

The gap between our ability to pay for our standard of living and our ability to fund it has widened, as globalisation has sent manufacturing jobs abroad and growing longevity has increased strain on pensions and the NHS. The days of Gordon Brown's lavish spending increases are gone. I suggest they will never come back. You can argue whether that's a good or bad thing till you're blue in the face, but it would be pointless because even if you would like them to return, the money is not there.

I think Labour supporters are divided into roughly three groups. The smallest group contains people like Frank Field and Maurice Glasman who recognise the financial realities. The largest group thinks 2008 was largely the bankers' fault and that without the crash we'd still be tootling on as before (but this group, in which I'd include the overwhelming majority of the PLP, is slightly at a loss as to how to improve on Tory solutions). The last group includes the hard left entryists of the Corbynite persuasion. They think there's a magic button which can be pressed - spending, printing, borrowing, taxing the rich - which will get the state's coffers filling again. They are fantasists of course, but the certainty and simplicity of their prescription, its la-la-not-listening to the harsh realities of economic and social circumstance explains its appeal to a growing of Labour supporters. Hence Corbyn and his Momentum chums.

Labour's problems are worse than it realises because even if this last group can be seen off - and events of the last few weeks make that seem a slim hope - the others have no intellectually defensible or practical answers to the problems facing Britain. You may hate the Tories all you like, but their policy of bearing down on public spending and trying to encourage business to generate the taxes which will make Britain's public finances sustainable has at least the merit of coherence (it also, coincidentally, chimes with our own experiences as citizens in trying to run our own lives). When you add together that - in contrast to Labour's mediocre offerings - they have a new leader with a long history of performing competently in one of the great offices of state, it's difficult to see how Labour are going to claw their way back into contention.

At this stage the proposition that Labour are in deep trouble seems like a woeful underestimation of their problems. Unlike Hugo Young I wouldn't risk saying Labour is finished as a party. In politics things change of course. But I think they'll have to change quite a lot before Labour can form a government again.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Brexit reflections #10 - Professor Vernon Bogdanor; getting the cold shoulder

I don't think there's ever been a political issue which has divided us more.  I live in a divided household.  Since the referendum a number of social events have had to take place without me (it was felt that Remainer friends needed a good cry and it was best this take place without my provocative presence).  Although my wife, two and a half weeks in, is showing signs of forgiving me for disagreeing with her, I have been given the cold shoulder by people I thought were my friends.

One such sent round an email.  It read as follows -

"I know you might be sick of it, but this is a really important moment in our country's history.  Please think about this, it is like a second chance to vote".

There followed a link to a petition to stop Article 50 being invoked.

"Now we have a chance to show the rest of Europe and parliament what we really want.  Sign this petition if you want to stop Brexit."

Goodness, I thought; and there was me thinking we'd already had a chance to vote on Brexit. In the Referendum.

Something else struck me. This "second chance to vote" was only open to Remainers. That's a stroke of genius, I thought. That's the way to defeat the Leave supporters. Deny them the franchise!

My friend went on, "There is some confusion about the referendum result and what it means."

Actually Leave won by a small but clear majority. Or did they?

"Only 37% of the British electorate put a cross in the Leave box on 23rd June.  The 52/48% split was not the percentage of the British electorate but the percentage of the turnout on that day.  So Brexit is not the will of the people.  Since then many Leave voters have changed their mind. So the figure of 37% voting for Leave is even less now . . . the majority of the British people do not want this."

But hang on. If only 37% of the British electorate voted Leave, mustn't the percentage who voted Remain have been even smaller? Something like 34%?

Who is to say that the people that didn't vote were all Remainers? Or all Leavers for that matter? Or split along the lines of those that did vote? Or split some other way? Isn't the point about public votes that they give an opportunity for those who care enough to make their opinion clear? And don't they entitle politicians to disregard the views of those that can't be bothered to turn out?

"Parliament has no mandate to vote for Brexit. If it does so it will be against the wishes of the people and undemocratic. So, to make it absolutely clear to parliament that the majority of the British people don't want to leave please sign this. Please don't think it is a lost cause, because it isn't. It is more important than the vote you made on 23rd June in many ways. It is a chance to get this country back on an even keel, to right the terrible mistakes that were made, which several of the politicians who were campaigning for Brexit now admit were wrong. People who want to remain are in the majority. Let's show really clearly that we are not going to let democracy be manipulated any more".

Oh Jesus. "More important than the vote you made on 23rd June in many ways".  Give me strength.

How do we know what the "wishes of the people" are? Or what the majority of "the British people" want? We could ask them! And conveniently we just did! In a national Referendum with polling stations and a proper voter registration system!

They voted Leave.

To be fair my friend is correct about one thing. The Referendum result is not mandatory but advisory. Parliament doesn't have to go along with it. Most MPs are Remainers.

What would be the effect of ignoring the result? I don't know what disenchanted Leavers would do, but if you accept that we, the much-invoked British people, voted Leave because it offered an opportunity for the poorest to protest about their effective disenfranchisement on one of the issues about which they feel most strongly, it's not difficult to imagine the impact on faith in democracy.

At this stage we still don't know who's going to win the Tory leadership contest, or whether there'll be a snap General Election, but it's not hard to imagine the electoral consequences for any political party which ran on a pledge to ignore the Referendum result. UKIP got nearly 4 million votes in the last election. More than 17 million people voted Leave. It's not hard to see how UKIP could eat into the Labour vote in the north, or, at a time when outright parliamentary majorities are hard to come by, hold the balance of power in a coalition. I doubt my friend wants to see that any more than I do.

The other thing which struck me when I read her email related not so much to its content, but to the fact of its having been sent at all. Reading the names of the other people to whom it had been circulated I couldn't help notice that she had left out acquaintances in common whom she must have known would be Leavers. Sadly, she had thought I must be one of the Nice People who would have voted Remain. She had made an assumption about me which took my breath away.

This presented me with a dilemma. Should I ignore her email and resolve not to mention the subject next time we met? Or should I respond, pointing out politely the flaws and dangers in her argument? In the end I did neither. I wrote as follows -

"I know you'll think less of me for this, but I'm afraid I'm one of the people who voted Leave.

I guess I should be flattered by our assumption that I must have been one of the nice Remainers, but I'm not.

I could have just not responded at all, but I felt that in the interests of friendship (and I have a very high regard for you) it was best to be candid. For what it's worth my wife voted Remain and is very cross with me.

I'd be happy to explain why I voted the way I did, not to try and persuade you that you're wrong, but to advance the idea that there is a case for Leave which a reasonably intelligent and well-informed person could find decent and plausible. But I understand it may well be too late for that!

With love as always,


That was last week. So far there's been no reply.

Should my friend stumble across this blog I would like to refer her to a letter from Professor Vernon Bogdanor of Kings College London, who wrote to the Times recently -

". . . Yet (Leave voters) are now told by academics, lawyers and others that the outcome of the referendum should be ignored on the ground that, as the former Bishop of Durham suggests, they were not voting on the EU at all but on "longstanding social grievances". Others also have suggested that Leave voters did not know what they were doing, or were bigoted (though bigotry in the form of antisemitism is more likely to be found among university students or on the Labour left that in the pubs of Sunderland or Hartlepool).

The arguments against accepting the legitimacy of the outcome of the referendum are similar to those used in the 19th century against extending the franchise.  Were they to succeed, the poorer members of the community might well begin to ask whether democracy has anything at all to offer them; and that would indeed be a very dangerous development".

Bang on. And by the way, Professor Bogdanor voted Remain.