Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Ponters Pensées 31.5.16

Spanglish: I knew that the Spanish for 'a mop' was una fregona but I didn't know it's also una mopa. You might not find this in your everyday dictionary but, surprisingly, that of the Royal Academy of Spanish does accept it, as an anglicism. So, I guess it's been around for a while. It shouldn't, of course, be confused with un mapa, which is a map. Which doesn't seem to be another anglicism, as it comes from the Latin mappa.

The USA: As you'll all know, Donald Trump's strap line is Make America Great Again. This has been slightly modified by some English wag to: Make America Great British Again.

Finally Brexit: This, it's claimed in today's Times, is becoming another British class war - between the rich who want to keep the goodies the EU brings them and the not-rich whose everyday lives are far more affected by the net immigration of hundreds of thousands of people into the UK every year. Many of these may not be of the same (non)religion and/or culture. And they tend to breed far more than the traditional British average, rapidly changing the country's demography. Can anyone really be surprised by this? The EU, whatever its initial rationale, is a gravy-train for many. None of these will ever want to get off it, however unpopular it becomes, either because of un-bent bananas or a lack of democratic accountability. Even if the ultimate aim of the EU is to eliminate them once the supra-national state is in power. After all, that's the day after tomorrow. Someone else's problem. However incompetent the senior politicians in the Out camp are – and they really are - you can't lay this accusation at their door. The article in question can be found at the end of this post

Finally  . . . . Whom To Thank?: The mother of the 4-year-old who fell into a gorilla enclosure in the USA has thanked God for saving him. I wonder whom she thanks for letting him get away from his parents and then crawl/fall into the pen in the first place. Herself? The devil? As I say, just wondering. Perhaps she thinks God wanted to prove how good he is by setting up the whole thing. While developing personal plans not just for US presidential candidates but also for everyone else in the world at the same time.


The Europe battle is turning into class war

For the Conservatives everything is about Europe — but nothing is only about Europe. The divisions exposed by the EU referendum are so deep and so bitter because they go way beyond Brussels.

Of course there are ideological disagreements over sovereignty, the free movement of people and Britain’s position in the world, but the mood has become so poisonous because there is a social as well as a political dimension to this split. In a very British way, the referendum is about class — in the Tory party but also in the country.

It is no coincidence that one of the first Tories to publicly challenge David Cameron’s leadership was Nadine Dorries, the Eurosceptic MP who once said that the government was run by “two posh boys who don’t know the price of a pint of milk” and have “no passion to want to understand the lives of others”

The political drama now being acted out has echoes of Downton Abbey as well as House of Cards. Priti Patel, the pro-Brexit employment minister, infuriated Downing Street at the weekend by suggesting that the prime minister and the chancellor were too privileged to understand poorer people’s concerns about rising immigration. Accusing “those leading the pro-EU campaign” of acting in “narrow self-interest”, she said that they were “failing to care for those who do not have their advantages” because they received all the benefits of free movement — “inexpensive domestic help, willing tradesmen and convenient, cheap travel” — and none of the downsides such as lower wages. There will be more of this over the next few weeks.

“It’s not exactly class war,” says one senior figure in the Vote Leave campaign, “but it’s definitely the case that part of our argument is that the people with money favour the status quo because it benefits them.”

This is the context in which speculation about a Tory leadership challenge should be seen. The prime minister would almost certainly see off any attempted coup: even if disgruntled MPs got together the 50 signatures required to force a confidence vote, most think he would have enough support in the House of Commons to survive. But there is a sense of grumpiness on the Tory benches that is personal as well as political. Frustration with Mr Cameron’s handling of the referendum campaign has exacerbated a long-standing resentment about the “mateocracy” in No 10. One influential backbencher says: “The problem is not the individual poshness — Winston Churchill wasn’t exactly a working-class oik — it’s more about the cliquiness of the government. There’s a gilded circle and people hate the feeling that they are excluded from it.”

Privately, senior Tories have been discussing the possibility of a split after June 23. Most think it is unlikely to happen but the way in which a potential new party is discussed is revealing. “If you could shake off the posh boys you could recruit like there’s no tomorrow,” says one former minister. “You could suddenly see a breakthrough — a sans-culottes, non-metropolitan, provincial, lower-middle-class meritocratic party, hoovering up county Tories from Ukip and some tough-minded, work-orientated Labour voters.” For these revolutionaries, Mr Cameron is a Marie Antoinette figure who says “let them eat brioche” in the EU while low-paid workers see their wages undercut by cheap foreign labour.

Social divisions are also driving the EU referendum campaign. While the Remain camp ratchets up the support of more and more powerful establishment figures — from the governor of the Bank of England to the president of the United States, as well as countless business people, economists and luvvies — the Brexiteers present themselves as the Poujadist populists, standing up for ordinary people against the elites.

There are few “posh boys” among the Tories who want to leave the EU. Chris Grayling, the first Cabinet minister to declare for Brexit, once told me that he wouldn’t go to Notting Hill dinner parties but lived in an old council flat near Victoria station with a leaky bathroom and dodgy wiring that gave him electric shocks. David Davis, Mr Cameron’s former leadership rival, is the son of a single mother who grew up on a council estate.

Michael Gove was adopted by an Aberdeen fishmonger, got to Oxford and became close to the Old Etonians who now run the government yet he and his wife have never felt entirely sure that they are accepted as social equals. Steve Hilton, the prime minister’s former director of strategy was once one of Mr Cameron’s closest political allies but, as the child of Hungarian immigrants, he too was from a different social background and became increasingly frustrated with his friend’s reluctance to tackle the status quo, first in Whitehall and then in Brussels.

Boris Johnson may have gone to Eton but he likes to stress that, as a scholarship boy, he got there on his wits while Mr Cameron, a paying pupil, depended on his wealth. Ken Clarke is right that there are similarities between the former London mayor and Donald Trump. “Some of the biggest cheers Boris gets out on the stump is when he says this system is good for the corporate fat cats but it’s not good for the poor,” says one source.

Class, as well as age, will be a defining factor in the referendum. One of the few things the opinion polls agree on is that educated middle-class voters are far more likely to support remaining in the EU. According to YouGov, 70 per cent of graduates back Remain and 62 per cent of AB voters. In contrast Leave has the support of 63 per cent of DE voters and 62 per cent of those with qualifications up to GCSE level. The campaign has highlighted a profound culture clash between the world view of metropolitan liberals who are relaxed about immigration and those who are struggling to thrive in rural areas and seaside towns, threatened by the rapidly changing world. As a pro-Brexit MP puts it: “One side sees the others as bigots and the other side sees them as snobs.”

The referendum is not just about Britain’s place in the world it is also about the country’s view of itself. After all these years, and successive generations of politicians promising to boost social mobility, it is extraordinary that such a fundamental question of national identity should come down to class. It is not just divisions in the Tory party that will need to be healed, whatever the result.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

The Referendum is turning into a class war?? OK, but a funny class war it is, since the pro-working class left somehow feels called upon to defend the Remain position, which it then shares with the Cameron ultra-conservatives, big business banks, industries, war-mongering former prime ministers whom they hate, and what not….

As a wise person wrote somewhere the other day: "In quite a number of countries - and certainly not only in the UK - the Left looks towards the EU to reign in and compensate for their own national (reactionary) governments; ignoring the fact that the EU is at heart a project beloved by big corporations, banks, lobbyists and… national reactionary governments; while it gladly crushes working people, the elderly, children and the sick, as it does in Greece! If I wanted to be Biblical, I would yell: 'You put your trust in Brussels, but Brussels is a broken reed!'"

So, as Class Wars go, this is about as comprehensible as the Kaballah….


Perry said...

A similar division between those in universities & those who work in Austria.