There’s a saying in Dutch which applies very well to our current politics. It goes something like this – if there is a discussion and one person says it is raining and the other says it is sunny, you don’t just say there are differing opinions, you take a look out the window.
Only son continues his campaign against babies, suggesting that being the youngest has had a marked effect on him. We were on a tram in Holland the other day and he sat down in front of a small baby. The baby was not even making that much noise. He moved to be near me. “I don’t like babies,” he said. “One, they are annoying. Two, they are disgusting. And three, they need to grow up.”
We’ve been visiting Dutch friends and, of course, Brexit has been a central theme. They are worried about the impact on their fresh produce industry, medication and so forth and are making all sorts of contingency plans because no-one sees any way out of this.
How can the UK be trusted over the backstop, they say, when several of our politicians – and potential leaders – have not shown themselves to be in the slightest bit trustworthy over anything in the last few years, making all sorts of promises which they quickly deny having made, even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary, and when our current leader keeps moving the goalposts or backtracking every five minutes? How can we be trusted when we go back on agreements made – asking to renegotiate them at the last minute or, in the case of Japan, breaking promises? Surely if we want to ‘go global’ we need to take a step back and look at how people outside our borders see us.
We spoke too about media coverage, because my friend is a journalist. They have similar problems with clickbait journalism in the Netherlands and the infiltration of news by opinion. There is a saying in Dutch which addresses the way Brexit was covered by many very well. It goes something like this. If there is a discussion and one person says it is raining and the other says it is sunny, you don’t just say there are differing opinions, you look out the f***ing window.
When I was training to be a journalist, one of the set books was called Power Without Responsibility. It was used to teach us what good journalism should be. Just as in professions like law and politics, there are some at the top of journalism who see it all as a bit of a game, far removed from the real world. At some stage, though, the game will be up. Don’t expect those who played it to ever take responsibility though. It will always be someone else’s fault.
I read an article over the weekend which seemed to suggest that people who voted remain didn’t care about family, that for them it is all about money and career and getting immigrants to do the cleaning and caring. It’s a ridiculous caricature and totally irresponsible for that. People who voted remain, just as those who voted leave, would all very likely say that they did so for their family. What’s more, the article, which seems to assume that only women should give up work to look after family, is so completely ignorant of the reality of most families’ lives and the sheer cost of living that it really doesn’t deserve a response.
Except I would like to say that the Brexit vote, for me, was all about family – particularly as my family is half Spanish. For me our relationship with Europe is about getting on with our neighbours and in that sense it is, ultimately, about peace, for us and for them. It is also very much about the economy and the future of our children…What part of that is not about family? How is losing jobs, devastating communities and taking away young people’s futures good for family? Yes, there are enormous problems in the UK and huge swathes of devastation already, but the focus should surely be on rebuilding, not on extending the destruction and leaving us with few realistic ways out of it.
I spoke to a chemist recently. He whispered to me about the current shortages of medication and the coming disaster. “It’s a nightmare already,” he said. Look out the window. Look out the window now.