Archive | July, 2018

Hamburg shenanigans and World Cup excitement

29 Jul

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Now that all the football excitement is over…     

A few weeks ago I spent the weekend in Hamburg. It’s a long time since I used to spend weeks there working for Unilever, with some of the funniest Germans I have ever met. This time I spent the weekend with some of the funniest Brits I have ever met.

hamburgThe reason..? My youngest son, Jonny, is getting married in September and this was his stag weekend, his Junggesellenabschied, I guess. We had one hell of a good time, suitable karaoke was sung (including a stand out version of ‘Dancing With Myself’ by most of the assembled party and a truly awful version of ‘It Must Have Been Love’ by yours truly). The lead singer of Sempe Fi tried to help me out while the bass player just wished he hadn’t got involved, but it was definitely car crash karaoke.

Punk bars were visited, many many beers were drunk, and many drinking games were played. And a veil will be drawn over the rest of the weekend’s activities.. ‘cause what happens on stag, stays on stag.

Best weekend ever!

But that wasn’t the point of writing this.

lsAfter the obligatory brewery tour of Ratsherrn brewery (the Summer Ale is fabulous, the Zwickel delightful), we ended up in the bar outside where fortuitously the World Cup game between France and Uruguay was being played. And the atmosphere was electric. Germans, French, Brits all coming together over a shared love of football. German girls who were dating Frenchmen. Russians who’d just turned up for the fun of it all, and the Belgians who’d turned up early to get a decent seat.

We sang ‘Allez les Bleus’ till we went hoarse, and ended up being corrected by the French who pointed out that, given the shirts being worn, ‘Allez les Blancs’ would be more appropriate. We wore furry patriotic French chickens. 
     
And when France won, we all celebrated in that crazy way that only football fans can do.

I’d like to feel we contributed in some small way to the French winning the World Cup this year.     

And the next day we went right out and watched England flatten the Swedes. Surrounded by Germans. Much singing. Much dancing. Much joyfulness.

This was a Europe united over a common game. This was a Europe celebrating victory. This was Europe at play, having fun. This was ordinary European folk – the Brits, the French, the Germans, the Belgians, the Spanish all just enjoying the sun and the football. This was Europe. Enjoying being European.

I want to stay part of this multicultural melting pot that is Europe. I want my children growing up as part of a united Europe, demonstrating a way that nations can get on together that’s unique in the world. Showing America what real democracy is. Celebrating individual freedoms and international compromise. Demonstrating what lasting peace might look like. I don’t want that taken away by a few fat cats looking to leverage their portfolio, by a few politicians seeking a leg up the political ladder, a few media magnates seeking their right wing agenda.

And so I am going to carry on saying what I believe, and standing up for a united Europe. Because that’s how democracy works. Because it’s all about the people. And our shared future.

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

PS gratuitous Jonny picvs Kent

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Bollocks to Brexit

9 Jul

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A couple of weeks ago, I marched on Westminster.

I joined the People’s Vote March in London, along with maybe a hundred thousand of my fellow countrymen, demanding that we the people have our democratic say in the Brexit process.

I’ve never marched before. I could have stayed at home and carried on rebuilding the computer that will replace the one I ran over a couple of weeks ago. Or fixed the car. Or gone on a bike ride. Or a hundred other things that clamour for my time and attention. But I felt this was sufficiently important to actually take a day out, shell out on a train ticket, get myself down to London and be part of the rally. It was hot. It was crowded. It was slow. But it was so, so worth it.

Would one person make that much difference? Maybe not. But a hundred thousand other Brits made similar decisions. They chose to give up their day for something they believed passionately about. They came from up and down the country. They were young – and old. They came, at a guess, from all parts of society, but what did seem to set them apart was that they weren’t just marching because someone told them to. They weren’t just marching because they felt they’d be left out. Each one of them made an individual choice that said "Brexit is not working, and we need to do something about it". And maybe my presence stood for the huge number of of my friends that feel the same way. In that case, millions marched today.

Two years ago I woke to the result of the Brexit vote, and I wept. I wept at the loss of my dreams for unity and peace. I wept at the loss of my hopes for a world united. I wept for my country and its xenophobia and haughty pride. I wept for my children and the destruction of their future.

Since then, not a single thing has happened to convince me that this was a good idea. The £350 million a day that we were going to spend on the NHS? It was a lie. Brexit is the only way to control immigration? A lie. The economy will be just fine? Another lie.  There will be no downside? Really? The free trade agreement will be easy? Complete hogwash.

What we see is a government that two years after the Brexit vote still have no idea how to implement it. The only thing that seems clear is that we will be worse off. We will be worse off individually – in our pockets, in loss of international mobility, in a more limited future. We will be worse off as a nation, through loss of businesses, loss of political power, loss of trade agreements, loss of international influence.

What I see, two years on, is a Britain shorn of kindness. We see a government that saw the Brexit vote as a mandate to rule. Narrowly holding on to a majority through deals and skulduggery, this government has shown its true colours as a government of the rich and the rich alone. We see our NHS stripped of its benefits and parcelled off to the private sector. We see decisions that strip our citizens of their basic human rights.

But are we surprised? What we felt was faceless EU bureaucracy was actually the very system that fought for the rights of the individual over the rights of big business, forcing better working conditions and equal opportunities on employers. That demanded high standards for food and services. Of course the business owners wanted out. They wanted a return to the old days where they made the rules – where money was absolute power.

But we see the destruction that Brexit is wreaking – and remember that big business, global business, doesn’t care. Airbus is likely to move out of the UK. So are BMW. Banks, financial institutions are all likely to relocate. London as a centre of trade is going to be destroyed. Unilever, my old employers, proud for a century of their dual nationality corporate centre, are going to move head office to Rotterdam. We get blue passports, but the price we pay is likely to be restricted travel and travel visa charges. Our NHS lacks doctors and nurses because no-one is joining us from overseas. Food rots in the fields because we lack the influx of labour that allows our farmers to pick their crops. We see that Trump’s America is not going to do any of us any favours, with levies and taxes, quotas and duty… did we really believe we were better out of a huge trading coalition than in it? Really? Trump is already talking about a G3 comprising China, Russia and the US where the EU is left out.. do we really think little Britain gets a seat at that table?

For fuck’s sake, what are we doing?

I believe in democracy. But a vote is just a part of the democratic process. And a vote based on ignorance, lies, half truths and lack of knowledge, distorted by our press and influenced by outside interference, is not a democratic vote. We are a wiser nation now. We know the implications. We can see the future. There will still be those that believe that we are best to return to an island nation – to pull up the drawbridge and distil our xenophobic hatred. There will still be those who believe that it’s best to get rid of the protections of the EU and the European courts so they can stamp their imprint on ordinary folk.

That is not what this country needs. This country needs to see the future coming, a future of increasing globalisation and co-operation (we pray) between nations. We need to have a seat at that table, able to trade on equal terms with the others, able to be part of a decision making process that shapes the world throughout the rest of the 21st century. We are a strong country, and a powerful country. But we can only be that if we are prepared to play together with the rest of the world’s leaders, and not to take our ball and go home and sulk. We need leaders who are prepared to make the hard choices. The difficult choices. To stand up to those that seem to hold the cards and represent this country as a whole rather than the minority.

Let Brexit have been a wake up call. For that, it may have been worth it. If it helped us realise how precious what we have is. How important it is to be part of Europe. How much value that membership really gives us.

But now let democracy rule. The majority of the people in this country do not want to leave the European Union. Let there be a vote to demonstrate what we want based on what we now know. I’m certain we’ve got it wrong.

TimSignature

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