Beware of the man with the easy answers

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We’re just days away from the latest round of European elections, an election that in years gone by has passed largely unnoticed by our increasingly disenfranchised society. This year’s election, however, has taken on a whole new level of importance thanks, in no small part, to the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

They must be applauded, if for nothing else, for empowering vast swathes of the country to take a firm stand on an issue they clearly feel has been overlooked by the mainstream parties for too long. But that’s where the compliments end.

Let me lay my cards on the table early on – I have no time for UKIP, I’ve never bought into their EU-bashing mantra. But that’s my prerogative, just as it’s theirs if they wish to talk ad nauseam about the EU and immigration. We’ll call it a difference of opinion.

Unfortunately, this upsurge in interest in a very narrow aspect of politics resulting from UKIP’s meteoric rise directly correlates with a significant downgrade in the quality of political debate in the UK. Take it from me, I watch Question Time every week, I’m that sad. I don’t have statistics or a survey to back this claim up but then such things matter not in the current political dystopia where unsubstantiated claims are all the vogue.

The new pledge all new UKIP members must sign [Image: tellmamauk.org]

The new pledge all new UKIP members must sign [Image: tellmamauk.org]

What does matter is the increased support for UKIP poses a significant threat to reasoned debate in the UK. So many have been swept up by the attractiveness of their popular cynicism, which tells us to fear rather than care and sympathise, that the idea of commonality among humans has become an increasingly alien concept to many.

The real fear now is that this type of thinking is so deeply engrained in many people that it cannot be undone. The result: a divided society.

But why worry! If everything goes to plan we’ll be out of the EU before long living the life of Riley, rejoicing over the reclaimed land formerly occupied by those ghastly wind turbines and Romanian gangs. However, these changes are based on a false premise that everything will be better without them, masters once again of our own destiny, freed from the iron grip of the European Commission and the miles of red tape that keep the hands of our business owners tied.

But while simple solutions to complex problems are understandably attractive to the common man or woman, they rarely deliver on their promise. Parallels have been drawn to a certain unpleasant moustached-man who presided over some of the worst crimes in human history and while such comparisons are extreme, they are a useful reminder of what happens when we allow the politics of division to dictate policy at the expense of reason.

UKIP have been credited with reengaging the disengaged but what their supporters are actually doing is merely transferring their allegiance to another branch of the establishment they purport to hate so much. In truth, UKIP’s supporters are either ignorant of the facts or, more likely, guilty of intellectual laziness, admittedly an affliction that affects many others outside UKIP too. Whatever the case, there can be no excuse for either.

Intellectual laziness is what leads people to believe wild assertions that have no basis in reality. It fixates people on single issues so that they never consider the bigger picture. In short, it is the single biggest obstacle to achieving positive change.

Oi, what are you pointing at?! [Image: yougov.co.uk]

Oi, what are you pointing at?! [Image: yougov.co.uk]

And while it may seem unfair to label people as “ignorant” or “lazy”, consider an earlier post of mine in which I highlighted the absurdity of voting for UKIP into an institution they hold in such contempt. The hypocrisy of their position might be lost on some but the logic of their position does not stand up to scrutiny.

UKIP believes elected representatives in Europe are redundant because all the important decisions are made by unelected bureaucrats. Fair enough, but that makes the forthcoming elections a charade to bolster the EU’s democratic credentials, rendering all MEPs elected on Thursday utterly useless. So why then put forward dozens of candidates to sit in an irrelevant institution while happily accepting a taxpayer-funded salary? Yep, that sounds dodgy to me too.

The idea that a vote for UKIP is an anti-establishment vote is a myth shrouded by Nigel Farage’s charisma. Despite the rhetoric, decisions on the UK’s future in the EU will be made at Westminster, not in Brussels or Strasbourg, so a vote for UKIP on Thursday is a futile exercise.

Their ability to bring about meaningful change is limited by the narrow vision they have of a world that no longer exists. Peoples, races, and cultures are becoming increasingly entangled and we would be better served at finding ways to live peacefully together rather than finding ways to keep us apart.

So let’s hope common sense breaks out before Thursday and people heed my advice because, you know, my opinion supersedes that of all others. If not, well, I tried!

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I before e except after….f?

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Heated political discussions are pretty much an everyday occurrence in my household – we Brown-Villedieus like to challenge traditional perceptions of ‘fun’ you see. Evening time is a time for careful reflection over the day’s political events and we inevitably end up solving global crises from the comfort of our living room, all the while wondering why Parcelforce hasn’t delivered our Nobel Peace Prize. Yep, we’re just that clever.

Don’t get me wrong, my intellectual snobbery does not shield me from the countless inane conversations there are to be had. I too have been heard to mull over the dramas of a Neighbours episode – thankfully, I am a recovering Neighbour-holic and have been clean for more than a year.

And far be it from me to appear superior when my existence tells another story, residing as I do in a terraced house on a street like any other in a shitty part of South London. But every once in a while, I feel like our family conversations go beyond the abstract and actually touch on some pretty relevant stuff.

In this latest discussion we did just that. The bone of contention was…grammar and spelling. Okay, that doesn’t sound particularly ground-breaking in terms of subject material but you’d be surprised what can be surmised from the way someone writes. For instance, read my blog and you’ll quickly realise I’m one amazing guy – I can hear the ironic laughs from here.

Couldn't have put it better myself. [Image: tracifishbowl.blogspot.com]

Couldn’t have put it better myself. [Image: tracifishbowl.blogspot.com]

By all accounts I’m pretty finicky when it comes to spelling and grammar. For example, and I hope I don’t offend anyone by saying this, misspellings on things like Facebook and Twitter rile me up perhaps more than is healthy. Some may say it’s borderline OCD but I’d argue my position of frustration has only become marginalised because of the popularisation of bad grammar.

I call it popularisation not because bad spelling is considered cool but because it seems to pass virtually unnoticed most of the time and is all too common among people of all ages – am I really the only mad one who cares?!

Now, I don’t blame individuals entirely for their woeful English – I’ll stop with the grammar-bashing soon, I promise – the way we speak and write is, in large part, down to the way we were educated. But it should be a source of great embarrassment to us all that vast swathes of the population are oblivious to their grammatical ineptitude.

For those who may have mistakenly stumbled upon this blog expecting a thorough dissection of a serious political issue then fear not, here comes the politics. For the rest who have just left the page after seeing the ‘p’ word I can only hope your view has been counted in my statistics.

For all Michael Gove’s tough-talking on education since becoming education secretary, I’ve seen little evidence to suggest his reforms of exams and introduction of free schools will do anything to stem the tide of grammatical underachievement in this country.

Unfortunately, we have become a complacent nation when it comes to our language, all too happy to get by knowing the bare minimum. We’re victims of its simplicity relative to many of the world’s other languages and its predominance as the international language of choice for most other major countries. How many of us have gone abroad hoping, or even, expecting locals to speak English?

There are few who would attempt to devalue the importance of education as a vital tool in improving social mobility. But what use is sentiment if it’s not backed up by a practical implementation of those ideals?

Poor academic attainment can be down to a plethora of reasons but all children, irrespective of background, will join the rest of us in linguistic mediocrity if we continue down our current path, failing to grasp the value of spelling and grammar as the foundations of a literate and, dare I say it, better engaged society.

For many, I get that the links I’ve drawn will seem tenuous at best or even downright wrong. And I’m not advocating a position where evolution in language is seen as the biggest threat to civilisation since the proliferation of Gangnam Style. Indeed, I lol just as much as the next person.

Triple word score! [Image: theguardian.com]

Triple word score! [Image: theguardian.com]

But sometimes it just needs to be said that, hey, it’s ‘their’ not ‘there’.

I’ll finish by quickly refocusing this post on what this blog is supposed to be about, politics. I get that it’s politically prudent to appear to be doing something even when what you’re doing will probably have no measurable impact in real terms but in Mr Gove you have a man who skirts around the issues without ever troubling the tangible.

My gripe may seem insignificant, and in the face of human suffering and global warming, a word misspelt here and there is really not a big deal. But from little things big things grow. Am I write?

I’m an EU member state…get me out of here!

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As I sit here ready to type out what will undoubtedly be yet another first rate piece of blogging wonderment, extracted from my innermost thoughts, akin to a passage lifted straight from the holiest of scriptures, I cannot help but feel a sense of anguish that, this time round, I may be about to go too far with what I write.

For you see, the opinion I wish to disclose to you, oh precious reader, is profoundly un-libertarian and incompatible with any freethinking advocate of democracy (something I’d like to think I am). In truth, I feel extremely uneasy holding such a position and yet I can’t help but accept its existence in me.

I can sense your impatience, at this stage, with my rabbiting on so I’ll get to the crux of what I’m trying to say.

Over the last five years or so the British public have been worked on incessantly by a combination of forces, including a small band of political nut jobs – I’m looking at you Nigel Farage – and unenlightened scaremongers that make up the putrid cesspool that is the right-wing media.

For some reason, their unfounded remarks on everything from immigration to welfare have been allowed to pass – largely unchallenged – so that we’re now at a stage where such views have penetrated into the intellectual mainstream and become acceptable views to hold.

It seems it’s no longer fashionable, or indeed even necessary, to present evidence to support wild claims that are delivered in the knowledge they are likely to stir our most primitive emotions: fear, anger and hate.

Tell a lie once and no one will listen. Repeat it enough times and eventually you lose all sense of truth.

A case in point: after a concerted campaign of demonization and finger-pointing, we now face the very real threat of European Union abandonment if the Conservative promise of a referendum on EU membership in 2017 is delivered, following their capitulation to UKIP.

But, you know what, in this case, I hope we are denied a voice. Cue the stunned silence.

If we leave, the EU flag will be ruined because they'll have to remove a star[Image: eda.europa.eu]

If we leave, the EU flag will be ruined because they’ll have to remove a star[Image: eda.europa.eu]

Picked your jaw up off the floor? Good. Now I can explain why I’m advocating a position Kim Jong-un would be proud of.

Under ordinary circumstances I would find it hard to reconcile this view with something that runs so contrary to my belief system. But I’m prepared to make an exception.

We are on the edge of a precipice that will see us become isolated economically, politically and culturally if UKIP and the Daily Mail get their way and I’m afraid, if that is the price we must pay to ensure we fulfil our democratic duty, it is not a price worth paying.

The prerequisite to any referendum is a clear presentation of two or more choices for the public to choose from, something which has so far been denied to us by those who wish to find simple solutions to complex problems.

High unemployment? Blame immigration. High welfare bill? Blame immigration. Can’t find a parking space in Sainsbury’s car park? Blame immigration. You get the picture.

Is it? Is it really???[Image: totalpolitics.com]

Is it? Is it really???[Image: totalpolitics.com]

But we seem to live in a nation of inconsistent voters with selective memories. Remember the referendum on the alternative vote system and how that went? Well, you can’t block the opportunity to bring in a smidgen more proportionality to the voting system and then allow a party (UKIP, in case that wasn’t already clear) with zero Westminster representation to hold the entire country to ransom on an issue they have proven their ignorance over time and time again.

UKIP themselves are perpetrators of the same political ignorance that plagues much of the electorate, which they attempt to pass off as political astuteness. Strong representation in the European Parliament will get Nigel Farage an appearance on Question Time more often than is really necessary but it won’t bring Britain out of the EU.

And I’m amazed he does not see the hypocrisy of standing for election to a parliament he seeks to discredit at every opportunity. Seems pretty naïve if you ask me and yet people have bought into that naivety.

So I’m pretty comfortable defending the indefensible. Call it the lesser of two evils.

An open letter to the coalition government

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Dear wise and honourable leaders,

The recent news that more than 3 million young adults between the ages of 20 and 34 were still living with their parents in 2013 will have come as little surprise to those of us who make up this extraordinary number. What would have come as a surprise was that the number wasn’t even higher, as this figure still only accounts for 26% of 20-34s, as I’m sure you know.

Compare that with the contrasting figures on UK unemployment – down 167,000 in the three months to November – and you have somewhat of a paradoxical situation. Well done on that, by the way. Clearly higher employment rates are a positive for the individuals concerned but, call me cynical, the numbers don’t quite stack up. I mean, wouldn’t more people in employment mean a regular income and eventually lead to fewer young adults living with their parents? The answer should be yes but, unfortunately, it’s not. Now I’m no George Osborne but that doesn’t sound right. It seems we’re now in a bit of a mess.

Here’s a not-so-comprehensive list of where I think you’ve gone wrong lads and ladies:

– Fewer jobs overall due to a poorly performing economy over the last few years (silly, silly Labour)

– Fewer entry-level jobs for recent graduates and school leavers

– Exploitative practices from an innumerable amount of companies meaning young adults are used as free labour and expected to put up with it because it’s ‘valuable experience’

– Lack of affordable housing/no efforts to build new houses

– Ridiculously overpriced rents charged by landlords who are laughing all the way to the bank

– And, an unbalanced job market, with a cluster of oversubscribed jobs in London and the southeast and virtually nothing in most of the rest of the country

Have I missed anything? Oh yes, and a government who’s not really bothered about changing any of that.

Now, I hope you’ll excuse my impertinence but I have an easy three-step plan to help you fix the above problems if you’d care to read them. They are as follows:

  1. Begin by actually making sure all companies are paying the minimum wage (remember an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work? Yea, I thought I’d heard that somewhere). And once you’re done doing that, quickly enact a law requiring companies to pay a living wage.
  2. Start building houses. Seems to me that if we can find the money to fund a £50 billion vanity project in the shape of HS2, a few measly houses could be built. Not much to ask is it, George? And if private companies are waiting to build on land they’ve bought in the hope the land value will increase, force them to build or buy it back off them. In other words, stop them being greedy bastards.
  3. Introduce rent control. The tired rhetoric of politicians claiming a false sense of anger at high rents is all well and good but the idea an unregulated sector will fix itself is laughable.

That should just about do it.

Yours sincerely,

Every last one of us

P.S. Maybe while you’re at it you could stop vilifying the unemployed too. I’ve long since grown tired of the Conservative bile in relation to those out of work. ‘Let’s make work pay by not actually paying a decent wage and, while we’re at it, let’s resign another generation of people to a life of destitution by dismantling the welfare system.’

I don’t want to sound rude but, unfortunately, too many people have bought into your ‘let’s blame the poor and the foreigners for all of society’s ills’ argument. Scapegoating is a useful technique to use when things aren’t going great but it doesn’t solve the underlying problems in the long run. So how about leaving the vicious sniping to UKIP, yea?

I’m sorry to announce that the HS2 service to Birmingham is delayed by approximately 12 years

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One infrastructure project has received more attention than any other over the last year in Britain: High Speed 2 (HS2). As one of the government’s flagship policies, it has cross-party support and is seen by many politicians as long overdue when considering many of our European counterparts have had high speed rail systems in place for a number of decades.

All this would suggest David Cameron need only sign on the dotted line and construction can begin. But there’s only one problem – it’s a complete waste of time. Let me tell you why.

Our shared embarrassment at languishing several decades behind the rest of Western Europe on transport infrastructure is well-justified, and particularly so when we consider how heavily reliant we are on our train network. But our collective shame is not in itself enough to justify the huge expense involved in a project of this size. If that was the case our England football stars would be getting paid millions of pounds a year to consistently disappoint us. Oh, that already happens doesn’t it?

The unmistakable sight of everyone's money disappearing into a big black hole [Image: bbc.co.uk]

The unmistakable sight of everyone’s money disappearing into a big black hole [Image: bbc.co.uk]

Anyway, the arguments supporting HS2 are, nevertheless, fundamentally flawed. The reasons given are similar to those in the debate on airport expansion in the south-east – it will increase capacity at a time when the current network is bursting at the seams and it will bring much-needed investment to the areas the project serves. What you have just read is a perfect example of manipulation of the English language to give the impression of truth. It is more commonly to referred to as bullshit. In the case of HS2, politicians carry it one step further by claiming it would relieve the strain on other networks heading north out of London while simultaneously generating investment in neglected north England.

The second argument is the one that makes me laugh the most. It is usually attached to an ill-informed suggestion that a new rail line will bridge the north-south divide. Give me a break. If HS2 does ever come to pass its trains will be the wagons of the elite, a modern-day Orient Express, for the passengers on-board will be the only ones able to afford the inevitable exorbitant prices. The comparatively rich Londoners can barely afford their current rail fares so how could the poorer north find the money to travel south where everything is more expensive anyway? And will future governments subsidise this new line to stop Virgin or whoever runs the trains charging the earth? Dream on.

Our existing rail network is already unacceptably expensive to maintain and the private companies that carry commuters to work every day heap on the pain each year in the way of above-inflation ticket hikes in return for trains that never run on time when they are most needed. Don’t be fooled into thinking HS2 will change any of that because it won’t. The area covered by the proposed route serves only a minority of train passengers and few travel the long distances involved with HS2 on an average train journey.

A funny picture provided by UKIP of all parties! [Image: ukiphillingdon.com]

A funny picture provided by UKIP of all parties! [Image: ukiphillingdon.com]

Then we come to the project timeline. Go to the HS2 website and you’ll read that they hope to begin construction in 2017 with trains first running between London and Birmingham in 2026. What we can surmise from that is it’s a long way off. And by that time the TGV in France will be nearly 50 years old. Well, at least it’s not like we invented the train or anything…

Don’t get me wrong, trains are an important part of any modern transport network. But it’s old technology and it isn’t getting any newer. We’ll be over a quarter of the way through this century by the time HS2 is up and running – assuming it’s completed on time – and who’s to say what new forms of transport may be on the horizon by then. And in any case, the internet – whether we like it or not – means business can be conducted by other means; you don’t need to travel the length and breadth of the country anymore. Sure, it’s embarrassing that we sit here today as the laughing stock of Europe on transport but our faces will be a whole lot redder twelve years down the (railway) line – it had to be done – if we’ve spent billions on, essentially, a vanity project that is 50 years out-of-date.

And I haven’t even got onto what people along the proposed route think of the idea. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of them don’t like the idea that their picturesque countryside views will be replaced with ones of tracks on elevated concrete. Who’d have thunk it? If there’s one thing Belleville Rendez-vous taught us – if you don’t know what I’m talking about then where have you been and once you’ve finished reading this go and watch it immediately – it’s that houses and trains don’t mix. (Maybe there should be a compulsory viewing of Belleville Rendez-vous by all those in government and we can stop this. I’m a genius!) But let’s face it, this government won’t be remembered for its generosity and goodwill but if they can have a small footnote in history paying homage to the great work they did laying the foundations for a new railway line then I expect they’ll take it. Hey, it’s something at least.

So there you have it. A well-balanced presentation of the positives and negatives of HS2. Oh wait, damn. Did I forget to mention the positives?

Vote blue, go extinct

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‘Vote blue, go green.’ Anyone remember that little strapline from a few years back? It was supposed to signal the dawning of a new environmentally-friendly Conservative party (don’t forget their rebrand of the party logo with a nice new tree).

But I wasn’t fooled then and I’m not fooled now by their flimsy masquerade. The only bit of green that Conservatives might worry about are the fields inhabited by the majority of their supporters in their countryside constituencies. Everything else is just them paying lip service to an issue they care very little about.

Take the latest political storm on rising energy bills. The government has now had its hand forced by Labour on a subject they otherwise would never have been bothered about. Their response has been to cut back on a scheme meant to help poorer households reduce their energy bills, which now means energy companies will still increase their prices but by less than they originally said. Whoopee.

You can’t even call this a betrayal of previous pledges because that would suggest an adherence to particular principles, something that’s always been absent in Tory party environmental policies.

Wind farms are so ugly. I'd much prefer a beautiful coal power station [Image: wikipedia.org]

Wind farms are so ugly. I’d much prefer a beautiful coal power station [Image: wikipedia.org]

Their so-called solution to skyrocketing prices is short-sighted and political in the extreme since it punishes the poor (no surprises there) and rolls back commitments to improving energy efficiency when we should be doing the opposite. The rhetoric of Tories and Liberal Democrats alike has been to apportion blame to green levies imposed on energy companies by government. Remove the levies and bills will go down, or so the argument goes. True this may be but what of the wider implications?

Well, energy policy in most countries throughout the world is characterised by an endemic short-sightedness that means very little is ever achieved in relation to furthering commitments to promote and expand cleaner energy. It’s easy to understand why as governments normally last less than a decade and the issues facing the world’s climate are bigger than any one government and will certainly outlast their terms in office. The result is nothing is ever done and the planet suffers for it.

The Tories are a symptom of this kind of thinking. The short-term gains that come from headline-grabbing policy ideas are just too good to resist compared to environmental policies that are expensive and won’t receive the same level of credit. In this case, the business interests of the private energy companies has been protected at the expense of a sensible green initiative.

The thing I struggle with when it comes to the climate change nay-sayers is one can quibble over the science behind climate change but we are all acutely aware that natural resources are finite and, therefore, we cannot rely on them as a source of energy indefinitely. Something has to come in to bridge the gap left when the oil and coal runs out, and with the absence of a better alternative, green technology stands as our best hope of picking up the slack when that day comes.

It’s easy to predict the counter-arguments to this from people who want to bury their heads in the sand; it’s too expensive, massively inefficient and, at a time of austerity, now is not the time to be ploughing money into peripheral projects when assuring the economy recovers fully is far more important. The thing is, for people like this, the time will never be right because they simply don’t want it. It runs contrary to their narrow view of the world.

It’s almost as if at some point over the last few decades politicians lost the ability to innovate and think boldly. I doubt the current crop of politicians could have led an industrial revolution or created the NHS. No, such ideas are fanciful so we’re better off not trying.

Progress can only be achieved if people are prepared to take a leap of faith every once in a while but that’s been missing for a while.

Presenting the new Cuadrilla water filter: now with 100% more contamination [Image: ourbroomfield.org]

Presenting the new Cuadrilla water filter: now with 100% more contamination [Image: ourbroomfield.org]

And for those of us who hope to see a UK-led twenty-first century industrial revolution centred around renewable technology, the bad news keeps coming: plans for a new wind farm development off the north coast of Devon were ditched last week, a new nuclear power station is to be built in Somerset that will be largely subsidised by Chinese investors and, despite the innumerable downsides that come with it, fracking technology is rearing its ugly head in more and more places around the country.

But don’t worry. These technologies will lead to lower bills in the future because they’re far cheaper than wind, solar and wave. Oh, but wait. What’s that you say? All our utilities are in the hands of greedy private companies who will continually raise bills in order to gain a higher profit? Ah, okay. That’s rather unfortunate.

Scottish Independence: A debate characterised by double standards

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It’s a common theme running through the majority of debates we have in this country, that of the right-wing press hijacking an important issue to twist its narrative to fit their own narrow interests.

One of the best examples of this at the moment is the independence debate in Scotland. I find myself becoming increasingly frustrated with the way this debate is being distorted by sections of the media and how, as was visible in last night’s episode of Question Time, the myths they seek to pervade into our collective conscience have filtered through to members of the general public.

Supporters of the ‘No Campaign’ seeking to keep Scotland a member of the union have repeatedly stated their belief that the issue is a matter for the Scottish people and, therefore, the English have a right to an opinion but not a voice in the debate. This was, once again, well reflected on Question Time where the entire panel was made up of Scots with an even split of supporters and detractors of independence. And, indeed, David Cameron sought to distance himself from any direct involvement in the debate in prime minister’s questions on Wednesday by saying he was not prepared to debate the SNP leader, Alex Salmond, on it.

'Oh Alex, not again. You really should see a doctor about that. That's not a healthy smell.' [telegraph.co.uk]

‘Oh Alex, not again. You really should see a doctor about that. That’s not a healthy smell for a man to make.’ [Image: telegraph.co.uk]

But any hopes of a well-informed debate on the subject are being systematically undermined by those who wish to taint the quite legitimate desire by many for independence by labelling them as anti-English. Such claims are most laughable when they dissipate from the mouths of those on the right. Their hypocrisy is staggering when one considers the view UKIP, for example, takes towards the EU and immigration. Titles like the Daily Mail have done well to help in silencing the original cries against UKIP views on these areas, views that were once declared borderline racist but are now accepted arguments in mainstream politics. But then why is it okay to hold complete contempt for the EU but refuse the right of Scottish people to hold an equal level of disdain towards Westminster? Apparently, it is legitimate to have concerns over the EU’s powers and the ‘open door’ immigration policy it allows but Scotland is anti-English for wanting to decide its own destiny.

This kind of flag-waving has been labelled 'anti-English'. I mean, you don't see English people waving St. George's cross ever do you? [telegraph.co.uk]

This kind of flag-waving has been labelled ‘anti-English’. I mean, you don’t see English people waving St. George’s cross ever do you? [Image: telegraph.co.uk]

What this shows is there is no consistency when it comes to political debate in this country but then that is hardly surprising when you have people like Rupert Murdoch pulling the strings at some of the country’s biggest media outlets.

A further bone of contention I have with this debate are the repeated calls we hear from some for the pros and cons to be presented to the people of Scotland in an impartial way without the intrusion of the political parties and their agendas. But I ask the people who want this: how is such a thing possible? Where are you going to find a person informed enough on the subject to present all the information objectively but who is devoid of an opinion on it? The answer is such a person does not exist.

It’s as if people have taken leave of their ability to decide for themselves. Every day in life we are forced to make decisions from the little – what am I going to wear today? – to the bigger – do I really need to sit down if I’m getting off in two stops (a problem I wrestle with in my mind every bus and train journey)? Normally I don’t like to make such crude comparisons between two such disparate things – especially in the case of politics when ridiculous lines of similarity are often drawn by politicians in an attempt to appear ‘in touch with regular people’ – but without meaning to cause offense, you have a brain so use it. No one’s going to make your mind up for you so, I know it might seem a little scary, but it’s make your mind up time.

Alex Salmond does the 'V for victory' sign in a clear attempt to besmirch the good name of Winston Churchill [theguardian.com]

Alex Salmond does the ‘V for victory’ in a clear attempt to besmirch the good name of Winston Churchill [Image: theguardian.com]

People seem to forget that the essence of a debate is an argument in which opposing factions squabble over their respective positions. Rarely is a point of agreement reached because most of us are principled beings who cannot be easily manipulated into thinking differently. But that’s okay because we wouldn’t want a populace made up of people who are so malleable no-one questions anything.

As I come to the end of this I become aware of inconsistencies in my own argument. Perhaps I should have a little more sympathy for those unable to make up their mind. I mean, after all, if we are constantly being fed misinformation then it’s not that surprising if the result is a paranoid population who don’t trust what they’re being told. But one needs to realise truth is relative – at least in politics anyway; there are many undisputed facts that we take for granted but by virtue of their undisputedeness (yes, I know that’s not a word) they hold much less philosophical value and, so, are not up for debate. Everything else is built on our own unique understanding of the world, that is to say our own truth, an impenetrable intellectual sphere that guides our thoughts and actions.

I realise I’ve meandered somewhat from my original topic of conversation and for that I apologise. But trust me, it’s all relevant. What I’m getting at is that the perceived inadequacies that surround the Scottish independence debate are manufactured by those who want to keep Scotland subjugated. And that’s coming from an Englishman.