Cleo Donfrancesco and Leo Voce have been born. Phoebe and Mark have married. And the joyous celebration of the life of my old mate Bill Keningale was overshadowed for me by the death, two days earlier, of Claudia Bevan, a woman whom I last saw at the Short Walk for Health and whose half century of life was a triumph of determination over the adversity since birth of hydrocephalus and spina bifida. My heart goes out to her husband Nick, her daughter Rhiannon and her parents Neil and Janet.
When I hear pundits and politicians telling us that the vote on our membership of the EU is the most important thing in our lives right now, I disagree. What really matters are events like these: the beautiful babies, the happiness of two good friends, the devastating news of untimely deaths.
Even for me, a political animal from way back, the priorities are clear. And the trivialities of the EU debate are made even more banal, clichéd and self-serving.
It is, however, an important vote, about important issues. As I focus on our family and friends, the vote becomes very close to home indeed.
The debate between the politicians and reporting of the journalists on that debate may not be doing justice to this, but that does not mean that the rest of us should not. In fact, we need to raise the level above the vapid platitudes of Cameron and Johnson, the name-calling, the lies, damn lies and statistics.
We cannot do so, of course because the journalists inside the Westminster bubble are concerned only with their own agenda. Thus, when Jeremy Corbyn makes a reasoned and thoughtful speech on the EU (which I commend to you), the speech itself is not reported. Instead, we have the headline news that (half a dozen in) the audience hissed (not booed) the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg. Followed, the next day, by the inevitable comments in the opinion pages that Corbyn is not contributing to the debate.
In a Leamington pub a couple of days ago, I watched a video of a speech given by John McDonnell at the LSE. Referring to Osborne’s success in transferring the blame for the recession to Labour, he observed: “Narrative beats competence”.
True. It’s not the reality; it’s the perception. And the public’s perception is filtered through the lens of the media establishment, 71% of which is owned by just seven corporations. And you can be sure that those corporations are not looking to publicize any anti-austerity argument.
Despite this, there is a growing awareness that austerity is less an economic policy and more a political ideology. And if the EU debate has achieved anything, it has shown us that the likes of Cameron and Osborne, Johnson and Farage are of a kind. It is impossible to tell which of the cardplayers are pigs and which are humans.
This will not stop me voting to remain within the EU and to embrace our European-ness.
It may be more a vote against the ‘Brexit’ campaigners whose rhetoric is beginning to sound like that of a government in waiting. It may be a tentative and apprehensive vote.
But I am convinced that only within the EU can we put a stop to the continuing and strengthening commitment to austerity and insularity. And then, with the help of the next generations, we will be able to create a structure which will welcome diversity.
As no-one else is, I will quote Jeremy Corbyn: “There is an overwhelming case to remain and reform so that we build on the best that Europe has achieved … we have a distinct agenda: a vision to make Britain better and fairer for everyone, by engaging with our neighbours.”
To which I would add: And our friends. And our families.
Today from the everysmith vaults: Fallen Angels has palled, but have been listening with rapture to some April shows from Japan. As so often in Japan, Bob is on top form. Looking forward to his arrival in (a reformed and integrated) Europe.