Pulling out is effective 73-96% of the time, so how effective could it be for Britain?

The concentric circles of society go outwards, more or less, as follows: the individual at the centre, who then hopefully forms part of a family (not necessarily nuclear), the cornerstone of society, multiple of which come together to form first the tribe, then later the city or region or province, which collectivise under one administration in the nation state and, after the nation state, the intra-national super-state – a cohesive collection of individual countries under one administration. Eventually, it seems logical to conclude, the one world government follows, notwithstanding the logistical practicality of such an undertaking.

 

Since 1973, we in Britain have been wrestling with the transition from independent nation state to being part of a collection of countries that together increasingly form something with some of the trappings of the intra-national super-state. And now, 43 years after our tried accession into the EU, we the British people are being given the say on whether or not we remain a part of this intra-national bureaucratic-commercial collective, or whether we pull out and hope there are no nasty consequences 9 months down the line.

 

For something that represents such a fundamental turning point, not only in the British trajectory, but in that of the world – for if we reject political globalisation in this manner, what does it mean for everyone else? – the debate has been thoroughly mediocre.

 

‘Britain stronger in Europe’ say on their website that “almost half of everything we sell to the rest of the world we sell to Europe – and we get an average of £24 billion of investment in Britain per year from Europe”. In retort ‘Get Britain out’, on their website, state firmly in rebuttal that “less than 5% of UK businesses trade directly with the EU” and that “EU Regulations cost the UK economy a staggering £33.3 billion per year”. The IN campaign note that the Confederation of British Industry estimates that “3 million jobs in Britain are linked to trade with the rest of Europe” while the Outies say these jobs aren’t reliant on EU membership and “not 1 job is at risk from Brexit”. And back and forth and back forth it goes ad infinitum.

 

So how can the suits at either side of this tug of war both be so assured of facts in direct contradiction to each other? Well, it’s because either side uses different figures from different sources using different methods of arriving at their figures. Each side will quote the CBI, for instance, until it doesn’t suit them, in which case they’ll ignore what the CBI says and go with another source. Both the Office of National Statistics and the Treasury publish figures for the same things, and both of them differ.

 

The debate is mediocre at best, and insulting at worst. When the opposing campaigners trot out their tired slogans on leaflets and website front pages – “Protect out heritage, control our borders, believe in Britain” versus the admittedly less catchy “The government believes that voting to remain in the European Union is the best decision for the UK” – they are banking on you looking no further. They are banking on you taking their and only their numerical milk and honey or dark numerical water of the River Styx, depending on the strategy.

 

The integrationists and isolationists are just as grasping when it comes to celebrity endorsements. In October 2015 the Innies opened their campaign by wheeling out June Sarpong, some TV head with an adorable gap in her front teeth but who has no qualifications to be waxing lyrical about the EU aside from chatting inane shite on Loose Women. Similarly, Nigel Farage was delighted when national treasure Michael Cain came out in favour of coming out. Yeah, he’s really good at telling you how many people know his name in a cockney accent but what relevance is it what he thinks?

 

For every figure on one side, there is a different figure on the other. For every claim a counter-claim. And why? Because neither side knows what’ll happen. There is no truth in this debate, there is no right and there is no wrong. Neither side can tell you what money we’ll lose and what we’ll win, who’ll get fired and who won’t, which countries will desert us and which won’t should we leave or not leave. All we can know for certain is the amount of money the EU costs us and how much it makes us right now.

 

But even that we don’t really know. For instance, ‘Full Fact’ state that our membership of the EU isn’t “nearly £20 billion” a year as ‘Vote Leave’ like to regurgitate. This is because we get a £5 billion rebate immediately on our payment, as well as £4 billion being spent by the EU on British farmers and poorer regions in the UK, and upwards of £1 billion to the private sector for things like research grants. And this needs to be added to the money we get back in trade, investments and jobs, for which it’s “far harder to be sure about how much comes back in benefits”.

 

The House of Common Library has said in a briefing paper of February 2016 “there is no definitive study of the economic impact of the UK’s EU membership or the costs and benefits of withdrawal. Many of the costs and benefits are subjective or intangible and a host of assumptions must be made to reach an estimate. If the UK were to remain in a reformed EU, assumptions would need to be made about what the reforms might be. Any estimate of the effects of withdrawal will be highly sensitive to such assumptions.” So don’t listen to that bellend at your dinner party when he pipes up with a figure he’s learned by rote from either some liberal think piece or the lungs of Farage, because he doesn’t have a clue. He’s regurgitating what seems plausible to reinforce an opinion he probably held anyway but was insecure about because he had no factual way of validating or justifying it.

 

The underwhelming nature of the debate is compounded by the fact that all parties involved are trying their hardest to reduce a quandary of major constitutional and politico-philosophical significance down to paltry numbers and un-nourishing sound bites.

 

Gideon has said that leaving the EU will effectively leave every British household £4,300 per year worse off. But do you really think it would? Do you really think leaving the EU will mean you have £4,300 less coming into your bank account? Inversely similarly, Leave.EU say we would be £933 better off if we left. Again, do you think you’ll see a grand more pop up on your statement each year once we leave? Do you think these figures that get tossed around mean anything? They don’t. Each side is trying to tell the future and the fact is they can’t. The only purpose these figures serve is for people to quote in an effort to sound like they’ve put some thought into the question of Brexit.

 

But ‘Brexit question-mark’ is a question far more meaningful than ghostly numbers. And the majority of people know this, really. The basic impetus for leaving seems to be lust for sovereignty lost. UKIP and the right promise control of our borders, an end to “open door” immigration – the benefits and costs of which are hotly debated, as is whether or not leaving the EU will do anything to it. They also promise that no more will 75% of our laws be made in Brussels. It should be noted that this statistic is another illusory number that is by no means true. Business for Britain created a “definitive” study in which they found that “EU rules account for 65% of UK law” (I guess they don’t realise that there is no such thing as UK law). While they do admit that “not every EU regulation will impact Britain[,] such as rules on olive and tobacco growing”, the number is still misleading. Some measures take into account legislation with only a passing reference to the EU. However, a large chunk – anywhere between 15% and 50% – of laws around the UK have Brussels’ fingerprints on them, but the majority of those laws are regulations that you never even notice anyway, or they are Directives that force our government to create legislation, such as the Employment Rights Act 1996, which codifies a minimum period of maternity leave and notice, and the Employment Relations Act 1999, which covers things like collective bargaining: legislation that wholly protects you, the worker.

 

But the right’s appeal to sovereignty is muddied and confused. We are the descendants of warring barbarians and proud Saxons; the British are brawlers, imperialists. We are the sons and daughters of an Empire over which the sun never set. We are the saviours of Europe – the scrappy, innovative fighters. We are the moneymen of the world, the bankers and shopkeepers and the stoic council estate tenants. It is hard to reconcile such a proud heritage and such a powerful personality with horror stories of a Britain now the cowed Bulldog under the shadow of the mighty Alsatian’s dripping fangs.

 

If you define individual sovereignty as pertaining to your self-determination, your power over your reality, with the minimum of interference from third parties, then leaving the EU won’t grant you the individual sovereignty you think it will. It is Theresa May seeking greater powers to watch your social media activity and your phone calls through her Draft Investigatory Powers Bill. It is the Tories cutting disability benefits, not only robbing the wheelchair-bound of their right to self-determination through a lack of means, but so too, perhaps, the right to any meaningful life at all. As for national sovereignty – the independence and self-determination of the nation as a whole, not subject to “Brussels’ bureaucrats” – this vision is out-dated. It forgets one thing – the world has changed. Sovereignty is not sovereignty in the way it used to be. Not being part of a political trading bloc does not automatically render Britain an independent, sovereign nation again. In this age of globalisation, one cannot equate sovereignty with isolationism. In the age of lobbying and massive multinational corporate interests, of Facebook getting away with paying £4,327 in corporation tax and Google striking a ‘deal’ and paying £130 million settlement to HMRC, the concept of self-governance is wobbly.

 

Meanwhile, those on the left of an outward persuasion charge the EU with being an undemocratic institution run by unelected bureaucrats. It is a charge hard to deny. According to Europa.eu, it is the European Commission (composed of 28 nominated commissioners) that proposes and enforces legislation “in the general interest of the EU”. Albeit, said legislation has to be passed by the European Parliament, which is composed of directly elected MEPs, but they can only vote “yes” or “no” or to “amend” legislation. The Council of the European Union is the second chamber of the European Parliament, made up of ministers sent from the member states depending on the area of policy who we haven’t elected to act in such a capacity (but… y’know… we didn’t elect the House of Lords either). As well, the Council of Europe – I guess the guy in charge of naming things took a day off when it came to those two bodies – is made up of heads of state of each member state and decides the EU’s overall policy and direction, and negotiates on difficult and sensitive areas of EU policy.

 

So the EU might be relatively undemocratic, but it would be hard to have an international organisation, governing aspects of the lives of around 508 million people, be entirely democratic. Thus far, the EU acts in the best interests of its population. The problem comes, one supposes, when it begins not to, since if there is one solid lesson history has taught us, it is that we can never ever rely on the openness, truthfulness and perennial honesty of those governing us.

 

At home, if the machinations of Parliament become far too audaciously mendacious and corrupt for us merely to stand on the sidelines watching them on the BBC, we can take to the streets. Although 60 million people is a lot, they can still unite within the bounds of one nation state rather effectively against their Government should the need arise. The suffragette movement shows this, as do the Police Strikes of 1918-1919. Can we guarantee that we can retain such self-representation and self-determination through direct action on such a grand scale as that spanning 28 countries? Well, the current massive protests against the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership are putting that issue to the test.

 

The furore surrounding the utter bastardry that is TTIP is something that should figure into your Brexit calculations. Although it is ostensibly an EU-driven trade agreement, leaving the EU doesn’t guarantee its stymying. In fact, it might speed it up. Yannis Varoufakis, the unfortunate but immensely qualified and immensely intelligent economist and previous Greek Finance Minister said in an interview with Owen Jones that it is only as a collusive, entire whole united across the countries of Europe that we can stop TTIP. Add to this that it was Cameron’s government that actually demanded one of the most controversial and destructive aspects of TTIP – the inclusion of investor-state arbitration dispute clauses in trade agreements. These basically give private corporations the power to sue countries if they find their local laws – laws that are there for the protection of the people – to get in the way of their profit margins. This isn’t some far off nightmare, it’s already happening – look to Australia, Canada and Argentina.

 

The reality of the EU referendum is that where it matters, it is largely meaningless. Neoliberalism is still our serenading song, the same multi-national corporations hold the power, the same bankers rip us off, the same Governments trade the will of the people for the will of the financial sector and the same lands get fracked. Really, reformation of our institutions of power is what’s needed, not deciding whether they break apart or not.

 

If you want to cease our immigration obligations under the Schengen agreement and bring all legislative power back to Parliament and the parties in control, and you don’t want undemocratic, out of sight, multi-national institutions making decisions that could affect your small business, then I suggest you vote out. But if you want to be sure your Easyjet flight to Benidorm will stay cheap and passport control simple, and you want to ensure Vodafone don’t up their charges when you’re in Crete, and you reject isolationism, then I suggest you vote to stay in. At the end of the day, the choice is yours, but remember, the result of this referendum is piss in the wind without anything to follow it.

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The volunteers of Calais

In Calais, at the ass end of our sceptred isle, not a hop-skip over the channel from the White Cliffs of Dover, in the centre of Western Europe, is a floodplain upon which the huddled masses of North Africa and the Middle East have coalesced, and which has come to resemble a foreign country.

 

It is a vast expanse of sodden, soaking, gloopy, swampy land bristling with tents and shacks and caravans packed together like one of Brazil’s best favelas. Downtrodden men in torn jackets and ripped jeans from Eritrea, Syria, Iraq and a muddle of other countries slosh up and down the crude dirt paths, their sandaled feet mud-soaked. It is a pseudo-civilisation painted in graffiti: desperate English implorations to Cameron, quotations from the bottom of the Statue of Liberty, indiscernible Arabic, and a much-publicised picture of Steve Jobs in his iconic turtle neck, a bag of possessions flung over his shoulder. Within this microcosm of a foreign nation is an embryonic infrastructure: worried looking men and boys leaning on MDF counters, chickens rotating lazily on rotisserie spits behind them; smiling, kind looking women peering out from behind curtains further into the family section of the camp; fires burning in empty oil drums and hooded guys with smiles and rubbing hands huddled round damp planks that crackle and bubble black within; kids running out of the doorway of ‘Jungle Books’ – the library – with indomitable optimism in their eyes; and the plywood crucifix of the church standing erect, resolute over the tent points and the corrugated plastic roofs.

 

And although the people seem optimistic, insisting you needn’t pay for the tea they just made you, singing for you, sharing what pitiful shit they have; above, an oppressive grey lid of a sky bears down and a foreboding grey tsunami of clouds rolls by, and on the outskirts the silently flashing blue lights of riot vans are perennial. It is the people only that turn such a desolate wasteland, such a place of desperation and disgust, into something hopeful.

 

But enough has been written of the Jungle and its inhabitants, enough has been made of the poverty and enough journalistic voyeurism has been had.

 

A 10-minute drive from the camp is the warehouse of the charity, ‘Help Refugees’. It is a bustling bastion of solution and a testament to humanity within the drab, Soviet block housing of Calais and the endless roads speckled by lonely booze warehouses.

 

You walk in through the open double gates, and immediately the taste of a frenetic, joyful, furtive energy bombards one’s senses. Vans are backed up to the open mouth of the warehouse; high-vis guys and girls toss boxes out of them and trot them into the depths of the building, rotating round like a shimmering centipede, back and forth. A group of people stand off to the side sucking on roll ups and laughing and some girls run across the vista to the skip with a couple of black bin bags in their hands. There is purpose and meaning and drive in the air, but tinged with something you too rarely feel back in the City – friendliness, acceptance and collectivism.

 

To the right of the gates is a ramshackle MDF hut held together with nails and masking tape and topped with tarpaulin, and from within it a friendly looking hippie greets you. “Hey maaan; you guys new?” he asks; his tone pleasant, light and full of friendship. You say you are, and he gives you some forms to fill in. The hippies do bureaucracy apparently.

 

Once you’ve filled in your forms, the dude palms you off to someone else in an orange high-vis. There’s a hierarchy, you see: orange is a boss, yellow is a grunt.

 

She leads you into the cavernous warehouse. Past the vans ticking over are cages full to the brim with duvets and pillows and bed sheets – a few guys are sorting through them, removing whatever is stained or torn or generally useless. To the left is the break area, a couple tables where lunch is served, and beyond that the food: piles of tins and bags of beans and granola bars. But straight through forward is where prime time is. Below a cardboard sign demanding you wear a high-vis before going in (again, hippies do health and safety, apparently) is the entrance to a yawning chamber sectioned up by lines of massive metal shelving stacked with clothes and tents and sleeping bags and roll-mats and, down the far end, boxes of toothpaste and shower gel and shampoo and bandages and disinfectant.

 

The place is an ant colony: people stand over tables measuring the width of jeans and throwing them in the appropriate boxes, someone finds a pair of lacy women’s underwear in the pile and stuffs it in the charity shop crate; cages and trolleys are wheeled noisily up and down the corridors with bags of goods being taken to wherever they need to go; music blares from the speakers as a couple of guys throw bin bags full of clothes to the top of an Everest pile and, over in the corner, shoes get duct-taped together before being put in one of many size-labelled bins. “Mind your backs” is the echo and “where does this go?” the mantra.

 

At lunch a girl with a voice far too booming for her petite frame calls through the reverberating warehouse and a queue is formed as rice and beans and cabbage and coffee is dolled out into waiting bowls and mugs held aloft. People sit about, mill around, eating and chatting and discussing politics or TV or their plans.

 

The place is a maelstrom of diversity. Some of them are there for the weekend, professionals in PR jobs or the banking sector who felt it no skin off their nose to help out for a few days. Some are pure, unadulterated, unfiltered hippies with unwashed hair and who actually, thoroughly believe there should be no borders – because economics and the path of national development and international relations and resource disparity and cultural diversity can all be washed away with a hashtag. Some of them are just principled people who feel a connection to humanity and want to help, solely because they want to. Some were like me, there out of a mixture of curiosity and a feeling that our Governments are fucking up a long term plan and in the short term, were it not for the heroes that are those volunteers, those people in the camp, in disgusting limbo, would be fucked.

 

You see, whatever your politics – unless you’re a white-pride, Britain First troglodyte – you cannot deny that it is impossible to fault the people sacrificing their time and their jobs and, at least for the foreseeable future, their lives, to try and improve, at least fractionally, the situations of the desperate and the weary and the beaten.

 

When I sat in the local bar in the evening getting wasted, which was heaving with volunteers, I felt something I hadn’t expected to feel: an overwhelming sense of pride. To look around and hear so many British voices, as well as those of a multitude of other countries, and to know my compatriots had seen the undefended and come to defend them. To hear the passion and the urgency in their voices and to see them in the knowledge they were there to do a job, that they weren’t proving a point; they were there to try and dredge humans out of the shit and they were fucking well going to do it.

 

There is a dire situation in Calais. It is bearing witness to the fallout of man’s arrogance, it is suffering under the strain of human consequence, and the refugees there have felt the full force of governmental haymakers. But within it all, bursting through the gloom, there are the volunteers, and they are heroes with an utterly impressive organisation, and they need to be recognised.

Britain is no longer an Empire

I’m not sure why, but it seems in the British media recently self-flagellation because of Britain’s colonial past, and paltry atonement for its once earth-straddling empire, are at a fever pitch.

Reports noting that 43% of Britons thought Britain’s Imperial roots are a “good thing” were branded in headlines followed by critical think pieces listing the atrocities committed by our forefathers, and urging us to, just at the very least, feel a tad ashamed as we sip our tea.

The tone is insidious. One that evokes angered, judgmental eyes and an aggressive, exasperated “phhhah!” before it asks “how dare you?! How dare you walk in British streets as a British person and not feel ashamed for the oppression and exploitation your countrymen wrought upon colonials all those years ago?! How dare you? THINK ABOUT IT ALL THE FUCKING TIME YOU WORTHLESS PIECE OF SHIT!”

Now, I’m not going to try and argue that abominable acts weren’t carried out by mustachioed, explorer-hatted, pip-pipping gentlemen who liked to carry canes and wear trousers that puff out at the thighs, all in the name of the British Empire. They most certainly were. Concentration camps in Boer at the turn of the century in which nearly 30,000 Boers died, the massacre in Amritsar in 1919 in which 1,000 Indians were killed by British soldiers, and the Mau Mau concentration camps in the ’50s in which at least 20,000 Kenyans died are all a testament to this.

Neither am I going to argue that the Empire was good for the lands it colonised and the people over whom it ruled. Although, one cannot deny that the British Empire vastly improved and sometimes even built from scratch the infrastructures of many of the countries it ruled over, it imported medicines and modern science, and it provided a blueprint to countries like India and the US for their democracies.

No, rather, I’ll only say this: for all the bad that happened, and the wealth of good, it is irrelevant, for if we hadn’t done it – any of it – someone else would have.

If it hadn’t been the British empire, it would have been another one. Because that was the age of Empires, the age of competition and world domination, and it was either win or lose.

We won.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not living in some swirling UKIPian dream, pining for Empire, masturbating over the Queen and plotting my revenge on the yanks. It would be far better had humans realised immediately, rather than slowly as we are now doing, that we are all equal and better off working together and that fairness and the success of each individual leads to the betterment of the whole.

But we have to realise we inhabit the world we inhabit, and history happened as it happened, not as we wish it did. And the age of Empires happened, and Britain won, and a great many countries lost. Britain didn’t invent the idea of the Empire, it didn’t commence conquest and plundering and colonisation; but I suppose, in the simplest of senses, it realised that that was the game, and that to win it had to play.

I therefore will not feel ashamed for my country’s Imperial legacy.

In fact, I am glad it happened.

And if you live in Britain and enjoy a good quality of life, access to vast opportunity, the fruits of London being the most competitive financial centre in the world and Britain being the sixth best country in the world to do business, the protection and access granted you by your passport – the most powerful passport in the world, the fact that everyone everywhere in the world speaks your language and you needn’t learn their’s, the international clout of your qualifications taken as they were at great British educational institutions, and the great diversity in this country – to name but a few advantages of being British – then you, my friend, are glad the Empire happened as well.

Because make no mistake; you would have none of that had your forefathers not conquered and plundered the world.

There is no superiority in outrage, only in intelligence and intellectual honesty. We must be honest with ourselves, and we can be satisfied with neither celebrating, nor constantly chiding ourselves for the Empire. Though we need, of course, to make reparations where they are due – so long, of course, as those reparations don’t adversely affect us. Indeed one may argue that our foreign aid budget – nearly £12,000,000,000 – and the fact that we were the first G7 country to ring fence 0.7% of our gross national income for foreign aid, goes someway towards reparations. For otherwise we owe nothing to other countries. We are using our prosperity, prosperity that it is no small part a hangover of the Empire, to benefit other countries.

One flash point for Imperial regret and the scorn of the perpetually pissed-off is the statue of Rhodes at Oxford University. Rhodes was by all accounts a bastard – he obtained mining concessions in South Africa for the British government and seized control of, what he named – in the pattern of all great tyrants – Rhodesia; thereafter he stole land from the black population and effectively disenfranchised them.

A young, highly intelligent boy called Ntokozo Qwabe has decided to aim his intelligence toward taking up the flag of a meaningless cause in trying to get the statue of Rhodes felled. Because like an atheist who constantly seeks religious debate, he wants an easy target, I suppose.

To accusations of hypocrisy on his part through being at Oxford in the first place thanks to the scholarship set up in Rhodes’ name, he has responded that “I’m no beneficiary of Rhodes, I’m a beneficiary of the resources and labor of my people which Rhodes pillaged and slaved.” And I would be inclined to agree with that line of thinking; that he is merely accepting reparations in the form of opportunity denied his relatives because of the Empire.

However, while that is fair and right and must be our aim as a country that has benefited from the sufferance of other countries, erasing our history at the behest of a vocal minority is unjustified.

One strain of argument may be that if you don’t like Oxford’s colonial roots, don’t go there. Of course, one may well opine in response that that is reductive, childish reasoning. People should have the freedom to be educated wherever they want, dependent on their merit and their work ethic, and should not be put off by what they deem to be exclusionary symbolism. But then, one must ask the question, why do you want to be educated at Oxford? Because, of course, it is one of the best universities in the world, with a global reputation. And how did it get to be that? Why, of course, through the fruits of the Empire, through things such as the money bequeathed by Cecil Rhodes.

Either you want to reap the benefits of this great country, attributable as they are to our dark Imperial past, or you want to overturn everything, to destroy everything you see as a vestige of the Empire – in the interests of intellectual consistency, of course. In which case, the whole of Britain must burn. Because, I’m afraid, you cannot have those benefits and not acknowledge where they came from.

The rampant and blinkered hyper-morality of the #RhodesMustFall crew was best exemplified in their reaction to the reason for Oriel College deciding not to take the statue down. Through reports leaked by the Telegraph, it came to light that if they were to, they would lose more than £100,000,000. To this the campaigners charged the University with ‘selling out’. For which there is but one reasonable response. Are you fucking stupid? Do they think that education is free? That world class lecturers and expertly written text books and wonderful, ornate libraries are free?

This need to try to constantly censor the parts of history that are undesirable because certain groups feel they were robbed of something as a result of it, is one that can never be satisfied. It is an endless spiral, an ouroboros. Because to condemn the Empire so fervently assumes that things would have turned out differently had it not happened, it is to act retrospectively to right a perceived wrong, to ‘correct’ our timeline’s trajectory, or indeed try to recreate a parallel timeline that was never allowed to come to fruition; it is to second guess chaos theory.

The need is for more information, not less of it. Teach the Empire’s holocausts in school, shout them from the rooftops. But stop trying to cover up the bits of its legacy you don’t like.

Be glad the Empire happened, because it allowed us to learn our lessons and to begin to develop into a better humanity. Humans have a penchant for learning lessons the hard way. We didn’t decide nuclear weapons were a bad thing without first using them, that slavery was awful without first giving it a go or that Jedward need culling without first letting them sing.

The Empire happened, and spending all your time on trying to fell Rhodes or inspire guilt in it won’t bring about renewable energy reliance or stop needless wars in the Middle East or tackle real and contemporary systemic and institutionalised racism and sexism.

Our war

We are at war.

After ten hours of rushed and harried debate, in which John Bercow was forced to hold his piss and wound up MPs were caught swearing at each other, our tired and exhausted, and no doubt impatient and frustrated politicians were forced to make a decision as to whether to commit young men, young British men, to fight and possibly die in a war on their behalf. They say you shouldn’t drive if you’re tired, which you probably would be after ten hours of non-stop debate, but taking a decision to start a war is fine I suppose.

Hilary Benn was hailed as a pro-bombing firebrand for his speech in which he proudly proclaimed: “Now is the time for us to fight this evil”. Oh it’s brilliant, it’s electrifying, it’s invigorating; memories of Churchill, of Empire, of British bulldoggian strength and beaches and landing grounds are flooding back, and in the fog of war I am filled with pride by his rhetoric. Yes! Yes! Send in the troops, drop the bombs, destroy the enemy, for we are Britain and WE are at war once more.

WE are at war.

Time was, long ago, when our leaders would march before our soldiers into battle. When we were at war, WE truly were at war. Now, though, a politician with a plum in his mouth can proselytise and proliferate and declare his dissertation, spittle flecks flying from his foam-frothed lips as he works himself up into a war-hungry frenzy, so passionate is he about the truth of his position. So ardent is he that security and justice will prevail on England’s lands, that he is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice; he is willing to commit your sons to war.

Truly, it should be a point of order that MPs be disallowed from semantic untruths. Instead of saying that it is time for us to fight this evil, they should be obliged to announce the truth: “It is time for us to send men to fight a war because we reckon it might help a bit.” When Cameron says we are at war, he should be obliged to say: “Young men are overseas this Christmas, away from their families, at war, while you and I are back at home in front of the hearth, safe and sound, because that’s what I wanted.”

Now, you may say that it is a matter of national security, and those men signed up to the military, while the politicians, and we, did not.

But is it really a matter of national security? Certainly there is an issue of national security – we face a dangerous and barbarous threat. But is the decision to drop bombs on Syria a matter of national security? For one, all it takes is one man with a bomb vest to slip through. All it takes is one radical with an AK47. That is how this war is fought. There are no battalions or nations or uniforms. It is a just-about-organised collective of mentals. Like 50,000 Columbine shooters. Are bombing runs really going to solve the issue? You cannot catch every nut.

But suppose you can; suppose you can destroy every single member of ISIS and not even a handful survive and none of them manage to slip through to Europe. They’re all dead. Meanwhile, the West has just lain waste to another middle-Eastern country and left a power vacuum. Have we not learnt our lessons? It is a point so over-hammered that I’m not going to make it, but you get where I’m going.

Anyway, if this really is a matter of national security, if our country is at threat like it was against Nazi Germany – and no, I don’t consider myself hyperbolic in making that comparison. If Hilary can do it in his pro-war speech, I think I should be able to use it, to see if it stands up. Because truth is, it fucking doesn’t. This isn’t a war of equals, two armies against each other. This is the West being poked by a stupid, ravenous, barbarous gang of lunatics. Nevertheless, if you, a civilian, a normal person with an iPad who likes going to the pub and wonders about the Autumn statement and has got a bit podgy living off the fat of the cosy 21st century, are truly for bombing because it is a matter of national security, then I implore you, before making your mind up, to ask yourself, are we so at risk that, as in the Second World War, there is an impetus for you to sign up to fight and defend, because the homeland is going to be irreversibly threatened imminently?

No?

Not so keen anymore?

Think there might be other options?

Think we need to debate a bit more?

That’s because you’re a fucking hypocrite. You want to send men abroad to die because you feel a bit scared. And every person who sincerely and truthfully asks themselves that question and arrives at the same answer is too.

For if we were truly under threat, if your home was likely to be destroyed, your family killed; you would fight. At least one hopes you would. But, as we all know when we look inside ourselves, those things aren’t the case, so you have no need to fight. At the very least you’d think you’d have to make some sacrifices for war. Our grandparents had to go through rationing and blackouts and join the land army. What do you have to do? Be a bit worried at the news? Nope, this is not our war, we have to do nothing for it. WE are not at war and you are insulting and cowardly to suggest otherwise. In fact, since it is so in vogue at the moment, I would even go so far as to say it is appropriation on your part to say that WE’RE at war. You’re appropriating those soldiers’ experiences.

But you’re right, they are the army, that’s their job, not yours; you have no duty to go fight. The politicians on the other hand, what duty do they have? We take it as read that they don’t need to go to war with the men they have decided need to. But to what extent should that be true? Is it not a point of morality and honour that they should? Would it not make our war-mongering slightly less mongery? Decisions would certainly be taken with a bit more consideration wouldn’t they? It’s the same logic as applies to the argument for putting MPs on Osborne’s ‘living wage’. It strikes me as slightly surprising that we don’t find it at least a bit abhorrent that we are truly happy for our MPs not to have to face the consequences of their actions in the same ways we do. We allow them to dictate our fates, while theirs remain untouched.

Fear won yesterday. And now our pilots, and probably soon our soldiers – If Hague’s comments are anything to go by – are fighting our Government’s war, dropping bombs made my private arms manufacturers, firing privately made and sold Brimstone missiles, piloting privately made planes. Because war is good for the private arms manufacturers’ business, a business they were trying to flog just a couple months ago at their London fair. And their weapons, sold to politicians who will probably go and work for them, by lobbyists, are being thrown at an area of the world that so happens to be immensely oil rich. All of this is not to mention the power that can come from control of that region.

If this was about national security and justice and the preservation of Britain and its people, then why do the DWP allow suicides as a result of their policies to continue? Why are the poor and the hungry and the homeless allowed to continue as they are, dying and suffering? Because all that money we’re throwing at that war can be spent on other things you know. But austerity doesn’t apply to war.

Inevitably, you must ask yourselves, is the Government declaring this war in our interests? Really? Truly? Or do you think there might be other motivations? Because if so, is it really our war?