Marco Rubio's rejection of the world outside the United States is athrowback to "America First"
If I was running a Communications agency pitching for a brief in the EU Referendum Campaign – and was indifferent to the issue – I would far prefer to get the brief from the “Leave” campaign than from the “Remain”.
All mass communications relies on the creation of clear, simple messages which can be rapidly absorbed and which relate to needs of the target group. A political campaign is archetypical “mass communications” – especially when the suffrage is universal as it is with the referendum. And the “needs” need not be physical needs but can be, and in this case are, purely emotional in character. Placing an X on a ballot paper is a powerful act and whilst self-interest plays a part it is primarily an act of commitment, support, rebellion, protest, backing for a particular candidate or choice.
In the referendum the choice is binary (spoilt ballot papers or abstentions apart). And emotions will rule for many. There are complexities in the In/Out choice which even those with the time to do so will be reluctant to explore. For the vast majority of the electorate there can be no expectation that the minutiae of the Common Agricultural Policy or the extent of the implementation of the principle of Subsidiarity will be explored. The hand hovering over the ballot paper will be driven to Remain or Leave by strong, but far from necessarily well-informed opinions, prejudices and emotions.
For the “Leave” campaign it is possible to break down what they believe to be the benefits of the UK leaving the UK into a few simple messages. Messages which are indeed clear, simple and easily absorbable. As hard-core Europhobe Tim Montgomerie put it in The Times:
And so on! The communications positioning and potential slogans which emerge from this (and elsewhere) are something thing like:
That four bullet point summary of the seminal messages of the “No” campaign is enough - triggering as it does powerful visual images like the one above . To register these messages in the minds of the voters is all they need to do. This can be done with all the usual communications tools and imagery.
The rational case for Britain in Europe is strong but the no campaign has the advantage in respect of imagery and emotional appeal. Never underestimate the power of patriotism and the inherent fear of the foreigner in the British psyche!
Let's say I run a Transnational corporation which produces minerals in Harrovia. One of them is called "Slytherin" which costs me £4 a tonne to produce. In the UK Slythern has a value of £10 a tonne. It costs me £1 to transport. So my actual profit delivered in the UK is £5 a tonne. With Corporation tax at 20% I pay £1 in tax. But in Harrovia I have a long-standing tax holiday. The Harrovian Government wants me there. So my operations are tax free. Better to make a profit in Harrovia than the UK. So I assess the value of my Slytherin at £9 a tonne as it is loaded on the ship in Harrovia. When it is sold in the UK I make no profit (having paid my £1 a tonne transport cost).
“Open-seat presidential elections are shaped by perceptions of the style and personality of the outgoing incumbent. Voters rarely seek the replica of what they have. They almost always seek the remedy, the candidate who has the personal qualities the public finds lacking in the departing executive.”
So writes David Axelrod today in the “New York Times” in an article that argues that the appeal of Donald Trump is substantially because he is the polar opposite of Barack Obama – who himself was the opposite of his predecessor George W Bush. Axelrod goes back further – to young Kennedy (v old Eisenhower) in 1960 and indeed his model works pretty well in the UK as well. Thatcher v Callaghan. Blair v Major. Wilson v Home…
And now we have some good news for Jeremy Corbyn at last. Whether its David Cameron or another Etonian (Boris) or an Old Pauline, George Osborne, his Tory opponent in 2020 will be more of the same. Corbyn can position himself in policy and style not to be the “replica of what they have”. Not the establishment. Not Oxbridge. Not corrupted by Office. Not in hock to Rupert Murdoch or the BBC or anyone else. More Nigel Farage in appeal than Ed Miliband! (See how Farage also fits the Axelrod model, or did)?
So Corbyn needs to emphasise those of his personal qualities that distinguish him from Cameron – the personality traits which make him, with his long record as an outsider, not the replica of the Prime Minister. Will it work? Well he doesn't have to convince all the people, just enough to build on his hard core (30%?) support. its far from impossible.
[Above: New Year’s Eve at the Kelvin Grove Club, Cape Town]
At our guest house in Franschhoek the proprietor made a couple of references to the "New South Africa" in explaining things to us. The things she was explaining were mostly things that didn't work very well, or at all, as she saw it. She was an Afrikaner - a comfortably off and successful one. We didn't talk politics and my impression that she was a decent as well as an able person. But over 20 years since the Republic entered the civilised world clearly not everything is rosy. The hideous Shanty Town close to Cape Town Airport is still there and the poverty gap between the have’s and the have not’s seems as wide as ever. And with the Rand hovering around 25 to the pound (it was 12 six years when we were last there) South Africans struggle to import the commodities they need (though the tourists and some of the exporters are happy).
The most positive development is the continued rise of the Black middle class. The children who at last got a decent education after apartheid was dismantled are arriving in the workforce - many with good schooling and University. They along with their White, Coloured and Indian compatriots inherit a situation of which the memory of Nelson Mandela can be proud.
"Apartheid" is an Afrikaans word meaning "separate development" a concept that institutionalised and exploited South Africa's racial differences. Of course it did not mean "separate but equal development" - it reinforced and passed into law privilege on racial grounds. In "Cry the Beloved Country" (which I re-read during this trip) written and set in 1947 Alan Paton held a mirror up to the reality of that privilege. The white characters are mostly good people many of whom are concerned about the "natives" but only one, the (ironically) murdered by a Black criminal Jarvis, sees the need for a moral crusade and for change. Within a year of this great book's publication Apartheid was formalised - including the hideous "petty apartheid" of separate park benches and the like.
So 65 years on from "Beloved Country" and 25 from Mandela's release where is South Africa now? My first conclusion is that, awkward though they may have been, quotas have worked. Shell South Africa when I used to visit it was an 80% white company - it is now 80% black. A black man scored a fine century at Newlands. Neither of these things would have happened without "positive discrimination". And countless other changes of course. There is also a sense of confidence that the outside world, like me, is comfortable with visiting a society that is so much more equal (though some of that equality is superficial and/or artificial). But there is a long way to go to achieve genuine equality of opportunity.
The weakness of the Rand is a measure of the weakness of the economy as a whole and of the failure of Zuma's Government. In the early days of Mandela's presidency the great man tried to ensure that he had the best people in top Government jobs irrespective of race. This is no longer the case and Zuma is accused of cronyism, or worse. The emergence of better educated blacks in the coming years should mean a broader pool of good people across the races. But to institutionalise a different form of privilege, as Zuma has done, in place of the old one is hardly progress!
At the social level I saw few signs of real progress towards an unselfconsciously multiracial society. Apartheid might have gone but separate development and social barriers are still very much present. An extreme example was the Kelvin Grove Club in Newlands where I had reciprocal membership. This has all the appearances of the expatriate clubs of Hong Kong and elsewhere very familiar to me. At these the Brits (mostly) were the members and the local Chinese served at table (etc.) But Kelvin Grove is not an expatriate club at all. It's members are South African citizens from the white English speaking Cape Town tribe. Not even Afrikaners let alone coloureds or Blacks or Indians. The non whites do the work though. On New Years' Eve not one guest at the dinner dance was non-white. Even the band was white!
In writing about Kelvin Grove I am observing not criticising. I can't see any reason why so long as there is no colour bar (there isn't) a club can't operate broadly as it always did and make an offer that is more likely to appeal to one tribe than others.
Another book I read during my visit was "A racist's guide to the people of South Africa". This very funny and irreverent book describes the English White, Afrikaner, Black and Indian racial groups in terms of their behaviour and aspirations. They are very different - no surprise there then. The author discusses the rising Black middle class - "Black Diamonds" they are called. A subset of this group are those Blacks who don't speak like blacks - the "Coconuts" (brown on the outside, white inside). Unsurprisingly it is this group that the Whites find it easiest to relate to because they are intentionally or not aping the whites in speech and behaviour. But the overwhelming majority of Black South Africans are not Coconuts and have no wish to be. They have no more intention of changing their cultural norms than the Members of Kelvin Grove or the Voortrekkers of Natal!
I remember visiting Nairobi a few times some years ago where a senior Board director of Shell Kenya was Black. He was almost schizophrenic in his lifestyle. During the week he was besuited, spoke educated English and was a highly skilled senior manager. At the weekend he travelled to his “native” village, wore traditional dress and spoke his tribal language. I don't know whether this is common in the “New” South Africa, but it wouldn't surprise me. And, let me stress again, it seems a perfectly acceptable and rational behaviour.
In his “I have a dream” speech Martin Luther King said this:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream that one day … little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
This was not a “Melting pot” argument. It acknowledged differences and argued for respect of them. But even if massive progress has been made in the “New” South Africa there is a still a way to go. Within the last few weeks some prominent members of the White communities (including broadcasters and Government employees) have been, as the “Cape Times” put it “…embroiled in racism allegations”. This has, they say, prompted Government to “…include hate speech and racist behaviour in the Hate Crimes Bill”.
Multiculturalism (and there is nowhere on Earth more multicultural than South Africa) does not need to be changed so that the Blacks all become Coconuts or Kelvin Grove makes their dinner dances wider in their cultural content. What it requires is respect and when that respect is absent then Government needs to act – as it appears to be doing in this one respect at least. On the other hand whilst “Positive discrimination” and quotas was uncomfortable for many it was a necessary thing. But now there needs, it would seem, to be an acknowledgment that there is a sub-optimum situation in some crucial areas of Government (etc.) with able people not being given a chance because of their (white) colour. Far worse than this there is compelling evidence of Afrikaners being murdered on their farms - a scandal of such horrific proportions that it is extraordinary that it is not more in the public eye both within and outside South Africa.
I only go to South Africa every few years and I always enjoy it and marvel at it because of its variety of geography, lifestyle and people. This time I saw nothing that troubled me particularly but old friends I met, and new ones I made, were worried. There is evidence that White administered Apartheid has been replaced by a Black-administered structure which in some respects is not that different. It may be too early to cry again for the beloved country – but it may come to that.
I have been following the "debate" (if that's what it is) about deselection of Labour MPs by their Constituency parties from the City that once was Leningrad! Appropriate because there is a 1984 element to it all and Orwell's chilling satire was all about the need for conformity of thought. That, for 70 years was the Soviet way - to the Gulag (or worse) for those who disagree.
Do you remember when John Major as Prime Minister introduced a "Cones hotline" for motorists to call when they thought that there were too many cones on the road? It was ridiculed because we could all see that it was a silly, political stunt. George Osborne's "Fiscal Chareter" is more of the same. And equally silly.
The allegations in today’s Sunday Telegraph are the most serious made in modern times against a leading political figure. If Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell were as close to the Irish Republican Army as Andrew Gilligan suggests then their current positions are untenable. With the important proviso that neither the Telegraph nor Gilligan can always be seen as balanced observers and that further independent verification is necessary. To understand the position we need to track back over 20th Century Irish history a bit and to place relations with Great Britain and the UK in focus.
I have always been in favour of a united Ireland. The treatment of the Irish in the first half of the 19th Century by Great Britain was an affront and it was this that led to the failure of the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland" to survive. Ireland was technically not a Colony and, of course, there were Irish MPs and Peers at Westminster. But the rule of Ireland by the British was imperial in the extreme and Irish independence was a cause no less justified than the cause of (say) India. But as with India when it came (and equally bloodily) there was division. Northern Ireland, with its then Protestant majority, would not join the rest of Ireland as the Republic was formed. But the Irish of the North are no less Irish than the Irish of the South. The Union Flag waving is much more religious in its basis than it is political.
Come the dawn the island of Ireland will be, must be, one State. But how to get there? There is only one way and that is for the peoples of the South and the peoples of the North to want it. Separate referenda (obviously) will be held in the Republic and in the North and if both agree that Union should happen then it will. The time when this event occurs is anyone's guess but the changing demography of the North suggests it will be sooner rather than later.
I am not diminishing the struggle ahead nor the grievances that will be felt by the "Loyalist" community in the North. If they or (I would argue) any other Irish people would like to hold dual citizenship (Irish and British) that might be a way forward. We are very close, notwithstanding the past, and our cultures overlap. We all live in the British Isles after all! (For the avoidance of doubt I use "British" as a geographical and cultural descriptor, not a political one!).
The armed struggle against British (political this time) colonial rule in Ireland in the first decades of the twentieth century was (sadly) justified. The end result was a fudge but the Loyalists in the North had a right to protection in those uncertain times. Eighty years on and the Republic of Ireland is a successful European State and (in my view) the residents of Northern Ireland have nothing to fear, and much to gain, from being part of it. Great Britain does not have a case to hold on to Northern Ireland if the majority of its citizens want to become part of the Republic. Indeed I don't think many of us would try and make that case.
Which brings me to the IRA not in the time when it led the struggle in the early part of the 20th Century but in the post WW2 era when it sought to unite Ireland with violence. This was an obscenity and those years of the "troubles" shameful. The IRA spawned the paramilitary Protestant militia (equally vile) and a military response from the UK Government which at times was heavy-handed and excessive. Violence bred violence. My support for a united Ireland never for one second led me to sympathise with the IRA. I just despaired until the peace process under Tony Blair and Mo Mowlem finally moved things forward and an Agreement was reached.
It seems from the latest stories that the now Leader of the Labour Party and the Shadow Chancellor were if not IRA sympathisers as close to that as makes no difference. They gave comfort to the men of violence and openly identified with them. This is not about supporting the principle of a United Ireland (many of us did that). It was about the means by which it was achieved. Remember we are not talking about 1916 here; we are talking about the late 1960s. We are not talking about a time when the resort to armed struggle had some basis in natural justice. Yes in the 1960s there were institutionalised divisions in Northern Ireland and there was discrimination and injustices. But was that in any sense justification to start terrorist attacks. Of course not.
The post-war IRA was an evil construct and they did untold damage to the fabric of civilised society. Their violence spawned violence. That the Blair Government was to come to an accommodation with them (via their “legitimate” wing Sinn Fein) was Real Politick and uncomfortable though it must have been to sit down with terrorists or their apologists sometimes, pragmatically, that is what leaders have to do. But before the Peace Process to have identified with the IRA, as it is alleged Jeremy Corbyn and his Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell did, was an outrage. At the time it could have been shrugged off as the “Looney Left”. But no more. If the allegations are true there is no way that these two can continue their current roles. No way.