As I curl up in front of a roaring log fire this February Sunday afternoon, the weak sun washing the grey sky with a strange half-light and “out there” looking very cold, nursing a most acceptable glass of Pinotage from the Cape, I am reflecting on just how lucky we, in this Island Nation of ours, really are.
I suppose it is the paid job of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition (nb. If you find out who they are and where they are hiding, will you let me know please?!) to tell us all every day that we’re all going to hell in a handbasket and that it’s all the fault of whomever happens to be forming the Government of the day. But deep down, whatever they wish for, they know full well things could be one helluva lot worse.
I fully understand that these are tremendously challenging times for millions of people in our Country but just a few pictures of some parts of Africa reminds us what real poverty actually looks like.
The appalling stories coming out of Syria make us thank whichever God we individually worship (feel free, take your pick, for in our Land no-one puts you in prison (or worse) for openly following one particular creed rather than another) for the fact that we don’t live in that fear, with that dreadful emotional and physical damage, nor are we forced to pay an enormous price just for inhabiting one part of the globe rather than another.
We are free. A thousand years of development have delivered that freedom. Our judges are incorruptible and totally independent of Government; whatever might have been the motives behind Plaintiff Gina’s action over Parliament and serving Notice under Article 50 (and I have my doubts as to whether they got beyond those of the “do everything you can to mess Brexit up big-time” variety) I am certain that, once asked, our Judges both at First instance and on Appeal gave a non-political verdict. “Enemies of the State” they are not. I might not have liked the particular situation but I cherish the fact I live in such a country with such quality Judges.
We are free. On 23rd June 2016, we experienced a Revolution. The Peasants’ Revolt. Those people so derided by the Liberal Elite, those voters who had a chance (they would have thought….at last!) to give a good kicking to those who, by their actions and words, show they believe in an epistocracy, they overthrew the yoke of unaccountable, unelected oppression. There were no riots on the streets, no marching with weapons, no overthrow of a ruling potentate, there was just a vote and everyone honoured the decision, to the point where the Prime Minister peacefully resigned.
We are free. Get enough signatures on an on-line petition and our MPs are forced to debate the issue in public in Parliament.
We are free. But such freedom does bring with it a responsibility. We should beware allowing any developing hypocrisy (we are free to practice that too!) hurting our country for future generations.
You see, when the King of Saudi Arabia died, we lowered our National Flag to half mast over Buckingham Palace. When the Boss of China visited we stuck him in a carriage with Her Majesty and drove him up The Mall. Both those countries are not exactly Top of the Pops on the human rights front. Why did we do it? Because it was in our national interest so to do. They are both big purchasers of our goods and services and big investors in our country.
Yet the properly and democratically-elected President of our biggest ally, of our Number One trading partner, or our biggest inward investor, of the home of more inward investment from us into another country, the democratically-elected (not two words I’d have used about those other two guests!) Leader of a free nation who is doing precisely what he said he’d do if he was elected (not a common quality in Western politicians) …….. is the subject of a staggering amount of pressure not to visit us; Her Majesty the Queen and her Ministers are facing a multitude of calls to withdraw their invitation to Donald Trump to make a State Visit to the United Kingdom; including one call, I presume, from the Speaker of the House of Commons who should damn well know better.
I have never met or spoken to Mr Trump. I have no particular desire to. But it is in our National Interest (especially at such a Brexit-time as this) that he is invited. If asked, I would attend any of the many formal occasions that occur at such a time and politely greet the 45th freely-elected President of our greatest, most important ally who just happens to be one of the most powerful people in the World.
Do I agree with his crudely-expressed views? No. Do I find his opinions on several issues disgusting? Yes. But this isn’t about what I think; this isn’t about what America-hating Jeremy Corbyn or the shoot-from-the-hip Speaker thinks; this is about British jobs, British tax-yielding profits and (very importantly) this is about having the chance in private to try to persuade our guest that protectionism is not the way to make America great again; using his excellent if simplistic communication skills (there is probably a connection between those two adjectives!) he should instead be upskilling and retraining America to make America great again by being globally competitive in Asia’s Century, not putting up self-destructive barriers that will, in the long-run only render his Country less globally competitive and socially less cohesive.
By all means those opposed to Trump’s visit should be allowed peacefully to demonstrate; that’s what freedom means. I guess the man in the street would call that “democracy”; and if the Donald’s notoriously thin skin can’t accommodate the jeers and banners of demonstrators who don’t agree with him then he really is in the wrong job.
After all, as I look out on the gathering dusk of a cold Sunday, safe in my home with my loved ones and experiencing the very freedom even to write and publish this article, I thank my God that thousands of Americans died in a foreign land over three thousand miles from their home many years ago so that I may be free……..and I’d rather like to thank the properly-elected President of the United States of America ex officio, not Donald Trump the person, for that.