September 1st is the traditional date when schools in Estonia reopen after the summer break. It is not only of significance for children, because for most adults, the summer is also definitively over. The season is one of the end of leisure and the beginning of work. So, after a long break from blogging, I return.
However I do not hold out much optimism for the new season. Most of the things that I would like to see for the country of my birth- a more open society and a more Liberal (and indeed liberal) politics- have been defeated so heavily in recent years that any ultimate success seems to be years, and maybe decades, away. Of course some things can change suddenly, and by definition Liberals are required to be optimistic. Yet, as Theresa May settles into office as Prime Minister, it is clear that the UK will continue to be pushed further way from the kind of changes that it needs in order to create a more prosperous and harmonious society. "Hard Brexit" or not, the fact is that the Conservatives will continue to inflict policies that will create more inequality and less social or political harmony. Post Brexit Britain is set to struggle even to define what kind of country it wishes to be. After the phony war of the summer, the new season will reveal to London, as much as to the rest of the European capitals, just how daunting the scale of the task ahead truly is.
And I have not recovered from the anger that the vote brought me. We rejected our friends and pleased our enemies. We will now be diverted for years into a self-destructive mess. The worst leaders in the UK: George Galloway, Nigel Farage, Bernard Jenkin - a rogues gallery of shits- have come out on the winning side, but the thoughtful and the intelligent, from Mark Carney to Delia Smith, have been forced to take the abuse of the triumphantly stupid.
On a wall in the old town of Tallinn some Brexit cretin has written "Rule Britannia, down with the Euro-Socialist EU". I tend not to take political lessons form those who write on walls, but what ignorance it is to write such drivel in a country that has just celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of genuine socialism. The temptation is just to mutter "arseholes" under the breath and pass on down the street, yet actually I feel that this arrogance and stupidity is actually the dominant characteristic of the political discourse in Britain.
They call it "post truth politics", and I find it hard not to becomes outraged at the way it pervades so much of what is happening in the UK. For example, the Daily Express is a newspaper that attracts a certain kind of readership, it pretends to an intellectual equality with other newspapers. Yet it refuses to comply even with the voluntary- and extremely light- code of press regulation that other newspapers do accept. The fact is that the Express prints stories which it knows to be totally false. It is a propaganda rag. It is a contemptible piece of crap, and yet it is treated as though it actually had something valid to say. The problem is that, although extreme, the Express actually reflects the way the majority of the British press does its business: the Mail, the Sun even broadsheets such as the Telegraph and the Times knowingly twist the facts to suit their predetermined point of view. This is not just the op-ed pages, but across the newspaper as a whole,facts are ignored, balance is ignored, honesty is ignored. Cheap laughs, cheap journalism and a profoundly cynical contempt for the truth characterizes the British press in a way that would appall a previous generation. In the end the huge economic and political mess we are setting up for ourselves can and should be laid at the feet of the foreign-owned (Murdoch), foreign domiciled tax avoiders (Rothermere, and the Barclay brothers) and fraudulent (Desmond) hypocrites who dominate press ownership in the UK. Unless this festering pus-filled canker can be lanced, I have come to think that the future of the UK will continue to lie in the hands of people who have little care for the best interests of anyone except themselves, and certainly not the country.
So where does that leave us?
The phony war, as I say, is now over. The three Brexiteers- Johnson, Fox and Davis that Mrs. May has, perhaps cynically, deployed to negotiate have spent the summer engaged in a turf war, but even they must now see that the next few years will be nothing but a slog. The European Union -continuing and possibly reinforced, despite Farage's schtik that it would simply collapse, post Brexit- is not prepared to roll over in negotiations. When Australia announced that it could- kinda, sorta, maybe- consider a UK free trade pact, this was taken by Dr. Fox as a sign that the UK could negotiate a pact "10x the size of the EU". He obviously did not understand that such a pact would have to include neighbouring star systems, given that the EU is a part of 40% of global trade flows. Incidentally, Australia has an economy smaller than Spain. New Zealand- another "Commonwealth hope" has an economy smaller than Romania. Both antipodeans are mostly primary producers, and it is the 1.3 billion of China, not the 65 million of the UK that can support those economies. We do 60% of our trade with the EU, but the Brexiteers stupidly believe that we can unpick our trade from our neighbours and rebuild it with countries that are as far away as you can get on this planet and which do not want our goods anyway. With such generals in place, the next step will be a retreat to Dunkirk and the comprehensive trashing of the Brexit idea- too late of course, but hey, the crushing of UK asset prices and employment will just be collateral damage.
In the face of such a mess, one might expect Her Majesty's loyal opposition to be making hay.
Err.. not quite.
It is not just that Jeremy Corbyn is an obvious dud- a politician who has been wrong about everything and whose incompetence alienates on a daily basis his entire Parliamentary party. It is that Owen Smith is a dud too- his left wing platform, however insincerely held, is an absolute gift to the Tories. The fact is that none on the Labour front bench have what it takes: mealy-mouth cowardice, even in the age of post-truth politics, is pretty hard to hide. The childish attempts to re-run Thick-of-It sketches as some kind of The Office-style documentary is about as painful as watching David Brent dance. If ever you had a doubt that Labour were past-it, then your worst fears are exceeded by the grim reality.
As the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness draws in, we see the naked British Emperor in all his stunted and flaccid glory. For the problem of government, press or opposition are linked by a failure so huge and so clear that sometimes it takes a second or two to grasp it. As David Cameron hummed his way off the Downing Street stage, (aged, let us not forget, only 49 after just over six years in office) the horrible truth began to dawn.
These people are not up to the job.
Neither is it just the failed entitlement of the Etonian Jeunesse Doree. This is a systemic failure, not only of Tories but of our entire political-media complex. Whether the economic illiteracy of the Brexiteers, or the hypocritical calumnies of the press, or the tiresome playground antics of the Labour party, the UK faces a leadership vacuum on an industrial scale. Ignorance and arrogance are endemic across the media and across the political establishment. It is a poisonous brew to be taking into negotiations where we are much the weaker party.
So what should I say to the arseholes who write on a wall in the old town of Tallinn; those who buy the shitty Kardashian laden scandal sheets of right wing cant that masquerade as newspapers; those who call Corbyn "Jeremy", instead of "get out of the way you shit"; those who are prepared to see Theresa May eviscerate any pretense of Parliamentary sovereignty as she leads us out of the EU?
Well probably I should say that it will get worse. The redrawing of constituency boundaries over the next three years will probably reduce Labour to a rump, and may remove all other parties except the Tories from England and Wales. Mrs. May, despite leading the stupid party at prayer, will not flinch from what is necessary to hold power. Those who I despise will continue to dominate for some years to come- to the huge cost of our country.
Secondly though, I ask myself some fundamental questions. Once day, I hope that those who have caused this catastrophe will be thrown out bag and baggage- preferably with a level of ignominy that prevents their return. However I don't think I want to return to the UK while the lunatics continue to wreck the asylum. I see many intelligent youngsters reading the same runes and coming to the same conclusion. I devoted decades of my life to fighting for a more open society in the UK, but in the face of the entrenched evils we face, I feel dejected and very angry.
Still, it is a new term and I have much to learn. If I can pass the exams I can at least settle here. Perhaps I should. The Estonian fight has always been my fight, just as much as the fight for openness, tolerance and freedom anywhere else, and for the same length of time. However it comes with the bitter sense that these fools would have taken my birthright away from me. Their self serving drivel would have driven me and many far better than me away from a country that for all its faults I still profoundly love.
One day, one day, maybe the storm-tossed green hills, the moors and the great cities will host a people great enough to overthrow the imbeciles and poltroons who govern them and those in the media whose twisted lies support the whole disgusting structure.
We will see.