We need to do the full Swiss

I happen to believe that David Cameron will go down as one of the worst Prime Ministers in British history. His decision to hold an EU referendum would have been fine if he had a plan for afterwards. He didn’t. He just scarpered and “put his trotters up in Cannes” – to use the immortal words of Danny Dyer.

Andres Allemand in the Independent describes the Swiss referendum model:

…it is not uncommon to vote again and again on the same issue. The most dramatic example is maternity leave. It took six votes and 60 years for the country to agree on its position.

The British do not have a history of referendums. We have only actually had three national referendums ever: The Common Market one in 1975, AV in 2011 and EU in 2016. Yes, just three (all the others you might remember were regional polls).

The problem is that once we start doing referendums, then we need to go the whole hog and do it like the Swiss.

As the above quote suggests, it would be very usual for the Swiss to have a referendum on the deal to leave the EU, even after having voted initially to leave the EU. It is part of the Swiss process.

What is maddening about the current situation is that there are still people who think that democracy started and ended on June 23rd 2016. But that was only the start of the process.

You either have a representative parliamentary system or you go the full hog and have a referendum system. But if you have a referendum system you have to have lots of referendums, or at least two in the current Brexit situation.

As it is, we’ve ended up with an outrageous situation. Theresa May boxed herself in with her red lines and then tried to find words to come up with a soft Brexit without actually saying so. “Frictionless border” being the top one. Ridiculous. So she’s painted herself into a corner. Her deal is ludicrous. Her delay on the vote on the deal is ludicrous. She is holding parliament to ransom with the deadline of 29th March 2019.

The whole thing is a disgrace. At the risk of repeating this: there is only one way out of this and that is for the people to decide whether they want May’s deal or whether they want to remain in the EU.

I don’t personally think that “no deal” should be on the ballot paper with a leaving date of 29th March 2019.

As Gina Miller put it, “no deal” is fine, as long as we have ten years to prepare for it!


Thinking of Paddy

This photo was taken in April 1993, during one of Paddy’s three overnight stays at our home. It was the time of the Newbury parliamentary by-election. This photo was taken in our dining room, just before I went to work one morning.

A few weeks before, we’d suffered the horrible blow of suddenly losing our son.

Paddy’s frequent visits during the election fight were a huge shot in the arm to the Newbury campaign.

But personally, it really was a huge uplift and inspiration to meet Paddy and have him stay in our home. With Paddy, you get a feeling that you don’t get with many other people. You get the feeling that he is 100% on your side and that he will fight any necessary battles alongside you. It is always a huge comfort to know this.

In the years since, through good times and bad times, Paddy has always been there for the party – an essential rock to lean on.

So now, as Paddy faces his own battle, he deserves the greatest of good fortune and to know that many people are willing him on.

Jimmy Ruffin’s “What becomes of the broken hearted” with rare spoken introduction

You pick up all sorts of bits of trivia from the “Professor of Pop”, Paul Gambaccini on Radio 2’s “Pick of the Pops”.

Before playing Jimmy Ruffin’s “What becomes of the broken hearted” the other day, he imparted this trivia gem.

As explained by the great Gambo, the reason Ruffin’s classic has such a long instrumental introduction is that, originally, over the instruments and backing vocals, there was a spoken introduction by Jimmy Ruffin, before he started singing.

But then somebody said that the record sounded better without the spoken introduction, so they released the record without it.

Paul Gambaccini mentioned that the original version, with the spoken intro, is on YouTube.

Here it is:

Time for the party to apologise to Norman Scott

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Like most others, I have enjoyed “A Very English Scandal” on BBC1. It’s been a really superbly-made series.

What packed more of a punch, for me, was “The Jeremy Thorpe scandal”, Tom Mangold’s updated documentary, shown on BBC4 on Sunday night.

Having watched that, as a matter of conscience, I find it disturbing that the party has never properly faced up to the Jeremy Thorpe affair.

OK, Jeremy Thorpe was a leader of the Liberal Party, not the Liberal Democrats, and never held any office in the new party. However, the Liberal Democrats did treat Jeremy Thorpe with quite some praise/privilege.

As a conference steward, I remember, briefly, having been asked to do so, guiding Mr and Mrs Thorpe around the conference centre in Harrogate, at the annual gathering. I think that was in 1999 when he attended conference to sign his book and there was talk of him doing well in the forthcoming poll to choose the party’s peers. (As an aside please see my report of a Liberal History Group meeting about the man).

From 1997, there is a report in the Independent on the Eastbourne conference entitled “Lib Dem conference: Thorpe returns from the wilderness” which included this effusive quote from a “spokesman for Mr Ashdown” (Paddy Ashdown was then leader of the party):

Jeremy Thorpe’s leadership at that time was tremendously inspirational and so the party is very pleased to see him here.

When Jeremy Thorpe died there were fulsome tributes from party figures.

Tom Mangold’s documentary brought things into clear focus for me. For years I suppose I have tried not to think of the whole affair in judgmental terms. It is now quite clear what happened (I am sorry I didn’t realise this earlier). The party should somehow acknowledge this and owes an apology to Norman Scott for not acknowledging the truth of the situation much earlier.

Thoughts on the songs in tonight’s Eurovision semi-final

Apologies for missing a couple – they all merged into one after a while.

Denmark would be my top pick.

Norway – very energetic with excellent superimposed musical instruments. I liked it very much.

Netherlands – a classic Nashville country music rock song. It shouldn’t even be in the contest.

Denmark – very powerful and popular. The imagery of the four big blokes with beards is very strong. Great song.

France. OK. Didn’t really grab me but that may be because it is in French.

Italy – horrible captions on screen – like a news broadcast. Visually appalling. Threatening vocals.

Germany – Poor man’s Ed Sheeran. He has a bouncy castle behind him, onto which are projected some fantastically good graphics and old black and white photos. Very strong.

Moldova. White boxes and singer doubles. 1970s trick. Very old hat.

Georgia. Nice harmonies. Rather dreary.

Malta – Animals. Strong. Back projection is a little distracting.

Serbia – certainly sounds very Serbian but not riveting.

San Morino – lively and catchy. Deserves to get through to the final.

Hungary – assume the brace position before listening. Singer just shouts, but doesn’t shout very well. Ludicrous. Makes you realise how Led Zeppelin, Muse, Biffy Clyro etc make so much money. There has to be some musicality in the singing.

Russia. Nice song. Nothing special.

Romania -not sure what the tailor’s dummies are doing in the background.

Slovenia – quite good but the false music failure is just crazy and rather deceitful.

Ukraine – very strong.

Sweden – too dark. You need a torch to see the singer. They’ve used lots of fluorescent light strips so the whole thing has to be performed in darkness which looks awful. Song is an average Michael Jackson track circa 1980

Poland. Strong and bouncy. Nice hats.

Fleetwood Mac – a band of two halves?

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I have recently been building a large personal playlist on a well-known music streaming service.

I have more tunes on there from Fleetwood Mac than any other band.

I have sixteen tunes from the Rumours and post-Rumours (post-1974) era.

I have eight tunes from the Green/McVie/Spencer/Fleetwood/Welch/Weston era from 1967 to 1974.

Fair enough. But I see Fleetwood Mac as two bands really. You only have to listen to their version of the standard “Everyday I have the Blues” from 1969 and compare it to “You make lovin fun” (both below on YouTube) to realise that.

Fleetwood Mac1 was very earthy and bluesy. Fleetwood Mac2 has folk and rocks roots but is very pop-orientated. Both of the Fleetwood Macs are excellent in their own way, but it really is a stretch to reconcile the two sharply juxtaposed styles.

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