Foinavon was at the back of the field, so far back that when all the rest of the horses fell or were brought down at the 23rd fence, he was not affected and ran through to win the race on his own. It was, for those of us old enough to remember it, one of the funniest episodes in sporting history.
There are some results that no one can see coming, a bit like last week’s election result. Not one pundit gave David Cameron a snowball’s chance in the hot place of returning to Westminster with a working majority. For once in my life I did the sensible thing and went off to bed and did not sit up all night listening to pundits talking nonsense, but I was not prepared for what I heard in the morning when I switched the TV on for the six o’clock news: Cameron had won, Miliband was humiliated and the SNP took Scotland by storm.
What a fragmented nation we have become.
No harm to Sinn Fein, the SDLP, the UUP and the DUP, but in this election the results in Northern Ireland didn’t count. There are bigger issues going on in London and Edinburgh and, as they say in Africa, ‘when elephants fight, the grass gets trampled.’ The political map of the island of Britain has been set for the foreseeable future and in that map we are not important, we are the grass that could very well be trampled. The English are becoming more English and the Scottish people are reasserting their national identity while we are still fighting a phoney war about nothing.
David Cameron has promised us, the good people of the United Kingdom, a referendum on EU membership before the end of 2017. There is a real possibility that we will vote to leave; a recent Opinium/Guardian opinion poll showed 51% in favour of leaving.
“A majority of the electorate would vote for the UK to leave the European Union, according to a new Opinium/Observer poll.
When asked how they would vote in a referendum on membership, 51% said they would opt to leave compared to 49% who would vote to stay in. The polling found that 41% believed that the EU is generally a good thing for the UK, while a third (34%) said it is generally a bad thing.” (Guardian 21 Feb, 2015)
If this was to happen we would end up with the ridiculous situation of Northern Ireland being out of the EU and the Free State being in. Border posts would have to return, immigration policies would be enforced and the big farm grants could disappear. Businesses doing cross border work would face a whole new raft of red tape and they might even decide to blow up the unapproved roads, something we thought had gone forever.
But then, what happens if the people of Scotland vote to stay in the EU and the people of England vote to leave? Will the fifty six SNP members of parliament accept this? I doubt it; from all appearances the people of Scotland are committed to the EU. Little Englanders are what they have always been, little Englanders. It is almost certain that later this year Greece shall be thrown out of the Euro and when that happens the EU shall be shown for what it really is, a club to promote German and French interests.
There were conflicting reports coming out from Greece. On Saturday “Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras forecast a happy end soon to fraught negotiations with creditors on a cash-for-reform deal, and the chairman of euro zone finance ministers said talks were making progress, though not enough for a deal next Monday.” (Reuters)
But on the same day this appeared in the Wall Street Journal:
“Economic plans and growth estimates distributed by Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis to some of his Eurozone counterparts have baffled officials involved in the talks over its international bailout.”
“There is hardly any connection between his blueprint and the ongoing negotiations,” the EU official said. “It seems like a fine program for a country that does not have any financing problems, but just wants to catch up and be a nice tourist destination.” (Wall Street Journal)
If Greece is dumped and left to sink, it will greatly damage the integrity of the whole European project. Ireland, of course, shall agree with it, but in reality they are in no better position than Greece. You would find it hard to take Europe seriously after such an event and it would be a great boost to the anti EU forces in Essex and the surrounding area.
All of this is just the idle wondering of an old man. Will there be an independent Scotland? I don’t think so. The countries of the island of Britain shall cobble together some sort of federal arrangement with the Queen or King as notional head of state. But therein lies the real danger for us, where do we go? Or even more to the point, who would want us?
There are winners and losers in everything. One man in Scotland bet £30,000 at 7/1 that Cameron would get an overall majority. He took Ladbrokes for £210,000. The Scots are not that slow! On Saturday, Nicola Sturgeon threw the gauntlet down to Cameron: “Scotland’s voice will have to be heard,” she said.
“Talking about her conversation with the Prime Minister, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘It was a brief call. It was an opportunity for me to congratulate him, I didn't want him to be Prime Minister again but he has won the election and I congratulated him. He was gracious to congratulate the SNP on our success. We will meet as soon as possible and discuss these issues in more detail but I made it clear, it can't be business as usual.
I said during the election that this election wasn't about independence and it wasn't a vote for a second referendum. I said very explicitly and directly to voters across Scotland that if you vote for the SNP I will not take your vote as an endorsement of independence. I am not going to turn my back on that, I'm going to stick to my word. If there is ever another referendum in Scotland on independence that will only come about if people vote for that in a Scottish Parliament election.” (Cumberauld News)
The Scottish people are on their way to independence. The exact nature of the independence has to be worked out but it will come in some form or other. Why have the SNP succeeded where our parties of Irish Unity have failed?
This must be a question that Sinn Fein and the SDLP have got to ask themselves. But there is a very interesting story in the Bible that reflects to a large degree what has happened here.
In 597 BC Jerusalem was sacked, the Temple destroyed and the people taken off to slavery in Babylon. Then, seventy years later the king of Babylon tells the Jews that they can go back to Jerusalem if they want to; many go back but many stay.
Why would they stay? The reason they stayed is the same reason why Sinn Fein and the SDLP are not serious about a United Ireland, the people had become comfortable in the city of Babylon, it would be too much bother to go back to Jerusalem and start again.
We have grown comfortable being semi-British. We are in the fortunate position of being able to shout all day about the bad British government but we know that nothing will ever happen. We like the education system for our children, the NHS, the pensions, tax credits and the BBC, it is not too bad really.
If we were to start to have to rebuild a society in Ireland with 800,000 people who did not want to be there, it would require an awful lot of effort, a bit like the walk back from Babylon to Jerusalem, across a barren desert in sweltering heat, and then be expected to hand over your money to build a Temple: let’s just sit here and take it easy, sure it isn’t that bad when you think of it.
The building of a society is hard work and anyway, most of us are too busy; we have to pay the mortgage (to a British bank) take the children to school, (to be taught English morals and standards) and go to doctors, (where some tax payer in Kent has paid for my treatment).
Poor Sinn Fein and the SDLP have no chance. Well then, what do they stand for? They are doing the best they can for their voters and the people that they represent. I may not agree with many of their policies but overall they are doing what politicians do, they are being seen and making sure that they are being heard. It is not their fault if we are too old and content to be bothered about a United Ireland.
The SNP, on the other hand, do not have the problems that we have. Scotland already has a society, and is a mature democracy that shall accept the will of the people when the vote is taken. For them, the society is already built, they are passionate about being Scottish or British, but not passionate to kill their neighbour if they disagree with them.
Whenever the real talking starts about what is to happen to Scotland and Wales over the next few years, there will be no one shooting at Nicola Sturgeon or Gordon Brown because of which side they take. The issue shall be thrashed out, a document shall be put to the people and whatever decision they reach will be adhered too.
We don’t play it like that. We know that as soon as someone steps outside their tribal stance they will be shot. We also know that either being British or Irish is not that important. What is important is being on top, but we don’t like to admit it, such a position would be seen as sectarian, and if there is one thing you can’t be at the minute in Northern Ireland that is you can’t be seen to be sectarian because we are building a community.
Did you think will this community ever be built, will the house ever be ready to live in? Scotland’s house is ready, all they have to decide is do they want to share their house with their neighbours or do they want to live as semi-detached. We are a long way from that, we can’t even decide on a name for the place.
Is it the North or Northern Ireland, is it Derry or the name we dare not even write? By 2020 Wales, England and Scotland shall be three mature democracies living in a new arrangement and we as yet have no idea what this new arrangement will look like. But the change is coming, that is as sure as night shall follow day.
The UN should open an asylum for countries with a split personality. We could have North Korea, Russia and Northern Ireland as the first inmates. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe could be a day patient. (He wouldn’t have the money to pay for his treatment) Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina could be the matron, and Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela could run the place. In his country he rules by ‘decree,’ in other words, he makes up the laws as he goes along.
Do you know something, when they do away with the 20,000 civil service jobs in Northern Ireland we will still have more civil servants per head of the population than any other part of the UK.
We really are pathetic. As Britain goes forward we stand still. We have no industry worth talking about…..
Well, actually we have one great natural asset. We could have a wonderful tourism industry but unfortunately the tourist season sort of coincides with the marching season and we all know which one gets preference. Imagine a bus load of yanks sitting on a street for two hours on a Saturday night, not able to go forward or backwards, while listening to some band play sectarian tunes and listen to yobs shouting about the joys of sectarian killings.
Already, and the election is only over a few days, the talk of negotiations between Scotland and England have begun. They are the two main players and basically us and Wales will have to go along with what they decide.
What happened here last Thursday is not all that important, we are ants crawling around in the corridors of power, not even noticed as the big people walk by. But we are heading into new territory, into places that only a few years ago seemed unimaginable.
Just think of it, twenty years ago when the IRA sneezed Britain jumped. Now there is no IRA, Britain has all but forgotten about us and we are fast becoming an irrelevance. We had better watch out or we might finish up in an even worse place than we are now.
What would a Northern Ireland cut off from everyone look like? Doesn’t bear thinking about!
The views expressed are not necessarily those of the editor but are the views of the writer.
Any comments, please submit to