Lincoln Book Festival

Lincoln Book Festival
2017 Festival Programme

Thursday, 14 April 2016

"We won two world wars and you say we couldn't survive outside the EU"

It would be tragic if bad history won the day. This is a slogan posted in Facebook by part of the out campaign.

I, of all people, would never dishonour those who fought for the Allies in the two world wars, but it was the Allies - USA brought vast quantities of equipment and men; Russia sacrificed untold millions of lives.

The European Union came about to end European wars - and has succeeded.

I for one would not relish a future in the company of Mr Putin and Mr Trump.

For me our natural partners are the countries closest to us with whom we share the same cultural inheritance.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Those tax returns and what really matters

One of the first things I was ever taught was to come clean. It is painful, but it is the best policy overall. Yet we all fail to do it from time to time; we are human and so are politicians.

The tax return revelations are not about this. They are not about how much a Prime Minister gets paid (this is decided by Parliament) nor about whether parents may give money to their children. The chilling figure is the rental income for just a quite a nice house in London. This rental is set by the market by reference to the sorts of prices people are willing to pay for houses in London. This figure is set by the super rich who are happy to pay ever increasing amounts for the very expensive properties whose values will go on rising so long as the super rich believe they will.  Where have we heard that before?

It is the amount of wealth held by the super rich which they put into real estate and which therefore has no benefit whatsoever to the economy - that is the issue that politicians should be shouting about and that newspapers and the other media should be probing. It is that issue that is causing hardship to the worse off in society and preventing ordinary people from owning their own home. Adair Turner has written with great brilliance on this. The fact that the super rich make their investments via tax havens only compounds the problems.

So, stop hounding middle rich politicians and go for the real culprits.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Get the EU vision

The origins of the EU were in the passionate wish of leaders and the people they led not to fight another war in Europe. The carnage had been too dreadful. It has worked; we have had peace for seventy years. We must do nothing to endanger that.

That is the biggest picture; what about the smallest: me. I am first and foremost British, but then I rejoice in being part of something bigger with my closest neighbours. We share the same history, the same culture; we are all products of a renaissance which spread throughout the continent of Europe and gave us so much in common to treasure.

I have lived and worked in continental Europe: Brussels. I loved it. I used a different language for work: French. I worked side by side native Belgians, but also Dutch and French. More recently volunteering with refugees on Lesvos, I was again working alongside Belgians, Dutch, French, Spanish and Germans in Greece. It was natural; we were fulfilling a common destiny.

The European Economic Community was about free trade and that has worked. It has grown into allowing free movement, so in Lincoln, for example, our biggest manufacturing employer offering most apprenticeships and supporting both University and UTC is German. There are also big investments from Spanish and Dutch. It works.

An EU budget allows what we used to call regional aid to operate across Europe to support the poorest areas and to enable them to grow vibrant economies. It is working, the gap between rich and poor countries is narrowing. This benefit everyone; the wider wealth is spread the stronger the economy. Poor areas of the UK benefit alongside everyone else, and that includes Lincolnshire.

BUT the EU has a bureaucracy that is adrift from the member states it should be serving and is not properly controlled by the leaders of those states. This is no reason to leave; it is reason to get stuck in and produce the Europe we want; it is our servant not our master.

This is something I feel passionately; come on politicians man up. Unless you want to be beaten by tabloid newspapers pandering to mean minded readers. Get the vision.

Post script

Friends remind me of other reasons for staying in: workers rights, employment protection, but then the benefits of scientific collaboration. We stand to lose so much if we fail to win the argument.