Happy Days




Although we’re coming to the end of our vacation in France we have not been cut off from happenings in the rest of the world, specifically Israel and England.

Summer in Israel is always hot and this year it seems to have been hotter than usual, at least according to the level of complaints emanating from that corner of the Middle East. But whether this is due to global warming or greater sensitivity on the part of the local population it’s difficult to say. Two things are clear – the frequency of terrorist attacks seems to have fallen, and the political hostility between the various parties and factions is as intense as ever, with no apparent solution in sight. So nothing new there.

As for my other homeland, England, matters have become far more emotional and malevolent ever since the egregious Brexit referendum last year. Those who oppose it give no quarter in deriding, criticizing and otherwise castigating those political leaders involved in negotiating and presumably eventually executing the policy. The criticisms range from vicious caricatures of their personal characteristics to name-calling and total rejection of their intellectual and emotional suitability for their task.

One thing is clear, the hypocrisy of politicians has never been revealed in all its unsavoury clarity as has been the case with the Conservative party. Several of its leading members, including the current Prime Minister, Theresa May, advocated remaining in the European Union prior to the referendum but, once the result in favour of leaving became clear, they promptly undertook to implement a policy diametrically opposed to what they had originally advocated. We all knew that politicians weren’t to be trusted, but this is just too blatant to be simply papered over or ignored.

The Labour party is no better than the Conservatives, having consistently wavered between opposing and supporting some kind of arrangement to leave the EU. Its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, first opposed the idea, even penalizing party members who disagreed with him, and subsequently coming round to some kind of cack-handed support for a ‘soft Brexit,’ whatever that may mean.

For observers outside the country, England seems to be going to the dogs, with the decline in the exchange rate of the pound against all other currencies, the rise in anti-Semitic and racist incidents, wholesale departures of professionals who are non-nationals and a general decline in the quality of life. But when we spent a week in London earlier this year everything seemed pretty much as usual, with charming baristas, waiters and shop-assistants hailing from all the corners of the world, and life continuing pretty much as usual. I’ve quoted Samuel Johnson’s dictum before about he who tires of London having tired of life, and it’s as true today as ever.

Naturally, people are worried about what lies ahead, but the fact of the matter is that nobody knows. The politicians charged with conducting the negotiations are portrayed by anti-Brexiters as inept, but the process of negotiating is itself inevitably clouded in secrecy. Statements issued by the representatives of the EU are disparaging about statements made by the British negotiators, but it’s difficult to tell whether this is just part and parcel of the process or genuine expressions of opinion. At least on the subject of reciprocal health insurance between the EU and Britain agreement has been reached that enables existing coverage to be maintained, which doubtless comes as a great relief to British nationals residing in the countries of the EU, as well as to European nationals living in the UK.

There are still a great many hurdles to be overcome in the negotiation process, chief among them trade agreements, which are traditionally complex and require lengthy talks before any kind of conclusion can be reached. Whether the politicians representing England can achieve the desired outcome remains to be seen, but for the moment they seem to be intent on fulfilling the mission which they have taken upon themselves to achieve, even if this was not what they originally wanted in their heart of hearts. But which politician ever followed the dictates of his or her heart?

All politicians everywhere are steadfast in seeking to remain in power, and for all those concerned in this particular instance that seems to be the salient point.