Goodbye UK! We’ll Meet Again!

As countries go, Slovenia is a fairly sorry excuse for one, but she is celebrating her 25th birthday today. Hence the party, the fly-bys and salvos from the Castle hill, if you happened to be in downtown Ljubljana yesterday evening. And yes, despite putting on a brave face and some jovial attempts at ad-libbing it, President Pahor did not, could not avoid mentioning Brexit. He even shared some of his personal views on post-Brexit Europe.

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Schlager-singer Magnifico commenting on Brexit (source)

Let’s ignore the fact that a state function on what is basically our Independence Day is usually a carefully choreographed event with few surprises. Especially surprises such as the Prez going off-script. But Pahor didn’t really go off-script. He merely elaborated on a position he floated a few days ago, namely that a deeper and a more connected EU is needed, up to the point of creating the United States of Europe and confirming the integration on a referendum. Yes, you read that right. While Nigel Farage is probably still working of  a mother of a hangover, a EU leader is already mentioning another referendum.

With this, Pahor joined Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Gerry Adams and Nicola Sturgeon in poking around the charred remains of the UK EU membership. Granted, he did it in a different context with a radically different message, but it all reeked more of just wanting to stir the pot rather than carve a reasonable path forward. Not in the least because PM Cerar and FM Erjavec (the other two people in this country with carte blanche to conduct foreign policy) gave slightly more muted responses to the referendum result which-on the other hand – were much more in line with the response of the EU leadership.

To put it another way: if you want to observe a politician putting himself in an untenable position, reducing his own room for manoeuvre and needlessly running out of options, you can either look at Borut Pahor or at David Cameron. No difference in this case. Well, apart from the fact that unlike Borut, Dave already has to start packing.

In all honesty, the Brexit meltdown was quite spectacular. And I don’t mean just the fact that the stock indices and sterling exchange rate at some point looked like the Cliffs of Dover. Pengovsky is more beffudled by the fact that a politician at the top of his game, who against all odds won a decisive electoral victory only a year ago and was arguably the main honcho of a country no-one could afford to ignore, performed an act of political suicide in full view of the public.

Make no mistake. Brexit was entirely avoidable. It was an unnecessary, uninformed and an unfair vote.

Unnecessary, because it was called as a political calculation to stop a brewing civil war within the Tory party.

uniformed, because it Leave support was strongest in areas which get the highest EU subsidies in the UK and in age groups which have hugely benefited from the economic and social stability the European project brought to the continent.

And unfair because it took the Farage and BoJo less than five hours to do a U-turn on key Leave positions: The 350-million-for-NHS and, well, quitting the EU.

This is not what the public voted for. Although one might be persuaded to ask what the fuck they were voting for since the most-searched query on Google in the UK the day <I>after</I> the referendum was What is the EU.

And then there’s Farage being a right-proper cunt by saying they won “without a shot being fired“. If there’s an uglier way to spit on Jo Cox’s grave, I can’t think of any.

That is not to say that grievances against the EU aren’t real or that people who voted to leave, had no reason to do so. Indeed, it seems that the Leave vote was strongest with those who took the brunt of the economic and financial crisis, a fact Jeremy Corbyn was angling to exploit while still campaigning for Remain. And now he may well find himself out of a job, too. Just like Cameron. Not that anyone will cry over those two, but it’s kind of hard to get over that sinking feeling that the whole clusterfuck happened because twats there too many twats at the grown-up table. And now the EU is reeling from yet another kick in the gut, the UK is bursting at the seams and German diplomats are forced to have a sense of humour.

https://twitter.com/auswaertigesamt/status/746422386598223872

As for the Balkans, the parallels of WWII are all too vivid. Which is probably why Magnifico took this wartime squeeze-hit and remade it.

Well, that’s that, then. See you in thirty-odd years, Brits. Just don’t forget that Normandy is a bitch to land on. The only upside to this sorry mess is the fact that Nigel Farage never again gets to run for the European Parliament.

 

 

June 25th, 2016, posted by pengovsky

I Just Can’t Even….

This was supposed to be a mildly self-serving blogpost on Brexit from an outsider’s perspective. You know, the kind that mixes a bit of historical narrative with a few ill-chosen links, all in the hope of scoring a few extra clicks and chipping off an eyeball or two for a second. It’s not that Brexit is not an important issue. It’s just that the arguments of both sides have been hashed and re-hashed time and again, the issue was approached from (what seemed at the time) every possible angle and, last but not least, it is for the Brits to decide. Unlike the referendum on Scottish independence, where this blogger could actually provide insight into the often-overlooked details of declaring independence (i.e. the hassle of a proper international border) and reiterating the historical role London always had keeping Berlin and Paris in check, there is awfully little for pengovsky to bring to the debate other than  a groveling “please, don’t go”. And then Jo Cox was murdered.

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Jo Cox in the House of Commons during her maiden speech. (source)

It’s been twenty-four hours since she died  and I am, to be honest, still at a loss for much words. I can’t even do sarcasm. I just can’t even… I mean, there you are, Brits and your United Kingdom, a country I always liked and, as I grew older (if not wiser), came to respect and even admire for its role in the world, past and present. Its cultural influence, pop and otherwise, its ability for innovation while nurturing tradition and – last but not least – its political creed and democratic values which much of Europe, especially post-socialist countries, often looked up to.

You see, when you mention the word “parliament” to a Slovenian, he or she will, obvs, first think of our own madhouse, but the very next thing to come to mind will the The House of Commons. Whenever the state of the media is debated, it almost always ends with “but they should be more like the BBC.” For the political aficionados in this sorry little excuse for a country, the House of Cards (the original with Ian Richardson) and The Thick of It were formative pieces of entertainment. Vanessa Redgrave recited the English version of Zdravljica, a Prešeren poem which constitutes our national anthem. You gave us fucking Monty Python. That’s just in case you ever wondered what has the UK ever done for us.

And then Jo Cox was murdered. I realize that it was a deranged neoNazi (a euphemism if I ever saw one) who pulled the trigger and wielded the knife. But the stage was set by someone else. As Alex Massie pointed out in the Spectator, events have a multiplier effect.

Look. When you encourage rage you cannot then feign surprise when people become enraged. You cannot turn around and say, ‘Mate, you weren’t supposed to take it so seriously. It’s just a game, just a ploy, a strategy for winning votes.’ (link)

 

It wasn’t just Farage and Leave campaign, sowing fear and loathing of immigrants while harking to a 19th-century notion of an empire respected. It wasn’t just Boris angling for a win-win scenario where he either scores a senior Cabinet post as a conciliatory present should Remain win or kick David Cameron out of Number 10 and take his spot, should Remain lose. It wasn’t even just Jeremy Corbyn, looking to have the cake and eat it, by trying to make both the case for Remain and make political hay out of legitimate grievances many of Labour voters have with the conservative government (let alone stem the bleeding of his voters to UKIP). And it wasn’t even just David Cameron who started this whole referendum business simply in order to appease the eurosceptic element within the Tory party and, well, remain at the helm.

In addition to the above, it was everyone who enabled a toxic debate environment where what is euphemistically refered to as “post-truth politics” thrives at the expense of an honest and candid, let alone rational debate (yes, I’m looking at you, the media). But it was also, I am sad to say, everyone who did nothing against it.

For quite a while, the EU referendum issue was dismissed by the general public as a political game, an episode of Westminster twats doing their twatty stuff. You guys didn’t take it seriously. Because you couldn’t be bothered. Or, if you could be bothered, you didn’t really take the time to sift through the claims and counterclaims or even took a long, hard look at the issue. From what pengovsky understands, Jo Cox did. Drawing from her previous experience, she knew what was in play. And now she’s dead.

A family was robbed of a mother and a wife, a constituency and a parliament were robbed of a fine MP and a country and a society were robbed of an active citizen, in an era where these are few and far between as it is.

I really was going to beg you not to go. But now I’ve half a mind to tell you to just sod off.

This isn’t how things are suppose to work. This is not how you taught us.

June 17th, 2016, posted by pengovsky

SDS MP Walks Away From A Car Wreck That Is His Party. But Where Is He Headed?

While most of Europe sighed in a collective relief upon learning that Alexander van der Bellen was elected President of Austria and at the same time ignoring the fact that a crypto-Nazi won 49.7 percent of the vote (seriously, Austria, what the actual fuck?!) important changes, albeit of a lesser degree, are taking place just south of the Austrian border, too. Namely, early on Monday the SDS of Janez Janša saw its first top-tier departure. To be fair, putting Andrej Čuš MP in the top-tier is a bit of a stretch, but the 26-year-old was once the leader of the Party youth organisation and elected to parliament twice (as a replacement deputy in 2013 and a full-term deputy a year later) so by virtue of the position he holds, count the kid in the grown-ups column. Also, the fact that he is the first one to walk from a party that is increasingly looking like a bad car wreck is not unimportant.

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Andrej Čuš kind of walking away from an explosion. Picture is symbolic (duh), plopped togehter by yours truly. (source & source)

Now, in the past few weeks a lot was said and written about how SDS is bursting at the seams, pengovsky included. But almost invariably this was framed as the more sensible wing of the party jumping ship, leaving Janša increasingly isolated and dejected thus opening up space for Aleš Primc to upgrade his protest movement into a full-blown party and commandeer most of the right-wing. Čuš quitting the SDS signals that Primc may have opted for eating up the SDS from within.

You see, Čuš took on quite a visible profile during the autumn/winter refugee crisis. Fomenting protests against refugee centres in Kidričevo near his native Ptuj and later in Šenčur near Kranj, accusing the president of the parliament Brglez of high treason for advocating the location of the centre in his hometown of Logatec (where it was ultimately established), the kid toed the anti-imigrant line in a way that would make Norbert Hofer proud. And since the ChristDem NSi, the other parliamentary right-wing party is Angela Merkel‘s echo chamber on many issues including the refugees, Čuš is – for the moment at least – persona non grata for the NSi. So much for theories of in-parliament poaching. On the other hand, Primc has built up a relatively massive operation on the ground, full of anger, righteousness and populism in general, but is lacking direct access to the parliamentary arena. He can’t wait forever lest he loses the momentum and since elections aren’t going to happen any time soon, peeling an MP or two off the SDS is a sensible way to go about it.

For his part, Čuš claims to have been simply fed up with Janša obsessing over Milan Kučan and that it was time to think of the future, especially future of the young people whom he obviously sees as his constituency. As far as excuses go he could have done worse. But the whole thing is nevertheless so transparent that it hurts. Namely, the latest iteration of Janša so-not-being-over Kučan consists of a group of JJ’s blowhards diehards indicting Kučan for high treason back in 1990 when he allegedly failed to stop the Yugoslav Army from hauling away a lot of weaponry earmarked for the nascent Territorial Defence (precursor to the Slovene Army). The case doesn’t have a leg to stand on, but this was just a cue Čuš was waiting for to make his move.

As per Rules and Regulations, he is now counted as an independent. But it will soon become apparent whether his “this is why we can’t have nice things” manoeuvre is just a ploy or is he really that stupid. Namely, his life as of Monday will become enormously more difficult. Not only will he lose access to the resources of a very large parliamentary group and will instead have to share limited resources in money and personnel with other independents . He will also have to contend with more constrained speaking time alloted and get generally to the back of the line on many issues and scenarios. It sucks being an independent in Slovenian parliament.

Unless, of course, you have outside support that will generate media attention. And this is where Primc comes into play. Yesterday Čuš was saying something about forming advisory councils and soliciting expert opinions on various issues as his path forward. Left to his own devices, this is a nigh-impossible task for one man, especially as inexperienced as Čuš is. If, however, the attendees were brought in by someone else, say an emerging political party with a wide grass-roots network and if Čuš provides a high-profile venue, such as, dunno, a conference room in the parliament, then the whole thing is suddenly very doable.

So, the smart money is on Andrej Čuš MP, formerly of SDS, to soon become the poster-boy of a new political party run by Aleš Primc. And if a few other SDS MPs were to follow in Čuš’s footsteps, we could soon find ourselves with several nominally independent MPs forming an unofficial parliamentary group which then in turn becomes a fully fledged party. We’ve seen that film before.

 

 

May 24th, 2016, posted by pengovsky

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