Wednesday, 12 October 2016

12th October 2016

I had a very good friend who was a GP.

I often consulted him on both medical and non medical matters.

I was always impressed by his diagnostic skills and his ability to prescribe remedies that more often than not were wise, drew on his considerable experience and most importantly worked and which occasionally involved letting things be.

Because of my relationship with this particular friend I have long held the view that it is these particular skills, of diagnosis and prescription, that make the medical profession worthy of respect and the views expressed by those in the profession worth hearing and often acting upon.

But all of that has now changed!

Not so much Dr Foster, who having gone to Gloucester, foolishly stepped in a puddle right up to his middle but rather Dr Fox, who, even more foolishly is leading us out of Europe.

The result of the misconceived referendum was almost but not quite too close to call.

What makes it especially saddening is that the privileged members of the leave campaign, with their dubious claims, false diagnoses, and even falser promises, sufficiently captured the hearts and minds of working people in those regions that depend so heavily on inward investment from, for e.g. Japanese car manufacturers.

Investment that is made precisely because the European market is critical to the continued success of these companies.

Yet it was people in those regions whose votes swung the outcome of the referendum toward leaving.

The big issues that seemed to count for most, immigration, jobs, incomes were falsely claimed to be linked.

That immigrants steal jobs and drive down incomes is patently untrue.

The increased use of robots in manufacturing whilst reducing some monotonous and routine jobs in fact increase productivity and wealth, begging the question of how that wealth is shared in post industrial societies.

Globalisation is not the surrendering of the control of a nation's identity it is rather the recognition that nations have to interact constructively to ensure a peaceful co-existence with other nations on the world stage.

To say that if you are a 'citizen of the world' that you are a 'citizen of nowhere' is so far from the truth of it that it needs to be challenged whenever, and wherever and by whomever it is claimed.

The so called dis-benefits of our membership of the European Economic Community are simply wrongheaded in both theory and fact.

My passport allows me to travel freely across Europe and especially in the Schengen Area of which the UK has never been a part.

The Euros in my pocket, allow me to spend freely in those countries in the Euro Zone, of which the UK has never been a part.

My holiday trips to countries in Europe allow me to travel without the need for Visa's a freedom and a privilege which may well be withdrawn.

Our future outside Europe does not look good however 'pro-secco and anti-pasto' we might be we will be seen as bad losers who have simply taken their ball home and are sulking in isolation.

As we head to a hard Brexit the full reality of what we have done becomes clearer.

The complexity of the negotiations becomes ever more complex.

The untangling of the complex relationships we have with our European Partners my need a Damoclesian Sword to untangle with the associated pain that will go with that.

Or we will simply remain in a long and drawn out and ultimately unresolvable relationship with the 27 other members in which we are on the one hand not in but on the other not out either.

It may be resolved but, as we hear from those who profess some independence in the matter, we will as a nation be poorer for it, culturally as well economically and as ever it will be the poorest who will pay the highest price.

Recently I went to the GP, he examined me and listened to my presenting condition, a skin condition resulting from sun damage, eventually having offered the relatively simple diagnosis he offered a prescription, a cream, he then showed my some photographs of the damage that the application of the prescribed remedy could do.

The pictures were X rated, blemishes, open sores, and eczema the pictures suggested that the cure could well do more damage than the condition.

So I left without filling the prescription.

Diagnosis requires a careful, mature, assessment of the facts and an interpretation of any likely future reaction.

Prescription then requires a careful, mature, assessment of the appropriate response, including the risks of acting or not.

Those who have promoted Brexit, those who are responsible for delivering it, those who claim that the future for the UK standing alone on the world's stage will be glorious have both mis-diagnosed the problems facing the UK in the difficult and challenging complexity of a world facing population growth, food shortage, climate change and the shifting of the tectonic plates of the global economy as the balance of power moves to the east.

We are now faced with a prescription which offers us the worst of all possible worlds as we stand isolated from our neighbours our allies, and our friends on the world stage.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

it’s lunchtime at cochran’s boiler works in newbie and as lunchtime begins the boiler makers of newbie open the box with lloyd george’s foxy face on the cover, unfold the heavy paper board, deal out the chance cards, the pawns and the dice and settle down to play brer fox and brer rabbit, the game available from miss clarke of newbie, but what were the boiler makers doing? why brer fox and brer rabbit? why does the fox have the face of lloyd  george in the picture on the box?
land tax,, that’s why, land tax and before it was called brer fox and brer rabbit it was called the landlord’s game

the landlord’s game was invented not by miss clarke of newbie but by lizzie magie in the united states of america, lizzie was a comedienne, a poet, a writer of short stories, and so bohemian that when she started to run out of money she advertised herself for sale as a slave then she set up the economic game company in new york city and then it came to newbie and brer fox was lloyd george, chancellor of the exchequer and in 1913 prime minister of the united kingdom curiouser and curiouser, how do we get from new york to newbie, from the economic game company to cochran’s boiler works, from lizzie magie to lloyd george and who was miss clarke ?

suddenly a new name crops up henry george, so who is henry, did lloyd george know his father? were they related? well yes and no, lloyd george the politician was interested in henry george because he wrote a book with the splendidly radical title of progress and poverty

george, henry that is, thought that a person was entitled to the value of what he created by his or her own efforts, but the value of land or location, be it in new york or newbie, should be held in common, so george, henry that is, proposed that land ‘owners’ should pay tax on the land they ‘owned’ and brer fox, lloyd george that is, introduced a similar tax when he was chancellor of the exchequer, this tax levied 20% on the unearned increase in land value to be paid on the death of the ‘owner’ or the sale of the land

popular with some, but not at all popular with landowners, but popular with lizzie magie who agreed with george, henry that is, and so she created a game to promote his ideas and by adapting the game the boiler makers of cochran’s boiler company at the top of three trees road in newbie played the game instead of poker at lunch time imagining themselves on the solway fisheries or lord tomnoddy’s grouse moor or even, should the right chance come their way, sitting down to a £1000 dinner with the duke of westminster 

there was profit there was speculation there was risk there was bankruptcy there was jail if  you poached the solway fisheries salmon or lord tomnoddy’s grouse

but there at the end of three trees road in newbie the boiler makers imagined themselves living if not the life of riley at least the life of lord tomnoddy or maybe the duke of buccleuch

as the game was played the boiler makers of newbie

bought land …… with their starting capital which meant that when other players landed on their land they charged rents but other risks included being sent to goal or the lunatic asylum

improved their land …… a second tranche of capital in this part of the game is used to improve land increasing wages and generating rents, interest and taxes from other players

increased land values …… payable to the public treasury thereby making life difficult for landlords leading to solway fisheries selling out to the government and lord tomnoddy emigrating to canada

in the final stage of the game wages rise and unemployment and poverty disappear for ever

as lunchtime ends the paper is folded back in the box along with the cards and the dice and the pawns and the boiler  makers head back to cochran’s their dreams and risks over for another day

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

6th July 2106

I haven't (couldn't) count the number of words written about Brexit!

Would I want to add to them?

Yes and No!

Yes because there is always something to say, something to add, No because too much has been said already.

But I want to add something new (at least I hope that it is new).

If Brexit was a howl of rage, a protest, a rejection of austerity and all that goes with it including benefits sanctions, food banks and the sneering of politicians who have inherited fortunes and who wear suits that cost more than the average person has to live on for a year, then it is the howl of rage that we must hear.

Tragically the current post democracy election for the new leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister, elected by some 330 MP's and 150, 000 Conservative Party members, (there's democracy for you), is likely to lead to even more right wing policies being put in place as society moves back to the mid Fifties.

Given the current state of play in the Labour Party with the MP's positioning themselves to the right of the Leadership and passing votes of no confidence in his leadership, despite the enormous respect for his leadership being demonstrated by the rapidly increasing membership and Momentum it is hard to see where the opposition will come from.

Maybe, as some commentators have observed, we will see the emergence of a new party of the left, or possibly we might see a new progressive alliance emerging drawing together Labour, Liberals, SNP, Greens and Plaid Cymru to begin to challenge and face down the right wing, Brexit focused Conservative Party.

Whatever happens next I am campaigning for one thing, a fairer distribution of the wealth of society, an end to to Welfare (although not the welfare state) and the introduction of a universal basic income.

I am not alone in this campaign, Pope Francis is on board and so is Martin Luther King!

The facts speak for themselves as wages fall, employment falls, more people are displaced from work by robots, by technology, by artificial intelligence so the welfare response with benefits sanctioned and the disabled victimised and the food bank queues lengthening, so the remuneration of Chief Executives, Non Executive Directors and those at the top of the food chain, increase exponentially.

The current scandal exposed by the collapse of BHS is simply a case in point.

As Nissan increases its technological capacity so the Qashqai (Cash Cow?) will increasingly not be built by skilled hands but by robots programmed not only to work more quickly, more unrelentingly but to do so at lower cost than their human predecessors.

I am pretty sure that in Hartlepool the result of the referendum was a protest against the alienation felt by so many people who have suffered from de-industrialisation and new technology.

The tragedy is that Europe was the fall guy.

In Sunderland maybe it was simply that as someone once commented to me when the Nissan Factory was being built, people in the North East can't live in paper houses.

I entered a Haiku Competition as part of a Japanese Week sponsored by Nissan in Sunderland, their was to be Kite Flying, Origami, Tea Ceremonies and a Haiku Competition.

My Haiku was:

Fuji on Wearside
The sound of  one hand clapping
Greets the first Nissan

I heard nothing and contacted the festival office for information, Oh, they said we had one entry and it was so bad we didn't run the competition.

Now post Brexit of course a new Haiku is called for:

Post Referendum
The sound of one hand clapping
Nissan move to Ruhr

So if we are to move to a post welfare society in which all can share in common wealth as it is created, whether in financial services, in technological innovation, through internet shopping, file sharing or in whatever unimagined ways will come in the rapidly accelerating future of things we need to find a new way of embracing change, celebrating our common wealth and sharing it equitably.

So a Universal Basic Income is what we need.

Somehow we need to get it onto societies agenda.

The details have been worked through by others better qualified than me, it is being tried in Finland, it was the subject of a referendum in Switzerland, it is not Rocket Science, so much of the Welfare Budget simply subsidises low paying employers and zero hours contracts.

Too much of the common wealth disappears through tax efficient schemes.

But the essential principle is expressed by Pope Francis, essentially, the  best way to help the poor is to give them the cash.

In other words every citizen from the age of 18 should receive a basic income sufficient to allow them to House, Feed and Clothe themselves.

Such an income allows people to live with dignity, it allows people to adjust their working lives accordingly, to raise their families, to seek work that interests them and to share in the common wealth that they and the society of which they are a part has successfully created.

Monday, 20 June 2016

20th June 2016

So this is the week when the 'neverendum' finally drags itself, scarred and battle weary, to its conclusion.

On Friday, or Saturday, or Sunday, or Monday, depending of course on how many recounts will be required before this closely fought 'neverendum' requires before, by the narrowest of margins, one side or the other calls victory and the other concedes defeat, it won't, unlike our World Cup success of 1966, be over.

The debate will drag on with both sides claiming that their defeat/success was really a moral victory.

Will their be a rematch?

Will David Cameron hunker down in his Downing Street Bunker in Churchill's war room and ruminate about fighting on the beaches?

Or will Boris Johnson march up and down The Mall with placards demanding immediate entry?

That the 'neverendum' has become toxic cannot be in doubt when strangers meeting on opposite sides of the debate can literally fell each other at a demonstration in a City Centre.

This 'neverendum' has quite literally divided families, communities, neighbourhoods, congregations and societies.

Of course it should never have been called.

The Prime Ministers appearance on Question Time last evening demonstrated beyond all doubt that the public hasn't quite 'got it', some of the questioners stated that clearly, we are not sure about the issues, neither side has been clear or convincing, others simply made it clear by their questions.

Does it really all come down to immigration?

This referendum has unleashed a torrent of hatred, tragically focused in Birstall, West Yorkshire.

The 'outers' have a responsibility for promoting this hatred with their mantra of controlling our borders (we do now) and give us our country back (its not gone anywhere) now Nigel Farage says violence is inevitable, (based on false propositions), somehow, neither 'New' Labour or the 'condems' have addressed the issue of how and why ( I'm not mentioning Margaret Thatcher here) a whole class and generation have been made (redundant) surplus to the success of our economy, whilst capitalism's love children have sucked billions out of their businesses and lodged them in tax free locations.

The reality of the social progress that has happened during my life time is three fold:

The world has got smaller.  As a twelve year old I was offered the choice between a school trip to France or a New Bicycle, I was married with children before I finally acquired a passport and travelled to the continent, a family holiday in France. Since then I have travelled to Scandinavia, Europe, North Africa and the Americas, North and South. As my personal pilgrimage has extended my horizons so others have begun to see the future in terms of locating or relocating to improve their and their families lives.

Technology has advanced beyond the bounds of possibility. It was impossible to imagine as a child growing up in the North of England in the Fifties and Sixties just what the future would offer. From iPhones, to computers, to Robots, it was then, unimaginable, now as a Seventy year old I take it for granted, even if at times it feels like magic, that I can stream music, watch movies, order goods and download books at the press of a button. Do I want to return to the Fifties as the Leave campaign appears to be recommending? 

No I do not!

But I recognise that technological advances mean that all our lives have changed forever, whether it is work, leisure, banking, buying and selling, not only do we have the technology but we are rebuilding the world around us on a daily basis.

Climate change is changing everything. That the world is changing is clear that the climate is changing is still subject to argument and counter argument. But the impetus for the global movement of peoples is due not only to war but also to climate change, in fact some of the explanations about why war is destroying the lives of people in Africa and the Middle east is climate change and its impact on agriculture in rural areas, the shifting of populations into urban areas and the pressure for space and resources resulting in conflict spilling over into violence.

When I listen to the arguments of the leave campaigners I hear the constant Mantra of 'immigration' and 'sovereignty', what I do not hear is the sense that as the world changes so that we in the West will have to change too, not even to progress, actually, simply to stand still and maintain our place in the hierarchy of things, places and people.

It is clear that the European project is struggling to adapt to these Global Pressures but surely the way forward if the West is to continue to enjoy peace and prosperity is to work with our European neighbours and partners.

Leaving Europe will not free us from the consequences of geography, technology and climate change but it will  make it harder for an isolated offshore island, subject to the winds of change not only to stand still but to survive in a rapidly changing world.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

9th June 2016

I have enjoyed my recent blogging sabbatical.

It came about for two  main reasons, the first was the 'neverendum' called by David Cameron which will actually 'end' on June 23rd but which everyone knows will not end then because the deeply divided Tory Party will never accept the result whether it is to remain within the EU or whether its is for 'Brexit' a  combination of hard headedness, ambition and opportunism will see to that.

The second reason was harder to deal with but involved the indoor critic and a constant round of medical interventions resulting in the end that we had to insist that our failing local NHS Trust referred herself to Newcastle, this meant an instant improvement in diagnosis, treatment and prognosis.

There has been alongside all this, despite all the words written, (and I read The Guardian, The Independent, The Financial Times and The London Review of Books) I have a strong sense that none of the commentators either know or understand what in practice Brexit will mean or indeed what the benefits of remain will be.

Clearly facts are at a premium.

Either Britain will rebuild its Empire, the Global map will be redrawn and repainted Red, White and Blue, Dom Joly's Schrodinger's immigrant will return home or not, the NHS will be £350M a week better off or not and our GDP will soar like a helium balloon into the sunny skies that will shine over Dover's White Cliffs.

Or my pension will disappear, my house will halve in value, my grandchildren will face a long term future of uncertainty, and the NHS will run out of Doctors and Nurses, because like Schrodinger's immigrant they are either here on benefits or here stealing our jobs or indeed, both, and war and mayhem will break out across the channel we insist on Calling English.

One commentator, clearly for remaining, has blogged relatively frequently, perhaps too frequently hence my own self imposed sabbatical, encouraging everyone to realise that they have a Christian duty to vote remain, as though he has, it seems, forgotten that it was only recently in Church terms, some four hundred years or so, that under the leadership of the King of the Day with the connivance of the Archbishop of the Day, that England left Europe the last time and that turned out alright. But that implies, as Giles Fraser noted in The Guardian, that Europe in inextricably bound up with the Big Guy in The Vatican, and our rejection of Europe is really a rejection of papal supremacy?

So what am I voting for, or against, and does it matter?

Harold Wilson in a speech made in 1971 made the following statement:

'We shall watch anxiously how far the irresponsible men now in power in this country fritter away (our) strength by pursuing false economic objectives and by their policy of dividing our nation'

Harold Wilson called the first referendum in 1975 and it was his negotiation of the European Regional Development Fund that has done so much to benefit the British Economy and the Regions of the British Isles.

Since then of course our economic strength has been frittered away and our nation divided by successive administrations led by 'irresponsible' men and women.

Initially as this process started I was clear, indeed I said as much in a previous blog. However as the debate has  unfolded and the fog of uncertainty has descended and as I have heard and read so much that is both untrue and false, it has seemed to me that 'brexit' is a classic non seqiter it simply doesn't follow from the arguments.

Not enough houses, house prices unaffordable, too many people are homeless logically the sequiter should be build more houses?

NHS waiting lists are too long, operations cancelled, doctors appointments like gold dust logically the sequiter should be more Doctors? Not as Jeremy Paxman recently suggested stop treating pensioners unless they are tax payers?

Schools are overcrowded, teachers stressed again, surely more teachers are required?

Too many immigrants from the EU picking our cabbages? Surely the answer is not send in some old people to pick them instead in return for their pensions as a Member of Parliament recently suggested?

Clearly calling the referendum was a mistake, David Cameron is no Harold Wilson. But it is becoming an Alice in Wonderland referendum in which too many people are claiming to be believing seven or more impossible things before breakfast.

So the decision to vote remain remains and hopefully after June 23rd no more will be heard from the irresponsible men and women who have created this exercise in democracy gone mad.

Socrates also took a dim view of democracy, in fact his view was probably even dimmer when he was found guilty democratically by a vote of five hundred of his fellow Athenians but it seems that, unless you are a Harold Wilson, allowing, as Socrates expressed it, surrendering the direction of a nations future to people without adequate experience in Government by regarding the opinions of all citizens as being of equal value is simply a folly.

And a folly is what we have.

Clearly 'Brexit' will be a folly even if it is called an 'outstanding success' by the Brexiteers in Chief.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

24th March 2016

The East Birmingham Theology Coop was an initiative of the Centre for Applied Christian Studies based at the Selly Oak Colleges in Birmingham.

I was Director of the Centre from 1987 until 1991.

As part of my involvement with East Birmingham I was for a while seconded to the East Birmingham Task Force. The Task Force was an initiative of the Thatcher Government. Its main task was to spend £1M a year in East Birmingham in order to revitalise the local economy and encourage local community initiatives and entrepreneurialism.

At the beginning of each financial year the Task Force would be invited to consider what projects should be funded, which community partnerships could be identified and encouraged and where and how the money could be most usefully directed and spent.

Following a discussion in the Theology Coop, made up of local clergy, community workers and lay people from the Churches an idea emerged which I proposed at the meeting.

The suggestion was to take the Electoral Roll and divide the money by the number of households and then to give each household a share of the cash.

It seemed to me that if we adopted this strategy that soon the cash registers would jangle as the money was spent over the counters in the local stores and businesses in East Birmingham. That the enrichment of the local community would be clear and tangible and the administrative costs would be kept low.

People with money to spend would have significantly greater purchasing power, significantly less debt and significantly greater autonomy.

There was a moment when the the paymaster of the Task Force who had joined us from London for the meeting appeared to be taken with the idea and for one brief, heady moment I really thought that it might happen.

Now following the relative failure of Quantitive Easing, given that most of the money ended up uninvested and in the Bank or spent on Bonuses, that enriching, for Bankers, mechanism for distributing wealth amongst the already wealthy, the idea that stemmed from The East Birmingham Theology Coop may have its moment.

Now the idea, floated by commentators in a number of Newspapers including the FT, is proposed under the nom de plume:

Helicopter Money.

Instead of giving the cash to the banks, give it to the people and they will spend it, business will boom, cash registers will jangle and the economy will become healthy and well seasoned.

Sometimes the simple ideas are the most profound.

Maybe now as the welfare debate rumbles on it is time for another simple idea to be tested?

Just as the new Work and Pensions Minister announced that the Personal Independence Payment was to be protected along with pensions, education, and various other sacrosanct budget items, so arguments about intergenerational justice have been raised. Such as for example questions about the triple lock on pensions meaning not only that wealthy pensioners retained both bus passes and free TV licences but at a time of zero inflation pensions rose by 2.5%.

Welfare is expensive to administer, it is costly to the exchequer, it raises all the tedious questions about the value of benefits and the benefits of of paying people not to work, the shirkers and strivers argument so beloved of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It foments the painful and costly comparison between the deserving and the undeserving. So 'us' are set against 'them' and society strains to find the point of balance between need and justice.

The idea of a basic citizens income is surely about to find its moment?

 It is being promoted and tested in Scandinavian Countries, it is being proposed in New Zealand and debated in Canada and nearer to home it is being explored just north of the Border in Scotland (another argument for Cumbria to edge out of England and into the arms of a more enlightened democracy?).

So what would it mean and how could it be afforded?

International arguments suggest that if tax remained constant or rather than be defined as progressive or regressive became much more neutral levied on incomes above a certain level at a flat rate, and if the whole welfare budget was consolidated. Then a fund could be created which would allow each individual to receive a basic citizens income.

For those who could live on that money at whatever level it was set, all well and good, for those who wished to increase their income the the citizens income element would remain and tax would be taken at the nationally agreed level on earnings.

The Citizens income could, as is proposed in Scotland, itself be graduated, a lower level for those under a certain age, whether in full time education or, a higher level for adults reflecting perhaps the level at which currently benefits are paid and for pensioners a level reflecting the current pension, which of course reflects the Citizen Wage in the sense that the State Pension is deducted from the personal allowance so that where the pensioners income is higher than the current personal threshold they pay tax on that higher pension income.

Like 'helicopter money' the Citizens Income has the distinct advantage of simplicity, but it is also equitable, it leaves room for those who wish to pursue their dreams to do so, it would encourage a whole new generation of song writers, poets, novelists and artists to emerge without the constraints imposed by the need to generate income to feed and clothe and house themselves. It also removes the difficult balance between welfare and work, where too frequently the actual tax paid in the transitional period approaches 100% as welfare tapers whilst work doesn't pay sufficient to compensate the loss of benefit.

If the Chancellor was a truly reforming politician in a truly reforming administration who wished seriously to address the anomalies, difficulties and challenges within welfare as it has slowly emerged from Beveridge's initial vision of a 'safety net' then a citizens income offers a truly radical answer, it has the potential for slicing open the Gordian Knot of Welfare.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

4th February 2016

How do politicians get themselves into such a mess?

Given the critical issues facing Europe at the moment, any one of which from money to migration, could result in an existential crisis for the European Community, with the Euro, the Schengen agreement, Grexit and Brexit, why decide that this is a good moment for a referendum?

Some commentators reckon, given that Osborne and Cameron had no real expectation of winning the last election, that they larded the manifesto with a variety of offers, none of which needed to be followed through, because failing to deliver on anything from welfare cuts, tax credits or a referendum on Europe could always be blamed on the Liberal Democrats in coalition.

Maybe so.

It is often said that we get the politicians that we deserve which raises the possibility that we must have been pretty bad in a previous life to deserve the politicians we have now.

Margaret Thatcher's legacy was the Poll Tax, accompanied by mass unemployment, de-industrialisation and the ascendency of financial sector together with its bonus culture.

Harold Wilson's legacy was the Open University.

Depending on the outcome of the forthcoming referendum what will David Cameron's legacy be?

An isolated and broken Britain, separated from Scotland and limping along with underinvestment, rising austerity and dependent for its energy supply on Chinese and French Companies with the profits generated recycled to China and France.

With the Brexit Campaign now led by Lord Lawson it is suggested by the media that the Tory Big Beasts will begin to snarl and roar in support of Britain exiting the European Union, big beasts they may be but they are also Little Englanders, resisting the powers of the European Parliament, to which we elect representatives, of deciding what can happen in the UK, legislation developed abroad and imposed is not, we are told repeatedly, acceptable and of all the anathemas the greatest is the dreaded social chapter.

But what is the story so far.

In 1986 I developed together with an Architect and craftsman, Rolf Rosner, himself a refugee from his native Germany who found a home and a welcome in the North East of England, a project that we called Benchmark, Benchmark recruited a group of young unemployed people and provided them, under Rolf's expert tuition, a grounding in Arts and Crafts, this led to an exhibition of work and helped the young people to develop their own practise or to move into employment following their exposure to Rolf's re-imagining of the European craft school environment from which he benefited as a young man.

This project was funded by the European Commission.

Other projects with which I became involved benefited equally from being associated with and part of the wider European Community.

I will be voting yes to remain part of Europe for four significant reasons:

The fact that the nations of Europe have co-existed peacefully since 1945. Prior to that date Europe had torn itself apart in two Great Wars and had all but bankrupted itself, its recovery enabled only by the effects of the Marshall Plan. Clearly there have been moments when nations have held their breath, the Balkan's post Tito and now the shifting tectonic plates of conflict in the Middle East and especially Syria, resulting in the displacement of generations caught in the crossfire and washed up on Europe's shores, but the agreement implied by the idea of a European identity transcending nationalism offers the hope that despite increasing right wing 'noises off', those who arrive will be welcomed and will enrich European society.

In retirement I have travelled in Europe and have benefited from the freedom offered by the Schengen Agreement, I have lived from time to time in both Italy and Spain, there is it seems to me a cultural freedom when travelling, whether by air, by train or by car. My wife is a wheelchair user and we have benefited from the support and assistance available across Europe, whether eating in a restaurant in Milan, wandering the streets of Genoa or Paris or Barcelona or sitting down to Paella in the Restaurante El Mirador in the El Chorro region of Andalusia in all of this there is a sense of becoming inculturated and experiencing the true benefit of being a European Citizen recognising yourself as the inheritor of a broader European sensibility.

One particular expression of the value of Europe and our membership of the European Union is the Diocese of Europe. Once known as the Diocese of Fulham and Gibraltar, the Diocese exists to serve the interests of what are sometimes known as ex pats. But whether it is framing and shaping a humane response to the tragedy of refugees from war, whether it is representing an open and inclusive sense of what at its best it means to be 'church' or whether it is celebrating the rich culture and way of life of different communities within Europe as a continent, the Diocese is at once a place where what it means to be part of a community of  fellowship can be celebrated.

Fourthly, the economy. Britain is by definition on the periphery of Europe, we are an island nation. There is no doubt that in economic terms there are both centrifugal and centripetal forces at work. At the commercial and economic centre the Rhine-Ruhr conurbation is a key centre for manufacturing and those companies who wish to 'invest' in 'Europe' will seek to invest in that region, the economic effect of this will be on the one hand for money to flow into the centre and for the centre to become profitable but in order to ensure that markets remain viable it is politically essential that money and other benefits flow out. For Britain, a key peripheral market, it is essential that we remain active in both the political heart of Europe, Brussels and Strasbourg, that we continue to welcome those manufacturers who base themselves in Britain because of our access to European markets. But it is also essential that we become whole hearted in embracing our partners across Europe. America and Britain are sometimes described as two nations divided by a common language. Interestingly enough, despite the language differences across the nations of Europe it is becoming easier to communicate as English becomes the Lingua Franca of Europe.

As a nation we may be 'peripheral' geographically but increasingly if we choose to be we have the potential to be at the cultural centre of the emerging continent of new Europe. The Government has chosen to  make our membership of Europe 'problematical' lets hope that the referendum situates us at the heart of the European project as it develops.