Friday, 1 July 2016

Why the 48% shouldn't shut up and move on

I have wavered tonight.

It is nothing to do with my maternal homeland making the semis of the Euros.

My instincts hitherto have been to accept the referendum result. Democracy has spoken. Large swathes of the country, certainly in England, voted 60-70%+ in favour for Leave. For many different reasons. That cannot be ignored. A vote not just of the ill-informed, nor xenophobes.

I was, and will remain, a strong unwavering supporter of the EU, who acknowledges its imperfections but wholeheartedly understands the benefits it brings. I feel British first and European second, ahead of English or Welsh (neither of which I really feel, save for an unspoken vow always to support the dragons in solidarity with my mother).

Britain for me has always been a mixed society: part 1000 years of non-invasion since the mix of Angles, Danes, Normans and pushing out of the Celts (possibly, too long ago); part Commonwealth, of dominions formed by buccaneering and often brutal colonisation; part European through common experience of devastating conflict and a subsequent grief and pursuit of brotherhood for the common good of common men and women.

But there is a continued Lack of a Real Brexit Plan, meaning that no one *really knows* what they voted for. I truly believe that we still have a Big Opportunity to influence the process of negotiation, through individual and collective lobbying, through direct action and vocal protest, to represent the views and sensibilities of the 48%.

Until now, my thinking has been that this could lead to a Brexit with as many benefits of the EU as possible. That there will naturally be somesort of compromise. That any negotiation might even retain the Four Freedoms, at least in their majority form. Indeed, it seemed from Boris's Telegraph column on Monday that even he was concedeing such ground.

Perhaps Brexit isn't so bad?

I spent many hours, generally on Twitter and sometimes face to face, debating the odds with a variety of Brexit proponents. There were some strong, interesting and appealing arguments, and generally good-natured exchanges (though I will admit my blood had cause to boil on occasion). Those concerned about sovereignty, democracy and accountability, in particular, had a strong case, but too often zeal seemed to blind them to the nature of our own constitutional monarchy.

These exchanges taught me there were many noble sentiments in Leave, many well-educated and principled proponents of Leave. There were moments when I wondered if I was being groomed to the Dark Side, or conversely if I was being deprogrammed from my own brainwashing. But we generally agreed to disagree. I only had to block a dozen or so.

But where are we now?

Labour in utter disarray. LibDems trying hard, but no one is listening (yet). The Tories' leadership candidates to a man/woman committed to Brexit. It seems we will simply limp into a slow separation. We will be ground down over time, bored even, and suddenly we will realise the European brotherhood and future for our children will have drifted away.

But now is also the time to heal some of the divisions, to compromise, to recognise that the 52% won the day, for the 48% to shut up and move on.

Or is it? I waver...

If we are to stand up for EU values, there is still time. If we are to get a Brexit as close to the EU model as some of us would like, we need to make our voices loud now. If we are to stop Brexit altogether, then we need to be as uncompromising and relentless as humanly possible.

We may not win the day.

We need to recognise legitimate concerns of the 52%, especially those disposessed who voted simply to spread the pain.

But we need to stand now. And the firmer we stand, the more likely we are to keep the freedoms we treasure.

At least we'll know we tried, rather than passively accepting what Gove / Leadsome / May / Crabb / Fox may deem us worthy of.

Are you a 48% or a 52% and where do we go from here?

The referendum had a very polarised campaign, but surely voters are a spectrum. There were many different reasons for people voting Remain and Leave alike.

Those voting Leave, on the grounds of simply wanting to give the "establishment" a bloody nose, to vent fury at being ignored by all politicians, but not expecting this result, would surely vote differently. But so too might many undecideds who voted Remain.

The real problem is that the voters did and still do have that spectrum of views, but the options on offer were completely binary. What if you're 36% agree with Remain and 64% with Leave, but part of your 36% is to be able to go live and work wherever you like in the EU.

What if you are 72% Remain and 28% Leave, but that 28% is all about slowing down, controlling or stopping all immigration.

We generally have the same binary choice in our UK general elections. If we are unhappy with our choice, we get to choose differently later. Then flip flop back again. Sometimes that happens quicker than expected, sometimes slower than we might want. Over time we muddle through from one extreme to another, sometimes taking a central road, but generally balancing the needs, wants of all sides ... to a degree at least.

With the EU vote, and if we do Leave, we seemingly won't get the chance to go back later if we decide we have messed up Brexit and want to return. Thus why Leave to the 48% feels like such a rupture, a tearing apart of the present and burning of the bridges that might represent a possible return.

To many of the 48% this is a thoroughly existential crisis. The EU and Europe is so much a part of their personal identity and cultural identity that the thought of a divorce is still unthinkable, and its consequences utterly incomprehensible. For this subset of the 48%, the EU is a part of the furniture, underpinning the foundations of all structures, and exciting the senses with everything they see, feel, touch and eat. The EU has subtly encouraged - stealthily some might say - over a very many years, a sense of unity within Europe, of common cultural and political aspirations. For some. Telling that metropolitan London was so strongly Remain, but the less well-travelled and less well-visited northern and other regions were strongly Leave.

Until we know where the negotiations go, what model we will follow, how close we will / will not be to the Four Freedoms, that sense of loss for thr 48% will continue. They will continue to rail against what still looks like a jump off of a cliff into a murky void below. For them, this is not a leap, but a very much unexpected and unwanted shove. Except they're somewhere between that shove and a freefall. Any landing is still way out of sight.

The fact that there was no Plan, that there still is no Plan, means that a huge chunk of Leave voters may also be feeling let down, confused or even worried/scared and wishing they hadn't jumped, or be lining up to jump. Though a great many are clearly elated and telling everyone else to shut up, pull together and get on with it.

It is therefore vital now that we come together to work out what Leave really looks like. We can't let the most extreme of Brexiteers decide the path alone.

The debate must go on, and it must happen with the engagement of both the 52% and the 48%. But it must happen with an approach of healing and some compromise.

The first compromise is already being made by many Remainers, in accepting the result and accepting we will Leave. Leave need to recognise this and ensure the views, needs, wants of the 48% are considered in the negotiation...

We might still yet find a happy medium.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Day 7 - Manresa-Barcelona - home run

Start: 8:20
Finish: 12:40
Distance: 66km
Cycling time: 3:00
Top speed: 63kmh
Punctures: 0
Mechanical failures: 0
Lunch: Barcelona :-)

The home run. Not much to say other than we made it, and in good time for our earliest tour finish. Plenty of time for me and Adam to freshen up to meet the girls at the airport.

Early cloud and mist and busy roads gave way mid morning, affording one view of the spectacular Montserrat mountain range, and giving us one last sun-baked climb, over the Corresol, before our first views of, and descent into, Barcelona.

A few wrong turns, but map in hand we quickly found our hotel.

Time for a rest :-)

The cloud cleared for a brief sight of Montserrat

First view of Barcelona


Thursday, 4 July 2013

Tour curios - The Pyrenees 2013

A few random items from our 2013 trip...

Mary looking after the Chateau at Saint-Blancard

Holy Candle vending machine in Lourdes

Placemats at Hotel Les Deux Cols in Sainte-Marie de Campan

John being snubbed by a cow on Col d'Aspin

Our original planned route near Arties

Our bikes were stored in the Discotheque in Montferrer (and we were given the key)

All that marks the France-Spain border


Brandies from "Pedro"

Not the shortest cycle lane we saw

Day 6 - Montferrer-Manresa

Start: 9.15
Finish: 17.10
Distance: 118km
Cycling time: 5.10
Top speed: 73kmh
Punctures: 0
Mechanical failures: 0
Lunch: Solsona (13.00-14.50)

So, the home stretch begins... We weren't looking forward to joining a major trunk road, peppered with tunnels, South for around 70km, but things turned out rather pleasant.

Not only was it generally downhill all the way, but the tunnels could be bypassed by taking short stretches of the old road that took us around instead of through various spurs in the mountains. Further, the road descended through a spectacular steep sided gorge before the valley opened out into gorgeous scenery around a long and beautiful lake formed by a dam further South.

Somewhere South of Oliana we turned East towards Solsona. A fast stretch at first for our mountain-hardened legs, before we hit a surprise incline. This turned out to be a 450m Category 2 climb of the Cortada de Clarà at a height of 880m and with a long stretch at over 9%.

We deserved our leisurely and fine lunch at a lovely restaurant in Solsona before heading off, mostly downhill again, towards our destination, Manresa.

Our first lake view

Spectacular view from the old road

Almost out of the mountains, but beauty everywhere

Me. In front of a big rock

Atop Clarà. Our last big climb?

Which mountain day was toughest?

Which of the three mountain days was toughest?

1. 70km including the HC 1300m ascent of Tourmalet with endless miles grinding against 8-10% gradients in baking heat.

2. 93km including 1900m of climbing over 3 cols (Aspin (C2), Peyresourde (C1), Portillon (C2)), but with brutal sections on Portillon up to 17.8%.

3. 123km including *two* HC climbs totalling 2100m of climbing over 43km. (Bonaigua, Cantó).

Well, it depends who you are.

For me it was Tourmalet. The only day my legs, mind and body were shot. One or two K's at a brutal gradient is OK. But five, six, seven ... especially with "the wrong cogs on".

For John, Tourmalet was a short day, but the endless, monotonous upward grind of Bonaigua + Cantó, and over 50km more cycling, made Day 3 the worst.

For Pete and Adam, it was Day 2. Adam felt sick all day (after effects of Tourmalet?). For both, the progressively tougher climbs, especially the ugly sections of Portillon, together with the surprise 250m ascent to our finish in Vielha, made this the hardest.

Sign on Tourmalet - 9% average for next K

Top of Cantó after a long slog

This is how it feels after Portillon

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Day 5 - Vielha-Montferrer via Port de la Bonaigua and Port del Cantó

Start: 8:35
Finish: 18:20
Distance: 123km
Cycling time: 6:50
Totsl climbing: 3,850m
Top speed: 86kmh (Adam) 82kmh (Nick)
Punctures: 0
Mechanical failures: 2 (Nick, pedal, brakes)
Lunch: Sort (13:15-14:25)

Two big Hors Categorie (HC) cols today: Port de la Bonaigua (2072m), Port del Cantó (1720m), with around 42km of upward pedalling, and each requiring over 1000m of climbing.

A murky start in Vielha and a slow trundle up the valley of the Garonne river as we ate into the first metres of height gain needed to scale Bonaigua. We witnessed the devastation wrought all up the valley by recent floods, sometimes with sections of our road washed away.

The last 6km of Bonaigua had long sweeping switchbacks to take us up and give amazing views. And the top and the descent were equally spectacular. Around 23km of climbing to reach Bonaigua followed by 45km downhill. The first six with 26 hairpins, the next 10 or so more straight and rapid- enabling a tour record of 86kmh by Adam, and 82kmh by yours truly (an ambition/milestone reached). The rest was more rolling and we were well ready for our lunch by the time we reached Sort.

After Sort came another 19km of climbing to top Cantó. More of a slog at times with weary legs, but equally superb views all the way. After chilling at the top we descended the 26km to Adrall, a drop that afforded the most breathtaking views of the trip. Truly stunning. We all freewheeled to take it all in.

The big hills over. One spectacular valley to descend and the home run to Barcelona starts tomorrow.

The main road washed away near Arties

Looking back halfway up Bonaigua

The road up to Bonaigua

The last hairpin up to Bonaigua

At the top!

Most of the way up Cantó looking back

John atop Cantó
The view half way down Cantó

All downhill from here