On Sunday 11 November I will be wearing a poppy, and for a few days before and after. I will remember brave and honourable (mostly) men who died serving their country. Twice. I will remember that they were British. I will also remember that many more of them were German, French, Dutch, Norwegian, Indian (including Pakistani Muslims), Jamaican, from the “African empire” (including South Africa), Italian, Greek, Russian, Australian, New Zealanders – well, you get the point.
Some revolting war criminals died and survived. I guess they were fairly well spread too!
Perhaps that memory emphasises the Churchill doctrine that “jaw jaw is better than war war” and that cooperation, even shared sovereignty in some respects, may have better outcomes than nation states in constant competition.
My grandfather survived the First World War including battles at Ypres. He never spoke about his experiences. Yet in his delirium just before he died in 1971, he hallucinated, desperately trying to load a shell into what to him was the breech of a field gun and to us was just an old slipper. We will never know what other terrors and horrors had remained buried in his mind for more than 50 years but there were surely many.
So, as the continuing host to some of his genes I feel it reasonable to suggest that while he would applaud the annual remembrance of those on all sides who gave their lives with good intent, he would also look askance at our failure, and especially the failure of our politicians, to learn the lessons of that and other wars.
In 1914 Europe dissolved into war essentially due to sovereign-state arm wrestling by arrogant leaders of rag-bag assemblages of nations. They were linked by treaties designed to ensure conflagration followed the attack of any one on any other. At that level they were sadly not disappointed.
Barely 100 years later, we are witnessing the promotion of sovereign-state politics with the attitude that “we will do better on our own and make (our particular state) great again”. Since greatness is essentially a comparative term and likely to involve a lot of bullying by some states of others as well as an unfair distribution of resources, war is a serious possibility based merely on what led to the First World War.
But 2018 is not 1914 and we now have additional powerful drivers for a future war, all of which require the opposites of sovereignty, of Brexit and of a potentially fragmented Europe. To deal with global threats such as climate change, increasing global population, ecological damage, migration (aggravated by all these factors), abuse of social networks and big data, religious intolerance, advances in robotics, effective control of transnational companies, cyber warfare, nuclear proliferation and international security, we need less sovereignty and more global collaboration.
I have yet to learn from any Brexiteer how regaining UK sovereignty addresses any of these matters (we are 60 million in a world of seven billion), how sovereignty has any meaning anyway when so much of the foregoing is outside UK control and why they think war is less likely than it was in 1914. The scenario they promote is simultaneously making war more likely and reducing our future ability to deal with it.
My grandfather has fortunately been spared this debacle and prospective horrors but our grandchildren have not.
We ought to stop depending on technology for important political decisions
As we finally untangle the nightmare for small post office managers who were wrongly accused of fraud due to a massive computer failure years ago, why are the Tories still touting technology twaddle as an answer to the Brexit Irish border question?
If my memory serves me correctly, the first time I heard the idea of technology solving the border question (just one of many issues that should have been addressed before a referendum was even called) it was at the 2018 Tory party conference. At the same conference delegates’ personal info was exposed due to – technology failure...
Why a Final Say is so essential
“If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy,” declared leading Brexiteer David Davis.
Leave voters were promised a quick, easy exit deal, more money for public services and better trade deals. Being forced to lower our food standards and reduce workers’ rights was not mentioned.
Since the referendum we have seen a shambolic mess of an EU exit process, frequent lazy incompetence and even lies about detailed impact assessments being undertaken, followed by denials that such assessments existed.
Every time the government edged closer to an agreement, the hardline, dogmatic, small minority of Tory MPs threw a spanner in the works.
Even prominent Leave advocate Arron Banks is now saying that if he had realised the turmoil and difficulties the referendum would cause, he would have voted Remain.
We now have a much better understanding of Brexit. Surveys, polls and the upsurge in the rejection of Brexit nationally show we, as a nation, have changed our minds. If we are not allowed to demonstrate this through a second vote, the democratic credibility of any Brexit decision will be in shreds. Being forced to leave the EU with all the uncertainty and with no final say is profoundly undemocratic.
Iceland’s Christmas ad should have been applauded, not banned
The news that Iceland’s Christmas advert – with its powerful, consumer-friendly sustainability message – has been banned is a bad decision.
Iceland’s advert shows a brand that is trying to do good work in improving its impact on the world. Earlier this year, they became the first major supermarket to pledge to remove palm oil from their own-brand products and so they are using their ad to campaign on an issue that is important and is actually credible for them to talk about with customers.
Reducing usage of palm oil is a complex issue, and not everyone agrees with the action taken by the supermarket. However, it is such a shame this has been blocked as the traditional Christmas advert is a platform for brands to really connect with consumers, and the fact that Iceland chose to focus on sustainability is amazingly progressive.
It is also incredibly important for brands like Iceland to be making this stand as it democratises the idea of sustainability. The whole “brand purpose” movement has for some time been in danger of becoming overly directed towards a left-wing middle class audience who have the time, money and resources to be able to get involved (either by buying into a sustainable product at a higher price point or through making some form of compromise).
Iceland has been broadening its base of shoppers over the past three years, but a large proportion of its customers are lower income families. Through the actions of the business, it is working to make sure it acts with purpose in the decisions it is making. Through this campaign, the brand is making sure that sustainability generally, and complex issues around the impact of products like palm oil, becomes more accessible.
It is absolutely critical that big, mass-market brands are able to shout about the good work they are doing. If Iceland, and other brands like them, don’t have the opportunity to present and connect big social and environmental issues to less affluent audiences, sustainability and social responsibility will quickly become “someone else’s problem”.
Becky Willan, managing director at marketing agency Given London