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Friday, 26 February 2016

Cameron at the BBC – and a bit about Europe

BBC, London, headquarters, Portland Place

One of the splendid things about London is the likelihood of spotting a Well Known Person.  They frequent shops, pubs and takeaways, just like lesser mortals; it really is very charming to see.  “Ah,” I hear you say, “Britain is far too London-centric.  Celeb-spotting opportunities should be given to other worthy UK conurbations too, such as Birmingham and Scunthorpe”.

Anyway, there we were, walking toward the BBC headquarters at Portland Place – as you do – when we observed a cluster of individuals ahead, patiently waiting about 30 feet from one of the doors.  Nearby was a helmeted quartet of coppers with their nice shiny, white, motorbikes, and a squeaky-clean police Range Rover (also known as a ‘jam sandwich’).  Simultaneously, my eye was drawn to a scruffy, aggressive looking, herbert hanging about at the kerbside to our left, who stared at us in a challenging manner.  Flexing the sinews in my finely-tuned limbs as we passed, just in case they were needed, we speculated on the identity of the megastar people were thronging to see.  I clocked an elegant silver Jaguar XJ.  As we got closer, a smart, grey, Range Rover pulled in front of the Jag.  Nearby, like something from a movie, was a close-cropped-hair guy, wearing a rumpled mac and with a revealing coil of wire trailing from ear to underclothes.  Then it dawned: 10 minutes earlier, we had been watching Prime Minister David Cameron on the Andrew Marr Show; could it be..?

Quartet of coppers, jam sandwich

Mildly excited, we mingled with the assembly.  Some possessed obscenely outsized camera lenses, wielded with an irksome arrogance which, I confess, potentially brought out the worst in me.  Others had neat little folding plastic stools, so that they could clamber up and get a clear shot without bothering anyone else overmuch.  Fortunately, I had my trusty Instamatic and good elbows.

Prime Minister's car

People came and went.  They were used to mingling with personalities – no doubt some had moved from Birmingham and Scunthorpe for that very purpose.  Close-cropped-hair guy had a friend, walkie-talkie-man; they never spoke, but you could tell they were associated in some way.  Close-cropped-hair guy spoke into his lapel.  The nearest door was lodged open.  People still came and went.  Then a compact, brisk, posse emerged, Mr Cameron at its centre, smiling and waving.  Close-cropped-hair guy had several near relatives, each sporting a similar curly bit of wire and distinctive don’t mess with me visage.  The PM got into the Jag, his cortège sped off in the direction of Westminster, the miniature mob dispersed and Mrs Britain and I walked up Regent Street in search of breakfast.

Crowd waiting for Cameron at the BBC

The day before, David Cameron had returned from Brussels heralding the momentous agreement he had made with the leaders of the other 27 members of the European Union.  To many, it was as significant as the Munich Agreement; and about as meaningful.  Some people obviously knew, or worked on the strong probability, that our Dave would be chatting to Andrew Marr the following day.  It occurred to me both how frighteningly vulnerable our elected representatives can be and how lucky we are to live in the kind of society where anyone can witness little scenes like the one described above.  I guess vulnerability is part of the price for the freedom we enjoy.  We don’t have the equivalent of jack-booted bully-boys telling us we can’t walk down streets too often, and those that are meant to serve us take a huge personal risk that some evil nutcase will try to blow them away.  God forbid it should ever happen to any of them – irrespective of whether we agree with their views.  Tragedy aside, life would change; civilised society would take a step back.  Close-cropped-hair guy and his mates have a tough job and, generally, manage to do it without too often alienating the public who, ultimately, pay their wages.

Prime Minister, Cameron

Unlike bumping into Madge at the lipstick counter, this celebrity encounter had a whiff of history about it.  We will remember standing outside the BBC after the Prime Minister of The United Kingdom had been discussing one of the most important decisions facing this country in a generation.  All things considered, Dave was looking remarkably fresh, I thought, despite the gruelling negotiations with all those tricky foreigners - to say nothing of spending most of his Saturday ensconced at No 10 with his just as tricky Cabinet colleagues – the first time that august body has met at the weekend since the Falklands War, we are told.

David Cameron

So, the UK will have its ‘in/out’ referendum on membership of the European Union on 23rd June 2016.  Should we stay, or should we go?  Views clash.  Will it be ‘Brexit’ – the excruciating abbreviation being used for ‘British Exit’ – or ‘Brayin’ – Britain stays in (my own invention)?  Everyone gets a vote, including, for some arcane reason, any citizens of Ireland, Malta and Cyprus who happen to be resident here.  What our business has to do with them, I know not.  On the bigger issue, despite believing myself to be reasonably intelligent and well-informed, I feel embarrassingly lacking in sufficient knowledge to decide which way to vote; and I suspect many of my fellow-Britons feel the same.  What I do know is that the issues at stake go far beyond the agreement David Cameron negotiated over 18/19 February, and which a cynic might say was partly for the benefit of the Conservative Party. 

Downing Street, guards, gates

I pray that the discussions go beyond the obviously important topic of immigration.  This is but one issue amongst the many, not least economics, security and sovereignty.

Membership of a frequently irritating, often dysfunctional, over-bureaucratic, would-be super state brings a multitude of benefits.  One of the biggest achievements of the European Project, possibly not always appreciated in Britain, is peace.  Europe has torn itself apart within living memory and the scars of war are still with us.  The likelihood of former enemies fighting each other now is so remote as to be laughable.  That’s a pretty good argument for people coming together – and trade is the obvious enabler.  I think that was why so many people in Britain supported membership of what was then called ‘the Common Market’ in 1973, when we joined our close neighbours and founding members: West Germany (as it then was); France; Italy; the Netherlands; Belgium; Luxembourg.  Somewhere along the way, the ‘Common Market’ became the ‘European Economic Community’ and then, simply, ‘the European Union’.  With 28 culturally diverse members, and more waiting in the wings, maybe we all have fewer things in common – though the advantages of coming together seems to be a constant.

BBC, Portland Place.

I suspect part of the problem is that we don’t really have an accurate sense of Britain’s place in the world, and haven’t had since 1945.


One thing’s for sure, we’re going to be hearing a lot about ‘Europe’ over the next few months.  Let us hope the debate stays courteous, reasoned and doesn’t degenerate into the kind of emotional and senseless ugliness beloved of mobs and trolls; it’s so un-British.


32 comments:

  1. Some years ago (OK quite a few years ago!) I worked in London and about two weeks after I joined my new office I was standing in W H Smith's at St Pancras when I noticed someone standing next to me that I recognised. I still didn't know all of my new workmates and obviously I assumed it was someone from the office (Why ELSE would I have known him?) I said hello and asked if he'd had a good day and he politely replied yes and asked how my day had gone. "Pretty well thanks" and then we bid each other farewell. I was half way home before I realised the person I'd spoken to was the actor Perry Fenwick (Eastenders' Billy Mitchell) who scrubs up pretty well when he's out of character!

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  2. Then Mr. C. went home and said, 'Hey, Sam, you'll never guess who I saw today, out of the corner or my eye - MIKE, from A Bit About Britain! No, I couldn't get close enough to get his autograph! I was a bit intimidated by those flexed sinews.' :-)

    I had no idea that vote was coming up this soon. There are always so many things to consider, long-term implications...and I hope the debate can be more civilized than what we're getting over here on both sides as we're plummeting toward a fall election.

    And jeepers, Mike, I thought it was going to be Sean Bean. And it was only the PM? Really. ;-)

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    1. Now you mention it, Dave does look a bit Sean; maybe it was a horrible mistake.

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  3. I once got knocked sideways by Roger Daltry (don't tell me you don't know who HE is ;-) as he ran up the steps from the underground.

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    1. Of COURSE I know he is; I really liked "I'm gonna leave old Durham town." I also saw a great band called The Who at Glastonbury - amazing lead vocalist.

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  4. I once ran down Jerry Brown, the governor of California, in my car. I didn't hurt him but he sprawled on the hood of my car. It was his fault since I was at a stop sign.

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  5. I hope the UK can/will get out of the European Union. The EU will just suck your economy further into their fantasy world Socialist "utopia". Get out while you still can. ~:)

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  6. It is always nice to catch an unexpected glimpse of someone you normally only see on the television. My most recent encounter was Jon Snow at St Pancras last year. He is amazingly tall!!

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  7. You know the Queen opend Diamond many years ago and I have never seen such security. The palce was checked days before hand and then again before she came. The PM came to visit and they only checke the place out before hand. No doubt the security would die for the queen but not the PM

    http://spudsdailyphoto.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/q-is-for-queen.html

    http://spudsdailyphoto.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/t-is-for-tony.html

    Face it I would not get that close to the Queen

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    1. Yes, I have encountered the security ahead of a visit from HM. Good posts, Bill.

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  8. I need so much more factual information before I am ready to vote. Will I get the facts? I'm not so sure.

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    1. HMG says they will be published, but has set no date. They should be at our fingertips anyway. And do we trust them..?!

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  9. I really don't know why, but I hope you-all stay in the European Union. If anything, I suppose it has to do with at least pretending to be friends instead of enemies with one's close neighbors (and distant relatives).

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  10. David appears to be in a much better mood than I would have been after sitting through those meetings. :-)

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  11. That could never happen here, in the U.S. He looks good, as you said!

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  12. Very thoughtful post. I hope your debate does tuen out to be civilized and equally thoughtful!

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  13. Civilised society already did take a big step back after 9/11. In the name of safety and security, personal freedom has been curtailed in so many fields, and it has not really stopped other acts of terrorism and violence, has it.

    Last year, I had occasion to talk to one of the vice presidents of the European Parliament (he is from my home town). He is a very reasonable, down-to-earth type of man. Among other things, he said:
    "None of us [members of the EU parliament] get up on the morning, thinking about how we could anger the others today. We all want what we think is best for our own countries, without losing sight of the bigger picture. But there are three things none of our countries can change: Their history, their geographical location and their climate/weather. All these influence what the people in each member state need and want."

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    1. I agree about 9/11, of course. I think personal freedom is under threat, frankly - but also partly due to technology; we can do it, so we will. Even so, we are still relatively free in the UK and need to be glad for that, and mindful of its fragility.

      What your VP chum says is true, though I think there is possibly a miss-match over different perceptions of whatever the 'bigger picture' is - and greater transparency is needed. I also believe that, whilst we are all products of our histories, we need to look forward. That's something that the UK struggles with.

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  14. Interesting post. I think I'd be sorry to see the EU break apart. In this time it seems like a step in the right direction to be joined and working towards similar goals than to break apart and be insular. What would happen to your ability to travel freely between countries there? Everyone would be afraid of everyone else? Which is what we are facing over here with this bigot who thinks he's qualified to be President and no one in his party will stand up to and call him out for what he is.

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    1. If UK left the EU, in theory travel to/from the remaining 27 states would no longer be as easy. I don't see that everyone would be afraid of everyone else, though - we are all friends. We are watching your election with interest!

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  15. Lovely to take American elections off the center stage for a moment and hear about the doings of your country. The horror show of campaign politics here has many of us contemplating a move to Canada.

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  16. I'm glad our elections are all over and now we get to watch for your decision and of course get to see who leads the USA in the future. I fear the worst.

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  17. I have no interest in meeting well know so called famous people, wouldn't want to as my luck they would be in a bad mood and then I wouldn't like them any more. I would however, like to visit London one day

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  18. An interesting post. To meet someone only seen on TV is a shock. I was about 10 ft from President Mitterrand once, here in a museum in Atlanta, and could not believe it. I know little about Britain voting for or against the EU. I can see some voting against for nostalgic reasons or bigotry. But, don’t we say “l’union fait la force” and isn’t it better to be all together to fight climate change, terrorism, and more? I think if Britain decides to move away from the EU, it will regret it in the long run, and lose much. More countries might consider leaving the EU as well, then who will be left to jointly fight the dominance of the US and/or Russia?

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    1. My personal instinct has always been 'better together' - and I think progress is people coming together more. But I also know you won't get the full benefits of being in a wildlife club if your interest is limited to photography.

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  19. Oh, what fun to randomly come across a celebrity sighting. We plan to be in London later in the year - I will be on the lookout :)

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  20. My daughter works at the town hall and one evening was running for the lift, hands full, and yelled at the man in it to hold the doors for her. He did. Then he helped her off at her floor with her gear. She was embarrassed when she realised it was the city mayor she yelled at.

    Diana

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  21. How incredibly fortuitous! Indeed, what memories you have made! Have a wonderful day!

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  22. I have enjoyed reading your post and looking at your photo's ... and indeed however the vote goes on 23rd June you will have many memories of that day in February when you saw Dave ...

    What with the US Presidential coverage and the Referendum coverage our media reporters are going to have a busy few months.

    All the best Jan

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Hi - thanks for dropping into A Bit About Britain. New material is now being posted to www.bitaboutbritain.com and most of the material here will gradually be updated and moved over to that new site. Please drop in there, click on the blog page, and take a look round. TTFN - Mike.