30 May 2016

Alex, in Brussels

Hail readers!

It has been awhile since I last updated the Magical Realm. This is mostly because of several interesting (and largely inevitable) developments. First among these: I have completed all of my AS retakes (the last being math C2). The latter was not an easy exam, though that said it was mostly par for the course—I would not call it as egregious as the C1 exam.

As we move into June, I will have A2 exams to worry about. The first of these will be philosophy (3 hours once more) for which I will have time to revise for... in Brussels.

That’s right; for better or for worse (wisely or unwisely) I have travelled with my parents to Bruxelles. I will hopefully be busy with much: there are a number of attractions I ought to visit (or re-visit, since I was here once when I was six); I hope to visit the European Union buildings through the help of one of my aunts, who works for the Commission; and I may even be able to contact one of my Labour MEPs.

I will of course be taking photographs. Since I foolishly left my main camera in Romania, I will be using my phone; thankfully, I have acquainted myself with the operation of its software, and hope to provide passable photos. I have already taken few, which you can see below—they are of our apartment here, but don’t let that fool you: among the photos is a painting that looks quite mediaeval.

But What About Writing?

I have not forgotten! In fact, I have been very busy these past several days. For one, I spent nearly an hour going through the book with my editor, on Skype. For two, I have completed all of my planning for the third and final part. And for three, I have written an extensive revision plan—I will address (nearly) all of what my editor flagged up.

Will I have time to do all this in Brussels? I hope so.

In fact, I have planned another post here on the Magical Realm; it will go into my editing experience in detail, and will constitute my first experience of editing period. Do keep an eye out for it—I have a great deal to say on the matter.

I also have plans for a poem, details of which I will be releasing later on.

Finally, while you are waiting, why not take a look at my reviews? I have reviewed Dream Boy, by Madelyn Rosenberg and Mary Crockett, along with the Winter Palace, by Eva Stachniak. Don’t underestimate how useful it can be for a writer to share his thoughts on other books—it allows me to see what works, and what doesn’t. And this in turn will aid my own writing.

Now, I must leave you. I have a great deal to be getting on with. Au revoir/tot ziens!

20 May 2016

Mr Stargazer and his Exams...

Previously, I wrote of two things. First there was my essay on the EU referendum; that I have published, and it seems to have garnered some attention. But secondly, I spoke of my exams, my interview, and my writing. This relatively brief update will address these.


I have had two exams thus far: AS math (Core 1) and AS philosophy (a three hour exam). I felt well prepared for both, but the C1 paper was the most difficult C1 exam I’ve ever seen—all of my colleagues agreed, and many were borderline hysterical. The Internet is full of ire. This video, although liberal with the profanity, is nonetheless an excellent satire:

How well have I done? Obviously, I can’t be sure. I completed all the questions. I got answers for all but one. I think I did reasonably well; with the likely exception of the last question, and the 3-mark question on gradient algebra (which I have never seen on a C1 paper) I think I did well.

The last question was unfortunately worth 10% of the paper. I may have gotten the right answer, or I may not have. However: the question was rock hard. Everyone agreed. Many others got no answer at all. I can at least reasonably hope that OCR will lower the grade boundaries—if not, then universities will be able to see that everyone has unusually low maths grades.

As for the philosophy? I have done a lot of preparation for it, and I think it was preparation well served. The day before I revised the most little known and obscure parts of the syllabus with my teacher. (Example: Leibniz and direct realism.) I’m glad to say the 15-marker on the epistemology course was, surprise surprise, on direct realism.

I personally think I did well on that philosophy exam. In fact, I would honestly be shocked if I didn’t get an A.

However, most of the other students who did the exam thought it was fairly difficult. And it was: like the exam last year, the wonderful people from AQA took the most little known and minor parts of the (very substantial) syllabus and asked very specific questions on them. For example: the book for AS philosophy is a large volume totalling close to 400 pages. Leibniz’s direct realism gets a paragraph.

Our teacher taught us and made us revise extensively Berkeley’s idealism, and the indirect realism of Hume, Descartes, Locke, and much more. He made us write essays on criticising indirect realism from an idealist perspective, and vice versa. I do not believe we did anything on Leibniz’s direct realism—perhaps because it’s so unconvincing.

Anyway: exams so far have been alright. But the trends that have been set are disturbing. The exam boards don’t seem to be learning from their mistakes; on the contrary: they’re accelerating their mistakes. The exams are becoming increasingly difficult compared to the exams that came before them—and marking is increasingly losing credibility, as students are marked on topics they have very little knowledge and teaching of. How well you do depends increasingly on chance; the size of the syllabi and the the specificity of the questions, combined with the fact that for these two exams there was literally no way to prepare (I’ve never seen C1 questions like that) ensures that.

My Interview with Amsterdam

Today I was interviewed for my application to Amsterdam university. I believe it went well (but of course I cannot be certain). Apparently, I have an A on my application file; this means I have a high chance of being admitted.

The tutor whom I talked with seemed quite amused. I don’t quite know what to make of that.

The interview was mostly about the course; we discussed what I wanted to do, the way the course was structured, and the workload involved. I thought the course was a good match for me, although I get the impression that a lot of work will be involved...

There is also this to consider:


Now finally: about my writing.

Obviously, I still have exams; the next one is on Wednesday, and it is maths C2 (I wonder what that will be like). Nonetheless, I shall use this afternoon of opportunity to do some more work with my editor.

Speaking of which: my editor has gotten back to me with an assessment of the book! She has also made a number of comments inline. I have already read through them; today I will re-read them, and formulate an action plan. Then I will go over it with the editor. After the exams, I will put words into action.

Very well! Onto work...

13 May 2016

A Socialist’s Case for EU Membership

Hail readers!

Previously, I promised that I would address the troublesome matter of the EU referendum. Well; here I am. My essay is one I shall attempt to keep reasonably brief, although the complexity of the matter will inevitably require substantial argument. No matter.

Broadly speaking, there are will be two main themes in my essay. Firstly, I will make a positive case for EU membership; and secondly, I will disabuse the Brexit case of its claims. But before that, allow me to ask a different question…

Why is the Referendum Important?

You may be wondering why, in the midst of my exam revision, and in the process of important work on my novel, I have decided to write on this. Well; this is because the EU referendum is very important—to me personally and to the country as a whole.

Firstly, allow me to be blunt: Brexit would be damaging to me personally. I hold Romanian citizenship; this confers to me both advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that I can study in the Netherlands under EU tuition fees—typically around €2000/annum or so. If Brexit occurs, the significant number of British students intending to study in Holland would very likely have to pay non-EU fees. These are about three times the EU fees. (Suckers!)

Unfortunately, the current government is not very accommodating of foreign people. Theresa May, our dear Home Secretary, is already planning on deporting NHS nurses (as well as teachers and other non-EU workers) that earn less than £37,000 £35000 (Independent, apparently the exact figure has changed) a year—for no other reason than that they’re not EU/UK citizens. EU rules make it illegal for her to do the same to EU workers. However, if Britain were to leave, there’s no telling what she would do once free of her legal shackles.

If I were to leave for Holland, May’s antics would be of no personal consequence. If I intend to study here, however, I would be more concerned. Although it’s rather unlikely that she’ll be deporting me—considering that I’ve lived here since I was a child, speak English fluently and will be a university student soon—she and the Tory government may remove EU employment protections. This might affect my parents (who also hold Romanian citizenship although they do also hold Right to Work), it might affect me, and it will certainly many British workers who will see their already threadbare employment rights weakened further.

Anyway, the argument I will be presenting here will not be about personal circumstance, or indeed the people who will suffer if Brexit occurs (although there will be many, both British and non-British, they will be a minority).

No: my argument will be about Britain as a whole. And more importantly still, about Europe as a whole.

The Case for Bremain

If you haven’t already realised, I don’t think very highly of Brexit. In fact, I think it’s a staggeringly stupid idea—on par with austerity and selling off council housing. Maybe worse (and that’s saying something).

But why, you wonder, is this?

Firstly, I’ll say that I am not in the minority. This is not to employ an ad populum argument; it is merely to highlight the fact that Brexit, and more broadly Euroscepticism, is actually a minority view held by people convinced that others share their view. I don’t just mean in Britain—although EU membership is advocated by both the trade unions and big business (a rare feat!), the majority of small businesses, most political parties, and the majority of the population when polled. I also mean in the rest of Europe: in most EU countries, Euroscepticism is the view of about 20% of the population; the rest of the population thinks breaking up the EU is madness. Even the Americans think Brexit is a bad idea.

Anyway, back to Britain. None of this is not to say that Brexit is impossible—it’s because of a thing called differential turnout. The majority of people may agree to EU membership as a whole (leaving aside one or two specific issues) but they may not bother to vote. The leave brigade, on the other hand, is obsessed with leaving.

Once you understand that Britain is in serious danger of letting a minority make a decision affecting the entire country, you begin to understand why Brexit is a bad idea on purely democratic terms.

You may of course argue that people have the right to vote and that not voting is a choice they make. However, this argument is rather naive for two reasons. Firstly, some of us actually don’t have the right to vote even though the referendum affects us a great deal (more than anyone, perhaps). Secondly, the reality is that for a democratic system to actually be meaningfully democratic, people have to vote—it’s a constitutional responsibility.

Leaving this aside, why does Britain need to stay in the EU and why is the Leave campaign wrong?


The economics of Bremain have been hashed out a number of times. They are not, in my opinion, the most compelling reason to remain; but nor can they be ignored, and it would be silly for me—an economics student—to fail to address them in this essay.

Let’s start with an obvious one: trade. The rEU accounts for half of the UK’s exports:

Note: you may need to allow your browser to display HTTP content over HTTPS in order to view the above graphic. If you can’t, see the original link

If the UK left, it could see a return to before EU conditions—to tariffs, regulations, quotas, and other measures inhibiting exports. The UK could renegotiate its trade deals, but anyone who has studied the history of trade deals will tell you that such negotiations are likely to take decades.

It is also rather unlikely that the UK could negotiate terms that are as favourable as they are now, let alone more favourable. The EU isn’t stupid: it knows that favourable terms under Brexit would bolster similar isolationalist parties in other countries, like FN in France. If the UK leaves, you can count against favourable terms.

Also, look at Switzerland and Norway: they still have to agree to EEA regulations—and these in fact make up the bulk of EU regulations (about 80% according to most estimates). And: they have no say in how these regulations are decided. They have no MEPs, no commissioners, and nobody on the European Council.

It is also extremely unlikely that the UK could realistically avoid trading with Europe. For one, geographic proximity is still a reality when it comes to trade. Shipping heavy objects or time-sensitive goods vast distances does add to cost.

But more importantly, the UK simply wouldn’t have the clout to negotiate the kind of trade deals the EU can. It is a simple question of numbers. The largest and strongest economies have the greatest bargaining power and secure the best deals. The US has a GDP of $17.4T (that’s trillion); China’s is $10T; and the EU’s is the largest, at. $18.5T. The UK? Our GDP is $3T. That’s a fraction of other nations (All stats from Trading Economics, 2016 data.)

Nevertheless, there is more to this fiasco than trade. Yes, trade is nice, but trade alone doesn’t have a massive overall impact on the UK economy.

There are other economic issues that are more significant, however. One such is to do with standards and regulations. Now, for anyone not familiar, the EU has numerous regulatory powers when it comes to what goods can be traded in the EU and how. The EU sets standards on car safety, food safety, and on how consumer goods should be built. It sets consumer rights; firms operating in the EU know their legal duties and know that the EU will enforce them.

The EU, believe it or not, makes consumer goods cheaper. This is because firms spend a not-insignificant amount of money on testing and meeting all of these regulations. (Obviously this is more expensive than no regulations, but do you honestly want your hairdryer to electrocute you? Do you want to be sure that the food you buy at the supermarket is safe to eat?) Now: in the instance where a multinational organisation like the EU sets standards, every firm operating in Europe can have one standard to worry about. Not 28.

If the UK were to leave, consumer prices would begin to rise; it is simply the nature of standards to diverge. The UK would have one standard, the EU another, and any firms intending to sell goods in the UK will have to charge more in order to pay for their testing and possible redesign.

Other economic arguments centre around immigration. These I won’t address because there’s no significant evidence either way.

Anyway; it’s pretty obvious that Brexit would have economic consequences. Only the most obstinate Eurosceptics deny this. It is the view of the vast majority of economists. But as I say: this has to do with more than just economics. Let me present some big-picture arguments for the EU.

Global Warming

Anthropogenic global warming is scientific consensus. (See this Meta Analysis published by Skeptical Science.) I’m not going to bother debating this, since it’s not worthy of any debate. Nor is there need for convincing—the vast majority of the people of Europe accept it.

Now the question becomes: how do we tackle anthropogenic climate change? Obviously this is a complex topic. But a few aspects do emerge.

Global warming is caused by greenhouse gases (GHGs) like CO2 and methane. Reducing these emissions is extremely challenging from a technical standpoint; generating energy, and storing it for use in transport applications, from non-polluting sources is difficult. Wind power is somewhat variable, and unable to provide all of our energy demands—although it is relatively cost-effective. Solar power is promising but is currently expensive. Carbon-neutral resources like rapeseed oil are limited by supply. But you know what? These problems are gradually being resolved.

Nevertheless, alternative energy tends to have a few key problems. One of these is cost: although the cost of these technologies is generally not great, the cost difference between them and a polluting technology is significant enough to be political.

That’s the thing about global warming; it is political as well as technological. And when it comes to the political, countries have shown that they are willing to pollute if it means obtaining an economic advantage over countries that do not pollute.

And this is where the EU comes in. Why? Because the EU is supranational; it can actually enforce regulations on member states. (Do I need remind anyone of the Kyoto protocol?)

Indeed, the EU has been a key driver in tackling climate change. It has subscribed to some of the toughest climate targets of any large economy (Europa); and of the large economies, it has seen one of the largest reductions in CO2 since 1990 (Eurostat). This is better than the US—which saw no significant decrease (EPA)—despite per-capita emissions being lower to begin with.

Furthermore, the EU has an effect that is less easy to quantify but no less significant: it is a role model for the rest of the world. It shows that emissions can be cut, and in particular, that Westerners are not hypocrites. This is important; China has long complained by hypocrisy on the part of the US. It can’t use that argument against the EU. Indeed, one may plausibly claim that the EU contributed to China’s recent drive towards decarbonisation.

A few Eurosceptics, particularly those left-inclined, may wonder whether the UK could achieve similar things without the EU. But this attitude is rather naïve, for several reasons. Firstly, the EU is much larger than the UK; if the UK remains a member state, it has greater power to influence other member states (which it would lack were it to leave) and it can influence the world by helping set EU foreign policy.

Secondly, as I’ve pointed out before, there is a conflict of interest here between states. Suppose, for argument’s sake, the UK were to support lowering carbon emission. Now suppose that the EU did not in fact exist. If we, say, introduced tough regulations on industrial pollution—would other countries follow? Or would firms pack up and move towards countries with more lax regulation, harming us and benefitting them?

And most of all, would we be able to continue our political support for CO2 reduction in these circumstances? If we can’t, global warming will continue. And that hurts all of us.

International Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion

The Panama leaks, and many instances of global tax evasion before it, should give us an indication of what kind of money is being laundered; what effect that money would have had on our deficit-enduring, cash-strapped governments; and how difficult it is to deal with tax evasion of this sort alone.

The EU has undertaken numerous projects to combat tax fraud, evasion and avoidance. One example is the recently-approved bill to force multinationals to release country-by-country financial reports—a move which our own government initially resisted. Considering our own dear Prime Ministers’ interesting operations in Panama, this may not come as a surprise.

In any case, the situation here is much the same as with climate change. The EU is big; it can secure deals with tax havens like Monaco and Andorra (Europa). And once more, the EU is a stalwart against what, in economic parlance, is known as ‘fiscal competition’. In other words, if we—for whatever reason—decide to raise taxes on income, VAT or (most importantly) corporate tax, other European nations cannot take advantage of us. This is because of numerous EU laws, such as the minimum 15% VAT threshold and various regulations regarding corporate practice within the EU.

The EU has also clamped down on various clever tax avoidance schemes. One has personally affected me.

You see, some months ago, Amazon—being quartered in Luxembourg—was able to pay 3% VAT on ebooks sold within its marketplace. Then the EU brought in regulations requiring digital goods to be subject to taxation in the country of purchase. Now people have to pay 20% VAT when they buy the Necromancer, instead of 3%. And the UK government gets the money, not Luxembourg. I may not be pleased, my readers may not be pleased, but we all have to pay tax.

To quote Jeremy Corbyn: there cannot be one rule for the rich and another for everyone else.

Think of the Big Picture

Finally, there’s the old bugbear of national security to think about.

If the UK were to leave, the EU and the UK would weaken their ability to influence world events. Putin would be delighted: the EU is his worst nightmare. It’s right on his doorstep; and it has allowed several Eastern European countries (Romania, Poland, Bulgaria) to escape Russian political, economic and military dominance.

Of course there’s NATO. But NATO isn’t an economic union; it’s not even a political union outside of the purely military aspect of it. NATO hasn’t bought human rights to Europe—or at least not beyond overthrowing a few unsavoury dictators (cough Milošević cough) NATO members don’t have to sign the ECHR, they don’t have to have strong democratic government, and most of all: NATO can’t provide trade deals and investment to nations hoping to escape Putin’s claws. The Eastern block can attest to this.

Also, the EU is a military alliance distinct from NATO; this is important if you happen to be, say, the Ukraine.

So the EU is undeniably beneficial to Europe. ‘But what about Britain!’ some of you may cry.

Now this is where it gets interesting. Firstly, it’s worth realising that the problems inherent in a military and political union can be much worse than under the EU. Among EU nations, Britain is an equal. NATO? The US is king there.

But let’s consider more than just the military. What of other diplomatic, legal and economic considerations?

I will not deny that the EU acts on the interests of all of Europe; if this occasionally conflicts with the interests of the UK, so be it. Indeed, the EU’s interests frequently do conflict with many other member states aside from Britain.

But you know what? If the EU didn’t exist, we would all suffer. If every country in Europe simply pursued its own interests, Europe would be fragmented and weak. Strength is in co-operation; and sometimes, one has own to accept an unfavourable stance on one issue in order to accept a favourable stance on a dozen other issues.

This concept, however, seems to elude the Brexit brigade.

The Case Against Brexit: Myth and Fatuous Argument

Let me now address the many claims made against the EU, and why they don’t hold up to scrutiny.

The EU is Undemocratic/Unaccountable

This claim is made by both left and right Eurosceptics, and it’s preposterous in both cases. The EU:

  • Has a parliament elected by elections held in member states (they don’t call them the European elections for nothing!) and composed of MEPs belonging to national parties—as my own party frequently reminds me in news bulletins;
  • It has a commission selected by the parliament, held accountable by the parliament, and incapable of passing laws without the parliament’s support. The commission is like the cabinet of the UK government; it is selected by the parliament in the same way that the leader and cabinet is selected by the party. The only difference is that the commission has more limited powers than do our government ministers;
  • Thirdly and finally, it also has the Council of Ministers, which is composed of the government ministers of each individual member state (who are in turn elected by the member states’ electorate).

The EU is democratic from top to bottom. It has significant separation of powers not unlike the American system.

It also reeks of hypocrisy when these critics complain about the EU’s democratic process, but not our own. We, after all, have an appointed House of Lords! (Not that I’m against the House of Lords: I think it’s a good idea in need of some reform. I’m just pointing out inconsistencies.)


As for the claim that the EU is not accountable, I find that hard to believe seeing as to how the UK:

  1. Has a number of MEPs;
  2. Has Councilors;
  3. And regularly participates in negotiations.

The critics seem to be labouring under the impression that if the UK doesn’t always get its way, the EU must be unaccountable. Sorry to break it to you folks: it’s called a union. An accountable and democratic union means that everyone in the union has a say—NOT that one member dictates policy. That is known as ‘imperialism’.

But think of the Greeks!

This line of argument is the one taken by leftwing Eurosceptics. It is a stupid argument, of course, since it fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the EU towards individual member states.

Here’s the situation:

  • Successive Greek governments ran high deficits and failed to implement important structural reforms regarding industry, employment, pensions, and most importantly tax evasion.
  • Come the world financial crisis, Greek tourism went down the pan and the Greek economy went with it.
  • The Greek government asks the EU, and more specifically a few EU member states, for help.
  • Merkel, Sarkosy and EU top dogs grant Greece a rescue package composed of loans; however, Greece must undertake some reforms in order to get this rescue package. These reforms are intended to prevent a similar situation from occurring again.
  • The IMF also gives Greece loans, and again with strings attached.
  • The Greeks suffer rocketing unemployment, recession, and quite a few cuts to important government services.
  • The Greek economy worsens, Tsipiras is elected, and we know the rest.

The EU has no legal obligation to help Greece. I would say that it does have an economic and political obligation, because the economy of one member states affects other members states; and because, more broadly, the European Union requires a certain modicum of solidarity to function politically.

The EU leaders, including Merkel and Sarkosy, accepted this—they offered Greece a rescue package.

But to understand why the terms were so harsh, you have to see it from their perspective. The financial crisis affected nearly all developed economies. In the US, house prices collapsed, many were left unemployed, in debt and destitute. In Europe likewise, we were bailing out our banks, suffering recession and dealing with high unemployment. What could Merkel and co do? Their countries were faring comparatively well, but the key word here is comparatively. Merkel still had to bail out Deutsche Bank; Germany still saw recession. France saw high unemployment.

Could Merkel justify spending her own taxpayers’ all too finite money on other countries—especially when the other countries’ economic crisis was not her fault? Did she not need to ensure that her loans would be repaid, and that Greece and co. would undertake the necessary reforms to prevent such a disaster from happening again?

And remember Spain and Italy—their economies weren’t in as much shit as Greece’s, but they were much larger and therefore potentially more disastrous. Remember that Germany and co. gave loans and rescue packages to them as well.

In short, it is pure fantasy to suggest that Greece was a blameless victim of EU neoliberalism. The Greek economy was the fault of Greek governments over many years (along with the bankers’ insane gambling, but that’s a different kettle of fish). And the EU did in fact offer to help them; they could have just said ‘not our problem’.

Were Merkel’s austerian ‘reforms’ effective? Obviously not: Greece has seen almost no recovery and is suffering from political and economic chaos. But this is not because Merkel was an adherent of neoliberalism; her government, if you recall, renationalised the Federal post office and was quite happy to play nice with the unions.

Merkel may have been influenced by the economic establishment (remember: the IMF was all for austerity until recently) but her decision was not made on establishment economics. It was made on something even worse: household economics. Merkel believed that if the Greeks ‘tightened the belt,’ and paid off their debts (just like a household) it would be fine. This proved disastrous.

Nevertheless, it is not a fault of the EU. It is not even enough to damn Merkel—her actions were the result of ineptness, not malice.

And why am I so resolutely confident of this? Because it is in Germany’s interests to have a strong Greek economy—to suggest anything else would be ludicrous. A strong Greek economy means customers to buy Mercedes. A weak Greek economy means loans you may not get back, bad political PR, and political chaos in the EU.

But Norway and Switzerland do well!

This rather amusing comparison is sometimes trotted out by Eurosceptics. It has two fundamental problems. The first is that Switzerland and Norway are part of the EEA, and have to abide by EEA rules; this immediately makes the argument rather suspect. After all, Farage and co. are not suggesting we be part of the EEA, since that would involve free movement of labour.

The second problem is to do with cause and effect: Norway’s and Switzerland’s economic performance is not only partly because of being in the EEA, but also because Norway has large reserves of North Sea oil, and because Switzerland has been a banking haven for tax-dodging elites since the days of WW1. One can hardly point to their success and claim Britain can follow it.

But the EU is Rubbish

To be perfectly honest, I think that what this argument lacks more than anything is perspective. Political systems are almost by definition imperfect; the EU is one of the better examples. Somehow, it managed to turn a war-torn continent into a peaceful world power, and indeed an economic Great Power. There aren’t many political unions that can claim to have done that. (Oh, and if you’re going to be gloat about the EU economy, gloat on this: the EU’s GDP is $18T—the largest in the world. Per capita, the EU has a GDP of $36,447; the world average is $10,700.World Bank)

The truth of the matter is, the EU is in most respects a world model. It mostly succeeds in juggling the interests of 28 member countries—through linguistic, economic and historic differences—without becoming gridlocked in the fashion of the American Congress. It is democratic and has proportional representation; that’s more than the US can say, and certainly more than what China can say.

In light of this, the complaints leveled against the EU are positively trivial. Maximum power ratings on vacuum cleaners? Really? (And by the way, this EU directive led to more efficient and quieter vacuums that clean no less effectively. Europa)

I’m not going to bother with complaints against the EU court of human rights. While in some instances their rulings may be a bit short of common sense, it is nevertheless an institution that does a good deal to uphold human rights and to guard against state abuses.

The Immigration Question

And now, finally, to the main driving factor behind the whole Brexit affair.

Some Eurosceptics claim their worries are related to the other issues I’ve mentioned, and not specifically to immigration. In some cases—especially if the Eurosceptics are left-leaning—this is credible. In many cases, however, this is a smokescreen for the issue other Eurosceptics make front and centre.

Now: I am not going to discuss the numerous complexities of immigration in too much detail here. I don’t have the time and it is not the scope of the essay.

I will, however, say a few things. Firstly, the immigrants don’t seem to have any negative effects on the UK economy. They do not ‘steal our jobs’ since labour economics is not zero-sum game—what jobs the immigrants take, they make other jobs buying from supermarkets and cars and utilities and all the other million-and-one things we buy.

Secondly, many of these immigrants’ children—and sometimes even the immigrants themselves—do, for all intents and purposes, become British.

Thirdly, not all immigrants are equal. How many Polish suicide bombers have you heard of?

Finally, it seems quite silly to leave the world’s largest trading block, an immensely influential and effective democratic world power, and to forego all those benefits in tackling climate change and tax evasion... over immigration. Dare I say it seems rather xenophobic?


Inevitably, to satisfyingly address an issue like the EU referendum, I have had to go into quite a bit of detail. Nevertheless, I hope you found my essay informative, reasonably succinct, and perhaps even convincing.

My essay has two broad conclusions.

The first is that the EU is a Good Thing. It has been a powerful force for good in Europe—having turned a broken continent into a relatively prosperous continent, and having turned the formerly corrupt Eastern block into something resembling transparent government—and it will continue to be at the forefront of battling tax evasion, climate change, and many more issues besides.

The second is that the arguments against the EU are either outright false or not particularly convincing under scrutiny. The EU is not anti-democratic. It may have a few flaws, as does any political institution; but it is still far better than most.

In short: leaving the EU would be burning the orchard because of one bad apple.

9 May 2016

Exams, Elections, and Poetry

Hail readers!

You may be wondering where I have been and what I have been doing these past several days. It would be a fair question; I have not updated the Magical Realm in a fair while. As for the answer?

Blame it on a few things. Firstly, this will be my last update bar one before my A2 exams begin. Yes, it’s that time of the year. Yes, I have been revising. And yes, I am reasonably confident. But no, I hate exams.

Anyway, that’s the first reason. The second reason is that I’ve been writing on the topic of the EU referendum; I have a near 5000 word essay completed, and will likely be adding more to it before I publish it. I actually finished the essay a few days ago, but declined to publish it because the media was in furore over Livingstone’s Hitler comments and, later, on the local elections. Thus I decided it was best to postpone its publication.

Now that media attention is slowly returning to Europe, expect to see the essay pop up soon. Perhaps once my exams begin, since I won’t have time to do any blogging at all then.

There is also a third reason: I have been working on the Ark with my editor. I have written a synopsis (since numerous agents ask for one) and the editor has gotten back to me with comments on it. Then I did a couple of edits, and sent it back to her. Such is the process of editing.

As for the Ark itself, my editor claims—optimistically, knowing her recent track record—that she’ll read and assess the manuscript by May 16th. I’ll see how that goes.

Oh, and there is yet another thing. I have applied to two Dutch universities, and one—Amsterdam—has offered to do an informal interview with me on (who would have thought?) May 16th. Thankfully, it is via Skype and only about 20 minutes long. In any case: wish me luck!

But That’s Not All

Those of you who follow me would know that I am a keen political blogger (being a member of the Labour party and having written numerous pieces on Socialism and Social Democracy). Therefore, it would be strange of me not to give my analysis on the local elections, mayoral results, and the election to the Scottish parliament & Welsh assembly.

Firstly, on the local elections. The media, predictably, was in furore. Numerous pieces were published claiming that Corbyn was to be shown up for the disaster he is; one supposedly well-known academic even claimed that Labour was to lose 150 seats in the south of England. Numerous other apocalyptic predictions were rife.

It turned out that Labour retained pretty much all of its seats.

With that prediction shattered (a prediction which the media conveniently forgot about) another prediction was to be shattered. Labour was predicted to lose badly in the Bristol mayoral election. The Labour candidate won.

In other mayoral news, Sadiq Khan is now mayor of London. This is great for several reasons. One, it means London has a Labour mayor; a boost for Corbyn. Two, London has a moderate Muslim mayor (I’m not terribly fond of Islam in general, but Khan is a good role model for disenfranchised Muslims to look at). Three, that buffoon is no longer mayor. And four, the Tory candidate’s dog-whistle racism didn’t get him anywhere.

Nevertheless, there is some bad news and some disappointing news. The bad news is Scotland: Labour has done atrociously there, down to 19% of the vote—lower even than what it got in the GE. This is obviously very disturbing, and doubly disturbing considering that Corbyn is now at the helm of the Labour party (and therefore matches the leftwing policies of the SNP).

The answer to why Scottish Labour did badly is not one that I know. Not one many people know, I should think. There are a few plausible reasons. Firstly, the leader of Scottish Labour—Kezia Dugdale—is, from what I have heard, not the best example of political leadership the world has seen.

Secondly, there may be a case of credibility at play; the Scots may not be very impressed by how not only the English establishment, but even Corbyn’s own party, has treated Corbyn. The Scots who voted SNP this election may be thinking: why vote Corbyn when you can get Corbyn policies via the SNP—a party that doesn’t conspire to undermine its own leader by cavorting with the parties’ enemies in the rightwing press.

Thirdly, there’s the independence question, and potentially even the EU debacle. The majority of Scots (55%) voted against independence, but the SNP has 47% of the vote. So potentially more Scots have gone over to the Independence side. Why? Well, the EU referendum could be one reason.

I however am skeptical of this. I doubt the elections to the Scottish parliament were determined entirely by Independence politics seeing as to how only a referendum will actually make Scotland independent.

The Tory party also saw a modest increase in the vote up in Scotland (from less than 20% to 25% of the vote) which is potentially a result of either the Scottish Tory’s leader—which I frankly doubt, seeing her lack of political success in numerous elections before 2016—or more likely the Tories were voted for as an anti-Independence vote.

As for Wales, Labour kept its position as the largest party but lost some votes.

Strategy Going Forward

The first thing Labour has to worry about is Scotland. If Labour does not do well in Scotland come 2020, Labour will almost certainly not have enough seats to form a majority. It could go into coalition with the SNP, but that poses some problems (the SNP would be an anti-union party governing the United Kingdom!) There’s also the element of the rightwing press spreading FUD about the SNP controlling Labour behind the scenes, but I’m not entirely sure as to how effective this will be.

If Labour wants to be a firm Unionist party, it could pick up votes from the Scots who voted against independence (presumably the majority). Unfortunately, the anti-independence vote is split towards the Tories, Lib Dems, etc. So this may not be enough.

Alternately, Labour could take a more non-committal position. It could say ‘We’re not so sure of this independence thing, but ultimately it’s for the Scottish people to decide and only a referendum will decide the matter.’ So potentially Labour could pick up both pro and against voters.

But then, why will the Scots vote Labour instead of SNP? There’s not much difference in policy at all between us and them. Then again: Labour was the natural governing party of Scotland for decades. Perhaps if some of our MPs chose to shut up and stop attacking Corbyn for a while, the Scots may take us in higher esteem.

In any case, it’s clear that throwing mud at the SNP won’t work. They’ve run a competent administration implementing Corbyn-like policy. Throwing mud hasn’t worked in these two elections; and it won’t work with Corbyn at the helm, since it will reek of a) hypocrisy and b) general bad manners.

The Million-Dollar Question: What About Corbyn?

The media’s apocalyptic predictions did not come to pass. This should surprise no one with a brain. However, the local election results—in contrast with the mayoralties—don’t show a dramatic victory for Corbyn.

Partly this is because Labour did fairly well in the previous election, and because Labour is already the most successful local party by quite a margin (nearly two thirds of councillors and councils are Labour). This makes it difficult for Corbyn to really improve upon Labour’s position.

Also, analysis by the BBC would suggest that if people voted in the GE in the same way the voted in these elections, Labour would be ahead of the Tories (on 31% versus 29% for the Tories). However, these two elections are rarely voted on in the same way and by the same people, so it’s a bit of a moot point.

The one thing that is disturbing is that the Tories should, really, have gotten a thrashing. They’re in chaos over Europe; forced academisation is not popular with the electorate; and Osborne has already had to U-turn on working tax credit. Plus, Cameron and Osborne have been embroiled in the Panama debacle.

So, is this Corbyn’s fault? Maybe, maybe not. It’s a bit too early to tell, really. And the EU referendum could change a lot of things. My take on it? Let’s wait and see. Give Corbyn a chance before replacing him. But if Corbyn doesn’t do well—find someone more personable.


I have written a great deal on matters personal and political. Since I need to focus on my exams, you can understand why. Aside from the EU essay I will be releasing soon, this will be my last post until June.

I will leave you with a final little treat. A poem. It is based on plans for a future book, so do take a look. ;)

The Hinterlands