Europe – are we united or divided and do we care?

European Union

European Union (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The history of Europe over the centuries looks like a battlefield both literally and figuratively. Every so often, the powerful countries of the United Kingdom, France and Germany would fall out over something or other and go to war. World War 2 was the last such conflict and it has now been nearly 70 years since that war came to an end.

We have enjoyed nigh on 7 decades of relative peace, thanks in no small part to the European Union. The UK wasn’t interested to start with and applied to join a few years after the start only to be vetoed by the French. We persisted and joined the community in 1973.

Our relationship with Europe has been tumultuous ever since and there is a growing groundswell of opinion among the general public that we would be better off outside the European Union. Indeed, the UK Independence Party, started some 20 years ago with an exit from the community as their central policy. For many years, they gained little or no traction but recently, their share of the vote grew dramatically. So much so that the Conservative party promised a referendum on membership of the European Union should they win the next general election.

Because we live in a democracy, we are bound to follow the wishes of the majority. If they want us out, then out we must go. Sky News recently carried out the first in-depth survey to show what people’s voting intentions would be, why they would vote that way and what would make them change their mind (if anything). The results show a country broadly split down the middle with 51% in favour of leaving and 49% wanting to stay. The number one issue cited in the survey is immigration.

I hope that when it comes to the referendum proper, people vote with a clear understanding of what’s at stake either way. This mustn’t be a protest vote. It mustn’t be an emotional knee-jerk reaction or based on reminiscing about the fact that we once stood alone and we can do it again – us against the world. The issue is far too important. By all means, vote for what you want – but make sure you have a reasonable understanding about what you will gain and what you will lose.

As for me, I remain broadly in favour of the UK staying in the European Union. I understand there are drawbacks but I think we gain more than we lose. I think if we leave, much of the foreign companies we’ve attracted to invest over the years may well reconsider. I believe trade will gradually become more difficult and we will lose a lot of influence. According to the Independent newspaper, we gain from immigrants into the UK and if we stopped them coming, it would cost us £18Bn over the next 5 years. I like the way that people can move freely around Europe.

David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative party has pledged to renegotiate the terms of the UK’s membership of the EU so the club might have different rules when we get to the ballot box. If he can swing our membership such that it becomes more economic and less political then it should give a boost to the stay vote. It worries me that a large percentage of the respondents to the Sky News poll would not change their voting intentions no matter what.

What about you – shall we stay or shall we go? Why? Do you care?


The bare naked truth

shower out

shower out (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The chances are that unless you are in a certain industry, the list of people you would be happy to be naked with has shrunk over time. I can think of precisely one – my partner. Under certain circumstances, I might allow others to see me naked, such as my physician. If you have been a naughty boy (or girl) you might be required to strip by law enforcement officers. But by and large, the situation is under your control.

If my personal situation were different, I might add people to the list. Kylie maybe, or the girl from Sky News perhaps but the point is it is entirely up to me.

If the recent furore about Princess Kate’s topless photos appearing in the press and the outrage over Prince Harry‘s drunken naked romp in Las Vegas is anything to go by, it is a big deal to the Royal Family too. Although somehow I suspect that William and Kate were more angry than Harry. Privacy is important to people and breeches of privacy can be very upsetting.

Some cultures are much more private than others. Muslim women who choose to wear hijabs and burkas do so for a reason, they wish to conceal their bodies from those that they do not wish to see it. Quite what they make of Western TV with flesh just about everywhere is beyond me. In other cultures, women quite happily walk round topless. If the rumours are true about the Swedes – they spend their lives getting naked together in saunas and hot tubs. But in this country, we don’t.

So why when you go to the swimming pool or the gym are there usually communal changing rooms and communal showers? Assuming I wish to avail myself of the facilities – I have to get naked with complete strangers, something I just wouldn’t do under normal circumstances. I know that the people in the shower are probably not remotely interested in my fine specimen of a body, but that’s not the point.

If I designed the facilities, I would have private cubicles, with underfloor heating. You would hand your clothes through a hatch to a waiting valet who would take them away and warm them ready for your return. The showers would be hot and would have nice adjustable shower heads.

And best of all – your privacy would be maintained at all times (unless of course you drag Kylie into your cubicle).