Open Letter on the PLENUM 2017

There have been some blind-spots in the talk between Lord Brian Griffiths and Alan Webber about the Brexit and Donald Trump, says John David Cima.

My wife and I attend­ed the Acad­e­mia Supe­ri­or event in Gmunden on Sat­ur­day and found it both inter­est­ing and part­ly stim­u­lat­ing. How­ev­er, with your per­mis­sion, I would like to point out that dur­ing the dis­cus­sion between Lord Grif­fiths and Alan Web­ber many of the strik­ing, dem­a­gog­ic sim­i­lar­i­ties between the 2016 elec­tion cam­paign in the USA and the Brex­it ref­er­en­dum in the UK were neglect­ed. There­fore, please allow me to list some of the most glar­ing omissions:

  1. The use of iden­ti­cal slo­gans in both the US pres­i­den­tial and Brex­it cam­paigns such as, “Get­ting our coun­try back”.
  2. The fact that immi­gra­tion was a major vot­er con­cern in the par­al­lel cam­paigns and that its exploita­tion by Trump in the case of Mex­i­cans and the Brex­it lob­by with regard to Poles and oth­er EU migrants (non-UK EU res­i­dents were also exclud­ed from the vote), has result­ed in a size­able increase in hate crime in both the USA and the UK.
  3. The clear indi­ca­tions that the votes in the USA and the UK were large­ly anti-estab­lish­ment and had lit­tle to do with actu­al polit­i­cal or eco­nom­ic issues. In the USA, Clin­ton and Sanders were reject­ed by many Demo­c­rat sup­port­ers and in Great Britain, tra­di­tion­al Labour vot­ers also turned against their own par­ty and its “remain” rec­om­men­da­tion, as first and fore­most the tar­get was David Cameron and his Eton and Oxbridge-trained asso­ciates. It was their assump­tion that they would win eas­i­ly that led to the ref­er­en­dum in the first place and their fail­ure to install a two-thirds major­i­ty clause that cul­mi­nat­ed in defeat (12.9 mil­lion vot­ers did not vote). It is also wor­thy of note that although it is well known that Trump actu­al­ly lost the pop­u­lar vote in the USA, the fact that despite being enfran­chised for the Scot­tish ref­er­en­dum, vot­ers aged 16 to 17 in the UK, whose future was actu­al­ly at stake, were exclud­ed from the Brex­it vote is often ignored (in the mean­time, 563,000 young Britons have become eli­gi­ble to vote).
  4. The mak­ing of com­plete­ly imprac­ti­cal promis­es such as the revival of “rust belt” indus­try in the USA and huge fund­ing gains for the UK’s Nation­al Health Ser­vice of GBP 350 mil­lion per week.
  5. The par­al­lel uni­verse in which mil­lion­aires like Trump, or per­son­ages such as Lord Grif­fiths, who has stout­ly defend­ed exor­bi­tant bank bonus­es, care about the poor or under­priv­i­leged. It was some­what cyn­i­cal of Lord Grif­fiths to refer to the peo­ple of his South Wales home­land in such glow­ing terms, when he knows per­fect­ly well that as a min­ion of Mrs Thatch­er (the spir­i­tu­al god­moth­er of Brex­it), even today he would be extreme­ly unwel­come with­in 20 miles of the near­est coal mine.
  6. The notion that the poor actu­al­ly played a mas­sive role in either votes, when reg­is­tra­tion is beyond many of the under­class in the USA and the BREXIT vote had far more to do with age and edu­ca­tion than with pover­ty. In this con­nec­tion, it is espe­cial­ly iron­ic that many of Trump’s plans with regard to envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion will hit strug­gling states such as Ten­nessee hard­est and deprived areas in Great Britain such as Teesside (which vot­ed out) stand to lose EU region­al funding.
  7. The mir­ror image cre­at­ed by Trump sup­port­ers say­ing that his peri­od in office has only just begun and that he will even­tu­al­ly suc­ceed in, “Mak­ing Amer­i­ca great again” and Lord Grif­fiths stat­ing that the British, “Have a spring in their step” (sind beschwingt). This may well be due to the fact that at the moment Trump’s com­plete lack of any coher­ent pol­i­cy has yet to have a con­crete impact upon the pop­u­la­tion at large and that we not only have “fake news”, but also “phoney Brex­it”, for apart from the diplo­mat­ic note invok­ing Arti­cle 50, noth­ing has actu­al­ly hap­pened and the UK remains a mem­ber of the EU.
  8. Last, but not least, no men­tion was made of the shared bor­der prob­lems, for if Trump’s Mex­i­can wall is an issue, it is noth­ing com­pared to the prob­lems fac­ing the UK with regard to North­ern Ire­land and Gibral­tar, not to men­tion the pos­si­bil­i­ty, how­ev­er far­ci­cal, of Scot­tish independence.

I could con­tin­ue at some length with regard to Lord Grif­fiths’ talk of the UK’s glow­ing eco­nom­ic future once it has desert­ed its main trad­ing part­ners in the EU (54.3% of UK exports) and has entered into free trade agree­ments with Aus­tralia, New Zealand, Chi­na and the USA (14.8% of UK exports), which in view of the Trump administration’s long­ing for pro­tec­tion­ism would seem to be some­thing approach­ing wish­ful think­ing. How­ev­er, I will close at this point in the hope that at the very least I have demon­strat­ed some of the major deficits in Saturday’s discussion.


Mag. John David Cima, born in Lon­don and liv­ing in Linz since 1977, has more than 50 years of expe­ri­ence at nation­al and inter­na­tion­al lev­el as a design­er, illus­tra­tor, art his­to­ri­an, lec­tur­er, art direc­tor, train­er, event man­ag­er, PR con­sul­tant, inter­preter and translator.


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