Category Archives: News

Brexit Syndrome

So:

Inflation is up (and becoming concerningly high).

Consumer confidence and spending is down.

Most businesses are pessimistic about the future.

The pound remains very low.

The vultures are circling for our multi-billion pound Euro-clearing business – said to support 83,000 jobs. 83,000!

And on, and on.

If anyone had any doubt whether we were in a phoney war – we were, and the serious stuff starts now. An unmitigated Brexit disaster is on track.

How did we get here?

A man called Nigel Farage – intelligent, and vitally a very effective communicator – never underestimate the power of communication – led us here.

But as a schoolmaster of Farage once prognosticated – google it – he is a serious menace. And this menace is one of many who suffers from a disease known as Brexit Syndrome.

Those with Brexit Syndrome don’t understand the consequences of an increasingly globalised world – or even accept it.

They consider Britain still rules the world; doesn’t need its European brethren; can make its own way; will be welcomed with open arms by international partners.

They live in La La Land.

And for many of them, the Brexit disaster will be of no personal consequence.

The barrow-boy tabloid barons will be all right.

The Eton alumni will be all right.

David Cameron will be comfortable in his £25,000 chillax garden shed. Did you know you can sleep in it?

But the bulk of Brexiters – the engine-room – the disenfranchised of the midlands and north who voted in such large numbers to leave – I fear the consequences for many of them will be severe.

The penny is slowly dropping. There is talk now of a soft Brexit.

But we must not rest on our laurels!

Astonishingly – does this excuse for a PM ever learn? – Therese May has just appointed my hapless local MP Steve Baker as Minister for Zealotry in the Brexit Department.

He’s said already to have struck up a good relationship with those delightful people from the DUP. Takes one to know one.

We are at a pivotal point, and must capitalise.

Let there be a clamour for a second referendum (aim high), and if not, the softest of Brexits.

Let’s look back at May’s general election call and say that, whilst it was folly for her, it was serendipity of the highest order – and saved this country.

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Filed under Brexit, General Election, General Election 2017, News, Politics

Tory Folly, Deceit… and Defeat

Let us be in no doubt: the current rudderless state of the country – a declining economy, a nation divided in many ways, an impending Brexit disaster – are all down to the Tories.

It was the Tories who decided on an EU referendum, to see off UKIP and thereby maintain the integrity of the Tory party. And it’s no good saying the country wanted out of the EU: the country voted on false premises and arguments, and to give a good kicking to the establishment. As they’ve just done again. The country (other than hapless die-hard Little Englanders) will have second thoughts when Brexit follows its inevitable course toward unmitigated disaster.

And despite all this – and the effective vote of no confidence they’ve just been given – the Tories continue in (feigned) denial. Or, at least, the repellent Theresa May does (she now seems cut loose from her own party). The Tories won the most votes and seats. Only they can provide “certainty”, she says (she dare not say “strong and stable” any longer).

This deceit is pitiful, and I find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with John McDonnell that the public is fed up with this approach, repeated day in day out by Theresa May flunkies like Michael Fallon. It’s an insult to the electorate (about whom it was clear during the campaign this wayward, wheat-destroying vicar’s daughter cares not a jot) to treat them like this, force feeding them meaningless mantras, and lies.

The people do wish for something new – repeated anti-establishment votes demonstrate this. And they will get it. For what we are seeing is the decline of the Tories. On the surface, they may look strong: yes, the most votes, the most seats. But only just! Cameron did ok in 2015, then the Tory Government lost the referendum vote, and now May has no majority at all.

It’s Europe that will do for the Tories (as it always does). May’s position on Brexit is now – simply – untenable. She is weakened in negotiations abroad and at home. The latter will see her off. The soft Brexit the people have now declared they want (by the way, supported in a regular poll taken ever since the Brexit vote which now shows more people want to remain than leave) will split her fissile party down the middle; an attempt to continue with hard Brexit will not make it though Parliament.

Out of this Tory carnage will arise a second general election – before you know it – and will arrive like a knight in shining armour the unlikely figure of Jeremy Corbyn (Labour won’t be able to ditch him now). We’ll have to see how that goes, of course. Maybe he’ll adapt his very left-wing but broadly sympathetic policies to a degree, and thereby broaden his appeal. After all, he may have to fight off a “British” Macron by then. But if nothing more occurs than that Tory patronage and arrogance are replaced by a more caring, meritocratic, and… human approach to government and politics more broadly – for that, alone, I will be grateful.

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Filed under GE2017, General Election 2017, News, Politics

Appearance in Za Kanalem

I’m really pleased to be the subject of the latest “Portraits” interview in Za Kanalem.

Za Kanalem – or “Across the Channel” – is a new Polish language magazine for Poles local to Slough and High Wycombe.

An exciting mix of articles – informative, educational, entertaining – has seen it grow in popularity. I hope and expect it to carve a niche in the competitive market for Polish language publications in the UK…

(Read Polska Dotty 2 for more on how Poles over here have brought out an impressive range of publications).

Thank you to interviewer Dominika Kuspit, and photographer Joanna Madziarska of PhotoHarmony – and all at Za Kanalem.

Powodzenia!

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Filed under High Wycombe, Immigration, News, Poles in UK, Polish culture, Slough

Have Yourself… A Polska Dotty Xmas

Polska Dotty 1 – the paperback – is proving a popular stocking-filler this year.

And for the next 7 days, you can purchase the kindle edition HALF PRICE on amazon countdown.

Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B005YAEHK0

Polska Dotty 1 explores Poland – and what it is to be Polish – in a series of themed chapters, underpinned by a hilarious storyline.

Don’t forget Polska Dotty 2, your unique guide to Poles in the UK, laced with the same great humour:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01ECH9WZA

Have yourself a very Merry “Polska Dotty” Xmas!

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Filed under Books, News, Poland, Poles in UK, Travel

The World Upside Down: Trump, Brexit & the Germans

It is a truth universally acknowledged that we find ourselves in a world where populism is rampant. Its first sizeable manifestation was Brexit – but in fact, populist movements had already been strengthening around Europe, if not the wider world: the National Front in France, Law and Justice in Poland, Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party in the Netherlands, Golden Dawn in Greece, Norbert Hofer (an extreme right winger likely to become Austrian President). And on and on…

If Marine Le Pen wins the French Presidential election next year, and manages to take the French out of the EU, the latter will surely implode (its German-French engine having exploded).

And what, then, will the Germans think – already deserted by Little England, and Trumped in the US? It is a world turned upside down where Germany is the guardian of our freedoms. I don’t mean that in the least patronisingly. I just mean that, since WWII – a war in which Nazi Germany redefined man’s inhumanity to man – it is ironic that it seems to be the last man standing when it comes to the protection of our most basic freedoms. There’s a reason for this, of course, which is precisely its past. Germans have been there and done that. They don’t wish even to contemplate division in Europe, having twice divided it themselves.

We’ll have to see. The French Presidential election comes before the German one, and if Le Pen does make it, this will add momentum to Germany’s own populist party, Alternativ fur Deutschland. Which begs the question, how widespread is populism in Germany itself? I work for and with Germans, and from what I can tell, the mainstream there remains strongly for the EU, probably (if they had to say) more for the peace it brings than economic benefit. This, of course, is where it differs from (just over half) the UK’s voting electorate, who never wanted more than an economic union. So, I think we can rely on the Germans remaining our guardians, without underestimating the feral forces that could also be unleashed there if the rest of Europe goes native.

What of the populist zeitgeist itself? This is what worries me the most. Because it’s not populism. Let’s be straight: it’s fascism, pure and simple. Trump – the Man in the High Castle – is against every group unlike him. The other. A large chunk of Brexiters are xenophobic, fearful of immigrants who take the jobs they won’t. They scapegoat immigrants. It all comes full circle (and the mask slips) when Nigel Farage stands in front of a Nazi-like, snaking queue of foreigners, all (apparently) itching to enter the UK.

How is this prejudice unbottled in the public? By the scapegoating, but also by promising the masses what they want, irrespective of its deliverability. It’s what they’re calling post-factual politics. Trump is its master exponent, of course, but the side of the Brexit bus would be another good example. All over Europe, and in the US, populists are blaming everything on globalisation, and promising in its place… the earth. It’s fraud on a staggering scale.

Never mind the Simpsons – here’s what’ll actually happen. If these people take control, there’ll be worldwide economic stagnation (or worse) as the major powers go protectionist; and a disregard for human rights (even more scandalous than at present) as Trump and Putin carve up Syria and the like – until, inevitably, they fall out with each other and bring us closer to worldwide conflagration (neither being the sort to lose face).

Are we helpless to do anything, in the meantime? I don’t think we can halt the current populist wave. But in our voting, and protesting, and writing – look at what Lego announced today! – we can slow it, and contribute to its ultimate defeat. Defeat will come when the people realise they’ve not only been duped, but their baser instincts appealed to in the process. They’re just as poor as they’ve always been – and nastier. This will right itself. As Ghandi said, evil empires – and make no mistake, we may be heading for a few – always come crashing down in the end.

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Filed under Germany, Immigration, News, Politics, USA

Polska Dotty 2 – Reviews!

Reviews are rolling in for Polska Dotty 2…

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Cosmopolitan Review
The latest, from Cosmopolitan Review declares the book is “[a] hilarious story of home renovation with a cast of almost unbelievable Polish characters doing the work… not only entertaining but also instructive”. Here’s the link (check out both the review, and my article on Brexit): http://cosmopolitanreview.com/

Inside Poland
This follows on from the first review of the work by Inside Poland, who wrote that “Polska Dotty 2 is an excellent primer for anyone interested in what’s really happening with Poles in the UK”: http://inside-poland.com/t/polska-dotty-2-ahead-of-brexit-referendum-read-new-book-by-jonathan-lipman-on-poles-in-the-uk/

Lajt magazine
Lajt says this is “the book every Pole living in the UK should read”. Win a copy by sending pix of your painted nails into them!.. http://lajt.co.uk/uwaga-konkurs-pochwal-sie-swoimi-paznokciami

Warsaw Voice
And look out for Warsaw Voice’s review of the book later this month…

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Filed under Book competition, Book review, Books, News, Poles in UK

Jewish Kraków – Part II

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Well, we already knew we’d lucked out when our old friend Prof Jonathan Webber agreed to show us around the Galicia Jewish Museum, in Kraków, which he jointly founded with the late photographer Chris Schwarz. Little did we know what great insight he would provide into this museum.

Jonathan’s idea was to present the extremely delicate and complex subject of Polish Jewish life in a series of ideas – five, to be precise. This would be done by photography only, all taken in colour from the present-day – often employing a device in which two contrasting images are juxtaposed, to emphasise some tension or other. A yin and yang, if you will. So, without further ado, let’s explore the five sections…

1 - Jewish Life in Ruins

1 – Jewish Life in Ruins

The photos in this first section capture the destruction wrought on Poland’s pre-war community of 3.3 million Jews, the vast majority of whom were murdered in the Holocaust. The gravestone you see was mentioned in Polska Dotty. It is particularly poignant because it reveals there must have been a cemetery in this part of Plaszow (the Kraków suburb where the Nazis established a concentration camp for the city’s Jews), but only one Chaim Abrahamer’s headstone remains. In addition, in this first section, there are pictures of synagogues open to the elements, or propped up by scaffolding, or with bushes growing from them. As Jonathan evocatively puts it, it is as if time just suddenly stopped – and makes a painful sight.

On a personal note, this opened my eyes. I knew Jonathan had been instrumental in restoring many places of Jewish heritage in Poland, and had in my head, somehow, that the job – if not complete – was well on its way. Whilst much has been done, I now realise there must be a huge number of such sights still abandoned, to which no-one has yet raised a restorative pick or shovel.

Glimpses of the Jewish Culture that once was

2 – Glimpses of the Jewish Culture that once was

In contrast to the first section, in part 2 we see remains of Jewish life that escaped the Nazi destruction. These include exquisitely decorated synagogues and tombstones. The image you see is of a prayer-room within a house in Dabrowa Tarnowska. It is still preserved today, years after its owner (who survived the War) passed away. I describe in Polska Dotty a surreal moment when a group of us visited the room during a field-trip led by Jonathan, in the summer of 1994. Suddenly, the owner, who was still then alive, began wailing. “Two years and four months! Two years and four months! My sister survived the Holocaust by hiding under the boards of this house for two years and four months!”

3 - The Holocaust: Sites of Massacre and Destruction

3 – The Holocaust: Sites of Massacre and Destruction

Whilst the museum’s approach makes it clear that the history of Polish Jewry is a rich and lengthy one, much more than only the Holocaust – evidently, the Holocaust must be tackled. Indeed, I don’t suppose this museum would exist without it. The image you see is of a last remaining part of the ghetto wall in Podgorze, Kraków. The Jews were herded into here, until being carted off to their deaths. You can easily enough find the wall. With its tombstone-like arched tops, and what it represents, it is – though just a wall – strangely moving, even upsetting. A plaque describes its significance. As you can imagine, the photographs in this section of the museum, though they don’t directly show human suffering – there are no humans in the photos until the last section – are harrowing.

4 - How the Past is being Remembered

4 – How the Past is being Remembered

A very interesting section, showing the great variety of remembrance. From a local library housed in a stunning, restored synagogue in the small village of Niebylec, to another synagogue used as a furniture store, with no hint of its origins – and everything in between. The picture I have included is of Belzec concentration camp. Visiting here was one of the most moving aspects of our field-trip with Jonathan all those years ago, largely because he read us an incredibly moving account of one of only 10 individuals ever to go into the death camp, and come out again alive. 500,000 Jews perished in Belzec. They have been remembered by irregular shaped boulders covering a site the size of four football pitches. In a way like the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, this seems to me an attempt to commemorate the monumental scale of the destruction by something that is also vast. When we visited Belzec all those years ago, there was virtually nothing to remember those who died there.

5 - The Revival of Jewish Life

5 – The Revival of Jewish Life

Jonathan had promised us there would be a meaningful coda to all this – and here it was in the last part. A series of images capturing the continuation of Jewish life in Galicia, though evidently, on a much smaller scale than once was. We see images of a Jewish wedding, a concert in Tempel Synagogue (see my previous blog, Jewish Kraków – Part I, for more on this synagogue), and a Polish primary school teacher who has published 20 articles on Jewish culture. Amongst other things, the exhibition reveals how many Poles, in the past and now, have done much to protect and preserve Jewish life in Poland, in contrast to Poles who collaborated during the War, or carried out pogroms against Jews.

The photo is of a stall in Sukiennice – the old cloth-hall that bisects the central square in Kraków’s old town – selling carved Jewish as well as Polish figures. The picture intentionally shows both, continuing a key theme of the exhibition – the interplay between Polish and Jewish life in Poland. But I need to tell Jonathan: when we tried to find a Star of David pendant for my daughters in Sukiennice, there were almost none, whilst crosses abounded. Maybe that’s just good old fashioned commercialism…

I hope this blog has given you a small insight into the Galicia Jewish Museum. What it doesn’t do, for sure, is offer the full experience. There are many more photographs than I have shown, and they are brilliantly shot – including by the late Chris Schwarz, who also founded the museum, and of whom I have fond memories from that field-trip back in 1994. The museum is also spectacularly housed – in an old mill, all high ceilings and exposed beams – incorporating an avant-garde design. Take a visit.

The ever-young Prof

The evergreen Prof

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Filed under Anti-semitism, Cracow, Holocaust, Jews, Krakow, News, Poland