Where does it end?

It started with the demonisation of the lowest paid and those on benefits. The poverty porn TV industry, maybe well intentioned in concept, simply depicted the extremes as the norm, complex lives and poverty carefully edited and presented in a simple way for judgemental public consumption. “They can’t be that badly off they have a mobile phone and a packet of fags”.

We saw the effects of austerity, the bedroom tax, making lives difficult for the disabled and sick whilst those in the top echelons of banking who caused the 2008 worldwide crash with their use of our economic system as a personal global casino seemed to simply bounce back and get even further ahead than they were when they started. No penalties for these guys.

Then the summer of 2015 came, I remember it so well, I had been gradually more and more alarmed to see the dehumanisation of refugees as the crisis of the summer unfolded. Cameron talked of people swarming. The hysterical newspaper headlines caused unnecessary fear and terror in the hearts of people, a fear fanned by commentators of hate and contrarians on tv radio and social media. We all know who they are. Complex human stories distilled down into a binary presentation for judgemental public consumption.

All this against the backdrop of Cameron running around talking to the EU at the behest of the ERG in his own party. Having promised his eurosceptics progress, he brought home concessions they all howled at, but they were always going to howl. That was the point of them. If they did not shake their fists angrily from the sidelines in tandem with Farage and UKIP what was the point of the them? Cameron was trapped by his own cleverclogs game playing. Having unexpectedly won a majority in the election and having pandered to the right of his party he was cornered and forced us into the EU referendum we didn’t need or want.

Well you know the rest of the story. Disenfranchisement, lying, cheating and hatemongering got the brextremists over the line, just.

So now we are here. After 3 years, it’s become so crystal clear that leaving the EU is a rather stupid and damaging idea that the Brexit cultists terrified of losing their precious have now doubled down and turned it into a mission of brexit purism and national do or die and played into the the darkest parts of the our society, exploiting divisions, exploiting peoples prejudices, exploiting people’s apathy and boredom and getting in the way of sensible debate. They have filled parliament with doom and gloom, paralysed it because it is torn apart by the reality of what is right for the country and the angry emails from constituents who think the EU stopped them having their fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, or maybe constituents who just want to stop seeing foreigners on their bus but they don’t want to admit it and seize on the Brexit lies about bananas to cover up their their own lack of self awareness.

There is no form of brexit which is good for us as a nation. Everybody in Parliament knows that. Some don’t care because it is good for them or they see it as a route to something they want. Thats the bottom line.

The cultists look to the USA and point and say what a wonderful deal we can do there. But look now. A presidential rally descended into a fascfest of chanting the most famous racist trope every. No more dogwhistles there. Only naked racism and prejudice. I hope the Americans get a grip of this slide into this type of politics but the point is we have absolutely no power or say in that, we have no votes there. We have no influence no matter what the Faragists and ERG say. We have no idea where the US are going or where they will end up. We are not partners. We are not members of a trading bloc with them. We have history but it seems to me the current occupant of the White House isn’t much interested in history.

The US president has shown himself to be unpredictable when dealing with other nations. His administration is America First in instinct. There could not be a worse administration to be trying to do an FTA with. Let’s be honest if our negotiators couldn’t even negotiate a Withdrawal agreement with the EU which parliament is happy with, I am unsure why brexiters, particularly the no-deal adherents, are so sure they will be hugely successful in getting an advantageous deal from a world power which is interested only in growing its own power and influence and domestic employment and wealth.

No-deal Brexit is a failure, it’s the manifestation of the weakness of the position brexiters themselves put us in trying to chase rainbows down for that illusory pot of gold. My guess is when talking to the US, the negotiations would go on for some years and in the end we will have to give away too much in return for too little and it will either fail or we will give in to truly the worst deal in history. At that point we will be wondering why we left the EU where we had influence and voting rights and a part in historic decisions about our European direction and protection of our liberal values in the first place.

It’s often said where America goes we follow. There are concerning signs that we are going somewhere we don’t want to go. Steve Bray the peaceful Anti Brexit activist was told by Mark Francois MP that October the 31st would be his “death warrant”. The Sodem protest was threatened, disrupted and damaged by EDL and Robinson supporters and only today Steve tweeted that a man thought it was okay to tell him he should be taken out and shot. There is a wholesale disregard for the adage, language matters, influenced by what is said by big names on our screens every night on the news and in our social media timelines by blue ticks, amplified by an army of bots automated and partly automated paid for by god knows who.

https://twitter.com/snb19692/status/1151873155172118528?s=21

There are questions about why Sajid Javid was excluded from the state banquet against the norm even though he is Home Secretary which even now have not been satisfactorily addressed. Boris Johnson the likely next PM refused to give support to the US ambassador after those diplomatic communications were released? Why? I don’t think it was incompetence. He knew that question was going to come up and therefore he and his team must have prepared for what he was going to say. It was deliberate. He didn’t want to be pushing back against Trump.

Many EU27 citizens were denied a vote in the EU elections through overly complex bureaucratic procedures which were unnecessary. Why?

All this makes me feel more strongly than ever that we have to Stop Brexit. This will send out a message to those who just want to push us around more and more and turn the world into a series of nativist enclaves that they cannot win by lying and cheating and threatening and discriminating. It will send a message that peaceful political disagreement and campaigning is part of democracy. This is not a time for us to give up. This is not a time to fight amongst ourselves either. It was bad enough seeing air raid sirens used in a Brexit political rally, I don’t want end up seeing the burning torches and hear racist chants at a British mainstream political rally because some Remain organisers were scrapping like children and messed up our morale. If we don’t stop ourselves going down this disastrous path, where will it end?

This is a time for us to be cementing our place within Europe, using our history , our partnerships and influence and strength there as a protection against the poison of extreme nationalism. This is a time for us to be celebrating the protections we have created together in the way we run our lives, protections for workers, for consumers, for citizens. It’s a time to embrace the liberal and consensus building nature of the EU. Yes there are some in there who try and bend it into something else but the spirit of the EU is stronger than ever, it is a project of peace and partnership and friendship. It’s not just a trading bloc, its a life. The EU is not something outside of us, we are the EU and holding on tight to our friends and partners is important in a world where the most powerful man in it is so unpredictable. Instead we are stuck in this ridiculous Westminster political paralysis. Only stopping Brexit will do. Only stopping brexit will allow us to breathe and rebuild again.

Please support the march tomorrow, whether you go to the march or whether you donate or whether you simply look out for the pictures and posts and share them with your friends and your MPs. We need to stand firm together. It’s a pro EU march, its a march for changing the conversation and language BACK to that of responsible liberal open internationalist politics.

Takeovers, Takedowns and Meltdowns.

Takeovers, Takedowns and Meltdowns.

I woke up this morning with my mind on an old customer whose story I would like to share.  I don’t wish to name names, so, as it amuses me, I will call them Dave, Ed & Nick LLP.   They were a customer for the best part of a decade.  I personally looked after their account and every other day would be talking to their excellent general manager John who ran the show for the owners, taking his orders, sorting out his problems, make sure his supplies and equipment arrived when he wanted them where he wanted them, keeping him happy.  A wonderful chap, an expert (yes, I know expertise is so last year), keeping his employer’s ship on a steady course for many years.  John knew what he was doing.   Sometimes he dropped a clanger or would make totally unreasonable demands and I would be swearing and muttering to myself around the office as I tried to figure out a solution that would get him out of a fix.  I always did and often it cost us money and he wasn’t always as grateful as I would have liked, but he always paid the bills and gave a fair price. Our working relationship was both excellent and mutually beneficial.

Then out of the blue the Dave, Ed & Nick LLP partners all wanted to retire and sell up.  John decided to go to pastures new and his assistant, Ben was put in his place.  We were assured there would be no change, we would have the exact same benefits and relationship with the new permutation of the company.  Of course, the inevitable unravelling started quickly.  The calls from Ben were full of unspoken anxiety and stress, you could almost feel him shrinking in the middle of the circle of wagons as he came under siege.   Their accounts department dragged their feet, Ben’s budget was squeezed, customers started to leave them in droves.  I would have to stop supplies until invoices were paid, never happened before.   It turned out that the new owners were not interested in job creation, or investing for growth, they were not interested in the existing staff or the long history of the company.  They had used lies to keep staff on board.  The prize in their sights was the prime property the company owned which was right in the middle of an area of intense redevelopment for buy to let luxury apartments.    They were running the company down for the cashflow whilst they got a developer on board, which they did.  Within a year the company which had operated for 30 years was dead, redundancy notices handed out.  The plaque on the swish new apartments should read RIP Dave, Ed & Nick LLP you served us well but well, we couldn’t be bothered with all that work malarkey and besides we made more money this way.

Why do I tell you this story you ask?  An everyday story of business surely.  Well I am no politician or historian, so I see the world through the lens of everyday life.  I see a parallel in the current body politic. Like my customer it has been broken and taken over by asset strippers and opportunists, people who have leveraged populism to take control.  I am shocked by what has happened in the last 8 years.  The electorate sold its votes to the highest bidders, fed up with stagnant wage growth and self-serving over familiar plastic politicians.  Conservatives under David Cameron bowed to pressure from the extremes within and sold their Tory souls to the UKIP agenda of division and blaming the Other to deflect from the fact that their own policies were woefully inadequate in addressing the post 2008 climate of poor growth and financial crisis.  Now under the cosh of a referendum result which she knows is damaging and makes no sense, May is caught in the death grip of the ERG who are pushing us steadily towards a disastrous Brexit.  The Tory back benchers, mostly remain realists originally, are invested so heavily in the folly of the great Willerthepeople Project that they are refusing to acknowledge we are all at the mercy of a small number of Billionaire disaster capitalists who are pushing their Brexit agenda for personal benefits, the acquisition of money and power, at the expense of millions of people around the country.  These people count their pounds, euros and dollars, whilst most of us will count the cost in pounds, in tax burden, in family lives, in jobs, in closed businesses, in lost family and friends from the EU27 community who are fed up of being depicted by press and politicians alike as a problem rather than a part of our community.  Look at Jacob Rees Mogg talking about the Northern Ireland Border.  He cares not a jot for the ordinary people of the United Kingdom.   Nor does Boris Johnson who has dodged and wavered and lied and twisted direction.  Who would trust him? These people are not our friends, yet they hover malevolently in the background threatening May’s leadership to get their way. 

But what of the HM opposition you ask?  They got a shiny new management too and the launch party was indeed super exciting and remarkable.  People were swept up in the fever of enthusiasm of a new (to them) face who appeared to be speaking so plainly and selling his politics of hope and simple solutions.

Beware though, they are gambling with the Politics of Catastrophe as much as the government is.  They have consistently failed to point out to their constituents what a damaging thing Brexit is.  Most of their supporters know and can see that but these are politically engaged individuals.  The average constituent has no idea and barely an interest in what is in store. The correct responsible response to the referendum result would have been to press for a thorough review of what the result meant, what would be the consequences and if necessary some consensus as to what a desired realistic endpoint to aim towards if it was decided by parliament to trigger the A50. Yet the shadow front bench sat back and let it all happen.  Totally blind, totally clueless they supported the government in triggering the A50.    When challenged they wring their hands.  What can we do?  We have 6 tests.  Will of the People.  Honour the referendum.  We have no say.  Well the six tests have already failed under any kind of Brexit so what now?   What are they doing?  Are they waiting for government to fail and pick up an election win and possibly an opportunity to bring in their own Corbynomics agenda?   

Lib Dems, Greens, SNP, all fully anti Brexit but unless we live in Scotland it’s difficult to feel our remaining options will get us very far, especially given the continuing hostility shown towards the Lib Dems by Labour and their refusal to work together with them effectively against the government on Brexit.  Perhaps we should all move to Scotland.

Young people have been shafted so much by Tories  they will not be joining any time soon in big numbers.  Labour membership Is at healthy levels, but the writing was on the wall for me personally during the 2015 leadership election.  I saw long and frequent threads on Twitter and Facebook filled with vitriolic diatribes towards Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall and a little to Andy Burnham.  Liz got the worst of the abuse.  This was from so called labour members and supporters.  I see some of the same twitter accounts to this day in nasty aggressive threads about anti-Semitism or Brexit telling people to go away and vote tory and how they are responsible for people dying at the hands of Tories by being critical of labour strategies.  I left Labour because of Brexit, but to be honest I heaved a big sigh of relief that I no longer have to be embroiled in these kinds of internal discussions.  They started the tone with this level of aggression towards dissenters and are surprised that it has now come back to bite them in a very public meltdown being covered in the news.  The internal language of labour is now toxic to its core.  I don’t think I am the only one who has been totally turned off by this nonsense.

The Body Politic is broken.  All parliamentarians have contributed to this either by their actions or inaction and it is parliamentarians who must fix it.  New alliances between sensible minded MPs and Peers and MEPs REGARDLESS OF PARTY who believe in doing the right thing need to be forged using their agreement on the Brexit issue to try and defeat these extremes who between them are driving us to the disastrous consequences outside the EU as a third country.  But it’s not just about Brexit, these alliances must push back against the wider implications of these extremes which are creating a political landscape of intolerance, where debate has been replaced by gaslighting and dog whistles and the abdication of personal responsibility.

All I can do is raise my one voice to MPs and potential MPs and say very clearly whoever wants my vote in the future will have to prove to me they have earned it by showing the courage and good sense in standing up right now against this disastrous attempted takeover of UK Plc by ideologues, fools and Wreckers.

I hope you will all use your voices too.

@redalphababe

A Life in Business, Tomb Raider and Brexit

I sometimes think a life in business is like playing Tomb Raider.  It’s a strange analogy, I know.  Having spent more hours than I should have sneaking onto my son’s computer in the noughties there are some similarities so bear with me whilst I try to explain my logic.
When you start, the first couple of levels seem easy.  You are well signposted, there are plenty of instructions, there’s lots of information available to guide you and give you some clues about which direction to explore in.  You can, if you have been cautious, afford a few false starts before you have fully committed yourself heart and soul into the game ahead.  Most importantly, you get a huge buzz out of every problem you solve and feel happy as you work your way up, around and through and over all the obstacles towards your goal.
It’s not long before you get on to the harder levels.  There are fewer pointers here. You have an idea of where you want to go but in the words of Oasis, “all the roads we have to walk are winding, and all the lights that lead us there are blinding “.   Every new level brings with it unfamiliar territory. The problems are harder to solve, the obstacles trickier. There are sabre toothed tigers and baddies with pistols around the corner threatening to end your game. Along the way you acquire new skills and weapons.  You make mistakes you lose a life you try again having learned from your mistakes.  But here is where the analogy departs for a while because suddenly your business is your life, it has become  almost your entire life and now you are immersed the consequences of the decisions you must make are very real.   
I am not an academic or an expert or an economist.  All I can offer are my personal thoughts having been a co-director of a small business for 20 years.  In fact, I have been involved in small businesses since I left university in the late 80s.  During all those years we have seen many things. I have experienced dealing with bailiffs at the door and conversely been in the fortunate position of being able to help when others were at a similar low point. There have been times when we had to sell everything we could to help us through cash flow squeezes or borrowed heavily on credit cards to make month end and times when making money was easy and we have been able to happily reinvest in the business to expand and move it forward.  We have had the privilege of building a team of people who do their best for us every day. We have been able to borrow to invest and taken many risks and chances, always calculated but sometimes dicey even so.  Some paid off some did not.  This is life. We make decisions, some are right, some are wrong, some work out, some not so much.  Just as in a computer game though, we only have so many business lives.  Unlike Lara, we can’t reboot and replay the game once all our chances have gone. 
 

Summary of stats on business numbers from Briefing paper number 06152,
28 December 2017 Business Statistics, House of Commons Library



Here is the thing I have learned.  However stable a business is, nearly all companies are really only 3 to 6 months away from annihilation.  From time to time paperwork will cross my desk from a liquidator winding up a customer or supplier and I always notice the same thing.  The implosion after the crisis point is pretty dramatic and rapid.  
There are several reasons why a crisis can occur.  Bang – a change in government policy.  Slap – a loss of an important contract. Biff  – the most profitable product is now out of fashion.  Punch – a miscalculation of stock.  Crash – a sudden dramatic move in currency exchange rates. Kick – a rise in interest rates when over-borrowed.  Zap – a stupid misjudgement on an expansion plan.  
This is not an exhaustive list but any of these things can happen to any SME with fatal consequences for their business.  The liquidators move in.  Suppliers switch to self-protect mode.  All the value everyone thought was there ebbs away and dissipates like Lara’s energy bar, as the customer base drifts off to competitors, stock is marked down, customers find reasons not to pay their outstanding bills and the accountants and bankers who make their living out of the dead bones of SMEs take their cut.  Long standing contacts distance themselves uncomfortably, embarrassed to admit a superstitious fear that failure could be catching.   I look at the updates from these liquidators and I shake my head with sorrow as it could be any of us.  I doubt I am the only one who sees it this way. 
So you see, the life of a small business is  fragile.  We plan, we build reserves, we look at the prevailing conditions, the things out of our control, and we try to make sensible decisions, we hedge against our vulnerabilities where we can, we look for opportunities to get ahead and hope they pay off.  Here is where I come around in a roundabout way to Brexit.  The fragility of SMEs means we are heading for some extremely difficult times with Brexit looming. Remember my list of potential obstacles?  Well for a proportion of the 5.7million SMEs and even some of the large businesses, Brexit, any flavour of Brexit on the menu, will mete out a number of those blows simultaneously.  The companies affected won’t so much be rolling with the punches as knocked unconscious before they have had a chance to even buy gloves.  We could do some contingency planning, we are doing what we can, but when there is a finite amount of time and resource and personnel we need to know roughly what we are planning for otherwise we may as well just buy a lottery ticket.  
If you voted Leave, you – yes I do mean each and every one of you –  have helped to put my business in harm’s way, but not just mine.  A great many SMEs will face existential challenges because of a direct effect on their EU sales, disruption in the supply chain, an increase in their input costs or less directly because of a downturn, which will most definitely come, leading to cuts in their customers spending in the short to medium term.  2 years on and I still have not seen a convincing reason which explains why we are voluntarily following this insane path.  There is no benefit to me and mine, my staff or my business and after asking the question multiple times, nobody credible has ever been able to cite a specific example of a benefit to my business or my life.
My partner and I are both from working class backgrounds, we started out with no contacts and no capital but lots of bravado.  Over the years we have adapted, diversified  and changed our business model to suit changing business environments.  We have battled and fought and sought the tenacity we needed to keep ourselves in the game.  We have reinvested our profits, taken chances, learned from our errors, some of them bad ones.  Some days I look at the uncertainties ahead and the idea of giving up, selling what we can and going away somewhere regardless of the consequences crosses my mind for a moment.  But I know we are not quitters and we will fight on, one problem at a time, one obstacle at a time.  

For many in business however, Brexit might just become like one of the nightmarish corridors in Tomb Raider Level 20 with the jets of fire, a sword of Damocles and a giant boulder rolling behind.   There will be too many obstacles coming together in too short a time to negotiate successfully and no amount of stockpiled medi-packs will get us through to the next level.  Don’t be surprised if some players decide to just quietly turn the computer off and take up yoga.  

. 

Brexits Fable

A Cautionary Tale 
England was a great and strong leader. She always ran at the front of the pack.  She had lots of friends across the globe. She was a trendsetter in many industries and fields.  Her people were admired and lauded in the main.  She was not without fault of course.  Some felt she could be difficult and prickly and arrogant, but this was nearly always overlooked and forgiven and sometimes her awkwardness was seen as a good thing in making EU a better-balanced team and stronger overall.
However, for many years England had a little Demon of Untruths sitting on her shoulder whispering into her ear whenever things weren’t going so well. When her people were dissatisfied with her performance the demon would whisper “It’s your suit of #EUFabric that the EU makes you wear as part of her team that is holding you back.  Make your own suit of fabric forged from your glorious past.  You need a suit made of pieces of English History, Ration books, Iron, Steel, coal and unlocked back doors all sewn together with threads of gold.  Shoes made of gold encrusted with diamonds, fish and chips and blue passports.  The world will see you for the great jewel you are and fall at your feet. You do not need EU to be great you are great.  You are better than all the rest.” 
In the main England was sensible and wise and was rather partial to a continental breakfast sometimes and for many, many years ignored the silly Demon of Untruths but gradually its poison seeped into the newspaper front pages, social media and onto the tv screens and a kind of hysteria overtook some of England’s people who became scared that the Demon of Untruths was right, and that the EU had secretly and deliberately taken something away from them just to troll them.  
England had a little drink with her oldest friends Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland.  Wales said, “well I know I always complain about London holding me back and EU has given me lots of money to try and help my poorer people and my farming industry depends on EU giving it subsidy but even so, I will go with you on this rather marvellous suit idea.”  Scotland and Northern Ireland looked at the other 2 as if they had gone insane.  Scotland said “This is a bizarre idea.  The suit you are suggesting can only hold you back and it will hold me back.  EUFabric suits have made us strong members of a team and we look after each other.  EU has her faults but as part of her team she helps us in ways too numerous to count and we can continue to improve the way she works if we are on the inside.”
Northern Ireland said “Hang on, as a team member wearing the EUFabric suit I have been able to run side by side with my southern friend on this little piece of ground we share and forge new friendships and relationships since the Good Friday Agreement. Wearing your proposed suit will slow me down and jeopardise my relationship with them.”
Despite the wise counsel and warnings from NI and Scotland, England and Wales were swayed by the seductive Demon of Untruths who persuaded them that the people would be happier if England built a brand new team suit to run in and so she set about making it.
It took 3 years and all England and Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland’s spare money and time but finally 6 suits were forged.  A grand suit for England, 3 slightly less grand for Wales Scotland and NI and 2 SecondClassSuits for the #the3Million and #BritsintheEU. They glistened in the sunshine and England looked proudly at the chainmail like suits made from the GloriousPast and the 4 original friends set off on the road to GlobalPower that the demon had promised they could find.  England jogged along the path, Wales, NI, Scotland, #the3Million and #BritsintheEU by her side but soon the others were starting to flag.  The suits were heavy and hot and encumbered their progress without the smart EU protections helping them along the trickiest bits of path and steepest hills.  England grew impatient with them and barked at them to keep up.  
Scotland grew weary of England’s bossiness and was exhausted from the silly suit.  She said “Enough is enough, I am going to speak to my people.  Perhaps they are ready for a new chapter not following your stupid ideas, England and maybe we can get back in good books with EU”.  With that Scotland stalked off to examine their options.
NI and Wales were also struggling.  The suits were far too heavy for their little economies and they frequently had to stop for breath.  They said, “England this is really the worst idea you have ever had. You will have to go ahead, and we will try and catch you up”
 #The3Million was keeping up with England so far although she was looking a bit upset but they ran side by side for a while chatting about old times.  England suddenly noticed #The3Million was not wearing the rather smart SecondClassSuit she had made so lovingly for her (it was an Android version of course).
#The3Million said “England I love you dearly.  I love your culture and your music and your art and your people.  Some of my people have lived with you for less than a year and some for many, many years.  But you have ignored my advice and my opinions, and you have told me I am no longer, as I once thought, your partner, your friend, your neighbour, your equal, working together for your success.  Your success was my success for all these years, but it seems this feeling was not reciprocated even though you led me to believe it was.  You don’t want me to have a say in how the England team is shaped so it is with great regret I must carry on my life quest without you.  The suit you have chosen is heavy and slow and holds me back.  I choose the lightweight and nimble EUFabric suit to continue my race”
As England watched her old friend race on she felt some sadness. For a moment she tried to recall what had been so bad about Eastern European plasterers or Spanish Nurses.  She couldn’t quite remember why they annoyed her so, but the Demon of Untruths whispered reassuringly into her ear and she continued on with a little shrug.
 #BritsintheEU was still there by her side in her SecondClassSuit but England was taken aback with the frosty look she was getting.  “But what on earth is the matter my old friend?”. 
 #BritsintheEU replied “England I love you dearly, but you have made a huge mistake and you have ignored my opinion in the matter.  You did not even ask some of my people.  You have now turned my people into 2nd class citizens by making them wear this SecondClassSuit and unlike #The3million, my people find it more difficult to make a change so that I can carry on wearing the #EUFabric.  You have plunged me into a situation where I am neither one thing or the other when once we were all proudly equal to EU”
#BritsintheEU started to struggle more and more in her heavy SecondClassSuit and soon she was left behind by England who now found herself totally alone. 
England slowed down a little, beads of sweat appeared on her brow.  The suit was heavy and hot and not quite so shiny anymore.  Out of a side road EU appeared.  She was looking fresh and beautiful in her lightweight suit of EUFabric developed and sewn together with 60 years of cooperation, friendship, consensus and peace.  She gave England a huge hug when she saw her.  England was rather taken aback with the demonstration of affection but was secretly quite pleased despite the Demon of Untruths jumping up and down with rage at this ostentatious display of European charm and affection.  
England said to EU, “where are you going.  Slow down.  Perhaps I could come with you?  What are you working on? Is it something exciting and new?”  EU looked tearfully at England and replied “England, I love you and your oldest partners dearly.  For 40 years we have run along this road together always in roughly the same direction and together we have chosen our paths and become stronger and fitter and been able to ride the bumps in the road with the help of each other.  My people love your culture and your language and your art and your people but as your friend I must tell you the truth.  You rejected my EUFabric Suit for one of your own. I must now continue without you, working in the interest of those who continue to wear my team colours.  But you have chosen a heavy suit holding you back, anchoring you to a past that never existed except in the imagination of your Demon of Untruths.  We will continue to find ways to work together for sure but it will never be the same again and it is down to my team to decide the direction now without your wise input.  This causes me great sadness, but you have chosen to wear a suit that is too heavy to run in and you must travel at the speed it dictates.  If you do not want me then I am not going to wait for you”
As EU sprinted off down a new road that magically appeared, England wondered sadly what had been so bad about sharing the top table with EU for all those years and those lovely little Danish pastries they served with the coffee were divine.  
The Demon of Untruths whispered, “Don’t worry we always have the commonwealth”. 
Right on cue, Commonwealth appeared in all her glory.    She was looking strong and magnificent in her lightweight suit designed to look forward into a modern world.  The old friends ran side by side for a while.  England said to Commonwealth “We need to forge a closer working relationship together and run together more often.  I could design you a wonderful new suit that would complement mine.  We could get back to be the wonderful team we used to be”. 
Commonwealth looked sadly at England and said “My dear old friend, I love you I really do. My people love your people and I will continue to work in many ways with you.   But recently you have not been very kind to my children and grandchildren.  You asked them to come and help you be stronger and successful. They did that but then you withdrew your protection and support when they were no longer useful to you.  You have made yourself a very heavy and cumbersome suit to wear which you thought would be magnificent, but it will hold you back and you will have to live with the consequences.   I cannot let you hold me back when there are new opportunities and alliances for my people elsewhere to explore. Our paths will cross, and we will run together for spells, but I cannot fill the hole you have made rejecting EU’s suit”. 
England looked at the back of the sprinting Commonwealth with tears in her eyes and felt very alone.  Why was she being deserted by her old allies?  For that matter why had she left her oldest partners behind struggling in suits which were too heavy for them?  
The Demon of Untruths whispered, “Don’t worry there are plenty more where they come from”.  
Japan crossed England’s path and said to her “We can work together still but business is business and some of my industry is now running side by side with EU since you no longer wear her suit.  Her strength and speed and power help protect our people, I am sorry I have had to change my relationship with you.  We were once so close.”
China appeared next.  “Hello England, I love you and your people but regretfully I too must make some changes so that some of my industry can run directly side by side with EU for our relationship to continue smoothly.  I am sorry you have been slowed down by your choice of clothing and we have much to do together still of course but it won’t be the same as it once was”
Finally, along came TrumpsAmerica.  The Demon of Untruths jumped up and down with glee. “This is the one we have been waiting for.  Our dream of the Special Relationship which will make us the envy of the world.  Sod all the others, we don’t need them.  TrumpsAmerica did not at first recognise England in her fine new clothes.  “That’s a very shiny suit. It would look good on my lift attendant in my golden lift.   Anyway, let’s talk.” 
England said “Run with me TrumpsAmerica.  Together we will be great again and rule the world.  I have ditched EU.  I was sick of the flimsy suits she made me wear. It’s always been you in my heart anyway.  Let’s you and I be together”
TrumpsAmerica looked England up and down saying “I am sorry your suit can only hold me back and I don’t want or need hangers on.  It is far too heavy for the road to Global Power.  But I can do some good business deals with you.  That NHS you have, sell it to me and that will lighten your load – I would be interested.  All those sick people.  I could broker an excellent deal with my drug companies and health providers.  They would run by your side quite happily.  Anything else you want to sell?  What about the meat you eat.  My chicken is excellent”
England thanked TrumpsAmerica for her suggestions of business deals and told her she would give it some thought.  As she ran along the road exhausted and weighed down by her Suit of the Past doing a deal here and there – one with Lichtenstein, one with Easter Island, a little deal with Albania, a couple of little deals on scones to Australia, she couldn’t help but think about the old days when she ran at the front of the pack and when people looked to her for leadership and she wondered how she had lost so much good will and friendship in so short a time.  The Demon of Untruths laughed and laughed and laughed.
The end.