By Alex Story – 6 minute read
A FEW DAYS AGO the Office of Communication (Ofcom) reminded us how far things have gone. Over time, the Office, a bureaucratic organism, has given itself the mandate to police language. No one ever voted for that.
Be that as it may, helpfully, on its webpage, the mandarins tell us that “the findings of the research do not represent Ofcom’s views on offensive language”.
Nevertheless, certain words, picked at the discretion of obscure civil servants, will be put on the equivalent of the “naughty step” if the people questioned by Ofcom find the words “offensive”. They tell us proudly that “this year we spoke with a larger, more diverse selection of people than ever before, including more than 600 people of all ages and backgrounds from across the UK, as well as people from a range of minority groups and communities”.
That is: they spoke to 0.00001% of the population in an effort to find out what words they thought ought to be deemed offensive, and in due course put on a pathway to eventual “hate speech” status. In the small print, hidden from view and barely picked up by much of the press, was the fact that “political words” were the least likely to be recognised.
In fact, of the ten words presented to this tiniest of samples, none “were recognised by more than 90% of quantitative respondent”.
The word that stuck out for reprimand was “remoaner”. The term describes, according to the Collins Dictionary “a person who continues to argue that Britain should remain in the European Union despite the vote to leave at the referendum in 2016.”
Whilst the term was found to be only “mildly offensive”, it is nonetheless interesting, if not surprising, that this word was tarred-and-feathered.
What is also interesting is that of the 600 people who were asked, only 60 respondents knew what the word meant.
If so few people, of a hand-picked group of people by the professionals at the Office of Communications, knew what the word meant, there should have been no headlines at all. But headlines there were.
The interesting effect of this storm in a tea cup though was to remind us of the total collapse in civility and humour our established order suffered the morning after the referendum results came in – a hissy-fit lasting the best part of half a decade, and still ongoing.
It also brought home the fact that the UK is no longer in the European Union. Certainly the exit deal could have been better. It is, however, becoming increasingly clear that our politicians need and must deliver for their people. They have no need to bow to the neighbouring bully anymore.
Breaking from the European Union was difficult only because our “leaders” never conceived that it would happen and have no intention on delivering on a vote they felt was too complex for their very own voters to understand.
With Brexit officialised, a gradual chasm in governance will grow between the two entities.
In a decade or so, our belonging to the European Union will seem to the next generation to have been an absurdity.
Our youngsters will be able to see the defects of the organisation in a clearer light.
They will point to the Common Agricultural Policy and wonder how we, the United Kingdom, deigned to pay for decades into a system that imposed tariffs on the poorest countries in the world, only to flood their markets with free aid, destroying the productive livelihoods of African farmers in the process.
The Common Agriculture Policy budget has been set at around EUR 365 billion over a six year period to 2027 and represents a little less than a third of the European Union’s total budget. These large sums of monies curiously seem to flow in the main to French farmers with 80% percent of CAP aid going to just 20 percent of farms. In short, the larger the farm, the more cash it receives.
The biggest victims of this protectionism are farmers in South East Asia, Africa and Central America. They are forced by rich, EU supporting farmers, to live in penury. Unable to feed themselves or their families, many must choose between hardship or emigration.
To make matters worse, when the European Union, mainly for reasons of narrative and optics, certifies products, they often impose non-trade-barriers to impede, slow down or render uneconomical products shipped into the European Union.
The most recent, and perhaps quaint example, is that of palm oil for biofuels imported from Malaysia. Currently nearly 90% of the palm oil imported into the EU is certified sustainable, however the EU simultaneously banned the use of palm oil in biofuels. The reason: the environment.
However, and in complete contradiction with the findings of the World Economic Forum or indeed the World Wildlife Fund, experts say that palm oil could play an important role in in the provision of sustainable energy.
Indeed, biofuel productivity yield of palm oil is the highest among all oilseed crops. Only sugarcane has higher productivity.
In addition, Palm oil produces 1000% the amount of energy harvest than other plant oils. In this very niche, but indicative, segment of global agricultural trade, the European Union is acting as a road block.
It is not thinking about the European consumer; only the producers. It is not interested in finding the best solution for biofuel; only in defending the indefensible. It hides behind technicalities and obscure procedures, giving access with one hand, while destroying markets with the other.
By suggesting that a handful of people found the term “remoaner” offensive, Ofcom reminded the majority that we were wise to vote to Leave.
Few can easily defend an organisation that has subsidised the richest at the expense of the poorest – for decades.
As Boris said in the days before the referendum, leaving the European Union would be like “the jailer has accidentally left the door of the jail open and people can see the sunlit land beyond”, adding, “it will be wonderful”. And it is wonderful to behold.
The EU can act as it wishes; its actions are no longer our responsibility. Meanwhile, we can aspire to do better.
Alex Story is a senior manager at a City brokerage, where he works closely with hedge funds and other financial institutions. A rower, he represented Great Britain at the Olympic Games and won the Boat Race for Cambridge on two occasions. His team still holds the course record. @alexpstory
Photo of Asian farmer with ripe red Palm Oil fruitlets by Heru from Adobe Stock