Tomorrow’s EU referendum- the need to listen to the experts

Does the panel agree with Michael Gove that we’ve had enough of experts?

That was the question I submitted in advance for the EU referendum debate in Alton Assembly Rooms this Monday evening. Unfortunately it was left to the very end – in fact five minutes after the very end (timed for the England/Slovenia match) – and the panel were asked to give it a one-word answer.

I had been hoping for more than that.

I had chosen my question, after much thought, specifically to give the two REMAIN speakers the chance to underline the overwhelming weight of expert opinion that is urging us to stay in Europe. The most recent of endless examples being:

  • The day before: Nine out of ten economists in a survey reported in the Observer urging REMAIN
  • That morning: A letter in the Guardian newspaper from Ten Nobel Prize-winning economists urging REMAIN .

I also hoped they would mention the shameless lack of reporting of these facts in the Brexit press.

I then hoped the panellists would point out that the answer Michael Gove gave recently when confronted with this reality – “We’ve had enough of experts” – was a fatuous and deeply irresponsible one – almost unbelievably so from, of all things, a former Minister of Education.

But there was no time for these points to be made on Monday, so I’m making them now, possibly to a wider audience, and possibly to people who have yet to decide how to vote tomorrow.

Therefore, with all my heart, I urge any Brits reading this to think deeply about what this means. From my background as a family doctor, it is second nature to me that, in the complex modern world, we do have to listen to experts. We simply cannot base decisions, whether they are in medicine or of the historical importance of tomorrow’s referendum, on the kind of gut feelings that Michael Gove was trying to evoke. (And please don’t take my word for it about what the experts are saying – it is perfectly obvious that Michael Gove wouldn’t have said what he said if they were urging us to leave.)

Many people I meet say they are confused by the conflicting statements about the referendum and don’t know what to think. Some say this referendum should never have been called – that it is too technical and too complex for ordinary people. But it has been called and it is time for us to show that we can make a responsible choice. That choice – in my case to REMAIN – is not just because I am passionately involved in the European ideal, or because I reject hatred and xenophobia and insularity and biased press coverage – above all it is because I have not ‘had enough of experts’. I respect the opinion of experts and I know full well that we reject their advice at our absolute peril.

Las Vegas to Calgary in four weeks, and a story with a moral

Our route

Our Route
Blue – self-drive car    Red – rail   Green – bus

The above image is a still from the interactive Google map of our route which can be accessed by clicking the link. If you do that you can zoom down to the detail of where we went and/or superimpose the Satellite view.

Some facts and figures

(All the costs quoted are for the two of us together)

Modes of travel:
Plane:London to Las Vegas 10 hours BA
Calgary to London 7½ hours Air Canada on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

Car: Las Vegas – via 5 National Parks to San Francisco. Just under 2,000 miles.
Jasper – via Lake Louise to Calgary. 250 miles approx..

Train: Amtrak Coast Starlight – San Francisco to Seattle – 22 hours, sleeping on board
Rocky Mountaineer – Silver Service  from Vancouver to Jasper. Two days, with one night in a hotel in Kamloops

Greyhound bus: Seattle to Vancouver. 143 mls – 4 hours.

Boat: Vancouver to Vancouver Island day trip (25% discount for missing first ferry!)
Bicycle: Cycling 8 miles round Stanley Park, Vancouver

Walking: 143 miles – measured on Lesley’s pedometer. 9 days when we walked 7 miles or more: In Las Vegas 10mls,   South Rim Grand Canyon 12mls,   Capitol Reef NP Navajo Knobs 10mls, Zion NP 8mls,   Yosemite NP 10mls,   round San Francisco 7mls,   Vancouver round Stanley Park 8.3mls,   Lake Louise 7mls,  Lake Louise to Lake Agnes 7mls.

Hotels:  We stayed in 13 hotels, mostly booked through, a couple through the National Parks reservations. Sometimes included breakfast and sometimes didn’t.
The accommodation cost was about 15-20% more than we expected from our booking data, as the local, state and US taxes added at least that much each time.

Other major expenses:
Meals of course. We had a good breakfast and then when we were walking or driving we often just had a cereal bar and fruit for lunch – sometimes followed by an ice cream when available! Not noticeably cheaper than at home.
Entrances to exhibitions and museums
National Park pass – £55 – saved money on entrances for five National Parks and one National Monument, plus huge convenience.
Presents and things to bring home
Petrol – £87 (for approx 2,300 miles)
Bus fares, Big Bus tour (£68.39), ferries, hiring bikes
Canada seemed cheaper for everything.

Clothes and packing
We travelled quite light, which was fine. Adaptors and chargers for all the gizmos was a major item. We had good walking shoes – which we wore on the planes – but no boots. Other shoes – always a problem – I had some flip-flops, very lightweight trainers and some light smarter shoes.
James had his Smartphone and I had my iPad which I used for reading. (I did have a phone, but never got it working there). Tea- bags and some snacks – I found I could make tea in most of the coffee makers provided. In Canada they have kettles! Maps and (part of) a guide book.

Simon Winchester –The Men Who United the States. Excellent history of the opening up of the West at different times.
Barbara Kingsolver – Pigs in Heaven – good novel about First Nation American culture and its problems.
The Rough Guides to US and to Canada were very good. And everywhere had maps and guides of course.

One last story, complete with moral for our times

Scene:  Capitol Gorge   Capitol Reef National Park   Wednesday 11 May

Capitol Gorge 2
The scene – image based on a Google Earth screen-grab


Lesley and I were eating our sandwiches (which she, with her usual forethought, had bought first thing down the road from our hotel) and cooling off in the picnic shelter at the head of the Capitol Gorge hiking trail we had spent the morning exploring.

168-P1040663After a few minutes a man we recognised from the trail came and sat at a table opposite. When we passed earlier he had given us a gritty ‘How’re’y’all‘ from under his green stetson, but now he had softened, with two Scottie dogs, which he had just released from his enormous car,  running about on extending leads.

We exchanged the familiar pleasantries about us being English. And, being English, we admired his dogs, straining as they were towards the back-pack of the only other person in the shelter (who stolidly ignored us all, including the dogs, until he got up abruptly and left). Anyway, the dog-owner was anxious to assure us that he had left his his car window open  (slightly surprisingly, in view of pervasive security-consciousness) and Lesley came back  with something about it being a shame dogs not being allowed in the Gorge.

Not that she had meant for a moment that it wasn’t necessary to stop dogs devastating the rich and fragile wildlife we had just been enjoying. In fact Lesley had meant exactly the opposite – we had noticed the ‘no dogs’ sign a little earlier and said to each other how sensible it was.

But he misunderstood her completely: “That’s the Federal Government” he drawled. Then, fixing us with a knowing look, “You got one of those, ain’t you.”

He meant the EU. And he knew about our imminent referendum. And he was obviously assuming that we would be resenting “Europe”, “Brussels” in the same way that he, along with so many Americans, resented “Washington” – as a distant authority imposing regulations which were to a very large extent necessary and responsible, and getting hated and denigrated for its pains.

The similarity with the Brexit mindset struck us both as we drove away. This resentment of imposed responsibility. Like the environmental measures that would certainly never have been adopted in Britain were it not for the EU. And which would quickly be reversed if we left. Like the measures to protect human rights. Workers rights. And so on.

And this reminded us both of the extraordinarily close link between Brexitism and Global Warming Denial – Lawson, Murdoch, Johnson and Farage of course being active deniers (not to mention Trump, another denier who also thinks we should leave the EU).  And, judging from their Commons voting records, Fox, Gove and Duncan-Smith are passive deniers too.

This irresponsibility, which in the case of global warming denial goes beyond mere stupidity, seems almost to be a hallmark of organised Brexitism. We can only hope that, when it comes to the vote, it will not be shared by the majority of ordinary people.

That’s the end of our holiday blog, but no doubt I will find other things to write about here, if a lot less frequently. Meanwhile, it means a lot to me that so many people have apparently enjoyed reading about our special golden anniversary holiday up the West Coast of North America. Thank you all.

The fact that we got six copies of this particular card says something about how our friends see us.

Reflections while flying home – and afterwards

We booked our flights economy through Opodo but we find ourselves flying home Air Canada on the very latest Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Everything state of the art, including a USB outlet for me to keep this phone charged and me writing the whole way (if I completely lose my senses). Best of all, we have three seats for the two of us! Continue reading Reflections while flying home – and afterwards

Flora and Fauna (and Four Lakes) in the Rockies

Lesley’s turn again:

As we approached Jasper in the Rocky Mountaineer we saw a number of ospreys and bald eagles, even one of the latter on a nest with 2 chicks. But, when we were only 15 minutes from Jasper, and we saw a black bear climbing up the embankment next to the railway, the whole carriage erupted in cheers and clapping! Continue reading Flora and Fauna (and Four Lakes) in the Rockies