A growing sense that we are no longer in control... - Veterinary Practice
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A growing sense that we are no longer in control…

The Mercury Column, in which a guest columnist takes the temperature of the profession – and the world around.

WHICH icon would you
choose to symbolise something
quintessentially English? A bulldog
perhaps, although maybe not
in veterinary circles, Yorkshire
pudding or maybe the cross of St

In France, the recent closure of
the Gauloises cigarette factory in
Carquefou and its relocation to Poland,
as a result of falling sales, has sent
shock-waves through the nation with
the potential loss of such an iconic
name being described
as “a severe blow to the
French ego”.

Of course the French
government is torn as, on
the one hand, this signals
some success in its fight
to stress the health risks involved in
smoking but, on the other, even to
non-smokers in France, the brand
“exudes heroism, class and charm”
and quality control of the product
had, for much of the last century, been
entrusted to the state.

The Flemish daily newspaper De
recognises that this is not one
of France’s gravest problems – and it
has many – but the loss is “a bitter pill
and a sign of a country stumbling and
groping for a new identity”. A touch
of schadenfreude, perhaps, but our
world is full of change and they are a
lot closer to France than we are.


All around the world, people are
struggling to nd or maintain their
national identity and the seemingly
catastrophic events in the Ukraine
show that this can often be a highly
complex issue with neighbours and
even families divided in their support
of the two main factions.

Throughout Europe, people are
watching the events leading up to
the referendum on independence
in Scotland and nowhere with more
interest than in Catalunya or in the
Basque region where the struggle for
recognition and independence is old
enough for many people outside their
regions to have forgotten what sparked off the movement in the first instance.
Here, at home, the apparently

inexorable rise of UKIP signals the
likelihood of significant change in
British politics and, while The Sunday
has suggested that “by the
normal rules of politics, UKIP should
be in trouble”, none of the party’s
gaffes and problems seem to have
caused it a problem and, at the time
of writing this, it seems likely that it
will cause major upset in the European

From afar, observers might note
that this course of events might not
necessarily be because UKIP is so
good at tapping into the electorate’s
concerns on immigration and the
inexorable surrender of sovereignty to
Brussels but perhaps the other parties
appear to be rather poor at doing so.

Is this very different from other
areas of discontent around Europe
where there is a growing sense that
people are no longer in control of their
lives and are being controlled by rules
made elsewhere?

The one common factor here is
the natural fear of the human race
of being controlled by a foreigner or
someone with an unfamiliar culture.

Below the veneer of multi-cultural
tolerance, we all remain essentially
tribal and deeply suspicious of
previous adversaries.

It would appear that this
growing demand to be listened to
by the electorate is not just a UK
phenomenon and UKIP is not the only
protest party likely to succeed in these
European elections.


One Europe-wide study reported in
The Guardian suggests that anti-EU
parties across Europe could win up
to 30% of the collective vote and that
their popularity amongst disenchanted European voters stems from
grievances which need more than
just tacit acknowledgement
and some positive

While that represents
a warning for politicians
everywhere, it also signals a
growing disquiet which could
lead to more profound change if
not addressed.

Fooling ourselves

Whatever the result of the Scottish
referendum, and we fool ourselves
if we think this is simply an issue
concerning a few dissident Scots,
the UK is in a strange and transient
position with a growing question about
what makes us declare ourselves to be British or English, Scottish, Welsh,
Irish, Indian or any of a host of other
ethnic backgrounds which have been
absorbed into our multi-cultural nation.

Our concerns are being played
out across cultural, religious and
generational divides
but many of us find ourselves to be torn
or at best confused on
many of these issues.

A recent Mori poll
showed that 70% of
people interviewed
think that there are
too many immigrants
in Britain but only
43% wanted to live
in an area where
most people are
from the same ethnic
background. However,
less than half of those surveyed mix with people from
different generations on a daily basis
and under a third regularly mix with
different ethnic backgrounds and

Of that same group, around 25% felt
that being born outside the UK or not
mixing with other groups was a barrier
to being British.

It would be interesting to survey
minority groups across the generations
to see if there is any difference
between young people and their
parents or grandparents in their
concept of being British. Perhaps the
results would surprise us.


In everyday life, we seem incapable
of deciding whether we are British
or English when we describe living
in England, something that is rarely
found among those living in Wales,
Scotland or Northern Ireland and nothing in ames the Celtic psyche
more than having Britain described as

Where being European comes in
any description of ourselves is a moot
point and one which might inform the
forthcoming European elections. In
real terms, how many of us can name
our own MEP?

Historically, the turnout for
European elections has continued to
fall while the escalation of European
powers has progressed. If we choose
to remain in Europe, surely the first
thing would be to overhaul the way in
which we choose our representatives long before we
renegotiate the terms
of membership.

If we fail to take
an active interest in
the process which
governs what
happens to us on the
larger stage, we can
have little cause for
redress in the event
of something going
wrong later and that
applies as much to
our own professional
governance as it
does to the election of governments or our choice of
membership of the UK or of Europe.

We have a duty to turn out in force
to exercise our vote and it may be that
a growing number of dissidents will
enforce change in our forthcoming
political elections.

Whatever the outcome, or our view
of it, we should recognise that any
signi cant change in the balance of
values spells danger to businesses,
corporations and institutions – as well
as governments – which continue to
employ an historically proven series
of best practice to today’s changing
cultural and economic situation.

Evidence-based medicine is one
thing but the same rules simply don’t
apply in the business context or with
consumers who have already moved

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