Taking part in this year's Bradford Literature Festival, Bishop Nick Baines was particularly commended for his political analysis during a discussion on Brexit.
At Bradford City Hall on Saturday, he joined Owen Greene (Professor of Peace Studies & International Development at the University of Bradford) and Jill Rutter (from the Institute for Government think tank) to discuss “Brexit: Where Next?”.
Writing in Monday’s Irish Times, Una Mullally said, “It was a clergy member of the panel, Nick Baines, the Anglican Bishop of Leeds, who previously worked as a linguist at GCHQ, who provided the most astute analysis. 'We’ve caused the confusion’ he said of Brexit, calling the rhetoric from the Conservative party ‘government by assertion’ with rhetoric based on the repetition of slogans, and that in trying to assert one of the slogans – ‘take back control’ – Britain instead has just given a lot of control away. ‘Facts and reality do not intrude in the discourse’ he said of how Brexit is being spoken about.
“The bishop used his experience as a linguist to frame current events. ‘Britain exists on islands’ he said, ‘but on continental Europe the proximity of countries to each other encourages people to learn different languages’. When you speak different languages, he said, you have to look at yourself through the eyes of the person you're speaking to, and examine how you’re communicating and whether it’s effective. ‘We don’t know how to look at ourselves through the eyes of anyone else’, he said, adding that this British shortcoming had a tendency to make British people oblivious to how they are seen. He said it’s one reason why the British government had been so bad at negotiating with Europe, as a lack of self-awareness and self-examination means poor negotiating skills and an inability to see how one’s negotiating behaviour is being perceived. ‘We have to lose the insularity that makes us think we’re special’ he said, ‘the empire is gone’.”
Nick Baines also challenged a commonly held notion that Brexit is all about what is done to us, whereas Britain’s voice had been highly important in shaping Europe.
And he said that in the future we need both competence and confidence. Competence because the political and technical incompetence we’ve shown recently has lost us much respect in Europe, who now question how they can deal with us. We also need confidence, in the form of a confident humility that is rooted in reality not arrogance.
During the festival, which ended on Sunday, Bishop Nick also interviewed Dennis Skinner (left), Samira Ahmed and Robin Ince (below).
He also took part in a panel discussing the Song of Solomon, and one entitled ‘Who is Driving the Russian Machine’.