A prize and a price

They seek their prize

We pay the price

They lined up their ducks

The ducks are now fucked

With autocorrect we’ve all been had

The prize has a price, a country gone mad

These men get bigger when we get smaller

There egos grow stronger when we get poorer

What good is their power when the world is competing

To diminish their stature. So they got to cheating.

Why did they do it? We do not know.

What’s their agenda? One day soon it may show

But the price for their hubris is not one they’ll pay

That will fall on the rest of us with interest on payday

The etonmess boarders gave us borders anew

We are the loosers or losers – who knew

That an army of misspellers could be so effective.

They will throw everything to reach their objective

The barriers to entry will keep them in charge.

The keys to the kingdom with typos writ large

Their army of fakes helped get them hear

Pretending to be human or normal minus fear.

But here is my warning

when they promise you a new age dawning.

It’s not that they want to change the world

The world changed already – haven’t you heard.

They want the control to sit in their hands.

The rogue traders of politics are just shifting the sands

It’s our house which will collapse

Whilst they’re stealing are foundations

They‘re stealing your maps So you have to staycation

Waves of Officialdom

When I was 8 or thereabouts, my  mother and I went on an extended trip to Spain to stay with my grandmother and to see my aunts and uncles and cousins.  In those days, flying was rather more expensive than it is now.  I know people were already going on package holidays to Benidorm and so on, but if you wanted to go on a scheduled flight to a non-touristic region of Spain, the flights were not readily available or they were very expensive. Spain was not, at that point, an EU member.  So, we took a passage on a big Spanish cruise liner called the Monte Granada from Liverpool to Vigo in Galicia.  I don’t remember the ship being very crowded.  I think it must have been heading on to do a cruise in the Mediterranean and that is why we were able to book the short 2-day passage.  It was winter, around December.

Despite it being a very large ship, we had a terrible crossing.  The Bay of Biscay did its notorious Bay of Biscay nauseous-making  thing and there were no anti sickness tablets available.  We had a tiny cabin with no window.  The winter seas and cold stormy weather did not really endear me to ships or sailing much, I guess 2 days just is not long enough to get your sea legs.

With considerable relief and empty stomachs, we got to Vigo and went through all the customs palaver at the other end.  I remember everyone had to go in a big room, more like a bit of warehouse, with long dark wooden tables and we had to open our suitcases ready for the dour customs inspectors barking orders to come along with their chalk.  We only had our clothes so there was no fuss with us, but it seemed to take a long time for customs man to get to us.

With that done, we were free to go happily into the arms of my mother’s twin sister, my Tía Ester, who had come to meet us at Vigo, and we travelled together to Santiago de Compostela by train. Ester’s husband worked for the railways, so they didn’t even have a car, they always used trains.

I cannot remember how long we stayed in Spain– it seems to me we were there about 6 weeks, and I have vague memories of meeting a dizzying array of barely recognisable relatives of one kind or another who I had only ever seen in fuzzy black and white pictures.  Certain people stuck with me but my grandmother was the eldest of 13 children so there seemed to be an awful lot of tías and tíos and primos, many of whom I have never met since so I couldn’t tell you their names.  My Tía Herminda with her purple coloured poodle probably deserves a mention though. Keeping all the relationships between them straight was not a vital task for an 8-year-old but there was a lot of boring grown up conversation about people I didn’t know in places I had never been to that I probably tuned out of. However, I loved playing with my younger cousins and second cousins and visiting the feria with its colourful lights and noisy vendors in the beautiful Alameda in Santiago, eating hot churros con chocolate on the cold winter nights.

The time went by and we had Christmas there which was lovely but before I knew it, it was time to leave.  So, we got back on the ship at Vigo for the two-day journey.  My mind turned to seeing my dad and brothers again and I was very happy to be homeward bound.

On the morning we arrived at Liverpool, we were not allowed to get off the ship until we were given permission.  I was used to translating for my mother sometimes.  I had absorbed English like a native speaker so when my parents came up against something bureaucratic or difficult, my teenage brothers and I were able to help.  That day it was only me, my brothers and dad were waiting on the quayside for us to disembark.

Two customs officials took us into a room on the ship.  I could sense my mother’s fear and confusion, but I don’t think I cried.  They were asking questions, I cannot remember what, probably about where we were from, when we came to the UK and that kind of thing.  They had taken our documents off us and I remember being gripped with fear, longing to get off that boat and see my dad again.  I helped my mother answer the questions.  We were there a long time and then one of the men made a phone call from the office we were in and we had to wait for a while longer.

It turns out my mum had renewed her Spanish passport but the indefinite leave to remain stamp had not been put in the new passport and she had forgotten her expired one so the immigration officers had to establish our status, whether we were allowed to return to our home.  For an eight-year-old, having two giant men in grey suits and solemn long pale faces question my mother through me was a terrifying experience.  I understand that they couldn’t have done it any other way, but it was my first experience of a wall of officialdom.  Even at eight I had the complete instant understanding that our fate was totally in the hands of these two strange men.  If they had not been able to check their records or if there was a mistake in those records we would have been sent somewhere – I don’t know where, some kind of holding centre, and sent away from our nuclear family.  Thankfully, this did not happen, and we were finally allowed off the ship to find Dad as relieved and worried as we were on the quayside.  I think the whole family were very upset.

I didn’t realise how much this experience had affected me for a long time.  I never talked about it until it came out unexpectedly as an adult in the course of a conversation and I recalled the fear and stress.  But in truth I have always had a deep underlying fear and dislike of figures of officialdom especially immigration officers.  Strangers with powers over your life still worry me.  When going through Miami airport once I was stopped and made to wait in a big room full of people whilst immigration made some checks.  My name had come up as a partial match to someone they were looking for and they had to verify my identity before I could continue my journey.  I found the whole thing very distressing and as soon as it was over, and we could leave I burst into tears.  I hadn’t done anything wrong, it was just the tension of having people with power over your life that got me again and perhaps transported me back to that office on a ship when I was 8 and I wondered if I would ever see my dad again.

So, when I see the pictures of refugees, particularly children, I really do feel pain for them.  Can you imagine being them?  They probably do not speak much English; they have been pushed around and made to pay every penny they had to try and escape to a place where they can find healing.  They must be terrified as they have gone from person to person in their lives who has tried to seize control of their futures.  Whether politics or war or poverty, their lives have been made insufferable enough to seek something better.  They have been taken advantage of by criminals, had their or their families meagre savings swiped.  They end up on a windy British beach with nothing except their lives which they are lucky to have kept and the clothes they stand in being filmed by privileged idiots like Nigel Farage.

They will then have to go through the long stressful procedures to establish whether they can stay or whether they must go back to their hell.  I was lucky, if our paperwork had not been in order, I had family to return to.  These refugee children may not have anybody, or anything left to go back to.

Having negotiated all that, if their claims are successful they may well have a lifetime of being stopped and questioned by immigration officers when they go on their holidays and each time, despite the fact they are legal and have done nothing wrong, that knot in their stomach will be there somewhere.  When the children learn enough English – which won’t be long believe me,  they will see and understand the likes of drunken Tory MPs on Newsnight ranting about how the government should send the navy out (to do what bully them, shoot them?) to deal with these poor desperate souls in boats and they will wonder why their parents spent everything to had to come here to a place where people hate them without even knowing them, without knowing their story.

Remember those pictures of the children removed from parents in the USA and put in cells in big warehouses?  That distressed me beyond words, and I fear for the lifelong damage that this policy may have caused these children.

Those immigration officers who I met with all those years ago were, I am sure, very professional and kind, I can’t really remember that because all that stayed with me is the fear, the instant understanding that those people were more powerful than I was and could decide on something that could hurt me.  For those children who have already gone through dangerous sea crossings or long and thirsty and hungry  walks through the desert, the distress of understanding that must be horrific and, well, those children and adults, deserve our help not our hate.  The far right is trying to dehumanise them again as they did in 2015, whipping up a panic that somehow British people are threatened by refugees.  Do not let them. These people are humans with hearts and emotions and personal stories.  Do not try and eradicate them from your reality by pretending it’s not your problem or that you should not care.  We should all care.  “There but for the grace of God go I”, or put it another way, there but for our privilege and good luck go any one of us.

@redalphababe

Jackanory Tell a Story in a Rose Garden

I hope that people who are now so exercised by the Dominic Cummings affair can now understand why so many of us have been so passionately exercised about the EU referendum and everything Brexit related that has unfolded from that.   Several excellent analyses I have seen from columnists as to why the majority of people are furious, have made the point about how personal this issue has been.

Everyone was expected to follow the Covid lockdown rules and they are, without doubt, difficult rules which divide family, which isolate people, which cause anxiety on many fronts, whether that is health, social or financial.   To see a person with power allowed to justify his breach of the rules so publicly without so much as an apology then have him and his slightly fantastical explanations defended furiously by PM and cabinet ministers alike has not only made the government a national and sadly an international disgrace,  but has touched people up and down this land at the most personal level, as they feel the pain of missing their children and grandchildren, or as they cope with their own childcare dilemmas without leaving home.

Their people have died alone, their frail elderly relatives are in care homes are maybe completely baffled as to why they are not getting visits from loved ones.  Their houses and flats are crowded, and their children are climbing the walls.  I read an article about young people going back to school in Spain as we ease out of lockdown, and the thing they found hardest was not being able to hug each other because of the social distancing rules.  This lack of being able to show our normal affection for each other is a source of pain.  Yet most people in Britain have followed the rules despite all these difficulties and temptations.  The previous government advisers found to have breached their own recommendations resigned swiftly.  Dominic Cummings instead held a personal roadshow in the Rose Garden and refused to admit he had done a single thing wrong and even let slip he has been making decisions for the Prime Minister without bothering him, a rather worrying revelation which hasn’t really been followed up by the press yet.  Nobody every voted for Dominic Cummings.  But he has done what they have all done since 2016 – doubled down again and again and got Boris Johnson and his mates to do the same.

So hold on to that thought for a moment – why you are so angry?  The Dominic Cummings/Boris Johnson partnership and their cabinet muppets are taking the mick, that’s how you feel, right?  For some of us, all this is just a continuation of the fury we have felt at the egregious interference with our families and businesses and lives that Brexit represents since 2016.  For us this has been personal for many reasons.  We have been lied to constantly, we have had broken promises, our concerns have been ignored.   You see, when government decisions have such a personal impact on the day to day lives of so many people and they are managed so badly, they cause division and make it impossible to forgive anything.  The scale of anger over the “one rule for them aspect” jars because the lockdown has affected every single person directly.  The scale of rage over Brexit and Brexit lies has been met with much apathy, indifference or irritation from the other half of the British public largely, I believe, because there are so many people who don’t think they will be affected.  They don’t think it’s relevant to them.

Conversely, the rest of us have raged because we see the hypocrisy of the crowing about removing freedom of movement for a nation, and for us personally, by a bunch of politicians many of whom have sneakily got themselves a second EU passport or who’s financial position means they will always have freedom of movement.  We have seen government ministers owning companies which have profited from the volatility of sterling through these long and terrible 5 years, a volatility caused by them,  whilst many of us with small businesses contemplate the damage that leaving the EU represents to our life’s work.

For millions of us will be affected, have been affected in the most personal way by Brexit.  People have already lost jobs, closed businesses, scrabbled around for new contracts.  Our sense of identity has been assaulted; a part ripped from us.  Families have been divided, children face a future having to choose between looking after elderly parents in one country or living with their spouses in another – forced to choose.  EU citizens have been insulted and faced discrimination and xenophobia never faced before as they have been made to justify their presence on British shores.  They are being made to pay extra for their access to medical treatment, in effect they are paying twice because they have a different passport.

Yes, I know you will point out that health and care workers are now exempted from the NHS surcharge,  but really, it’s the worse kind of racism that attempts to make out that some foreigners are more useful than others.  It’s really an extension of the “we didn’t mean you” attitude which is so offensive.   The policy should be scrapped for all immigrants living and working in the UK permanently, regardless of where in the world they are from.

EU citizens who had a legitimate vote in the EU elections last year were denied a vote with no justification simply because the Brexit government has nothing but contempt for Europeans and didn’t care enough to sort out its voter registration systems.  There is an attempt to hold the government to account for this disgraceful chapter by the way, and I would urge all of you who have professed to stand by the 3 Million to please support the 3 Million in this endeavour.  The crowdfunder offers a tangible way to challenge the government through the courts since you won’t be able to vote them out until 2024/5.  I have added the link at the bottom for this.  Please share and help if you possibly can.

The scale of rage over Brexit has been met largely with indifference or irritation amongst the general public because there are so many people who don’t believe they will be affected.  I am sorry to break the news, but whoever you are, you will be affected too at the end of 2020 when transition ends. You will all be affected.  When the government is totally blasé about whether we will have a reasonable trade deal with the EU by the end of the year, why would you now unquestionably trust them that no-deal won’t be a problem in light of current government behaviour?  If they can defend a bizarre story about driving to a castle to check your eyesight is okay, why would you believe them that we don’t need an extension to transition in the current circumstances.  If you are dependent on meds imported from the EU to stay alive, why would you think it will all be hunky dory if negotiations fail on trading arrangements when one of the key architects added something to his blog after his regulation breach in order to present himself in a certain way in that performance, claiming he had warned about Covid before it all began?  You don’t have to be a trade expert to know that no deal will present problems to supply chains.  If a virus can cause challenges to supplies of all sorts of things, as it has done,  so can a lack of trading arrangements.

If your job is hanging by a thread because your employers have used all their reserves to stay afloat with no income for months, why would you think after the economic shock of this Covid disaster is being worked out, that they will have anything left over to keep you in paid employment when their competitiveness and profitability is further slashed by no-deal consequences on their supply lines or when a deep recession removes discretionary spending from their customers pockets?   If government can carry on with a recess of parliament during a massive global health crisis and emergency, the like of which we have never seen before in our lifetimes, what makes you think they won’t keep avoiding being held to account on absolutely everything with their massive majority and 5 years to the next election.  They are taking you for mugs over Covid and Dominic Cummings, what on earth makes you think they aren’t taking us all for mugs over the refusal to request an extension and abandoning our trading relationships with our closest trading partners, neighbours and friends?  In fact, what else are they taking you for mugs over?

@redalphababe

To help right a wrong against our EU27 friends and family who were #deniedmyvote, please follow this link HERE

To sign a petition requesting the extension of transition until the Covid crisis is over please follow the link HERE

Letter from the EU No 4 – Lockdown Lowdown

We find ourselves in a house in a small village outside Huercal Overa in Almeria at a time of great crisis.  There was a chain of events and decisions unconnected with Coronavirus which brought us here, but that story is for another time and another letter.  The Covid-19 crisis has been growing in Europe and across the world.  We moved into this house on the 4th March.  I have watched with great concern and fear for you, my dear friends, as I see the British government struggling to get to grips with the issue and keep up with the speed of response that is absolutely required to flatten the curve as per the WHO advice.

backyard
View from the Back

At the time of writing, the Covid-19 stats in Spain stand at 33,089 total cases with 2206 deaths and 3355 cases recovered.  On the 1st of March, just before we got the keys for this house, there were only 228 cases which were concentrated mainly in and around Madrid.  Now as of the 21st March, there are cases in every region though Madrid continues to suffer the most. The press is full of sad stories.   A young policeman died having contracted the virus on duty.  The virus swamping a nursing home and the stream of ambulances to remove the dead captured on camera.  YouTube is full of videos of enthusiastic dancers, silly jokes, singing on balconies and daily cheers for doctors and nurses but this is all a way to cope with the constant anxiety of not being in control and having an invisible enemy that might be carried by you home from the supermarket which could kill your mother or grandfather.   I think its probably more stressful to do nothing productive than to be doing something in these strange, horrible days.

stats 1
The Covid-19 stats in Spain to date

Just before the Spanish government agreed the details of a state of emergency on the 15th March, there had been 200 deaths.  There was great concern because that weekend, knowing lockdown was coming, people from Madrid travelled to the coasts to their second homes after restrictions were placed in their region.  A similar thing happened in Italy.  Now, I suspect many Spaniards and Italians, if asked, would regret that lockdown had not been put in place earlier as the news flashes in every day with the rising numbers of sick and dead and we see images of conference centres turning into hospitals with ICU beds.

Watching the UK news yesterday with people going on day trips having been advised to practice social distancing puts me in mind of this same thing but I wonder whether I too would have had a more complacent attitude had I not been here watching the UK through the prism of a lockdown in a country that is 2 weeks ahead of the UK in experience of the Covid-19 curve.  It’s certainly surreal, I can tell you that.

But Boris Johnson and his government have done a grave disservice to their country by being dragged kicking and screaming to the point where clear communication and INSTRUCTION is what is need in order to not only flatten the curve but keep health professionals as safe as possible in treating this terrible virus.  The UK have wasted so much time, they could have had measures in place a week ago starting in much better shape than Spain in terms of case numbers. WHO report there is no shortage of testing resources either despite hints to the contrary by British politicians.

Basically in Spanish lockdown, all unnecessary movement is removed.  The only shops allowed to stay open to the public are food shops, pharmacies, paper shops and kiosks, pet food supplies and hairdressers.  People may travel to work.  Home deliveries are allowed so online companies can continue and home delivery from takeaways is allowed.  You can walk your dog but if you do stay close to your home.  A man was fined for walking his dog 3km away from his house.  If you are on the street it must only be for the purposes of going to a shop for food, medicine, work, walking a dog or going home.  All libraries, bars, museums etc are closed so many people cannot go to work because their place of work is closed anyway.  Those who can home work are doing so. You cannot go for a run or a cycle ride.  Only one person allowed in a car unless accompanying someone who needs help through disability etc.  The lockdown is visibly enforced by police forces and the army.  Streets are disinefected from morning until night.  The disinfecting truck actually came past us today even though we are in a little village.  The mantra of #QuedateEnCasa #StayAtHome is seen on tv and news and on social media.  The Government is using social media well to get information out about the virus and the Prime Minister and others are on TV everyday with updates.

In the main I see overwhelming support for these measures.  There are many who I think really feel it is their civic duty to protect their families and neighbours and most especially their precious health services.  Health care started off well-resourced here and yet hospitals are nevertheless stretched and in the hotspots threaten to be overwhelmed.  Of course health care workers constantly in contact with the virus are heavily at risk and many have become sick themselves so making it even more difficult to manage the numbers of critical patients.  There was a report of a convention centre being turned into a hospital and private beds have been requisitioned by government.  I think everyone here understands now, a week after lockdown, the absolute necessity of buying time.  Time for the science to help and the medical provision to be increased.  In my area there has been very little evidence of infection but looking at the local Spanish chat pages, support is still strong for the measures.  The initial 15 days of lockdown are to be extended to a further 15 days, all opposition parties are in agreement.

It may seem odd for me of all people, someone who has fought tooth and nail to preserve our freedom of movement as a right these last four years, to now be in total agreement with the current lockdown enforced with police presence, but the way I see it, a virus is no respecter of any politics.  We really are all in it together although physically we must be apart and we must work together not only to make it through this unprecedented health crisis but protect our way of life afterwards.  This virus does threaten the old and those with other conditions the most, but nobody is completely safe, and the health care professionals are also at great risk because of the amount of the virus they will be exposed to as the numbers of ill patients increase.  The economic shock this crisis is presenting is another thing which we will continue to need to work together to resolve.  The burden will be on everyone to help ease the pain we will continue to feel as we pay the price for flattening the curve.

Although borders are being closed and restrictions on movement imposed here, it has to remain an international collaboration by the science community and by Governments and by Business if they have facilities they can offer to help us come out of the other side of this intact.  Here Spanish shoe factories and other fashion manufacturing facilities are repurposing their machines to make masks and other protective equipment to donate to hospitals and police, private hospital beds have been requisitioned for public use and China have donated protective equipment.  The EU have created a scheme for members to buy extra ventilators and Italy have had Chinese doctors flying over to help them get through this crisis.  Its heartening to see these stories of friendship and human connection.

Yet in contrast I see the UK government has been so slow to heed the advice based on real experience and actual deaths elsewhere.  its like watching a tractor in slow motion rolling towards the edge of an abyss  The whole disastrous herd immunity modelling nonsense was interpreted by many as carry on as you are as far as I can make out.  The lack of clarity and INSTRUCTION on social distancing measures is just dreadful.  UK Please listen.  Your friends over here are screaming at you to stay at home. The UK had a head start they could have used to impose even a partial lockdown a week ago.  instead I see pictures of crammed supermarkets and crowded tube stations and I fear for the stats that will be announced in the coming weeks in those daily news conferences led by a man who looks like he would rather be on the surface of Mars than in front of that microphone.

playground
Childrens playground sealed off in a deserted Huercal Overa

UK schools are finally shut but not shut yet parents are taking their children to playgrounds.  Please just stop.   STAY AT HOME.  Every day of lockdown you all suffer now is 2 days less in the future and will save lives.  In these extraordinary times, making vague recommendations allowing people to choose to do the right things just won’t work.  The public are not experts. There will always be disagreement about what is essential travel, who is a key worker.  For that reason clear decisions on these questions and then firm instruction is what people need even if it is not what they want.  It’s hard but it buys scientists and health services precious time.  The scientific consensus around the world is clear on what the strategy should be.  We must for a short time lay aside our personal preoccupations as individuals and think what we can do for the community.

So please, listen to other countries.  Stay at Home as much as you can to weather this storm.  Protect your families and stay safe.

ps. I have seen that the government is putting through an emergency bill grabbing power for up to two years. Neither Spain nor France as far as I know have seen the need to put this 2-year date on their legislation. Spain has used an existing ability in its written constitution to call a state of emergency, but it only lasts for 15 days and must be renewed by agreement in parliament every 15 days. This is as it should be.  The state should have no ability to impose such serious measures on people’s liberty for any length of time without consent and regular review and scrutiny.  Without that protection lies the path to temptation by men big on ego and miniscule of heart  to make themselves the defacto crown prince.  Indeed I have to ask the question why would a government who can’t even bring themselves to order pubs to shut down across the country in order to protect pensioners feel they need emergency legislation allowing amongst other things the detention of “sick” foreign people which lasts for 2 years especially when there is already existing legislation to use in an emergency?  Odd that.

pps. The British government must now accept that a brexit extension MUST be agreed for at least a year.  European (including the UK) energies must remain on fighting covid-19 and recovering from the economic shock it is causing and the havoc it will continue to cause.  If our small businesses survive (and believe me its going to be hit and miss whether we will still have a business on the other side of this nightmare), having to then battle through Brexit nonsense in the same year is just going to kill us off once and for all.

@redalphababe

Righting the Wrongs of 16.

Righting the Wrongs, fixing what’s right
We are still here to fight the good fight
Defiance still shines, your lies can’t be hid
Whilst we use our voice to lift off the lid

We watch and we wait for truth to be clear
To be once again what people hold dear
The light will be shining and as the scales fall
Our people will come home on hearing our call

To examine reality, to see what we know
That is  inevitable, make no mistake. Go
to the lengths you desire to hide your intent
Spend as much as you like
Make a bridge, build a tent

to keep out the light from the masses that matter
you can’t do it forever.  Hurt makes a clatter
as it grips peoples hearts where anxiety dwells
So the wave of real life will roll and swell
And crash on the sand that your house is built on
Wash away the turrets towers and cons

We will be waiting. If you are right
there is nothing to worry about, the unicorns will alight
from their gilded carriages and all will gain
But if you are wrong we will  feel the pain
of our friends and our families our children, husbands and wives
The impacts and consequence over their lives

We will be waiting to heal their mistake
To right the wrongs of the liberties you take
To put back the rights you have taken away
To restore the freedoms and stop foul play

We don’t yet know how or when or where
But we’ve time on our side, your clock is already there
with the alarm going off soon. Everyone will hear.
Where exactly you want to steer.
Your dream will be transparent and we will all see.
What reality is, how painful it will be

We will protect the Wronged.  We will right the wrongs
We will shine a light on the snake oil and cons
All the distractions and dead cats you throw our way
Will never remove our love. Our resolve will stay.

@redalphababe
.

Letter from the EU no 3 – a question of identity?ó

Dear Friends,

As the 2019 comes to a close, I write this letter from a beautiful part of the Mediterranean.  The sun has been shining a fair bit and the catastrophic general election results feel a long way away for now.  I don’t expect a miracle.  Johnson has his majority in parliament so it would require a really big fat miracle to stop him getting his withdrawal agreement Bill through even with the pretty disgraceful wholesale dumping of previous undertakings he had made to “protect workers rights” and to help refugee children.   I fear this is but a sign of bigger dumping of rights to come.

How do I feel?  I normally write about the impacts of these things on others, but I am going to dwell just for today on my emotional self.   I lived my entire life, bar my first 3 years, in the UK.  My siblings were all a fair few years older, I was, you might say, a late hatch.  My brothers and sister had memories of Spain; I have none from actually living there.

I always found thinking about my identity challenging.  I think I do have an innate Spanishness, but I also look at lots of things with very British eyes. My humour is a mix of the love of the fatalistic and dark with an admiration for clever use of the English language and irony.  When amongst Spanish people I feel my hispanic blood, with British I feel the Britishness.  This strange mix inside me has led to some confused thinking at times.  When Theresa May used the term “citizen of nowhere”, as offensive as that phrase is especially in the context she used it, there is a little nugget of fear in my gut that that is how people may see me, neither one thing or another. Whoever I am with, I always feel I must hold back some part of myself to be accepted.  My identity is wrapped up in my blood and genes, the land of my birth and the land of my life plus some other family dynamics.

In 2005 I decided to naturalise as a British Citizen.  I saw this as a way to settle some things in my head.  I felt the need to make a commitment to the UK.  There were crazy practical reasons like the fact that I could not vote in the UK where I paid my tax and where it affected my life, but I could, if I so wished, register to vote in Spain where I had never lived. This seemed just silly. But really this important decision was only possible because I had the backstop that I was a European and in legal terms a European Citizen and therefore my rights were protected.  My EU citizenship allowed me to resolve how all the confusing jigsaw pieces of the essence of me fitted together comfortably, peacefully.  I could make the commitment to my British part because the Spanish part could never be removed.

As we approach the 31st January, I will have a grieving process to go through as I lose my EU citizenship.  Spain does not allow dual nationality.  I don’t know at this point if I will be able to resolve this without losing my British passport but frankly, I am as angry today as I was on the 24th June 2016.  I don’t want to choose between the essential parts which make me the person I am, and I don’t see why I should have to.

I currently find the way forward unclear and muddled.  We have talked seriously for some years about relocating to Spain to be on the European mainland, an experience we thought we wanted to do for a while at least, but now I don’t know what the implications would be of that and my thinking is foggy and the ensuing indecision is something I will have to work through. 

Apart from everything else, I worry about my beloved United Kingdom and whether it is actually wrong to leave right now instead of fighting for the open and tolerant and modern country it was and could be again,  the place it was heading towards being before the treacherous poison of Brexit swamped its pores whilst malign voices whispered into the ear of ordinary people that the fault of their dissatisfaction lay in their relationships with their neighbours instead of the truth, that it was the whisperers, their landlords who were failing to fix the holes in the roof which let the rain into their lives.

I don’t know the answers yet, that’s a work in progress, but I do know that my feelings about my identity are once more on the table and that makes me sad and angry in equal measure.  What makes me most angry is that what I have temporarily lost is the ability to find a note of hope and optimism to end this letter on. All I can say is that we need to be kind to each other and find a path to forgiveness to vanquish the difficult times ahead.

@redalphababe

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Imagine Revisited.

A little while back I imagined a positive and negative outcome to this whole Brexit shambles.  I was asked to revisit this.  I have to be honest I have found this difficult, seeing the intense mistruths being spread by Boris Johnson and his party in this extremely dirty election campaign has made it difficult to feel anything other than dismay and fear.   Boris Johnson has run a campaign where he has evaded scrutiny, promised a few crazy things to buy people and threw out the soundbites one after the other and I am fearful that the British public are buying his nonsense.  But here are my two scenarios.  Let’s look at the bad stuff first.

It’s the 31 December 2020.  Boris Johnson got a majority in the general election of 2019.  The dirtiest election ever, every trick in the book and then some was employed and thrown at the public during the campaign – fake tweets, fake websites, doubling down on lies by Johnson and his cronies.  Johnson kept just bouncing back in the polls like a great yellow beach ball that someone had drawn a vacant face with a smile on, vacant because his manifesto was so vacuous and his soundbites so fake.   Sadly arguments between the other party activists got in the way of the campaign for tactical voting which was being promoted by Pro EU activists across the country.

With a majority in parliament, having replaced all his honourable One Nation Tories and Remain MPs with shiny new Super Brexity Tory MPs willing to do absolutely anything because they wanted to get a job in government, the withdrawal agreement was passed.  The biggest lie “Get Brexit Done” has proven to be a bit tricky.  The free trade agreement with the EU is not in place and as of midnight the country essentially has no more arrangements, on anything except airspace.  The transition arrangements end, and the country has paid an absolute fortune in No-deal planning.  The Business community are furious and rather wishing they had not fallen for the scaremongering about a minority labour government.  Meanwhile talks have been ongoing with the US administration.  The control of drug pricing is still on the table though Johnson refuses to admit this.    No deal is in sight yet.

The continuing uncertainty has not been good for business.  Anxiously watching the news every day at the slow progress of the terms of access to trade with the EU, directors and CEOs everywhere who had not already triggered contingencies last year have taken this transition period to do so.  The promised growth has not come.  Tax receipts are down so the money tree has wilted and died.

The Tory No-deal Architects are about to get their way.  Their hedge fund investments betting against the economy and currency speculations have been very rewarding so they are smiling to themselves when they get up in the morning.  They know the next step will be a rowing back of regulation in the labour market in order to try and make us more competitive in a world with no trade deals to speak of.  Their plans are coming on nicely.

The pound has been all over the place as, the reality is we are no closer to knowing much about our future relationships with any of the big players.  There were some deals rolled over by countries such as the Faroe Islands.   Prices have continued to increase.   Small Business is worried about the impending difficulty in getting supplies as our trading arrangements have failed to materialise and we are coming to the deadline.  Johnson with his majority has made some constitutional changes which are making protest against the government difficult, they introduced legislation to stop governments being taken to court by citizens trying to make constitutional challenges.

Parliament still must talk about Brexit every day.  The Russia report was never published by some government sleight of hand and most of the police enquiries into the 2016 referendum have now been kicked into the long grass.  EU27 citizens have left in droves to live their lives somewhere they feel welcome.

Some things haven’t changed. There are still people living in tents in shop doorways. There are still food banks. Disabled and sick people are still being badly assessed for PIP. Wages are not going up in line with living costs. The NHS has not been able to address any of its staff shortage problems. The Care System sees no end in sight. The new immigration rules are not helping to get their positions filled from anywhere in the world when migrants can do better elsewhere. The brain drain is still a thing.   There were 5 football grounds built in the regions to the trumpeting of Johnson and the viability reports are still being carried out on 6 hospitals.

Racism is still alive and well. The far right now has representation in parliament via a Tory party which had already started its journey to the right long before this point.  There are no unicorns here.

The news every night is still about Brexit. Why did we Brexit? What will happen next? How is the government going to solve the no-deal crisis at the end of transition? What about the supply problems? When are we going to see a stronger pound? When is the USA going to give us a deal? How many years of negotiations are ahead of us?

Government ministers fill our screens with the tired Brexit soundbites and keep repeating the mantra that this is the will of the people.

Nobody with any power is talking about climate change any more.

We clink our glasses to see the new year in with heavy hearts and fear about the continuing degradation of our political system which has completely forgotten it’s there to solve our problems not to make them for us.

The political shitshow continues.

It’s all a nightmare, right? Well now don’t just imagine but visualise this instead!

It’s the 31st of December 2020.

On the 12th December 2019 people finally got the message that they needed to find a path to end Brexit and it wasn’t going to be the shamelessly mendacious Tory plan.  Activists from across parties worked together to get rid of Brexiter Candidates across the country.  Wherever the constituency looked like it would benefit from Tactical voting, pro EU activists campaigned for the Remain/Peoples Vote candidate who could win, regardless of party.  Dominic Grieve won back his seat as an independent.

Labour won but needed to get the cooperation of other parties to be able to form a government.  Lib Dems, SNP and Greens all agreed they would work with Labour within a loose alliance arrangement and not a coalition.  They allowed Labour to go to the EU.  The deal that came back was basically May’s withdrawal agreement with customs union alignment and a form of access to the single market.

Labour kept their promise to have a referendum, their new idea of how to leave versus remain.  Parliament agreed the terms of the referendum and we had a very tough and comprehensive nationwide examination and direct comparison of the deal being proposed to leave and our existing EU membership.  The forces that tried to steal the votes in 2016 were still there but we were ready for them.   Realities were laid bare.  False information on both sides was dealt with by broadcasters with proper challenge.  Young voters engaged and supported the campaigns.  Remain won the argument and the referendum, after some important rules around online campaigning and paid for advertising were imposed.  The people of the UK had had enough and wanted Brexit to end so they voted to make it end! They wanted investment in services, and housing and financial growth to be the centre of the political attention once more.

Article 50 was duly revoked.  Parliament immediately launched a wide-ranging consultation process trying to determine with communities around the country what initiatives were needed in the regions to improve the lives of all our people.

A few thousand angry people turned up to protest in London after article 50 was revoked whipped up by Farage etc. There were pockets of nastiness, but the numbers weren’t big enough to stop the overwhelming majority of citizens around the country from heaving a huge sigh of relief.

The pound soared back upwards. The FTSE stabilised and strengthened steadily. Companies engaged in plans to invest in the future knowing where we were going. Brexit is no longer on the news every night. Structural problems in various industrial sectors can be viewed and addressed by business with clarity, without the constant white noise of Brexit interfering with their thinking.

There was a huge media feature on homelessness. The Government announced a cross party initiative to address the issues of housing needs in the UK. There is work being done on how to improve economic growth, training and recruitment in the NHS and social care and they are once again busy talking about inequality, equality in the workplace, taxation and foreign policy. Parliament is working actively on all the issues which affect people’s lives.

Our MPs now see more normal post bags and can concentrate on helping their individual constituents more effectively. The feeling of constant division has been removed in our political environment despite a minority government relying on working cross party to operate. There are still some extremely abusive emails, but these are now easy to report and ignore. Politicians report they are also getting many more thoughtful letters on a wide range of issues, as more people have woken up to political engagement and want to communicate with their MPs to make their communities and country better.

Yes, many people were and still are angry and they threaten never to vote again. But as the weeks go on, and people around them are starting to smile again and they don’t hear the word Brexit on the news and new jobs are announced as firms feel able to invest in expansion plans instead of contingency plans, they start to feel secretly relieved too. They laugh at the satirical jokes along with everybody else and they don’t know it yet, but this time next year they will quietly wonder why they voted to leave the EU in the first place.

The racists are still there of course, but the unexpected power that Brexit gave them has been undermined. Their voices are still loud, but their platform is broken. The toxic right of politics is still attracting certain kinds of people whose view of the world is narrow, but as the population ages, just as with the Conservatives, their most fertile and effective audience at the ballot box will decline. We are starting to patch up the damage done to our relationships with the EU27 citizens amongst us who have been treated so appallingly.

The EU is doing work on the climate change crisis. We are proudly playing our part in that with our partners. Via the EU we are also continuing to address the problems of Tax Evasion and money laundering. The Revoke decision has given a new sense of energy and hope to the progressive parties and their voters right across the EU. Politicians are keen to embrace the optimism. The British public are better informed now about what the EU does and are communicating with our MEPS more.  MEPS of all parties are now being asked on news programmes whereas previously they were all ignored apart from Nigel Farage.

Life is getting back to normal but a new mass of motivated, politically engaged, intelligent people, experienced in campaigning for change are looking at ways they can support our democratic systems so the entire population is better represented in parliament and populist extremes cannot be foisted on us again. We must remain alert to the continuing dangers of the far right and nationalism across the world.

We clink our glasses to see the new year in with a profound sense of relief and hope. We are optimistic for the future. We see the battles are not over, they never will be, but we understand now that complacency is the biggest enemy and our generation will not make this mistake again. We must no longer look away from our problems home or away but seek to solve them together.

That’s more like it.

Imagine this, visualise this, make it happen.  Use your vote wisely on Thursday and make it count. Check your constituency.  Tactical Voting may help you deny a Tory majority. We have too much to lose not to try.

polling station iso

 

Truth, the Optional Extra

When I was at school, l I was taught that when you cheat the only loser is you.  The morality aside, on a practical level this is sound advice for the important things in life and I feel grateful to have been given this insight from a young age.  Think what would happen if you were a brain surgeon and you had cheated your way through your medical training.   I don’t suppose you would last long before not knowing the difference between cerebrum and cerebellum gets you struck off. If you get somebody else to take your driving test, the first time you run over a pedestrian could make you live to regret your bad choice in life and honesty.

It seems that the Conservative Party, in its current form, went to a different school that never discussed such ethical issues. Cheating has been adopted as a stock feature of their modus operandi for some time now.  Johnson, Gove and Cummings were all middle of the Leave EU lawbreaking debacle.  We must conclude that given their leading positions in the campaign, these things were within their sphere of influence and therefore they must bear some responsibility.  Ian Lucas, Wrexham MP, who was on a committee examining these issues, in his departing speech, was very clear they had all failed to answer for their actions or certain knowledge that the campaign had cheated its way to a small majority for Leave. From deceitful Facebook ads served up to unsuspecting targets whose data had been illegally mined, to diverting funds which were an overspend to the BeLeave campaign, they have all indulged in pretending that was “nothing to do with us guv”.

Borsi with a glass talking rubbish

Lies about the money.  Lies about the foreigners. Lies about the benefits of giving up our EU membership.  The floor of the houses of parliament is littered with the ashes of all the broken promises of the leave campaign and May’s government and now under Boris Johnson, the cheating continues at an even greater pace.  The Election campaign is one of the dirtiest I can ever remember in my 51 years on this earth.  The Conservative Party has lied and lied and lied, they have doctored videos of Starmer, they have hidden important reports from the public including the contents of the Russia report which ex Tory Dominic Grieve is very concerned about.   They had a Facebook advert removed and the other night they renamed their blue tick Press Office account to pretend they were a fact checking account. They have paid for keywords on google relating to the Labour manifesto so they can point people to a website they created in order to attack it.  Interestingly we had a company do that to us once, they paid for a short phrase which happened to be our company name and interfering with our site traffic as a result.  Thankfully it was one of our suppliers, so we were able to get them to stop, their media agency hadn’t realised, but it’s a very sneaky trick to deliberately and we were furious.

Cheating or trying to get one over on political rivals with dirty tactics – it’s all designed to steal your vote.  But, you say, all politicians lie.  Well yes I suppose they do in relatively small ways and I think they definitely have a history of U-turns and failing to carry through manifesto commitments, but answer honestly, is it normal for them to lie about Russian interference in our elections, or to cheat in referendums and general elections?  Is it normal for a politician to deny their presence in a hospital is a photo opportunity to a patient’s dad when the cameras are literally pointed at them whilst having the conversation?  How big do the lies have to be before everybody wakes up and starts to take responsibility for their own vote in the light of all this.

The UK is a nation which was united in its outrage when Maradona scored his Hand of God goal.  They rightly saw the chance for England to win the World Cup had been stolen.  The UK is a nation which was united in its shock at the expenses scandal when, amongst many other similar revelations, a Tory MP paid for his duck house out of taxpayer’s funds.  The nation rightly saw this fiddling as a theft of their money. Nobody shrugged and said well “whatever”.  Sadly, something seems to have been lost since then.

The polls appear to show Boris Johnson’s lies are just being completely ignored by half the public. I think we have to blame several people, not just politicians but also the press which for 3 years have mostly blanked the cheating that occurred during 2016 or they have echoed the Brexit lie, that “both sides cheated”.  Both sides did not cheat but the myth persists.  Ignoring the law breaking in 2016 set the scene for a normalisation of big fat whopping lies and I fear that voters have been totally inured to it just at the very moment we have to contend with Boris Johnson, the Truth Optional Prime Minister, trying to get a majority so he can continue with his mad Brexit.

Moreover if ALL the opposition parties had also picked up on the work that dedicated journalists like Carole Cadwalladr have done at a higher level at a much earlier point, we would, I feel, have been in a very different place right now.  For too long we heard the respect the vote argument and that has really damaged us.

But now there is no excuse as we see with our own eyes fresh evidence of lying and cheating by what is left of the Tory Party after they got rid of most of the honourable MPs they had on their back benches.  Broadcasters have finally realised they are supposed to challenge politicians and are doing so quite well actually.   Yet the polls show people are not abandoning Tories despite this and I wonder if this is because they want to be on the winning side, and they think Johnson will win.

I would say to those still thinking of voting for a man who cheats to win, he will cheat on them too in the end.  Johnson, Gove, Cleverley all of them, they will be alright Jack.  They will have their power, their jobs, their money.  Ordinary voters will be the people who pay for their hard Brexit.  Our children will lose rights.  Our communities will suffer as the promises about money for the regions replacing the EU Regional funding ends up consigned as a distant dream.  In fact I haven’t heard anybody mention regional funds lately.  Those 40 hospitals, well, given there is no timetable laid out do we really believe that they will ever materialise?  The Russian Report, why, if it shows there is no evidence of interference in our democratic processes, does Johnson not release it?

But I come back to where I started, on this idea that when you cheat, you only cheat yourself.  Well, perhaps my teachers didn’t tell me the whole story because in the case of Johnson and his cronies, we are in danger of allowing them to not only get away with it, but prosper from their lies.  Life may in time deliver a form of natural justice to them but by then our economy will be trashed and we will be greatly diminished on the world stage as hard Brexit bites in every part of our lives.  We simply cannot wait on the offchance that random fate will intervene on our behalf.  We have only a handful of tools available to us right now in this hateful and dirty election.  We must deny these people a majority and in our first past the post system this is what we can do.

  1. Call out the lies. Don’t let it pass.  If somebody you know, family or colleague or friend shares a Johnson post you know to be incorrect or repeats a myth, tell them.  Calmly and politely and gently challenge the myths. Small conversations with your mates could make all the difference.
  2. Make sure everybody you know is registered to vote and cajole them to get out and vote on the day. Talk through the issues with them.  There are nearly a third of the electorate who are not registered, they have been called the Unheard Third.  Support campaigns such as this website which gives useful advice as to how we can persuade people to use their voices.
  3. We must look hard at our own constituency and consider whether Tactical Voting is going to help us. Do the research. There are several sites, look at them all. In fact somebody just gave me a link to this one which compares all the tactical voting sites at once so you can see If there is consensus emerging as to which candidate can best beat the Brexiter candidates.  Keep checking too because all the sites add data from polling as the election campaign goes on, some of the opinions may change.

Tactical sites are good but there is no perfect science to this, and local knowledge is also useful when deciding if you aren’t sure. Talk to your local pro EU group and see if they can give you any further insights.    Whilst you are talking to your local pro EU group, please consider giving them a hand.  Most have ongoing voter registration campaigns and other initiatives running at the moment. They will be grateful for any assistance you can give.   They can probably put you in touch with the right people if you want to directly help a particular candidate campaign.  There is a lot of local cross-party support for campaigning going on in target seats by pro EU activists.

We have come this far together, my friends, from being a disparate bunch of baffled sad or angry people, to a massive grass roots movement determined to put the wrongs of 2016 right,  We have given up ridiculous numbers of hours of our personal time to fight the Brexit Beast, neglected our lives in other areas in some cases because we believe it is so disastrous.  Why throw that hard work away on partisan rows.   if we genuinely want to win this round so we can stay in the game to stop Brexit, we are up against a group of people who are so desperate to get their Brexit they will cheat and lie over and over to get what they want and its only by working together that we have a hope of making sure they are stopped.

@redalphababe

Letter from the EU No 2

Dear Friends.

I thought it was time for a catch up.  We have been travelling for nearly 3 weeks now in Eric our lovely motorhome.  Eric has looked after us well though we got into a bit of a scrape in a Lidl when we caught the roof with the roof of a parking place.  No harm done just a little embarrassment.  We have travelled down through France into the North of Spain and then down through Portugal.

Having entered Spain from France with not much of a fanfare, we had set our route on non-toll roads and we had a couple of lovely days in San Sebastian also known as Donostia in Basque. We wild camped in Leon for a night and decided to press on to Santiago de Compostela which was an important stop in Galicia for me.  We had booked 3 days in a campsite in the city.

Santiago de Compostela is the city of my birth.  I have few memories of that place, given I was an infant when my family left, but I do have some pictures in my head from visits there and I cling to them.  Our memories are part of what makes us who we are.  They keep our feet on the ground and our memories of love comfort our hearts and give strength to us in times of our greatest need.

camino

As we got closer to the city, we could see from the motorhome more and more pilgrims walking along El Camino, the walk of Saint James.  They strode along the paths mostly alone, easily recognisable in the big waterproof hooded capes over their bodies and rucksacks and carrying the sticks. Some had the traditional tall stick to help them along the way, whilst some used the more up to date Nordic walking sticks.  I wondered with each pilgrim what their story was.  Why were they alone on a track on a rainy day in November?  What were they looking for?   There were so many more walkers than I expected to see.  I imagined a multitude of personal lives, all strangers but united by their common physical goal but with different spiritual agendas.  Were these people on their lone walk driven by grief or love?  A businessman escaping the rat-race.  A woman looking to lay down the burden of a painful divorce.  A priest drained by the lives of pain of his flock seeking a reaffirmation of his faith, a spiritual rebirth to excite and restore his weary jaded bones so he had something left to share out. A vane politician, a puffed-up peacock in all the gear, doing something interesting he could write about in his memoirs to make him look good.  A woman determined to challenge herself physically as she never had before. A young man of the Instagram Generation taking photos and selfies at each marker which displays the shell, the symbol that the pilgrims follow.

The city sprawled ahead of us and we found our way to the campsite and without further ado walked to the old town and the Cathedral.  As soon as saw the stone arches and cobbled streets of the old town, it all felt hugely familiar. I was delighted to recognise one of the roads and a café in front of the Alameda (park) which I think was there when my grandmother was alive.  We ate mussels and drank wine there as the barmen chattered to each other animatedly moaning about their families.

The following day, we set off to look for the street where I was born.  As we walked down a road, I glanced around and knew I had been there before. It was the market and being a Saturday morning we went to have a look.  The market thronged with colourful loud chattering Gallegos.  It is made up of corridors with stalls on each side.  Each corridor was devoted to a theme.  Fish, Meat, Vegetables.  Women barked out questions to the fishmongers and men stood in the middle chattering to each other about football.  Our mouths watered as we strolled through the crowds and smelled the freshness of all the produce.  The octopus red and plump, the fish shining and bright eyed, the cheeses creamy and delicious, the bread and cake stall surrounded by excited children waiting to choose a bun.

market

 

Part of my DNA belongs in this market.  My Grandmother, my Abuela, brought up my mother and aunt alone and made her living by trading in Padron Peppers, buying them from the farmers coming in from the country and doing deals with the stall holders.   Not so much city trader but definitely trading in a city.  It helped her pay the bills and put food on the table at a time when being a woman alone was not easy.

We were delighted, on turning the corner to find an entire hallway with bars and kitchens, and signs inviting people to buy their produce from the market, and have it cooked by these fine chefs.  There were many people taking up the offer, big family groups and groups of twenty somethings crowded around the tables eating clams and drinking wine and beer.

I felt slightly sad that for various reasons we had grown so separate from this city, from this region having moved to the UK.  I guess there was no internet and no Facebook, no cheap flights, so families that migrated were less able to keep their links intact as the older generations died.  I vowed that I would spend some time tracking down family members and arrange a longer trip to visit them.

The market and the memories I had tapped into were almost more exciting than finding the house of my birth which, with a little whatsapping with my brother, I finally found.  I was slightly disappointed to realise the front façade had been changed, as, in my imagination I could still see my Grandmothers front balcony stuffed full of colourful flowers in pots.

We topped off the day with a visit to the inside of the cathedral. Now, I will just have to come back because there is a massive renovation going on so much of the inside is covered in scaffold though you can still visit the apostle’s crypt.  The pilgrims were numerous here as traditionally they end their walk embracing the reputed remains of Saint James of the city title.

st james

The other great tradition was the Botafumeiro which is basically a giant incense burner which priests swing over the heads of the congregation on the end of a rope.  I saw it as a child and stood looking at the altar and closed my eyes so I could conjure up the smell and the sounds in my mind.  The Botafumeiro cannot operate whilst the renovation is going on, so a revisit is on the cards in the next couple of years.

The most interesting aspect of the city is the sounds.  Gallegos talk loudly, laugh together loudly.  When I was growing up in the UK, my friends used to ask me what I was arguing with my mother about in Spanish.  I didn’t know what they were talking about.  We weren’t arguing we were just talking. This entire city was filled with people just talking.

cathedral

I felt the history of my Abuela in this place of my birth as we strolled through the Alameda and admired the benches and fountains which I recognised from my childhood.  I am a child of Europe, it lives in me and is an important part of what made me.   This makes me happy.

@redalphababe

Tories, Tactics, Tribalism

Looking in on twitter there seems a lot of anxiety around which is understandable given the fix we have been put in by our politicians. The tribalism which accompanies elections in a first past the post system has been unleashed as the parties and their activists square up to each other. This was always going to be the problem with an election.

The only good thing so far is that the Tories who are currently running their party into the gutter, are failing to hide their true natures and creating a whirlwind of sleaze and lies around themselves. No matter how hard they try, Johnson and his top snakeoil sales team just can’t help tripping over their own egos. They have driven out some really sensible moderates who would normally be ushered in to try and explain things calmly to the nation and gloss over the various faux pas of their colleagues. But now we just glaze over when they send someone in to double down on their nonsense because it’s always an over confident self serving ERG rep.

Those of us who remember the Tory sleaze debacle in the 90s will remember that once these dropped balls start, they keep bouncing back in their faces. But as awful as these people and their offering are, we do well not to be complacent. There will be many Brexit weary voters who will be wooed by the lies of getting the B word done. So if, like me, you put stopping Brexit above any other political consideration, this is where we must concentrate.

Keep calling,out the deal, keep calling out the false promises, keep the pressure on. It does us no good to get embroiled in arguments with other remainers and distracts us from our best weapon, the failure of May, Johnson and their cabinets. They lost every vote virtually because they failed to persuade parliament to support them. That’s not because there was something wrong with parliament, it’s because their Brexit policy was a complete failure. For 3.5 years they failed. Theresa May failed to keep her majority by calling an election. She then failed to persuade Johnson and the people who became his ministers or support her Brexit.

Johnson took over and lost nearly every vote. Again he failed to get the support of Parliament and his own colleagues. We need to keep revisiting their failures and their broken promises and yes their cheating. Don’t let it go. Keep talking about it.

As for tactical voting I am all in favour of it. But we must stop getting distracted or angry because parties are campaigning. It’s going to happen and some of it will feel stupid or counter productive. But we have little control over that and only so much energy so let’s try and put it to positive initiatives. We aren’t going to be able to force parties to do everything we want them to do in terms of decisions about who to stand down, and we aren’t going to be able to persuade their most tribal supporters to vote for someone else. Let’s just accept that and concentrate on the people we can persuade.

On the vexed issue of Labour and their Brexit fudge, I have been thinking this through and have an idea. Assuming you want to vote tactically and your best hope for a remain MP in your constituency is a Labour candidate, but you are nervous about a repeat of the 80% rubbish, I suggest that you do the following.

a. Ask them directly if they will honour the promise of a Peoples Vote in all circumstances and

b. If they satisfy you with that answer, put in writing to them that your are supporting them in your constituency because they are promising a Peoples Vote with a remain option and your vote must never be counted by anybody as a pro Brexit vote in any way shape or form. This will keep their minds focused.

The most important thing you can do is talk to friends and family , signpost them to the different Tactical Voting sites if they are unsure what to do and want brexit to go away or end. Bear in mind as polling is done in the campaign, some of the key seats may change in terms of recommendation.

Support your local Pro EU group. We are all doing voter registration drives. If you can help us tap into younger voters too we really need your input.

If you want to campaign and door knock for remain candidates please volunteer. Again local pro EU groups are being given information on who to contact for anybody who wants to campaign for remain candidates. There are key marginals where the pro remain individual with the best chance of winning needs extra pairs of hands. If your pro remain MP is relatively secure maybe you can help in a neighbouring marginal constituency.

But please, if you are outside the tribal bubble like me, don’t waste your time being drawn into arguments with party activists, they aren’t going to be persuaded. Make the case for tactical voting and people can agree or not. Remember if we manage to get a remain parliament and deny Johnson the majority he craves to run rampant with right wing policies and a damaging Brexit which threatens our families and livelihoods, we will all need to work together in a referendum.

Within my own local group in Chester which contains some passionate activists for different parties and also passionate activists who only campaign to stop brexit and not for parties, we are very conscious that we need to come out of the other side of this general election not only intact and together but we need to retain our biggest strength in a referendum, we do not have any party affiliations and we can talk to anybody and it is imperative that stays that way.