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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.

Letter from the EU No 1

Dear Friends,

This is our 7th day since we set off from Chester for some new experiences around the EU27 whilst we have the flexibility and chance to do so. Other Half (from hereon in known as OH) bought a motorhome and persuaded me to go out of my comfort zone and set off travelling in a very cramped space for a while. We must work on the move, but we can still do this for now. As you know I have been campaigning for a Peoples Vote and to remain in the EU and was reluctant to commit to this, but I am running out of energy and thought some inspiring distractions might be just the thing to revive my strength. OH insisted I name the motorhome, I think he thought, like a cute dog or pig or something, I would be more attached to it if it had a name, so I christened our 15-year-old Rapido motorhome Eric. We lived on a smallholding for twenty years and had various forays with livestock and anything we named always became a pet and lived until their old age in total splendour under our care.

We wanted to leave the UK before the 31st October just in case there were issues if Boris Johnson had got his way either with or without a deal so on Thursday 24th off we went. I think I need to confess to you my foolishness the day before our planned leaving date which nearly derailed the whole thing. I have been trying to learn how to ride a bike. Yes, I know. For reasons which I won’t go into here, I just never got a bike when I was a kid. I have managed my whole life without feeling I missed out but OH encouraged me to give it a go as it would make things easier if we could cycle from campsites to points of interest etc.

Anyway, on the eve of our departure I was trying to cycle to the motorhome and somehow despite going incredibly slowly I braked too hard and managed to fall like a ridiculous sack of potatoes over and to the side head-first.  I still don’t know how I did it, but I looked like an idiot.  As I fell down, I banged my head, broke my new glasses which promptly put a massive gash on my head.  4 hours later I came out of A& E with several stitches above my eye. Favourite Son who is currently away travelling himself, said “Mum, you will do anything to get out of going in a caravan”. OH growled “It’s not a caravan, it’s a luxury Motorhome”.  Do you think motorhomes are a bit metropolitan elite?  The favoured practice of using other facilities wherever you can instead of the toilet in the vehicle reminds me of when I was a little child and lived in a house with an outside toilet.

Somehow, (unlike Boris Johnson as it turns out) we still managed to leave as planned the following morning for Folkestone then the channel tunnel for France albeit with my old glasses perched on my nose.  I had a conversation with a local musician passing by who stopped to admire Eric and immediately gave me lots of useful advice having used many motorhomes when touring.  I think there is a community out there.  The rule of the road seems to be to wave to other motorhomers.  I have never had so many waves since the days when I drove around in an ancient Alfa Romeo Spider, an instant head turner.

I have to say, although it’s only been a week, on the whole living in a small space has been much easier to deal with than I expected.  It’s just like being in a very small hotel room.  We have managed not to completely fall out or trip over each other and there has been only a little tiny bit of hissing and snapping from me.  We realised quickly organisation is everything and I am so bad at the tidiness thing, but you really do have to put things away immediately.  On the nights we are in campsites with facilities we have made use of the washing and power facilities and planned for the nights of wild camping by making sure our devices are charged on route.  If you are ever doing this, a couple of apps are useful, Park4Night where people post good places to stop with reviews and comments and the ACSI app which also gives you discounts in the off season at their campsites if you join.  How did people do this before internet existed?  It almost feels like cheating to be looking every night to find a spot to camp at the following night. 

We had a little mishap with a kerb when leaving the petrol station at one point and poor old Eric has a little scratch at the bottom ofthe door.  If bad news comes in threes, only one more mishap to go, or perhaps I can count the announcement of a general election as number three.

Anyway, here we are on night 7. We have got as far as a beautiful spot called L’Aiguillon-sur-Mer as a stopover on the way to Bordeaux.  The beaches are beautiful here.  My impressions of France so far have been to wonder with awe at the amount of space here. Wide roads and huge fields. We have gone through flat country all the way so far.  We were in a public park with a stunning quadrant of silver birches in rows, which reminded me of my row of silver birches in our old garden we made in Mid Wales now hopefully as tall and strong and being enjoyed by the current owners. 

We have seen quite a lot of wildlife, in particular some stunning birds, a couple of which I have managed to photograph today so I can identify them.  Also, I have been amazed at how much industry there is.  Factories and manufacturing plants, engineering firms and machinery plants galore in virtually every town we go past. We have stayed away from motorways where we can so we can get a true flavour of the landscape and I have been impressed.  The other observation from the towns and cities we have stopped in has been the great care shown for the look of things.  Even supermarkets are carefully designed and arranged with little design touches in the lighting etc.  The public spaces in Nantes where immaculately presented.  I am looking forward to a few days around Bordeaux to explore the area a little as I expect more of the same and hopefully, we can take in some art (and wine) too.

I guess I can’t end this letter without broaching the question of politics back home.  I am still doing my twitter accounts though this first week away, I hope you can forgive me, but I have taken a little step back as a mini holiday.  I was shocked and disappointed that Labour decidedto go for a general election after members of the shadow cabinet stood on thatstage on Saturday 19th October in London and, as my friend described it, kissed our arses.  They promised they would support a referendum, that we inspired them to fight, but here we are instead, worrying about a general election.  I guess that was taken out of our hands and it’s hard not to be angry. 

But as always, we must face things as they are.  There is only one question for me which is important when deciding on tactical voting, well two really.  What is the candidate’s personal pledge on Brexit and how do we keep the pro Brexiters out of the seat?  That’s the most important thing, get the Remain Candidate in, keep the Brexit-at-all-Costs candidate out regardless of party politics.  Some of us may have to hold our noses and set aside our anger and irritation with politicians who promised us support but let us down at the 11th hour.  

At the end of the day we were hampered by 19 labour MPs and umpteen daft Tory MPs absolutely determined to ignore the Remain movement and actual facts.  Well I have news for them, there was a million of us on the streets of London on the 19th of October.  We did that.  We organised that.  We have a nationwide network of seasoned and now very experienced activists, passionate about our cause.  We have been up against it from the start but let’s see what we can achieve with a massive effort to get our vote out, get the young vote registered and out and get Remain or Pro Peoples Vote MPs into the house of commons speaking for the growing remain majority in the UK.  Remember, like my silly bicycle tumble at the start of this trip, when we started this #Remain journey together, we were laughed at.  Nobody is laughing at us now as on this Halloween we celebrate our THIRD Not-Leaving-the-EU Day within the last 12 months.  Happy Not Leaving the EU day everybody. 

Yours

@redalphababe

Where are you? It’s Time to speak out

Where are you business? Why have so many of you remained silent for so long? I saw an article the other day in Marketing Week complaining about politicians using the language of piracy when it comes to business. It was an excellent article and I wholly agree that politicians depicting business people as “buccaneers” are on a completely different planet to the actual Business community. However I departed company with the message later in the article which was rather more optimistic about how it will go after brexit than I am. It was one of those “it will be alright on the night” type calls. Businesses will prevail and adapt etc etc. I however see no benefits to business in this Daft Brexit Bullshit.

The companies who will survive Brexit and rebuild after being made uncompetitive in our closest marketplaces will be those already doing business outside the EU and the ones with deep pockets and good contacts.

One of the greatest benefits of the SM and CU is that we can sell our wares in Manchester or Munich with very little hassle. Yes of course depending on the industry there are hoops to jump but there are always hoops to jump for anything worth having, But I can assure you, the hoops won’t be magically disappearing any time soon and we will end up with even more bureaucracy. For example our business has had to register for VAT in various EU locations because of our business model. This was an absolute pain in the backside and involved extra costs, but we went to the effort of doing so and now we have our agents in place and month to month all our reporting goes smoothly. This is not going to change if we are a third country. We will still have the same vat reporting and taxation requirements as a minimum and if we were to sell into the US for example, there are several tax reporting requirements to deal with. This is on top of the customs regulations we will have to navigate.

No no no, you are dreaming if you think there is going to be a bonfire of red tape or regulation as a third country. It can only increase along with the costs and probably duties.

Our movement of stock around the EU is currently trouble free, its been easy to manage. The standards we need to exceed are the same in the UK as they are in France or Germany, so no extra layers of complexity there. What this regulatory alignment means is that relatively small firms have been able to access European markets. But what is this government doing? It’s adding friction and barriers to our biggest markets before we have anything in place to replace the resulting reduction in turnover and profit. It is absolutely crazy and can only lead to many companies getting smaller and less competitive in the short and medium term. Rebuilding after a knock takes a long time.

I don’t know why politicians think all this is a jolly idea, but in business if you aren’t growing you are probably shrinking and to reduce our competitiveness in a market of 500 million people on our doorstep is frankly the maddest thing any government has ever done to the UK.

I am tired of MPs bizplaining I am tired of people who have never sold so much as a paperclip to their gran telling me it will be fine. It will not be fine. It will be horrible, truly horrible. Jobs will go up and down the country, businesses will move or close either voluntarily or because they are no longer viable. All this is already happening in drips, a slow ebb which will gradually turn into a steady stream, then a torrent.

If you are a person who believes in preserving independent business and the small business sector, why are you not up in arms? Brexit can only damage these sectors. What we will see is small business swallowed up by a smaller and smaller number of large corporations. The business environment will favour even bigger and even more corporate organisations. The bigger you are, the deeper pockets you have, the more likely you will survive the Brexit disaster which will completely get in the way of SME and small and micro business opportunities.

After the 2008 crash, a niche we were in which had enabled strong growth for several years because it was too small for the big boys to bother with suddenly caught their eye as they scrabbled around to protect their falling revenues and profit elsewhere. Pretty soon our niche was broken for everyone. Margins were trashed, some of our same size competitors driven out by big companies. We had to move on and find new ways to recover margin. After Brexit the same will happen on a bigger scale to many companies around the country. Knock on effects on local companies will become apparent. Smaller players will close the door or sell up if they can. I can see even more family farms, for example, going into large corporations. The independents will be forced out and we will see even greater domination by big business.

For those of us who have spent our working lives fighting to keep our independent businesses in the game, healthy and growing, the mass vandalism coming our way of the small business sector by the Brexit Glitterati is going to be the saddest thing to see!

So where are you? March with us on the 19th October in London. It could be our last chance to send the message we need to test if this is really what we want?

@redalphababe
#peoplesvote #peoplesvotemarch #stopbrexit #smallbusiness #smallbiz #business

Parliament is for the 66 Million

There has been much anger and recrimination this week in the world of politics and the use of inflammatory language came under the spotlight during Boris Johnson’s deeply divisive speech to the House of Commons. His constant use of the word surrender and terms such as traitor bandied about by his ERG MPs and the Brexit/Tory press echoes the kind of language used in death threats to MPs around the country, MPs who either support a peoples vote or have voted against the government. Even MPs such as Antoinette Sandbach have had death threats and abuse simply for opposing a no-deal Brexit having voted for Theresa May’s Deal on every occasion.

Let’s just get rid of the “both sides argument”. It’s absolute nonsense. Only a few months ago Anna Soubry was harassed by a group of men who surrounded and followed her shouting at her. She was prevented from speaking at a rally recently because of threats.

There have been several incidents where street campaigners for the #PeoplesVote and pro EU movement have been verbally and physically abused. 2 personal friends of mine alone have had to endure such incidents and we have seen various other cases caught on camera. Pro EU group SODEM, have campaigned outside the House of Commons for 2 years but it has only been since just before Christmas when far right groups started to appear in small but vocal numbers when we have seen these kinds of incidents against MPs and even journalists start to ramp up.

This group of men and women also, having fashioned themselves with little self-awareness on the french Gilet Jaune movement, were filming themselves having a go at people, getting in their faces, trying to provoke, then using those videos to raise money for themselves, winding up a small group of people vulnerable to their messages into parting with hard cash and using all those terms, traitor, nazi, etc for that end. This all echoes the language used by a man who did in fact murder an MP because he didn’t like what she had to say. No wonder MPs now have panic buttons in their houses.

However, thankfully, all these acts are committed by a very small number of people who are in effect massive anti-democrats despite their protestations to the contrary. The overwhelming majority of people coming to our street stalls are on the whole polite and respectful even when they disagree passionately with us. They recognise we are exercising our democratic right to campaign for something we want to change.

The biggest irony is these other anonymous cowards who throw bricks through windows or write poison pen letters are angry because MPs are doing the very job we pay them to do. The people are not 17.4 million people who put a cross against a binary option in what was, legally speaking, just an opinion poll in 2016. This is a complete nonsense and I am extremely tired of the use of this number to try and silence us. It will not. The people are #66Million and the job of Parliament is to scrutinise and approve, or not, legislation which is in the best interest of the 66 million. ALL the people regardless of what or who they voted for. Their interests are protected by their MPs who are chosen to listen and research the evidence and understand it and vote accordingly, not to to be their delegates.

Something else undermines the 17 million argument. In 2017 the public saw fit to remove the Conservative majority. This was an indication that they did not approve wholeheartedly of Theresa May’s approach and red lines. If they had they would have returned a Tory majority wouldn’t they? Yet we ended up even more confused about what the will of the people was, not less. But Theresa May pressed on regardless and here we are with a multiple of people claiming they know what the will of the people is. Who knows what people voted for, it changes with every day which passes if you listen to the ERG and the Poison Pens all of whom love to move those goal posts.

So what can we cling to? We can rely on our democracy which allows groups like those of us in the Remain Movement to campaign peacefully to make the arguments that are at the core of our unity. We campaign for what we believe is in the interests of 66 million but we do so by following the rules, by making the arguments that make sense, by using evidence, by lobbying our representatives. We campaign in good faith and peace and yes in passion too but never in violence.

But there is something else we must cling to. We must continue to support our parliament in trying to find the best route which is in the interests of the entire population. We must stop dividing the people and most importantly, politicians must stop dividing the people and we must encourage them to this end. Their job is to put the good of their entire constituency foremost in their decision making process.

There are many, many MPs who are now doing their jobs properly. They are scrutinising the executive, an executive who now wants to overstep its authority in order to bully them into following it’s will – not the people’s will, the ERG will. Yes parliament voted against May’s deal but this is because considering everything, they deemed the deal was not right. Even the ERG voted against it. This is not a parliament blocking brexit, this is a parliament doing it’s job. If what the executive is trying to do threatens the well-being of their constituents their responsibility is to stop this, not enable it, and it doesn’t matter what their constituents voted for or whether they voted at all in 2016.

If the executive are unable to offer an acceptable brexit route, that means the executive’s solution is poor, below par, substandard. Politicians should be able to carry out parliamentary business in light of this without fear of danger so they can serve us all. They should also be able to do that without commentators like Brendan O’Neill appearing on a BBC news programme inciting riots for Brexit. They should be able to do that without being pursued down the street by threatening men representing Leave means Leave. Even as I write this, the radio plays the voice of men talking up the idea of rioting by people who voted leave. This has no bearing on the reality around the country. Remain events attract 100s of 1000s of attendees with no trouble and no arrests. Leave rallies attract a few thousand at most, often only a few hundred, and the only violence has been seen from a tiny proportion of men and women of violence in their fringe groups. The country cannot be held to ransom by this tiny group of extremists. Likewise we as campaigners should be able to work using the rules and all democratic means in the interests of 66 million, which is the abiding emotion that binds us and drives us, without fear of abuse.

If MPs, whose full time job it is to study and understand the detail of proposed legislation cannot actually agree which version of Brexit is in the interests of their constituents after 3 years, this begs the question “Is there a brexit which is good for their constituents?” If they still can’t agree on that, they must be allowed to determine a path or mechanism which will resolve that question, taking into account the best interests of the entire population, preferably and unfortunately a referendum. On the other hand if we allow MPs to be bullied or frightened into voting or supporting a particular piece of legislation by government which will damage their constituents and the country, that will be the day democracy dies.

The people are #66million.