Blog

Don’t Panic

EU Election Blues

Here are some truths.

1  The Remain Parties may or may not be able to work together. There are official rules that stop some types of cooperation and there is not a huge amount of time for the parties to get a grip and come to some agreements on other ways of working together.

2  We have little control of whether parties can work together. Party tribalism has played a massive part in this mess we are now in. It hasn’t just disappeared overnight, and we can’t pretend it has. The raison d’être of political parties is to get seats so they can deliver their policies.

3  We need MEPs who will take their responsibilities seriously in looking after our interests as EU citizens and not be trying to take us out of the EU against our will.

4  We are going into these elections hanging onto our EU citizenship by the skin of our teeth. The forces that want us to leave are still there, whether by action or inaction from Westminster parliament.

It’s not surprising therefore, that we are struggling to work out what is best to do given these facts,  but there is no need for us to panic or beat ourselves or, more importantly, each other up. Every step of this journey we have taken together has been uncharted territory, a maze of strategies and options and we haven’t always gone the right way at first and sometimes people have taken different branches, but somehow, most of us  always backtrack the blind alleys and we find ourselves here, together, still with the same end goal in mind, to retain our EU citizenship.  We also have a far greater sense of why the European Parliament is important and why we need to fill it with representatives committed to the European Project, it’s development, it’s success and the rights and benefits for the ordinary citizens of its members which it protects. If we need to take a little time and a little investigation and a little debate as to how we can best support those two things , that’s okay.

We saw Ukip Mk II  getting wall to wall coverage and we saw old now more extreme Ukip  being given a platform over the course of a weekend and we had a scary poll thrown at us and we all panicked, me included. But it’s just one poll and only time will show us whether we are to be concerned. We saw UKIP extreme being challenged on the BBC and one wonders if that was simply to make UKIP Mk II look less extreme. But they are both deeply negative parties, they have no positive policies, only to hate and shout and be angry and leave, quit, give up slam the door in a tantrum and leave the building. Let’s concentrate on continuing to shine a light on their negativity versus our positivity because we don’t quit.

I must address some big Remain twitter accounts, sorry if you aren’t on twitter it will only take a moment. PLEASE PLEASE STOP talking to us as if we are idiots or as if you know best all the time and we know nothing. We need to have strategy discussions without being told we are rubbish. There is no one remain party or organisation. When you talk about the remain campaign, you are talking about us the thousands of activists who spend our free time working towards a People’s Vote. We don’t ask for much because we just get on with it but a little respect and humility instead of a barrage of negativity wouldn’t go amiss because it’s us doing the heavy lifting up and down the country. If you mean politicians talk about the politicians but they are not the heart of Remain. We are.

So back to our dilemma, what to do immediately? Well let’s do what we have the most control over first. Our regional activists and other campaign groups have already recognised and got plans underway for their street campaigns to encourage voter registration and turn out. We need to get accurate information out to EU27 citizens about their right to vote and how to register and a concerted effort to motivate under 34s to register and vote. If we can get a massive chunk of Remain supporters out and voting in an election who previously didn’t bother, that on its own will help us immensely.  Support these groups, these initiatives designed to these ends, we don’t have to tell them how to vote, just get them to consider the manifestos and vote because if nobody votes that sends a poor signal out.

Labour, this is my plea to you.  If you are to put forward your excellent MEPS who do fully support the future of the European Project, you can only undermine them if your manifesto is not clearly in support of Remain or the very least a People’s Vote. You cannot have clear EU policies for the European Parliament if you are thinking you are going to leave. It’s a contradiction in terms, this is what you need to get your heads around.

The smaller Remain parties we understand you are good Europeans; we know you want the European Parliament to be a success, but you will all be out anyway if we cannot stop Brexit, so please do whatever you can to cooperate with each other with this in mind.

As to strategy, let’s be prepared to take a flexible approach in the next few weeks, as we see the manifestos and any commitments to cooperate between parties. We may well need tactical voting, we should not rule it out, so we need to watch the polls, collect the data carefully and, on our streets, stalls we need to listen to feedback from our visitors and report it back.  As all this information comes in the best strategy may become obvious.

So in brief do this.

Support voter registration and turnout initiatives
Get everyone in your sphere of influence in the mindset to vote.
Write to parties to ask them to find a way to cooperate if they can.
Put pressure on Labour to put forward a clear manifesto
Stop arguing.
Stop constantly demotivating tired grass-roots campaigners.
AND Stop panicking.

The March in March and What’s Next.

The March 

Exactly 3 weeks ago today, I took great pride in taking part in the biggest march ever in the UK which was all about demanding a Peoples Vote on Brexit.  We came from all corners of the UK and from across elsewhere in the EU. I interrupted my own Cyprus sojourn to fly out to London to play my part in history. 

Walking around London early on Saturday morning, we peeled our eyes for the tell-tale EU flags and t-shirts and  fretted a little about whether it would be a bigger march than the October remain march but of course at that time many of the coaches were still on the road.  I made a point of visiting my Final Say for All friends first who promptly thrust a plastic cup of delicious Pimms in our hands, it was a little early but, well, you must be polite about these things.  

Then I went on to meet my Chester friends who had set off on coaches at 6.30am.  We met on Oxford Street at 11.30am and walked together down to Park Lane.  A conga line of banners and excited chatter, there were maybe 300 of us.

As we plunged into an ocean of faces, a vibrant mass of blue with yellow jewels twinkling, a plethora of banners and placards bearing messages from the hilarious to the incandescent (though being Remain, unfailingly polite rage), my earlier worries slipped easily away.  It was BIG.  We merged into the crowd and then we stopped  Here we stood for at least 2 hours.  Some of our group treated us to some singing and music.  We chatted together and made new friends with those around who stood with us.  From time to time we would move a little, but it was due to small groups slipping out of the crowd and crossing Hyde Park to try and get into the route further ahead. 

The media helicopter flew over several times. You may well have seen the YouTube footage condensed down to 90seconds.  Our feet ached but still the smiles and laughter prevailed.  It felt good to be part of this movement.  For the last two years our Remain community has sometimes experienced some disagreements particularly the online campaigners, stemming mostly from the use of different tactics and varied priorities of all the different grass roots groups and the high-profile organisers.  But on that day these differences were trifles, forgotten, squabbles laid to one side.  We were focused on delivering, by our very massive presence the following messages to parliament, to the country and to the EU.

We want to remain EU citizens

We were all lied to by the Leave Campaigns

We stand by our EU27 families and friends and will stop them being treated as second class citizens

We demand an opportunity for all to compare the reality of leave against our EU citizenship and we must be allowed to vote on which we want.

We are all losers in Brexit, a game designed by billionaires and, ideologues and narcissists greedy for power and money at the expense of the ordinary citizens.

Eventually we were able to shuffle along.  As the marchers ebbed and flowed it was quite difficult to keep our banners together.  In a crowd that size it is difficult to keep more than half a dozen people together all the time and we were constantly speeding up and slowing down to reconvene by our banners as we lost and found each other.  Old friends emerged from the crowds to surprise us.  It seemed a minor miracle for me to bump into my friend from Elspeth in the massive crowd.  We made slow progress, unable to access social media we hoped our friends at home were keeping our march trending for us. 

At 4.40pm we came within distant sight of the first big screen near the National Gallery.  We were on Pall Mall.  Our coach people had to leave as some tube stations were closed due to the crowds so they would have a longer journey back,  so we stepped out of the march at this point to send them in the right direction. We hadn’t seen a single speech, but we were elated to realise the scale of the event and the scale of our achievement.  We all did that together.  We stood and watched for a while.  A huge group of young people were playing music and dancing, looking as fresh and energetic as if they had only just started the party.
As we headed back the way we had come in search of seating, food and drink we came upon the end of the march, the police vans at the back just around the corner of St James Street on Pall Mall.  The time was 5.03pm.  We had indeed been marching for 5 hours.



SO, WHAT NEXT

Here we are, 3 weeks later, and we have celebrated not 1 but 2  no-Brexit days.  We hang on to our EU citizenship by the skin of our teeth, but it is still in grave danger.  The extension until the 31st October clearly means we will be taking part in the European Parliament Elections. 

We did an extraordinary job on March 23rd2019, we got our people to London at relatively short notice, we booked coaches, we organised, we publicised, we stood on our stalls and passed on our passion.  MPs seemed to take notice, and they did for a while, but they are drifting back to type now, and we cannot stop. 
Labour is still playing the “will they won’t they game”, Remain Tories are still in denial that they will suffer at the ballot box if they allow Brexit to continue and we now have a UKIP mark II to contend with, organised and ready to go which will terrify and tempt the big two into trying to grab on to their leave voters with extreme positions. 

If we want all we have done for 2 years including the March march to count at all, we must continue,  Its down to us.  We mobilised marchers and got well over 1 million people on the streets, quite possibly 1.5 million, we spread the revoke article 50 petition to 6 million people still rising.  We need to apply that passion and imagination to the EU elections.    

Looking at the polls today for the EP elections, our remain votes are split, and we may be in danger of not getting our favoured Remain MEPs in.  We cannot allow a result which our opponents can use to say there is a fresh Leave mandate.  We must focus our minds and our actions on how we are going to demonstrate our strength via the EU elections.  So, we must do  the following things.

1. Contact our local remain oriented parties and demand they have an alliance and  joint strategy to maximise the remain vote.  New parties sound great but for our strategic purposes they could be our downfall.  The voting system in these elections still favours big parties.    

2. Labour members you must somehow get your manifesto to be transparently a remain platform.  If you do not do that, you leave labour voters vulnerable to being counted as supporting a Brexit supporting party.
3. We desperately need our best minds and EU experts to help us work out a strategic voting system to achieve our aims.   I have linked below to one I saw today but I suspect we will need several other well-informed voices so we can make our minds up which way to go. 

4.  THE MOST IMPORTANT THING WE CAN DO.    We must get our remain vote out. Us, our friends, our families, our workmates, our young voters, our EU27 citizens who have a vote and a vested interest.  This must happen, no ifs, no buts and we must pour our campaigning energies into this aim. 
We have come so far my friends, its good to stop for a moment and look at what we have achieved, but we still have a long way to go.  I won’t stop yet.  Will you?
@redalphababe

Who is she today

Who is she today?
Her hidden part displayed, brings sadness to the child beside
Crying at a table, not understanding 
Where has the real one gone 
Eyes gazing to the distance, at a scene of what?
Who knows what she sees 
Or hears from the spirits which seek 
to remove her From the reality of life, of family, of love
baffling childhood
Never ordinary 
Who is she today?
Which one is she?  The kind one, the laughing one?  
The one filled with terror? Passing her fear and anger to the closest 
We are locked in her world, we cannot see it but our love binds us to it
No escape 
But periodic busybodies 
A child who just  wants to be normal¡
But the shame of silence hides the truth
puts a chasm of difference, a shield not to pierce 
Friends yes but a lifetime closed book
The child will never reveal herself, just hide in a group 
Where is mother?
Who is she today 
Relief this morning.  A normal today  

@redalphababe 

Freedom of Movement – Brexit is Personal

Flying to London to Protect our rights to Freedom of Movement. 

My partner and I changed our lives completely by chance a couple of years ago after I broke my leg very badly whilst at our holiday apartment in Cyprus. I was able to get the operation I needed using my EHIC, it was a long recovery and we decided to stay there for a few weeks whilst I was wearing a cast as a ground floor apartment was easier to manage than home.  We run our own small business which we started with a credit card with a small limit and a computer on a kitchen table and have run it for more than 20 years and we found we were able to manage the office and staff for a while remotely.  This winter we had already decided to spend some months here again after downsizing in the UK and we use technology to constantly stay in touch with our team back home and to work from our flat.  

Our business sells into the EU27 as well as the UK, employs people, generates lots of tax revenue and VAT for the HMRC and the single market and customs union allowed us to diversify and protect jobs and growth post 2008, a difficult time which could easily have otherwise resulted in our closing down the business as our original marketplaces were being damaged by the credit crunch and its subsequent knock on effects.  I am of Spanish origin and one of my brothers lives in Mallorca.   Our European Citizenship is extremely cherished for all those reasons.  

We have used our rights to Freedom of Movement to change the way we manage our lives.  I know lots of other people who have used their Freedom of Movement to extend their business in the EU or take interesting job opportunities for a couple of years.  One of my members of staff decided a few years ago to just leave the UK and go to the Canary Islands.  She took a job in a bar and has lived there since, and she is very happy.  She wanted to explore something different for a while.  Her original idea was to go to Australia but she didn’t have the points to do that, but the EU gives us a huge diverse territory to explore, whether it’s a temporary plan or a permanent one, no matter who we are or where we come from or how much money we have in the bank.   Rich people always have freedom of movement because they can buy it. Our EU citizenship gives us all rights to broader horizons regardless of who we are or what we have. 

That’s why despite being overseas currently I have arranged to fly to London for the weekend and join my friends from Chester for Europe on the march on Saturday.  The entire Brexit debacle is a shambles and Parliament will be watching us.  They must know that there are politically engaged voters who are looking at their decisions with anger and dismay and want to make their voices heard.  There was a line in an old TV program that sticks in my head, I don’t know who said it originally, but it is true.  “Decisions are made by those that show up”.   Well that’s why I am going fly 2000 miles to show up on Saturday.

@redalphababe

Which Walk

Which walk
Which walk will you take 
which path will you seek? 
200 Max or 1 million min next week
A walk to leave?
Which leaves no doubt 
That the love for leave 
has been rubbed out 
There is no joy in that group 
Their leaders lies flashed sadly en route 
Screens of the past 
Put in the boot.
Abandoned and used 
By conning men 
Cunning politicos are hiding in their den
 They only want photos
They care nothing for you 
or your jobs or your futures or your lives hitherto 
 Billionaires using you for their own ends
Make them stop 
Give up your walk 
FOR these scoundrels and toffs 
Walk instead with us 
We laugh together 
we dance together 
we stand together 
For openness, for friendship, for love regardless of birth
We care and want to make all our futures right and bright.  
We know what that is really worth. 

@redalphababe 


You’re So Vain

I Bet You Think This Blog is About You

A chaotic week closes and where are we?  A group of MPs have finally released themselves from the straight-jacket of hardening ideology in their respective parties, which has paralysed both the party of government and HM opposition.  The parties are so busy circling each other, leaders snarling and growling with their packs baying for a showdown that the business of running the country has been essentially put to one side whilst the Cold War of damaging brexit versus damaging brexit continues at their behest.  
The faces of the TIG MPs display a sense of liberation and joy that they can finally consider answers to questions put to them without having to reference the big book of Red or Blue Designated Answers which has weighed on their shoulders for 2 years.  
It has been good to behold this sudden discovery of independent thought and I truly hope this is the very early start of something solid and real, a change in the way politicians think about and formulate policy in the interests of the country 1st, 2nd and 3rd without being bound to this juvenile idea of “if you aren’t with us you are against us”.
But we have to be practical.  All of that is for later as currently, we are still obstructed from this desirable end by the lack of process to make that happen quickly.  In the meantime, we have a more pressing matter and here is a message to Conservative and Labour MPs and their fervent enablers assuming they are rational thinkers.  You are all so vain I bet you think this blog is about you and your parties. Hear this.  It really isn’t.  
It’s not about party, it’s not about binary choices, it’s not about them and you.  It’s about Us, our lives our families, our businesses, our jobs, our rights. You failed to listen. In October we came to London from across the UK and the EU27 to tell you why we opposed Brexit and how we want to have a final say.  We will come to London again, even more of us this time and we will tell you again.  
We are not really that concerned with your parties or your careers in the main, that’s on you to win our respect and trust so we lend you our vote.   But here is a huge hint to you all.  If you ignore the prospect of the damage that any kind of Brexit presents to the UK (don’t take my word for it,  most experts and business  and even the government’s own assessment are all agreed on this), it’s not going to go well for your seats.  Still, it’s not about you.
It’s about our EU27 friends and family who have been treated like dirt for the last three years.  Some parliamentarians have disrespected them in the most obnoxious way and have carried on ignoring the fact that their status is diminished by Brexit overnight.
It is about our friends and family who live in the EU27 who have been facing insecurity and anxiety as their status too is reduced, most having been completely disenfranchised.  
It’s about our children and grandchildren.  You are enabling those who have themselves benefited personally from freedom of movement and the other benefits of EU membership and citizenship to pull up the ladder behind them and deny those opportunities to future generations.
It’s about our small business community who were able to access the single market  and expand and create growth but now will be faced with new barriers to trade which will probably make them uncompetitive.  
It’s about the communities who will suffer as large employers move all or some of their operations to the EU27 in order to protect themselves, their shareholders and investors and their bottom line as you erect barriers between them and the biggest trading bloc in the world.  The knock on effect of this will be felt in the wider business community which serves the bigger companies.  It won’t happen overnight, it will be a slow drawn out decline.  The ERG dreams of turning us into a tax haven on the edge of Europe may benefit a few but it won’t add much to our regions except for the further widening of inequality which of course has been a massive factor in getting us to where we are. Incidentally our standards and protections will be the first casualties of the scrabble for trade deals.  Your constituents won’t thank you for that either.
It’s about all of us who feel Brexit as a personal assault on the fabric of our identities as we are stripped of an EU citizenship that many of us had no idea just how much we valued but took for granted.  We won’t make that mistake again.  
It’s about our shame as we hear the experiences of migrants in our communities subjected to a feeling of alienation within their neighbourhoods or workplaces or even the hostility of strangers towards them for daring to speak a foreign language on the train.  There are many considering their position, others have already left to another place where they feel more welcome.  
It’s about our friends and families on the island of Ireland who are very worried and furious at the lunacy of Westminster and its effect on their business but more importantly the Good Friday Agreement.  The uncertainty is toxic, the peace is still young and make no mistake there are elements lurking waiting to take advantage of a hard border in order to further their own agendas and nefarious activities. 
So when we are giving you a hard time, when we demand to know the answers to our extremely fair questions like why are you pressing on with Brexit when it is not in the interests of the country,  when we tell you our concerns because we are going to lose jobs or split families, its not about you or your party.  It’s about us, the people you swear to represent in the best way you can.  It’s time for you to find your courage just like the TIG and do the right thing for us and the country and end this brexit shambles.  If you cannot revoke article 50 then please find a way to  give us the baton and we will decide for you in a final say.  We have the courage even if you don’t because it’s about us. 
@redalphababe

A Brexit Compromise?

Having been a fan of pragmatism my whole life, I have always believed that compromise is a sign of strength.  Even so, even after an exhausting 2 years of thinking, debating and campaigning around Brexit issues, I continue to be totally resolute in arguing to remain in the EU, right in the heart of Europe.  I believe this is where our interests will continue to be best served, whatever our background, whatever our place of birth, whatever the state of our bank balance.
Why, I was asked the other day, would I not be satisfied with a soft remain, in the customs union or something like a Norway-ish option or something on the lines of Jeremy Corbyn’s recent letter? 

Well the short answer is I am totally sceptical of the Leave Establishment.  The long answer is I do not believe they will ever accept such compromises in practice going forward, even if they decide to support such a thing in parliament because they see it as a way of avoiding a referendum where there is a chance the public will demonstrate the will of the people is not so much the will of the people anymore.  They will want to continue to pursue their anti-Europe instincts. 

The Brexit Glitterati such as Farage and other Ukip and ex Ukip people and the right of the Tory party have used their Euroscepticism to give themselves a platform for personal power.  In the case of the UKIP MEPS for example, they have used their positions in the European Parliament to undermine and represent British citizens in the worst possible way, not attending committees and debates which are there to develop and improve EU laws and policies for the benefit of citizens across the continent and accepting their pay and expenses for zero public service in return.  

Instead of speaking on the subject being debated in the European Parliament, they have frequently used these opportunities to grandstand with diatribes and rants against EU leaders, MEPS and Commissioners and by extension the people of those countries.  YouTube is full of these pointless and negative speeches only designed to please Farage & Co fans and backers.  They are laughing at everyone taking tax payers money in order to just shout a lot about foreigners and immigration to keep their supporters happy.  Even if reports are true and Farage and his friends have rejected the current form of UKIP which has lurched to the far right, they will attempt to keep the same negative tactics in any new re-imagination of UKIP. 
My greatest distaste is reserved for the right of the Tory party, those Eurosceptics who claim so vehemently to have hated every single second of the UK being part and helping to build one of the biggest most successful trading blocs in the world over 40 years whilst at the same time being huge beneficiaries from it at a personal level.  The level of hypocrisy amongst these kinds of politicians should nauseate every sensible thinking citizen of the UK.  In the main these people have been huge winners in a multitude of ways thanks to the power of the City of London which has grown in strength and vigour precisely because of our EU membership and the Single Market.  These MPs have chosen to use their Euroscepticism as a whip to beat leaders and PMs.  The threat to a split Tory party comes directly from this minority of people, it always has.  On the face of it they only seem to care to use their threats of 48 Letters to destabilise their leaders in order to push an anti-EU agenda, which, given the passion they claim begs the question why they haven’t the faintest idea how to implement it. Note that when it comes to it though, they suddenly find a new-found affection for “Tory unity”.  They have no confidence in their own party of government until they have confidence in it sufficiently to dodge a general election threat.

All these Brexit players have been far more interested in shouting from a distance, indulging in a kind of professional controversialist game-playing in order to build their own power.  Most of the Brexit architects have resigned or slunk away from any responsible position in trying to deliver the thing they claim is closest to their hearts.  I ask myself if I should be supporting a compromise and then I think carefully about these politicians who have driven us to this chaos.  I ask you all this question.  Do you think these people are going to give up the very addiction that gives them their sense of power?  They may well be persuaded to support some form of deal by Mrs. May.  They are far from stupid.  They understand perfectly that no-deal is a seriously damaging outcome.  They want the threat of it used to get the EU into giving them something without having to give anything back in return.   When the penny drops that won’t happen to their satisfaction, they will find some fudge to support Mrs. May. 
But then very quickly, will they not see a softened Brexit as simply an opportunity to continue to play their games?  The in-depth negotiations for some years which will follow any version of Brexit will be an opportunity for them to start pushing again with their attention-seeking agenda.  They will continue the internal party conflict they have thrived on and Labour will also continue to struggle with their own internal divisions over this.  These splits are not going to disappear or be healed by any kind of compromise Brexit.  The Eurosceptics will continue to pull away or pull apart and resist anything which even smells of moving closer again to the EU27.  It’s just a slightly different platform for them to shout from.   In the end if we agree to some form of pointless Brexit, we will have conceded ground which is totally contrary to the interests of every man woman and child of this country for what in return?  For Brexiters to simply see it as a chance to keep pulling and pulling us further back from our closest neighbours and making us give more and more of our personal rights and protections up as consumers, as citizens, as workers. 
Do I trust these people? Do I want to support a fudge?  

No I don’t and No Thankyou. . 

Too much sugar is bad for me and its bad for you too.

@redalphababe