Where does it end?

It started with the demonisation of the lowest paid and those on benefits. The poverty porn TV industry, maybe well intentioned in concept, simply depicted the extremes as the norm, complex lives and poverty carefully edited and presented in a simple way for judgemental public consumption. “They can’t be that badly off they have a mobile phone and a packet of fags”.

We saw the effects of austerity, the bedroom tax, making lives difficult for the disabled and sick whilst those in the top echelons of banking who caused the 2008 worldwide crash with their use of our economic system as a personal global casino seemed to simply bounce back and get even further ahead than they were when they started. No penalties for these guys.

Then the summer of 2015 came, I remember it so well, I had been gradually more and more alarmed to see the dehumanisation of refugees as the crisis of the summer unfolded. Cameron talked of people swarming. The hysterical newspaper headlines caused unnecessary fear and terror in the hearts of people, a fear fanned by commentators of hate and contrarians on tv radio and social media. We all know who they are. Complex human stories distilled down into a binary presentation for judgemental public consumption.

All this against the backdrop of Cameron running around talking to the EU at the behest of the ERG in his own party. Having promised his eurosceptics progress, he brought home concessions they all howled at, but they were always going to howl. That was the point of them. If they did not shake their fists angrily from the sidelines in tandem with Farage and UKIP what was the point of the them? Cameron was trapped by his own cleverclogs game playing. Having unexpectedly won a majority in the election and having pandered to the right of his party he was cornered and forced us into the EU referendum we didn’t need or want.

Well you know the rest of the story. Disenfranchisement, lying, cheating and hatemongering got the brextremists over the line, just.

So now we are here. After 3 years, it’s become so crystal clear that leaving the EU is a rather stupid and damaging idea that the Brexit cultists terrified of losing their precious have now doubled down and turned it into a mission of brexit purism and national do or die and played into the the darkest parts of the our society, exploiting divisions, exploiting peoples prejudices, exploiting people’s apathy and boredom and getting in the way of sensible debate. They have filled parliament with doom and gloom, paralysed it because it is torn apart by the reality of what is right for the country and the angry emails from constituents who think the EU stopped them having their fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, or maybe constituents who just want to stop seeing foreigners on their bus but they don’t want to admit it and seize on the Brexit lies about bananas to cover up their their own lack of self awareness.

There is no form of brexit which is good for us as a nation. Everybody in Parliament knows that. Some don’t care because it is good for them or they see it as a route to something they want. Thats the bottom line.

The cultists look to the USA and point and say what a wonderful deal we can do there. But look now. A presidential rally descended into a fascfest of chanting the most famous racist trope every. No more dogwhistles there. Only naked racism and prejudice. I hope the Americans get a grip of this slide into this type of politics but the point is we have absolutely no power or say in that, we have no votes there. We have no influence no matter what the Faragists and ERG say. We have no idea where the US are going or where they will end up. We are not partners. We are not members of a trading bloc with them. We have history but it seems to me the current occupant of the White House isn’t much interested in history.

The US president has shown himself to be unpredictable when dealing with other nations. His administration is America First in instinct. There could not be a worse administration to be trying to do an FTA with. Let’s be honest if our negotiators couldn’t even negotiate a Withdrawal agreement with the EU which parliament is happy with, I am unsure why brexiters, particularly the no-deal adherents, are so sure they will be hugely successful in getting an advantageous deal from a world power which is interested only in growing its own power and influence and domestic employment and wealth.

No-deal Brexit is a failure, it’s the manifestation of the weakness of the position brexiters themselves put us in trying to chase rainbows down for that illusory pot of gold. My guess is when talking to the US, the negotiations would go on for some years and in the end we will have to give away too much in return for too little and it will either fail or we will give in to truly the worst deal in history. At that point we will be wondering why we left the EU where we had influence and voting rights and a part in historic decisions about our European direction and protection of our liberal values in the first place.

It’s often said where America goes we follow. There are concerning signs that we are going somewhere we don’t want to go. Steve Bray the peaceful Anti Brexit activist was told by Mark Francois MP that October the 31st would be his “death warrant”. The Sodem protest was threatened, disrupted and damaged by EDL and Robinson supporters and only today Steve tweeted that a man thought it was okay to tell him he should be taken out and shot. There is a wholesale disregard for the adage, language matters, influenced by what is said by big names on our screens every night on the news and in our social media timelines by blue ticks, amplified by an army of bots automated and partly automated paid for by god knows who.

https://twitter.com/snb19692/status/1151873155172118528?s=21

There are questions about why Sajid Javid was excluded from the state banquet against the norm even though he is Home Secretary which even now have not been satisfactorily addressed. Boris Johnson the likely next PM refused to give support to the US ambassador after those diplomatic communications were released? Why? I don’t think it was incompetence. He knew that question was going to come up and therefore he and his team must have prepared for what he was going to say. It was deliberate. He didn’t want to be pushing back against Trump.

Many EU27 citizens were denied a vote in the EU elections through overly complex bureaucratic procedures which were unnecessary. Why?

All this makes me feel more strongly than ever that we have to Stop Brexit. This will send out a message to those who just want to push us around more and more and turn the world into a series of nativist enclaves that they cannot win by lying and cheating and threatening and discriminating. It will send a message that peaceful political disagreement and campaigning is part of democracy. This is not a time for us to give up. This is not a time to fight amongst ourselves either. It was bad enough seeing air raid sirens used in a Brexit political rally, I don’t want end up seeing the burning torches and hear racist chants at a British mainstream political rally because some Remain organisers were scrapping like children and messed up our morale. If we don’t stop ourselves going down this disastrous path, where will it end?

This is a time for us to be cementing our place within Europe, using our history , our partnerships and influence and strength there as a protection against the poison of extreme nationalism. This is a time for us to be celebrating the protections we have created together in the way we run our lives, protections for workers, for consumers, for citizens. It’s a time to embrace the liberal and consensus building nature of the EU. Yes there are some in there who try and bend it into something else but the spirit of the EU is stronger than ever, it is a project of peace and partnership and friendship. It’s not just a trading bloc, its a life. The EU is not something outside of us, we are the EU and holding on tight to our friends and partners is important in a world where the most powerful man in it is so unpredictable. Instead we are stuck in this ridiculous Westminster political paralysis. Only stopping Brexit will do. Only stopping brexit will allow us to breathe and rebuild again.

Please support the march tomorrow, whether you go to the march or whether you donate or whether you simply look out for the pictures and posts and share them with your friends and your MPs. We need to stand firm together. It’s a pro EU march, its a march for changing the conversation and language BACK to that of responsible liberal open internationalist politics.

The Lies on the Bus

The Lies on the Bus go round and round
Round and round
Round and round
The lies on the bus go round and round
All brexit long

The experts on the bus say the brakes aren’t safe
Brakes aren’t safe
Brakes aren’t safe
The experts on the bus say brakes aren’t safe
All brexit long

The Egos on the bus say Pish Pish Pish
Pish Pish Pish
Pish Pish Pish
The Egos on the bus say Pish Pish Pish
All brexit long

Some people on the bus say Get us out
Get us out
Get us out
Some People on the bus say Get us out
All brexit long

Other people on the bus say Let us off
Let us off
Let us off
Other people on the bus say Let us off
All brexit long

More lies on the bus go round and round
Round and round
Round and round
More lies on the bus go round and round
All brexit long.

Opposition on the bus hides under the seat
Under the seat
Under the seat
Opposition on the bus hides under the seat
All brexit long

The driver on the bus goes faster now
Faster now
Faster now
The driver on the bus goes faster now
All Brexit long

The experts on the bus say Think Again
Think again
Think again
The experts on the bus say think again
All Brexit long

The Egos on the bus say we don’t care
We don’t care
We don’t care
The Egos on the bus say we don’t care
All Brexit long

The Lies on the bus go round and round
Round and round
Round and round
The Lies on the bus go round and round
All Brexit long.

More people on the bus say STOP YOUR LYING
STOP YOUR LYING
STOP YOUR LYING
More people on the bus say STOP YOUR LYING
All Brexit long

The Egos on the bus say LISTEN TO US
Listen to us
Listen to Us
The Egos on the bus say Listen to us
All Brexit long

More people on the bus say STOP THE BUS
STOP THE BUS
STOP THE BUS
More people on the bus say STOP THE BUS
All Brexit long

New driver on the bus says OVER WE GO
OVER WE GO
OVER WE GO
New driver on the bus says OVER WE GO
All Brexit long

Some people on the bus say Where’s my reward
Where’s my reward
Where’s my reward
Some people on the bus say ‘Where’s my reward
All Brexit long

All people on the bus say WHERE ARE MY RIGHTS
Where are my rights
Where are my rights
The People on the bus say Where are my rights
All brexit long.

The drivers on the bus say Do as you’re told
Do as you’re told
Do as are you’re told
The drivers on the bus say do as you’re told
All Brexit long

The people on the bus say You lied to us
You lied to us
You lied to us
The people on the Bus say You lied to us
All Brexit long

The drivers on the bus say YOU ASK FOR THIS
You asked for this
You asked for this
The drivers on the bus say You asked for this
All day long

#STOPBREXIT

What did Europe ever do for EU

As I discussed in my last blog, many who voted leave did so because they had no real idea what the EU does and had been fed a negative diatriabe of excuses and lies from several directions in the last few years before the referendum. For millions of us, however, the awareness of the benefit of the EU was there, maybe in the background, maybe taken for granted, but it was there and the x by remain was every bit as much an instinctive emotional response to the question as is claimed leavers had, because we had had some direct experience in some shape or form with the EU.

For me there were many clear benefits I could see but Ι want to share a small and simple story which illustrates how just looking at EU membership fees is an oversimplistic way of counting the cost/benefit of the EU.

In 2000 we had moved to a rural area of Wales and set up a little micro business working from what was a larder in the house, to all intents and purposes it was a cupboard under the stairs. We had very little cash available. We had only the income we could generate for ourselves from our own efforts in our mail order business. We claimed no benefits and we relied on nobody but ourselves. We took no holidays except bank holidays. We had dial up internet which was very slow. As we went on making a reasonable living we grasped the nettle of creating our own website but we could feel the limits of our internet access with regards to efficiency over the next couple of years, we were being held back.

The IT revolution was in full flow throughout the world of business. It was to change every single part of the way business was run. It was also to open up massive opportunities for SMEs and we wanted to tap into that. But there was already an inequality coming from the poor and non existent service available in rural areas. Internet infrastructure was being built and improved piecemeal by the private sector, understandably priority was being given to the big cities and the areas where population was higher and people could afford the service. In practice Wales was a million miles behind England in providing an adequate service fit for the industrial world of the new millennium.

We did our research and discovered that we could put in a satellite internet service which would give us, for the time, good access to speedy internet. This would help us enormously but we had no spare money to invest in this. So we applied for a tiny grant which had become available from the WDA as was. This fund was available because Wales received funding from the EU in addition to funding from Westminster which could then be used in projects for the benefit of business development. This grant of a few hundred pounds may sound like peanuts but to us it was a really big deal and gave us the ability to keep up with our competitors and access new technology. Our customers were based all over the UK and we were really only able to do this because of technology.

This article from 2002 discusses the general problem of internet infrastructure and the bigger project that followed over the next few years to try and bring Wales up to date. Though it took some years the money was made available thanks to the EU and to Westminster. Would Westminster alone have ever provided enough money for Wales to do this? I don’t believe it would have done, if they really cared about business in the regions, this would have been a top national priority.

This was literally the only grant we have ever applied for in our business lives. The timing was perfect and it was just enough to give us a step up and be able to compete effectively. We could reach our marketplaces more efficiently and it opened up some new opportunities. We could create and manage a better website. All tasks on data analysis and accounts became a little bit easier and quicker and we had much better quality information we could base business decisions on. We grew our business and took some offices in the neighbouring town and started hiring people.

So one little grant in a scheme available partly thanks to EU funds

Led to renting of an office which represents spending in the local business community

Led to Business rates being paid on the office which benefits the local community

Led to employment of some local people

Led to PAYE and NI going to the exchequer

Led to income earned by staff to be spent in the local economy

Led to VAT collected in increased sales made throughout the UK

Led to income from us personally and our business being spent in the local economy

Led to access to cash to invest further in the business which led to growth which led to more employment

Led to corporation tax paid on profits of the company

Led to increased expenditure with our suppliers, all of who’s communities then benefit from all the points above.

Incidentally later, many years later, we grew sufficiently to tap into overseas sales and diversify thanks to the single market at a time when our domestic market was stagnant and unprofitable due to the effect of austerity on our customers. This saved our jobs and our company and our growth and our tax contributions.

My daily 12 pence or whatever it costs me for EU membership is absolutely nothing compared to what I and my community gained from a tiny door that was opened to us.

This calculator lets you figure out the cost of EU membership to you then if you can’t think of personal benefits you have enjoyed, have a look at this app, it will jog your memory. Then share these with everyone who asks with scorn “what has the EU ever done for me”.

Most importantly get yourselves and EVERYBODY you know down to that polling station on Thursday and vote for party which has a positive commitment to our future where we belong as members of the biggest most successful partnership of nations in the world. If the EU did not exist we would want to invent it.

Word cloud image courtesy of @spaceangel1964

Where Have We Been

I watched the excellent hustings for the upcoming EU elections organised by my local pro EU group Chester for Europe in conjunction with Weaver Vale for EU and Eddisbury for EU. It was very interesting and I will probably write and tweet about the detail but as I watched I was dumbfounded to find the most thought provoking and powerful point for me came from the Conservative candidate taking part Sajjad Karim. The panel were asked what question they would pose in the hustings and he had interpreted it as a question to the audience and he said “Where have you been?”. He was of course, referring to the low turnout and lack of interest in the elections of previous years where he and the other pro EU candidates had to face rooms full of angry faragist/ukip/far right types. The anti EU crowd had been whipped up by their leaders who had spotted the public disinterest and saw the MEP route as a neat way to win political power because Westminster politics was not proving easy to conquer for their second rate politicians.

So where were we? Why did we leave a massive vacuum ready to be filled by these wannabe despots who’s tools of the trade are generating hate and anger in their followers. Farage knew what he was selling when he stood in front off that hateful poster – a nod and a wink to the racist tendencies of his target customers. He knew the groundwork had been laid already by the years of headlines and insane stories about Brussels and immigrants and refugees. The language had been carefully cultivated for so long. Gravy trains, being “ruled” by Eurocrats, regulation being “forced” on us, immigrants coming here versus expats going there, stories about bendy bananas, floor cleaner motors and lightbulbs.

Even austerity played into their hands. The worldwide financial crisis in 2008, a complex set of events, triggered across the Atlantic was boiled down and dressed up purely as frivolous overspend by the outgoing Labour government. Do you remember, we were told there were hard choices to make and we were all in it together? Suddenly there was major concern whipped up about the amount of money spent by benefits claimants. Newspaper headlines bore this perception out, printing stories about benefits cheats with lots of children, getting huge houses and spending all day being driven around in taxis whilst smoking. On TV we were subjected to poverty porn. The people inclined to the right could be outraged at the perceived fecklessness and the people inclined to the left could be outraged at the outrage of those at the right. Complex pictures of individual stories were boiled down once again into a simple binary judgement.

Some of these TV programs showed the unfortunate victims of bad housing policies by government angrily spitting at the camera about how foreigners were treated better than “our people”. A view not really challenged by the program makers directly, they would probably say it wasn’t that kind of programme. But new documentaries appeared depicting Eastern Europeans exercising their treaty rights to freedom of movement in a negative and stereotypical light mainly. Newspaper headlines pilloried Eastern Europeans and covered the refugee crisis in 2015 in the most inhuman way and crucially conflating the two issues.

The conditions were perfect. The scene was set. The shit was rolling downhill nicely. Politicians blamed the the tax paying public, who blamed the low paid public and then in the final scene before the referendum all of them blamed the weakest group, the UK residents with no vote, no political voice, working hard, paying their taxes but with no political representation.

Not only were conditions perfect for the referendum, but there was no more time to lose for the wreckers. Within another generation the majority of voters would be younger people more likely to be pro EU, being an EU citizen was as natural to them as breathing, something they took for granted. This generation don’t get their news from the tabloid papers. Thanks to work done by Labour in the 90s and noughties, they are more likely to have gone to college, so unaffected by the tabloid hate of the EU and having been educated in a more diverse environment they are far more likely to enjoy, approve of and stick with their EU citizenship.

All this time it’s true though, we were absent, we were shockingly ignorant of the in-depth workings of the EU. We took our rights for granted. We thought good sense would prevail. But with a good dose of lawbreaking and cheating along the way Leave stoked the fire of division and spoke to the dark side of people’s natures where they take no care to examine nuance and want to accept simple explanations because that’s easier than thinking or because their lives are pretty miserable anyway so they have little to lose. The architects got this toxic brexit and its associated chaos and hate filled disruption of vital Parliamentary work on things to improve the lives of the people over the line.

At the moment all I am hearing is politicians of all parties telling us it’s the fault of those of us with liberal values that we are where we are. When the ugly discussions about immigration started if we tried to point out the illogical and sometimes immoral position of those spouting anti immigration views we are told we should address peoples “legitimate views” time and again. We had years of the cries “we can’t talk about immigration” when we talked about nothing but. Are the politicians right? Was it my fault when it is they who have refused to tell people the truth? Should I have challenged every single little bit of casual racism or poverty bashing or EU bashing in my life? Well I think there is something in that and I will put my hand up to my share of responsibility on this point. Frankly though we don’t want to go around in our lives having arguments with strangers we meet who are spouting rubbish – thats what twitter is for, but we can influence those around us to grow up with responsible views stemming from critical thinking, in particular our children and families. I am proud to say I have played my part in that kind of intervention at least.

Taking our EU membership for granted is also something that i put my hand up to. Lack of proper engagement at previous EU elections for example, not informing myself more thoroughly was all a huge mistake and when I came to campaign in the 2016 referendum I could have been more effective if I had known even a fraction of what I know now. All this is on me and whether you shoulder a share of that responsibility yourselves is for you to decide.

At the same time let’s not get carried away with the gaslighting that seems to have become the way politicians deal with everything nowadays. The biggest fattest failure is that of those who we actually pay to sit in Westminster, those who represent us and make the legislation that has led us to where we are now. Sajjad Karim was right to ask the question “where were you” but actually the question should have been directed to his own party and the other parties in Westminster who have indulged and appeased the extreme right and used the EU as a convenient body to blame for their own policy failures. Even local authorities and local politicians have used the “it ain’t us guv its the EU innit” time and again. The phrase health and safety gone mad was seized on so local politicians could shrug their shoulders instead of explaining honestly and precisely why certain things are done or decided.

Where were these politicians with their clear explanations of what was being done in the name of country in the EU. I do not blame our excellent committed hard working European MEPs for a moment. They have been used and abused and ignored by their own parties particularly since 2010. I have no idea why they are even loyal to the big two parties. Because Westminster does not want to talk about the excellent work the EU does, or put it another way, the excellent work WE do with our partners in the EU, the press therefore aren’t interested.

The only party which ever puts their MEPs up on our screens is the Farage Circus, old UKIP and his latest creation, an empty hole of nothing but slogans and negativity. Even the BNP were given a platform on Question Time a few years ago. If our pro EU MEPs are not appearing on Newsnight or the 6 o’clock news regularly then why on earth would the public develop any interest in what is going on in Brussels. It becomes a black box to them, only vaguely aware that it does important stuff that affects us in the background. So when the great British public was asked to pronounce judgement on it, they only had 40 years of EU hate, negative or no coverage and no meaningful information or knowledge about what the EU is or how it works or what our MEPs do or why our right to Freedom of Movement, for example, is a terrific privilege for all of us as individuals .

If we fail to stop brexit, we are being told it will be our fault for not voting for this party or that party or splitting the vote or whatever. But you know we are doing our very best to turn back against 20 years of negative programming and powerful forces. If we fail to stop brexit it won’t be because I didn’t vote for Labour or Tory or Greens or Lib Dem or Change UK MEPS. It will be because parties and parliamentary politicians have failed us consistently in the last two years and its time they stopped blaming voters who didn’t vote leave or will not vote leave in a #finalsay referendum and looked at themselves in the mirror. What can Remain Politicians do to stop brexit? Well they can put their party aside for now and fight for a #peoplesvote and if their party won’t fight for that then they should be prepared to work with other remain parties and find a strategy which will help us. Stop blaming us and start helping us. I see the chances are diminishing of that so we are left with tactical voting in the EU elections. It’s the only thing we as Remainers can do to make sure our vote is not counted as one for a brexit party.

My parting note connected to this is on Labour. I am sorry to single them out but why are they messing about? Brexit fans will vote for the Brexit party. Why are Labour courting their vote. Remove the qualification from a confirmatory vote and Labour will find a world of delight opens up in the polls as those remainers normally inclined to vote for them heave a sigh of relief and put their x by their party on the ballot paper. Why are they producing ads and videos about bobbies on the beat for EU elections, WTAF is that all about? Labour are not trusted at the moment in remain circles given the size of the flipping table and all the options labour refuse to remove off it once and for all and they will keep bumping along with abysmal polling numbers until they earn remain trust.

Politicians, put your houses in order. We may well have to accept some responsibility for being absent in years gone by, for being passive or blind, but believe me we are paying attention now, we are present and we will bring about political change in the future so you can never divide people like this again.