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

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

The Curious Death of the Sunlit Uplands.

I wrote this for Chester for Europe on release of the so-called Yellowhammer document by Government

The government, under duress of the Humble Address Motion, have published an Operation Yellowhammer document.  We have put it here for you to read in full.  There are a few salient things I feel we must point out. 

The title of the document is “Reasonable Worst Case Planning Assumptions”. The document is identical to that leaked to the press a month ago and the journalists who saw the leaked document say it’s title was “Base Scenario”. In other words, this was the expected set of consequences of falling out of the EU without a deal and that is why they should be planned for. Tom Gordon here provides with some evidence by comparing the copy which which went to the Scottish Government

Paragraph 15 Has been redacted.  Comparison by a journalist saw the leaked document says the paragraph says

“15. Facing EU tariffs makes petrol exports to the EU uncompetitive. Industry had plans to mitigate the impact on refinery margins and profitability but UK Government policy to set petrol import tariffs at 0% inadvertently undermines these plans. This leads to significant financial losses and announcement of two refinery closures (and transition to import terminals) and direct job losses (about 2000). Resulting strike action at refineries would lead to disruptions to fuel availability for 1-2 weeks in the regions directly supplied by the refineries.”

Would this closed refinery include Stanlow, we ask?  Not only will our area be at risk from the closures and company moves linked to the Just In Time problems as a third country, Stanlow may be at risk too.  That’s a lot of jobs in Cheshire at risk for no benefit.

This document is little more than an executive summary with no detail at all.  No information on what the measures are to mitigate these things.  Why have they not provided any of that detail at all? 

For example, examine paragraph 20.  It informs us of the impact on the adult social care sector.  The Upshot is within 4-6 months we will see social care providers closing as Brexit affects an already fragile sector with insufficient staff and no margins to play with.  When these companies shut their doors, who will look after the individual adults affected? Where are they going to go?  Where will we get staff to look after them?  It also presents questions such as,  if there is less social provision, will bed blocking become an even bigger problem than it is now?  We have no idea how the government have answered any of these obvious questions from this document.

Paragraph 20

We now know Project fear is Project Clear.  If these scenarios were not likely why would our public servants be spending our time and money on this.  We know they are and planning for food shortages, delays at ports, job losses, business closures,  It’s all there in black and white in this short document.  Don’t be fooled by the business=like, sanitised tone. 

The starkest warning is in paragraph 17 and represents a warning we have been giving since we started campaigning. 

“Low income groups will be disproportionately affected by any price rises in food and fuel”.

The title change demonstrates an attempt to downplay, remove the scary words in our heads but where are the spreadsheets and tables and figures and mitigation details?  At any rate they have not been able to hide the fact that they have confirmed everything remain campaigns have been saying for 3 years about the dangers of Brexit and no-deal Brexit in particular. 

Let me ask you this final question before you read the full document, if this is the worst case scenario, why have they not printed the Best Case Scenario?  If I wanted to ease peoples minds or show the benefits of no-deal and why I thought it was a valid way for the country to go  I would do that.  Wouldn’t you?  The government has not done that. There is no cost benefit analysis. Its all costs and no benefits.

I am sorry to report the Sunlit Uplands of Brexit were dead and buried a considerable time ago and this document proves it.  Mr Sunlit and Mrs. Uplands never really existed except in the minds and personal bank balances of the Brextremist Glitterati. 

The TakeOver – Don’t Wait too Long,

Without a doubt, we are seeing that the entryism into the Conservative Party by Brexit party and UKIP supporters, to push through the ERG and its agenda for the hardest of hard Brexits, has now taken hold.

How can Conservative MPs stand by and watch 21 of their colleagues, some of whom are extremely well respected across the country beyond party allegiances, be summarily ejected from their own party and feel forced to stand down from their jobs. How can they stand to do and say nothing? What is a party for if it is no longer reflecting a set of values which you can subscribe to. Even his own brother has felt compelled to remove himself from responsibility for what is being done.

Jess Phillips MP accused MPs of complaining in the tea rooms whilst saying nothing where it counts. Some of these same Tories consistently take every opportunity to attack their labour colleagues for splits and other problems and failures in the opposition party but now when their own BIG test has come, they have failed, failed failed.

Any Tory MP against No-deal who does not speak out now against what Johnson/Cummings are doing – successfully completing the takeover of the authoritarian-loving , populist right of the party, fail to fill the primary duties of their public office. Even if they don’t consider putting country first, they are not even putting their own party first. They are aiding and abetting it’s metamorphosis into something much darker and alien to the genuine values of moderates everywhere.

This is a warning you must heed. When you have given your tacit approval with your silence to what is being done in your name, further down the line you may come to a point you cannot,with clear conscience, cross to follow your leader, and you will feel compelled to speak out and take a stand. Don’t leave it too late. Soon there will be nobody to back you up or defend you. There will be nobody left with any power to speak out for you!

Moreover the public, your constituents, won’t be taken in forever. Sooner or later they will ask you why you failed THEM. They will be far less polite than the man who said Please Leave My Town.

The time to speak the truth is NOW.

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.

Our Voting Quandary

Why would we vote for an MEP who’s stated party aim is to brexit? I am not just talking about the the two flavours of ukip. We all know what their game is. Namely, get their people in, spread hate, don’t do any work, fiddle their expenses, be a thorn in the side of the rest of the European Parliament who are there to do serious work for the benefit of the EU citizens they represent and basically con the European public (including us) out of the money which pays their salaries and pensions with no intention of doing a tap of work. They are a cheap sham, a con. No policy. Just a mishmash of also-rans and faded unsavouries seeking their 15 minutes of fame as candidates. I have nothing but contempt for them and if you have seen some of the people standing for them you will be equally contemptuous.

But looking at the other parties, well, the conservatives are the party of government. They want us out of the EU. So that’s a non starter too. What of the others? Well if the party manifesto contains the words “we respect the referendum” with no crystal clear commitment to a confirmatory vote and a remain option, is it relevant whether the candidates on their lists are personally strongly committed to the EU? Because of the D’Hondt system we can’t select particular candidates to back so party policy is the only thing we can go on initially. This is what we need to get our heads around and why we need to figure out a strategy. If the stated party policy priority is to make us brexit even under some imaginary soft brexit additions to May’s deal as yet not agreed, explained or described, despite the overwhelming evidence stacked up about cheating and damage to ordinary people, pro EU candidates and the party supporters who believe in the EU will be undermined. They must apply pressure to remove the Eurosceptic flavour of their party’s campaign.

The Remain community – now representing a growing majority, (see the poll of polls) are listening hard to what parties are saying and they will be harsh critics because they have been let down time and again by politicians and parties, the patience is incredibly fragile now. I know many of us are biding our time before we decide how we will vote.

For me, a half hearted approach to the EU elections also undermines the position of the UK as a force in the European Parliament. A missing commitment to remain or People’s Vote will inevitably raise questions from the rest of the EU as to whether the UK will ever be trusted not to dangle another sword of Damocles over its own head again at the expense and disruption of its EU parliament and the return of UKIP MkI and MkII MEPs will have the rest of the sensible parts of the European Parliament facepalming for 5 years. How can we trust what our MEPS will do to build and improve the EU if their party is trying to keep their direction constantly eurosceptic.

I admit I struggle with all this. It’s the hardest thing we have had to negotiate in our long campaign because we are fighting on two fronts, against what British Party Politics does by nature in the way parties compete with each-other and refuse to cooperate, whilst trying to lobby for a peoples vote and ultimately a remain outcome .

But the leaked Labour EU election leaflet drafts this week are the worst example I have yet seen of a supposedly non EU-hostile party completely missing the point. The EU Elections are about Europe. There is barely an acknowledgement that this is anything to do with the European Parliament. .

There is no vision in this work as to what Europe wide initiatives their party will support or drive or how they can help shape our future with regards to the environment, citizen protections, freedoms and economic cooperation with our partners. It’s almost as if whoever has written it has no idea what the EP does, or what the EU does. Which is tragic, given Labour have such wonderful Europeans standing for them. Julie Ward, Seb Dance, Richard Corbett, Theresa Griffin, Wajid Khan – all successful MEPs who have been doing their jobs representing us in the EP and, since the referendum, have been strong peoples vote campaigners ready to stand up for our future in the EU and be positive about all those things we value. Peace, freedom of movement, protection, cooperation.

These proposed leaflets are simply the same old tired dumbing down of a politics concentrated on dividing and labelling and slagging off the other side, encouraging negative voting, encouraging a protest vote. It’s depressing and parochial and lacks vision and undermines their forward thinking MEPS who we, in the remain community, consider our own regardless of party. It says ‘vote for us and forget the EU’ or ‘vote for us to tell the government you are angry’. Aren’t we in enough trouble already with that mindset? When are politicians going to stop encouraging protest votes and start leading?

I for one want to vote for parties who can demonstrate to me both their commitment to remain as EU members and also their European supporting credentials, believing that the most successful trading and political bloc in the world is a force for good in the lives of ordinary people across our beautiful continent. We may have lots of problems in Europe, there will always be problems, but we can best solve them together with cooperation and friendship and partnership. I want to return MEPs committed to our future in the EU who aren’t hampered by a party leadership which seeks to undermine them.

This criteria equally applies in my deliberations as to whether I will vote for Labour or any of the other parties. I cannot consider Labour unless they resolve their internal conflict and are unequivocal about a People’s Vote. I note as I write this the news that these shameful leaflet designs are thankfully being binned. They “forgot” to include mention of a confirmatory vote. Of course they did! (Sarcastic font). It’s a start but the clock is ticking and Labour needs to listen carefully to its members and supporters and potential supporters who are, right now, busy writing to everyone they can think of in Labour to make their views heard if they are going to be in the running for success.

I do understand the quandary of labour voters who want to remain but want to vote for their party. All I can ask is that you make it absolutely clear that you want them to support remain or that you find a way to put it on record that you are supporting the great MEPs on the list in your region and not the abysmal front bench negative attitude to the EU. We do not want Pro EU votes to be counted by others as anti EU votes as per the 2017 election narrative employed so damagingly by May, Farage et al.

So I will continue to support voter registration and turnout campaigns and I look forward to seeing the details of the Lib Dem, Green Party, ChUK and Labour manifestos so I can make my choices about who to vote for in the North West in an informed way. You can forget trying to bully me or guilt me. A vote for the Lib Dem’s or greens or TIG is not a vote for tories. That’s just nonsense. I will be keeping an eye on the information and data being analysed by remainvoter about my region because tactical voting is still on my mind as a way to go. You see, the Labour Party aren’t the only ones who are able to keep options on the table 😉.

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