Parliament is for the 66 Million

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The people are #66million.

Equal Lives No Longer

This week has been full of turmoil. Boris Johnson and his special adviser, the unelected Dominic Cummings have engaged in a war of attrition against Johnson’s own party and summarily chucked out 21 MPs for voting against their plan.

They have pretended that the British Government is busy negotiating some kind of deal whilst the EU have confirmed that in fact nothing new has been put to them at all, in fact I don’t think anything has been put to them at all. As per the last 3 years the Tory government seeks only to negotiate with its own party and by extension the Brexit Party, in this, May and Johnson are the same though Johnson remarkably has been somewhat less successful having now fired his majority. There is something deliciously absurdly brexity about that particular act of foot shooting isn’t there?

As campaigners, we in the Remain Grassroots have been busy fighting the spectre of no deal. We must continue to do that. Although Parliament has successfully flexed its sovereignty muscles and pushed through the Benn Bill, there are still many holes in the road that we can fall through. It’s not inconceivable with a certain chain of events we could be back to facing another cliff edge. It all depends on the order of play.

Ideally we need Brexit to be settled first before we go into any multi issue general election. After all, if we are to have a general election just about brexit why not just have a referendum specifically addressing it? If we do go into a general election with Brexit as the central question we cannot stop debunking no-deal in the starkest and toughest way. So this aspect of our work, informing of the calamity of no-deal must be kept up regardless of the Benn Bill unless and until we know we are truly safe from it.

Having said all that on strategy, I have been reminded too, this week, of all the core reasons I started to campaign and they have not changed. I hate to quote Theresa but let me be clear, let there be no confusion. I reject all types of Brexit. The opportunity for bringing remainers along to a compromise passed 2 years ago. There has been no respect shown from Leave proponents for the lives and realities that people face. If within the first few weeks, months even, some attempt had been made to firstly immediately secure the rights of EU27 in the UK and British in Europe and secondly create a cross party commission to investigate and thrash out a workable approach which got broad agreement , our remain movement would never really have grown, Thats on the May Government and the No-dealers.

To turn the oft quoted phrase thrown at Remain back to the fence sitters and deal makers. We are where we are. You didn’t manage that, you did not successfully get parliamentary agreement on any deal. Three and a half years on and we are no closer to defining Brexit beyond the catastrophe of no-deal. We have wasted billions on fridges and lorry parks and ferry companies, we have neglected the domestic agenda and still nobody can better the terms of our current EU membership in any way whatsoever. Remember they said it would be better. Not worse.

But the contradictions of Brexit aside, the real cost of the last 3 years has been entirely emotional. Let’s start with the 5 million excluded from a referendum, the result of which was to impact their lives in the most personal and egregious way. As the promises on their security made pre referendum by the Leave campaigners who now sit in government where shredded on the floor of the House of Commons, their initial bafflement and mild concern has turned into fear and fury blistering fury and rightly so. They have been insulted and demonised and discriminated against. The settled status scheme is throwing out stupid decisions to people who have been here for decades. We see fresh new insane stories of filing cabinets full of ancient paperwork demanded so people can finally feel secure. I feel extremely worried of there being a scandal similar to windrush perpetrated on our EU27 friends. The hostile environment in the Home office is still alive and kicking as our friends from outside the EU will attest.

More fundamentally than the procedures imposed though, the enactment of the referendum result reduced the status of the 3 million. As EU members we are all equals under UK law. We were the same. The Leave voted turned EU27 citizens into people who are NO LONGER EQUAL. Their rights have been removed. They or their parents came here exercising treaty rights or came before that with indefinite leave to remain. They have now been told they must justify their presence in the UK. Their history by our sides in the UK has been downgraded in importance. Imagine having to justify your life?

The British in Europe face similar problems. In a way their issues are even worse because the removal of FOM also removes their right to move easily from their current residence to another EU27 country. For some this is already creating business and or employment problems. Whilst some individual governments have laid down laws to protect their British residents, others are looking to confirm reciprocal arrangements and cannot guarantee what will happen without a deal.

So many British are not clear exactly on their continuing rights to healthcare arrangements, pensions, exporting of benefits etc Nothing is certain. But again at the core the argument for me is that these rights have been removed by the British Government against their will. They are now less than equal to their neighbours in their country of residence. The EU can no longer protect them.

Remember in the early days the EU proposed in a document protections for the 5 million with reciprocity but the British refused to sign up to this and preferred to use their lives as chips in their political gaming.

What of the rest of us? Yes, we too are being stripped of rights to work and study and move around freely on the journey our lives may take us. Of course we will be able to try and jump through the immigration hoops that will be imposed on us instead of Free movement but we will be a third country. That means less experimentation, less access to opportunity. Why would an EU company hire a Brit as a member of a third country and mess about with visas and work permits when they are getting qualified applicants for the same job from 26 other countries. The best of the best (and the rich) will always get opportunities but the rest will just have another barrier to get over keeping them from their desired future.

Aha, but what about opportunity elsewhere in the world, I hear you ask. Well I don’t know about you but I haven’t exactly seen any countries coming along offering free movement to the British people in the last 3 years. You would think we would remember that.

We have stripped ourselves of rights and freedoms we previously had, it doesn’t matter if some individuals never exercised or benefited from those rights. I have never been arrested but I wouldn’t want to strip people of their right to a fair trial on the basis I never benefited from that. The point is I might one day, or my family or my friends or my children or my grandchildren. The Leave Vote has diminished our rights and so diminished the individual.

Which finally brings me to some of the minority of Labour people who still think there is something feasible about some kind of Brexit. What are you doing? You are supporting a policy which removes rights. This seems to me something totally alien to your movement? When did you stop supporting progressive enhancement of rights and start supporting removing rights? Get off the fence!

Brexit has divided families, communities neighbours at the deepest emotional level. Loss of rights and the real life consequences of that is felt so deeply by so many people that the anger and determination continues to build every day. This week we have seen the pressure that can be brought to bear with teamwork to stop no-deal. Forget fantasy deals. We are where we are, the public is moving to remain, the time for unicorns whether blue or red has passed. Imagine what can be done when our oppositions parties unite to fight the wrongs of 2016 and take the right steps to stop Brexit.

Imagine

Imagine This.

It’s the 31st December. The Prime Minister has failed to get a deal through Parliament by the 31st October. The Opposition Parties have been so busy scrapping with eachother they forgot to do a deal in time to stop us falling out of the EU without a deal.

The Tory No-deal Architects rubbed their hands in glee and have made a fortune in their currency speculation activities. Their hedge fund investments which gambled against economy have grown exponentially so they are smiling to themselves when they get up in the morning.

The pound has plummeted. The FTSE is all over the place. Big business triggers it’s contingencies. Prices go up. Wages don’t. Small Business has rising costs and poor access to the supplies they need which is hampering their ability to function. Spending by consumers has plummeted as people are worried about their jobs and incomes.

Lorries started stacking up in Kent immediately we fell out of the EU. After the initial madness a system was cobbled together but goods are still extremely slow to get through and despite the stockpiling there are problems in most supply chains in most industries. The remaining car manufacturers in the UK trigger their final contingency plans and start issuing the last of the redundancy notices.

On the 1st of November the PM’s office immediately had to dispatch a massive team of civil servants and diplomats to negotiate emergency access to all the frameworks that we have fallen out of but not yet built for ourselves. This work is ongoing. The news reports there is still more to do.

Parliament is in uproar. There is no business being done or debated which is not to do with Brexit. Every cabinet meeting is only talking about the problems directly associated with brexit. 50% of our civil servants have been despatched around the world to try and do quick deals with countries. This work is also ongoing.

Northern Ireland is frightened. Scotland is furious. Wales is baffled at the part it played in this unholy shitshow.

Some things haven’t changed. There are still people living in tents in shop doorways. There are still food banks which are a bit short of food donations due to shortages in shops and personal stockpiling. Disabled and sick people are still being badly assessed for PIP. Wages are not going up in line with living costs. The NHS has not been able to address any of its staff shortage problems. The Care System sees no end in sight. The new immigration rules are not helping to get their positions filled from anywhere in the world when migrants can do better elsewhere. The brain drain which had quietly started over 3 years before is now openly visible as parents wish their most talented young people well and help them find solid opportunities elsewhere. There is no parliamentary or government activity to address any of these areas in any meaningful way.

Racism is still alive and well. The far right have been emboldened and the brexit party is planning to stand candidates in the next election to further empower themselves. More angry powerless people means more people vulnerable to their anti immigrant message. The vicious circle works in their favour. This is lowest common denominator politics in full flow.

The news every night is about brexit. Why did we brexit? What will happen next? How is the government going to solve the brexit crisis? What about the supply problems? When are we going to see a stronger pound. When is the USA going to give us a deal. How many years of negotiations are ahead of us? Every documentary is about some aspect. Government ministers fill our screens with the brexit platitudes and keep repeating the mantra that this is the will of the people so now they are just getting on with it.

Nobody with any power is talking about climate change.

100s of 1000s of people take to the streets in rage. There are protests every day somewhere in the country. The only contingency planning that was properly completed by government was security planning in the event of riots. There are a few riots. They are stomped on by government heavy handedly as, given the numbers, they daren’t let it get it get worse as brexit keeps on biting and hurting more and more people’s lives. The opposition parties are baffled when the anger is equally directed at them. Every night on the news their message is that this is the will of the people and they tried their best but they weren’t in power so what could they do? This isn’t washing with folk though. Politicians cry it’s labours fault, its Lib Dems fault, its Greens fault, its change UKs fault its the Tories fault. Their shameless appeals to vote for them are just like pointlessly poking at the electorate with a sharp stick.

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

Its all a Nightmare right? Well Now Imagine this instead!

It’s the 31st of December. On the 31st of October sensible people in parliament worked together and forced the government into revoking Article 50. Instead the government has set up a 2 year commission to work out if there is a kind of brexit that could be advantageous to the UK and that can be realistically negotiated and implemented without damaging our interests and thoroughly evidenced to this effect. If they find one there will be a referendum suggested. It’s a small team put on this commission. Any referendum would be existing membership versus whatever vision it comes up with. The new PM had failed to get any meaningful concessions on the WA and had failed to get any existing withdrawal agreement through parliament.

In response a few tens of 1000s of people turned up to protest in London. There were pockets of nastiness and violence but the numbers weren’t big enough to stop the overwhelming majority of citizens around the country from heaving a huge sigh of relief.

The moment Revoke was announced the pound soared back upwards. The FTSE stabilised and on the whole strengthened steadily. Companies and government stopped stockpiling and gradually all supplies of medicine and goods went back to normal flows. Brexit was no longer on the news every night.

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

Our MPs, after an initial flurry of angry letters from people who wanted no-deal or some other kind of brexit are now gradually starting to see more normal post bags and are able to concentrate on helping their individual constituents more effectively. The feeling of constant crisis and heat has been removed completely from our political environment. There are still some extremely abusive emails but these are now easy to report and ignore. They are also getting many more thoughtful letters on a wide range of issues, as more people have woken up to political engagement and want to communicate with their MPs to make the UK a better place.

Investment decisions which were on hold are finally made. All sense of business uncertainty has been lifted. Whatever else happens politically in a general election with taxation or change of government etc compared to Brexit this will only every be something that business can easily adapt to. The entire basic framework on which business is done day to day will remain roughly the same. They have bigger fish to fry anyway. Structural problems in various sectors can be viewed and addressed by business with clarity, without the constant white noise of brexit interfering with their thinking.

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

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

The EU is doing work on the climate change crisis. We are proudly playing our part in that with our partners. Via the EU we are also continuing to address the problems of Tax Evasion and money laundering. The Revoke decision has given a new sense of energy and hope to the progressive parties and their voters right across the EU. Politicians are keen to embrace the optimism.

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

We clink our glasses to see the new year in with a profound sense of relief. We are optimistic for the future. We see the battles are not over but we understand now that complacency is the enemy and our generation will not make this mistake again. We must no longer look away from our problems but seek to solve them together.

That’s more like it.

Imagine this, see this, make it happen.

We need to keep on putting our messages out there. We don’t have to damage ourselves. We can change our minds and Stop Brexit.

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

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 😉.

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