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

Freedom of Movement – Brexit is Personal

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

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

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

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

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

@redalphababe

Which Walk

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

@redalphababe 


You’re So Vain

I Bet You Think This Blog is About You

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

A Brexit Compromise?

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

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

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

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

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

No I don’t and No Thankyou. . 

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

@redalphababe

Letter on No deal

Submitted to letters pages 6th Feb 2019



It causes me great alarm that our news reports seem to be full of Vox pops of people on the streets of the UK brushing off concerns and promoting a view that they are so fed up with the Brexit issue they think we should just fall out of our membership on the 29th March with no deal.  Even more alarming are the polls I see which imply a proportion of people selecting no-deal as a desired option think this means we carry on as we are.

It is incumbent on our MPs to explain to everyone the implications of no-deal.  If we do not resolve this in some way and article 50 is not extended or revoked, we will no longer be in any framework or treaty which we are currently a part of.  All these arrangements are the methods by which our lives are managed in an orderly, safe and fruitful way.  The issue is not so much short term disruption to things like food and medicines etc, everybody agrees there will be disruption, but that in effect we have to recreate these frameworks or make hundreds of little side agreements to deal with each and every aspect, whether it is trade, agreements on flying across Europe, management of isotopes for cancer treatments, food safety regimes, using our driving licences in the EU, replacement of an EHIC arrangement, our financial industry – an absolutely enormous industry for our economy, operator licences for trucks who work across Europe etc.  

We have spent 40 years with our EU partners developing this entire system on which our  lives and our economy are structured, and it is incredibly complex and most of us including the politicians who spent 40 years dreaming about taking us out of the EU had absolutely no conception of just how complex it is.  

This was not something imposed on  us, the EU is not us versus them.  These systems were created by US.  We are part of the EU.  Every framework that exists, that we are part of, we created together with the other members.   We have a sophisticated complex structure which has turned us into a large economy and turned the EU into the biggest most powerful trading bloc in the world, envied a and admired by other parts of the world so much so that other groups of countries are creating their own blocs with their neighbours to emulate the European project.   

The idea that this could all be simply dropped overnight without disastrous and damaging consequences is frankly bizarre.  Furthermore, we are all thoroughly fed up of the B word, but it won’t end there.  Obviously, we cannot remain in a no-deal stasis and will have to try and clear up the mess.  It will take tens of thousands  of hours of parliamentary and civil service time to set about putting everything right and putting some trade back together.   The Brexit bill is set to get longer and longer and longer whilst we are losing jobs as large companies move some or all of their operations into the EU27 to protect their margins. 
The same will be true of any kind of Brexit deal as the future relationship is really only a sketch so all the fleshing out of reality will have to be done in parliament and by our civil servants and diplomats.  Article 50 was triggered with no idea of destination or plan.  Why?  It is abundantly clear the sunlit uplands are not going to be appearing for an awfully long time  if we allow our MPs to take us down this insane path. 

@redalphababe

The Bungalow.. A Brexit Allegory

I will tell you a little story.  I was offered an excellent deal once on a cute little bungalow with high ceilings and a polished carved wooden door.  It sat on the edge of a pretty village.  The sizeable plot it sat in was populated with fruit trees and grapevines and the rose bushes by the door released their scent as we did the viewing.   It was a very appealing property, with permission to extend the existing dwelling further.  

We really liked the look of it as the seller weaved ideas for us and wooed us with  his magic words.  It had so many possibilities.  We could give up our jobs and build a little business in the grounds. Perhaps a guesthouse.  The inside had evidence of damp in the walls after being empty for a few years, but with a little work it looked manageable.

The price was fair for the promises the bungalow represented,  so we had a long talk as a family and decided to buy it and  we felt happy as we looked with pleasure at the windows glinting in the sunshine of a brighter future.  

We did our due diligence,  we hired a lawyer and ordered a survey and we went on with our lives looking forward to the day when we could make our plans for the little bungalow in the sunshine. 
All was not well though.  It turns out when the paperwork was examined, and the searches were done that the house had been built without any qualified person signing it off. In fact, part of the property did not even have the planning permissions it was advertised with.  Nobody had ever checked to see if it had been built to the required standard.  The ceiling was full of asbestos, the ground riddled with rat holes.  We had no idea if it was a money pit or an accident waiting to happen.  On closer inspection still, the damp was rising, we could see light through the roof and the windows rattled in the wind. The property was worth only half of the asking price.  

The people who had wanted us to buy the bungalow tried to gloss over the problems.  They told us everything would work out just fine.  When we carried on voicing our doubts, they told us we had agreed to the purchase and there was no getting out of it.  When we still looked unhappy, they threatened us with unpleasant consequences and the ire of the vendors if we tried to overturn our own decision. There was to be no re think or second chance to consider the consequences of our purchase, they said. To do so would be overturning the will of the family, they said.  

We argued for months.  What should we do, what was a fair compromise?  Which deal was the best risk moving in as it was and take our chances with the leaky roof  or borrow some extra money to do the work?  Should we rent another house whilst the remedial works were completed.  What if it took years?   Our family was split, we even took it out on our neighbours and blamed them for making us unhappy in our current house in the first place, though actually none of us could really remember what it was about our home we disliked now we came to think of it.  Of course, our friends couldn’t understand why we were being mean to them and feeling very hurt, they drifted away from our lives.  The shifty people who tried to sell us the house looked on at the chaos smiling.  Pretty soon they would reap the benefits to their bank balance of their lies and our bad decision. 

But one day in the midst of a shouting match, we realised we couldn’t go on and that what we thought we were buying didn’t exist, it  was a dream, a mirage, an impossibility.  We might, after a lot of time and elbow grease and money be able to make the bungalow a habitable home for us in the end,  but as we looked at our existing house with it’s comforting fireplace and beautiful bay windows, it’s interesting neighbours and its proximity to the heart of a beautiful town and all its delights, we realised the price we would have to pay was far, far too high.  

We realised that with a little tweaking and renewing we could make more out of exactly where we were without having to pay any removal fees.  It was so simple,  we could just change our minds.   
To be sure we wrote out the pros and cons and risks, our existing house versus the bungalow.  Then we carefully absorbed those points and discussed them calmly, fact checked and read experts advice and then had a family vote.  The will of the family had changed.  We patched up our rows with the neighbours.  We told the shifty salespeople we were staying put,  we didn’t want the substandard bungalow anymore and we would be building a brighter better future exactly where we had belonged all along.

Do the right thing Parliament

May is busy peddling her deal, begging, cajoling, threatening, rewarding.  The government will do anything to win their vote tomorrow completely ignoring what is right for the people of the United Kingdom.
But remember, if you are tempted to wobble and fall for the terrifying Fear factor of No-deal being served up by May and her supporters, stockpiling, invisible ferries, medicine shortages food shortages, this was not what they promised you. 
Look how the language has changed over the last 3 years.  They told us it would be easy,  that we had the ace up our sleeves.  They told us time and time again that our 27 partners would fall over themselves to rip up the principles and four freedoms of the EU that we all 28 designed and built together over the years.
Leave promised unicorns, cherries, a good deal, loads of money.  It was all going to be absolutely fabulous, they said.  All that language has completely disappeared.  Even the meaningless slogans have disappeared.  No sunlit uplands here.
The vast majority of economists, experts, business leaders, academics, trade specialists all argued for remain in 2016.  How many of those people have watched what is happening and had a eureka moment that they were wrong in 2016 and that we are better outside the EU?
I don’t know of any?  Do you?  There may be some who have suggested an alternative path or discussed a compromise route because they are worried about a second referendum.  But how many actually now believe that Brexit is good for our business and our economy. Not even our government will say we are better off outside the EU. 
How many times have we had tangible measurable answers to the question, “what part of brexit will make our lives better” posed so many times by so many of us.  None.
But we have seen plenty of  tangible numbers the other way – job losses already, companies moving out, EU27 citizens voting on the xenophobia and our disgusting treatment of them with their feet, a slowdown in growth, weakening of the pound. 
The problem with brexit is brexit.  Leave politicians  cannot agree because disentangling ourselves without damage from our 40 year political investment in the EU is impossible.  The people were not promised damage.  They were promised greater prosperity and opportunity.  This is clearly undeliverable. 
Grow some courage parliament.  Tell it like it is.  We already have the best deal. We will be leaving the biggest free trade block in the world.  A model being emulated by groups of countries in the rest of the world whilst we will be consigned to years of negotiating and fixing the EU related things that weren’t broken instead of fixing the domestic things that really are.   
Parliamentarians, if you honestly can’t agree and you can’t find the courage to #RevokeArticle50 which is the most responsible and righteous path, then the only way forward is to let us decide.  
May’s deal Vs the Best Deal  #remain 
#PeoplesVote #remainoption 
/end