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.

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

The Defiance of the People

The caffeine desire was strong in me having had a late night at a Peoples Vote event in Chester.  We walked through Lime Street Station heading for the nearest cafe that would satisfy my coffee void but it took us a long time to get anywhere that morning.  Dressed in our Peoples Votes T Shirts, carrying banners and flags and stickers, the people of Liverpool looked at us and wanted to talk to us that day. A group of Italian students and their teacher took photos of us and with us. The teacher explained to the teenagers that we didn’t want to leave the European Union.  We got a beautiful cheer from them. 

People of all ages, both sexes, different accents, wished us well and begged us for the vibrant Bollocks to Brexit stickers which encapsulate so perfectly the strong emotion that most of us feel when we think of how our European Citizenship is being taken away from us against our will – this I believe is at the heart of virtually every campaigner, every so-called citizen of nowhere. An elderly English couple stopped us for stickers which they wore with glee and wanted to chat about their feelings.  A wonderful couple full of warmth and intelligence.  They were baffled and angry at government and opposition alike.  Brexit was insane they said.  The people had been lied to, the people are still being lied to. 


I heard stories that day from families who marched because they were filled with doubt about their future status.  With EU27 spouses what would happen? Why were they being treated as the whipping boys for British discontent with issues which were all in the purview of domestic Governments to fix?  This is of course an inconvenient truth for politicians and none will address this question.  The government’s own investigation into the impact of immigration recently has clearly debunked the myths that were trotted out during the EU referendum.  The pernicious lies about immigration and about Freedom of Movement have gone on for years.  A steady flow of headlines filled with hate and prejudice on the shelves of newspaper stands day after day spreading their toxic damage, spilling over in recent years onto our social media timelines and of course deliberately used on Facebook to trigger people into voting leave.   

Other people walked because of their continuing anger and worry that Brexit is a shambles which is damaging the country and damaging everybody’s lives. They see the pathetic farce that passes for government negotiations and see clearly that the Emperor is stark bollock naked.   

Others have businesses and jobs which depend on the Single Market and simply have no idea if they will be able to continue with their lives as they know them after Brexit day.  Politicians do not have their jobs at risk on Brexit day.  Can the rest of us all say exactly the same? Really, are we sure about that? 

Overwhelmingly the mood I saw on Sunday was defiance.  It was a word that popped in my head as people came to speak to us and stayed with me all day. It was Defiance with a smile on it’s Face.  We marched and chanted as loud as we could with sweet, beautiful defiance.  


We saw it in the faces of the passers by who came up and spoke to us or just begged for stickers.  Liverpool was a sea of Bollocks to Brexit stickers on Sunday.  We got a couple of hecklers along the route and in the street, but I would say 90% of the people we came across that day were either with us already or extremely interested in what we had to say.  The Defiance of the People on Sunday was a beautiful peaceful openhearted but nevertheless deeply entrenched defiance.  It takes a very deep well of belief to make thousands of ordinary British citizens give up their Sunday to walk through a city and shout and chant and wave banners.   People are seeing the shambles, the broken promises, the loss of British influence in the world, hearing the sound of jobs dripping away, thinking about the bonkers technical notices preparing us for no deal and they are saying very clearly STOP, WAIT, WE WANT TO LOOK AGAIN, WE WANT TO THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE BRINGING TO US.  

A warning to Labour and Conservatives alike, you have a massive fight on your hands.  You can either accept that we have a right to examine the consequences of any final Brexit proposition and have a say on that with an option to remain or you can subject this country you claim to love so much to years of marginal governments and the wrath of the voters when they discover we are right and the Brexit unicorns, whether they are blue or red, are simply a figment of the imagination of ambitious self-serving political players.

If this chimes with you come and be DEFIANT with us on the 20th October and tell London, the Government and Opposition that we will not be quietened and we demand a Peoples Vote.

The Defiance of the People will win the day. 



#peoplesvote #finalsayforall.

@redalphababe

The #5million – a Poem

Dealt a blow
Injured by your Indifference
See our hurt and anger
Even families sought to damage lives
None of us did anything wrong
Free us from this madness
Rid us of anxiety
All our plans made long ago
Now drenched in the toxicity of your mistake
Cowards refuse to look us in the eye
Haters profit from our discomfort
Is this what you voted for?
Senseless direction to be followed
Eyes closed
Damaged Lives

by @redalphababe

Painting Brexit By Numbers

A Handy Guide
Zero, cero, zéro, null, nada, zip, zilch.  This is the number of plans that the Brexit designers and implementors had before the referendum, after and even now with only 229 days to Brexit day at the time of writing.  40 years of thinking and they came up with … ONE BIG FAT ZERO.  There was and is no plan.  Chequers agreement was the “almost” plan, a dead hatchling – it was a plan they all agreed to but none of them wanted and was full of things they knew the EU can’t actually agree to.

ONE hour is the amount of time MPs are allowed to view the secret Brexit Impact assessment document entitled EU Exit Analysis — Cross Whitehall Briefing, dated January 2018 which sets out the cost of Brexit under different scenarios. There is great security around the document, MPs are not allowed to take any electronic devices in.  Part of it was leaked early this year and here are the much-publicised numbers for the regional assessments.  

DROP IN GDP
REGION
EEA MEMBERSHIP
FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
WTO (NO DEAL)
London
<1%
5.0%
8.0%
South West
1.0%
2.0%
5.0%
Yorkshire/Humber
1.5%
4.5%
7.0%
South East
1.5%
5.0%
7.0%
East of England
1.5%
5.0%
8.0%
East Midlands
1.5%
5.0%
8.0%
Scotland
2.5%
6.0%
9.0%
Wales
1.5%
5.0%
9.0%
North West
2.5%
8.0%
12.0%
Northern Ireland
2.5%
8.0%
12.0%
West Midlands
2.5%
8.0%
13.0%
North East
3.5%
11.0%
16.0%
As the sharp-eyed without Brexit Beer Goggles amongst us can see, the regions which voted most heavily to leave are amongst the ones with most to lose under all scenarios, the regions in fact who have had the greatest benefit from EU funding and EU membership.  I wonder will those regions be helped in our glorious new isolated world?  Well Tory track record on helping regions is not great as any of us who lived through the 80s will attest.  I will just leave that thought dangling. 

TWO.  That’s the number of days it took for Leave promises to start melting away, like an ill thought out unicorn shaped ice sculpture at a fancy Mediterranean wedding that doesn’t even make it to the speeches in one piece. For many of us, its continuous dribbles and drips of absurdity have created a kind of hideous Chinese Water Torture we wake to every morning.  It’s also the number of years it has taken for the “sunny uplands” to have been abandoned and instead an enticing era of “adequate food” has been conjured up for our delectation.  Even Leave proponents now admit Brexit will cause us damage.  A certain Mr Rees Mogg even surmised in an interview it could take 50 years of pain to get to his great vision of nirvana.

FIVE WAS Britain’s rank in the list of the world’s largest economies.    Phillip Hammond confirmed a slide to 6 in his budget speech November 2017.  As confirmed recently by Mark Carney of the bank of England we have moved from being the fastest growing economy pre referendum in the G7 to the slowest.  The best estimate is that the prospect of Brexit especially the version of it favoured by the ERG fanatics has knocked 2% off what our growth rate would have been without Brexit.
Our recovery after the 2008 banking crisis was painfully slow thanks to a government strategy that concentrated too much on cutting costs, encouragement of investment in property which does not create jobs and not enough on growth strategies and investing in job creating industries.  Brexit knocked us back just at the point we in the business community had painstakingly pushed that elusive ball of growth back up to the top of the hill – and we haven’t even left yet.

TWENTY TWO is the number of months since Mr Fox tried to emulate his animal namesakes and cunningly declared we would use our EU27 citizens as negotiating fodder.  There are many more questions than there are answers.  Some have already voted with their feet to end uncertainty and taken up opportunities in the EU27.  A German friend who has now decided to take UK naturalisation to secure emotional and actual investment here, told me he was very angry.  He could have looked to America or Canada for bigger opportunities in his field but FOM fortunately brought him to us. By voting leave you told these talented young Europeans we don’t want them and we don’t like them. Spare me your cries of “but I didn’t mean those kinds of immigrants”.  One day they are our equals the next day they will have to ask permission to remain in their homes.  No wonder the NHS reports chronic unprecedented staff shortages and difficulty in replacing those leaving. 

The British in the EU have even less information.  What will happen with their access to healthcare, pensions, voting rights, the right to move back to the UK with non-British or non-EU spouses or children or parents? What about the right to move to another EU country in the 27, will they be landlocked?  Will their UK qualifications in their respective fields be valid in the country they are in? Will being outside the single market for services and the digital single market have consequences on their cross EU work?  Tell me how people can make significant plans for their family lives if there is a big dark wall of mystery surrounding their rights and status? Answers on a postcard please.

FIFTY EIGHT is the number of Sector Analysis reports that David Davies claimed had been prepared.  I just couldn’t resist reminding you all of this bizarre and mendacious display from our prominent politicians.  At first, it was a big secret, for Brexit Department eyes only.  After some pressure in December 2017 Mr. Davies finally admitted they were a figment of his department’s imagination.  Mr Davies stopped short of blaming the dog for shredding his homework.  In these bizarre times, it seems that just ignoring being caught out in a whopping big lie is effective in getting away with it.  But why should I be surprised? Are these not the same people who came up with the genius scheme of painting lies and false promises on the side of a bus?

ONE HUNDRED is the number of constituencies who voted Leave and have now switched their support to Remain in a recent comprehensive analysis of polling data by Focaldata.   Most other leave voting areas have now narrowed the gap. 

ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND are the minimumestimates of the crowd at the March for the People’s Vote in June.  It is thought the numbers were much greater than that but regardless,  I was proud to be there in the sea of blue and gold stars, a swell of people determined to bring common sense back to our lives and put an end to this bizarre act of national self harm. 

FOUR HUNDRED AND FORTY NINE THOUSAND AND SEVENTY NINE POUNDS was the overspend found by the Electoral Commission to have been committed by Vote Leave.  Vote Leave broke the Law and has been fined and BeLeave also broke the law and Darren Grimes has been fined accordingly for his part.  The overspend would have bought a lot of clicks on Facebook in the last two weeks of their campaign which is when they spent a large amount of budget.  The DCMS Select Committee published the Facebook ads placed on Facebook by the Leave campaigns through AIQ in the EU referendum. 45% of them were spreading an anti immigration message.   The ads are a mix of scurrilous dog whistles, lies and distortions.  Some of them do not even have the campaign’s branding so people wouldn’t have known who was serving the ad or indeed that it was an ad.  

Most of us remainers didn’t see the majority of those ads because they were carefully targeted to get a certain portion of the vote out or to collect accounts who would be good targets for such propaganda.  Additionally, it turns out the campaigning by Vote Leave continued during the days after the murder of Jo Cox by a far right supporting man, when all campaigning was supposed to be suspended as a mark of respect.

This whole murky world surrounding Vote Leave, Be Leave and other campaigns, relationships with Cambridge Analytica, links to Russia etc calls into question the validity of the final result given the slim margin.  The excellent and heroic Carole Cadwalladr has chipped away at this illegal activity for 2 years bringing us the truth little by little.  I would recommend a review of her extensive writing on this complex subject.

SIX HUNDRED AND SEVEN THOUSAND AND NINETY TWO is the number of people who have signed the Independent petition for a final say as of writing.  You can watch the new signatures ticking in. The petition was only started on the 24th July. 

THREE MILLION & ONE POINT THREE MILLION.  These people all come at the top of my list of Brexit concerns having  people close to my heart in both situations.  None of the 3 million EU27 citizens were given a vote and many Brits living in the EU were also disenfranchised.  If you voted leave YOU have affected the lives of these people. They have been left in limbo for 2 years with little idea of how their lives will be affected.  Worse still they have been unashamedly used as leverage in negotiations by British politicians. Dehumanisation of foreign born people has been a strong feature of the last few years.  Scandalous Vote Leave facebook ads were targeted at people most likely to respond to anti foreign sentiment.  Politicians have spoken about FOM and immigrants as if foreigners a problem and never an asset.  Tabloid headlines smeared  and sneered at fellow EU citizens for years.  An incredibly shocking extension to this is the apparent abandonment of any feeling for the plight of British citizens stuck in a state of uncertainty.  “Why should we care, they moved abroad.   It’s nothing to do with us” I hear.  It seems along with voting leave, people voted to banish empathy from their hearts.
SIXTEEN MILLION ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY ONE THOUSAND, TWO HUNDRED AND FORTY TWO  people voted to Remain
SEVENTEEN MILLION FOUR HUNDRED AND TEN SEVEN HUNDRED AND FORTY TWO  people voted to Leave
THIRTEEN MILLION registered voters did not vote at all
I know how you feel my friends,  but we can’t avoid these numbers, we have to look at them squarely in the face.  Leavers, you are right, you won we lost.  So why are you still so angry and confused?  If it makes you happy then why are you so mad?  Why do you hurl abuse at those who would hold you to account for your referendum promises and the law of the land and why do you tell judges and parliamentarians they are traitors?  Is it because you know how intrinsically weak the numbers are, how fragile the margin is?    Only 37.4% of registered voters voted to leave the EU.  What did they vote for?  It’s all so mysterious like an Agatha Christie novel – so many motives for bringing a disaster to the door of the UK.  Some say they want to crash out without the single market or the customs union, some want the EEA, EEA plus or minus or Canada whatever, some just wanted to give Cameron and London a good old-fashioned kick in the nuts.  Some believed that £350 million more pounds would be sent to the NHS every week because a big red bus said so.  Many wanted rid of foreigners.  Yes, they did, don’t argue, in bigger numbers than we would like.  Leavers, that is something you have to face up to and look squarely in the eye.  That’s on you, not us. 

Numbers are essential for our everyday decision making in our little business so I am used to following them.   It’s clear to me the Leave margin is fragile and that the British public opinion is moving towards the view we should take the time to think again.  Is leaving the EU really such a good idea given what we have now learned?  

Really?  Here is a handy checklist of questions. 
You want to be poorer?
You want to make your neighbours poorer?
 
You want to send all your EU doctors and nurses away because they feel unwanted?
 
You want to get rid of the consumer and market protections that EU membership brings just as they battle against price fixing and cartels on our behalf and focus on finding cooperative solutions for aggressive tax management by global companies.
 
You want your children to miss out on the fantastic opportunities FOM gives them for their lives, their education, their jobs?
 
You want to limit your own chances for a little travel or a spell living abroad later in life in one of 28 countries where you can access healthcare and your pension and all the other reciprocal benefits we enjoy as EU citizens?
 
You want your region to lose its EU regional funding?
 
Is this what you want?

If your answer is yes, I don’t believe you.  

Democracy is not a snapshot of the will of the people in a particular moment.  It’s not a single answer to a simple question about a  complex 40 year relationship with our trading partners and friends to be interpreted as a decision cast in stone when the evidence shows what a bad decision it is.   If that were true women would not have the vote.  Hell, if that were true, not even working class middle aged white men would have the vote.


@redalphababe  #brexit #peoplesvote #stopbrexit #finalsayforall #eureferendum

A Life in Business, Tomb Raider and Brexit

I sometimes think a life in business is like playing Tomb Raider.  It’s a strange analogy, I know.  Having spent more hours than I should have sneaking onto my son’s computer in the noughties there are some similarities so bear with me whilst I try to explain my logic.
When you start, the first couple of levels seem easy.  You are well signposted, there are plenty of instructions, there’s lots of information available to guide you and give you some clues about which direction to explore in.  You can, if you have been cautious, afford a few false starts before you have fully committed yourself heart and soul into the game ahead.  Most importantly, you get a huge buzz out of every problem you solve and feel happy as you work your way up, around and through and over all the obstacles towards your goal.
It’s not long before you get on to the harder levels.  There are fewer pointers here. You have an idea of where you want to go but in the words of Oasis, “all the roads we have to walk are winding, and all the lights that lead us there are blinding “.   Every new level brings with it unfamiliar territory. The problems are harder to solve, the obstacles trickier. There are sabre toothed tigers and baddies with pistols around the corner threatening to end your game. Along the way you acquire new skills and weapons.  You make mistakes you lose a life you try again having learned from your mistakes.  But here is where the analogy departs for a while because suddenly your business is your life, it has become  almost your entire life and now you are immersed the consequences of the decisions you must make are very real.   
I am not an academic or an expert or an economist.  All I can offer are my personal thoughts having been a co-director of a small business for 20 years.  In fact, I have been involved in small businesses since I left university in the late 80s.  During all those years we have seen many things. I have experienced dealing with bailiffs at the door and conversely been in the fortunate position of being able to help when others were at a similar low point. There have been times when we had to sell everything we could to help us through cash flow squeezes or borrowed heavily on credit cards to make month end and times when making money was easy and we have been able to happily reinvest in the business to expand and move it forward.  We have had the privilege of building a team of people who do their best for us every day. We have been able to borrow to invest and taken many risks and chances, always calculated but sometimes dicey even so.  Some paid off some did not.  This is life. We make decisions, some are right, some are wrong, some work out, some not so much.  Just as in a computer game though, we only have so many business lives.  Unlike Lara, we can’t reboot and replay the game once all our chances have gone. 
 

Summary of stats on business numbers from Briefing paper number 06152,
28 December 2017 Business Statistics, House of Commons Library



Here is the thing I have learned.  However stable a business is, nearly all companies are really only 3 to 6 months away from annihilation.  From time to time paperwork will cross my desk from a liquidator winding up a customer or supplier and I always notice the same thing.  The implosion after the crisis point is pretty dramatic and rapid.  
There are several reasons why a crisis can occur.  Bang – a change in government policy.  Slap – a loss of an important contract. Biff  – the most profitable product is now out of fashion.  Punch – a miscalculation of stock.  Crash – a sudden dramatic move in currency exchange rates. Kick – a rise in interest rates when over-borrowed.  Zap – a stupid misjudgement on an expansion plan.  
This is not an exhaustive list but any of these things can happen to any SME with fatal consequences for their business.  The liquidators move in.  Suppliers switch to self-protect mode.  All the value everyone thought was there ebbs away and dissipates like Lara’s energy bar, as the customer base drifts off to competitors, stock is marked down, customers find reasons not to pay their outstanding bills and the accountants and bankers who make their living out of the dead bones of SMEs take their cut.  Long standing contacts distance themselves uncomfortably, embarrassed to admit a superstitious fear that failure could be catching.   I look at the updates from these liquidators and I shake my head with sorrow as it could be any of us.  I doubt I am the only one who sees it this way. 
So you see, the life of a small business is  fragile.  We plan, we build reserves, we look at the prevailing conditions, the things out of our control, and we try to make sensible decisions, we hedge against our vulnerabilities where we can, we look for opportunities to get ahead and hope they pay off.  Here is where I come around in a roundabout way to Brexit.  The fragility of SMEs means we are heading for some extremely difficult times with Brexit looming. Remember my list of potential obstacles?  Well for a proportion of the 5.7million SMEs and even some of the large businesses, Brexit, any flavour of Brexit on the menu, will mete out a number of those blows simultaneously.  The companies affected won’t so much be rolling with the punches as knocked unconscious before they have had a chance to even buy gloves.  We could do some contingency planning, we are doing what we can, but when there is a finite amount of time and resource and personnel we need to know roughly what we are planning for otherwise we may as well just buy a lottery ticket.  
If you voted Leave, you – yes I do mean each and every one of you –  have helped to put my business in harm’s way, but not just mine.  A great many SMEs will face existential challenges because of a direct effect on their EU sales, disruption in the supply chain, an increase in their input costs or less directly because of a downturn, which will most definitely come, leading to cuts in their customers spending in the short to medium term.  2 years on and I still have not seen a convincing reason which explains why we are voluntarily following this insane path.  There is no benefit to me and mine, my staff or my business and after asking the question multiple times, nobody credible has ever been able to cite a specific example of a benefit to my business or my life.
My partner and I are both from working class backgrounds, we started out with no contacts and no capital but lots of bravado.  Over the years we have adapted, diversified  and changed our business model to suit changing business environments.  We have battled and fought and sought the tenacity we needed to keep ourselves in the game.  We have reinvested our profits, taken chances, learned from our errors, some of them bad ones.  Some days I look at the uncertainties ahead and the idea of giving up, selling what we can and going away somewhere regardless of the consequences crosses my mind for a moment.  But I know we are not quitters and we will fight on, one problem at a time, one obstacle at a time.  

For many in business however, Brexit might just become like one of the nightmarish corridors in Tomb Raider Level 20 with the jets of fire, a sword of Damocles and a giant boulder rolling behind.   There will be too many obstacles coming together in too short a time to negotiate successfully and no amount of stockpiled medi-packs will get us through to the next level.  Don’t be surprised if some players decide to just quietly turn the computer off and take up yoga.  

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