Manchester March


This weekend I’ll be in Manchester supporting the stop brexit march and I thought it would be worth letting my MP, Mims Davies, know some of the reasons why.

Dear Mims,

Thank you once again for taking the time to respond to my letters. In particular, I greatly appreciate your public support of EU citizens’ rights. You have consistently been supportive on this issue since I began writing to you, and I hope you will be able to build on that support with your colleagues at the Conservative party conference. It is time to turn promising language from the Prime Minister’s recent speech into real progress on implementing an acceptable guarantee, independently of the rest of the negotiations. Our friends and neighbours have already waited too long with the current uncertainty.

While it has been my long held view that this country is significantly stronger and more influential as a member of the European Union, I do understand that there is a perception that the UK is somewhat detached from the rest of Europe, and perhaps has differing aspirations.

If our exit from the EU had been skillfully handled, shaped on the basis of the small majority who voted for that outcome, with proper debate and broad agreement, I would probably not be marching in Manchester this weekend.

The unfortunate reality is that the whole process has instead been botched at every step. From the bill to set the terms of the referendum; the appalling referendum campaigns; the subsequent Conservative leadership election; the questionable manner in which Parliamentary consent was finally requested to trigger Article 50; the arbitrary deadline for making the Article 50 notification, without even agreeing on what brexit actually meant; the utterly irresponsible snap election while the two year Article 50 countdown was already running; to the deal with the DUP to cling on to power when the border in Ireland is such a key issue in the negotiations. This is not our finest hour.

If we manage to negotiate an agreement with the EU before the two years ellapse, good, bad or otherwise, it will be a miracle. Regardless of what the current Prime Minister offers by way of a final vote on the deal in Parliament, I hope and expect all MPs to put the country first and act in the best interests of their constituents.

Regards, James


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Lies, damned lies, and more damned lies


It was tough to settle on just the one rant today but the general election had barely been announced before I spotted the first reminder on twitter about the Lib Dems broken tuition fee promise…

Yep, no arguments there. Broken promise. Bad. Still, Nick Clegg did actually apologise, which is something. And, to be fair, Labour had already let students down on tuition fees. Is that broken promise a good enough reason not to vote Lib Dems though?

I guess it’s hard to quantify or compare broken promises. (I’m not a student, although I have another reason for caring about tuition fees who is rapidly growing up.) Having said that, there seem to have been a few broken promises about lately. “We say: yes to the Single Market”, “Let’s give​ our NHS the £350 million the EU takes every week”, “There should be no general election until 2020”, and so on.

Perhaps if the only dishonest politicians were Liberal Democrats, I might vote for a party that supports brexit. (More likely I’d spoil my ballot again.) Back in the real, post-truth, world, I’ll probably be voting for the only pro-EU party I can.

350 million squirrels


If you’re unfortunate enough to follow me on twitter, you’ve probably noticed that I’m currently just a bit grumpy about the UK’s crazy course towards the worst possible exit from the EU.

To be clear, unless someone can convince me otherwise (I’m still waiting for a reply from my pro-brexit MP), I will be voting to remain in or rejoin the EU at every available opportunity. I’ll also be at the Unite for Europe march on the 25th March.

But the thing that really makes me grumpy is the lack of any kind of sensible opposition. What usually gets me yelling at clouds is when someone pops up moaning about the pledge to spend more money on the NHS. (Apparently some people don’t think the bus was really misleading but the billboard seems less ambiguous.) The whole thing reminds me of a larger scale version of distracting a toddler. Oooooo, look, squirrel…

Photo © Patrick Wagstrom

Even if, and this is clearly never going to happen, the current government suddenly do decide that they’ll give any of the supposed £350 million to the NHS, it kind of misses the bigger picture. That £350 million is already worth less than when it was plastered on the side of a bus and we haven’t even started to leave yet. Pointing out that the Conservative manifesto included a commitment to the single market would probably do more to help the NHS than complaining about a bus. Actually ensuring MPs get a meaningful role in shaping the UK’s future relationship with the EU might also be a good idea. There are plenty of issues that will impact the NHS at least as much as extra funding, all of which deserve more scrutiny than they are going to get as things stand. For example, the European Medicines Agency or staffing from the EU. I’ll stop before this turns into even more of a rant but the point is that Brexit could mean anything and it’s about time we started taking it seriously.
It’s not that I don’t have a problem with misleading busses. For some reason you can get away with saying whatever you like in a referendum, which needs to change if we’re going to persist in having them. I’d personally prefer never to have another referendum again but if we must have one, perhaps it could be on the NHS? Unless the government know the will of the people on that as well.

Epic referendum fail


 

Arg. I had been mostly managing to avoid looking directly at the referendum, unfortunately a ‘myth buster’ and some ‘facts’ dropped through the door today.

FACT: Adding ‘FACT:’ in front of anything you like doesn’t make it a fact!

I know, life would be so much more fun if that did work…

Sadly there has been a distinct lack of facts from both sides of the debate. If I’m being charitable, that could be because the whole thing is a massive unknown. The substitute has not exactly been constructive though.

Perhaps it would have been better not to have the referendum at all? Our recent track record of referendums hasn’t exactly been stellar, and the EU referendum in particular is even more problematic. Perhaps we could all agree to stop having referendums whatever the result is this time. Or would we need a referendum to decide that?!

I did at least spot a couple of more interesting looking articles during the predictably depressing campaign:

Plus this discussion on twitter:

I know that the EU is far from perfect but unless I hear any compelling reason otherwise, I think I’ll be voting remain on Thursday. There are probably pros and cons for either choice but ultimately where you draw borders is so completely arbitrary that I’d personally prefer to live in a larger area that allows free movement of people, than a smaller one. I don’t want to live in a gated community for similar reasons!

I also tend to agree with Ben Goldacre’s reasons.

Having said all that, the real issue of the whole campaign is, why isn’t the official leave site on a .uk domain, and why isn’t the official remain site on an .eu domain?

Update: Uh oh…

 

 

Nothing better to do?


MPs must have finished debating all the important issues recently because now they’re getting all flustered by a European Court of Human Rights ruling that a blanket ban on prisoners voting is unlawful. If the primary purpose of prison is punishment, then I would have thought it would be better to keep inmates slopping out rather than taking their vote away.

The suggestion that keeping the ban on voting for some prisoners while allow others to vote also seems fairly pointless. Why even worry about where to draw the line? If my calculations are right, the entire prison population is less than a single constituency like the Isle of Wight. Even then, it seems optimistic to think that voter turnout in prisons would reach the heady heights of around 65% outside prisons. It looks like only 4% of prisoners even registered to vote in the Republic of Ireland.

Giving prisoners the right to vote is hardy going make any difference to re-offending rates is it? So just give them all a vote and stop whining. I do understand why a lot of people don’t like the idea of prisoners getting votes, but who likes the idea of bankers getting bonuses? And how’s that working out?!

Photo © Andrew Bardwell cc by-sa 2.0

So you want my vote…


Tomorrow morning I’ll be walking down to the local polling station and I still have no idea who to vote for. The first problem is finding out what the choice is, luckily the Eastleigh council web site at least has a bunch of PDFs listing who’s standing.

It looks like I’ll be able to choose from this motley collection for the European election:

  • British National Party
  • Christian Party “Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship”
  • Conservative Party
  • English Democrats
  • Jury Team
  • Liberal Democrats
  • No2EU: Yes to Democracy
  • Pro Democracy: Libertas.eu
  • Socialist Labour Party
  • The Green Party
  • The Labour Party
  • The Peace Party
  • The Roman Party. Ave!
  • United Kingdom First
  • United Kingdom Independence Party

There’s been barely any discussion about what the MEPs will actually been doing in the European parliament. I don’t need a European election to send a message to Gordon Brown (sorry Gordon, but I have just never been able to take you seriously as PM), and it seems fairly pointless to vote based on whether I think we should be in or out of Europe. I kind of like the idea of a pan-European party improving the system but I don’t know enough about Libertas to guess whether that’s what they’ll actually do. (And it will always be a guess, since I bet a few people were expecting a referendum from Labour.) The Jury Team idea sounds interesting but probably not that constructive in practice. Maybe if the party membership were the party whips, voting throughout the term of the elected MEPs in a kind of ongoing referendum… but I suspect people would get bored of that fairly quickly. The Roman Party is in with a chance of getting my vote if I could find out a bit more about Jean-Louis’ plans. (Not much out there, but I did find this leaflet.)

Possibly even less interesting is the council election, with only the usual suspects lining up:

  • Conservative Party
  • UK Independence Party
  • Labour Party
  • Liberal Democrat

Ignoring the Labour Party (who don’t even seem to try here, which is fine by me) and UKIP, the choice between Conservative and Lib Dem is hardly great. The two of them seem to endlessly blame each other for exactly the same local problems and say very little about real solutions. One slight difference is that the Conservatives just turn up at election time, which is I suppose at least efficient.

Oil, gravel, houses and the crematorium NIMBY moaning is just annoying. Hands up anyone in Hedge End who doesn’t live in a house under 40 years old, use a car and isn’t planning to die? No, didn’t think so. As for the tap in the council offices; it’s not for a kitchen sink (which would be a bit extreme), it’s a pretty sensible way to provide drinks for employees. I’d go on but I think I’m well in to ranting territory already. If I vote Conservative, it will be at least partly because they haven’t had the front to tell me that one of the other parties can’t win here. And if I vote Lib Dem, if will be at least partly down to @mpntod – more MPs should be connecting with people like Martin.

On balance though, I’m very likely to be voting Limbo.

That was a political broadcast on behalf of a grumpy old man. We now return to our normal service.