Letter from Bassetlaw – February 28th 2016

At Hodsock PrioryAnother dry Sunday has given me the chance to do something that I haven’t done before.  Finally, after living in Worksop for over 25 years, I have been to see the snowdrops at Hodsock Priory.  It was well worth the visit and the shame is mine that I have not been before as I driven passed the entrance countless times during the season and never made the time to go before to see what is a wonderful site.

 

It certainly made a change from how I spent yesterday, which was at a school in Kettering at the East Midlands Liberal Democrats Spring Conference.  While the day was spent inside, it was just as exciting and interesting.  It was great to meet up with so many friends & colleagues around the Region.

One of the problems with being so involved with the party at this level is that at a meeting like this is that there never seems to be enough time.  As I was proposing one Policy Motion (see the details later), leading the session on our campaigning for the Euro Referendum, and also trying to contribute to other sessions, I never seemed to stop.  Even in the lunch break I was asked to give my opinion on issues in another local party.

All the same, I wouldn’t miss these Conferences, both Regional & our Federal Conferences (York in two weeks) at hey always help renew my energy for the campaigning ahead and remind me what a wonderful group of people the Lib Dems are, giving up their time &money to support the party, always (well nearly always) with a smile and a cheerful word for everyone.

 

As I said, I proposed a Policy Motion at the Conference.  This motion was on the Tory plans for what they call Devolution.  The full wording of the motion as amended is being compiled but for now you can see the original motion here and my speech proposing it is here.  As I say in my speech, the plans for devolution to our area are all about “… shifting the blame for cuts to services from central government to underfunded Mayors” rather than moving power away from Westminster down close to ordinary people.

I am pleased to say the Motion was overwhelmingly passed and that will mean that the Lib Dems will be leading the opposition to the plans to force an Elective Mayor with little effective oversite on our area.  Personally I am no less enamoured with the efforts of some to link us into a similar arrangement in South Yorkshire (which, if successful would result in a terrible muddle of conflicting authority over who runs services in Bassetlaw) rather than the North Midlands, both plans are terribly flawed and not in our interests.

 

The session I ran about our Euro campaign for the Referendum, concentration on how to put our messages across in clear concise language.  (It is an undeniable fact that Lib Dems like the sound of their own voices and prefer to use 10 words when 3 or 4 will do).  The session was run in conjunction with the Britain Stronger In Europe group (who we are working closely with to make sure we win the vote in June) and help generate a number of really good phrases that we will be using in the weeks ahead.

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Letter for Bassetlaw – February 21st 2016

flags_3274275bSo finally the phoney war on the Referendum is over and we now have a date.  In just over 120 days, 17 weeks, we will get to vote on whether to remain in the EU or not.

Let us be very clear what we will not be voting on.  We will not be voting on whether the renegotiations Cameron concluded last week are a good deal or not, we will not be voting on whether the Tories should carry on in Government and we will not be voting on should we have joined the Common Market in 1973.  We are now members of the EU and the referendum is simply to decide if we should remain in the EU or leave it.

As I wrote in my Letter from Bassetlaw last week, there will be a lot written & a lot broadcast in the nest 17 weeks and each one of us will need to make their own decision passed on the information presented.

Last week I wrote on how to judge the quality of that information.  This week I want to make my suggestions what areas you need to look at to make your judgement, they are:

Prosperity –        will remaining in the EU make the UK a richer nation than leaving?

Opportunity –   will remaining in the EU give us more opportunities for work, for trade, for education, for co-operation than leaving?

Peace –                will remaining in the EU help secure the peace that has mostly held in Europe for the last 70 years better than leaving.

Environment – can we protect our environment better by remaining in the EU than by leaving

Security –            will our security against international crime & extremist terrorism be protected by working with other EU member countries as a partner in the EU or by leaving the EU

I am convinced that the answers for each of these questions the answer is clear, we are better off in the EU and I will be campaigning to Remain In.

In the coming weeks I will look at each of these areas and going into more detail, for now I will just say that be careful who you listen to and make sure they base their comments on facts, not assumptions.

 

While the Referendum will dominate the news until the date we finally get to cast out vote (at least those that are allowed to vote do, the disenfranchisement of 16 & 17 years olds, UK Citizens abroad & non-UK EU citizens living here is a scandal that we need to address), there are other issues around.  One of these is Fracking.

While the planning application by Island Gas (iGas) to drill bore holes in Misson is still be deliberated on by Nottinghamshire County Council, I want to address one of the myths that are being floated around about Fracking and why those in favour of claim we need to go down that path.

The claim that we need to frack for gas for energy security is often made but doesn’t hold water.  As we are still at the exploration stage & no planning applications to frack any wells in the UK has yet been made, it will take at least 5 years (and probably more) before any useable amounts of gas will be coming to the surface from fracked wells in the UK.  The problem with the UK energy gap is much more immediate[i] with threats of power cuts in the next severe winter we suffer.  This gap needs to be filled as quickly as possible yet the Government is cutting subsidies & grants to the very technologies that could do this, wind, solar & tidal.  This would also address the other side of the energy security issue, where we get out gas supplies from, as the resources would available here (as an island we have plenty of wind, tidal & even solar) and not have to be transported from possible troubled parts if the world.

I hope to speak at the upcoming Lib Dem Conference in York in the debate we have on Fracking and, if I am, I will be making the case that fracking is not needed.

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_the_United_Kingdom#UK_.27energy_gap.27

Ever Closer Union, what does it really mean?

EU FlagResolved to continue the processes of creating an ever closer union among the people of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. (from the preamble to the Treaty of Lisbon, 2007)

David Cameron has made much about the fact that he has wrung a concession from the rest of the EU leaders over the phrase “ever closer union” applying to the UK’s dealing with the EU.   This has made me think what the phrase actually means and if, by making it not applicable to us in the UK, Cameron has, rather than freeing us from an over bearing requirement, he has actually taken away rights from us and left us, the people of Britain, worse off.

Let’s look more closely at where the phrase occurs in the Treaty of Lisbon and the context around it.  It is written in to the preamble (which gives the principles behind of the Treaty) rather than its provisions.  So it is an idea to guide where the European Union is heading rather than any change in the rules.

Also, what comes after the phrase “ever closer union” is just as important, perhaps more so than the phrase itself.  The part “among the people of Europeshows It is not an ever closer union between the nations of Europe but between the people.   The idea being that the Union is about us, the ordinary people far more than the national Governments.

Finally, and again just as important is the second part of the sentence ,”in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity” we get to the part that Cameron really want not to apply to the UK, the principle of moving decision making down as afar as possible so we, the people, have real control over our lives.

The word “subsidiarity” in this context[i] does not mean that we will decide on the future of the Trident replacement in Parish Councils, just those areas where local councils can make the decisions, like local public facilities, local planning, local investments, larger councils decide more strategic areas, transport, education, planning, etc.  So all decisions are made as locally as possible.

It is this that Cameron and most UK governments hate.  For the last 40 years we have seen more & more power taken away from local councils and centralised to Whitehall.  They simple don’t trust people to make decisions and they don’t want subsidiarity here.

So when you here Cameron and other politicians talking about saving us from “ever closer union”, what they really mean is stopping you and me having a say in controlling local decisions.  If we could apply the full paragraph, it would weaken Central Government in the UK and they (and all the Whitehall apparatus) hate this idea.

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subsidiarity#General_principle_of_European_Union_law

Letter from Bassetlaw – February 14th 2016

Leon Duveen 140920aFinally, I managed to spend a little time in the garden earlier today trying to tidy up the bushes and spread some compost.  Since the New year, I have hardly had time to stop and am grateful that this week I have a short break between finishing one job and starting the next.  Time to get my office tidied up & cleaned and all my paper work (as I am self-employed, there is plenty of that) brought up to date.

 

Later this week David Cameron will be going to Brussels to try to finalise the renegotiations on British membership of the EU.  If he succeeds, then the chances are he will set the date for the Referendum on British membership of the EU.  The date that seems most likely is June 23rd so we will be in for few months of campaigning by both those who believe that the UK’s future lies in being part of the EU and those who (mistakenly in my view) think that the UK can survive & prosper out of it.

In the run up to the Referendum, be it in June or later in the year, there will be much written for and against staying in the EU.  I will not doubt be contributing my efforts as well but for now I just want to give some advice on how to judge what is written.

As I know, it is all too easy to sit at a computer nowadays and put out a post expressing views as if they are facts, dressing up opinions as if they are the indisputable wisdom that has been passed down from on high.  This is true of both the Remain & Leave campaigns (although I hope not me) so how can you tell what is worth reading & paying attention to and what is just, to put it simply, unsubstantiated codswallop?

My advice is trust none of it unless the writer has taken the time to reference the sources of the facts they claim support their views   By this I mean the source data, not just someone else who supports their views.  Look for links to reports from authoritative bodies, not think tanks, or to statistics collected by governments.

Most of all use your own mind to think through the decision.  Read what is written & listen to what is said but you will need to draw your own conclusions and vote in the Referendum accordingly.  Don’t forget, the Referendum is not to join the EU, we are already members and cannot turn the clock back 40 years.

You will be voting to decide if we should leave the EU, will this make the UK more Prosperous, give us more Opportunities, help protect the Peace that Europe has enjoyed for over 70 years, secure our Environment from pollution and climate change and, finally, improve our Security against international criminals & terrorism?

If you, like me, think that leaving the EU would not be able to deliver on all these issues, then don’t vote for it, vote to Remain In.

 

I was saddened to here of the death of Lord Avebury earlier today.  I never met him but Eric Lubbock was one of the first Liberal politicians I became aware of & the Orpington by-election (which I don’t remember but I can recall hearing about as the original Liberal revival) has become a standard which all our election results are judged by.  By all accounts he was a decent honest man who worked hard as an MP and was respected across party lines for standing up for what he believed in

His death marks the end of an era and a reminder that even though at times the Liberals (and now the Lib Dems) may have been down to single figures of MPs (there had 6 before Orpington), the party can never be written off.  I just hope it doesn’t take another 50 years to get back into power though as the UK need a strong Liberal voice.

Indeed, at a time when we have one of the most right-wing, regressive Tory Governments we have ever seen (even more so than Thatcher’s Government) and a Labour Party in opposition that seems more intent on fighting itself than opposing the Government, we need a strong Liberal voice to stand up for ordinary people, to make sure we all get a chance to get on in life, not just those with rich families or links to those that run the Unions, as the Preamble to the Liberal Democrat Constitution puts it “. . . to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full.”   If you agree with this statement, your place is with us in the Liberal Democrats.

Letter from Bassetlaw – February 7th 2016

Getting up this morning at 7 am (yes I know, far too early on a Sunday morning) I noticed that for, the first time this year, it is already getting light at that time and soon we will be back to having not only lighter mornings but, even better, lighter evenings.  Spring is nearly here again bringing with it renewal and new growth and, at least for me, a warming of the heart and renewed energy for battles to come.

Talking of battles, the next few months will see the battle to remain in the EU.  I am sure it will be a hard fought fight between those who see the future of UK taking its role as a leading member of the EU and those who want to turn the clock back to a mythical past where the UK can thrive in splendid isolation from our closest neighbours.  I call this view of our past mythical because it never really happened.

Even before William the Conqueror, England was engaged with what was happening in mainland Europe, part of the events that were happening there and making alliances first with one nation or Empire and then with another to secure & then protect its position at the heart of European events.  Many of our rulers were from other countries in Europe, Willian himself, James I (&VI of Scotland), William III (of both England & the Netherlands) & George I (also Elector of Hanover) all claimed the English & the British throne through alliances and marriages arranged by previous Kings & Queens before coming to England to claim the throne.   We in England, Scotland & Wales are part of European history if we like it or not and our history is one on European alliances.

One of the main drives in Britain’s European policy for centuries up until World War II was to make sure that the Germanic states & France (as the two main nations in Europe) were never able to build an alliance against our country.   If we leave the EU, then we will leave them free to frame EU policy without regard to us, to benefit them & not us.  This will weaken the UK not strengthen it, which is why the Leave Campaign, for all it’s bluster, is at its heart deeply unpatriotic.

 

Another reason why leaving the EU would be against British interest is simply the mechanism of leaving.  I read a very interesting article this week from Alan Renwick (an academic in The Constitution Unit in the Department of Political Science at University College London) called What happens if we vote for Brexit?

By examining the relevant article in the Lisbon Treaty (Article 50), he shows that the process is not simple and would work against UK interests.  Whether or not you like the EU as it is presently working (and I for one want deep reforms), before deciding to leave, you must be sure that leaving is a way to a better future otherwise we will be jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

Whatever your views on the EU, you should read the article and consider what is involved if we vote to leave.

 

Finally, we are seeing yet another increase in refugees from the fighting in Syria trying to cross into Turkey.  We already have one set of refugees in the Region who were left to rot in refugee camps for years, destabilising both Jordan & Lebanon almost fatally, it would be a tragedy to inflict this fate on to another people. Yes, we need to resolve the civil war in Syria but these people need our help now.  It would be a tragic mistake that would have long term consequences for us, just as the plight of the Palestinian refugees has, if we left the Syrian refugees to live without work, without hope without a future in camps in Turkey, Lebanon & Jordan.  We need to act to make sure this does not happen.

The Upsetting Truth…Part Two!

kathleen kerridge

Everything I do seems to have a sequel.  It’s funny how life can be like that.  I really felt that some points needed to be addressed, however.  There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the Unseen Poor.  Let’s kick back with a cuppa and have a chat about a few of them, shall we?  Make yourself comfortable and come sit with me.  Keep your coat on, it’s not cold enough for heating, but you’re probably going to feel the chill in my house if you’re not used to it.  My family and I are used to it.  Our old house never had heating for three years, thanks to an indifferent and incompetent landlord.  While being evicted when he sold the house was distressing and has left me terrified it will happen again, this house is better.  Even with penetrating damp, crumbling walls and mould.  We had white fluffy mould and…

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The Upsetting Reality Of Modern Day Poverty.

For those who think being poor is a “live-style choice”, this blog may help lift the scales from their eyes. This is the reality of most poverty and any of us could be in the same boat at Kathleen & family if our luck runs out

kathleen kerridge

This is a post about a subject very close to home.  My home.  It is about politicians who wouldn’t know poverty if it chewed on their overpaid arses.

It’s about, in part, Jamie Oliver.

Now, to put this out there, I love Jamie.  For years and years, I idolised the man.  He taught me to cook, when I could barely operate a Pot Noodle and we lived off Smash (dehydrated potatoes) and pasta (we even overcooked that).  I would watch all his shows and learn, slowly, from the TV.  In less than a year, I was able to cook a three course meal for 15 people.  Gourmet became easy and I was soon laughing my way through 3 meat roasts and cooked-from-scratch curries.  I owe my skill in the kitchen to Jamie.  I have a lot to thank him for.

Jamie Oliver was good to watch, when I had money.  Before…

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