Letter from Bassetlaw – June 19th 2016

referendum ballot boxSo, we are just a few days away from what is possible the most momentous vote in our countries history.  As I write the opinion polls are moving from one side to another with many still to make up their mind.  Today, while out leafleting I heard from people who were voting both Remain & Leave and some who had yet to make up their mind.   This means that even at this stage there is all still to play for and no one can be complacent.

For those still trying to make up their minds, I have one suggestion.  Don’t trust what either side says.  As I said right at the beginning of the campaign, look for references, links to the sources to back up what people have said, that way you can know that the writer has researched their article and has something to back up what they are saying, not just making it up to fit their argument.

 

No one knows what will happen on June 23rd but I agree with what our MP said to me after the debate we took part in this week, that the worst possible result would be a narrow victory for either side would mean that there could be weeks of court cases as the losers contest the result on numerous grounds (I have seen enough illegal active from the Leave campaign both locally and nationally that could be used to try to overturn a narrow victory for Leave & I suspect the Leave campaign feel the same about the Remain side).

I hope that the result will be clear cut for Remain or Leave (obviously I would prefer Remain) so we can then go forward to deal with the outcome, make the decisions both nationally and personally based on certainty.

 

When out campaigning in the last few weeks, I have been verbally abuse, and more than once felt physically threatened, by of those who disagreed with my views.  This is unacceptable and a threat to our democracy.

Last week we saw an escalation in the violence with the first murder of a sitting MP for 25 years (see my own reaction in Jo Cox RIP).  Whatever your views on the UK remaining in the EU are, no one should be abused, feel threatened, assaulted, much less murdered, because of their sincerely held opinions.   All of us (and I include myself) must learn to respect others who disagree with us; we can challenge what they say, not their right to say it.

 

Finally, can I ask everyone to spare a thought for the election staff across the country who on Thursday will oversee the Referendum and then the count.  The polling stations open of 7:00 am on Thursday and the final results are not due to be announced until 7:00 am on Friday morning.  Many of the staff (and some of the campaigners too, though I less sympathy for them) involved will be up for the whole process.  I know that everywhere they will do their duty to the best of their ability in what could be very trying circumstances.

Jo Cox RIP

Jo CoxToday, I cried for a woman who, before today, I had never heard of, for someone from a party I have spent 6 years fighting in elections.

The murder of Jo Cox has touched many people both in her own constituency and further afield, in her own party and across all parties (& none), those who knew her and those, like me, who didn’t.

My thoughts go out to her husband, two young children and to her wider circle of friends & family.  Their loss is unimaginable, made all the worse by the glare of publicity surrounding it.

As someone who stood for Parliament last year, I had hoped to be doing what Jo Cox was doing today, meeting constituents, helping them sort out problems, working to improve the lives of others.  By all accounts she was very good at doing that as well as working for the causes she believed in Parliament and beginning to build a reputation as a political star for the future.

Nowhere in the job description of being an MP does it say that you could be in danger of being stabbed or shot.  Yet it is a risk nearly all MPs who want to do even a half decent job of representing their constituents take every time they hold a surgery or attend a public meeting.

Last night, as it happens, I sat on the same stage as my MP, John Mann, discussing issues around the EU Referendum and the atmosphere got quite heated at times.  No one was searched on the way in, no bags were checked, so any weapon could have been brought in.

Thankfully, after a lively debate, the evening ended in handshakes between all the panellists and with many of the audience.   Afterwards, Mr Mann made time to discuss the possible outcomes & consequences of the Referendum with some young students and others, something I know he didn’t have to do and those who stayed behind to listen & join in were grateful to him for being generous with his time.

This is the kind access we have got used to with MPs, not just in Bassetlaw but in most constituencies, open, free and without security to get in the way.   I fear today’s events in a small West Yorkshire town, along with similar attacks in the past, might start to make MPs less willing to be so open and accessible, creating a bigger divide between our elected politicians and those they represent, and that would not just be bad for our democracy but would also be an insult to the memory of Jo Cox who by all accounts enjoyed meeting the people she represented and made time for them.

What happened today in Birstall was a tragedy. A young mother, a caring person and an aspiring politician was cut down doing what she had dedicated her life to, trying to help others.

We must not let those driven by hate and anger kill our democracy as well.

Letter from Bassetlaw – June 12th 2016

Leon Duveen 140920aMost weeks, I like to start these letters with a few words about what I have been doing or with another topical comment.  However, this week I want to go straight into the theme of the this letter, the risk of Brexit for ordinary people here in Bassetlaw

2½ years ago, during the last European Parliament Election campaign, I wrote this post to explain why I am pro EU – Why i am pro-EU.  While the stats may be a little out of date, the sentiments I expressed then still hold true today.  If anything, the campaigning & research I have done in the last 9 months has made me even more committed to keeping the UK in the EU.

In my opinion, leaving the EU would be an unmitigated disaster for this country, a disaster that would take decades for the county to recover from, a disaster that will blight the future of our children & grandchildren, a disaster made all the worse because it is so avoidable.

Last night I wrote a long post on Facebook (We face a crisis in our public services, but it isn’t caused by immigrants) about how those wanting us to leave the EU are desperately trying to blame the EU & immigrants for all the problems of the NHS & other public services rather than face up to the real causes, which are entirely home grown.  Of all people it was Boris Johnson who, in 2013, correctly diagnosed the problem when he said “If we left the EU, we would end this sterile debate, and we would have to recognise that most of our problems are not caused by “Bwussels”, but by chronic British short-termism, inadequate management, sloth, low skills, a culture of easy gratification and underinvestment in both human and physical capital and infrastructure.”[i]  How right he was and how despicable has been his behaviour in the last few moths

If it didn’t have such potentially tragic consequences for everyone, the petty greed, the naked ambition & the disregard of any facts or opinions that show Brexit id not a good idea being displayed by those leading the Brexit campaign would be comic.

Can anyone really believe that Gove, Farage, Johnson and the rest of the Troy clique trying desperately to drag us out of the EU would give a penny of any money saved through Brexit to the NHS?   John Major had it right when he said “The NHS is about as safe with them as a pet hamster would be with a hungry python,”[ii]

Can anyone not be sickened by the sight of Labour politicians campaigning for Brexit in the knowledge that one of the first things a Tory Government lead by Johnson or Gove would do is to repeal all the EU Social Chapter legislation that protect workers & consumers in the UK, the so-called “Brussels Red-tape” they claim is holding back UK Industry?

Can anyone seriously believe that Brexit will “restore control!” to the British Public?  It was Rupert Murdoch when asked by he opposed the EU said “That’s easy, when I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.”[iii]  I am sure the other media owners, the Barclay Brothers (owners of the Telegraph), Richard Desmond (owner of the Express) and Viscount Rothermere (Owner of the Mail), have similar sentiments as to why the oppose the EU even if they don’t express them quite as flagrantly as Murdoch.

No, Brexit is being sold to the public on a misleading manifesto, an attempt to con the British public into surrendering our future so a few (like the hedge fund managers who are backing Brexit) can make massive profits out of it[iv] or so some can keep their control of or politicians.

Some people call the Remain campaign “Project Fear” because we have tried to tell people the truth about what Brexit would mean.  Well I will say openly that I am not just afraid of Brexit, I am petrified of it and what will happen if it becomes a reality.  For me there is only one way to vote on June 23rd.  For all its faults (and there are many), for all its perceived remoteness (although it isn’t as remote as many thing nowadays, you can follow much though the Internet), being in the EU is the only way we can protect our future, protect our children’s future, protect or public service, protect our hard won employment right, protect Britain from a bunch of Tory politician & media owners who want it as their toy, we have to vote Remain!

[i] http://wwwer.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10052646/Quitting-the-EU-wont-solve-our-problems-says-Boris-Johnson.html

[ii] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/05/john-major-nhs-risk-brexit-pythons-johnson-and-gove

[iii] http://indy100.independent.co.uk/article/this-terrifying-rupert-murdoch-quote-is-possibly-the-best-reason-to-stay-in-the-eu-yet–WyMaFTE890x

[iv] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/nov/06/why-are-hedge-funds-supporting-brexit

We must not let the future for our children get stolen

EU Young peopleThis was comment was in a response to a post I put on the “Bassetlaw for Europe” page:

“On June 23rd.its up to the older generation and all those people who realise what’s going on and what’s REALLY at stake here to give an overwhelming vote to leave.”

Here is my response to this comment

I am old enough to remember the 1960’s and the 1970’s before we joined the EU.   Let’s not look back through rose tinted glasses to a wonderful past that was never actually there.   Those years were not that great, badly run industries struggling to find export markets, economic crisis after economic crisis, ending with the Chancellor of the Exchequer having to run to the IMF to get a bail out shortly after we joined the EU.  To travel abroad, you could only take £50 each out in total including any foreign currency, even in those days it didn’t go very far.  No, life before the EU was not that fantastic.

You say it’s the older generation to vote to leave, well if that happens the baby boomer generation we belong to will have really screwed the younger generations.

We have our great pensions which young people can only dream about, we have the house we bought when they were cheap but are now too expensive for today’s young families to buy, many of us went on to get a free education at Universities & colleges and then Labour introduced tuition fee so to get a degree you will have to be saddled with big debts, and now you want to take their future away from them as well by dragging them out of the EU.

So I will be using your comment to help motivate the many young people who realise their future depends on being in the EU:

  • so that they study, work & live anywhere in Europe,
  • so that the UK can continue to enjoy the inward investment it gets as an English speaking gateway into the EU helping keep the our (and Europe’s) economy growing, providing jobs & wealth to people here (and making sure we can carry on affording good public services
  • so that they can help maintain the peace & security in Europe that the EU has helped secure,
  • so that, together the nations of Europe, can face and deal with the major threats to all of us, Climate Change, pollution and cross border crime.
  • so that they can work with other young people to improve our lives through cooperation in scientific research, controlling multi-national companies that are now bigger than many individual countries.

The future belongs to the young, we must not rob them of it.  So for my children and my grandchildren and for all those who have been excluded from voting, I’m IN, I have already voted REMAIN and will be working to make sure that we win the Referendum in two weeks’ time.

Please, young and old, left or right, join me in voting to protect the future for our children, vote REMAIN!

#RemainAndGain not #LeaveAndLose

 

Letter for Bassetlaw – May 15th 2016

This week we have learnt the Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospitals Foundation NHS Trust have had to suspend Emergency Surgical Admissions at our local Bassetlaw Hospital because they don’t have the Junior Doctors needed to provide cover for this service.

I have written a post on this earlier in the week (see Why is Bassetlaw losing Emergency Surgery?) so will not go through everything again here.  I am speaking Mike Pinkerton, the Chief Executive of the Trust, on Wednesday to get an update on the issue.  I will also take the opportunity to raise any concerns that local people may have.  If there is something you want me to ask Mr Pinkerton, please email me at bassetlaw.sherwood.lib.dems@gmail.com.

 

On Saturday, I was involved in the Liberal Democrat’s National #INtogether Day of Action for the EU Referendum.  All across the country we have had teams of Lib Dems out right across the country, you can see some of the pictures on the Liberal Democrat Facebook page

While we had one team out on Carolgate in Retford, I was with another team in Ollerton, a town where Lib Dems haven’t campaigned in for years.  I was a bit worried about how our pro-Remain message would be received in a town that is widely regarded as a strong pro-Leave area but in the event, most people were happy to take our leaflets and to talk to us.  We certainly were able to get people to think about the issues and what leaving the EU would mean.

Because the Referendum is a national vote, every vote counts, unlike in normal elections.  This means we need to take our message to towns like Ollerton, Hucknall (where I was out delivering leaflets last Sunday) and all across Bassetlaw.  To do this in the few left before the vote on June 23rd, we need all the help we can get.  If you can deliver some leaflets in the area around where you live, please let me now, it would be greatly appreciated, just contact me at ld4bassetlaw@gmail.com.

 

One of the most disturbing parts of the Referendum Campaign is the way the different Leave groups seem to be competing with each other to tell bigger & bigger lies about the EU.

From the repeated myths that they have been peddling for years like claiming the EU is undemocratic (it isn’t, see here for an explanation on how democracy in the EU works) to more recent ones like the UK pays £350 million pounds a week to the EU (we don’t, that figure has been repeatedly shown to be wrong, but the claim is still being repeated by those running the leave campaigns), through to Boris Johnson’s ridiculous claims that the EU is like Hitler’s Europe (it isn’t, it simply isn’t, read this post on IN Facts) there has been a steady stream of misinformation. Exaggerations & downright lies from the leave campaigns in an ever more desperate attempt to make people vote to leave the EU.

Why can’t they stick to the truth?  Why do the different Leave campaigns all have to resort to such tactics?  Could it be they know that it is the only way they can con the British public into leaving the EU?

 

Finally, a few words about the County Council elections that will be coming up next May.  We are in the process of selecting our 9 candidates in Bassetlaw as well as the other 58 across Nottinghamshire.  If you think you can do a better job representing the people of Nottinghamshire better than our current County Councillors, this is your opportunity.  Get in contact (either of the two email addresses above) and help us make Nottinghamshire a better County to live in for everyone.

 

 

 

 

Letter from Bassetlaw – April 10th 2016

2016-03-12 10.29.16My apologies for not completing my Letter last week, I simply ran out of time on what was a busy weekend with family commitments.

In a way, this weekend has been just as busy with being out in Worksop yesterday morning on a Stronger In Street stall and them, this afternoon I have been out in Misterton, the first stop on our Bassetlaw Residents Survey.  I hope that over the weeks before the Referendum in June, I will get to many more parts of the District but, if you want to fill in the Survey online, you can do so here.

 

While I always enjoy knocking on doors and talking to residents, especially in parts of the District where I have not been as much in the last few years, as I always get interesting conversations and discussion about the issues of the day, I must say helping on the Stronger In stall was a lot of fun, made even more enjoyable when we were joined by a group from UKIP backed Grassroots Out who were trying to do the same as us.   After they saw us they resorted to trying to intimidate us, objecting to us having a Union Flag on our stall and denying that they are “European” (it would be better that they go and learn some geography as well as manners) but it didn’t work and we got a great response from many of the shoppers who stopped to talk with us.

 

As promised, I am returning to my discussion of the five areas that I suggest should guide your decision on the EU.  I have already discussed Prosperity and Opportunity.  This week I want to talk about Peace.

If you look back across European history since the middle ages, you will see it has been dominated by wars with many of them between the Germanic Holy Roman Empire and it successors fighting France & its allies for domination of the Continent.  These wars have often dragged the United Kingdom into the conflict on side or another.  In the last 300 years, we have had the War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748), the Seven Years War (1756-1763), the French Revolutionary Wars (1793-1802), Napoleonic Wars (1803-15), the Franco-Austrian War (1859), the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) and the two World Wars (1914-18 & 1939-45).

Since then, since the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community[i] (the precursor of the European Economic Community) in 1951, Europe has been mostly at peace.  More than that, the European Countries that were under dictatorships have nearly all turned into democracies and those that haven’t already joined the EU are queueing up to get in.

This is not all down to the EU but, especially in the Balkans, it has been the EU that has been in the forefront of developing democracy, encouraging trade between former enemies, helping to find diplomatic solutions, defusing possible issues that could lead to fighting.   A good example of this is how, by both being in the EU, the United Kingdom & the Irish Republic have defused border tensions during the troubles in Northern Ireland and helped bring about a stable peace to allow leaders from both sides to discuss political solutions.

I am not suggesting that this extraordinary period of peace in Europe will end overnight if the UK leaves the EU but, if our leaving the EU damages it as much as some suggest it will, then there is a chance it will fall apart and the old enmities will re-surface.  If those enmities spill over into armed conflict, then. just as in such European conflicts in the past, the UK could well be drawn in to the fighting.

This 70-year peace in Europe (an unprecedented period) is too precious to throw away or even risk throwing away because some in the UK cannot get their head around cooperation & shared sovereignty that benefits us all.

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Coal_and_Steel_Community

Letter from Bassetlaw – March 27th 2016

Leon DuveenIt’s Easter weekend and we have had lovely weather on Good Friday, followed by a windy, then wet & windy, Easter Saturday.  As I am writing this on Saturday evening (I will be busy with my family all day on Sunday) Easter Day looks to be mostly dry as does Easter Monday so, in the end, not a bad break from work with plenty of chances to get out in to the garden to tidy it up after winter.

One of the side effects with spending time in the garden is that it produces large amounts of waste.  Currently, here in Bassetlaw we have to dispose of such waste by composting it ourselves, taking it to one of the two County Council Recycling Centres (and now you have to register your car to access them, I predict that their use will drop off) or simply dump it in the general waste wheelie bin to be collected in the usual way.

Why am I writing about garden waste?  It is because, after finding out that they are the worst mainland English District Council at recycling, Bassetlaw District Council have finally woken up to the fact that they are rubbish at dealing with rubbish.

The response from Cllr Julie Leigh, the Cabinet member with responsibility for dealing with rubbish, has been to do a residents’ survey (a classic delaying tactic designed to put off taking any action) which concentrates almost entirely on garden waste as if that is the only issue with recycling.

Judging from what is in the survey, the proposed solution is to charge those who want to recycle their garden waste a yearly fee for the privilege of having it collected.  I may be being a bit cynical but this won’t encourage people to recycle their garden waste when they can already dispose of it for free in their wheelie bin nor will it help deal with recycling other possible waste from homes.   Where are the proposals for collections of glass bottles, why are there not more recycling points for drinks cartons (tetra paks) than the existing three (or even collect them with other recycling as Bolsover does?

Rather than waste time with a survey about a partial impractical solution, I suggest Cllr leigh contacts our neighbouring local councils to get ideas about what works & what doesn’t otherwise Bassetlaw’s Recycling Shame will continue for a very long time.

 

Another issue in the news this week is the Tory Government’s policy to impose Academy status on all schools, primary as well as secondary, whether or not they want it.   This is worrying as it will reduce local accountability of schools (Academies do not have to have independent governors overseeing them), make sure that there are places for students in schools near where they live far more difficult and weakens the role of Teachers’ Unions in making surer their members of not overworked.

As there is no evidence that Local Authority run schools are any worse than Academies, the only reasons for pushing this idea are political.  It seems to me that at the heart of this policy is an attack on accountable Local Authorities to reduce their influence in Education, an attack on teachers as Academies do not have to stick to national pay agreements and, most of all, an attack on parents, telling them that they are not responsible to have any say on how their children are taught.

By passing control of our children’s education away from our elected representatives to unelected & unaccountable Academy Trusts, the chances are we will see more stories about corruption & conflicts of interests such as this one from Birmingham. The forced change to Academy status is certainly isn’t in the interest of most children and parents.