Letter from Bassetlaw – July 3rd, 2016

EaMiLD Conf 15-A 1So a week has passed since the Referendum and, to be absolutely honest, we are no nearer working out if we should trigger Article 50 of the European Treaty or not, whether once they have been selected, the new Tory PM should call a General Election to secure their mandate or not, whether the Labour Party’s MPs is going to depose Corbyn or not or, in the event of a Brexit, the Scottish Government will trigger a second Referendum of their own to take Scotland out of the United Kingdom and into the EU.  Even UKIP seem to be on the cusp of expelling its only MP because he has had the temerity to disagree with Farage.

There seem to be two certainties in British Politics at the moment, firstly that we are in for a few months of uncertainty as to what will happen over the possibility of Brexit and secondly that there is only one national party that has a leader the party is united behind, only one party that is clear on what should happen next and only one party with the courage to stand up and say what needs to be said.

The Liberal Democrats under Tim Farron have shown the principled leadership needed at a time of crisis.  While respecting the result of the Referendum and those that voted to leave the EU, we also recognise that the Leave campaign sold the British public a false prospectus, full of misinformation, and downright lies, which is now unravelling.  It would be a dereliction of our duty to the British public is we did not carry on pointing out the perils of Brexit and demanding a General Election before triggering Article 50.

 

One effect of the vote to leave the EU which is disturbing is the rise in anti-immigrant abuse both vocal & physical.  The attack on the Polish Community Centre in West London is especially disturbing to me as it is in the area I grew up in.  The Polish community there dates back to the Second World War when many Polish airmen contributed to the war effort (there is a famous memorial to their contribution next to RAF Northolt) and were not able to return home after the war.

I am sure most people will join me in condemn this hatred towards people who have come to live and contribute to society here.  This makes the headline story in the Worksop Guardian this week “IMMIGRATION: LET’S MANN UP” (sorry not up on their website yet) all the more disturbing.  I have written a letter in response which I hope will be published in next week’s edition but, given the Worksop Guardian’s record on publishing letters from me, I am not hopeful.

I am reminded of the lines Martin Niemöller, a German pastor wrote just after World War Two

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

If we substitute in immigrants, for one of these categories, then the danger in the current wave of anti-immigrant hatred, and especially when some in the establishment continue to (falsely) blame immigration for problems in our county, become apparent.  We all must stand up and raise our voice against it.

 

Finally, a few words on the current problems in the Labour Party.

I am fed up with the cowards who make up most of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

If they want rid of Corbyn, do the deed and trigger a leadership election or simply shut up and let him get on with his job.

To me, as an outsider, it seems that they want Corbyn to go but don’t want to be seen to push him out. Instead, all they are doing by dragging the attempted coup out interminably is making the Labour Party a laughing stock and showing that it is unfit to be an opposition let alone a government.

We need a strong voice in Parliament and out of it to oppose the Tory party, especially at a time when they look to be ready to elect a new leader who will take the party even further to the right.  If Labour are not up to the job (and the evidence is that they are not) then it fall to the Lib Dems to to do it.

 

 

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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 – May 1st 2106

Leafleting - 160423Happy May Day to everyone, whether you celebrate is as a traditional holiday to welcome the spring or as a celebration of workers & the fight for workers’ rights.

In the last few days the news has been dominated by a row between our own MP and the former Mayor of London.  To be honest, the spat yesterday between Ken Livingston & John Mann can be call a contest between the unedifying & the uneducated.

There was a working arrangement between the Jewish Agency & the Nazi bureaucracy to help German Jews escape to Palestine in the years between Hitler’s rise to power (in 1933 not 1932 as Livingstone kept repeating) and the start of World War II.

Livingstone tried to state that this was some form of support for Zionism by Hitler. It certainly wasn’t’, it was just that both, for a short period, shared a common aim (if for very different reason) of allowing Jews from Germany to migrate to Palestine

It certainly does not excuse what Livingstone said. His choice of language & phrasing was inflammatory and seem to have been calculated to be insulting to the Jewish community.  It also shows that John Mann needs to go away and study history (as he kept telling Livingstone to do). His (Mann) behaviour was just as silly as Livingstone.

If he had only verbally abused Livingstone the once when they meet accidentally outside the BBC offices in Westminster, he could be excused a rush of blood, petulant and childish yes but excusable, but to follow Livingstone around Westminster shouting and screaming at him was plain ridiculous and showed him to be vindictive and spiteful.

What is even more disturbing is how this non-story about two Labour hacks, both well past their “Best Before” date, is that it has displaced other, far more important news stories, including that the election expenses of 22 Tory MPs have been reported as being declared wrongly (and don’t forget they only have a majority of 12),   one is already under police investigation.  It also means that the Tories in power are not being held to account while many pages of our newspapers and time on the political programmes on TV are taken up debating this, not on the Tories destruction of the NHS, not of the plans to “acadamsie” all schools, not on Osbourne’s failing plans for our economy.

 

As ever, much of my time in the last couple of weeks has been spent campaigning for a Remain vote in the Referendum in June.

Talking to people across Bassetlaw, while those who want us to leave the EU are certainly the more vocal and more full of “righteous indignation” (although very light on substantial arguments), I am encouraged by the many people who tell me that they are for IN.

They may not be as vocal and as fired up on their own sense of importance but they know that the UK is better off In, working with our EU partners on the range of issues that face us all, working for reforms in the EU that many people across the EU want to make more accountable & relevant to them, than on the outside trying to get our voice heard, with little or no influence on decisions that will affect us here in the UK.

From what I hear, the vote in June may be close but I think we will win to keep the UK an influential member of the EU.  However, we need every supporter of In to get out there and make sure their vote counts.  Even if you are going to away on June 23rd, you can apply for a postal or proxy vote if you don’t already have one.

Please, this is one ballot election where every vote really does count, make sure yours does!