Letter from Bassetlaw – July 17th 2016

2016-07-17 17.25.38For once, we have had good weather for our Bassetlaw & Sherwood Liberal Democrats Summer Barbecue.  In the past few years we have had to cancel as the weather turned against us but today we had glorious sunshine as met up for a few hours of chat over burgers, sausages & some drinks.

Being in the Lib Dems is not all about elections (both for public office & internal positions) and earnest policy discussion.  While we never lose sight of the serious purpose behind what we do, making the lives of those around us better, we also know that if we are not having fun being Lib Dems, then we won’t have members and volunteers willing to give up their time and energy to help us achieve our aims.

One of the features of our current spectacular growth in members has been the number of “Lib Dem Pint” (or variations on the theme) events that have been held across the country both to welcome new members and to re-enthuse existing members.  Our barbeque today was along similar lines as will our own Lib Dem Pint next Saturday afternoon (23rd July) at The Admiral Rodney in Calverton, come and join us for a drink and a chat.

In this summer of political surprises one amazing fact is that in Tim Farron, the Lib Dems now have the longest serving Leader of any national political party.  Not only do we have the doyen of party leaders, but we also have a united party, with a definite idea of what we want to achieve (keep the UK in the EU) and lots of new members engaging with us to help do justthat.

Who would have thought that after leading his party to a surprise win at last year’s General Election, David Cameron would be gone within 15 months?  Last year I published a post here on what happens after unexpected election wins (The unintended consequence of election surprises) and nothing that has happened since May 2015 has made me change my mind.

I wish Theresa May well in her new job, trying to find a way through the impasse the Brexit Referendum has left us in will be difficult.  Will she invoke Article 50 to start the 2-year countdown to leaving the EU, which will almost certainly cause a deep recession in the UK or will she find a way to renege on the Referendum decision? Either way is fraught with problems and dangers.  Perhaps the best way is to call a new General Election and get fresh mandate from the public when she has a better idea of what terms we may get if we leave the EU.

Meanwhile, Labour seem intent on pulling itself apart, with its members intent on keeping a leader who not only cannot command the respect of his party’s MPs but is just about unelectable as a potential Prime Minister.  The divide in Labour is getting deeper as each day passes and looks like it will end in a split with both sides fighting to be the ones who can keep the name & organisation of the party.  Meanwhile, they ate leaving the country with a disorganised official opposition that is not holding the government to account.

Finally, a few words about the massacre of innocents in Nice on Bastille Day.  Yet again we have witnessed an attack on people innocently enjoying themselves.  I don’t know what was in the mind of the person who drove the truck, just as I can’t know what compelled the former soldier who shot 5 policemen in Dallas a couple of week ago do what he did, or the “quiet, retiring” gardener who murdered Jo Cox in Birstall last month.  All I do know is that such violence solves nothing and only causes more hurt.

When I hear of such events (and they are occurring far too often in recent months all around the world) I often turn to a song by Nick Lowe sung by David Broza on his album East Jerusalem / West Jerusalem, called (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.  The video explains much of why this version of the song means so much to me with my connections to Israel and to the village that David Broza’s grandfather, Wellesley Aron, helped found in the Judean Hills near to the Kibbutz I lived on 30 years ago, Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salem.  The song’s title says it all, what is so funny about peace love & understanding?

 

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

Letter from Bassetlaw – May 29th 2016

EU FlagUnusually, it seems that this year’s Spring Bank Holiday is not only dry but reasonably warm!  Most years, the end of May seems to be wet and cold so it makes a very pleasant change, especially as this year we have the Referendum campaign & I am spending a lot of my tile out and about.

 

Anyone who has been following the Referendum cannot help be appalled by the behaviour of the main spokespeople of both sides of the debate, making negative claims that do not stand up when investigated.  It is also a shame that the media (both written & broadcast) seem to concentrate of the internecine warfare in the Tory party as there are many people from both sides of the debate, in all parties, that have interesting and pertinent contributions to make.

 

As anyone who has read my posts will know, I am convinced that the UK is best served by staying in the EU but the utterances of Cameron & Osborne have not helped the Remain side.  I wish they would start putting the positive case for staying in the EU, which is strong enough to stand up for itself, without having to over egg what they sat with dubious statistic and hyperbolic claims.

As I have laid out in Why should we Remain?, the five issues I have said are central to the Referendum (Prosperity, Opportunity, Peace, Environment, and Security) all show that we would be better off Remaining in the EU than leaving.  We don’t need to make dubious claims or use dodgy numbers, the facts speak for themselves.

 

That said, why do Brexit campaigns have to resort to lies (e.g. the cost of EU Membership, the “threat” to the NHS from TTIP, the EU is undemocratic) or making misleading statements (e.g. about an EU Army, bunches of bananas) that are calculate to scare and misinform?  Could it be they know they have lost the arguments on the Economy, on Democracy, on Sovereignty, on every single issue?

All they have left is to lie and deceive in their ever more desperate attempts to hoodwink people into voting for the national suicide.  Anyone or any organisation that releases a pro-Remain report and makes a statement that shows that Brexit would cause problems, Brexiteers line up to attack the person involved or claim the organisation is biased towards the EU.

On the ground we are seeing Brexit campaigners who refuse to answer any questions about what would happen after Brexit, resort to name calling of anyone who doesn’t agree with them and use of illegal election activities.

 

The one thing Brexiteers never do is say what they think will happen in the event of them winning the Referendum and the UK gives notice of its intention to leave the EU within 2 years.  They fail to understand the that European Governments will be in no mood to help the UK and will try to defend the integrity of the EU by showing that any exit is messy, hard and costly, if only to dissuade any current EU countries from considering it.  Brexiteers do not explain how the UK can conclude the tens of Trade Agreements with countries around the world (many of which may not want to bother with a small offshore European Country), all at the same time, we will need to replace the ones we are part of as a member of the EU.  They don’t explain how the NHS will continue to function when we block the recruitment of Doctors & Nurses from across Europe or how will it manage when the expected recession means that the funds needed to the NHS will need to be cut.

 

Do we really want to let this ragbag collection of demagogues, sophists, proven lairs and has-beens drag us out of the EU so that we can live in a country run by press barons (who don’t want to lose their unaccountable influence over politicians) and hedge-fund managers (who want to avoid the clamp down on short selling the EU has brought in and also stand to make billions from the chaos that will happen after Brexit)?

Of course not!  We cannot afford to let them win so please, make sure you voice is heard on June 23rd, make sure you vote, and make that vote Remain.

Letter from Bassetlaw – May 22nd 2016

The CrossingWe have had a great weekend, mostly dry and, today at least, warm enough to just be in a t-shirt.

I have managed to make the lawn in my back garden look reasonably well cared for and presentable, just need to find the time to weed the borders (next weekend’s job)

The reason I don’t have the time to care for my garden as well as my wife would wish is that I seem to be spending most of my weekend out campaigning for the Remain side of the Referendum Campaign although yesterday afternoon I took some time off to help celebrate the 10th Anniversary of The Crossing Church & Centre.

While I am not a Christian, The Crossing means a lot to me as my family have been associated with it, and with the Wesley Church that preceded it. for many years.  Indeed, we all were very involved in the fund raising for the new building and have been part of many of the different activities that take place in the building.

Also, the building of the new Church & Community Centre was the first major public building to go up on Worksop since we moved to the town in 1989.  It has since been joined by others, the Library, two new Secondary Schools, a new Leisure Centre the Cinema and, most recently, the Bus Station but The Crossing was the first and it was good to look back and see all that happened in the building over the last decade.

As I mentioned, the Referendum campaign is taking up most of my spare time.  I seem to have been out on campaign stalls or leafleting every weekend for many weeks and there will be no respite (except for a weekend visiting my in-laws in The Netherlands) until the Referendum on June 23rd.

This week we have begun to see the Brexit (those who want the UK out of the EU) campaign start to fall apart.  Many of their claims have been shown to be lies or crass exaggerations and that the leaders of the different Leave groups cannot even agree amongst themselves what would happen if we do leave the EU.  Some are already beginning to position themselves for life after the Referendum & still in the EU.  Even the Mail on Sunday has conceded that the economic argument for Brexit has been lost.

This doesn’t mean we can let up but that we must press on and make sure we get a strong vote in favour of remaining in the EU.

Finally, as you will remember, in the last few weeks I have been writing series of short pieces on the 5 areas I posed back in February as the main themes to judge the issue of our membership, Prosperity, Opportunity, Peace, Environment & now, finally, Security.

After Climate Change, the biggest issues facing the world are international terrorism, cross border crime and, especially for us here in Europe, the growing refugee crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean.   None of these crisis can be dealt with, let alone solved, by a single nation acting on its own.

We need to work closely with our neighbours and be able to trust them as we work together to try to deal with these issues.  By being in the EU, and therefore in Europol, headed by Britain’s own Rob Wainwright, we can work with our colleagues across the EU to counter these threats.

Through the use of European Arrest Warrants, we can extradite suspects who flee abroad in weeks rather than the years it used to take, remember the 21/7 bomber who fled to Italy in 2005?  Compare this to the years it took to take to get IRA terrorists extricated from Ireland in the 1980s & 1990s.  (It is interesting to see hoe the Brexit campaign have tried to attack the scheme but, as usual, get their facts wrong).

Without this close cooperation, we could not have the UK border checks based in Calais & at the Gard de Nord station in Paris, keeping illegal migrants out of the UK.

Former chiefs of MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, along with other former security chiefs, has said our security would be damaged by leaving the EU.

Without doubt, leaving the EU would weaken our national security and weaken our ability to deal with the triple threats of terrorism, international crime and people smugglers.  Can we risk it?

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 – 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!

Letter from Bassetlaw – April 17th 2016

160414-002Well, this has been an exciting week!  A cameo appearance in Question Time (just before 15 minutes) and then taking part in an EU Referendum debate across in Dronfield.

 

Appearing on Question Time was very interesting.  I have been in the audience for the original radio version, Any Questions, a couple of times and the set-up is very similar, just that for a TV programme, everything takes longer to set up and there are far more crew members running around.  The big difference between the programmes is the Question Time encourages the audience to participate and takes contributions from them.

While some of these contributions were very good (the women who spoke just before me on the dangers of Brexit and later, at 39:30, another woman who spoke on the effects of the cuts to public services on Doncaster were both excellent), it was another contribution that really made me angry.    During the discussion on migration, a women said (at 25:30) “I just want my country back, I want Britain to be Britain”.  This has been the cry of some in the older generation for as long as I can remember.  Indeed, I can remember people saying it (or something similar) when I was growing up in London in the 1960s.   Do they not understand how everything changes over time?   Yes, the UK today is different from the UK of the 1960s & 1970s, just as the UK then was unrecognisable to those who grew up in the 1930s.  It is sad that some of my generation can’t accept that change happens, some for good & some may be not so good, but that is not a reason to turn our backs on Europe, opportunity, peace & a secure future.

Overall, I enjoyed taking part in the programme & though the level of discussion was very high, even though Daniel Hannan is a very slippery character and totally fixated on what he sees as the evil EU (probably because it doesn’t give him the control over us he wants).

 

So onto the debate in Dronfield.  I was in the platform against the local MP, Natascha Engel and the UKIP & Greens candidates from last May’s General Election.   I was there as to represent the Liberal Democrats.  The Tories had been invited but didn’t show up.  We were hosted by the local Methodist Church and it was run along the line of an Election Hustings, short opening statements followed by questions from the audience.

I was the only panel member who was definitely for Remain.  The UKIP gentleman was, unsurprisingly, totally opposed to the EU and what he believes to be its evil works, the Green was for a reformed EU but seemed to want a tactical vote for Brexit to attack the “establishment” and Natascha Engel seemed to be wavering between Brexit & Remain.

The level of questions asked by the well informed audience was very high and not as anti-EU as I was expecting.  From the feedback I got from talking to some audience members after we finished, I seemed to come across as well informed and that I had made a good impression for staying in the EU so I think the event went well.  My only regret is that there were not more young people there as the Referendum is far more about their future than it is about mine.

Taking part in such debates was not something I had ever done before last year’s General Election.  Quite frankly, the idea of sat on a stage and speaking in public on subjects like the EU filled me with dread.  Now I quite enjoy taking part and, at least from what other tell me, I seem to be able to hold my own even with experienced debaters like Ms Engel.  It just shows that there are hidden depths to all of us and sometimes we just have to have the courage to do things that frighten us.