A year ago I was in tears

brexitI had been up all night at my local Referendum Count watching the votes pile up for committing national suicide. However, I didn’t think the rest of the country would follow suit.

After I got home, watching TV as the other results come in from around the country, I was shell shocked and heartbroken at what the lies and deceits from the Leave campaign had done, compounded by the Tory Party Leadership who had chosen to endanger the country’s future to fight an internal party power struggle and by a Labour Party that sat on its hands too scared to frighten voters away.

As the next few days unfolded, it became clear that many of the politicians who had supported Leave had not got a clue what pulling out of the EU really meant, that they were as shocked and bewildered as the rest of us, that they were trying desperately to row back on the lies and false claims they had made. All the while the Pound plummeted against the Euro & Dollar and it became clear that, far from the Project Fear, the Remain campaign had, if anything, understated the effects of what a Leave vote would mean.

Today, a year on, we are still no nearer understanding what form Brexit will take. Our Government is limping along, fatally wounded by calling an unnecessary General Election and carelessly losing its majority.  The Official Opposition now cares more about ousting the Government that saving the country. Both are still wedded to ideas of Brexit that have now been shown to be impossible and the nation limps onwards to a cliff edge Brexit on March 29th 2019, out of the EU, out of the Single Market, out of the Customs Union but with nothing ready to take their place.  In short, a complete disaster awaits us.  To cap it all, we have seen Government ministers saying it is “unpatriotic” to question what is going on

Already we can see investment into the UK is down, the Pound is still down, EU citizens coming to work in hospitals & fields is down, and only inflation is up.  Companies big and small are looking to move as much of their operations as possible into Europe to be sure of staying in the EU’s Single Market.  Even the Chancellor of the Exchequer is admitting that a Hard Brexit, of the type his Government is perusing, will make life harder for many in the UK as the economy suffer is at least the short to medium term.

So, one year on what can we do?  I honestly don’t know the answer except to keep on telling the truth about Brexit.  What I do know is that I, and many others who think (over 48% last year) that we are better off in the EU, will not stop keeping on about it.

Those who lead the Leave campaign, those who pretended to want us out of the EU, would like nothing more than for people like me to shut up, accept the Referendum result and ignore the mess it has landed us in.

Well I am not shutting up.  What is more with every price rise in the shops, with the growing staffing crisis in the NHS & in Social Care, with the absence of people to harvest the crops in the fields, more and more people are now seeing Brexit for what it is.

Together we can stop this madness.  Already we are seeing cracks appear in the big political parties as they realise that their position on a hard Brexit is unsustainable, already we can see those who still want us out of the EU making ever more implausible statements or simply attacking those that tell the truth.

If we keep up the pressure now then the truth will slowly dawn that Brexit will not only be economic suicide for the country but also political suicide for the politicians & parties that force it on us.

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Why we need to remain in the EU

referendum ballot boxIn a few weeks we are being asked to vote on whether we should remain in the EU or leave it.

For those who have yet to make up their minds, can I remind them that this vote is not on David Cameron & how he is performing as PM, it is not a vote on the Tory party’s record in power, it isn’t even a vote on Cameron renegotiation of our terms on membership and it certainly isn’t a vote on if we should have joined the Common Market in 1973.  All these issues are irrelevant in the Referendum

What we are voting on is the future of the UK, the future not just of those like me who have lived most of our lives but the future of our children & grandchildren.  What sort of country do we want them to grow up in?  Is that future better if we stay in the EU or not?

Do we want a future that gives generations to come a life full of opportunity to study, work & live anywhere in Europe?    A future where working & cooperating with people from Croatia, from Finland, from Portugal is not unusual but the norm.  A future where we work with our neighbours to combat the cross-border threats that we all face, pollution, terrorism, crime, people smuggling.  A future where our rights as workers, as consumers, as travellers are protected and expanded.  A future where we are stronger together.

Or do we want to a future as a diminishing county, isolated from but dominated by a Europe that will imposes decisions on us but we have no say in.  a future where our rights are chipped away as the “Brussels Red Tape” that guarantees them is done away with, a future where jobs and opportunities are lost as the foreign investment we have enjoyed because we are in the EU dries up, a future where the Press Barons & hedge fund managers that have backed Brexit tell the UK Government what to do, a future where public services like the NHS are run down as the country, with an contracting economy, can no longer afford to pay for them (or indeed where the same Hedge Fund managers stand to gain millions in the event of Brexit), a future where we are divided and weaker.

Those who are proposing we leave the EU do not seem to have an idea what will happen after a vote for Brexit.  Some claim we can continue to be in the Single Market but not have to accept the Free of Movement of labour, an idea that has been roundly discredited by experts.  Some seem to think that in the event of Brexit, the remaining nations in the EU will roll over and agree to whatever terms the UK demands in subsequent negotiations on a trade agreement between the EU & the UK, again, an idea that does not seem to have any basis in the views of those countries who will still be in the EU.

The EU is not perfect, then again neither is the UK Government, and needs to carry on reforming just as it has through it existence.   20 years ago, the directly elected European Parliament (EP) was little more than a talking shop, now it is one of the three equal parts of EU decision making.  In 2014, after the most recent elections, it played a crucial role in deciding who would be the President of the European Commission,  where the nominee of the largest group in the EP was appointed over the objection of some individual national Governments.

Of course the EU, especially our directly elected MEPs, needs to do better at engaging people in its work.  Also, like all bureaucracies, it tends to accumulate power and we need to push that power is brought back down, not to equally rapacious national Governments but to regional & local councils throughout the Union

However, the benefits of membership, the cooperation, the investment, the protection of our environment and much much more, all more than outweigh the drawbacks and mean that we stand to lose more than we could gain if we left

So, the choice on June 23rd is that stark, Remain & Gain or Leave & Lose.   I know which way I am voting, I will be voting Remain to protect the future of the generations to come, I hope you will be voting to do the same.

 

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 – March 6th 2016

Leon DuveenIt has been a busy week, especially the last few days.  Having to arrange a flight at short notice for my wife to visit he father in hospital in Gouda made me realise how much easier this kind of travel is these days than not so many years ago and appearing in a “Question Time” event for the 6th Form at The Dukeries Academy in Ollerton with the local MP, Mark Spencer, & County Councillor, Mike Pringle, made me realise that there is no reason for young people of this age not to be able to vote note just in the upcoming Referendum but in elections in general.

 

This week’s developments on the proposed “Devolution” plans for the North Midlands has been interesting to say the least.  A number of Derbyshire local councils have rejected the plans and High Peaks (the bit of Derbyshire that sticks up towards Cheshire & Manchester) is looking at closer links to the new Greater Manchester Authority.  Also Chesterfield has voted to link to the Sheffield City Region Authority rather than North Midlands.  Meanwhile Bassetlaw Council is dithering about what to do and John Mann is campaigning to join Chesterfield in linking to Sheffield & South Yorkshire.

The problem for Bassetlaw with linking as full “Constituent” member to Sheffield City Region (even if that is allowed) is that so many of our services are provided by Nottinghamshire County Council and no one has any idea how these would be affected.  Public Transport, Roads, Training and may other budgets are all County Council areas and will be affected (at least in part) by the establishment of the North Midlands Authority.  If this does happen, it would lead to a very complicated effort to switch the funding for those areas that we get from Nottinghamshire to get it through the Sheffield City Region with no guaranteed that the new Mayor in Sheffield won’t spend any extra cash at his disposal in Barnsley, Rotherham or Doncaster rather than in Bassetlaw.  As usual, Mr Mann has taken a position that looks to get the maximum publicity for himself, looks popular on the surface but, when you check the underlying facts, simply doesn’t hold water.

I am no fan of the proposals for North Midland Authority and I hope that after the inconclusive meeting of the leaders of 19 different Councils involved last Friday, the whole idea gets shelved.  I would prefer to see proper devolution of power to local councils, not a rushed plan that doesn’t move power at all.  We need to take time to get it right and make sure that we involve the residents in the plans and that any new arrangement is answerable to them.

 

A couple of weeks ago I promised to go into more detail about each of the five areas that we need to think about.  First up is Prosperity, will remaining in the EU make the UK a richer nation than leaving?

In Bassetlaw over 6100 jobs are dependent on the EU[i].  That is a lot of jobs to put at risk.  Even if only ½ those jobs are lost if we leave the EU that is 3000 people looking for work in Bassetlaw, 3000 families losing a large part of their income.  And it isn’t just those 3000 families who would be affected, they will have left to spend in local shops, visits to restaurants & pubs will go down, there will be less money in the Bassetlaw (and also the British) economy.

At the same time, unless the UK can conclude a trade deal with the reduced EU, our imports will go up in price simply because of the Tariff Regime[ii] that will come into effect.  So as a country, the British people will have less money to spend on more expensive goods.

I mentioned Trade Deals above, these are very complicate agreements to conclude and often take years to conclude.  If we vote the leave the EU & the Government give notice of our intention to leave the EU, according Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, we have 2 years to negotiate an agreement with the remaining 27 countries “setting out the arrangements for its (our, in this case) withdrawal”.

Because we are an English speaking country with a highly developed economy inside the EU’s Single Market, the UK attracts 40% of all inward investment in to the EU.  Companies like Toyota, Bombardier & Honda are willing to put money in to their factories here as they know that the cars & trains can be sold to other EU countries with no added customs & tariff costs.  Outside of the Single Market, the UK would be a far less attractive place to invest.  Already we are seeing some of these companies[iii], as well as banks & other institutions, say they will have to reconsider any investments if we leave the EU.  This is one of the reasons that leaving would cause the loss of jobs I mentioned earlier.

So if we leave, we will have an economy getting smaller, with less money in people’s pockets while the cost on imports will be going up.   At the same time, we will be trying to negotiate trade agreements from a position of weakness.   Many nations (the US included[iv]) have already said they would not be looking at talking with us for a trade deal.  This does not strike me as a recipe for making sure we have a prosperous nation.

You may feel I am being overly pessimistic, but these are the facts.  We have a choice between remaining in an imperfect EU, working with our partners in Europe to make it better, attracting investment in from around the world to boost our economy or leaving to face a very uncertain future with few allies on our side.    I know which I will be choosing.

[i] http://www.europarl.org.uk/resource/static/files/ukjobs.pdf

[ii] https://www.gov.uk/trade-tariff/a-z-index/a

[iii] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/engineering/11842649/Nissan-denies-scare-mongering-over-Brexit-as-it-invests-100m-in-Sunderland-plant.html

[iv] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/oct/29/us-warns-britain-it-could-face-trade-barriers-if-it-leaves-eu

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