As Brexit Talks Begin, It’s Clear That We’re Doomed Unless We Ditch the Tories

Brexit alphabet: a photo from the Unite For Europe march and rally in London on March 25, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

What an embarrassing and disgraceful position we find ourselves in, as the deluded representatives of an illegitimate government (the shambles that is the minority Tory government headed by “dead woman walking” Theresa May) begin official negotiations for our departure from the EU, following last year’s EU referendum, when a slim majority of those who could be bothered to vote, in a referendum whose outcome was not legally binding, and that didn’t meet the threshold for referendums on issues of major constitutional change, voted for us to leave the EU.

Crucially, the referendum failed to ask voters what they felt about how we should leave the EU and what damage to our economy was acceptable. Can we, for example, stop free movement, as voters seemed to indicate they wanted? Is it feasible, and if it is, would it be damaging to the economy? (the answer to the latter question is a resounding yes). What about the role of the free market and the customs union? Largely ignored in the Leave campaign’s lies, but explained here by the Economist, both are an essential part of our trade with the EU, which is our main market — not just in goods, but in people, services and ideas — and leaving either will almost certainly damage our economy significantly. Is that worthwhile for some spurious notion of regaining “sovereignty,” which in reality, is nothing more than the anguished, meaningless cry of backwards-looking isolationisists?

As Ian Dunt, author of the very necessary Brexit: What the Hell Happens Now? explained in his column for Politics.co.uk on Thursday, aptly entitled, ‘Brexit talks start on Monday and we have no idea what we’re doing,’ the start of negotiations has once more brought the suicidial pointlessness of Brexit into sharp relief. “We are now about to go into the most challenging negotiations since the Second World War,” Dunt wrote, “with no government, no overall aim, no plan to achieve it, no functioning department to deliver it, no confidence at home or abroad with which to pass it, no trade expert capacity to negotiate it, and no time to manage it.” Read the rest of this entry »

Corbyn Rises, Theresa May Falls; Hard Brexit Now Looks Untenable

A Jeremy Corbyn 'Hope' poster by Posterrity.com on Deviant Art.

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What a great, great, great, great, great day for the fundamental decency of so many of the British people, after seven long years of cruelty, mean-mindedness and division.

Last night was, undoubtedly, Jeremy Corbyn’s night. Vilified by the media since winning the Labour leadership contest in September 2015, he nevertheless survived a cynical coup implemented, insanely, the day after the EU referendum by the Blairites in his own party, when Labour should have been focusing all their energies on discrediting the Tories, and two months ago, when Theresa May cynically called a General Election, he finally got to shine.

In complete contrast to the Prime Minister — shifty, aloof, paranoid, disdainful, dismissive, invisible — Corbyn staged an honest and heartfelt assault on the disgraceful and horrendously damaging “age of austerity” the Tories introduced in 2010 — pretending that the bankers’ 2008 crimes were the fault of Labour’s investment in public services, and using it as an excuse to try to destroy the state provision of services almost entirely, to remove the safety net of the welfare state, and, for good measure, to relentlessly kick those who then fell into abject poverty and misery; primarily, the disabled and the unemployed. Read the rest of this entry »

The Spectacular and Unforeseen Collapse of Theresa May and the Tories

An image that appeared on social media deriding Theresa May as "weak and wobbly" rather than the "strong and stable" leader she obsessively insisted she was. The "weak and wobbly" phrase was invented by Michael Crick of Channel 4 News.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

Something extraordinary is happening in the UK, as Theresa May has turned a 20-point lead over the Labour Party into a three-point lead in the course of just one month, in what has been, without any advance warning, the most inept leadership performance by a Prime Minister in living memory.

Just two months ago, I was so thoroughly sickened by the relentless pro-Tory bias in the broadcast media — including most of the BBC’s output, and even Channel 4 News — that I stopped watching the news altogether. It has long been well-known to anyone paying attention that around 80% of Britain’s print media is implacably Tory, but it was a shock to see how, steadily, since the slavish coverage of Nigel Farage in 2014-15, the broadcast media had also become right-wing in what appeared to be a deeply entrenched manner, with a disgracefully high proportion of right-wing panellists and audience members on Question Time every week, with the transparent pro-Tory bias of Laura Kuennsberg on BBC News, and even Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News becoming notorious for most aggressively questioning anyone left-wing.

I didn’t stop reading the news online, particularly via the Guardian’s website, which I visit every day, and I continued to engage with the issues via social media, where, of  course, a vibrant left-leaning community exists, but I could no longer take the stress of watching and listening to a permanent biased media defend what ought to have been indefensible — Theresa May bullying everyone into silence regarding the self-inflicted madness of Brexit and also using it as a cover for the Tories continuing to lay waste to Britain’s essential services. Read the rest of this entry »

Local Elections: As UKIP Voters Join the Tories to create Super-UKIP, Labour and Other Parties MUST Unite in a Progressive Resistance

Despite the Tories doing well in the local elections on May 4, 2017, Theresa May remains a distant leader, unable to connect with ordinary people, as this photo of her making a statement at the end of a factory tour in Brentford shows.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

So wretched is the mainstream media here in the UK that the results of Thursday’s local elections are being read as an unprecedented triumph for the Tories, and the death knell of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, whereas the reality is actually far more nuanced.

However, in conducting research into how people voted, I’ve discovered that finding examples of the number of overall voters, the numbers of those who didn’t vote (70% of elegible voters?), and the percentage swings since the last comparable elections (in 2013) is almost impossible. Without exception, the media has focused solely on the number of seats gained and lost and not on the percentage vote, even though, under our antiquated and disproportionate ”first past the post” system, that sort of analysis always ends up giving a skewed perspective on voting behaviour.

However, based on what I can ascertain from comparing the 2013 results to the estimates of voting in the General Election in five weeks’ time based on the polling on Thursday, the Tories’ gains were principally because they took almost all of UKIP’s votes, and the horror of that, as Ian Dunt made clear in his latest column for Politics.co.uk, Local elections: UKIP aren’t dead – they’re in charge, is that the Tories have become UKIP. Read the rest of this entry »

Taking on Theresa May and Her Hard Brexit Dystopia: Open Britain Targets Pro-Brexit MPs

An advert for Open Britain's new campaign aimed at upsetting pro-Brexit MPs in the General Election on June 8, 2017.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

For Theresa May, the decision to call a snap election last week, on June 8 (which I wrote about in an article entitled, Theresa May: An Unstoppable Undemocratic Disaster in a Dismal Brexit Britain Without Adequate Opposition) will hopefully backfire on her, despite her having an almost unprecedented lead in the polls. Some people are already complaining about there being yet another election — following the last General Election just two years ago, and the EU referendum last year — partly because of an understandable election fatigue, but also, for some, because May has so brazenly broken her promise not to hold a General Election and break the five-year fixed Parliament law that David Cameron introduced, which she, of course, backed. The discerning also realise that this election was cynically called to cover up the expenses scandal from the 2015 General Election, doggedly uncovered by Michael Crick and Channel 4 News.

Theresa May also hopes to wipe out the Labour Party, and for voters to give her a specific mandate to pursue her “hard Brexit” obsession, as she was not voted in as Prime Minister, of course. However, on this she may have miscalculated, as the election finally provides an opportunity for the 16.1 million people who voted Remain — and Leave voters who didn’t want an economically ruinous “hard Brexit” — to fight back against the suicidal arrogance with which Theresa May has been pushing for as hard a Brexit as possible, removing us from the single market and the customs union, despite the huge —perhaps incalculable — damage that will do to our economy, and despite the fact that leaving the EU is unlikely to significantly reduce immigration, even though that appears to have been what motivated Leave voters the most — along with misguided notions of sovereignty, as though a deluded, misty-eyed, backwards-looking isolation is either desirable or practical in the 21st century.

Since the referendum, the 16.1 million of us who voted Remain have been treated with complete contempt by Theresa May and her government, who seek to silence all debate. The courts had to compel her to allow MPs to have any say at all on the Brexit negotiations, and she then bullied them into refusing any of the amendments tabled by Labour and other parties, and pressurised the House of Lords not to stand by the amendments they passed after MPs failed to do — primarily involving guaranteeing EU citizens the right to stay in the UK and not to be “bargaining chips,” and guaranteeing Parliament a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal. Meanwhile, the attack-dog media that backs her, and constantly urges her further and further to the right, laid into the judges and the Lords for being “enemies of the people,” and constantly treat anyone questioning anything about Brexit as traitors. Read the rest of this entry »

On Brexit, the Observer Pulls No Punches With a Suitably Savage Editorial Just Before Theresa May Triggers Article 50

No Brexit!Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

It’s nine months since normal life in Britain came to an abrupt end after the EU referendum, when, by a narrow majority, 37.4% of the eligible voters in the UK voted to leave the EU (while 34.7% voted to remain, and 27.9% didn’t vote). Never mind that the outcome of the referendum was only advisory; never mind that everyone agrees that events involving cataclysmic constitutional change should never be decided by less than a two-thirds or 60% majority — the Tories, most of the rest of Britain’s political class, and the media all behaved as though the “will of the people” — the will of the 37.4% — had to be obeyed.

After a leadership bloodbath, in which David Cameron resigned, and the Leave campaign’s leaders, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, were also revealed as toxic, home secretary Theresa May, nominated by just 199 MPs, became the Prime Minister, and set about becoming nothing less than a tyrant. Although Leave voters had tended to insist that their vote was about restoring sovereignty to the UK, when it came down to it they seemed not to care that sovereignty in the UK resides with Parliament, and not the PM and/or her ministers, and were content to let May insist that she alone — with the assistance of her three Brexit ministers, the hapless David Davis, the dangerously right-wing Liam Fox, and the clown Boris Johnson, recalled from the dead — should decide everything about how Brexit would take place without consulting with Parliament at all. When concerned citizens took May to court and won, the Daily Mail called the judges “enemies of the people,” and far too many Leave voters agreed, showed their true, violent colours.

However, when it came to acknowledging Parliament’s role, May continued to treat MPs with contempt. After appealing, and losing again in the Supreme Court, she and her ministers issued a tiny Brexit bill, and then told MPs to vote for it, disempowering themselves despite the judges’ best efforts to empower them. Rational and/or morally necessary amendments to the bill — guaranteeing EU citizens the right to stay in the UK, for example, and guaranteeing Parliament a final say on the final deal, two years from now — were defeated, with Tory MPs in seats that voted Remain whipped into silence, and Jeremy Corbyn attempting to whip all his MPs to follow suit. When the Lords reinstated the amendments, MPs voted them down again. Read the rest of this entry »

Unite for Europe: Join the National Demo in London on March 25 to Tell Theresa May That 16 Million Of Us Don’t Accept Her “Hard Brexit” Insanity

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This coming Saturday, I hope to see as many of my British friends and readers as possible on the Unite for Europe march in London, the last protest before Theresa May triggers Article 50 (as she has just announced she will, on March 29), starting the two-year process of the UK leaving the EU. The Facebook page is here, and the Twitter page is here.

Unite for Europe is an umbrella group of Remain campaigners, and the march begins at 11am outside the Hilton on Park Lane, with campaigners taking the message of the 16.1 million ignored British Remain voters to Parliament, to let Theresa May know, as forcefully as possible, that her plans for a “hard Brexit” are completely unacceptable, as is her evident contempt for those of us who voted to remain in the EU, who have been shamefully sidelined and silenced since last June’s referendum.

Just to be clear, I will be doing whatever I can, over the next two years, to stop Britain leaving the EU, as I am convinced that it will, otherwise, be the single biggest act of economic suicide committed by any country in my lifetime — as anyone not blinded by patriotic wishful thinking can ascertain by reading Ian Dunt’s excellent book, Brexit: What the Hell Happens Now? or his more recent article, Everything you need to know about Theresa May’s Article 50 nightmare in five minutes. Read the rest of this entry »

On Brexit, the House of Lords Do What MPs Wouldn’t Do, and Pass An Amendment Guaranteeing Them A Final, Meaningful Vote on Any Deal to Leave the EU

A protest outside the Houses of Parliament on February 20, 2017 (Photo: Andy Rain/EPA).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

Congratulations to the House of Lords, where peers, by 366 votes to 268, have voted to give Parliament a veto over the final outcome of Theresa May’s Brexit negotiations, while voting against another amendment to allow a second referendum.

This is the second amendment to the government’s derisorily short Brexit bill, authorising Theresa May to trigger Article 50 and start the two years of negotiating time that is provided for the UK to leave the EU.

Last week, the Lords backed an amendment telling the government to respect the rights of the 3.3m EU citizens living and working in the UK to stay here, and not to treat them as “bargaining chips” in negotiations with the EU, a principled move that I wrote about in my article, House of Lords Defends Right of EU Nationals to Stay in the UK Post-Brexit, as the Tyrant Theresa May Vows to Overturn Amendment. Read the rest of this entry »

“Wake Up People! Save Our NHS!” Photos from the National March and Rally in London, March 4, 2017

See my photos on Flickr here!A photo from the march for the NHS on March 4, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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On Saturday March 4, 2017, tens of thousands of campaigners marched through central London to defend the NHS from the Tory government, which has been responsible for alarming cuts to NHS funding since first getting back into power in 2010, and which, in 2012’s Health and Social Care Act, facilitated increased privatisation of the NHS that is already undermining the integrity of the health service, as private providers take over more and more services, putting profits before care.

In an article last week promoting the march, I wrote about my involvement in the successful campaign to save Lewisham Hospital in 2012-13, but explained that now, “with the hardest of Brexits being pushed by Theresa May, and being used as a screen to hide anything else that the Tories want hidden, and with May herself revealed — to those who can see beyond the Brexit lies and the endless spinning of the bent right-wing media — as the most dangerous right-wing ideologue in modern British history, it seems reasonable to assume that, with no serious opposition, she will preside over the destruction of the NHS on a scale previously unrealisable, a process which, if not stopped, will actually kill off the NHS, the country’s greatest single institution, which works to save the lives of everyone who needs it, regardless of their income.”

The cuts to the NHS have been so savage that, in the first three quarters of the latest financial year, the deficit was £886 million, and, out of 238 NHS trusts, 135 ended the year in deficit. Read the rest of this entry »

House of Lords Defends Right of EU Nationals to Stay in the UK Post-Brexit, as the Tyrant Theresa May Vows to Overturn Amendment

Campaigners for a new initiative, Stop the Silence, launch a new nationwide poster campaign urging the Lords to vote for amendments to the Article 50 bill, and for the public to resist the "hard Brexit" aggressively promoted by Theresa May (Photo: EPA).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

The image above is of campaigners for a new initiative, Stop the Silence (also on Twitter), launching a nationwide poster campaign outside Parliament calling for the Lords to make amendments to the Article 50 bill and for the public to speak out over the government’s “hard Brexit” policy. Check out the video here, and see here for ‘I’m voting against Theresa May’s hard Brexit in the House of Lords this week – go ahead and call me an enemy of the people’, an article by Liberal Democrat peer William Wallace.

Congratulations to the House of Lords for doing what MPs in the House of Commons so dismally failed to do three weeks ago — guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK to stay in the country as Theresa May prepares to trigger Article 50, beginning two years of negotiations that will, apparently, end up with us no longer a member of the EU.

For May, the would-be tyrant who inherited Brexit as the unelected leader of the Tories after every other senior Tory resigned or was discredited after the EU referendum last June, the 3.3m EU citizens living and working in the UK are to be treated as “bargaining chips” in negotiations with the EU, allegedly to protect the rights of the 1.2m UK citizens living and working in other EU countries, but in reality because of the tendencies of May and her advisers towards xenophobia and unprovoked belligerence towards our fellow citizens in Europe.

A decent leader would, immediately after the referendum, have guaranteed EU nationals’ right to stay here, taking the moral high ground and exerting pressure on the EU to do the same for UK nationals in other EU countries, but decency no longer exists, I am ashamed to say, and is one of many reasons that the Britain I live in today is turning into a blinkered, inward-looking, self-pitying, isolationist little nation, hopelessly deluded about Britain’s significance in the world, aggressive towards everyone that disagrees with the alleged “will of the people” expressed last June in what was legally nothing more than an advisory referendum, and ruthlessly dedicated to cutting all ties with the EU, even though that will be the single most insane act of economic suicide in the lifetimes of anyone born after the end of the Second World War. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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