Last week was a particularly disastrous week for Parliament, when a horribly large majority of MPs voted to let Theresa May, the Prime Minister, do what she wants regarding Britain’s exit from the EU — and what she wants, as she has made clear, is as “hard” a Brexit as possible — one in which, in order to exercise some spurious control over immigration, we are forced to abandon the single market and the customs union, which will be insanely damaging to our economy.
The MPs’ unprovoked capitulation, by 494 votes to 122, in the vote allowing May to trigger Article 50, which launches our departure from the EU, came despite three-quarters of MPs believing that we should stay in the EU, and despite the narrow victory in last June’s referendum, which, crucially, was only advisory, although everyone in a position of power and authority has since treated it as though it was somehow legally binding.
The MPs’ capitulation was also disgraceful because, following the referendum, a handful of brave individuals engaged in a court battle to prevent Theresa May from behaving like a tyrant, and undertaking our departure from the EU without consulting Parliament. Both the High Court and the Supreme Court pointed out that sovereignty in the UK resides in Parliament, and not just in the hands of the Prime Minister, and that Parliament would have to be consulted. Read the rest of this entry »
What a disgrace the majority of MPs have shown themselves to be, as they have voted, by 494 votes to 122, to pass the government’s derisory little bill allowing Theresa May to “notify, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU.”
Although numerous amendments were tabled — seven by Labour, others by other parties — all failed to be passed. On Tuesday, an amendment by Labour’s Chris Leslie, stating that “the government should not be allowed to agree a Brexit deal until it has been passed by both Houses of Parliament,” was defeated by 326 votes to 293 — a majority of 33 — including seven Tory rebels: as well as serial Brexit rebel Ken Clarke, the rebels were Heidi Allen, Bob Neill, Claire Perry, Antoinette Sandbach, Anna Soubry and Andrew Tyrie.
And last night, before the final vote, there was another blow — this one not to the hard-won sovereignty of Parliament, given away by MPs as though it was nothing, but to the three million EU nationals who live and work in the UK, when the amendment by Labour’s Harriet Harman, in her capacity as the chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, guaranteeing EU nationals the right to stay in the UK, was defeated by 332 votes to 290 — a majority of 42. On this amendment, there were three Tory rebels — Ken Clarke, Tania Mathias and Andrew Tyrie. Read the rest of this entry »
OK, I admit it: I’m thoroughly fed up with the Left in Britain, which largely supported the campaign to leave the EU, and is now facilitating Theresa May’s efforts to destroy our economy by following through on the outcome of the ludicrous referendum last June that saw the Leave campaign win by a small majority.
The referendum was not legally binding; its outcome was advisory, meaning that it should have been taken as the starting point for further discussion, not as an end in itself. In addition, a decision about something as seismically important as leaving the EU shouldn’t have been allowed to be dependent on a simple majority vote. Generally, a referendum on a topic this important would have required a majority to consist of over 50% of all those eligible to vote, or over two-thirds of those who voted, whereas in June’s referendum 27.9% of those eligible to vote (13m people) didn’t bother to vote, and the decision to leave was taken by 37.4% of eligible voters (17.4m people), with 34.7% (16.1m people) voting to stay in the EU.
What has particularly annoyed me today — and the reason I made the poster at the top of this article — is that the Stop the War Coalition today held a protest against Donald Trump’s recently imposed immigration ban and his proposed state visit to the UK — a worthwhile cause, certainly, but one that, noticeably, didn’t involve protesting against Theresa May, even though there is no reason to suppose that she is any less racist and Islamophobic than Donald Trump. Read the rest of this entry »
In America and around the world, the apocalyptic nightmare of Donald Trump and his administration is provoking widespread protest. In the UK, meanwhile, as deluded nationalists led by the Prime Minister Theresa May forge ahead with pushing for our departure from the EU as a result of last June’s narrow victory for the Leave campaign in an advisory referendum in which 27.9% of the electorate couldn’t even be bothered to vote, almost no one is standing up for the 16.1 million people — myself included — who voted for Remain.
It is as if, at a general election, the party that wins gets the right to prevent the opposition from criticising them at all, and also gets to completely ignore everything that those who voted for the opposition believes, when it contradicts what the winning party thinks.
How is this possible? The wretched referendum, whose outcome was not legally binding, was so blunt and inadequate a tool that it failed to specify what leaving the EU would entail, or, indeed, whether that would be acceptable to voters. And yet, under Theresa May and her three Brexiteers — David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox — no questions about the form Brexit might take — let alone whether it might not be a good idea to accept the result of an advisory referendum that might end up being economically suicidal — was allowed. Read the rest of this entry »
Ten days ago, reality as we knew it seemed to disappear with Donald Trump’s inauguration, and the bleak, insular, threatening speech at its heart, which bore all the hallmarks of the miserable white supremacist world view of his most trusted advisor, Steve Bannon, a man who needs constantly exposing as the genuinely malevolent force behind Trump’s throne.
I was in New York City at the time of the inauguration, staying in a house in Brooklyn. My hosts had gone out to work, and I was alone as the realization that no last minute miracle had spared us from Trump truly sank in. I was chilled, and spent the day in a fog of anxiety, as did tens of millions of other Americans.
The following day, the Women’s March played a hugely important role in establishing the resistance to Trump. Millions of women (and supportive men), inspired by opposition to Trump’s misogyny, marched in Washington, D.C., in New York and in other cities across the US and around the world. I wrote about the inspiring New York event here, and my photos are here. Read the rest of this entry »
Great news from the grown-ups in the room today — the Supreme Court — as the highest judges in the land have confirmed what the High Court ruled nearly three months ago: that the government cannot trigger Article 50 — the mechanism for leaving the EU — without an authorising act of parliament, as Lord Neuberger, the President of the Supreme Court, stated in a summary of the court’s decision, delivered by a majority of 8-3.
As the Guardian described it, Lord Neuberger “said the government generally has a prerogative power to change treaties, but it cannot do that if it will affect people’s rights.” As the summary of the court’s ruling stated, “The change in the law required to implement the referendum’s outcome must be made in the only way permitted by the UK constitution, namely by legislation.”
The judges added, “The Supreme Court holds that an Act of Parliament is required to authorise ministers to give notice of the decision of the UK to withdraw from the European Union.” See the full ruling here.
From the beginning, when Theresa May was the only minister left standing after the bloodbath that followed the EU referendum’s outcome, it was outrageous that a decision that was supposed to be about the importance of restoring sovereignty to the UK was hijacked when May, who had nominally been a Remain supporter, instead revealed herself as a would-be tyrant who was intent on ignoring the fact that sovereignty in the UK resides with Parliament and not with the Prime Minister or her cabinet. Read the rest of this entry »
In an update from Brexit Britain, the powerful news this week is that some of those who voted for the UK to leave the EU in the June referendum are how clearly having second thoughts, as the economic impact of their suicidal vote starts to become apparent.
Because we have not yet left the EU and the economy has not gone into freefall as we drive ourselves voluntarily off the highest cliff imaginable, in the single most self-destructive act by a nation state in modern history, the chief fantasists of the Brexit camp — those Tory MPs and media commentators obsessed in a deranged manner with an illusory notion of Britain’s sovereignty — are still free to pretend that Brexit will not be a disaster, but is instead some sort of fabulous opportunity.
But two stories this week suggest that this colossal act of self-deception is under threat. Read the rest of this entry »
On Brexit, the Tory government is still flailing around like the most drunk person at a wedding.
Last week, the home secretary Philip Hammond delivered a forgettable Budget dominated by the largest elephant in the room — the continuing fallout from the EU referendum in June, which he conveniently forget to mention. In the meantime, the Office for Budget Responsibility, the government body set up by George Osborne to impartially assess the UK economy, provided a reality check. As the Independent described it, “A shadow has been cast over Brexit Britain as the country faces a £122 billion budget black hole, dwindling growth, slow trade, lower pay and austerity stretching into the late 2020s.” In particular the newspaper noted, the OBR “set out how Brexit was driving the UK’s public finances deep into the red, with a key factor being the cost of losing valuable foreign workers.”
Brexiteers, in a constant state of denial about the suicidal cost of their enthusiasm for leaving the EU, even though they still cannot summon up a single compelling reason for this life-threatening rupture to take place, took aim at the OBR, as they do everyone and every organisation that threatens their costs delusions out sovereignty. Martin Kettle’s take on it was that the OBR had been “kneecapped in a back alley by Brexit provos and its brand has been trashed in the anti-European press’s embrace of post-truth politics.” Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, I took part in a fascinating event, the Brockley Festival of Ideas for Change, just a few minutes’ walk from my home in south east London, which was organised by two local organisations, the Brockley Society and the St. John’s Society. This was the talk I gave, which I wrote in a 90-minute burst of concentrated creative energy just beforehand. It distils my feelings about the current rise of racism and xenophobia in the UK, the narrow victory for leaving the EU in the referendum in June, and the terrible indifference to the current refugee crisis, which is taking place on a scale that is unprecedented in most of our lives, and I examine the dangers posed by an “us” and “them” mentality, laying the blame on cynical politicians and our largely corrupt corporate media, whilst also asking how and why, on an individual basis, people are becoming more and more insular, and what, if anything, can be done to counter these dangerous trends.
I was asked to join this event today because I’ve spent the last ten years — nearly eleven now — researching and writing about the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, telling the stories of the men held there and working to get the prison shut down, because it is, to be frank, a legal, moral and ethical abomination that should ever have existed.
Discussing Guantánamo here today wasn’t of particular relevance to most of the problems facing people in Britain right now, as the last British resident in Guantánamo — a rather lovely man named Shaker Aamer — was released over a year ago. I could have talked about Britain’s complicity in the existence of Guantánamo, and how we replicated part of its lawlessness here in the UK, holding foreign nationals without charge or trial, on the basis of secret evidence, and subjecting British nationals to a form of house arrest and/or internal exile, but I thought it would be useful to look at a key aspect of Guantánamo that has relevance to so many of the things happening in Britain today that are so deeply troubling to so many of us; namely, the rise of racism.
It doesn’t take a genius to look at Guantánamo and to realise that everyone held there since the prison opened in January 2002 is a Muslim. And because of all the disgraceful rhetoric about terrorists and the “worst of the worst,” Americans have been encouraged to accept that. But imagine if there was a prison run by the United States where people were held without charge or trial, and subjected to torture, and everyone held there was a Christian, or Jewish. There would be an unprecedented uproar. Read the rest of this entry »
The NHS faces an unprecedented crisis, and it’s all the Tories’ fault (with the help of some senior NHS officials). A new report by the National Audit Office, the government’s official auditor, has found that “[t]wo-thirds of health trusts in England are now in deficit,” and “their total debt has almost trebled since 2015 to £2.45bn,” as the Guardian described it, adding that auditors “were particularly alarmed by the decision to transfer £950m [out of a total of £4.6bn] from the NHS’s budget for buildings and IT to pay staff’s wages.”
The report follows the revelation on Monday that, as the Guardian described it, “[c]ontroversial plans put forward as a way of improving the health service in England and ensuring its sustainability risk being used as a cover for cuts and running down the NHS,” as Dr. Mark Porter, the chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) council explained. The Guardian added that the BMA stated that the 44 regional Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) put forward in September “amount to £22bn in cuts by 2020-21 to balance the books, which will have a severe impact on patient care” — an understatement if ever I heard one. The impact, if implemented, would be nothing short of disastrous.
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, stated that its report found that the NHS’s “financial problems are endemic,” and that this situation “is not sustainable” for a functioning health service. Her analysis of the crisis also included a recognition that “an increasing number of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs)” — the groups set up under the Tories’ complete (and manifesto promise-breaking) overhaul of the NHS — were “unable to keep their spending within budget.” Read the rest of this entry »
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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