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 »
On Saturday March 25, 2017, I joined tens of thousands of supporters of the UK remaining in the EU in Parliament Square, at the rally at the end of the Unite for Europe march that began at Park Lane, and I hope you have time to look at my photos, and to share them if you like them.
The march had been called to mark the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, signed in 1957 by the six founder member states of what became the EU, but it took on an added poignancy because, this Wednesday, Theresa May will trigger Article 50 of the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, officially beginning the two-year process of the UK leaving the EU.
As I have thought ever since the Leave camp secured a small majority in last June’s referendum, the 16.1m of us who voted to stay in the EU need to work relentlessly over the next two years to try and make sure that, if we do leave the EU, we do so in a way that isn’t as economically suicidal as the “hard Brexit” favoured by Theresa May and her chief advisers — David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox — although my favoured end result, and one I will not waver from seeking relentlessly, is for the Brexit process to be halted when it becomes clear that there is no way for it to take place without destroying our economy. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
This Saturday (March 18), if you’re in London or able to get to the capital, I do hope you’ll come to a national March Against Racism demo, beginning at noon by the BBC in Portland Place, London W1A 1AA, with other demos taking place in Glasgow, beginning at 11am in Holland St, and Cardiff, beginning at 11am in Grange Gardens. The Facebook page for the London event is here.
The protests have been called to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (which is on March 21), and also because it is the week before Theresa May intends, suicidally, to trigger Article 50, beginning the disastrous two-year process of us leaving the EU. Please also note that there is another national demo, against Brexit, on Saturday March 25, which I’ll be writing more about soon.
Standing up to racism is hugely important, as was made clear last June with the narrow victory for the Leave campaign in the EU referendum. Amongst the misplaced reasons for the Leave vote, which included some spurious notion of British sovereignty, was a toxic mix of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia, stirred up for years by politicians and the media, and by fears and misconceptions prompted by increased immigration — a phenomenon not unique to the UK, of course, but shared by all the richer countries of the west — that were, lamentably, unchallenged. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
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 »
Four years ago, I was involved in a struggle to save Lewisham Hospital, my local hospital in south east London, from destruction by senior NHS managers working closely with the government of David Cameron. It was an extraordinary grass-roots campaign, at one point involving 25,000 Lewisham residents taking to the streets, and, I’m very glad to note, it was ultimately successful.
Four years on, however, the political situation in the country is far worse than we could have imagined back in 2013, and, it is fair to say, the entire NHS is now at risk. Back then, the outrageous cost of a PFI development in Woolwich had led NHS managers to conclude that they could get away with a long-planned attempt to reduce the number of A&E departments in south east London from five to four, with Lewisham being the intended victim.
In overcoming these plans — which involved a successful judicial review — we were, I think, able to demonstrate that it was disgraceful for the government and NHS managers to suggest that 750,000 Londoners should be served by just one A&E, when Lewisham itself, with a population of 270,000, deserves its own fully-functioning hospital, as does every population centre of a quarter of a million people. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
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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