Here’s why I’m IN!

It seems strange to be writing this on the very eve of the EU Referendum vote. I’ve wrestled with writing something for weeks now but this debate has made me so angry, depressed, upset and fearful there just doesn’t seem to have been a right time to do it. I’ve feared I’d slip into some sort of blinkered, personalised rant; filled with the very ire that to be fair the majority of the last 10 weeks of campaigning has been littered with.

This has not been the United Kingdom’s finest hour. Language on both sides of the debate has been at best highly charged and at worst fuelled by hate. I would argue that this type of discourse hasn’t started with the EU referendum campaign. The bile, veiled threats and gutter politics has been growing for well over a decade now. We’ve just seen a crescendo over the past 10 long weeks of which I personally, haven’t seen in my lifetime and I don’t know if we’ll ever recover from it in the near future whatever the result. More on that in a future blog I feel!

Putting all of that aside though, yes, I am a remainer! Feels good to write that. It’s a perfectly innocent word. To continue to be. I’m in and not out. I’m a British, English, Scouse European in no particular order of merit. I’m happy to embrace all sides of those cultures together with any remaining trace of Irish ancestry embedded within my own and many Liverpudlian’s DNA.

There’s no treachery there. There’s nothing unpatriotic about that. Nobody can seriously claim otherwise.

There are lots of reasons why I’ll be voting to stay in the EU. I won’t go through each of them here as over the last 10 weeks people far more eloquently have put arguments across that I’ve shared through social media. I will just touch upon the ones that I feel most strongly about.

Firstly, I’m from Liverpool. It’s no exaggeration to suggest that the European Union saved the city of Liverpool. The EU saved it from a Tory government with a Thatcherite policy of “managed decline”. Under that government Liverpool qualified for European Objective One status. Reserved only for the poorest parts of Europe as a whole. Just think about that for a moment. Our own government let Liverpool and other areas of the UK rot until they were officially the poorest regions of the entire EU. So much for the 5th most prosperous economy in the world! Europe bailed us out. You can’t walk around Liverpool without walking past something that is there only because of European funding. It’s a vibrant centre that millions visit. The bars and hotels are full every weekend and there are just so many of them now! It’s not Utopia but just what would have happened to Liverpool and other vast swathes of neglected, typically working class areas, without all that money from Europe? (Note to Frank Field: Can you actually remember how run down Liverpool and the City Region were? Are you sure you’re in the right party? Maybe you should take your own advice and “think the unthinkable” of a Merseyside devoid of all those European millions begging for the crumbs off the Tory table?)

Secondly and following on from above, the UK will not be able to get a better trade deal than almost an entire continent. There’ll be no special treatment for us from the rest of Europe if we decide to go. Quite the contrary. We’ll be made an example of to quell any other nations who may question their European status. The “5th largest economy” is a misnomer. The majority of that wealth sits with the top 2% of our population anyway and that’s not because of Europe! To suggest we’ll still have access to the European market on our terms because we’re Britain and they need us is nonsense. Leaving Europe will be like a bitter divorce and asking for free trade on only our terms would be like asking your ex-wife to have free access to her home and complete use of all the facilities whilst expecting to continue to make love to her on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Bank Holidays!

Thirdly, you simply have to look at who wants us to leave. On the face of it that’s a point based on personalities but it’s far deeper than that. It’s about their political DNA. Anyone contemplating voting to leave the EU has to at least stop for even a second and think about the long-held beliefs of those campaigning for Brexit. Why are this lot so keen to leave the European Union? Really, think carefully about it. Why? 

Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Ian Duncan Smith, Nigel Farage, Priti Patel, Paul Nutalls of the UKIPs, Toby Young, Katie Hopkins, Neil Hamilton, Julia Hartley-Brewer, Rupert Murdoch, Liam Fox, Nigel Lawson, Chris Grayling etc. Not one of them have done anything for or have any good will towards the working class. Between them their policies include, privatising the NHS, dismantling the BBC, scrapping workers’ rights, commercialisation of the education system, relaxing gun laws, denying climate change, further austerity, reducing public services even further, supporting bankers’ bonuses (yes those people who caused the financial crash in the first place!) banning satire, scrapping social housing, attacking the disabled, protecting tax havens, scrapping support for legal representation to those who cannot afford it, defending zero-hours contracts… The list goes on.

Why are those people with their track record so desperate to leave the EU?

Finally, I’ve seen so many people viewing this referendum as some sort of vote to get rid of the Conservatives. There’ll be no General Election as a consequence of this vote. We have fixed term parliaments now. You might see the back of Cameron and Osbourne only to usher in the new dawn of Johnson and Gove and strengthening the position of Farage and the far-right.

This isn’t about anything other than our future in Europe, potentially our future as a United Kingdom and protecting our children and grandchildren’s rights, mobility and influence on our own continent and beyond.

It really is no time, with all the issues facing us as a planet, never mind Europe, to be isolating ourselves on an opportunistic right-wing whim.

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The Case for Jeremy Corbyn

If you believe everything you read Jeremy Corbyn is the anti-Christ. He’s the Bogey-Man hiding under the bed (dressed in red – obviously) waiting to destroy humanity as we know it. He’s outdated, a danger to the current civilised world and the free-thinking, fast-paced, free-market economy and all of the wealth that it provides.v218-Jeremy-Corbyn-Get-v2Whilst clearly, none of this is true, despite what the Daily Mail, Katie Hopkins and even Tony Blair will have you believe. One thing is for definite. Jeremy Corbyn has got some people very, very scared.

Let’s hop back to 1997. Tony Blair’s New Labour swept to electoral victory following a string of defeats under the likes of Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock. Margaret Thatcher had changed the political landscape. Pure socialism or anything close to it was seen as outdated and unelectable. The free-market and capitalist thinking had won and had become generally accepted as how modern society worked. Blair had recognised this in opposition as party leader. For that victory in 1997 to happen, Labour had to change or face extinction. The question was how to stay a party of the left whilst being open to capitalist thinking. Step forward the “third way” and let’s not forget, despite Blair’s tarnished legacy, Labour achieved a great deal. New schools, hospitals, inner city regeneration programmes, future jobs fund etc. All principally Labour values yet mixed with a new openness to business, corporations and an acceptance of capitalist ideology.

All was fine until, Iraq, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair’s falling out and the global financial crisis which caused chaos around the world and has left us with the austerity politics of the current times. OK, admittedly this is a simplified recounting of political and economic recent history but the point is that Blair’s New Labour fitted that particular moment in time.

Back to 2015 and times are very different. Not that, the Tories, the right wing press and the global corporations would lead you to believe this. The fact is that capitalism, as we know it today, has failed. We live in this country and globally, more than ever, as the haves and the have-nots. Globally, the markets failed, crashed, banks went bust whilst the rest were bailed out by Governments. We paid for the mistakes of the bankers. You did and I did. Global institutions ran by the richest people on the planet and we kept them afloat. Have they paid us back? – No! Are they still the richest people on the planet? – Yes. What have we been left with? – Austerity. Cuts in essential services, the rise of foodbanks, the ruthless demonisation of the poorest and must vulnerable in society and for what? To protect the richest top 1 or 2% of the population, the banks with their ever increasing bonuses despite crippling whole countries through their own incompetence and the corporate giants who dodge tax and pay slave wages.

Capitalism, as we know it today has failed, just as the old socialism had prior to Thatcher. Politicians have failed to protect us from this failure and have been complicit in accepting donations, turning a blind eye to tax avoidance and in the current climate of austerity continued to line their own pockets with huge pay rises whilst the rest of the public sector has had pay frozen or been closed down for good.

Times are different and whilst the answer may not be a return to that old socialism of the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s if what has happened in the likes of Greece and more closer to home, Scotland is anything to go by then there is a surge of anti-austerity feeling. There is a lack of trust in politicians. There is a ambivalence to the carefully selected suit, the pre-prepared sound-bite and the polished party-line.

That’s why there has been a “Corbyn effect”. That’s why he stands out against the same old – same old of Cooper, Burnham and Kendall and that’s why the right and their press friends and corporate cronies are desperate to portray him as a relic, a dangerous lefty, a “friend of Bin Laden” and whatever else they can throw in his direction. Should he win the Labour leadership election is he a likely election winner in 5 years time? Not necessarily perhaps, but it could be a timely last hurrah for anything approaching socialist, value driven, politics in England and Wales. The press will remain in opposition to him and the establishment figures won’t give him an easy ride, but if he can carry on what he has started, by being himself, embedding a new social agenda that can stand up against austerity, whilst credibly filling the vacuum where capitalism has failed. Then, maybe, just maybe, with that traditional left-leaning, grass roots support that fell for UKIP, the Lib Dems or simply can’t help but fall for the media spin of “the one you like but can’t win” – just maybe he can pull off one of the most dramatic political sea-changes ever brought about in UK political history.

It may be a tall order, but not impossible. I for one will be willing him on.