Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Summer of 76 and the most successful government minister in UK history


This year's glorious summer got me thinking about the best I remember in the UK - 1976, which brought the highest average temperatures since records began. On the hottest day, 3 July, the thermometer climbed to 96.6 deg F (35.9 C), while for the previous 15 days, temperatures reached 90F (32.2C) somewhere in England. 

It was not the driest summer on record - apparently 1955 has that distinction, but there was a drought, so in August, the government appointed a former football referee, Denis Howell, Minister for Drought. (Mr Howell, the Labour MP for Small Heath in Birmingham, also had a day job as Minister for Sport.)

He quickly became dubbed the most successful minister in British history, because everywhere he went, it seemed to rain. I was working as a television reporter for ATV in the Midlands at the time, and I remember covering one of his visits to a drought-stricken area, where, sure enough, he was greeted by a downpour.

Rivers and reservoirs ran dry, there was water rationing and standpipes in some areas, and more people died than usual, but being in a garden or a park or by the sea was glorious.



Sunday, 12 August 2018

Brexitwatch: lies, damned lies and Theresa May's government


Along with 189,491 other people, (that's more than 5 times the number who voted that Theresa May should be elected an MP) I signed a petition to the UK government and parliament saying: 'If Vote Leave has broken any laws regarding overspending in 2016 EU referendum then Article 50 should be immediately withdrawn and full EU membership continued.'

The most striking thing about the government's response, from Brexit fanatic Dominic Raab's 'Department for Exiting the EU', is that it NEVER MENTIONS the Leave Campaign breaking the law, even though this is now clearly established. So the government simply ignores the key point of the petition.

The rest of the reply is packed with the usual Brexit lies: the referendum result is described time and time again as an 'instruction' to MPs, while actually it was advice which, as was made clear in the legislation setting up the referendum, parliament is perfectly entitled to reject. 

It claims that 80% of voters in the General Election of 2016 backed Brexit. Arrant nonsense. Labour and Tory parties each offered dozens of policies. No one knows how many people voted for the parties because of their Brexit 'plans' and how many in spite of them. They were also voting on whether Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn should be running the country. Their answer? Neither.

Then says Raab: 'we are committed to making a success' of Brexit. Yes, and I really want to play centre forward for Manchester United. Unfortunately, just like the government with Brexit, I have no credible plan for achieving my aim.

Perhaps most striking is this sentence: 'There can be no attempt to stay in the EU'. So there you have it. Official government policy: no matter what damage Brexit will do, no matter how many jobs, businesses, public services are destroyed, no matter how much cheating procured the result, the government will continue to drag us out of the EU. 

The full text of the government response is here: 

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/223729

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Brexitwatch: get your MP to support demand for proper investigation of Leave cheating


Labour MP Ben Bradshaw has written to the Metropolitan Police and the National Crime Agency, demanding they mount a 'full and comprehensive' investigation into cheating by the Leave campaign during the EU referendum.

It is hard to overstate the importance of this. Most people now believe Brexit will damage the UK, but Tory and Labour leaderships are insisting we proceed with it because it is the 'will of the people'. Except it isn't, because the referendum was bent, as the Electoral Commission has already demonstrated.

But, as Mr Bradshaw points out, the Commission has limited powers to investigate and none to prosecute. It is, therefore, vital that the police pursue the matter vigorously. Otherwise we will be giving a green light to cheating in all future UK elections.

I am astonished and disappointed that only 31 MPs (plus 19 MEPs and Lords) have signed the letter. They do not appear to include mine - Labour's Brexit spokesperson, Sir Keir Starmer. This is what I have written to him:

Dear Sir Keir,
I do not seem to see your name among the list of MPs who have signed your colleague, Ben Bradshaw's demand for the Metropolitan Police and the NCA to investigate law-breaking by the Leave Campaign. I am very disappointed, and I urge you to add your signature  without delay.
You have admitted that Brexit has no benefits and that Labour is continuing to support it only because it is the 'will of the people'. As you know from previous emails, I have always rejected the 'will of the people' argument, but as you continue to accept it, you have an obligation to ensure that we discover to what degree the endorsement of the 'people' for Brexit was secured by a criminal conspiracy.
If Labour fails to do this, it will be giving a green light to cheating in all subsequent UK elections.
I look forward to hearing that you have signed the letter and given your support to Mr Bradshaw's efforts.
Yours sincerely,
John Withington

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Brexitwatch: BAAC-ing mad


What is Theresa May's policy on Brexit? I think you can sum it up as BAAC - Brexit at any cost. 

Long gone is any pretence that Brexit will improve life for anybody, apart from a few of the very rich who will find it easier to avoid tax and benefit from our impoverishment. 

Jacob Rees-Mogg says that after 50 years of misery, with a bit of luck, things might not be too bad. Digby Jones is less optimistic and reckons it will take at least 100. Most other Brexiters confine themselves to declaring that Brexit won't be as bad as some people are saying.

We've known for quite a while that ANY Brexit makes the ordinary Brit poorer, and if Theresa's Brexit fanatics get their way, we'll have to call in the army to stop too many people starving, or dying because they can't get their medicine. And, of course, you won't hear the prime minister talking about how we'll all lose the right to live and work in 27 of the most congenial countries on earth. 

All we hear about now from Mrs May is delivering the 'will of the people', even if it becomes clearer by the day that fewer and fewer of the 'people' actually want her to. All that matters is somehow crawling over that line on 29 March 2019, and getting us out of the EU before her government and the Tory party tear themselves apart.


Monday, 30 July 2018

Brexitwatch: no deal


In my post of July 25, I broke one of my own rules: never underestimate the foolishness, incompetence and cowardice of Theresa May's government.

As Mrs May promised to spell out the consequences of a 'no deal' Brexit so we could all prepare for it, I warned that this might be a softening-up exercise. Presenting critics of Brexit with the apocalyptic results of 'no deal' so they would go along with whatever the prime minister negotiates, even though we know it will be much worse than remaining in the EU.

But now we learn that Mrs May is going to stop us preparing for 'no deal' by hiding the government's plans after reports the army would have to be called in to stop people starving or dying through lack of medicines, and after the businesses charged with implementing her ideas had ridiculed them as completely impracticable. Just like her 'Chequers plan', her 'preparations for no deal' policy had managed to survive for only a couple of days.

The attraction of 'no deal' for Mrs May is that it is the policy that postpones the Tory civil war - the only thing she seems to care about. Any decision she makes about a realistic approach to negotiations with the EU will be the starting gun for her MPs to start tearing lumps out of each other.

So be afraid. Be very afraid. 'No deal' and its consequent chaos could well happen.


Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Brexitwatch: no deal. Beware. Are we being played?


'No deal is better than a bad deal' is one of those vacuous slogans that Theresa May and the Brexiters love to trot out again and again until you want to scream. Well, this week the PM gave us some flesh on the bones of what 'no deal' might mean.

Actually, there probably wouldn't be much flesh. The government is planning (a novelty in itself) emergency measures to try to make sure not too many people starve to death or die because they can't get the medicines they need. Makes you wonder just how bad a bad deal would have to be, to be worse than this.

Unless Theresa May has never read a briefing paper, she has known for a long time that this is what 'no deal' would mean. So why has she gone all 'must announce a proper plan' now? To try to intimidate and/or isolate the most demented of the anti-EU headbangers, who have actually been gagging for 'no deal'?

Or is all this actually aimed at those fighting AGAINST Brexit? Here is what I blogged on 9 October 2016:

"Mrs May is engaged in a softening up exercise, conjuring up the most disastrous picture of Brexit imaginable, so that when she comes up with something that damages the country a bit less, Remainers will be pathetically grateful and go along with it, instead of continuing to argue that the referendum was (as indeed is the case) advisory and not binding, unfair, won on the basis of a pack of lies, indecisive etc"

Beware! Every Brexit is a bad Brexit. The only good Brexit is no Brexit.





Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Brexitwatch: demand your MP takes action over Leave campaign cheating


For the second time, the Leave campaign has been found to have cheated in the Brexit referendum. The law lays down spending limits to ensure elections are fair. The official Leave campaign broke the law by spending nearly £500,000 more than it was allowed to.

This is the second time the Leave campaign has been caught cheating. In May, Arron Banks's mysteriously financed Leave.EU group was also fined for spending too much. With a gap of less than 4% between the votes cast for the two sides, surely the referendum result should now be regarded as null and void, but bizarrely the Labour and Tory front benches seem determined to look the other way and pretend none of this has happened. 

This cannot go on. It is the duty of MPs to stop Brexit NOW because 1) it will damage our country. 2) allowing this result to stand will give a green light to cheating in all future UK elections.

My MP happens to be Labour's Brexit spokesperson, Sir Keir Starmer. I wrote to him twice about Leave.EU's cheating (see my post of May 14), and I have never received a reply.

Now that further law-breaking has been revealed, I have written to him again:

Dear Sir Keir,
I cannot believe that Labour has not called for an immediate halt to Brexit in view of the evidence provided today of yet more law-breaking by the Leave campaign. I have already written to you twice on this issue (see below) but you have ignored me. What is Labour's strategy here? Stick your fingers in your ears, cover your eyes, pretend none of this has happened, and then hopefully it will all go away?
You yourself have admitted that Brexit has no benefits, and that Labour was supporting it only because it was the 'will of the people'. Now it is clear that the referendum was won by serial law-breaking, this excuse will no longer wash.
If Labour fails to act, not only will it impoverish our country, and in particular the people Labour are supposed to care most about, destroying jobs, businesses, public services, savings,people's rights to live and work in Europe etc, it will also give a green light to any party that wants to cheat in future elections in our country. 
Take action to stop Brexit now. I appeal to you and Labour not to continue in this gross dereliction of your duty.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely,
John Withington