Sunday, 18 August 2019

Brexitwatch: should your MP be on holiday?


Just over 10 weeks until we get medicine, food and fuel shortages that go on for months, plus a hard border in Northern Ireland, and where are our MPs? On holiday. 

To their credit, 100 realise that this is inexcusable, and have signed a letter demanding the immediate recall of parliament.


Is your MP among them? If not, shouldn't they be? My MP is Labour's Brexit spokesman, Sir Keir Starmer, and, astonishingly, his name is not here. Equally astonishingly, Jeremy Corbyn's is also absent.

This is what I have written to Keir Starmer:


Dear Sir Keir,
1. I was very disappointed to see that your name does not appear to be on the list of those demanding the immediate recall of parliament. I trust you will be signing without further delay. Future generations may find it very hard to understand why some MPs thought their holidays were a bigger priority than doing all they could to save the country.
2. I welcome Jeremy Corbyn's offer to lead a government of national unity to prevent the disaster/catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit. It now seems plain that no such government is achievable with Mr Corbyn as prime minister. Surely it is vital now for Labour to propose a government under a Labour MP who would be able to command the support of MPs from other parties. Those who fail to do everything in their power to prevent no deal will not be forgiven.
Yours sincerely,
John Withington

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Brexitwatch: Beware. Is 'no deal' a Boris Johnson dead cat?


Back in the autumn of 2016, when Theresa May (remember her?) was peddling her 'no deal is better than a bad deal' nonsense, here is what I blogged on 9 October 2016:

'Is Mrs May 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? 

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


Now Boris Johnson is our prime minister. He once wrote that if you were losing an argument, the thing to do was to 'throw a dead cat on the table' - meaning you should come up with a suggestion so alarming that everybody was so distracted by making sure your alarming idea did not come to fruition that they forgot the real point.

With Johnson, the only thing you can count on is that you can't believe a word he says, so it is possible that he's wickedly irresponsible enough to take the UK out or the EU with no deal (and, therefore, of course no transition period either). Equally, 'no deal' may just be a dead cat designed to make us forget how disastrous any Brexit will be. 

Either way, we need to remember: Every Brexit is a bad Brexit. The only good Brexit is no Brexit.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

The world's worst dam disaster



Yesterday I blogged about Britain’s worst dam disaster. The world’s worst happened in China in 1975.

As part of his ‘Great Leap Forward’ designed to enable China to become a major industrial power, Chairman Mao encouraged peasants to go off and build dams, which they did with great enthusiasm, but also with a Brexiter-like disdain for experts. So the structures were jerry-built, and within a couple of years, they were collapsing. A hydrologist who tried to sound a warning was purged for being a ‘right-wing opportunist’.

In August 1975, storms dumped heavy rain on Henan province. On 9 August, the Shimantan dam collapsed and half an hour later, the Banqiao dam gave way, unleashing a wall of water 20 feet high. In all 60 dams burst, flooding an area of 4,000 square miles.

China tried to hide the disaster from the world’s gaze, and it was 30 years before the truth began to emerge. The authorities admitted that at least 26,000 had been killed, but other estimates put the figure as high as 85,000 killed by the floods, with another 145,000 from the famine and disease that followed.

For the full story, see my book A Disastrous History of the World.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Britain's worst dam disaster



The people of the Peak District town of Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire are still unable to return to their homes as fears continue that the dam holding back the Toddbrook Reservoir (pictured) above the town may burst, unleashing a devastating flood.

The reservoir was built in 1831. About 20 miles away, the collapse of another dam in 1864 brought Britain’s worst ever dam disaster. As Sheffield became a major centre for steel-making, the Sheffield Waterworks Company decided to build new reservoirs in the surrounding hills to provide the water the booming area demanded.

By 11 March 1864, the first of them, above the village of Bradfield, was almost finished when a local man noticed a crack in the structure. It was a wet, stormy night and water was also coming over the top of the dam. Within hours, the structure had burst, and a mountain of water careered down the valley below.

Bradfield was the first place to be hit, though mercifully most of the inhabitants had been evacuated, but no warning reached Malin Bridge, where more than 100 people were killed, and altogether in the valley, 270 died. For the full story, see my book A Disastrous History of Britain.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Brexitwatch: nail the 'over the line' myth



It’s surely one of the most mendacious of all the Brexit clich├ęs. We keep being told that we have to get Brexit ‘over the line’.

You ‘get over the line’ when you finish a race, and once you’re over the line, the race is over. But with Brexit, it’s completely different. Leaving the EU, if we are foolish enough to do it, won’t be the end of anything. It will be the start.

Whether we leave with no deal, or with May’s deal rebranded as Johnson’s deal, leaving the EU will kick off years, possibly decades of uncertainty as we try to negotiate a future arrangement with them. And, just as they have over the last three years, the EU will hold nearly all of the cards. And as the Brexiters still haven’t decided what they want, it will be a depressing and demeaning experience.

So getting Brexit ‘over the line’ doesn’t stop the nightmare. The only way you can achieve that is by stopping Brexit.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Brexitwatch: should we be downhearted?


It looks pretty bleak, doesn't it? The great Brexit lie deliverer, Boris Johnson, is prime minister. The great Brexit lie inventor, Dominic Cummings, is his right-hand man. The cabinet is packed with incompetents like disgraced former International Development Secretary Priti Patel, and Dominic 'I'm not up to the Brexit job' Raab, and the only qualification for membership appears to be having sworn that: 'I will never question anything Boris Johnson says or does.'

But....this surely represents the last throw of the dice for the Brexit-ers. If the UK does not leave the EU on October 31 as Johnson has now repeatedly promised, then surely the Brexit game is up, and we won't be leaving at all, or at the very least, we will be having a People's Vote.

The moment of truth should have come in 2016, and would have done
probably, if Johnson hadn't chickened out of the leadership race. Well now it's here. So are we downhearted? No. 

Let's not leave the field to the gloomsters of the Brexit faction: who think Britain isn't up to the challenge of competing with other European countries and that we have to hide behind barriers, who think the contintentals are cleverer than us and will always outmanouevre us if we stay as EU members. That we have to accept being poorer and less influential in the world. Let's fight, fight and fight again to save the UK!


Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Brexitwatch: the speech he never made


It is almost three years since the Brexit referendum. The man who called it, then Prime Minister David Cameron, promised that whatever the result, he would stay on as PM, but he broke that promise, resigning within hours. Just imagine if he had kept it. How much heartache and division, how many job losses he could have spared us from, and how much money he could have saved us.

All he needed to do was make this speech:

'Good morning. I am surprised and disappointed at the result of the referendum, but I promised that whatever the result I would stay on as your prime minister, and I will keep that promise.

I congratulate the Leave Campaign on their victory. Those who campaigned for the UK to leave the EU must clearly have had a credible plan for how this could be achieved without damaging our country, because without such a plan, no responsible politician could have advocated such a course of action.

So I am convening all those MPs who campaigned for Leave into a grand committee to come to an agreement on what they suggest as the way forward. Their plan will then be put to parliament as a whole.

In the meantime, there are many other tasks that our country requires its prime minister to perform in many other fields of policy, and I am now going back into 10 Downing Street to carry on with that work. Thank you.'

Would that really have been so hard?