Friday, 5 March 2021

It was 50 years ago the other day. I was there as Radio Humberside's first sports editor in 1971


Back on 25 February 1971, the day BBC Radio Humberside opened in Hull's Chapel Street (pictured), I was there as its first ever sports editor. 

In this interview with Humberside's David 'Burnsy' Burns, I talk about the promotion battle Hull City were caught up in when we went on air, a goal for Grimsby Town by Matt Tees, actor Tom Courtenay, broadcaster Paul Heiney, and decimalisation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuhozBkYmLQ

Sunday, 28 February 2021

Brexitwatch: The speech Keir Starmer should be making


Instead of running around the Labour Party like some demented John Cleese tribute act, shouting: ‘Don’t mention the Brexit!’, here is the speech Sir Keir Starmer should be making:

‘Today I am calling on Boris Johnson to respect the result of the EU referendum, and deliver what people voted for.

A lot of you voted to leave the EU, but you didn’t vote for the Brexit disaster that Boris Johnson and the Conservatives are imposing on us. We were promised by the Prime Minister and his Leave Campaign colleagues that we would have frictionless trade with the EU, that we would hold all the cards, that Brexit was all upside and no downside.

Instead, we have British fish, meat and flowers lying rotting because the so-called ‘deal’ that the Tories have negotiated means that they can’t any longer be sold in our biggest market, Europe. We have trade drying up between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We have British businesses built up by hard-working entrepreneurs over decades collapsing because the deal the Prime Minister agreed inflicts strangling red tape on them. We have more Brexit red tape stopping British musicians, technicians, architects working in Europe any longer.

We have British people no longer able to send presents to their loved ones across the Channel, and we have the obscene spectacle of Boris Johnson’s government advising British businesses that if they want to survive, they need to go and set up in Europe instead.

This is not what people voted for. So Labour is calling on Boris Johnson’s Tory government to start dismantling today the unnecessary barriers they have put up between the UK and its biggest, nearest market, to tear up the unnecessary red tape, to stop putting dogma above jobs, and to set our country free.’

Monday, 8 February 2021

Brexitwatch: a new reply from Sir Keir Starmer. (Spoiler alert!) Looks just like the old one


I've had a reply from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who happens to be my MP, to my criticisms of Labour's reply (see my post of 23 January) to my original criticisms of Labour's policy on Brexit. I attach this latest reply below, and you will see it bears an extraordinary resemblance to Labour's original reply (see my post of 17 January), which I had already demonstrated to be completely unsatisfactory. 

It is almost as though Labour has a standard pro forma response to anyone who raises anything that casts doubt on the Great God Brexit. Personally, I don't see how determinedly ignoring the Brexit disaster can win the next election for Labour, but what do I know? I'm only a voter. Anyway here's the letter: 

Dear John,

Thank you for writing to Keir to share your thoughts on Britain’s exit from the EU. He has asked me to respond on his behalf.

I am sorry that it has taken us so long to get back to you, the constituency office has received a huge amount of correspondence recently and we have had to prioritise urgent Covid-19 related casework. That said, I would like to assure you that we have still been reading and monitoring policy inquiries throughout this period and ensuing that Keir is fully briefed on the issues which are being raised by local residents. Your strong views, arguments and observations have been duly noted and shared with the relevant policy teams.

The old divides of Remain and Leave are over. At the end of December, Labour had two options: Johnson’s flawed trade deal with the EU, or the chaos of ending the transition period with no deal, which would have meant substantial tariffs and barriers to trade. Neither one was ideal. Neither one would deliver for jobs, business or the economy. 
 
We have always said that to crash out with no deal would be unthinkable. It would have created enormous uncertainty, endless negotiations and inflicted huge damage to businesses in highly exposed sectors, including manufacturing and farming.
 
With no option of renegotiating left, we voted in the national interest by rejecting no deal.
 
Voting for this deal did not mean that we welcomed it. However, compared with the alternative, this is the better option for business, supply chains, the economy and jobs. This deal will provide some stability and certainty for businesses. Without it, we would have faced no deal which would have meant investment and jobs lost across crucial sectors.

But, this is Johnson’s deal. He and his Government will own it and they must take full responsibility for their slowness and lack of preparedness – and for the promises they make and break. There was no reason that a deal this unambitious for the UK had to be left until the final days of the transition period. The decision to delay this deal has done unnecessary damage to businesses and the economy.
 
Moreover, this deal falls far short of what the Government promised. It neglects services, which account for 80 per cent of our economy, and weakens our security measures. There was very little time for Parliament to scrutinise the deal properly because of how quickly it had to be passed. So much for ‘taking back control’ – this Government is arriving at the last minute with a deal that is more ‘be grateful you’ve got anything’.
 
More holes will be exposed in the coming weeks and months which must be mended in the future. This Tory Government must now get into action and properly support British industries with adjusting to new trading rules, building up local supply chains and expanding in to new markets.
 
The biggest challenges facing our country and our planet require co-operation and international solutions, and a Labour government will work with others with shared values to tackle those.

Now that a trade deal has been agreed, the task of securing the economy, protecting the NHS, and rebuilding the country will only have just begun. A Labour government will build on the foundations of this deal, stand up against any Tory attempts to dilute workers’ rights and environmental standards, and make the United Kingdom the best place to grow up and the best place to grow old.
 
Thank you once again for your email. Please do not hesitate to get back in touch if there are any further points that you would like to raise.
    

Best wishes,
 
Annie Peterman
Research and Communications Officer
Office of Keir Starmer QC, MP
Member of Parliament for Holborn & St Pancras
Leader of the Opposition


Saturday, 23 January 2021

Brexitwatch: stop treating pro-EU voters as unpeople - my reply to Labour


On 17 January, I posted Labour's reply to my emails asking Sir Keir Starmer to keep his promise and vote against Boris Johnson's Brexit deal. Here's my response:

Dear Sir Keir,

I was disappointed when my emails urging you to oppose Boris Johnson's catastrophic Brexit 'deal' were responded to by someone identified just as 'Lee from the Labour Party'. Is this taking a leaf out of the Tory playbook, where comments come from an anonymous 'Downing Street source'?

It is such a completely unsatisfactory response that I do not have time to respond to all its inadequacies, so here are a few:

1. The 'old divides of Remain and Leave' are not 'over'. It is true, of course, that there are no more 'Remainers'. We have been dragged out of the EU against our will, so we cannot 'remain'. But the division between pro and anti-EU voters in the UK is at least as deep as ever. All polling suggests that pro-EU people are in the majority, and among Labour voters, they probably outnumber anti-EU by around 3 to 1. In spite of that, Labour has decided to ignore pro-EU people because it seems to believe the only way to election victory is by winning anti-EU votes in the so-called former 'Red Wall' seats.

I can tell you that we who are pro-EU are sick and tired of being treated by Labour as though we are unpopular relatives, who unfortunately have to be invited to the party because you want our votes, but who are expected to sit in a corner trying to make ourselves invisible and under strict instructions to shut up.

2. If Labour had voted against Johnson's deal as I urged, it would still have passed comfortably, so the 'it was the only way of avoiding no deal' excuse won't wash.

3. Every day new Brexit disasters appear: fishermen who can't sell their fish, hauliers who bypass the UK, companies who give up exporting, consumers facing huge price rises, etc. If Labour wants, it can go around saying: 'nothing to do with us, guv, even though we voted for it. It's all that Boris Johnson's fault.' We'll see whether the voters buy that line.

4. As you voted for the 'deal', Lee's comments about how useless it is are irrelevant.

5. Lee says: 'Labour are focussed entirely on making this the best country to grow up in and the best place to grow old in.' This is the kind of vacuous drivel I expect from the Tories. You don't make a country better by making it worse - by making its people poorer, by stripping them, their children and their grandchildren of their rights, by making their country weaker and more divided.

Labour's performance on Brexit has been shameful. Half-hearted on opposing it in the referendum campaign, voting to trigger Article 50 when the government had no credible plan, turning a blind eye to the cheating, lying, gerrymandering and possible foreign interference that won the vote for Leave, etc., and now treating pro-EU voters as unpeople. Labour may want us all to go away, and let you have a quiet life in which no one ever says a bad word about Brexit. But we're not going anywhere.

Lee says Johnson's deal is no good, so let's see Labour fighting to tear down the barriers it has put up. Where's the campaign to rejoin Erasmus, to restore freedom of movement for musicians, artists, technicians, and what about the many others in less glamorous jobs who would like to go on working in Europe, where's the demand to get mutual recognition of professional qualifications? Why hasn't Labour set up a forum with business to find out what are the barriers stopping them trading with Europe, and working with them to get them removed?

Yours sincerely,

John Withington

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Brexitwatch: a (sort of) reply from Sir Keir Starmer


The story so far: I wrote to Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, who is also my MP, urging Labour to oppose Boris Johnson's disastrous Brexit 'deal', because supporting it would mean Labour would be tainted with its damaging consequences and would be disqualified from complaining about them (see my posts of 6 and 27 December). As you know, Labour whipped its MPs to support the deal and the vast majority obeyed. The main excuse being that if Labour opposed it, there was a danger of 'no deal', even though the deal would have passed comfortably without Labour votes.

I have now finally received a reply - not from Sir Keir, but from 'Lee' of the Labour Party. I will be responding but I would be interested in any thoughts readers have before I do. Here it is:

Dear John,

 

Thank you for your email to Keir Starmer MP in relation to Britain’s withdrawal from the E.U. At this point in time, Keir’s mailbag is so full that he has asked me to respond on his behalf. I’m very sorry for the delay in getting back to you.

 

Your strong views, arguments and observations have been duly noted and shared with the relevant policy teams.

 

The old divides of Remain and Leave are over. We now have two options: Johnson’s flawed trade deal with the EU, or the chaos of ending the transition period with no deal, which would mean substantial tariffs and barriers to trade. Neither one is ideal. Neither one will deliver for jobs, business or the economy.

 

We have always said that to crash out with no deal would be unthinkable. It would have created enormous uncertainty, endless negotiations and inflicted huge damage to businesses in highly exposed sectors, including manufacturing and farming.

 

With no option of renegotiating left, that is why we voted in the national interest by rejecting no deal.

 

Voting for this deal does not mean we welcome it: it is a choice between this and no deal. This is the better option for business, supply chains, the economy and jobs. This deal will provide some stability and certainty for businesses. Without it, we would have had no deal which would have meant investment and jobs lost across crucial sectors.

 

But, this is Johnson’s deal. He and his Government will own it and they must take full responsibility for their slowness and lack of preparedness – and for the promises they make and break. There was no reason that a deal this unambitious for the UK had to be left until the final days of the transition period. The decision to delay this deal has already done unnecessary damage to businesses and the economy.

 

Moreover, this deal falls far short of what the Government promised. It neglects services, which account for 80 per cent of our economy, and weakens our security measures. There was very little time for Parliament to scrutinise the deal properly because of the speed it must be passed as to avoid no deal. So much for ‘taking back control’ – this Government is arriving at the last minute with a deal that is more ‘be grateful you’ve got anything’.

 

More holes will be exposed in the coming weeks and months which must be mended in the future. Labour in Opposition and government would focus on improving and building on it and standing up for the country’s interests. This Government must now get into action and properly support British industries adjusting to new trading rules, building up local supply chains and expanding in to new markets, instead of casting them to one side as they have over recent months.

 

Labour are focussed entirely on making this the best country to grow up in and the best place to grow old in. This biggest challenges facing our country and our planet require co-operation and international solutions, and a Labour government will work with others with shared values to tackle those.

 

However, with the trade deal agreed, the task of securing the economy, protecting the NHS, and rebuilding the country will only have just begun. A Labour government will build on the foundations of this deal, stand up against any Tory attempts to dilute workers’ rights and environmental standards, and make the United Kingdom the best place to grow up and the best place to grow old.

 

Best wishes,  

 

Lee 

Membership Services and Correspondence 

The Labour Party 

 


Sunday, 27 December 2020

Brexitwatch: Write to Labour again!

Disappointing to have had no reply to my email to Sir Keir Starmer (who happens to be my MP) urging Labour to vote against any Tory Brexit that fails to fully satisfy Labour's 6 tests. (see my post of December 6.)

So I'm having another go - see below. If you don't want Labour to back a Tory Brexit and be disqualified from complaining about its damaging effects, you should write to Sir Keir and your Labour MP if you have one.

Dear Sir Keir, hope you had a good Christmas. I am disappointed not to have received a reply to my email of 6 December (see below) particularly as I keep reading that you are going to instruct Labour MPs to support Boris Johnson's dreadful Brexit 'deal'. 

Every day, new details emerge of how it will damage people's lives, but if Labour votes for it, you will be disqualified from criticising its effects. Imagine the scene :

'He used to be Captain Hindsight, Mr Speaker. Now he's been demoted to Sgt Turncoat! Just a few days ago, he and the party opposite voted for our historic agreement with the EU. Now they're against it! I know he's a lawyer, who changes his brief as often as he changes his briefs, Mr Speaker, but he's no leader. Britain needs leadership, and the party opposite have shown once again that they're shallow, unprincipled opportunists, who have nothing to offer our country.'

In 2018, you promised me Labour would vote against any 'deal' that did not satisfy all its six tests. This one comes nowhere near. You should keep you promise and urge Labour MPs to vote 'no' to Johnson's deal.

Yours,

John Withingon

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Brexitwatch: WORLD EXCLUSIVE! that historic Johnson-Macron phone call.


 'Bonjour Emmanuel, j'ai un peu de difficulte, Brexit-wise, avec les tete-bangeurs de l'ERG.'

'Very good, mon ami, but let's parler anglais. You'll find it easier.'

'Right, well, look, You know that I know as well as you know that Brexit is a merde-show, and that no-deal is even merder. But if I do a deal, those ERG-ers are going to come looking for my guts pour faire les garters.'

'Ne t'inquiete pas. I have an idea. We give them a petite saveur.'

'Of what, French cooking? I can't see how that'll work. Still, I suppose anything's worth a try. But no garlic.'

'Non! Non! A petite saveur of no-deal!'

'You mean confront them with reality! Mmmm, never thought of that, but how?'

'Well. This new variety of the Covid virus that is making you British get your culotte un peu twiste par le present. What if I were to use that as an occasion pour fermer the border. Proteger la France! Take back control, as you might say.'

'Mmmmm, yes. Lorries grind to a halt, park on every verge and pavement in Kent, village gardens turned to public toilets, impenetrable tailbacks miles long! Any Brits not driven mad by Brexit might start wondering if the ERG-ers are barmy!'

'And the opposition to a deal va disparaitre dans les airs.'

 'Vanish into thin air! Like Brexit promises the morning after the referendum. Brilliant! Why hadn't I thought of that?'

'Do you want me to answer that question'

'Er, no. Tu m'as sauvee la vie! Ferme la porte, et les ports, of course. Merci, Emmanuel.'

'Je t'en prie. Bye, bye no-deal. Hello surrender, er, pardon, world-beating agreement. Au revoir.'