Friday, 13 September 2019

Brexitwatch: a reply from the Queen

Her Majesty, or more precisely her deputy correspondence coordinator, replied very promptly and courteously to my letter (see my post of 30 August). 


The key phrase: 'as a constitutional Monarch, The Queen acts on the advice of her Ministers.' It is not the Queen's fault, but what it means is that Her Majesty has to do whatever the prime minister tells her.

This was fine during the era of 'decent chap' politics, when the British constitution was not much more than an assumption that no political party would foist on the British people any prime minister who was not a good sort, and that anyone who reached these exalted heights could be trusted not to behave undemocratically.  

Sadly in the era of Boris Johnson and a Tory Party that has gone mad, this is all hopelessly outdated, so it is worth writing to the Queen on this subject. There is just the chance that if she gets enough letters, the palace may be more resistant should Johnson appear with an even more unreasonable demand. 

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Brexitwatch; Get back to the Commons! Write to your MP


Now Scotland's highest civil court has declared that Boris Johnson's silencing of parliament is illegal, MPs should be flooding back, occupying the House of Commons chamber, and continuing with the business of fighting the Brexit Coup. 

Email your MP to demand they get back there. This is what I've sent to mine - Labour's Brexit spokesperson, Sir Keir Starmer:


Dear Sir Keir,

What are you waiting for? The courts have ruled that Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament is illegal. 

The Court of Session, Scotland’s highest court, has delivered a damning verdict, with all three judges ruling that the suspension was 'motivated by the improper purpose of stymying parliament' and was therefore unlawful. 

Heaven knows what Messrs Johnson and Cummings had planned for when they'd got MPs out of the way.

You and your Labour colleagues need to get down to Westminster right now and get into the Chamber to work out what you can do to stop the Brexit Coup. Elect your own Speaker if necessary.

At the moment there is still time to stop Boris Johnson destroying British democracy, but if you pussyfoot around much longer, there won't be.

Yours sincerely,
John Withington 

Friday, 30 August 2019

Brexitwatch: write to the Queen


Her Majesty the Queen has, foolishly in my view, rubber-stamped Boris Johnson's request to shut down parliament for five weeks during the worst political crisis in the UK since World War Two. This is the letter I have written to her:


Her Majesty the Queen,
Buckingham Palace,
London SW1A 1AA.

30 August 2019

Your Majesty,

I write this letter with great regret. I have always been a royalist, but now you have turned me into a republican.

The reason is straightforward. The national interest of our country, and particularly the long-term interest, such as protecting our democracy, is not the same thing as what a particular prime minister or government happens to find convenient at a particular moment. So there needs to be someone in our constitution who plays the role of standing up for the national interest, when necessary, against the prime minister or government of the day.

I had always hoped that, in extremis, the monarch would take this role. However, your caving in to Boris Johnson’s request to silence parliament during the worst political crisis since World War Two makes it clear that I was wrong. So if the monarch is not prepared to defend the national interest, the UK needs someone who can and will – probably an elected president. In which case, there seems little point in having a monarch.

With great respect, I think you were foolish to accede to Mr Johnson’s request. The argument over Brexit is the most bitter and divisive I have ever seen in this country during my (rather long) life, and you have now taken sides in it. And according to the evidence of virtually all opinion polls of the last three years, you have chosen the side that is in the minority.

Why did you refuse to meet Jeremy Corbyn before agreeing to Mr Johnson’s request? I am not an admirer of Mr Corbyn, but he is the Leader of your Loyal Opposition, and deserved to be heard at this time.

Could you not have demanded time to consider Mr Johnson’s request, giving you the opportunity to consult some of the many privy councillors who were denied the chance to come and meet you? Surely at the very least, the other five living prime ministers would have been worth talking to? Could you have agreed to a prorogation, but one for the normal three or four days instead of five weeks? Could you have said this must be a matter for parliament itself, and that it was up to MPs to decide whether it should be shut down?

The situation is made even more serious by the fact that it appears the privy councillors who secured your agreement may have lied to you. I do not, of course, know what they said to you, but what they are telling the rest of us is that the prorogation was necessary to allow Mr Johnson to prepare the Queen’s Speech and let MPs go off to the party conferences (though MPs had not yet voted on whether parliament should be closed during the conferences), but the ‘Secretary of State for Defence’ – who is apparently called Ben Wallace – has been recorded admitting that this is all lies and the real purpose of the prorogation is the fear that parliament may not obey Mr Johnson’s orders.


I appeal to you to reconsider this matter, and withdraw your permission for the prorogation.

Yours sincerely,



John Withington

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Brexitwatch: how the BBC should be interviewing Brexit-ers


I have just sent this complaint, which also includes helpful suggestions, to the BBC:

"It is immensely frustrating to hear Brexit apologists run rings around BBC interviewers day after day with lies, evasions and obfuscations. It is the duty of your interviewers to take a far tougher line.

So if a Brexit-er tells you that Yellowhammer is out of date, a Remainer plot, that everything is now sorted, that the government is preparing for no-deal, etc, etc, the next question should be:
‘So do you guarantee that Brexit will not cause any shortage of medicines, foods or fuel or a hard border in Ireland?’ If the Brexit-er equivocates, they need to be pressed hard: ‘So what might there be shortages of? How long could these shortages last?' etc

If they say: ‘well I can’t tell you exactly’, the next question should be: ‘shouldn’t you know exactly how serious the shortages are going to be before you inflict them on our country?’

If the Brexit-er re-iterates that no-deal is nothing to fear and that everything will be fine, the next question should be: ‘so do you guarantee that you will resign if there are shortages of medicines, food or fuel or a hard border in Ireland?’

BBC interviewing on Brexit so far has let the country down. The UK is now facing its worst crisis since World War Two. If the BBC lets us down again, its reputation will never recover."

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?

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Brexitwatch: does the Tory Party face richly deserved extinction?


Is the Tory Party heading for richly deserved extinction? At the Peterborough by-election the Tories saw their share of the vote fall by 25 percentage points. At the European elections, they won just 9 per cent of the vote. At the local elections they lost more than 1,300 seats. Donations to the party have fallen by half.

And the latest Private Eye reveals the picture is even worse. Although the party appears to own a lot of property, such as Conservative clubs and buy-to-let properties, very little is owned by the party centrally.

Almost all of it is in the hands of local associations and trusts, and those local associations are starting to abandon the parliamentary party, with shedloads of local officeholders backing the Brexit Party at the European elections. Now the fear is that local branches will start giving up on the party, affiliating with Nigel Farage’s lot instead, and taking the property with them.

Is this one of the reasons why we are getting unadulterated pandering to the party’s worst, most reactionary instincts from those trying to replace Theresa May.


Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Brexitwatch: could Theresa May finally do the right thing?


At the very last gasp, could Theresa May finally do the right thing? The charge sheet against her is a long one. Just about every major decision she faced - red lines, triggering Article 50, telling the truth about Brexit - she got wrong. Above all, she always put the interests of the Tory Party before the interests of the country.

Now she has stepped down as Tory leader, but she is still prime minister, and, in a little-noticed development, she has said she will not resign from that position until she is convinced her successor has the confidence of parliament https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/1137172/Theresa-may-resign-brexit-deal-news-conservative-leadership-contest

Could this be significant? At the moment, the overwhelmingly reactionary membership of her party seem determined to pass over the merely deluded candidates and go for the totally mad or bad - say Dominic Raab, who fancies himself as a dictator and wants to shut down parliament, or Boris Johnson. Whereas May always put party before country, we can be sure Johnson will put Johnson before either. It is hard to see any of the no-deal headbangers commanding a majority among MPs. So might May try to stay on or might she leave the UK a parting gift?

In her closing days, she did seem to discover a bit of backbone and a determination to stop a catastrophic 'no deal' departure from the EU. At the moment, she is on course to go down in history as our worst ever prime minister, but could she at the last gasp go from zero to hero by revoking Article 50 and saving her country? (My post of March 22 explains how this would work.)


Sunday, 9 June 2019

Brexitwatch: the 'will of the people' is to be found in parliament not the Brexit referendum result



Regular readers of this blog will know I reject the ‘will of the people’ argument for Brexit (see for example my post of 15 December 2016), that the result of a crooked referendum that promised a deal that could never be delivered is a reason for leaving the EU.

But let’s go with it for a moment. So the ‘will of the people’ in June 2016 was that we leave the EU. But then who elected our current parliament in 2017? ‘The people’.

Under our system, no parliament can bind its successor so the ‘will of the people’ expressed by the general election supersedes the ‘will of the people’ of the referendum, and the squeals of ‘betrayal’ from the Brexit fanatics are the usual hypocritical bunkum.

MPs are under absolutely no obligation to implement a Brexit they consider damaging to our country. Indeed, it is their duty to reject it.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Brexitwatch: BBC fails to address my complaint


In my post for April 19, I put up the letter I sent to the BBC complaining about its failure to challenge the constant lies trotted out by pro-Brexit speakers. I particulary wanted to know why BBC interviewers never ask:

1. Why should we have to obey the result of a referendum that was won by lying, cheating and criminality?
2. Why should we have to obey the result of a referendum in which voters were promised a Brexit that is not being and cannot be delivered?
3. Why are we pretending we have to obey the result of a referendum that was explicitly non-binding and advisory?

I received a reply which did not address any of these points: 

Dear Mr Withington

Thank you for contacting the BBC.
I understand you feel BBC News has shown a consistent bias in favour of Brexit and failed to properly question the assertions of those who are in favour of Brexit.
Naturally we regret when any member of our audience is unhappy with any aspect of what we do. We have received a wide range of feedback about our coverage of this story across our news programmes and bulletins. Keeping in mind pressures on licence fee resources, this response seeks to address the key points raised. That said, we apologise in advance if your complaint has not been specifically addressed here.
We aim to cover the ongoing Brexit negotiations with due impartiality. This means we carry a wide range of views about the European Union from across the political spectrum on our output.
We approach the story with the required level of impartiality, with input from various commentators and experts. 'Feedback' on BBC Radio 4 has addressed the issue of complaints about how we cover the story. Our Chief Political Adviser and the controller of the BBC's daily news programming joined Today presenter Nick Robinson, to discuss the common complaints from all sides. You may be interested in the sections at 3mins and 13mins especially:
As with any story we cover, BBC News does not have an opinion on the European Union, or on the UK’s position within it. Instead we try to explain the different and sometimes complex issues affecting our audience during Brexit. Our aim is to give them the information they need in order to follow the process clearly.
We appreciate your concerns and hope this helps to explain how we approach our reporting of this subject. Nonetheless, I understand this is something you feel strongly about and I’ve included your points on our audience feedback report that is sent to senior management and programme makers each morning and ensures that your complaint has been seen by the right people quickly. This helps inform their decisions about current and future output.
We appreciate you taking the time to register your views on this matter as it is greatly helpful in informing future decisions at the BBC.
Thanks again for getting in touch.
Kind regards
John Hamill
BBC Complaints Team
I have now complained about this response as follows:
I made a very specific complaint about how interviews with Brexit supporters are conducted on BBC programmes, and about how interviewers appear to constantly suppress crucial facts. I asked you whether this was because they were ignorant or because they were instructed not to raise certain issues inconvenient for the Brexit case. I also asked you if there was an instruction, from whom did it come.
You did not address any of these points, and instead delivered a standard, generic response claiming: 'we try to be fair'. The key points are below. I would be grateful if this time you address them.
Day after day, Brexit supporters are allowed to spout that the UK has to leave the EU because 'people voted for it'. (Most of them have by now given up any pretence that Brexit has any benefits.)
I used to work for the BBC as well as other broadcasting organisations, and I would have been asking these interviewees:
1. Why should we have to obey the result of a referendum that was won by lying, cheating and criminality?
2. Why should we have to obey the result of a referendum in which voters were promised a Brexit that is not being and cannot be delivered?
3. Why are we pretending we have to obey the result of a referendum that was explicitly non-binding and advisory?
I have heard many, many Brexiters being interviewed on your programmes, but I have NEVER heard one of your interviewers putting these points. Why is that? Is it because they are ignorant of the facts or is it because an edict has come from on high forbidding them from raising these inconvenient facts. If it is the latter, from whom does it come?


Saturday, 4 May 2019

Brexitwatch: inter-Remain party co-operation - a reply from the Greens' Caroline Lucas


Well done the LibDems and the Greens in the local elections! The outstanding results they achieved makes it all the more disappointing that there is no plan for pro-Remain parties to work together at the European elections on May 23.

As you can see from my posts of April 12 and 18, I wrote to the parties on this issue, and received a disappointing response from the Greens. I have now received a further reply from Caroline Lucas, the party's sole MP, which you can see below. I hope she has not underestimated the danger that splitting the Remain vote may lead to more of Nigel Farage's Brexit Party being elected as MEPs - a development that might make the EU less willing to grant any further delays to the UK's departure date.

Dear John,

Thank you for your email about the possibility of an electoral alliance of Remain parties in the forthcoming European Parliament election.

As someone who strongly believes that the UK’s future would be brighter, fairer and greener if we remained in the EU, and having been a co-founder of the cross-party campaign for a People’s Vote with the option to remain, I very much understand your desire to see the pro-Remain parties working together to maximise the pro-Remain vote in the European Parliament (EP) election. Unfortunately, however, the particular form of proportional representation that the UK uses for EP elections (the d’Hondt system) presents very significant practical barriers to the formation of a formal or even an informal electoral alliance.

In terms of a formal electoral alliance – that is, with the alliance’s name and logo appearing on the ballot paper – such an alliance would need to be approved and registered by the Electoral Commission. The deadline for seeking such approval by, and registration with, the Electoral Commission was in early February, long before the EU Council meeting on 10 April which granted the Article 50 extension to 31 October that makes it possible to hold the EP election on 23 May.

As for an informal arrangement – that is, with candidates standing under the banner of their own party, but some parties standing down in each region to give one pro-Remain party a free-run – the d’Hondt system, and in particular the division of the UK into electoral regions of varying size, makes it very difficult to predict with any certainty which party is best placed to maximise the benefit of being given a free-run in each region.

Furthermore, it is not at all clear how such an informal alliance could have ensured compliance with the Electoral Commission’s rules on campaign spending (and there would be little point parties standing their candidates down to give another party a free-run, unless they then campaigned jointly for that party’s candidates). These practical and legal difficulties would have made any negotiations between the various parties extremely complex. What’s more, although in principle I was open to exploring the possibility of working together, it quickly became clear that Change UK were unwilling to consider such an informal arrangement. And, contrary to some media reports, the Liberal Democrats did not make any approach to the Green Party on this issue.

In short, as attractive as an electoral alliance might have been, it was simply not a viable option (and the deadline for registering candidates has now passed).

I realise that this is disappointing, but can assure you that the Green Party, the Party’s excellent MEP candidates and I will all be campaigning hard over the next four weeks to maximise the pro-Remain vote and resist the opportunistic populism of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party and the far-right extremism of UKIP.  The Greens are well placed to build on the strong track record of our existing three MEPs on delivering not just a People’s Vote, but bold action on climate change too. We understand why many people voted for Leave in June 2016: the status quo is intolerable and we are pushing for the reforms necessary in both the UK and the EU to make a transition away from the current system – one which fails us all so badly, and hits the most vulnerable hardest.  

We have to redefine what success looks like in this EP election, and ensuring a majority of pro-Remain votes on 23 May is key – whether that translates into more MEPs, or not. If more than 50% of the voting public express a preference for Remain candidates, that massively strengthens the case for a People’s Vote, whereas alliances could in fact suppress the pro-Remain numbers (if traditional voters of one party felt unable to support a candidate from a different one, because although they agree on Remain, they have almost nothing else in common at all). Alliances might also not result in a pro-Remain MEP majority and strategically would not move us any closer to a ratification referendum. Even if the Brexit Party secures a majority of MEP seats, that will count for much less if the country has voted Remain overall and the pressure for a People’s Vote really builds.

I  hope that makes my position clear. I understand how worried and concerned you are, and hope that you will use your vote on 23 May to send a strong clear message in support of Remain.

Best wishes,

Caroline

Friday, 26 April 2019

Brexitwatch: Write to Labour


It's being reported that Labour has omitted any mention of a referendum on any Brexit terms - a 'People's Vote' - from its European elections leaflets, because it got 'forgotten'. (It's the second time Labour has used this excuse).

I've written to Labour's Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, (team@tom-watson.com) to protest and to say that I will not vote for Labour unless it stops helping the Tory government to drag us out of the EU.

Dear Mr Watson
I am bitterly disappointed to learn that the Labour Party's election leaflet for the European elections contains no mention of a People's Vote.. This is deeply foolish as well as duplicitous. After the 2017 General Election, Labour betrayed its voters by claiming that voting Labour meant they backed Brexit. Many will not be fooled again. I will believe the party is committed to a referendum on any Brexit terms, including an option to remain, only when I hear it unequivocally from the mouth of Jeremy Corbyn himself.
And when I hear alleged Labour MPs like Caroline Flint singing the praises of Theresa May's blind Brexit when even Nigel Farage admits it is worse than staying in the EU, words fail me.
If we leave the EU, I will not forgive Labour.
There is no longer any justification for Brexit:
1. Any Brexit will damage the UK and particularly the people Labour is supposed to care most about.
2. The referendum result is null and void as it was won by lies, cheating and criminality. (I have taken this up with my MP, Sir Keir Starmer on a number of occasions and I am bitterly disappointed that Labour has tried to sweep it under the carpet - an act of foolishness and cowardice that will haunt the party for a very long time.)
3. The Brexit that was promised is not being and cannot be delivered, and there is no mandate for either of the available Brexits - Theresa May's blind Brexit or 'no deal'.
Labour's half-hearted opposition to the right wing Brexit coup has been a dreadful stain on the party's reputation, and if we are now dragged out of the EU, I will regard Labour as being as much to blame as the Tories. I trust you will now do whatever is necessary to stop it.
If we do leave, I will not forget, and I will do everything I can to help defeat Labour in all subsequent elections.
There is still time to do the right thing, but it is fast running out.
Yours sincerely,
John Withington


Monday, 22 April 2019

History corner - for Manchester United fans


Yesterday Manchester United suffered a very disappointing 4-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park. I remember another 4-0 defeat at Goodison and its aftermath

It came on the first day of the 1963-4 season in the Charity Shield. United had finished the previous season on a high, winning the FA Cup, their first trophy since the Munich disaster. Matt Busby's response to the Goodison debacle was to drop four of the cup-winning team: David Gaskell, Johnny Giles, David Quixall and David Herd. Giles never kicked another ball for the club, though he had a distinguished career with Leeds, while Herd went on to win two championship medals. 

A fortnight later, United beat Everton 5-1 at Old Trafford. As for the new players who came in, Harry Gregg was a returning veteran, David Sadler went on to win a number of medals, including European Cup Winner, while Ian Moir played a total of only 45 games and Phil Chisnall 47, before being transfered to Liverpool, where he had only limited success.


Busby's tough approach seemed to work. At the end of the season United finished second in what was then the First Division, up from 19th the previous year.



Friday, 19 April 2019

Brexitwatch: another complaint to the BBC


The BBC's performance has been so lamentable that I could complain every day about the way pro-Brexit interviewees are allowed to spout their lies on programme after programme without even a token challenge.

But I've finally lost patience, and written to them again:


Last night a journalist was killed in N Ireland as Brexit undermines the peace process, and unfortunately the BBC has played its part in this sorry state of affairs by failing to expose systematic lying by pro-Brexit speakers on its news and current affairs programmes.
Day after day, they are allowed to spout that the UK has to leave the EU because 'people voted for it'. (Most of them have by now given up any pretence that Brexit has any benefits.)
I used to work for the BBC as well as other broadcasting organisations, and I would have been asking these interviewees:
1. Why should we have to obey the result of a referendum that was won by lying, cheating and criminality?
2. Why should we have to obey the result of a referendum in which voters were promised a Brexit that is not being and cannot be delivered?
3. Why are we pretending we have to obey the result of a referendum that was explicitly non-binding and advisory?
I have heard many, many Brexiters being interviewed on your programmes, but I have NEVER heard one of your interviewers putting these points. Why is that? Is it because they are ignorant of the facts or is it because an edict has come from on high forbidding them from raising these inconvenient facts. If it is the latter, from whom does it come?

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Brexitwatch: working together to beat Brexit - a disappointing response from the Greens


Last week I wrote to the three main pro-Remain parties in England: the LibDems, Greens and Independent Group to ask how they would be co-operating in the local and European elections (see my post of April 12).

The only response I've had so far has been from the Greens. It was disappointing (and suggested a lack of understanding of how the voting system works): 

Hi John, 

Thank you for getting in touch. 

We released this statement on the matter yesterday: 

"The Green Party has no plans to field joint ‘remain’ lists in the upcoming European Elections. The Green Party has a long and proud history within the European Parliament - from being a strong and unwavering voice for Remain, to fighting climate change and standing up for workers’ rights. 

"The European Parliament election is conducted by proportional representation, which means every vote counts and every vote can make a difference. In the last European Elections the Green Party came ahead of the Liberal Democrats, with three MEPs elected. We would also resist any calls for us to stand alongside parties with whom we have fundamental ideological differences on austerity, economic policy and beyond." 

Kind regards, 
Culann 
Membership Team 
Green Party of England and Wales 


I have replied to the Green MP Caroline Lucas  caroline.lucas.mp@parliament.uk and to the party's leadership - leader@greenparty.org.uk

Dear Caroline Lucas & Green Party,
I am bitterly disappointed by the reply I have received to my question about how pro-Remain parties are going to co-operate in the local and European elections. 
You do not even mention the local elections, and your reply on the European elections reflects a tribalism that would fit perfectly in the Tory and Labour parties. It also suggests an ignorance of how the electoral system in the Euro elections works. Except in N Ireland, it is not a properly proportional system. A threshold has to be passed before a party can get any MEPs. The more pro-Remain parties fight each other, the fewer pro-Remain MEPs there will be.
If the election is handed to Nigel Farage or the Tory party, it will be a terrible blow for the Remain cause, and anyone in the pro-Remain parties who helps facilitate it will not be forgiven.
Please thing again.
Yours sincerely,
John Withington

Friday, 12 April 2019

Brexitwatch: let's get pro-Remain parties to work together


If we're going to stop Brexit, it's really important that pro-Remain parties do very well in the local elections on May 2, and the European elections on May 23 (assuming they happen), so I've written to the LibDems, the Independent Group and the Greens to ask them what they're doing to work together.

Here's what I sent to the Independent Group:


It is very important that pro-Remain candidates do very well in the local elections and the European elections (assuming they take place).  So I would like to know what you are doing to co-operate with other pro-EU parties such as the LibDems, the Greens, the SNP etc. I am writing to the other parties asking the same question.

Monday, 8 April 2019

Brexitwatch: People's Vote - write to the Labour Party chairman


One of the most painful aspects of Brexit is listening to unscrupulous Labour Party spokespeople tying themselves in knots of bewildering complexity as they try to avoid answering the simple question: 'Does Labour back a referendum on any Brexit terms that are agreed?'

It is being reported that one of the main opponents of a People's Vote is Labour chairman Ian Lavery, the MP for Wansbeck. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/apr/06/labour-chairman-attacks-corbyn-over-second-referendum-plan


If you want a referendum, write to him at ian.lavery.mp@parliament.uk.


This is what I have sent him. Feel free to borrow, adapt, etc



Dear Mr Lavery,
I am writing to you in your capacity as chairman of the Labour Party. I read that you are doing everything you can to prevent the British people being allowed to vote on the terms under which they are dragged out of the EU. 
Well, if we leave the EU, I will not forgive Labour.
There is no longer any justification for Brexit:
1. Any Brexit will damage the UK and particularly the people Labour is supposed to care most about.
2. The referendum result is null and void as it was won by lies, cheating and criminality. (I am bitterly disappointed that Labour has tried to sweep this under the carpet - an act of foolishness and cowardice that will haunt the party for a very long time.)
3. The Brexit that people voted for is not being and cannot be delivered. 
Labour's half-hearted opposition to the right wing Brexit coup has been a dreadful stain on the party's reputation, and if we are now dragged out of the EU, I will regard Labour as being as much to blame as the Tories. I trust the party will now do whatever is necessary to stop it.
If we do leave, I will not forget, and I will do everything I can to help defeat Labour in all subsequent elections.
There is still time to do the right thing, but it is fast running out.
Yours sincerely,
John Withington


Friday, 29 March 2019

Brexitwatch: ask the Speaker to rule out MV3


By a piece of transparent chicanery, Theresa May seems to have persuaded the Speaker that she should be given a third chance to get her disastrous double-blind Brexit through this afternoon, even though the rules of the House of Commons say that once it has been rejected, it should not be put again. May's deal has been overwhelmingly rejected twice.

If you agree with me that this brings parliament into disrepute, please join me in writing to John Bercow at  speakersoffice@parliament.uk and asking him to reconsider. This is what I have sent him:

Dear Mr Speaker,
As you know, I have great regard for you, but I am very disappointed that you have decided to rule it is in order for Theresa May to bring her blind Brexit deal before the House of Commons for a third time. If we the people are not allowed to have second thoughts about our decisions, it is very hard to see how the government can be allowed to keep on bringing the same measure forward again and again until it finally gets the answer it wants.
Theresa May herself has made it clear that the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration have to be considered as a single entity, so how can it be right that she now tells MPs to consider them separately?
I urge you, in the interests of parliamentary democaracy, to think again.
Yours sincerely,
John Withington