America’s descent

In a year’s time, barring some great turnaround, the Republicans will take control of Congress. These aren’t the Republicans of Reagan or Bush, but Trump’s. Across the US in Republican-run states they are gerrymandering boundaries, passing laws to restrict voting, and putting in place sympathetic judges to rule on the outcomes of those elections, should they go the “wrong way”.

Whatever Republican politicians feel privately, the truck-driving, gun-owning, Tucker Carlson-worshipping Trump fundamentalists run the Party now. Any deviation from the Trump line will mean at best being replaced as a candidate and at worst violent threats.

Taking the House and Senate will end any efforts to investigate the January 6th insurrection, that attempted to overturn Biden’s election win. They will promote people like Paul Gosar, who has repeatedly posted videos simulating the killing of a Democrat Congresswoman, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, an evangelical for unfettered gun freedoms that would make Rittenhouse-style armed vigilantism even easier and who has helped elevate Covid denial to a crusade against masks and vaccines. Then there’s Lauren Bohbert, who this week called the few Muslim Congress members “the jihad squad”.

At the very least these Republicans will make the remainder of President Biden’s term very difficult. More likely – given that they want payback for Trump’s two impeachments and believe Biden “stole” the election, they will remove him and Kamala Harris from office. That would make the new Speaker of the House, Republican Kevin McCarthy, President.

Despite rapidly tackling poverty, addressing urgent infrastructure issues, creating jobs and generally not being an unhinged despot like his predecessor, Biden’s popularity is plummeting. Congressional Democrats were never as popular as him, and have fallen into the trap of attacking their own for not being left enough. Right-wing media like Fox, Newsmax and OANN has convinced those already in thrall to QAnon conspiracy theorists and people like Steve Bannon that Marxism is about to seize control of the country, take their guns and usher in Sharia Law.

The storming of Congress was a trial run, organised from the White House rather than spontaneous, and failed through incompetence rather than any safeguards. Trump was willing to see his own Vice President killed in order for him to stay in the Oval Office. A second coup attempt won’t fail.

Even if Trump doesn’t run again, a Trump-style Republican Governor like Ron De Santis of Florida or Greg Abbott of Texas will. State leaders who’ve gutted the abilities of Democrat-leaning communities – Black people – to vote, banned abortion and outlawed any efforts to prevent Covid infections.

A “Trumplican” America may not reach the extremes of Atwood’s Gilead, but it will no longer be a democracy. An ethno-nationalist, insular one-party state where freedoms for many are severely eroded. A Trump/ Republican majority in Congress, on the Supreme Court and the White House will never relinquish power again.

Will it matter to us? There will be no-one left to resist Putin’s global power grab, restrain Bolsonaro’s ravaging of the Amazon rainforest, stand up to Xi’s China, or promote the battle against climate change. And there are plenty in the Brexit/populist group running the Conservative Party who look to the Trump GOP for inspiration and advice.

The Conservative Party is dead

I’m not a Conservative Party member, voter or supporter, and never have been.

Many of my contemporaries and friends from my formative days in Westminster politics did go on to senior roles in the Major Government, or into Conservative-supporting journalism, with considerable success.

More recently, I shared platforms with people forced out of the Conservative Party over Brexit and the path that the current leadership has taken it.

I joined Labour in the early Nineties after promising a university friend, who himself went on to hold very senior office in the PLP, because I’m a social democrat, believing in progressive change and reform through existing political and economic structures and systems.

I’ve never held with more Marxist-leaning Left doctrines of wholesale change, class-based conflict and revolutionary (not necessarily violent) upheavals of society. It was partly through the seizing of the Labour leadership of people more allied to those ideals than progressive change that I left Labour some three years ago.

I never shared the view of Tories as inherently evil, of Conservative voters as people to be shunned rather than won over, and of a fundamental “us and them” schism) in British society.

Rather, I always felt that despite some wholesale disagreement on policy, there were many fundamentals on which the left of centre and the right of centre agreed, where social democrats and One Nation Conservatives could find common ground.

These would include a healthy, critical friend support of the civil service and expert advisers, a belief in the institutions of the State, support for the rule of law and standards in public office, and backing for a free press. Perhaps to a lesser extent, some support for a welfare state, public services and local government, though many would argue that was seriously diminished under Margaret Thatcher.

Whatever one’s views of David Cameron Coalition Government, particularly his catastrophic gamble on the EU referendum aimed at seeing off the ERG rebels (who were the “bastards” that fatally undermined John Major) and their fellow-travellers in UKIP, he broadly held to most of the fundamentals that have underpinned the One Nation Conservative Party for over a century.

Defeat in the Brexit referendum and the long rearguard action under Theresa May led eventually to victory for the group of Conservatives centered around the ERG, who could count on the support of many new recruits in the 2017 and 2019 intakes of those signed up uncritically to a populist, nationalist agenda under Brexit. And of course the coming to power of Boris Johnson, the embodiment of a flag-waving, pint-in-the-pub British bloke (an image carefully curated to obscure his Eton and Oxbridge, Spectator journalist true self.)

It is very hard to square the actions of today’s Government with those of the Conservatives under Major thirty years ago. Yes, there were some bad legislative moves then, but look what we have now.

Life sentences for anyone found to be helping refugees and asylum seekers come ashore safely, under the guise of tough new immigration laws. A Brexit that has harmed the haulage, fishing and farming industries, once the backbone of Tory support, to a point where many businesses are now unsustainable and supermarket shelves are starting to go bare. A barely concealed dislike of previously close European partners. Laws that potentially criminalise and imprison journalists, even those from broadly-sympathetic publications, for stories that a critical or embarrassing for the Conservative Government.

A total disdain and calamitous disregard for the Union from which the Conservatives draw their full title, with an ever more independence-leaning Scotland and a Northern Ireland dangerously destabilised by Brexit consequences many warned about.

A wholesale, open and guilt-free rejection of rules, standards, Parliamentary procedure and laws by ministers and MPs, from the prorogation of Parliament through misleading the House, proven breaches of the Ministerial code and much, much more.

Things that once would have brought down ministers and even governments, that would have horrified the Tory Establishment, are now brushed-off and laughed away by Johnson and those he has brought into Parliament and into Cabinet. A whole new ethos prevails.

Whether by design or by lack of it, donors and cronies are able to feed off of the public purse. Sustained by an 80 seat majority gifted them by the worst Labour leader in history, and a Poundshop Churchill tribute act that would have disgusted the man himself, the Conservatives have regenerated, Time Lord-like, into something that shares some genes, branding and affiliation with it’s former self, but which is in effect a whole new entity.

The Conservative Party as we knew it, under Major and even under Thatcher, is dead. Some form of English nationalist populist party has emerged, without many of its own members or traditional voters truly realising it, over the past five years. It is a real threat to our politics, our institutions and freedoms, the things the Conservative Party once claimed to protect.

Under New Management

This afternoon five years of Labour minority control in Brighton and Hove comes to an end, with the return of the Greens to power after three Labour councillors, all elected on a Momentum slate, were suspended or resigned following antisemitic social media posts. Two other Momentum-backed candidates didn’t even make it to polling day last year, several others lost Labour-won seats back to the Greens (see previous blog post).

It took eight years of hard work to return Labour to office in Brighton and Hove, and less than three for Momentum to throw it away with petty factionalism and vendettas.

They still control the CLPs and LCF, with at least one officer a former TUSC candidate in 2015 who lost a seat in 2019.

They still enjoy the tacit support of the Kemptown MP.

They still make up the majority of Labour opposition spokespersons on the now Green-led committees than run the council in the absence of a Cabinet.

They still fill the online space around Brighton Labour with bile and betrayal.

No humility, shame or contrition, despite the departure of councillors, despite the multiple suspensions, despite the loss of office, despite yesterday’s events in the High Court.

In the past Labour HQ had had to intervene in Brighton when entryism and the Left brought the Party into disrepute. Momentum believed this couldn’t happen all the time they were protected by Corbynite control at the top of the Party.

Now Labour is, as Sir Keir Starmer said yesterday, “under new management”, they are no longer immune, and action should surely go further than individual suspensions if Labour is ever to return to a leadership role in our city.

How Momentum Failed Labour – And Brighton And Hove


In 2015 Labour doubled its number of seats on Brighton and Hove City Council and formed a minority administration for the first time in eight years. We set about building and buying back council houses, building a thousand truly affordable homes, tackling rough sleeping and homelessness, building a stronger economy and stronger communities, despite being outnumbered by the Conservative and Green opposition. In the face of massive Government reductions in the council budget, and increases in our responsibilities as a local authority, we put Labour values into action.

This was not enough for Momentum, who viewed most of those on the Council as Blairites. They set about, under the leadership of Greg Hadfield, replacing sitting councillors with Momentum backed candidates in pursuit of a “Socialist Majority”of 26 or more councillors.

16 of the 24 Labour councillors elected in 2015 are no longer on the Council, many of us forced to quit, deselected or left to campaign alone in the elections. Many very able and talented councillors were lost. The citywide Party organisation that had helped us win in 2015 was broken up into Momentum-controlled CLPs. I was forced out for speaking up on antisemitism during Party Conference.

In the 2019 local elections, Labour lost five of the seats we had gained from the Greens back to them in the two Brighton constituencies. Labour’s citywide vote share fell by nearly 5%. Some gains from the Conservatives in Hove by Peter Kyle’s campaign team meant a net loss of 3 seats overall. The attempt to win a “Socialist Majority” failed. Even some of those elected have since been embroiled in controversy and evidence of antisemitic social media posts. One didn’t even make polling day before being expelled, another quit, both over antisemitism.

Here is what happened to the slate of candidates Momentum promoted:

  • East Brighton ward

Cllr Nancy Platts: re-elected, made Leader. Shared a platform with Chris Williamson at a meeting addressed by expelled member Tony Greenstein

Gill Williams: elected

Nichole Brennan: elected, “under investigation” for antisemitism Update: resigned

  • Goldsmid ward

Debbie Taylor: lost

John Allcock: elected

  • Hollingdean and Stanmer ward

Phil Clarke: was a 2015 TUSC candidate, lost a Labour held seat

Theresa Fowler: elected

  • Moulsecoomb and Bevendean ward

Kate Knight: elected. Resigned from Labour after investigation into antisemitic posts on social media.

  • Preston Park ward

Denise Friend: lost a Labour held seat

Juan Baeza: lost a Labour held seat

  • Queen’s Park ward

Colin Piper: stood in 2015 for TUSC, lost a Labour held seat, now CLP Chair

Amanda Evans: elected

Nick Childs: elected, resigned as Education Chair following revelation he sends his daughter to Roedean private school

  • North Portslade ward

Anne Pissaridou: elected, suspended from the Group for antisemitism

  • Hanover and Elm Grove ward

Danielle Spencer: lost

  • Wish ward

Alex Braithwaite: suspended whilst still a candidate for antisemitism, lost

Adam Imanpour: lost

  • Rottingdean Coastal ward

Robert McIntosh: lost

  • Central Hove ward

Gary Wilkinson: elected

  • Patcham ward

Adam Scott: lost

Jerry Gould: withdrew after making antisemitic comments

  • Withdean ward

Claire Wadey: lost

Ian McIsaac: lost

James Thompson: lost

  • Woodingdean ward

David Wilson: lost

  • Hangleton and Knoll ward

John Hewitt: lost

Labour has now squandered its position as the largest group on the city council after a disastrous series of electoral losses, expulsions, suspensions and resignations over antisemitic posts.

Without root and branch change in the Momentum-led local parties (Kemptown, for example, is chaired by one of the former TUSC candidates) then a Green-dominated Council seems likely for the foreseeable future, with 2023 a Green-Tory battle for control, unless Labour can “clean house”.

Had we in the 2015-19 Labour Group not been fighting a daily battle against people supposedly on the same side, then we might well have secured that majority which had eluded all parties in Brighton and Hove for the past twenty years, and we could now be leading the effort to lead the city’s recovery post Brexit and post Covid19. Just as Corbyn’s leadership failed the country, Momentum failed Labour and failed the city we aspired to make a better place for all who live here. Just as change came to Labour nationally, soon I hope change will come to Labour here.

A Test Of Resilience

I’m no expert on viruses, pandemics and health. I’ve a limited understanding of civil contingencies, emergency planning and resilience from my time with the police and from leading the city council (or as I remember it, the stuff of nightmares). You may have read enough on Covid 19 by now, or quite sensibly are choosing not to dwell on it. If so, scroll on.

I’m no expert on viruses, pandemics and health. I’ve a limited understanding of civil contingencies, emergency planning and resilience from my time with Sussex police and from leading the city council (or as I remember it, the stuff of nightmares). You may have read enough on Covid 19 by now, or quite sensibly are choosing not to dwell on it. If so, scroll on.

As much for my own benefit as anyone else’s, I’ve tried to think through where we are now, and balance the risks of what are clearly differing approaches to the pandemic.

Doing nothing is not an option. Left unchecked the virus will spike, health and public services will be overwhelmed, people in high risk groups will die in significant numbers and the economy and infrastructure will suffer critical damage with supplies of essential goods threatened. Consequences would be dire.

Most countries have, in varying degrees and via different measures, imposed restrictions on travel, gatherings and even going to work, the aim being to slow or stop the spread of the virus as far as possible. Even where infection rates are currently low, like Canada and New Zealand, measures have been tough and quick.

The argument against this is that with pandemics there is a risk of a second wave of infections, when lockdown measures can’t be sustained, with even greater levels of infection. People can’t work from home, have their kids home from school, avoid socialising and public events for more than 2 or 3 months, and even that is unprecedented and untested on a large scale. What will that level of isolation and inactivity do to people’s mental health and family relationships?

Here the strategy seems to be to allow a controlled spread of the disease, with widespread infection over an extended period whilst protecting vulnerable groups. Any “lockdown” measures are restricted to the peak of the epidemic. This allows the economy and “normal life” to continue as far as possible, and the theory goes that the population will develop a “herd immunity” to prevent a disastrous second wave in the winter.

Of course, with testing limited to those hospitalised, we will never know for sure if we’ve had it and therefore have developed an immunity. We won’t know the extent of infection and therefore the mortality rate will seem higher than it is in reality. As was said at the No 10 press conference this week, there may be ten thousand or more people infected in the UK at the current time. It’s a strategy replete with risks.

This is based on expert advice but doesn’t seem to match the global consensus amongst experts, or indeed World Health Organisation advice. To be fair this is the first global pandemic of this scale in living memory, well beyond SARS or Ebola. It’s been modelled and mapped, but every virus is different and mortality rates – the number of those infected who go on to die – seems to vary from 1-3% of those infected overall, to 15% of high risk groups infected. There may be no right answers, and every approach is still going to lead to hugely difficult choices on where to focus limited resources, bluntly who lives and who dies.

What seems clear to me is that by limiting the spike of infections now we buy time. Time to manufacture more respirators, create more hospital capacity, allow for scientific research into the genome of Covid 19, more time for the pharmaceutical industry to develop treatments and ultimately a vaccine. And most importantly time for our health services to cope.

Ultimately, the best advice I’ve seen is to behave as if you have the virus, and try not to spread it.

It’s not just the Covid 19 patients, but those who needed hospital treatment ordinarily, who will place pressure on a system where NHS staff are as likely if not more to get ill. Like all of us, they have no immunity to this new virus. I support the mandatory use of capacity in the private health sector, at cost to the government, as a way of growing overall capacity quickly in this national emergency.

Most people infected, particularly those under 60 with no underlying health conditions, will experience a mild illness and recover. What causes me most concern is the secondary effect of the pandemic. How resilient are we to deal with this? A decade of underfunding public services and local government, alongside the departure of many EU workers due to Brexit, has stripped out any “slack” in the system. What will happen if 20-30% of police officers, NHS staff, bin crews, care workers, food supply chain staff and others are ill at the same time? Coping with that may be possible for a month, maybe two, but how sustainable is it in the longer term?

People here are still out, doing the “keep calm and carry on” routine, eschewing the masks worn by many elsewhere, dismissing it as “just another flu” and talking about overreaction. Surveys show that alarmingly, many have not altered their handwashing habits at all. Sometimes British exceptionalism is dangerous not just foolish.

However, we’ve seen from the panic buying of the past week just how far the “Blitz spirit” is likely to turn out to be illusory. It’s really a wartime propaganda myth that masked some pretty lawless behaviour, if crime stats from the 1940s are to be believed. For a population used to supply on demand, shortages and privation may bite hard. There are people who phone 999 when their pizza is late and lose it entirely when KFC runs out of chicken. For others this will bring out the best in our community spirit.

Behind the headlines on the virus, the hit to the markets in the past week has been up there alongside the 1987 crash and the 2008 crisis. That won’t just matter to traders in Canary Wharf, it will hit jobs and families already suffering from a decade of austerity. Its likely foodbanks will see longer queues and fewer supplies to hand out.

Politicians don’t normally say things that people don’t want to hear. This week they have, most shockingly Boris Johnson’s stark warning about “losing loved ones”. There are trying to prepare people for something bad, possibly worse than they are saying now.

This isn’t a pandemic that will bring about some apocalyptic end to society as we know it, but it will combine with other pressures to have a significant impact. Once we get to the other side, things are probably not going to be exactly as they were before this virus emerged. We will probably see thousands of people die from this, and another recession, and maybe some consequences no one has really understood or foreseen yet. It’s going to be very tough, collectively and individually our resilience is going to be tested, but we will get through it.

Labour’s Antisemitism Is Not Welcome In Brighton

In the Spring of 2014, I sat in Committee Room 1 of Brighton Town Hall opposite the organiser of the “March For England”, an EDL-linked event that had previously caused violence in the city. I looked him in the eye and told him that he and his followers were not welcome in Brighton and Hove.

Representatives of the city’s Muslim community had made it clear to me and other councillors that the march would cause fear and distress amongst residents, effectively confining them to their homes for the duration. It went against every policy on equalities the council had, and morally it was right for elected councillors in leadership positions to make a stand. I did.

Three years later I sat in the BBC studios a few hundred metres from the town hall, listening to the recorded testimony of people who had faced abuse inside a council-owned venue because they were identifiably Jewish. I’d heard statements recorded at a meeting saying it was fine to question whether the Holocaust had ever taken place. Representatives of the city’s Jewish community quite rightly and understandably contacted me asking what I, as Leader of the Council, would do.

It was, I believed and I still believe, incumbent on me to again speak out. I wrote to the head of the organisation of the event saying that steps had to be taken to prevent any reoccurrence before the event returned to the city, and I published my letter on my official Facebook page.

That the organisation in question was the Labour Party, which I had been a member of for a quarter of a century and in whose name I was an elected councillor and local authority leader, made no difference.

Perhaps I was naïve but very clear statements by the Labour leadership during the event made me feel that I was joining their effort to counter antisemitism in and around the Party. As an elected Labour politician, speaking out against racism is in my DNA: had I failed to do so in any other circumstance the Party would have rightly condemned my silence.

But condemnation of my stance was immediate and sustained. The charge from members and officers of the local party and Momentum was that I’d always opposed Corbyn, and this was a chance for me to ‘weaponize’ the allegedly ‘fabricated smears’ of antisemitism against him. They claimed I had brought the Party into disrepute insisting I should have raised any concerns “in house”.

I can only imagine the response of my local Party Chair had I, three years earlier, said: “I’ve sent a strongly-worded letter to the National Secretary of the EDL, best leave it to them to sort and not make any fuss in public, eh?”

I’m not comparing Labour to the EDL, though some might argue that with the EHRC investigating institutional antisemitism in Labour the comparison could be a valid one. Only the BNP have faced such an enquiry previously.

They are investigating institutionalised antisemitism and it is true that for speaking out against antisemitism I was penalised. Months of emails, motions and pressure from the local Labour Party followed, demanding apologies, retractions and for me to step down. This is all from the local party where now-suspended members labelled Jews “Zios”, depicted councillors including me and one whose husband is Jewish as dancing Rabbis, and called for people to march on the local synagogue in response to the suspension by Labour of a council candidate for tweeting about the “Israeli bloodline”.

A vote within weeks in my branch calling for me to resign as a result of my stand on antisemitism, passed by some forty votes to two, was moved by the person later suspended after calling for a march on a local synagogue. By February I’d been forced to quit. At the urging of the Jewish Labour Movement I remained a member until Luciana Berger resigned in February.

At a recent fringe event called Stand With Jeremy Corbyn during the TUC Conference in Brighton, many of those suspended and expelled members sat in the front row alongside at least one current senior local Labour councillor. Fringe events at the Labour Conference this week are set to be addressed by suspended or expelled members of the party including Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone and Chris Williamson.

Since the 2017 Conference there have been ever more revelations about Jeremy Corbyn’s own questionable attitudes towards Jews, including the row over antisemitic mural which led to a demonstration by the Jewish community against Labour, the shameful spectacle of Livingstone and Williamson failing to be suitably punished, the revelations of Leadership interference in antisemitism cases unveiled by Panorama and the resignations of Luciana Berger, Ian Austin and others from the PLP.

Despite the promises of action two years ago, and the small number of suspensions and expulsions, those pushing the same “anti-Israel” messages have not gone away. In the online forums and outrider blogs, lists of hostile Jewish or Jewish friendly “opponents” are still being drawn up. Perhaps the most damning message came when Labour Friends of Israel pulled out of this week’s Conference, saying their staff could no longer be subjected to the antisemitic abuse faced in previous years.

Some of those disciplined have been quietly readmitted, or their suspensions taken no further. Those, like me, who have spoken out on antisemitism, however, have been pushed to the point of resignation, or deselected while the Party has stood by. While the focus remains on Brexit, Labour continues to pursue trigger ballots against MPs, is set to debate changes on antisemitism rules on the Jewish Shabbat when many can’t take part, and to continue efforts to depose Tom Watson as Deputy Leader. Labour Students, long an ally of the Jewish community in Labour, has been “excommunicated” by the Party’s NEC.

It seems clear that for so many people who joined Labour in 2015, the perceived role of Jewish people in the global capitalist economy, and the actions of the Netanyahu government in the occupied territories, are something that every Jewish person is held accountable for. That is racism.   I will continue to speak out against that just as I did when hate crimes spiked in the wake of the Referendum, or when I stood with the Muslim community after the Westminster and Borough Market attacks provoked an Islamophobic backlash.

If a family member speaks and acts in a racist way, do you speak up or keep quiet so as to not rock the boat and end up an outcast? If you are elected to a position of authority, do you put the people you are accountable to ahead of the Party that got you elected? For me the answer was and always will be yes. You don’t get to pick and choose the racism you stand up against; and being a member of a political party gives you a greater responsibility to challenge it, not a free pass to stay silent. In these dangerous times, silence serves no good at all.

Our British Values: a letter to Nigel Farage

Dear Mr Farage,

It looks like we may not get to debate with each other as candidates in the European elections here in the South East, so I just wanted to send you some thoughts I’ve had on our different views about being British and what our shared British values are.

I think British people are some of the most kind, welcoming and hospitable in the world. Britain became great through centuries of people coming here, making it their home and working hard to make it better. Your rhetoric really doesn’t reflect those values; at times you seem to be openly hostile to people coming here. That’s surely not the decent and fair approach most Britons would have. Most British people value getting on with their neighbours, yet you seem to want to promote argument and division more than over-the-fence friendship.

We are much the same age, and our grandfathers generations fought against fascism to protect our British values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. So many of today’s leaders around the world don’t share those values, yet you seem to be happy to associate with them – Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Victor Orban and Matteo Salvini to name a few. Why is that?

In that war Britain didn’t stand alone, we forged alliances with other nations, and fought alongside people from across what is now the Commonwealth, people from Poland and France and across occupied Europe. The EU, alongside NATO, has preserved peace for an unprecedented seventy years in Europe, don’t you think we owe future generations the same thing?

Mr Farage the British are sticklers for accuracy, clarity and fairness. We all like to know the details of what we are getting, and make sure we aren’t on the wrong end of a deal. You famously said that a 48-52 result would be “unfinished business by a long way”, yet now you oppose the British people having their fair say on the actual Brexit deal being proposed. Do you not trust the British people to make an informed decision?

I believe British people value a good days pay for a hard days work. You have been an MEP for twenty years now and have very little to show for it. In fact you have one of the worst records for attending your place of work and doing the tasks expected, like voting. Most British people would think it isn’t fair for you to keep that job if you consistently fail to do it. If elected I’d do the job I was paid for, and I believe most people whether Leavers or Remainers would think that’s the right thing to do. Don’t you?

We seem to agree on one thing, agreement is a very British thing in my view, and that is that our politics is broken. We and our respective political parties, Brexit in your case and Change UK in mine, have very different views on the solutions though. One is to make Britain closed off from the world, to run away from the global challenges we face and hide behind a nostalgia that is as appealing as it is false.

Mine is a more open, positive and realistic view of the world, where Britain leads and has its voice heard in the great international issues of our time, like climate change. Britain isn’t great if it has no influence abroad, wouldn’t you agree?

We are both patriots but I fear we have very different views of what that means. I’m proud to be from Sussex, proud to be English and British, and I’m a proud European too. My patriotism is inclusive of anyone who wants to make this country their home, accepting its rights and responsibilities as much as anyone born here does.

I look out of my window across the Channel to Europe, somewhere I can live and work and retire to if I want to and am able to, something my grandparents could never have imagined, and something future generations should have the right to do as well. I don’t understand why you want to take that right away from young people now and in the future.

Our young people are taught that British values are democracy, individual liberty, the rule of law, mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths or beliefs. Because of the things you have said, and those you associate with, I fear for those values if you and your party succeed.

It causes me pain and anguish to think what will happen to this great country if your vision for it becomes a reality. We will be poorer, more insular, more vulnerable to global crises, less secure, more fearful and xenophobic, less happy. You might dismiss that, but I’d rather be better safe than sorry by staying in the EU. How British is that?

My vision, and that of Change UK, is one of a positive future where opportunity is opened up not closed off, where decent journalists and independent courts keep us all in check and protect our rights, where alliances and partnerships, strength in our diversity as people but strength too in values we have stood and fought for over generations, mean we are safer and more secure than if we retreat into isolation. It’s a view Mr Churchill, that greatest of all Britons, seemed to have after he led us during the war, and I think we should respect that.

I know we Brits don’t like to make a fuss but I’m sorry, I’m not going to take this lying down. I’m tired of hearing people say “someone should do something”. Well we in Change UK are. We’re saying, “hang on, this isn’t right.” We won’t be bullied any more, we are standing up for real British values.

Yours in the most respectful British disagreement,

Warren Morgan

Change UK candidate for the European Elections, South East England.

Opinion Polls: Your Questions Answered

I’m a bit of a poll geek. I quote them a lot. People are often sceptical.

So here are some questions answered and some myths busted.

  1. “They didn’t ask me, or any of the people I know.” There are 60 million of us in the UK, so the chances of being surveyed are pretty low. I’ve been interviewed twice by polling companies in 30 years. Neither time was I asked my voting intention. Most polls are of around one to two thousand people, with as much of a representative sample across age, income group, gender, region and so on as possible.
  2. “That’s a ridiculously small number, no wonder they are wrong.” Polls have a margin of error of plus or minus 3%. Polling more people does not change that margin of error. Some polls do cover up to 20,000 people (a very costly exercise) but are no more representative. Anthony Wells of UK Polling Report explains it better, using a soup analogy from George Gallup, here:
  3. “But the polls have been wrong. Look at some recent elections.” Actually some pollsters have been bang on in recent General Elections, some have been out by around 3% – the margin of error. Polls were out in 1992 and 2015, and each time pollsters have adjusted for specific factors that contributed to that error. For example in 1992 it was found that many people were not keen to admit they voted Tory, so that was subsequently taken into account:
  4. “Oh come on, we all know the pollsters are biased, and owned/founded by/run by Tories.” No. Political opinion polling is the most high profile thing pollsters do, but it is only a relatively small part of their business. Most of their work is market research and opinion polling on consumer habits for major companies. If pollsters deliberately got political polling wrong, their main customers would not trust them or pay them to find out where and how to advertise their products. Reputation is the main reason the pollsters have to try their utmost to get it right.
  5. “But that poll last week said something completely different.” Remember the margin of error, plus or minus 3% either way. So if Party X is at 37%, they could be as high as 40% or as low as 34%. And different pollsters have different methods of surveying people, either online, on the phone or sometimes in person, which can produce slightly different results. What you need to do is look at trends over time, and across the nine or ten main pollsters. And look behind the headline voting figures, at how the Leaders and their policies on the economy and other key issues are viewed.
  6. “I did a poll on Twitter/Facebook, and fifteen thousand people voted, and that proves the pollsters are wrong.” The people you are connected to on social media, much like your friends down the pub, are far more likely to share your views than the general population, so it’s not a representative sample. And if anyone can pile in and vote, the results can be skewed massively by a campaign group or political party getting their supporters to vote.

In summary, polls are not perfect, but they are scientifically-conducted representative surveys of the views of the population as a whole. They are the best guide we have. Any one poll is a snapshot in time, a series of polls will show a trend. Events happen and views change.

There’s a similar article from The Independent on polling here, if you don’t believe me:

Never Again

Today Brighton and Hove City Council votes on adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism. There will be no debate from the floor. Had members been given the opportunity to speak, this is what I would have said:

Seventy years ago, Anne Frank wrote: “What is done cannot be undone, but one can prevent it from happening again.”
The mission of the International Holocaust Memorial Alliance is to prevent that genocide from happening again; it should be our mission too.

No form of racism is acceptable, can be acceptable. An anti-racist cannot pick and choose what kind of racism they speak out against, or who they hold to account.

Too often in recent times have we heard those tropes, thought consigned to history, voiced again. From Moscow to Washington to Budapest and here. Tropes like “the Jewish lobby control the media, the Jewish financiers run global capitalism, our politicians are in the pay of Israel” and more. And once more the Jewish people are held as scapegoats and a distraction by those who seek to impose their will and influence at home and internationally.

As Leader of this council Madam Mayor I spoke out against racism towards Muslims, towards asylum seekers, towards our BAME communities. A year ago I spoke out against the insidious, racist and anti-Semitic act of Holocaust denial when it took place in this city. I knew, because of the context of where and when those remarks were made, what the likely consequences would be. I’d do it again, without hesitation. I would have no choice.

History teaches us that if we allow the racism, the pernicious evil of antisemitism to pass unchallenged, the Jewish community stands at risk. But they are not alone. All of us are infected by this poison. Our democracy, our humanity and our fundamental values are in danger if we do not stand by them, if we do not speak up.

Now, more than at any time since Anne Frank wrote those words, here and around the world, anti-Semitism is a clear and present danger to the Jewish community and to us all, which is why we must unite today behind this definition, as dozens of other councils have, and send the clearest possible message that we, as the elected representatives of Brighton and Hove, of our city’s Jewish community, stand behind the values and principles we hold to across party divides, principles fundamental to the rights we share.

May the memories of all who were murdered in the Holocaust be a blessing, may their voices speak to us now, saying;
Remember us. Stand together. Say as one, never again. Never again.

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