Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Moving the goalposts ...

Interesting article at the BBC Reality check site here on whether leading Leave campaigners have changed their position following the referendum

Quote of the day 28th June 2016

"Hodgson, the only man in England with a coherent plan for leaving Europe"

(Christian Bennett on Twitter)

P.S. I realise that this is actually rather unfair to the Leave Alliance and the authors of Flexcit, but the line was too good not to use

Monday, June 27, 2016

Labour in their own words

Top hits from those Shadow cabinet resignation letters. With friends like these:

Heidi Alexander, resigning as shadow Health Secretary
"I do not believe you have the capacity to shape the answers our country is demanding."
 Lucy Power, resigning as shadow Education Secretary
"Your position is untenable and you are unable to command the support of the Shadow Cabinet, the Parliamentary Labour Party, and most importantly, the country."

Ian Murray, resigning as shadow Scottish Secretary

"I have always expressed my thoughts directly to you as I think it is important to be honest and open with each other.  
...I do not feel this has been reciprocated."

Chris Bryant, resigning as shadow  Leader of the House of Commons

"The vast majority of Labour MPs did not vote for you.
Your ambivalent attitude in the campaign was a betrayal of the Labour Party and the wider Labour movement and it has let down a whole generation of young people."

Angela Eagle, resigning as shadow Business Secretary

"After nine months of trying to make your leadership work…I have come to the conclusion that you are not the right person to lead the Party we both love."

Kate Green, resigning as shadow Minister for Women and Equality

"I am sorry that you did not appear to accept the special responsibility on you as a leader to take all the steps possible to unite us, so that we can act now as an effective opposition in parliament. "

Anne Turley, resigning as shadow Minister for Civil Society

"The Leadership is not in touch with the hopes, the fears and the aspirations of my [constituents]".

Diana Johnson, resigning as shadow Foreign Minister

"The EU referendum campaign has also shone a spotlight on problems with your leadership and I think it is clear now that millions of workers stand to suffer the consequences of the tight vote to leave the EU – an outcome, I think, that you as a Leader could have done more to avert."

 Wayne David, resigning as shadow Minister for Cabinet Office, Scotland and Justice

"I believed that you could unite the Party around clear and relevant policies and provide strong leadership
I believe you have done neither."

More here.

The irony meter is off the scale - 2

Now they tell them!

The Sun Newspaper campaigned for a Leave vote and congratulated British voters on the win for that side.

But the day after the vote they also published on their website a personal finances guide to Brexit which suggested the following possible consequences of the UK leaving the EU:

1. Inflation is likely to rise

2. The cost of an average family holiday will rise

3. Accommodation abroad will cost more

4. Beer prices will go up

5. EU caps on international calls will no longer apply, so it’ll cost much more to make calls in Europe

6. Unemployment will rise and wages will fall by up to four per cent

7. Mortgages prices will rise

8. Rates of taxation will increase

9. Benefit payments may be slashed

Needless to say quite a few of their readers commented that it might have been helpful to hear this from the Sun BEFORE the vote.

Don't know how long this will stay up on the Sun site but you can read here on the 'i' site that one Sun reader commented that

"To be fair the Remain campaign warned us of all this stuff. But everyone kept calling it "scare-mongering" and "project fear." It wasn't."

Daily Mail readers had a very similar experience from their newspaper after they had voted as you can read here.

The Irony meter is off the scale - 1

You know that silly petition asking for a re-run of the EU Referendum? (Which I will not be signing)

It wasn't set up by a Remain supporter.

Turns out it was set up a month or so ago by a Leave supporter who thought his side were going to lose.

Though of course the people who are signing it now are Remainers.

Here is a statement by the buffoon who set it up. He complains about "sore losers" on the Remain side exploiting what he would have wanted to do had his side lost without any apparent trace of irony.

Well this is one of a number of things which is sending my irony meter off the scale.

You really couldn't make it up. What an extreme case of poetic justice! I have not laughed so much since I heard the Referendum result. (Actually, if I'm honest, since a long time before.)

Of medical staff and the NHS

Over the years we have consistently failed to train enough British people as medical staff and in consequence have had to recruit more from all over the world.

I believe we should train more British people as doctors, dentists and nurses. But we cannot do this overnight.

Yesterday I saw this picture of some of the thousands of foreign nationals who work in our NHS - it was posted of course, in the context of the EU membership vote.

There are a lot of different figures floating around about how many doctors who were born, qualified or have citizenship of other countries work in the NHS. I looked first at the "Full Facts" fact checking website and their page on the subject which you can read here. According to "Full Facts"about 36% of doctors and 23% of GPs in the UK qualified abroad. I presume some of these now have British citizenship, as they also say that 24% of NHS doctors are foreign nationals. Another fact checking site reported that about 10% of NHS doctors and 4% of nurses are from the EU.

I hope whoever becomes Prime Minister, when they are negotiating with the EU the exact terms of Britain's departure, will bear in mind the enormous contribution that health ...service staff who are foreign nationals, along with staff who are British citizens, have made to our NHS, and the manpower needs of our NHS.

I hope and believe that the majority of Leave and Remain voters alike will regard it as far more important to keep the promises the Leave campaign made about protecting and improving the NHS than the ones they made about immigration.

Quote of the day 27th June 2016

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sunday music spot: Handel's Sarabande

The idea of a snap General Election should be stamped on HARD

There should NOT be a snap general election and this idea should be strongly discouraged.

This hare appears to have been set running by Peter Mandelson who was re-fighting the argument about whether Gordon Brown should have called one when he became PM. It has been picked up by journalists who are the only people in Britain who profit from uncertainty and excitement and by some Remainers, who hope that MPs could use that General Election to seek a mandate to overturn the referendum result. (Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has already said he will do this)

That is a recipe for chaos.

First of all, is any of the parties in a position to fight an election properly? Our machine might be in a better state than most, but that's not saying much.
Secondly, We've already had one Pro-Remain MP, David Lammy, calling on his fellow remain MPs to block the referendum decision and one party leader Tim Farron of the Lib/Dems, saying he will seek to use the next general election to reverse it.

There is a huge pro-remain majority in parliament and may well be another one after a fresh election.

What happens if a significant proportion of candidates try to use a snap General Election as an opportunity to seek a mandate to overturn the referendum decision?

I think the degree of uncertainty and chaos which that might cause would be an order of magnitude worse than we have now, during the election campaign and, depending on the result, possibly even more so afterwards. 
Thirdly, calling this referendum was in the Conservative election manifesto, which included a programme for five years' work. There was nothing in our manifesto which said "Oh, and if the referendum doesn't go the way we expect, forget everything else in this manifesto and we'll call a fresh election."

I don't usually find myself in agreement with the posters to comments on Conservative Home, but today was an exception - the great majority of comments on a piece by my old friend Paul Goodman making the case for an early election did not agree with the idea and I don't either.

The reason Brown's "election which never was" hurt him so badly was not because there was any vital reason to call one.

What hurt Brown was that by

1) allowing speculation to build remorselessly that there was about to be an election with no attempt to spike it -

2) then suddenly killing it at the last minute following a bad opinion poll, and

3) making the grossly implausible claim that he hadn't meant to call an election but been frightened off by a bad poll,

he seriously damaged his credibility, looking weak and like a ditherer and, worst, appearing untruthful.

The new Prime Minister should say when he first addresses the nation that the next General Election will be held in May 2020.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Quote of the day 26th June 2016

Thanks to John Rentoul of the Independent for drawing my attention to a brilliant article about the strength of democracy by Ian Leslie which contains this superb quote.

You can read the full article, "The people have spoken, the bastards," here.

Belief in democracy does not, in my own opinion, mean you have to think the people will get everything right. You can believe that there will be some wrong decisions, and I think the UK made one pm Thursday. But you accept the majority decision because there will be fewer wrong decisions under democracy than under any other system.

And yes, because you recognise that you might be wrong.

And because, collectively, thirty-three million people know far more than any one individual human being possibly can.

Scotland and Europe

At the moment I greatly distrust all opinion polls.

I presume that the fieldwork for this one in the Sunday Post suggesting 59% support for Scottish Independence must have been taken while half the country was in a state of shock at the Brexit vote and may not reflect what people will think when they have all calmed down - particularly given that where the oil price is at the moment an independent Scotland would have a massive hole in it's budget.

With no majority in the Scottish parliament it is by no means certain that Nicola Sturgeon can call another Indyref and neither is it certain that she can win one. There are some strong arguments in a Telegraph piece here by John McTernan that a second Scottish Indyref is not inevitable.

There is also apparently an EU report which says that Scotland cannot stay seamlessly in the EU by voting for Independence from the UK before Britain leaves the EU and applying to stay in: they have to leave and rejoin  Which makes the currency issue even more difficult.

Goodness knows how that will play out, if true. Robert Peston says he will ask Sturgeon about this at 10am tomorrow on ITV.

However, almost every argument for the preservation of the Union is identical to, or has major points of similarity with, arguments which 52% of UK voters rejected on Thursday.

I think those who want the British union to continue to exist should think very hard about how we cam make sure Scots feel that they are listened to, prosperous and able to control their own affairs within the UK.

Saturday music spot - A Neil Sedaka classic which seems relevant today ,,,

Sadly almost all the questions in Neil Sedaka's classic look today like what John Rentoul of the Independent would call a QTWTAIN (Questions to which the answer is No.)

Quote of the day 25th June 2016

"As their price for supporting German unification, France and Italy pinned Germany down to a timetable for an overhasty, ill-designed and overextended European monetary union. As a result of their liberation from Soviet communist control, many poorer countries in eastern Europe were set on a path to EU membership, including its core freedom of movement. And 1989 opened the door to globalisation, with spectacular winners and numerous losers.

Each of these chickens has come home to roost in Britain’s referendum. Since the financial crisis exposed the structural flaws of the eurozone, the continent’s economic weakness has been a key argument for leave, just as the continent’s economic strength was a key argument for remain in the referendum of 1975, when Thatcher wore that jumper.As for the 19 countries locked into the catastrophic, one-sized-fits-all single currency,” the Daily Mail wrote on referendum day, urging its readers to vote leave, “ask the jobless young people of Greece, Spain or France if the euro has underpinned their prosperity.”

England is revealed as a house divided against itself: London and the rest, rich and poor, young and old. (Some 75% of those under 25 voted for remain.) This was Black Friday for one half of England, Independence Day for the other half. We will pay the economic price for years to come. The costs will probably fall especially hard on the less well-off English who voted for Brexit."

(Timothy Garton Ash, extracts from article in the Guardian,  here)

Friday, June 24, 2016

The implications of a close vote

All those on both sides of the EU referendum who have strong views about it would be wise to think about how they would be feeling if as the last polls before the vote had suggested it would, instead of being 51.9% to 48.1% for Leave, it had been the other way round.

Nigel Farage apparently said on 17th May that

"In a 52-48 referendum this would be unfinished business by a long way."

Funnily enough he only seems to apply this one way round.

Personally I think that those of us who lost have to respect the majority decision, and I would have been of that view whichever way it had gone, but I also think that in a vote this close the winning side owe it to their country to recognise that they have not won an overwhelming victory.

Let's put the votes cast for both sides in context

Winning Leave vote in this referendum: 17.4 million

Losing Remain vote in this referendum: 16.1 million

Record vote cast for any government in history: 14.1 million

Votes cast for the present government in 2015: 11.3 million

Votes cast for the Labour party in 2010: 9.3 million

In other words, BOTH SIDES in this referendum received millions more votes than any government in British history.

Leave polled nearly double the votes cast for the Labour party next year: Remain polled five million more votes than the government.

There is clearly a massive disconnect between various parts of our country and between al the main political parties and the electorate.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Part of it is that a significant proportion of people feel they have not shared in the prosperity of our country and had nothing to lose from taking a massive gamble.

Part of it is the consequence of Blair and Brown breaking their promise of a referendum on what started as a constitutional treaty and was then imposed on them as the Lisbon Treaty.

Part of it is the consequence of many years of the elite ignoring the views of voters on a range of issues, and particularly migration, where people who expressed reasonable concerns about issues like housing and public services were liable to be called a racist or bigot by parts of the establishment. Labour MP Pat Glass showed during the referendum campaign that this is still a problem today.

That disconnect urgently needs to be addressed. But let us try to address the legitimate concerns of the seventeen million people who voted Leave without ignoring the legitimate concerns of the sixteen million people who voted Remain.

It is a good thing that so many people took part in the referendum, which was a massive exercise in democracy and we must now implement the result of that democratic decision. But whoever becomes Prime Minister must think very carefully what the referendum does, and does not, give him or her a mandate to do.

In my humble opinion the new Prime Minister will be in a particularly difficult position because  Leave was foolish enough to make incompatible promises during the referendum, he or she will face the choice not of whether to break pledges made to the voters, but which promises to break.

The people who voted Leave were given the impression that they were voting for a reduction in net immigration. The new PM will have to try to deliver this. But they were also promised that our businesses would still have access to the single market. I believe that a majority of voters - almost everyone who voted Remain and a significant proportion of those who voted Leave - would regard this as an even higher priority.

We will miss David Cameron

There are many among those who supported the decision to Leave who hate David Cameron for not being right-wing enough or because he fought tooth and nail for the outcome he has always said he wanted.

There are many among those who did not support that decision who are furious with him for calling the referendum in the first place.

I am in neither group.

I am not at all happy with the decision which the electorate has taken, but the European project could not continue on the road represented by Juncker's words

"There is no democratic choice against the European Treaties."

I wanted to see the sort of Europe of Nations of which Mrs Thatcher spoke at Bruges. You cannot build a democratic Europe without a democratic mandate. And the very fact that it was possible for Leave to win this referendum demonstrates how far out of line both the political elite in this country and the EU establishment had become with half of our country.

David Cameron's critics said he could never win an election. He proved them wrong.

They said he could not get a cut in the EU budget. He proved them wrong.

They said he would not keep his promise to call a referendum. He proved them wrong.

They said he would cancel the referendum when it looked like he might lose it. He proved them wrong.

Most pathetic of all, they said people should take pens to the ballot because he might get MI5 to rub out Leave votes and replace them with Remain ones. The result proves that this too was wrong.

All those people owe David Cameron an apology, though I will be very pleasantly surprised if any of them are honest enough to deliver it.

I deeply regret his decision to stand down in the autumn but I think it is the right one for Britain for the reasons he explained in his speech and the valedictory letter.

A few months ago Stephen Bush of the New Statesman wrote that the Conservative Party would miss David Cameron when he had gone.

I do not think some of my colleagues have yet begun to realise how much. But they will.

David Cameron's valedictory statement

The country has just taken part in a giant democratic exercise, perhaps the biggest in our history. Over 33 million people from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar, have all had their say. We should be proud of the fact that in these islands, we trust the people with these big decisions. We not only have a parliamentary democracy but on questions about the arrangements for how we are governed, there are times when it is right to ask the people themselves, and that is what we have done. We not only have a parliamentary democracy but on questions about the arrangements for how we are governed, there are times when it is right to ask the people themselves, and that is what we have done.
The British people have voted to leave the European Union and their will must be respected. I want to thank everyone who took part in the campaign on my side of the argument, including all those who put aside party differences to speak in what they believed was the national interest. And let me congratulate all those who took part in the Leave campaign for the spirited and passionate case that they made. The will of the British people is an instruction that must be delivered. It was not a decision that was taken lightly, not least because so many things were said by so many different organisations about the significance of this decision so there can be no doubt about the result. Across the world, people have been watching the choice that Britain has made.
I would reassure those markets and investors that Britain's economy is fundamentally strong and I would also reassure Brits living in European countries and European citizens living here that they will be no immediate changes in your circumstances. There will be no initial change in the way our people can travel, in the way our goods can move or the way our services can be sold. We must now prepare for a negotiation with the European Union. This will need to involve a full engagement of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments to ensure that the interests of all parts of our UK are protected and advanced. But above all, this will require strong, determined and committed leadership.

I am very proud and honoured to have been Prime Minister of this country for six years. I believe we have made great steps, with more people in work than ever before in our history, with reforms to welfare and education, increasing people's life chances, building a bigger and stronger society, keeping our promises to the poorest people in the world and enabling those who love each other to get married whatever their sexuality. But above all restoring Britain's economic strength.

And I'm grateful to everyone who has helped to make that happen. I've also always believed that we have to confront big decisions, not duck them. That is why we delivered the first Coalition Government in 70 years, to bring our economy back from the brink. It's why we delivered a fair, legal and decisive referendum in Scotland and it’s why I made the pledge to renegotiate Britain's position in the European Union and hold a referendum on our membership and have carried those things out.

I fought this campaign in the only way I know how, which is to say directly and passionately what I think and feel, head, heart and soul. I held nothing back. I was absolutely clear about my belief that Britain is stronger, safer and better off inside the European Union. And I made clear the referendum was about this and this alone. Not the future of any single politician, including myself. But the British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path. And as such I think the country requires a fresh leadership, to take it in this direction.

I will do everything I can as Prime Minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months, but I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination.

This is not a decision I have taken lightly. But I do believe it's in the national interest to have a period of stability and then the new leadership required. There is no need for a precise timetable today, but in my view we should aim to have a new Prime Minister in place by the start of the Conservative Party conference in October. Delivering stability will be important and I will continue in post is Prime Minister, with my Cabinet, for the next three months.

The Cabinet will meet on Monday, the governor of the Bank of England is making a statement about the steps that the Bank and Treasury are taking to reassure financial markets. We will also continue taking forward the important legislation that we set before Parliament in the Queen's speech. I have spoken to Her Majesty the Queen this morning and advised of the steps I am taking. Negotiation with the European Union will need to begin under a new Prime Minister and I think it is right that this new Prime Minister takes the decision about when to trigger Article 50 and start the formal and legal process of leaving the EU. I will attend the European Council next week to explain the decision the British people had taken and my own decision. The British people have made a choice. That not only needs to be respected, but those on the losing side of the argument, myself included, should help to make it work.
Britain is a special country. We have so many great advantages. A parliamentary democracy where we resolve issues about our future through peaceful debate. A great trading nation with our science and arts, our engineering and creativity, respected the world over. And while we are not perfect I do believe we can be a model of a multiracial, multi-faith democracy where people can come and make a contribution and rise to the very highest that their talent allows. Although leaving Europe was not the path I recommended, I'm the first to praise our incredible strengths. I said before that Britain can survive outside the European Union and indeed that we could find a way. Now the decision has been made to leave, we need to find the best way. And I will do everything I can to help. I love this country, and I feel honoured to have served it. And I will do everything I can in future to help this great country succeed.
Thank you very much,

Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 4 Matthew Parker Street, London, SW1H 9HQ

The five stages of Brexit shock ...

Hopefully people on both sides of the issue will be able to find this funny. You may need to click on it to make the image big enough to read ...

(I'm currently working my way through the anger stage and trying hard to be civil to everyone ...)

The problem with polls

Pity the pollsters. Yesterday's vote was a particularly hard one to call, but it turns out that this cartoon from January nailed it:

How not to react to a democratic vote

After a lot of agonising I voted remain and make no apology for it.

But I respect the result, and we all now have to work together to implement the decision of the British people - preferably in a way which keeps good relations with our neighbours (who are still our partners and allies within NATO), keeps us a positive and open society, and maximises the opportunities for British businesses and jobs by trading both in Europe and around the world.

We also urgently need to address the disengagement and disillusionment which caused so many of our people to cast what appears to have been an "up yours" vote against the establishment.

Insults and recriminations will not help.

Therefore I don't think the sort of comments Tim Farron was making this morning on TV will help that process.

Neither will some of the comments from Nigel Farage. Several prominent members of the Leave campaign have criticised Farage's describing this as a "Victory for decent people" - Fraser Nelson of the Spectator called that insult to 48% of the British people "disgusting."

A tweet from the leader of Cumbria County Council, Labour councillor Stewart Young (who supported Remain), was not particularly sensible either.

He tweeted that David Cameron's position was now "untenable" and predicted a general election in the summer and a new Scottish Indyref in 2017.

I think this sort of knee-jerk reaction is a classic example of how not to react to a popular vote.

Stewart Young was further out of line with Cumbria's voters than David Cameron was with British ones. (He came back good humouredly to my tweet pointing this out with the reply that he did not call the referendum.)

I do not expect there to be a general election in 2016. Firstly because that is quite hard to manage under the fixed term parliament act, and secondly because there is no need for one.

The government was elected on a promise to hold a referendum on Europe, it kept that promise, and the people have decided, by a narrow majority but a majority nonetheless, whether they wanted Britain in or out. The people have the result they voted for. Now parliament needs to follow the instructions it has been given and negotiate the best deal for Britain. I see no need for a new mandate.

Quote of the day 24th June 2016

What can my quote of the day be?

I considered posting Sir Robert Walpole's 1739 quote at the start of the "War of Jenkins' Ear" but have decided that would be far too negative and could be seen as failing to respect the verdict of the people.

I considered quoting Dick Tuck's famous concession speech but it has the same problem.

I considered quoting Juliet's line from Romeo and Juliet about parting, but at the moment I am feeling a bit numb - indeed, stunned, though not surprised - rather than sweetness or sorrow.

One person tweeted yesterday that we would shortly find out who would have to make their promises work and who could spend the rest of their life saying "I told you so." But actually, I have no intention of spending the rest of my life saying that, I want to make this decision work.

This referendum has shown that Britain is a divided country. About 48% of us did not want this result. But we must ask ourselves why it happened.

I believe that today's result was the consequence of decades of paying too little attention to the hopes, fears and concerns of too many people, and the only way to rectify that was to start listening to the people, whether we like what they say or not.

And so my quote for today is John Voight's quote on democracy.


A few moments ago David Dimbleby announced that a Leave win has just become a mathematical certainty.

It looks like the narrowest of margins - the BBC is predicting that 52% of the electorate have voted to leave the EU and 48% to remain.

Whatever happens we now have to come together and make this work.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

As the count begins

Polling stations have closed and all the ballots have been cast in the most important vote I expect to participate in during my lifetime.

Now we have to wait and see what the people have decided.

Thank you to all those on both sides who have campaigned hard for what they believed to be in the interests of Britain. And thank you to everyone who took the trouble to cast a vote.

There have been too many insults hurled at people on both sides and I hope we can stop that, rise above it, and work together to try to make the best of whatever people have voted for. Whoever is Prime Minister at the end of this year, I hope there is no "revenge reshuffle."

I had to make a decision and I voted the way I did partly because I believe that many of the things said by the other side were wrong. Indeed, both campaigns said some things which I think were wrong. That does not necessarily make them liars, certainly does not make them unpatriotic, does not make them racists, and does not make them stupid.

Above all, and whatever it is, let us all respect the decision of the people of Britain.

Three hours thirty minutes to go

If you have not voted in the EU membership referendum you have three and a half hours left. Polls close at 10pm.

It may be very close and it could be the most important vote you will ever cast.

Second quote of the day 23rd June 2016

(David Aaronovitch in The Times today)

The ASI's Executive Director on the Libertarian case for Remain

Because of bad experiences in my student days I used to have rather a downer on the Adam Smith Institute but they have risen in my estimation since.

Their site currently has well argued articles on both sides of the EU referendum decision.

In an article  here Sam Bowman, the ASI's executive director, gives four reasons which explain why he went from backing leave to being undecided to an eventual decision to vote Remain.

Interestingly, and like me, he would have been far more likely to vote Leave if the Flexcit proposal from the Leave alliance, or some form of the Norway option, had clearly been the likely result if Britain votes to leave.

The trouble is that with key people in the Leave campaign dismissing the idea of staying in the EEA - including, as Sam rightly points out, the two people one of whom is likely to be PM by the end of the year if there is a Brexit vote - there is a very real possibility of the UK leaving not just the EU but the single market if we vote to leave today.

"Leaving the Single Market should never have been on the table, but now, unbelievably, it is,"

he says, and also comments that this would be a "colossal act of self-harm" which

"has the potential to destroy hundreds of billions of pounds worth of wealth."

I don't agree with everything Sam says - for example, while I entirely  agree with his assessment of the accuracy of the Leave campaign's propaganda, I think many of the people Sam accuses of "bare-faced lies that Leavers know are lies" have got caught up in their own propaganda fantasy and convinced themselves that what they want to believe is true.

Of course, in some ways that is even more frightening than if they were just lying.

Nevertheless  Sam makes some very interesting points which are well worth a read.

One further reflection. I don't know what would have happened if Leave had fought a more honest campaign - "£160 million a week" on the side of the battle bus would still have seemed like a lot of money to most people, for instance  - which embraced the "Flexcit" proposal and didn't make such a big thing of inconsistent, undeliverable and occasionally unsavoury comments about immigration.

Of course, such a Leave campaign would in some ways have been an easier target but they would have better been able to fight off the attacks on that target, because truth would have been their ally instead of their victim.

My personal opinion is that a completely honest, and more constructive leave campaign might have been more likely to win, and would certainly have done less damage to Britain's politics.

So, if Remain wins, when Leavers start looking for scapegoats, don't blame David Cameron, who called this referendum,  for fighting tooth and nail for what he always told you was the outcome he wanted.

If you must find someone to blame, look to the people in the leadership of the Leave campaign and of UKIP whose fantasy politics, utterly divorced from reality, drove waverers like me, and people like Sam Bowden who started out as Leave supporters, to put our crosses in the Remain box.

Down to the wire, continued

Peter Kellner, a very shrewd pollster,  has written a very interesting article at


in which he takes an average of the final polls, with the telephone polls predicting a Remain win and the online polls a Leave win. The phone polls were more accurate in their General Election predictions although of course a referendum is different.

Analysing the possible sources of error and late change - for example, the possibility that expats and Gibraltar might add up to half a percent to Remain's share and the chances of a late swing - he thinks Remain is likely to get between 51.2& and 57.3%, Leave between 42.7% and 48.8% with the mid point being a Remain lead of about 8%.

But he admits that "If the phone polls have been systematically overstating support for Remain throughout the campaign, then a victory for Brexit is perfectly possible."

In other words it could still be very close and could still go either way.

I love his last paragraph

"My apologies if that is not precise enough for you. If you need a more exact forecast, I suggest you toss a coin or ask an astrologer."

What Mrs Thatcher said in 1975

This is what Margaret Thatcher said at the time of the last referendum about whether to stay in what was then called the European Economic Community and is now called the EU (when as Conservative leader of the opposition she lined up with a Labour Prime Minister.)

(Image from the times via @PickardJE and Mike Smithson)

Nobody can be certain what Maggie would say if she were alive today. Sadly she isn't still with us to speak for herself.

But after a lot of thought I have come to the view that what she said in 1975 was right then and is right today.

Polls are now open

Polls are now open in what will probably be the most important vote in the lifetime of most British electors reading this.

Whatever you think is best for Britain, please use your vote. Polls are open until 10pm

The best article of the campaign

Until a day or so ago I thought the best article I had seen during the EU referendum campaign was by former International Development secretary Andrew Mitchell MP.

The Establishment may be repulsive but on this it is right

Mitchell compares the two sides in the EU debate to the description in Sellar and Yeatman's parody of history, "1066 and all that" of the Roundheads and Cavaliers from what was then usually called the Civil War.

Sellar and Yeatman described the Cavaliers as "Wrong but Wromatic" and the Roundheads as "Right but Repulsive."

Mitchell made a brilliant case that the Brexit side were the "Wrong but Wromatic" side of the EU argument while Remain, though sometimes repulsive, is right.

But yesterday my attention was drawn to an even more powerful article, Robert Colvile's

A Eurosceptic case for Remain.

Colvile is very aware of all the failings of the EU and recognises that those who want out are not people who hate Europe, but those who have concluded that the EU is broken and cannot be fixed.

He had expected to be one of them. He argues that

"For most people — the ones in the centre, over whom the campaigns are fighting so ferociously — there’s actually a pretty clear consensus. All the evidence shows that most Britons think we’re better off trading freely with other European nations; that it makes sense to pool our sovereignty in certain other areas too, but that this process has gone too far; that the single currency was a drastically stupid idea; that we’re happy about being able to go to Europe and happy for Europeans to come here, but that the numbers arriving have been too high for too long and that we need more control over who’s coming in."

However, he has serious doubts that Brexit would work in practice. I have already reproduced above as my quote of the day Colvile's concerns about the economic damage he is afraid of. Following from this Colvile goes on:

"Vote Leave’s claim that we give £350 million a week to Brussels is utterly inaccurate (although, according to the polling figures, diabolically effective). But if we leave, we wouldn’t get back a single penny — because, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies has pointed out, increased borrowing costs would wipe out any gains at a stroke.

Brexit, in other words, isn’t a recipe for saving the NHS from the costs imposed by immigration. It’s a recipe for putting a creaking service under even more severe strain. That’s without considering the fact that we’ll probably have to agree to keep paying the EU a significant amount anyway, either as a goodwill gesture during negotiations or as to fund the things that we do end up agreeing to cooperate on.
The next objection is the nature of the deal we strike with Europe. There has been lots of nice talk about how it would be in our mutual interests to strike a good one for both sides. On the contrary: there is absolutely no possibility of improving our position."
Having explained this argument, and poured a few more buckets if the cold water of common sense on various other leave fantasies, Colvile concludes:

"As a writer, I’ve always envied those of my colleagues blessed with a sense of certainty — those whose columns applied their principles to the facts, rather than the facts to their principles. It seemed so much easier, so much quicker, than my habit of indecisively puzzling through the evidence, being swayed by this argument and that.
The Brexit argument, too, has been dominated by certainty — shining diamond-hard and diamond-bright in the eyes of its advocates and its enemies.
In the face of such certainty, I can only retreat to probability. Probability that, as every respectable economist has said, Britain would suffer a severe economic shock. Probability that a country with no expert trade negotiators, in a world increasingly hostile to free trade, could not get the better deals it dreams of. Probability that our eventual relationship with the EU would be on a more antagonistic and far less advantageous basis. The probability that a post-Brexit Britain would be poorer, meaner and less able to fix its many problems because of the many new ones that exiting the EU would bring.
Brexit, in the end, is a form of shock therapy. The problem with such therapy is that the pain is certain, and the cure is not."

Quote of the day 23rd June 2016 - REFERENDUM POLLING DAY

"Some within the Leave camp have managed to brush off the near-unanimous warnings of every economist, every NGO, every central bank, every friendly government that Brexit would have an immediate and severe economic cost. Experts have been wrong before, after all. But we surely have to take the weight of their opinion into account — the fact that analysts in the City are, to a man or woman, ******* petrified about what happens on Thursday.

Even if we get away with just a collapse of the pound (and all its ensuing consequences), there will be months and years of uncertainty while whatever deal can be hammered out is hammered out — during which period there will be less investment, less certainty, less prosperity."
(Robert Colvile, from his article, A Eurosceptic case for Remain)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


I spent four years acquiring my two degrees in Economics (and a fifth year as a student managing the Student Union's budget of a million pounds in 1983 money).

I have spent thirty years of my working life applying the knowledge I acquired on those degree courses and trying to plan and forecast how the economy and various other factors might affect the large company I work for.

That does not give me any right to tell people who do not have equivalent knowledge and experience that they are not entitled to an opinion. Everyone is, and furthermore experts are sometimes wrong. But it does give me some understanding of the debate about what are the likely effects of a vote to Leave the EU, and why the overwhelming majority of economists, NGOs, International bodies, and the "experts" who Michael Gove so despises think that the economic impact would be bad.

Both sides have valid arguments on democracy, sovereignty and security. The Leave side can certainly point to many, many faults in the way the EU works, although I find attempt to paint it as some sort of great anti-democratic monster or "EUSSR" a ludicrous overstatement of the case.

Sadly both sides have failed completely to come up with a sustainable, fair and workable policy on immigration. (Leave landed some heavy blows on the government but their own policy on immigration is nonsense on stilts, as I explained in my previous post on Northern Ireland.)

But if there is one area where the arguments are overwhelmingly on one side it is economics and this is the second of the "killer arguments" which persuaded me to vote Remain.

There is sometimes a suggestion that if you are having trouble deciding what you want in a key decision, toss a coin - and while it is in the air you will realise which way you want it to land. My decision on the EU, though I never actually tossed a coin, came from a similar reaction to the news of opinion polls.

I have realised over the past few days from the way I feel relief every time there is a poll movement to Remain and anxiety every time I see a poll movement to Leave that I am genuinely scared of what Brexit would do to the British economy, and not because the Remain campaign has scared me, but because the facts have.

Had the Leave campaign spelt out a decent strategy such as the "FLEXCIT" proposal which would keep the UK in the single market, I might well have taken a different view. But several of the government ministers in the Leave campaign keep saying they want to leave the EEA as well as the EU and the press is gearing up to present a "Flexcit" approach if there is a leave vote as an attempt to frustrate the will of the electorate.

The strategy laid out by "Economists for Brexit" could possibly work in the long term if there was the political will to implement it but I don't think there is a cat in hell's chance that a Conservative government with a majority of 12 could get it through or that the electorate would accept the short and medium term pain.

And I apologise if this causes offence but I think the people who believe that the EU will have to offer Britain a good deal after a Brexit vote because the German car industry will suffer if they don't are living in cloud-cuckoo land (even if the German car industry, unsurprisingly, agrees with them.)

The woes of the German car industry will be one of only a number of factors that the EU Commission and EU governments will have to consider. Those governments will find their own Eurosceptic movements, most of whom make Nigel Farage look like Martin Luther King, breathing down their necks. Their electorates will simply not stand for them offering a Britain which has voted to leave the EU a better trading relationship than they themselves have.

And here is the key point: the evidence we already have that the economic consequence of Brexit are likely to be bad, not least because the widely shared view among key economic agents that leaving the EU will hurt our economy is likely to be a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Every time Leave advances in the polls, billions of pounds gets wiped of share prices - and that doesn't just affect rich speculators, much of that write-down comes off ordinary people's pension funds. Every time the polls move in the direction of Leave the stock market plummets, when they move to Remain it rises again.

When the probability of a Leave was estimated to have risen by 20% it wiped a hundred billion off the stock market - ten years' net contribution to the EU. This is extremely strong evidence that those who say uncertainties will impose a far from trivial cost on Britain if we vote to leave are right.

I am less worried about the impact a slowdown in the UK economy would have on my own bank balance than I am on what it would do to Britain's ability to pay off the crippling burden of national debt we still have, to afford the huge challenges facing the NHS, to provide adequate care for those most in need, to defend our country in this very dangerous age.

It would not take more than a slight slowdown in our economy to wipe out the saving of our net contribution to the EU. All the goodies which the Leave campaign are promising to fund from this are therefore, in my humble opinion, based on a fantasy.

Hence the two killer arguments that have persuaded me over the past few days are

1) It is likely that leaving the EU will impose a significant cost on the British economy, and

2) Leave's policies on taking control of our borders are nonsense on stilts and completely inconsistent with their promise not to introduce border controls in Ireland.

I am a patriot. I believe Britain could survive and ultimately prosper inside or outside the EU. But I have, after much reflection come to the conclusion that the "independence" the leave campaign dream of cannot really be delivered in an increasingly interconnected world, and the effort to cut ourselves off from our friends and neighbours could do real damage to our country.

I therefore concluded that it was in Britain's interests to stay in the EU, and handed in my postal vote today, voting for Remain.

The Irish Question ...

The Economist is right about this ...

I have driven over the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland on a fair number of occasions.

There is absolutely nothing to mark that border. The only thing that tells you that you have crossed into a different country is that the speed limit signs change, with units in miles to on one side and KM on the other. There are no fences, no border posts, no customs, in many places not even a Welcome to Great Britain or Welcome to Ireland sign.

At the moment Britain and Ireland have a common travel zone which largely works, and is made possible because Britain and Ireland are both in the EU but neither is in the Schengen agreement area. Essentially Britain and Ireland jointly police that travel zone.

Both sides in the present EU referendum have said some exaggerated, implausible or ridiculous things. But in terms of promises to the voters which are completely incompatible, one of the most completely incredible things said by either side is that Leave are simultaneously promising to "Take control of our borders" and promising the residents of both parts of Ireland that they are not going to introduce border controls along what would become the UK's land border with the EU.

I cannot understand how the Leave campaign can expect anyone in their right mind to believe both these promises, unless they are going to start introducing border controls between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK instead.

How can you possibly promise Britain will "take control of our borders" by leaving the EU when what would become our border with the EU has no controls of any kind and anyone can just walk across it with no passport or ID whatsoever?

If the Leave campaign are telling the truth when they say they do not intend to introduce border controls in Ireland then this leaves a gaping hold in their policies on migration and border control which renders every word they have said on those subjects undeliverable. All an EU citizen who wants to come to the UK would have to do is catch a plane to Dublin and a bus to Belfast.

If the Leave campaign are telling the truth when they say they want to take control of our borders, then the border controls affecting Northern Ireland following a "Leave" vote will be an economic and social catastrophe for that part of the UK.

Private Eye on the Leave campaign's impossible promises

Down to the wire

The final polls suggest that the EU referendum is looking very tight tomorrow.

Heaven only knows what is going to happen. Like most people, I thought the General Election last year would be much closer than it was, although I was expecting the Conservatives to sneak back in: I knew we had a chance of a majority but did not expect it.

This time the pollsters have an even harder job getting it right because there has not been a really equivalent vote for 41 years.

So it is possible that the polls and expectations could be completely wrong and one side could be heading for a big win.

My gut instinct, however is that it is going to be very close indeed and that is what the polls also show, as the table below (produced by Mike Smithson of Political Betting) indicates. I think this one is going right down to the wire and every vote could count.


Tomorrow is polling day in the EU referendum - the most important vote most of us will have the opportunity to cast in our lifetimes.

Like everyone younger than their late fifties, I was born too late to vote last time Britain had a vote on whether to be part of what was then officially known as the European Economic Community (and informally a the Common Market) and is now called the European Union.

If Britain votes to Leave tomorrow, the decision is likely to stand for a long time and have major consequences  - and if we were to change our minds it is most unlikely that we could ever come back in under as favourable terms of membership, with the right to keep the pound, exemption from the Schengen area and from "ever-closer union" that we have now.

If Britain votes to Remain there probably will not be another referendum on leaving in my lifetime.

Whatever you think is the best option for Britain, please turn out and vote tomorrow.

Quote of the day 22nd June 2016

"Voters in Scotland can be forgiven for suffering from referendum fatigue at the moment. Less than two years since the independence referendum, the country is once again preparing to decide its future. The arguments, on the surface, appear familiar. For Yes v No, replace Out v In. We are urged to back separation, not this time by Alex Salmond, but by his fellow Scot, Michael Gove. And once more, we are asked to look beyond the sound and fury and seek out the facts beneath.

Superficially, it might seem the same sort of decision. It’s not. For me, the independence referendum was not just about facts and figures — as important as they were — it was about heart and soul; ideas of national and personal identity. It spoke of who we are and what we consider “home”. Removing Scotland from the United Kingdom would have broken up our nation and changed us all. This is not the case this time. I do not diminish the significance of the EU referendum but, in or out, Britain will still stand.

However, I believe there are two key lessons to draw between the two votes. The first is what might be described as the certainty test. In the independence referendum, the SNP was at its happiest when condemning the institutions of the UK. It was at its weakest when trying to explain how exactly it intended to replace them. It didn’t have a clue — most shockingly over the issue of the currency.
I do not accuse my colleagues in the Out campaign of matching Alex Salmond’s egregious fantasy economics. However, there are similarities. Outers offer trenchant criticisms of the status quo. Less persuasive are the arguments for showing how Brexit would be better, or even an agreed position of what it might look like.

Basic questions over restrictions, tariffs or the ability of British workers to operate abroad are dismissed instead of answered. Set against the warnings of Mark Carney, the Bank of England governor, the IMF and the OECD about the impact of Brexit, the breezy assurances fall apart. Simply put, Out doesn’t just fail the certainty test, it makes no attempt to meet it.

Is that enough for people to vote to stay in? On its own, I believe not. Because the second lesson I draw from the independence referendum is that people who opt for the status quo are entitled to a positive vision of what that entails.

This was something I tried to set out two years ago by speaking about the UK’s strengths, its character, its diversity, its capacity for good in the world. It is in this vision of an outward-looking Britain which contributes to the world, which seeks to be a willing participant on the continent, that I see the positive case for remaining part of the EU. I agree that it has become a leviathan, that it requires reform, and extends its reach too far. This needs to change and David Cameron has already started to lead the reform. The key point is that we only continue that journey by remaining in. I don’t want Britain to become Europe’s awkward neighbour, twitching the curtains at the world outside, helpless to do much about it.

I want us to be Europe’s critical friend: engaging, encouraging and demanding reform from within.

We can lead the reshaping of our continent, and this is the optimistic vision that awaits us if we choose to take it."


Extract from article: read more at http://www.strongerin.co.uk/ruth_davidson_this_cussed_and_messy_nation_should_lead_not_leave#oJFkQLvyZPBJZr5A.97

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Worst of both worlds Twelve

I had originally intended to post this article on Thursday 16th but after the tragic events of that day it seemed appropriate to step back for a few days.

Here is what will probably be the last in my series of the worst nonsense and scaremongers of both sides

The most extreme "Remain" scare of the campaign

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, is normally one of the most sensible of the top Eurocrats. This week  he was suggesting correctly that the EU will have to learn lessons from the issues raised by the UK referendum campaign even if there is a "Remain" vote, one of them being that the enthusiasm of the elites for the European project is not shared by the peoples of Europe.

Nevertheless last week hecame out with probably the most extreme scare of the entire campaign when he suggested that Britain leaving the EU could threaten Western Civilisation.

I could not at first believe that Donald Tusk could really have said this. I wondered if it might be another press exaggeration as when the newspapers wrongly described David Cameron as having said that Brexit might lead to World War III (which is a ridiculous exaggeration of what the PM actually said).

So I checked both Reuters and the BBC, and it appears that the President of the European Council really did say of Brexit to readers Bild, a German newspaper,

"Why is it so dangerous?

Because no one can foresee what the long-term consequences would be,"

and Tusk added.

"As a historian I fear that Brexit could be the beginning of the destruction of not only the EU but also of western political civilization in its entirety."

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

The worst collection o Leave scares of the last fortnight of the campaign.

Despite describing the Remain side as "Project Fear" the Leave side has run their own fear campaign comprising a large number of totally ridiculous scaremongers every bit as bad as the worst scaremongers from the Remain side.

Leave's comments about Turkey have been particularly inaccurate and irresponsible, ranging from rubbish to dangerous and incendiary rubbish. We have also been treated to vast quantities of nonsense from Leave about the proposal for a so-called "European army" and a non-existent threat to Britain's seat on the UN security council.

I have a lot of time for Dan Hannan MEP, but considering that he has been tweeting all sorts of pictures taking the mick out of the Remain for supposedly predicting everything from Godzilla and giant bears attacking London to meteorite storms and floods if there is a Leave vote, perhaps he should not have also written an egregiously fact-free article in the Daily Mail predicting ten supposed EU bombshells timed to go off after the date of the referendum in the event of a Remain vote.

Having read the answers to these points on the In Facts fact checking website I am convinced by their arguments that not one of these ten supposed bombshells represents a real threat.

I am very glad indeed that in another two days this referendum campaign will be over.

I just hope that whichever side loses accepts that we have to make the majority decision work and resists the temptation to concoct another barrage of nonsense to justify their defeat.


The EU referendum is this Thursday. Whether you decide  Leave or Remain is in Britain's best interests, make sure you vote - this is probably the most important vote of my adult lifetime.

Either way there are unlikely to be second chances.

If we vote Leave we would never get back the terms of membership we have now if we tried to return later.

If we vote Remain I do not believe any party wanting a re-run of the decision will stand a chance of being elected. The majority of the country will not accept a rerun without some extraordinarily good reason.

So use your vote.

Quote of the day 21st June 2016

Monday, June 20, 2016

Carlisle EU Referendum debate this evening

I attended, with my son, a debate in Trinity School Carlisle this evening about the EU referendum chaired by John Stevenson MP.

It was a lively, reasonably well-attended and polite debate in which the strong views obviously felt by most of the people present never spilled into discourtesy towards the other people present.

Interestingly the straw poll taken at the end was practically a dead heat - I'm always careful about reading too much into that sort of evidence but I think the prospect of a very close vote on Thursday is very real.

Quote of the day 20th June 2016

"If you were about to get into your family car and drive at high speed on the motorway,  and the mechanic said to you 'The brakes are faulty, the fuel is leaking, don't get in that car,' you would listen to that expert. Would you take a risk with your family getting into a faulty car? You wouldn't do it."

David Cameron criticises the "Leave" campaign's making a virtue of ignoring expert advice in an interview with the Sunday Times.

He also dismissed the idea that "I ventriloquise everyone from President Obama to the Archbishop of Canterbury." 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Fathers' day 2016

Not had much time for blogging today as it has been a family day. With today being Father's Day I went with my family to one of the many excellent restaurants in Cumbria (The Bower House Inn in Eskdale) for a superb meal to mark the occasion. Fortunately we arrived home shortly before the heavens opened.

I have also been thinking of my own late father and remembering with gratitude all he did for me.

I hope everyone reading this had time to spend time with or think of happy memories of their father and those reading this who are fathers had the opportunity to enjoy time with their children.

Sunday music spot for Father's day

And now for something completely different as a humorous music spot for Father's day: The Barron Knights' version of the top 40 (afraid you have to have been around in the 1980's to have heard of some of the groups/artists and get some of the jokes)  followed by their version of MASH - the Masochistic and Sadistic Hospital Song.

Quote of the day 19th June 2016

Saturday, June 18, 2016

How to respond, and how not to respond, to Thursday's murder.

The murder of Jo Cox MP on Thursday shocked the nation and, indeed, people around the world.

The vast majority of people whether right or left, leave or remain, were horrified that a woman could be shot and stabbed to death while doing her job, leaving two children aged three and five without their mother.

I believe that the two sides in the referendum campaign were right yo suspend campaigning for a few days in the immediate aftermath of Jo Cox's death, both as a mark of respect and because such campaigning was likely to be seen through the prism of what happened.

I also think that the Conservatives, and the other main parties which have followed suit, were right not to contest the by-election. Again, both as a mark of respect and to make the point that the political composition of parliament should not be changed through murder. I have heard people describe this as "cheating the voters;" deals not to put up candidates at a normal election can fairly be described in that way, but this by election would never have happened in the first place without a murder that I am certain the vast majority of voters in Batley and Spen would have preferred not to have happened, so in this case the only cheating is by the murderer who cheated them out of the services of the MP they elected.

And the murderer is the only person to blame for the death of Jo Cox. We can learn lessons from what has happened, but nobody should try to score points from it.

I have seen no sign whatsoever that either the official Leave campaign or the official Remain campaign has tried to used the assassination of Jo Cox to their advantage. Nor have the great majority of either side. But a section of the press - not by any means a majority - has responded in unfortunate ways.

We can and should learn a general lesson from these tragic events that better security should be provided for MPs as they carry out an important part of their job, meeting and listening to their constituents.

W can also learn the general lesson - preferably without pointing too many fingers at any particularl part of the political spectrum - that criticising the politics of people you disagree with, even doing so robustly, is OK but, without wanting to restrict anyone's right to free speech, it is far healthier if criticism is delivered within a position of respect for the other people involved. As I wrote in response to Jennifer Williams' article yesterday, none of us have a monopoly on wisdom or virtue.

And one thing the tragic event does not tell us is how to vote. We should base our decision on how to vote purely on what is best for Britain - and the actions of one depraved murderer do not change what is right for Britain.


I see that a number of papers on Sunday 19th reprinted a piece Jo Cox had written on Politics Home arguing the case to Remain, and BSiE and the Prime Minister were among those who linked to that article on social media.

They were accused in some quarters of exploiting the murder for political gain.

I understand that view but do not share it.

If the people who were republishing and sharing what the murdered MP had herself written thought her words were worth reading - and I presume they would not have done it if they didn't - they were sharing the words that the murderer wanted to silence. I think that is only balancing the score.

We should have the opportunity to read those words, which you can do here, and then act on them if, and only if, we find them convincing.

The Brexit Briefs

The Economist has been publishing a series of thoughtful and well argued articles on the merits of leaving or remaining in the EU.

These are gathered together as "The Brexit Briefs" which you can read at


They come down on the side of Remain, so if you are not interested in hearing that side of the case don't bother, but they do try to assess the arguments from both sides. If you are interested in a well-written assessment of the issues as it seems from a non-partisan Remain perspective you will not find a better one.

Saturday music spot: the Bach Magnificat

Quote of the day 18th June 2016

Friday, June 17, 2016

An excellent article calls on us all to step back and think

Jennifer Williams, political reporter of the Manchester Evening News, has written a superb article which you can read here and which calls on all of us - right or left, Leave or Remain, member of the "political class" or ordinary citizen, to step back and recognise that we might not have a monopoly on virtue or wisdom and that other people might just possible have something to say to us that we can learn from.

An extract from the article:

"One of the hallmarks of British society – and democracy – is free speech.

It is a right we hold dear and as a nation have fought to preserve.

But there are other hallmarks, too. One which our political discourse seems to have lost sight of recently is the ability to reason and question our own arguments. To think clearly.

In the wake of  Jo Cox’s death, regardless of whether it is connected to the referendum or not, it is surely timely now for all of us to take a step back.

That means politicians, the media and voters alike.

For some time there has been a palpable sense, fuelled by the echo chamber of social media, that many on both the left, the right and other political spaces view the world with absolute moral certainty.

You saw it in the Scottish referendum.

You see it with many on the left, those who deem the Tories ‘evil’ and unleash fury at anyone who questions (let alone criticises) Jeremy Corbyn.

There is a particular tendency for some on the left to assume a moral imperative where their world view is concerned: it must be imposed - and if you disagree you are not only wrong, but you are a bad human being.

But of course you see it on the right too, in the vicious attacks that greet anyone who suggests there could be an argument for staying in the EU, or let refugees into the country

The problem with complete certainty is that leaves you unable to question your own world view, to shift your own stance, to respond to reason. To admit you may not be entirely right."

Absolutely. A point we should all think about.

The Conservatives will not contest Batley and Spen

It is being reported that the Conservatives will not context the Batley and Spen by-election which will be called as a result of the assassination of Jo Cox.

Here is the Conservative Party's statement:
"Following the tragic killing of Labour MP Jo Cox, the Conservative Party has decided not to contest the forthcoming by-election as a mark of respect to a much-loved and respected politician.”
I first saw this response being suggested by former party chairman Grant Shapps last night and immediately indicated my support.

Obviously, in a democracy nobody who can obtain the necessary nominating signatures should be barred from standing. But if, when an MP who was elected as a representative of a political party is murdered, the main rivals to that party do not context the subsequent by-election, it will set a precedent for a principle that murdering an MP should not change the political composition of parliament. The final decision if there is a contest will, of course, be up to the voters as it should be.

David Cameron pays tribute to Jo Cox MP

The Chancellor's speech on the murder of Jo Cox MP

I have been very critical of both sides in the EU referendum campaign, but yesterday both got it absolutely right: both were wise to suspend campaigning yesterday as a mark of respect to the murdered MP Jo Cox.
It is very important that we do not allow anger and rage at this tragic attack on democracy to define who we are and I believe that Jo Cox herself would have been one of the first to say that.
Two days ago the Chancellor and the Leave campaign were, purely in a rhetorical sense, knocking six bells out of one another. But yesterday at the Mansion House George Osborne made the excellent speech below, which came to my attention because it was circulated by a prominent Leave campaigner, who highly praised it. And I agree.
Sometimes we in Britain are at our best when dealing with the most painful and difficult situations. Let this be one of those times.

Quote of the day 17th June 2016

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Jo Cox RIP

I am horrified to learn that Jo Cox, the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, has been murdered.

The 41-year old mother of two was shot and stabbed as she was arriving at her constituency surgery by a man who appeared to have been waiting for her. In other words, she was murdered while carrying out one of the most important duties of an MP, listening to the concerns of the people she was elected to represent.

A 77-year old man who attempted to defend the MP was also stabbed in the stomach.

This murder was an attack, not on one MP or party but on democracy itself.

Both Leave and Remain suspended campaigning for the day as a mark of respect. The weekly column in Conservative Home by four floating voters commenting on the referendum campaign, to which I am one of the contributors, will not appear tomorrow for the same reason and I will be making no more posts today after this obit piece.

Tributes have been paid to Jo Cos from across the political spectrum and around the world

Prime Minister David Cameron was among those who paid tribute to her, saying:
"This is absolutely tragic and dreadful news and my thoughts are with Jo's husband Brendan, their two children and wider family. We've lost a great star. She had a big heart and people are going to be very, very sad at what has happened.
Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn said of Jo Cox's killing:
"In Parliament, she was respected across the whole house as somebody with a deep commitment and deep passion for human rights and justice. She leaves behind a husband, a wonderful man who likewise spends his life campaigning for human rights and justice. And two young children who will never grow up to see their mum again. They can be proud of everything she stood for."

Chancellor George Osborne said in an emotional speech
"People are free in this country to live their lives as they choose and express themselves without fear. Society will protect their right to do so and hold to account those who disregard our laws. Today's horrible events are an assault on all of these values. But we know that these values, no matter how they have been challenged in the past, have always prevailed, prevail today and they will always prevail. For they are the values of Great Britain, our great democracy."
 He added that MPs' accessibility to constituents was a virtue of the UK's political system.
"To be an effective representative, all of us who are MPs engage with their communities, talk to everyone and anyone, hold constituency surgeries and must be prepared to stand up and argue publicly for what we believe. Jo did all of these things. She will never know how many lives she helped transform. Today, doing that job, she senselessly lost her own life."

Brendan Cox, her widower, said:
"Today is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. More difficult, more painful, less joyful, less full of love. I and Jo's friends and family are going to work every moment of our lives to love and nurture our kids and to fight against the hate that killed Jo. Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it everyday of her life with an energy, and a zest for life that would exhaust most people. She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn't have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous. Jo would have no regrets about her life, she lived every day of it to the full."
Rest in Peace.