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...a blog by Richard Flowers

Monday, October 17, 2016

Day 5769: Marmite Wars are Merely the Beginning

Monday:


Today Captain Clegg launched his third pamphlet on the challenges facing the UK due to Brexit. This one is about food and drink.

Nick Clegg at the National Liberal Club


If you’re still watching POLDARK on the BBC you will know it’s a tale of noble-but-impoverished workers of mine and land, ground down by the machinations of sinister bankers who manipulate the laws and the local dimwit Tory MP for their own ends, and so must turn to smuggling to get goods past the exorbitant import tariffs.

What you might NOT realise is that this is a BOLD sci-fi drama set in the DISTOPIAN post-Brexit FUTURE! With occasional topless scything.

And the reaction was basically terrifying. (To Brexit, not the topless scything!)

That’s not the position of Captain Clegg – who was at pains to point out that we should definitely be trying to save people from their fears by at least agreeing a Norway-style EEA agreement that maintains our trading links.

No, the fear was present in the questions arising, questions from small farms, from small retailers – corner shops and newsagents – who are all already staring down the barrel of disaster as the collapse in the pound sees their prices soar; the sort of everyday working folk whose concerns for their businesses and livelihoods and families are dismissed from the ivory towers of Conservatories like Jacob Rees-Mogg who’s never had to do a day’s work in his life and puts down the questions of ordinary people as “just more Project Fear”.

And another very good question came from the Commonwealth countries who can see their gateway deals to the EU via the UK collapsing and WTO trade tariffs of 40% on chocolate or 50-60% on beef and lamb being imposed by the careless diktat of Liam “Fantastic Dr” Fox, disgraced former Defence Minister and not-yet-disgraced (‘96 days and counting’) International Trade Minister.

Across the continent, the papers are not full – as Cap’s Nick put it – of the cunning of Mr Fox, the honesty of David Davis or the diplomacy of Boris Johnson. No, our friends and allies are instead AGHAST at the language and occasional downright xenophobia coming out of this chaotic Tory government, particularly things like the conference speech of the “Go Home” Secretary, Ms Green Amber Rudd. Less of a dog whistle; more of a traffic light stuck on stop!


Prime Monster Theresa May (or May Not) holds out against delivering ANY answers beyond Brexit means Brexit means a slap on the wrist for ministers who dare to speak the unspeakable, but insists that she has the power to Invoke Article 50 without taking a vote in Parliament. Talk about “taking back control!” Will those Tories – David Davis, John Deadwood, Peter Bone, Rees-Moggy? – who made such a BIG THING of Parliamentary Sovereignty call her to account? Or will they sell their principles in a heartbeat?

MPs were EXPRESSLY told that the Referendum would be only ADVISORY – or else they might have voted for more stringent checks, such as a two-thirds majority, or other thresholds – and those Brexiteers who are trying to say that in passing the referendum BILL Parliament has already voted on Brexit are clearly trying to take away the democratic and sovereign rights of Parliament.

Noted thinker A. C Grayling is writing to every MP to ask them why they are allowing this, and that they should demand a debate AND VOTE on the issue.

It is, after all, their DUTY to “take back control”.

It is clear that unchecked, Mrs Maybe’s unelected administration will see us BOUNCED into the most CHAOTIC TORY BREXIT!

Unilever and Tesco may have come to an accommodation that sees the Marmite back on our shelves, but that’s far from the end of it.

We currently SELL more than £18 billion of food abroad, one of our biggest export industries, and two thirds of that goes to the EU. Tariff and other barriers, like regulations or defining chocolate to be only high cocoa solids, that would exclude British chocolate altogether, will more than eliminate any benefits of the cheaper pound. And THEN we have to compete with the highly subsidised EU food production because THEY’LL still have the much-derided Common Agricultural Policy that WAS pouring billions into OUR farms.

But also we EAT more than we can GROW, so we have to BUY IN more than 25% of the food we need, and more than 70% of that is from Europe.

Companies importing food are going to face a choice of three options: put up prices – difficult in a cutthroat market with discounters already at their heels; cut into their own profits – which are already very tight, especially for small firms that import ingredients to make into prepared foods; or stop stocking certain lines altogether – the Marmite option.

For the moment, big importers will have their prices protected – either by long-term agreements with their suppliers or by insurance (called “hedging”) that will cover the higher cost of buying stuff with a pound that is worth up to 18% less.

But small companies who can’t afford big insurance are being hit with those choices already.

And even the bigger companies, their contracts will run out and, as Tesco discovered, new agreements will need to be made; those insurance policies are to smooth out short-term the ups and downs of the currency markets, not to protect long-term from a major devaluation. And then the higher prices will have to be paid.

In the next year to two years we will see a (first) big spike in food inflation, and that will hit the least well off the hardest.

We need to work RIGHT NOW to protect against an even bigger hit from collapsing out of the Single Market.

As Master Yoda so very nearly said of Bojo’s foreign policy: Victory? There was no victory. Begun, this clown war has.

Steve Bell in the Grauniad

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Day 5714: Brexit Means Batshit or Brexit means Bullshit

Tuesday:


“Brexit means Brexit,” says Prime Minister Theresa May. But what does Brexit means Brexit really mean? You might as well say Wiff Waff means Wiff Waff, for all the facts it tells us.

The dilemma… or trilemma or quadlemma… that faces Mrs May is: how does she satisfy all the different Leaver’s different reasons? And of course she can’t. They’re utterly irreconcilable.

The real choice facing the Prime Minister is whether she faces down that section of the voters who will scream betrayal most loudly or she accepts trashing the economy to satisfy people who voted for magic unicorns.


Look, either you can determine all your own rules. And no one will do business with you. Or you can compromise and have trade.

So either you are batshit crazy. Or you were bullshitting when you said we would “take back control”.

Here’s why:

People who voted Leave will give you one of a dozen different reasons for why they voted – almost all variations on the cry of “*I’m* not a racist!”.

(This refusal to admit that immigration was the big driving force of the Leave Campaign that is the sort of reprehensible moral cowardice that sees Labour’s Gisela Stewart happy to parrot the lies of Farage and Gove and then wring her hands at the entirely predictable (and indeed predicted) outcome.)

“We have valid reasons,” they say.

…Actually they mean “we have morally acceptable arguments” (not like the racists).

For an argument to be valid is has to be true:

  • “Europe stops us barring foreigners from entering the country” is true, but morally reprehensible.
  • “Europe is holding us back from free trade” is invalid because it’s nonsense.
  • “Europe prevents us from cutting workers’ holidays and doubling their working hours” is true but repugnant, and not the sort of thing that wins public support for your buccaneering free marketers.
  • “We should be making our own laws” is invalid because the law needs to be the same for everyone if it’s going to work.


“We should make our own laws”, is one of those big assertions that Leave say won them the campaign. It gained a lot of traction in the referendum. And it’s total nonsense.

The law must apply equally to both sides in any agreement. Like, say, a trade treaty. If one side is going to say they can change the law (possibly on a whim) what is in it for the other side?

Suppose your next door neighbour says that they should make up the laws that govern their house. And they decide they don’t agree with those pesky laws about noise after midnight. Or fly tipping. Or that property is theft?

That’s just the same as when we get, say, UKIP’s Suzanne Evans (on Radio 4’s Westminster Hour) saying we don’t need follow the rules in Article 50 at all; we should just change the law in our own Parliament to leave. Reneging on the Lisbon Treaty would mean that no country on Earth would trust us with those “free trade agreements” that the likes of Ms Evans say it will be so easy to make.

There’s a section of the Leave vote who might be completely happy with that, with no trade with Europe at all. For them, the only satisfactory outcome will be to slam the door to the EU on our way out.

It’s probably not a large section, but you can bet it’s going to be a very, very noisy one.

And they are never going to be satisfied. Because that sort of isolationism is not going to be acceptable to anyone who wants to be able to buy bananas or avocados or for that matter petrol.

For absolutely anyone else, anyone who wants to be able to buy things from abroad and sell our stuff there too, then you are going to have to compromise. Starting by agreeing on the law – the rules – for your treaty.

What you cannot get is the completely disconnected from reality version where we want lots of trade with everyone… but they all agree to follow our rules, the sort of magic thinking represented in the Cabinet by “Fantastic” Dr Fox, the man already picking a fight with the empty room that is Boris Johnson’s Foreign Office.


Two months have passed since THAT vote. The Prime Minister has been able to take a holiday. Labour continue to stage their what can hardly be called leadership election. And thankfully, neither the World nor the British economy have ended in the meantime. In fact we have had positive economic figures for July: retail sales are up and unemployment is down.

But it’s early days. We haven’t actually done anything irreversible yet. It’s still difficult to see how we will not get a spike in inflation caused by the fall in the value of the pound – particularly once fuel bills start to go up in winter. And it’s an awkward question but where is the investment in jobs and trade going to come from, now that companies are looking more to the continental mainland for their European bases?

So far, Theresa May is Wile E. Coyote, running on empty air. We need to know whether what she’s got in her handbag is a parachute… or an anvil. Ideally before she looks down and notices the economic gravity.



We don’t want a recession. So what are the government doing to prevent a bump in the road turning into a shock to the system? Things have changed (or the vote was meaningless Miranda Hart look) so the government needs to say what changes it will make in response. Complacency and inertia won’t look so good with hindsight if things do go pear-shaped.

Putting off telling us what “Brexit” will mean stops the government telling us what actions they will take. “Brexit means Brexit” is actually damaging.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Day 5662: Messages for Cheadle #4 - March for Europe

Saturday:

Not in Cheadle, but joining many thousands marching on Parliament to show support for the European Union, and to remind people that democracy means listening to the minority not just doing what the victors demand.

Liberal Democrats will give the 48% a voice that will not be silenced.



I’m marching today with thousands of others for a better future and a better Britain than we’ve seen in the last few weeks. Because standing together is better than splitting apart.

I’m marching because the best of British means never giving up. When you’ve taken a knock, to get up and try again. Because Brits aren’t quitters. Even in the rain! [assuming it’s raining]

I've seen a lot of reactions to the referendum. Anger. Grief. Despair. Denial. People who've lost their opportunities to travel, learn and work. People who feel they've had their future ripped away. I've felt those things too.

The country is split down the middle. People who feel left behind. People who feel they've been had by a leave campaign that's already weaselling out of every promise they made. And they just want the 48% to shut up. That's not democracy.

I've seen leaders of Tory and Labour Party panic. Fall into infighting. That's not leadership.

What we need now is hope.

Tim Farron has shown real leadership in this crisis. We accept the result of the referendum. But we're not going to stop making the case for an open, outward-looking Britain that remains a part of the EU.

The Liberal Democrats exist to build a free and fair society. One where no one is left behind. One that doesn't put the blame on migrants. One where there is a better future. For everyone.

Britain is better than this.

12000 people have joined us since the referendum, because they want to hope again.

Join us, and we can bring hope to a new generation.

If you want a better Britain that gets stuck in and doesn't quit, join us.
If you want a better Britain that stands for hope not hate, join us.
Most of all, if you want a fairer, better future for all of us, join the Liberal Democrats.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Day 5657: Where Do We Go From Here

Monday:

Over the weekend, the Vote Leave campaign have revealed that they genuinely have no plan for what to do now they’ve torn everything down. And Labour have chosen absolutely the worst moment to hit the self-destruct button.

The first observation is that if the vote were to be held this week, after the last 72 hours of the most vigorous rowing backwards, it seems unlikely that the Leave Campaign could win a referendum on the sun coming up tomorrow, so shot is their credibility.

All the promises of the Leave Campaign have been thoroughly trashed… by the Leave Campaign.


Farage was pooh-poohing the promise of £350 million a week for the NHS within minutes of the final result, and IDS denied thrice before cockcrow he’d ever said it on Marr on Sunday, leading to a flurry of photos of him stood in front of the Boris Bus saying exactly that.

Johnson, Gove and Hannan have all made it very clear that they don’t really want to leave the single market, or even end the free movement of people that proved such a decisive part of the campaign they ran.

Morten Morland, via Times Red Box


Indeed Johnson’s pusillanimous piece in the Telegraph seems very much more like saying we’ll be staying entirely IN, give or take some legal fiddlings – this is just more of his policy of pro-having cake AND pro-eating it. And Brussels has already rubbished it.

Alas, Boris, to govern is to choose. If you want the job…

And this is only going to get worse before it gets better.

For too many, the World carries on merrily in its own little way, so all must be all right for everyone and ignore the rise in hate crimes and the fall of the markets. The bomb has dropped, but no one has noticed yet.

48% of the country are appalled by what has happened. But the 52% who voted Leave last Thursday are only going to be disappointed.

Many thousands apparently are disappointed already, shocked that what they thought was a protest vote has ramifications that are suddenly horribly real.

Many people are amazed at the speed with which the “Mystic Clegg” predictions are coming true.

Many more are only now reading the “What Brexit Means for You” columns in Mail and Sun and howling with betrayed outrage that the very papers that instructed them to vote Leave didn’t warn them of these consequences before.

But many of the others currently still celebrating are going to get frustrated and angry at the kind of Brexit or semi-Brexit or Neverexit that is delivered.

Prime Minister (in name only, now) Cameron’s decision to pass the buck to his successor was a typical act of “why should I” entitlement, but it has served to skewer the Leavers on their own contradictions, even while it leaves the EU infuriated by being left hanging in the wind over when or even if we are actually going to start the Brexit machine going.

And at the same moment, struck by terror that a new Tory leader might precipitate a snap general election this year while they’re still stuck with Corbyn as leader, the Labour front bench have chosen this moment to stage an Ides of March-style attempted assassination. And after two days the Shadow Cabinet’s clown car is still disgorging resignees.

Consequently, we have neither Government nor Opposition and are neither in nor out of the European Union.

London Metro, Monday 27 June - sums it up


Will There Be a General Election?


Given that they fought the referendum on the grounds of “democracy” it would be a bit of a sore point if the Brexiteers then allowed a new PM to be installed without the British people having a say.

Having said that, they’ve abandoned the rest of their platform so swiftly, it would hardly be a surprise.

The PM cannot trigger Article 50 on a whim. It’s a bit legalistic, but because it would be – effectively – repealing the European Communities Act he cannot just use the (so democratic) Royal Prerogative. He needs to pass it through Parliament, and Parliament has a huge majority against leaving the EU and is not particularly minded to give the Tories an easy ride. It only takes the few remaining Europhile Tories to play the same game that the Maastricht rebels played for it to fall at the first hurdle.

And that’s without reminding you it’s got to get through the Lords too. All those Leavers banging on about the sovereignty of Parliament ought to remember that more than half of Parliament is the unelected Peers – without a manifesto pledge to Brexit, the Lords will be well within their rights to block any Article 50 notification.

All of which is a strong case for a pro-Brexit Tory Prime Minister to go to the country.

But there are downsides for the cautious punter to consider.

The timetable that Mr Cameron wanted to set in place meant that there would be no new Tory leader until at least the first week of October. (I say “at least” because in fact, Liam Fox was pushing on Monday morning’s Today Programme for the contest to begin at the Tory Party Conference to “allow all the candidates to parade their wares” – code for “give me time to put my candidacy in order”.)

The shortest possible election campaign is about three weeks, placing polling day no earlier than Thursday 3rd November. November, being cold and wet, is not a well-starred month for elections. Certainly if the Tories do drag out their contest even longer, then any election would have to be next spring.

The 1922 Committee (the people who run the Tory Party’s business) have recommended a shorter timetable, with the new leader elected by 2 September.

This could in theory allow for an earlier election, but only if the Tories don’t mind bulldozing the conference season and can persuade Parliament to go for it. Because although there are ways of fudging the Fixed Term Parliament Act, Parliament needs to be in session to vote itself out. Labour – probably still in the middle of their own leadership crisis – are going to be disinclined to play ball in early September. No confidence-ing their own government out of existence is hardly the most auspicious start to an election campaign, and there’s still a two week cooling off period, which leaves them basically back where they started.

But why go to the country at all when you’ve got a working, if small, majority and the only way is down.

A general election would be difficult for the Liberal Democrats, despite being the most united party, and with a clear message to stand up for the 48%. Many of our local parties are still traumatised by the punishing 2015 election. Bouncing back to our pre-coalition highs of 50+ seats looks unlikely. But that’s not to say that there are not seats that we lost in 2015 that would not swing back to the gold column, particularly in those Metropolitan boroughs and University Towns that voted remain, now that they’ve seen the alternative is an ever-more unfettered right-wing Tory government. Eight MPs might seem like a joke, but doubling that, to sixteen to twenty would make us relevant again. And would deprive Prime Minister May or Johnson of their slender majority.

But the real threat to the Tory hegemony is UKIP.

With his article today, Johnson essentially cedes all advantage to Farage’s mob. In any snap general election, Nigel will campaign on a “we didn’t vote for THAT” ticket (the “stab in the back” narrative) and with Labour in such total disarray, might actually mop up large numbers of seats in the North whose grievance will only have been fuelled by “Boris the Betrayer” (“he stabbed his mate Dave in the back and now he’s sold us out on immigration, the elitist old-Etonian, London so and so”).

I’m inclined to think that if buccaneering Boris gets in, he probably will want his own mandate. Though whether the “men in grey suits” would let him, is another matter. Theresa May is more likely to be content with being PM for four years and seeing if things get better for her prospects of re-election.

And yet only a general election offers us a way out of our current cleft fork.

I do not believe that Vote Remain should be trying to tactics or legalism to get this current Parliament to ignore or thwart the will of the people for Brexit.

But it appears that the leadership of Vote Leave… do NOT want us to leave.

And so new leadership is called for.

What is needed is either electing a pro-Brexit government with a mandate to do the difficult business of unwinding our laws and negotiating new treaties, or giving victory to a pro-Remain government that would certainly be a popular mandate for saying the people had thought again about the referendum result. Or more reasonably, it would be a case for asking the question again.

I’m proud of my Party sticking to its pro-EU guns. (After all, no one would expect UKIP to turn all Europhile if the Remain Campaign had won 52:48. In fact, Farage said as much, up to and even after the polls closed, when he thought he was going to lose.) And we should do everything in our democratic power to keep making that positive case for IN.

And the Lib Dems sweeping to a majority on a pro-Remain ticket would be the clearest possible sign that the public had looked into the Leave abyss and thought better of it after all.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Day 5655: Taking Pride!

Saturday – Happy Pride!




I was one of more than 40 LGBT+ Liberal Democrats to march in the 2016 Pride in London Parade, joined by Parliamentary representation from their Lordships Liz Barker and Brian Paddick, along support from London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon and Chair of London Region Chris Maines.

A good showing for Tower Hamlets too, with my friends Anita, Ed and Richard, and friend of the borough Drew also joining the march.

It was a joyful day, much needed after the referendum results. The crowd greeted us with great enthusiasm, loudly joining in chants of “E.U. We. Love. You!” It was a day to warm a liberal internationalist’s heart.



Liz Barker said: “Remember – we showed real leadership and it is recognised and remembered!”

Chair of LGBT+ Lib Dems Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett was on the Pride organising committee and with Liberal Democrat Ed Lord marched at the head of the parade alongside London Mayor Sadiq Khan.


(Seen here in blue shirts either side of the mayor; photo from the Guardian)

Many thanks to Ben Mathis for organising our shocking pink “Be You Be Free Be Liberal” tee-shirts and getting us entry tags for the parade.

It was a day when we could be Proud of any and every sexuality and gender identity; Proud of London; and Proud of being Liberal Democrats. And the cheering crowd agreed.



(This blog also appearing at: 25TH JUNE: TAKING PRIDE)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Day 5654: If You Brexit You Bought It

Friday:



By 6 o’clock this morning, Friday 24th June 2016, it was clear that the British public had voted to leave the European Union.

Britain has chosen a new direction. But we won’t be afraid, even if there is a difficult path ahead, because we trust the people of this country to make it through. And we believe, more than ever, that Britain will need a compassionate liberal voice to help along the way.


It's a sad end for David Cameron, aka Mr Balloon, who gambled recklessly with the county’s future. To keep his job as Prime Minister he gave in to his more unspeakable right wing. He has paid the price of losing and resigned. History won’t be kind to him, the man who deeply wounded his country’s future for his own ends, may even have ended Great Britain altogether.

By the Referendum Divided
Because we’re waking up to a country that is shockingly divided. Important parts having voted to Remain: not just Scotland and Northern Ireland but also many of the great cities of England – Greater Manchester including especially my home town of Stockport, Liverpool, Leeds, Bristol, Oxford and Cambridge and above all London, including my current patch in Tower Hamlets where the vote was 2 to 1 in favour of Remaining.

And it is a matter of pride that those two places where helped the campaign, Cheadle and Tower Hamlets, were among those to buck the national trend and vote to remain.



But while I wouldn’t blame them, I don’t want to see Scotland, let alone London, leaving the UK, tearing us even further apart.

Tearing things apart because you can’t have your own way is the way of the childish tantrum, the way of Farage and his Vote Leave crusade.

Vote Leave is fundamentally anti-democratic, something made pretty glaringly obvious by the way the next Prime Minister will be decided by internal machinations of the Tory Party and not by a vote of the British people.

Democracy means compromise, it means sometimes not getting your own way, something that the Vote Leave campaign – for all their talk of democracy – do not care for.

And this is why you need to elect liberals – if you don’t then the extremists get to take over the asylum.

We face uncertain times. The stock markets and the pound seem to have pulled out of their crash dives, and the Bank of England has promised a quarter of a billion to calm things down. But the pound is significantly weaker and the global economy has taken a blow. Already some companies talk of moving their offices from London to Frankfurt or Bonn.

We can survives this, but we need to pull together, not apart.

This country needs a new politics.

The Tory Party are clearly split and may never be able to put themselves back together.

Labour’s leadership have been weak and indecisive leadership throughout the campaign, their indifference to their own supporters means they abandoned many voters to UKIP’s brazen promises, populist solutions and outright lies.

Only the Liberal Democrats have been consistent and positive about the opportunities and benefits of an open liberal Britain, and that puts us in the best possible position to shape the new politics that we so clearly need.

There is a huge well of support for a liberal, outward-looking Britain and we will not let the triumphalist Leave Campaign ignore that voice, your voice. We will hold them to their promises of a free-trading Britain that is open for business. They promised to give you control. We will hold them to that too.

Now, even more than in the aftermath of last year's general election, we need you to stand with us. Stand up and be counted as the voice of the real Britain. Don't leave it to others. Don't leave your country in the hands of Johnson, Gove and Nigel Farage.

Join us and we will make Britain Great again.



(This blog also appearing at: http://richardflowers.nationbuilder.com/eureferendum)


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Day 5651: The Dark is Rising

Tuesday:


We must turn back the tide.


In the last week there have been two murderous attacks on people who, although not close to me are only a short step away and feel like my people.

In America, my soon-to-be-step brother knows people in Orlando who have lost loved ones in the massacre at the Pulse nightclub – an attack on the gay community, my community.

And then in Birstall, I know people who have campaigned near there and who have campaigned with Jo Cox for better treatment of refugees – an attack on liberal-thinking politics, my tribe of politics.

At the Westminster vigil


These incidents do not come in isolation.

The roots of this poison go deep. Fear, anger, rage have been encouraged, fed by years of austerity. Left and right have encouraged a blame culture and simplistic answers. Our media have traduced politicians as venal and corrupt. The immediacy of social media has unleashed a tidal wave of trolls with the power of abuse. And this referendum has been the ugliest political campaign, fought in the ugliest political climate. To get to this point.

How many tweets calling a person with the opposite view a traitor does it take before some people think it's okay to shout abuse in the streets? How may expletive-laden chants of traitor have to be shouted before some people think it's okay to whisper threats of rape and violence to a young woman as she campaigns? How many whispered threats before some people think it's okay to stop threatening and use violence? How many assaults and beatings does it take before one person thinks that he will do what everyone he reads is saying he should do? To get to this point.

When did it become okay to say we've had enough of experts?

When did it become okay to say that violence would follow if you don't get your own way?

When did it become okay to just lie?

Those on the right need to be held to account for how they have promoted simplistic – and wrong – answers, seeking protectionism and blaming the foreigner, the other, despite the clear historical precedent that these answers do not work – we hear people like Peter Oborne saying the working class are fearful for their jobs but stoking that fear by repeating the falsehood that immigrants "take British people's jobs" when that is simply not how economies work.

Those on the left need to look at how they behaved during the coalition years: all the cries of betrayal and blame, never seeking to promote answers or accepting responsibility, abandoning arguments just as they abandoned the working class vote to the nationalists – the likes of Polly Toynbee who now condemns the toxic climate but never took a week off from denigrating Nick Clegg for trying to make a bad situation work.

Those in the media need to admit to their own faults, and failings and bias, who have given platforms to Farage and his rag tag minority far beyond what they deserved until the prophecy has become self-fulfilling; who have spun news stories – or just plain falsehoods – to the tune of business tycoons whose interests do not in any way correspond with the interests of the British public; and who push the idea that politicians never give a straight answer, but who won't let a politician answer the question without interrupting, and some questions need more than a soundbite to answer, who have earned far more than the MPs they bully while painting politicians as venal and corrupt and deserving of abuse and yes even death.

But I won't accept false equivalence. There are faults on all sides, but they are not the same, and to pretend that there is any sense that the Stronger In campaign mounting piece after piece of evidence that things will not be good outside the EU – dismissed as "Project Fear" by the people scaremongering about immigrant rapists – is in any way similar to the malice and lies of Vote Leave is to give succour to the racists who can hardly even be said to be hiding in plain sight any more, they are out in the open and revelling in their vile views.

There comes a time when you have to ask yourself – as in the Mitchell & Webb sketch – are you the baddies?

UKIP are not the victims here. Nigel Farage, asked about the death of Jo Cox, claimed that he was the victim of hatred. Nigel Farage is not the victim here. If you foment hate and you get hate back, that is not a free pass to go on spewing hate.

Evil exists.

It is a childish thing to think in terms of good and evil. We are more sophisticated than that. Grown up life is so much more complex and nuanced, full of difficult compromise and the best being enemy to the better. But sometimes is really is that simple. Because we have seen this road before and we know the place it ends.

It is a childish thing to think in terms of good and evil. But it is story of my childhood that keeps coming back to me – Susan Cooper's "The Dark is Rising". And that is what I have been feeling, for the last days, weeks, months even.

There is Darkness in all humans. And that Dark is rising.

I'm not immune. I'm not a saint. I've felt anger, fury even, at some of the things that have been said and done in this campaign. I like to tell myself that I've tried to campaign in an honest and optimistic way, that I've tried to stick to the facts and called on people to use fact and reason to build their case, to use the best of British tradition to encourage us to be part of holding together a Europe that for the first time in history has gone not one but two generations without tearing itself apart. But if you scrutinise, I would not be surprised if you found I'd sent a tweet in wrath, or posted an irate put-down on FaceBook.

Many have said that her death was the first they had heard of Jo Cox. Because she'd been working with Tim Farron and Yvette Cooper to urge Britain to do more for refugees I was vaguely aware of her work. But I can hardly say that I knew her.

But I want to try to be a better person, to not give in to that anger, as my way to honour her memory.

We must all strive to do better. And we can be better.

Today I am appalled to hear that a man was planning to assassinate Donald Trump. We cannot defeat Trump – or Farage – by killing him. That way, we only replace him.

The vigils that have been held for Orlando and for Jo Cox, the dignity of the tributes paid in parliament, have shown that there is love and there is a better way. The sudden and very obvious panic in the Vote Leave camp, and in Farage in particular, the way he's desperately trying to turn this around to make the story all about him again, the disrespectful claim that Remain are out to "profit" from the death of one of their strongest voices all tell the tale that they know they've been rumbled.

These vigils are not about any political campaign any more. They are about doing a politics that is Good.

Vote Leave's fear and anger is because they embraced the Darkness months, if not years ago. They lost the argument. All they have is driving people with fear, anger, hate, poison.

There is now the palpable sense that people have awoken to the clear and present danger of allowing free reign to this poison that has festered. There is a sense that I am not alone in wanting to strive to do better.

The Dark is rising.

But the Light is rising to turn back the Dark.


“The hope is always here, always alive, but only your fierce caring can fan it into a fire to warm the world.”
― Susan Cooper, Silver on the Tree