Post Referendum Action Plan

Action-PlanI promised some more on politics, so I thought I would share with you my post EU Referendum Action Plan. A few things have become clear in the last week.

  1. There is a sudden urgency to get involved in politics – whether that is from people who didn’t vote who wished they had, or people who are angry with the way the campaign was conducted by both sides (official or not) and want to see a change.
  2.  The backlash against a perception that older people voted to leave against the wishes and desires of the young has given new energy to the ‘Votes at 16′ lobby – which I support. Having worked with young people for many years, I think they are more than ready to take part in these decisions.
  3. There is clearly a lack of information and knowledge about how our democratic process works. ‘I didn’t think my vote would count’ ‘ What happens next?’ – and questions about the way the system (party elections, the First Past the Post system for general elections, even the monarchy as the country seems suddenly leaderless following Cameron’s resignation.

So, what am I doing about it, and what might you consider doing?

Join a Political Party

If you’d consider joining either the Conservative or Labour parties, then you can have an immediate influence on the direction of them as both seem likely to have leadershop contests – Conservatives confirmed, Labour a strong possibility. If it’s the Tory’s for you then ytou get a direct say in whop the Prime minister is – even if they just hold the fort and call a snap general election.

Depending on the outcome of a Labour party leadership contest there may even be a split and different choices to make.

I’ve made my choice and signed up, and I intend to get properly involved – at the very least attending local meetings to try and unpick what is going on.

Of course there are other political parties too, but, with the current electoral system in the UK I think one of these two is going to return a majority or lead a minority government.

Pick a cause

Maybe you want to the EU Referendum to be run again?You could sign the petition here.

Perhaps you think we should scrap the First Past the Post system and have a government elected by proportional representation? You could join the Electoral Reform Society

Perhaps you think that the time of a non-political head of state (if such a thing really exisits…) is archaeic, and that we should have an elected president? If so, perhaps Republic is for you?

You might want to cut through the referendum stuff and focus on refugees( British Red Cross, Refugee Council, Refugee Action) , or fighting against austerity (People’s Assembley).

Maybe your passion is against Fox Hunting? Or perhaps you think the ban should be lifted?

In truth, there are many groups fighting for different causes. In my experience you pay your membership fee, often get asked to donate more on a regular basis and get lots of information about there activities. You get out what you put it in however, so be prepared to get involved.

Support an anti-racist group

The referendum result seems to have made some people think it is OK to be racist – openly and in public. There is some debate over if incoidents have increased or if they have just been more widely reported, but the Manchester Tram incident has been particularly high profile – and thankfully arrests have been made. The Safety Pin campaign is one way to show you are approachable, you could also support Hope Not Hate or Unite Against Facism.

Join a Union

An additional fear post Brexit is a reduction n workers rights. I believe the best way to fight against this is to be a part of a trade union – or professional association depending on what you do. I’m a member of Unite which covers many different industries. Check with your employer which union or unions are recognised by them, and then have a look at your options. Again – you get out what you put in, and unions will offer training and support if you want to get more involved

Some thoughts about my writing

I can foresee with the current political turmoil that I will be posting more about politics and protest. My post on the EU Referendum was the most read post on the blog ever, and it has only been up a few days. However, these thoughts are relevent to all my writing, be it about IBD or my poetry.

I am a white, straight, cisgender male. Although I consider myself to have a disability, it is an invisible disability arising from an invisible illness (Ulcerative Colitis). I am still able to work full-time (usually).

My childhood was very comfortable, and featured foreign holidays, fresh vegetables and early access to the internet in a warm and loving home.

It is therefore, as someone who has not experienced discrimination, easy to assume things that would be easy for me to do are easy for others. That speaking up is not a problem, and that I will be heard. Even that there are things I need to speak up about from my position of privilege.

I strive to be an ally. And I will try to keep my privilege in check – but please call me out if you need to.

In the words of Jo Cox MP –

‘We Are Far More United Than The Things That Divide Us’

#EUReferendum Aftermath

I’ve been puting this together for. Few days, but events are movig so fast I felt I needed to publish it and come back to it in furhter posts, not quite as developed as I wanted. So a few days ago I indicated on Facebook that I would be voting to leave the EU, based on my understanding of the EU structure and process and the direction it has moved in. Specifically, that austerity and privatisation is the policy of the EU. 

I had a few conversations with people about it, both prior to and following my post. I had already discussed it with my wife, who was voting remain. I did no small amount of soul searching, because having started the campaign as leave, the actual debate, coverage, lies and lack of coverage of a clear left message for leave made me question my reasoning. I had to dig a bit, and reconnected with Trade Unionists Against the EU. Some friends were voting leave for the same reason, others recognised the reasons but were fearful of the timing, or letting the current government off the leash in regards to workers rights. Others were firmly for remain, for reasons including the funding of university research or arts and science. Others just had a sense of wishing to stay a part of the EU although couldn’t clearly articulate why.

For me however one thing was certain – this was going to be a once in a life time opportunity. One of my issues with the EU was the treatment of the Irish people over the Lisbon treaty – a member state said no, so changes were made so they said yes (a protocol arrangement on abortion, tax and military neutrality) – but because these issues had been the focus of the no campaign first time around, the larger points were ignored (much as we saw in the run up to the UK membership referendum – the economy and immigration dominated). So on the basis that this was the one time to reject the capitalist, forced austerity, TTIP embracing (and therefore NHS privatising) organisation.

Many people will not have heard this arguement. The media in the UK gave such prominance to the immigration and economy, to Farage, Gove and Johnson and there lies, that we didn’t talk about this. I believe it is possible to reject the EU but love Europe. To reject racism and welcome refugees. And we never debated or discussed the issues that under lie people’s concerns about immigration. 

I met a man in the dentists a few years ago. It was the run up to Christmas. His son had just been laid off by aprinting firm and replaced by a Polish worker. The man believed he was being paid less than his son. He was angry at the Polish man for taking his son’s job. I didn’t get into a discussion, but inside I was screaming it is not the Polish man, but the firms boss who has done your son out of a job so he can retain his Profits.

As a leave voter I have been, indirectly, labelled as ignorant, racist and a ‘stupid f***ing cockle eyed bollockhead’ – so I see the debate standard is yet to rise. Many people have assumed all leave voters are UKIP supporting racists, and this is not the case. Some are, but analysis afterwards shows a broad spectrum of people voting for both sides.

One cautionary note was that votin g leave would legitamise the far right. This argument seems to stem from the fact that the dominent right wing press gave Farage, the legitimate face of facisim, so much air time/ column inches. The so called ‘Lexit’ message was lost – I had to search it out – and the TV debates focused on the economy and immigration (and in one I saw mobile phone tariffs). So my friends of all political persuasions who voted remain and are shocked and horrified never heard the socialist and internationalist arguement for leave. That is not to say they would have agreed, but it would have expanded the debate.

Farage/ Le Pen et al only have legitimacy if we allow them it. The result is an indication that we need people to reengage with politics, make it ours not there’s. And we need to win the argument through debate, not just by protest. And for me, unions have a huge job to do in that political education, so we must build the union movement. We need to campaign against racism. We need to join and become involved in political parties to shape what happens next. We are seeing a definate leadership contest in the Conservative part, possible challenge to Jeremy Corbyn and a possible early general election.

The referendum is not binding, article 50 must be triggered. David Cameron wants to leave that to his successor, the Lib Dems say they would stand ona remain/ rejoin platform. Much is happenIng, so it is time to get involved.

So lets be clear. I voted to leave because it was heralded as the one time to make the decision. I reject racism and the lies of the main leave campaign. I wanted to leave the EU. That is all. I accept there is now lots of work to do to unpick it, because the campaign was arrogant and ill-thought through. Time to step up.

Musings on free time

With 9 weeks to go until Spawn of Harris is due, I’ve been musing on free time.

Since changing job last August from a 3 night a week youth worker to a 9-5 office jober, I’ve gained free time. It is amazing. I am also less tired at weekends. So I read more than I did. It is odd however, that other activities have reduced rather than increased.

What follows are some thoughts on what I might like to do, and what I have done in the past. All may be fantasy with baby on the way, but I often hear that it is important for both parents to have a hobby/ activity that they do for themselves.

Poetry

Less so in the South West, but back in Peterborough I co-ran and hosted a very popular open mic poetry and drama night – A Pint of Poetry & A Dash of Drama. I also wrote and performed poetry for it. Every time I do some I mean to do more, and I have kept writing. I though moving closer to Bristol would make it easier to get involved in the spoken word scene, but I haven’t managed it yet…

I’m pretty sure that Yate doesn’t have an open mic poetry night (prove me wrong?) so maybe I could start one here?

Politics

There was a time, dear reader when I was a member of the UK Labour party, went to meetings at ward and city level. I’m not any more, and although making some encouraging noises, I don’t think I’m quite ready yet to rejoin – no least because they seemed to be constantly asking for money. My wife has suggested, and several friends have agreed that I might like to have a go at local politics myself, maybe as an independent. If I was to be elected to Yate Town Council there is a chance I could become mayor! I have however just missed the Annual Town Council meeting. It could be a very rewarding experience, or I could end up hearing about pot holes, dog poo and car parking issues. I hear that Town Councils actual have a lot of underused powers, but I think I need to be a bit more settled in this community first…

Trade Union Activity

As a youth worker I was very active in the Community & Youth Workers section of Unite the Union. Since making the switch to local authority, I have been less so. Building a branch is hard work, and again whilst a rewarding thing to do needs more than one person to really make it work. SO perhaps I need to find some like minded people at work…

Board Games

I love board games. I was a regular at Chippenham Board Games Club – they also have a Facebook group. I could carry on going there – it’s not that far away, or maybe it is time to start the Yate & Chipping Sodbury Board Game Club?

Climbing

Exercise and everything! Sadly my Crohn’s and related issues have stopped me doing that for a while. One day…

Running

See ‘Climbing’.

Activism

As well as being active in the union I supported the ChooseYouth movement – and there is no reason why I couldn’t make a return to that. I’ve also come across recently a wave of activism around Crohn’s & Ulcerative Colitis – for example the #getyourbellyout campaign – so could be time to get involved in some of that stuff?

Ale

I am also a lapsed CAMRA member. I do love real ale, but again the Crohn’s doesn’t like it that much. Maybe I should just go to the pub more…

 

So looking back it seems I was a very busy person – maybe I should just enjoy the calm before the storm. Cletus is coming, look busy!

Voting

Over the last few weeks there has been much discussion about voting. We’ve had the first Police & Crime Commissioner elections, the scandal of Ella & James being in the bottom two of the X Factor and I’m a Celebrity… with Nadine Dorries.

Police & Crime Commissioner Elections

The PCC elections had a turnout nationally of under 15%, with one polling station in Wales getting no votes cast at all. The election was run in November (it had originally been planned for May, the ‘traditional’ voting month in the UK) and cost £95m to run. One of the big criticisms has been the lack of information received about the candidates. A website was created to host the statements of all the candidates –  but people didn’t seem to know it was there. Other people I spoke to took the attitude that if the candidates couldn’t be bothered to get in touch then they wouldn’t be getting their vote. Others didn’t vote because they did not feel the police should be party politicised – and didn’t fancy the independent candidates much.

I voted, and at 3.15 pm (the polls open at 7 am) was the 37th voter. My wife voted at 6.15 pm and was 47th. There was criticism from many places over the handling of the whole thing, but the thing that worried me the most was the very high level of apathy.

In America, according to John Grisham, the elect very nearly everyone. The introduction of a PCC to replace the Police Authority could well have been an experiment by this Conservative led government to see of there was appetite to do that with other roles – Local Education Authority, health care (which is to have more local determination). I don’t think it’s a plan for now, but it could happen in the future.

X Factor

Two of the favourite acts on the X Factor were also recent victims of voter apathy. Judges, acts and viewers were surprised to find that Ella and James were in the bottom two. My theory is that most people thought they were safe, not factoring in the Liverpool block vote for Christopher Maloney (and maybe his £1000 phone bill). Now people don’t have to vote in the X Factor, and the judges/ mentors hope that people will but what was interesting was the number of people in my Twitter and Facebook feeds saying they would never watch again – although they hadn’t voted themselves…

I’m A Celebrity

Two worlds collided with this years crop of Celeb contestants, as serving MP Nadine Dorries entered the jungle. She was voted as one of two contestants to do the first Bush Tucker trial, however Helen Flannigan’s responses to the tasks soon took over. Dorries was then voted out first – receiving the fewest votes. This show is much more reactive – on the day Hugo was grumpy from lack of food he was rewarded with a trial of his own.

 

Voting is important, and could be increasingly so. It is a massive challenge of all of us involved in politics at any level to get people to vote. From local elections to trade union votes on strike action. We need to get as many people as possible to engage in the political processes so mandates are clear.

#oneaday, Day 84, Choose Youth

Today is the Choose Youth lobby of Parliament. Choose Youth is a coalition of over 30 organisations who want to see youth services and youth work preserved in England. I can’t attend due to work commitments, but this is really important. I went to the first Choose Youth event in Birmingham, and it was amazing to hear young people’s stories of how youth work has affected their lives.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has today produced a report showing the extent to which education spending is being cut across the country – and youth services are taking the brunt with an estimated 20% cut – much more in some places. Unite the Union estimates that 1 in 5 youth clubs will close across the country.

So today, please ask your MP to sign Early Day Motion 1013 and show the minister that the government must intervene to save youth services – which he has said there is no plan to do.