A Liars Charter that gives MPs a Green Light to Lie

Earlier this week it came to light that a false and misleading statement had been made by George Freeman MP concerning tariffs on food products imported into EU from Africa in a report by Full Fact (https://fullfact.org/economy/george-freeman-africa-eu-tariffs/)

Given that the Government response to the Parliamentary petition (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/561730 ) organised by Joel Baccas calling for MPs misleading the public to be made a criminal offence stated very clearly that such matters were for the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner to deal with, we made a formal complaint to the Commissioner regarding the issue of Freeman’s statement.

Despite the fact that there is absolutely no doubt that the statement made by Freeman is factually inaccurate, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner has refused to investigate the issue, and looking at the procedures statement for the Commissioner, the Commissioner’s decisions are final and there is no right of or procedure for appeal.

This news of course comes in a week when we have seen that it is not possible for an MP to call out another MP for lying in the chamber of the House of Commons itself. As we have seen in those circumstances the liar walks away and the MP calling out those lies is suspended.

Furthermore, the Standards Committee itself does not investigate complaints about MPs.

Overall, this means there is absolutely no way of holding an MP to account should they mislead the public or lie.

This is not acceptable, especially when you take into account that as we have seen, the ministerial code of conduct is also seriously flawed as the Prime Minister of the day has the final say which is a major problem when the holder of that office is a proven serial liar.

Whilst The Standards Committee itself does not investigate complaints against MPs, part of their role is to review the code of conduct for MPs and make recommendations for changes to it, and they also supervise the work of the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.

They are therefore one group of people that we need to hold to account on this issue

Please contact them and tell them that the current system is effectively a liars charter as it gives MPs a green light to mislead the public and to lie, and that the system is unacceptable and needs to change.

Their e mail address is standards@parliament.uk

Brexit Is A Crime

On 23rd June 2016 a crime was committed against the British people.

On 23rd June 2016 a crime was committed against the British people.

The Leave Campaign deliberately set out to mislead and deceive the British People about the EU.
The Leave campaign lied to us about how the EU works, claimed it was undemocratic when in fact it is more democratic than our own government. They lied to us about the EU being corrupt and never having its accounts signed off when in fact they have been signed off for every year it has been in existence, they lied to us about immigration from the EU and freedom of movement, they lied to us about trade.


The list of lies told by the Leave Campaign is almost endless. In fact, the Leave Campaign mislead and lied to us, the British people, so much, that Professor Michael Dougan of Liverpool University concluded that their campaign was ‘dishonesty on an industrial scale’ and that “Leave conducted one of the most dishonest campaigns this country has ever seen”. He went to say that their entire campaign was “at best misrepresentations and at worst outright deception.”  
This dishonesty by the Leave Campaign created a huge schism in our country and turned not just friend against friend, but colleague against colleague, and family member against family member.


That schism has still not healed five years later.


If that dishonesty was not bad enough, some months later, it emerged that the leave campaign had also committed multiple serious breaches of both electoral law and data protection law. These revelations lead to the referendum result being challenged in court.


Despite the fact that the Government told the British people that they had no choice but to do as instructed by the Britush People in the referendum, as soon as they were in court, they changed their tune and relied on the devious and underhand legal loophole that the referendum was actually only advisory to avoid the result of the referendum being annulled.


Everyone involved in that court case knew that the 2016 referendum result was seriously flawed, indeed, the Governments own Barrister was recorded openly admitting that in the Supreme Court.  Bluntly, Brexit has no legitimacy and never will.


Brexit is a Crime

Brexit Is A Crime

Five Years On

On the day that Cameron announced the referendum I remember thinking very clearly “Good – the media will get to grips with the likes of Farage and rip them apart over the lies they are telling about the EU”.


Within minutes it was also very obvious that Farage and Co were going to continue lying as he tweeted the false claim about the cost of the EU i.e. the 350 million a week figure that ended up being emblazoned on the side of that infamous red bus.


Sadly, the media never got to grips with that dishonesty, partly because some publications were participating in it themselves, and certainly in the case of the BBC, partly because they abdicated themselves from their responsibility to call out the politicians who were lying, something that the BBC are still refusing to do to this day.

We all know the end result of those lies. Several months later it also came to light that the Leave Campaign had committed multiple serious breaches of both electoral and data protection laws, something which had the referendum been mandatory, would have been more than enough to cause the result of the referendum to be annulled.

Those lies and that law breaking have always been the driving force for me. Lying and law breaking have no place in democracy. None. The issue of our EU membership, whilst very very close to my heart, is secondary to protecting our democracy.

That is why I for one will never give up the fight to restore this country to its rightful place as the heart of the EU. It is the right thing to do. It is the democratic thing to do.

On a personal level I feel the loss of our rights as EU citizens tremendously as for most of the last 20 years, I have either lived or worked in Spain, or worked in an environment where I encountered people from other EU countries on a daily basis, many of whom became close friends.

I had plans to retire to Spain, I had hoped to spend a least couple of years in the next decade or so working in either Barcelona or Prague, and I was looking forward to many many more visits to my many friends in other parts of the EU, where, as I had become used to doing, I would call them on a Wednesday or Thursday, and fly over to Berlin, Ibiza, Prague or somewhere else to stay the weekend with them at short notice.

Of course, all that is now gone, taken away by dishonest leavers for reasons that still, after 5 years, have never been shown to and form of grounding in reality.

That is another reason why I will never give up the fight.

I will admit that I do get quite frustrated with the Remain/Rejoin campaign at times. Indeed, those frustrations are partly the reason why I stopped writing my blog on a regular basis few months ago.

If I could ask just one thing of any Rejoiner who reads this, it would be this – please stop chasing the Remain/Rejoin Unicorns in our version of the sunlit uplands and start being realistic.

If I was pushed and I had to choose one specific issue where this needs to happen it would be the expectation that in a few years’ time we can just walk up to a future Prime Minister and ask for another referendum. That is simply not going to happen without a considerable amount of work from us.

I say that for one simple reason. Research that I conducted earlier in the year (I am a qualified and trained academic researcher) indicates that a substantial proportion of the electorate believes that the 2016 referendum result was fair and legitimate.

Many voters are simply unaware of the extent of the lies told by the Leave campaign. Many voters are simply unaware that the leave campaign committed multiple breaches of the law. That includes many active Rejoin supporters. For example, the data I have indicates that around one third of our own supporters are not aware that the Leave Campaign broke electoral law.

In fact, after seeing the initial results of that research, I am now of the opinion that the main reason why the campaign for a further referendum failed in 2019 was because the Remain campaign failed to convince the electorate that there was a genuine need for another referendum.

If we are to Rejoin within a reasonable timescale this is an issue that we must address, and we must address it first.

We must convince the electorate as a whole that there is a need for a further referendum. We cannot do that simply by arguing that EU membership is good for the UK. We might know it is, but that argument is very easy to counter with the claim that the British people voted to leave, and therefore very easy to ignore. We need a far stronger argument.

The only argument that could secure us a further referendum in the shorter term is to convince the wider electorate that the actions of the Leave Campaign were so bad that Brexit itself lacks legitimacy and that a further referendum is the only fair and democratic way to proceed. No other argument will persuade the electorate or stand up to a serious challenge.

This is the reason why I continue to challenge the legitimacy of Brexit, and why we have recently launched our Brexit Is A Crime campaign.

That is not say that I do not accept that Brexit has happened. It has happened. In fact I accepted Brexit was inevitable on 12th December as soon as the results started to indicate Johnson had won the General Election.  That is why I started this Campaign before midnight on that terrible evening.

But just because Brexit has happened does not mean that I or anyone else should accept that Brexit is legitimate. It is not.

Brexit is a crime, and I would ask anyone who reads this to challenge the legitimacy of Brexit on the grounds of the dishonesty and illegal activity of the Leave Campaign.

If we are consistent with that simple message and sustain it over a period of time, we will convince the electorate that another referendum is needed.  

         

I appreciate that this in many ways is a downbeat message. But don’t despair -there is still hope.

I am writing this on the morning of Friday June 18th – just an hour or two after waking up to the news that Johnson and his dishonest band of English Nationalists (I refuse to call them Tories anymore – they are not) have been defeated in the Amersham and Chesham by election.   

They CAN AND WILL be beaten.

We CAN AND WILL prevail

Complaint to IPSO about the Express

I have just received a response to my complaint to IPSO about the Daily Express article that wrongly placed the blame for supermarket price rises on the EU (I have placed their e-mail at the end of this post).

IPSO appears to have totally ignored the main thrust of my complaint which was that the prices rises have only arisen as a result of Brexit and that therefore it was both inaccurate and misleading for the Express to infer that the price rises were caused by the EU as they did.

I have therefore asked for the matter to be referred to their complaints committee for review on those grounds and would urge anyone else who has received the e-mail to do the same.

You can do so by simply replying to their e-mail asking them to do so.

My Reply to IPSO

Dear Molly,

Sorry but this is not acceptable and I wish this matter to be referred to the Complaints Committee.

The headline in the Express clearly stated that ‘EU Red Tape’ was responsible for the price rises.

Whilst the changes could be characterised as red tape as you describe in your e-mail, to portray the EU as being responsible for the price rises, or indeed that red tape, in the way that the headline and story infers was both factually inaccurate and misleading as the additional red tape is only being encountered because of Brexit and would not have been encountered had the UK remained in the EU, something which is not reflected in the article in anyway.

The cause of the price rises reported in the story is therefore not the EU as claimed by the Express but rather Brexit itself. To attempt to lay the blame at the door of the EU is therefore both misleading and inaccurate.

It is this misleading and inaccurate placing of blame on the EU for those additional costs and that red tape that I and other are complaining about, not the use of the words ‘red tape’.

Kind Regards

Adam Poole

E Mail from IPSO

I write further to our earlier email regarding your complaint about an article headlined “Food shop alert as YOUR supermarket bill set to soar due to EU red tape” published by the express.co.uk on 2 June 2021.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has received a number of complaints about this article. In order to be able to respond in a timely manner, we have prepared a response which addresses the various concerns raised by these complaints.

When IPSO receives a complaint, the Executive staff review it first to decide whether the complaint falls within our remit, and whether it raises a possible breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The Executive has now completed an assessment of these complaints.

The majority of complainants said the article breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code because they believed the article and headline suggested supermarket price rises are due to “EU red tape”, whereas they believed the higher prices are a result of Brexit. They also said the article implied that these rules were new, rather than existing rules the UK benefited from when it was in the EU. Several complainants suggested the article was inaccurate because import tariffs imposed by the UK are the reason for the increase in supermarket prices.

The article outlined the link between the UK’s predicted higher food prices and the changes to the UK’s trading circumstances, including through comments from the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, who was quoted as saying “We will likely see these costs filter through in the second half of this year, and with the additional Brexit red-tape this autumn”. It also referred to “Boris Johnson’s new Brexit trade deal” and the “reintroduced customs checks on the trade of many products between the bloc and Britain”. It did not appear to be in dispute that new regulations would apply to the movement of goods; the publication was entitled to characterise regulations as “red tape”, and this provided adequate support to the headline. As such, we did not identify grounds to investigate a breach of Clause 1 on this point.

Some complainants believed that the article was inaccurate because it presented the EU as doing something “underhand or unfair”. The Editors’ Code of Practice makes clear the press has the right to be partisan, to give its own opinion and to campaign, as long as it takes care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, and to distinguish between comment, conjecture and fact. The article included critical commentary from several individuals about the changes and the decisions by the EU, including comments by the Brexit Minister Lord Frost describing them as “unsustainable”, and another comment describing it as “obscene and a disgrace that bureaucrats in Brussels are thinking there is something potentially illegal or wrong with M&S lasagne.” We understand that some complainants disagreed with these opinions, but the publication was entitled to report these critical comments, which were distinguished as such; this did not constitute grounds to investigate a possible breach of Clause 1.

A few complainants also said the article breached Clause 12 (Discrimination) because they considered it blamed Europeans for price rises instead of the UK Government, and stirred up anti-European feelings. Clause 12 is designed to protect specific individuals mentioned by the press from discrimination based on their race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or any physical or mental illness or disability. It does not apply to groups or categories of people. Concerns that the article discriminated against Europeans in general did not relate to an individual. This meant that the terms of this Clause were not engaged..

A few complainants also said the article breached Clause 13 (Financial journalism) because they believed it suggested British people are financially disadvantaged due to new EU policy; despite the EU regulations pre-existing before Brexit. Clause 13 relates to journalists not using for their own, or other’s profit, financial information they receive in advance of its general publication. As complaints did not relate to this, the terms of the Clause were not engaged.

You are entitled to request that the Executive’s decision to reject your complaint be reviewed by IPSO’s Complaints Committee. To do so you will need to write to us in the next seven days, setting out the reasons why you believe the decision should be reviewed. Please note that we are unable to accept requests for review made seven days after the date of this email.

We would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider and respond to the points you have raised.

Best wishes,

Molly Richards

Letter to Australia

The letter I sent to the Australian Prime Minister

The Hon Scott Morrison MP
Prime Minster of Australia
1st June 2021

Dear Prime Minister

If news reports are to be believed, your country is about to agree a trade deal with the UK, something which is only possible because of Brexit.

Brexit came about following a campaign of unprecedented industrial scale deceit and dishonesty and numerous breaches of both UK electoral law and data protection law on the part of the Leave Campaign. Indeed, it is worth noting that there are ongoing attempts to prosecute Boris Johnson for a serious criminal offence, Misconduct in Public Office, for his role in that campaign.

As such, a significant proportion of the UK population does not recognise Brexit as legitimate and would therefore perceive that any trade deal which came about because of Brexit as also lacking legitimacy.

Any future UK government may therefore conclude that it was not under any obligation to adhere to the terms of any Trade Deal, including the one currently reported in the press between Australia and the UK, agreed by the current UK government.

I would therefore urge you to consider very carefully the consequences of entering into such a trade deal with the current UK government, including the potential for substantial damage to be done to Australia’s reputation amongst a significant proportion of the British People.

Unbelievable Hypocrisy from the Government yet again

The Government has responded to the petition calling for the plans for voter ID to be scrapped with the e mail below.

The third paragraph starts with the words ‘Electoral fraud is a crime that strikes at the core principles of our democracy’

That is unbelievable hypocrisy coming from a government led by people who lied on an unprecedented industrial scale and broke both electoral law and data protection law in order to obtain votes in 2016.

I urge to write to your MP pointing this out 

Dear Adam Poole

The Government has responded to the petition you signed – “Scrap the Voter ID requirement introduced in the Election Integrity Bill”.

Government responded:

Voter identification is part of the Government’s body of work to strengthen the integrity and security of our elections. We will not remove voter identification requirements from the Elections Bill.

The Government was elected on a manifesto that committed to protecting the integrity of our democracy, by introducing identification to vote at polling stations. The Government has since announced that we will be bringing forward these measures as part of a wider initiative to tackle electoral fraud and give voters confidence in our elections.

Electoral fraud is a crime that strikes at a core principle of our democracy – that your vote is yours, and yours alone. Strengthening the integrity of our electoral system will give the public confidence that our elections will remain secure well into the future.

Showing identification to prove who you are is something people of all walks of life already do everyday. It is a reasonable and proportionate approach to extend this practice to voting and to give the public confidence that their vote is theirs, and theirs alone.

Everyone who is eligible to vote will continue to be able to do so. The list of approved photographic identification will not be limited to passports and driving licences. A broad range of documents will be accepted, including, for example, various concessionary travel passes, PASS cards, Ministry of Defence identity cards and photocard parking permits issued as part of the Blue Badge scheme.

In addition, expired photographic identification will be accepted as long as the photograph is of a good enough likeness to allow polling station staff to confirm the identity of the holder.

New research published by the Government shows that 98% of voters already own a photographic document that is on the list of acceptable types of identification under this policy. The figure was between 96%-99% across all age groups and regions and found that 99% of people from ethnic minorities owned an accepted form of identification. This research can be found at: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-9187/

Where a voter does not have one of the approved forms of photo identification, local authorities will be required, by law, to provide a Voter Card free of charge. An independent review of electoral fraud conducted by Lord Pickles highlighted the events of cases such as Tower Hamlets – in which the 2014 Mayoral election was declared void by corrupt and illegal practices – as evidence of vulnerabilities in our system which must be addressed.

Personation – assuming the identity of another person with the intention to deceive – is very difficult to prove and prosecute but it is by no means a victimless crime. There are frequent anecdotal reports of personation, including most recently during the 2021 local elections. Often, it only comes to light if and when the real voter tries to vote later after the crime has been committed.

That is why voter identification is so important, as it virtually eliminates the risk of personation occurring in the first place.

Even the perception that our electoral system is vulnerable to fraud is damaging for public confidence. Data from our pilot evaluations in 2018 and 2019 show that the requirement to show identification increased voter confidence in the process. Both rounds of voter identification pilots also demonstrated our ability to collaborate very successfully with local authorities and support them in delivering voter identification that works for voters.
Voters in Northern Ireland have been required by law to show paper identification since 1985 and the Labour Government introduced photo identification at polling stations across Northern Ireland in 2003. The experience in Northern Ireland illustrates that once the requirement has become established and is part and parcel of the voting process, the vast majority of voters complete the voting process after turning up at the polling station. This is also the case in many countries around the world, where voter identification works with ease.

We will continue to work with the Electoral Commission and other stakeholders, including charities and civil society organisations, to make sure that voter identification works for all voters.

Cabinet Office

It is up to us

Last week I talked about the need to be realistic and not to chase our own Remain/Rejoin version of sunlit uplands complete with the attendant rainbow coloured unicorns. This week I thought I would address one of the two keys tasks that we have to achieve in order to fulfil our goal of reclaiming our rightful place in the European Union.

That task is to persuade the political establishment in Westminster that we need another referendum, something which is very topical given Kier Starmer’s comments earlier this week about not revisiting the past.

Starmer’s comments show that we cannot just assume that such a referendum will be forthcoming if Labour were to gain the keys to Number 10 in 2024 despite the fact that we repeatedly hear that Starmer himself is pro-European and that the Labour Party membership is overwhelmingly in favour of our EU membership.

The situation within the Liberal Democrats may well be better, but it is still concerning from our point of view. Motions have been passed at both the recent Spring conference and at last year’s Autumn conference that confirm a policy of seeking EU membership. But for some reason the party leadership seems most reluctant to say anything that is even close to being unambiguously in favour of that EU membership. They seem to skirt around the subject without giving any form of clear commitment.

I am sure that I don’t need to say this, but even though until very recently the majority of Tory MP’s supported EU membership, the situation within the Tory party currently appears to be beyond hope from our perspective.  It is difficult to see how any support for our cause would be forthcoming from within the ranks of the Tory party at present given that many of the most prominent pro-Europeans such as Michael Heseltine,  Dominic Grieve and Ken Clarke were thrown out of the party for standing up to the likes of the ERG over Brexit.

Furthermore, I strongly suspect that many, if not most pro-Europeans have subsequently left the Tory party, especially as Aaron banks and Leave.EU have been openly boasting for some time about how they have infiltrated the Tory party and orchestrated the deselection of pro-European Tory MPs. The Tory party is presently firmly in the grip of the far right.

Given these circumstances within the Tory party there therefore seems to be just two possible viable scenarios where we might be able to secure a further EU membership referendum following the next general election, but both scenarios require action from us.

The first scenario is for the Labour Party to win the next election with a commitment in its manifesto for another referendum. That would require us to put forward a motion to a Labour Party conference placing that commitment onto their agenda, something that would no doubt be opposed by many  in the Labour Party.     

The second scenario would be for a hung parliament where the party or parties holding the balance of power insist on a further EU membership referendum as part of some form of deal to govern the country.  Whilst that insistence could come from the SNP, they would understandably be more interested in a further referendum on Scottish independence. That insistence would therefore need to come from the Liberal Democrats if we wanted to be reasonably certain that a further referendum would come about. However, given the current ambiguity and apparent reluctance to openly commit to Rejoining, that insistence would need to be formalised as party policy via a motion put forward by us to a Liberal Democrat party conference. Again, that would no doubt be opposed by many.

In either scenario we therefore need to do two things. Firstly, we need to build up the pro-European community within both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, and secondly, we need to persuade both parties to pass our motions.  

We have made a start on both these issues. Our Labour and Liberal Democrat political sub-groups are active and growing. But we need them to be far bigger and far more active within both parties.  

Earlier today I ran a poll in our main Facebook group. Of the 1250 individuals who took part in the poll only 400 indicated that they were members of political parties, and of those, only 100 were active within those parties.     

We need to improve both ratios if we are to succeed. I would therefore urge everyone reading this to consider joining a political party and becoming active in that party to help us achieve that second referendum.

We also need to start presenting arguments for why we think there should be another referendum.

Those arguments need to convince both the politicians of the need for another referendum and also the wider electorate.  We also need to carefully consider what those arguments should be. Any arguments we put forward must avoid the charge that we just want another ‘go’ because we ‘lost’ the argument the first-time round. Such arguments are easy for our opposition to counter and for wider electorate to ignore.

We therefore need to put forward a substantial reason for insisting upon a further referendum, and that reason needs to focus around the legitimacy of the events of 2016 as our opponents will struggle to counter them, and the wider electorate will find it increasingly difficult to ignore them, as long as were are consistent and persistent.

Whilst we have started building these arguments, the survey that we started earlier this week has already demonstrated how much work we still have to do. For example, the preliminary results show that around a third of our own politically active Remain/Rejoin community are unaware of the fact that the Leave Campaign broke data protection law in 2016 and around 15% are unaware that they broke electoral law.

If so many members of our own politically active community are unaware of such issues, the lack of awareness amongst the wider electorate will be considerable.

We have to change that and we have to change the policy of both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats. Starmer’s remarks earlier this week showed beyond doubt that there is no cavalry coming over the hill to rescue us.

It is up to us.  

Remain and Rejoin Unicorns

Remainers and now Rejoiners often talk about Leavers wanting their sunlit uplands filled with rainbow coloured Brexit unicorns. Often this colourful narrative appears to have its roots in the lack of knowledge demonstrated by Leavers when they discuss the EU and how it works which rarely bears any resemblance to reality.

On other occasions, this narrative stems from a failure by Leavers to appreciate the realities of a world where Britain is no longer a superpower that can get its own way with the use of gunboat diplomacy. For example,  in a world where the EU has arguably the largest economy in the world, the EU does not ‘need us more than we need them’ and we do not ‘hold all the cards’ in any particular set of trade negotiations, especially those with the EU.

Whilst Remainers/Rejoiners have a much more realistic concept of the UK’s position in the world post Brexit and indeed are often far more knowledgeable about the EU, this does not necessarily mean that there are no Remain or Rejoin unicorns running around in our version of those same sunlit uplands.

Possibly the best example of this to date has been the idea floating around for most of last year that Starmer was just biding his time and had some sort of cunning Baldrick style plan up his sleeve to get us back into the EU. I lost count of the number of times I heard people say give Starmer a chance, or he has to win round his own people or once he has won the election he will take us back in to the EU.

With hindsight most of the Remain/Rejoin community now recognise just how wrong those hopes were with the reality of the situation really hitting home when he instructed his MP’s to vote in favour of Johnson’s deal over Christmas.  

But for many months this was our very own unicorn running happily around our own version of those same sunlit uplands. Consequently, the issue of Labours position on EU membership is only now becoming apparent and for many months we as a movement did nothing to advance our cause within the Labour party. Worse, during that time we also allowed our opponents free reign within the party and we are now faced with the very difficult task of bringing the Labour Party back over to our way of thinking on the issue of EU membership.   

Given the difficulty we will face with that task as our opponents now appear to be very well entrenched in positions of power within the Labour party,  it is important that we do not make similar mistakes in the future. Sadly, however there are one or two other Remain/Rejoin unicorns running around.

Perhaps the foremost of these is the notion that somehow an alliance of progressive parties will be formed to sweep away all opposition before us, including the current Tory Government. For our movement, this notion is concerning in two ways.

Firstly, it ignores the important issue of the cross-party nature of our movement. 35% of Remain voters in 2016 voted Tory the previous year, and although that figure had fallen dramatically by December 2019, nearly one in five Remainers voted Tory in the December 2019 General Election. Put bluntly, a significant proportion of our own support base does not want to see a progressive alliance.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, this notion assumes that Starmer will wish to become involved in a progressive alliance of some sort. Why would he? For Starmer and his advisors to be interested in such a proposition they would need to be of the opinion that the only way they could win an election was as part of such an alliance. Why would they think that?  

The Labour party is a major political force in this country with considerable resources, a developed infrastructure and an entrenched political support base. They will think they can win on their own right up until the moment the result of the next General Election is announced.       

Similarly, another Remain/Rejoin unicorn is that all we need to do is persuade the Labour Party to embrace PR and change the electoral system and all will be well, as in the General Election after next, pro-European parties will sweep into power.

Again, I would ask the same question. Why would Starmer and the Labour Party change an electoral system that gives them an advantage? Yes, PR may be a fairer way of electing a Government, but there are valid arguments against PR and very strong reasons why both our main parties would wish to keep the current system unchanged.

It may well prove possible to persuade the Labour party that they should commit to changing our electoral system however we need to be realistic. There will be significant opposition. Furthermore,  given the cross-party nature of the Remain/Rejoin movement, many of our own supporters will be opposed to any such change meaning we would risk alienating large sections of our own support base by supporting such a change.    

Another example of a Remain/Rejoin unicorn is the popular idea within our movement that Leave voters will all of a sudden see sense because of the tremendous damage that Brexit is inflicting upon us.

That Brexit will inflict such damage is beyond doubt, indeed considerable damage has already been done. The issue however is linking that damage to Brexit in the minds of Leavers, particularly against the background of the pandemic. The pandemic will mask much of that damage and make its cause difficult to ascribe. After nearly three months elapsing since the end of the transition period there is no sign of a major shock to the economy that is directly and clearly attributable to Brexit.

Frankly I do not think we will see such a shock, rather, what we will witness is slow inexorable economic decline. That doesn’t mean to say that a shock will not happen, or that it has to be economic. The break-up of the Union via Scottish Independence could cause such a shock and we may shortly find out how likely that is with approaching Sottish elections.

But even if we see Scottish independence, I am far from convinced that will provide the required shock. Rather disparagingly we often refer to Leavers as ‘Little Englanders’. Whilst we should not be so disparaging there is possibly some truth in such remarks. Looking over data from the last census I noticed that the only areas in the UK where a majority of people declared themselves to be British were certain areas of Northern Ireland with the majority of people in England describing themselves as English.

That makes me wonder just how many Leavers really would be concerned about Scottish Independence to the extent that it changed their views on Brexit.  

The upshot of all of this is that we must be realistic.

We cannot count on the Labour Party suddenly coming over to our way of thinking on Europe, or riding to our rescue as part of a progressive alliance or by supporting PR. If we want the Labour Party to support EU membership, we must work to change their views inside the party and outside.  

Similarly, we cannot count on Leavers changing their views and coming round to our way of thinking because of any adverse effects of Brexit. If we want Leavers to change their views and support EU membership, we must work to change their views by promoting the benefits of EU Membership.

There are no sunlit uplands in our journey back to EU membership, just hard work. Unicorns, rainbow coloured or not, have no place in the Rejoin movement.

Brexit, Lockdown and Ideology

The first things that springs to mind when thinking about the Tory Party and Brexit is often the European Research Group which has often been referred to as a right-wing party within the Tory party.

The ERG was established in 1993 with the aim of stopping Britain’s further integration into the EU against the background of the Maastricht Treaty and has exercised considerable influence over the Tory party in recent years. This influence is perhaps best demonstrated by Jacob Rees Mogg, Priti Patel and Michael Gove, who are amongst the ERGs more prominent members, and of course are now senior members of Johnson’s government.

Prior to the ERG, another right-wing group that had a considerable influence on the Tory party was the Monday Club. Founded in 1961 as a response to what was perceived by founding members as the Tory party moving too far to the left under MacMillan, the Monday Club adopted controversial stances on issues such as race, colonial independence and immigration and has counted individuals such as Norman Tebbit, Harvey Procter and Neil Hamilton amongst its membership.

As concerning as their stance on the issues of race, colonialism and immigration was, with hindsight, of far greater longer-term concern and consequence is the fact that the Monday Club was a hotbed of libertarianism in the early 1980s. Whilst the Monday Club has long since lost its influence and libertarianism is rarely mentioned or discussed in most political circles, the importance and influence of libertarianism on issues such as Brexit and indeed Lockdown should not be underestimated.

In a nutshell, libertarians believe in small government and do not believe that governments should restrict or constrain the individual in any way, even going so far as calling for so called victimless crimes, including the use of hard drugs, to be legalised.

Whilst such views can be and indeed often are viewed with some amusement by observers, when transferred to other contexts they can easily become most concerning and can have a profound and often adverse effect on government policy. For example, when transferred to the business world, this dislike for rules and regulation manifests itself as opposition to rules and regulations protecting the rights of workers.

On the political left, this opposition is often portrayed as a desire by the rich and greedy to exploit vulnerable workers, something which is fundamentally incorrect as far as libertarians are concerned. Libertarians oppose such rules and regulations, not because they wish to exploit others, but simply because they oppose all such rules and regulations. They believe that the marketplace will regulate itself and that issues such as wage levels, annual leave and other benefits will naturally settle at appropriately fair levels.

The flaws in this belief are numerous, not least that as economic conditions vary the demand for labour will vary. When demand is high, wages will rise along with other employment benefits, but when demand is weak, the opposite will happen causing financial insecurity for individuals making them vulnerable to the exploitation that the political left fears.

Nonetheless it is this fundamental opposition to regulation that drives libertarians, not the desire to exploit. Libertarians are opposed to all regulation which is why we often hear phrases such as ‘bonfires of regulations’ coming out of the right wing of the Tory Party.

When you consider this ideological belief system in the context of the European Union, it is immediately apparent why libertarians dislike the EU so much. The EU, with its regulatory protection, not just for us as employees, but also for us as consumers and for the environment and so on, is the very antithesis of libertarianism.

Libertarianism is the ideological basis of the opposition to the EU on the grounds of over regulation so often voiced by the right wing of the Tory party, which has its roots in the Monday Club. Indeed, many of the more prominent figures on the far right of the current Tory Party would have been impressionable teenage members of the Young Conservatives when the Monday Club was at the height of its influence in the early to mid 1980s when it was ‘the’ place to be seen for those aspiring to a political career within the Tory Party.

If that libertarian influence on Brexit were not bad enough, the influence of libertarianism on our Government’s response to the Covid is even more concerning.

The dislike that right wing libertarians have for rules and regulations explains why the Johnson Government was slow to impose lockdown and instruct people to stay at home a year ago – as libertarians they were ideologically opposed to the imposition of the lockdown rules and opposed to issuing instructions to us to stay in our homes. Doing so was contrary to their core belief system.

Whilst libertarian opposition to the EU and its influence on Brexit caused economic destruction and removed rights, libertarian influence on government policy relating to the pandemic evidenced by that slow lockdown and that failure to instruct us to stay at home caused thousands of British people to needlessly lose their lives.

People in the Remain/Rejoin movement rightly point to the role of nationalism in Brexit and indeed its danger to wider society but we often forget the role libertarianism played and the dangers it represents to wider society.

We need to recognise that role and that danger.

Untold damage to the quality of our democracy

Perhaps the biggest reason why many in the Remain/Rejoin community challenge the legitimacy of Brexit are the lies told by the Leave Campaign in 2016, and indeed continue to tell to this day. Earlier this last week I caught an elected official of the local Tory party and vocal Leaver lying on the social media feed of my local paper about a Brexit related issue.

The local paper involved was the very same one that Swindon North MP and Minister for the Disabled, Justin Tomlinson, has a column in that he used to make two outrageous claims concerning the EU last September, specifically that the EU was trying to break up the UK and that the EU was trying to prevent food being sent from the mainland to Northern Ireland. Despite repeated requests from myself and others, Tomlinson has still failed to provide any evidence whatsoever to support his claims.

Frankly that failure to provide that evidence doesn’t surprise either myself or the members of Swindon For Europe as we never believed his claims in the first place. In fact, we were of the opinion that Tomlinson was misleading his constituents and the wider public and we therefore wrote to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner to formally complain about that.

Perhaps unsurprisingly we didn’t get very far. A few days later we received a very polite response to our complaint informing us that it was unlikely the Commissioner would conduct an inquiry into Tomlinson’s actions as the ‘Commissioner may not generally investigate complaints about the expression of a M.P.s views and opinions’. Effectively the Commissioner sidestepped the issue.

Whilst myself and the members of Swindon For Europe kept the pressure on Tomlinson over the issue for a few weeks, the political agenda changed as we grew closer to the deadline for a Deal, and we moved on.

But I did not forget and have always intended to return to the issue and indeed the entire subject of Leavers and their lies as and when the opportunity arose. Joel Baccus, with his recent petition calling for it to be made a criminal offence for an MP to mislead the public has provided me with that opportunity.

Joel’s petition has been very successful, and at the time of writing has around 104,000 signatures.I await the outcome of the debate that M.P.s just now hold on the matter with considerable interest.

Whilst we must wait for that debate, as the petition passed the 10,000 threshold several weeks ago, the Government has had to respond to the petition. In fact, the Government has actually responded twice as the Petitions Committee was not satisfied with the Government’s original response. Hardly surprising given the track record of the current Prime Minister on the issue of honesty.

Sadly, even after that intervention, the Government’s response to Joel’s petition is far from satisfactory as the lead paragraph sends us into a revolving door.

The lead paragraph states ‘The Government does not intend to introduce legislation. MPs must abide by the Code of Conduct and allegations of misconduct are investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards’.

In other words, the Government are saying that the responsibility for maintaining standards of honesty amongst MPs falls upon the very person who had point blank refused to investigate our complaint that Tomlinson may have deliberately misled his constituents and the wider public a few months earlier. This is not an acceptable situation. Indeed, the wider situation since 2016 is actually far worse.

In the past, a Minister or Shadow Minister who lied was expected to resign. Indeed, a certain Shadow Minister who refused to resign in 2004 when caught lying about an affair was sacked by party leader Michael Howard. That same individual however continued with his career and subsequently repeatedly lied during the 2016 referendum campaign over the cost of our EU membership leading to an unprecedented intervention of the head of the UK Statistics Authority.
Rather than side line that individual, or even remove them altogether, they were initially appointed them to the post of Foreign Secretary and then elected Party Leader and Prime Minster.

It seems that honesty is of no importance in certain political circles in Westminster.

This is of grave concern as it effectively undermines our democracy, not least because around 15% of the UK population are functionally illiterate, meaning that around 5 million UK voters do not have the skills or capacity to determine if a politician is lying by means of conducting their own research.

When you go on to consider that the Leave majority in 2016 was just under 1.3 million you begin to understand just how important the issue of honesty amongst politicians really is.

Not only is this high rate of adult illiteracy in the UK a terrible indictment of our education system, it is also the reason why we must ensure that our MPs and politicians tell the truth and do not deliberately set out to achieve their political goals by deceiving large parts of the electorate as happened in 2016.

This means that we must find a way of ensuring that politicians are honest if we are going to maintain the quality of our democracy as the only alternative would be to place some form of limitation on those who can vote based upon intellectual capability or educational attainment. I am sure you will read that with the same discomfort that I have just experienced writing it. That would be a very, very dangerous route to follow.

We must therefore continue with our efforts to eradicate dishonesty as an acceptable part of political life and should continue to pursue the criminal prosecution of MPs, and other politicians, who lie and mislead the public, either under a new law or under existing laws such as Misconduct in Public Office.

We should remember the words of Professor Michael Dougan when referring to the dishonesty of the Leave Campaign in 2016:

‘I’m afraid that Leave have inflicted quite untold damage on the quality of our democracy.’