The joy of demonstrating

At one point, I was not marching so much as shuffling, the crowd was so densely packed.

At another, I could enjoy the dancing and the costumes.

I marched with an Irishman, and there were Irish tricolours about. One good thing to come from a hard Brexit might be the reunification of Ireland.

I took this, a statue called “Flight”, as a deliberately arty shot. I had to sit on the ground, and the woman with the placard good-naturedly held it up, but I did not quite get the placard to appear in the sculpture’s hand.

I was uncomfortable, marching from about 12 at Oxford Circus tube until about 5 at Waterloo. I coughed till my back muscles ached. Domi brought along lots of sandwiches. She has also had to get six months’ supply of insulin, as she does not want to die of Brexit. She has dual nationality so will be able to remain in the UK, and retain freedom of movement.

On Sunday morning I felt low, as did H, who had put me up Friday and Saturday nights and gone ahead on the march. But, there were a million of us, and the videos from the helicopter are inspiring- they cannot just ignore us. Those of us who wish to Remain in the EU will be encouraged, and that includes MPs. I feel my morale improving. We have done something worthwhile.

Love and Hope in London

The march was an outpouring of love and hope. We showed our love for our country and its people, and our hope, that institutions might allow people to work together democratically, rather than through the unlimited power of corporations. We showed our trust in individuals, and will for their freedom, moving across the continent. We showed our belief that diversity is a strength, and that hearing other voices and different perspectives blesses and teaches us.

A million people must have an effect, to strengthen and encourage those working for a good outcome from this torturous process, and dismay those working for a bad. As citizens with votes, we have a voice, we matter, and we showed where we stand. Others will make the decisions, mainly in Parliament, but they cannot simply ignore us, or the 5.7m who have signed the Revoke Article 50 petition.

Lucy asked me about the moral basis for the march. Why should you get what you want? I could not articulate it, and it has led me to think through my rights as an individual in the polity and what I think elected politicians should or should not do. This is a rough stab at a political philosophy:

The Referendum, in which 17.4m voted to Leave and 16.1m voted to Remain, is not binding. Certain people will play up its moral force, but there are many attacks to be made on it, including that the Leave campaigns breached electoral law, and made false promises, and that many Leave-voters voted for a closer, more supportive society in the UK which Brexit could only make less likely. It does not relieve Parliament of its responsibility to act in the interests of the country.

I have a voice, and this platform where I can say what I want to a tiny audience, and other platforms where more will see what I say: 470 upvotes for a comment on the Guardian website shows a considerably larger audience. All these different voices influence voters and politicians. Of course money will have an effect, but law should limit that, in preventing the monopoly of the Murdoch empire over British and other news media, in making the sources of the money transparent, and possibly preventing foreigners from influencing the political process.

Politicians seek votes and gain influence. The two party British system where one party has a majority and can command the assent of Parliament limits our democracy. In 2015 the Green Party had a million votes, spread across the country, and only elected one MP.

Emotion and stories make a larger part of the foundation of political power than rational predictions of likely arguments. “What do you want?” is a question answered emotionally. I want that closer, more supportive society- greater equality, more money for the NHS, more control for people over their own lives. The poison of the far right, now in the Tory party, is to channel that emotion into unreality. We wave the flag and feel good about ourselves while public services crumble and publicly owned assets are stripped away. The 4chan troll still living with his parents wants to “Own the Libs”, to feel powerful, even though the policies he supports make it even less likely that he will have a productive life. Our hope and solidarity should be used for the good of all.

There are legitimate differences in politics. There is tension between the freedom of the few and that of the many, of the few like James Dyson to build great corporations on the strength of their creativity and of the many to have enough to live a good life. I have a vague idea Nietzsche would not like my opposition to oppression of the many for the good of the few, and beliefs may vary about the percentage of GDP which should go to public spending, what we want as a society, and how that is raised.

There are tactics and strategies in politics which I condemn. It is wrong to lie. It is wrong to pretend to seek a Good- eg, “take back control”- when that means something else, control for the corporations rather than the elected government. Politicians should engage the hope and love of people, our wish for a better life and a better world and our belief that these things are possible, rather than our fear or resentment.

I marched because I believe the EU is a force for good in the world, and that Britain can have a voice in it. I marched for diversity, for my friends from other countries who have made Britain their home, for regulations in the interests of consumers, workers and the environment, for common action to mitigate the coming mass extinction. I marched for solidarity. The EU is not perfect and we can make it better from within.

This is a blog. It is a sketch. I have not thought this through and expressed it all in coherent words, I have put down my initial thoughts. Please comment. Let us make our ideas better, together.

Human rights for LGBT in the EU

The European Parliament received a report on the situation of fundamental rights in the EU. It has beautifully sane objectives, though Brexit may prevent us from benefiting.

Schools should teach tolerance so children can identify discrimination (and, I hope, oppose it). The Commission should share Member States’ best practices for addressing gender stereotypes at school. That those stereotypes are oppressive, and to be opposed, is so obvious that the report does not consider it worth saying.

The Parliament “regrets” that LGBTI people suffer discrimination, harassment and bullying. It condemns all forms of discrimination (does that include harassment and bullying?) and encourages member states to adopt laws and policies against homophobia and transphobia, and to work with organisations working for our rights. I don’t know what more than “encouraging” the Parliament could do, or what such encouragement means in practice. It could just be a pious hope. I am glad such hopes are expressed. It sees no contradiction between opposing gender stereotypes and opposing transphobia: we can look after the people most affected, while working to reduce the effect on everyone.

The Parliament Deplores the fact that transgender people are still considered mentally ill in the majority of Member States and calls on those states to review their national mental health catalogues and to develop alternative stigma-free access models, ensuring that medically necessary treatment remains available for all transpeople; deplores the fact that several Member States today still impose requirements on transgender people such as medical intervention in order to have the changed gender recognised (including in passports and official identity documents) and forced sterilisation as a condition for gender reassignment; notes that such requirements are clearly human rights violations; calls on the Commission to provide guidance to Member States on the best models for legal gender recognition in Europe; calls on Member States to recognise change of gender and to provide access to quick, accessible and transparent legal gender recognition procedures without medical requirements such as surgery or sterilisation or psychiatric consent; Welcomes the initiative shown by the Commission in pushing for the depathologisation of transgender identities in the review of the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD); calls on the Commission to intensify efforts to prevent gender variance in childhood from becoming a new ICD diagnosis.

We are not mentally ill. We are trans, and transition is the appropriate course of action for anyone who chooses it freely, though for no-one else. Trans should not be a stigma. We should get surgery and hormones if we want them, but also gender recognition without them if we choose. It’s up to us. I am delighted. If we can choose freely, without social pressure, whether or not to have surgery or hormones we will choose what is best for us.

I am unsure what they mean about preventing gender variance in childhood from becoming a new diagnosis. The DSM model was to depathologise variation, but include diagnoses where variation causes distress to the person or harm to others. TERFs would argue transition causes harm, but I disagree. I see no problem in involving doctors with gender variation. It depends what they do. Making someone happy with their gender variation, along with opposing gender stereotypes, seems good to me.

So in the view of this report, it is up to us. Gender stereotypes should be opposed. If someone wants to transition, with or without medical treatment, the member states should facilitate it. They don’t say when children should receive physical treatment, but could be read as encouraging it as soon as parent, child and doctors want, even before age 16. But what if they change their minds?!!! The European Parliament trusts us to make our own decisions.

pdf of the report.

Time to Leave

Truly we are in the clutches of our enemies. Here is run of the mill hypocrite, liar and cheat Charles (right) “Charlie” Elphicke, MP for Dover:

Thank you for your email… I was very disappointed at the outcome [of the referendum]. I had made the case to remain because I was concerned that the pound would collapse, the stock market would crash and the French would seek to return the border to Dover [not hard to predict, really.] …However, the people of Dover & Deal, as well as the people of Britain as a whole, did not agree. They decided that they wanted to leave the Europe an Union. The turnout was incredibly high. [For a decision of this magnitude?] The result was close, but clear. [One vote is “clear” if you want it so, but 3.78% is not clear.] While I did not want this, it is now my duty to roll up my sleeves and make it work…I cannot agree that…MPs should seek to subvert the expressed will of the people and vote this down in Parliament. We serve the people and we must respect the will of the people. [Tell that to all the Tories- I have spoken to some- who want to bring back the Birch, as well as hanging.]

I am sorry to send you a response I know you will find to be disappointing.

All the Tories from Cameron and May down are saying the same- “We must respect the Will of the People”. It is a disaster. It harms the people- harms our environment, making fracking easy and beaches dirty, preventing employees from enforcing any rights they retain, reducing net migration by the only means available, which was tanking the economy. The Tories’ paymasters, the very rich, will profit from our misery, and our misery will make us vote for anger and hatred and deceit, rather than hope and worthwhile change.

If Labour oppose leaving the EU, angry voters will vote Tory or UKIP so that they can harm themselves in the way they chose, incited by the lies of Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre, thereby harming their interests. Labour will lose working class voters who voted Leave.

The Liberal Democrats may regain some ground by being the largest party supporting Remain. I think the Greens should too. We won’t be the vanguard of the working classes- our niche is nice, handwringing middle-class folk like myself- so we can speak up for the truth, while politics gets dirtier, and hope a few people listen.

During the campaign, David Cameron said he would invoke Article 50 immediately if he “lost” the referendum. Immediately after, he said that would be for his successor. They do not care, their lies are so blatant. Now, mouthing certainty of invoking it, they will find more reasons to delay, causing more uncertainty, market turbulence, and gains for the wealthiest. We need to invoke Article 50 now.

Bruegel, the triumph of death, detail

Voting to Leave

Boris Johnson has insisted the UK is not “turning its back” on Europe. He said the decision would not make the UK any less tolerant or outward looking and would not reduce opportunities for young people. There is a petition with over two million signatures asking for a rerun of the referendum- I signed it. I also signed this one to make it illegal for any UK political figure to knowingly lie or mislead. Mine was the 33rd signature: as if we do not imagine it possible. They would all be in gaol. If advertisers are not allowed to lie, why politicians? “Legal, decent, honest and truthful” said the Advertising Standards Authority- if it has not been privatised yet.

Boris Johnson, lying. Never forget:

Boris Johnson, lying

My facebook feed was full of people in mourning. I could not believe it. I cycled into Swanston in the sun to meet R for lunch, and the world felt different, though the street was so familiar: we had turned away from modern life in anger and despair, to demand walls.
All changed, changed utterly:
a terrible meanness is born.

I lay awake around four, so heard Farridge’s victory speech. He was shouting without a microphone, so of course his voice sounded harsh, but- it sounded really harsh. He was speaking for decent, ordinary people.

They are not all racists. The Guardian said the working class Leavers were in a protest vote about austerity, poor public services, uncertainty for their children- all the Left causes- but that is not what they were asked, and last year it seems they did not believe Labour could do any better. They voted to leave the EU. Some did not think that side would win, apparently, so they could protest with impunity, but others were turning away from integration. There will be many reasons and rationalisations for voting leave. We need to convince people we have better ideas. We need to give them hope: an angry protest for UKIP is a vote without hope. This post from the Political Economy Research Centre of Goldsmiths’, University of London, is worth a read.

Then again, my former Green candidate shared, Great Britain, a historic vote for people, believe in Britain – Brexit: UK votes to leave EU in historic referendum. Another Green Leaver wrote, what arprise, labour MP’s are having a strop because doing what the voters want is optional.

We want to see ourselves as nice, good people. They want to see themselves as realists. Perhaps these self-images have some relation to reality. I have a few fbfnds on the other side: one wrote, THE BRITISH KNOW BEST!! 🇬🇧 A Prime Minister resigned. The £ plummeted. The FTSE 100 lost significant ground. But then the £ rallied past February levels, and the FTSE closed on a weekly high: 2.4% up on last Friday, its best performance in 4 months. President Obama decided we wouldn’t be at the ‘back of the queue’ after all and that our ‘special relationship’ was still strong. The French President confirmed the Le Touquet agreement would stay in place. The President of the European Commission stated Brexit negotiations would be ‘orderly’ and stressed the UK would continue to be a ‘close partner’ of the EU. A big bank denied reports it would shift 2,000 staff overseas. The CBI, vehemently anti-Brexit during the referendum campaign, stated British business was resilient and would adapt. Several countries outside the EU stated they wished to begin bi-lateral trade talks with the UK immediately. If this was the predicted apocalypse, well, it was a very British one. It was all over by teatime. Not a bad first day of freedom. I need to hear other voices. Some of them delusional: Other countries need us more than we need them!!.. all scaremongering… we will become GREAT Britain again!!!.

Mmm. That word “Great”. “Leftie cry-baby traitors!” he fulminated. Meme: “I believe in democracy- until I don’t get my own way, then I have tantrums all over facebook!” Mick shared that meme too, after an animation of a boy with a puppy, and an article on “The genocide of the peoples of Europe”: Mass immigration is a phenomenon, the causes of which are still cleverly concealed by the system, and the multicultural propaganda is trying to falsely portray it as inevitable.

“People are throwing their toys out of the pram” shared Hetty. She dared Remainists to unfriend her, so I did.

On the Swanston LGBT page, someone posted, May i thank the LGBT Alliance for Organising the Wonderful Vigil on Tuesday evening. I was moved not only by the sensitivity with which all contributors spoke but that [Swanston] – as we all know- is a sassy, tollerant and accepting place. His profile picture is a Vote Leave meme.

The Leader of the House of Commons wants some major legislative changes before 2020, including taking real steps to limit immigration, to abolish VAT on fuel and tampons, and to end the situation where an international court can tell us who we can and cannot deport. Cheaper fuel, and hang climate change. Human Rights for the Nice people! And if you need human rights and cannot assert them, perhaps you were never Nice.

Signac, deux stylistes Rue de Caire

Vote remain

I will vote to remain in the EU. Well, would you want to follow Donald Trump’s advice?

I think we are marginally better off inside the EU. For example, the Social Chapter of workers’ and other rights: initially John Major’s Conservative Government sought an opt-out from those rights, then Mr Blair surrendered the opt-out. Rights which are seen as normal and essential across the EU are rejected by British Conservatives. Workers will have fewer rights in an independent Britain.

My friend will vote leave because she believes independence would give greater opportunity if radical grass-roots organisations appear. We have always had them, the diggers and the Chartists, and now there are Transition Towns. I feel we would not be independent, but as constrained by international trade treaties as we are now.

My chief reason for voting Remain is deep loathing of the far-Right Out campaigners. I have just received a leaflet from Grassroots Out. UKIP Leader, Nigel Farage MEP, sets out the case for leaving… EU open door immigration has been a complete disaster for British workers. The over-supply of cheap foreign labour in the unskilled labour market has compressed wages, and pushed down wages for many in this country.

Stay in: “Irresponsible”, “Dangerous”. Leave: “Safe, sensible”. Ridiculous lies: but refuting them takes time and patience, so Farage whips up hatred so his dupes will not listen.

The other technique which made me very angry indeed- even if I break both legs the day before, I will vote Remain- is to pick an issue voters care about, and make a false link between it and the Leave campaign. Two Conservative back-benchers proposed an amendment in the Queen’s Speech debate, seeking to protect the NHS from TTIP, which they presented as an EU scheme. As John Major said, the NHS is as safe with these people as your pet gerbil with a hungry python. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership indeed threatens NHS privatisation, and the end of legal protection for the environment, consumers and workers- but our way to mitigate its threat is inside the EU. We would be considerably worse off outside the EU.

Now they say we could spend the £350m a day British taxes administered through the EU to the NHS. Leave campaign leaders would far rather give it in tax cuts for the most wealthy, giving it to the NHS would mean ending all farming subsidy and a great deal other spending in Britain, and leaving may lead to recession– we would have less for public services not more.

Here’s the thing: I don’t know, and I don’t particularly trust the speakers. How you describe a particular statistic affects how it looks to a lay-person. The anger, fear and misinformation washing round is as bad as the Trump campaign.

Titian, Bacchanal of the Andrians