Migrants urge Brighton to consider “One day without us” if we leave the EU

As the exit polls predict a huge Conservative majority in the general election 2019, I am republishing a story written in 2016 before the EU referendum about what happens if we leave the EU. It has mysteriously disappeared from my website or at least, I can’t find it! I will miss my European friends very much if we do in fact leave the EU. I very much hope we don’t.

Hundreds of people gathered yesterday at Brighton’s clock tower and across the UK to show solidarity with migrants from around the world who are living, working and studying in Britain. The event was organised by Pip from Left Unity to commemorate the UN day of social justice. #1daywithoutus

Monday 20 February was an important day: United Nations World day of Justice and the day Parliament debated US President Trump’s state visit to Britain with Defend Migrants Stop Trump protestors outside.

Jane Allen said she was supporting valued friends, neighbours and workers: “People from all nations get on living together for a common cause. My dentist is Greek, my physio is German. I am not from Brighton, I left Norfolk when I was one year old. Does that mean I should go back to Norfolk?

“I voted against Brexit because I was worried about people who might want to come to the UK. It never occurred to me, I never had any doubt that people who have been here for 20 years could be under threat of having to leave.

“I don’t want them to have to leave. I am here today to show how much I value them.”

Jane Allen

Jane Matthews said: “The more people that stand up, the better, show solidarity, if only everyone came by for 20 minutes, we’re all a bit complacent, it is very easy to ‘sofa shout.’

“I don’t know when multiculturalism became such a dirty word. Cultural diversity should be something we want to bring richness into life, it’s completely bonkers that people don’t want it.

“I challenge you to find me an indigenous Brit. Scaremongering and xenophobia is just all wrong.”

leave the EU

Marta Mouzo Insua spoke at the rally on behalf of the Spanish collective Marea Granate. She said Spanish people have very precarious living and working conditions and because of that many young people are forced to emigrate:

“I am one of them. We come here looking for a job, we do not come here hoping to become rich, stealing from you or taking advantage of your people and country. We just want to live with dignity.

“In exchange, we offer a lot of things to this country:

  • “Our education and work experience. A lot of us have high academic education and or a lot of work experience from our jobs. We are professionals of every sector.
  • “Our hands and bodies to work. Most of us are young people, between 20 to 45 years old.
  • “And our culture. Our culture to share with you and learn about your culture.

“We are the nurses and doctors that look after you, we are the engineers that design your computers or buildings, we are the waiters and waitresses who serve your drinks and we are the kitchen porters that clean your plates.”

Marta Mouzo Insua

Dorothée Fritze-James who came to the rally with her daughter explained the impact of Brexit on her family, the devastating impact if they have to leave the EU and dislikes the dehumanising of EU citizens: “I have been here since 1979. Now I have no right to be here, I am desperate, depressed, the kids, including my grandchildren, are deeply affected. I can’t sleep.”

She said she is lucky that she can afford an immigration lawyer (many can’t) to help her apply for UK citizenship but resents the UK using EU citizens as a bargaining chip and ignoring their pleas for clarity and security. She has had a permit for 33 years giving her indefinite leave to remain in the UK. It may not be enough if we leave the EU.

Sign the permanent residency petition here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/172343

Ms Fritze-James said: “My daughter, who was 10 months old when my ex-husband and I moved to the UK, must apply for Permanent Residency. This is her home, here. She has children and is married to a UK citizen. One of her children is no longer sleeping because of the anxiety, fearing that she’ll lose her mother. My daughter was educated in the UK and has never lived anywhere else.”

Angie Parker works as a special needs teacher is a German citizen carrying an EU passport and a Jew but has been a UK taxpayer for 30 years. She said: “I am going back to Germany because I don’t want to be a pawn in Mrs May’s stupid game. At least Germany is a positive democracy. I work in education but it is not enough to stay here. I am sick and tired of being told to pack my bags.”

Angie Parker

Councillors Phelim MacCafferty and Councillor Leo Littman attended the rally. Councillor MacCafferty urged people to directly promote the voice of the vulnerable and to become champions of compassion and concern.

He warned: “Ignoring prejudice of any sort has never made it disappear. We do not have the luxury of walking away from hatred anywhere in our city. We must be clear: we will oppose the growth of the far-right and will not allow the current climate of fear to go unchallenged. That’s because not just Brighton and Hove, but this country is better than this.”

“Ignoring prejudice does not make it go away. The call is to be better than this.” Yel Karavan’s father is an artist and she has been travelling since the age of three. She works as a dancer and physical performer and said: “It is beautiful when cultures learn from each other and open our minds. We all have a heart, we are all human, we are an organism and only when the organism works together, there is life.”

Greens and Lib Dems stand up to Labour over a proportional electoral system

I asked Hove’s Green candidate, Ollie Sykes, why he did not stand aside for Labour’s Peter Kyle in order to strengthen the ‘remain’ vote and form a ‘progressive alliance’ that mirrors a more proportional electoral system.

Mr Sykes, who served as a Councillor for Brunswick and Adelaide Ward until 2019 said: It’s because of a lack of reciprocation and because Hove is not a marginal seat. It’s extremely clear and it makes perfect sense because of the rationale and the nature of the seat.”

Later in the interview below, Mr Sykes said: “I think Labour and Peter Kyle personally support changes to our electoral system. If Peter Kyle had said he would support something proportional, I would have considered standing aside. In fact, I would have to think about that.”

In terms of a general election, Mr Sykes said: “All we can do is hope for is a hung Parliament.” Liberal Democrats have stood aside for Caroline Lucas from the Green Party in Brighton Pavilion in favour of a proportional electoral system but neither the Green Party nor the Lib Dems have stood aside for Peter Kyle in Hove and Portslade.

The reason this article matters is that a government majority of 66 sets a very dangerous precedent and will undermine Parliamentary scrutiny. I think our democracy is at risk and our constitution because of an unaccountable Prime Minister.

First Past the Post voting system

Mr Sykes said the problem with the British parliamentary system is it’s a two party contest, it’s a rigged game designed and maintained by two players.

“Despite the game being rigged when any other players do well, like the Greens are doing well in Brighton and Hove, the main players will still tell the smaller parties to step aside,” he said.

“Tactical voting is what people do to keep the Tories out. That contribution, that borrowed vote, is purely seen as a deserved, merited win. I think tactical voting causes long-term damage and the depression of the smaller parties.

“Evidently most people don’t spend their lives ‘doing politics.’ When it comes to elections, there’s always lots of discussion of tactical voting. There’s an impression that we do have a form of proportional representation (PR) because of the coalitions.

“But a local vote will have an impact on the vote nationally in terms of the nature of the next government.

“In a first past the post system, people are told a vote for the smaller parties is a wasted vote.

Green Position on Brexit

“The Green Party’s position on Brexit and wanting a People’s Vote has been clear from very early on. We think the only way out of this Brexit debacle is to have two options on the ballot paper, Leave and Remain.”

I asked Mr Sykes again why he did not stand aside like Lib Dem Paul Chandler in Brighton Pavilion to ‘stop Brexit’ and the Green Party Candidate said: “I think Labour and Peter Kyle personally support changes to our electoral system. If Peter Kyle had said he would support something proportional, I would have considered standing aside.” He then slightly retracted this by saying: “In fact, I would have to think about that.”

However, when they were both cross-examined at a hustings by the electorate according to Mr Sykes, Mr Kyle said that all proportional systems of government lose the geographical link.

Marginal Seats versus a proportional electoral system

I asked Mr Sykes what he thought of the Alternative Vote electoral system. He said in the marginal seat of Ceredigion in Wales where Gethin James was standing for the Brexit Party, 70% of votes cast were against the candidate that won the election. He said: “It’s possible in a multi-way marginal under the first past the post system.”

“In the 2015 and 2017 general elections, the number of votes that were effectively wasted were 64% and 71% respectively.”

Electoral turnout in Ceredigion, Plaid Cymru won by 0.2% with only 29.2% of the vote. None of the other votes were transferred from the losing parties so they were effectively wasted.

In a two party system, both the main parties want to win an outright majority. Mr Sykes admitted that in a proportional system there will be more extremists where parties are “forced to speak to each other, it’s just grown up politics.”

A proportional electoral system

The problem is a proportional system is not the way the political system in marginal seats works at the moment in the UK. In Britain the constitution which is unwritten works by a series of checks and balances between the executive i.e. the government, Parliament and the judiciary.

The power of a referendum or an election is to shift this balance of power by asking the people. The problem at the moment is that politicians can’t decide if and how to implement the outcome of the last EU referendum.

Labour’s Position

In response to Mr Sykes remarks, Labour MP for Hove and Portslade, Peter Kyle who has campaigned for a Confirmatory Referendum which is like a People’s Vote, said: “The Greens are obsessed with doing deals, I just want some common sense in this one-off Brexit election.

“I’ve said throughout this campaign that Labour supporters in areas we have no hope of winning, should consider voting for an anti-Tory party. Ollie is only interested in a deal that helps his party out, his first thought is ‘what’s in it for me and my party.’ This simply isn’t how I do my politics, I put our country first every time.

“The Greens and Lib Dems support a version of electoral reform that delivers for their party interests. I support a comprehensive review of what is wrong with our politics and finding appropriate ways of fixing it. Everything should be up for discussion including electoral reform but not limited to it.

“I’m sad that stopping Boris Johnson’s Brexit comes second to getting a vague commitment on proportional representation for Ollie, but it is what I’ve come to expect.”

Labour’s Jack Straw who served in Tony Blair’s government preferred an Alternative Vote system to Proportional Representation. The problem with PR is it has many electoral forms and tends to result in coalitions.

Liberal Democrat Position

Beatrice Bass who is the Liberal Democrat candidate is also standing in Hove. She said: “I am standing in this election to uphold the liberal values which the Liberal Democrats hold dear – equality, liberty and community.

“And I contribute to our aim of building a fair, fee and open society. I am proud to be standing on a fantastic manifesto with progressive policies and a comprehensive plan to tackle the climate crisis, improve health care and our education system, boost our economy and invest in our left behind regions and nations.

“In fact, the manifesto contains a policy that I introduced: to protect music venues in support of our vibrant music scene. And as a ‘Remainer’ and internationalist, I support the Lib Dems in our fight to stop Brexit.

“Hove is not a Remain Alliance seat because the Labour party is not part of the Remain Alliance, and Peter Kyle is standing on a manifesto to negotiate a new Brexit deal.

“Labour has been sitting on the fence for too long and has suffered under the antisemitism scandal.

“Many Labour members have ended their membership and have recently joined the Liberal Democrats (our local membership has increased significantly in the last few months and many former Labour members are now part of my campaign team.)

Liberal Democrat position on Brexit and a proportional electoral system

“People don’t trust Labour who want to negotiate their own Brexit deal and who continuously refuse to back Remain.

“The Lib Dems tabled People’s Vote motions 17 times in Parliament, but they did not pass because of a lack of Labour support.

“Increasing Labour MPs will mean we might have another delay whilst they negotiate a new deal and we’ll have further uncertainty over what that deal will be. There is also a high risk that this deal would win backing at a confirmatory referendum, which means we get a Labour Brexit after all.

“The safest way to stop Brexit is to vote for a party that is committed to fight for remaining in the EU.

“The Liberal Democrats are the biggest and strongest remain party and I am standing on a manifesto to either revoke article 50, if the Lib Dems gain a majority, or, if there is a hung Parliament, to continue our fight for a referendum, where the Lib Dems firmly, unanimously and unequivocally back Remain.

“Further, Brexit has changed the political landscape and people are moving away from the traditional right or left wing politics to voting either for an open, pro EU, pro equality party like the Lib Dems or Greens in the South East.

“Or they vote for a populist, protectionist and anti EU party like the Conservatives or the Brexit party.

“Many former conservative voters in Hove feel politically homeless. They do not support Boris Johnson’s protectionist Brexit direction. They also strongly disagree with Jeremy Corbyn’s hard left socialism.

“They are now looking at the Liberal Democrats and I would like to give these constituents a credible alternative and an opportunity to vote for a progressive party with policies fit for the 21st century.”

In Brighton and Hove we are beginning to see a progressive coalition on the left that may, win a People’s Vote that will help us break the Brexit impasse and could also herald in a proportional electoral system at Westminster.

Caroline Lucas launches her ‘new deal for nature’

During a frantic fortnight of this general election campaign, Brighton Pavilion’s Green Candidate for re-election, Caroline Lucas, launched a ‘new deal for nature’ last Thursday 5 December. She set out a range of policies to protect and restore wildlife and biodiversity in the UK.

Mrs Lucas has tabled a private member’s bill to take a ‘new green deal bill’ through Parliament. If she is successful as a private member (as opposed to the Government,) an announcement will be made in the Queen’s Speech which sets out the legislative framework after the general election. Hove MP Peter Kyle is also taking a bill through Parliament to outlaw domestic abuse and it has already been guaranteed a second reading.

Ollie Sykes is the Green Party candidate standing in Hove and Portslade. Newly elected MEP Alex Phillips is standing in Kemptown for the Green Party. You can find a full list of candidates for the general election here.

Mrs Lucas said: “We are not only running out of time on the climate emergency, there’s also little time left to reverse

Mrs Lucas said: “We are not only running out of time on the climate emergency, there’s also little time left to reverse the catastrophic decline in nature and wildlife.

“This election has to mark a turning point and the moment when people vote for nature.”

She said that in the last two centuries Britain has seen a catastrophic destruction of wildlife which is now one of the most densely populated countries in Europe.  Over the past 100 years, we have destroyed 99% of flower-rich meadows.  Just in the past 30 years, 44 million breeding birds have been lost because of habitat destruction.

As the foreword to the report says: “If we continue to trash our planet we will consign not only other species to extinction but, ultimately, ourselves. We must put the self-sustaining variety of life – biodiversity – at the centre of all work by government departments. This report provides a blueprint for how to achieve it.”

Caroline Lucas commissioned the report to assist her work as an MP, and to inform the Green Party’s own policies on wildlife and land use. Mrs Lucas also is taking a new green deal bill through Parliament.

Brighton’s one and only Green Party Candidate said: “While the climate emergency has rightly risen to the top of the political agenda, much less attention is paid to the crisis facing nature.  But it’s equally urgent that we address this too.

“The Green Party has the best and most ambitious policies on nature of any political party, as both Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have recently concluded.  But we cannot be complacent. 

“It’s not enough to have strong policies: we need to be constantly challenged to go further, and I hope this new deal for nature will put our natural environment at the centre of public debate, so that MPs in the next Parliament take decisive action on what’s needed to protect and restore nature and wildlife in Britain.”

The Green Party’s manifesto already contains over 70 policies on nature and wildlife and a commitment to put the natural world at the heart of government decision-making.  Among the pledges are the introduction of a Natural History GCSE, a 10-year transition to agro-ecological farming methods, better enforcement, and a Sustainable Economy Act which sets new legally binding targets for biodiversity, soil health and water quality alongside other measures.

Their new deal for nature puts forward 80 policy recommendations in areas including national parks and other protected landscapes, farming, urban wildlife, schools & young people and biosecurity.

Among the recommendations are:

  • A new statutory nature framework to place wildlife at the heart of planning
  • A new goal to designate 20% of Britain as national parks
  • Support for farmers to devote at least 15% of their land for nature
  • One hour a day learning outdoors for all primary school children, in addition to break time
  • Re-imaging towns and cities as places for people and wildlife with pocket parks, rewilding of public land around hospitals and other public buildings and some brownfield sites to be allocated temporary SSSI status

Patrick Barkham who writes for the Guardian about natural history is one of the authors and he said: “We are one of the most nature-depleted countries on the planet and still our wildlife declines. Policies for nature are too often seen as fluffy, inconsequential green window-dressing.

“We have a moral obligation to better live alongside other species but policies for wildlife are policies for people too. Our survival depends on other species and they enrich us all, wherever we live. A New Deal for Nature offers a mix of practical and inspiring ideas to show how we can revive nature in our backyards, neighbourhoods, cities and farmland.”

Another author, Helen Smith, president of the British Archaeological Society said: “Successive governments have regarded looking after our wildlife as a luxury, and as a soft target in hard times. This neglect has to end. Whether or not you have regard for the species with which we share the planet they, collectively, form our complex and fragile life support system – and the great weight of evidence shows that this system is crumbling.

The Green Party’s document ‘new deal for nature’ was written by a group of leading UK conservationists and nature writers, Mark Cocker, Jeremy Mynott, Jake Fiennes, Helen Smith and Patrick Barkham and commissioned by Caroline Lucas.