The last three days have been busy and lots of contrasts, Thursday Friday and Saturday.
As an overview: Thursday I was leafletting up and down the heavily sloped terraced streets of the town nearby, on what was a wonderful day, all the trees heaving with leaves and blossom in the sunshine. Such steep streets, great for calve-building. Did the kids of yore hammer down these roads in carties into the river? Once upon a time the roads extended all the way to the railway, before someone in the 70s said ‘let’s build a dual carriageway through it’ and smashed it all down.
From this most basic of foot-soldiering, to Friday was all day indoors at Newcastle University with over a score of academics laying down their updates on research on the impacts of Brexit. It’s an assortment and of great interest all in.
From this urbane academic atmosphere just a few yards away on campus our lot were hosting the European election hustings for MEPs for the north-east. We had to have hired security on the door in case yellow-vests came, one of the candidates at least already being threatened, but it was a calm enough affair, candidates from Labour, Green, Change, UKIP, Conservative, Lib Dems all came and 100+ in the audience, everyone engaging. Very notable by their absence and contempt for democracy was the Brexit Party candidate. Finally, today, back on the ground, vigiling in Toon – with the Brexit Party lot just down the road with a pissing gazebo (it was pissing down). Where were they the day before? One came over and was nice and polite, as people they always are, and said they’d been told about the hustings but preferred to save their energies for the stall today. What the Hell? How much energy will they have for actually doing the job of MEP?
At the vigil, in the drizzle, people were mostly pretty positive. One chap nearly got in a fight with David, calling him a fascist, but as I hovered over and filmed things he calmed down a bit and moved off. I had two aliens come over, in hoodies and sunglasses (when it’s pissing down?) with the ‘I voted remain but you lot are undemocratic’ spiel and then circular arguments in which they shrug about lies, shrug about fraud, claim they know people in Devon who are all absolutely furious with the EU – but couldn’t say why – and the lead talker was very against the forthcoming election and indeed ever having had an referendum in the first place (which I spun back as ‘you have a problem with democracy, and want to live in a mafia state’). They didt’ care about the BXP not turning up, didn’t care about Lilley Lawson et al being unelected pushers for Leave. I have to say I’ve had very similarly weird, circular bullshit discussions with very similar people now in Toon, Morpeth, Ponteland. Like they’re a type, or are deliberately dispatched … one of the BXP helpers didn’t know what Euratom is, so we encouraged people to go ask them that. Some chap told me to shove it up my arse, I said well I know where you can stick your Brexit, ‘What?’ he says. Dish but can’t take. Another had a go about it all being lies, ‘I’m sick of hearing your shite’, to which David said ‘but we have to listen to your shite?’. And there we all are in our caldera of hearts … trying to sell the EU to people. Yet we gave out 100s of flyers and stickers (mashed up) and got a few nice comments. Quite a few said they’d already voted.
I didn’t get a pic but there was a stag party with a chap dressed like Jimmy Saville who shouted ‘Jimmy for Brexit!’ which I then shouted, thanking him for the inspiration of course. There were also intrepid others leafletting in Durham, and a stall in Hexham. We are relentless. We don’t have to pay to post shit-stained lies through people’s doors, we have the footsoldiers and the integrity to talk to people on the ground ourselves.
Friday’s academic conference
Dawn and I went to the Newcastle uni academic conference on Brexit on Friday, it was very interesting, lots of work in progress. Works and studies that have begun in the three years since Brexit, and are still in progress. Because that’s how long research fucking takes, please note, politicians in and seeking power. But hey, fuck experts.
I met the very amusing Prof Zito, who gave various thanks at the beginning to organising groups that he noted involved himself, ‘this is the most enjoyable part I have to say’,
There were over 20 papers being presented in updates, works in progress, covering everything from agriculture to the sense of belonging, what could be more ephemeral, to the threats to security, both cyber, and in NI.
She who led on the first paper chatted with me in the break, I talked about what our campaign group does, she wondered if we’re a middle-class / NHS-type bubble. I could see what she means, there is that, it’s not our fault as such, it’s no-one’s fault, it’s simply how things have come to be, aided and abetted if you like by social media across which we spend so much time and act as an echo-chamber. But say, D and I are speccy wearing southerners, we’re not local and we don’t have the mindset or the daily concerns per se of many around here who in the heat of an exchange quickly take us at face value – in fact the counter is true too, some people I think ‘there’s’ no point engaging with you’. And they might be the ones most needing to be talked with, not at, with. And the mindset, the culture, the tribalism, is critical too because of the slurs against us that we’re London-ist liberal metropolitan elite, and by that by coming off the backfoot we’re on the defensive, and so are they because they’re convinced we think they’re wrong and stupid. If yo’ure dealing with feelings, tempers are going to flare quickly, and if you’re in effect appearing as an elitist outsider – before you’ve even done anything, that’s only going to make it shit.
And of course they have a point, a real point, if you’re ignored and sidelined all these years, then the one time you get a vote you find that’s ignored too, and it is as if you’re told you got it wrong, yeah you’d be pissed off, by these London elites talkign down as they always do, from London, far, far away, all these tropes have basis, but they’re being hijacked to the hilt by hatemongering bastards, the worst of all these elites, whose attention to others’ views is solely by way of poisoning their minds and leading them to fight and assault those on the ground actually seeking to know what they think, as seen in Wallsend, as said before.
By parallel: the missus and I were surprised by the impact Obama had when he said the UK would ‘be at the back of the queue’ for any trade deal, not least as the UK by then would be a single entity and not a bloc with which the US is now more familiar in dealing. Nothing special about the relationship would apply, but this warning from them who are still friends was taken to be meddling by a foreign elitist. Obama, he of humble origins, the black guy, elite? Certainly. And yet Pompey has affirmed that warning, and what else would be the case in dealing a staunch ‘America First’ US under Trump – who came to power the same year, and by much of the same duplicitous means, as the Brexit referendum was won. We’re being further divided and divested even from our allies.
(there are more notes to add later … for now I’ll publish this as is).
One academic reported that the worst-case scenario for No Deal’s impact on the locale, a deep recession, the uplands cleared, ‘rewilding’ was a somewhat chilling term used, was presented to Northumberland county council in the first instance but they dismissed it as too awful, but then last September they revisited it as ‘likely’.
It ended with a wonderfully enthusiastic lecturer in law from Ireland, talking about the GFA, the Belfast Agreement and Brexit, with this brilliant swooping style of delivery. Even after nearly 8 hours in a lecture hall he woke us all up. He made the fascinating point about the difference between the UK and NI constitutions, that the UK doesn’t really have one per se but for what it does, NI’s is not entirely of it, at all, it is in some parts and there is much close alignment, but essentially NI is and has always been far ‘devolved’ from Westminster since 1922 – not even devolved, but apart from and evolved differently, far more than that of Scotland, say, and the 1998 Belfast Agreement has that key element to it, that NI can seek to secede. It doesn’t need ‘permission’ like Scotland would for another referendum, the plebiscite is there for it to apply. And well it fucking might.
He further argued that the issue of the border in Ireland was not something conjured up by Ireland or the EU to spanner things, it’d been integral to negotiations between the UK and EU since the outset much at the behest and with good faith invested by the UK, and which the EU reciprocated. That it’s become so vast a sticking point and that there are those seeking to pretend it doesn’t matter or if it does it’s someone else’s problem or fault – when, y’know, war is potentially at stake, people’s lives, really shows the venality and duplicity of the hardcore Brexiters (see RCP, ERG, BXP, LML).
I then said come on over to the Curtis auditorium to see how all these urbane, deeply researched and insightful studies at this high-flying level were reflected or not by the politicians pushing or blocking Brexit, says I, literally boots on the ground, fists nearly flying … various circles of Hell, really, starting on the steep terraced slopes.
The terraces, the disaffected working classes, ignored, abused, left behind. The football supporters who began to turn – and were turned – against the outsiders by the elites led by Blair … NF he knows which buttons to press, what he says is not without some basis, but it’s the ends to which he directs it all, and the lies he the elitist deploys to fan the flames, pour petrol on the fire of those whose frustrations were ignored if not stoked all these years. Where the Labour vote bled towards BNP, then UKIP, then BXP, as Yv found out today, a Labour supporter telling her they’d ditched Labour to vote BXP. Well someone has to have done it if the polls are really anything to be believed. God help us if they are.
Anyway, I invited the academics to the hustings, saying it might not be as convivial as here, *chortle* over to the Curtis lecture room, The hustings were great, another heroic feat of organisation and presentation by NE4EU et al and the Newc Uni SU.
Much of the debate was dominated by fears about climate change and what the candidates proposed to do about it.
Richard Elvin of UKIP couldn’t answer convincingly at all on the question of the NI border. ‘Answer the question!’ he was repeatedly asked. For all the party now represents, not Brexit per se but people like fucking Carl Benjamin for God’s sake, we did acknowledge that it was good of him to come face what he’d know would be an audience of opposition, shall we say. Duncan Crute of the Conservatives – who you just had to look at to say, ‘yeah, Tory’, came across as someone I’m thinking, ‘you’re not entirely unreasonable, you know, kind of a Dominic Grieve character’, but a lot bulkier. Paul Brennan talked a good game, and alot about developing forestry products with Scandinavia.
The Change UK candidate was very convincing and engaging, we rued she wasn’t the single Lib Dem, while the Lib Dem too was very good. Just … be one. The Green party was good if not a little preachy, maybe it goes with the turf though. That touch of veganist zealotry.
All bar one of the candidates rued to varying degrees the paucity of the plan to end Freedom of Movement, but only warned of the danger of further inciting the far-right to hate and ‘we voted for you to leave’, and talked of the Europeans much in terms of the value they bring as workers, but not so much as actual people, the mothers, daughters, colleagues, neighbours and friends. I wanted to make that point but didn’t, although when Brennan said the prejudice was something to come I did say aloud ‘it’s already a problem, a big problem’. So though the voice of the 3 million remains quietened, as ChM said at the outset to the question of how people voted in 2016, ‘we had no vote at all’.
Of course there was a lot of talk about how they’d deal with Brexit, or not. Labour is still caught on the horns of the dilemma, as are its supporters in the NE, that a good hardworking pro-EU MEP of the party with the best chance of winning up here is of a party that votes for are taken to be pro-Brexit. Fucking hell.
And you know which bastard was not in the room to answer any of this, to answer this fucking clusterfuck their repulsive boss Farage had done so much to bring about? The Brexit Party. Cowards, contemptuous cowards. The absense of the BXP – boy, the utter fucking contempt they have for democracy, they have no policies and they have no people come prepared to defend them, there is literally nothing there, an empty seat, this paper party of people parachuted around by the plutocrats in London, the real elite.
The organisers reconvened in the pub, Crute came too, and he held forth that on the doorsteps, ‘they knew what they were voting for, it was about immigration.’ Interesting bloke.