Richmond Park by-election, an insider’s view

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I am writing this for my neighbours in Richmond Park. Tomorrow this constituency has the chance to do something important, to send a strong message to the Brexit theocracy that has usurped power that there can be -and will be- resistance to their incompetent tumble towards a hard Brexit.

I urge all of you not to miss this chance. To go out and vote.

By-elections do not greatly matter usually, they are symbolic affairs where the parties try to get a feel of what the public thinks, or local affairs, decided on local issues. Indeed it is a local issue that sparked this election (Heathrow expansion), but as all candidates are anti-Heathrow, this is not the defining factor at the ballot box.

Still, why does all this matter on a national and European level you may ask.

If Zac (the incumbent MP) is re-elected, it will verify Tory dominance in the face of a defunct opposition and a nascent LibDem revolt. A Zac win will make little in the way of news and will not bother Theresa May in the slightest. He is a Tory, will vote with the Tories, will vote for Article 50. He is supported by UKIP. He ran a disgraceful racist campaign for mayor. He will achieve nothing in preventing a Heathrow expansion. Do you really want to reward his stunt and allow him back into the Commons?

A win for Sarah Olney however (the Liberal Democrat candidate) will make national headlines and international news. It will be a strong message to Theresa May that her shambolic, devious and incompetent administration will face resistance in Westminster and the ballot box. She will be one more MP to vote against Article 50.

Do not miss your chance to send this message.

The Greens and progressives in the borough support Sarah. Labour has betrayed its supporters, offers unconditional support to Brexit and does not represent the constituency’s interests. A vote for the Labour candidate is a wasted vote, a vote of support -at worst- or acquiescence -at least- to the plans of the Brexiteers in No.10.

Resist, take your chance, say no to the disaster of a hard-Brexit.

Vote LibDem tomorrow.

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@iGlinavos

An Open Letter to the John Lewis Partners

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I am writing this letter as a concerned customer, citizen, and in my professional capacity as someone teaching in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility. The reason why I have chosen to do this is the response that the Partnership sent to a campaign requesting that John Lewis and Waitrose stop placing ads in British newspapers that promote hate speech in this country, especially in an environment of increasing violence against many in our society. They have responded on Twitter to communications by @StopFundingHate by arguing that the Partnership does not make editorial judgments on any particular newspaper.

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I wish to demonstrate with the following that this stance violates the Partnership’s CSR commitments and to ask YOU, individual partners, to act in order to guide the Partnership to honour its commitments.

The John Lewis Partnership is guided by a series of principles and rules. Principle 7 states the followingThe Partnership aims to obey the spirit as well as the letter of the law and to contribute to the wellbeing of the communities where it operates.

My contention is that placing ads in newspapers promoting hate, undermining the peaceful co-existence of the inhabitants of this island is detrimental to the wellbeing of the communities in which the Partnership operates.

The Partnership proudly declares in its CSR documentation that In 2015 it carried out a detailed review of their approach to respecting human rights, drawing on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). Indeed the Partnership has a long history of positive involvement in human rights issues and in responsible business. This was the result of John Spedan Lewis’s visionary ideas, behaviours and beliefs as your CSR statements correctly highlight.

Placing advertising in newspapers spouting lies, spreading hate and disseminating misinformation that aims to divide the nation and turn sections of the population against each other, betrays the values of the Partnership’s founder.

The Partnership proclaims to be engaged in responsible marketing. This means that its marketing is considerate of customer needs and wishes and protects vulnerable groups.

Do you not consider that the people who fled their countries to escape persecution are vulnerable groups? Don’t you consider that foreign workers, trying to make a life for their families in this country, under difficult conditions, are vulnerable groups? Do you not consider that ethnic and religious minorities persecuted by an abominable press and far-right fanatics are vulnerable groups?

Adhering to the Advertising Standards Authority Code of Practice and other relevant industry codes is not enough if it is done as a tick-box exercise. Do you not proclaim to obey the spirit as well as the letter of rules?

In my research in the field of CSR I argued that voluntarism can be something beyond pretty dressing for corporate branding exercises. I tell my students in Human Rights that CSR has substantive value and that the aim is for businesses to do the appropriate thing because they believe it, not because it scores some marketing points or makes for good tweets.

Other businesses are indeed doing the right thing.

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Have I been wrong about John Lewis?

Crucially, YOU as partners, have YOU being wrong? Do you not aspire for the Partnership to be better?

If you do, then I urge you to heed the calls of the Stop Funding Hate campaign and guide the Partnership to honouring its CSR commitments.

With Regards

Dr. Ioannis Glinavos

@iGlinavos

How to cope with defeat: Lessons from Brexit

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I do not normally do reassurance, so consider this a one-time election special.

A Trump Presidency will not end the world.

Here I said it. I hope you feel better.

A second Trump Presidency WILL end the world however.

Our efforts, and by our I mean all internationalist liberal people anywhere, should be concentrated on preventing this calamity from repeating itself next time around, be it in 2020 or whenever. Consider this a strategic retreat if you will.

Liberal internationalism has suffered a heavy defeat in the election of Trump in the USA. It suffered a serious blow by the Leave win in the EU Referendum in Britain. It would be dealt a long lasting wound by a Le Pen win in France.

There are some things we cannot change. Enough people have revolted against social liberalism that mandated political correctness and acceptance of others as equals. People resent women, foreigners, other races, religions. They always have and they probably always will. They also strongly resent being told they are inferior and wrong, even though these behaviours are inferior and wrong.

Enough people had enough of elites that supposedly operate for their own purposes and interests away from them. They resent the lack of vision, the lack of connection, the excess of a system that blew off the greatest economic crisis for a century and kept on going.

Enough people feel threatened by things outside their control shaping their lives.

All this we knew. What we did not appreciate is the establishment’s inability to shape people’s behaviour when they do get to express a policy changing opinion (eg at the ballot box). We also (at least in the case of Brexit) did not appreciate that a section of the establishment would co-opt this rebellion for its own purposes.

All this you know already, and there are millions of articles, op-eds and blog posts written about it as we speak.

What everyone is wondering about is what to do about it. How does one fight back against this irreversible (it seems) lurch to the right, towards populism, towards a darkness with echos of the 1930s?

After Trump’s victory I no longer believe this descent can be halted. Greece elected ignorant self-serving populists in an act of rebellion against ‘foreign occupiers’. The British chose to throw themselves off a cliff in the hope of something new. The Americans have just elected perhaps the least appropriate person to ever run for the Presidency. It is happening, it will happen elsewhere, nothing you can say or do can put a stop to it.

What does one do then?

The answer is capturing and controlling the narrative of the extremists’ failure.

What is so dangerous about this global phenomenon is not the extremes taking power, it is how they will use their failures to create a narrative that leads inexorably to conflict.

Lets take the example of Brexit.

The idea of Brexit is based on a series of un-achievable dreams. During the EU Referendum we failed to convince the majority of voters that wishing for a unicorn does not create one. Our task post-referendum is to convince people that the unicorn did not appear because it never existed, not because we Remainers did not join in wishing for one.

Brexit will fail as a project because it cannot deliver on its promises of restricting immigration and ensuring prosperity at the same time. It can either attempt to restrict immigration with catastrophic consequences for economic performance (for a variety of reasons explained elsewhere on this blog), or it can deliver a manageable drop in living standards for zero progress on any of its key objectives. There is no upside to Brexit and no silver lining, at least for the people who voted for it.

What is important is how a narrative explaining this failure develops. A careful, fact based, relentless effort needs to be made to demonstrate that the failure of Brexit is due to incompetent government, unrealistic aims, incoherent promises and contradictory policy goals. This needs to be homed-in on a daily basis for weeks, for months, for years. It may not prevent (and will not prevent) Brexit from happening, but it will lay the blame squarely where it belongs: at the hands of those who argued for Leave and carried it out.

Failing to control the narrative will lead to a surging nationalist right placing the blame at the hands of “Remoaners”, pro-EU traitors, evil vindictive Europeans, bribed or bamboozled foreigners, Enemies-of-the-People Judges.

Failing to demonstrate, carefully and thoroughly that the Brexit government is responsible for the disruption that is to follow will lead to an entrenchment of the worse aspects of Leave: The racism, the anger, the violence. It will lead to violent conflict.

Similarly with Trump. The Trump Presidency will spectacularly sink in its myriad incompatible, incoherent, un-achievable promises. Who gets the blame for the failure will determine the nature of US politics and the shape of the world for generations to come.

Failed governments, bad policies, rotten ideologies crumble and fall. Look at Soviet Communism if you need any examples. Trump’s rotten politics should not take 70 years to disintegrate. They should not outlast his first term.

The job of Democrats, of progressives, of liberals in the USA and the world is to highlight, publicize and fact check day in and day out the failures of the Trump regime.

It will be difficult in this supposedly post-fact, post-rationality, expert-hating political environment, but people are not that blind to the reality around them. Blaming others only works for a little while for regimes that burn out very fast. Hitler came to power in 1933 and would not have lasted till 1945 were it not for the war. America is not Nazi Germany. When Trump fails, it will be obvious. The task is to control the narrative and prevent him from spinning it as the fault of ‘wreckers’ and traitors within.

There it is therefore America and World. We have failed, we have been defeated. We will rise again. Reality is our ally, we just have to pull our sleeves up and this nightmare will one day be over.

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@iGlinavos

 

Behold the birth of the British Reich

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It has become commonplace to moan about how much the EU Referendum has changed politics in the  UK and Europe. There is also a fair bit of despair.

This post will not make you feel any better.

The referendum has changed things permanently. Politics and life in Britain will not be the same for anyone, regardless for whether they supported Leave or Remain.

Before you Google yourself way, hear me out.

The Brexit vote has woken up something nasty in British society, that was hidden under a facade of political correctness. Racism, violence, anger are now mainstream. From UKIP’s nazi style posters to daily headlines demonising foreigners, we have graduated to vilification of the judiciary for daring to have Parliament involved in defining what “Brexit is Brexit” means.

People on social media feel obliged to call out the Jewish judges who are also gay who are also pro-EU, who want to frustrate the will of the people as interpreted exclusively by the Brexiteer priesthood of Theresa May.

Is this a rerun of the 1930s as parody, or simply a re-run? Do we need to prepare for life under a British Reich?

My message here is simple. Nothing will satisfy Leavers or reverse this descent into undemocratic populism. If a hard Brexit indeed happens (by exiting for example without an agreement) the narrative that  will develop  will blame the  evil EU for the consequences. If we brand the judges enemies of the people, after just a couple of months, for asking what Leave supposedly asked for (Parliamentary supremacy), how far will be from pogroms in post Brexit dystopia?

Anything less than a hard Brexit will lead to a permanent rear guard action by UKIP and fascist Tories who have been denied their chance at utopia. The point I am making here is that no matter how his plays out, things will not normalise.

Where does this leave Remainers? I accept  the mantle of an enemy of the people. I will be in good company.

Am I exaggerating? Theresa May and the  Lord Chancellor are yet to condemn the attack on the judiciary. The government has made clear its intention to appeal the decision on Article 50 however. Taking back control indeed.

The question I am asking myself is whether to stay and fight for the country I knew, or leave.

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@iGlinavos

 

Why Hard Brexit is now impossible

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An unexpected thing happened today, the High Court in London passed judgment on a case involving the correct process of starting the British withdrawal from the European Union.

The court said that the government can only activate Article 50 (and thus start the 2 year countdown to exit) after Parliamentary approval.

What does this mean and what are the options Theresa May is faced with now?

The short of it is that the hard-Brexit trainwreck has been delayed, perhaps even postponed indefinitely. Why so?

In the current Parliament there is no majority for Brexit. This is both because the majority of MPs in the Commons stood for Remain, and because the Lords are likely to be strongly opposed to the idea.

Now, this does not mean that a majority of MPs cannot be found to vote in favour of activating Article 50. In the current circumstances, as the majority of constituencies in England voted in favour of Leave, it would be political suicide for most sitting MPs to vote against Article 50 activation.

An indication of how the Commons votes on Brexit issues is given by the failure of the proposal to protect the rights of EU citizens already resident in the UK recently. A narrow majority of MPs voted against common sense and decency. Why? Because they are afraid of their Leave voting constituents.

Is all this struggle in favour of Parliamentary involvement for nought then? Actually no. Saying that MPs will not want to openly defy the will of their constituents is not the same as saying that the majority of MPs will go along with May’s apparent desire for a hard Brexit.

From the point of view of an MP, suicide now (by voting against Brexit) against suicide after (once the consequences of a hard-Brexit begin to bite) is not a great choice. A better choice is to vote for Article 50 when given the chance, but with caveats that make participation in the Single Market a requirement for negotiations.

The logic behind this is that Brexit does in fact mean Brexit, but without meaning the utter destruction of the country’s economy. This is a sensible compromise between the public’s democratically expressed desire to commit suicide and the MPs desire for self-preservation.

This of course is relevant for the Commons. I am not investigating whether the regions will need to agree to activating Article 50, as it seems that they will not get a veto after the decision of the Belfast court. What the Lords will do is another question. The Lords do not need to (and do not) care what people think. They could block Brexit indefinitely, or force May’s hand.

Force May’s hand to do what you wonder? The answer is obvious. If the current Parliament cannot authorise a hard-Brexit and a hard-Brexit (translated as exit from the Single Market in order to achieve this fictional control over immigration) is what May wants, we need a new Parliament. We can get a new Parliament only by having an early General Election.

The chips are on the table for Mrs May. This court decision means that she buries any dreams of a hard Brexit, or she brings her hard edged dreams in the form of a party manifesto (for disaster) to the people and see what happens.

Now, the alternative avenue, appealing the court decision, is not a very clever move. The decision rests on an interpretation of Article 50 as the beginning of a process leading inevitably to irreversible loss of rights (everyone in this trial agreed this to be so). If May appeals the decision to the Supreme Court, then (as a matter of EU law interpretation) the nature of Article 50 (the crux of the matter in this case) will need to be investigated. The Supreme Court will have no choice but to refer the matter to the Court of Justice of the EU for an interpretation of Article 50. If the CJEU returns the opinion that Article 50 is irreversible, there is no basis for overturning the High Court decision. If it says it is reversible, then the decision will probably be reversed, but May will have opened an avenue for a different government (or political pressure) to stop Brexit within the two year period through another referendum, or executive decision.

You understand therefore that appealing is a lose-lose situation for May.

What is the outcome for the merry Brexit circus? Soft Brexit or an election.

What role can you play? 1- If you are against Brexit, or in any case not insane (and could live with a soft Brexit, if it cannot be avoided altogether), and 2- are lucky to be a resident of Richmond, then you could vote for the Liberal Democrats in the Richmond Park by-election on December 1st. This way you achieve two things with one vote. You ensure that another MP against Brexit joins this Parliament (need I remind you that golden boy Zac is a Brexit supporter?) plus, you send a message to May that a hard Brexit manifesto will not fare well in the ballot box.

I leave you with this thought. If May is ignorant enough to appeal this decision, how fun would it be to have the process of withdrawal from the EU become the subject of a CJEU decision?

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@iGlinavos

Richmond Park is your chance to say ‘Enough’

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I live in North Barnes, this is part of the Richmond-Park constituency. As luck would have it, our Brexit supporting MP, ex-Tory Zac Goldsmith has resigned.

He has not resigned over his support for Brexit in direct contradiction to his constituents’ interests. He has resigned over the government’s apparent decision to authorise an extension of Heathrow airport.

I am not that bothered about Heathrow, while I sympathise with everyone around who cannot stand any more noise from planes over our heads.

I am bothered about Brexit. Mr Goldmshith is an example of new politics gone sour. Apart from being a posh Leaver, he ran a thoroughly disgusting mayoral campaign in 2016, which we lost to Sadiq Khan. He deserved to lose.

Now in an exercise in arrogance, instead of resigning the whip, he resigned his seat and seeks to be re-elected. For what? He cannot influence the Heathrow decision as an independent. The Tories have chosen not to oppose him. Why not? Because a perceived split in the Tory vote would hand the constituency back to the Liberal Democrats. Richmond had been a relatively safe Liberal seat up till 2010.

Labour is set to run a candidate, while the Greens probably will not.

None of the normal party politics matter in this case.

The constituency voted overwhelmingly for Remain. Mr Goldsmith does not represent us. Mr Goldsmith’s stance is an affront to the people of Richmond. His potential re-election would be an insult to every Remain voter.

As a British European I will never support a Tory Leaver. He does not represent us, or the thousands of Europeans who live with us, but cannot vote in this by-election.

The Liberal Democrats are the only force clearly opposed to Brexit. They are they only force that can send a message to the government and the world that the Brexit train-wreck must and can be stopped.

I urge everyone to join a #RemainAlliance against Brexit and support the Liberal Democrats and Sarah Olney in this election.

We make a stand against Brexit in Richmond.

For Britain

For Europe

For Remain

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@iGlinavos