Letters

We all have strong views on what is happening in the political world, and what type of Brexit is being imposed on our country. Why keep these views to ourselves? Writing letters to the letters pages of local newspapers and to our politicians is a highly effective way to raise awareness of the many problems resulting from Brexit and thereby furthering the aims of our campaign.

 

Below is a collection of some of the best letters written by our supporters, hopefully they will give you ideas for your own letters. If you would like to submit your letters to be considered for publication on this page please email them to us, with Letters Page in the subject line.

 

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In the next few days you will be voting on a number of Brexit-related issues. Before doing so, please consider the following six statements. They are all commonly predicted consequences of leaving the EU.

 

  1. Many businesses will close leading to an increase in unemployment.
  2. Most people will be worse off financially.
  3. The UK will be forced into unfavourable and undesirable trade deals.
  4. Our society will become less harmonious and more fragmented.
  5. The Good Friday Agreement will unravel and violence will return to Northern Ireland.
  6. Scotland will leave the UK.

 

Do you believe that even one of these predictions is likely to come true? If the answer is Yes, then surely your conscience must require you to vote to remain in the EU at this stage. It is, after all, your responsibility to protect the future of our country.

 

Roger Porkess

 

Archive: No Deal/Threat to the Union

Posted on 2nd April, 2020

As the prospect of leaving the EU with no deal comes closer it is really important for everyone to face up to the likely consequences, all of them. One crucial question is whether the United Kingdom will disintegrate.

 

Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU. After 30 years of violence, the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 brought an end to the Troubles. A key element helping this agreement to work is the fact that both the Republic of Ireland and the UK are members of the EU; this allows people and goods to pass freely between the two countries with no need for border checks. If, however, we leave the EU without a deal this will no longer be the case. It is widely feared that the Good Friday agreement would then unravel and violence return; during the Troubles over 3600 people died, including some 800 soldiers sent from the rest of Britain to be peace keepers.

 

In the event of no deal, a change to the status of Northern Ireland seems highly likely. The terms of the Good Friday agreement require the Secretary of State to call a referendum "if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland".  Opinion polls suggest that, since the 2016 referendum, support for leaving the UK has risen from about 25% to nearly 50%. It is not enough to trigger a vote just now but many people predict that support would go well above 50% if we left the EU with no deal. In that case Northern Ireland would leave the United Kingdom.  

 

Scotland also voted to remain in the EU and this position is supported by its MPs in Westminster. So Scottish people would feel aggrieved if the UK government were to force them to leave. No deal, with all the economic hardship entailed, would add insult to injury. In 2014, Scotland held a referendum on independence from the UK; 45% voted for it, 55% against. However, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made it clear that if Scotland is taken out of the EU with no deal, the Scottish government will press for a second vote. Recent opinion polls suggest that in these circumstances the outcome would be in favour of independence. Scotland too would leave the UK and could possibly become an independent state within the EU, with customs posts along the border.

 

Scottish independence would set up pressures within Wales to follow suit. There would probably be a vote on Welsh independence. A Yes outcome would leave England on its own even though that is certainly not what people voted for in 2016.

 

As well as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has given himself the incongruous title "Minister for the Union". It is time for all of us, himself included, to take our heads out of the sand, to forget the simplistic slogans and to think long and hard about the reality of what is about to happen to our country - if we don't stop it.

 

Roger Porkess

Archive: 2019 Election/Predictions

Posted on 2nd April, 2020

This election is not like any other because we are not voting for just 5 years but for the long term future of our country. It is the Brexit election. It is now 3½ years since the referendum and during that time the true meaning of leaving the EU has become much clearer.

 

The prime minister has required all the Conservative candidates to pledge support for his deal but its predicted consequences do not make good reading.

  • Most people are worse off financially. International companies are reluctant to locate their operations in the UK and some move elsewhere in Europe, reducing employment opportunities.
  • The UK is forced into unfavourable and undesirable trade deals, not least with the United States. Much of the National Health Service is privatised.
  • Our society becomes more introspective and less tolerant of diverse views; hate crime increases, much of it directed at minority groups.
  • The United Kingdom breaks up into separate countries. The Good Friday Agreement unravels with the possibility of violence returning to Northern Ireland.

 

Before marking their ballot papers on December 12th everyone should think long and hard, knowing that voting for the prime minister's party is effectively voting for some or all of these things to happen. Do we really want to squander our heritage?

 

Voting should of course be about what we do want, about the sort of country we want to live in and to bequeath to our children and grandchildren. It should be a positive choice rather than just avoiding what we don't want.

 

  • We certainly want to be a prosperous country and that means trading fairly within the global economy.
  • We should cherish our human rights, including those of employees, neither allowing ourselves to be exploited nor exploiting others.
  • We should be outward looking and committed to working with other countries. This will enable us to make our full contribution to the culture and science of the world we all live in, as a country and as individuals.
  • At home we should glory in the diversity and richness of cultures that make up modern Britain. We should absorb them into our evolving sense of national identity, as we have done throughout our history.

 

These aspirations will all be fostered by remaining in the EU and this election is an opportunity to vote for them.

 

Roger Porkess

Archive: The Importance of Language

Posted on 2nd April, 2020

A few days ago, Boris Johnson complained of "terrible collaboration" between some MPs and the EU. Collaboration is usually an excellent thing but in this case, associated with the word "terrible", people were clearly meant to conclude that underhand activity was going on. The language was chosen to evoke images of war time betrayal, with the EU cast as the enemy and the MPs as traitors. In fact, of course, they are elected representatives conducting legitimate discussions with an organisation that we belong to.

 

Since then the prime minister has complained that the backstop in Northern Ireland would be "undemocratic". That too is deliberate misuse of language. There is nothing democratic or

undemocratic in the backstop; it is a device to prevent Northern Ireland being used as a route for unregulated trade into the EU.

 

These are just two among many examples. In an earlier life Boris Johnson was a journalist and he knows very well how  to use words to manipulate people. No excuses should be made for him. Remember, too, his claim of £350 million per week for the NHS on the side of a bus during the referendum campaign. 

 

We are coming up to a critical time in our country's future but somehow we have got saddled with a prime minister with a reputation for deception. We should all realise that nothing he says can be taken at face value.

 

Would you buy a used car from this man? Why then should we trust him when, despite all the evidence that it would be a disaster, he is trying to sell us No Deal?

 

Roger Porkess

Archive: Prorogation/Judgement

Posted on 2nd April, 2020

Like many another I was deeply shocked by the prorogation of parliament. It was morally wrong to cut down MPs' discussion of one of the most important questions this country has ever faced. In addition it set a really bad precedent: that a prime minister facing defeat in the House of Commons could avoid the issue by closing it down. However, we were assured that Boris Johnson was acting within the law.

 

So I am really pleased by the Supreme Court's ruling. An action that was morally wrong has now been declared also to be unlawful. That is not just a matter of setting this particular issue straight; ensuring that the law is consistent with a common sense view of right and wrong is a victory for justice in this country. We should all thank Gina Miller and the others who brought the case to court.

 

Boris Johnson says that while he respects the judgment he profoundly disagrees with it. He has no choice but to respect it, unless he wants to end up in prison, but how can he disagree with it? It was the court's job and not his to define the relationship between parliament and government. He may regret the judgment but in saying he disagrees with it he is throwing doubt on the competence of the highest court in the land.  Surely that makes him unfit to be prime minister of a country ruled by law.

 

Roger Porkess

Archive: Integrity

Posted on 2nd April, 2020

When people leave their polling stations next Thursday, they will want to feel that on the really important matters they voted with integrity. Two issues are highly relevant.

 

The first is honesty. People wanting to vote Conservative are faced with a dilemma because of the party leader's reputation in this country and around the world as a liar and someone who cannot be trusted. They may well ask themselves if it is really in the country's best interests to be led by such a person. Are their votes being used to underwrite dishonesty?

 

Secondly, this election is about Brexit and there are those who see voting for a Leave party as defending democracy in the light of the referendum result. Such thinking is invalid because the conduct of the referendum rendered it undemocratic.

 

Both the two main Leave organisations, Vote Leave and Leave.UK, were involved in financial misconduct and have subsequently been fined. The referendum should have been annulled but only a court has the power to do this; the Electoral Commission does not. It required a subsequent detailed investigation to establish the facts and the matter was then taken to court. It was ruled that although misconduct had occurred, there was no point in annulling the result since the referendum was only advisory and not binding.

 

Voters should appreciate that there is no democratic imperative to uphold and enforce a questionable advisory result. Exactly the opposite. Democracy requires the situation to be clarified and this can only be achieved by holding a second referendum, one that this time is conducted scrupulously. Many of Thursday's candidates support this proposal, and a vote for one of them will be a genuine demonstration of integrity.  

 

 

Roger Porkess

Archive: Sarah Wollaston/Independent

Posted on 2nd April, 2020

In the last few days a group of MPs, including our Sarah Wollaston, have taken the courageous step of leaving their political parties and declaring themselves independent. Those who call for immediate by-elections in their seats should think carefully. All of these MPs say that the parties they have left have changed so much that they are no longer those for which they were elected.

  • The former Labour members cite the leadership's stance on Brexit and anti-Semitism in the party.
  • Those who were Conservatives talk of the party's move to the right, with policy being dictated by the ERG group of hard line Brexiteers and the DUP. As you reported last week, the local Conservative party has in effect been infiltrated by UKIP.

 

We should all welcome the fact that there is such a group of principled people in the House of Commons rather than try to replace them with party stooges at the first opportunity.

 

A theme that is common to all these MPs becoming independent is Brexit. The tensions set up by trying to respond to the narrow referendum result have split both main political parties, demonstrating that our present system of government does not seem able to handle this most important of issues.

 

However, the same tensions have brought sensible people from all parties together. At events up and down the country, platforms have been shared by MPs and MEPs from many parties: Conservative, Labour,  Liberal Democrat, Green, SNP and Plaid Cymru. They have found wide areas of agreement, leading those present to ask why the government cannot behave in the same way. Those MPs who have now gone independent must have been influenced by the grass roots response to such meetings. In a very real sense they are reflecting the will of the people.

 

Meanwhile the clock is running down on Brexit. There are three theoretical options at this late stage: to leave with No deal, to accept Theresa May's deal and to stay in the EU. There is widespread agreement that No deal would be an economic disaster that should not even be contemplated. The existing deal has been heavily criticised but it is the best that can be obtained. Is it, however, better than the present deal we have as a full member state within the EU?  The only way to resolve the present mess is to put this question to a People's Vote: between the deal on the table and staying in the EU.

 

And let us say thank you to the group of independent MPs, including Sarah Wollaston, for their integrity.

 

Roger Porkess

Archive: Direction of Travel/UKIP

Posted on 2nd April, 2020

The European Parliament elections have shown up the truly frightening direction of travel which some people are trying to impose on British politics and everyday life.

 

One of Ukip's list of candidates for the South West and Gibraltar is Carl Benjamin. He has made repeated comments about raping Labour MP Jess Phillips and has refused to apologise, describing it as a joke.  He received hostile receptions in Totnes last Sunday with hundreds of people showing their distaste. A typical banner read "Totnes Together Against Hate". 

 

Usually, I would think that it is best to let such people speak because by doing so they make fools of themselves and so destroy their own cases. However, in this instance it is not as simple as that. The MEP candidates were on the lists of the various political parties and so were approved by them. So this was not an individual speaking but a political party, and that is much more serious.  Ukip lost most of their seats in the recent Council elections and so it would be easy to make the mistake of dismissing them as a spent force. Many of their members, like Nigel Farage, have migrated to other parties, taking their poisonous ideas with them.

 

What we are seeing is a concerted drive to make the unacceptable normal. Intimidation, including death threats, has now become commonplace. Particular targets are women and minority groups.

 

It is all too easy to see the murder of MP Jo Cox for her views as a one-off event. After all, we might think, the direction in which the likes of Carl Benjamin want to take us is so un-British that it could never happen - it is just not the way we do things in this country.

 

Actually it nearly did happen in the 1930s. The similarity between the rise of the fascist leader Oswald Mosley with his blackshirt supporters, and what is happening in present day Britain is chilling. The same extends to relationships outside Britain. Mosley was a supporter of Hitler; Farage has links with populist and far right wing leaders elsewhere, and of course with Donald Trump.

 

One of the slogans of those campaigning to leave the EU is that this will make Britain great again. Exactly the opposite is true. Every vote for the parties advocating it is a threat to the very fabric of our society. Please do not sell us out to the likes of Carl Benjamin.

 

Roger Porkess

Archive: People's Vote/Change UK

Posted on 2nd April, 2020

The enormous People's Vote march in London a fortnight ago ended with a programme of speeches. Among those sharing the platform were speakers from all the main political parties. At other times this would have been quite remarkable, but now it has become normal for events warning of the dangers of leaving the EU.

 

People ask the MPs "Since you are all agreeing on this, why can't you come together on other issues? Why can't we have consensus politics?"

 

The problems caused by the 2016 referendum have exposed the inadequacy of the present parliamentary system. It has not been able to cope with a major national decision. There is now a grass roots demand for a better way of running the country.

 

Thanks to our MP, Totnes could well be centre stage in crafting a new model for national politics. We are renowned for our creativity; let us be ready to put it to good use.

 

Roger Porkess, Totnes Times

Archive: Extremism

Posted on 2nd April, 2020

To the Totnes Times

 

Describing Sarah Wollaston as a "shape-shifter" (Andrew Clayton, Letters, 9th August) is not only ironic but an example of an underlying threat to our national values. In 2016, when David Cameron was prime minister, the Conservative government was campaigning to remain in the EU. Until recently under Theresa May it adopted a position of leave-with-a-deal and now no deal has become Boris Johnson's preferred option. It is the Conservative party that are shape-shifters rather than our MP.

 

Their approach to the EU is just one symptom of a much deeper malaise that has overtaken not only that party but also much of the world. Extremist views and policies, including nationalism, racism and religious intolerance, are now in the ascendancy in countries as diverse as the United States, Brazil and India. In this country, a party that was renowned for sound financial management is now bent on taking the country into an economic disaster, for supposedly ideological reasons.

 

How can we, in the South Hams, step back from the tragedy that is threatening the world?

 

As a start we must recognise what is going on under our noses. Our traditional British values of fairness and tolerance are being replaced by bigotry and intolerance. The campaign to leave the EU has whipped up negative emotions and we need to rein back from it. Implementing Brexit is not the answer; to leave the EU against the will of at least half the population would make things worse rather than better. The only sensible way forward is to hold a second vote. If such a vote results in our staying in the EU, it will send a strong message to the rest of the world.

 

Extremism is no way forward for anyone. Let us all make sure that we do not inadvertently allow it to be promoted in our names.

 

Roger Porkess, Totnes Times