Saturday, 30 June 2018

Postcards from the 48%: A Story of Gentle and Determined Patriotism

A cast of 572 remainers, four countries, heads of trade unions, of business, of political parties and of families, Jewish refugees, Polish airmen, British veterans, nurses, students. Postcards from the 48% takes a broad brush and paints for you, against the vast canvas of the best that the British Isles have to offer, the story of our time.

The narrative sets out the Brexit debate in a calm and measured tone, a world away from the anger and vitriol of the debate of 2016. In a series of honest, thoughtful discusssions with those who are aware of the issues for their commuities, the impact of the referendum is laid out. Away from the rhetoric of the political fight, it sets out the very personal cost of leaving Europe. What aftersun is to sunburn, this film is to the Brexit debate.

Directed and produced by David NicholasWilkinson, this has been a labour of love, crafted over 18 months. He has worked with grass roots members of the remain movement from individuals through to the nascent activist groups through to old hands in politics. As such, he captures a cross section of this movement and tells the story of remain, in a way that the mass media fails to. Any remain voter watching this film will find themselves at home in it.

The soundtrack, the vistas shown in the film, the interviews with such a crosssection of the the population are an affirmation of all that is great about Britain; its industrial beauty, its modern city scapes, the rugged coastlines, the emerald Isle. The people whose passion for Europe, whose commitment to peace and integration and to the well being of their communities is inspiring.

Brexit marks a watershed moment in the history of the UK. Depending on how this moment in our history plays out, the film Postcards from the 48% has two possible futures.

Brexit ends as Brexit should; consigned to the dustbin and we return to the fold, chastised but joyful and with a deeper understanding of the EU and our place in the world. This film becomes a documentary of our time and what was done to avert the disaster.

Brexit ends as Brexit could; and this film becomes an underground classic, passed from secret group to secret group, inspiring generations for a future fight against fascism.

The latter dystopian option is perhaps a little extreme.

But this is your chance to go and see the story we, as a country, are writing together. Do not miss it!

Here is a link to the screenings.

Here is a link to another review of the film

Monday, 4 June 2018

Charles Tannock

The clock, as Monsieur Barnier puts it, is ticking. The touch wire that was triggered with Article 50 is slowly reaching its target, and not only the UK, but the EU and the world is watching. In between, that is, pausing for Tweets from Trump, tragedies in Syria, drama in Israel and the arrest of an amnesty activist in Turkey – sometimes it does to remember that we are not the centre of the universe.

And while some of us try to put out the fuse, others fan it on, and still others are using it to pop their popcorn by, maybe it is time for us to get to know some of our MEPs, and not just the MEP for the South East of England, whose pay has recently been docked by the EU. We would do better to look at those who do actually turn up to do something constructive rather than those who posture and hurl abuse at their colleagues. Or beat each other up in the corridors of power in Brussels.

Charles Tannock, MEP for London.

A pro-European with his home firmly in the Conservative party, Charles Tannock's outlook on Brexit is closer to that of Churchill’s than to May’s. He describes a politician’s job as being the “art of the possible” and at present he does not see that an “Exit from Brexit” falls within that spectrum, although he doesn’t hesitate to describe Brexit as “a destructive and selfish act based on untruths and false promises.” He echoes the outlook of many when he says that he feels “pretty gloomy overall about the hard Brexit direction of the negotiations.” Despite public protest, and a march that rivalled the anti-Iraq war march, he fears “it [will have to] get worse for the economy before hard Brexiteers in public life face pressure to soften and compromise.” If you hadn’t heard of him fighting for Remain during the Referendum campaign, he states that is because he was “never given airtime as a proEU MEP.” Post Referendum, Tannock has added his voice to the ranks of those fighting to protect the rights of non-UK EU nationals.

A doctor by trade, he became a councillor for the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in 1998 and a year later he was elected to the European Parliament to represent London where he sits in the block of European Conservatives and Reformers who are to ALDE what chalk is to cheese. This group was called into being by David Cameron, because there is no better way to increase the UK’s power within Europe than moving your MEPs out of the largest centre-right grouping in the European parliament and throwing your lot in with the likes of PiS, the party of Kaczinsky, currently in power in Poland. They are the ones undermining the rule of law in their own country by trying to remove Supreme Court Judges.)

Over the years he has been awarded many honours (eight to be precise) from countries as diverse as Colombia, Ukraine and Taiwan. This is mirrored in the international nature of his statements in the plenary debates in the European Parliament arguing for the defence of freedom of speech and human rights in China, debating the EU’s relationship with Turkey in the light of Erdogan’s unconstitutional power grabbing, and highlighting the political situation in the Congo. (Please do remember that according to certain members of the Leave camp, the EU was a block between us and the outside world, rather than giving us an extra forum through which to promote the principles of democracy and human rights on a global scale)

Since the Referendum he has been active on twitter trying to warn people of the consequences of Brexit. However, looking at the political class he sees no way out of Brexit. Looking at the Conservative side of the House, he states: “No Tory MP is arguing to stop Brexit - the furthest we go for now is soft. Something like EFTA& EEA plus [a Turkish-type of Customs Union] for 5 years at least” Looking at Labour he states that Corbyn is part of the “hard Brexit problem” and has dreams of “Venezuela on Thames”.

There are MEPs and MPs out there from both sides of the house who know that Brexit will not go well, and if they are not mindful of the country they are at least mindful of how history will judge them. MEPs like Charles Tannock, who make constructive, measured and thoughtful contributions to the EU, compensate for the tantrums of the failed MP wannabe for Thanet. However, it is not this kind of politician who makes good copy. 

It is, maybe, time to celebrate the work that good MEPs do. 
While we still have them.

You can follow Charles on Twitter