We are joined by Chris Mendes, the leader of the Foundation Party, as we discuss the ongoing COVID 19 Lockdown and the Shadow Cabinet appointments. We then chat with Chris about his experiences as a political campaigner, what led to the creation of the Foundation Party and their future plans. The link to our virtual meet-up is: https://www.gotomeet.me/CroydonConstitutionalists
Each day sadly the death toll keeps rising, and on any given day the economic news keeps getting worse. We are in a lockdown with social distancing in place to save lives.
But at some point this will end, we will get back to normal and we must look to recover from the economic slump. My own economics philosophy being somewhat laissez faire means I would like government generally to do as little as possible, however that is neither realistically what will happen, nor what is likely to be acceptable in our democracy today. Rather than focus solely on what I would want, I intend to also look at some policies that might realistically be used to aid the recovery.
The new baseline
The lockdown will have already changed some things that will never change back. The longer this goes the greater and more ingrained these changes will become. Whole industries are successfully working from home. More people are getting food and other shopping delivered. Many of us are becoming heavy users of streaming media services. We are getting out the habit of commuting or even just going for a drive.
With the loss of life, fear will drive many people to reasonably want to avoid unnecessary contact even when the lockdown is lifted. It is reasonable to assume the lockdown will be lifted in stages, and quite likely it might be reintroduced if we see a second spike in contagion. Many will find their normal routines disrupted for 6 months or more.
What might these changes mean? Who are the economic winners and losers? Here are some thoughts on how things might have already changed.
Whether for streaming media or working from home, we have all become super dependent on our broadband. Companies often have duel supply for such a critical service. It is reasonable to assume some households may do the same and that suppliers will start to provide emergency callout services as happens with many utilities today.
At one end of the broadband connection is the single point failure in many homes of the laptop or home PC. Expect sales of small inexpensive thin client technology to go up as people require some home redundancy and capability for multiple users. Companies have already been moving to ‘the cloud’ for providing services for customers and staff. As it becomes apparent more of the staff are themselves in the cloud rather than the office these services will further take off.
Without the commute or as much international travel people expect to be ‘always on’. This was already happening as more buses, trains, cars, and airplanes have network connectivity, and WiFi, expect this to intensify, and telecoms companies to benefit.
Also already happening was the move from the shopping centre to Amazon delivery. This will only accelerate. Many people like shopping and will no doubt rush back once the shops are open again, but will they spend much? Will they make up for the many spending more conveniently online? Amazon, other delivery services and delivery jobs are bound to grow.
Lots of people are facing and will face real economic hardship from this period. Too few people and businesses have emergency savings to survive even the smallest setback. In time, as people re-find work and as they can, expect more people to save more for a rainy day.
All high streets will be devastated with lost shops. Pubs and restaurants may initially boom, but then struggle with the debts of the period of lockdown. However in the medium to long term as more people work from home, as people rediscover their local shops, local high streets may do well. A day working from home is greatly brightened by popping to see a friendly face in a local store.
If your workforce can operate from home why would companies pay for the upkeep of massive city centre offices? Some offices are still needed. There is no substitute for face to face meetings, but these could accommodate say 10-15% of your workforce not the 90-100% they do today.
The long term trend has been to move spending from products to experiences. People want fewer physical items and more memories. The lockdown has made many realise what really matters in life, and it isn’t things. Between fear of further economic uncertainty, changing habits and economic suffering, consumerism could be on a steep decline.
Town centre shopping is on the decline. Fewer big shopping centres are being built, people have fewer reasons to visit them. With more people working from home, a move from products to experiences, and economic uncertainty town centre shopping will continue to suffer. In the same way the department store and supermarkets changed the shopping experience in the past, someone will need to reimagine the whole shopping experience to get people out to revive these centres.
More working from home, more people avoiding the commute. How many will travel abroad or even far from home if they are worried about another shutdown of travel or period of confinement? Travel, be it commuting or further afield is likely to decrease for some time to come.
At first glance more savings and less consumerism might look like positive outcomes, but our economy requires people to spend money to create jobs. More savings means more supply or even an oversupply of money needing a home, and it is likely to be lent badly. Some rebalancing is a good thing but ideally in moderation.
Avoid making things worse
The first step to recovery must be to avoid making things worse. Net Zero emission targets were economy killers before Covid-19, they won’t help now. People are already changing their habits, with more working from home. Carbon emissions are already falling and are likely to stay lower. We will be in an economic slump, government should avoid making things worse with more punitive changes. The other reason to delay implementation of Net Zero targets is whilst people may choose to change their habits, after a few months of lockdown they will resent and likely rebel against being forced to change their habits.
Every year governments like to introduce more regulations and laws. A few of the new laws for 2020 can be found here. Many are good laws, no doubt all done with the best intentions, but stop, hold fire don’t do any more. We have already seen further implementation of IR35 delayed. Scrap it, and scrap any more bright ideas for the next couple of years. Whilst we’re at it many government processes and regulations will have been streamlined or just removed to get vital products to the front line. Keep them streamline, don’t revert, if the new processes are good enough for a pandemic they are good enough at all times. Let businesses have a period of a freer environment, without the dead hand of the bureaucrat crashing down on them.
Enable opportunities don’t force change
Many people will struggle with mental health issues being cooped up. Many will lose a business they have spent many years building, many more will lose their jobs. People are broadly accepting the need to socially distance, although we saw a quick backlash to some initial heavy handedness from the police. People will quickly resent the government trying to force the pace of change.
Many a public health civil servant will see the pub closures as a chance to change habits, many in Treasury will like the tighter control they have on the economy. Many will think command economics work. This needs to be resisted. People and businesses will respond to light touch incentives and likely push back on heavy handedness. I would like government to take next to no action, that may be too much to ask, but government signposting the way rather than forcing change will be the path to recovery.
Reinstate free speech
A huge amount of liberty has been given up during the lockdown. Government needs to prove that our freedoms are not traveling down a one way street from us to them. Health advice will dictate timelines for the returning of many basic rights. But government could do more and do it now. The Public Order Act 1986, The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and The Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 all impose restrictions on our speech.
Hate speech is wrong, people shouldn’t aim to insult others based on immutable characteristics but likewise government shouldn’t legislate against our most fundamental right to free speech. Repealing these more egregious parts of these and other laws will send a message, freedom matters. That message is important in itself, it’s important for the confidence of the nation, and a nation of clear and limited laws will encourage investment to rebuild our economy.
Build, build, build, toll roads
The Conservative victory at the 2019 election had manifesto commitments to significant infrastructure investment. The massive cost of the Covid-19 emergency and the reduced tax base will make further borrowing difficult. But investment can still come and it can come in the form it always should have, from the private sector. Build toll roads, railways, bridges, ports funded by and with profits to the private sector. As a result of private risk taking, better more effective projects are likely to be chosen. If some support is needed cheap borrowing could come from publicly backed bond schemes, which provide a route to encourage and soak up savings. It also provides for a sense of everyone ‘doing their bit’. We get the infrastructure we need and the user of it rightly pays.
The government has already announced a consultation on Freeports. The freeports would have different customs rules than the rest of the country, act as innovative hubs, boost trade, and generate employment opportunities in some of our most deprived communities. Global trade is likely to reduce as a result of the pandemic. Anything to increase trade is to be welcomed. Nothing should be allowed to get in the way of delivering on these plans.
Many companies are now seeing the perils of long supply chains, and our national security is at risk if much needed medical supplies can only be sourced from abroad. Lots of companies will naturally look to move more of their supply chain into the UK. It may be prudent for government to work with suppliers to ensure some key industries source, at least in part, from the UK, or for the government to source from the UK for key items.
Manufacturing closer to home
If supply chains are likely to want to move onshore we need to make manufacturing cheaper. The US saw a massive boom in manufacturing when energy prices dropped as a result of Shale Gas. World energy prices are in steep decline, government should reduce taxes to ensure more of this is passed onto the end user.
The Annual Investment Allowance is used to deduct the cost of plant and machinery equipment. The maximum deduction has already increased from £200,000 to £1,000,000 for 2020. This is great news, but frankly why stop there? Let’s see a real commitment by making a permanent increase of say £10,000,000 to really bring back manufacturing to our shores.
Support the high street
The chancellor had announced a business rate holiday for retail and leisure firms. This will bring relief during this period, rates are a problem but government’s long term options to reduce tax when they have a massive deficit are limited. Reducing duty on alcohol in pubs could actually increase the tax take as it keeps business afloat and pubs act a magnets for their local high street.
With the ease of online deliveries, going shopping needs to be about more than just procuring goods and services, it needs to be an experience. Travel to the US, Canada or Australia, and it’s much more common for bars, restaurants and shops to offer free WiFi. Government through tax breaks, councils through helping to organise, and granting planning permission, can assist high streets and local business districts to provide publicly available free WiFi. Give people a reason to stay, browse and buy, let them stay online and connected.
After the lockdown one practically free solution could be to encourage or better still instruct councils to provide 3 or more hours of free or cheap parking for all local high streets. Stop the relentless drive to stop people driving to the shops, stop punishing people for wanting to park up and use local facilities. Even use tax breaks to encourage private enterprise to set-up car parks. Let people get to the high street so they can support their local community.
Heightened health service surge capacity
We are likely to see a long tail to the Covid-19 pandemic. Governments are warning of further peaks in new cases and possible further lockdowns. It is likely in future years we will see calls for social distancing in bad flu seasons. We will also likely see ongoing greater scrutiny of available health care capacity. At the start of the crisis the UK had a low per capita ICU bed capacity. The capacity in normal times matters less than the ability to surge it. It would be sensible for the government to make the capital spend on creating and possibly warehousing a significantly increased surge capacity in ICU equipment. The equipment won’t be needed immediately, and can be placed on a longer procurement timeline with British businesses thereby securing many jobs.
We would also need staff for these facilities. We have seen a nation respond to the great work of the NHS. Let’s encourage something similar to the Territorial Army and help organizations like the St John’s Ambulance expand so we have more medically trained people who are ready to step into or backfill for others staffing these positions.
Tourism and travel
Airlines are on the brink, airports are shutdown, the rail franchises have been effectively nationalised. People will be in the habit of commuting less. People will be worried about overseas travel while Covid-19 still threatens the globe, and people will have discovered how simple and effective video and audio conferences can be.
How can people be encouraged back out? Being at home people will become used to being always on. Get buses, trains, airplanes, bus depots, railways stations, and airports flooded with free WiFi. Make the traveling experience easier make it less of a chore and let people answer emails or stream a movie whilst travelling. Government can again make tax breaks available for this.
As part of returning the rail franchises to private ownership government should look to remove barriers to providing more carriages on the railways. Make the travel experience better, we expect to be crowded for a short commute in rush hour, there is no good reason why a long distance Sunday train ride packs people in like sardines.
As has been said before scope for reduction of taxes will likely be limited. However charging punitive Air Passenger Duty when few people are traveling is counterproductive. Sweeping cuts until the industry is back up and running will likely bring in more tax revenue than it costs.
A quick google of a few major airports in the UK and most offer no smoking facilities once airside. Approximately 15% of people in the UK still smoke. It might be very bad for you, but freedom is the freedom to make bad choices. Given people can be airside for up to 3 hours before a long flight, it is reasonable to offer smoking rooms, enclosed, well ventilated and away from non-smokers. A small change in the law is needed, and government could encourage a set of people put off flying back to our airports.
5G and 4G for that matter
It is unlikely the prospect of Huawei equipment running our 5G network will be greeted with more glee now than it was before the Covid-19 pandemic. This will inevitably slow down the rollout of 5G in the UK, but government can help nudge it forward. More tax breaks, grants, and sped up planning permission will all help. We shouldn’t forget how good 4G is (it’s what most of us use now), and how much of the country has poor coverage. Government can again work with providers to help provide greater coverage to rural and even some suburban communities. Coverage will enable more people to work productively in their home or local communities, help us in the event of a further shutdown and help build productivity outside of London and the South East.
We may have a long way to go, and things will change, but we need to get thinking about the future. Relatively small amounts of government intervention can enable the private sector to grow and embrace the new future. More home working with less commuting and a little help to build local high streets can go a long way. Changes to procurement patterns can with a little help be a great opportunity for domestic manufacturing. Make travel a little easier and encourage people back out. With restrictions on government borrowing let’s get the private sector to develop the infrastructure of tomorrow. And after a period of suppressed freedom, let’s go further than reinstating the rights lost at the start of the pandemic, let’s take dramatic steps to making us a truly free country once again.
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To join us for a chat, simply join at any point between those times on the 15th. All we ask is you bring your own drink!
“It seems to me is what we’ve seen is a hard-headed assessment of reality, that sets out in really stark terms what a calamitous outcome of no-deal Brexit would mean for the United Kingdom,” lawmaker Nick Thomas-Symonds told Sky News television. “The government is reckless in the way it’s been pushing forward with no-deal planning in this way.”
Ed Miliband, Shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Secretary
“Ed Miliband has been accused of “taking voters for fools” after claiming in an election leaflet he voted nine times for a Brexit deal….. Miliband has in the past backed a second referendum, as well as a Norway-style Brexit deal and remaining part of the EU customs union after leaving. But he has never backed either Theresa May or Boris Johnson’s Brexit deals.”
Bridget Philipson, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
“And the reason I believe the voters must have the final say on Brexit isn’t because I reject their concerns. Far from it. Concerns about trust in our politics, and the voters we have lost, are obviously valid. Ultimately, I support a referendum because I think leaving would cause far more serious and far more lasting damage.”
“First, let me assure you that I campaigned hard for Remain during the 2016 referendum, and still believe that the best relationship we can have with the European Union is full membership. And if, reluctantly, we do have to leave, then at the very least, we should stay in a customs union and Single Market arrangement”
Louise Haigh, Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary (interim)
“It was so depressing to see every single option voted down and I was disappointed with colleagues who abstained on the customs union and didn’t let those votes pass because they have really retreated into quite an extreme position on Brexit now.”
“I am the most pro-EU candidate standing to be Labour’s deputy leader. I am proud to have voted against triggering Article 50, helping to form the People’s Vote campaign and leading the successful court challenge against Boris Johnson’s prorogation of parliament.”
Andy McDonald, Shadow Employment Rights and Protections Secretary
“The Shadow Transport Secretary said Britain was “looking down the barrel” of a no-deal Brexit and the only alternative was continued membership of the bloc. But he also insisted that any Brexit deal agreed by parliament must be put back to the people.”
“The Government’s decision to delay the meaningful vote has run down the clock and increased the risk of a no-deal Brexit. I co-signed a letter to The Prime Minister along with more than 220 colleagues to urge the Government to agree a mechanism that would ensure a no deal Brexit could not take place.”
“Another senior Labour figure has confirmed he would campaign for remain in a second EU referendum, as Brexit looks set to become a flashpoint at the party’s conference in Brighton. In an email seen by the Guardian, Labour’s chief whip, Nick Brown, told his constituents this week he would campaign for remain, joining his senior colleagues John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, Emily Thornberry, Keir Starmer and Tom Watson in backing that position.”
John Broadfoot is a familiar face on the campaign trail in Croydon. John has been an active participant in many Conservative campaigns, was a regular campaigner with us during the EU referendum and subsequently delivering Leave Means Leave leaflets. A resident of Shirley, John worked for Shell UK OIL for 33 years and now runs the rugby charity SOS Kit Aid.
John thanks for taking the time to speak with us.
You have campaigned in a number of elections, what first got you involved in political campaigning?
I reached the age of 62 in early 2010 and suddenly realised that I didn’t want to spend my next ten years on this planet under a Labour Govt! Though I am a Capitalist at heart, sometimes I have Socialist Capitalist leanings when I read for example Amazon/Google /Apple are avoiding massive UK taxes. But socialists are always hopeless at running the economy and always run out of money, leaving huge debts/deficits that have to be repaid (Healey/Brown etc). So I decided I ought to play an active part in making sure this didn’t happen and the fact that Croydon Central was a real marginal made it all the more meaningful. I then got really interested in the Westminster bubble and how the world’s oldest democracy really works. Brexit proved that it is not at all fit for purpose when a majority Remainer Parliament can completely disregard the democratic votes of a Leave UK.
Do you have any interesting memories or stories from the campaign trail?
I found canvassing door to door very enjoyable and rewarding. It was very refreshing to see people quite happy to talk about issues though it was also disheartening to see many people not being interested in the future of their country at all. It should be compulsory to vote by law as in Australia.
I also remember being with Gavin Barwell at his by election count in 2015 when it was 5am in the morning, we were on our 5th exciting, nervous, recount , but emerged victorious with a huge majority of….. 165 – then exhaustion took over!!
What struck you most about the EU Referendum campaign how did it differ from party politics you have been involved in?
As an ardent Brexiteer it amazed me how seemingly intelligent people regardless of party so undervalued/missed the importance of basic democracy – having 100% UK laws made by 100% UK accountable MPs. Remainers were quite happy apparently to have many UK laws made by unaccountable, unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. What happened if an unelected Trump like figure ran the EU – you would be powerless – you cannot remove someone you didn’t vote for. Control of your population numbers is logistical not political. You cannot plan future long-term infrastructure like hospitals, roads, schools etc if you don’t know your future population numbers. With freedom of movement you cannot plan properly because you have no idea of these future numbers. When you build a boat a vital component is knowing how many people it will carry. I could not comprehend how Intelligent people do not realise the importance of democracy and population control – neither of which are political they are basic human rights. One size does not fit all but you can still have very, very close cooperation on the environment, security, sciences, education etc – you don’t need to be married!
What are your hopes now for Brexit?
Providing we get a proper exit and a future trade agreement with the EU, the UK will positively boom outside of the EU – making its own trade deals with the 90% of world trade outside of the declining EU. Democracy will return to the UK ,as the EU becomes increasingly more federal, which will inevitably decline as people on the continent realise that one size does not fit all and that countries like Greece and Germany are just too different to run as one. They will see a democratic UK booming outside of the EU and will want to exit too.
One area we differ on is the threat of Global Warming. As believers in free speech, we want to give you the chance to say what you think the country should be doing now on environmental policy?
The virus will pass and we will be better equipped in the future for sure but the biggest threat to the world without question is global warming – climate change. We need a global approach to climate change but as two of the world’s biggest most powerful countries are dictatorships you will never get a global approach. Plus you have an American President in Trump who is a complete climate change denier. Who will be the first USA President on a four year term telling USA voters that they must switch off their air conditioning and drive smaller cars long term. USA is 3-4% of the world’s population but burn 25% of the world’s energy. Can you imagine when India/China want energy parity ? India would have an additional 200 million cars to match USA ownership. So the UK can only do what is within its control and we are showing world leadership.
You set-up your rugby charity following a trip to Romania. What drove you to do this, and can you tell us a bit about the charity?
One half of the world throws away things that the other disadvantaged half wants/needs. SOS Kit Aid collects good condition second hand/new rugby kit no longer wanted by UK schools, rugby clubs, kit manufacturers and other sporting bodies like the RFU/WRU etc. This is because kit is grown out of, sponsors are frequently changed, kit manufacturers have unsold outdated old stock – yet the kit is in great condition and but for SOS all this unwanted kit would end up needlessly in scarce UK/Irish landfill sites. SOS has distributed over £6 million pounds worth of kit to a quarter of a million disadvantaged youngsters in 44 countries around the world. We have saved 250 tonnes of kit being disposed of and we have saved over 750 tonnes of harmful CO2 emissions because new kit does not need to be manufactured – our SOS kit replaces it. SOS has proudly won three environmental awards and four social inclusion awards.
What do you see as the future work of SOS KIT AID?
Our SOS blueprint has been tried and tested over 18 years and we know would work for all other sports, plus other items like furniture, cycles, computers, books etc. The International Olympic Committee have recognised this and are considering launching it across all Olympic sports. We estimate over a million pounds worth of rugby kit is thrown away every year – we are still hardly touching the surface!
How can people help out?
Simply by volunteering via our website www.soskitaid.com. If you have commercial storage available free of charge or can offer low cost/free transport -please contact us !
Lastly we have a fairly new government, one you helped campaign for. What do you hope to see from Boris over the next few years?
Simply organise a successful, exciting, Brexit that enables a free ,democratic, entrepreneurial UK to thrive throughout the world and restore accountability/democracy back to the UK. But also to work incredibly closely with our close European partners. Much reform needed to Westminster – both the House of Lords and the House of Commons – both too dated and currently not fit for purpose. Ensure that MPs know they are delegates who do the bidding of their constituency/party voters , carry out the promises of their manifesto on which they were elected and not just whatever they fancy once they have been elected – it’s called democracy and the power of the people!
In 1981 the Gang of Four founded the SDP and it exploded onto the British Political scene. Following the merger with the Liberal Party in 1988 the SDP still continued. Led by William Clouston it is a pro-Brexit party, with some high profile supporters that include former UKIP MEP and Political Editor of the Daily Express Patrick O’Flynn and former Today Editor Rod Liddle. The Croydon Constitutionalists had Kent SDP candidate Richard Plackett speak at our Debate for Democracy in April 2019.
We speak to one of the SDP’s London team Andrew Bence about the Party, Brexit, and current events.
Andrew thank-you for your time.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you got involved in politics?
That well-worn and variously attributed quote that goes something like “Any man who is not a socialist at 20 has no heart; any man who is still a socialist at 40 has no head” applies to me.
In 1976, I joined the Labour Party. I was 16, a reader of the Guardian and the New Statesman, marching to Ban the Bomb, Rock Against Racism and free Nelson Mandela. But the ‘Labour Party Young Socialists’ were fast becoming the foot soldiers of the Militant Tendency – the Momentum of their day. My first doubts surfaced around this time.
I remember suggesting to LPYS comrades that we have a debate, in order to thrash out the arguments for and against the ‘Gang of Four’. Unfortunately, none of my comrades could imagine there being any arguments in support of those traitors Owen, Jenkins, Williams and Rodgers. So I found myself having to make their case. Nobody was convinced.
My membership lapsed and my doubts increased. I remember admiring Kinnock’s ‘I warn you’ conference speech, while finding the trade union leadership of the miners strike and its ‘scab-taunting’ rhetoric much less appealing. Later, after the great promise of the mid 1990s, I was deeply disappointed by the smug and complacent managerialism of Blair and Brown. Theirs, it seems to me, was the greatest political missed opportunity of our times. By 2010, I had stopped voting Labour.
The EU referendum was a catalyst for me, as for so many others. Finding myself in favour of leaving – unlike most of my fellow middle-class, educated, Londoners – I was forced to pay close attention to the reasons for this disjunction. The very shape of politics at national level, usually so slow to change, was by now buckling under the pressure. The re-emergence of the Social Democratic Party was a product of those shifting tectonic plates, prompting me to become politically active for the first time in 30 years.
For our readers who don’t know much about the SDP tell us about the party?
You could be forgiven for thinking the SDP, formed by those four breakaway Labour MPs in 1981, had disappeared long ago, subsumed into what became the Liberal Democrats. In fact, a tiny group kept it going, albeit in near-total obscurity. During this time they developed the party’s communitarian, Eurosceptic philosophy. Brexit shone a light on that USP, and we remain the only pro-Brexit party on the centre-left.
The EU aside, it’s our communitarianism that distinguishes us from Liberal Democrats. For liberals, it’s all about individual rights. They have lost sight of the importance of the group to the individual. So liberals are not really interested in community, not really that interested in family, and there’s a huge hostility to the nation state. We, however, think that the nation is where you convene to do things like the National Health Service, and to look out for one another. The current coronavirus emergency exemplifies this. We’re red-and-blue centrists, if you like. But the blue bits are pretty blue and the red bits are pretty red.
In 2019 you stood for the SDP in Tottenham against among others David Lammy. How did you find the experience, did you get to meet the anti-democracy MP David and any funny stories from the campaign trail?
I’d only joined the party earlier in the year, so it was a quite surreal experience. With only a small London branch, its members scattered far and wide, we had to be realistic. This was always going to be about trying to raise the profile of the party rather than seriously challenging the incumbent in one of Labour’s safest seats. Even that proved difficult. So safe a seat was it, that Lammy spent most of the campaign away up north, in a futile attempt to prop up the Labour vote there. At the one hustings to take place in Tottenham, only the three main party candidates were invited. I spoke briefly from the floor. It proved to be my one and only campaign ‘speech’. The enduring memory of the campaign has to be the drudgery of leafleting, made bearable by the kind support of a few stalwart colleagues.
Were you involved in the 2016 Referendum campaign and do you have any memories from then?
I didn’t campaign, but I was captivated by the debate. As a local authority worker, I had the chance to observe the vote at close quarters as, on the day itself, I was a poll clerk in one of the borough’s mobile polling stations. Ours was probably the quietest station in the borough, a two-both portacabin on a small housing estate. Even so, you sensed something monumental might be happening.
Many of us are still shocked at how many of the political and media class wanted to overturn the 2016 democratic vote of the people. What do you hope will shake out from the Brexit vote and the attempt to betray Democracy?
Previously unrecognised divisions were laid bare by Brexit, highlighting how out of touch the political class and elites generally had become. In the normal aftermath of such turbulence, the dust would by now be settling and a new political landscape emerging. But coronavirus has put paid to that. I don’t think anyone knows where we will be in, say, two years’ time. The one chink of light I can see is that wherever intelligent political conversations take place, communitarian ideas are now featuring front and centre.
Schadenfreude – how much did you enjoy the Illiberal Undemocrats failure at the last election?
Bigly, as the leader of the free world might say. I confess to doing a little jig when Swinson’s result came through. At the Tottenham hustings, I had gone round the room handing out my leaflets. All present accepted the offer graciously, all except the Liberal Democrat candidate’s two student lackeys. Refusing to take a leaflet, all they could muster were graceless sneers.
It’s difficult for smaller parties to make headway under first past the post. How do you see the SDP building support?
It’s going to be very difficult. Let’s assume, for all Starmer’s efforts, that Labour remains hopelessly out of touch, and likewise the Liberal Democrats. And that the Government comes through the coronavirus emergency mostly unscathed. In which case, an opposition-shaped hole remains.
For the SDP to fill it we first need to find several relatively high-profile SDP supporters willing to stand as candidates, in mayoral elections, by-elections and the like, giving us the publicity boost needed to get us off the launchpad. After that, the hard slog of local campaigning needs to be combined with energetic and media-savvy leadership of the highest order. Only then will the relevance of our values and policies begin to strike people.
If these were normal times, I’d be pessimistic about our chances. But these are not normal times. ‘Business as usual’ will no longer do in politics, and the so-called ‘culture war’ has only just begun, as those of us inclined to resist woke orthodoxy begin to get our act together. In short, I am optimistic that the SDP has a part to play in the future of centre-left politics in the UK.
If there were three policies you would like to pass now what would they be?
Creation of a National Care Service to organise social care and fund it once a recipient has reached an agreed ceiling for their own financial contributions.
Scrap HS2 and invest some of the freed-up funds to create a Great Northern Railway Network, better linking up the towns and cities of the North of England to unleash their joint potential.
Constitutional reform encompassing the creation of an English Parliament (outside London), the abolition of the House of Lords, and the introduction of Proportional Representation for all elections.
We are writing at the time of the Covid19 pandemic. Boris has a big majority, and once this is over, what would you like to see the government focus on?
That would depend on what state we’re in, economically and socially, by the time we’re through it. But clearly there will be lessons to learn, and perhaps even a once in a generation opportunity to think afresh about the kind of society we want to live in, and what it takes for that society to be sustainable. Unsurprisingly, I think the SDP can make a valuable contribution to that debate.
Any thoughts you would like to leave us with?
Thanks for this invitation, and congratulations on the Croydon Constitutionalists initiative. Among other things, Brexit taught us the value of essentially non-partisan grassroots activism and engagement such as yours.
For the past couple of weeks, the United Kingdom has been on a lockdown in an attempt to counter the spread of COVID-19.
This has ranged from businesses being forced to close, a government allocated, one exercise per-day outside, hospital appointments not deemed “essential” by the central powers that be, and police issuing fines, using drones to spy on citizens and overall adopting an Orwellian method, all under a catchy dystopian slogan; ‘Stay At Home. Protect The NHS. Save Lives.’
There are also the Keynesian Economic models the government has adopted: Bailing out industries with taxpayer money, setting interest rates lower than the market rate, looking to cover 80% of wages, which, with a country on an economic shutdown, no new revenue will be brought in by plundering wages or businesses not in business, so the only means will be expanding government bonds furthering debt, or, as has been suggested and is the usual method by the central bank; printing more fiat money. These put us at great risk of pushing ourselves into another recession, or worse an inflationary recession; a devalued currency occurring due to printing money without wealth creation (we must remember that money still falls under supply/demand; more within the supply decreases the value), alongside devalued capital which starts, as stated above, with the central bank expanding credit and setting rates low; giving false signals to capital investors, leading them to grasp for resources when there are too few. This lasts until the bank reaches shaky ground and raises the rates, causing the capital to go bust, which ultimately leads to living standards falling. The worst financial enemy of the poor during this pandemic is not “income inequality”, which is a redundant terminology, but a money which can buy less. You can’t grow an economy through the printing of money, plundering money through taxation, decreasing rates or by bailing out industries; growth is production of what people demand; that’s entrepreneurship.
You may be wondering why I started with such emphasis on the economic costs of the lockdown.
While many who are sceptical of the lockdown will claim the economic and social ramifications are separate, they must be seen as one and the same, as the economy is not a car with an engine to be repaired as a separate object from the driver; no expert can “fix” the economy as there is no “it”. the economy is us, it is organic; based on the actions, choices and subjective values each of us holds with them meeting in equilibrium; to lockdown the economy or the social liberties of society we exist within is the same; they are both intruding on choice, claiming which of our values are “essential”, and who’s needs are more “legitimate”.
That is the realm I will focus on: Choice.
I do not deny the seriousness of COVID-19, and I find the emotional arguments (if they can even be called arguments) of “How many deaths is enough?” and “You’re selfish”, to be repulsive ways to simply dehumanise those who wish to be responsible for themselves, without threats from the state and who dare to question whether restricting liberties is the best cause of action to take, or whether there were other options on the table. My position on COVID-19 is the same as my position on climate change: Is it serious? Yes. Is the best solution through government control? No.
People can only flourish when free to find passion, profit, charity and love; through the shaking of a hand and the ability to identify their own risks, gains, values and needs; not through a steel boot. We need to recognise that the economics and the social aren’t things that can be mastered, planned or engineered, and to believe otherwise is the pretence of knowledge.
The crucial risk to our liberties is that it will lead to social engineering, similar to China with its so called “social credit”. We are already seeing signs of this being an easy success for the government, with neighbours snitching on neighbours, when they do not know the reason, risk analysis, or circumstance of the individual.
It was recently suggested that the government could completely ban all outdoor exercise; again, the shoe doesn’t, and cannot fit all feet. Many people within our nation suffer with depression, and for some, going out for a jog can help. Even if a person doesn’t have depression, going out can be good for clearing ones head from stress; so to use the emotional argument so often used against the sceptics of force: how many suicides from stress and depression have to happen before restrictions are seen as at least, not the best cause of action. Everyone should be concerned with our situation for two reasons:
(1) It shows how easy it is for the government to shut down society.
(2) The Income Tax was meant to be “temporary”. So how many of the new restrictions will be “temporary”.
I will finish by quoting the words to a rap song by Emergent Order:
“Let’s unite people from every nation, in peace, exchange and cooperation.”
We are joined by Peter Sonnex from the Brexit Party as we discuss the ongoing COVID 19 Lockdown and the Labour Party leadership election results. We then chat with Peter about his experiences in the military and Whitehall along with the “Stockport Declaration” and future plans for the Brexit Party.