Dr Sarah

sarah wollaston

 

Yesterday, Dr Wollaston changed sides. I quite admire people who change their opinions especially in the middle of a race. It is rather noble, I think, to defy the school 400m, turn tail and run backwards to the starting point. It requires guts and self-judgement as well as a fair degree of élan to pull off this sort of manoeuvre successfully.

It is also something that, quite frankly, you can only do once. (I did it so that is the end of that)

In this case, I think Dr Wollaston has actually drawn attention to a disturbing trend in the Referendum campaign. She said that she was not comfortable with the claims being made about the potential money, potentially £350 million a week, available to spend on the NHS (and the simple fact is that she is right). This is what she has said,

“For someone like me who has long campaigned for open and honest data in public life I could not have set foot on a battle bus that has at the heart of its campaign a figure that I know to be untrue.

“If you’re in a position where you can’t hand out a Vote Leave leaflet, you can’t be campaigning for that organisation.”

This is all well and true, however, and I have been saying this for a while, but the problem here is that the claims made about the £350 million were being made quite a few weeks’ ago, so her sudden defection seems a bit tardy. Was it that she did not think the claim mattered as long as it was not plastered over her own bus? The timing of her move is just not quite right.

Dr Wollaston is quite good with warnings – she warned us before the General election about the need for a £15 billion spend on the NHS to avoid the whole system imploding during the present parliament. So prophetic and right again, but late, and she is doing the same here.

We also heard about fraud (£670 million lost last year with 9000,000 Euros lost to dishonest EU staff!) but the figures were drawn from Olaf, the EU fraud office, which presumably is in the process of catching the fraudsters and putting the money back where it belongs.

boris

Boris has made the £350 million claim fairly often-“We send the EU £350 million a week – let’s fund our NHS instead.” -that is 350 million a week going to Brussels (17.8 billion a year), but with the rebate (1984) the actual figure is closer to £240 million and the rebate takes place before any money is sent to the EU so the claims made about Britain sending £350 million a week to Europe are blatantly false.

More than that, the £240 million odd that is sent to Brussels does not include the money spent by the EU on UK projects. Scientific research (in 2013 was £1,4 billion a year), education and the arts all benefit from EU investment and bring the overall net fee to around £130 million a week- still arguably alot of money, but significantly less than the claims made by Boris.

The letter

The UK Statistics Authority wrote rather apologetically to explain to the leave campaign that their figure was wrong, but still the sum is peddled out…

But there are other more serious errors. The first is the simple fact that even if we save £350 million every week, there is no guarantee it will be used in the NHS or can be ring-fenced at all. If a “Leave” result causes the economy to tumble as some predict it will, then much of that savings will be lost anyway and the reality of the post-Brexit negotiations certainly does not guarantee any substantial savings if we follow Norway . So the simple fact remains- if I do not spend money as it is currently spent, that does not automatically mean I have saved it- It may mean I no longer have the money to spend at all.

The Philosophical problem

There are good reasons for voting “Leave”- supporting our declining fishing industry is one of them, and I contributed advertising to that end.

I still think this is an important cause, but on reflection, I am not sure it is enough to see us quit the EU. That alone is not enough- a big negative gesture will not bring about anything positive. Again, back to the Wollaston issue- saving £350 million does not mean we can or would automatically use that money on the NHS.

Here is the mistake of the BREXIT campaign in this instance and it is a serious one: not doing something bad does not mean we are automatically committed to doing something good.

And back to Statistics

But the Remain side has been equally plagued by dodgy statistics, so once again Dr Wollaston’s desire for honesty is compromised. The Osborne claim that families would be £4300 worse off after Leave is again fairly spurious and based on a misreading of Treasury data. Jacob Rees Mogg is someone I respect a great deal and this is his conclusion-

“I care nothing about the bus. I am not concerned about charabancs. That is not at the heart of the debate.

“I have always used the net figure. What is far more shocking is that the Chancellor has been using a figure he knew would be misleading.” Mr Rees-Mogg is in the Brexit camp.

Lord Dubs

dubs1Last week, I wrote to Lord Dubs to express my concerns that his amendment had been defeated to take into Britain 3000 Syrian children who have already made it to mainland Europe. The Government is prepared to take children directly from Syrian refugee camps by 2020, but I think this rather misses the moral issue and the urgency involved. This is not really a numbers’ game. We cannot- or should not- pick and choose how we do our charity and how we respond to those in need. When someone turns up on the doorstep asking for help, I think this is a God-sent opportunity, and it is also of course a political hot-potato. We can take it or leave it- that is about us, and that aspect of charity has always seemed a bit self-centred. Instead, we should ask- how about the Refugee child? How many parents can really imagine what it would be like to know their own children are stumbling across a foreign continent without much hope? I think, very few. We cannot expect others to suffer what we would not.

The 3000 Syrian children are our moral responsibility whether we help them now or not- indeed, more so now Labour is increasingly emerging as a party riddled with anti-semitism. We have to take a stand for what is right. We have to learn from the mistakes of the past.

I also wrote last week to Humza Yousaf. If Westminster will not take the lead on this issue, maybe Scotland will! Lord Dubs was instrumental in Necati’s fight for justice 15 years’ ago and his kind words and support are something I will not forget. While other MPs and Lords wrote to us, Lord Dubs picked up the telephone and called us.

Dubs was also a kindertransport child. When twits in the BBC and senior positions in our society like Livingston, are prepared to misrepresent the details of the rise of Nazi Germany, it is all the more vital that we learn the harsh lessons that history should be teaching us, and we should always listen to a man who has personal experience of that time. Bottom line- we did something but we could have done much more to help Jews in Germany. We cannot change the past but we can certainly do something about the future and our current mealy-mouthed numbers’ game is beneath contempt.

And a small point about self-preservation: if we really want to breed further resentment across the muslim world, then rejecting these children can only help to make things worse and here, instead, is an opportunity to send a message of goodwill. We should be building bridges, not erecting barriers.

 

 

26th April 2016

Dear Lord Dubs,

I am writing to express my deep regret that the support for refugee children failed in the Commons last night. I am writing as a current Tory candidate in local elections in Daventry, but also as the partner of Necati Zontul, a man who you kindly helped when our back was against the wall in Greece in 2003. Your amendment yesterday went beyond party politics and was a call to moral responsibility that has been misread by the Home Office and ignored by too many people in my own party. I am afraid History will judge this decision very harshly. If there is anything I can do in the meantime to support the wider campaign to give aid to refugees in need, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Tim Wilson

Dear Humza,

I am afraid some time has passed, and I am also standing in local elections next week: the outcome is not a certainty and the former incumbent is a labour councillor I much admire: she has set a standard for local politics that would be very hard to follow.

However, I have been following the amendment of Lord Dubs in the Westminster Parliament, and I have just written to him to express my great regret that this failed last night. You may not be aware of the story of my partner Necati Zontul, who was a torture victim in Greece in 2001. We owe a great debt of gratitude to many MPs and members of the Lords who wrote letters of support at the time. Lord Dubs very much led the way.

I know that you are very supportive of the refugee cause and I wonder if there is any progress that can be made on this issue after the election through the Scottish parliament?

The Aegean idea

There are 47,500 migrants stranded in Greece at the moment. These are the ones who are counted and regarded as part of the ongoing “EU migration” process. There are countless more who have found a way of hovering on the fringes of Greek society, making a buck in the cinemas near Omonia and begging or stealing whatever they can to get by. Certainly the current agreement does nothing for them and does little to sort out the squalor that remains in Idomeni. All it will do at best is to send a signal to the people who manage the boats in Turkey that this Aegean crossing is closed. After 4 years, that is modest progress, but I was talking about the dangers of this people-smuggling issue nearly 15 years ago and no one paid much attention to me then.

So what is changing now?

An agreement about illegal migration to Greece may well have taken place, but to implement it will involve the movement of countless judges and lawyers from Athens to the islands, as well as the 2300 experts cited by Tsipras and imported from mainland europe to oversee the process, because presumably each of the migrants landing on Samos or Lesbos or wherever will demand and be entitled to a legally responsible decision before being shipped back to Turkey (lest the plan fall foul of the declarations made by the UN under the Geneva Convention). More than that, the EU deal will not process back those refugees already on Greek soil- Turkey ruled that out on 10th March!merkel

I find it hard to see how Greece will be able to manage this in practice, so whether the deal with Turkey and the EU is morally or legally sound, it still faces a practical problem. What has taken months of legal work in Athens so far will now be done in a matter of hours in makeshift courts along the seafront of Samos- I doubt it somehow! As I understand it, however, the Syrians who are deported from Turkey to the EU will be sent to specific EU countries to be processed, so this might ease the burden on Greece  in the long run and that thought alone might energise the process a bit.

Amnesty calls the EU/turkey agreement a “historic blow to human rights”, though to be fair, when I was in Greece, Amnesty had been infiltrated by some very peculiar people, some of whom were certainly illegal migrants. So, as Christine Keeler might have said, “They would say that, wouldn’t they!”

It seems unclear, at the moment, whether Greece is also being awarded extra funds to deal with this. If not, I await the outcry from Athens (a) that Turkey is being unfairly awarded 6 billion euros and (b) that this much hyped agreement merely moves the problem from one country to another. It might deter the boats in the Aegean, but it will hardly stop the boats already arriving again in Malta from Libya and Tunisia..

And it does not answer the moral question at all- why should a country like Turkey accommodate so many more refugees/migrants than the 28 different countries currently in the EU? I worry that we have somehow shifted all discussions away from the bigger picture and we are focused only on making a quick “deal”- in other words, have we just all become barrow-boys or costermongers in some sort of market-place… oh yes, we have! And wasn’t it once called “the Common Market”?

Whatever trading we do, we must not forget the bigger picture. We need a moral centre, not just a tidy profit or a quick solution.

Do not fear!

welbyI need to choose words very carefully here- I am stepping over (or into!) the shoes of the current Archbishop of Canterbury. I am certainly challenging what he said. Justin Welby preached “fear” and that, to me is a red line that should never be crossed. Gone are the days when the pulpit offered such entertainment. Today we can cast our minds back to “Hammer Horror” if we want a thrill, or we can look to the diet of films that have played out in the few years since the millenium. Here are a selection of such films for a man evidently hooked on “fear” like the current Primate of Canterbury- “The others” (2001), and Mulholland Drive (2001), “the Ring”(2002), “Orphan”(2009),  “the descent” (2005), “Bug” (2006), “Let the right one in” (2008) and its sequel “Let me in” (2010). We do not need fear-mongers in the pulpit and certainly not those who advocate principles that fly in the face of their own vocation. At a time when the TV is filled with the xenophobic rants of Trump, I believe Justin Welby makes a bad problem worse. In short, as the senior cleric in the UK and leader or guardian of our moral health, he had no right to sanction our fear of migrants.

Wesley’s rather than Welby’s “fear”

But, to be fair to Welby, “fear” is a confused word in the mouths of English Churchmen. “Work out your salvation”, says Paul in the King James Version, “with Fear and trembling”. It seems to me, for instance, that there is certainly room for this kind of “fear” in the next few months because we shall be making a collective decision at the Referendum that will determine the way this country works and to do that casually would be folly. We should be mindful and in the language of John Wesley, therefore, that might mean we should be “fearful”; in other words, we should be respectful and careful. My own name calls out the same message- “Timothy” comes from two greek words meaning literally to “fear God”, but the sense of this name is to be “respectful”, not to be cowering in terror or worried about whether God might steal my job.

Calling for fear in this debate is tantamount to a licence for racism or at least xenophobia and that must be wrong in the mouth of an Archbishop.

The Fear stuff comes in an interview published in “House” magazine where Welby concedes there is , in his words, “a colossal crisis” because of migration into Europe. That is perfectly reasonable. He then says that people who express fear about this migration are not racist -“There is a tendency to say ‘those people are racist’, which is just outrageous, absolutely outrageous.” He went on and added ” and the UK should be “taking its fair share of the load”. (well, thank God he concedes that much!)

“Fear is a valid emotion at a time of such colossal crisis.

“This is one of the greatest movements of people in human history. Just enormous. And to be anxious about that is very reasonable.” (*TW: note how he’s already back-tracking. anxiety rather than fear, so he knows he said the wrong thing!)

However, it seems to me that fear is not a valid emotion in this context (though I admit there are instances where migrants have behaved badly) and in a country where there is actually a good deal of wealth, we should be better placed to manage people’s insecurities and at the same time, offer significantly more hope to those who have turned to us with outstretched arms, looking for a better life or looking for any sort of life at all!

These words, of course, play well in the hands of the BREXIT group- as Ian Duncan Smith intoned-

“These are rational comments from the archbishop – they’re to be welcomed – but you wonder just how late they’ve come from various people in institutions, so I congratulate him. If you think back, for far too many years what’s happened is that in a sense the elites have all said ‘It’s terrible to talk about immigration and if you do you’re racist’, so they’ve shut down the debate for many, many years.”

But we should not be engaged in this debate and certainly it should not have been started or been licenced by the Archbishop. Welby’s job is to preach the Gospel, and he would do well to heed the message in Matthew 25:36- to provide for the needy, the poor, to visit prisoners, the sick and the dying. He might also look at Gen 23:4, Ex 2.22, Lev 25:23, 1 Chron 29:15,Ps 39:12, 119:19,  Hebrews 11:13 and reflect on the fact that we might all migrants and all in need of shelter. There, but for the grace of God…

The Greek example:

I also refer the Archbishop to the example of the villages on Lesbos, Kos, Chios, Samos, Rhodes and Leros who have good reason to fear for their security in an economoc crisis frankly imposed on them by Northern European bullies. These islanders have routinely shown migrants pouring on to their shores the hospitality and shelter that Welby ignores.There may be fear- but it is Welby’s job to preach an answer to fear, and that answer is kindness.

The islanders in Greece deserve a nobel prize in the same way that Welby deserves to be stripped of his office (or at least suspended for the duration of the Referendum). This is what Spyros Limneos said,

“By opening their hearts the islanders sent a powerful message that humanity is above races, above nations.”

Humza Yousaf, up in Scotland, has the right idea, of course! Certainly he’s ready to debate the idea without all this “fear” nonsense. But really, he is not alone. We may talk about the many things we must thank the waves of migrants for over the years- from fine tailoring to fish and chips but we must still also be ready as a Nation to help those who need help now, and- as for economic migrants: well, many of those we need too- they are the ones with the vision and maybe the skills to kickstart our economy. Fear-mongers are just plain wrong!

humza

Oh, and unless it looks like I advocate a migrant “free for all”, not at all. Our responsibility is to be ready without fear to welcome these strangers but the response to our kindness and hospitality is also responsibility and people who come here have their own responsibility to learn our language, promote our values and engage in our society.

Migration is not part of the Referendum

I understand many of the arguments put forward by BREXIT as also by the “staying in” camp, but there are enough valid issues to be discussed without touching on that of migration: economics, fishing, farming, political independence and so on. Moreoever, the migration issue was surely done to death last year by the nasty brigade that lurks within UKIP (Believe me, there are some very good and noble UKIPpers who, like me, think the migration issue should be off-limits). Migration is a separate deal that will be solved by finding a Syrian peace, and by working in harmony with our neighbours to deal with the flow of migrants: the migration issue will continue whether we are “in” or “out” of the EU and the Archbishop gives a very cheap and simplistic lead in what he says today. What he also says is categorically against the spirit not only of Christianity which he represents, but of Judaism and Islam. It is wholly wrong. Leave it to others to preach fear if he must. BUT If he intends to stay in office, or indeed leave office with any honour, this garrulous priest needs to shut his mouth for the rest of the summer.

Boris

Boris lightened the tone today by referencing Welby’s comments and saying that after the referendum, we may need prayer. We certainly need unity and we need to work on that now. the referendum may well energise our democracy but we must be careful that it does not fracture our society as indeed the Scottish referendum threatened to do. We need to engage in this debate without fear, and look at both sides so we can reach a decision that leads us to make a reliable and informed vote in the summer. It is the role of the churches and faiths to bind us together during this process: we will remain a single Nation and British whether we are “in” or “out”. I would like to see us become a better Nation for this debate.

to the Queen

http://www.breitbart.com/london/2015/06/25/exclusive-buckingham-palace-backs-queen-on-europe-speech/

queen1There is a great moment in the play “A Man for All Seasons” by Robert Bolt when Thomas More is finally brought to trial for treason and faces Sir Richard Rich (played in the film by John Hurt), the man who has perjured himself and More asks, “Is it probable that after so long a silence on this the very point so urgently sought of me, I should open my mind to such a man as that?” As Richard prepares to leave the chamber, More looks at his new chain of office- “the red dragon?.. Why Richard it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world, but for Wales?”

This exchange is very much in my mind as I read about the alleged indiscretion about EU by Her Majesty the Queen. Quite apart from the fact that private conversations are by custom never made public, the question lingers- why would a monarch who has spent 63 years carefully avoiding political controversy open her heart to the people at lunch that day on 8th April 2011? I simply find it unbelievable. The Queen is above party politics and this story should not have been splashed over the front page of The Sun. But as it was, it is worth looking in a bit more detail to see that is actually alleged to have been said-

In 2011, the Queen is supposed to have told Nick Clegg that she believed the EU was going in the “wrong direction”. She was apparently very forceful in the presentation of her views. This was when the Euro was in full-blown crisis, with a deeply dodgy Italian Prime Minister clinging on to office despite a gathering sex scandal, and just before the first IMF bailout to Greece. The lunch took place on 8th April so a quick trawl through the internet shows that on 7th, Portugal joined Greece in requesting financial help. So, (a) Her Majesty’s alleged views well-precede any serious discussion on a Brexit, and are long before the PM called a Referendum and (b) are little more than a statement of fact. I cannot imagine anyone with sanity believes that EU has been infallible or foolpoof and indeed, most people would agree with the Queen, even today, whether they advocate an “in” or “out” option in the Referendum. If she said anything at all, then some serious “spin” has been added to the telling.

However, both Lord Mcnally and Nick Clegg deny that any such views were expressed at all at the Lunch. Nick Clegg said on TV this morning, ‘It is not true. I have certainly, absolutely no recollection of a conversation like that, which I suspect I would have remembered if it had taken place. I just think it’s wrong that people who want to take us out of the European Union to now try and drag the Queen for their own purposes into this European referendum debate.’

However, there can be no doubt at all that the EU has followed “the wrong direction” and requires (radical) reform, so that simple statement, whether made by the Queen or not, neither supports a BREXIT nor a “stay in” vote. It is simply common sense. I hope enough noise is now made about the referendum that, whatever the result, the EU tidies up its act significantly. There should never have been reason to campaign for the fishermen in Cornwall, but their livelihood is in danger as indeed is the whole British Fishing industry. The way Europe has treated Greece is deplorable and its handling of the Syrian refugee crisis has been tardy, sanctimonious and foolhardy. There are times when urgent action is demanded and instead, the EU has observed a number of serious crises, from the banking crisis to the humanitarian crisis that is Syria and, frankly, fiddled. “The wrong direction?” Most certainly!

But to draw from this comment in 2011 the conclusion that the Queen favours BREXIT in 2016 is absurd and cheap. A number of people today are being exposed as the possible source of this Palace leak- and how petty, weak and insignificant they appear – dragging the Monarch into a debate she never entered and scoring a cheap home-goal.

Among those who deserve a smack is the otherwise admirable Rees Mogg: He was reported in the original Sun report as saying “I’d be delighted if this was true and Her Majesty is a Brexiter.” He later tweeted “The Queen will be mortified to have been manipulated thus. It does Brexit enormous discredit.”So, let’s hope Mr Rees Mogg was also been mis-quoted by the people in the Sun. It wouldn’t be the first time.

gove

Apparently, beyond Mr Clegg and another Liberal, Lord McNally (both champions of the “In” campaign anyway), there are two likely candidates for leaking the alleged comments- they are, firstly as forerunner and chief suspect, Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary and a prominent “outer” who says he had “no idea” where the claims came from and whose department underlined his innocence  this morning with the statement that, ‘We don’t comment on private conversations with the Queen.’ Secondly, the Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillian, who, so far, has issued no denials – what should we conclude?

“Why Cheryl, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world, but for Wales?”

 

PS: here is a link to a Breitbart article. This organisation is very pro-UKIP so I think more reliable than most to stress the Queen’s pro-EU thoughts. It claims her speech was written for her, so does not express her views… but I think it restores balance and frankly is in tune with the Queen’s approach to what matters- unity and kindness. Whatever our views on the referendum, we must now look beyond that to ensure that unity in our country is fully restored as soon as any decision is made.

http://www.breitbart.com/london/2015/06/25/exclusive-buckingham-palace-backs-queen-on-europe-speech/

“Since 1945 the United Kingdom has determined to number among Germany’s very strongest friends in Europe. In the intervening decades, Britain and Germany have achieved so much by working together. I have every confidence that we will continue to do so in the years ahead.

“Our work together includes every part of life, from politics to commerce, from industry to every aspect of the arts, in particular, music, museums and education.

“In our lives we have seen the worst but also the best of our continent. We have witnessed how quickly things can change for the better. But we know that we must work hard to maintain the benefits of the post-war world. We know that division in Europe is dangerous and that we must guard against it in the West as well as in the East of our continent. That remains a common endeavour.”

“Since 1945 the United Kingdom has determined to number among Germany’s very strongest friends in Europe. In the intervening decades, Britain and Germany have achieved so much by working together. I have every confidence that we will continue to do so in the years ahead.

“Our work together includes every part of life, from politics to commerce, from industry to every aspect of the arts, in particular, music, museums and education.

“In our lives we have seen the worst but also the best of our continent. We have witnessed how quickly things can change for the better. But we know that we must work hard to maintain the benefits of the post-war world. We know that division in Europe is dangerous and that we must guard against it in the West as well as in the East of our continent. That remains a common endeavour.”

the owl and the pussycat/ the refugee crisis

owl and cat japanese

This is my image in response to Toshiko Hasumi’s manga outrage. The text reads: “Asylum* needed”

after 366 days in a boat

You don’t have to be cute to need help

Refugees are not the enemy- they are in need

They did not choose to be victims- of war, of prejudice, of abuse.

The original picture of Judi in a Lebanese refugee camp was taken by Jonathan Hyams. I have drawn a quick picture of him here:

Jonathan-Hyams

Asylum is a greek word!! ἄσυλον

More on Fishing

Current UK Fishing Industry Issues

by Deborah Cowley (illustrations by TIM)

Richard Ede

After speaking with fishermen, skippers, officials and DEFRA it is clear that the industry is hanging by a thread. The ever changing ‘out of touch’ quotas that favour the highest bidder has led to a genuine apathy and depression among the fishermen. It used to be rage but many have now given up the will to fight a system where they are but small fishes in a big EU regulated pond. One of the industries highest officials told me he goes to Brussels regularly and feels so frustrated with the red tape he encounters each time. So far, he’s the only one I’ve found who still has any energy left for an industry he cares deeply about, being from a 5th generation fishing background. But yet the men are still out there, with their humiliating quotas, trying to keep tradition and their birth rights alive. As the younger generation are being urged by their parents to pursue other careers, eventually there won’t be any UK fishermen left with the knowledge past down from their ancestry. By leaving the EU and gaining back control of our land and our seas the fishermen stand a chance. But we need to begin supporting them now, before it is too late, and this wonderful tradition is lost forever.

harbour