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Monthly Archives: May 2022

Dear diary

Clarissa Cork’s Diary

A diary from the “Sunlit Uplands” written by Clarissa Cork.

My week (18th May – 24th May)

Tuesday 18th May 2022

My day started at about half past six when I woke up and realised that I was in the middle of a nightmare. I was living in 1509 (or was it earlier?) and the rich lords of the manor were taking food out of the mouths of starving children, the starving children in their rags and pale faces were looking at me pleadingly and begging for food. Meanwhile, in my dream, the lords of the manor (on horseback) are laughing at the poor, and as they ride off to their castles, they’re shouting across to each other, telling each other how much money they’ll give each other from the poor boxes they raided from the church. (Certainly NOT like Robin Hood).

Back in 2022, I glanced at my phone and saw the Guardian headlines: Liz Truss (looking fiercer than usual – and that’s quite fierce…) wants to renege on the Irish protocol – she doesn’t seem to care about risking the Good Friday Agreement!!  (Does she understand the Good Friday Agreement?).

There is also an article on the poor and the cost-of-living crisis – and how some families are going to MacDonalds to eat, shower and keep warm. We are reading about this daily. I must remind myself that this is happening in one of the richest countries in the world – although I acknowledge that our country’s economy is visibly on a steep decline….

And again, the images of starving people creep back into my head I realise – this is no dystopian nightmare – it’s our dystopian reality.

I try to get back to sleep, but I can’t. I keep returning to my nightmare.

A little later, I realise that I need to acknowledge that it’s another day, and I need to take the dog for a walk into the woods. After a while, the elephant in my room (the combination of Brexit and this government) becomes a small elephant and I almost forget my worries – but they never completely disappear.

I meet a pleasant woman in the woods with her dog, she’s like minded about the situation and the calamity that is Brexit. Apparently, she has avoided the news for two years because she finds it so stressful and worrying. Editors note : The Book of Brexorcism will help.

When I return from my walk, I discover that my husband is decanting my wardrobe (we must move soon) and his plan is that I take some of my many handbags to charity shops or give them away. Being a man, he has no idea about handbags – it is not his specialist subject. He doesn’t realise -after decades of living with a woman – that women need different handbags in a variety of shades and sizes for various different occasions, even though I don’t have many “occasions” any more these days…

Fortunately, he starts watching the football starts so this annoying birth twin of Marie Kondo is distracted for a couple of hours. Hopefully, prolonged by extra time.

Later I go to bed so that I can rerun my nightmare.

Wednesday 18th May 2022

Is it only Wednesday?

So much has happened in “Car Crash Britain”. Apparently, this government have rejected the proposal for a windfall tax that was suggested by the opposition. Perhaps they want to re-enact the Irish Famine? (Actually, it was really called the Irish Hunger because the Irish were allowed). There are people in the government who are descendants of those who played a key role in the Irish Hunger. This resonates with what’s happening today. Some people in the government are even wearing the costumes dating back from that era…

My husband and I have occupational pensions, in addition to our meagre state pensions (We have one of the worst pensions in the developed world). We know we are luckier than so many… yet here we are, in week three of the month and we have run out of housekeeping. I’ll have to have a rummage in the freezer, but if memory serves me correctly there’s nothing that constitutes a meal.

I’m toying with the idea of watching PMQ’s on catch up but then, can I take the emotional hit?

Perhaps not.

Ok. I did watch it.

It was shambolic. It was even worse than usual. The windfall tax was suggested (again) by Keir Starmer to mitigate the damage of huge fuel rises, but Johnson changed the subject and talked about the trans issue. What has that got to do with the windfall tax? Yet more obfuscation! Most people are focusing on surviving!

People are really suffering, yet this government are giving huge bonuses to people who are already incredibly wealthy.

Why?

Living in these times, in this country, with this government, is worse than I could have ever imagined.

I’m going to bed. In utter despair.

Turn despair into action. Join us at Reboot Britain.

Thursday 20th May 2022

Today the police fined more people who were at parties during lockdown at number ten Downing Street. These numerous fines didn’t include the Prime Minister or the Chancellor. Apparently, they were not at these parties. (I thought that I had seen them on photographs in the press. But I must have been imagining it).

The police say that there will be no further investigations into this.

Meanwhile, in the House of Commons SNP MP Mhairi Black makes a powerful and compelling speech about this government’s march towards fascism.

Are these two events related in any way?

Yes, I believe they are.

I know they are.

Live scenes from lockdown parties – the work of @aidangrooville on twitter

Saturday 21st May 2022

Today I was talking to one of our granddaughters. She goes to a good secondary school, one of our own daughters went there; also, I have friends who are still teaching, and they confirm that this school is one of the best.

I ask her what she is doing in English (this was her best subject in primary school). She tells me that she’s enjoying English Literature, but English language is a drudge because it’s all about grammar. Apparently, or so she tells me, her English lessons are spent chopping up sentences and learning such things as what adverbial clauses are – so she informs me that her enjoyment of English has virtually disappeared. This is a child who in the past, always had her head in a book.

Thank you, Michael Gove.

(Co-incidentally, I heard almost the exact same thing from a neighbour whose son is in year four in a local primary school (an excellent school: I know it well).

I asked her how her French was going… she said “Fine!”

My mother was a French speaker, so I was brought up with “some French”. We were chatting and this bright girl from a supportive, education-valuing family knew frighteningly little. I discussed this with my daughter and told her that at the same stage she and her siblings knew far more than this. As did I.

I realised with a heavy heart that this is, of course, the Tory plan. Drastically reduce spending on education, pay teachers badly so that people don’t stay long in the profession (they can’t afford to), make it more difficult to achieve reasonable grades because the exams have been made more punitive (and no course work components) and the odds are stacked against state school education. Add to that, the eye watering cost of university and the average child should be totally disenfranchised and disadvantaged.

(And I haven’t even mentioned the added negative impact of the cost of living crisis. It could be a problem if children need to eat as well as learn)

I’m more than convinced – to coin a phrase – that this is about creating a two-tier society: a private education for the rich, and a poorly paid alternative that will keep the masses – “the plebs” – in their place. The bonus being that they will be so uninformed and working so hard for a pittance, they will be too exhausted as a result of doing several jobs simply to survive, that they’ll not informed and/or motivated when it comes to voting. They will probably accept what they’re told in the right-wing press and vote against their own interests.

Oh! Hang on! Isn’t that what happened in the 2015, 2019 elections and Brexit?

But still, with underfunding in place, the Tories will hope that this will continue!

A win:win for the Tories.

I should acknowledge that although I disliked Thatcher and her government, I never felt that she wanted to diminish education. Kenneth Baker (although not overly popular at the time) introduced the 16 plus exam, followed by GCSE exams and I thought that this was a very good system. (Both my husband and I have spent all our working lives in education).

Also, Margaret Thatcher, Edward Heath, John Major and Michael Howard were all state school educated. They also didn’t charge university fees. A good move.

This “new dawn” (or is it “Golden Dawn”?) feels very sinister and very depressing.

Sunday 22nd May 2022

I am working hard not to get depressed. Sorry, I mean MORE depressed.

We decided we would try and watch some good television tonight in order to distract ourselves from depressing times; so, we watched “Grace” with John Sims (such a wonderful actor!) although the plot is grim – but, no spoilers here….

However, you can play “Spot the Tory character” (a game all the viewers can play in the comfort of their own home). He’s easy to spot in this programme.

(Maybe it was the cravat?)

He has no empathy and thinks of “poor people” as inferior and unworthy of consideration. His specialist subject is “Otherness”.

To distract ourselves from the miseries of these times, when the credits are being shown at the beginning, there’s an actor called Craig P……….. . We both used to teach a boy who was also called Craig P. Every time his name comes up, I say to my husband

“Craig’s doing really well, isn’t he? Who’d have thought he’d be so successful? And FAMOUS?”

My husband answers and replies that it’s “great news”.

I’m really getting into this surreal situation, so I add…

“How proud are you on a scale of 1 – 10?”

“SO proud. I cannot find the words” is his deadpan response.

But then he says “C, every time we see his name, we have this conversation at least twice every episode and now I feel that Craig has become a fixture in our lives. Can we stop?”

“OK!” I sigh.

(How boring….)

Later, I realise I haven’t read my Sunday paper, but these days it takes real courage to even open the pages.

Am I exaggerating?

No.

BOOK : Changing Minds on Europe and Brexit

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Sunday Bloody Sunday

With or Without EU

In this Irish special we focus on the U2 question posed by Liz Truss “With or Without EU”. It becomes clear that she still hasn’t found what she’s looking for with Brexit.

Sunday Bloody Sunday
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As things continue to become more bizarre by the day in Brexit Britain, we focus on the Irish question in this fake version of The Mail on Sunday.

FACT: Liz Truss is prepared to risk the breakdown of the Good Friday Agreement and 30 years of peace on the island of Ireland to improve her chances of becoming PM. In 2019 the Conservatives said that peace in Northern Ireland and independence for Scotland were prices worth paying to “Get Brexit Done”. One of the few truths they told.

FACT : It was the BRITISH government that signed the Brexit deal which required the border in the sea between Britain and the island of Ireland. Blaming the EU is simply gaslighting. We are a third country and, to quote the Brexiteers we should “Get over it”

FACT : ‘Sir’ David Frost read the deal and then ignored it in order to “Get Brexit Done”. This problem is ENTIRELY of our own Government’s making and Frost’s squirming is pathetic. He’s not even elected.

FACT : Boris Johnson said that a border between Ireland and Britain would only happen over his dead body. We note that he is still alive.

FACT : The majority of people and politicians in Northern Ireland want to keep the Northern Ireland Protocol. Some 70% of people voted for parties that support peace on the island or Ireland.

FACT : ‘Sir’ David Frost is now pretending he was railroaded into signing the deal. The word scum is not bad enough for someone who refuses to own his Brexshit.

FACT : Johnson needs this distraction to ensure people don’t think about unnecessary COVID deaths, Leadership failures via Partygate, the cost of living crisis, Brexit carnage, Levelling down, NI rises, Pension unlocking, killing bees, killing kids by encouraging them to eat more junk food, the list goes on.

FICTION : Whereas Coleen Rooney has not shagged Johnson, Arlene would do anything to restore the troubles to Northern Ireland, including a performance with Dolly Parton if one could be arranged.

Whilst the EU are the adults in the room, they should respond to this childish behaviour by our adapted children in Government.

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NEW BOOK : Changing Minds on Europe and Brexit

Rejoin EU and Brexorcism masterclass 10.30 – 12.00 Saturday 28 May Brighton followed by lunch – Friends Meeting House, BN1 1AF – contact us to book your space

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Electoral Reform

Guest article from Jean-Pierre Feyaerts on electoral reform. In the wake of some seismic changes to the political landscape in Britain it is time to consider this. I’m especially delighted that Reboot Britain contributed to the loss of 10 Tory councillors in Royal Tunbridge Wells and this demonstrates that we can still achieve impact with a faulty electoral system. TEN !!!

We contributed to this result at Reboot Britain along with others

An alternative to the British ‘First-Past-the-Post’ system – A Belgian perspective

People, even in England, are finally starting to see the limitation of the old fashion FPTS electoral system.

In principle that system, especially at the end of the Middle Age and Renaissance made sense when it was very important to safeguard local interests, with a special interest to the financing of wars and more generally the public finances.

With time, the system was regarded as safeguarding rather stable majorities in Parliament, at least for the duration of a legislature and avoid the need to have repeated elections before the end of the said legislature.

One (if not the major) shortcoming of the system is that it provides an over representation of a part of the population. Furthermore, the culture of compromise was replaced by the law of the strongest (with derivation to the spoiling system, like in the USA).

For the British citizen however (and probably more for the English citizen) it remains difficult to accept a proportional system and even more difficult to find an agreement on a type of proportionality (for example as used for the former election of the British members of the European Parliament).

In theory, the elected members of the Parliament (of the House of Commons), are there to represent the citizen of their constituency, not only those who voted for them but any citizen of the constituency, regardless of its preferred party. In practice, they are just the local representative of a doctrine (which use to differ from the manifesto of the party). If this is the case, the approach of one single representative has no more sense.

At least, for an interim period, it does not seem possible to move to the current political system to a political system adapted to the XXIst century (rather than the end of the XIXth – beginning of the XXth) in one stage. UK need at least to adopt a phased approach.

A rather simple one, but not used elsewhere, to my best knowledge, would be to divide the number of constituencies by two and to elect two representatives instead of one. As such, it is easy to understand, does not require too much changes (except grouping the current constituencies by groups of 2[1]).

The difference with the current system is that rather the first past the post, here it would be the two first past the post[2].

This is simple, but it changes a lot for the strategy of the parties and may give more importance to local interests.

British (in particular English) have no tradition and expertise on how to find agreements and compromises and it will take surely more than one legislature to can be accustomed to it, and the same is even more true for the voters! The experience with the Eastern European countries for returning to democracy proves that both categories needs to learn how to behave in such new environment but it cold be easier than the reform proposed in 2011. Britain needs electoral reform. It will be difficult all the while both sides of our binary politics believe they can win, but Thursday’s local elections have disrupted the cosy arrangement.


[1] In real exceptional cases, a constituency with one single representative could be envisaged or a constituency grouping three former ones with eventually, for one legislature, 3 representatives as a transitional measure)

[2] Possibly, this is the case for one or another State of the USA for the Senate election.

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NEW BOOK : Changing Minds on Europe and Brexit

Brexorcism masterclass 7 pm Thursday 05 May via ZOOM

Support our activism via PatreonPaypal or GoFundMe

Read recent articles Sign O The TimesBrief EncounterBrexit and WW IIIDeath of Democracy in UK.

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Europe Day

Europe Day

It’s Europe Day … a brief reminder, lest we forget.

It cost each of us 37 pence a day (or half a Mars bar) to belong to the World’s greatest peace project. I can think of nothing one could buy with 37 pence that would amount to what we got by being part of the EU, faults and all.

Now we left via Brexit, Putin’s plan to create war in Europe continues and our Government plan to restart the troubles in Northern Ireland.

What did we leave for? I’m still waiting for answers beyond mythical notions of freedom. Answers on a postcard.

Click the image to look inside

NEW BOOK : Changing Minds on Europe and Brexit

Brexorcism masterclass 7 pm Thursday 05 May via ZOOM

Support our activism via PatreonPaypal or GoFundMe

Read recent articles Sign O The TimesBrief EncounterBrexit and WW IIIDeath of Democracy in UK.

Download our MUSIC : Rage Against The Brexit Machine

Subscribe to our EU TUBE channel : EU TUBE

Find us on Twitter and Facebook

Footnote : I watched The Killing Fields yesterday afternoon for a reminder of how far we have travelled and just how easy it is to return to a world of violence inspired by ideology.

Brief Encounter

In the last few days I have been practising the gentle art of “brexorcism” on the street whilst campaigning to get the Tories out. These brief encounter stories are examples of what you can expect in my latest book on the subject in the story section. A brexorcism takes time, patience and skill, but these examples demonstrate how such things can be quite brief in some circumstances.

Brief Encounter I

I was late to catch a train from Strood and deposited my bicycle at the barrier to buy a ticket. The staff member had studied my bike which I use to trigger conversations about Brexit. On my return I found I had a few spare minutes as the train was late. Sam began the conversation:

SAM: “I take it you are against Brexit?”

ME: “Er, yes”.

SAM : “I’m afraid I voted for it”.

ME: “Well, people had many reasons”.

SAM: “I doubt you will be able to guess mine”.

ME: Well, let me see, was it the £350 million for the NHS? Maybe the idea of sticking it to Cameron? Or taking back control of our borders? or something else?”

SAM: “None of these – my wife is from the Philippines – she works in the NHS and had to pay £11 000 to get her into the UK. I feel sick as a dog as I now realise that Brexit has not solved this problem”.

ME: Well, I am so impressed that you told me, that is brave”.

SAM: “If I ever get the chance to go back on this decision I will”.

ME: “Thank you so much. I’m working on the case”.

We shook hands and I went on my way. I sense that he wanted to test my reaction to his ‘confessional’ and he was pleased with the result. In the book I show the methodologies behind the conversation. Key to my conversation was the bike which acts as the conversation starter and, of course, what I call UPR or unconditional positive regard in the book.

Conversation starter

Brief Encounter II

On this occasion I was with a group of young people at an open mic jam session (my son’s friends). One of their circle opened up (he knows my views on Brexit but I’d never met him before):

“I’m from Italy but I’ve lived here for about 10 years. I’ll be brutally honest. I don’t give a fuck about anyone else. Why should I? I’m 23 and all I care about is earning a big pile of cash and having a life”.

I decided to offer lots of UPR by saying that I understood why he would think like that at his age. He admitted that he might think differently if he had kids (his girlfriend was with him – from her body language, I detected that she did not fully agree with him about his self centred view of life).

ME: “I completely understand your viewpoint. We adults have ruined the planet but I personally have not given up on planet earth”.

I then showed them this video below, explaining that this was why I continue to give a fuck about my fellow citizens, regardless of their viewpoints. It made a deep impact, especially on his girlfriend. I considered that this was enough as our first brief encounter and left them to consider what I’d said. Sometimes Brexorcisms needed to be left unfinished to allow for a period of reflection … The other important factor in this interaction was the social nature of the dialogue. He had 3 of his peer group sitting at the table. Peer pressure is more important than hierarchy in social herds.

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NEW BOOK : Changing Minds on Europe and Brexit

Brexorcism masterclass 7 pm Thursday 05 May via ZOOM

Support our activism via PatreonPaypal or GoFundMe

Read recent articles Sign O The TimesTory HubBrexit and WW IIIDeath of Democracy in UK.

Download our MUSIC : Rage Against The Brexit Machine

Subscribe to our EU TUBE channel : EU TUBE

Find us on Twitter and Facebook