Could Richmond Park be repeated in Elmbridge?

sarah-olneyZac Goldsmith resigned as MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston because of his opposition to the planned third runway at Heathrow. But he was ultimately ousted in the by-election by the largely ‘remain’ electorate for his uncompromising stance as a ‘hard Brexiter’. The Lib Dem candidate Sarah Olney won the seat having gained support not just from Lib Dem voters, but also from a large number of pro-Europe Tories and Labour supporters in the constituency.
Could the same happen in Elmbridge? Disappointingly our MP Dominic Raab does not represent our views on Europe, after all 60% of us in the constituency are pro remain. Add to that his staunchly pro-Heathrow expansion stand and he is even less ‘our man’ in Parliament.
There are interesting indications of growing unhappiness in Elmbridge about this state of affairs. People are perturbed by the indifference Mr Raab is showing toward the majority’s views whilst promoting visions of ‘a paradise’ outside the EU. His widely publicised opposition to Parliamentary scrutiny is also puzzling for any democrat.
As the local Liberal Democrat party we have seen increasing numbers of now ex Tory (and Labour) supporters approach us with the question ‘can we not come together as a progressive force to ensure that our views are more fairly represented?’ It is heartening to note that pro-European citizens have not been silenced by the mis-representations and intimidation that emanate from the hard-Brexit camp. So our response is ‘yes, let’s work together’.

Should Dominic Raab MP resign?

european-union-flag-1024x7681Last Thursday (27 October) Dominic Raab MP held a meeting for local residents in Claygate. With 60% of his constituents having voted ‘remain’ in the June referendum the audience was keen to hear whether Mr Raab would have a reassuring message to offer. This was not the case and one audience member asked Mr Raab if it was a matter of honour for him to resign as he does not represent his constituents’ views fairly. Here are some audience reactions after the event:

  • Mr Raab, you made rather light of the roughly 20% drop in the pound. While this has some compensations in making British industry more competitive, if as seems likely it persists, it will have the inevitable result of boosting inflation probably into the 3-4% area for several years, which will erode British living standards. These things tend not to strike home right away, but over time a drop in the value of the currency gets reflected in the purchasing power of ordinary people.
  • You do not believe the British parliament will be able to veto the Article 50 submission, scrutinise yes, but no veto. This leaves the future of our country in a very narrow set of hands from within parliament!
  • You were keenly focussed on today’s data…. GDP (better than expected), the FTSE (highs), inflation (just 1%). But made no recognition of the future… inflation is clearly on the rise, hiring intentions are falling, and the FTSE is so high because the international earnings are translating into more pounds.
  • Mr Raab, your dismissive attitude to people who oppose you, your ideological fanaticism focusing on ‘deals’ and increasing tendency to play the man not the ball have stiffened my resolve to continue the fight. I was encouraged by the lack of substantive contributions made by your ‘fan club’…just a series of braying noises on cue when an opponent dared to challenge their hero, which sadly led you to go on repeating ‘the truth is..!
  • I was uncomfortable with the way you slyly used your supporters against your critics. You were  happy to mock people opposed to your views and used emotive language when talking about refugees – on the one hand using numbers of Syrian children into this country to show some mock humanitarian gesture – you in fact voted AGAINST the children coming here.
  • You just did not take seriously any of the ordinary mothers’ concerns about the future opportunities for their children after Brexit. Neither did you for that matter consider it worth while to consider what is already happening in small and medium sized business – layoffs throughout the supply chain.
  • On the day when the Banking Association told us that some banks are planning to re-locate as early as December you were cock-sure they would not have any place in Europe to go to.
  • You also stated that a good deal was likely because it would be in the economic interest of both Britain and EU countries to have one. I suggest that you are being naïve in the extreme. The western world these is days is riddled with anti-trade, anti-globalisation, protectionist sentiment. These elements are essentially irrational and unable to properly assess such self-interest and are likely to have their way irrespective of the economic self-interest that perhaps more reasonable people might perceive.
  • By the same token the ‘spite’ that you referred to could also easily prevail. History suggests that human being very often take decisions for reasons such as national pride, religious allegiance and many others that have nothing to do with economics. In my view the decision made in the recent Brexit referendum is itself an example of just such a tendency.
  • You also glossed over the potential challenges of the UK joining the WTO. Although Roberto Azevêdo the current director general does not see a problem with it does not alter the fact unanimous approval is required may delay matters and the UK may need to jump through hoops and make messy compromises in order to eventually achieve membership.
  • Could you possibly avoid repeating “the truth is…”, when it is not a truth.
  • May I suggest you should tone down your remarks about the strength of the economy. I predict yesterday’s growth figures will be revised downwards in due course and we will remind you of your optimism if this is the case. You brushed off a 20% devaluation, which in earlier generations would have seen a government fall.
  • You mentioned Glaxo’s increase in profits as evidence. They are of course higher as its revenues are in foreign currency and the pound goes down 20%. That does not show a strong economy; it just demonstrates that Glaxo is a good hedge against sterling.
  • You also brushed off questions about what you would do, if the government fails to achieve the optimistic Brexit you outlined. You should seriously consider what interim arrangements could be put in place once the two-year article 50 time is up to cover Britain until permanent arrangements can be agreed.
  • You talked up worse case scenario being WTO rules and the EU external tariff as “not that bad and potentially more advantageous than we have now”. You are completely blind to the rhetoric coming from EU leaders, such as Francois Holland, saying that Britain will need to pay the price for leaving the EU. How do you think that means we’ll have a better trading relationship with the EU than we do now?
  • You repeated the Brexit line that the EU needs trade with us more than we need trade with them (German cars.. etc) but that has widely been dismissed in Europe as nonsense. We represent about 9% of German car exports so yes they will feel pain over Brexit, but they aren’t going to sacrifice the four EU principles over that. The EU takes something like 45% of our total exports so they hold all the cards in this negotiation.
  • Please don’t forget that people in Elmbridge did not vote for Brexit and the country did not vote to become poorer. Whenever you mention trade, also mention services. That is how Elmbridge mainly earns its living.

Fighting hate crime

Mary MarshallProposed by Liberal Democrat councillor Mary Marshall, Elmbridge Borough Council passed the motion below at its meeting on 20 July 2016:

“We are proud to live in a diverse and tolerant society. Racism, xenophobia and hate crimes have no place in our country. We, Elmbridge Borough Council, condemn racism, xenophobia and hate crimes unequivocally. We will not allow hate to become acceptable.

“Elmbridge Borough Council will work to ensure local bodies and programmes have the support and resources needed to fight and prevent racism and xenophobia. We reassure all people living in Elmbridge that they are valued members of our community.”

Elmbridge has a long established history of promoting and developing a robust Equality and Diversity agenda. It was the first Borough in Surrey to set up a borough-based Equality and Diversity Forum in 2007, which comprises representatives from statutory, voluntary, community and faith sector organisations as well as individuals with an interest in equality and diversity issues in Elmbridge.

The forum remit covers all areas where inequality and discrimination may exist and includes older people, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, sexual orientation and transgender identity, as well as other broader equality issues. Its mission statement is “to promote equality, celebrate diversity and support good relations in Elmbridge”.

Will Britain survive Brexit? Join the next Liberal Exchange.

key_tom_brakeIn last June’s referendum 60% of Elmbridge voted to ‘remain’ in the EU. This contrasts starkly with the position of our local Tory MP as a hard Brexiter, which does not allow for our pro-European views to be represented democratically in Parliament.

Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake will lead the discussion in the next Liberal Exchange about Britain’s economic and cultural challenges brought on by what threatens to become a ‘hard Brexit’. This event is open to all and will take place on Thursday 10 November 2016 at 7.30pm at Holy Trinity Church Hall, Church Road, Claygate.

Organised by Elmbridge Liberal Democrats the event offers increasingly anxious citizens an opportunity to air their concerns about the negative impact of Brexit on our country and our families’ lives going forward.

The focus will be on the many uncertainties brought about by the Tory government’s risky approach to exit-negotiations. For this reason the Liberal Democrats are pressing the unwilling Theresa May to give the nation and its representatives in Parliament the final say in settling the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU.

All are welcome!

Tribute to ex-councillor Jimmy Cartwright

Ex-councillor Jimmy Cartwright passed on Monday 25 July in East Whittering. Representing the Claygate ward he served many years as Liberal Democrat councillor in Elmbridge Borough Council until 2013, when he retired at the age of 81 and moved to West Sussex. As a tribute to Jimmy we re-publish an interview with him and his wife Audrey from the April 2013 issue of Focus.

Jimmy Cartwright resigns from Elmridge Council – by-election in May 2013

A long-serving Claygate Councillor Jimmy Cartwright has decided to ‘retire from active service’ at the mature age of 81. He has resigned from Elmbridge Borough Council and
this triggered a by-election as his term runs into 2014. The Liberal Democrats have selected Mary Marshall of Holroyd Road, Claygate as their candidate in the forthcoming May elections, hoping to hold on to the seat vacated by Jimmy.

The Focus team visited Jimmy and his wife Audrey as they prepare to re-locate to their new home in West Sussex. Copious cups of tea and delicious cakes inspired a memory-laden fire-side chat with the cheerful couple.

There was a time when Jimmy Cartwright, as the local area manager for Wall’s, used to witness his salesman pick up orders for meat pies, pasties, bacon and pork sausages from eleven (yes you heard right!) different grocery stores in Claygate. Well into the 60‘s the village was still a haven for small stores littered around the village and where people were served over the counter. “Social life and meeting your neighbours in those days revolved around getting your daily shop locally, that’s how important news were exchanged and village affairs were discussed”, Jimmy comments.

“There were no refrigerators either so the stock turnover had to be swift” says Jimmy when looking back at his long and happy career with food manufacturers, and at the different pace of life in the village. Jimmy’s patch as Wall’s area manager was Surrey, but his home base was in Claygate. And so it has remained to this day. In the intervening years Jimmy has witnessed the growth of Claygate into a ‘small town with a friendly village atmosphere’ and a total transformation of grocery retailing.

With his sales experience and the knowledge of the local commercial scene, it was no wonder that in later life Jimmy got involved in running village affairs in the Parish Council. But before retiring fully Jimmy also served a number of years as a bursar in a Molesey school. “I wasn’t ready to rest on my laurels after a busy and rewarding career in a sales role, so I decided to apply for this position in a school. It got me involved in the community from the educational side.”

One thing rapidly followed another and Jimmy was elected a Liberal Democrat Councillor in 2002, representing the Claygate ward in Elmbridge Borough Council. “It’s been very rewarding and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Speaking on behalf of your community is really more about being an alert and active neighbour than politics as such. After all these years you get to know the people in the village and they know you, so serving as a councillor comes naturally.”

Jimmy’s father ran a grocery business in Kingston, which had an influence on his later career choice. But it was Audrey, his future wife, who drew young Jimmy’s attentions to Claygate. Her family lived in Hare Lane and Audrey’s responsibilities in the family home included mucking out in the stables with 15 beautiful horses. “We had a riding school and I had my very own Lad, a handsome thoroughbred stallion. I think Jimmy first fell in love seeing me mount Lad and looking the part,” Audrey giggles.

The young couple move to their first home together in Meadow Road and subsequently to Rosehill, but later took up residence at Audrey’s family home in Hare Lane where they have remained ever since. “This has been our ‘happy castle‘ for many years and we’ve enjoyed being in the centre of action in the village. The horses have long since gone, but wonderful memories remain,” tells Audrey.

A while ago Jimmy and Audrey decided that in their senior years it was time to embark on ‘a project to explore the world‘. So they started looking for a new home in West Sussex, by the sea. They eventually found just the ideal one in East Whittering, near where Jimmy’s younger brother already lives. Although Jimmy still had a year left of his term as a councillor, he decided that now is the right time to move and handed in his resignation to Elmbridge Council.

“As a councillor I have always believed that the best way to get things done is to talk quietly and personally with everybody – including those who opposed my ideas or perspective on things. Grandstanding or aggression was never for me,” Jimmy analyses his approach in Council work.

Surrey By Election

Leatherhead North 2016
Since the referendum there has been an upswing in support for the pro-European Liberal Democrat Party.  Membership in Elmbridge is soaring and in Mole Valley the Liberal Democrats have one a dramatic victory with very high swing of 23%.  All other parties lost support.

Unlike Britain as a whole, Elmbridge was for Remain as was Surrey and South-East England.

Never you tell ’em a lie!

BabyThe English have not been listened to for too long and eventually they lashed out. Unfortunately, in this referendum, they threw the baby out with the bath water.  Or more exactly, they have thrown the baby out but have ended up with the bathwater still in the bath.

Understandably, many on our island feel unconnected to the decision making around them and that they have been ignored by “those in power”.  In my view, the problem lay much more with the government of Britain rather than of Europe.  Mainly, but not exclusively, because Westminster MPs often use “Europe” to blame for unpopular or unwise decisions at home.  Treat people badly for long enough and they will rise up.

It reminds me of a poem that my father read to me when I was a kid and I, in turn, read to my children.

“My son,” said the Norman Baron, “I am dying, and you will be heir
To all the broad acres in England that William gave me for share
When he conquered the Saxon at Hastings, and a nice little handful it is.
But before you go over to rule it I want you to understand this:–

“The Saxon is not like us Normans. His manners are not so polite.
But he never means anything serious till he talks about justice and right.
When he stands like an ox in the furrow – with his sullen set eyes on your own,
And grumbles, ‘This isn’t fair dealing,’ my son, leave the Saxon alone.

“You can horsewhip your Gascony archers, or torture your Picardy spears;
But don’t try that game on the Saxon; you’ll have the whole brood round your ears.
From the richest old Thane in the county to the poorest chained serf in the field,
They’ll be at you and on you like hornets, and, if you are wise, you will yield.

“But first you must master their language, their dialect, proverbs and songs.
Don’t trust any clerk to interpret when they come with the tale of their wrongs.
Let them know that you know what they’re saying; let them feel that you know what to say.
Yes, even when you want to go hunting, hear ’em out if it takes you all day.

They’ll drink every hour of the daylight and poach every hour of the dark.
It’s the sport not the rabbits they’re after (we’ve plenty of game in the park).
Don’t hang them or cut off their fingers. That’s wasteful as well as unkind,
For a hard-bitten, South-country poacher makes the best man-at-arms you can find.

“Appear with your wife and the children at their weddings and funerals and feasts.
Be polite but not friendly to Bishops; be good to all poor parish priests.
Say ‘we,’ ‘us’ and ‘ours’ when you’re talking, instead of ‘you fellows’ and ‘I.’
Don’t ride over seeds; keep your temper; and never you tell ’em a lie!”

We live in interesting times.

European Democracy

european-union-flag-1024x7681Brexiters have a constant refrain that we need our democracy back.  It is true that democracy means different things to different people but I would contend that there is a general consensus that laws must be passed by a representative body and that those representatives must be replaceable at elections.

Democracy
No European law can be passed without the consent of the European parliament. The lower house of that parliament is elected directly by the people of Europe.  Indeed it is more representative of the European people than the British government is in representing the British.  Members of the upper house of Europe are appointed by their respective governments – not as democratic as it should be – but better than the British upper house of Lords which is simply appointed by our Prime Minister alongside people who got there simply by birth.  So Europe is democratic.

Of course the more astute Brexiters might well say that okay Europe is democratic but we  British are out-voted all the time by the other Europeans because there are 64m of us and 444m of them.  This is true.  However, Britain votes on the winning side 87% of the time – not 100% – but far greater than your chance of electing the government of your choice in Britain which currently is stands at 37% (or 24% depending on your point of view).  Britain has greater sway in Europe than you do in electing your British government.  In fact, over twice the sway – pretty good odds if you ask me.

Brexiters say – but we want 100% and 87% is not good enough.  Hang on – who is the we? Here in Elmbridge we recently voted for a new administration which is not Conservative. Yet we are still governed by a Conservative administration in Surrey.  Do the people of Elmbridge suddenly claim that we fear being swapped by the rest of Surrey?  Surrey has continually elected Conservative administrations for over century yet Britain has, on many occasion, been run by the Labour party.  Does Surrey aim for Sexit?  Leaving because you do not like the wider view is a possible decision.  But if we are intent to apply this idea in relation to Britain and Europe why not equally apply to England and Britain or Surrey and England or Elmbridge and Surrey?  Would we, the people of Elmbridge, leave Britain because we are often outvoted by the rest of the island? Of course not.  There is no consistency to it – the “we” argument does not cut it.

Getting rid of the Government
Except in the recent Elmbridge elections we can only vote for a third of the councillors each year.  It can take a number of years to change administrations. In some ways this is a good thing because the public mood at the time of a particular election would not overly affect the administration.  In any case there is a debate to be had.  Surrey has a general election every four years, Britain and Europe every five years.

Just as the people of Surrey can remove their government  – though choose not to – the people of Britain and the people of Europe can get rid of theirs.  In 2014 Europeans had the chance of removing the majority administration but did not do so.  In 2015 the British had a chance to change their government and chose to do so.  It’s up to the people.

In Europe the Conservative Party (74 MPs) and UKIP (46 MPs) are in opposition and the Labour party (190 MPs) and the Liberal Party (70 MPs) are in government.  Perhaps that’s why UKIP and so many British Conservative MPs want to leave.  Who knows?

Trade deals and the Single Market

With all of the talk of trade deals in and out of Europe in recent weeks I have not seen a article that clarifies the difference between a single market and a trade deal.  Comparing the two as if they were similar confuses the issue.  The difference is vast – not so much comparing apples and pears but apples and a combine harvester.

Trade Deal
A trade deal is an agreement between two countries where they lower their import and export duties and other tariff barriers to trade.  These negotiations can take many years to conclude and on occasion they can be agreed very swiftly.  They can cover one industry or a range of industries but they are rarely comprehensive.  There are gains to both parties to the trade deal but usually the bigger partner gains most as they can bargain harder.  Britain would be at a disadvantage because three quarters of the world’s trade is undertaken by countries that are bigger than Britain – and in some cases much bigger. Those deals would be worst for us than if the much larger Europe negotiated on our behalf.

Free Trade Area
This is where a number of countries reduce or (rarely) eliminate their customs and tariffs between themselves.  Their tariffs on trade with other countries is not aligned – each country trades with third parties as they like.  There are a number of these across the world some more successful than others.  Britain was once a member of EFTA – the European Free Trade Area.  The tariffs between the members were agreed but the tariffs to other countries was set by each member state.  A television imported into Britain from Japan could have a different tariff from that imported from Japan into Austria.

Customs Union
This an extension to a free trade area in that both the internal tariffs and external tariffs are aligned.  This was the basis of the of the European Common Market.  A television imported into Britain from Japan would have the same tariff as that imported from Japan into Austria.  A customs union was only considered a foundation position for Europe as it was always intended that we would have a single market eventually.  Although it was Margaret Thatcher that campaigned to push  it though.

Single Market
A single market is not only where the internal and external customs, controls and tariffs are the same across the area but also all the rules governing trade are the same.  Unlike the other arrangements, a single market provides dramatically greater benefits because the others only provide the reduction – usually only partial  – of tariff barriers.  So that exporters will still need to provide differently specified goods and services for each individual market. In the single market what can be sold at home can be sold throughout the single market without any change.  In our case, it give us access to the world’s biggest free market.

Size of Economy-01The chart shows the top ten economies in the world. They are ranked in purchasing power parity order: China, Europe, America, India, Japan, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico and Korea.  If Britain was not part of the single market then it would be the ninth largest market in the world (one hundred years ago we were top). Still impressive being ninth but it does not matter how many trade deals we agree or how many free trade areas we join we would still be in ninth position.

When Scotland joined England in 1707 it entered the largest single market in the world – only to be overtaken by America between the wars. If Britain leaves the single market Scotland might choose to leave Britain and remain in Europe along with Northern Ireland and Wales.  England would still be the ninth largest market in the world but the rest of Britain and Ireland would be in the largest single market.