Opinion & Analysis – Targeting the ‘brexit bull’ in Elmbridge

By ‘Sam Vete’ – 12 March 2018
How does brexit affect Elmbridge? And how can Elmbridge voters help to avoid the potentially disastrous outcome of the devious brexit strategy?
Elmbridge is heavily Tory but, despite the glib rhetoric of brexit’s chief standard bearer, local MP Dominic Raab, we voted strongly to remain in the EU. Pro-EU Elmbridge residents realised that what was caricatured as ‘Project Fear’ was well-founded caution. The Government went ahead and fired the Article 50 bullet regardless of the predictable collateral damage.
Contrary to Eurosceptic pre-referendum boasts, because the brextremists’ are fixated with leaving the single market and the customs union, many businesses have already announced intentions to relocate and remain within the EU.
City jobs, particularly in the financial and scientific sectors, are at risk and the impact will be significant. Elmbridge will be one of the suburban commuting areas affected. There are also the city’s support occupations to consider; transport, administration, event management, and hospitality will suffer a knock-on effect, with Elmbridge based foot-soldiers caught in the cross-fire.
Many Elmbridge families rely on domestic support staff. EU immigrants will no longer be the source of qualified applicants. The rate of applications has already fallen.
Qualified dental, medical and care staff similarly are moving back to EU member states, increasing the strain on the NHS as well as the cost of private services. This affects the centres of excellence in Elmbridge and peripheral areas Guildford and Kingston-upon-Thames on which the Elmbridge community depends.
Travel practices will be rolled back decades. With the high living standards in Elmbridge, the once familiar short break to Bruges, Paris, Prague, Tenerife or Dublin etc. will be a distant memory. With unpredictable queuing times at customs and passport control, one BBC report expects queues of up to 29 miles on Chunnel access routes. What an incentive for a ‘staycation’ in a traffic queue on the M25!
Biting the bullet?
What can Elmbridge residents do to potentially affect the rake’s progress of brexit. Well, to all politicians, votes matter; local votes on May 3rd will translate into national trends.
Labour pro-EU voters can give their hard-brexiter leadership a much-needed close shave by voting for a pro-EU party.
Pro-EU Tory voters need to show their metal and demonstrate strong disapproval by voting for a pro-EU candidate. The Tory Eurosceptic grandees will downplay any local losses but behind the scenes they will be panicking.
Raab’s seat is one of the safest in the country and he is brexit’s ‘Golden Boy’. A significant local protest vote will force Tory HQ to take notice. Every anti-brexit vote will contribute to the fog-of-war surrounding the brexit folly. Every vote counts, so let yours help to deflect the ‘brexit bullet’!

Opinion & Analysis – The Entertaining Mr. Raab – “streamlining the planning laws”?

By ‘Sam Vete’ – 25 February 2018
It is always entertaining to speculate on what politicians mean when they borrow a word from engineering as a euphemism for their ambiguous pronouncements.
‘Robust’ in engineering or in your garden means well-built, sturdy. When politicians meet, it means they were diplomatically ‘tooth and claw’ at odds with each other. An ‘echo chamber’ is a room designed to measure sound clarity, but in politics it is a weapon for bombarding an audience with propaganda from all directions or a platform where people are just not listening to the other side.
So, what does Mr. Raab mean by ‘streamlining’? He said: “You certainly want to make sure that your green belt spaces are protected and preserved but at the same time we want to make sure the planning application process is more streamlined and effective …”! Hang on? If we protect and preserve green belt, then planning would not be relevant to existing green spaces; sacrosanct. Two completely disconnected objectives are dubiously and suspiciously connected by him.
‘Streamlining’, in engineering, involves rounding-off corners and removing air flow obstructions, converting power to speed more efficiently. In politics it is usually a method of removing transparency rather than making a process more efficient. Dominic’s juxtaposing these in one breath makes one wonder whether ‘streamlining’ will challenge (euphemism) the protection and preservation of green belt instead of providing a sturdy, robust defence.
The public deserve the right to proactively protect their environment. If ‘streamling’ the process by which developers and planners convert authority into action removes accountability and due diligence, well that would be a euphemistic solution too far, Mr. Raab!
Dominic’s words are an entertaining aspirational rhetoric but empty. Flesh it out, but let’s have something a little less vacuous than “streamlining means streamlining” … please!

Opinion & Analysis – Whatever happened to the Conservative party? by Anthony Sheppard

You used to know where you were with the Conservatives, even if you didn’t support them. They had cordial – some would say cosy – relations with the City, with the CBI, the Institute of Directors. There was a kind of assumption that what was good for business was good for the British economy and that prosperity would somehow trickle down to the rest of us. A lot of us had serious reservations about the social implications of this, but it made some kind of sense in an increasingly globalised capitalist economy.
But since the vote for Brexit, large sections of the Conservative Party seem determined to throw all this over, turning their back on the City of London, stonewalling the CBI’s pleas for certainty over immigration policy in respect of skill shortages and ignoring the anxieties of sectors like the car industry about how ‘Just in Time’ trans-European supply chains will work if Britain leaves the Single Market and/or Customs Union. Industry and commerce can, it seems, be sacrificed on the altar of Sovereignty: the vision of a sovereign Britain, untrammeled by foreign interference in our judicial processes, trade arrangements (except when it suits us to benefit from EU regulations) or immigration policy. This is a thoroughly 19th century view of the nation state, at odds with the highly connected world we all now inhabit.
And how is Britain to survive economically when deprived of the benefits of EU membership? We are promised innovative Free Trade agreements with the Premier League economies. The question needs to be asked, ‘Can Britain do better alone, negotiating with the likes of China and the USA, than a bloc of 28 European nations?’ What does Britain bring to the table on its own? If we are not in the EEA, what incentive will there be for inward investment in a Britain that is no longer an open gateway to Europe?
These New Conservatives would have us chasing the leprechauns’ gold! Continue reading

Welcome to Liberal Exchange with Ed Davey MP on Wednesday 21st February 8pm at Claygate Day Centre

Ed Davey MP for Kingston and Surbiton will be the guest speaker in the next Liberal Exchange at Claygate Day Centre, Elm Road, Claygate KT10 0EH on Wednesday 21st February 2018 at 8pm.

In his speech Ed will address the latest turns in Brexit negotiations, negative impacts Brexit is already having in our area, the government’s lack of negotiation strategy and vision, the problems Brexit is creating whilst it sucks all energy from other aspects of government, deepening crises in education, social care, NHS and provision of social benefits. Ed’s speech is followed by Q & A.

Liberal Exchange is a public forum for discussions about current political matters, organised by Elmbridge Liberal Democrats. All are welcome and invited to put their questions to the speaker.

Vince Cable on Brexit in Elmbridge 30th November

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable MP will be the speaker in Liberal Exchange at Claygate Village Hall, Church Street, Claygate KT10 0JP – on Thursday, 30th November at 7.30pm – and you and your friends are warmly welcome.
Sir Vince will put a strong economic and political case for remaining in the EU and argue why the final decision on whether we should remain a member in the EU on current terms or accept the ‘deal’ negotiated by Theresa May’s government, should be given to the people. He calls such a vote ‘the first referendum on facts’, because the 2016 referendum was based on falsehoods and fraudulent promises.
In December the European Union will confirm whether it is ready to move the Brexit negotiations to talks about trade. Sir Vince will explore the implications of this critical decision with the audience as well as evaluate the overall state of Britain’s negotiation approach and process.
Liberal Exchange is organised by Elmbridge Liberal Democrats and it is an open public forum for discussions about current political priorities. All are welcome and invited to put their questions to the speaker.

9,450 new homes – what’s your view?

Elmbridge’s Green Belt is under threat from the national government.  It tells the public that it will protect the Green Belt, but privately Westminster puts pressure on local government saying that boroughs must, from 2018, release the Green Belt for housing development if their local plan is older than 2012.

Elmbridge’s local plan was published in 2011 so it cannot be used to protect the Green Belt after 2018 unless a new plan is produced. Also the national government has said that Elmbridge must build 9,450 houses by 2035.  The new plan must show where these new houses will be built, and if not, the national government will step in.

The borough has four basic options: do nothing and the national government will take over; object to the figure of 9,450 which Elmbridge is currently doing; allow developers to build up in certain places or locate areas of the Green Belt where specific development can take place. Building high is also a consideration.

Your opinion counts – give your option here and for background here

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 Conservative 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!