Our role is to represent the community in the Town Hall not t’other way round

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When politicans get sponsorship from private companies you need to ask do they serve that company or the public!

Two things have made me ponder over the past few days about the nature of community politics. In some ways this should not be a surprise because I represent the ward where the modern notion of community politics was invented. It was in Church Ward at the end of the 60s where the late Sir Trevor Jones put together the principles of community empowerment with the marketing techniques he successfully used to develop a leading ships chandlers business in Liverpool.

Put simply I believe that it is our job to represent the people in the Town Hall and not to represent the Town Hall in the community. At the end of the day the City of Liverpool belongs to the people of Liverpool. Councillors (even old hacks like me) are short term custodians of the City using the power of the people that has been lent to us by the ballot box.

I have particularly felt that in the past few days over the issue of the sale of part of Calderstones Park to Redrow. It is now becoming increasingly clear that this is part of an elaborate charade being conducted by the council to enable Redrow to develop not only the Calderstones Park area but also the Allerton Priory area. I remember that at the planning committee which considered Allerton Priory Redrow did not even turn up. The council rightly put forward objections into the application based on heritage, traffic, environmental and animal issues. The planning committee did the right thing.

Redrow have now appealed against this decision but interestingly have made it clear that they will not, as would normally happen, pursue the council for costs if they are successful. Of course at the other end of the South Liverpool green wedge the planning committee took the alternative decision. Although the heritage, environmental, traffic and animal issues are even clearer in Calderstones than Allerton Priory. Here Redrow turned up; did not themselves speak but allowed an agent to make a poor presentation on their behalf.

I can only assume that they knew that the council would grant permission on Caldies and therefore felt they had no need to pursue Allerton Priory hard because they knew that granting of the planning permission at Caldies would hugely damage the chance of winning the appeal on the Priory. Let’s not forget that according to the Mayor’s own website Redrow were silver sponsors at a fund raising event that he held in 2015.

The people of Church; Woolton and Allerton Wards are well aware of the issues around here. Yesterday I had a reception like no other that I can recall in all my years as a councillor. People were literally queuing at our Advice Centre to pledge support for a continued campaign to stop Redrow. I was delivering leaflets later in the day. People were shouting “Good luck and Keep up the Good work” as I progressed through the area. I felt strongly that I was amongst friends; amongst a community that I am proud to represent and that there was a strong level of trust between me as a councillor and my constituents.

I do not, by any means always agree with everything that my constituents want. I recognise that in our City there are areas in far greater need than the ward that I represent. On that basis I do not always press for things that my constituents want. They are not always happy with this. However, when I cannot deliver what my constituents want I feel obliged to tell them why.

The way I think of my constituents and democracy was brought into sharp relief by the actions of a nearby inexperienced and frankly naive Labour Councillor. After the Caldies vote one of my constituents wrote to all the 5 local labour councillors to say that they thought the people of the area around the Park in those wards would never vote Labour again. That councillor e-mailed back because they felt that they had been threatened by the contents of the very mildly written e-mail. The councillor has also complained to the council about the resident’s e-mail!

Well I don’t expect my constituents to always agree with what I do or say. The whole concept of democracy is that electors as a whole look at what every candidate does or says and then chooses between all the names on the ballot paper. If Labour are going to burst into tears every time a S Liverpool residents tells them they will never vote Labour again, at least at local elections, because of the Calderstones position taken by their Party they will need to order paper hankies in bulk!

Community politics is a complex issue because there are many different types of it. What I have described above is just one version of community politics although the one closest to my heart!

There is Politics in the Community. When we go and ask people to vote at any level we are asking them to vote on big picture issues; strategies and policies that affect them we are asking them to look at hard level politics.

There is the politics of the community. Not all communities are homogenous. Often different groups and different geographical parts of areas will have different views on big and small issues. This will often be true on matters such as planning where there is a different viewpoint between those who will be closely affected by a decision and those that live further away who will not be so affected.

All of these are important as is the carry through into the council chamber. I always vote with my conscience on what I believe to be the best long term proposals for my city and my constituents even if, as I explain above, not all of them agree with me. I have never been whipped to vote for a particular decision. In the course of 34 years as a councillor I have voted against the Group line on about a dozen occasions. Never, of course, on matters of liberal principle. There was never a comeback against me because that is what my Party expects. People from other Parties sometimes laugh at us if we vote differently. We laugh at them when they vote the same although some of them don’t believe in what they are voting for.

I am glad that so many of the people I represent and those in surrounding communities see me and my 3 councillor colleagues not as some remote politician but as someone who they know well; see regularly in the community and consider us as their friends and neighbours.

In May 2018 our communities and the Lib Dems will have more friends inside the council chamber. We will take back the city street by street, community by community and ward by ward. We will re-establish our Council and our City not as a place of cronyism and deals but a place of transparency where it is the will of the people that will prevail and note the narrow interests of a political elite.

 

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The Three Fundamental Deceits about Calderstones Park

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Some of the 300 respectable ladies and gents who were described as a screaming mob when they dared to protest about the Mayor’s plans to build on part of Calderstones Park

Today the council’s planning committee met to consider the development of part of Calderstones Park by Redrow. As expected the planning committee gave its consent. As predicted the committee voted for the application by 5 votes to 1 with only the one Lib Dem, Cllr Malcolm Kelly voting against. All your Lib Dem councillors spoke in the debate and made the same points as 23 other objectors.

300 demonstrators turned out at the site meeting. Later they were described as a screaming, howling mob by Labour councillor Tony Concepcion. When a Labour member pointed out that he was both a Labour member and a professional urban design consultant and was appalled by what he saw he was told not be political! 60 demonstrators came to the Town Hall and most of them stayed to the bitter end. Most of them were not impressed by their first contact with what passes for democracy in the Town Hall!!

This decision not only will have major effects on Calderstones Park but will also very much weaken the council’s case regarding Allerton Priory. This application is in the same green wedge that Caldies is in. The cynical would say that this was always the council’s plan. Pretend to support residents in Allerton in the full knowledge that Redrow would get their way when the council gave permission at the other end of the green wedge. I cannot work out whether or not the Labour councillors for Allerton are cynical or totally ill informed. I’ll leave judgement on both matters to you!

There were three things that are quite clear from any objective review of the facts:

  1. This is parkland.

It was bought as an addition to the Calderstones Park in 1913

It was officially opened as part of the park in 10914

Had a depot, which is part of the application, which was the Park’s depot and is entirely surrounded by the Park (incidentally it was where the council’s world famous orchid collection was housed until Militant destroyed it)

Most of the site has had free access by the public since 1914

The model railway is described by the council’s own website as being in Calderstones Park

The council has recognised the Friends of Harthill & Calderstones Park for 38 years

There was one maintenance contract for the whole of the Park including the application sites

Redrow know this because I was able to talk about documents that they have submitted to the council where they labelled the depot as being in Calderstones Park. They asked the council to put up notices to say this was private land to prevent a village green application on the site. Of course the council did not do this and a village green application is already in.

But more importantly than all that there is the feeling of local people. They have always described that area as being part of the Park. They have used it as part of the park. They have taken part in activities on all three venues on the site which have been run in the interests of the community and not for personal or commercial profit.

  1. This development is dangerous because of huge traffic problems

The head teacher of Calderstones School is so concerned about the dangers of traffic that he has written to 1,500 parents expressing his concerns.

Cllr Nick Small, the Assistant Mayor is concerned. 18 months ago the 3 Church Ward councillors were summoned to site meetings with him to look at the dangers to Calderstones students. As a result of that junction improvements were made. The two major junctions on Menlove Avenue and Mather Avenue where school traffic enters the main system have been identified as priority junctions but of such a scale that no progress in making the major changes needed is possible in the short to medium terms at either of them.

Residents are concerned. Narrow pavements often partly covered by parked cars cause them to walk in the road on a dangerous blind curve on a daily basis.

At school going in and going out times these roads are dreadful. The worst that I have seen in the city and this application will add to the difficulties. A video was presented which showed just how bad the traffic was at chucking out time on 25th January. To say that the area is not already exteremely dangerous is ludicrous. The concerns of the Head of Caldies for his 1,450 students was totally ignored.

  1. The people of this area don’t care

Mayor Anderson said in the Liverpool Echo last week that the opposition was from Greens, Lib Dems and a handful of objectors. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a huge anger in the whole of South Liverpool about the way that this park and Sefton Park are being treated. 250 people packed a public meeting last autumn. Not one Labour councillor attended it so how could they know what local people said?

In recent weeks we have visited hundreds of homes not only in Church Ward but also Allerton and Woolton wards which also fringe the Park. We met a handful of people who though this was a good idea; a handful of people who were prepared to tolerate it and at a conservative estimate 90% of the people were totally opposed to it.

  1. These are not the only objections to the application.

Objections were made by qualified members of the public about:

  • Ecology
  • Wildlife
  • Heritage
  • Design standards
  • Impact on the Park
  1. What next?

That leads us inexorably to what happens now. Normally when a planning application is lost that is the end of the matter BUT NOT IN THIS CASE. The fact is that this application can still be blocked because the council is the land owner.

The council has farcically told the residents that it will conduct a master planning exercise once the planning application has been agreed!

We believe that there are grounds for a judicial review of the way the council has handled the matter.

We know that the removal of Beechley; the model railway and Calder Kids is proving to be much more expensive than anticipated

We know that the planning applications for Beechley and the model railway will involve the enclosure of public open space in Calderstones Park and Clark Gardens.

  1. What is a park?

We will continue to defend Calderstones Park in its entirety. Parks are too precious to lose. Liverpool has one of the lowest levels of parkland of any major urban city in England. Parks are good for mental health and for physical health. They trees and bushes mop up CO2 in the atmosphere and make our air healthier. They encourage us to exercise. They get us out of our houses to meet people.

These thing are too important to be lost on the arrogant whim of one man and one Party. My political Party and the community around the Park will continue the fight and will do our utmost to ensure that this land is retained for future generations and that Redrow, who themselves are contributors to Joe Anderson’s re-election campaign don’t make a penny piece from this brutal attack on Liverpool’s heritage.

I warned Redrow at the committee today that they might have won a battle but they have not won the war. We continue to fight against the bland and boring pastiche of 1950s suburbia that is a typical Redrow estate. We will continue to battle for a good environment for our people and we will be backed by our screaming mob!!

 

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Some thoughts on Suicide

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The late Jo Cox who is being remembered by the development of the ‘Jo Cox Trust’ to develop strategies to deal with loneliness which is a major cause of suicide

Suicide has been much on my mind lately – not that I am thinking of doing it myself. In a blog last month I shared some thoughts on mental health following the discovery that the daughter of a friend of ours had attempted to take her own life. Fortunately I can now report that the attempt was unsuccessful and that she seems to be recovering well.

By coincidence I have been talking about suicide twice publicly. Last week I was talking about the national ‘Suicide Prevention Strategy’ at the House of Commons Health Select Committee. I met our local MP Luciana Berger there as she sits on the committee and was able to congratulate her on the valuable work she does from the Labour benches on mental health issues. I then spoke yesterday at a major conference which brought together 200+ people from the organisations that most deal with suicide including both its prevention; aftermath where suicide attempts have been unsuccessful and specialist bereavement services where the attempt succeeded.

I was pleased to be able to say at both events that although the development of suicide strategies is a not a mandatory function of councils 95% of upper tier councils have a strategy. Not only do they have a strategy but they are implementing it.

Suicide is a relatively rare event although attempted suicides are much higher. The President of the Royal College of Psychiatry told me that in his professional life he will only deal with 10/12 cases. Many GPs will never deal with a suicide case although they may deal with the aftermath of one. About 6,000 people do take their own lives in any given year. Every one of those deaths, of course, affects dozens more families and friends as they ask, “What did I do wrong?” or “why didn’t I see it coming?”

Research shows that there are a number of starting points for a high proportion of suicides. Loneliness, loss of self-esteem caused by loss of job or other life changes; obesity or other illness being the chief triggers. In this context the idea of a free standing suicide strategy is meaningless. What we do must be part of what we do with the wider needs groups that public health deal with daily. Obesity; sexual illnesses; the unemployed; men; drug users are all ‘constituencies’ where suicide is most likely. In these cases we try and ensure that staff and volunteers are trained to pick up the signs of ‘acuteness’ where there will be a higher propensity to self-harm or take one’s life.

In some ways the more difficult situation is the ‘unexpected suicide’ where people with good jobs; good homes; good families suddenly snap. We cannot train every mum and dad, every brother and sister; every best friend to be able to see the signs. The signs themselves may not be obvious at all even to the trained eye. In these circumstances we must widen awareness of what to look for and where help is available.

The problem is most clearly seen in the biggest constituency of all for suicide – men! 75% of all suicides are of men. It seems that we cannot do the one thing that is most likely to stop us taking our lives and which will help us through any difficulty that we might face in life – talking to someone. Yes that is the most effective defence against suicide; depression and other mental conditions. Talk it over with someone. Men find it very difficult to talk over problems. I know that I do. We are brought up in a culture which values a malemacho, version of strength and find it hard to accept advice and help.

The most important things that a council does to help deal with mental issues are not really health activities at all. If everyone had a decent job; lived in a decent house in a clean, green environment and had a few mates the rates of mental illness and therefore suicide which is the ultimate mental illness would plummet. That’s why I believe that local councils are THE National Health Service and the NHS is really the National Illness Service.

But that is not where society is at now. So we have a full range of services for a variety of needs groups. I was delighted to be able to say yesterday that Liverpool is one of the 90 councils that have a mental health champion. In fact 4 of the 9 councils in the wider City Region and Cheshire have such Champions and as  a result of a report from our Directors of Public Health the other 5 are being encouraged to have one as we all review our suicide prevention strategies.

We are also pioneering a new relationship between coroners in the area and public health. Coroners will report suicides to public health directors who will ensure a rapid and follow up visit(s) to families. There are good reasons for doing this. Firstly there is a predilection for those who have been bereaved by suicide to also take their own life. Secondly, they also have a range of specific bereavement and counselling needs to help them develop complex coping strategies.

But there are things we can all do. Is your mate even more reclusive than normal? Are they saying things about life and death that you have not heard before? You can try talking to them and try and get them to seek help either medically or anonymously through the Samaritans or similar organisations.

We can all use the right language. Yesterday I learned that a term, “committing suicide” is actually a term that the bereaved often resent. It’s the language of crime (which suicide used to be). You commit a crime but you take your own life! We need to get mental health issues into the open and discussed more. That is why at the House of Commons I was pleased to mention the pioneering work being done by Mick Coyle at City Talk with his weekly programme about mental health issues.

Most importantly we must all try in our families, networks and communities to make sure that no-one is left along and that everyone has a shoulder to cry. Those who have mental health issues are not from other planets they are from all families and communities. We must all do what we can to talk and listen to those that need us.

 

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Not an extremist in sight at my local Mosque today!

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Penny Lane Mosque which is a key player in our local community

Today was “National Visit My Mosque Day” and I was pleased to take up the invitation from our local Mosque, the Penny Lane Mosque to once again visit them. I’ve always had a great reception at the Mosques in the City of which there are now six. Indeed the first Mosque in the UK was reopened two years ago in Brougham Terrace. It was established by an Anglican convert to the Muslim faith Mr Quilliam.

I particularly wanted to visit them today because of the thoughts, behaviours and actions of Donald Trump. I don’t too much about this snivelling individual other than to say that his actions against Muslims are wrong. That’s was the big reason that I turned up to the demo against Trump last week.

In this Country we have a peculiar ambivalence about the Muslim faith if indeed we can differentiate a Muslim from any of the other faiths that now happily co-exist in our communities. Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims aren’t they all the same? Well yes and no. Of course they worship different Gods and do so in a different way than we do so they are different from each other and those that profess the Christian faith. But go inside a Mosque, Gurdwarah, Temple, Church or Synagogue and you will basically find the same sorts of people that you do in the rest of the community.

People from the majority of faith groups are open and tolerant. The fact that they believe in one story of creation or another or that they choose one prophet over another in practice makes little difference. They have their beliefs and tolerate others. They work within the community and with each other for the community. They co-exist happily with the exception of a very small number of extremists that exists in every faith and in secular society.

Repeatedly we were told today that there is no conflict between the Muslim way of life and the British way of life. That is what their youngsters are taught in the evening and weekend school. That is the way they carry out their work in the Mosque and in the community. From the reception that all the external members of the community were given today I have no doubt that it is true. For those that choose to live here to be a good Muslim  is to be a good Briton.

So let’s look at the small number of extremists. Why has there been a big increase in that still minority of people who are jihadists. Well it could be partly our fault. I believe that the most effective recruiting sergeants for the Jihadists were George W Bush and Tony Blair. They went into an illegal war with no sound foundation of fact. They followed that up with a war in Afghanistan. They followed that up with targeted bombing in Libya and Syria but with no ‘boots on the ground’. There is no excuse for people to become extremists because of any of these actions but we need to understand the mind set of those that have chosen this path.

We chose our allies in the Middle East not because of principle but because of expediency. Did you notice, for example, that the List of countries that trump chose to offend did not include any Country where his business empire has investments? Instead he chose to make enemies of 7 countries which to date have failed to provide a single action which results in the death of Americans.

Do you notice our craven support for the appalling regime in Saudi Arabia? Chop, chop, chop go the heads, lash, lash lashes fall on the backs of people only wanting to express an opinion but hey so what? They buy lots of arms from us. They give us preferential deals on oil. We’re not going to be honest and principled and take them on.

In this Country the vast majority of Muslims are model citizens. They have come here and created businesses which employ other people and they contribute their taxes to our economy. I noticed that many restaurants owned by Muslims opened their door to the homeless over Christmas free of charge. They want to contribute to the wider economy of the Country that they call home. Increasingly third and fourth generation immigrants and not immigrants at all. They pay obeisance to the faith of their fathers but are a part of the secular multi-racial, multi faith society that the UK has become.

But we cannot ignore that fact that extremists exist. I argued with the Labour Government against their ‘Prevent’ strategy where they provided money on the basis of the number of Muslims in an area. I argued instead that they ought to give money and work in areas where intelligence showed that there were the greatest risks of the growth of extremism. No joy with that one I am afraid.

We need to have a seamless system whereby information on extremism goes to the right quarters. We need to think carefully about those returning from Syria. Some of them have come back even more determined than when they left. Most of them are sickened by the reality of what they have seen. For those in the latter category we need to be assisting their return into society and helping them tell their story to dissuade the young and impressionable to follow them into arms.

Those not of the Muslim faith need to publicly stand shoulder to shoulder with the Imams and other leaders of the faith to show that we are the same as each other and that there is mutual trust and respect in society between people of good faith.

I am proud to live in a city region where people from more than 100 Countries live in peace and harmony. A region where there is racial and faith conflict but it is minimal and where we do come together in the aftermath of personal, local, national or international events.

Together we can defeat extremism. Together we can show the [prejudiced that all faiths have the same ration of the good, bad and the nasty. Together we can create a Liverpool and a Country where our children can live in peace.

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My personal boycott of the USA

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She may hold his hand. I prefer to kick him in the wallet!!

I’ve been involved in all sorts of campaigns over the 50 years that I have been in politics. My first ever picket was outside a Barclays Bank to encourage them not to invest in the Cabbora Bassa dam project which financially bled Mozambique dry for decades. I campaigned to “Stop the 70s Tour” when we objected to a racist team being selected to play cricket in England for South Africa. In both those cases I have thought that the best thing to do at the time was to draw, in so far as I could, a boundary between the UK and some other country. I hoped and was certainly proved right in the 70s tour case that what we did in the UK did eventually affect for the better what happened in another Country.

I don’t always take that view. In the past few years I have been to places like Russia and China. I do not approve of many of the things that happen in those Countries but decided that the best way forward was to engage with them. This was particularly because I was predominantly working with Mayors and Councillors who were doing the same sort of job as me and just as frequently chafed at the dictates of central government.

This brings me to my latest soul searching. What should my approach as an individual be to what is happening in the USA under its veil President, Donald Trump. The language I am using here is important to me. I have never railed against other Republican Presidents in the same way. The Bush father and son and Ronald Reagan were people with whom I disagreed but could so respectfully recognising that they had been elected and that the cultures of their country was different to mine.

I cannot speak or behave the same way with an America that has chosen, albeit by a minority of voters, Donald Trump as its President. Firstly I object to him as a person. His views on women seems to be a species of meat with legs and sexual parts. “You can grab pussy, if you rich you can do anything”, might be locker room talk to him but it was never talk like that for me many years when I occasionally used locker rooms. He vilifies religions; he offends nations throughout the World; he forces the poor of his country into poverty for health reasons, he ……. Well I’ll stop there but I could go on.

Everyone hoped that all these things would be suppressed when he took office. It appears, however that the reverse is the case. He believes that now he is the President he can do what he likes in these regards. I said during the election that one of the most disgusting things I had heard in that election was Trump saying, “If I saw a Syrian child I’d look them in the eye and tell them to go home”. As we all know now he means what he says. The richest nation in the world (just) has put up the barriers to children and asylum seekers from the Middle East. Not all the Middle East, of course, just the parts of the Middle East where Trump doesn’t trade!

Trump’s views on climate change, refugees, trade barriers, education and health will affect us all directly. Indirectly we can see in places like Greece that his election has given a false legitimacy to fascists and fascist leaning parties. “If it’s good enough for the ‘Leader of the Western World, it’s good enough for me”, say the Golden Dawn fascists.

Well he isn’t my leader and I intend to do what I can politically to limit the damage he is doing to the World. But that is not enough. I have now declined an offer to speak at a Conference in New York in the summer. I have made it clear to political colleagues what I am doing and why I am doing it. The trouble with this being, of course, that most of them agree with me!

The real way to hit Trump is in his pocket which is why I will be boycotting, in so far as I can any product or company with an American HQ.

If we all took that view we could really make a difference.

  • I will not be buying an Apple smart phone of pad when my current ones grind to obsolescence in the near future.
  • I will not go to the USA on holiday
  • I will not consider a Ford car when my car needs replacing
  • I will not shop in ASDA.
  • Some decisions are very easy for me. I never drink Coca-Cola or eat in McDonalds on health grounds anyway. BUT I do love Cadbury’s Chocolate. No more. It’s Fairtrade chocolate only for me from now on.

In fact I will now look closely at whatever I buy and choose to find alternatives to American products whenever I can.

This may sound like a small gesture. If it’s just me it would be. But what if all the 1,000 people who turned up at St George’s Square in Liverpool last week it would have a bigger impact. What if all the 200,000 people who also demonstrated throughout the UK also took that view. It would have quite an impact. What if all the 1,500,000+ people who have signed the Trump visit petition took this line. The impact would be clearly visible across the Pond.

Of course other people may legitimately take a different view of this. Fair enough. My concern, however, is that many of the people who came out for a demo think that this is enough. They shy away from thinking through what they can really do and possibly shy away even more from something that will inconvenience them.

Believe me folks if I can give up Cadburys Chocolate after 64 years all of us can give something up and hit Trump where it hurts most – in his wallet!

 

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Join the Demonstration against the Trump Visit

 

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They might hold hands in the White House but should not do so in Buckingham Palace

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS TO ATTEND ANTI TRUMP RALLY AT ST GEORGES HALL TONIGHT
Cllr Richard Kemp CBE, Leader of the Liverpool Liberal Democrats will be attending the demonstration against Donald Trump at St Georges Hall at 6pm this evening.
Cllr Kemp said, ” think it right that along with people from all over the Western World we ought to protest tonight both at the despicable actions of Donald Trump but also the abject sycophancy and crawling of the British Prime Minister.
In just 10 days Donald Trump has made the world a darker, more dangerous place. His views are racist and sexist. One of the most wealthy countries in the World is turning its back on some of the most needy people in that world. People are being forced out of the Middle East in no small part because of the military incursions of the USA supported so ably by Tony Blair and the UK.
What happens in America is ultimately up to the Americans. What happens in the UK is up to us. More than 1 million people have signed a petition calling for the proposed state visit to be abandoned. This Nation of ours should not be placing it self as the chief cheer leader for the actions of this seedy second class President. The Country is rightly ashamed of the actions of Theresa May. We could only wish that she was ashamed of herself.
Cllr Kemp is calling on Liberal Democrats to also be present at St Georges Hall.
See my previous blog for more views on the USA, Turkey and America.
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Friday was the UK’s Day of Shame

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A Trump and May relationship would be a  marriage of conveneience and not a  marriage of love!

I suspect that none of my readers will expect me to like Donald Trump. I think he is an evil, misogynistic, little man with the literacy of a 12 year old and has behind him a string of broken promises in both politics and business. But if that is who the Americans choose to elect that is up to them and there is little we can do about it.

What I can do something about is the appalling behaviour of our own Prime Minister who saw fit to be the first Head of State to curtsey at Donald Trump’s knee. This was a huge mistake for the UK although perhaps is understandable in the light of her incompetence in understanding and dealing with Brexit.

Firstly, she arrived at a time when this lunatic was signing a whole load of disgusting executive orders and to which she will clearly have been seen to commend whether she meant to or not. And I do accept that she will have found some of these as distasteful as me.

In the few days since Trump became President he has banned refugees, defamed Muslims, reduced options for poorer people to buy their house and has destroyed Obamacare which gave poor people the option of getting affordable health care. This is the man that May went to court. She claims she does it because we have a special relationship. Perhaps that it is true but it is not a relationship of equals. As we saw throughout the last century and the beginning of this it has been a case of our subservience. Most notably this was seen in the last decade when Tony Blair was so keen to appease America that he took us into an illegal war.

If I have a friend who I think is doing something wrong then I think it a vital part of my friendship to tell them so. No friend can let their friend take up positions and do things which, at the end of the day, are dangerous and difficult. If May had been over to the USA to be robust in a relationship then I would have supported her going but clearly this was not the case. She went to America because she needs to do anything she can to improve trade relations with none EU Countries. She will now do anything to achieve such a relationship but she is naïve in the extreme to think that Trump will give this Country anything. He has made it clear that in his mind trade deals only work one way – in favour of the Americans.

Of course May’s lack of leadership is backing her in to a corner. Her inability to frame a response to Brexit in a way that will elicit some support amongst the other European Countries means that she has to turn to places like America and Turkey for support. Her sycophantic ways with Trump will actually make our relationships with and negotiations with Europe even worse. Take the situation with Syria. By blocking Syrian refugees he increases the burden that Europe will have to take on to deal with the humanitarian crisis which was largely started by US behaviour (supported loyally by the UK) with their bombing raids in the Middle East.

If going to the USA when and in the way that she did was not enough she then went straight through to Turkey. I have a soft spot for Turkey because I lived there for 3 years and indeed worked for the Turkish Government. 30 years ago Turkey was on its way to becoming a fully democratic, secular, modern state based on the teachings and practices on Kemal Ataturk. Over the past 10 years that has changed and particularly so in the past 3 years. Turkey is now becoming a religious state with democracy pushed to the side-lines and a strongman President being elected in a way that Ataturk would be appalled with. In fact it looks as if both the USA and Turkey will soon have a lot in common with each other in terms of governance. A blinkered, ill-educated President leading their Country into the dark ages!

I am not saying that we should not trade with the USA or Turkey. Indeed I have many friends in both Countries who, for obvious reasons are even more appalled at what is happening in those Countries than am I. We must continue to trade with these countries. We must continue to engage with all aspects of the communities within those countries and help them through their present travails. But that is entirely different to the brown nosing that we witnessed from Theresa May over the past 3 days.

As I look around the World I can see all sorts of relationships which we need to make irrespective of whether we leave the EU or not. Clearly though the EU is of paramount importance to us. This is a trading bloc of 540 million without us. It is on our doorstep. It does things in the same way that we do not just because we have shared laws for 40 years but because we have shared cultures for decades. I particularly hope that we can do more with countries in the Commonwealth of Nations which the Gambia is now rejoining. There is a huge potential for us to do more in the Commonwealth where thee also strong historical, cultural and language ties.

Of course there is nothing to stop us doing more anyway. The Commonwealth and Europe are not either/or but should be complementary. ‘Leavers’ often talk of us being free to trade with India to a higher level. It is a sad fact that despite the historical, cultural and language links that we have Germany manages to do more than 3 times the two way trade with India than we do.

As we look to the future we must undertake our global mission with a strong sense of our moral compass points. We do believe (even the Tories) in a free at point of delivery health service; we do believe in a sense of obligation to those countries poorer than our own; we do believe in the interconnectivity of our nation state with the rest of the World; we do believe climate change and what we should do about these things. The differences that we have between us inside the UK are, are for the most part, tiny compared to the abyss which has opened up between most of us in the UK and what is now happening in the USA and Turkey.

Should the Presidents of Turkey and the USA come to the UK? I personally believe that they should. That will give all of us the opportunity to make our distaste for these two Presidents absolutely clear. They would be met with protests and demonstrations the scale of which could not be ignored either by them and their entourages or by the media that would travel with them. I don’t normally believe in demonstrations because they are often ‘gesture politics’ when we could be doing practical things. However, in the case of visits by people of the likes of Erdogan and Trump gestures are important!

Mrs May will take no notice of any of the things that I am saying here. She must answer for herself how a Vicar’s daughter can have forgotten her upbringing so much that she supports uncharitable mean-minded and spiritually bereft people like Erdogan and Trump

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