A letter to my MEP about the resolution on the ivory trade 

A while ago I wrote to my MP and MEPs about the impending referendum on EU membership.

Today I have written again to one of my MEPs, William (Lord of) Dartmouth after he voted against a resolution on the banning of wildlife products, notably ivory.Read More »

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We need to talk about the word “swarm,” Dave

Earlier today, the Prime Minister used the word “swarm” when describing the many men, women and children trying to gain entry to Europe and ultimately the UK from Northern Africa. 

Dave has been criticised by many for dehumanising the plight of these people; people desperate to escape regimes and conditions far worse than we can imagine, conditions bad enough to risk death crossing the Mediterranean in a dinghy or being crushed beneath a goods lorry at Calais. 

Dave was even criticised by little-Englander Nigel Farage although this was somewhat ironic given that Nigel had used the same word himself earlier this morning in an interview. Nige also gave good anecdote as he told of a migrant trying the back door of his car on a return trip which illustrates just how bad things have got. I mean, we have royally fucked up some countries with our gung-ho foreign policy but to see a car journey with Enoch Farage as a means to a better life? Brutal.

Anyway, I’m not focusing on our “blow it up without consequences” approach to international intervention, what I’d like to look at is quite simple and aimed at those who have come out in support of Cameron and his choice of language. My point is this:

If it is okay to describe this group of people in need as a “swarm” then would it also be okay to use it to describe disabled folk  wanting support from the government? Would it have been okay to describe the tourists waiting to return from Tunisia following the recent attrocity as a “swarm”? What about people demanding access to routine procedures which are now being withheld because of austerity related cuts? Are there enough of them to refer to them as a “swarm”?

No, of course not, that’s ridiculous and so is this language being used to describe anything other than a huge number of insects or perhaps birds or fish. “Large numbers of people” is fine; a term which dehumanises the situation, which stops us thinking of the families and children as individual people needing real help is not. 

Cameron knew what he was saying too. His exact phrase was, “You have got a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean, seeking a better life, wanting to come to Britain because Britain has got jobs, it’s got a growing economy, it’s an incredible place to live.” He dressed his comments in the rhetoric of UKIP & the far right, the xenophobic and the inward facing, little better than “bloody foreigners coming over here to take your jobs, wives and benefits.”

The word “swarm” to describe people is not okay. To defend it, to shout about “leftie” sensibilities or to quote a dictionary definition as justification is simply inexcusable.

My thoughts on my MEPs

I wrote a letter to my MEPs recently as I was concerned that as we approach a referendum our position in Europe was seen largely from a negative viewpoint, a drain on resources and something that the main parties used to score political points off each other.

I noted (in a comment) that I have 6 MEPs representing me in the South West:

Ashley Fox (Conservative)
Clare Moody (Labour)
William (The Earl of) Dartmouth (UKIP)
Julie Girling (Conservative)
Julia Reid (UKIP)
Molly Scott Cato (Green)

I also wrote to my MP, Mel Stride on the subject.

Since those letters I have received replies from Fox, Moody, Girling and Scott Cato as well as Mel Stride but I see the lack of response from either UKIP MEP as quite frankly disappointing. Whether or not one believes it’s hypocritical to stand as an MEP on an anti-EU ticket, surely if they are taking the salary and expenses they should fulfill their responsibilities and engage and represent their constituents.

To take a the salary and to not attend, to disparage, to undermine while smirking and passing it off as a political statement is dishonest and quite honestly I see them as taking money under false pretenses. UKIP MEP’s salaries are the biggest waste of EU money by far.

William (The Earl of) Dartmouth and Julia Reid, pull your bloody fingers out, do your jobs or stand down.

A letter to my MP on the EU Referendum

I wrote to MEPs yesterday about their roles and the upcoming referendum on EU membership. I also dropped a line on teh subject to my MP, Mel Stride (Conservative, Central Devon). Yer ’tis!

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Dear Mel Stride,

Thanks again for your recent reply to my question on you balancing party interests with those of your constituents. I hope that this email finds you well and you are back in the swing of things following the election.

During the election campaign, our membership of the EU was used as something of a political football and simplified to some extent into something which would polarize opinion and win votes. The Labour party, Greens, SNP, Lib Dems and Conservatives all seemed broadly in favour of membership with only UKIP taking their traditional “black & white” anti-Europe stance. The Conservatives had their commitment to a referendum in 2017 following some renegotiation of the terms of our membership and I believe that this was over-egged a little (perhaps understandably) in order to win back Euro-skeptics who had been swayed by UKIP but on the whole it seemed quite pro-Europe.

Since the election though I can’t help but think the government’s line has moved a little further away from Europe and even the Labour party has seemed a little less firm than previously. I believe that governments role is to present complex issues such as EU membership in such a way that the electorate can see past the simplistic view of money going to the EU or European citizens entering the UK to work here and better understand the bigger picture and the benefits that membership brings.

While we are still a couple of years away from a referendum, I worry that a consistently negative message will take hold and will be hard to replace with more positive feelings in the run up to a vote on the matter. Mr Cameron’s strong message in Riga might “stick” more than an explanation of how money also flows back to the UK for example. That might be a problem when he needs to “frame” the membership question for the electorate. Perhaps I am worrying too much and two years is a long time in politics but I strongly believe that EU membership is a good thing for the UK and will be good for my children too!

Perhaps the mainstream parties are gearing up to this but in the meantime I thought it best to drop you a line to let you know how I as a voter feel. I have also written to my MEPs on the subject asking about their roles and also what they do to report back to the electorate what they do for us. How many of us know we have 6 SW MEPs let alone who they are and what they do?!

Yours sincerely,

Rich Mills

A letter to my MEPs as we approach a referendum on UK membership of the EU

The EU and our membership of it was positioned high on a list of key issues during the general election, often as something to blame when talking about immigration but also as a drain on our budget. Will we ever get a balanced view presented or will we sleepwalk into a referendum steered by negative press and biased views? I decided to write to my MEPs (there are six of them but until I checked on writetothem.com I couldn’t name one) to find out what they do and how I might find out about that. Like me letters to me MP Mel Stride I hope this will be interesting and I’ll hopefully keep in touch.

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Dear William (The Earl of) Dartmouth, Molly Scott Cato, Julie Girling, Julia Reid, Clare Moody and Ashley Fox,
I find myself increasingly dismayed with the position the UK is taking on Europe and membership of the EU.

UKIP have obviously taken an anti EU stance for some time and while I respect the right of individuals and parties to oppose EU membership however flimsy the reasoning, I object to politicians taking a salary and claiming expenses but not representing our interests in Europe. It seems dishonest and also fraudulent to do so. The Conservative party sway between being wholeheartedly in favour of membership and then openly critical of it, perhaps to tempt back voters they believe lost to UKIP on the issue.

I believe it is the responsibility of politicians to present a balanced argument yet on the Europe question yet I don’t see much balance on this issue and this concerns me – if only a negative picture is shown, how will the electorate be able to make an informed decision on membership? Perhaps the mainstream parties are gearing up to this but in the meantime where is the positive message or indeed any message from my MEPs? How do I know what you each do, how often you do it and what you achieve in office?

How often are you present in the parliament? How do you represent your SW constituents and how do you balance your party interests with those of your constituents? Where do you report back to us? I hope you can find the time to get back to me on this.

Yours sincerely,

Rich Mills