Tag Archives: Tony Blair

Why, with barely a vote cast, Corbyn’s Labour has already won

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I was getting quite emotional over the last few days thinking of casting my ballot for Corbyn. And make no mistake, it’s for Corbyn, not for Chuka Umunna, my local MP, who I once touted as a potential leader, but no more.

Disclaimer: I have long been a dedicated Corbynista. I barely knew who he was when I saw him interviewed two years ago. I knew after hearing him speak that here was someone who was different, and who saw what needed to be done for the future.

We are living in incredibly interesting political times, and what has happened over the last year is a paradigm shift. So I get that people were sceptical of Corbyn, not convinced, doubtful about his ability to lead the Labour Party. The recalcitrance of the New Labour old guard obfuscated what was necessary for the party to succeed. Their inability to see the shifting sands, the political weathervane moving, cost Labour dear in terms of obstinately promoting Ed Miliband, an abysmally weak leader whose time was over somewhere circa 2013 and the most disastrous Labour election in 30 years in 2015. But obstinately they clung to the echo chamber of neoliberal peers and journalists, and failed to embrace the very real alternative Corbyn offered from the very start.

Better late than never, I guess. While I don’t agree with Corbyn on everything (#Brexit), I admire his singlemindedness, his vision, and just his sheer self-belief. What he has undergone over the last 2 years would have knocked many another politician off their course. My gut instinct (as well as avidly reading newspapers from all political sides over the last two years) is that himself and John McDonnell have a transformational plan for Britain. The manifesto is the layman’s version of this. They, along with their campaign manager (who’s questioning Seumas Milne now?) have run the most brilliant campaign. I would go so far as to say that it is the most brilliant political campaign of modern times, and I include Obama’s 2008 campaign in that, run by David Plouffe. Never has someone had so much thrown at them and risen above it and flourished. He has managed, after years of the harshness of austerity being obvious, to change the tone, the nature, the focus of this argument. And that is why I believe, as I have done for the last two years, that Corbyn would be a transformative PM.

Labour may not win outright tomorrow – in fact, it’s very unlikely they will. Due to either bad advice or Miliband’s own ego, the losses made in 2015 are too hard to claw back. Scotland is lost, not least because of Jim Murphy’s failures there. And then there’s the BluKip factor. That makes the game unfairly skewed in favour of the Tories. However – in a very real sense, before barely a vote being cast, Labour under Corbyn has already won. They have made political discourse the new normal. They have engaged record number of supporters to the PLP. They have used social media in a way it has not been used hithertofore in British elections (more by necessity than by design, given the hostility of Fleet St, but still). They have taken the fight to the Tories, and even if the Tories prevail, it will be as a party battered and bruised, with their weak leadership exposed for what it is under Theresa May. They will not find it so easy to get their mandate through and ultimately it may even be the case that by 2020 we’re looking at a party torn asunder, eating itself alive through infighting and intrigue, and another election.

I never liked voting for New Labour under Tony Blair. I admired Blair’s political acumen up to 2003, but disliked his obvious actorly mannerisms and insincerity. His assuming of the NI Peace Process as his success, when anyone on the other side of the Irish Sea was aware that the success was all Mo Mowlam’s. ‘The people’s this’ ‘The people’s that’. Please. The illusion of allowing democracy, which he himself rent apart by pursuing a foolhardy illegal war. But I will be voting Labour proudly for the first time. Maybe we expect too much of our heroes. Maybe Corbyn will, for many millions of other people, turn out to have feet of clay. But in my opinion, he’s already won. He’s proven, in this campaign, that there is an alternative, there is hope, there is an appetite for a road less travelled, and that it is for the many, not the few. Most of all – he has brought compassion and humanity onto the political agenda. Dignity for those vulnerable in UK society. Pride in public services. The notion that no man or woman is an island. That government is there to work with people, to help them and not to scold or dictate to them. And above all, a question I raised a number of weeks back in my blog on the Huff Post – What type of country do Britons want to live in? I take nothing for granted, and I’m interested to find out the answer.

#VoteLabour #GE2017

An evil most ordinary

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In 2004, I was touring Germany with ‘Death of a Salesman’. During the course of the run, I had the good fortune to bump into an old friend in Munich, who happened to be in the audience. As it happened, he lived in the town of Dachau, and since I’d long had an interest in the Third Reich and their Final Solution, we arranged for him to be my tour guide in the former concentration camp.

 

It’s very hard to describe how I felt when seeing the notorious camp. People always say that birds no longer sing at these sites; and for me, on that day, it was true. There was, for me, a sort of numbness that took over, as my brain tried to process what my eyes were seeing. One could say so many things, but what would be the point? The banality of evil hung like a cold, damp cloud in the air.

 

After the visit, during which we spoke little, my friend broke the silence. ‘If I’d lived then, I would have been part of the Resistance’. I just looked at him and said ‘How do you know?’ He insisted he would have, but the more I saw of Germany, the more I visited its museums, the more I saw the many memorials there are to the genocide of WW2, the more certain I grew that this was not a decision to be made until one was in the situation.

 

Even more than over 70 years ago, Westerners are primed to see themselves as the ‘good guys’. We can possibly blame this on the stories we tell ourselves, either verbally or through our media. Never more has this been apparent to me than in the language used post-9/11 by Bush and Blair: Bush’s comment that he took his advice from God to justify ‘shock and awe’; Blair’s constant assertion, through policy and spin, that Islam was ‘incompatible’ with the West. Not so incompatible that it was beneath him to personally profit from this seeming incompatibility.

 

The narrative of the ‘good’ Muslim versus the ‘terrorist’ Muslim took root. We had a Muslim senior politician resign in Baroness Warsi, because of rampant anti-Islam policy in her cabinet under David Cameron. Islamophobia, even in so-called liberal circles, became rife. Atheists like Sam Harris, who is clearly Islamophobic, have become worshipped (in an ironic turn of events, for those who profess a dislike of cults, neo-atheism seems to me to be cultish in the extreme) by legions of followers. Crusader-style language has been employed, with little prevarication, in our newspapers and by our politicians. Extra restrictions through the reintroduction of the Prevention of Terrorism Act have been placed on Muslims, but what of it? The vast majority of society has, directly and/or indirectly, been drip-fed the fallacy of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant supremacy. And now we’re here.

 

I’ve been, in my posts on social media, been talking about the dangers of the rise of white supremacy for most of the past decade. It has been pretty obvious to me that once one goes down the road of ‘otherising’ a community (as was done to the Irish in the 1970s), it is a slippery slope. A documentary that made an impression on me was ‘5 Steps to Tyranny’, an old BBC Panorama programme that a kind soul has uploaded to YouTube. For anyone looking to acquire a basic understanding of how psychologically human beings are primed to be seduced by tyrants, it’s worth a viewing.

 

I also recommend ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Viktor Frankl, a book that made a huge impression on me in my twenties. Having re-read it recently, I noted with some amusement and a little shock something that had escaped me on my initial reading of it. That the Jews in the concentration camps, as starved and reduced as they were, still held a certain contempt for those deemed lower than them. One of the groups listed was ‘Moslems’. Frankl also noted that survivors either went on to do great good in the world as a result of their experiences, or bullies. The element involved was choice.

 

One of my lifelong obsessions that led to an interest in the Holocaust is human nature. The potential of human beings. Their capability for greatness or destructiveness. Having observed the rise of white supremacy so consciously, I must confess a personal interest. Two of my nieces are Muslim.

 

Something happens to you when you see a next generation of your flesh and blood come into the world. You want the world to be a better place for them. My brother converted to Islam around 2002. He married a Moroccan Muslima. My two Muslim nieces are a light in my life, my mother’s life, my brother their uncle’s life. But I cannot remember a time since they were born that I did not fear for them, based on their religion and the acceptable onslaught of everyday prejudice.

 

One story that illustrates how far this prejudice can spiral out of control. My brother and his wife, now resident in the UK, had neighbours who went on holiday to Spain. Another neighbour, out of prejudice, hadn’t seen said neighbours for some time. She called the police, claiming that my brother and wife had murdered them. They were brought to the local police station and interrogated until the police located the holidaying couple. This happened only a couple of years ago.

 

The rise of neo-fascists and their advisers and followers is no accident. On one level, it speaks to the ability of sociopaths (which I believe Farage, Trump et al to be) to easily manipulate our worst natures. It speaks to political ignorance, which even many of my university-educated British friends have hitherto worn as a badge of honour, and are now desperately scrambling to understand how what has happened, could have happened. It speaks to an ignorance by white people of the difference between equality being in law, and in practice. It speaks to a childish quality of following the herd and of blaming the other for our own lives’ ills. That childish quality was also in evidence during the Brexit vote, when people blamed immigrants for a lack in their own lives, without taking into account that the UK had opted out, voluntarily, of taking control of migration when given the chance by the EU. The fact that obvious economic lies were swallowed (the £350m savings on the NHS being only one of many lies, or should I say #alternativefacts spewed like so much rancid spume by the Leavers) shows how ripe the UK was for being overtaken by white supremacists dressed in wolf’s tweeds like Farage. The acceptable face of racism, succeeding where Mosley and his Blackshirts couldn’t, in dressing up fascism in a hail-fellow-well-met bon viveur façade. Repugnant, but effective.

 

Being so easily fooled by the white supremacist in our own backyard, and the Crusader-like views by mainstream politicians and media that led to his success, is it any wonder that we are witnessing a Muslim ‘ban’ in the USA, the supposed torchbearer of Freedom and Democracy Inc? Is it a ruse by Trump & Co to turn it into a profitable war, thus giving a boost to munitions, big Pharma, oil and consequently the banks? (If it is, I suggest all GOP politicians, including Trump,  and any collaborators be forced to conscript their own offspring first, as a sign of good faith). In this political atmosphere of night-time raids and smoke and mirrors, it is hard to tell.

 

What is clear is this: we now are all faced with a choice. Resist or collaborate. There are no other options available. We will have the answer to that generations-old question. And as we judged others over 70 years ago, so will we too be judged.

HOW TO TAKE THE POSITIVE FROM TRUMP’S PRESIDENCY

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I know. You’re scared. I’m scared too. I’ve had an uneasy feeling about the two dominant WASP-y countries since at least June 23rd. This transmuted into sheer terror when a KKK-lover, through the trick of the electoral college, ascended to #PEETUS (I know, I know.There should be an O – though maybe not a wooden one 😉 But the first three letters is what he is in my head now and forever more).
There were a Seth Myers and an SNL sketch around the time he was elected that rang true though. Liberal white people have had the first taste of what it has been to be someone of colour/an immigrant/a Muslim in the US and UK for at least 15 years. This modern fear and paranoia of the other wasn’t created by Trump. This was created by George W. Bush and Anthony Charles Lynton Blair. An evangelical white Christian who took his instructions from God and a wannabe Catholic (at the time) eager to prove his zealotry. Both of whom implemented anti-Muslim profiling and the horror threat that is Guantanamo.
If we go back further and we look at the inherent inequality in deregulation, free market capitalism and the rise of the cult of the individual, we can see that we afford the likes of Farage and Trump too much credit and power. They didn’t create those conditions – they have just used and exploited them. And it is true that when situations don’t directly affect us, we mostly have, as white liberals in Western societies with the relative comfort of life that entails, to quote Milton, preferred ‘Bondage with ease than strenuous liberty’.
Because here’s the thing. For some political elite (and I’m not just talking Trump here, again, it affords him too much power, and while he’s proven himself all too happy to take as much power as he can, let’s not attribute more to him than he is about to have), the democracy experiment has gone way too far. We must remember that in its original concept, it was a methodology whereby patrician male Greeks decided the fate of their fellow citizens. What we have now has transmuted far beyond their expectations, and what we have now is a model that doesn’t sit comfortably with most of the ruling elite – both Left and Right. The Neo-Liberal experiment alone would attest to that.
Until conditions are made unbearable for us, we do prefer to wear our bondage with ease. Many women have expressed their fear at a Handmaid’s Tale-esque looming dystopia. I’ve heard of harassment of black friends in NYC, supposedly the ‘great melting-pot’. But racism and misogyny, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant rhetoric is not a new thing – a whole political party was born out of the latter in the UK, for goodness sake. This did not just ‘happen’. Its growth is down to factors that lie way beyond Trump and Farage’s collective abilities, in austerity policies, a placating of the public, especially the middle-class, educated public at the expense of blue collar workers who are seeing the world they expected to grow old in – the miners, the unskilled labourers – move beyond their reach with no alternative offered in its stead. It does not excuse the alignment with racists, misogynists and bigots. But it does explain it. And, in a sense, one can understand the outrage of having been conned.
But why any positivity over Trump’s election and ascendancy to (piss)POTUS? Well – here’s the thing. There are many people both sides of the Atlantic whose bondage is no longer bearable. I’ve seen more calls to resistance in a few short months than I’ve seen in a whole lifetime of political observance. I’ve finally seen the penny drop with many of my white liberal friends that, hey, things haven’t been so great over the last decade and a half with their Muslim and black friends (although the penny hasn’t quite dropped about who instigated this in the UK – but for sure, it escalated under a Tory party so right-wing and power-crazed that they have literally thrashed their Great Leader Thatcher’s legacy in that she was strongly pro the single market. Oh the irony of ironies).
And the reality is – there hasn’t been such an opportunity for positive change since 1945. I’m not talking change you want to bereave in, hope that doesn’t quite fulfil its overblown promises. I’m talking real, structural, lasting change. We have exciting ideas like universal income that need to be robustly discussed. We have the realisation and the evidence of the gender and race pay gaps, and for what feels like the first time in my lifetime, a possibility to address this (despite the best efforts of the Breitbart fanboys). Unoccupied buildings are being taken over in Dublin and Manchester as the conviction that everyone deserves at least one home, and that there is an immorality to empty buildings when people are dying on our streets. We know our planet has finite resources, despite the climate change deniers, and that there is a better, kinder way forward.
And I’m not going to lie or disseminate here – change is not easy. Having been through a period of huge change myself over the last few years, where I’ve narrowly escaped bankruptcy, had a nervous breakdown, become a yoga teacher (not related necessarily, but the latter has helped enormously!), been through harassment and effectively eviction by my ex-landlord, made some of the greatest strides forward in my career as an artist to date, being able to work more than ever in my chosen path, and now, feeling stronger than ever having been forged in the fire of change – I know that change isn’t easy. And, despite how awful at times that change was – horrible, foetal position inducing, exhausting, energetically debilitating – I am immensely grateful for it. The Gráinne of 2017 is a better, stronger, 2.0 version of the Gráinne 2008 model. There is a strength in being made vulnerable that cannot be emulated by a show of strength. I made it out the other side of my fears and despair with the help, love and support of some tremendous friends, my tribe, my community.
I cite my own experience as maybe a glimmer of a way forward and an insight into how change works. (Or as the saying goes ‘Everyone wants change, but no one wants to change’). If the last 40 years has been defined by the rise of the cult of the individual, we have the choice to strenuously exercise our liberty and work together for our common good. That’s our human choice.
We can give in to our worst nightmare, our inner demons, and I’ll be honest here – on the sexual assault, misogynistic bullying front, Trump certainly triggers a lot of mine. Or we can look at him in his emperor’s clothes, his all-together, and know that he is weak. His whole concept of some sort of white male supremacy is weak – because the whole notion of supremacy of one human being over another is weak. Weakness of intellect. Weakness of natural ability. Supremacy indicates: I can’t make it on my own/as a group without some unfair advantage over other individuals based on sex/race/sexual preference etc. Supremacy indicates: I can only thrive by the oppression of others. Supremacy indicates: I can’t see the humanity in those weaker than me in privilege – the poor, the sick, the disabled – because they reflect back my own weakness, my own vulnerability, my own human frailty – and I DON’T LIKE THAT (capitals inspired by #Trumptweets). Supremacy, ergo, is the ultimate display of weakness.
Or we can access our brightest angels and look around at our community, our diverse, rich, colourful communities, and we can decide right now that there is room for everyone to live and everyone to grow and reach their potential. But we have to realise that choosing our better angels of hope is not a choice for wimps. It requires action. While the marches on the 21st January are great and necessary, as the first step in dissent – it is but a first step. Write to your Senator/MP. Call them. Question why, here in the UK, in the 6th richest country which extolls the virtue of service to country, a third of all homeless are ex-military. Question why there are tax loopholes for those who could most afford to pay their taxes. Inequality of income is widening, and is not unconnected to the rise in homelessness, to the 2.5 million children living below the poverty line, to the easily manipulated anger at political elites (sometimes justifiable), which has led to #Trump, #Farage and their ilk. Question why the soon-to-be 45th President of the United States has yet to release details of his taxes. Question why there is not a psychological test necessary to deem fitness for office. (One of the things that I’ve experienced which ran counter to all of my beliefs until I was directly confronted with it, is that sociopaths walk among us – and we need to begin to understand as a society how to deal with them and integrate them in ways that are least harmful to the majority). Reach out to your community. Join action groups that advocate causes that are meaningful to you. Even if it is just one good deed per day – giving up that seat, talking to that elderly person, giving a compliment where it is least expected – do it. One deed a day per person is 365 good deeds in this naughty world. One good deed a day per person in the UK would add up to approximately 21,900,000,000 good deeds in a year (#maths). Positive action done incrementally and collectively can make change. Sand is the result of waves eroding rocks with millions of beats – and as I’ve just found out through my good friend Google, sand can also re-form into rock over millions of years. Our choice is to catch the wave and turn the tide before hardness sets in. John Lewis, the great civil rights activist and politician, said the other day to always choose love. And, given his experiences and age, forged by Circumstance and Time, I feel that is advice worth heeding.
Dear reader, I’m blathering on because, like you, I feel the trepidation. I’m awake and writing this because of that trepidation. I can admit that looking at that embodiment of angry, toxic orange-white supremacist masculinity on the TV/computer screen has simultaneously enraged and paralysed me. It’s triggered memories that I had consigned to the dustbins of experience. Not just because of him, but because of the legions of angry, toxic white supremacists who feel vindicated and emboldened by him. It’s caused me hours and days of questioning the very nature of humankind, that we can return cyclically to this sort of nasty political climate, despite the lessons of history. I know essentially I’m preaching to the choir. Like you, I feel the need to express what I’m feeling on this – and I am feeling a lot. It feels that the last 6 months have been so full of feelings and global emotion that it’s implosive. And, as they used to say about farting, but now which seems to be an apt description of Theresa May’s #Brexit policy – better out than in. But, just to reiterate: where there is life, there is hope. Where there is a human, there is a choice. And, if the last 40 years and six+ months and the late Jo Cox have taught us – we are better together. We are better when we work together. For our common and equally uncommon good.

Brexit has held a mirror up to the mainstreaming of far-right ideologies. The late Jo Cox MP has shown us a better way.

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One of my main grouses when I first came to the UK was the absolute apathy in which the British public viewed politics. In my native Ireland, politics are discussed regularly, and with gusto, at dinner parties, breakfast tables, and down the pub. If one was ever to witness a group of Irish people discussing politics in full flight, it would seem as there might be murder by the end of the night. And yet, by and large, people leave the pubs, mostly in good humoured discord with each other. I no longer can make that grouse, the day before the most important vote a number of Britons will make in their lifetimes; however the only thing that voters will agree upon tomorrow is the divisive, unnecessary and toxic nature of it all.

I’m a real fangirl of the life political, as readers of my blog will know, purely as spectator sport. It’s a theatre in itself, especially British politics: the thrust and parry of Westminster, the comedy of errors that is often party politics. There is a heart of darkness that has grown in the midst of this, and it is most noticeable in the love affair between the media and successive governments. The most insidious cancer in this heart of darkness is, being shown to be, in my opinion, the double-edged sword of profiling.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act introduced in the 1970s, which the then Home Secretary Roy Jenkins described as ‘draconian’ and ‘unprecedented in peacetime’ did nothing to reduce the threat of IRA attacks, but rather increased it. What it did achieve was the ‘otherization’ of the Irish in Britain, and the stance taken led to many miscarriages of justice and the demonisation in certain media quarters, most notable the Sun, of the Irish community. What was appalling to me was Tony Blair re-introducing this act post-9/11, for the obvious parallels with the Muslim community, and so it has come to pass. I state this not to excuse violence, which is inexcusable; but to make the point that ‘terrorism’ does not grow in a vacuum.

From my own personal knowledge I can give two examples of how damaging profiling is, and the resentment it creates in society. In the early 1990s I took a drama course at the Betty Ann Norton School in Dublin. Among my classmates was a very lovely woman called Róisín (*not her real name). Long red curly hair, blue eyes, ‘typically’ Irish-looking. One night, down the pub, Róisín told me finally why she had come back from the UK. She had fitted the description of a suspect of a bombing attempt, in terms of height, hair colour and length and eye colour, and so the police took her in for questioning. After a long period of time, at which she described herself at breaking point mentally, and with no evidence, they finally let her go. So traumatised was she, she got the next boat back to Ireland and never went back to the UK.

A member of my family, who is a Muslim convert and who now lives in Norwich, has also been a target in the community there. About two years ago, he and his wife were brought in for questioning by the police. Apparently an Islamophobic neighbour, posing as a concerned citizen, had noticed her next-door neighbour had gone ‘missing’ and reported to the police that it was likely that the Muslim couple next door had ‘done away’ with her. As it happened, the neighbour and her boyfriend turned up alive and well on the Costa del Sol.

I give these examples as a small illustration into the type of world that has been created on the lies of WMD and the cynical politics of dividing communities. The tale of the ‘good Muslim’ and ‘bad Muslim’, while ignoring the reality of profiling (according to reports, those from ethnic minorities are likely to be stopped by the police 42 times more than white people) is hugely damaging to communities. The weight of expectation placed on these communities is higher also: Every time a terrorist attack happens, representatives from the Muslim community are called upon to condemn it. This call for condemnation from the white community was distinctly noticeable by its absence when a white supremacist fascist killed the MP Jo Cox, and directly for the work she did for ethnic communities and refugees. The double standards and higher standards meted out to ethnic minorities is breathtaking in both its ignorance and arrogance.

Dear readers: we are, in this most important of referendums, at a tipping point in British society. The bandage has been ripped off the nostalgia of ‘Rule Britannia’ and the maggots of fascism that have dwelt now for some time (at least 6 years, in my view) have come to surface and threaten the very fabric of all that is the very best of Britain. I’ve watched in fascination and horror over the last 6 years as, one by one, the young, the poor, the disabled, the unemployed, women, the NHS, the legal aid system, the arts, education, the third sector, those with mental health issues, refugees from war-torn countries have been targeted by corrupt, inhumane and weak politicians ill-suited to wielding power justly. Everything, even school children, are assets to be used in the adoration of the almighty Mammon.

There is finally  a Labour party leadership that is prepared to oppose the worst excesses of an unnecessary austerity, and yet the toxic Blairite faction insist on blocking their every move. It says something about the state of British politics when an advocate for social justice, a kinder politics and a fairer distribution of the very real burdens of austerity is labelled as a ‘radical’. There is nothing radical, to my mind, about every family having a home; every child being able to go to school with food in their belly and clean clothes; about access to free education and healthcare – these are the hallmarks of a civilised society. And yet, in just over half a decade, the UK has descended into a Lord of the Flies-esque island, where the flames of greed, racism, nationalism, class war and resentment have been fanned cynically for political advantage. The fifth largest economy in the world where 103,000 children are homeless and 1 million people are dependent on food banks. The ideas of the far-right are being tested out in mainstream politics as well: one only has to look at the UKIP/Tory stance on immigration and the disgraceful Tory campaign for London Mayor at all levels of the party to see the writing on the wall from policy and ideological perspectives.

And into this toxic cauldron stepped Jo Cox MP, an unwitting martyr last Thursday, a genuinely good, engaged and uniquely qualified MP, through her background in the charity sector and with Oxfam. Again the media tried to spin the myth of the poor, put-upon white British man with mental health issues as a first resort for her killer Thomas Mair. Thanks to the internet – as Tim Berners-Lee said ‘This is for everyone’ – that myth was dispelled quite quickly; and in its wake was left the cold putrid stench of white British male fascist anger. It’s there for everyone to see: the pictures of Mair completely compos mentis campaign with Britain First; the threat of the self-same group of ‘direct action’ on Muslim politicians like Sadiq Khan and Sajid Javid; the Tory councillor Tony Peacock’s jibe at the Jo Cox memorial fund. I could list so many more; but this group of people, with so many privileges by virtue of gender and ethnicity, if not class, have poisoned this referendum with their politics of division, violence and white supremacy.

Jo’s husband Brendan gifted us with one of the most beautiful epitaphs I have ever heard: ‘She met the world with love’. It’s something each of us needs to take into the polling booths today – will we meet the world with love? Or with fear and suspicion? No matter what happens, the lid has been lifted on the Pandora’s box of British fascism, and whatever the outcome, post-referendum, it will be difficult to contain it. Make no mistake, it is Battleground Britain, where the very heart and soul of Tolkien’s fabled shires are at stake. I happen to believe that the only choice, in this background of festering, angry nationalism, is to Remain. Partly so Europe as a whole can counter fascism; partly because to vote to leave is to validate and give political credence to the far-right. Brexit has held a mirror up to the chilling mainstreaming of far-right ideologies. The late Jo Cox MP has shown us a better way in politics and in our lives – to choose love. That will truly be the best way of putting Britain first.