Thanet Star

Why the UK needs another referendum

April 9, 2018 in opinion by Matthew Brown

We had a referendum in June of 1975 where we decided to join the EU. If we can have another one to leave, why can’t we have a third to allow us to rethink that move?

We were lied to about Brexit

I was told Brexit would mean lower food prices, more money for the NHS and more control. But it was all a lie.

Since the vote, the pound has dropped like a stone. Unsurprisingly food prices have gone up and not down. We might be getting rid of the Common Agriculture Policy (of the 18% increase in food prices fame) but at such a cost that we will have been better off with a law that needs fixing than without it.

The NHS is struggling like never before. So far, the cost of Brexit could have paid for 790,984 new nurses. We were told that there would be more money for the NHS with Brexit but we got less money for the NHS.

I thought the Leave campaign wanted us to have more control. Instead, we’ve handed control to a small group of rich people that would rather spend a fortune of public money on big dinners instead of feeding school children.

Does EU law trump UK law?

We were told EU rules trump British ones but the truth is not like that. EU can hold sway (unless challenged) but that was the work of our own government and not the EU.

It was our parliament that ruled that EU directives have primacy. In R v Secretary of State for Transport, ex p Factortame Ltd, the House of Lords ruled that courts in the United Kingdom had the power to “disapply” acts of parliament where they conflicted with EU law. That’s not EU dictatorship so much as it is our own leaders doing that to us and then blaming the EU for it.

What a surprise – we were lied to (again). Our own government decided that was how it was to be. And the Tories are hating it.

That’s not the only lie. That same ruling says that British constitutional law comes first.

It is, putting the point at its lowest, certainly arguable (and it is for United Kingdom law and courts to determine) that there may be fundamental principles, whether contained in other constitutional instruments or recognised at common law, of which Parliament when it enacted the European Communities Act 1972 did not either contemplate or authorise the abrogation.

In other words, the EU is not able to outright dictate to the UK. Strongly influence, maybe. Blunt the edges of the more terrible ideas, certainly. But dictate? Not at all. If the issue was EU control it could have been ended with a single simple court challenge. Much cheaper than running a leave campaign.

The truth is, in the contest of EU law vs UK law the difference has never been tested. Or to put it another way – the UK government pretty much just agreed with the EU. We always had control but never felt the need to use it.

UK government a threat to the safety of people like me?

Since we joined, the EU has been the final court of appeal for those times my own government wants to screw me over. Much like the Tories are trying to do at the moment. A big part of that safeguard is human rights (there is a bit more to it than that, obviously).

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union brings together the essential human rights of everyone living in the European Union. After Brexit, the Government has said the Charter will no longer have effect in UK law. That’s right, human rights end at Brexit.

Right now the Charter of Fundamental Rights does apply but that has not stopped our government discounting it when it suits them. The Department for Work and Pensions recently won the right to have benefit appeals ignore human rights. And yet we were told the EU was dictating our laws – it sees we were able to ignore those laws whenever we wanted to.

If they can do that while we are in the EU how much power does the EU really have to dictate our laws?

If they can do that while we are still in the EU what do the Tories have planned for when we leave?

One study has linked Tory austerity to 120,000 extra deaths. I’ll say it again, extra deaths. That’s 120,000 dead while the Tories are still saddled with the EU.

Without the EU to slow them down, how bad can it get?

Tory death machine

Many of these deaths have been linked to unreasonable an inhumane benefit sanctions. I’m not talking about giving the workshy a push, I’m talking cruel and unreasonable treatment of the sick and weak.

I live in constant pain. As a result, I depend on benefit payments to employ someone to help me do the things you may take for granted. As such, the Tories would love to add me to the list of those killed by their austerity measures.

I might have had a way out – I’m a skilled IT worker (albeit with a limited ability to commute). Were the economy more buoyant, I might have been able to start a self-employed practice. Maybe. I did that before when I was fully healthy.

However, with the looming Brexit damaging the economy self-employment offers no hope of escape for me. I’d need the EU to sell to. I’d need the EU to keep many of my potential UK customers in business too.

For me, Brexit means being trapped in a system that wants to kill me.

The EU might not be perfect. The EU is certainly not all that powerful (despite lies told by the few rich businessmen who do benefit from Brexit). But it is all some of us have to protect us from morally bankrupt politicians.

Brexit makes my job prospects worse

I’m disabled. So what? I can still work. I can still write the best damn PHP code in Kent, my SEO is stronger than yours, and my MySQL optimised queries can eat yours for dinner – I challenge any developer to test me on this. I’m a safe bet for employment.

Or I would be if anyone was hiring. Thanks for that Brexit.

Why is no one hiring? That’d be because Brexit tanked the pound and firms stop hiring when that happens. Oh, yeah, and I guess my physical limitations make me a seem like more of a risk – which I have to say really sucks.

I could go self-employed but my best clients would be in the EU so that’s going to be tricky. Not to mention self-employment is hard as it comes when you are healthy and the Tories have made getting out of the benefit trap that much harder anyway.

I’ve scrapped so many business plans because, as we Brexit under the Tories, they’d all mean starving on the streets.

Normally I’d be hoping that the EU would curtail the Tories but, as we said, Brexit.

Brexit offers me zero benefit

There is not one good thing for me in Brexit.

For me, Brexit means:

  • Higher food prices.
  • Being trapped on benefits with failing health in a tanking economy
  • Worse employment prospects.
  • Meaner, harsher Tories.
  • Reduced human rights.
  • Less security.
  • Fewer opportunities.
  • A shorter, more painful life.

We were told that the referendum was to advise the government. We were not told that we could be shredding the human rights act, exiting the single market, and severing all ties with the continent.

Why, yes I am taking this personally?

You say I am taking all this a bit too personally? Damn right I’m taking this personally – my future, my dignity, and my employability are gone the moment we depart the EU.

If you voted to leave the EU, you did not know it but you also voted to make me jobless.

If you voted to leave the EU you also voted for the Tories to freely abuse me and people like me. You might not have intended that but it is happening anyway.

If you voted to leave the EU you also voted to strip me of the rights that barely hold back a system designed to kill people like me. Yes, kill us. 120,000 of us.

For me; stopping Brexit is not just a matter of principle but a matter of survival.

We had a referendum in 1975 to join the EU and another one to leave. We need a third to allow us to rethink the first two.

Drug deaths prove austerity has failed

April 8, 2018 in opinion by Matthew Brown

The case must be made that austerity has failed Thanet.

The rise in drug deaths and the increase in crime, especially violent crime share a common underlying cause. Or rather, set of causes. Austerity has to shoulder a share of that blame.

It seems to me that whatever the motivation for austerity, it harms rather than helps. Austerity has done nothing to alleviate the causes of poverty. If anything it has made them worse.

Poverty and drugs

drugsIt is well established that opiate addiction leads to crime. The longer the problem goes unchecked, the worse it becomes. Think of addiction as those impossible to remove vines that invade gardens. We’re better off not letting those weeds get a foothold.

Which is a problem because poverty – a lack of resources and opportunities – is a huge and pervasive risk factor for drug abuse.

NCDA drug talk:

Drug use and addiction have no single cause but the risk factors for drug use include poverty. A person in an impoverished situation may abuse drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with the dangerous environment she lives in, a way to deal with her financial stresses or a way to cope with physical or emotional abuse. Many times, drugs and alcohol are easily accessible in impoverished neighborhoods where some people actually sell drugs in hopes of overcoming poverty.

Drug addiction is like a snare that claws a population back towards poverty. In 2014 it was estimated that 1 in 11 adults aged 16 to 59 took an illicit drug in each year. This was higher among young people and the numbers have been rising.

Why addiction traps children in poverty, Centre for Social Justice:

There are an estimated 380,000 problematic drug users in the UK aged between 15-64 while 1.6 million are classed as dependent on alcohol. Meanwhile, it is estimated that 1 million are addicted to prescription drugs. Many of these people are parents whose children grow up surrounded by substance abuse. For those in treatment for drugs alone (50 per cent) 105,780 are either parents or live with a child.

Addiction, not drugs, are the problem

With all this talk of drugs, it is easy to miss the fact that it is the addiction and not the drug use that is the problem. That is why the “war on drugs” is not working. Why should it if we are ignoring the roots of the problem? Maybe it is time to stop fighting and start fixing?

In the 1990s Portugal was suffering a massive drug problem and it was only getting worse. In 2001 they abolished all criminal penalties for personal use of drugs. Drug dealers were still punished by users were given mandatory medical treatment instead of prison. By making drug use a health issue, teenage drug use fell along with the rate of HIV infection.

If we are going to build super-sized GP surgeries, we should include medical treatment of addiction.

Fight poverty, not people

Health Depression Sadness Mental Health Mental

Tory initiatives such as the bedroom tax, universal credit, and endless assessments serve only to reduce available income and punish the poor for not being rich. All Tory austerity has done is increase poverty and make it a more terrible thing to go through.

Nearly 90 people a month are dying after being declared fit for work, we are told. We knew austerity was killing people back in 2015.  That sounds like a war on the poor to me. We need to be fighting poverty and not the poor.

What Thanet needs is an end to these destructive (Tory) policies. Until that happens, we are going to see an increase in food-bank use, preventable deaths, and unsurprising reports of record drug use (fuels by addiction).

It is time to stop victim blaming. If the drug death figures alarm us, we must act on the root causes of those figures. It is time, instead, for us to start grappling with the difficult and challenging issues of poverty. Even if the figures do not bother us, simple human decency should be enough motivation for us to want to see an end to this war on the poor. We have to loudly say no to austerity.

Dane Valley’s most dangerous junction

April 4, 2018 in local-issues by Matthew Brown

It seems that every year there is another crash in the same part of Dane Valley. The details are always the same, a car making a right hand turn out of Tenterden Way onto Millmead road is hit by oncoming traffic. The reason – no one saw the car.

The problem is worse when all the curbside parking spaces are filled on Millmead Road. The hill combined with the slight curve in the road causes the parked cars hide the junction.

Millmead road is busy enough at the best of times. With two schools right there, traffic can get very heavy at peak times. My fear is that, sooner or later, someone will be killed. When that happens, I want the authorities to know – we warned you this would happen.

In 2010 my sisters and mother were hurt in an accident at that junction. My sister was pregnant at the time of the crash. (Don’t worry, the baby was okay).

car crash pregnant belly

The junction has been an open issue on Fix My Street ever since. I wrote about the junction the following year. My hope was that I could raise awareness and maybe get something done.

Campaign for safety

I tried to do things KCCs way and used their hard to use petition site. Eleven people signed the petition. Kent County Council responded that they could not put up a mirror due to “health and safety. Surely, that is why you would have a mirror?

In 2013 I attended a TDC meeting and address the council. At the time, Labour ran the council with the Tories nipping at their heals. I put it to Thanet District Council that they too should be doing something. After much delay, they had the corner (where parking is illegal anyway) marked with double yellow lines. This has proven ineffective. In 2016 there was another near-fatal accident on the corner. Around the same time, I again pointed out that there was a problem.

At the TDC meeting, I spoke to Labour’s Will Scobie. At the time he was also a KCC councillor and had access to a discretionary fund. He agreed to “look into” using his fund to improve the corner.

Nothing happened.

UKIP promised us change when they came to power. As far as I can tell, they have ignored this issue entirely. At least Labour did something (even if it did not help much).

Lib Dem Support

A more successful petition was run by the East Kent Coastal Liberal Democrats. The 2016 petition resulted in me getting my picture in the local paper. The headline was “Activist demands action at ‘terrifying’ junction”.

To date, the Lib Dems have been the only party to actively support making the junction safe.

However, without Thanet based Lib Dem councillors to speak up for us, Tory-backed KCC clearly feels they can ignore us. KCC has refused to budge on this issue. Accidents continued to happen. More are sure to follow.

Still dangerous

In the last six months, with two separate drivers, I have been involved in two near misses with another car. One of those other cars was a police car. An accident was prevented only because of the driving skill of the police officer at the wheel. Despite being shaken up, I was deeply impressed with the unknown officer’s fast reactions.

The ongoing lack of death at the junction should not be down to lightning reflexes. Action on the Millmead Road and Tenterden Way junction is long overdue. It could have cost me my niece so how long until this junction kills someone?

Share your news in our forum

March 26, 2018 in site-news by Matthew Brown

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School reminds parents of stranger danger

March 16, 2018 in schools by Matthew Brown

St Laurence in Thanet Church of England Junior Academy today messaged parents to ask them to remind their children of the danger of talking to strangers after a child was approached by a man in Warre recreation ground.

In an update on social media, the school wrote:

We text parents today to advise that children should not walk home unaccompanied through Warre Recreation ground. This is because one of our children was approached by a man there yesterday. He left when the child’s friends came over. No-one was hurt but the police have suggested that we make parents aware. Ensure that you remind your child about stranger danger.

It is unclear if there was any ill intent but parents should always be mindful to teach their children how to remain safe. Such as, for example, only travelling with friends and always telling your parents where you are going.

If you have any concerns you should call 101 which is the number to report crime and other concerns that do not require an emergency response.

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