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I seem to remember, back in May when the EU Referendum campaign was merely tedious rather than downright sinister, saying that even when the result came in, it wouldn’t be the end of the matter.

This was hardly a prediction on the scale of Nostradamus, but a series of forthcoming events have confirmed it good and proper.

The weekend of 3rd and 4th September will see two different sets of events from organisations and pressure groups that have been galvanised by the events of the Referendum campaign itself (specifically the murder of Jo Cox) and by the result and subsequent fallout, specifically the dramatic rise in reported hate crimes in the week prior to the result being announced, and in subsequent weeks and months since.

On September 3rd the group March For Europe are organising a number of marches around the country (but not in Manchester, or indeed, anywhere in the north or north west… suggesting Remain voters in the north have been forgotten about) as a follow up to their London march and demo in Green Park on 2nd July. The idea is for the Remain camp to keep the pressure on for when Parliament re-convenes on September 5th to discuss Brexit.

This might seem a bit futile, given Remain lost, but – as many a letter writer to Private Eye has pointed out over the past two months – had the boot been on the other foot, it’s unlikely Nigel Farage would have let it lie, and in a democracy the losing side have equal right to lobby as the winning side does. Whether you like the state of affairs this produces is a moot point: Democracy and all that.

The same weekend, Hope Not Hate are running a number of social events as part of their More In Common campaign, which was launched following the murder of Jo Cox and the announcement of the hate crime figures. These are being held across England and Wales, in most areas and are intended to

“bring people and communities together around what we have in common. It is an opportunity to celebrate our multicultural society but also to bridge divides between communities.”

The idea is to get communities together, and talking, to focus on what they have in common, not what divides them. A laudable and, given the horrible social climate we currently exist in, rather brave decision. Let’s hope it comes off.

In a bitter irony, the British Library is also hosting Punky Reggae Party: The Story of Rock Against Racism on Friday 9th September. This ties in not just with the ongoing 40 Years Of Punk series of events across London this year, but also with the publication of Daniel Rachel’s book Walls Come Tumbling Down: Rock Against Racism, Two Tone, Red Wedge, which is published by Picador on 8th September. Never have a book, or an event, felt more timely.

On Saturday 17th September, between 9:30am and 4pm, The Working Class Movement Library in Salford will be hosting a conference on the subject of  Radical Women 1880 – 1914.

As their newsletter puts it:

This one-day conference will celebrate the battles and achievements of working-class women in the drive to achieve a fairer and more balanced society. The decades spanning the turn of the twentieth century saw an upsurge in female activism as women began to organise themselves into trade unions, take part in the socialist debates on social and economic change, and demand the vote.

Radical women not only battled against the gender-conservative males within their family or community but also those who claimed to be fighting for equality.

Speakers include Professor Sheila Rowbotham, University of Manchester and Professor Karen Hunt, Keele University.

Whereas:

Papers include the Cabin Restaurant waitresses strike of 1908; the life of Crewe tailoress, campaigner, activitist and author Ada Neild Chew; the forgotten history of domestic servants in women’s suffrage; radical women and the bicycle; suffragette Constance Lytton and the cause of prison reform; plus many more.

Full programme details can be found on the WCML webpages

Tickets are £20 (£7.50 unwaged) and include lunch and refreshments.

Book in advance from trustees@wcml.org.uk

UoM%20scanned%20documentJust over a week ago I had the unexpected pleasure of visiting Everyday Austerity: An Exhibition of Everyday Life in Austerity, a collaboration between Dr Sarah Marie Hall of the University of Manchester and Stef Bradley the zine maker, which was drawn from research compiled by Dr Hall on the subject of family life and austerity.

This was a beautifully executed, simple but effective, exhibition that was both smart and thought provoking, but never, ever miserable.

People think of austerity in simplistic shades of sepia and grey, and in doing so, they miss the complex, technicolour reality of it: It was how the six families were represented that was the really refreshing thing.

Each section of the exhibition made use of written introductions to the families, their own particular situations, and how austerity had affected them. These were set alongside a carefully arranged display box of visual representations – photographs, carrots from an allotment, a recipe for a bulk batch of veggie chilli, a book on how to cope financially in times of austerity, which was due to be flogged on eBay along with old children’s toys to raise funds… There were lists of worries, lists of things to buy that could be afforded that week… and these visual items were equally as powerful, as thoughtfully placed, as evocative, as the notes, and sections of the interviews, which could be listened to on iPod mini’s.

The interviews themselves were frank, honest, candid and refreshing in their neutrality. There was no steering of interviewees towards a particular narrative, no aggressive questioning, because this is research, not journalistic vox pops, and it was part of the patchwork of field work, a long story, not a short, knee jerk story impulsively yanked from the unsuspecting.

We were asked to answer questions regarding our own views of austerity before, during and after viewing the exhibition, the idea being to measure if people’s views changed, and if so, how.  While my own views hadn’t shifted too much, what the exhibition brought home to me was the amount of creativity and ingenuity being brought to bear on the unyielding sanctions and limitations of austerity by those most affected by them. Oh, not in a Blitz Spirit ‘Let’s all pull together’ kind of way, more in a ‘Batten down the hatches, lets work through this bastard’ kind of way.

What this work does is provide a multi faceted, complex picture of austerity in the UK. It is not Benefits Street, but nor is it Das Kapital, it is – in many ways – refreshingly neutral. Which, as a position, is needed.

There are plans to create a zine from the exhibition, using the research, which might seem an odd concept but, in the context of the seismic shifts of perspective zine making has undergone these past ten years or so, with writers and creators increasingly focusing on areas such as psycho-geography, on cities and the writers relationship with the city in which they live, it perhaps isn’t so surprising to find a zine concerned with austerity.

Daniel Defoe’s A Journal Of The Plague Year, George Orwell’s Down And Out In Paris And London… Why not a documentation of the realities of austerity? State of the nation, or kitchen sink, dramas are no longer written. There will be no Love on the dole, or The Manchester Man, nor even no Ruined City, but Everyday Austerity: The Zine will fulfill a similar role. It won’t be done for entertainment, nor will it be done for titillation, or voyeurism, but for knowledge, for education, for remembering, for empathy and understanding.

Spoileds

Following the outcome of the EU Referendum, I had a conversation with my mum that inspired me to make my first Freedom of Information request. Given the precarious nature of FOI legislation, it was very much a case of “Quick, before whoever the next Prime Minister is scraps it…” because FOI allows both journalists and members of the public to ask awkward questions, and when they get the answers (if they get the answers…), to tell other people about them, who then tell other people, who often then get very very cross… Some stories/campaigns that would have been impossible without FOI would include the expenses scandal and Private Eye’s map of offshore owned property in the UK.

Anyway, my mum spoiled her ballot paper in the referendum by writing “You are all lying” on it, and we wondered how many other people had spoiled the ballot paper. Or, to put it another way, how many people had looked at the paper and decided, for various reasons, not to answer the question.

As it turned out, I needn’t have submitted a FOI request to the Electoral Commission because they were planning to publish the the information anyway on their website.

It makes interesting reading, and has made me realise just how complex the issue is. In the spreadsheet, reasons for rejecting a ballot paper are listed under four different columns, headed respectively:

  • No official mark
  • Voting for both answers
  • Writing or mark
  • Unmarked or void

I’ve tried to add up the total result of rejected ballot’s but lost count a few times. That said, I can definitely say that the answer is either 25,240 or 25,359 as one wards figure of 119 may have been counted once or twice.

So, that’s just over 25,000 people who voted, but didn’t vote Remain or Leave.

Of the four reasons listed above, my mums spoiled ballot paper would fall into number 3. But it was number 2 that intrigued me the most: Voting for both answers.

There was a social media campaign a few days before the vote, urging people who weren’t sure which way to vote to vote Remain. But, that said, voting both ways is another way of saying you weren’t sure.

There were a total of 9,084 people who voted for both answers.

Of those who voted for both answers, the highest number of people voting this way were in Birmingham (311), Brent (157) and Leicester (154), there were also over 100 votes cast this way in each of the following areas:

  • Leeds
  • Bradford
  • Northern Ireland
  • Tower Hamlets
  • Lambeth
  • Ealing

I can’t help but think that these nine thousand and eighty four people have so far been excluded from the often vitriolic debates around voting motivations, post Brexit. No doubt a lot of them are quite pleased about that, but it does mean that there’s a whole dimension to the debate that hasn’t been discussed yet. One that I personally find more interesting than facile smug commentary by London journalists on the population of Blackpool, as heard on Radio 4 recently. That said, the piece on Boston and Brexit in the Economist was a much more intelligent piece.

 

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I genuinely thought that I was done with writing about the EU Referendum yesterday but, alas, it is not done with me…

Not having a smartphone I’ve been generally immune to the constant cycle of rolling news, petitions, social media updates, and collective hysterical meltdown. Or “chaos” as The Economist put it. But, like a fool, I decided to have a look at The Guardian while I was on dinner today.

I really don’t know why I still read The Guardian. It’s an occasional read, and I generally come away from their website feeling thoroughly frustrated and alienated. It seems increasingly to be written for the populations of Southwark, Hackney, Islington and Shoreditch exclusively. I had hoped for some sense from them this time, given the graveness of the situation post Brexit announcement, but no…

I knew about some of the petitions because I had emails yesterday about the TUC one and the Make Votes Matter one, plus a colleague had told me about the one for a second referendum, which the UK press have got all over their pages today. The Guardian also mentioned the one on Change.org for London to declare itself independent from the rest of the UK.

It was this last one that got me.

For several reasons…

To begin with, it is a slightly weird example of life imitating art because Radio 4 did a mock documentary last year on London declaring independence from the rest of the UK, and how they thought it might pan out.  Maybe they could organise a repeat of this in the light of recent events?

Secondly, James O’Malley, who started the petition, makes a number of sweeping statements in his summary, particularly this one:

Let’s face it – the rest of the country disagrees. So rather than passive aggressively vote against each other at every election, let’s make the divorce official and move in with our friends on the continent.

Whoa… hang on a minute there!

The rest of the country disagrees?!?

Has he cobbled this petition together without even looking at the breakdowns of which towns and cities voted for which option?

If we take the Greater Manchester area, the results were as follows:

Bolton: Leave by 51.89% to 48.11%

Bury: Leave by 54.12% to 45.88%

Manchester: Remain by 60.36% to 39.64%

Oldham: Leave by 60.86% to 39.14%

Rochdale: Leave by 60.07% to 39.93%

Salford: Leave by 56.81% to 43.19%

Stockport: Remain by 52.33% to 47.67%

Tameside: Leave by 61.14% to 38.86%

(All statistics gained using the widget on the Manchester Evening News referendum coverage)

This means that Manchester and Stockport form an island of Remain in a sea of Leave, handily complicating Mr O’Malley’s theory that everyone except London, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted Leave. Oh, and Trafford voted Remain as well: 57.7% to 42.3% so maybe we’re not so alone…

If we look at the London councils, and their results, using the Manchester Evening News widget again:

Well, for a start, London has 33 councils, not 8, so it’s not a fair comparison. That said, of those 33 councils, 5 of them voted for Leave. Which, while still a minority, blows a hole in Mr O’Malley’s argument. What’s he going to do? Expel those five councils, or take them hostage in the same way that Scotland (where every council voted in) and Northern Ireland (ditto) have been taken hostage by the rest of the UK?

Similarly, Wales is being written about as though the entirety of Wales voted to leave. This simply isn’t true: Cardiff voted to Remain by a margin of 60.02% to 39.98%, should it now, as the Welsh capital, declare independence from the rest of Wales?

Cardiff may have been in the minority but it wasn’t the only bit of Wales to vote Remain: Ceredigion did by 54.6% to 45.4%, Gwynedd also voted for Remain by 58.1% to 41.9%, and Glamorgan voted for Remain by 50.7% to 49.3%. Incidentally, Bristol voted Remain by 61.7% to 38.3%, so at least there’s a friend across the bridge…

If you want a snappy soundbite: Medway voted Leave, Manchester voted Remain, and Medway is a helluva lot nearer to London, geographically speaking, so blaming it all on the savages north of Watford just won’t stand.

Similarly: Leeds, York and Newcastle all voted Remain.

You can see a full breakdown of all the local results over on the BBC, and it’s easier than using the MEN widget.

In conclusion, while a certain amount of panic, anger, and looking for someone to blame is inevitable in these times. Can we all, please, do a little bit more research and preparation before we start slinging the mud about?

Scotland and Northern Ireland have both, in their very different ways, begun to explore the feasibility of remaining in the EU and/or gaining independence from the rest of the UK. Given that every council in Scotland and every council in Northern Ireland voted Remain, this is completely understandable. The fact that Belfast central post office today ran out of passport application forms (fact: As part of the Good Friday Agreement, those in Northern Ireland are entitled to both Irish and British passports) reflects this move.

But Mr O’Malley is basing his plea for an Independent London on the financial district, which, ironically, proved to be the downfall of the newly independent London as imagined by Radio 4 last year. This ended with another financial crash which London, now independent, had to absorb entirely on it’s own while the remainder of the UK looked on unmoved, shrugged, and got back to it’s growing manufacturing industries.

Appendix:

Full list of London council results, garnered using the MEN widget:

Barking and Dagenham: Leave by 62.44% to 37.56%

Barnet: Remain by 62.23% to 37.77%

Bexley: Leave by 62.95% to 37.05%

Brent: Remain by 59.74% to 40.26%

Bromley: Remain by 50.65% to 49.35%

Camden: Remain by 74.94% to 25.06%

City of London: Remain by 75.29% to 24.71%

Westminster: Remain by 68.97% to 31.03%

Croydon: Remain by 54.29% to 45.71%

Ealing: Remain by 60.40% to 39.60%

Enfield: Remain by 55.82% to 44.18%

Greenwich: Remain by 55.59% to 44.41%

Hackney: Remain by 78.48% to 21.52%

Hammersmith and Fulham: Remain by 70.02% to 29.98%

Haringey: Remain by 75.57% to 24.43%

Harrow: Remain by 54.63% to 45.37%

Havering: Leave by 69.66% to 30.34%

Hillingdon: Leave by 56.37% to 43.63%

Hounslow: Remain by 51.06% to 48.94%

Islington: Remain by 75.22% to 24.78%

Kensington and Chelsea: Remain by 68.69% to 31.31%

Kingston-Upon-Thames: Remain by 61.61% to 38.39%

Lambeth: Remain by 78.62% to 21.38%

Lewisham: Remain by 69.86% to 30.14%

Merton: Remain by 62.94% to 37.06%

Newham: Remain by 52.84% to 47.16%

Redbridge: Remain by 53.97% to 46.03%

Richmond-Upon-Thames: Remain by 69.29%

Southwark: Remain by 72.81% to 27.19%

Sutton: Leave by 53.72% to 46.28%

Tower Hamlets: Remain by 67.46% to 32.54%

Waltham Forest: Remain by 59.10% to 40.90%

Wandsworth: Remain by 75.03% to 24.97%

 

 

 

 

 

When I called this blog Too Late For Cake, it was inspired by a chance conversation at 8th Day, though even at the time I appreciated it’s Marie Antoinette connotations as well, which feel incredibly apt today.

It’s been a Billy Bragg kind of day today. I’d like to think it’s a case of Waiting For The Great Leap Forward, but I fear instead it’s more a case of Take Down The Union Jack.

Friends and colleagues are speculating as to where they would like to emigrate. Canada is a favourite for many, or possibly the Irish republic and post independence Scotland.