All posts by Lesley Docksey

Why Do We Think We Own The Earth?

We are now in climate crisis.  Almost every week another major scientific study hits the news, telling us we are losing this, destroying that and completely obliterating the other; whole ecological systems under threat while those with the power to take the hard decisions twiddle their thumbs and set ‘to-do’ dates that will be all too late to have any impact.  As a recent report notes: ‘Much scientific knowledge produced for climate policy-making is conservative and reticent.’  Policy makers do not want to face the inconvenient truth.

The trouble is that, even if we could somehow halt catastrophic climate change – now looking unattainable – we are also, by the way we live, destroying the ecological systems that keep us and all the earth alive, something equally catastrophic.  Plastic in the sea has nothing to do with climate change.  The loss of topsoil and soil degradation is mostly to do with industrial farming methods.  The destruction of forests is due to financial greed and while it will greatly exacerbate climate change, satisfying the desire for more money comes first.

People who think they ‘own’ the earth are those destroying it.  They are also often the ones who do not believe in climate change.  Surely the rich will always have enough money to buy what they want.  But you can’t buy what you have destroyed.

Many people understand the word ‘environment’ as being something ‘green’ when it is simply a term for our surroundings.  Of course, we should protect green/natural environments, but what we must really protect is the ecology of those areas.

Ecology is the way things work; it is how all life combines to support itself; it is true biodiversity, the balancing of living systems to the benefit of those systems.  It is a whole thing, or it should be, but we keep destroying bits here, there and everywhere. Then wonder why the whole doesn’t seem to work any more.

We can’t pick and choose with Nature.  We can’t say ‘I want to protect that species because it’s useful, but exterminate this one because it gets in my way.’  We accept all of Nature, or we accept nothing.  And we should include ourselves in that, yet we prefer to stand outside – and rule.

How did we arrive at this state of an arrogant claim of ‘ownership’ of the earth?  Let us go back to the ‘beginning’ – Genesis, in particular Genesis 1, verses 27 and 28.

  1. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
  2. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

This, of course, is the Authorised Version of the English Bible, also known as the King James Bible, published in 1611.  Probably the most printed book in the world, the writing, though now very old fashioned, is beautiful.  It has affected and added greatly to the English language.  No modern translations can equal its power.  More importantly, people remember the words and unfortunately it has done a far better job than subliminal advertising.

Consider those words ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over…’  How many people over the last 4 centuries have been taught them, read them, heard them in church?  Missionaries have carried them across the world, spreading the underlying message: ‘We humans own the earth.’

The Authorised version has been updated and put into modern language many times, but out of 27 bibles in English, 23 still use the word ‘subdue’; 13 use the phrase ‘have dominion over’.  The alternatives for subdue and dominion are ‘govern’, ‘rule’, ‘rule over’, ‘reign over’, ‘be masters over…’, ‘be its master’ or bring the earth ‘under control’.  The more recent American bibles make the message clear.  The Contemporary English Version, published in 1995, says:

Have a lot of children! Fill the earth with people and bring it under your control. Rule over the fish in the ocean, the birds in the sky, and every animal on the earth.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam all use Genesis in their thinking, but this isn’t just about monotheistic religions.  Pretty well all religions put humanity first.  That’s what they’re there for, to help us believe in ourselves as a species; to believe that some higher being or beings will look after us, the humans; put us, the humans, first.

It is easy to see how the West, propelled by men whose lives, regardless of their appalling acts, were based on the bible, has fulfilled the message.  Human population has been, for many years, expanding.  We do cover the earth and there are too few places left that are not under our control.  And our expanding population means an ever-growing demand that the earth must provide for us, even as we destroy the ability of the earth to provide what we need, let alone what we want.

In modern secular society people can be too wrapped up in consumerism to think about whether humans have the right to own the earth.  There is a lot of angry (and justified) discussion about how a very few people own most of the earth.  ‘How unfair!’ we cry.  But if we take that money, power and property away from the ultra rich, we will not give it to the earth where it belongs, but to ourselves, the common man.

It shows up in all shades of political thinking.  Most political parties (barring the alt-right) will claim some desire to help protect the environment, by which they mean ‘manage’.  Take this example from a Socialist Party’s leaflet, with the headline ‘There is only one world’:

… the world’s natural and industrial resources must become the common heritage of all humanity so that they can be used to directly meet the needs of the world’s population…

How did ancient man arrive at this attitude, this arrogance that became the rule so precisely displayed in Genesis?  It wasn’t always like this.

Hunter-gatherer societies, as described by anthropologist Douglas Fry, were small nomadic groups leading relatively stress-free lives, and they did not struggle to find the food they needed.  Then farming took over, in what Jared Diamond called ‘the worst mistake’ in history.

If you grow your food you have to stay in one place in order to care for your crop – your crop, and therefore, perhaps, your land.  That one simple act changed how humans thought and lived.  It created tribes with chiefs; it created ‘territories’ and fights over land; it created civilisations with growing populations, armies and a land bled dry by overuse; civilisations that inevitably collapsed.

Growing food certainly meant more people could be fed but, as Diamond points out, ‘Forced to choose between limiting population or trying to increase food production, we chose the latter and ended up with starvation, warfare, and tyranny.’

The modern world believes it has a ‘right’ to the earth and all it contains, while native peoples believe they have obligations towards the earth that feeds them.  Being indigenous does not mean being perfect in the way humans treat their environment.  Despite having an intimate relationship with their environment, and a deep sense of reverence for the earth, indigenous people still altered the land to enable the way they lived.

For the Algonquin peoples, living in the northeast states of America, ‘natural resources were not just passively foraged; they were actively managed, through such practices as regular burning to clear deadwood, produce pasture, and encourage the growth of nut trees and fresh browse.

Their sometime neighbours, sometime enemies, the Iroquois farmed as well as hunted, but ‘when cornfields lost their fertility or wood and game became scarce, every decade or so’, the people moved to another location.  Really?  Ten years to empty your environment?  There was room enough to do that then.  There isn’t now.

Time and again civilisations have collapsed, often for the reasons that possibly ended the Mayan culture: overpopulation and overuse of the land, endemic warfare and drought.  The Chaco Canyon culture died, it seems, not just because of environmental stress, but of a rigid belief system: ‘the Puebloan people survived only by letting go of tradition’.

But now our civilisation is global and we are collapsing on a global scale.  This time we have nowhere to move and start again.  Forget that dream of relocating to another planet.  We haven’t the time or resources left to go wholesale into space to live on another earth-like planet.  And if we haven’t learnt from our mistakes here, another planet would be trashed.

We humans are proud of our intelligence, our inventiveness, our technology.  That pride in ownership, that greed for more control, and that push to provide more and more goods for ever-eager consumers, using resources that become less and less, has led to the ruination of the planet and now, more than likely, to our own extinction.

Now universities are studying possible technical fixes, geo-engineering, in the hope that we can bring climate change under our ‘control’.  But the danger there is that if some of these fixes appear to work, then everyone will say ‘that’s alright then’, and carry on as before in our earth-damaging way.

In humanity’s desire to own the earth, there are several things we won’t own.  We won’t own the waste we create.  We won’t own the carbon emissions emitted by other countries on our behalf.  We won’t own our mistakes, or the misery they create – and we won’t own our responsibilities.

We are losing the topsoil all across the earth.  Soon, the soil that grows our food (and the food of many other life forms that populate this little planet) will be dead.  This is too big for a technological ‘fix’.

Rivers are struggling.  Some will dry up as the glaciers that feed them melt. There will come a day when there are no more glaciers and the earth will lose its major source of fresh water.  This is too big for a technological ‘fix’.

Left alone, rivers have clean water, are full of life and their regular flooding has benefits.  The Nile Delta, now endangered, once owed its reputation as ‘the bread basket of the world’ to its annual floods.  But the majority of the world’s great rivers are no longer free-flowing.  We have rerouted them, dammed them, constrained them, polluted them with antibiotics, herbicides, pesticides and poured human and animal sewage into them or drained them of their waters to irrigate ‘our’ land.  We have done everything except to allow them to act naturally.  This is too big for a technological ‘fix’.

With a possible major sea level rise, the oceans, poisoned and stripped of most life, will take over land that the human race has claimed as its own.  This also is too big for a technological ‘fix’.

All life has its own form of intelligence which allows it to survive by fitting in to the whole ecological system.  The natural environment should be a thing of beauty, full of busy life, something that both inspires and calms.  It has become a bleak and empty place, where you return from a walk over the hills with a mental list of the things you haven’t seen – because our collective ego has killed them.

For far too long, humanity has regarded itself as ‘outside’ Nature.  We think we are exceptional.  Our ‘intelligence’ rarely produces long-lasting benefits to anything but ourselves.  God forbid that we should be just one form of life among many, with no more ability to survive than the rest of life.  How could we, being who we have become, face that loss of importance?  There is only one thing that makes humanity truly exceptional; our desire to own and control everything, partnered by our horrible ability to destroy what we try to control.

Can we learn from Chaco Canyon and the Pueblo people?  Is it too late to ditch our rigid world view, our superiority, our belief in our ‘right’ to own and control our world?  Can we, before our much-vaunted ‘civilisation’ crashes and we die, learn instead to live kindly with this earth?

Climate Destruction: Bearing witness with Dahr Jamail

The question is not are we going to fail.  The question is how?

— Stephen Jenkinson, author and storyteller.

Water, glaciers, oceans, food, forests and fires – all of these things are part of global warming under the magnifying glass of Dahr Jamail in his book The End of Ice.

Jamail is a first class hunter-gatherer of information.  It is not just finding and reading scientific papers.  It is climbing the mountains; it is meeting with and listening to the indigenous people living on the edge of disaster; it is walking in the forests, swimming in the coral reefs, and doing this in the company of those experts and scientists who have watched, recorded and wept over the changes for many years, choosing their place and staying there, knowing it will all be destroyed.

Each place he visited, each conversation he had with the experts on that place produced startling facts that should be, but aren’t, trumpeted by the media, taught in schools, thrust down the throats of the climate change sceptics.  And here is the message that the many scientists he spoke to stress: everything is happening much faster than predicted, and certainly much, much faster than you would know if you depend on your television, daily paper or politicians for information.

The book explores some of the hits the earth is already suffering through climate disruption and what that is leading to.  And it is not just a few changes here and there.

It starts in the Alaskan mountains but then, for Jamail, it will always start, and end there.  From an early age he has been mesmerised by mountains.  Whether climbing them or just sitting and watching them, mountains have been central to his life.  It goes without saying that glaciers are a part of that love.

And the glaciers are melting.  No news there.  What must be faced is how rapidly they are disappearing, all over the world.  As glaciers die, so do the forests lower down the mountains.  Without glaciers the mountain slopes dry out.  With a warming climate and dry forests, massive wildfires are set to increase.

It is expected that in just a few decades the United States will have no glaciers left; Alaska is suffering more than most, only much of that is unseen, out in the wilderness.  But what is happening there is happening globally.

Startling fact 1: globally glaciers hold 69 percent of all the freshwater on the planet.  Many major rivers are fed by glaciers.  Millions of people depend on them.  What, one wonders, will happen when the Ganges runs dry?

While the brutal seal hunt on Canada’s east coast carries on, on the western side of the continent small communities struggle to find seals at all.  They have moved further north in search of cooler waters.  There have been massive die-offs of sea birds as the warming sea has killed their food.  Small coastal and island communities with subsistence cultures are breaking up.

Startling fact 2: in the summer of 2016 the water in the Gulf of Alaska “was 15ºC warmer than normal in some areas.  And it is now, over all, 5ºC above normal in both the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea, and has been all winter long.”  So said scientist Bruce Wright.

Coral reefs are extraordinarily beautiful, but they are not just there for divers and their cameras.  Just as coastal communities in the north are seeing their food supply dwindle, so island communities that depend on the fish living among the coral reefs for their food are watching the corals die and the fish disappear.

It is common knowledge that warming seas are bleaching the coral reefs.  What is not appreciated is that though corals can recover from a warming event, those events are now happening too often, too quickly for any recovery.  A marine scientist, Dr Dean Miller, considering the prediction that coral reefs will disappear by 2050, told Jamail, “I think it’s too conservative, I really do… what we are seeing now is death.

Seas are not just getting warmer, there is acidification.  This is threatening plankton, the base of the sea’s food chain.  Some plankton species are dying out while others flourish, leading to imbalance and ‘a big problem’.

Startling Fact 3: phytoplankton photosynthesis produces half, yes half, the total oxygen supply for the planet.

Jamail went to the Everglades, a unique site of global importance and not without problems.  Through human activity it has been robbed of its water and suffers from invasive species, but the real threat to come is rising sea levels.  The rest of Florida may not be far behind.  There is not a lot of high ground and most of the coast is vulnerable to ever-fiercer hurricanes and storm surges.  With a projected 6 feet of sea level rise by the end of the century, much of Florida would be under water and its fresh water aquifer would be contaminated.

But Florida is also an example of why the world is not preparing for such climate disruption.  Rick Scott, Florida’s governor until 2019, is a climate disruption denier.  He prohibited any state employee from even using the words ‘climate change’.

Jamail went to the University of Miami to meet Dr Harold Wanless who was more than blunt: “We’ve screwed ourselves.  We have kicked the bucket.  We have gone off the cliff.”  As Wanless outlined the certain threats we are facing, Jamail wrote, “Hearing the truth in a society steeped in various degrees of denial, I greet the bad news with relief.”

Wanless talks about the amount of heat human activity has put into the oceans, something we can’t undo.  He gives Jamail one last piece of data: in the past, atmospheric COvaried from roughly 180 to 280 parts per million (ppm).  This 100 ppm fluctuation was linked with about a 100-foot change in the sea level.

Startling Fact 4: Reacting to this information, Jamail recalled that since the Industrial Revolution, atmospheric CO2 has increased by 130 ppm.  “That is 130 feet of sea level rise that is already baked into Earth’s climate system!” he exclaimed.  Wanless nodded grimly.

And it is grim.  How do we prepare for seas taking over so much land?  How do we face it?  Can we even imagine what that will mean?

In 2015 Jamail experienced a seriously emotional and personal event (you’ll have to read the book to find out what that was), and it was this event that helped him make sense of all that he was learning and how to use that knowledge.  It is, after all, difficult to accept that all you know and love is due for demolition.

And this is his conclusion:

I find my deepest conviction and connection to the Earth by communing with the mountains. I moved to Colorado and lived among them when I was in my early 20s, and it was there I began to deepen my relationship with them, and to really listen to them. I would hike out and just sit among the peaks, watching them for hours, and write about them in my journal. Today I know in my bones that my job is to learn to listen to them ever more deeply, and to share what they are telling us with those who are also listening.

While western colonialist culture believes in “rights”, many indigenous cultures teach of “obligations” that we are born into: obligations to those who came before, to those who will come after, and to the Earth itself. When I orient myself around the question of what my obligations are, a deeper question immediately arises: from this moment on, knowing what is happening to the planet, to what do I devote my life?

So he ends where he began – among the mountains.

It could be a seriously depressing read, if it wasn’t for Jamail’s determination to understand and share with us what the earth is undergoing, and his loving commitment to be with it every step of the way.  His skill in writing keeps you focused on what he has to say, and his ability to override the dire news he is recording with a compassion that sees beauty among the ruins is somehow both comforting and inspiring.  Instead of despair it gives each one of us, as individuals, direction.

We might delay disastrous climate change by ending all carbon emissions but we cannot stop it, and it will be upon us much sooner than we like to think.  But we can each choose our place on the earth, sit with it, listen to what it is trying to teach us and share the knowledge we gain.  We can support it, love it and be with it for as long as we live.  The earth needs all the devotion we can give it.

National Interest or Personal Interest: Theresa May’s Spat with Tony Blair

The war of words between Tony Blair and Theresa May over the last few days is quite revealing – not of Blair’s known position regarding the Brexit mess, but because the Prime Minister’s rant showed her weakness.  Her position is unsustainable and the last thing she wanted was unwelcome comments from an ex-Prime Minister.

She had, after all, just come back from Brussels yet again, carrying no hope from the EU negotiators, but then she had offered no new ideas to put on the table.  The agreed withdrawal text was ‘the best deal’ she could get, and Parliament had been refused the chance to vote against it – a vote she had promised then taken away.

The spat started with Tony Blair speaking on BBC’s Today programme* prior to a speech he was due to make later that day.  His predecessor John Major, had already publicly given his support for 2 options: another referendum (the Peoples Vote) and revoking the Article 50 withdrawal.  Blair had also backed the People’s Vote.

There is currently no majority in Parliament for May’s deal or any other, including crashing out of the EU with no deal at all. Blair said there could be majority support among MPs for a new EU poll if Parliament ended up “gridlocked”, and certainly more MPs are saying so.  He added that “he admired Mrs May’s determination but suggested that, with so many MPs opposed to the backstop and other parts of the deal, this was becoming a weakness and she must realise she was “in a hole… and there is literally no point in carrying on digging”.

All very reasonable but this did not please Theresa May.  She issued an explosive statement, demonstrating just how touchy and vulnerable she’s feeling.  She said the ex-PM’s backing for a second referendum was deliberately sabotaging her bid to make EU leaders compromise on the Irish backstop.  To quote:

There are too many people who want to subvert the process for their own political interests rather than act in the national interest.  For Tony Blair to go to Brussels and seek to undermine our negotiations by advocating a second referendum is an insult to the office he once held and the people he once served.  We cannot, as he would, abdicate responsibility for this decision.

There are three points to note here. First, ‘her bid to make EU leaders compromise…’  After all this time and months of negotiation, her government has not abandoned its arrogant and self-important attitude towards the EU, something many of us find embarrassing.  How many more times does the EU have to say ‘no more negotiations’ before they will be believed?

Secondly, her government’s ‘responsibility for this decision’.  The decision is no decision.  Brexit MPs and supporters have never produced a genuine plan for Brexit.  It has been about nothing but leave the EU and its regulations.  What happens then is not their problem.  On May’s side there has been a complete failure to enable Parliament to come up with any ‘decision’.  That is her problem, and indeed her responsibility.

Thirdly, according to the Independent, ‘Mr Blair is understood not to have visited Brussels for several months, and it is unclear what prompted the timing of Ms May’s attack.’  Blair, of course, defended his position, being somewhat better at that than May (he’s had a lot of practice), saying that if Parliament cannot come to a clear decision, it is logical to go back to the people.

May suggests that Blair’s latest comments are in his own interests.  It is true that Blair has relentlessly popped up to pontificate about the current state of affairs, and that most of those occasions could be seen as self-advertisement and very much in his personal interest.  (On the other hand, the Prime Minister may not be doing all this in her personal interest, but it’s certainly focused on the interests of the Conservative Party and its survival.)

Blair ignored the people and the national interest when he joined President Bush’s military games.  I and millions of others will find it difficult to ever forgive him for the damage done to Afghanistan and Iraq and their citizens** (and, Mr Blair, please don’t forget that somewhere in the dusty back rooms of the International Criminal Court is a case still to be heard against you for war crimes).

Word has it that whenever he criticises Jeremy Corbyn or suggests a more ‘centrist’ party, Labour membership increases. Sadly, that is now probably balanced by the number of members leaving because of Labour’s very weak position on Brexit.  People joined Labour because of the social reforms promised in the Labour manifesto.  They saw an end to the disastrous Tory ‘austerity’ ideology.  How on earth Labour thinks it can deal with Brexit and deliver on its pledges is beyond me – and anyone else.  Nor would the EU be willing to start negotiations all over again, regardless of Corbyn’s internationalism and negotiating skills.

So, where Brexit and the national interest are concerned, I have to admit Blair is right, and I never thought I would say that.  But then, over the last two years I have had to revise my opinion about several, mostly right wing, MPs who are doing their best to protect the UK from Brexit and the chaos that May’s predecessor David Cameron and her government have caused.

Blair and his predecessor John Major (who sensibly kept out of politics until Brexit reared its head) were largely responsible for the Good Friday Agreement, which not only brought an end to most of the violence in Northern Ireland; it resulted in the open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  For trade, traffic and people that border has become almost invisible.  It is in the national interests of both the UK and the RoI to keep it that way, regardless of what Brexiters and Northern Ireland’s DUP MPs claim.  The border issue is the very large and unavoidable hole in the Brexit road.

For Blair and Major, their legacy will include the Good Friday Agreement.  For the politicians of that time, it is something to be proud of, something worth protecting.  And if the negotiators could achieve that, then surely peace could be made between Leavers and Remainers without trashing the UK in the process.

Theresa May’s legacy, on the other hand, will be ‘the hostile environment’, a policy that shames this nation and its people.  And the last two years under her leadership, with her ministers’ inability to negotiate in any real sense with the EU, is also deeply shaming.  Even worse, they have blamed the EU for their failures, accusing them of bullying (Brexit Minister No. 1, David Davis, and blackmailing and bullying (Brexit Minister No. 2, Dominic Raab) while Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt likened the EU to the Soviet Union. This is no way to negotiate your way out of one of the biggest threats to this country’s stability.

Shame, embarrassment, humiliation and unwise rants against a former Prime Minister – what more could Theresa May add to her ‘legacy’ and its place in our history?

* You can hear the whole interview here, starting at 2:19:52

** An estimate of 2.4 million Iraqi deaths from the invasion and the following years of violence and unrest.

Salisbury Continues to Suffer While Theresa May Plays Novichok Game

Salisbury is still suffering from the crazy Skripal/nerve agent event that took place on Sunday 4th March.  Four weeks on the picture is still grim despite local efforts to encourage people to come to the city.  It is after all a shopping and tourist magnet.

On 23rd March Environment Minister Michael Gove visited the city and promised government support.  He said, “I know that local businesses have taken a bit of a hit understandably as a result of the events…”  A ‘bit of a hit’?

Across the city, businesses have taken a 20% fall and are still far from back to normal.  There has been a 90% drop in visitors to the city, with a corresponding drop in trade, particularly for those shops near the Maltings where the unconscious Skripals were found, and it is not much better now.  It could take weeks for things to return to anything like it should be.

The government is providing £1 million to help faltering business, although they haven’t said when.  And promises are often empty where this government is concerned.  It may sound a lot but it isn’t, and Salisbury will be lobbying for more.  It really should be seen as compensation for the damage done by the government in pushing its anti-Russia agenda.  In a more constructive fashion, Wiltshire County Council took the decision to make all parking free within the city, even though it would lose them a lot of revenue.  Did that work?

On Easter Saturday I revisited Salisbury to see for myself.  This was, after all, a holiday weekend, and Salisbury should be packed with people.  Yes, car parks were full but…

Sainsbury’s supermarket, between a big car park and the Maltings, was not exactly humming.  Although the check-out tills were busy, there were no queues.  Walking along the ends of the aisles, I saw only one or two people in each, searching the shelves.  I spoke to a Sainsbury’s floor manager, who told me that, “Yes, free parking has made a difference, but…,” and he looked around, “this is not as it would be, normally.”

I later went to another supermarket, out on the edge of the city centre, and accessible by one of the busy through-roads.  That was very active.  I wondered whether it may have picked up some of the customers lost by other stores, but truly, no one is a winner here.

Whichever way you approach the Maltings, there are large official signs saying ‘Shops Open’.  But there is also a very visible police presence, both cars and officers, and areas cordoned-off with police tape.

Because it was a holiday weekend, work on the decontamination of various sites had been postponed and everywhere cleared of people in protective suits, which might have ‘unsettled’ Easter weekend visitors.  But there were still too many police on display, some of which have been drafted in from other counties.  And the shops along the area where the Skripals were found are still shut, even though the bench they sat on has been removed.  Why not remove the litter bin right beside it?

I returned to a shop I had been in before and spoke to the manager.  Free parking had not made much difference to shops around the Maltings.  People see the police, she explained, and walk another way into the city centre.  Yes, some did come into the shop and say they were ‘there to support Salisbury’.  Then, she said, they walk out again.  Well, sorry folks, but don’t pat yourselves on the back for that.  Next time, get your wallets out and buy something.  That’s how to support Salisbury.

All such small shops, so dependent on tourists, are wondering if they can survive much more because, despite cars coming in and parking for free, the coaches full of tourists are not coming.  I found one coach park that, apart from two little local buses and a big coach from Kent, was empty.  I was told that one coach tour company has simply cancelled all its Salisbury tours for this year.

And what of Guildhall Square that was so empty when I last saw it?  It was filled with the Saturday market; huge stalls laid out with rails of clothes, tiers of fresh vegetables and all the other things you expect in an open-air market.  Just not quite enough customers to fill the spaces between the stalls.  Bustle it didn’t, and the cafes and restaurants were still not full enough.

Salisbury may have to face months of decontamination work, with all that involves.  What is worse is that, each time the Novichok story goes a bit dead in the media, out pops something else to hit the headlines.  And none of it, when you sit back and really look at it, makes sense.

Almost 3 weeks after the incident, Public Health England issued further advice on dealing with the clothes worn by perhaps 500 people which may have been ‘infected’, offering compensation for those clothes that should be dry-cleaned.  Is this for real?  Or has everything been infected by May?

At the end of March Prime Minister May was still claiming that up to 130 people ‘may have been exposed to Novichok’.  A Salisbury Hospital doctor disagreed.  In a letter to The Times, regarding their article Salisbury poisoning exposure leaves almost 40 needing treatment, Stephen Davies, a consultant in emergency medicine, wrote that:

‘No patients have experienced symptoms of nerve-agent poisoning in Salisbury and there have only ever been three patients with significant poisoning’.  And note, not nerve agent poisoning, just poisoning.

Three patients – Sergei Skripal, his daughter Yulia, and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who was reported to have been ‘among the first to help Col. Skripal and his daughter as they lay stricken… and was rushed to hospital after the incident.’

Now, hang on a minute.  What was a plain clothes policeman doing on a Sunday afternoon to be so handily on the scene?  And none of the first responders, the paramedics, were affected by this deadly nerve agent.  In fact, when May met them she was told that they thought they were attending a drug overdose, and goodness knows, paramedics have seen enough of those to know what they’re looking at.

Bailey apparently took himself to hospital later to report some symptoms but was discharged.  He was also one of the first police officers to go to Skripal’s house the following morning, and was in hospital by the evening, with reports of the police believing he was ‘contaminated’ in Skripal’s house.

He was discharged from hospital on March 22nd, unlike the Skripals, who are invisible and, despite pressure, unvisited by the Russian Ambassador.  “At least Bailey’s gone home,” I commented to one shop owner, a long-time Salisbury trader.  “Oh no,” she replied.  “He can’t go there, his house is cordoned off!”

“Well,” I said, “perhaps he’s in hiding elsewhere in Salisbury.”

No again.  “We all know Nick.  He’d be recognised, wherever he was.”

“Then perhaps he’s gone somewhere else.  Perhaps he’ll transfer to another police force,” I suggested.

“I doubt he’ll want to carry on policing, not after this,” was the confident reply.  Indeed, Salisbury does know, and has great affection for its Nick Bailey.  When I said he seemed to be quite a poster boy for the city, she agreed.  And I cynically wondered if that was why he had been chosen for the role in May’s Novichok drama.

Then on March 28th something else hit the headlines: Specialists have found that the greatest concentration of the nerve agent was on Skripal’s front door, and that this must be how they were poisoned.

Now hang on another minute.  Police and aliens in Hazmat suits have been going in and out of this house since whenever.  One investigator was photographed in the garden with a checklist taped to the back of his/her suit. Are these really specialists in their work?  And why react to the ‘front door’ news by rushing to cordon off the children’s play area just down the road?  A ‘precautionary’ measure or scare tactics?

If the contamination by such a deadly ‘nerve agent’ on the front door was so high, and is now first in the long list of how the Skripals got poisoned, why did it take so long to have an effect?  Drive into the city centre, park your car, walk to the Mill pub for a drink, walk back to the Zizzi restaurant to have a leisurely meal, walk from Zizzi’s through Market Walk to the bench in the Maltings (a mere 100 yards or so) and all the while showing no signs of physical distress – all this, then boom, and you’re unconscious?

Here’s another question: why, when a few days earlier, investigators from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were collecting their own samples from ‘contaminated sites’, was the deadly front door only discovered after they had left?

One can only hope that OPCW gets brave and really sinks Theresa May’s nerve agent ship.  And if it does, Salisbury is due much, much more than £1 million.

Salisbury, Skripal and Novichok: A Local View

From the moment the news came out that on Sunday March 4th in Salisbury, one of England’s revered cathedral cities, a Russian spy and his daughter had been poisoned by some form of ‘nerve agent’ my reaction was ‘Oh dear’.

Jeremy Corbyn correctly reminded Parliament of Tony Blair’s attempt to frighten people into going to war with Iraq with his ‘’dodgy dossier’ and 45 minutes claim.  But most have forgotten that, four days before the huge demonstration in London the Army very visibly arrived at Heathrow airport, because there was a possible threat of planes being hit by al Qa’ida missiles.  They disappeared after a day or so as it was obvious the protest by millions would go ahead anyway.

The ever-increasing hysteria of the government and mainstream media in the days that followed the Salisbury incident was giving off the same nasty smell.  All the ‘news’ was evidence-light and full of anomalies that no one addressed.  It seems that once again, a government is trying to scare everyone, this time to make us point the accusing finger at Russia.

Then I read a comment by a Salisbury resident: “It’s like a ghost town.”  The government’s reaction had so frightened everyone that people weren’t coming to the city.  Shops and businesses were suffering.  I don’t exactly live a million miles from Salisbury, so I hopped on the train to see for myself how it was coping.

Visit Salisbury at any time of the year and it will be heaving with people coming to shop, to eat at one of the many cafes, restaurants and pubs, to visit the Cathedral and to walk through the ancient narrow streets.  Not now, it isn’t.  From the moment I walked out of the station towards the city centre I was struck by the lack of people.  Plenty of traffic winding its way through the narrow medieval streets but pedestrians?  No.

I made my way to the Maltings where Skripal and his daughter had been found, collapsed on a bench.  It’s a pedestrianised area, with a central green area (where that bench was) beside a river, surrounded by some big stores and lots of little, individual shops.  Walk through it from the car parks and you come out into the old city centre with its ancient timber-frame and brick buildings.  It’s not just popular with the locals, it is tourist heaven.

On my way in there was a policemen on duty and blue-and-white cordon tape.  Further in were more police guarding cordoned-off areas and some media – cameras and reporters making their filmed reports to Sky News or whoever.  I overheard one of them saying “She is due to arrive…”  Could I possibly have arrived just before our useless Prime Minister Theresa May finally came to Salisbury?  I would have to wait and see.

I filled in time with looking at some of the shops.  There were five within the cordon, forced to close for nearly two weeks, and no end in sight.  Beyond them, just outside the cordon, was an Original Factory Shop with open doors.  I didn’t go in.  I didn’t want to face the embarrassment of being the only person in a large store not standing behind a counter.  Sainsbury’s supermarket, on the edge of the Maltings, wasn’t faring much better.

I tried the little shops, loved by visitors to Salisbury.  It is nearly Easter.  Windows were filled with Easter displays, and no public to enjoy them.  In each was a lonely person waiting in vain for customers.  I asked one of them how bad the trade was.  “It’s twice as bad as it was last week,” she said, “and it’s getting worse.”  Depressed, I went back and stood by the bridge over the river, waiting for May.

The press were gathering, more cameras, microphones held ready.  A Wiltshire policeman passed me and grinned. “We don’t usually have exciting things happen in Salisbury!” he said cheerfully.  But Salisbury really could do without this thrill.

May appeared with Chief Constable Pritchard and was immediately surrounded by the press.  I heard an animated conversation going on behind me.  It was Jon Snow of Channel 4 News, talking to some local people.  They only realised who he was after he walked off, back to the city centre and away from the media scrum.  Sensible man.

Two schoolgirls passed May on their way back to school after lunch, one of them saying, “I don’t really care about her.”  May went on a tiny walk-about and met one or two shop owners, probably handpicked for being Prime Minister-friendly.  Then it was off to the Guildhall for a meeting with first-responders.

The empty Guildhall Square at lunchtime – every building in the photo is a café, pub or restaurant!

Outside was a crowd, rubber necking, along with lots of police, some noisy police dogs, and a fire engine.  Hovering overhead were helicopters and a drone.  No wonder Salisbury residents and visitors are becoming fearful and staying away.  Apart from the crowd standing outside the Guildhall, the large Guildhall Square was almost deserted, and this at lunchtime when offices empty and people fill the cafes, restaurants and pubs that surround the Square and it’s hard to find a free table anywhere.  Now they were almost all free.

Here and there I saw large signs outside the shops declaring, ‘Open for Business’.  I had never seen the city like this and it broke my heart.  It is scheduled to get worse.  On Monday March 12th the Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner said that all the cordoned areas (of which there are several around the city) could remain in place for weeks, and that more could be set up.

But Salisbury has had enough and is fighting back.  In a narrow street going towards the cathedral I found a shop window with a message strung across it: #SALISBURYISOPEN.  Naturally I went in and asked the woman behind the counter what it meant.  And it all came pouring out.  “We’ve just recovered from all the ‘regeneration work’ on the car parks and the Maltings, when this happens,” she said, while explaining her message.

The Salisbury Journal, the city’s weekly paper, is one to be envied by other places.  The March 15th issue has a 12-page focus on the incident which puts the hyperventilating national press to shame.  The Journal is also doing what government has failed to do.  Ministers might insist Salisbury is ‘safe’, but that doesn’t match their scare-mongering.  So the Journal launched the ‘Salisbury is Open’ campaign.  That is what the ‘Open for Business’ signs are about.

Twitter: #salisburyisopen

I was told how Salisbury residents are too frightened to come into the centre to shop.  I was told of suspect vehicles being taken by the military to Porton Down, a fact confirmed by the Journal.  The Journal carefully lists them: ambulances, police cars (some unmarked) and two vehicle recovery vans, over several days.

Altogether, about 10 or 11 vehicles, for the scientists at Porton Down to examine for the presence of a ‘nerve agent’.  Scientists there must be tired of this, having apparently refused to identify it as Russian-made.

But the real question, says the lady in the shop, is ‘What about Skripal’s car?’ a red BMW series 3.  Why was it taking so long for the police to find it?  Surely they would look in the Sainsbury’s car park first?  They cordoned off the car park, but not until 8 days after the poisoning.  Later they came back and cordoned off the ticket machine.

It is known Skripal’s car entered the car park at about 1:40 pm on March 4th.  When was it taken to the Ashley Wood Recovery Garage, and by whom?  And indeed, why, unless to get it out of the way?

Why did ‘incident response units’ examine a red BMW at the Garage on Thursday March 8th, remove an Ashley Wood recovery van from Winterslow village on Monday 12th, return to the Garage on Tuesday 13th, remove another recovery van from a Dorset town on Thursday March 14th and only then on Friday, 12 whole days after the incident, it is officially identified as Skripal’s car, and the Journal reports that it is being removed from Ashley Wood Recovery Garage, with the national media limping in a day later.

12 days.  If this nerve agent is so very dangerous why is there so little to show for so much activity, and so many delays in dealing with it?  Doesn’t it look like an exercise in propaganda?

Are the counter terrorism police going to trace all those who used the car park ticket machine?  Are they going to cordon off any place (the cemetery is already out of bounds) where Skripal may possibly have been?  Are they going to spin this out even more and gradually put all of Ashley Wood’s vehicles in Porton Down, and all its staff in hospital?  Another local business ruined to further the UK’s anti-Russia campaign.

There is no thought for the city of Salisbury and its people in any of the government’s actions, so focused are they on their unsubstantiated accusations against Russia.  A Foreign Office statement claimed:

Russia’s response doesn’t change the facts of the matter – the attempted assassination of two people on British soil, for which there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable.

The Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said it was a ‘state-sponsored murder attempt’.  But which ‘state’ are we talking about?

It’s been clear for months that the government was using the Brexit shambles to hide the fact that they couldn’t govern the country and tackle its pressing issues – the health crisis, homelessness and lack of social housing, poverty and the awful results of its austerity programme.  Now it seems that the government is using Skripal to hide the fact that they can’t govern Brexit either.

And while they’re sorting out their fantastical mess, and if you live anywhere near Salisbury, go visit, eat out and buy something in the shops.

• Photos by Lesley Docksey

Salisbury, Skripal and Novichok: A Local View

From the moment the news came out that on Sunday March 4th in Salisbury, one of England’s revered cathedral cities, a Russian spy and his daughter had been poisoned by some form of ‘nerve agent’ my reaction was ‘Oh dear’.

Jeremy Corbyn correctly reminded Parliament of Tony Blair’s attempt to frighten people into going to war with Iraq with his ‘’dodgy dossier’ and 45 minutes claim.  But most have forgotten that, four days before the huge demonstration in London the Army very visibly arrived at Heathrow airport, because there was a possible threat of planes being hit by al Qa’ida missiles.  They disappeared after a day or so as it was obvious the protest by millions would go ahead anyway.

The ever-increasing hysteria of the government and mainstream media in the days that followed the Salisbury incident was giving off the same nasty smell.  All the ‘news’ was evidence-light and full of anomalies that no one addressed.  It seems that once again, a government is trying to scare everyone, this time to make us point the accusing finger at Russia.

Then I read a comment by a Salisbury resident: “It’s like a ghost town.”  The government’s reaction had so frightened everyone that people weren’t coming to the city.  Shops and businesses were suffering.  I don’t exactly live a million miles from Salisbury, so I hopped on the train to see for myself how it was coping.

Visit Salisbury at any time of the year and it will be heaving with people coming to shop, to eat at one of the many cafes, restaurants and pubs, to visit the Cathedral and to walk through the ancient narrow streets.  Not now, it isn’t.  From the moment I walked out of the station towards the city centre I was struck by the lack of people.  Plenty of traffic winding its way through the narrow medieval streets but pedestrians?  No.

I made my way to the Maltings where Skripal and his daughter had been found, collapsed on a bench.  It’s a pedestrianised area, with a central green area (where that bench was) beside a river, surrounded by some big stores and lots of little, individual shops.  Walk through it from the car parks and you come out into the old city centre with its ancient timber-frame and brick buildings.  It’s not just popular with the locals, it is tourist heaven.

On my way in there was a policemen on duty and blue-and-white cordon tape.  Further in were more police guarding cordoned-off areas and some media – cameras and reporters making their filmed reports to Sky News or whoever.  I overheard one of them saying “She is due to arrive…”  Could I possibly have arrived just before our useless Prime Minister Theresa May finally came to Salisbury?  I would have to wait and see.

I filled in time with looking at some of the shops.  There were five within the cordon, forced to close for nearly two weeks, and no end in sight.  Beyond them, just outside the cordon, was an Original Factory Shop with open doors.  I didn’t go in.  I didn’t want to face the embarrassment of being the only person in a large store not standing behind a counter.  Sainsbury’s supermarket, on the edge of the Maltings, wasn’t faring much better.

I tried the little shops, loved by visitors to Salisbury.  It is nearly Easter.  Windows were filled with Easter displays, and no public to enjoy them.  In each was a lonely person waiting in vain for customers.  I asked one of them how bad the trade was.  “It’s twice as bad as it was last week,” she said, “and it’s getting worse.”  Depressed, I went back and stood by the bridge over the river, waiting for May.

The press were gathering, more cameras, microphones held ready.  A Wiltshire policeman passed me and grinned. “We don’t usually have exciting things happen in Salisbury!” he said cheerfully.  But Salisbury really could do without this thrill.

May appeared with Chief Constable Pritchard and was immediately surrounded by the press.  I heard an animated conversation going on behind me.  It was Jon Snow of Channel 4 News, talking to some local people.  They only realised who he was after he walked off, back to the city centre and away from the media scrum.  Sensible man.

Two schoolgirls passed May on their way back to school after lunch, one of them saying, “I don’t really care about her.”  May went on a tiny walk-about and met one or two shop owners, probably handpicked for being Prime Minister-friendly.  Then it was off to the Guildhall for a meeting with first-responders.

The empty Guildhall Square at lunchtime – every building in the photo is a café, pub or restaurant!

Outside was a crowd, rubber necking, along with lots of police, some noisy police dogs, and a fire engine.  Hovering overhead were helicopters and a drone.  No wonder Salisbury residents and visitors are becoming fearful and staying away.  Apart from the crowd standing outside the Guildhall, the large Guildhall Square was almost deserted, and this at lunchtime when offices empty and people fill the cafes, restaurants and pubs that surround the Square and it’s hard to find a free table anywhere.  Now they were almost all free.

Here and there I saw large signs outside the shops declaring, ‘Open for Business’.  I had never seen the city like this and it broke my heart.  It is scheduled to get worse.  On Monday March 12th the Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner said that all the cordoned areas (of which there are several around the city) could remain in place for weeks, and that more could be set up.

But Salisbury has had enough and is fighting back.  In a narrow street going towards the cathedral I found a shop window with a message strung across it: #SALISBURYISOPEN.  Naturally I went in and asked the woman behind the counter what it meant.  And it all came pouring out.  “We’ve just recovered from all the ‘regeneration work’ on the car parks and the Maltings, when this happens,” she said, while explaining her message.

The Salisbury Journal, the city’s weekly paper, is one to be envied by other places.  The March 15th issue has a 12-page focus on the incident which puts the hyperventilating national press to shame.  The Journal is also doing what government has failed to do.  Ministers might insist Salisbury is ‘safe’, but that doesn’t match their scare-mongering.  So the Journal launched the ‘Salisbury is Open’ campaign.  That is what the ‘Open for Business’ signs are about.

Twitter: #salisburyisopen

I was told how Salisbury residents are too frightened to come into the centre to shop.  I was told of suspect vehicles being taken by the military to Porton Down, a fact confirmed by the Journal.  The Journal carefully lists them: ambulances, police cars (some unmarked) and two vehicle recovery vans, over several days.

Altogether, about 10 or 11 vehicles, for the scientists at Porton Down to examine for the presence of a ‘nerve agent’.  Scientists there must be tired of this, having apparently refused to identify it as Russian-made.

But the real question, says the lady in the shop, is ‘What about Skripal’s car?’ a red BMW series 3.  Why was it taking so long for the police to find it?  Surely they would look in the Sainsbury’s car park first?  They cordoned off the car park, but not until 8 days after the poisoning.  Later they came back and cordoned off the ticket machine.

It is known Skripal’s car entered the car park at about 1:40 pm on March 4th.  When was it taken to the Ashley Wood Recovery Garage, and by whom?  And indeed, why, unless to get it out of the way?

Why did ‘incident response units’ examine a red BMW at the Garage on Thursday March 8th, remove an Ashley Wood recovery van from Winterslow village on Monday 12th, return to the Garage on Tuesday 13th, remove another recovery van from a Dorset town on Thursday March 14th and only then on Friday, 12 whole days after the incident, it is officially identified as Skripal’s car, and the Journal reports that it is being removed from Ashley Wood Recovery Garage, with the national media limping in a day later.

12 days.  If this nerve agent is so very dangerous why is there so little to show for so much activity, and so many delays in dealing with it?  Doesn’t it look like an exercise in propaganda?

Are the counter terrorism police going to trace all those who used the car park ticket machine?  Are they going to cordon off any place (the cemetery is already out of bounds) where Skripal may possibly have been?  Are they going to spin this out even more and gradually put all of Ashley Wood’s vehicles in Porton Down, and all its staff in hospital?  Another local business ruined to further the UK’s anti-Russia campaign.

There is no thought for the city of Salisbury and its people in any of the government’s actions, so focused are they on their unsubstantiated accusations against Russia.  A Foreign Office statement claimed:

Russia’s response doesn’t change the facts of the matter – the attempted assassination of two people on British soil, for which there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable.

The Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said it was a ‘state-sponsored murder attempt’.  But which ‘state’ are we talking about?

It’s been clear for months that the government was using the Brexit shambles to hide the fact that they couldn’t govern the country and tackle its pressing issues – the health crisis, homelessness and lack of social housing, poverty and the awful results of its austerity programme.  Now it seems that the government is using Skripal to hide the fact that they can’t govern Brexit either.

And while they’re sorting out their fantastical mess, and if you live anywhere near Salisbury, go visit, eat out and buy something in the shops.

• Photos by Lesley Docksey

Is Brexit Ready to Exit?

A year ago the UK voted to leave the EU after a stupid, unnecessary referendum.  And although Brexiteers pronounced this an ‘overwhelming’ result, the true facts were that, out of the total electorate, 37 per cent voted Leave, 35 per cent voted Remain, and 28 per cent didn’t bother to vote.  Hardly overwhelming.

Not only that, but it has emerged that the Brexit campaign was funded by some secretive and dodgy deals.  The campaigns on both sides misled the public with the result that people voted without understanding the issues.  So where are we now?

The United Kingdom is in a large hole, and Theresa May’s Brexit team just keep on digging, regardless of what is happening to the nation, the citizens, the impoverished ‘you and I’ who are increasingly having to use food banks, live on the streets of rich cities, or live with their family in a bed-and-breakfast hotel room.  Not that it matters to senior Tory MPs who are well supplied with private funds.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, has just enlarged the hole – Boris never worries about where he puts his careless feet.  As part of the process of leaving the EU, the UK has to settle any financial obligations and commitments it has made with the EU.  This is part of the ‘divorce’ settlement and might be a sizeable sum. Johnson said the EU could ‘go whistle for it’.  A diplomat he is not.

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier carefully explained the situation.  This is not a price charged by the EU for leaving the EU.  It is not the EU trying to ‘punish’ the UK or ‘demanding’ an extortionate sum.  But the UK must acknowledge the obligations it has signed up to.  Until that is sorted talks on the future relationship with the EU cannot proceed.  “I cannot hear any whistling,” said Barnier, “only a clock ticking.”  A quiet hint, perhaps, that Johnson and his colleagues are wasting Barnier’s time?

In the last few weeks major voices have been saying we made a mistake.  There are calls for, at the very least, a ‘soft’ Brexit – the Norway option, wherein the UK would be a member of the European Economic Area with access to the Single Market.

‘Hard’ Brexiteers insist we must leave both the Customs Union and the Single Market, even while arrogantly claiming the UK should keep the benefits of staying in both.  But leaving the Customs Union means we can never trade with any EU country.  Do they even understand that?  Michel Barnier says not.

And people are changing their minds.  As more facts come out about what we’d lose, and how far away any realistic trade deals are; as EU workers leave the UK, leaving damaging gaps in our hospitals, schools, universities and businesses; as prices rise and wages stagnate, ever more people regret voting to leave.

It can be hard to understand what pro-Brexit people were thinking when they voted Leave.  Take the Brexit-voting farmer Harry Hall, who now complains he’ll go out of business because he won’t be able to access the 2500 EU workers he needs to pick his fruit.  And in case you’re wondering, such farmers can’t persuade British workers to fill the jobs – too much hard work for a nation that has got used to a soft life.

Many of those reluctant workers will have voted to leave, and if we do leave the EU they’ll moan when they can’t afford to buy the fruit and vegetables they won’t harvest.  Harry Hall says his vote was about ‘sovereignty’.  Like so many Leave voters, he had been led to believe by the Brexiteers that the EU had somehow stolen the UK’s sovereignty.

But we have never been without our sovereignty – that has always been a massive red herring trailed by people who quite simply don’t like ‘Johnny Foreigner’, and want something to blame for everything wrong in their lives.  Even the government with its cabinet of hard Brexiteers now admits we never lost our sovereignty and have stopped claiming we’re ‘getting it back’.  Bit late to admit that now, isn’t it?

Nobody but Theresa May and her cronies have ever believed ‘Brexit means Brexit’.  It was nothing more than a meaningless phrase from a meaningless Prime Minister.  Asked to explain it she could only, endlessly, repeat it, making it obvious that neither she nor her cabinet (or indeed her weird wardrobe) actually knew what to do.

Once Article 50 was triggered, committing the UK to leaving Europe, and May’s useless team of ‘negotiators’ were staring at the vast problem of trying to divorce our country from the best trading partner in the world, May started to intone ‘No deal is better than a bad deal’ in answer to any awkward questions – well, any questions at all, really.  She is notable for not answering questions.  Mrs May, no deal is a bad deal.

She is sartorially as well as politically challenged.  Many of her suits look like material boxes hiding the body inside.  Her skirts are tight as well as short.  When she sits down she displays far too much middle-aged thigh.  But the key to her state of mind are the necklaces she sports.  Starting with strings of round beads like ball bearings and the occasional chain, as Brexit approached the ball bearings grew and the chains had larger links.  In the closing days of her disastrous general election campaign, the ball bearings were approaching golf-ball size and the chain had VERY LARGE links.

Her Chancellor Philip Hammond says the ‘people want a sensible Brexit’.  Actually – no.  By now a slowly growing majority seems to be saying there is nothing at all sensible about Brexit.

Dominic Cummings, one of those who headed the Leave campaign, admits that leaving the EU might be an error.  He has even labelled those in government as ‘morons’.  Business leaders are demanding an indefinite (like forever?) delay in leaving the Single Market.  More than 2 million UK workers are with companies that rely on EU funding, and over 40,000 Britons who live in the UK but work in Europe could lose their jobs.  None of those had crossed the government’s radar.

The problems associated with leaving the EU look very messy and will damage all our lives.  As more people waver, those wedded to the dream of Brexit are becoming much more angry, defensive and loud in their demand for a complete severance from the EU.

One year on from the EU referendum, I found myself standing on a bridge over a busy main road, waving EU flags.  The response from the drivers below was telling.  Yes, many cars ignored us but there was a surprising amount of reaction from both Remain and Leave people.  Hitting the car horn was popular.  Remainers gave a quick series of jolly toot-toot-toots. Leavers expressed their displeasure with prolonged angry blasts.

Remainers gave the thumbs-up to us and our flags.  Families driving to and from the coast waved up at us, husband and wife in front and children’s’ hands sticking out of the back windows.  Now, a thumbs-down from the Brexiteers would be okay, but as I said, they are angry, so it was pumping fists, V-signs and the finger – not just rude but crude.

They are seeing the possibility of their dream fade.  They know by now they won’t get the Brexit they want.  I could see that from where I stood on the bridge.  The wavers and thumbs-up outnumbered the Brexiteers by quite some margin.  A majority of people now back a second referendum.  And our future starts to look a little more positive.

And what should the Labour Party be doing?  Some Remainers point accusing fingers at Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn, saying he wants a ‘hard Brexit’  The fact that such a thing would seriously hit the rights of the average UK worker, which surely must be against his principles, is not taken into consideration.

It is true that he appears not to think too much of the EU, but which bits of it are we talking about?  He is, after all, an internationalist.  Many people, including myself, look at some aspects of the EU and despair.  It is in desperate need of reform, something that Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has supported, alongside Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis.

People worry that Corbyn and his Party are doing nothing, standing aside while the Tory government stumbles towards a Brexit disaster.  But, really, what could or should they do at this precise point, when things are changing around them?

Of course, some call for another referendum, seeing that the last one was so dishonest and disastrous.  But that would still leave us with those Tory/UKIP people constantly creating divisive trouble – something not to be desired if this divided country wants to be at peace with itself.

Corbyn has been widely reported in the mainstream media as being anti-EU.  He himself has been silent on the matter. Prior to the referendum he appeared to be campaigning on the basis of ‘yes’ to EU and ‘yes’ to reform of the EU, but that was barely mentioned by the media.

His silence is not appreciated by many people.  Is he sitting on the fence?  However, the Labour Party does have some very anti-EU members and the last thing people want is a Labour equivalent of the Tory anti-EU MPs making trouble.  So, while Theresa May and her hated team make such a mess of Brexit, Labour need do nothing but sit back and watch the Tories destroy their own party.

There is a further point.  Since Corbyn, totally out of the blue, became leader, many more people have become members of his Party.  And millions registered to vote after May called the June general election, particularly young people.  Many back Labour, but they also back the EU, which they see as their future.

Corbyn believes utterly in democracy.  He has campaigned against nuclear weapons all his life and while he personally wishes to see an end to the UK’s Trident nuclear missile programme, the Party policy is to renew Trident – because that was what members voted for at the Labour Party Conference.  So what he could do, seeing that he is the leader of a party with several hundred thousand members, is to set up an on-line poll of those members on whether they now want to leave or stay with Europe.  A poll of such proportions would have far greater weight than the usual poll of 1000 or 2000 people.

If the majority of those members vote to stay with the EU, then Corbyn’s democratic principles and belief in the membership will demand that Labour must lobby, agitate, work flat out to prevent Brexit – for the sake of our rights, our businesses, our jobs, our EU residents and neighbours, our environment, and all those other things that should make living in this country worthwhile for the 99% (the Tory Party being firmly wedded to the 1%).

If Corbyn regards the 2% majority vote for Leave as a democratic result that must be upheld, then surely even a low percentage of members in favour of remaining would demand that Labour fights in their interests.

With the government in such disarray and trying every dirty deal to stay in power, it can’t be long before another election and a government headed by someone who much prefers real, non-confrontational diplomacy.  And then, cap in hand and with much humility, something that has been entirely missing from the Tory Brexit team (the Tories being noted for entitlement) we may get to stay in the EU.