Finding the common ground – becoming truly more united

Yesterday was the third anniversary of the tragic loss of Jo Cox MP. On Saturday, I was at a hustings and heard another Jo, and another member of parliament, Jo Swinson, talk about her. She spoke about how horrible it was to hear Nigel Farage, after the Brexit referendum vote result, say, it had all happened “without a shot being fired!” She actually said it made her feel sick. It makes sense that a woman now a similar age, with similar politics, and same first name, would feel this, knowing a colleague had just been murdered, shot and stabbed!

Yesterday, a man I admire spoke to Nigel Farage on the latter’s radio show. Rory Stewart told Farage that he himself and his new Brexit party must be able to take part in Brexit decisions. I know Rory has been and is a diplomat who builds real bridges, it’s why I have long liked him, but this seemed a bridge too far!

I remember that day Jo Cox died, as I am sure many do, not least those who knew and loved her. Those of us who had only known of her from afar and yet did know of her work, though, were also shocked, and saddened. My wife and I went twice to Westminster to pay tribute, leave flowers and cards, and then sign the book of condolence. I remember being touched to read messages from others, Liberal Democrats amongst the many from her own party, the Labour party, and others.

I joined More United some while ago. It was of course named after the speech she made and words she spoke, that we have more in common than we have that divides us, and that we are therefore more united. As an organisation that works cross party, it is admirable. We know of course it has that at it’s core because our own great, also gone but not forgotten, now, Paddy Ashdown was a founder.

It was poignant to hear Jo, yesterday, say what she did about another Jo. She is one of many MPs, involved with this excellent organisation. Nothing can bring someone back. But thoughts of that person, belief in their efforts, can encourage us. We are surrounded by the fear of hate even more than actual hate. But there is much hate. Although there is also a lot of love, even if there is a lot less talk about it. Rory Stewart talks about it and, in a sense walks the walk, on his many walks, personal or political. We do need dialogue. We must talk to others. Even Farage. I find it hard to feel love for him, though I do not feel hate at all. I do feel we have little in common and are not more united, with many.

How we bridge that divide is a question unanswered and maybe unanswerable? For building of any bridges, needs finding common ground, before becoming truly more united.

* Lorenzo Cherin is an actor, writer, and regular contributor to politics as a member of the Liberal Democrats. He is based in Nottingham.

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16 Comments

  • Katharine Pindar 18th Jun '19 - 9:59am

    You touch on a great issue, thank you, Lorenzo: how can our country itself become more united? For we are more divided now than I can ever remember. You are right that we should talk more to each other and try to understand, and I think between our political parties our own party is showing some leadership in this. To help our country requires much more: I believe commitment to tackling inequality and the poverty and hopelessness and resentment that has arisen from it should be the top priority for the country’s political leaders now.

    Too much fear and hate has arisen and been focused by the Brexit divide. Our party should show love, for instance backing the Philip Alston recommendations for fairness and inclusiveness and care for individuals. We may need to be prepared to take our place in a Government of National Unity before this year is out, so let us prepare ourselves to serve, reaching out as you suggest, in love and care for the national unhappiness.

  • Lorenzo, Katharine is correct. Tell me me if I am wrong, but I wait for any comment by the leadership candidates – or our DWP spokesperson – on the Alston UN Report on poverty on our divided society….. Here’s the introduction – it needs a response.

    “The UK is the world’s fifth largest economy, it contains many areas of immense wealth, its capital is a leading centre of global finance, its entrepreneurs are innovative and agile, and despite the current political turmoil, it has a system of government that rightly remains the envy of much of the world. It thus seems patently unjust and contrary to British values that so many people are living in poverty. This is obvious to anyone who opens their eyes to see the immense growth in foodbanks and the queues waiting outside them, the people sleeping rough in the streets, the growth of homelessness, the sense of deep despair that leads even the Government to appoint a Minister for suicide prevention and civil society to report in depth on unheard of levels
    of loneliness and isolation. And local authorities, especially in England, which perform vital roles in providing a real social safety net have been gutted by a series of government policies.Libraries have closed in record numbers, community and youth centers have been shrunk andunderfunded, public spaces and buildings including parks and recreation centres have been sold off. While the labour and housing markets provide the crucial backdrop, the focus of this reportis on the contribution made by social security and related policies.

    The results? 14 million people, a fifth of the population, live in poverty. Four million of these are more than 50% below the poverty line, and 1.5 million are destitute, unable to afford basic essentials. The widely respected Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts a 7% rise in child poverty between 2015 and 2022, and various sources predict child poverty rates of as high as 40%.

    For almost one in every two children to be poor in twenty-first century Britain is not just a disgrace,but a social calamity and an economic disaster, all rolled into one”.

  • Regarding poverty…Those at the very bottom are being seen as the problem rather than the victims…The tents, sleeping bag, etc., of ‘rough sleepers’, are being confiscated by local authorities who will ‘sell them back’ for up to £50….

    Ewan MacColl,
    “You’d better get born in some place else
    So move along, get along, Move along, get along
    Go! Move! Shift!”

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Jun '19 - 12:41pm

    Those comments by Katharine and David are very appreciated and highly appropriate.

    Apart from contributions here by any of us, in particular from Katharine in articles here, David with comments, the party has not referenced Alston.

    I think thee are a couple of things to consider.

    The report was not based on extensive research or input. A week or two is too little. The conclusions had the feel of some of the UN reports on Israel, an element of partisanship.

    Also the coalition is blamed for the start of austerity and yet it began and was to continue under, Labour.

    Neither of my explanations are reasons though.

    Alston and his every word, are worth taking as a part of the basis of work that we must do to alleviate poverty.

    Although I would like our party to listen more to do more, for fellow members who struggle. I am for example try to reach out, and have done, from adversity, to little avail, everyone in their own little world too much, some of us struggling with worthwhile projects to even get heard…wanting to contribute…

    http://www.theliberalartscause.com

    http://www.tomscabinthemanofhumanity.com

  • Lorenzo, “The report was not based on extensive research or input.” Not true.

    June 13, 2019 : DWP civil servant praises UN poverty report ministers dismissed as ‘barely believable’ “A senior Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) official has told MPs that a highly-critical UN report on poverty in the UK was “factually correct” and “made a lot of good points”, despite ministers repeatedly attacking its accuracy. Donna Ward, DWP’s policy director for children, families and disadvantage, told the work and pensions select committee yesterday (Wednesday) that the report by Professor Philip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, made “really good points” on issues such as austerity and cuts to local government spending.”

    Lorenzo, You can’t dismiss the report as based on evidence gained in just two weeks. The Professor took evidence from a whole host of organisations. Here’s a PDF to download to look at who gave evidence in all the footnotes.

    UK poverty – OHCHR
    https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Poverty/EOM_GB_16Nov2018.pdf
    16 Nov 2018 – Statement on Visit to the United Kingdom, by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations. Special … .org.uk/MEASURING-POVERTY-FULL_REPORT.pdf, p. 97. …. https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/how-could-brexit-affect-poverty-uk.

    And don’t equate the Alistair Darling austerity programme as being the same as the Coalition’s. It’s just not true.

  • Lorenzo, “The report was not based on extensive research or input.”…

    That was the excuse used by Amber Rudd.. If memory serves she complained that Professor Philip Alston only visited nine under-privileged areas..

    I wonder how many she has visited?

  • Katharine Pindar 18th Jun '19 - 5:15pm

    Well said, David. The Philip Alston report on great poverty and deprivation in this country was indeed well researched, with comprehensive footnotes, and as you write has been fully backed by experts. I hope yet to see both our leadership candidates, and our DWP express full support for it. In case anyone is confused between Professor Alston’s November Statement, just after he concluded his 11-day study on the ground, which was reported on at once on this site, and his final Report last month, which upholds the findings of the Statement and makes twelve recommendations for action, here is the reference for the Report:
    https://undocs.org/A/HRC/41/39/Add.1

    Some of the recommendations are described in a piece printed here on June 11, where it turned out unfortunately that the reference to the Report was not there accessible. The piece can be accessed on https://www.libdemvoice.org/it's-time-for-us-to-prove-our-progressive-credentials-61091.html#comment-501480

    Lorenzo, I would apologise for concentrating attention on Alston through these
    comments on your valuable piece, but that I think David’s quote from the introduction to the Report proves it is needful to go on emphasising its importance. I would like to see both our leadership candidates not only support it but engage with its recommendations, which reflect our party’s policies and intentions and can progress our thinking, and last night’s Webinar did not advance its consideration.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 19th Jun '19 - 8:23am

    At the moment, the public hold MPs in very low esteem. And of course it’s right that we should demand better from them. But the anniversary of the tragic death of Jo Cox should be a time to reflect on the fact that all MPs take considerable risks, on a daily basis. We should be grateful for the courage of all MPs, even those with whom we profoundly disagree.

  • Richard Underhill 19th Jun '19 - 10:45am

    Catherine Jane Crosland
    And MEPs.
    Someone threw a milkshake at Nigel Farage and was convicted of assault.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Jun '19 - 11:42am

    David

    I do not dismiss Alston, so do not say I did, I say his direct experience was two weeks, the report and the many in it referred to are excellent and accurate, he is a good man, yet it does not help his case , this being so limited a period involved. Reports usually take evidence over months or years. I have been through real hardship as a result of a car accident that leaves my wife with permanent issues, have helped others who are in poverty because I too know what it is like, more than you or Alston, you do not get this from two weeks or voluntary input, but from being unemployed over a significant period , in the past, or, professionally involved for some years seeing and experiencing concerns. Your efforts, and Alston are valuable but not definitive. I am not being heard here or elsewhere when I say it is ignoring those isolated trying to do things, be enterprising, seek possibilities, unseen, unheard, that is the disgrace, schemes are non existent, interest is not available in such people, and I have experienced it directly, most here have not.

    Expats ditto, Katharine, thanks.

    Catherine as ever decides to deal with the article directly, appreciated.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Jun '19 - 11:51am

    Another thing, the DWP, as with the other organs of state regularly, is hideous in its attitude, it is made up of secure , well looked after by civil service, unions, yet only the privatised contractors get the criticism of the left, such as Labour. Atos was the idea of Labour, sorry David yes Darling might have been decent, but he said he would, had he carried on, cut more than the Thatcher government did.

    The state, in the NHS, as in DWP, is often a very bureaucratic, impersonal, uncaring giant, as much as it is a good and caring . Too much blame is put on government itself, though it deserves it, yet little on those who do their bidding or make their own decisions and should be criticised for that. When you see the age old Axis powers excuse, ” only taking orders,” it did not wash then or now.

  • Joseph Bourke 19th Jun '19 - 12:34pm

    Lorenzo,

    I don’t see how there can be any common ground with the Brexit party. On some issues you just have to take a stand and hold your ground. The UK’s membership of the EU is just such an issue.
    Where there might be an element of agreement is if the Brexit party MEPs are wiling to endorse a simple two choice referendun between any negotiated Brexit deal and revocation of article 50.
    As far as the Libdems are concerned we will need to maintIan an unequivocal position of remaining in the EU, come what may.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Jun '19 - 12:53pm

    Joe

    You express this in a way that makes us think. I agree on common ground not being obvious. But I see different people who are sometimes decent within organisations like that, who might be worth talking to if never agreeing with.

    David Raw here often reveals a very strong desire on Brexit, and the party attitude, to be more aware, more conciliatory.

    Catherine Jane Crosland takes a view more so than that, on the EU, and has accepted the results of the initial vote more than most.

    Katharine Pindar is of your view more.

    All, on this, on poverty, on much, are colleagues ,friends, and fellow Liberals, democrats all, their views I often agree with, always listen to.

    We must seek common ground even if it is not easy to cultivate.

  • @ Lorenzo The report was not based on extensive research or input.”… That’s what you said…… and if that’s not dismissive I don’t know what is.

    Have you read the report yet ?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Jun '19 - 3:17pm

    David, the phrase was reference to his research and input , it was two weeks, not referring to the excellent research and input you are correct to show. I could be clearer therefore in that segment.

    I go on to say this is not a reason to dismiss this report, ” Alston and his every word ,are worth taking as part of the basis of work we must do to alleviate poverty.”

    A we agree why nitpick, you could deal with the rest of my piece above and extensive comments from and about my own experience and make and see allies, rather than split hairs. I praise you above. Better that than pointless disagreeing. I agree with everything Alston did, just think my direct experience and longer talking with people who I advised and delivered seminars to count.

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