Sad to see the most important story of the weekend get so little coverage...
The Co-op as of yesterday is only using British meat throughout its supply chain. All products, not just fresh meat, are made using produce from British farmers, injecting at least 1.5bn pounds into UK agriculture. If more people shop there as a consequence that could be a bigger number.
As import costs rise in a weaker Sterling world, hang on for stories of British consumers finding ways to support British workers. I am proud to have my Co-op membership card on my key ring, I hope you are too.
After awful events of last week, and the violent murder of a clearly brilliant young woman, I stopped the in/out debate, as we were all asked to do. I'm sure we all feel huge sympathy for her family, friends and colleagues.
So, before anybody starts engaging in the EU referendum debate again, I'd like to make a couple of points based on the various popular posts doing the rounds on social media during the period when campaigning was supposedly suspended.
1. Being sympathetic to the case for Brexit does not make anyone a supporter of murder, attacks on MPs or street violence in France. We need to tone down the anger and bitterness...
2. Contemplating an OUT vote does not mean out voters want to usher in an era of neo-Nazi government in the UK. Nigel Farage standing in front of a poster with refugees on it may well be an unpleasant image, but it hardly makes that buffoonish character the re-incarnation of Josef Goebbels.
3. The case for IN and OUT crosses party lines. Suggestions that the good liberal thing to do is vote IN are not reflected by the voices that are speaking in favour of OUT, but seemingly not being heard by the media. The RMT, the Fire Brigades Union, Labour Leave, are all clear Brexiteers: how Left can you get? That contradiction seems lost in the social media noise.
4. A vote for OUT is not necessarily a vote for racism. I noticed that the industry body for Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants with an incredible 12,000 restaurant members across the UK is of the view that EU policy is racist and discriminatory and supports Brexit. 80 Commonwealth community leaders from diverse communities around the world wrote to David Cameron in February asking for the UK to take back control of its 'discriminatory migration and trade policies' from the EU. There is much ambiguity here too.
5. For many this campaign is not about immigration, it is about the direction of travel of the EU, and fears about democracy and freedom, economic collapse within the Eurozone, and a desire to see our politicians directly accountable to us for the decisions they make. Those are perfectly legitimate concerns and they need to be heard, not drowned out by a metropolitan liberal consensus Twittering memes with fingers in their ears. Go to Greece where I've been doing business this year and make many of the Remain arguments about democracy in Brussels and you'll be laughed out of the country.
6. We have a short period left to debate the issues, I'd like to do so with the substance and range of voices fully heard. There are ethnic minority OUT groups, there are hard Left OUT groups, there are lesbian and gay OUT groups, there are think tanks and community groups and writers from every part of our multi-ethnic society that want to vote OUT. I think we should listen to that debate and hear their reasoning, not try to close it down with social media posts implying an OUT vote is automatically a vote for extremism and Right Wing government.
So from today I am going to engage with the campaign again, I look forward to a spirited debate, with real issues discussed, and I hope fewer pictures with a few words photo-shopped on the front implying that people considering an OUT vote are racist, homophobic, murderous, ignorant psychopaths intent on self-harm.
See you all next Friday!
There is a Guardian video about global warming doing the rounds, it got me thinking.
This debate is so complex and difficult: what is almost always missing is the importance of the population to this debate. The population of the world has almost DOUBLED in my lifetime. In 1967 there were 3.4 billion humans living on the planet and the concerns about the planet's resources were the theme of the time. Since then another 3 billion people have been added to the human population, and of that growth, most want to live urban lives with jobs, and offices, and cars, and aspiration.
This rapidly growing populations also wants to eat, consume electricity, and have more than one child per couple (even now in China). Just the physical existence of another 3 billion human beings, their energy requirements and the food chain to support them is inevitably driving climate change, and that pressure is increasing, not decreasing and we probably have to take massive steps to change the way the planet operates to respond to this. But the positions put forward by the green movement often seem to me to miss the point.
Wind power is factually inefficient versus nuclear power - although of course there are other strong arguments in its favour. Organic vegetables selfishly use more energy and take longer to grow - although we all like to buy them. Organic meat and milk use up the planet's resources at multiples of the rate of a factory farm or huge indoor dairy - although it seems to me to be the same people posting factory farm horror videos who post about climate change. Being angry about protein production on an industrial scale is all very well when you sit down to eat your egg that was laid by a hen that ran around an actual field. Wouldn't it be lovely if every egg in South East China's industrial axis was laid in a field by a black-legged rare breed hen that only laid 60 or 70 eggs a year, instead of a factory bird in a shared cage laying 180+. Well yes it would, except it is ridiculous to contemplate feeding 8 billion people with outdoor barn-laid eggs.
Most challenging perhaps is that educating people in the developing world and providing health and internet to those populations means billions more people in new cities (there are now more million population cities in Africa than in China) and they are living longer lives - who can argue with that, but what is the impact on use of resources and climate?
Free trade and single markets (a lot of talk about that at the moment) means goods travelling around the world - who the fuck buys an 'organic' bean from South America? It's as 'organic' as a Monsanto pesticide to buy Fair Trade Organic chocolate that has been flown to Waitrose from Madagascar. In any case, the Monsanto GM crops are designed to produce more crops per hectare, and survive better in drought conditions and combat diseases and feed more people with less energy. Isn't that a good thing for climate change?
The whole discussion needs to be refocused away from a debate about lifestyle and re-cycyling domestic waste, where 'green' sort of means kind, and good, and sensitive, to one where providing the maximum output for the least damage is the driving argument. It doesn't really seem to be happening yet. We will have to sell some of our 'green' souls if we want to house feed and clothe a planet with 10, 15 or 20 billion people on it... won't we?
So, my initial thoughts on visiting the infamous Jungle Camp...
Firstly, it doesn't feel very temporary. I visited the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, a chicken and chip shop, eight grocery stores and three phone charging points. This is much more like the 'informal settlements' of Apartheid South Africa. Most of the people I met spoke some English, very few of them spoke French.
I met an Eritrean man of 26 who had broken his leg trying to catch the Eurotunnel train: there are no doctors available to them who speak any languages here apart from French. He has worn a cast for a month, has no idea when to go back to have it taken off or who to see.
There are private security guards with black belts carrying security paraphenalia around the nearby ferry port fences who look very angry, I fear that is not going to go well.
I met a group of four Afghan brothers, one of whom claimed to have worked for the British Army (unless he has been watching re-runs of It Ain't Half Hot Mum at language school I'm inclined to believe him). His youngest brother living there and chasing trains and lorries is twelve. I gave him some sweets and got a massive grin in return.
The conditions are disgusting and something has to be formalised, we would not allow this in England, we shouldn't tolerate it here. There is a series of complex villages within the camp ordered along ethnic and religious lines, which has created a form of government, but it is anarchic and fragile.
I went to Kurdistan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Afghanistan. The Afghans were playing beach volleyball and have started a cricket team. Seriously.
I took tins of ravioli, pasta, bread, oranges and some sweets. I didn't feel threatened at any stage, one man chased me for a while, grabbed me and asked if I had a SIM card, when I said no he apologised. I was offered coffee in three tents and saw balloons being blown up for a child's birthday party in another.
No conclusion really: I don't have an answer to the geopolitical problems, but this informal camp has to be sorted and made more human, dignity and respect for fellow human beings requires that.
The only other major thing I will add is that the extreme British Left is here in force, militant and active. They are holding activist meetings, supporting groups of refugees, repairing their bicycles and organising demonstrations and videoing the police. This is going to get a lot more political yet...