Paradise Lost, or Active Redemption

As I write, hurricane Harvey is preparing for another onslaught on Houston and the surrounding areas. There has never before been a storm like it.

More than 50” of rain has fallen in 3 days, sea surges of 15ft are expected, displacement of humans and wildlife is such that if it was a war zone people would still be shocked.

This lonely blue planet is the nearest thing we have to paradise. We are hunting through the universe for similar life supporting zones, so far nothing even slightly resembling this blue dot has been found. We are sending out messages in the hope that somewhere, somehow, they will be picked up by other life forms. Maybe they should have been Mayday messages, for knowing, as we do, that this blue paradise is all we have, we cannot bring ourselves to respect it, enhance it, protect it.

The events in Houston were predictable – warming seas, more moisture in the atmosphere, a slowing jet stream, polar ice melt… the list is very long. We have known much of what we know now since the 1970’s. Many individuals have declared intellectual independence and fought the tide of consumerism and waste with great success. It is entirely possible to live as a one planet person. But these cherished individuals do not make up a world population – itself rising faster than the waters of Texas.

Instead of hearing the voices of science and reason, the inhabitants of this one habitable planet have chosen to block their ears. Seduced by the god of money they have chosen to pollute, spend, waste. They have turned flood land into concrete deserts, poisoned the air we breathe, turned the seas into plastic soup and built nuclear weapons to protect us from ourselves.

And the media reports the cost to the economy, the cost of insurance, the cost to GDP, that 2 million barrels of oil are lost a day… and so we fall.

The rains in Houston are so bad that the weather forecasting service had to invent new colours to describe the deluge. It will stop of course, for a while. And the desertification of other areas will inexorably march steadily onwards. And the nuclear waste from Fukushima will seep ever more poison into the ocean, and the cars will keep driving on fossil fuels…. and we fall further.

The tipping point has been a long time coming. Between the water and the desert there will be places to live safely, to grow crops and live a good life. But there will be a lot less room, and self-preservation will not bring out the best in humans.

After he had written Paradise Lost, Milton wrote Paradise Regained. It is an altogether more simple work, emphasising the possibility of reversal.

We have been bombarded with the ridiculousness of a debt-based money supply in order to keep the economy going, bewildered by political sleight-of-hand from short sighted careerists, muzzled by an explosion of conflicting information, and malnourished ourselves on a diet of GM crops, pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones and antibiotics. We may need a spiritual redemption, but more than that, we need a practical redemption.

Humans are both God and Satan. The possibility of reversal is in our hands. The path of no change is clear, but the path of reversing our impoverished way of life has never been clearer. Complexity has led us to an existential crisis. The clarity of simplicity can lead to something richer.

Redemption is a revolution in thought. Our food supplies, our monetary system, our energy, building practices, our education, they can all be rethought and simplified. Collaborative human thought and action can rise above the tribulations of neo-liberal market capitalism and return us to the values we all share and the ways in which we would rather live our lives.

Blood does not have to be spilt in this revolution, sweat does. Tears are being shed daily, now. The shadow of Katrina is long. The shadow of Harvey will be longer. How long will the shadows have to be before we change to a healthier, more inclusive society.

Paradise can be regained. The possibility of reversal will always be with us, but the law of diminishing returns ensures that acting now is more fruitful than acting later. A telescope looking at us from another world would ask, ‘What is taking them so long?’


Adequate transit system or chaotic growth

The Westminster government has threatened to put bids for the Wales and Borders franchise on hold amid a dispute with the Welsh Government over who gets the cash for rail improvements.

Population is increasing, and the vast majority of people will gravitate to cities – which will become larger, more congested, and more crowded. The planning of our cities is of paramount importance if we are to enable the prosperity of our citizens, and of course plan for their happiness.

The current rate of urbanization will lead to more traffic, more pollution, and more frustration if we do not plan to relieve these symptoms of growth. A Green economy in a crowded city needs to be planned carefully in terms of infrastructure, transport networks and technical connectivity just as much as a dirty economy

Even if we all bought electric or hydrogen powered cars, it is only a matter of simple maths to see that cars make no sense in an urban environment. Mass movement of people requires adequate, fast and affordable mass transit networks.

Who controls where we live, how we travel, where we work? In Wales it should be the Welsh Government. But it isn’t. It’s Westminster, and Westminster doesn’t care if Wales is a congested backwater or not. That is why they insist on pulling the strings of investment and compel Wales to dance to the tune of a vassal state.

Matters of future prosperity and well-being in Wales should not be left to the Westminster government. They are mostly concerned with London which, by the way, has excellent public transport networks and world class broadband connectivity.

The recent debacle over rail franchises, and the money to improve the rail network, is evidence that the Welsh Government is playing with one hand tied behind their back. In 2018 Wales will have total responsibility for rail franchises, and it is entirely reasonable that Wales should receive the money direct from these franchises in order to improve the network.

At stake is more than a faster, cleaner, less crowded version of what we already have. At stake is the entire SE Wales Metro which, if planned properly will relieve the congestion in Newport and Cardiff, liberate the Gwent Valleys, and get us all to work and back without the stress of having to sit in endless traffic.

It is unfathomable to me that the funding of the Metro is tied up with rail franchises concerned with replacing the services we currently have. They are separate issues, and need to be negotiated separately. Of course the franchises coming up for renewal should revert to public ownership, but frankly I don’t think the WG is up to managing it.

There is money in the system and it needs to be put to work. We need to support our workplaces and our people. The underlying structure of our society needs to be properly supported with excellent mass transit systems.

It’s essential that the WG has plenty of time to negotiate the next tranche of trains, and that means the franchises should be fit for the future, not the horrendous deal done 15 years ago with Arriva which sees passengers in cramped and crowded conditions for hours.

Without an adequate, sustainable (and obviously clean) transport system in place, growth will be chaotic.



Humane milk is a myth

An interesting development took place last week. The Advertising Standards Agency approved an ad stating that ‘humane milk is a myth’. They were, of course right to make this decision because, as the advert says, humane milk is a myth.

There had been complaints from the dairy industry that the ad was misleading and inaccurate. To their credit the ASA were adamant that it was not.

Defra recommends that calves should be kept with their mothers for at least 12 and preferably 24 hours after birth. Quite rightly the ASA defended the ad as in their view there was not much difference between taking the newborn away after 25 hours or 24 hours.

Although a seemingly small and insignificant judgement, this decision represents a paradigm shift, because until the moment that decision was taken, no challenge had been made to the ethics of dairy farming.

So many people still see the countryside as a nursery rhyme tale of Old MacDonald Had A Farm with happy animals and a cosy farmyard. They could not be more wrong. Farming is a multimillion pound business and it has become an industry like no other.

Animals are not machines. They are sentient beings like us. The grief of having your baby wrenched away from you at birth speaks only of the trade -off between morality and money. In other words, where making money is concerned there is precious little morality.

Farming has to change. Farmers need to make money to survive, but they have to balance that with a humane level of care. Our farmers are obviously vital to the food supply of the nation, but they have been sucked into the vicious circle of subsidies, supermarkets driving prices down, and politics.

When I was a kid, the Milk Marketing Board did a very good job of persuading a whole generation of families that milk was essential to our diet. It is simply not true. Good nutrition is essential to a long and active life, and that does not necessarily include eating animals or animal products, and it most certainly does not prescribe cruelty.

The UK already has more than 800 livestock mega farms, and that’s the point. The ‘stock’ is alive. I am wholly opposed to keeping animals unnaturally, pumping them with hormones and antibiotics to try and mitigate the effects of overcrowding. I am wholly opposed to tearing baby calves away from their mothers at less than one day old just so that we can drink their milk.

If Brexit is to make this worse, (many believe there will be an increase in megafarms as the competition for ever cheaper foodstuffs increases), I think that more people will think about the utter cruelty forced on these harmless creatures, and eat fewer animal products.

The link between nutrition and animal products has to end. There is 3.4 grams of protein in 100 grams of milk and 20 grams in the same weight of beans.

More and better calcium actually comes from plants. Better sources than milk include dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cabbage and watercress. Dried fruits, nuts, seeds, pulses (peas, beans and lentils) are also excellent sources of calcium.

Not only is humane milk a cruel and ugly myth, but the whole nutritional argument about milk is a myth.

I want our farmers to be happy, but not at the expense of the animals we entrust them to rear. The challenge is to educate ourselves away from stone age tradition, and into a healthier, kinder way of eating. That way the farmers are kept in business, and the rest of us turn away from illness and obesity – with a very clear conscience.

Fox Turning Chicken – poor animal welfare coming to a supermarket near you.

Pippa’s rescue chickens

Liam Fox is currently trying to establish a basis for a trade deal with the US. He’s already extolling the virtues of chlorine washed chicken. Ok, this makes it safe to eat (we think) but what of the chickens? They are not machines, they are sentient beings, crammed into cages and crowded barns with poor sanitation and frighteningly bad husbandry. Their welfare should be just as important to us as the meat on their dead bones.

Who really wants to eat diseased food – even if the disease has been posthumously neutralised?

The US have for years condoned poor animal welfare standards, GM crops and ridiculous amounts of heavily subsidised corn syrup in almost everything Americans eat.

Lets think of what a US style diet would mean to the UK:

More than two-thirds (68.8 percent) of adults in America are considered to be overweight or obese. More than one-third (35.7 percent) of adults are considered to be obese. More than 1 in 20 (6.3 percent) have extreme obesity. Almost 3 in 4 men (74 percent) are considered to be overweight or obese.

Obesity  rates in the US are among the highest in the world, yet Americans spend over $20billion annually on weight loss schemes from diet books and pills all the way up to last-resort surgeries like lap-bands and liposuction.

The US Department of Agriculture are spending more than $1.28 billion annually to subsidize the crops that are used as additives in manufacturing cakes, biscuits, confectionary, fizzy drinks and other highly popular junk food that are arguably the primary contributors to childhood obesity. The sweet, fatty and calorie-rich Hostess Twinkies alone contain 14 ingredients made with highly subsidized processed ingredients, including corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch and vegetable shortening.

Horrifyingly, the USDA refers to fresh fruits and vegetables as “specialty crops.” Specialty crops do not receive subsidies. In fact, farmers who participate in agricultural subsidy programs are generally prohibited from growing fruits and vegetables on the so-called “base acres” of land for which they receive subsidies.

Is this the society we want to trade with? Worse, is this the mentality we are going to adopt in order to make trade with the US palatable to our own citizens?

In the final analysis it all comes down to price rather than cost. Bad animal welfare is cheaper than good, but who knows what does not get washed out with the chlorine. The increasingly marginalised poor of our own country will not have the choice. They have to buy cheap, yet the cost to human health of this is astronomical. The cost to the environment in terms of transport pollution is also high. America is a long way away.

And what of our own farmers, who cheerfully voted Brexit. Increasing competition from a bad trading partner will force then to lower our already insufficient standards of welfare. Trust in food will be diminished, ‘the market’ will force them to either stoop to the lowest common denominator, or go out of business.

The US has long pushed a general dilution of health and environment regulation, with hormone-treated beef and poultry processed with chlorine both currently banned under EU regulation. Food industry lobbyists in the US have also resisted products processed with chemicals from being clearly labelled.

It’s not a pretty story. Fox is turning chicken in the face of US pressure to sign up to a trade deal which favours US farmers and not our own.


No Imagination, Gove

Scrapping diesel is not the end of the problem.

Michael Gove has announced today that diesel vehicles will be banned from 2040.

Gove is just spouting the lines of his brief, and shows no imagination for coping with the wider implications of pollution in a car-bound society. The current road-building programme, such as the proposed M4 across the Gwent levels, will bring even more cars onto the roads, cancelling out the benefits of what is being proposed. Westminster has also cancelled electrification of the remaining railways, forcing Wales into a dirty fuel future, when in fact with our access to abundant renewable energy we could be one of the cleanest countries in the world.

Fixing the problem of polluted air in our towns and cities needs much more than the promise of a ban by 2040, by which time hundreds of thousands of people will have died from causes related to polluted air. We face inter-related problems of pollution, inactivity related obesity, and public health funding crises. This needs the imagination to see beyond car use as the main way to travel.

Norway, Netherlands, and France have already adopted electric road vehicles, and crucially they have invested in a decent re-charging network – something which is lamentably lacking in Wales.

Gove has missed the chance to talk about a new green industrial revolution, investment in energy storage and infrastructure. This was the time to talk about reducing the need for road travel, localisation of supply chains and upgrading the public transport network. We need clean air zones in our urban centres and measures to help us all switch to clean public transport, walking and cycling for our everyday journeys.

The green industrial revolution could happen inside or outside the Single Market. The whole issue is proof that, contrary to Tory ideologues, big matters cannot be left to the market. Gove’s recent moves expose how shallow Labour is on the really big issues such as a clean energy future. There is clear green water between the Green Party and the rest of politics. Massive subsidies to fossil fuel companies are continuing at the expense of our health and our productivity.

We know diesel and petrol are poisoning our air but switching to electric cars is just not going to make the difference needed to clean up our air and let people trust the air we breathe. We will still be left with street-clogging congestion, lethal pm2.5 particle pollution and the misery of road danger.

The govt should be investing in rail electrification, electric buses and networks of routes for walking and cycling. The important thing is not diesel scrappage for individuals but providing affordable access to work, education, health care and shops. If the government had any imagination they would see the unmitigated disaster of air pollution as an opportunity to rid our towns cities and villages of the problems of congestion, parking and noise while improving people’s health and cutting NHS costs.

Zero Carbon Wales – all possible by 2050

At the Zero Carbon Wales seminar today (which was most enjoyable) There were few new concepts, and of course this would be so, because we have all the technologies we need to power down society, we just don’t seem to have the collective will – either politically, industrially or individually. Our current trajectory is on the path to a warming of 4 degrees C, despite the Paris Agreement to limit warming to a more hospitable 1.5 degrees
Some items stood out:
  • The average domestic building consumes 10,000 kw/year, and this could easily be reduced to 4,000 kw/year
  • The infernal combustion engine is only 18 – 20% efficient. An EV will go 3 x as far per unit of energy.
  • 82% of the time our renewable energy generation meets total electricity demand.
  • Land use has to change dramatically, to grow less to support the animals we archaically slaughter to eat, and grow more to support actual human food needs as well as slashing CHG’s. That means putting 33% of land down to fruit and veg. Currently its 9%.
  • Trees are still the best carbon capture machines, and we need to plant a lot more of them.
  • Selective localisation of supply chains – after all, we still want bananas and chocolate!
  • A future where the weather forecast would include daily power generation stats. The presenter suggested this energy generation should be monetarized in terms of cash into the economy.

Personally I’m against the monetization of nature and would prefer energy generation to be in terms of percentage of energy needed. The energy needed will reduce as we embrace decent building standards, cleaner industries and efficient storage capacity, and therefore the percentage generated will become relatively higher, leading to a surplus by 2030.

There was an interesting workshop session in which we all wrote a postcard from 2045, bypassing  all strategies to get there, and spoke about our ideal world. My group was very keen on the community aspects, and apart from a (surprising) couple of sustainability fascists, there was a clear trend to a 3 day working week, a Citizens Income, localisation, smaller families, intentional communities, long life spans, end of life choices, and a healthy, active older age.

There was some discussion about what the best city in the world would look like ( currently my favourite is Freiburg in SW Germany, though far from perfect). In the future it could be Cardiff, or Bangor, or yes – even Newport! The mental imagery conjured up was most therapeutic.

We were brought down to earth by a comment summing up why we are here, and not there – in the cool sustainable future – ‘Government is a relic obstructing change.’ Now that was particularly sobering.

Interestingly there was a distinct lack of the socks and sandals combo amongst attendees – only one set in evidence. Could it be that shoes are now more comfortable? Or has the age of the eccentric activist left Cardiff for the open fields of wisdom.

On a brighter note, if you have the chance to read Zero Carbon Britain,  or even the summary, it is heartening stuff. It lives in the realms of the entirely possible.




The Power of Less – Policy on Waste in Wales

I had a most heartening morning at the well attended Policy on Waste in Wales forum today (which I as usual gatecrashed as I’m not about to pay £200 for the pleasure of having my own policies talked back to me). All those years of going to these things and asking the awkward questions seems to have paid off. This was evident in that a lot of people called me by name, and yes I did still ask awkward questions, but there were not so many of them as before. Policy makers are now thoroughly convinced of the necessity for a circular economy (or closed loop system). Of note was the humanising of waste systems – with an extra 4000 jobs in the pipeline and 30,000 jobs in the ultimate Welsh circular economy, the fact that politics is holding back investment and that waste regulation assumes that waste has no value -which of course is a ludicrous concept. On a planet with finite resources everything has a value. Importantly it became clear that waste – on any level – is a failure of imagination.

Re-manufacturing was a big subject, abolishing built in obsolescence and increasing producer responsibility in manufacture, particularly in packaging is finally acceptable.

To hear more than one speaker talking about getting us to a one planet economy by 2050 was music to my ears, so the intention is there even if the framework needs much to be desired. There was much dependence on the Well Being of Future Generations Act, to sort things out. I hope it does, but am not optimistic on this particular point.

Today, we definitely talked the talk. I hope that tomorrow we will walk the walk.

Finally a word on gender balance. It was stunningly even. This is the first time I have been to a Policy seminar which was not criminally overwhelmed by men in suits. I have to wonder if this is a true sign of changing times, or whether the subject matter of waste and all the implications arising from abolishing it, has touched the imagination of the female of the species, and spurred them to take part for the common good. The panels weren’t quite gender balanced, but I get the feeling we are at last on the way to equal representation in all strata of society.

So congratulations to the organisers for bringing me a Green morning in every way.

Cladding – the wallpaper over the cracks of government.

Cladding, the wallpaper over the cracks, the cosmetic covering of the ills of our day, the superficial substance masking all that is rotten. Grenfell tower, like hundreds of other, similar blocks, hides beneath it’s nice shiny surface an unsafe home. The real job of this cladding was to hide poverty.

Government, clad in the veneer of an unsafe agreement with the DUP hides beneath it a different poverty. Moral poverty. Consumerism is but the cladding of an unsafe society, doomed to know the price of everything, but the value of nothing. Banking is the unsafe veneer of an economic system fanning the flames of the ever widening gap between rich and poor.

Some have too much to share, some have too little not to share. We are a precarious society teetering on the brink of meltdown. The gentle manners of the poor are all that lies between the superficial cladding of law, and the unravelling structure of governance purporting to hold us all up.

I am revolted by the way our poor and our homeless are treated. Expendable, something to be swept under the carpet (or of course the cladding). There is enough money for anything the government wants to spend it on. Just gather the taxes properly, and tax efficiently. It seems everything from Trident to tax breaks are affordable, but not morality.

The UK is the 6th richest country in the world. Tell that to the survivors of Grenfell. and if they were less magnanimous, they would spit in your face.

An Open Letter to Voters

Pippa Bartolotti

There is “no magic money tree”. Britain is only the 5th richest country in the world on measures of GDP, not the real wealth of nations. Britain’s “money tree’ rests on the decaying roots of a three-planet economy which is by its nature unsustainable, as is the debt-based bubble which has been inflated, and will inevitably crash, again. Our present economy cannot endure whilst May and Corbyn keep their eyes fixed on the rear view mirror.

The only really progressive thinking on not just the NHS but social care, education and indeed the entire public sector is taking place in and around the Green Party, yet another reason for voting Green, not Labour.

It’s not really about Theresa May’s barbarism vs. Jeremy Corbyn’s socialism. The reasons for supporting Corbyn do not address the real problems we face. Labour has failed down the decades to deliver the changes we really need because they are loyal supporters of the status quo.

Labour backers recognise that the party has many imperfections which can be sorted out later. But there might not be any ‘later’.  The big challenges of potentially catastrophic climate change, the liquidation of biodiversity, rampant deforestation, rapid soil erosion, the killing of the oceans, toxic and radioactive overload, hovering new pandemics etc. all are happening right now. They are all linked by one thing: too big a human footprint. A reduction to sustainable levels is priority number one. It cannot be left until later. Later will be too late. None of these threats to collective peace and security are mentioned by any wing of the Labour Party

All past attempts to transform the Labour Party into a different creature have failed: Keep Left, Bevanism, Tribune group, ’Militant’/RSP, Bennism, etc. Labour failed to use the 2008 financial crisis as an opportunity to pursue radical changes to a widely discredited banking system. They support most conventional ‘development’ strategies such as nuclear power, high-speed trains, Crossrail, airport expansion, green belt grabs and trident submarines.

But let’s assume that Labour might actually be open to new ideas despite all the incompatible ideological baggage it carries (and the deadweight influence of the big trade unions promoting nuclear etc). A strong Green vote is the best means to exert such pressure. A low Green vote will encourage the worst recidivism in Labour.

We need to hear from both Labour and Tories what kind of society we are really trying to build. Last year, sales of SUVs soared in Britain while the average spent on weddings was apparently £30,111 (according to ‘Brides’ magazine). That’s not a society I could defend. How about the 10 million pigs, over 15 million sheep, 16 million turkeys, 14 million ducks and geese, 975 million broiler chickens, 40 million so-called ‘spent’ hens , over 2.6 million cattle and 4.5 billion fish killed every year? Perhaps we need a bit more clarity about what kind of society we are trying to build.

Many small ‘c’ conservative are decent people, often wanting the best for society but believing there are better means to that end than what Labour offers. Writing off millions of voters as one ignorant lump scarcely makes it any the easier to try and win at least some over. After all, a society dedicated to the sustainable common good cannot be built without some Tory supporters changing loyalties.

May’s posturing on Brexit is likely to be utterly counter-productive. A vote on such a momentous deal is a very reasonable demand, given its consequences for all Britons. Yet it is far from clear negotiations will actually precede on straightforward ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ lines. Extreme weather events, another financial crash, regional wars, and other such shocks could utterly transform the context and throw everything out of kilter. The Brexit/Remain debate would then become a sideshow. In any case it might be remembered that, historically, Labour’s critique of the EU has been based on a certain ‘Little Englander’ politics, with no vision of, say, a ‘Europe of Regions’, with radical subsidiarity and localisation

Many people rightly celebrate the achievements of the NHS, yet the old NHS was more of a National Illness Service designed merely to patch people up. It also stifled more creative approaches to health. Simply spending more and more on the NHS, restored, reformed or whatever, is not a sustainable option.  We have to look at health more broadly, we need a true ‘health’ service.

It is certainly true that part of the population has been hit hard and sometimes very cruelly so by cutbacks in certain areas of government spending. Groups such as the disabled have been shockingly treated. In that sense, government policies are indeed an ‘austerity’ programme’. Yet many people remain comfortably off, some cushioned by private or public sector pensions that are generous, and/or the sale of an inherited parental property, and/or high salaries, bonuses, rents & dividends. Tens of millions in this country feel anything but precarious in their comparative material prosperity. A lot of these people — more than enough to elect a government — still feel quite comfortable. The cuts do not necessarily come as a severe and direct blow to everyone.

A much smaller group  – the 1% – has seen its income and general wealth shoot way up under ‘austerity’. Overall there has been penalisation of some,  but disproportionately high rewards for others. It is a redistribution, Robin-Hood-in-reverse programme, not austerity for all. No austerity for landowners, landlords and estate agents.

Total government spending has not been falling significantly. What is really happening is the cutting of direct public provision (libraries, care homes etc) and its transfer to other hands, sometimes to not-for-profit companies but all too often to private sector sharks. Austerity is not so much the dismantling of the state and overall slashing of its spending, as the restructuring and redirection of expenditure.

There are deep flaws in the whole welfare system. Reversing this or that cut may be vital to give immediate help to certain groups now suffering from discrimination and marginalisation. But we cannot keep putting off genuine reforms -ones that sweep away the whole morass of unclaimed benefits, punitive assessments, clawbacks, and stigma. Several cities are now trialling Citizens Income schemes. Now is the time to be bold. A strong vote for the Greens will strengthen the hand of all those pressing for real change.

They say that every seat won against the Tories makes a hard Brexit less likely – and that is the overriding jeopardy of our era. No it is most certainly not. The biggest jeopardy is ecological meltdown, followed by war – often linked to resource depletion environmental degradation and climate change.

The rhetoric of ‘kick out the Tories’ has become a cop-out, an excuse to avoid hard thinking about the real jeopardies we face. It is too simplistic a viewpoint. Regardless of who wins on Thursday, the task of thinking through how to build a society for the sustainable common good remains paramount.

A vote for the Greens, not for those trying to drive forward with eyes glued to the rear-view mirror, is the best way to underline that reality.

With thanks to Sandy Irvine for the inspiration.


Greens Stand Up To Racism – 18.03.2017

Just like you I’ve been looking in horror as country after country lurches to the right. To the despicable right of racism, bigotry and prejudice.

Thank heavens for the Dutch elections! 16 Green seats!

There are soft racists, and hard racists. It’s the soft ones I worry about. The quiet ones, the ones who murmur racists comment under their breath in the street, the small acts of derision, spitting at foreigners, the throw away racist comments on social media, the secret white supremacists – oh yes there are plenty of them.

You would have thought that the institutions of media and state that we have, would feel a moral duty to raise awareness of the harm history speaks of when racism takes its cruel grip on the populace.

How wrong can you be? Divide and conquer is their game. They will not take the lead on matters of apartheid, arms sales and racism. They take the lead only on hypocrisy.

Britain is the fourth most unequal developed country on earth. Pay has fallen faster here than in 24 other EU countries. We work the third longest hours  for the second lowest wages. We have Europe’s third highest housing costs, the highest train fares and the second worst levels of fuel poverty. Can we blame that on the Poles?

It’s Britain which has the least happy children in the developed world, the highest infant mortality rate in Western Europe and some of the worst child poverty in the industrialised world. It’s British elderly people who are the fourth poorest pensioners in the EU. Can we sensibly blame all that on a woman in a headscarf?

It’s Britain which has the eighth biggest gender pay gap in Europe, with child care costs  higher than almost every European country. It’s Britain which has a wealth gap twice as wide as any other EU country. Who shall we blame that on? Perhaps the Syrian children who can’t even get here?

What we should blame is our own uniquely undemocratic system – but we don’t. Everything has to be the fault of the foreigner. Get rid of them and it will all magically be alright. Wrong.

We have become a sick country, investing a net figure of nothing in our future economy whilst flogging off the last of our assets.

Wales can produce more than twice the energy it needs, embedding quality jobs for decades. But where’s the investment? The 24% of the NHS nurses and doctors here are immigrants. How are we protecting them? In this sorry world we all need to stand together for better services, better infrastructure, a better future free from dishonest politics and bigotry.

Across the world, rich and powerful forces are rigging elections and advancing the politics of racism and division. They must be stopped now, because when it’s too late, it’s too late to stop.

37% of the electorate supported Brexit – yet we plough on with ‘alternative facts’ in a rigged system. Theresa May wears her jack-boots under her trousers. Don’t wait until she wears them over the top.

But do you know what makes me really mad? The 13 million people who do not vote. It was you who sent us to war in Iraq and Libya. It was you who gave us a Tory government which does nothing but entrench inequality and hardship. It is you who have let this country be run by the likes of May, Johnson and Gove, and you who helped to send thousands of refugees back to war zones in Afghanistan and Syria.

Just 21% of the electorate sent us to war on a pack of lies in 2003 and 174,000 Iraqi’s paid the price – yet we plough on with immigrant-bashing as if it was there fault. 

Friends, if you don’t vote, you can’t swivel out of blame for the increasing xenophobia, the creeping racism and the appalling inequality of this country

We may have a crappy electoral system, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore it.

No-one is going to take a stand against racism but us. In the ballot box, on the streets, on the internet – I’m standing tall against racism. Are you with me?