*These articles first appeared in the Daily Record on 03/07/18*
HOLYROOD has broken up and the Commons is winding down as the law-making side of politics is put on hold for the summer.
But the Brexit clock keeps on ticking. Just 270 days left until we jump off that cliff into the unknown.
It’s staggering that so long has passed since Article 50 was triggered and yet so little headway has been made with the negotiations.
In Brussels, there is sheer exasperation. The ‘most difficult tasks are still unresolved’, European Council President Donald Tusk said last week.
EastEnders star Danny Dyer put it even more succinctly on live TV last week, with added swear words.
So what message did Theresa May deliver last week on her trip to Brussels? She demanded more flexibility from our European neighbours. Astonishing.
Brexit is entirely a problem of our own making. The idea that we are in a position to make demands of our allies is just ludicrous.
We are saddled with a Prime Minister who has no clue how to fix the crisis she inherited from her predecessor David Cameron, who still appears to show no remorse for the mess he left behind.
The UK Cabinet is split and the House of Commons is split. It makes you wonder if summer shouldn’t be cancelled for the government until they can sort this out.
But the reality is that there is no bespoke solution to what Donald Tusk called the ‘most difficult tasks’.
At the top of that list is the Irish border problem.
A customs union between the UK and EU, as proposed by my own party, would eliminate tariffs on all goods crossing the border into and from Northern Ireland. That’s vital to avoiding a hard border, and yet – incredibly – the Tories still remain opposed to it.
But a customs union is not enough by itself. There would be no guarantee that regulations such as health standards would be met, so checks would still need to be carried out.
All sorts of food products repeatedly cross the border, so there needs to be a way to harmonise regulations.
Fortunately, one exists: it’s called the Single Market. It is open to EU member states and other European countries and removes all customs checks by allowing the free movement of goods, services, money and people. It’s a no-brainer, and it’s backed by the trade union movement including Unite members. I hope my own party listens to our allies in the workplaces.
But, as things stand, I fear we’re heading towards a catastrophe. The 650 MPs in the Commons simply can’t agree what to do.
So the decision must be made by the people of the UK through a People’s Vote.
Power must be put back in people’s hands. What happens in the next few months will shape our lives for generations to come. Everyone now has the right to have their say and decide if they believe Brexit is really worth it.
The NHS turns 70 this year and it provides an opportunity to pause and be grateful for this institution which is the envy of the world. It’s also an opportunity to give thanks to all those dedicated staff who work in it. From the cleaners and porters to the consultants and surgeons.
It shouldn’t stop there though, because if we truly appreciate the institution for what it’s worth, we have to ask if we’re doing right by its future. Especially if we expect it to be there to serve us and our children’s children in 70 years’ time.
Marking the anniversary Jeremy Corbyn wrote about this yesterday. He recognises that one of the greatest pressures on the NHS amongst attempts to privatise it and Brexit’s potential to rob it off staff, is inequality. Specifically, health inequality.
We know the poorer you are the more you’ll need the NHS. You are more likely to get cancer and die from it. The same applies to heart disease. You’re more likely to smoke and drink heavily.
Poverty means having less money to spend on decent food and choosing cheaper food packed with unhealthy additives.
Poor housing leads to poorer mental health and if it’s damp, lung conditions too.
These aren’t debating points, they’re facts. Yes, the NHS needs more money, although it’ll never be enough if we don’t treat the root causes of what makes people ill in the first place.
That’s why I support Labour’s mission for decent housing and well-funded public services.
I once did an interview with a very trendy Guardian journalist who didn’t just want to know my views on the big political issues of the day but delved into that pesky thing called a politicians’ “hinterland.” What books do they read, what music do you listen to and what hipster TV show are you currently addicted to?
I thought it had gone well until I read the piece afterwards and he’d chastised my love of the Stereophonics. Plod rock Dad music is what he rather rudely considered it. Well I don’t care because I absolutely love the Phonics and they were just sensational at TRNSMT on Friday night. Which by the way, is proving such a runaway success I’m not sure anyone really misses T in the Park.
The set started with Local Boy in the Photograph which lead singer Kelly Jones announced was now 21 years old. How can that be? How can a song of my youth have come of age all by itself?!
I just had a ticket for one day of this five-day live music fest, so now I’m extremely jealous of those lucky souls who are bought into the whole experience.
I’m normally a fan of Edinburgh over Glasgow but if there’s one thing that Glasgow does a thousand times better than Edinburgh it’s live music. There I’ve said it.
ONE of the biggest scandals of modern times is the failure of too many companies to pay the tax they owe.
I commend the work of those behind the Fair Tax Mark, which certifies that businesses pay the correct level of corporation tax in the correct jurisdiction at the correct time.
It’s a kitemark that I want to see used in Scotland and across the UK so that we know we are shopping with firms which are paying their fair share of tax.
That was a wise, wise move from Andy Murray to pull out of Wimbledon. There was just no point in competing if he wasn’t physically fit enough to see himself in the finals. He deserves a lot of kudos for that and I’m sure he’ll be rewarded with a great run at the US open.