Sunday, 19 June 2016

The Mill Hill Residents Association #Brexit Debate ** Updated

Last night  I attended the  Mill Hill Residents Association #Brexit debate at Harwood Hall. I estimated that there were 40-50 residents in attendence. As this was Mill Hill it was rather civilised with a minimum of heckling. The plan had been to get our local MP Matthew Offord to speak for #leave and GLA rep and former Hendon MP Andrew Dismore to speak for #Remain. Sadly Matthew Offord refused to participate. In the circumstances , Andrew Dismore also backed out. I am most disappointed with both, but especially Offord. This is the most important issue facing the UK today and our MP's and GLA reps are paid handsomely to keep us informed.  Both Offord and Dismore have strong views on the subject. They should earn their money and turn up.

 The  hall fills up for the debate
So it fell to Christopher Howarth for Leave and Richard Logue for Remain to make the case. Chirstopher Howarth is  a backroom boy for the leave team. His other job is as "a researcher for a group of Tory MP's". Richard Logue is  the chair of The Mill Hill residents Association and works for Network Rail. 

Mr Howarrth introduc3ed himself as someone who'd never spoke in public previously. He seemed rather nervous thrughout the event. Unlike many on both sides, Mr Howarth was clearly not interested in rabble rousing or telling porkies. He had the the demeanour of the treasurer of the local allotment society explaining why the allotment fees need to be put up to paint the fences and overhaul the water supply. Every question about what would happen post Brexit was met with "That is not for the Leave Campaign to decide". He clearly felt passionately about the topic but really didn't get this across. One of the audience who who is a  rampant Leave supporter asked me after the debate if Richard Logue had picked christopher because he was such a bad public speaker. As I understand it, Barnet Leave campign had put him forward.  He certainly wasn't a Boris or a Farage. He is a facts and figures man. I doubt he'd have converted any fence sitters, if there were such a thing. If Remain wins by three votes,  then I hope that the Leave campaign fairly and squarely blame Matthew Offord for not turning up and leaving Christopher to do the job. I suspect that if you were discussing it 1-2-1 with him, he'd make a compelling case, but some people are just not cut out for public speaking.

Next up was Richard Logue. Richard is Irish by birth, coming from the border areas. He is also clearly used to doing presentations. Given that I like Richard and agree with him on the issue, I don't suppose it will surprise too many if I said I thought he won the debate hands down. What may be more surprising is that most of the Brexit fans in the audience agreed. I know most of them and some were quite cross that Leave hadn't put up a good speaker. As I mentioned earlier, some even thought it was a set up. 

I thought I'd check his Twitter feed to ensure he was bona-fide.

 As you can see he is a what he says. I found it bizarre that he didn't promote his appearance on his twitter feed. If I was speaking, I'd want a large crowd to come down and support me. Maybe he drew the short straw and didn't want anyone to witness his discomfort. 

About half of the "questions" from the audience were nbot questions at all but rants. Generally the audience was well behaved. For me the most illuminating part of the discussion was the section on how a leave vote may adversely affect the Northern Ireland peace process. with Richards local knoweldge and an excellent question from Pad Hunter on the subject, this was my most enlightening take away. I asked Christopher if my business needed to recruit a member of staff based in the EU, under the Leave proposed points system, how long this would take, who would pay for the cost of the administration and what effect he thought this legislation would have on the tens of thousands of highly niche businesses like mine that the Whitehall bureaucrats doesn't understand. He ducked the question and said that was a question for the government of the day. I felt that this answer was  a cop out. A rather vocal leave shoutyman berated me for "not training up a British youngster to be a sound engineer". This rather missed the point that a) my company does train British youngsters and b) We can't put  world famous recording artists in with inexperienced youngsters. Strangely mister shouty heckler seemed to resent other Mill Hill residents asking reasonable questions of the panel, butting in whilst several residents asked fairly sensible questions. Like many people in this particular debate, he was a lot more hot air than content. Like many who are 100% certain of their cause, he didn't really see the need for a rational debate. I've seen a fair bit of this. Those who are certain do not want a discussion. If you make reasoned arguments, they simply get cross and start shouting. Fortunately its Mill Hill so even the shouting was quite civilised. 

I was a bit disappointed with the debate. I thought that the debate would have been far more interesting of it had focussed on the local issues caused by the Brexit debate. How will Brexit affect jobs in Mill Hill? Will it affect the Green belt and the local farms such as Buronhole Lane etc. Will local house prices rise or fall? Will Thameslink and TFL services be affected. Thameslink is run by Govia, which is a company with a large French shareholding. 

There was some talk from Christopher of all the "shining towers in the City being put up as flats for immigrants". I suspect that the penthouse flats in the shining towers are being bought by the Super Wealthy Non Doms that George Osborne and the Tories have been rather keen to encourage. In Mill Hill we've seen lots of flats going up and being marketed in China and other far Eastern cities as "Investment opportunities". I agree with Christopher that this is a problem. I disagree with his view that leaving the EU will prevent the situation getting worse. As no one actually can say what will happen to migration post Brexit, it is simply a bit dishonest to claim that a Brexit will fix the situation. 

When it comes down to it, immigration usually follows economic success.  This is a point that no one seems keen to make. If #Brexit works and the economy improves, we'll see more immigration. If the economy fails, we'll see less. As someone who believes a Brxit will damage the economy, I suspect that this will slow immigration, but I doubt that Brexit will ever argue that we need economic failure to preserve our culture. When you have a developed economy, you get immigration to maintain  growth. We see this in the USA we see this in Germany and we see this in Hong Kong. 

It will be interesting to see how London votes. I suspect that London will be the most strongly Remain part of the UK. I also suspect that the London Borough of Barnet will be one of the least pro Remain Boroughs, despite the huge number of jobs reliant on the City. Barnet seems to be a more naturally conservative (small c) borough than the rest of London. Areas like Camden and Islingtionbn are far more outward looking. I do hpowever think that even in Barnet a majority will vote for Remain. I'd estimate that at the debate last night there was a small majority for Remain. 

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the evening was chatting to people before and after. Before the debate, I got the impression that the Leavers were hoping for a tub thumping performance from their speaker, rousing the rablle into a patriotic fervour. The Remainers seemed to be hoping for a sensible discussion and that there speaker would be able to highlight and contradict a few porkies from the leave speaker. As it happened, neither came to pass. Christopher for Leave was very cautious and made no claims. If anything he probably agreed with Richard from Leave just a bit too much for his supporters. As for Richard, he had had nothing much to get his teeth into. Given that the audience questions were largely statements, there wasn't really too much  revealed that hadn't been discussed a million times before. 

I think that people have now made up their minds. It seems that a very significant factor is that the public have decisively turned against  Cameron and Osborne, and there are very real trust issues that are seeping into the campaign. If I was running the remain campaign, I'd send these two on holiday until next Friday. The Tory Presss have derided the intervention of senior Labour figures, but I suspect that these are the people who will ultimately swing it for Remain. The Tories need to put a few senior people from the Lords up who people trust. As for Leave, the campaign is probably ging better than they could have hoped. They have played a slightly dodgy hand with great skill. I suspect that the fact their campaign is full of pugnatious political streetfighters  has been a major blessing for them. Ultimately, this vote will be decided by the don;t knows and can't be bothereds. A local leave campaigner confided that he thinks that remainers are people who vote, wheras many  Leave supporters are often very sceptical of politics in general and are out of the habit of voting. They are baanking on these normal abstainers turning out ot en masse. I suspect that by definition, those who turned out last night will vote. It is those who decide that its raining and they'd rather watch neighbours who will really matter. My Leave friend told me that many people had told him that many of the people he's spokenb to who are voting leave have told him they'v never bothered voting before. I asked if he really believed they'd al turnout this time. He said he was sure. I'm not so sure. I suspect that whichever of us is right will win the day. There is talk of  a huge turnout. I do wonder that as the parties do not have their usual knocking up operations in place, this may be wide of the mark. As Labour seem more united than the Tories, I'd epect Labour remainers to be far more likely to vote. Just a guess though. 

By this time next week, polling will be underway. It will be very interesting.

**** Updated Sun 19/6

I have met a couple of people who suggesterd I was unfair to Mr Howarth with my comments and that he gave an electrifying address. So in the interests of fairness, here is some of his summing up speech. Form your own concusions. 


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