Helen Martin: Rebels with a cause deserve our backing

Chuka Umunna and Angela Smith have quit as Labour Party MPs. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Chuka Umunna and Angela Smith have quit as Labour Party MPs. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
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SOME people refer to those who left the Tory and ­Labour parties to form an independent group, as ­“defectors”.

Personally, I’ve logged them as heroes and heroines . . . brave people who no longer want to be controlled and forced to vote backing their leader, preferring to stand up for what they know is best for the UK.

Their parties are in a mess, and anyone who disagrees with that is blinded by political party allegiance as if it’s a lifelong commitment.

Theresa May has done an appalling negotiating job to please her extreme right-wing members who want no relationship with the EU and are holding for a no-deal Brexit. Perhaps that’s because the EU is now blacklisting tax havens across the globe.

It’s also interesting that three years ago her husband was reported in the Independent as senior executive of an investment fund worth more than one trillion dollars which profits from tax avoiding companies. What can we make of that?

Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party insist that their policies are formed by members at party conference. Yet Corbyn has selected which of those policies he wants to execute, completely avoiding (perhaps until the last minute) the members’ agreement to push for a People’s Vote.

He was known as a left-wing ­idealist, a campaigner and an ­activist, when he became the party leader – though many people including me, but far more importantly many Labour politicians, didn’t believe he had political leadership qualities. ­Certainly not enough of those to ­seriously challenge and pressurise the Tories over Brexit.

Those who left either party know their job is on the line. Some of their voters might be immovable party loyalists, unwilling and incapable of electing independents in the future.

They know the SDP fizzled out, so forming a new party or partnership isn’t easy. They know the party they deserted may do or say anything to berate them.

But using their intelligence, integrity and courage they are doing anything they can to help the UK survive, whether that’s by staying in the ­single market and customs union or at least having that crucial People’s Vote.

Even the latter would not be enough to guarantee UK survival because, despite the horrors of Brexit reality now being known, there’s always the risk that loyal Leavers would maintain a majority in a second referendum. There’s now no doubt that no-deal will only work for the exceptionally rich, while the rest of the low and middle income earners are destined to lose as trade deals fail, big employers move out, vital imports are limited, and we are put in the hands of the US in a world of extreme capitalism, chlorinated chicken, environmental disaster, privatisation and a loss of social conscience. We desperately need those heroic defectors.

Anything can happen from day-to-day or overnight in the Brexit ‘adventure’.

I even hope that the picture has changed before this column is ­published, so everything I’ve said becomes out-of-date . . . for the better.

The one thing I hope is that the number of defectors doubles or trebles.

Prejudice is still alive and kicking

FOOTBALL sectarianism has hit the news again recently following the game between Kilmarnock and Rangers at Ibrox when Killie manager Steve Clarke suffered ‘Fenian’ abuse from the crowd.

With Scottish football clubs refusing to accept strict liability rules, it’s fair to say this country’s game accommodates sectarianism.

But there are broader aspects of anti-Irish Catholic prejudice across the UK. The Ballymurphy Massacre inquest, in which the British Army is accused of murdering innocent locals almost 47 years ago, is currently ongoing and being covered by the Irish Times, the Irish News and BBC Northern Ireland.

Despite C4 having run a documentary on the massacre last September, there is almost zero journalistic coverage of the inquest in the UK.

Not only is that shameful, but it poses some awkward questions. Is that because the Army’s guilt or innocence is irrelevant to us Brits, because we don’t even want to admit it could have happened; because we can’t bear to hear the evidence; or don’t want to revisit Bloody Sunday?

Tories have it right on trams

RARELY do I offer a thumbs-up to Tories, but I’m sure the majority of us will salute Conservative councillors for finally coming out to condemn the extension of the tram line, which I wouldn’t mind betting is likely to cost the city £300 million or more by the time it gets rolling.

With such massive budget cuts underway, why would anyone throw away all that dosh rather than, as the Tory councillors have pointed out, spend it on vital public services?

Also, with Edinburgh council proposing to shed up to 200 jobs to balance the budget, it would be good to know precisely which jobs those are.

Officials from multiple management roles would save more money and we might prefer them leaving rather than frontline staff who we desperately need to provide those services.

Russell strictly a special guest

IF you have anyone affected by dementia you might fancy a constructive group morning out at Dance For Your Life, an inspiring event on March 22 in Teviot Debating Hall, supported by Dementia Research and Edinburgh University.

It’s about how exercise reduces the risk of dementia and the Strictly celebrity taking part is astrologer Russell Grant! The £5 tickets are available from www.eventbrite.co.uk and the proceeds go to charities who support research.