Over the next three weeks I’m devoting my blog to the most important decision we will all have to make in our lifetimes. I’m emphatically, with every fibre in my body for Remain.

On June 23 we must take a decision that will bind us or sever us from Europe for the foreseeable future. A reassurance has been built in that treaty changes would trigger a future referendum if we stay in, but if we vote to leave there will be no going back. Some have sought to muddy the waters about the finality of the referendum vote. For instance while Boris Johnson was moving from his true belief (which is to remain) to his careerist position of leave, he flirted with the idea that a UK vote to leave would bring our European partners to their senses and we could have a second referendum on a renegotiated deal. That will not happen. It is a theory put about by some Brexiteers to convince waverers to vote to leave because they will get a chance to reconsider the reckless move.

No, this is it. In theory one vote will be enough to begin the whole ghastly, costly and complicated business of separating us from forty three years of complex arrangements with the EU. A tiny majority for Leave will certainly be enough for the Brexiteers. If there was any suggestion that a Leave vote could be ignored or fudged, the Brexiteers would be ready with their criticism that the EU was trying to get us to keep voting until they got the vote that suited them.

The problem will be with a narrow vote to remain. Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP, has already indicated that the fight would be resumed the next day to get us out. You can already see the excuses being prepared. The government wielded unfair influence and made wild claims. The BBC was in favour of Remain. All that tosh is waiting to be deployed. So let’s get a big majority to Remain with an enthusiastic cheerful campaign that celebrates our membership of this great international institution that has replaced the ravages of war with the hope of peace and prosperity.

To achieve this it is essential that young people register to vote and then turn out. Most of them are in favour of our membership of the EU, why wouldn’t they be? They have grown up with the EU. They travel freely to work and meet new friends without borders getting in the way.

It is also vital that Labour voters turn out to vote to Remain. It is tempting to want to embarrass Cameron and Osborne by staying at home or voting no just to plunge the Tories into chaos. The far more important issue for socialists is to vote to remain. A lot of the Tory Brexitieers want us out so that they can dismantle people’s rights in respect of working hours, health and safety and parental leave. Tory Brexiteers see the EU as a barrier to the naked operation of the free market.

The UK was not conquered in the Second World War nor have we been ruled since by communist or neo fascist governments which was the experience of countries like Poland, Spain and Portugal. For those countries the EU is essential for very fundamental reasons. For us the EU has been a more pragmatic choice, that we are better off economically and politically in the world by being part of this great vision of bringing 28 countries together rather than sitting awkwardly on the global sidelines.

Although our reasons to be part of the EU are different, they are nonetheless equally important. We must Remain on June 23.



Before we plunge into the little local difficulty of Newsnight, let’s reflect that 90 years ago about 11,000 people were crowded round their crystal sets listening to the first output of the British Broadcasting Company.


Within a few years the BBC was resisting intense pressure to take the side of the government in the General Strike of 1926. Its correspondents risked life and limb to report the Second World War. After the conflict its radio and television services defined what public service broadcasting was all about when competition from commercial broadcasting arrived. It has been sustained by the licence fee, a method of funding under constant attack, but still supported by the British people.


Its natural history programmes, dramas and documentaries are of the highest quality and much of its investigative journalism has been of the same standard. There has rightly been a lot of criticism of the failure to investigate Jimmy Savile and the serious libel of Lord McAlpine, but it was not so long ago that the BBC exposed the abuse of elderly people in the Winterbourne View Care Home.


So let’s realise what is going on at the moment. The BBC’s commercial enemies are having a field day and some right wing Tories have raised the spectre of funding the BBC by public subscription. Let’s have a whip round for a programme showing us polar bear cubs in their den in the heart of an Arctic winter.


The important question at the moment isn’t “wither the BBC?”, but why does the Corporation, every few years, plunge itself into a major crisis over its journalism?


A lot of people have questioned the structure of the BBC that left the Director General exposed, first to the Commons Select Committee over Savile and then to John Humphrys over McAlpine. George Entwhistle was certainly let down by those who should have kept him informed but I think he just wasn’t up to the job. One of the requirements of being Director General is an ability to prepare for media interviews and give as good as you get.


Some weeks ago I expressed surprise that Entwhistle had conducted a public trial of the editor of Newsnight, Peter Rippon at the Commons Media Select Committee. He was asked ridiculous questions like, “how many paedophiles are there at the BBC”. Entwistle should have said he’d set up inquiries into that and the MP should stop show boating. Instead he looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights.


Same again after the second Newsnight programme, only this time it was Humphrys kebabing his own boss. The next DG needs to be a man or woman made of sterner stuff. Sadly it looks like a mostly male field now that Caroline Thomson, the BBC’s former chief operating officer has ruled herself out of a second run for the job. My choice would be Tony Hall, the former BBC Director of News.


If you are familiar with Sam’s Chop House in Leeds or the similar operation in Manchester, then you will be pleased to note that a new addition to the Victorian Chop House Company’s range of eateries has just opened.


Situated just across from the Town Hall, is the newly opened Albert Square Chop House. Ambience is almost as important as good food for me in restaurants and this establishment has both.


The Memorial Hall building dates from 1866 and more recently was the Square Albert pub. The £3.5m refit has been tastefully done, preserving the best features of the Venetian Gothic-style building. In addition to the restaurant there is a private dining boardroom and 100 capacity function room, all handy facilities in the heart of the city.


On the day I was there I was able to sample a fine range of British dishes with mostly locally sourced food and some excellent wines.