Thursday, 19 September 2019

NHS Cuts, the Boris Johnson Confrontation & the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg

In 2017, my then 5 year old son began wheezing. He was panicky and teary, saying he couldn't breathe. I rushed him into the car and drove to the nearest hospital where I explained the situation, expecting a rapid response.

"But we don't have a children's ward anymore," I was told by the receptionist as though that had any relevance. I didn't know why my son was struggling to breathe - he had no history of breathing difficulties - but it sounded like his throat was closing up. This could have been an allergic reaction, in which case every second counts, so I could be forgiven for not giving a flying fuck about the fact the Tories closed down our children's ward. My son needed treatment.

An angry exchange later and I was told an ambulance would take my son to another hospital eight miles away for treatment. I didn't know at this point if he'd still be breathing upon arrival. You can imagine how terrifying this was.

Before we departed, a doctor quickly examined my son. She had none of the proper equipment and simply shone her mobile phone torch into his throat, then said she can't see an obstruction. That was it. We set off in the ambulance.

We arrived at the other hospital at midnight and the children's ward was packed like you wouldn't believe. Everyone was sitting squashed together on the floor. I've never seen a hospital so crowded - it was horrendous. We were told the only children's doctor was away on an emergency and there was no one to treat my son. The staff didn't know when the doctor would be available.

I sat squashed on the cold, hard, and crowded floor for hours, hoping with each passing second my son was still breathing. He was worryingly quiet for a long time, but gradually perked up, and the croakiness in his voice cleared. He told me he could breathe better.

Another half an hour passed. We were exhausted. We were told the doctor could still be hours. Not a single person had been seen. The hospital was becoming further crowded. I decided to take my son home.

My son did not receive treatment in what could have been a life or death situation. I took him to another hospital in the morning for a checkup. Thankfully, everything was fine, and we still don't know what caused his breathing difficulties.

My son's life was jeopardised by Tory cuts. Locally and nationally, the government have closed children's wards and maternity wards, leaving one hospital doing the job of three. It's horrific and this experience is the kind of thing that drives people to activism. It's also the kind of thing that kills.

Yet, I learned yesterday that being a political activist means you're not allowed to raise such concerns, that if you do, you're simply engaging in a politically-motivated PR stunt. At least, that's the impression the BBC and their political correspondent gave me when reporting on the case of Omar Salem.

Omar's seven day old baby almost died due to hospital understaffing - and our prime minister Boris Johnson decided to visit the hospital for a photo opportunity. Omar, still clearly distressed by his experience with his daughter, confronted the prime minister and broke down how Tory cuts are jeopardising lives. He explained about shocking understaffing at the hospital and raised displeasure at the fact Johnson had come for a press opportunity. Johnson, while looking into a camera, said "Well, there are no press here." A bizarre lie and a grotesque dismissal of Omar's concerns.

The story here is that government spending cuts are jeopardising lives, yet the prime minister sees hospitals as photo opportunities and lies to a father with a sick baby. Yet that's not how the BBC framed it. No, they framed it as the father who challenged Boris Johnson is a Labour activist. This was tweeted by both the BBC and Laura Kuenssberg and was reported on the BBC News at Ten. The implication was Omar's motives were political, rather than born from concern from his daughter, and his concerns about the NHS can simply be dismissed, or at the very least, doubted. That's certainly the impression I and many others got.

But it gets worse.

Laura Kuenssberg quote-tweeted, "This is him here", outing Omar to her 1.1 million followers, which inevitably triggered a pile-on. Omar was left to deal with accusations that his daughter might not be sick and he might have made the whole thing up.

I think back to my experience with the NHS when my son couldn't breathe and I think how horrendous such a pile-on would have been during an emotional time. I suffer from anxiety. This would have triggered a panic attack at the very least. Online bullying can and does tip people over the edge.

Now the BBC assure us there was nothing sinister in Laura Kuenssberg's motives. I'm certainly glad to hear it. But whether intentional or not, she triggered a pile-on for a father who was going through a difficult period and who had done nothing wrong. She behaved irresponsibly and inappropriately, and at the time of writing, I am unaware of any apology from Kuenssberg or the BBC. Indeed, the BBC's statement suggested criticisms of Kuenssberg are absurd.

All inappropriate tweets should be removed, an apology should be made, and the BBC should reach out to Omar. Instead, we're told told our concerns are absurd, and even worse, Labour centrists are jumping on the bandwagon on Twitter, attacking those who've criticised Kuenssberg for her behaviour.

And let's consider Kuenssberg has been met with such fury because she has form. She was previously found guilty of a misleading report on Jeremy Corbyn about his stance on the government's shoot-to-kill policy - an error which many feel should have cost Kuenssberg her job.

And remember when Corbyn first became Labour leader and Kuenssberg and her colleagues would, in a sneering manner, refer to Corbyn as "the left winger" as though being left wing was something sinister? But they would never refer to any Conservative MP as "the right winger", even though the Tories were imposing brutal austerity cuts. Indeed, they reserved such language for far-right loons like Stephen Yaxley-Lennon. This seemed absolutely intentional - frame the Labour Party and its leader as extremists equivalent to the far right.

There has been a pattern of bias with Kuenssberg and the BBC for a long time - and when we see them treating a father with a sick child with such insensitivity, they are of course going to provoke a reaction. I and many others feel Kuenssberg has gone too far and it's time for her to leave her job as BBC political editor.

What do you think?

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Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Violet Swinson - The Spoilt Child of UK Politics

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson has been compared to Violet Beauregarde - the spoilt brat who wanted more and more until greed turned her into a giant purple balloon - and Violet Elizabeth Bott - "I'll scream and I'll scream until I'm sick!" Perhaps, we should rename her Violet Swinson!

Violet Swinson is like the teacher's pet turned school prefect with ideas way above her station and an unbearably conceited nature - from her wide-eyed, I shall repeatedly nod as though I'm honestly listening and not-at-all patronising you - to her coarse voice which turns shouty the moment she gets rattled as her eyes switch from innocent child to power-hungry megalomaniac - it's clear everything about Violet Swinson is a performance and not a convincing one. She's more first year drama student than accomplished political leader. More the youngster in the work place who landed a position way above her skill level and experience, and now manages to rub everyone up the wrong way.

The only impressive trait of Violet Swinson is her spectacular delusion of grandeur as she laughably claims she will be prime minister - she's only 303 MPs short of a majority - and given one third of her MPs are Labour and Tory squatters, it seems possible she will lose seats at the next general election. Even her own East Dunbartonshire seat is vulnerable. Wouldn't it be amusing to see the aspiring prime minister lose her seat? There's every chance that will happen, and Violet knows it, which is why her behaviour is becoming increasingly irrational and opportunistic.

Violet Swinson is supposed to lead a liberal party, yet she welcomes the most illiberal racist and homophobic MPs to get the numbers up. What clearer indication that the Illiberal Democrats in their current iteration are driven by power rather than principle? What would the late Charles Kennedy think? Indeed, what is the point of power if you sacrifice everything you're supposed to believe in, in order to accomplish that power?

Violet Swinson's current strategy is to pitch herself as progressive and just say whatever Labour isn't saying. When Labour's official policy was to push for an EU trade deal, the Illiberal Democrats' official policy was to push for a people's vote. When Labour's official policy was to push for a people's vote, the Illiberal Democrats suddenly didn't want one. They wanted to abandon the policy, ignore the last referendum result, and simply cancel Brexit - Illiberal Un-Democrats.

But does Violet Swinson give a damn about Brexit? It really is hard to tell. Certainly, she seems determined to split the remain vote which would only accomplish one thing - a Tory government and a Trump deal Brexit - the opposite of what she claims to want. But then again Violet did serve as a minister in David Cameron's government and she did vote with the Tory whip more times than Cameron himself.

It's no secret the Illiberal Un-Democrats have been discussing the possibility of another Tory coalition. They might try to pass themselves off as a remainer Tory-lite party, but another coalition would not give us remain. It would however give us austerity on steroids - music to Violet's ears, given she's recently declared austerity did not go far enough. I can think 130,000 dead people who would beg to differ, if only they could, but they're just collateral damage in Violet Swinson's maniacal quest for power.

How can Lib Dem voters possibly trust a party which promised to scrap tuition fees and then tripled them? Brexit will be the same thing all over again, only the consequences will be much graver. Remember Nick Clegg saying "Sorry" and that he should never have made that promise. That will be Violet Swinson in a couple of years, saying "Sorry" and that she never should've pledged to remain.

Will Lib Dem voters forgive and offer Violet a scapegoat? Oh well, she was in coalition so her hands were tied? She could choose to ally herself with Labour and pretty much guarantee the public get a people's vote on Brexit. She won't. This means the one viable remain option - Labour - must now defeat the Tories, Brexit Party and the Lib Dems who should be our allies. The Illiberal Un-Democrats are not a force for remain - they're a force for Brexit.

The only question in my mind is: Does Violet Swinson secretly want Brexit? Or is she so blinded by hatred of Corbyn that she will scream and scream until she makes herself sick? So deluded in her quest for power that she will chew gum until she turns into a giant purple balloon? The truth is, no one knows what Violet Swinson is thinking - not even her own ramshackle party of homophobes and racists.

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Sunday, 8 September 2019

The Lib Dems keep taking out Labour's Trash!

Okay, that headline is perhaps a bit crass. No one is trash, not in human terms, but in political terms, well, to put it politely, MPs can be surplus to requirements - and those who have left Labour certainly were that.

Surely that sounds counterproductive. Surely a political party wants as many MPs as possible on its side, doesn't it? Well, yes, all political parties want that, but no one wants a player who is deliberately scoring own goals, who is sabotaging your side's chance of winning. That was precisely what the Tinge UK defectors (and others) were doing to Labour, and it is why they won't be missed.

When I first heard of splits in the Labour camp, they caught me off-guard. I'd naively assumed any Labour MP, regardless of internal political differences, was fully behind the Labour project, first and foremost, and would do whatever it takes to get Labour into government. I'd assumed both sides were being petty, and all that was needed was a little bridge building. I was not prepared for the complete lack of sincerity from the right wing (mostly Blairites) of the Labour Party. Their aim was quite clear: destroy Corbyn, even if it meant destroying Labour's election chances, under the assumption they could pick up the pieces, and once again rebuild the party in Blair's image.

Of course, they failed to take into account that Labour is a more democratic party now, with the membership involved in much decision making - and the membership's views are completely at odds with the right wing of the party. Indeed, the Labour centrists might have some left wing social views, but their economics are definitely Tory-lite, free market, deregulate and privatise. Precisely the kind of economics which widened inequality and led to worldwide recession. Even the IMF is rejecting such thinking in favour of Scandinavian social-democratic principles.

Pushing left would appear to be the way forward, yet this is resisted by those in the Labour Party who would be more at home in the Liberal Democrats. And that's precisely where Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger and others have found themselves, via a slight detour through the ill-fated centrist party - Change UK - which had the backing of Tony Blair, who is somehow still a Labour member, despite hating everything the current party stands for and stating he would struggle to vote Labour.

It would be much easier to respect these centrist MPs, if only they'd been honest from the start, but they weren't - they engaged in smears and dirty tricks. Look at Luciana Berger, for example, who is pushing the line she was hounded out by Labour antisemites. She fails to mention a recent court case shows the four men convicted of racially harassing her, were far right and had absolutely no links to Labour whatsoever. I, and many others, in Labour would absolutely stand in solidarity with Luciana against these awful antisemitic loons, but instead she plays a slight of hand to imply we and them are one and the same. This is unacceptable.

What's worse is this kind of smearing is pushed by Labour MPs like Jess Phillips, who recently on Twitter called ordinary Labour supporters "idiots the lot". The reason? We challenged Jess on her reluctance to push for a Labour government in 2019. I, and others, asked Jess repeatedly if she was behind the fight for a Labour government in 2019 and she failed to answer. She then proceeded to launch four pile-ons against me, accusing me of sexism. My crime? I lost patience at one point and took the piss out of her using the suffix Esq - an idea she got from her mate Jacob Rees-Mogg. That's the Tory pillock she was drinking champagne with at Rupert Murdoch's mansion. Labour is supposed to be past the days of cosying up to Tories and media moguls. Jess isn't. With Jess, it's all about me-me-me.

And yet, I do not have anything personal against Jess, or any of the other Labour centrists. So often, we are accused of ideological purity, of wanting to drive out those who do not perfectly align with our views. Nothing could be further from the truth. We welcome those with a range of views, as long as they're fighting for a Labour government and not scoring own goals. Our is not an unreasonable position. But what are we getting from the centrist mob? Well, when they're not yelling "Broad church!" at us with no sense of irony, they're smearing decent Labour members, calling us "dogs" and trying to purge us from the party.

Remember when Corbyn first took over and his supporters were being thrown out for sins as petty as swearing on social media? Ironically, Jess Phillips is free to swear on Twitter without objection, but I understand Kerry-Anne Mendoza was expelled simply for liking a post from the Green Party. Yes, thought crime. This is especially galling when you consider the Green Revolution is a central Labour manifesto pledge.

And of course, it gets even more sinister than purging decent people from the party - they go all out to smear the leadership and the party itself - creating the impression Labour is rife with antisemites, and showing utter contempt for our socialist beliefs in the process. Take Margaret Hodge who called Corbyn a "fucking antisemite and racist" and introduced over 300 antisemitism complaints to Labour, 90% of which had nothing to do with the party. Or consider how former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair now scoffs at the Labour manifesto, calling it an unaffordable wishlist, and suggesting the British public aren't idiots, which in turn suggests ordinary Labour voters are idiots.

Blair fails to mention the manifesto was backed by 50 of the world's leading economists, including Nobel Laureates, who wrote an open letter to the British public, endorsing Corbynomics. (A more recent letter published in the Financial Times was signed by 80 economists.)

One thing becomes abundantly clear - this gulf is not about ideological purity or spiteful Corbynistas - it is about an unbridgeable ideological gap.

When ordinary Labour members and supporters say they want the likes of Tom Watson, Wes Streeting, Jess Phillips, and Margaret Hodge to leave Labour, it's because they want to drive us out. When we call them infiltrators, it's because they're neoliberals who infiltrated a socialist party and then had the audacity to smear socialists as infiltrators.

And when I joke the Lib Dems are taking our trash, I again, of course, only mean this in political terms. The Lib Dems are taking out those MPs who are hurting our party from within, and as such, they are doing us a huge favour.

I would therefore implore Jo Swinson to take the remaining Labour centrists with her, into their natural home in the Lib Dems, a place they should have been all along. They infiltrated a popular party in a cynical attempt to mop up the liberal and socialist vote while completely marginalising socialists in a socialist party.

As for those who now call themselves politically homeless, simply because the Lib Dems aren't popular enough for their liking, cry me a river. Socialists were politically homeless for a long time because the establishment stole our voice. Well, now we've taken it back.

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What is it with Tories giving Labour Great PR?

In the last couple of days, we've seen the Tory Party mock up Jeremy Corbyn as both a chicken and as Colonel Sanders. The reasoning being that Corbyn is a "chicken" because he is afraid of a general election. This playground prank, rumoured to be the work of James Cleverly, has backfired spectacularly due to some obvious problems.

Firstly, as many have pointed out, how can Corbyn be both the chicken and Colonel Sanders? That simply doesn't make sense. Secondly, Jeremy Corbyn has strongly signalled his intention for a November 2019 general election. Why would he let his political rivals choose a date more suitable to them? Corbyn holds the cards, right now, and he quite rightly does not want a general election to be a second EU referendum - he recognises the two things are distinct and should remain that way. Thirdly, the Colonel Sanders mock up made Corbyn look cool, and Labour supporters simply adopted this, renaming "JFC" - Jezza for Change. Indeed, many were thanking the Tories for a great new logo and campaign slogan. Fourthly, a photographer has suggested the Tories stole an image from him for their chicken mock up, insisting he hasn't sold a single copy of that particular image.

But this JFC farce is not the only time a PR stunt has backfired on the Tories. Dominic Cummings has recently tried to reframe Boris Johnson as an anti-establishment #PeoplesPrimeMinister. This prompted Twitter users to draw obvious comparisons between Johnson and Corbyn's records.

Johnson proudly boasted in a live TV debate: "Can you think of anyone who stuck up for the bankers as much as I did?" Indeed, his Chancellor Sajid Javid is an ex-city banker, and Johnson's first promise as prime minister was tax cuts for the rich. Not exactly a people's prime minister so much as a banker's prime minister.

Contrast this with Corbyn, who says of bankers: "When they say we're a threat, they're right..." Corbyn warned of the dangers of banking deregulation and was ultimately proven right with the 2008 crash. Today, he promises to take on the bankers, and in the process, create a Green Revolution - and far from being pie in the sky, his plans were recently backed by 80 leading economists in the Financial Times.

Johnson's claim to being the People's Prime Minister is one Orwellian step too far. We all know who the real people's Prime Minister is, and the establishment is running scared.

There have, of course, been other moments when Tories have tried to discredit Labour, only for this to backfire. Earlier this year, Tom Bower released a book on Corbyn, entitled: Dangerous Hero, which contained many factual inaccuracies but got one thing very right - the title. Corbynistas up and down the country were saying "You know what? Corbyn is a Dangerous Hero and so are we!" Cue thousands of users adding the hashtag to their Twitter names.

Another slur that caught on was the cool sounding "Corbyn outriders" which again quickly appeared in names of Twitter users. Yet another example was the charming "Magical Grandpa". And how about the edgy sounding "Semi-Marxist cabal"? If you're going to pitch yourself as a People's Prime Minister, Mr Johnson, you might want to avoid language which emphasises the anti-establishment credentials of your opponents...

Anyways, that's all I can think of for now. Can you think of any others I have missed? If so, let me know in the comments!

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Saturday, 31 August 2019

The Fight for the NHS

Imagine for a moment, you’re sat in a doctor’s office and you receive that nightmare diagnosis. Cancer. And, in that moment of terror, as questions are spinning around your mind – Is it treatable? What are my chances? How long have I got? – you face additional questions which add to your misery – Will my insurance cover this? Will I have to pay an excess? What if my claim is rejected?

This is the reality faced by Americans. And it could soon be the reality faced by the British. That’s not scaremongering. It’s not cheap political point scoring. It’s actually one of the main reasons we fight so passionately for a Labour government. Our beloved NHS, which saves so many lives, which has probably saved your uncle or your mother or your colleague or someone else you love, is not to be taken for granted.

It could be taken from us.

Boris Johnson has in a 2003 book – The Essential Boris Johnson – stated his eagerness to charge the public for NHS services, and he has enthusiastically backed every move to carve up and privatise the NHS. Indeed, former Conservative Prime Minister John Major had this to say about him:

“The NHS is about as safe with them [Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Ian Duncan Smith] as a pet hamster would be with a hungry python.”

To repeat, these are the words of a former Conservative Prime Minister.

Now there’s not a person in Britain unaware of the Trump administration’s desire for the NHS to be part of a post-Brexit trade deal. And the Americans have the upper-hand.

Brexit Britain is desperate for trade. We are about to become a small fish in a big pond, and if the US wants something from us, there’s every chance they will get it. And one of the first points of discussion will be higher drug prices.

Americans pay up to ten times as much as the UK for drugs like insulin, and Big Pharma has such influence over congress, Americans are not allowed to import cheaper drugs from abroad. Trump has stated his resentment that Britain is, in his opinion, underpaying for drugs. And let’s not forget, the US is a place where diabetics die because they can’t pay for treatment.

Most American Go Fund Me pages are set up to pay for medical costs, and most fail to raise the needed sums. Just imagine being deemed surplus to requirements by your society for a medical condition you were born with. That is the brutal reality of free market capitalism.

A general election in 2019 seems highly likely, and this will not just be a battle for which party gets to lead the country – it will be a battle for the NHS.

Labour will put the NHS back into public hands and end the funding crisis which took almost every NHS trust from a budget surplus into a deficit under Tory rule.

The Conservatives will further privatise services, handing over pieces of our NHS to US corporations who are circling like vultures, until soon we reach a point where we have surrendered full control, and are left scratching our heads, wondering how we ended up with a US-style insurance-based model.

The Tories will, of course, tell you this was the only way, that nationalised healthcare, which we’ve had for over 70 years, which every developed country other than the US has, suddenly became unaffordable and full privatisation was the only solution. In fact, they will probably find a way to blame Labour. They always do. But Labour is the party that gave us the NHS and it is their greatest achievement.

You probably know someone who was saved by the NHS, maybe someone who had cancer treatment and was given a new lease of life at no charge. Under a US-style model, there’s every chance that person, be it your uncle, brother, sister, cousin, best mate – would be bankrupt or dead.

Just think about that. And then think about the 50/50 chance you could one day get that horrible diagnosis. Would you be able to pay?

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History of the Monarchy

Following the Queen’s decision to allow the government to prorogue parliament and force No Deal Brexit, many are asking whether the monarchy should be abolished. In the interests of fairness, it’s worth pointing out there is debate over whether the Queen could or should have said no to Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.

Personally, I would’ve liked Elizabeth to defy him, but then again, as a republican, I could be seen as hypocritical if I argued she should interfere in our democratic process. One thing I will say is Elizabeth’s role seems to be purely ceremonial, in which case, I must ask what is the point? I would also like to challenge her legal right to the throne. Here is a brief history of the House of Windsor, laying out why…

Following the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89, the Catholic King James II was overthrown and sent into exile by English Protestants led by Dutchman William of Orange who then became William III. Towards the end of William’s life, there were no Protestant heirs to the throne so the Act of Settlement 1701 decreed all Catholic heirs would be bypassed until a Protestant could be found. Our monarchy was then handed over to the German House of Hanover, and all monarchs since are descended from Sophia of Hanover.

Due to anti-German sentiment during World War I, the monarchy changed its name to the more palatable House of Windsor, but the fact remained a family of German heritage controlled the monarchy based purely on the outcome of 17th century religious conflict.

Foreigners were handed the throne simply because powerful British people approved of their religion. I would therefore suggest there is no legitimacy to the Windsors’ claim, based on the right of accession – a right which is absurd in itself.

We are supporting the extraordinarily lavish lifestyles of this family for no reason, other than misguided sentiment. Royalists will tell you they generate huge sums of money for the economy. The fact is, they are using the Crown Estate – a publicly-owned property portfolio – to further enrich themselves. The monarchy is antithetical to the principle of meritocracy and a symbol of our colonial past and today’s grotesque inequality.

Last year, we funded a hugely expensive wedding while the homeless of Windsor were brushed to one side because, heaven forbid, we could not have the royals laying eyes on the peasants.

So many in this country are struggling to get by, eating from food-banks, and making extraordinary sacrifices, and we are told, rather perversely, to be grateful for the indulgences of a rich German family who stole our country.

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Disputing the Anti-Immigration Meme

I’ve seen many idiots recently, family included, sharing or citing memes about how illegal immigrants receive £30,000 a year, and even a free house or car, when they come to the UK, and they seem convinced this is the root of their problems.

If this applies to you, let me help you out here: If an illegal immigrant comes to the UK and tries to apply for benefits, housing, or even attempts to receive NHS treatment, they will be deported. (The clue’s in the word ‘illegal’).

Illegals actually work when they come here, often in awful conditions for below minimum wage. You may not like the fact they are here, but there’s no sensible way you can say their presence impacts you, unless it was your lifelong dream to pick fruit.

Legal immigrants are not allowed to claim benefits either. My wife is an immigrant. Her Visa clearly states no recourse to public funds. Not only do legal immigrants work, they are significant contributors to the economy, and our services, such as the NHS, could not function without them.

Asylum seekers are not allowed to work until their application is processed. They are given £3,000 a year to live off, even if they are a couple (this would work out at £30 a week per person.) Only about 6% of immigrants claim asylum and if their application is rejected, they are deported.

If you have a problem with the UK accepting legitimate refugees, I don’t know what to say to you, other than stop reading The Sun, The Daily Mail, etc., and stop filling your head with hatred. The real cause of your problems is politicians and the rich people who own them. It is they who led us into war and created refugees in the first place. And it is they who led us into recession and imposed austerity upon us.

People all over the world are being shit on by the elite and if you stop scapegoating for a second, you’ll realise you have far more in common with immigrants than with your leaders.

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