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Showing posts with label Scottish devolution. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scottish devolution. Show all posts

Monday, 3 March 2014

The “More powers after a No vote”con trick – recognise it for what it is …

Questions that every journalist with any regard for political realities and objective reporting should be asking the Holyrood Labour, Tory and LibDem leaders and their Scottish Westminster MP claque, e.g. Jim Murphy, Margaret Curran, Alistair Carmichael, Douglas Alexander and David Mundell when the question of more powers is raised.

In the highly unlikely event of the three Scottish unionist parties ever reaching a core consensus on more powers after a No vote on September 18th -

1) How do they intend to persuade the Prime Minister of an already fragmenting Tory/LibDem Coalition (which may not hold until 2015), the Leader of the Labour Opposition, and whichever politician is currently at the head of UKIP to agree to incorporate their recommendations in their 2015 manifestos to the UK electorate, given that there is highly vocal opposition to more powers for Scotland among senior figures in all of them?

2) How do they intend to persuade them to make a definitive promises to do this to the Scottish electorate during the remaining months of the referendum campaign?

3) How do they think such a commitment would be received by an English electorate already groaning under austerity, assuming their homes are not under water because of a complete failure of their government to manage their flood defences?

4) How do they intend to persuade the MPs, the peers and the institutions who have expressed their adamant opposition to more powers for Scotland to support them?

5) And finally, how do they explain to the large group - at one point a majority – within the Scottish electorate and the institutions comprising Civic Scotland - why they denied them a second question in the referendum that would have recognised their wish for  such powers, if not for the obvious reason that UK and Westminster has no intention whatsoever of granting them?

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Scottish Better Together parties can’t deliver more powers to Scotland – and Westminster won’t. Devo negligible, zero or minus

As anyone who has followed my blog and tweets over recent years will know, I have argued every aspect of the devolution/more powers versus full independence arguments, and have expressed fears – and often astonishment – that the complex implications of the shifting currents of voter opinion and preferences on devo within UK, full independence, and the missing second question are being avoided or argued inadequately.

The way this argument is handled will impact crucially on the way the Scottish electorate will ultimately resolve this, faced with a simple YES/NO choice on September 18th 2014.

Although there seems to be a dawning recognition of just how this question will dominate the debate in the months remaining - and some evidence that both YES and No campaigns have at least grasped the essentials - there is still a flabby sogginess in the YES (and SNP) arguments, and continuing failure of media commentators and TV political news anchors to ask focused questions. This is allowing Better Together to pump out a miasma of vague promises to deliver more powers, without a shred of evidence of exactly how they could do this.

 

So let me reiterate again what I see as the fundamentals, with a plea that all parties to the public debate fully present and explore them, and that media commentators ask the key question again and again.

CORE ARGUMENTS

The Scottish Parliament exists only by the grace and favour of the sovereign UK Parliament under the Scotland Act, and its limited powers are  in the gift of Westminster. They can be amended, curtailed or withdrawn at any time by the Westminster UK government. Scottish MPs can vote against this but have not got the power to block it, given the massive disparity in their numbers versus rUK MPs.

In the lead-up to the Edinburgh Agreement, all polls and virtually all expressions of opinion by Civic Scotland indicated a majority for more powers for Scotland – devo max, devo plus and other variant – while remaining within UK, i.e. with defence and foreign affairs remaining under Westminster. (There is an inherent contradiction in this preference on defence and foreign affairs with the Scottish electorate and Civic Scotland’s wish for a nuclear-free Scotland. A WMD-free Scotland cannot be delivered under such devolution.)

The Scottish Government was open to a second question in the 2014 referendum, offering not just a binary choice between full independence and status quo, but a question on more powers within the UK. Civic Scotland was highly vocal in support of a second question.

(There were formidable, but not insuperable problems in framing such a ballot paper – or papers – and even more formidable problems in evaluating the various possible vote outcomes. During this period of the debate, the political parties and the media showed a spectacular naivety and ignorance in addressing these complex issues.)

The 2nd question veto

The second question was effectively vetoed by David Cameron and the Better Together Parties, and their negotiator, Michal Moore, was mandated to treat this as a deal breaker in the Edinburgh Agreement negotiations.

The reason advanced by Cameron and the Better Together axis was that the will of the Scottish electorate had to be determined with absolute clarity on independence before any question of more powers could be addressed. This was a patently specious and self-serving argument, given that the will of the Scottish people seemed evident from the opinion polls and Civic Scotland.

The real reason – in my view – was that if a second question was offered and proved decisively to be the preferred option, the UK Government would be under major pressure to deliver more powers – and they had – and have - no intention of doing so.

The power realities of Scottish Better Together and Westminster parties

Scottish Labour, Scottish Tories and Scottish LibDems can have their little think tanks, commissions, etc. under various exciting and pompous titles, they can  pass resolutions at Scottish party conferences, they can make recommendations to their London party masters, they might even conceivably reach a core consensus – but they cannot deliver such powers.

Only the Westminster parties can decide whether or not to include all or any of these recommendations in their 2015 general election manifestos – and they won’t, because to do so would be electoral suicide, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and God’s gift to UKIP.

Here’s my analysis again from a recent posting on Scotland-US.

  • The only mechanism by which more powers can be delivered, now or after a No vote, is The Scotland Act. It has already delivered a dribble of powers after the Calman Commission. The Scotland Act leaves absolute control with the Westminster Parliament over Scotland’s devolved powers: it created the devolved Parliament, it has the power to vary its powers by adding to them or subtracting them. It has the power to end devolution and dissolve the Parliament by vote in which non-Scottish MPs massively outnumber the 59 Scots.

  • In other words, until and unless it votes for full independence, Scotland is wholly dependent on the grace and favour of the British Parliament for its Parliament and any powers it has.

  • There are powerful voices in the Commons and the unelected Lords who have always bitterly opposed the creation of a Scottish Parliament, regarding devolution as the thin edge of a wedge that would end the Union. There are a growing number of voices in England, notably the local authorities who bitterly resent what they see as Scotland privileged status in the Barnett Formula

  • There are strong voices, encapsulated by The West Lothian Question – coined by a Scot, Tam Dalyell – that questions the ability of Scots MPs to influence English legislation on purely English matters by their votes in Westminster, while English MPs cannot influence devolved matter in the Scottish Parliament. There are moves to reduce the number of Scottish MPs in Westminster. There is growing resentment in England and Wales about what they see as Scotland’s privileged position under devolution.

  • To grant more powers to Scotland after a No vote, or even promise them before one would be greeted with outrage by the English electorate and the Welsh Labour voters. It would be political suicide in the 2015 UK general election for any party that promised or committed such powers.

  • The Scottish electorate do not trust the UK on promises of more powers after a No vote in a referendum, because they have already reneged on just such a promise in 1979 after a referendum – they have form!

    But the decisive argument for Scots is that, had the UK Parliament and government any intentions to consider or grant more powers, they would not have opposed the second question in the Scottish referendum addressing the wish for devo max within UK revealed in poll after poll.

    Alex Salmond and the SNP government were willing to consider such a question and option, offering a middle road between independence and the status quo. The resolute opposition to the 2nd question – a deal breaker for the Edinburgh Agreement – by David Cameron and all the UK Better Together parties – told the Scottish electorate all they needed to know – that a No vote, far from producing more powers, was almost certain to produce a clawback of powers and a £4 billion reduction in the Barnett Formula.

    The Scottish electorate know that a No vote, in addition to attracting the astonishment and thinly veiled contempt of the world for a nation that rejected its chance to be independent, would result in either devo zero or devo minus.

    Only independence will deliver to Scotland and the Scottish people the freedom they need to determine their future in this uncertain world and the challenging times ahead.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Scottish unionists–and Michael Moore - inch towards their exit strategy

Someone once said that a Scotsman would do almost anything except harm his career. That is certainly true of Scottish unionist politicians – Scotland and the Scottish people have always come a poor second for most of them in their scale of priorities, with the high road to England and Westminster and a place on the gravy train way up front.

In fairness, some have not started out that way: the insidious lure of preferment, high office and money, money, money has come later, then that ultimate flight from all things Scottish - ennoblement, the ermine and the Lords - and freedom from the tedious business of getting elected every so often, not to mention listening to constituents. And the strange satisfactions of the title – Lord Poodle of Auchterselloot

A tiny number have believed in Scotland, albeit within the Union, and have consistently stood up for their ain folk. Wha was like them, but maist o’ them are deid. But among the living I would certainly number Henry McLeish and he is not alone.

But the rest of them are now looking at a career abyss when independence comes – they would say if it comes. The political agenda in Scotland has been totally dominated by the Scottish National Party and its vision and values since 2007: the unionists have moved through stunned denial to vitriolic opposition, but now, faced with the stark reality of the May 2011 election result, to moving inexorably towards a reluctant recognition of the inevitability of change.

It is astonishing to consider that the Scottish Labour Party is only now at the point of electing a new leader seven and a half months after the resignation of Iain Gray. What was left of the Lib/Dems at least got off their erses and elected a leader, and the Tories, having almost rent themselves apart in the process, managed to get someone in post. Neither of these two leaders exactly looks like the kind of leader their respective parties needed if they were to have any hope of restoring their fortunes.

Consider the fate of Scottish unionist MPs after independence.

At a stroke, they cease to be MPs. Those among them who are ministers – a single Tory and some LibDems – will probably cease to be ministers, although being an MP is not a requirement of being a government minister. The Scottish Lords are in a strange no-man’s land. The Queen is still the Queen, and in theory at least they owe their position to her, instead of the sordid reality of a political appointment.

But can they sit in a chamber that no longer has any relevance to Scotland, part of the democratic process of UK Minus?

How will the English, Welsh and Northern Irish people regard the Lairds of Auchterselloot voting on legislation and drawing their expenses?

The Scottish MPs who lose their seats - among them some very significant individuals for their parties - could look to the party managers to find them a safe seat. But who will have them? The good electors of England are unlikely to look kindly on having a Scot parachuted into their constituency, and the risk for the party of putting a Scot up for election in the period immediately after independence would be to great an electoral risk.

It is even less likely that some obscure but worthy English MP is going give up his or her seat to make way for a big Scottish beast. It will be difficult enough in all conscience for Scottish MPs in English constituencies if they face re-nomination and a campaign soon after independence – or perhaps before it.

But some might take comfort in the fact that if an independence referendum in say 2015 resulted in a YES vote, it would take years to reach that bright day when Scotland will again be a nation.

However, another spectre looms for the Scottish unionist MPs …

As yesterday’s PMQs demonstrated very clearly, David Cameron’s coat is on a very shaky nail over Europe. The future of the Coalition looks increasingly uncertain, and the LibDem mice, while not exactly roaring, did emit a cheeky squeak in their recent Commons vote against the Government. Not quite a rebellion, but certainly a fart in church …

If the Coalition falls, especially in the context of global uncertainty, most of the nightmare for Scottish unionists MPs would come early, and the Douglas Alexanders, the Murphys, the Tom Harrises, the Danny Alexanders - and the sole Mundel - would risk being oot on their erses in a general election.

So all of this brings me to today, and that extraordinary manifestation of the Union, Michael Moore, the Scottish Colonial Governor. If there is a figurehead for Scotland in the UK, it is oor Michael. But his job – and his MP status – both end with independence, as does the Scottish Office. In a general election, he might well lose his seat as a Scottish LibDem. Lordships will be hard to come by for such as he in the present climate.

And so to the Herald’s astonished headline - Surprise as Moore says that he is not a ‘Unionist’.

Is the Pope not a Catholic? Is King Billy not an Orangeman?

In the tones of Peter Kay and garlic bread, I say “Not a unionist? Not a unionist?

Be kind to the man – as a kind of Scot, one who will do anything rather than harm his career, he is simply gearing up for his exit strategy, as is Douglas Alexander, Jim Murphy, Auld Uncle Tam Harris and all.

Because there is nothing so terrifying as being alienated from your ain folk, and finding that you have nowhere to go. Being on the wrong side at a pivotal moment in your country’s history is not a happy place to be.

But don’t despair, guys – somebody will have you. The new Scotland won’t keep you out – it’s an inclusive, forgiving nation. You may have to spend some time in the wilderness doing penance in sackcloth and ashes, but you have talents and experience and providing your contrition is genuine, Scotland will find a place for you.

But don’t submit yourself to the electorate for say, twenty years or so. After all, we haven’t forgiven Maggie, and she wreaked her havoc on Scotland a generation ago. Scots have long memories …


Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The new Scotland - where to from here?

There’s a concept among jazz musicians - woodshedding - that expresses where I need to be at the moment. Going to the woodshed is what a jazz musician does when he or she needs to come to grips with something fundamental - technique, conception, tone, etc. Legendary jazz woodshedders included Charlie Parker who entered the woodshed as a primitive young musician and emerged as a fully-fledged genius, with a formidable technique and with a new musical language, and Sonny Rollins, already an established musician, who famously woodshedded on a public road bridge and re-invented himself and his music.

The woodshed is a metaphor, but I’ve got a real one - the Hut, as we call it, our little summerhouse at the back of the garden, an invaluable retreat from the distractions of the house.

I urgently need to woodshed on the big questions that face Scotland and all Scots, old and new, now that the election is over, and we are basking briefly in the new Scottish Spring - independence and the referendum that might lead us there.

But before I disappear, I have a couple of things I want to say -

I have been struck over the last week by the virtual absence of any discussion over foreign policy in the media and in the press - the Trident in the room, rather than the elephant in the room.

For me, independence means Scotland having control of its own foreign policy, of its own defence - of deciding in what circumstances and for what cause Scottish young servicemen and women must be placed in harm’s way by the state and give their lives if necessary, depriving Scottish families of their children, their partners, their spouses, their fathers, their mothers, their brother, their sisters, their friends - and Scottish servicemen and women of their comrades.

Fundamental to that control of foreign policy is the rejection of nuclear weapons and the concept of the nuclear deterrent.

Why is this topic being quietly sidelined by all parties, both those opposed to independence and those in favour? Why is all the talk confined to economic control, social policy, various options all the way through to devolution max, to constitutional monarchy, to somehow retaining the concept of the UK while freeing Scotland of the dead hand of Westminster and the Treasury?

Well, I have a view on why.

It is because control of foreign policy is the truly fundamental issue that no one wants to speak its name, lest they frighten the horses.

It is because it is believed that it was not a particularly important or defining issue in the election campaign,  other than in the context of the cost of Trident, and the job creation scheme argument that is often used to justify military expenditure.

It is because it impacts directly on the ancient link between monarchy, the military and organised religion - all three potential minefields for politicians, whatever their core beliefs and allegiances.

It is because it is believed by politicians, with some justification, that the voting public don’t really care about it, don’t understand it, and are made uncomfortable by it.

Nationalist politicians are wary of putting it centre stage because it might not play well with the voting public when they enter the independence referendum polling booths.

Unionist politicians must play canny with it, because it is in fact their fundamental reason for opposing full independence, and is linked inextricably with the the idea of British identity - an imperial identity - the United Kingdom’s perceived role in world affairs, the whole rotten edifice of undemocratic, unelected privilege that is the British Establishment and the Peerage and the House of Lords, the unionist’s latent or overt anti-Europeanism, and the subservient, client nature of the UK’s relationship with US foreign policy.

So now the nationalist politician may be entering an unspoken consensus with the unionist politician in the two years or so before the Independence referendum bill that, together, we won’t frighten the military horses, the monarchy, the Church, the Establishment or the electorate, and will concentrate on the economic and social arguments, and that something that falls just short of full independence that includes control of Scotland’s foreign policy may be a happy outcome all around.

On my way to the woodshed, let me say that while I will make my contribution to the economic and social argument, and to the principle of gradualism and softly, softly catchee independence monkey, nothing short of full control of Scotland’s foreign policy will ultimately satisfy me.


Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Tuition fees – a defining issue for Holyrood elections May 2011

The student vote is vital for a number of obvious reasons: they are young, in the early stages of political awareness, intelligent and articulate, sceptical, new media savvy – and the future belongs to them.




The tuition fees debate has captured the imagination of students and catalysed student protest in a way that has not been seen for many decades. The young have a powerful sense of justice, and of right and wrong, something that many lose as the pressures of adult life and career exert their often insidious grip on the conscience, sometime recovered in late maturity, sometimes never …

And bluntly, the tuition fees debate affects their interest very directly, both economically and socially, and has the power to cross family political allegiances and traditions.

A political party that cannot capture the imagination of the young and appeal to their idealism must question its policy and thrust: a nationalist party that cannot legitimately secure the allegiance of the youth of its nation by appealing to its intellect and emotions is not worthy of the name. If we do not want an independent Scotland for our young people, who hold the future in their hands and their hearts, what do we want it for?

Let’s get a few facts straight -

The commitment of Scotland to free education is fundamental to its history and its national character, and charging for education is alien to Scots.

The establishment of fee paying educational institutions is, and always has been, an attempt to buy privilege, while paying lip service to excellence. Fees automatically discriminate in favour of the those with money, are inextricably related to class and perpetuate and widen class divisions.

The smokescreen of the poor but worthy parents struggling to raise the money to educate their children is a self-serving myth, but a myth rooted in a small reality. A minority undoubtedly do this, but they shouldn’t have to, and the majority give up and accept their allotted subordinate role in the system. The same myth and same tiny reality exists in relation to the poor student taking second jobs and scrimping and saving to go to university. Some do, but they damage their education in so doing, and shouldn’t have to do it. A significant proportion give up the unequal struggle, and some never undertake it.

This myth is also deeply rooted in the American psychology – of the poor boy working his way through college. The American reality is that of a privileged elite buying their education, perpetuating their class, and dominating the professions and the entire political and economic system, regardless of inherent ability. It is a trick they learned from Britain, where the domination of money and privilege in securing an Oxbridge education ensures the dominance of Oxbridge graduate in our deeply flawed and unequal society.

Every analysis and all the statistics support that. Look at Parliament, the House of Lords, the Law, the City, the banks, medicine, the churches, the media and the upper echelons of the armed services if you doubt it. The figures are unchallengeable, and the inequity unspeakable. Only in sport and the performing arts does the the model fail, and the reason why is clear. Mediocrity and incompetence can be concealed in almost any profession, but in sport and the arts, there is nowhere to hide, although the administration and control of these direct contributors often falls into the hands of the elites.

If you doubt any of this, look at the background of those who regularly spout the self-serving poor boy, poor family myth – they are invariably the privileged, usually privileged over several generations. They must perpetuate the lie to defend that privilege – equality of education is deeply threatening to their class.

What can be said with absolute certainty is the the ConLib policy on education will limit access to higher education to the rich and privileged, with few exceptions and that is what the Tories intend it to do, aided by the criminal folly of the their LibDems partners.

Just as their distaste for the public services manifests itself as concern for the nations finances, so does their distaste for equality of opportunity hide behind the need to balance the books. This is a predominantly rich and privileged Government, containing a few token self-made men and women, conducting an ideological class war against ordinary people and their legitimate aspirations under the cloak of the national economic interest.

THE CURRENT SITUATION

1. It is Scotland’s responsibility to offer free education to Scottish students and students permanently living in Scotland.

2. It is not in Scotland’s economic interest to offer free education to students from Europe or the rest of the UK, however, present EU legislation compels us to offer free higher education to EU students – the Umbria/Cumbria rule. It does not, however compel us to offer free education to students from the rest of the UK, since the UK is regarded as the state by the EU.

3. It is in Scotland’s interest to attract paying students from the rest of the world, and ideally we would also like EU students to pay.

4. The demands from the UK that Scotland should offer free education to Students from England in the interests of ‘fairness’ is nonsense – it would negate the whole purpose of devolved government’s freedom to decide how its money should be spent in areas of expenditure over which it has discretion. If English students didn’t pay, some other area of Scotland’s expenditure would suffer, and in the light of the draconian fees (up to £9000 per annum) that the ConLib UK government is imposing, there would be a flood of English students to Scottish universities at the expenses of places for Scottish students.

WHERE THE REAL PROBLEM LIES

The real problem is twofold. Firstly, it lies with the fact that the UK government not only wants to charge students for their higher education, it intends to radically increase the charges.

Secondly, the UK government has not yet come to grips with the reality of devolved government in Scotland. Blair and the Labour Party, and the British Establishment thought it would be an event, not a process, one that would kill the aspirations of the Scottish people for independence.

But the contradictions within the devolved settlement – which is being extended under Calman – will ironically prove right the diehard unionist critics of devolution like Lord Forsyth and Tam Dalyell. It is a process that will lead inevitably and inexorably to full fiscal autonomy and ultimately to full independence, however long it takes, and however many reverses and staging posts there may be along the way.

Sooner or later, the Scottish people will be free of the crippling burden of UK defence and deterrence policy, enslaved as they are to US foreign policy – a policy that has led to half a century of perpetual conflict and war by America on the rest of the world, and the associated crimes against humanity that are more widely recognised every day, by Americans as well as the rest of the world.

(If you doubt the above assertions, watch the John Pilger documentary, ‘The War You Don’t See’ – see link)

Wikileaks has rendered an incalculable service to humanity by releasing that which the military/industrial complex that dominates the US and the UK wishes to keep hidden, so that they can continue in the lunatic policy of eternal war as the operating principle of their respective states, masquerading as free democracies.

The War You Don't See - John Pilger

Scotland, a small northern nation, but one with a unique place in the world’s history, must be free of that poisoned alliance, and the sooner the better. Tuition fees will be a defining issue in next years Holyrood elections that will take us closer to that ultimate objective.

The Scottish National Party must speak with a clear, unequivocal voice on the issue before May 2011.

Saor Alba!



Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Holyrood 2011 – the big questions

In the spring of 2011, Scotland goes to the polls to determine its representation in the Scottish Parliament and who will form the next government in Holyrood. The outcome of that election will depend on a number of factors, but significantly on the answer to the question -

Will the Labour general election surge in Scotland repeat itself in the Holyrood election?

There is no doubt that a majority of Scots, faced with the prospect of a Tory Government at Westminster, defaulted to their traditional allegiance. In 2007, disenchanted with the appalling Labour Government  record of betrayal of their core supporters over ten years, two needless wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, and the abandonment of every traditional Labour value, they felt that there had to be something better.

Many of them clearly shifted their allegiance to the SNP, returning a party committed to the ultimate independence of Scotland,  but it is probably also true that  a large percentage of socially-aware Labour voters, disenchanted with the Blair/Brown/Mandelson gang but not ready to vote SNP, voted LibDem.

I suspect that both groups will either return to Labour or vote SNP in 2011. Any way you slice it, it will be a Labour vs SNP contest.

What worries me is that the essence of Labour - old Labour - is that it is a movement with a social conscience and an appeal to the emotions. I feel that some of that essence is returning to Scottish Labour, just as it is being lost by the SNP under the mundane pressures of government. The Party needs to re-create the sense of belief and the excitement that characterised the Glasgow East victory.

I have to say that in spite of all the worthy time and effort devoted to grassroots communication and democracy, they have lost their mojo to some degree. In an understandable attempt to present themselves as serious politicians - which they undoubtedly are - geared to serious and challenging times, they have become dull, something a nationalist movement cannot afford to be.

The Scottish electorate, indeed any electorate, are only coldly rationale in part - there is an emotional quotient, one that Obama successfully captured and exploited to achieve his historic victory, and one which he is now dissipating to some degree under the pressures of office.

The extent and impact of the opposition to Osborne’s savage cuts, with his nodding, red-haired Scottish LibDem poodle, Danny Alexander at his side, will create political currents - and perhaps a political tsunamai - the ramifications of which are difficult to predict.

Will Scottish Labour voters recognise the responsibility that lies with Blair, Brown and the last Labour government for creating the situation that led to this?

Do they realise that senior Labour politicians, notably John Reid and Douglas Alexander, destroyed the fragile Rainbow Coalition negotiations by their public comments, leading directly to the ConLib coalition that is now inflicting this misery on us?

Do they remember that Alex Salmond repeatedly and consistently attacked the economic sense of the cuts and the attack on Scottish public services, in the face of baying Labour opposition in Holyrood? 

Will the Scottish trades unions, in their fight against the attack on Scottish living standards, remember that the the Labour Party destroyed the economy and bottled the chance to rectify their mistakes by a rainbow coalition?

If we have the autumn of discontent that the TUC conference seems to point towards, in opposition to the cuts - and I hope we do - then if the new leader of the Labour party plays his cards in support (which David Milliband won't do but the others might) it will probably alienate middle England from Labour but galvanise Scottish Labour voters.

To those complacent middle class families who are tut-tutting about the renewed union militancy, in the profoundly mistaken belief that they themselves will be immune from the impact of the cuts, I say  - remember the enduring words of John Donne -

And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
 

(I was tempted to quote Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous statement, the “then they came for me…” one, often described as a poem. But the wording is so contentious, and has been distorted, adapted and bowdlerised by so many special interest groups that I decided not to.  John Donne captured the essence of our common humanity in his words for all time, and it has never been better expressed.)