R.I.P.

Is four days long enough? I’ve waited until now to mention Jo Cox’s killing out of a sense of respect for the human loss and because there is something unseemly about the way everybody with a keyboard rushes to get their judgment out there. It’s inevitable, of course it is. But I have no reservation about allowing others to occupy the space. The media has its obligation to report. I have no difficulty with that. But those of us without pretensions to profile or recognition represent a niche that feels insignificant in the face of such loss.

Who the Hell is one man and a blog when a woman has been subjected to a frenzy of barbarity whose emerging details are so horrifying that they chill the blood. Political assassinations we tend to think of as clinical in execution, planned for minimum of fuss and with total finality…a single bullet or blow, a bomb blast. The wolfish savagery at work here – several shots (three?) from a sawn-off firearm, the last, from reports, to the head; a stabbing (six blows, it is said) with a blade accompanied by kicking – signify the uncontrolled rage of the deranged. Yet, it is beyond doubt that the victim was targeted. This was no random act of violence.

Who knows what impulses drove her killer. Even an interest and practical engagement in extremist xenophobic campaigning doesn’t render a man capable of carrying out premeditated murder. Surely for many of the anti-immigrant white supremacists the adrenalin surges through membership of the group with its open talk of hate and armed resistance, its gunplay and hare-brained sabotage schemes. It needs a wiring error in the brain neurons to translate gang culture into an avalanche of ferocity against another human – an unthreatening woman.

Unless the same small, lively, articulate woman was indeed a threat in his mind as a worker for migrants’ rights. Did he know she was working on a report on far right extremism?

The truth, or a version of it, will emerge if the man arrested, Thomas Mair, continues to make what seem to be political statements. It would imply he is proud of his views and activities and will want the world to know. That can wait.

My own view is that the death of Jo should not be used to change politics at all. The tone of the coverage and the pronouncements of politicians so far are self-critical, demanding a softening of language and moderation of opinions. If we are all just a bit nicer to each other, it will all be fine, seems to be the message.

Yet being polite doesn’t stop the crushing of spirit among those already without life chances who are eating from the foodbank after being sanctioned by the DWP.

If we’re nice to each other will the government stop secretly preparing to renew the nuclear deterrent?

There are already signs on Twitter of the Cox death turning into a convenient cover for past deeds by providing a retrospective alibi. Margaret Curran and Anas Sarwar use it to deflect questions by suggesting their critics should desist in the aftermath. Margaret is using it as a shield against reminders that she played a UKIP-style card, along with many others in BetterTogether, when she claimed independence would make foreigners of our relatives (including her own son…) This was a device to other people by using the phrase foreigner as a pejorative. In the light of the shooting, everybody is running scared of sounding anti-foreigner, including Gove and Johnson who have happily let the racist Farage make the running for them up to now.

Wasn’t it Sarwar who played another dangerous game by stating – in the ‘mother of parliaments’ – that there was no democracy in Scotland…

We have a majority SNP Government in the Scottish Parliament, but that is not a democratic place in the conventional sense; it is a dictatorship of one man sitting in Bute House, who will do not what is in Scotland’s interests, but what is in his own or his party’s interests.

Those are two strands of a current powerful force in the referendum debate – turning foreigners into a social problem and the lack of a voice for a disaffected working class ignored by London government. Using an act of unspeakable tragedy to cover your tracks is sleekit. They will not be alone and I’m sure we have all used language or ideas that offended someone and which in retrospect could have been moderated.

I just get queasy at the idea that this event can be turned into a blanket excuse to pretend were all in it together, that Cameron doesn’t despise Corbyn and that those several million disenfranchised folk in the English Midlands and North can be assuaged by a black tie and a bunch of flowers.

Those working class English have legitimate grievances. They have watched their areas decline, the shops shut and house prices fall through the floor. The young that can, leave. Jobs are scarce, incomes stuck or down in real terms. Their tax pounds flow to the gilded south. The social hegemony they remember has changed in their lifetime and they have struggled to acclimatize to a migrant-heavy local community. They are left bewildered and resentful. Who consulted them? How did this happen?

There is a reason for rage in society. We should resist the attempts to deny it. It is recognition of a genuine grievance consistently stated that leads to change. Anything less is too easily dismissed by the power wielders. Moderating language won’t stop a madman. We can’t reorganize society against the 10,000-to-one chance that a lunatic will launch at attack. We can’t change the nature of debate in case somebody daft enough misunderstands. (1700 people are killed by cars every year but we don’t ban traffic).

What we do need is intelligence. Too much of the discussion is simply inaccurate or misleading. We grew tired during the indyref of references to the ‘independent and respected’ IFS but that’s because it was playing a key role. The Institute was the arbiter of the economic case because we couldn’t trust the government or either side of the argument. Is it beyond us to devise a fact-check organization with official status – like the Advertising Standards Authority – that regulates the output of officially-recognised campaign groups? It wouldn’t close them down or shut them up but it could give definitive judgements on the accuracy of claims made. If Farage’s disgraceful poster of refugees failed to meet the criteria, it would have to be removed as it lacked all credibility. What would any balanced analysis have made of the indyref Salmond-as-a-thief poster with Scots taking cash from your pocket? Sadly, we are left in the hands of a too-often mendacious media which poisoned people against independence and the Scots and now does the same against our European neighbours and against migrants.

The real challenge for society is information – how to acquire it and how to disseminate it. All extremism incubates in ignorance. In Britain prejudice is built into the system through right-wing, tax dodging press barons whose influence distorts the news and corrupts the politicians. Until we have balance allowing intelligent choices, all the nicey-nicey talk in the world won’t stop the division and mistrust.

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35 thoughts on “R.I.P.

  1. As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, I’m voting to leave, but I’m the first to admit that the quality of debate on both sides has been wretched, nauseating, and a disgrace to democracy. It has often been said that society gets the democracy it deserves. I now what is meant by that.

    Farage’s poster was below the belt – Goebbels at his best, and the Guardian’s shameless exploitation of Jo Cox’s death to attack the leave campaign, even as she was fighting for her life, has to be the biggest pile of shit I have read in a British newspaper for a long, long time…

    Apologies for the language.

    Mr Bateman, you make an excellent point in this post, and other posts, about the working classes of Britain being cast aside, and I’d like to add this:

    For as long as I can remember, going back to the early Blair and New Labour days, the working classes have been seen as a problem, an embarrassment to New Labour.

    The elites, the ruling class, the political commentators, and some sections of the British press (notably The Guardian) have long sneered at the working classes.

    Working class people are portrayed as workshy, benefit cheats, unable to eat properly, can’t be trusted to raise their children, are easily influenced by Murdoch newspapers, need to be told what to eat, don’t care about the planet with their cheap holidays to Spain, and worst of all: their questioning of immigration makes them racist and neo-Nazi.

    Every time there’s a football tournament, and the English working classes break out the English flags and support the team, they get branded as little Englanders, bigots and racists, for daring to fly an English flag in England!!!

    That’s the language that has been bombarding them for years. Given that level of hostility towards them, is it any wonder most of them want out of the EU, to stick two fingers up to the system…

    Who can blame them for being angry? Not I…

    • Then why vote for a Brexit Britain run by Borage and their narrative?

      • I remember commentating on that article, and I’ll repeat what I said then: the Left’s complete and utter spinelessness does not surprise me in the least. It’s the surest sign of political abdication you are ever likely to see.

        Vote Remain, or we’ll forever be ruled by Tories. That sentiment is an insult to the memory of every working class campaigner who gave us the welfare state, trade union rights, end of the 12 hour day etc etc

        and they did it long before the EU ever rolled into town. The left used to believe in working people. They formed a party to stand up for the workers. They didn’t abdicate responsibility to Brussels. I believe it was called the Labour party.

        To vote remain, just because you don’t want Boris Johnson to be PM, is a terrible reason to stay in that corrupt, anti-democratic behemoth known as the EU.

        • Strange, I distinctly remember voting for an MEP and fairly recently too. Under a pretty rigorous PR system too. Which makes the European Parliament a much more democratic place than the palace of Westminster. Especially when you add in the appointed place men and women in the unelected Lords.

          That you prefer them unfettered by anything tells me that you have no idea what a democracy looks like.

          I’m of the generation that petitioned the NZ parliament in such numbers the reluctant politicians had to listen and so we had a national conversation about voting systems, in the pre internet age. No men in smoke filled rooms coming up with a pig in a poke as happened here in the UK, the public trusted with information and choice. We changed the system to MMP in the teeth of political opposition. The parliamentarians implemented it grumbling and reluctant.

          You do not get to tell me what a democracy looks like, I fucking well helped build one. The UK is theocracy where unelected bishops of one sect sit in our upper house as of right. We share clerics in that position only with Iran.

          This is the ‘democracy’ you compare with Europe?

          HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

          • I thought Mason’s prognostications on immigration pandered to the bigoted and prejudiced, but in a typical sly, disingenuous, lefty type of way. The problem of low wages has little to do with migrants, as wages, other than for those at the top, have been stagnating for the past 40 or 50 years thanks to the neoliberal policies of first Thatcher and then Blair/Brown.

            NZ, Australia, the Americas are full of migrants. It didn’t do them much harm, if you ignore the effect on the original inhabitants, which virtually amounted to genocide. Is that what he’s saying is going to happen here? We’re going to be wiped out if we don’t curb them and we’ll all be living on reservations?

            He stupidly laughs that a few fruit farms may go bust without their migrant labour, without wondering why is it they can only make a living by offering low wages. (though some farmers pay good wages and offer excellent conditions)

            And of course thanks to “in work benefits” employers have been encouraged to offer low wages knowing that they will be subsidised by Brown’s great wheeze.

          • I too remember voting for an MEP. An MEP that will sit in the only parliament in the world that can’t propose laws. Not much of a parliament.

            And too answer one of your questions, no, I don’t prefer the unfettered palace of Westminster. I’ve said it many a time – it’s a corrupt racket. As a Republican, I’d scrap the Lords and the monarch, tomorrow, if it were up to me. But obviously, it’s not, it’s for the people to decide.

            And there we come to my next point – the mistrust of people. It is the core of the Remain argument – people can’t be trusted to do the ‘right’ thing.

            Brussels knows best. Technocrats know best, the elite knows best. Voting remain is a sign you’re enligtened, tolerant, forward thinking etc etc

            The leave side can’t be trusted because we’ll have Tory governments for a 100 years, the UK will turn far right, and so on and so on.

            Two years ago, indy supporters were a menace to civilization, we’d have 50 years of President Salmond ruling Scotland with an iron fist…

            The language is oh so familiar…

            It never occurs to them that the people may reject tory rule post-Brexit, or choose an alternate path. They distrust and despise people, and I utterly detest that attitude….

  2. There are days you feel tired and disheartened of the whole sorry mess Derek. Politics as it is practiced…

    The ONLY thing that matters to a family is that they have lost a loved one.

  3. Bugger (the Panda)

    You did well to nurse your wrath and keep it warm.

    Sadly, one of your best article, the one you hoped never to have to write.

    As My Cocaine said above that Farage image is straight out of the Goebbels playbook as is the constant dehumanising of refugees in the Daily Rags, who seem to have given up all semblance of humanity.

    Incidentally Amazon.co.uk do have a book of Goebbels essays including The Art of Propaganda

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Europe-Year-2000-Including-Propaganda/dp/1502447347/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1466429863&sr=1-2&keywords=goebbels+propaganda

    Know thine enemy.

  4. I despair at the way the BBC jumped on this immediately to shore up the remain campaign. It was as sinister as the murder itself.

    I am a remain voter but have damn all in common with the English remain campaign. I also despise people using tragedies to win a losing battle.

    We will see what happens on Thursday. However I suspect Cameron is toast either way! With the decimation of the Tory party it will create a political vacuum. Either way Scotland will try and distance itself from nasty English politics.

  5. Jo Cox’s horrific assassination has moved the likely outcome even more decisively towards Remain. You could get 8/15 to remain at the bookies last week. Best you’ll get now is 1/4.

  6. Sick of politicians calling for everyone t o be nicer to them when they are some of the worst perpetrators of abuse standing up in HoC, just watch Scottish Questions. SNP MPs are regularly victims of this from David Cameron down, he and his ministers cannot answer a question from SNP without resorting to abuse.
    If we are unable to criticise our MPs they would all only serve one term as we looked for better at the next election.

  7. When I saw that poster. RAGE. Utter dehumanisation. The coldness, an abhorrent shiver I felt was one thing, but hearing of an MP butchered while England played Wales …

    Then Fogherty comparing it to the Scottish #indyref, the Yes side of all things. England – tawdry politics and trapped useless media – it was perhaps the peak of my now complete rejection of its system.

    A day I will never forget, a day that said ‘England’ and nothing else.

  8. It may seem reductionist, but I have a sense that this horrific crime is merely symptomatic of the society in which we live.
    How often is a young woman, abducted and murdered on the way home from a night out in an act of apparent random perversion? Psychopaths walk among us.
    It is not a ‘modern’ phenomenon. US Crime series and slasher horror movies don’t help.
    However the post war instances of nuts, serial killers, and inexplicable barbarism stretch back to the ‘fifties.
    The killer of Jill Dando is still on the loose. Bible John?
    Granted this happened in broad daylight, and the killer manifestly wanted to get caught.
    However, for either side of the EU Referendum to comment on, never mind attempt to make political capital out of, this act of frightful barbarity beggars belief.
    There are other deaths of people at work. Oil rig workers travelling to work on helicopters, construction workers, and so on.
    While viewed as senseless and mostly avoidable, they are ‘understandable’, and in the main explainable, be it human error, cost cutting, H&S regulations abused/ignored, metal fatigue, and so on.
    But this poor woman was attacked by a sociopath. Arguably there is little that society can do to prevent this madness. We cannot be 100% safe in any walk of life.

    There should have been no room for politics at this unbelievably tragic time for her family and friends.
    I even question the recall of Parliament.
    Yet again, a great article, Mr Bateman.
    Roll on Friday when we can put this EU Referendum farce to rest.

  9. Alasdair Macdonald.

    The demise of trade unions, the mendacity of new Labour, and (speaking as an atheist) the decline in attendance at churches, the consequences of the “parents’ charter”, failing schools, etc. and the stifling of so many other public institutions left huge swathes of areas of England, where few were speaking for the poor and the working classes. That is where the right wing groups like the NF, BNP, EDL, UKIP, etc stepped in to focus the anger and fears on ‘immigrants’. In Scotland, while we do have our disenfranchised and disempowered, the Scottish Parliament and the independence referendum, gave us a different perspective and some sense of direction and hope. During the entire period of Union since 1707, there has always been a sense of Scottishness as distinct from Britishness, because of the education system, the Scottish churches, Scots Law, Gaelic, Doric, Lallans, Svottish Country Dance Music, tartan, Scottish soldiers, generally duff football and rugby teams, etc, etc. Some was frippery and nonsense, but much was deep rooted and culturally evolving and assimilative of the contributions of incomers. It provided and continues to provide us, those who live in Scotland, with senses of identities clustering around the things I listed. Many of us had, in addition, senses of a British identity. As a YESSER, it is a fact that I am British because that has been my “official” nationality for all of my seven decades and, because I have moved freely around these islands during that time and have friends and family in all parts. For all their bloody history, the people who live in the North of Iteland have senses of Irishness and the range of cultural aspects which have long e sited in that part of the world. Similar arguments can be made about Wales. However, large numbers of people who live in England had no clear idea of what England was. For many, England and Britain are interchangeable terms. England was and is a social construct created for social control and cohesion around a set of values exemplified by the the monarchy, landowners, the Church of England, etc. It was an England of Empire of world dominance, that had taken up the ‘white man’s burden, etc. Of course, such a simplified list does not do credit to the nuanced intelligent, educated understandings of the great majority of people who live in England. Although for many, the projected narrative of ‘England’ did not match their daily lives, it gave some concept of ‘England’ which they used to identify themselves. However, it was a less substantial concept than the people who lived in the North of Ireland, Scotland and Wales had of their countries. And, when the various waves of immigration came to the UK, the great majority resided in England. Overwhelmingly these incomes contributed positively, accepted the indigenous cultures, while simultaneously transforming them. Immigration has been a good thing. However, in times of Economic difficulty for many as a result of the globalised international financial piracy of the City of London and its institutional acolytes in Westminster, Whitehall and the media, then those who are having their standard of life crushed and have lost their means of empowerment and have, a candy floss sense of national communal identIty, see the cause in the immigrants and the right wing pours on petrol, lights matches and fans the flames.
    We need the people of England to develop an idea of England that can withstand the lies of the right.

    • I think you make an excellent case, and I agree that there is case to be made for a ‘left-wing’ civic form of English nationalism, lie what we have up here in Scotland.

      But two things prevent that:

      1) The great and the good sneering at your average Englishman for daring to fly an English flag in England (who would have thought eh?)

      2) English nationalism – it’s what Westminster fears, because if English nationalism reawakens, the union is finished. And I think we’re seeing that in this referendum.

    • Here’s the praise Alasdair. Thanks for the enlightening, insightful and engaging post on a complex subject. Now the criticism. Use paragraphs!

  10. Good article. The hypocrisy of politicians and the press knows no limits. And then they wonder why they are despised.

  11. Thank you – thoughtful and intelligent article.

    Small point:
    …”…What would any balanced analysis have made of the indyref Salmond-as-a-thief poster with Scots taking cash from your pocket?…”…

    Wasn’t this during the 2015 general election to warn Millipede/Labour off getting into bed with us foul nats..?

  12. Steve Asaneilean

    I have despaired for humanity for years now. The endless slaughter in the name of intolerance.

    And now in a single week we have what effectively was an assassination in the UK based on political intolerance and a massacre in the USA based on intolerance of sexuality.

    And the question always comes up – does our mainstream media create the environment in which such acts flourish or does the media merely act as society’s mirror.

    I think the reality is somewhere in between. I think MSM takes minority views and then magnifies them, often in a deliberate attempt to make minority views mainstream.

    So pretty much every day I come across casual misogyny, sexism, racism, bigotry, etc. The media then latches on to such views and gives them disproportionate amounts of coverage.

    And anyone who has seen the screaming headlines of the tabloids lately cannot be remotely surprised that they will influence some people to take extreme measures.

    I found it quite ironic how so many of our politicians were calling for kindness and tolerance towards politicians this week when they are the very ones who do the hectoring and stoke the flames of political intolerance.

    In Scotland we have a democratically elected government. How is it then democratic for MSM and opposition politicians to demonise the government and the party of government at every opportunity?

    Surely if politicians want kindness and tolerance they must start showing it themselves? Why can’t they simply acknowledge when government does something well? Why can’t they challenge government on the things they do less well in a constructive way rather than a default reversion to SNP Bad?

    What happened to Jo Cox is utterly appalling and inexcusable and my heart goes out to her husband, children and family. No-one should have someone taken away from them in that manner.

    By the same token my heart goes out to the slain nightclubbers in Orlando or the people being thrown off buildings in Syria or wherever prejudice and intolerance costs someone their life.

    But our MSM and political masters cannot abdicate responsibility for the atmosphere that they create which allows such intolerance to flourish.

    As a democracy – as human beings – we deserve better than that.

    • Excellent comment, Steve. I wish we could have a coalition of those who put Scotland first, rather than the Union at any cost. The Libdems, who are now a whining joke, and what’s left of Labour, if any of them are to the left, need their own independence too.

  13. My Cocaine is full of contradictions. You must just like being contrary. You acknowledge that the left in this country is spineless yet you would vote for Leave – on the basis of what? That the left are going to revive and lead us back to the promised land? A left wing Britain outside the EU? Dream on. UK wide, the left is finished. It shows no signs of vigour or revival. The rhetoric of Leave is reactionary and regressive. It is right wing. Mason called it correct when he said that revolutions are not led by elites. The Leave revolt is led by Borage. The EU is far from perfect but a Leave vote will deliver the UK into the hands of Borage. They want to leave the EU because they dislike the regulation and they will continue in a rightwards direction, and meanwhile there won’t be anywhere we can escape to as the 27 countries of the EU that we could go and live, trade, and work in will be closed to us. The US, Canada, Australia, only want quality migrants with jobs offers in place. We can’t escape there either. We will be trapped on this island with neocons more firmly in the saddle than ever.

  14. “The real challenge is information….” Not really. In Scotland we created a campaign for independence around social media because the unionists controlled the media. We used information for our campaign, disseminating it constantly.

    The need is for information that has authority; that people basically trust. As an example, here is a video I watched this morning https://www.facebook.com/UniversityofLiverpool/videos/1293361974024537/ I believe it’s authoritative, but read some of the comments!

    The people have lost trust in almost all our institutions, because information showed them to be corrupt, and venal. The tragic death of Jo Cox will not improve this. As a pensioner, I hoped to have a peaceful retirement. I am now fearful that the current right-wing madness running through the first world like a fever is putting this in threat.

    There is a book event scheduled at the Edinburgh Book festival in which a former NATO general warns of war with Russia next year. The military/industrial complex bestrides the world.

    Alas, I have no answers.

  15. https://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/left-case-brexit I wonder if anyone connected with the SNP actually reads widely or thinks critically?

    The left-wing case against the EU is overwhelming, robust and intellectually coherent – something the increasingly dreadful Sturgeon is not.

    I’d make this point. The SNP do not own my vote, nor my mind. The lack of any debate within the SNP is worrying to see. Not a single MP or MSP diverges from the simple-minded groupthink that the EU is “progressive” and the implication that if one disagrees that you are acting against the interests of Scotland or Scottish independence.

    I for one strongly object to this unpleasant experience/undertone. Where is the sign of open debate and intelligent disagreement within SNP circles. If the ‘dear leader’ cannot and shouldn’t be questioned under any circumstances what feedback mechanism exist to correct mistaken thinking on the ‘dear leader’s’ part?

    Just as the SNP do not own the votes of independence supporters, nor do they own Scottish independence or sovereignty – but act as if they do. It’s deeply problematic.

    • So you dig up an obscure report and from this deduce that the left-wing case against the EU is overwhelming, etc? You also declare that Nicola Sturgeon is “increasingly dreadful” despite all polls on and indicators her leadership indicating otherwise?

      The SNP’s solidarity on the EU is a signal of a party united in their aims, not one that is fragmented and populated by careerist politicians happy to back stab their colleagues to promote their own ends. The SNP do not own independence or sovereignty and no one has ever claimed that they did and I see no evidence of them “acting” as if they do. What they don’t have is any real Westminster ambition and that can only be a good thing.

      What they could claim to own is the battle independence and sovereignty. Who else is in Scottish politics is able to claim this particular crown? Who else took us to the brink of independence two years ago?

      The SNP is far from perfect but they are the only party that can drive and lead us to independence … unless you have some other ideas.

  16. Even if Europe’s left parties do succeed in forging a common program, the EU is not the kind of political entity whose approach to the world can be altered by popular politics. Popular politics is precisely what the EU was designed to obstruct. Like independent central banks and constitutional courts, its institutions are essentially technocratic. Technocracy is not (as some like to pretend) a neutral or rational system of government. Instead, it confers immense power on culturally select bodies whose prejudices will be those of the class their members are drawn from. The SNP, nor the Labour party will ever offer a referendum on the EU.

    A reformed EU is not on the ballot paper, nor will it be reformed in any significant way in the future. A hypothetical indy-ref is not the key issue.

  17. Re the SNP – it badly needs to raise its game on every front. Virtue signalling about ‘evil Tories’ and screaming ‘it’s our pound too’ is simple-minded pish that will not win over small u Unionist Scotland. Bovine conformity on all matters will not win over small u Unionist Scotland, a cult of the ‘dear leader’ will not win over small u Unionist Scotland. And jumping upon Project Fear the Goldman Sachs version (change is too risky) is utterly useless politics. Cheerleaders for idiocy does the cause of Scottish independence no favours at all.

    • This comment, or one very like it, was first posted some days ago on another forum. The old jokes are always the best. The problem is, you need to provide some evidence, Joe, not the same tired old polemic.

    • Do calm down. You sound like one of those goggle-eyed fanatics when you actually have some reasonable points to make. Thanks.

      • douglas clark

        Eh!

        I am not a goggle eyed fanatic.

        I support Nicoloa Sturgeon. Whatever comment I made here has been deleted, or I can’t find it.

        Best wishes about running a blog, derek.

  18. Robert Graham

    Oh dear getting a little heated here I hope it doesn’t start to mimic Wings or indeed Bella , I have it on good authority Mr D Bateman keeps an orderly house of which many contributors here are grateful .

  19. Wisnae us guv… It’s that Joe K Trolling

  20. Well you can all go to bed , the bankers and traders have declared a win for Remain just over a hour and a half after the polling stations closed and just one result declared , bloody quick these guys eh ?

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