In this guest post, South Yorkshire teacher, trade unionist and staunch Labour voter Andy Searson takes EU-fixated Labour back-benchers to task.
Having just sat through another interview listening to a member of Parliament calling for a second EU referendum, I’m compelled to write this, if only to vent my frustration at right leaning MPs who don’t seem to get the concept of democracy.
First of all, these same politicians just didn’t see the Brexit vote coming. If they lived in my village they wouldn’t have been shocked. In fact they would have been fully anticipating people would choose to leave the EU.
Not because they hate Europe or Europeans, not because they dislike foreigners, not because they are ‘thick’ or uneducated – but it was because they were sick of being talked down to by a political class that knows little about and seemingly cares even less for the plight of working class communities.
Secondly, the more working class people in these areas are ‘told’ how and what they should be thinking, then the more those MPs will ostracise these voters and in doing so jeopardise colleague’s seats. I know of people who voted remain in the referendum who are now willing to vote the opposite way due to interventions and pontificating by people like Campbell, Blair, Clegg and their ilk.
These right wingers seem to perpetually repeat the mistakes of the first decade of this century which saw millions of lost Labour votes. As Tony Benn put it; ‘When I look at New Labour, I wonder if it wasn’t like trying to light a bonfire on a frozen lake – looked marvellous, bright lights, shining white but you melted away your own support.’ As one ex miner told me, ‘I didn’t walk away from Labour, they walked away from me.’ If the extreme right of the party aren’t careful we will see history repeating itself.
“Pernicious cuts and total demolition of civic society” – in the EU
Leading up to the referendum and after years of the Labour Party offering no alternative to austerity, we were expected to accept our lot, accept that there was no alternative to the pernicious cuts and the total demolition of civic society within our towns and villages. During the referendum we were told to vote for Cameron, Clegg and Osborne’s status quo. Labour HQ at the time presented no alternative EU vision, only the Tory one.
The loyalty of working class people runs deep but you betray it at your peril.
They had also learned nothing from campaigning alongside the Tories in the Scottish Independence referendum. This centrist idea of pluralism saw Labour wiped out in Scotland. The loyalty of working class people runs deep but you betray it at your peril. When the Tories are carrying out acts of community vandalism on a scale that has dwarfed the Thatcher years, only someone who isn’t impacted directly by the suffering that those actions caused would be seen standing on a platform with the guilty.
In doing so, don’t be surprised if you are then judged by the people in those working class areas to be one and the same – no different, of the same ilk as those doing the damage. This, coupled with the disastrous attempt to out-UKIP the real UKIP with the Labour rightist’s shameful immigrant mugs, pandered to the worst lies being perpetuated about immigration being the cause of stresses on our grossly underfunded public services.
Aligning themselves with the Tories
In short we had Labour HQ and Alan Johnson aligning themselves with the Tories, the rightists pushing dog-whistle anti-immigrant memorabilia and an overall message of ‘we want business as usual.’
When you looked around the towns and villages in the left behind, industrial wastelands and working class communities, business as usual didn’t look very appealing.
That brings me to the current ‘project fear’ and the mantra that ‘you will be worse off if we leave the EU!’
To understand why this message is not resonating you need to have a walk around the Labour heartlands that voted to leave the EU. In these areas people truly believe things just can’t get any worse.
When you’ve seen any chance of secure work disappear; when you are living from hand to mouth every month on a zero hour contract; when you are dealing with the mental anguish of benefits sanctions or unsecured tenancies that mean you and your family could become homeless at the whim of some distant landlord or the DWP; when you see the fabric of civic society such as libraries, community centres, youth clubs, adult day care centres and OAP facilities closing down all around you – how can things get worse?
When you see a once thriving high street replaced by boarded up buildings, fast food take-aways, charity shops, pawn-brokers, cash converters and betting shops. When the only hope of breaking the chains of poverty via education will burden you with £50,000 worth of debt; when you have no hope of ever buying your first home; when you see your local NHS services disappearing or chronically under staffed – when this is your reality, business as usual stinks and let’s face it, how can it get any worse?
You’re asking the wrong question
For the majority of people in Britain, the question is not whether we should leave the EU – that decision has been made at the ballot box – but who do we want in power after we leave.
The answer to that question is not a party that offers continued austerity, exploitation of workers or a dystopian world bereft of hope.
They don’t want workers recruited abroad by employers specifically to grind down local worker’s pay and conditions. Nor do these communities want a government that offers the same austerity and neoliberal policies but a slightly different brand of social barbarism.
What they do want is authentic representation in Parliament. They want a voice – and for that voice to be heard. Not to be patronised, lectured or talked down to.
The right question
Whilst Corbyn and his shadow cabinet get this, many other Labour MPs have yet to peer beyond the bubble of a safe job at Westminster, a good salary and pension plan – and many of these right-wingers were parachuted into safe Labour seats – and ask what we’re looking for.
The world that most people inhabit is not concerned with semantics and pontifications from ex-Labour grandees. Let’s be blunt about it: we in the Labour heartlands know all about where centrist appeasement gets you.
It gets you left behind, in an post-industrial wasteland, bereft of hope that your kids will do better or at least have a chance of doing better. It gets your public services annihilated.
So, I say, accept the rule of democracy and party policy. Get behind Corbyn and his team and work for a people’s Brexit.
We have the opportunity to rebuild and transform Britain in the spirit of 1945: a fair, forward-looking Britain. The 2017 Labour manifesto synthesised the bravest of visions in all key government departments into a single tantalising view of the future. Let us face the future and seize it for the many not the few!
The SKWAWKBOX needs your support. This blog is provided free of charge but depends on the generosity of its readers to be viable. If you can afford to, please click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal. Thanks for your solidarity so this blog can keep bringing you information the Establishment would prefer you not to know about.
If you wish to reblog this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.