In the summer, South Yorkshire teacher and union activist Andy Searson wrote a hard-hitting, two-part article on the working-class Brexit vote, New Labour’s estrangement of the working class and what Labour now needs to do to reconnect with those communities and win back their trust.
Now, with the remnants of New Labour coalesced into the so-called “people’s vote” campaign in what he describes as tinnitus-like ‘white noise’ that fails that ignores the real needs of those hardest hit by Tory policies, Searson returns with a stark verdict both on them and on the other face of the Establishment – the arch-Brexiters they claim to loathe.
A Working Class Revolt
Again we hear millionaires Blair, Umunna, Mandelson, Campbell et al calling, through the chaos of the Tory Brexit deal, for a ‘People’s Vote’. Like a bad bout of tinnitus, their continuous white noise plays out in the background as the rest of us struggle on through austerity.
The semantics used are never pursued or explored by the commentariat. Just who are the ‘people’ in this ‘people’s vote’? The British public who have already voted two years ago? It is not a people’s vote nor is it a people’s referendum, its a second referendum to try and overturn the last one which hasn’t even been implemented yet.
As soon as the referendum result was announced we immediately saw the old prejudices used to attack those mainly in the Labour heartlands who voted to leave. They were dismissed as racists, xenophobes, thick, uneducated or confused as to what voting leave actually meant.
We know from history that this is a well trodden path for the establishment. From the Chartists and Suffragettes to Brexit, the working class vote has always been dismissed, questioned or denounced by elites in Parliament as a mad mob, rabble or an uneducated, uninformed mistake by the masses. Let us not forget these people defeated project fear. The majority (in democracy terms, the winners) rejected the scaremongering and apocalyptic warnings of the establishment who sought to maintain the status quo.
This fact renders arguments for a second referendum non-credible. We are hearing a replay of the fear-packed warnings presented during the referendum from Blair et al. Surely then a replay of the referendum with the same arguments would get the same outcome.
Don’t ignore the fact that those citizens from the Labour heartlands walked away from these New Labour uber-remainers years ago. These very wealthy people using their media contacts to gain a platform in order to tell those struggling through austerity to change their minds is laughable.
Firstly, people don’t like their opinions being ignored. Secondly, due to undemocratic practises, there is a possibility that even remain voters (like myself) would vote leave due to the establishment overturning democracy. In general the people are ahead of the politicians again. Just like the ‘Yellow Jackets’ protesting in France, the current political climate suggests people are rising up against a system that no longer meets the majority of people’s needs. We need authentic voices who will act in the interests of the majority not the wealthy few. Only Corbyn and his allies seem to get this zeitgeist.
The centrist, uber-remainers and their Tory, Lib-Dem bedfellows still don’t understand what drove people to vote leave in the first place. They have learnt nothing from the first result. A second referendum shows they are on the side of a bourgeois reaction, a spasm at angry working-class action.
Democracy and control were the key to many of these working-class leave voters. They were given a chance to send a clear message to the establishment – and they did: after years of political alienation, they engaged like never before.
How would these people react when every other referendum in our country’s history has been accepted and honoured but not this referendum, their referendum? Those pursuing a second referendum know it would decimate Labour in their heartlands, which is why it is driven by those who do not want Corbyn.
Overturning a democratic vote in another country overseas would be deemed an act of a banana republic, anti-democratic and denounced by the same people endorsing it here in the UK.
Those in Labour who are pressing so hard for another vote on Brexit know only too well that the parliamentary arithmetic just doesn’t add up. They also fully understand that approximately 59% of those identifying as working class voted leave and that number increases in those left-behind communities in the Labour heartlands.
It’s more about stop Corbyn than stop Brexit.Andy Searson
The top 60+ target seats Labour need to win for a clear majority are also areas that voted leave. Add to this the fact that 80% of the electorate in June 2017 voted for parties endorsing exiting the EU and honouring the referendum result and you begin to see the price Labour would pay in any subsequent general election if they betrayed the democratic wishes of those voters. It’s more about stop Corbyn than stop Brexit.
May’s current deal betrays what the majority of leave voters wanted. It cedes control and as a country we would end up with less sovereignty than we had. In short it is ‘Brexit in name only’.
We need a Brexit that works for those left-behind communities and working-class areas. We cannot sign up to more neoliberal structures, rules and treaties that make it impossible for Keynesian economics in terms of state intervention, re-nationalisation and sovereignty over our own nation’s economic needs.
The undemocratic actions taken by the EU toward Greece and Italy are examples of why we need to be outside the EU. We should be arguing relentlessly about what we can achieve outside the EU in terms of state aid. Let us face reality here, the EU will not save us from Tory austerity and cuts. Only our nation as a state outside the EU and led by a Corbyn government, can give us re-nationalisation, state intervention and transform our economy so it works in the interests of the many not just the few.
During the referendum, the masses of ordinary people in the Labour heartlands rejected Project Fear. Mainly, in my view, because life in these communities that were left behind and ignored during years of consecutive governments pursuing neoliberalism couldn’t get any worse.
These communities have been crippled and crushed by years of cuts, outsourcing, privatisation and now austerity. In my experience, working-class people merely want fairly-paid and secure employment to provide a decent lifestyle for their families. Most of all, they have aspirations for their children to go on and have a better life than themselves, achieve more and become financially secure. The British promise that every generation will be better off than the one before has been broken.
The broken Britain that Cameron talked about so much was mere finger pointing at those victims of 30 years of alienation from a political elite that looked to corporations rather than the needs of its working class. Years of planned cruelty and propaganda were aimed at blaming the most vulnerable in our society for their own economic situation whilst paying no attention to the causes of poverty.
Those elites continued turning a blind eye to zero hour contracts, precarious work, diminishing working conditions and crumbling high streets. The Tory- and centrist-backed austerity was a political choice which set about ensuring the majority paid for the excesses of the few. The 99% were made to pay and suffer the burden of the greed and gambling debts of the casino economies whilst the 1% grew richer.
From 2010 we saw the largest transfer of public money to private corporations in history as the Tories (and Lib Dems) set about turning our NHS, schools, care homes and public services in to cash cows for privateers who put shareholders before patients and profit before people. All this whilst our communities fell into despair and the civic infrastructure in which we all live and rely upon crumbled around us.
Wage stagnation, the worst since Napoleonic times, has struck another blow to the masses of ordinary people. With energy companies continuously raising prices, transport costs soaring and everyday living costs swallowing up salaries, millions of everyday families are struggling to make ends meet.
This is the reality of our economy in 2018 after nearly a decade of Tory failure, 40 years of neo-liberal governments and, let us face facts, all whilst we were in the EU.
Brexit was a genuine democratic revolt. Millions of ordinary citizens came out to use democracy and suffrage to have a say on issues that affect their daily lives. They voted for self-government, identity, community, sovereignty, patriotism. It was the elite versus the people, The average citizen versus an establishment that wasn’t listening any more! A detached set of establishment elites. The expenses scandal exacerbated the feeling of political alienation – and if the elitist, powerful few renege now, trust in Parliament will be destroyed for generations.
As someone who was born into one of those left-behind Labour heartlands, I can tell you that we’ve had enough of class tourists such as Farage and other charlatan posh boys claiming to represent us, like Johnson, Gove and Mogg. They don’t represent the ordinary hard-working people of our regions and never will. Neither do Blair, Mandelson or Leslie.
We need to look towards ourselves as leaders and answer a patriotic call to arms to fight poverty and need, homelessness and hunger, rip-off energy companies and corporations. We need to fight for fairness and decent living standards for all not just the few.
Only a Corbyn-led Labour government is willing to take on those forces that would ensure the status quo and business-as-usual for the 1% at the cost to the 99%.
As Franklin D Roosevelt said, “I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.” Look at those who are against Corbyn and his policies and you’ll see why he is the man to change Britain in favour of the many not the few, for the millions of ordinary people not just the millionaires.
As for Project Fear, let us also remember Roosevelt’s words as he faced with the threats and merchants of gloom from the establishment and stood up for the people over the establishment status quo:
‘This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.’
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