Losing & Trust:
I often like to joke that Labour campaigning teaches you to deal with rejection, a particularly valuable lesson for nights out in town. Perhaps it is a lesson in losing though that is becoming the dominant life skill of my time in the Labour Party. The four years of my membership has given me a loss in the 2014 European Elections, a loss in the 2015 general election and now, in 2016, a loss on Britain’s membership of the European Union. Throughout this time there has only been one thing I have enjoyed losing, and even that was a nerve racking, difficult and embarrassing experience.
It hurts to lose and makes the time myself and thousands of others put in feel at best futile and at worst, wasted. If only to spare the psychological torment of our members, the Labour Party needs to learn to win again.
The referendum provides a clear road map in order to start achieving that. In going forward, the Labour Party needs to start speaking about and addressing the effects of immigration and population changes in our communities. Ideas such as providing extra funding to areas that have seen to the highest levels of immigration in order to help the local infrastructure are good starting points, and the talk of stopping employment agencies exploiting migrant workers to undercut British ones provides a progressive solution to this issue as well. We have to go further though and in particular start asking how we can reduce net migration figures. Much of the population will not listen to anything else we have to say until we earn their trust on this issue.
Perhaps a greater deal of responsibility now rests with the Leave campaign in addressing this though. Irrespective of what the actual promise from them was about the exact figures of net migration following Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, voters read between the lines, saw the subtext and expressed a wish for an end to the free movement of labour, demanding that migration to Britain is reduced to tens of thousands. Boris Johnson and Michael Gove now have a responsibility to deliver that promise, and failure to do so will only drive these voters to darker and more sinister political forces.
The admission of Daniel Hannon yesterday evening on Newsnight of their intention to retain the free movement of labour in the subsequent negotiations is troubling, particularly when combined with Nigel Farage’s comments about also breaking their promise to fund our NHS. These were clear promises by the leave campaign which the majority of people voted for and that carries with it an obligation to deliver. Indeed, it has become cliché to describe elections as opportunities for the public to make its voice heard, an opportunity for politicians to listen to the people, but that is what has happened. If the leave campaign now doesn’t give people what it is they want, then the leave side are crushing the hopes of millions of people who have otherwise been disengaged from the political process. The leave campaigns key mantra of ‘take back control’ even seems at risk with the most likely scenario seeing us remain within the single market, with all the rules and regulations that comes with it, again risking the trust of a substantial part of the population.
Indeed, the campaign has revealed what little trust these people already have. Not only were they disinclined to believe every major political party who was supporting remain, but they refused to believe the forecasts of the Bank of England, the IMF and IFS and every other economic institution that warned of the consequences of Brexit. They have been disinclined to head the advice from Unite, Unison, the CWU, the GMB, USDAW and the whole of Britain’s Trade Union movement. They have ignored the calls from leading faith groups and figures, of celebrities. and even the plea of an entire generation, with 75% of 18–25 year olds voting to remain. They have instead placed their trust in Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage. For them to fail to deliver is to betray that trust and guarantee that millions of people again feel politics can never change anything for them.
The leave campaign has set themselves a benchmark with which to measure their success. Let’s not allow them to shirk from that.