Fight for the hearts and minds of progressive Britain

Paul Mason
Apr 29 · 4 min read

Open letter to Labour’s NEC, 29 April 2019

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson asked members to lobby the NEC on the upcoming manifesto for the European parliament elections. Here’s my contribution…

Dear comrades. We didn’t ask for the European Parliament elections but we have got to win them. According to Hope Not Hatepolling:

  • Farage’s new Brexit Party is set to win on 23 May
  • Labour is leaking support to parties who have a clear pro-Remain position
  • With a low turnout, even Tommy Robinson could take a seat, in the historic heartland of the labour movement, North West England.*

Farage wants to turn this into a referendum on hard Brexit. We cannot play that game. Our strategy is to reunite progressive, working class voters — whether they voted Leave or Remain — around a programme of peace, social justice and the fight against climate change.

So in the next three weeks, we need to turn this into a fight over values.

If there’s one thing that unites those Labour voters who supported leave with the majority who supported remain, it’s their opposition to the racism, fascism, xenophobia and sexism that is lodged in the heart of the Brexit and UKIP campaigns.

We need to turn this into a straight fight between progressive Britain and the nostalgics and racists who flock to Farage’s rallies.

I haven’t seen the draft manifesto. I hope it will restate Labour’s commitment to promising voters a second referendum on any deal agreed in parliament.

But that’s not the main issue. But what matters now is the energy and the message.

If we allow the EP elections to become a one-sided battle of Farage versus the establishment, turnout will be low and the far right will claim victory. That will split the Tory party — and that is good for us electorally. But it could force the Tory government into a hard or no-deal Brexit, after a change of leadership — and that’s going to be catastrophic for Britain.

So how do we win on 23 May? Take a look at the Hope Not Hate polling analysis.

The Greens and Chuka Umunna’s careerist TIG party are each taking 10% of the votes on this projection: that’s 20 percent of the population that should be with us, voting against us.

In addition, according to Survation, around 12% of 2017 Tory voters are undecided, while more than half those saying they will vote Tory in 2019 actually voted Remain in the referendum.**

That’s where, with a strong ground campaign and a clear message, our extra votes can come. Here is how.

To win back TIG voters we need to show them we are serious about defeating the Tory Brexit and fighting for a second referendum. If you think we can win a future general election with the TIG starting from 10%, think harder.

As for the 10% voting Green, you will hear from a few party officials that they have “nowhere else to go” at a general election. Do not count on it. Over one million people voted Green in 2015, despite knowing it could make the difference between a Labour or Tory government. Today, political allegiances are even more fragmented and, if you’ve been on the XR protest, you will know that is especially true among young voters who care about climate change.

The question you have to ask yourselves at the NEC is: do we want to win this election or go through the motions? I want to win. And that means a battle for turnout.

The way to defeat Farage is to mobilise every progressive voter in a battle of ideas, values and visions for Britain. Our membership will only go on the doorstep, and our core voters will only turn out, if we clearly represent their ideals — and stop triangulating with the prejudices of those who will never support us.

Unlike the TIG, the Libdems and the SNP we are not cheerleaders for the Europe of Juncker, Macron and the Troika. Our programme for Europe in this election has to be: reform, revolt and transform.

It is still possible for the Tories to get a Brexit deal through parliament. But if not, we need to show voters that, if we end up taking our seats, Labour will detonate a fight in Brussels and Strasbourg to remove the neoliberal underpinnings of Europe, through revising the Lisbon Treaty.

Labour needs to put itself at the head of progressive Britain in this fight.

That’s what our Spanish comrades of the PSOE, Unidos Podemos and the progressive nationalist parties did last night. They won (just!) a battle for decency against racism, misogyny and corruption — and we can do the same.***

We need to cement the electoral alliance needed to win power at Westminster by using the next 23 days to tell the British people a story of hope.

Yours in solidarity, Paul Mason — Member, Vauxhall CLP

Mosquito Ridge

Postcapitalism and the Radical Left

Paul Mason

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Journalist, writer and film-maker. Former economics editor at BBC Newsnight. Author of Clear Bright Future: A radical defence of the human being

Mosquito Ridge

Postcapitalism and the Radical Left