Britain’s Brexit vote has redrawn the rules of British politics

24/06/2016, 04:22:03 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Everything is different.

It’s not just the enormity of Britain deciding to leave the EU that is momentous or the inevitable installation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson but the nature of the campaign which led to this decision that leaves the political landscape utterly transformed.

British politics used to obey a simple rule. It used to be the economy stupid.

No more.

This vote was a straight contest of priorities for the public between immigration and the economy.

The public made a clear decision.

Underpinning that choice might be some nuance.

The manner in which claims of dire economic consequence from Brexit were disregarded highlights just how bad many Britons regard their current lot.

For this group, the transmission belt that connects the macro-economic with the kitchen table is evidently broken.

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The Labour Eurosceptic case for Remain

23/06/2016, 11:41:40 AM

by Renie Anjeh

The blue-on-blue action, hyperbolic interventions, xenophobic dog-whistles, awkward alliances and uninformed celebrity endorsements are almost done.  It is all going to be over in a few hours. Yes, today is the day.  The day that we finally lance the boil.  It is the day that we give the European question a clear answer. Today is referendum day.

I suspect that Britain will vote to remain in the European Union but there will be long-term repercussions for our body politic whichever way the country votes.  A combination of hurt feelings, betrayed souls and damaged egos on the Conservative benches could bring forward David Cameron’s expiry date.

An ungovernable Conservative party could lead to the battle-scarred Prime Minister calling an early election.  The consequences for the Labour party are not exactly clear but they are definitely not good.  Part of the reason for this is because during this referendum there has been a revival of Labour Euroscepticism.

Although a minority of Labour politicians have endorsed Labour Leave, the pro-Brexit Labour group, they do speak for a significant proportion of Labour voters something which is a problem for the party leadership.  These voters are at odds with Europeanism and globalisation and will not obey the party’s quinoa-eating, metropolitan wing.  However, while there are perfectly reasonable left-wing reasons to be suspicious to be sceptical of the EU, backing Lexit is fundamentally flawed.

The main reason for this is because Lexit is not on the ballot paper.

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The geopolitical case against Brexit matters

22/06/2016, 03:08:43 PM

by Rob Marchant

The decision Britain will make tomorrow is clearly a big one. Perhaps truly the most significant of our lifetimes, in terms of its strategic direction of travel as a country and the way the 21st century will shape up for us.

A decision in favour of Brexit will inevitably have short-term impacts. Some of them, such as a potential drop in sterling for exporters, may even be positive. But some vital, long-term effects are likely to be about Britain’s place in the world; its geopolitical power, if you like.

These are difficult-to-gauge, but nevertheless important, effects which are largely drowned out in the current debate by the bread-and-butter arguments about trade or immigration. Or “sovereignty”, that largely meaningless word currently being flogged to death.

Which would be fine, if we lived in a world full of stability, free of threats. Or even such a Europe.

We do not.

It is a good time to remember, for example, that only a few hundred miles of Mediterranean separate Daesh forces from the southern shores of the EU. Or that its eastern fringe – the Baltic states – is currently subject to a very real threat of clandestine invasion by Russia, as has already happened in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Or even that the Americans and Russians are currently engaged in an increasingly threatening war of words over US presence in the Black Sea. And this is all in the context of a savage war in Syria, exacerbated by the meddling of Russia and its proxy, Iran, which has triggered the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

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If we jump off the ledge on Thursday, we will fall hard

21/06/2016, 11:23:51 AM

by Joe Anderson

In 48 hours’ time we will take the biggest decision about our country’s future since we declared war on Nazi Germany in 1939.

Forget 1975. Back then the choice of staying in the (then) European Economic Community was a no-brainer, given we had barely been a member for three years.

This referendum on whether we stay in the EU or not is much more important and the impacts will be felt much more broadly.

We’re not declaring war on a country, but we are in danger of declaring war on the future.

If we decide to leave the European Union after 41 years as a key member, then we need to be prepared for what comes next.

It’s a grim future of neo-liberal economics, where we are buffeted about by global powers far larger and more powerful than us.

For Labour people, it means something else too. It will mean that the right wing of the Tory party has succeeded at last in its bid to get us out of Europe.

Margaret Thatcher will be jumping for joy from the afterlife at the prospect of Brexit.

Rights that have been hard-won will be easily lost. Social and environmental directives will be repealed, leaving workers, consumers and the environment at the hands of unbridled market forces.

Does anyone really think a Tory government will lift a finger to protect the working time directive when the deadbeat employers who want to sweat their workforces get into Number Ten and lobby Prime Minister Boris?

Of course they won’t.

What they call red tape, we call basic rights.

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Gove, Boris and Vote Leave have aped Farage’s extremism. No-one can be surprised at the consequences

19/06/2016, 10:53:30 PM

by Atul Hatwal

There is a transmission belt in political debate that transfers poison from the extremist fringes to the heart of the mainstream.

It operates when emotions are running high but, most of all, relies on mainstream politicians taking on the messages and rhetoric of the fringe.

This is what has happened in the EU referendum campaign as Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Vote Leave have followed Nigel Farage’s lead in whipping up a frenzy about EU immigration and Britain.

Two stages have characterised the descent into madness in this campaign: the validation of Ukip’s lies followed by a normalisation of these ideas within the debate.

Vote Leave’s fixation with Turkey has been the catalyst.

There’s no prospect of Turkey joining the EU. Every member state has a veto and France, Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria would all exercise it if Turkish accession ever became likely.

Even the proposed deal to give Turkish citizens visa-free access to the Schengen area amounts to visa-free tourism for countries in the Schengen area – which does not include Britain- and conveys no rights to residency or employment.

Ukip have been scaremongering about Turkey for years but only when Michael Gove and Boris Johnson started repeating Ukip’s attack lines did the poison start to flow.

They are after all, senior members of the ruling party and in Gove’s case one of the most prominent members of the government. Their validation of Farage and repudiation of the reality of government policy on Turkey, suddenly legitimised Ukip’s fantasies about Turkish immigration.

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We have to be better than this

18/06/2016, 04:51:00 PM

Uncut didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Jo Cox. We know lots of other Labour MPs, some among the 2015 intake, many personal friends. As soon as Thursday’s terrible news emerged, our thoughts turned not only to Jo’s family but also to our MP friends and their families. You don’t have to believe in God to immediately sense that it was only some kind of grace that kept them from suffering the same awful fate that Jo and her family are suffering.

There was so much to admire about Jo. Those who knew her best have captured this far better than we would be able. We have been moved by their tributes. We think too of what she had in common with other politicians and feel vulnerable on their behalf.

We have to be better than this. We are a tolerant, civilised and democratic country. Whatever else Jo’s murder was, whatever may have motivated her killer, it was a brutal attack on all that we hold most sacred. Quite possibly the darkest hour in the long history of the oldest democracy in the world.

We all now, whether as newly threatened MPs or concerned citizens, have an obligation to ensure that these most precious gifts of life in this country are not further tarnished but renewed. It remains the case, as Jo so poignantly put in her maiden speech, that more unites than divides us. There are patriots on all sides of the referendum debate. There are good people on both sides of the House of Commons. There is still time for us to turn around.

This begins with the Jo Cox Fund – to which Uncut has contributed and would encourage others to do so – and continues with how we conduct what remains of this terrible referendum campaign, and our political and civic lives beyond that.

https://www.gofundme.com/jocox

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The last 24 hours of Labour politics demonstrate why Jeremy Corbyn isn’t going anywhere

15/06/2016, 10:31:37 PM

by Atul Hatwal

If one thing in modern politics can be guaranteed, it is that Labour will find a way to form a circular firing squad, whatever the situation.

That’s the only way to describe the last minute intervention of Labour’s old right with Ed Balls, Tom Watson, Tristram Hunt, Rachel Reeves and Yvette Cooper, running a freelance campaignlet, within the overall Remain campaign, raising the prospect of ending EU free movement while remaining in the EU.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the policy, to intervene like this at such a late stage betrays an utterly incredible level of political incompetence.

Four points are salient.

First, it was never going to cut through.

In the words of Lynton Crosby you can’t fatten a pig on market day.

To introduce an entirely new policy, at odds with Remain’s focus on the economy is campaign idiocy that confuses the message at a critical juncture.

Second, the story was always going to be concussively knocked down.

It may not have dawned on this group, but in the modern world of communications there is a thing called the telephone.

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It’s always the economy stupid. Time for Project Fear to turn up the volume

15/06/2016, 12:42:39 PM

by Samuel Dale

What has Remain been doing? The campaign to keep Britain in the EU has been spinning around like a Catherine Wheel in the last few days.

Some of this is down to effective campaigning from Vote Leave. After months of focusing on nonsense like sovereignty and weak economic arguments, they have started to focus on the only topic they can: immigration.

They are running advert after advert on Turkey becoming a member of the EU by 2020 and millions of Turks (or, nudge, nudge, hint, hint: Muslims) coming to the UK.  Total lies and nasty smears but effective campaigning and the only message that resonates for them.

But Remain’s initial response to this aggressive shift and a few worrying polls has been bonkers.

Instead of ramming home it’s winning economic arguments it left the floor to Gordon Brown to waffle on about global peace and influence.

And instead of simply ignoring immigration – which it absolutely must at this late stage – it has left Labour to talk about a future deal or renegotiation. Or even a Scotland-style Vow on controls.

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Losing an election is a deeply personal experience

14/06/2016, 10:01:29 PM

by Leighton Andrews

I had many conversations with other Labour candidates in the run-up to May, and while most of us enjoy campaigning and talking to voters on the doorstep, I think we all felt that this had been a long campaign and we were keen for it to be over.

It had been a long Assembly term – the first time, of course, that the Assembly session had lasted five years rather than four. I have already said that I felt that I had been in a four-year campaign, and that is mentally wearing: it was a treadmill with only one goal in sight.

Jim Murphy wrote about the experience of losing your seat in the New Statesman in January. He said:

“One of the personal downsides of defeat as an MP is immediacy. You make a speech in the middle of the night from a packed stage in a largely empty hall. Each word is offered from behind a fixed smile as you pretend to be delighted that someone else will be leaving with the job that you arrived with.”

Wayne David, who lost the Rhondda Assembly seat in 1999, faced a much worse situation, with the verification on the night but the count delayed until next day. He knew from the verification that he was out, went home and worked out what he was going to say.

He told Matthew Engel in the Guardian subsequently ‘The body reacts in a physical way. I completely lost my appetite. I didn’t eat for four days and lost ten pounds in weight. I suppose it’s a bit like bereavement.’

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The Road to Wigan Pier, redux

12/06/2016, 10:33:58 AM

In a series of posts, Uncut writers look at the constituencies featured in Labour’s Identity Crisis, England and the Politics of Patriotism. Here, Rob Marchant gives his perspective on Wigan.

As someone who is half-Indian, Lisa Nandy MP – author of the book’s piece on Wigan – is pretty well-placed to comment on modern, multi-ethnic, multicultural Britain. And as “a Wiganer by choice”, in her own words, she clearly has a grasp of the problems facing Labour in our northern industrial towns. For example, in Wigan as in many other such towns in 2015, UKIP was close to beating the Tories to second place.

Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier spoke about the conflict between the need for Labour to be able to help and transform such communities and, often, resistance to Labour from within those very towns and villages themselves. Eighty years on, a comparable conflict is starting to return and those communities are no longer the heartlands that Labour can take for granted.

When I spent time around Wigan around the millennium, what struck me was the tightly-knit nature of the communities – often keenly competitive – in each separate town within the borough. Whilst their solidarity was their strength, there was always the danger that solidarity could tip over into insularity: a fear of the outside. It is easy to see how they could come to feel threatened by, say, immigration, or any other laws imperiously imposed from the other end of the country. And let alone the EU, also the current source of much of that immigration.

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