That was a shock, a soul deadening shock. In the words of the meme, I felt a grief for the loss of the future I thought I and my children had. How did this happen? How could we have voted to follow the corrupt and the vain, Johnson and Farage. The answer may have been most rapidly and accurately identified by John Harris of the Guardian in an article, entitled “If you’ve got money, you vote in … if you haven’t got money, you vote out” in which he identifies those whom we’ve known about for years, who can be described in a number of ways. In my micro blog post, “Pebbles”, I describe them as ‘globalisation’s losers’, the working class whose towns, communities and institutions have been smashed during the neo-liberal ascendency, communities that Labour stopped listening to and representing in 1997 leading to a loss of 5 million votes between 1997 and 2010. Making this even more problematic for Labour is that nearly ⅔ of Labour’s voters, voted remain, and just as globalisation’s losers cannot be ignored, nor can Labour’s majority of remainers. What is to be done?
We have been watching incredulously as UKIP, followed by the Tories, have attempted to create a working class, anti-poverty narrative, and those of us in London, and other areas of high ethnic minority residency have been telling the rest of the party to do the work, to build their parties, to undertake the political education to ensure that internationalism is understood as a generosity to refugees not a mandate to use the navy to send them back to the war zones from which they came, and using our clapped out air-force to bomb them; that internationalism is co-operation between peoples and nations. As Labour Party comrades have called out UKIP as an electoral threat, I have been asking, “Just how racist do you want to be?” The shameful, “Control Immigration” mug caused a lot of damage and I am unclear if it did any electoral good. Every vote, you win up north by pandering to racism loses them in London and other cities where voting immigrants and their neighbours live. We’re going to have to do better, but it has to be better.
Paul Mason in two articles, one about the political response and one about the new political context argues that the left mustn’t give up; the first promise to be made is that the problem is neo-liberalism and that any left response must put anti-austerity and social democratic policies at the centre of the new offer. For several reasons, we can’t follow UKIP to their zone of comfort but too many on the right of the Labour Party have only one response to a political challenge, which is to move further to the right. We can’t, it’s morally unacceptable, and the electorate can tell a manoeuvre, they’ll vote for authenticity i.e. policy and belief. They’ll choose the shout and not the echo!
I also agree with Corbyn and McDonnell, the terms of the debate on the economy have changed. While I am ready to listen now to those in the North and in East London on the alienation of the white working class from Labour; they have to accept that we need to stand for an economy, in a quote via the Independent that,
“… will always seek to distribute the rewards of growth more fairly but, to deliver that growth demands real change in the way the economy is run, change that puts the interests of the public, the workforce and the wider economy ahead of short-term shareholder interest.
They need to say what they think will work as a promise on immigration. I recognise that Labour’s 2015 promise of Labour market reform was not enough and probably not what the majority of Brexit voters want. I plan to write another article on the politics and policies of immigration, so I’ll leave it there. This is planned as the first of five articles on the referendum, and I have back dated this one to the date I started my storify about the referendum day and its short term implications.
The immediate response is that Brexit negotiations must be performed in good faith. But the left and the Labour Party must recreate forces for social solidarity and an economy run in the interests of all. One of the issues that engages me is that of Sovereignty. without the Treaty of Lisbon and the European Council aka ECHR, parliament can do anything; there is no human rights or democratic constraint; the treatment of local authorities is an example of the downside of this. Can we define a new reciprocal subsidiarity agreement with the EU, guaranteeing local government autonomy and existence, the re-establishment of a regional/industrial fund, moves towards a common welfare policy, which in the UK would involve more direct contributions, a minimum wage to reduce in-work benefits, such a minimum wage would undermine the unorganised workers’ ability to undercut local labour, and resetting the housing market to make it genuinely affordable . The final part of the equation is to reset the balance of the law in the work place; strong unions allow people control of their lives, the law must change, it needs to be easier to organise, the quid pro quo is that the Unions must renew their democracy. This needs, like the Labour Party to be citizen/member led, not based on an insatiable desire for a false industrial peace.
This article was originally published at blogs.davelevy.info, http://wp.me/p7KCT7-16Q
Here are my source references,
http://ello.davelevy.info/pebbles/, me, a micro blog, on austerity and racism
https://medium.com/mosquito-ridge/brexit-wins-an-illusion-dies-b60b6efad2d7, Paul Mason on political response
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/25/britain-rainy-fascist-island-progrexit-brexit, Paul Mason on the political context
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/labour-power-before-2020-jeremy-corbyn-claims-a7041586.html, Corbyn on economics at the Independent
https://storify.com/DaveLevy/referendum-reprise, my storify, includes pieces on the cowardice and unpreparedness of the Brexit leadership
Here’s a foot note,
- Any minimum wage would need to copy the old wages councils of which there were several regulating wages in notorious low pay industries sometimes with different levels for different jobs; wages levels at other than a global minimum can be set
Image Credit: Rick Cohen @flickr CC 2006 BY-SA, “European Union Expansion Celebration”