It was John Maynard Keynes who said, “When the facts change, I change my mind.”
And, whether we like it or not - and I don't - the fact is that British membership of the EU has changed. The majority of our electorate voted for Brexit.
So for those of us in the Labour movement who, whilst recognising the EU is no socialist nirvana and still campaigned and voted for Remain because we believed it offered better protection for workers rights, it's time for a reality check.
The usual facts of political consensus have changed. It’s no longer all about professional politicians and there’s no point crying over spilt milk and wishing the result away. We have a new world to win.
As Frank Field wrote in this month's Prospect magazine, “the force for change in society is coming from below. The movers and shakers this time are the voters. Their shift towards UKIP is shaping the next stage of English party politics.”
I’m quoting Frank because, up to the last point, I agree with him. The force for change is from below and the voters are the drivers of political change but, where I depart with Frank, is in his thinking that it’s all going UKIP’s way.
UKIP was a single issue campaign. The hundreds of thousands who have joined the Labour Party alone now represent a greater force coming from below who are coalescing into a movement for real and wide-ranging social change.
And UKIP will not shape the next stage of politics if we in the trade union movement and Labour Party beyond face the fact of Brexit and start to address the reasons so many voted for it.
We have to respect the mandate of the British people. But we don’t have to let the Tories or UKIP define Brexit. We can ill afford to become an inward looking country which disconnects itself from the rest of Europe. We need to build progressive alliances with our sisters and brothers across the globe to create a new economic order which works for the 99%.
A historic duty now falls to us in the trade union movement and our Labour Party to ensure the vote to leave Europe is followed by A People’s Brexit. This means reaching a deal in the open, not behind closed doors, which benefits ordinary people and is subject to their scrutiny and approval.
The Tories who got us into this mess have no coherent plan, no road map and no political compass to navigate the terms and conditions for Brexit. The tensions on the right over Brexit are bringing Theresa May’s political honeymoon to an end and a series of gaffs from those in Government supposedly leading on Brexit shows how truly clueless this mob are.
Their mess is our opportunity. We need change but not change based on Tory and UKIP bigotry and anti-immigrant sentiment that punctuated too much of the Leave campaign's rhetoric. We must champion the fact that we have far more in common than that which divides us. We need to reject pure free trade and build “fair trade.”
We must use Brexit as an opportunity to rebuild and rebalance Britain on a scale not seen since the end of World War II as otherwise working people will pay an incredible price for Cameron's miscalculation. We can't allow the Tories a free hand as they will destroy our rights and economic prospects.
Only the trade union and labour movement working with the Labour Party have the history, the vision and the passion to shape a future that will once again put Britain’s people at the heart of our economy.
In our hands A People’s Brexit can be transformed into a new beginning that delivers real hope and real change away from a global economy that’s not not working for the majority of people on our planet, let alone the majority of people in our country.
The vote to leave Europe is a clear mandate from the British people for an end to the neo-liberal economic model developed by a wealthy elite to benefit themselves. It’s about the need for a new economic settlement between “we the people” and our governing class. This week at the TUC is where we begin to find our collective voice and start to start to turn things round.
Our Labour Party’s leadership contest this year has been unnecessary and bruising and has delayed us voicing a coherent united strategy in favour of progressive policies which must underpin any Brexit deal.
Yet this year’s leadership contest shows that on policy we now actually have a PLP broadly united with its membership on a domestic agenda based on creating a new economy for the many not the few.
This is a fantastic achievement owed in no small part to Jeremy’s stunning victory - a year ago today - in which the huge surge in the force for change from below put him firmly in charge.
Some of the PLP may have issues with Jeremy, but it’s been hard at times to know why there was a challenge as on the policy the whole party has shifted remarkably away from damaging neo-liberalism and agree with his plans to end austerity through public investment.
From the National Investment Bank investing public money into infrastructure projects, to protecting trades union rights, from abolishing zero-hours contracts to protecting maternity pay, from commitment to mass council house building to bringing rail back into public ownership, from new Sure Starts to a National Health Service free at the point of delivery. There is, in fact, little that separates the PLP from Jeremy or the mushroomed membership.
We must recognise that the Labour Party, its leadership and its change of policy direction have been driven by the movers and shakers that are the voters and we must respect mandates.
Frank thinks the “death of the Labour Party becomes more probable, unless it finds a leader who has the courage to pinch UKIP’s clothes.” Labour leaders must never wear Farage cast-offs. And warnings of the death of Labour are as ridiculous as they are premature.
Far from dying the Labour Party has never looked healthier or stronger nor had a bigger membership willing it to be the expression of the change our new members want to see.
Let’s work with them, not against them and we too will be the mover-shaker-voter force to be reckoned with as we campaign for a new economy.
In Brighton this week, we at the TUC are leading the solidarity movement with a People’s Labour Party and together we can deliver a Labour government in 2020 committed to rebuilding a Britain in which all of our have a stake and people are proud.
In place of Tory strife we need Labour in power. That's a fact that doesn't change. Let's make it happen!
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