I am what I believed until now was a lifetime Labour supporter; but with less than 50 days to go until March 29th, the sense of my own powerlessness as a 76-year-old pensioner in Jenny Chapman’s Labour constituency of Darlington in County Durham is almost overwhelming.
I spent a decent chunk of my professional life living and working in Hackney as a teacher of English and ultimately as the first headteacher of Stoke Newington High School, where 27 languages were spoken as mother tongues and Bengali and Turkish were taught to GCSE level. I have therefore had a lot of experience fighting to create and maintain the highest possible educational standards in a richly multicultural but very stressful social services area of the country. I was there when Diane Abbott first became Stoke Newington’s MP.
I believe that the EU is one of the most successful peace projects there has ever been. As a nation, we should be supporting it. The very best way for us to do that is, of course, for the UK to remain a full member of the EU. My MP knows as well as I do that the evidence is overwhelming: no version of Brexit will ever come close to the benefits this country has enjoyed as a full member of the European Union. Just as importantly, the EU is significantly stronger with the UK as a full member working with the other 27 countries to address the issues we Europeans must face in the challenging times that lie immediately ahead for the whole planet.
I know that there is little, if any, chance of calling to account those who promoted the lies and fantasies at the heart of the Leave Campaign: shamelessly beguiling the educationally and economically most deprived in areas hit deliberately hardest by the Tories’ calculatedly disastrous policy of ‘Austerity’. The hard right is still at it in the tabloid press: demonising the EU and spewing pointless, irrelevant guff about sovereignty, freedom and being in control of our own destiny again, when their real aim is to grab even more power and further enrich the already rich at the expense of those they claim to champion but actually don’t give a stuff about (except when they need their votes).
For me, the one remaining hope is that the party I have always supported – the Labour Party – will listen to me and the millions like me who either knew from the beginning that Brexit was a terrible idea or who have realised belatedly that they were sold a busload of lies and regret having been taken in by it. The only way Labour can do that is by campaigning with all the power at its disposal to suspend Article 50 in order to allow time for a people’s vote on what should happen next: either to accept whatever deal Theresa May finally cobbles together or to remain full members of the EU. Exiting without a deal, the vast majority of people already agree, would be a catastrophe both for the UK and the EU, and that shouldn’t even be an option on the ballot paper (in my humble opinion).
I have just sent a version of this piece to Jenny Chapman. Her office will once again, of course, send me her standard response backing whatever Jeremy Corbyn happens to be saying and doing; but she and he should be clear about this. If the Labour Party does not now strain every sinew to back the suspension of Article 50 and the holding of a people’s vote on the realities of this world-changing issue, I – and I predict a very great number of others like me – will never vote Labour again.
If, however, the Labour Party does campaign for a people’s vote and one is held - the circumstances will of necessity be very different from the 2016 referendum (there should now be no doubt about the realities of the situation) – then I will accept the result (whatever it is) without further question and continue to support the Labour Party in whatever way I can as it tries to gain a working majority in the House in order to deliver a fairer and more equitable society across the whole of the United Kingdom.