On Thursday 20th October at the TUC Conference in Brighton, Sir Keir Starmer used a somewhat familiar phrase.
The leader of the Labour party declared a “Battle for the Soul of our Country”, but supporters and members of the European Movement might have felt a sense of DeJa’Vu – that’s because we launched our ‘Battle for the Soul of our Country’ campaign over six months ago.
Indeed, we took that message right to the heart of the Labour party at their conference in Liverpool, and let’s just say: you couldn’t have missed it.
Perhaps Keir got the idea for the slogan from our stall, t-shirts and badges or the Labour directory – it even made it onto BBC’s Politics Live.
Or perhaps our door hangers pleading with his party to stop side-lining the issue of Europe caught his attention – after all, we did hang them on over 1,000 doors in the hotels Starmer and his MPs were staying in.
Or perhaps Labour MPs Stella Creasy, Hilary Benn and Catherine West told Keir about the slogan after they hung out with us at our stall or during our Fringe Event “The Cost of Living with Brexit?”
However, we don’t mind Labour using our slogan, in fact we love it. When I was in Liverpool for Labour Conference this year, I saw a party that knows what’s at stake. A party that wants to rebuild our reputation on the world stage and, as a crucial part of that, our relationship with Europe.
There is a lot for pro-Europeans in the Labour party to be optimistic about: Labour is talking about closer ties with Europe and improving the UK-EU deal for a start, and now they are even using our slogan! But now they must be honest with themselves and the British public: Brexit isn’t working and can’t work.
If Labour is going to steal our messaging, then we want them to sign up to our values too:
- Labour must be bold.
- They must have a vision for rebuilding the UK’s relationship with Europe.
- They must not sidestep or shy away from exposing the real impacts of Brexit.
- They must lay out a path for a closer alignment with our European Neighbours, including improved market access to Europe to help tackle the cost-of-living crisis and protect peace in Northern Ireland.
So, if Starmer is serious about winning the Battle for the Soul of our Country, he needs to do more than pinch our slogan. He needs to start by ending the conspiracy of silence on Brexit.
In 2015 Brexit was merely the policy of Farage’s fringe party. Now, to our shame, it defines all our national policy. But as economies across Europe begin to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the economic consequences of Brexit are being felt more than ever.
Brexit has brought down four Prime Ministers, ripped parties and communities in half and run aground our country’s economy. Businesses have collapsed, prices have soared, and hardworking people have paid the price.
That’s why we have taken action to reclaim our country’s soul and rewrite our story.
So, I am delighted to see Sir Keir Starmer and the Labour Party talk about joining us in the Battle for the Soul of our country. But here’s the reality: It won’t be politicians and political parties that win this battle. They will always lag behind public opinion. The European Movement is the only organisation with the courage to expose the calamity of Brexit and win the Battle for the Soul of our Country. Anything from anyone else is just the sincerest form of flattery.