2019-08-30 Brexit, Democracy & Elections

Our country faces crucial and urgent political issues. The Climate Emergency has become all too apparent this summer – the Amazon basin and even the Arctic tundra burn uncontrollably in the unprecedented heat, adding yet more CO2 to our already overburdened atmosphere.

Our public services face privatisation and collapse, with some children being denied even the pretence of a full-time education, with acute shortages of skilled medical staff, and with our over-stretched police struggling to deal with gang violence.

Low wages for far too many hard-working people go hand in hand with insecure employment, as people in desperation take jobs which do not guarantee them enough income to live on.  And the shortage of affordable housing has led to far too much of those hard-won wages having to be spent on private sector rents.

People saw our commitment to tackling these issues in our Manifesto in 2017, and many decided to vote Labour. Alas, while people moved to support us in unprecedented numbers, winning Labour seats such as Ipswich, it was still not quite enough to take control of the country. The Conservative Government has continued its austerity programme started in 2010.  Crime, homelessness and the gap between rich and poor all continue to rise.

I am keen to get rid of this Government and to deal with these issues which affect people’s lives.  What hypocrisy for Boris Johnson to pretended that it is these issues which prompted him to call on the Queen to suspend Parliament and to start a new session on October 14th!  If the Conservatives are serious about funding our public services, where is their pledge to end the shameful syphoning-off of wealth by the very rich to offshore investments and tax havens?  If they wanted to deal with crime and improve access to health and education why haven’t they done so over the past 9 years?

No, it is very obvious to everyone, including the Commons Speaker, that the reason for giving us just 5 days in Parliament at the start of September is to make sure we cannot prevent a no–deal Brexit. I do not believe that a majority of people who voted in 2016 wanted a no-deal Brexit – indeed, Johnson himself said we would easily be able to agree a deal.  Surely, faced with a stark reality which was never suggested by the supporters of Brexit, it is now time to give the British people the chance to vote on the real choices rather than on the dishonest fictions they were fed two years ago.

As our Shadow Chancellor has said, we cannot afford to leave the EU without a deal if we want to fulfil our pledges to the British people.  Indeed, already there are shortages of some medicines, and I know of a senior manager in Ipswich who is unable to obtain sufficient drugs to combat his epilepsy, leaving him struggling to do his work.  Already the pound is sliding, and foreign companies, especially the Chinese, are buying up iconic parts of our nation at bargain-basement prices. Such problems will become widespread if and when we do leave without a deal. 

If we can achieve a change in Government before 31st October, we can ask the British people if no-deal is really what they want.  But if we can’t achieve that, and the Conservatives do force us to crash out without a deal, then how irresponsible would it be for there to be no Government in place to deal with the consequences?  I have heard rumours that the Tories are plotting a General Election in early November.  That would be irresponsible, undemocratic and hugely damaging to the security of our country.

When you vote, you need to choose what future you want for our country, and what your verdict is on the record of the previous government.  A vote in early November will deny you both of those choices – it will be too late to prevent a no-deal Brexit, but too early to judge just how damaging it might be.  Worst of all, it would leave our country without a government at a crucial moment in our history.

Boris Johnson is undermining our democracy to try to save the Conservative Party.  I support any election that will bring about the better society that Labour is committed to, but it has to be at the right time, when people are ready and know what they are voting on, and not at a time which will endanger the nation.