A Letter to the Newbury Weekly News, published July 12th 2018.
Link to Workshopping Brexit event
Does Brexit have to be a riddle?
We would like to congratulate Richard Phillips and Ian Hall (NWN, 14th June) for sparking such a robust discussion of Brexit in last week’s letters page, from people with deep political loyalties, strong feelings, and demands (NWN, 28th June). Writers reflect the range of views we see around us and among members of our own constituency labour party – all too often accompanied by increasing anger, despair and utter confusion. Danny Dyer spoke for many when he called it ‘a riddle’.
This is not surprising. MP Richard Benyon argued passionately for ‘remain’. Yet now he is a passive and unconvincing brexiteer, happy to put his own and his party’s interests before those of his constituents and the people of the British Isles. Government is riddled with in-fighting, and cabinet members’ ineptitudes are exposed week by week. Yet still we are marched towards the cliff edge. Our Liberal Democrat colleagues pride themselves on leading the case for a second referendum, yet their sullied reputation does the cause no good. They seem to have no answers to the difficult questions that would arise were such a prospect to become a reality. Would they, for example, suggest a higher bar than 50% next time – and if not, where would a 52% Remain ‘win’ leave us? What compelling arguments would they bring to our now deeply divided nation: on immigration, joining the euro or free movement of workers? And how is such division to be healed by the parties who have shown that nothing they say can be trusted?
These questions are not rhetorical or posed flippantly. We genuinely want to hear some encouraging answers, that transcend party politics. But when our opposition colleagues in smaller local parties find themselves campaigning with Liberal Democrats – who so enthusiastically signed up to the alienating Tory austerity agenda that contributed to Brexit – we have to ask: do they hold their noses?
We can all agree this is a destabilising and for many of us a very frightening time. We would not wish to begin from here. But ‘here’ is where we have been brought (for some of us kicking and screaming) and we need to learn pretty rapidly what options are open to us if we are to influence events and cast our votes in future as well-informed citizens. The Labour Party is internationalist in outlook, and holds dear the values of democracy; not only in terms of numbers of votes cast, but democracy borne of fair process, developed through critical and constructive debate that respects alternative views and welcomes dissent, and that draws on sound evidence honestly evaluated. We want to listen, learn, persuade, have our assumptions tested and challenged, and yes, to argue things through when consensus is elusive. This means life is never dull! Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership Labour is offering a radical social agenda that invites members to be part of policy making, continues to engage the previously disaffected, and has attracted younger generations to politics. We are, unlike our fellow opposition groups in West Berkshire, the only party ready and likely to oust the Tories and to form the UK’s next government.
It is in this spirit of coming together to move forward that we the undersigned members of Newbury Constituency Labour Party are inviting our members to an informal workshop event dedicated to all things Brexit, interrogated from a left perspective. Whether you are a longstanding or new member, a Brexit-expert or like most of us, frustrated and perplexed, do join us on July 30th, 2018, to share your thoughts, whatever your personal stance. For details see our website or contact firstname.lastname@example.org You will receive a warm welcome – and we’ll report back to the NWN in August!
Gemma Lowe, Chair
Liz Bell, Women’s Officer
Julie Wintrup, Treasurer
Moz Bulbeck-Reynolds, Campaign Coordinator
Tom Tunney, Vice Chair Membership
Newbury Constituency Labour Party