Brexit has already ravaged the northeast. Of course we’ll support Labour in backing a Final Say

We are as diverse in our views and outlook as voters in London or Edinburgh are. To assign us one monolithic view is painfully condescending

Ellie James
Wednesday 27 February 2019 13:22

I joined the Labour Party because I saw the pain that years of Conservative austerity was causing my region, the northeast. As a young carer, I also saw the damage it was doing to my family, as successive cuts to disability benefits made our lives increasingly difficult.

The Labour values I joined the Party for, of fighting for communities and families like mine, are simply not compatible with Theresa May’s Brexit.

It’s a sentiment shared by the overwhelming majority of young Labour supporters, Labour members and elected Labour MPs.

And, since Monday evening, it is also the view of the leadership of the Labour Party.

With Jeremy Corbyn announcing Labour’s support for a people’s vote, an option that many thought was off the table appears firmly back at the centre of the political debate once again.

Inevitably, focus will now be on parliamentary arithmetic, and how many Labour rebels will needed to be offset by Conservative MPs supporting a people’s vote to gain a majority in the House of Commons.

The reality is that if a significant number of Labour MPs – such as John Mann and Caroline Flint – vote against a people’s vote, it is unlikely to happen.

To do so, based on the misconception (propagated not just by a small group of MPs, but unelected advisors to the leader’s office) that northern and Midlands voters – specifically in Labour heartlands – are a homogenous group of die-hard Brexit voters, would be simply criminal.

We are as diverse in our views and outlook as voters in London or Edinburgh are. To assign us one monolithic view is painfully condescending.

To believe that we can’t see that the Brexit being delivered is a million miles away from what was promised, or that only Londoners possess that capability to see the Brexit chaos before us, is insulting.

Labour members from the northeast, such as myself, need to combat this falsehood as comprehensively and as quickly as possible.

Firstly, because the numbers don’t bare this out.

Chair of Brexit Select Committee Hilary Benn presumes second referendum will be a choice between Theresa May's deal and remaining in the EU

In all the Labour seats which voted Leave in 2016, the majority of Labour voters wanted to stay in the European Union.

Even if this wasn’t the case, polling shows that in every single one of Labour’s 248 constituencies, there is a majority of voters and Labour supporters who back a people’s vote – including the seats of those Labour rebels.

The idea that the way to either hold, or gain Labour MPs in the North, is to mislead Northern voters by pretending this government’s Brexit deal will improve their lives, is as insulting as it is misguided.

This leads me onto my next point; a Tory Brexit will hit areas already blighted by austerity – like my home city, Newcastle – the hardest.

If Labour MPs genuinely believe that they will be thanked by voters for facilitating a Brexit conceived by the right, for the benefit of the right – then they’re on a hiding to nothing.

I struggle to remember a time when any of those MPs have ever made a compelling case for why Brexit would make the lives of their constituents better. There’s a reason for that – because they can’t credibly claim that it will.

Instead, they hide behind “respecting the will of their voters” and snide attempts to pretend that a call for a people’s vote has only ever been made in SW1, rather than in postcodes across the country.

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Finally, there is a group of working class voters across the north of England who voted Remain in 2016, want a people’s vote and would vote to stay tomorrow: young people. We are the ones who will be hit the hardest by the disastrous impact of a Tory Brexit. We are the ones still suffering after years of underinvestment in our region. We are the ones who are fighting back.

It’s why I’m proud to be part of For our Future’s Sake (FFS) – a youth and student movement from across the UK, campaigning for a people’s vote. The young people involved in FFS are from Redcar, Sunderland, Stoke and Cornwall – hardly Remain strongholds.

To the unelected cabal of Lexiteer commentators, trying to brief against the decision of party conference and Labour’s elected leadership – I’d ask them to stop undermining Corbyn and the will of the party membership.

To Labour MPs, hiding behind a vote that is three years old, knowing their actions will make their constituents poorer – I’d suggest they think again.

I’m a proud Labour member, a northeasterner, born and bred – and I back a people’s vote. I’m not the only one.

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