Author Archives: Chris Nelson

The path to victory lies through Brexit Britain. As Remainers, we need to show them we’re on their side

This week in Parliament we might just have scored the first victory in our long march to a People’s Vote. Now, if a referendum is truly close at hand, the hard work must now start: we need to convince Brexit Britain that it ought to change its mind.

Sure, Remain’s supposedly got an eight-point lead in the opinion polls. But that was true in 2016… plus ça change?

To win, we must convince Leave voters in places like the East Midlands town of Wellingborough, where I live and had the pleasure to be Lib Dem candidate at the last General Election. In many ways this ought to be natural Remain territory: it’s a diverse town, with both a mosque and an ornate Hindu temple. Local voters elected New Labour in 1997, electing a MP who called for the legislation of cannabis, and we even host an annual Pride event in a town centre park. Yet we voted Leave by 63% and are represented by arch-Brexiteer and Sven-Goran Eriksson lookalike Peter Bone.

How did this happen? When you speak to ordinary voters, the mystery becomes clear. Yes, it is true that some voters talk of immigration, a lost identity or misplaced notions of ‘lost sovereignty’. For most Brexit voters, however, the root causes of Brexit are emphatically human: they feel let down and left behind by politicians in Westminster and (yes) Brussels, and they feel buffeted from the consequences of a fragile global economy. Above all they feel they’ve lost control.

These are people who see ever more fragile employment, with an explosion in zero-hour contracts and ten years of pay restraint, coupled with impossible house prices. They see an education system failing to deliver practical skills, with FE colleges where funding has been cut to the bone and where those without a degree are ever more marginalised. In town centres they seem the places they are proud of become ever more empty, bereft of the brands with which they are familiar. And, as they struggle to take control over their lives, is it any wonder that the pledges and half-truths of the Leave campaign were so attractive?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , and | 55 Comments

Keeping Britain in the EU: How reassuring the sceptics should mean more than talk of “sovereignty”

Over the last few months the political media has been transfixed by David Cameron’s efforts to “renegotiate” Britain’s relationship with the European Union. Whilst Tim Farron quite rightly describes Cameron’s demands as having much more to do with keeping the Conservative Party together than fixing anything more fundamental about the EU, the reasons for making this effort are obvious: reassuring nervous eurosceptics that Britain still has influence in Europe and neutralising fears (however unjustified) that the British voice will be somehow overpowered.

Nigel Farage responded by calling Cameron’s deal “a slap in the face for Britain”. So far, so predictable.  Yet right at the core of eurosceptic complaints is so often the insidious, sometimes devious suggestion that nothing we hear from Brussels can be trusted. When Blair got an opt-out from the Euro, the sceptics said we’d be forced in anyway. When Brown got an opt-out from the Fundamental Charter of Fundamental Rights, the sceptics claimed the European Court of Justice would simply ignore it. Cameron says we have protection from being overrun by the Eurozone? The sceptics claim it isn’t worth the paper it is written on.

In their deluded yet strangely persuasive form of paranoia, the Kippers argue that, even if it all seems reasonable on the surface, we can never trust the EU to keep their word and that our courts and our Parliament will be (supposedly) powerless to stop them.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged and | 41 Comments
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