In War: Resolution, In Defeat: Defiance, In Victory: Magnanimity, In Peace: Good Will.

As Remainers, we have lived by the first two parts of Churchill’s famous saying from World War Two in our fight against Brexit. We have been by turns both resolute and defiant.

Now, on the verge of victory (not yet certain I know but looking more likely) we need to start looking at how we can be magnanimous and promote, hopefully, good will. To do this, we need to look at the reasons why some many areas outside the main metropolitan areas voted to leave the EU.

The lack of affordable housing, the concentration of economic development in the Home Counties and some other large metropolitan connotations, and the running down of services like health and education in the name of Austerity have all played their part but just as importantly, there has been a growing lack of connection between Government, National & “Local”, and those governed.

For the last 40 years, Central Government has attacked Local Government by cutting their powers, reducing their revenue generating ability but heaping more and more responsibility on them. This has meant that that for many, they are left feeling less and less connect to those with power over them. It isn’t just local Councils, every part of contact with “officialdom” now seems more and more remote. Austerity, and its associated cuts, have has accelerated this as services are moved further and further away.

The small town where I live is typical of many. Our main industry (mining) which gave the town its character and economy has been closed down and not been replaced with a similar industry, just some low skill, low wage logistic depots and food processing factories which have a large number of Eastern Europeans working in them. Unemployment levels are low but good jobs are hard to find.

More and more functions have been moved from our local Police Station, our secondary schools are now part of an Academy Chain with no Parent or other locally appointed Governors, it is harder and harder to get appointments with GPs or dentists.

I could go on and I am sure that others who live in the towns and small cities who voted Leave have similar lists of local blight.

For the last 30 years, politicians and much of the media have used the EU as a shield to deflect blame for what is happening in towns like mine so is it any wonder that the justified anger of local people was aimed at the EU?
So, what can we do to embrace the Leave voters and show them that we understand why they voted as the did? How can we start to heal the divide in our country?

We need to invest in social & affordable housing to allow young people to have secure homes, we need to rebalance our economy so that those areas devastated by decline get real economic regeneration, we need to put money into the NHS and Social Services so people can get the treatments they need.

Most importantly, we must return power to Local Government, make the word “Local” meaningful again so people can feel that they have a direct say in what is happening in their community and not just elect councillors/MPs once every so often but feel powerless between elections. This means that Central Government has to make devolution mean more than Westminster just moving budgets from Whitehall to Directly Elected Mayors, unanswerable to anyone between elections.

What we must not do, what the Quitters have done for the last two-and-a-half years, is ignore the half of the country who will feel betrayed and forgotten. We must reach out and show them that we care about the reasons behind their vote and that we, along with the EU, can help them and be part of the solution to their problems not the reason for them.

* Leon Duveen is a Liberal Democrat activist in Worksop, Nottinghamshire

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5 Comments

  • Paul Barker 14th Jan '19 - 4:54pm

    The first thing we have to do is look at the facts : The Home Counties voted overwhelmingly for Brexit, it was the big Cities who voted against.
    I feel that we have been bending over backwards to show understanding to The Leavers, in the face of insults, intimidation & violence from their side. We are a Party, not a charity or a group of Social Workers. We exist to develop, renew & promote a set of values. While we can sympathise with poor Voters who blame Immigrants we have to keep telling them that they are wrong. We don’t even aim to get everyone agreeing with us, that would be Illiberal by definition.
    We have always argued for spreading Economic Growth outside The South East, giving more power to Local Government is a key part of that.
    Whatever we do, lets not be apologetic, nobody likes a crawler.

  • nigel hunter 14th Jan '19 - 7:08pm

    When we, the Liberal Democrats, take back wise control of the country we have to make an impact in building up the country OUTSIDE the South East. A monumental task but a crusade/road that we can start to travel, now. Yes, it is a dream (for now) but we can start by informing the voter by our leaflets and media of our policies, they HAVE to be put across to the voter

  • Malcolm Todd 14th Jan '19 - 11:57pm

    “Now, on the verge of victory…”
    Wow, that’s some mighty chicken-counting going on there. Let’s wait and see whether those eggs are not hard-boiled after all, shall we?

  • Vince made a good showing on breakfast TV today. But what was missing was any hint about how we can address the very real doubts that Leave voters have, and show that the EU can be part of the solution to the many problems we as a nation face, and not the cause of them.

    This is where the Brexiteers have been winning, and if we don”t address the issues now, we risk winning the parliamentary vote but losing the popular one, in whatever form that takes. We mustn’t wait, but begin to shout about it now, as It’ll take a long time to get the message across through all the noise!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Jan '19 - 2:44pm

    While my liking and admiring the views and work of friend, Leon, is strong, even I cannot share in equating the words of Churchill in war, with any relationship worth utilising them, with regard to Brexit, a phoney war.

    I , as with colleagues here, am, as well unsure any victory, if such a word is appropriate, against Brexit, is imminent.

    Yet I agree with everything else in this well thought through piece.

    It is a shame more like me and Leon have not been saying this, I have, and few listen, too wrapped up in their view that immigration has only wonderful consequences, what about the consequences that also impact, such as our government never under each of the parties, claiming money we are owed for services utilised by Europeans from other EU countries, the NHS the worst offender.

    We are not playing by rules others are, content to be, with Ireland, the only country that said yes, come here, day one, only to be surprised when so many did.

    Immigrants and immigration are not a problem. Not often and not always .

    But dim witted politics , it practised by all parties is.

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