Lords, local elections and more: A tour update
Like campaigners up and down the country, I spent much of this week knocking on doors and asking people to vote in the local elections. I campaigned for fantastic candidates across London, including in Chingford and Barnet, many of whom have been elected and will serve their communities brilliantly. But campaigning for Labour was not as easy a sell as it should have been given the impact of this Government’s austerity on public and local services. Time and again I was asked what my party would do about Brexit. Time and again I had to offer vague reassurance - that, in the end, we will do the right thing and call for a People’s Vote - rather than a solid promise.
Time is running out for Labour to intervene decisively and to give voters the final say on our relationship with the EU. Please do visit https://www.peoples-vote.uk for more information about the campaign for a People’s Vote.
If you are a Labour member or supporter visit Remain Labour https://www.remain-labour.co.uk/mission-statement to find out how you can help to get our party into the right place on this vital issue.
In the House of Lords we have been debating and voting on the Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill. With colleagues, we have managed to defeat the Government on several crucial aspects of the Bill - including ensuring that the House of Commons will be given a genuinely meaningful vote on Mrs May’s deal. This is so important because, as drafted, the original legislation would have given the Prime Minister a completely free hand to drag Britain out of the EU in the hardest of all possible Brexits. Given that Mrs May gives the very strong impression that she cares more about what Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees Mogg want that about what is in the best interests of British workers, this is not a power that we were prepared to give her on trust.
This victory - and the other defeats we inflicted this week - was the Lords doing our job; asking Parliament to think again, urging Parliament to assert itself over the Government, advocating for real democratic accountability. The Daily Mail branding us ‘wreckers’ will not deter my colleagues and I from doing our job and holding the Government to account. I do, though, want to offer the outraged Paul Dacre a deal. I will happily join him in a campaign to abolish the House of Lords entirely so that us pesky Peers will obstruct him no further. My quid pro quo? All I want in exchange is a People’s Vote on the EU!
Today I am in Oxford, meeting local MPs and then debating my good friend but Brexit opponent David Goodhart. His book, Road to Somewhere, is fantastically insightful about the gaps in values, experiences and opportunities that have helped to create our polarised politics. His solution - that liberals and centrists should unilaterally surrender - is, however, not one I can sign up to. We need to refresh our offer to the British people and show them that liberal, social democracy can still deliver for them.
Next week I will be in Swansea and the Welsh valleys, hearing about what made some Welsh
voters back Brexit and how we can provide the jobs and the growth that can rejuvenate the Welsh economy. I will also be spending a day in Milton Keynes, speaking with young people and having a big conversation with local voters. If you would like to join us you can register here.
The last week has shown us that democracy still works. Parliament has begun to assert itself once more and to hold the Government to account. Millions have voted for local representatives and for directly elected Mayors to improve their communities. When people tell me that they oppose Brexit but can’t back a People’s Vote because it would be too difficult or too divisive I tell them that they have got this wrong. The answer to our country’s very great problems is more democracy, not less. We need to use the tools of democracy to stop Brexit and to change Britain for the better. Nothing could be more British than that.
My quote of the week
Lord Patten on Jacob Rees-Mogg's comments on Peers "playing with fire": "I'll tell you what playing with fire is: blundering into Northern Ireland with a policy which is clueless and deluded, with a can of petrol in one and a box of matches in the other hand."