I am becoming increasingly incensed by the untruths’ and rhetoric being put out during the referendum campaign that I feel the need to share with you my feelings on the matter.
Firstly, for those of you who have known me for a long period will know that back in the 1970’s, I and many others on the left did not support the European Economic Community. It was a capitalist club, had no accountability, very little democracy and had a very limited view around narrow protectionism for a small group of countries.
The world in those day’s was very different from today of course: globalization was unheard of, capitalism was still multinational rather than transnational; trade unions were still at the main table. We had had a period of progressive change in British life and the Employment Protection Act, Health and Safety at work act and Equal Pay Act had all been introduced by Labour Government’s.
Move on just a few years and we had had Thatcher, Reagan, Globalisation and so much more! We did however have elections to the European Parliament and the Social Chapter (although the UK had initially opted out of this). Transnationalism and Globalisation meant that no longer could an economy the size of ours stand-alone against the might of the USA, Japan and other aggressive totally market driven economies, let alone the big corporations. It was at that stage that I, like many others, rethought our position and began to support the EU. This developed into a deeper understanding of our shared history and heritage with the rest of Europe and above all else, the peace dividend.
I remember in local government at the time, Derbyshire County Council unilaterally adopting the social chapter as a statement of our views on workers’ rights. I also remember us not being able to access European development funds for the coal mining areas because the British Government did not want to jointly fund projects. I also remember the right wing of the Tory Party and it’s fellow travellers wanting to deny the European Parliament any real power, being totally opposed to progressive social change even in the somewhat minimal proposals set out in Maastricht.
Move on a little further in history and it was the right who opposed virtually every little piece of social improvement proposed by Europe: Working Time regulations, Equal pay for work of equal value, improved maternity rights, rights for people with disabilities, health and Safety regulations, the list goes on.
From 1997 a labour government introduced the minimum wage, entered the social chapter into British law, introduced the human rights act, enshrined the NHS charter into law and started to repair our relationships with mainland Europe. All of these things were attacked by the right wing and used as examples of why we should leave the EU. All of this whilst at a time when the racist right were arguing that immigration not from the EU but from the commonwealth and none English speaking people (short hand for none white) was bad for Britain.
Move on to today and tucked away on radio 4, John Redwood and friends, tell the world that a 'UK out of the EU would be able to continue the Thatcherite dream of having no trade barriers, accepting that this would in all probability mean the end of British manufacturing, it would mean the end of British Steel in the same way as Thatcher saw off British Coal'.
They believe in TTIP, even as they pretend that they support the NHS. Meanwhile the old Etonian Boris Johnson, his mate, Michael Gove, who wrote speeches for arch Thatcherite Michael Howard and commodity trader Nigel Farage, who is a lapsed member of the Tory Party (which he joined having heard Enoch Powell and Keith Joseph) suddenly become the workers friends. They do have a plan and it is incompatible with any left or centre left view of decency and social justice. Beware of Wolves in Sheep’s clothing.
All that good people need do for evil to win is nothing. Please dear friend use the next three weeks to ensure that all that I and you stand for is protected and that we have a decent future to hand over to our children and grandchildren.
Mark Young (Regional Coordinating Officer at the East Midlands branch of Unite.) and local member of Derbyshire Dales Labour.