I have avoided commenting on this until now – but I find it extremely unsettling the way many Labour people are turning on each other over the EU referendum. I have seen people liken Labour MPs and ordinary members to George Galloway and Nigel Farage for wanting to vote out. I have also seen blinding rows where people have been vilified and told they are no better than the Tories for wanting to leave the EU. The last time I checked our membership of the EU had absolutely nothing to do with party politics; and I find it worrying that we have reached a point where that is all it seems to be about. This is an issue where every citizen of the UK should have the right to vote whichever way they want without fear of being ostracised – especially by their own political party.
I believed that in the interests of democracy there should have been a completely non-biased campaign led by experts in every field, to raise awareness of what it means to be either IN or OUT of the European Union. The majority of people have only a small degree of knowledge on the subject. I myself don’t know all of the facts. However I appreciate that I am a bit of a dreamer and this was never going to happen, especially seeing how easy it has been to utilise the issue for divisive internal politics.
Let’s talk internal politics. There has been a lot of chatter about taking Labour back to its roots in the last few months, but yet again we are in danger of further alienating our historic core vote, which is leaving in droves. Granted we are attracting new support from areas such as the ageing middle class liberals that we lost in the Blair years, and the old Lib Dem student vote is flooding in as a result of ‘the Corbyn effect’, but what about the workers? – UKIP got four million votes last year, and it is accurate to say many of those were our voters from typically working class areas. *Awaits ‘we can’t pander to UKIP’ narrative from short sighted members* Come to Dagenham and tell residents you want us to remain in the EU… You’ll be chased down the street with a kitchen knife (that happened).
I am not saying that we should not, as a party, be campaigning to stay in the EU. What I am saying is that we should be allowing individuals in the party to campaign however they personally see fit, without fear of attack by their peers and supposed ‘comrades’. This is bigger than any one party. This is about a national future beyond our five year fixed terms; and I don’t want to see another Syria situation with MPs and members being verbally insulted, and receiving threats because of their beliefs.
I know Labour are leading the IN campaign but I do not believe in this Charge of the Light Brigade style of ‘democracy’. It is our place as British citizens to ‘reason why’ and make an informed decision based on our own personal principles and values, taking into account as many of the facts as possible. As individuals we should not be dictated to, or pressured into decisions we are not comfortable with.
I am not UKIP, I am not a member of Respect, and I am not a Tory. I am a staunch trade unionist and I am Labour through and through. I will be voting to leave the European Union.
Andrew Achilleos – Campaign Organiser for Dagenham & Rainham CLP