“The problem isn’t that half the country are racists, it’s that the racists now think that half the country agrees with them.” – Anon

Thank you. I am a journalist I also write a column for The Guardian once every two weeks I haven’t really got enough to say to write one once a week.

But I’m not a columnist I think we’ve probably got too many columnists in this country and we’ve not got enough journalists.

[Applause]

We certainly haven’t got enough reporters. [pause] That’s what I do.

We make a series called Anywhere But Westminster myself and my colleague John Domokos, when we report.

We go out into Britain. Sometimes when we talk to other people in the media they treat us like we’re war correspondents.

[Laughter]

Which may say something about exactly how we got into this mess.

I’m going to tell you about a few of the places that we’ve been in the last five or six weeks but also the last six years. In the context of what’s happened and the forces that led us to this point, the social and political forces, the economic forces.


1 minute

About two years ago in 2014 around the time of the Scottish referendum John and I made a film partly set in a place called Pen-y-Graig in the Rhondda valley in South Wales. It’s a place where my family’s from so I know it and it’s a place missing what I used to associate with it when I was six or seven years old, coal mining.

Nothing has really come along to replace coal mining nothing at all really, in that place, so it feels like it has an emptiness really at its heart. It’s the sort of place we still call a Labour heartland and it still has lots of heart.

But its affinity with the Labour Party – you only have to walk round and talk to people to know, had waned.

Most of the people we met in Pen-y-Graig in the Rhondda valley who still voted Labour said they only really voted Labour because it’s what their Dad or their Mum or their Grandma or their Granddad used to do, and once you got much beyond about the age of 35 you met lots of people who didn’t vote at all and who had no idea of what the  Labour Party was meant to stand for.


2 minutes

and in the middle of the village of Pen-y-Graig there is, was, a big sort of monument to all this a huge labour club, vast Labour club, God knows what goes on in there – looked like you could fit Glastonbury in it.

[Laughter]

and it hadn’t had a lick of paint obviously in 30 or 40 years and we were told it had only relatively recently decided to let women in [pause] straight up.

Now, when we put this film, partly about Pen-y-Graig online, in the Anywhere But Westminster series, in which people said they didn’t really know what the Labour Party is about anymore the local MP went mad.

He went on Twitter and he accused us of lazy journalism – which I never like – for some reason <smiles>

[Laughter]

and he said that when Labour was in power in Westminster his constituency had had new schools, two new relief roads whatever they are, and a new hospital.


3 minutes

Now obviously they’re good you know, they’re even great things, but I thought at the time do they represent any change to the fundamental condition of places like Pen-y-Graig [pause] do they represent any kind of shift back to the relatively vibrant, confident places that they were 60 or 70 years ago?

Do they materially affect these awful imbalances that we have in this country? Of course they don’t. It’s not about living! Even with all that public spending it was more about survival.

Now we fast forward to what happened two weeks ago. In Rhondda Cynon Taf the local government area that includes Pen-y-Graig 54% of the vote was for leave.

I’ll rattle through some other places.

In Stoke-on-Trent a place where John and I spent a lot of time about three weeks ago, some of you will have seen the film, you see the same stories, that’s exactly the same kind of plot line, only that story’s about the collapse of employment, and really a whole culture around the pottery industry.


4 minutes

70% of people in Stoke-on-Trent voted to leave the EU, and just to scotch any easy stereotypes, that a lot of people we spoke to were angry, and they were white, we also hung around outside Friday prayers at the mosques and the vast majority of people we spoke to was coming out of Friday prayers said they were voting leave for exactly the same reasons.

In Redcar and Cleveland in the North-East the same story there, is about the decline of the chemical and steel industries.

66% of people in Redcar and Cleveland voted Leave.

There are places not far from here which those of you who live in London maybe some of you don’t visit enough and you ought to go. I think of the Borough of Barking and Dagenham. A place characterised by the end of mass production at the Ford works. A place which has gone through huge social change in the last 10 or 15 years where 62.4%  of voters there voted Leave.


5 minutes

There are also stories to be told about differences within places. About two weeks ago John Domokos and I arrived in Manchester my home city, kind of. I’m from Cheshire but I always lie and say I’m from Manchester.

[Laughter]

In the middle of town around the university everybody pretty much was voting remain. When we asked them about the future they said they were confident about it and they felt good about it.

10 minutes drive to the North of Manchester, you can walk there from the Northern Quarter where all the hipsters hangout, is a place called Collyhurst.

6,000 people live in Collyhurst.

It hasn’t got a kids playground, the only cashpoint charges you £1.85 to withdraw money and the nearest supermarket is a 25 minute bus ride away in Harpurhey.

Everybody we spoke to in Collyhurst was voting to leave.

[Pause]


6 minutes

These are places characterised by fear. Yes a fear of immigration and the idea that it might make opportunities even more scarce and wages even lower and put more pressure on already way over-stretched public services but underlying this all is a very, very, cold, frightening really, fear of the future. A fear when you talk to people even of tomorrow and next week, let alone next year, and the year after that.

Now what made all the difference to this referendum result was the choices made by these people and places.

They added to those Tory voters who would have voted leave in any event – and they took leave over the line.

Voiceless places – ’cause of our ridiculous electoral system to echo something already said. These places have been voiceless for decades. They suddenly had a voice.

Just to make one thing clear something that we found out in the course of all that time on the road.

People there, most people there were not blindly following Boris Johnson, or Nigel Farage or God forbid Michael Gove.

[Laughter]

They weren’t paying much attention to them at all.

Because a vast and very justified political disconnection and mistrust and cynicism has long since set in in those places.


7 minutes

They were making up their minds on the basis of where they live, conversations they were having with family and friends and so on, and essentially, it seemed to us, they’d had enough of 40 years of neglect – and they took this as a chance to alert the rest of the country to their existence. Now.

A lot of people as far as I can tell on Twitter, which may not be representative so forgive me, are making the argument that the referendum result, the choice that the people I’m talking about made in large number, should somehow be nullified.

This echoes what a couple of speakers have said.

To hear some people talk same Westminster establishment that so let these people down is at the heart of why people voted to leave in these places, should somehow contrive to ignore the referendum and keep us in the EU, or maybe some highly paid London lawyers, I read today acting on behalf of anonymous clients might somehow overturn this decision.


8 minutes

Now admittedly there is something quite strange going on at the moment given that the people who nominally led the leave campaign are largely nowhere to be seen

[Laughter]

’cause they’re frit – as Mrs Thatcher once put it.

In addition, a woman I’ve never heard of until three days ago, Andrea Leadsom

[Applause]

is now tipped to be the next leader of the Conservative Party and the next Margaret Thatcher to boot.

Now that is because she has affected to be passionately in favor of Brexit but I read today she wasn’t in favour of Brexit about six weeks ago.

These are weird times, but I want to finish with a few words of warning if you’ll allow me to do that.

Please, please, anybody who was minded to do this and we’ve all picked this up [pause] notwithstanding the ugly things that we’ve seen happen – the awful events that have happened in places up and down the country and the license that has been given to very horrible malign things – by the way that the leave campaign conducted itself in this referendum.


9 minutes

Notwithstanding all that please let’s not think about the vast majority of people I’ve talked about who voted leave as stupid, or deluded, or bigoted and hateful. I don’t believe . . .

[Prolonged applause]

. . . I don’t believe, that half, 17 million, whatever the number of the population is like that in fact I think I’m confident enough to say that I know that.

If you woke up on Friday morning thinking that the country you live in was suddenly being controlled by a social tribe you didn’t know much about and you suddenly felt terrified about the future, bear in mind that that’s how millions of people in this country have lived for decades.

[Applause]


10 minutes

Please, please understand that the Labour Party has left a vacuum in these places – a vacuum which has been growing for 10 or 15 years, and if this referendum is denied, certainly if it’s denied when all of this is still raw, UKIP [pause] with or without Nigel Farage, or something even nastier, may well clean up.

It’ll sweep through these places and the terrain for meaningful progressive politics in this country will be pretty much destroyed – that’s how high the stakes are.

[Applause]

[Interrupted by Chair – times almost up]

There is talk in some newspapers today incidentally of a progressive politics which would be all about cities and would leave people in these places to go back to somebody else.

If you haven’t got progressive politics which speak to places which embody the inequality we all fight against it’s not worthy of the name.

[Applause]


11 minutes

So to finish. As politics changes at speed in front of our eyes here and all over the world I hope we in this room and beyond it can start to achieve a collective resolution.

No question there are different kinds of Brexit and the debate on that is vital if we’re going to leave the EU how we do it, who we protect and so on, but right now most of our energies should be expended not on that stuff, but on going to places we, and it is we as much as it’s anybody else, have forgotten about for far too long, listening to people and beginning the process of coming up with the politics that finally, belatedly, after all this time addresses their predicament and the awful inequalities that have defined this country for too long.

[Applause]

So let’s go out of this stateless country that some people are calling Rumania – let’s not hide behind the city walls shouting, let’s go out into the country and reinvent our politics. Thank you.

[Prolonged applause]

12m07s


Later John Harris on the panel . . .

At a time like this you should listen to Bob Dylan more often

The best, one of the greatest maxims Bob Dylan ever came up with was is in Subterranean Homesick Blues, I think it’s the last thing in the song, he says “Don’t follow leaders”

It’s a good maxim to live by. Because it begins in all seriousness, and Bob Dylan is always serious, to answer a lot of these questions.

Self evidently, our electoral system, is a sick joke

[pause]

and it has not just contributed to, I would say it’s the single biggest factor in what’s got us into this mess.

You know when you go to Merthyr Tydfil, it’s not like everyone says I want a Single Transferable Vote with multi-member constituencies please, cos they’ve got more brains, right, but what they do say is, no-one listens to me.

“Politicians are all the same”

“I’ve stopped voting really ‘coz it doesn’t change anything”

You hear that a hell of a lot.

So rather than, this great temptation, particularly in Labour politics, Labour politics suffers from this, and is still suffering from it now.

This idea, and this applies even though I understand totally why Jeremy Corbyn won that election, I understand completely the awfulness of the agenda of all the other candidates, it was great to hear someone at last talking about austerity and inequality and all those things that had not been talked about for far, too, long.

But at the same time you meet some Jeremy Corbyn supporters and I think they go a little bit heavy on this ‘kinda’ the sun shines out of Jeremy’s arse 24 hours a day and he’s going to absolutely . . . it’s not fair on him, [Clive Lewis smiling] it’s not fair on him.

[Applause]

Similarly the idea that if we throw Angela Eagle in front of the train that’s going to make things alright as well is is even more absurd.

But waiting for either of these factions in this bifurcated Labour party with no real centre in it you might be waiting till Hell freezes over unless you get on with it yourself.

So, it’s brilliant to see meetings like this, we need more of these, we need them in Manchester, we need them in Bristol . . .

[Applause]

. . . we need them in Cardiff, in Sheffield, we also need them in Merthyr Tydfil, and Stoke, and Barking and Dagenham. I’m dead serious about that.

[Prolonged applause]

And in the first instance to answer the question that the woman at the back or the point she raised about the widest possible alliance of people in the first instance for electoral reform, I think that’s right.

If you look at great social change as it happened in the C20th, how we got to 1945, the fact that the Liberal Party came round to the need for greater equality and a greater role for the state was central to that.

The fact that some enlightened Conservatives, or relatively enlightened like Quentin Hogg, Lord Hailsham later on and Harold McMillan came round to that view was part of what added to that moment. That’s how kind of wide you have to think and how you should set your horizon.

And in the case of electoral reform I think we have to think about that. Even to the point, and I’m not sure about this but it sort of makes sense, that UKIP clearly got four million votes at the last election and one MP. He’s not even a member of UKIP as far as I understand it. There is a clear injustice there.

[Laughter]

But, looking ahead from that, and I don’t know about electoral pacts, it always strikes me as talking about that prematurely is too mechanistic, but there might be an election in six months, so who knows?

But moving on from that question of electoral reform – I don’t think it’s beyond our collective power to begin to talk about things that unite these various parties and groups and forces on what you might call the centre left and the left.

We all know that inequality in this country is a festering sore, it’s gone on for far too long and it needs to be addressed – I’m not just talking about the Thomas Piketty 99%/1% definition of equality although that’s central to what’s happening, there’s an inequality in which we all participate or a lot of us every day.

I speak as one of the sharp elbowed middle classes, right

[pause]

we all know what happens. We go out of our way to get the best schools for our kids, outside the school gate, the weekend, weekdays, we might not talk to that clump of parents from the wrong side of the tracks over there.

We’ve all been complicit to some extent in this sort of inequality and we need to look at ourselves as much as we look at so called elites.

[Applause]

[Interrupted by Chair – “thank you John”]

[To Chair] “Two more things”

Just quickly, just quickly, so inequality, public services, every leave voter, every working class leave voter I met within two minutes mentioned housing and our chronic housing shortage. We have to reinvent the Welfare state because work as we know it is, is, really really dwindling in front of our eyes, there are things we can agree on – central to that has to be something we haven’t talked about in at least two or three years and it’s insane which is the urgency of climate change. They’re all things we can gather together around.

[Applause]

None of this is going to be easy. At Glastonbury last weekend the great Paul Mason said “Look this is a 10 year crisis” It’s going to be hard, very often it’s going to be shit, but people like us in this room and beyond, we have to do this because no-one else will.

As some American president or another said “we are the change we’ve been waiting for” we have to bear that in mind.

[Chair – “Thank you very much John”]


‘Lasses’ jobs’ replacing industry led to Brexit vote, says clergyman


Dateline London – Eunice Goes – Saturday 9th July 2016

Corbyn clearly represents a need within Labour Party supporters, and left-wing supporters on the whole, for the need for change and in particular to challenge austerity. I don’t think he is the party leader that Labour needs, he doesn’t have the leadership skills.

Politics – his interest in politics is very narrow,. But the idea that the Labour Party has a messiah that is going to transform overnight the electoral chances of this party, is a complete lie. It is an illusion.

Labour is facing an existential crisis, at the moment, very similar to other social Democratic parties in Europe, and what we have our think at the moment, the major split is the split of the so-called — the left behind voters, those 150 seats that are in danger, a large number of people voted to leave the European Union because they feel abandoned by the Labour Party, since the 1990s.

Left behind by new Labour. And on the other hand, you have a party of the young, who are educated, they believe in cosmopolitan values, and they want to take the party somewhere. And there is no solution for how you are going to gel these two different constituencies.

Dateline-London-09072016


 

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