Tina Lupton and Heiko Henkel
Here in the UK, Labour is looking frantically for the right candidate to unite the country. But in many ways they have that candidate. We wrote this as a speech that Corbyn could give now. Would this be the platform we’d vote for? Perhaps not––we wished heartily to see the UK stay in the EU––but many people would, and the availability of this position would move us beyond the impasse we currently face.
The Speech Corbyn Is Not Giving
I would not have called this referendum. And although I thought we should have stayed IN and tried to reform the EU from the inside, I also knew that the chances of such reform were slim. You all saw that I was not a keen campaigner. Now that it’s over, I can say that what held me back were the terms of that referendum: Those who wanted to show Westminster the Red Card for its ruthless austerity policies were forced to join forces with those who sought to consolidate their power there. Now that it’s over, I can also tell you that, unlike the engineers of that referendum, I am prepared to embrace its outcome. Let us rally together and take this unique opportunity to restore democratic power to the British people.
The EU has always been a problematic entity. One of the great peacekeeping and redistribution institutions of the twentieth century, it has also prevented us from developing our own national agenda for equality. By drawing on a cheap labour force, we’ve lost sight of the rights and strengths of our own workforce. A common market has depleted the originality of our local industries. An inflated and centralised bureaucracy has sapped our initiative and capacity for self-governance. These are good reasons to leave, and even if they were not the ones that drove your vote, now is the time to own them. Those of you who ticked that box have created an opportunity; you who did not have been given one.
As we embark on reinventing the United Kingdom, we need to remember that we cannot simply go back. We need also to remember that we can’t work alone. There is urgent need for an inclusive project of a better kind than the EU has proved to be: one that will reach out to those within our still united nation, as well as those around Europe who have their own critiques of Brussels. Bearing in mind that the Scottish people have a constitutional right to refuse it, we must reach out our hand to them in these next months, asserting that we are in many ways better placed to share the SNP agenda than we were a week ago. And we need to look internationally, to those other movements on behalf of working people in South Asia and Latin America.
Many of you voted, of course, in the belief that we needed to close borders: that Britain is too full. It’s time to disassociate ourselves from the ugliest versions of this cry, lest we undermine respect for our own movement and introduce parallels with the worst moments in European history. However, we must recognise those who hold that agenda dear will need a place in the new government. If I am elected as Prime Minister, it will be my job to hold another referendum––not one that undoes what we achieved last week, but one that allows you to vote for proportional representation. It is only with proportional representation that we can create a legitimate place for those who today have no choice but to rally around UKIP to voice their demands.
Something extraordinary happened last Thursday. People voted against what they were told was their own economic interest. Whether or not this turns out to be the case, we must harness the energy that comes with knowing that such a vote is possible. In days of strained environments, when the project of ever-increasing economic growth looks less viable than it ever has in human history, we have proved that people do not simply vote with their pockets; that united in the right way, we will vote for something else. A new government must listen to this, must not assume that only money speaks to the people, and must see that those of you in Wales and Cornwall, places of extraordinary natural beauty, have a special role to play in a Britain of which me might be proud in the coming decades. In partnership with the Green Party, we must acknowledge that the industries working for sustainable energy can as well be British as European.
With our exit from the EU––and make no mistake, I will urge that Article 50 is invoked as soon as humanly possible, for the sake of our friends in Europe as well as those of you who expressed this as your will––we face both long- and short-term projects. The long-term one involves winning back those young voters, very many of whom feel betrayed by what happened last week, to a socialist project in Britain, the likes of which they have not seen in their lifetime. We must make sure that they do not lose their opportunities to study and work abroad, or their will to return home. In the short term, we must call and win a general election. Your hard work of revolt against those currently in power will mean nothing if they inherit this result on their own behalf. Division, at the party level and beyond, is precisely what serves the status quo. As long as we refuse to work with those elsewhere in Europe and the world, as long as we reject those who share our hopes for the future but who voted differently on this occasion, we won’t achieve the change we want and need. As long as we’re divided, the people in power will look and act as they’ve always done. Whether or not you chose this future, there is a chance right now to make it ours.
Dr. Christina Lupton is an Associate Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick.
Heiko Henkel is a Visiting Lecturer at the London School of Economics.