The most crucial issue of our generation

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The most crucial issue of our generation


Voting in the European elections is over with results about to come in. The Tory leadership race, which will be won by a hardline Brexiteer, has just begun. Everyone who cares about the Labour Party and the country is bracing themselves with a sense of despair.

I want the reports of high turnout in remain areas to reflect a huge gain in votes for Labour, but I fear that won’t be the case. Pessimistic predictions put Labour in third place in this European election behind both Nigel Farage’s far right party and the born-again Liberal Democrats. Even optimists have us in second place and nowhere near the percentage of votes we would need to win a general election.

This was the first election I can remember where Labour Party members, not voters but party members, said they couldn’t support us. One member I met in Bristol broke down in tears as he told me that after 44 years of voting Labour he was going to vote Lib Dem for the first time. Our performance is a direct result of our mealy-mouthed backing for a public vote on Brexit when it is being demanded loud and clear by the overwhelming majority of our members and voters.

Polls show Labour has been losing up to four times more voters to parties giving full backing to a People’s Vote than to Farage. And those same polls show we would have beaten him by a country mile if we had unambiguously backed a public vote on any form of Brexit.  


Once results are in, we must channel our frustration into preventing this mistake repeating itself and winning those voters back. Never again can Labour policy on the most crucial issue of our generation find itself on the wrong side of its members and our voters. Never again can we find ourselves hedging our bets when we needed to make an historic choice about which side we’re on. Lots of Labour people voted leave in 2016 for good reasons. But the Brexit reality we are now facing is a million miles from what was promised during that referendum and we can’t accept it.  

Labour voters and members saw our position in this election for what it was: a deliberate and ultimately self-defeating attempt to triangulate between different groups. A decision based on an electoral calculation rather than our core values.   

The Labour Party is the greatest engine of progress this country has ever known, but I fear that unless our policy on Brexit changes we will not have the opportunity to be the radical reforming government that so many millions of people in our country need. 

The campaign to change that begins now. A small number of people on Labour’s National Executive determined our position going into the European election. From now on it must be our members who decide it. Thousands of party activists are already supporting motions to go to our annual conference demanding that the party campaigns for a public vote. But some members are telling me that’s too late. The conference is just a month before the next EU deadline which won’t allow time to campaign on any new position. I agree, and I will support methods to give members their say earlier.  

Right wingers are trying to spin this election as a mandate for Farage’s no-deal Brexit. That couldn’t be further from the truth. If the polls are right, just a third of people will have given their support to Farage. Although he may have topped the poll, that does not mean a majority of those voting, let alone a majority of the country, want his backward-looking, catastrophic vision of Brexit.  


I fear the Conservative Party will learn precisely the wrong lesson from these results as it embarks on a leadership election where candidates compete for who can be the most Faragiste.  

There is now a real risk that a new Conservative Prime Minister will seek to take the UK crashing out of Europe with no deal by simply running the clock down to the October 31 deadline. 

To force this form of Brexit on the British people when it is clearly opposed by a majority in both Parliament and the country would be a democratic outrage with consequences that will poison our politics for a generation or more. 

That’s why Labour urgently needs to re-think its position and realign with our members and voters and establish a bulwark against Farage’s dark vision becoming reality. We must recognise that the only way to solve this crisis, defeat the far right and to build a lasting settlement on Brexit is to allow the public back into this decision.  

For our party's sake but, most of all for Britain’s sake, Labour needs to find some backbone on Brexit, find our voice - and do it fast.  


 Labour people


Jim Deen, aged 72, climbed Snowdon with me last Saturday. He’s not only physically resilient, he’s politically tough too. After 26 attempts, he was finally elected to Worthing council this month.

Saxon Spence (and I didn't ask her age) joined the Labour Party in 1945. I was honoured to give her a hug at the Exeter EU election rally on Wednesday night. 

K.C. Gordon has been a lifelong member and activist in Arfon, who also served his community working as a mountain rescuer. It was a pleasure to talk mountains and politics with K.C.

Three inspiring reasons why I love Labour people.


The Crying Game

As Prime Minister Theresa May had an unenviably difficult job, and she did it badly. She tried to do what was right for our country. But she failed because by the time she realised the need for compromise it was too late.

History will record she was honourable in her intentions. To those who have plotted her downfall to further their own ambitions, the ideological fanatics, who won't stop until they have cut off all our ties with Europe, history will not be so kind.


Rip it up (and start again)*


You will know that gambling reform is a central part of my policy work. I have seen first-hand the harm that this poorly-regulated industry has done to our communities, including my own constituency of West Bromwich East.

The effects of this harm are all around us. In the clustering of betting shops on our high streets. In the non-stop gambling adverts during football matches. In the devasting consequences on the lives of ordinary people, including loneliness, debt and even suicide.

That is why I have called Britain’s gambling epidemic a public health crisis. I don't want to ban gambling. I enjoy a flutter, but it is clear that for too long the industry has acted beyond reasonable limits. I want to see fairness in the market, consistency in legislation, and a reduction of harm. Instead I see the opposite. This is particularly true when it comes to online gambling.

Over the past few days, my view has been reinforced. The Gambling Commission has just fined four online operators for failing to put in place effective safeguards to prevent money laundering and to protect customers from harm. In one case, when a customer deposited over £100,000 during a 24-hour period, the operator gave him VIP status instead of conducting an affordability check, and offered him cash bonuses despite the bank having declined transactions from two of his cards.

The system is in a mess. I believe that a UK gambling licence should be a hallmark of credibility and trust. It should not be seen as an platform for operators to push the limits of their conditions and responsibilities. 

That is why I have written to DMCS Secretary Jeremy Wright to call for a full review of all remote gambling licences that have been issued since 2014, when changes to the legislation came into effect.

That means a total overhaul of our current register of online gambling licences. All licence-holders will have to reapply for the privilege of operating in the British market. And if they fail to demonstrate financial integrity, or the good character of their owners, or adequate measures to prevent harm, they would face the ultimate punishment -  losing their licence.



Rise of the robots

The new Institute for the Future of Work - the offspring of the commission I set up almost three years ago - believes the technological revolution isn’t just about destruction, it’s about the creation of good work for all. 

On Tuesday in a speech to IFoW I said we cannot leave the future of work to market forces alone, there is too much at stake. The laissez-faire approach has failed.  It’s time for us to take control of technology in the public interest. That’s the only way we will build a future of work where the rise of the robots doesn’t mean a fall in the standards of living.

Work should mean fair pay, fair conditions, equality, dignity, and autonomy. Good work gives us purpose, wellbeing, and the means to shape our own lives. It binds us together as a society. The future of work should be the most important debate we are having in this country. Tragically, it is not.

Here's my piece for The Independent



A question of compromise


Theresa May referenced Nicholas Winton in her emotional resignation speech. She remarked that he told her the importance of compromise. But Alf Dubs points out Nicholas Winton did not compromise when it came to saving refugee children like him.

Have a lovely Bank Holiday weekend. And please keep the faith.