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Interview ‘Let's not wait ‘til it comes to us. Let’s get out there and confront this fascist menace directly’

AS BRITAIN goes to vote in European elections no-one expected nearly three years after we voted to leave the EU, Ben Chacko speaks to Stop the War Coalition chair MURAD QURESHI, who’s standing for Labour

The European Parliament lacks legislative power and cannot change the EU’s policies, which are set by the Commission in line with its treaties, which the parliament can’t amend. What’s the point in electing people to this body – is it not just a waste of public money?

I’ve had the privilege of representing Londoners at City Hall and that’s what I’d be doing in the European Parliament.

I’m well aware of its limitations, but it is an arena where we can raise important issues.

In London we are still living with the fallout from the Grenfell Tower fire and one of our manifesto commitments is to change building and fire safety regulations across Europe, setting a higher standard.

My understanding is that is an area where the European Parliament can act, and this initiative comes from the Fire Brigades Union.

I don’t see this as another referendum on Brexit. The European Parliament can exert pressure on the Commission and the Council over issues like climate change, and this is a problem that we can’t solve on our own.

The European Parliament has voted for a ban on single-use plastics for example.

There’s also the growth of fascism. I know there is home-grown fascism in Britain but a lot of this extremism is coming from European countries. I say don’t wait ‘til it comes to us — let’s get out there and confront this menace directly at a European level.

The US is threatening aggression against Iran and Venezuela, and the EU seems complicit in this march to war. The European Parliament voted to recognise Venezuela’s self-declared “president” Juan Guaido, for example. 

Donald Trump’s use of military threats and economic sanctions is reckless.

The EU was a signatory to the Iranian nuclear deal and it has really let that agreement down by refusing to defend it. Both here and on Venezuela, what we’re looking at is regime change for oil — and we’ve been here before.

If we hadn’t overthrown [Iran’s elected leader Mohammad] Mossadeq in 1953 we might not have the ayatollahs’ regime now, and the US has a record of bloody regime change in Latin America too.

The European Parliament shouldn’t have recognised Guaido, who doesn’t have a mandate. He has the support of the world’s sole superpower and that’s about it. It’s as if [US House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi declared herself president of the US — it’s just not a legitimate claim.

If I am elected I’d make a beeline for the foreign affairs committee and make a lot of hoo-hah. The EU could play a role if it changed its position on Iran and Venezuela. 

Many MEP candidates have signed a pledge to support a second referendum, though you haven’t. What would you say to a Leave supporter who says they can’t trust Labour to implement the referendum?

I didn’t sign that because I think it’s the worst argument you can make. It’s like arguing for a second coin toss before a football match  — why not a third or a fourth?

That’s my instinct, but negotiations have collapsed and I can’t see another way out right now. Some unions have used the analogy of going back to the members with a deal you’ve negotiated after a vote for strike action, and there’s a logic there. But calls for a second vote are an admission of failure by politicians.

Ultimately the European Parliament won’t determine this — it’s up to the House of Commons. In this election what you want are sods like me to go and represent you there, and Labour is the only party with a vision of rebuilding Britain that can bring Leavers and Remainers together.

We can address the reasons people voted to Leave by ending austerity and redistributing power to regions who feel it has been taken away.

Feedback I’ve heard from Labour canvassers are that many young people sympathetic to Jeremy Corbyn are thinking of voting Green, which may be linked to the school strikes and Extinction Rebellion protests. What would you say to them?

I’m glad our party has recognised the climate emergency and pushed a motion through the Commons making our Parliament the first to acknowledge it.

The danger is as stark as we are being told. We need dramatic change in the next 12 years not just over emissions but over the extinction of species.

Labour has policies on a green industrial revolution that can make a real difference and it’s a priority to push this government out so we can implement them.

The best way to do that is to vote Labour.

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