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IT WASN’T expected that European Union elections would be held next Thursday. But the Conservative government’s complete disarray means that they are.
The elections are taking place in an atmosphere of division and frustration. There is a real threat of far-right and even fascist advance in these European Union elections.
That’s one of the reasons why, whatever people’s views on the European Union or Brexit or what should happen next, people shouldn’t sit on their hands.
BNP leader Nick Griffin was elected as an MEP in the North West in 2009. We cannot allow “Tommy Robinson,” who is standing in the same constituency, to be elected on May 23.
We must stand in solidarity with the Muslim community which he demonises and scapegoats for his own far-right ends and with all black and Jewish communities that will be especially affected by far-right gains.
His politics of intimidation and hate cannot be left unchallenged. We cannot rest on our laurels and think: “It couldn’t happen here,” when it comes to the rise of the far right elsewhere in Europe and around the world.
Nigel Farage must also be exposed and challenged. Whether people voted Leave or Remain, Farage offers no real solutions to the problems faced by working-class people after nine years of Tory austerity.
He skilfully poses as an anti-Establishment politician but is anything but. A privately educated former stockbroker who joined the Tory Party at a young age, he has scapegoated migrants and called for the privatisation of our NHS.
A bosom buddy of Donald Trump and a man who worships the ground that Margaret Thatcher walked on, he is perhaps the greatest snake-oil salesman in modern politics in our country.
Launching our European election campaign, Jeremy Corbyn was right to point out that “it wasn’t nurses and teachers who crashed our economy, it was the bankers and hedge funds. And it wasn’t immigrants who caused the biggest squeeze on wages since the Napoleonic wars, it was bad employers.”
And he was right to assert that “we need solutions, not scapegoats,” because “when you blame your neighbour rather than the powerful for problems with the health system or for overcrowded classrooms or for a lack of housing you’re letting those responsible off the hook.
“You haven’t trained a doctor or a nurse, you haven’t opened a new school, you haven’t built a house, you haven’t secured a penny of extra investment. All you’ve done is fuel an atmosphere of division and nastiness.”
As socialists, we don’t believe that the fundamental divide in our society is between “the 52 per cent” who voted Leave and “the 48 per cent” who voted Remain.
As socialists, we recognise that the fundamental divide in our society is between the 99 per cent and the 1 per cent.
Labour stands for replacing our current rotten system with one that truly works in the interest of the many, not the privileged few.
Labour’s responsibility — which we are uniquely placed to fulfil — is to bring the country together and to heal false divisions which only benefit the ruling elite.
In the middle of passionate debates on our future relationship with Europe, that is a difficult task. But we cannot let our communities be divided with labels of Remainers and Leavers that weren’t used a few years ago.
As socialists, we must recognise that it is necessary for our struggle to take place in many arenas — in workplaces, in colleges and universities, in communities, on the streets and in Parliament. And that struggle must also take place in elections which it wasn’t expected would take place.
A vote for Labour in the European elections is a vote to stop the far right and fascism. It’s a vote against the scapegoating of migrants.
It’s a vote for working with socialists in other countries — whether we are inside or outside the European Union — to avert climate catastrophe.
It’s a vote to bring together communities that voted Leave and communities that voted Remain around the common interest of transforming the economy and power structures in our society in the interests of the many, not the few.
It’s a vote to put another nail in the coffin of Theresa May’s zombie government. And it’s a vote to help provide a springboard for electing the next Labour government — one led by a radical socialist — that can address the deepening crises our country faces.
Richard Burgon is shadow justice secretary and MP for Leeds East.
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