Britain leaves! What now?

Hi all,

First those of us who opposed Leave need to acknowledge the democratic verdict – in Broxtowe against the recommendations from both Anna Soubry and me, and in Britain against the recommendations from nearly the whole of the political leadership. I won’t pretend I suddenly think it’s a good idea, but it’s a democratic decision and we need to make the best of it. There is no point in insulting the voters! – that’s the kind of political arrogance that has got us to the present position.

I’m not going to get into Tory or other leadership questions here, but rather look at the policy consequences.

  1. EEA or total split?

The fundamental question is going to be which of the two Brexit models we decide to follow. If we join Norway in the EEA, everyday life will continue much as before – we will have free access to the common market, but free immigration will continue. We will have a little more freedom to develop distinctive policies, at the price of a little less influence on European policies which we’ll be nonetheless required by EEA rules to follow. But I don’t think it would lead to massive trade consequences, and it’s probably the policy that business and “continuity” candidates for PM like Theresa May will recommend.

If we decide that curbing immigration is the priority, then the EEA isn’t a solution, and a separate deal will be needed. That seems actually more likely – Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage have all said it’s what they want. In that case, we must be prepared for a long and difficult negotiation, with significant curb on British exports of services in particular. That’s the reason why banking shares have collapsed this morning – down 30% overnight in some cases – and it will have a significant impact on GDP, with knock-on effects on personal economics.

  1. How might we curb immigration?

While I’m not interested in responding to racist attitudes, we need to accept that the sense of lack of control of migration is a worry that plenty of people have without any racist considerations, and that it was the major driver of the result. So what can we do to listen to that?

My personal view is that the government will need to do something to head off concern about this. It was undeniably true that free movement was and is a condition of both EU and EEA membership, and I don’t think that we can simply shrug off voters’ clear concerns and say tough, you’re going to have to accept it anyway.

The obvious solution is the points system which we introduced under the last government and is already largely used for non-EU immigration: broadly speaking, immigrants will need to show there’s a job waiting and that an effort to find UK-based people to fill it has failed. This hasn’t noticeably curbed immigration in practice, because a lot of it does in fact pass this test.

The obvious example is NHS recruitment. The Government has (weirdly) been cutting back on British nursing training and worsening UK doctors’ contracts, so the supply of UK-based doctors and nurses is very limited. The NHS has been dealing with that by recruiting in Eastern Europe, India and Pakistan, and we’ll need to decide whether they can go on doing that (which means that such immigration flows will continue) or curb it (which will mean longer waiting times and declining service, at least for some years until the training cuts are reversed). Less highly-skilled examples are areas like construction and restaurants – the choice here may simply be to put up wages in order to attract more British staff, and the cost of that will simply be higher prices.

An arguable way forward is probably to insist that immigration is necessary where we simply don’t have the skills (as in the NHS) and to curb low-skilled migration: if it means higher prices, that’s a consequence of withdrawal and people accepted there would be costs.

  1. Labour’s position

I’m not a policy decision-maker so the following are suggestions for consideration.

If we do accept some migration curbs, the quid pro quo needs to be really vigorous action to prevent illegal cheap labour being smuggled in, to protect workers against exploitation and to crack down on the massive tax avoidance which blights our economy: it simply isn’t acceptable that we enter a period of serious economic difficulty while people with the right City connections cheerfully avoid sharing the burden by locating offshore.

Being outside the EU will give us some scope to be proactive in this, and I think that Labour needs to seize the opportunity to take the lead in this area. Nobody seriously supposes that the right-wing Conservative leadership that is on the way will have any interest in doing any such thing.

We also need to protect minorities and people already here from any spillover from understandable concerns about free movement into racism and xenophobia. Labour is an anti-racist party and it’s a fundamental principle that we will not compromise on. In particular, people who are already here under policies up to now have a right to be here, and talk of “sending people back” is a far-right fantasy which has little support and we should oppose outright.

It’s quite likely that we will see an election within a year, when the new Tory leader attempts to get a mandate. It’s important that Labour is in a position to offer a distinctive programme of what we will do with the new situation, maximising the opportunities and minimising the economic pain.

People have voted to withdraw in order to give the UK Government greater freedom of action, and we need to accept that – talk of forcing a fresh referendum to have another think is really for the birds. But the vote to leave does not mean that voters want a recklessly reactionary government, and we need to be in a position to say “Yes, we accept the result, and here is the progressive case for a Government that makes the very best of Britain separate from the EU.” We owe it to ourselves to offer that positive alternative, and we owe it to the people who we represent and to British democracy.

The work to develop that programme starts right now. We may have less time than we think.

Best wishes


Posted in Broxtowe | 9 Comments

Jo Cox

Just a few words on Jo Cox’s murder – others more eloquent than me have already said more. I didn’t know her, but she was clearly a quite outstanding woman, who defended refugees despite the unpopularity of the cause and repeated personal threats, and what has happened is utterly terrible.

Three additional comments.

First, we need to remember that it is both a political tragedy and a personal one. As Jeremy Corbyn commented, we in the Labour Party have lost a friend and colleague who worked with us for justice and fairness, but her children have lost a mother and the joy of growing up in a really happy environment. We need to celebrate all that she did to make politics a better place, while respecting the quiet, private grief. Politics is not all of life.

Second, it goes without saying that nobody is responsible for the murder except the murderer (and any accomplices) – we should avoid trying to draw parallels to anyone on the right, in the same way as we ask people not to blame other Muslims for the lunatic in Orlando. It is, however, fair to say that a political climate where terms like “scum” and “traitor” are bandied about create an atmosphere where someone who is unbalanced may feel it’s easier to justify violence. We should accept that the overwhelming majority of people mean well, however much we may disagree with them.

And finally I’m glad that one lesson that has been mentioned is that MPs and other politicians do in general make a real effort to represent their constituents, and we are all aware that there is an element of personal risk in it. Next time you hear someone saying that “all politicians are just out for themselves”, please speak up to disagree.

I do not think you should decide your vote on Thursday in reaction to the murder. Please consider the pros and cons carefully, include the spirit of European friendship and solidarity that Jo championed as one element of your decision, then do whatever you think is best for our society. I shall, as you know, be voting Remain. I respect anyone who reaches a different conclusion but please decide carefully, for all our sakes and for the next generation.

Best wishes,


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Debate tonight

Hi all,

I’ve been asked to mention two other events. One is a cross-party debate on the EU tonight (Thursday June 2) with John Hess in the chair at the Pearson centre: Douglas Carswell MP (UKIP) and Nigel Baxter for Leave, Robert Buckland MP (Con) and Kate Godfrey (Lab) for Remain, from 6 to 8. There is another local EU event to follow – I’ll send details when I have them.

Also, the Cossall open gardens event is on Sunday (June 5) from 1 to 5. The BBC gardening expert John Stirland is speaking and there are a range of displays and events, in aid of efforts to refurnish the Old School Hall.

Best regards


Posted in Broxtowe | 2 Comments

Labour in Europe meeting / making sure you’re registered!

Hi all,

With arguably the most important decision of our generation coming up, I’m pleased to have been invited to speak at a meeting of Labour’s campaign to stay in the EU. This will be on Thursday June 9, at 7.15pm, at the West Bridgford Methodist Church, on the corner of Patrick Road and Musters Road. There are two other speakers, Lilian Greenwood, who is MP for Nottingham South and Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, and Alan Rhodes, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council. I’m speaking as a former member of the House of Commons European Scrutiny Select Committee, which specialises in examining all European Union proposals.

This isn’t intended to be a boring meeting with lengthy harangues, but a friendly discussion meeting where we put the case for staying in and respond to questions from the audience. It doesn’t matter whether you agree, disagree or simply aren’t yet quite sure how to vote – we hope to have a constructive discussion (unlike some of the vitriol being thrown around at national level). If you need any more details, the organiser is

However you plan to vote, please note that there are only a few days left to make sure you’re registered – and that applies particularly to anyone (e.g. students) who may be away on the day. You are entitled to register wherever you have a residence (thus students can register both at home and at uni), though of course you can only vote in the same referendum in one place. If you’ve not yet had a polling card, you are probably NOT registered yet – this is because the rules have been massively tightened up and everyone has to register individually. It is REALLY easy to register online. Look up your National Insurance number, and go to this website:

It will take you less than 5 minutes – and however you decide to vote, you ought to have a chance to take part in this seminal decision.

Best regards


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Personal notes; and that battle bus!

Hi all,

Many of you are personal friends as well as politically interested, so you may like to know of some changes in my direction. Up to now, I’ve been working as Director of Policy for Cruelty Free International, a leading animal welfare campaign and as part of the commitment to them I’ve taken a step back from most things political since last year, partly because the role involved working with all parties.

But I’ve come to feel that I wanted to get involved again, and also to do a wider range of work. So as of yesterday I’ve stepped down from the job and I’m now freelance, with a variety of projects for Cruelty Free as well as other things, not only about animal welfare. This also frees me politically and I’m going to return to the arena more actively in various ways. An immediate activity in that context is that I’ve been asked by Jeremy Corbyn and Kerry McCarthy (shadow Secretary of State for DEFRA, which includes animal welfare) to prepare a much more substantial package of animal welfare measures than any major party has had up to now, ranging from breeding practices to slaughterhouses to proper enforcement of the Hunting Act to handling of prosecutions for cruelty. I’m consulting a wide range of groups and expecting to put it to the party conference in September. Input welcome!

This also means that I’m considering putting my name forward for Parliamentary selections again in due course, though no doubt that’s some way off. In the meantime I hope to help out wherever I can: the current Government seems to me frankly past its sell-by date, and I hope to contribute to the job of developing Labour’s programme as a coherent and reasonable alternative – not only in the animal welfare field. It’s particularly important that we have a convincing economic programme, and as I’ve worked in senior management in the pharmaceutical industry and have run two successful small businesses of my own I have ideas to contribute. More on this in the future.

Meanwhile, the police are actively pursuing the issue of possible breaches of the election spending limits here and elsewhere, as I’ve mentioned. You can see the story here:

Which Notts MP is facing questions over election expenses fraud?

Which Notts MP is facing questions over election ex…

Accusations of election expenses fraud have been rearing their heads again this week – and another Nottinghamshire MP is facing questions. Our Political Corre…

View on www.nottinghampos… Preview by Yahoo

Essentially, as I understand it, the Conservatives ferried campaigners around the country in a battle bus, paying for their stays in hotels and presenting them as campaigning for local candidates on local issues, but failing to declare the considerable expenses either as local or national. They have said that this was an administrative error but they now argue the spending should be counted as national, which would mean that the criminal offence of overrunning the local spending limits would not apply. I’m not a lawyer so I can’t comment on that point of law – it’s up to the police and prosecuting authorities to decide.

Conservatives, however, are now tweeting that Labour also had a battle bus which brought campaigners in, implying that it’s much the same thing. That is something that I do know about and it is a distraction from the actual issue of declaring funding of hotel costs. When volunteers came in to the constituency to help – typically coming out from Nottingham – we had a minibus to take them to the specific streets where we were canvassing. In the evening, the volunteers pushed off – presumably to go home. Nobody that I know of stayed in any hotel, and my campaign paid zero accommodation costs for them, so the issue that the police are investigating is unrelated. It is a mistake – to be charitable, perhaps a misunderstanding by Conservatives, who can’t be expected to be familiar with detailed Labour campaign organisation – to try to suggest that this is comparable.


Best regards


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