The article below was written for the Newbury Weekly News in days following the EU Referendum of 23rd June 2016. Full text:
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The EU referendum result and current uncertainties anger me in many different ways. I am angry with Boris, Nigel and their ‘Leave’ cronies for running a duplicitous campaign, angry at their abdication of responsibility since the result was announced, angry at the Conservatives who have steadfastly ignored the appalling effect cuts to national and local services are having on people’s lives. Last year I heard economists warning that if the gap between rich and poor continued to rise then revolution would be the result. Last Thursday we saw revolution in action.
Across the country, cuts are now well beyond what is needed to tame the national debt. In particular, the government move to cease funding local authorities, is Tory ideology in action. The resulting situation leaves many people feeling they have nothing to lose – and the ‘Leave’ campaign callously exploited this sense of disillusion and disenfranchisement.
Last Thursday over 17 million voices combined in what Tim Farron called a “howl of anger”, directed not just against our EU membership, but against politicians and institutions the electorate consider ‘out of touch’.
In Newbury and West Berkshire we saw a highly effective, cross-party EU campaign. Liberal Democrats stood alongside Labour, Greens, and even progressive Conservatives. A majority of our voters – 48,300 people – voted for Britain to remain in Europe.
People here hurt as much as anywhere and the result was tight. However, the majority of our voters recognised that a vote to remain was a vote for continued growth, a vote for jobs and prosperity for future generations, a vote to reinforce the position of the United Kingdom as a tolerant, generous, outward looking country that welcomes difference and diversity rather than an isolationist nation closing ourselves off from our nearest neighbours.
The outrage we have seen following the referendum is not just a response to the fact that ‘Remain’ lost. The Conservatives have crashed the economy and betrayed the hopes of a generation and, while a national emergency develops, they are pre-occupied with who is going to get what job. Tragically, leading ‘Leave’ politicians have shown themselves to be even more shallow and thoughtless than we originally suspected.
As a result, the Liberal Democrats believe the public deserves the chance to rethink their decision. More than seven thousand new members have already joined the Liberal Democrats in a spontaneous act to resist Johnson and Farage’s vision of a bitter Britain.
I believe the British people deserve a General Election now. Liberal Democrats will fight on a clear and unequivocal promise to restore British prosperity and our role in the world, with the United Kingdom as part of the European Union.
If you agree with us that this injustice to future generations should be overturned, if you want to live in an optimistic and tolerant Britain, if you believe that Britain should be leading on Europe, not sitting on the sidelines, then please join us today in Newbury and West Berkshire. You will be made very welcome.