The Brexit-plus Election is almost done. Those ‘plus’ issues – climate change, the NHS, crime, education, housing, tackling poverty and homelessness – will soon reassert themselves as the priorities they always are for the quality and security of all our lives. But first we must end the chaos that has surrounded government since the 2016 referendum under Cameron, May and now Johnson.
If you haven’t already, please take my very short survey on what your priorities are at this election.
I wish we had resolved Brexit separately from the General Election by putting the least damaging version of Brexit to a second public vote against the option of Remain. I think that would have worked for the majority of both Remainers and Leavers in drawing a line under this most divisive period.
But voters do have a clear choice on Thursday.
The Conservatives will force an exit in January on terms that will leave the country £70 billion worse off after 10 years. Or worse still, if they fail to agree a new trading relationship with the EU by the end of next year, which is very likely, we will leave with no deal, an act of unprecedented economic self-destruction.
Labour will hold a second public vote with the option to Remain. The alternative being a close economic alignment with the EU while declining membership. I, of course, will support Remain with all my energy, as will the vast majority of Labour MPs and members. All other opposition parties share this policy of a second vote, meaning if there is a non-Tory majority in Parliament after the Election, we can move quickly to a referendum.
There are now numerous tactical voting sites advising voters which Party is best placed to beat the Conservatives in each seat. Every one of them advises a vote for Labour in Hammersmith.
If Remain wins a public vote, as I believe it will given the number of young people now eligible to vote (my Brexit survey showed new voters favour Remain by 14 to 1), that really will be getting Brexit done away with. A Johnson government will simply take us into more years of negotiation from a position of weakness.
Policy round up.
I have tried to read the manifestoes of each party with some detachment, but it will not surprise you that I found the Labour one both most persuasive and inspiring. It is the only programme that understands the depth of the problems austerity has caused and the scale of the challenges we face. That is what the debate should have been about in the campaign, and it is no surprise the Johnson has ducked it as he ducks every difficult interview.
Friends of the Earth did an independent analysis of how green each Party was based on their policies. Labour beat the Greens to come top, the Conservatives were not just last but trailed in miles behind the others.
As I beat the Leader of the Green Party in the Guardian analysis of postive voting records on environment issues I was not surprised by this! Labour has hard-wired its response to climate change into economic, transport, housing and employment policies, meaning everyone can contribute to tackling global warming and benefit from doing so.
I hope I am attentive to constituents’ concerns all year round, but obviously in an election campaign when you are knocking on doors or standing outside tube stations and schools for 13 hours a day you meet a lot more people.
What has shocked me in this campaign is the sheer number of people who have found themselves struggling to make ends meet. Foodbank use has increased by over 20% in the past year according to the Trussell Trust, with over 820,000 emergency supplies handed out in the last six months. Rough sleeping is up by 165% since 2010.
Overcrowding, bad and insecure housing is more prevalent than when I was first elected in the 1980s. Few young people or families can afford to buy or rent in Hammersmith & Fulham. Waiting lists at A&E are at record levels. There is a return to rationing in the NHS with people waiting many months for operations or consultant appointments.
Parents are worried about letting teenage children out alone because of the risk to their safety. There are few places for them to go and many fewer police on the streets. It is a toxic mix that allows violent crime to rise.
Labour has policies that will address these fundamental negatives in our society. We did it before in 1997 and we can do it again. It is shaming that the basics of a civilised country have been degraded in this way. And yet David Cameron said recently that he regretted austerity had not been deeper and faster.
The real difference between the Parties today, especially since the moderate Conservative voices were expelled by Johnson, is how in or out of touch they are with the concerns and aspirations of the of people who make up our great and diverse society.
The Labour Party is far from perfect and I have often spoken out when I thought it was in error (hence on my third sacking to date). But it is still the best vehicle for promoting social justice and fairness as well as prosperity for all in the UK. Which is why I hope I get your support in this Election.
Thank you for reading my thoughts over the past few years, and I hope to see you on the other side of Thursday.