Blogpost by Labour Councillor in Basildon, cllr Andrew Gordon
IN case you missed it, 51% of Britons voted for a “Brexit” night and in Basildon 68% of its population voted to leave. The immediate consequences of that have been quite drastic, the pound in freefall, billions wiped off our stock, a prime minister resigned and once again our friends in Scotland want themselves to leave our union. As I said Basildon, my hometown voted in favour of leaving the EU, whilst this was never a surprise I think the reasoning behind it is very important to reflect on.
I think we in Basildon are not feeling the benefits of the “economic recovery”, I feel in Basildon people are working long hours for little pay and are often pushed into jobs with little to no employment rights. People in Basildon have also had their wages undercut as a result of employers having access to a market of cheap labour, I find myself asking the question is it right to tell someone to vote to remain who has lost their job as a result of the free movement of people?
What we also need to factor in is that many in Basildon arrived from East London, a place that over the last decade has gone through huge demographic change. Personally I love the diversity of East London however it would be ignorant of me not to argue that the demographic change has not had implications, it has again made some in Basildon feel as though they have lost their identity particularly because once again they have felt that they have had no say over the changes in the place that they grew up in.
Then we have the housing situation, many of the properties we live in are rented and our landlords often don’t give a damn about us or our situation. What many people (including myself) lack in Basildon is an opportunity to take control of their destiny, to have a real say or a real voice.
I am a local councillor for The Labour Party and for some that means my opinion is invalid but I do have a great deal of empathy for the reasoning why people in Basildon voted to leave. This is the first time in an age where people in Basildon have felt as though they can have a real say and can have their voice heard, who am I to take that away?
It would though be wrong to not explore impact of Brexit, because it is going to hit our community hard, we know in the short term there is going to be economic uncertainty and as often when there is economic uncertainty it hits workers on lower and medium incomes the hardest. We also have to seriously consider the implications of some of the larger businesses leaving Basildon, not only would this result in a loss of jobs there would be a loss of business rates which would plunge our public services finances into chaos.
That being said, what is done is done the key thing now is how we respond to the challenges ahead of us. The first being the issue of democracy, leaving the EU will not change people’s feelings towards the current government whose policies have negatively impacted on Basildon residents for a number of years. In my view for politicians to restore trust we need to first and foremost need to provide people with the re-assurance that their concerns are not falling on deaf ears, which means not just listening but providing people with the confidence that something is being done to resolve their concerns.
People are frustrated that they cannot find a home for their loved ones, people are frustrated that they can’t access decent jobs, people are annoyed that their public services are being cut, can we honestly say we are providing people with a clear plan to address those concerns? I honestly don’t know, sometimes as politicians we forget that not everyone is in the political bubble.
The coming years are going to be tough for this country and as I said earlier it is communities like Basildon that will be hit the hardest, we need your voice whether its remain or leave, get political active. Now more than ever we need a strong voice for the workers of this country, we need a political party that is responsive to the needs of those who have it really tough and have an economic plan that is built on fairness.
Some people argue that by leaving Europe we have “taken back control”, I would argue that point is moot and the real control needs to be taken back from a Westminster elite that have ignored the concerns of wider public for far too long.