Nelson’s Column: My predictions about the UKIP surge and Brexit support in Thurrock were correct. When will Labour start to take notice?
Thursday, 23 June 2016 is a historical day for Britain: 52% of the country voted to leave the EU and 48% voted to remain. This is Britain’s Independence Day and I am so proud of Britain and my beloved borough of Thurrock for voting to leave the EU. Democracy has spoken.
When I campaigned for the Thurrock Labour Party in 2014 and 2015, the two biggest issues that came up on the streets and doorsteps were immigration and the EU. Thurrock residents, particularly Labour supporters, felt that Labour was not listening to their concerns about immigration and the EU, and residents were also very angry at Ed Miliband’s refused to offer an EU Referendum. Thurrock residents felt that UKIP was the only party reaching out to working class voters and the only party addressing the effects of immigration and the unpopularity of the EU. This is how Labour voters felt across the country, particularly in working class communities in the North of England where UKIP came in at second place behind Labour.
I knew this would cause big problems for Labour in Thurrock and across the country, I warned the party about this when I delivered a speech on behalf of Jeremy Corbyn during the leadership campaign in the summer of 2015. Despite my warning and predictions, Labour failed to listen even though I was credited for raising these important issues.
My predictions were correct, and Labour lost over 1 million votes to UKIP at the General Election. Thurrock Labour suffered further defeats to UKIP in last month’s local elections after UKIP won 4 Labour seats, knocking the party to third place. And only a fortnight ago, Labour suffered further defeat to UKIP in a council by-election in Basildon. The UKIP threat is happening and it is real.
My predictions about Thurrock voting to leave the EU were also correct, as 72% of the borough voted to leave. This is a stunning victory for the Leave Campaign and I am immensely proud that Thurrock had the courage to vote to leave the EU. Only this week, Belgian TV channel Canvas TV labelled Thurrock ‘the most eurosceptic part of Britain’. I was proud of that.
I have been a left-wing eurosceptic for a long time now and I decided to announce my support for Brexit when I left the Labour Party in December 2015. When I campaigned for Labour, I had to tow the party line and support the EU even though it went against my principles. I decided to vote to leave the EU in solidarity with my community in Thurrock because as a local political activist and social justice campaigner I will always put Thurrock first. I am not a politician, but if I do enter politics I have proven to Thurrock that I will always put the community first.
I was born and raised in Thurrock and I know the borough well, and when I campaigned for Labour I helped raise the party’s profile because of my hard work on the ground and on social media; that is what Labour told me. I connected with the Thurrock community and I addressed the concerns that were being raised.
Labour has failed to listen to working class voters across the country which is why UKIP support has surged and why Britain voted to leave the EU. Working class voters see Labour as a toxic brand and that is because the party has failed to listen and engage. This needs to change and Labour needs to adopt UKIP’s stance towards immigration and support an Australian-style points based immigration system. Had Jeremy Corbyn and Labour backed the Leave Campaign then Corbyn would have led the campaign and Labour would have haemorrhaged UKIP.
I have campaigned constructively to leave the EU and I have worked in solidarity with UKIP for the benefit of Thurrock and the benefit of Britain. Prior to the Leave Campaign, my relationship with Thurrock UKIP was toxic but it has been a pleasure working with them. This has caused me to fall out with some people, but it was my decision and I make no apology for it.
I want a Corbyn-led Labour government and a Labour MP in Thurrock before 2020, and I also want Labour to have a better relationship with working class voters across the country. David Cameron has announced his resignation and this will undoubtedly lead to a snap election in October when Cameron steps down, so now is the time for Labour to unite behind Corbyn and create a powerful opposition to the Tories who are now in a very vulnerable position. Labour also needs to work more closely with the SNP in Scotland.
Corbyn and Labour need to get ready for a snap election and need to seize the opportunity to kick the Tories while they are down. The Tory civil war will now intensify as the Tory leadership campaign tears the party apart.
Labour Leave, UKIP, Thurrock and Britain, I solute you and together we have made history in Britain. I call for 23 June to be named Independence Day and made a national public holiday so that we can celebrate our freedom from the EU dictatorship.
Written by Scott Nelson, left-wing Brexit supporter and former Labour Party member.
Follow me on Twitter @SocialistVoice