I have always believed throughout my journalistic career that the vast majority of MPs and councillors go into public life to do good. Jo Cox was indeed one of them. My sympathy to her lovely family and the many Labour MPs who were close friends and are bitterly grieving at this time.


We are on the brink of voting to leave the European Union. Sunday’s polls show a stemming of the Remain advance, but it remains likely we will vote to leave.

The immigration issue is overwhelming the very strong economic arguments to stay in. So what needs to be done to avoid this disastrous result? Increasingly lurid threats about emergency austerity budgets probably won’t do it. An appeal to solid Labour voters in the North of England will help. They hold the key to next Thursday’s vote. So let’s put the Remain case to Labour voters who feel their jobs and neighbourhoods are threatened by “uncontrolled” immigration from the EU.

It is not actually uncontrolled. We do deport EU migrants who break our laws. The Prime Minister has negotiated that they won’t get unemployment benefit. If they haven’t got a job in six months they will can be asked to leave and it will be a full four years before they can claim full benefits in the future. The “pull” factor of being able to get £10,000 a year benefits on arrival is going. All that said most EU immigrants staff the NHS, pick the fruit, pay their taxes and add to our diverse culture as they have done since the Anglo Saxons enforced free movement on the indigenous Celts.

Another “pull” factor is also diminishing. One of the reasons for the large influx of EU workers has been the disparity between the UK economy which has been doing well and the poor performance of the Euro zone. That is now reversing with the latest figures indicating that the Euro zone is doing better than the UK economy which has been hit by all the uncertainty of the referendum.

Turkey will not be joining the EU for years, and we have a veto anyway. It is the case that more immigrants come here from outside the EU.

Finally I have no doubt that if by any chance we narrowly vote to stay in, the politicians and Commissioners of the EU will have got the message that something has to be done about free movement in the Single Market. Senior Labour figures are already indicating they support this.

Other messages to northern Labour voters are these.

Most major employers are urging a Remain vote. Jobs and investment is at risk. Also some Tory Brexiteers have their eye on scrapping workers rights provided by the EU.


If we vote to leave, there is no going back, no second thoughts. The whole complex and expensive process of detaching ourselves from forty years of engagement with our former friends will begin. It will be carried out against a background of economic downturn and turmoil. Just look at what has been happening to the pound and the markets as the likelihood of a Brexit vote has loomed.

The lie about us paying £350m a week remains on the Brexit bus. It is half that and the EU has funded projects in the north of England that Whitehall would never have done as our MD Frank McKenna argues powerfully in his blog.

The Brexiteers have no answer about what is going to happen to the Northern Ireland border with the Republic crossed by 200 roads.

The EU has ensured 70 years of peace after a thousand years of conflict in Europe. Vladimir Putin wants a Brexit vote to destabilise the EU.

This is not a referendum on a David Cameron, a here today gone tomorrow Prime Minister. It is about the future of this country in Europe and the world for the rest of this century. Let us maintain our role of leadership in Europe and respect from the rest of the world by voting to Remain.




Over the next three weeks I’m devoting my blog to the most important decision we will all have to make in our lifetimes. I’m emphatically, with every fibre in my body for Remain.

On June 23 we must take a decision that will bind us or sever us from Europe for the foreseeable future. A reassurance has been built in that treaty changes would trigger a future referendum if we stay in, but if we vote to leave there will be no going back. Some have sought to muddy the waters about the finality of the referendum vote. For instance while Boris Johnson was moving from his true belief (which is to remain) to his careerist position of leave, he flirted with the idea that a UK vote to leave would bring our European partners to their senses and we could have a second referendum on a renegotiated deal. That will not happen. It is a theory put about by some Brexiteers to convince waverers to vote to leave because they will get a chance to reconsider the reckless move.

No, this is it. In theory one vote will be enough to begin the whole ghastly, costly and complicated business of separating us from forty three years of complex arrangements with the EU. A tiny majority for Leave will certainly be enough for the Brexiteers. If there was any suggestion that a Leave vote could be ignored or fudged, the Brexiteers would be ready with their criticism that the EU was trying to get us to keep voting until they got the vote that suited them.

The problem will be with a narrow vote to remain. Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP, has already indicated that the fight would be resumed the next day to get us out. You can already see the excuses being prepared. The government wielded unfair influence and made wild claims. The BBC was in favour of Remain. All that tosh is waiting to be deployed. So let’s get a big majority to Remain with an enthusiastic cheerful campaign that celebrates our membership of this great international institution that has replaced the ravages of war with the hope of peace and prosperity.

To achieve this it is essential that young people register to vote and then turn out. Most of them are in favour of our membership of the EU, why wouldn’t they be? They have grown up with the EU. They travel freely to work and meet new friends without borders getting in the way.

It is also vital that Labour voters turn out to vote to Remain. It is tempting to want to embarrass Cameron and Osborne by staying at home or voting no just to plunge the Tories into chaos. The far more important issue for socialists is to vote to remain. A lot of the Tory Brexitieers want us out so that they can dismantle people’s rights in respect of working hours, health and safety and parental leave. Tory Brexiteers see the EU as a barrier to the naked operation of the free market.

The UK was not conquered in the Second World War nor have we been ruled since by communist or neo fascist governments which was the experience of countries like Poland, Spain and Portugal. For those countries the EU is essential for very fundamental reasons. For us the EU has been a more pragmatic choice, that we are better off economically and politically in the world by being part of this great vision of bringing 28 countries together rather than sitting awkwardly on the global sidelines.

Although our reasons to be part of the EU are different, they are nonetheless equally important. We must Remain on June 23.