Visit by Stephen Kinnock, MP
For more pictures of the evening, go to the Gallery.
On a balmy night in Shipton-under-Wychwood, Stephen Kinnock came to address the Witney constituency Labour Party at their spring supper. He began by revealing the path the Tory leadership is taking, and where it leads. Tory Britain will become, and is becoming, an atomised, dog-eat-dog, “there’s no such thing as society” country. The Brexit vote has exacerbated and accelerated this. Hardline Brexiteers in Mrs May’s party are using Brexit as a Trojan horse. They dream of a European version of the Cayman Islands – a secretive and unregulated place managed by wealthy tax-dodgers for wealthy tax-dodgers. A low-wage, low skills, low-tax, devil-take-the-hindmost place. All against a rising tide of irresponsible, dangerous nationalism; the cultivation of division and fear.
Looking into the terrified eyes of the Tory leadership in the House, Mr Kinnock told us it is clear they haven’t a clue. They will, and do, say anything to promote their unrealistic programme, but they suspect they will soon be up against a very abrupt and very painful reality check. We all will, of course, and they fear it. They understand that the EU27 must, and will, close ranks. Out in the cold, WTO ruled world, our economic future will be determined by decisions which we can have no influence upon. In truth, Brexit will deliver a massive loss of control; ‘no deal’ will be catastrophic.
The Labour path must be radically different. We must hold the Tories to account for their unrealistic and unachievable ambition of obtaining “the exact same benefits” after Brexit as EU members presently enjoy.
The Labour Party stance must be one of pragmatic idealism. It could be said that the Party exists to regulate the market economy to the benefit of all. This also applies to the labour market. An unlimited influx of cheap labour is highly damaging, lowering wages and conditions and exacerbating social stresses. Mr Kinnock proposed a two-tier system: free movement of highly skilled people (as is absolutely essential to any modern economy) but tight regulation of movement of low-skilled workers. For these, a quota system should be agreed, annually, sector by sector, by government, unions and employers. The Home Secretary should have to propose and defend this every year in Parliament, as the chancellor does his budget.
The Labour Party is patriotic, rather than nationalistic. We understand that if we don’t argue for a system of appropriately regulated immigration, then nationalists will fill the political vacuum and deliver something much more unpleasant.
Mr Kinnock took a plethora of questions from the assembled diners. Answering one of these he confirmed that the character of the Danish Prime Minister in the series Borgen was not based on that of his wife, despite her having actually held that post for several years.
For more pictures by Ric Mellis recording the evening, go to the Picture GalleryGallery.