Former Labour MEP SEB DANCE explains why he is supporting Rosena Allin-Khan in the Labour deputy leadership race.
Britain has left the EU. As a former Labour Member of the European Parliament, as a Remainer, and as a proud pro-European, that’s still not an easy thing for me to say – but it’s the reality. There is no longer a campaign to remain. That doesn’t mean that Boris Johnson’s famous lie of “get Brexit done” has suddenly come true.
The ongoing negotiations with the EU will continue to define our country’s future for years to come. Perhaps one day the fight to join the EU will come. How soon that time comes depends on what we do next. Pro-Europeans must now fight for a close relationship between the UK and our friends in the EU and ongoing rights for UK citizens. The Labour Party must play a crucial role in that fight.
That’s why I’m supporting Doctor Rosena Allin-Khan to become the next deputy leader of Labour. Rosena was elected as the MP for Tooting the week before the EU referendum in 2016. Despite holding a shadow frontbench position, she refused to compromise on her principles or on the promises she’d made to her community, so she broke the whip and voted against triggering Article 50. Considering the shambles that followed Theresa May’s early triggering of Article 50, this has been conclusively demonstrated as the right decision.
Rosena was also the first shadow frontbench minister to come out publicly and call for a People’s Vote. This was an incredibly brave thing to do, at a time when Labour MPs and shadow ministers were being pressured not to speak out against the leadership’s position on Brexit. At a time when the leadership of Labour needed a firm push in the right direction, Rosena was the one brave enough to stand up and do it.
There are some voices in the Labour Party, who’ll try to convince you that Brexit was the only reason for Labour’s failure at the last general election – that backing a public vote cost us seats in the so-called ‘Red Wall’.
But this analysis is deeply misleading, and is simply not supported by the facts. Yes, of course Brexit was a divisive issue, for Labour as much as for anyone else.
The reality however, is that the overwhelming majority of Labour voters, members and supporters voted Remain, wanted us to stay in the EU and wanted a public vote on Brexit. That fact is as true of Labour voters in Redcar, Grimsby or Wakefield as it is of Labour voters in Oxford, Islington or Bristol – Labour’s share of the vote went down in 98% of all seats.
Labour’s position on Brexit was fatally undermined not because supporting a public vote was the wrong position for our voters, but because the leadership of the party took so long to get to that position. We sat in the middle of the road on the biggest issue of our time and neither side trusted us. We lost trust among all our communities.
Rosena knows this – she won’t stop standing up for our internationalist values. I joined the Labour Party because I believe in internationalism and solidarity across borders. So does Rosena. That’s why she’s worked across the world in conflict and disaster zones as a humanitarian doctor, and why she still does shifts in her local hospital as an A&E doctor alongside her work as an MP.
So if you are like me – a proud pro-European, an internationalist and a Labour supporter – and if you want someone as deputy leader who’ll stand up for those values, and who’ll fight for our country to maintain the closest possible relationship with the EU, protecting our workers’ rights, our environmental protections, our food standards, our NHS, and most importantly the rights of EU citizens living in the UK – then vote for Doctor Rosena. Together, let’s take Labour forward.