Watch ‘#90secondEngland: the EU divides’, our EU elections special, narrated by John Denham:
May fell. Labour collapsed. The Brexit Party won but Remainers just beat Leavers.
The coming conflict between hard Brexit and no Brexit will set town, country and seaside against big cities; pit many working-class former Labour voters against much of the liberal left; and leave a deeply divided England that will set progressive politics back for years.
Voters who emphasise their Englishness were mostly Leavers, angry at being ignored and powerless.
Labour must unite England across this deep divide; not back one side against the other. We are not ‘for the many not the few’ if we speak only for some of the many. Rejecting austerity won’t be enough to unite a nation divided by deeply held values.
Leavers and Remainers both hold values that England needs. Leavers’ belief in our ability to stand on our own feet and build a better society show the patriotism and solidarity that enabled Labour to rebuild a war-shattered country and create the NHS. Remainers know we cannot solve all our problems alone and see the world as a place of opportunity, not a place to fear.
Labour needs to say it values both.
If Brexit was a demand to be heard, Labour shifting power from Westminster to England’s localities; not impose London values on everyone.
Of course, some Remainers just want to protect their privileged opportunities, not caring about the rest of England. Some Leavers lapse into bigotry and racism.
Labour can easily reject both.
If the choice is hard Brexit or no Brexit, people and parties will have to choose. But over the coming months, Labour must talk a politics to unite England, not divide it.