Anthony Gifford | Brexit in crisis: My plea to Corbyn
The next few months will be decisive for Britain has it heads towards Brexit, which could be disastrous in economic and social terms. Recently, I wrote to my friend Jeremy Corbyn about his own role as leader of the Opposition. He has not replied, but I know he is busy. But I hope that the message is getting through.
"We used to campaign together in the 1980s against racism and apartheid, and for peace in Ireland and the Middle East. You stand out in my memory, along with Bernie Grant, as one of the few political representatives who were consistent in your principled positions on these and so many other issues. You have stood for justice through times when legal aid was slashed and social programmes were privatised. You have stood for peace even when your own party went to war. I respect you as a socialist and an internationalist.
I moved to Jamaica, where you once did voluntary service, and where I continue to work for justice, human rights and reparation. I did not miss the UK political scene - until you were elected leader of the Labour Party. I wrote an article in The Gleaner saying that you would galvanise a kaleidoscope of voters who were turned off by the austere and visionless policies of the two main parties, and who longed for an agenda which understood and dealt with the sufferings of the people. I refuted Tony Blair's prediction that you would make Labour unelectable.
You did not disappoint me. You saw off all the challengers and presented a brilliant manifesto to the electorate in 2017. You stood firm against a barrage of hatred from the right-wing media, whose lies must be hard to bear. You won 40 per cent of the vote, and since then you have been, without question, the man who is ready and eager to be our next prime minister.
When that election was called, I wrote another piece under the headline 'Corbyn can and must win'. I said: "Judge him by his policies which are popular and by his integrity, which is the best guarantee that he will deliver on what he promises." But I added a note of caution: "I was concerned that Corbyn did not see that one could be a passionate pro-European and a passionate social reformer at the same time."
As the debate nears crisis point, my concern remains. Before it is too late, I urge you to show more of your internationalist character, and give leadership to the many who think that Brexit, on the terms available, will be an economic and social disaster for our country.
Today, our young people can experience the culture and language and opportunities for study and work, in 27 countries which are no longer foreign, just excitingly different. Tomorrow, the border control lines and the queues at the ports and the cutting off of guaranteed free movement may turn us back to a situation of insularity, leading to more racism, more injustice, and more poverty.
The economic arguments against Brexit are so compelling as to be terrifying. But I want you to be the internationalist once more and see that the unity of Europe is the key to enlightenment, cooperation and peace for all the member countries and especially ours. Every item of your manifesto can be enacted within the EU, and many of its member states have gone further than that in building effective social services and greater employment rights.
The combination of a labour leadership rooting for Europe and rooting for radical social reform would be unstoppable. If that means a second referendum, embrace the opportunity to be the guiding light for a decision to remain. Your truth will outshine the lies of the Brexiteers. Your integrity will show that free movement is a wonderful necessity, not a cue for xenophobia.
Be as passionate for European cooperation, which you will certainly aim to remodel, as you are for social justice. There is no contradiction. The world needs a true internationalist in these times, and if you as Labour leader can light the spark of enthusiasm for Europe, you will be true to yourself and you will perform a massive service for your country and the world."