Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Together We Stand

To hear Jeremy Corbyn speak about the European Union as a force for social justice yesterday evening was to remind me that, up until now, the debate over the EU referendum has largely been a battle of swinging dicks, trading hypothetical consumer testing points. In a race to appeal to the electorate’s lowest common denominator – what’s in it for me? – it was refreshing to hear a high-profile politician outline what is in it for us.

Corbyn was sharing the stage at St. Mary in the Castle in Hastings with Judy Rogers, a local Labour councillor, and Shakira Martin a vice-president of the National Union of Students. Their compelling stories underlined Corbyn’s point that other voices were not being heard in, what has boiled down to, a playground spat between two Old Etonians.

Rogers outlined the struggle, throughout her career, to achieve pay equality with her male counterparts and Martin, a young black single-parent who was involved in Corbyn’s leadership campaign last year, spoke of the power of education to transform the lives of people in her position.

Taking his cue from these confident women, Jeremy Corbyn outlined a positive view of the EU and defined Britain’s Tory government as the real institution of restrictive self-interest. Rather than focus on business, he proposed a vision for a reformed EU that builds on the great strides in social justice already made in the areas of employment rights, human rights, climate change and air and sea pollution.

It was a message that is not heard often enough in the referendum debate as it fails to permeate a mainstream media obsessed with personalities, conspiracies and splits. Corbyn refuses to play that game and instead invokes the spirit of Robert Tressell by emphasising that we can only move forward if we work together, and that we will only go backwards if we stand in isolation.

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