They say you should never meet your heroes. As a young political activist I can say this is disappointingly true of the politicians we look up to. Too often these men and women, for whom eager young people walk their shoes to pieces while campaigning at elections, turn out to have neither the time nor the inclination to listen to the concerns or ideas of a “bunch of kids”. There are some, though, who buck this trend and who genuinely seem to want to hear what young members have to say; who actually stop and listen to you when you talk.
One such MP in my experience is Stephen Kinnock. Stephen is an MP who turns out for young activists’ events and always seems to have a moment to chat - and rather than just being polite, he genuinely seems to want to know your views. I, and other young Labour Party activists, have to hope that Stephen and the other Labour MPs who are also toying with backing Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal this Saturday, will listen now as we implore them not to do this.
We all understand the pressure MPs are under to find compromise in the Brexit nightmare. But I have to tell them that, from the perspective of a young person looking to their future, Johnson’s Brexit deal is not that compromise. Far from a solution that would protect our future jobs and savings (such as a soft Norway-style Brexit), Johnson has delivered a deal that is demonstrably harder and far more destructive than the one Theresa May saw defeated three times.
“Labour MPs, I beg you to think of the young when you vote on Saturday, for when you do you will hold our futures, and the future of our party, in your hands.”
When it was offered to him on Newsnight that the Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer had said as much, Ronnie Campbell MP responded: “Well, Keir would say that, he’s 100% Remainer”. Fine. Don’t take it from Keir – take it from the figures of the highly respected and non-partisan think tank UK in a Changing Europe.
Their report on the Johnson proposals makes it clear that they “fall somewhere between Theresa May’s Agreement and a WTO scenario in terms of lost economic growth”. The modelling sees the UK taking a long term hit of between -5.5 to -7% on income per capita - and the average person as less well off by £2,250 a year. For young people like me, this means a substantial loss of earnings across our lifetimes. It means opportunities lost and ambitions abandoned.
It is, in fact, the long-term nature of the impacts that speak to the most insidious aspect of Johnson’s Brexit, and the reason why its passing on Saturday would be devastating for the Labour party. On the same Newsnight programme where Campbell laid out his support, Tory MP and hard Brexiter John Baron backed the deal by saying: “If there’s no-deal struck in the transition period up to December 2020, the UK has the right, with the Northern Ireland provisions in place to leave on no-deal terms.” That is why members of the ERG are lining up to support this deal: because they know that they only have to wait until Christmas a year from now to finally get the disastrous no-deal Brexit they desire.
In the intervening period they know that Johnson can use his “success” at having passed the deal to smash Labour at a general election before the negative impact hits. With a majority and several years in power then secured, the Conservatives can carry out the deregulation and lowering of standards which has always been their aim. Once again, it is our future jobs and rights which are in peril, and the future of the party we’ve worked so hard for smashed to pieces.
They say you should never meet your heroes. But it really can make all the difference if they take the time to listen to you. I have to hope that Stephen, Melanie, Lucy, Gloria, Gareth and the rest of those Labour MPs thinking of voting for Johnson’s deal will hear me and other young people. We understand your position, but are begging you to understand ours too.
If you vote down this destructive deal that Johnson is trying to ram through on Saturday then we will be with you in trying to find a true compromise outcome to Brexit - because this isn’t it. I beg you to think of us when you vote on Saturday, for when you do you will hold our futures, and the future of our party, in your hands.
Mark Mcvitie is a Labour Party activist