Today Is Election Day – Be Heard!

Whatever the result of today’s vote for the European Elections, UKIP have managed at least one achievement on their own terms – they made this election a referendum on immigration. In 2005 when Michael Howard did the same at the general election (remember the posters, “It’s not racist to want to limit immigration”?), he was punished for it by the electorate and it led Tony Blair to make one of the best speeches on the subject I’ve ever heard. He said:

“I never want this to be an issue that divides our country, that sets communities against each other. We are a tolerant, decent nation. That tolerance should not be abused. But neither should it be turned on its head. It is the duty of government to deal with the issues of both asylum and immigration. But they should not be exploited by a politics that, in desperation, seeks refuge in them.

And it’s our duty as politicians not to exploit those worries, those anxieties, but deliver workable solutions to ease genuine concernsÂ…what we won’t ever do is play politics with them, or use them to undo the fantastic work that has been done – and is being done – to improve race and community relations in Britain.”

Almost ten years later UKIP has identified a seem in public opinion that worries about the impact of immigration on our evolving communities and they have played politics with it to the extreme.

I am an internationalist – to me that means I care and am actively interested in other cultures and countries. It also means I want Britain to be an active and influential force in how our world evolves.

When you look at some of the key challenges our nation faces into the future we settle on issues like global warming, international security, obesity and food supply, energy security, global economic growth and stability, and yes, migration. Each of these issues will profoundly impact our country as we move forward and cannot be solved without the cooperation of international partners.

So the key question is this: in a world where prosperity and influence grows in countries open to trade, cultural exchange, and the movement of labour, is the UK going to bring more influence and prosperity to its citizens as an active partner seeking change as part of the world’s largest economic and socially cooperative zone, or by isolating ourselves and acting alone? I believe it is the former.

But I don’t believe in a status quo, I believe that the EU must modernise. Incidentally, I also believe the same of the other institutions that govern our world, like the UN and World Bank. Our world is not governed as effectively as it should be but the lesson of human history suggests that remedies lie in engagement and not isolation and never, ever, in a xenophobic blame-game of the sort employed by UKIP.

My vote today was for Labour. I feel pride every time I vote because I’m proud to live in a country where I can vote and that my vote matters. But today I was able to choose a party that has the courage to work for change rather than running away from it. Which puts its energy into winning for British citizens by working hard at the European Parliament, not arrogantly refusing to participate because you have been elected to an institution you despise. And a party which makes bold decisions in order to deliver in the interest of the whole country not just to solve a political crisis within a political party as is the case with the Conservatives.

That’s why I voted for Labour today. I hope you do the same, but most of all I just hope you vote – for no other reason than because you can.
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