People keep asking me how I feel today. The truth is I don’t know, I’ve never felt like this before. But a flavour would be a combination of shocked, sad, frustrated, uncertain, exhausted, and emotional.
I met so many people in this campaign and one thing became very clear: Expert opinion and evidence counted for nothing in towns, communities and neighbourhoods that have had extended periods in decline. They simply didn’t believe a word that was said by the Bank of England, business leaders, government, Nobel Prize winners, charities, the US president or even the people running the corner shop.
But a few skilled – and almost universally posh – politicians managed to connect and lead this anti-establishment tsunami into a direction that has no hope of solving the problems they daily experience. This is now a problem stored for the near future.
I would love to bask in the glory of having delivered Hove and Portslade to the ‘Remain’ cause due to my charisma and skilled campaigning…but the humbling truth is that we in Brighton and Hove make up the youngest, highest educated, most mobile and relatively affluent places to live in the country. It means that we were destined to vote as we did. That’s why I spent so much time in other parts of our region that lacked a strong ‘Remain’ voice.
But I am so proud of how we voted. Once again we dared to be different. Today Warren Morgan, leader of our council, said that he will fight to keep us an outward facing, European, city. I’m very proud of him. I know that my job is to make sure that this same attitude has a very strong voice in parliament and in public debate too. I will do all I can.
The coming months will be very trying and complex. I want those who campaigned for Brexit to be held to account for their promises. I’ve been keeping note. I want them to be brought into government so they can stand at the despatch box and held to account…”Could the Secretary of State (Boris Johnson) tell us when the NHS will start receiving the £350m you promised, paid for by the savings of EU membership?”. Nigel Farage should not be allowed to hide, I actually hope he wins a seat to the Commons (just not Hove!) so he too can have nowhere to hide and is forced to face parliament and the consequences of making such wild promises.
I will not let up in my scrutiny of how this unfolds. I will do everything I can to ensure the outward facing nature of our country is preserved.
Those of us working in politics or who support one party or another have to face up to a very uncomfortable truth too. Millions of people have made it very clear that mainstream politics doesn’t speak to them, connect with them, or deliver solutions to the daily challenges they face. I cannot ignore this, especially in places like Dover and the Medway towns that had Labour MPs not long ago but now feel Labour does not have anything to offer them. They have moved towards the extreme ends of the political spectrum in response. I have a lot to say on this which I will do soon as I learned so much from listening to them.
David Cameron has rightly paid the price for his incompetence. Who comes next I don’t know…who’s your guess? But soon after, maybe November, there will likely be a general election as it will be inconceivable to have a prime minister with no public mandate responsible for something as important as the negotiations of our withdrawal from Europe.
It will leave us in Labour to face some hard truths too. I have to be upfront with you because I don’t know another way of doing this job – at times in this campaign it felt like I was carrying the load down here alone and I wasn’t getting the leadership I desperately wanted. Just like in Hove last year in the general election me and my team organised everything, printed everything, and we just did what we felt was right. I’m mentioning this because you will all know that there will be a confidence vote in Jeremy next week and the truth is I’m too tired and emotional to think about it right now. After a day off tomorrow I will reflect on this campaign and consider what it will take to lead us into an imminent general election and I’ll talk to colleagues and read your comments here as I always do. And then I’ll do what I think is right.
There’s been over a thousand comments on this page this week and I’m sorry I’ve not kept up with them but I will read through and engage with as many as I can this weekend. I love doing that!
Please let me know your thoughts on the EU fallout as we move forward. The prime minister will have to make a statement on Monday in the Commons and I will definitely try to get in so anything you say will help me prepare my thoughts and build up my energy again after this really difficult period.
Thanks again for being such a brilliant community and for reaffirming why I love living here so much! Yours, Peter