Only Labour can stop Nigel Farage and his Thatcherite revival

Andrew Adonis


In the European elections, in just 31 days’ time, Britain faces a stark choice. Will we back Nigel Farage or stop him? To stop Farage, Labour must come out on top. This isn’t just a mathematical and presentational reality (no other opposition party is likely to outpoll him), it is also a political imperative. For to defeat Farage, it is essential that we not only outvote him but also overwhelm his hard-right Thatcherite ideology.

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Only Labour, pro-European and committed to social and economic transformation, can defeat Farage and Faragism with the credibility of an alternative government. That is why I am standing to become a Labour MEP, with a mission to remain and reform, big time.

In the south-west, where I am running, you can see the devastation Brexit is already causing. Airbus is one of the region’s biggest employers and the cornerstone of the Bristol hi-tech economy. It will likely disinvest after Brexit. This is layered on top of the vandalism to the NHS and public services wrought by a decade of Tory austerity.

Bristol has seen a 128% rise in homelessness and rough sleeping over the last three years. Across the south-west, 121,000 families relied on a food bank emergency pack in the 2017/2018 financial year. Over the last year I have held packed-out events across the south-west – in Exeter, Bristol, Penzance, Bath, Weymouth, Salisbury, Gloucester, and Cheltenham – and I have heard many stories of people downtrodden by austerity. People rightly sense that Brexit is a recipe for austerity without end.

Austerity and Brexit are two sides of the same coin, like the Brexit party and the Tories. The distinction now barely exists: a Survation poll of Tory councillors on Sunday revealed Farage to be the most popular candidate for Tory leader, second only to Boris Johnson.

There seems little doubt that Brexit will lead to disaster capitalism: Nigel Lawson, the godfather of Brexit as well as climate change denial, boasted as much in an article for the Financial Times shortly after the 2016 referendum headlined: “Brexit gives us the chance to finish the Thatcher revolution”. Systematic social and environmental deregulation, and the economics of austerity while enriching the rich, will be the markers of Farage/Tory politics after Brexit. Singapore-on-Sea for the rich; degradation for the rest.

Person sleeping rough

‘Bristol has seen a 128% rise in homelessness and rough sleeping over the last three years.’ Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

That is why a vote for Labour is essential in these elections. It will show Farage, Theresa May and the hard Brexiters that we are not surrendering to a Thatcherism revival project.

Labour is committed to a referendum in this parliament on May’s Brexit deal and any other form of Brexit, with an option to stay in the EU, so Labour is the party for remainers. But Labour stands for more than that. A Labour government would end austerity, reinvigorate our public services, and invest nationwide. We stand for bringing our railways back into public ownership – as I did in 2009 when I nationalised the east coast mainline as transport secretary – so that people, not profit, are at the heart of our public transport. We stand for ending the scourge of homelessness and giving our schools the resources to flourish.

If Farage’s party wins these European elections there will be consequences far beyond Brexit. His victory will embolden the hard right of the Conservative party. They will prosecute their Thatcherite revolution with renewed zeal. They will take his success as a mandate for a hard, no-deal Brexit. And then they will set about dismantling our public services and our public realm.

There is only one party that can stop Farage in these elections. The polling shows Labour and the Brexit party in a battle for first place. The Tories lag behind, and the other opposition parties further behind still. I have friends whom I respect in those parties, but none of them can or will comprehensively defeat Farage.

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There are a myriad of possible choices in an election, but usually a straight choice if you are serious about power. So it is on 23 May. The winner will be either Farage or Labour – opposed to austerity, committed to a referendum on any Brexit deal in this parliament.

As with Donald Trump, Farage is helped by those who don’t appreciate the stakes. Hundreds of thousands of Bernie Sanders supporters chose not to vote, or to vote for third-party candidates, over Hillary Clinton. Partly as a result of those votes, Trump became president of the United States. There is a real danger of something similar happening here if we mess up. It is our duty not to fail.

• Andrew Adonis is a Labour peer, and former transport minister. He is standing to become a Labour MEP at the European elections