As a working class immigrant, I'm sick of hearing people like Farage talk about representing the 'common man'.
On 26th June 2016, as I was returning home from work at Winchester, I was confronted by two men on the train who pointed to my “Labour In” sticker and pointedly told me, “Get the F*** Out.”
I was shaken, angry and disappointed that the country I have been calling home for the past ten years doesn’t consider me one of their own and was asking me to leave. The Brexit campaign, which seems to have been won almost entirely on the single issue of immigration, has been one of the most divisive things to threaten community and social cohesion in this country.
It has been almost three years since that fateful referendum and it has become increasingly clear that there is no progressive vision of Brexit from this Tory government.
It has remained a right wing nationalist project supported by the likes of Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and others. From the very beginning of the campaign taking cue from their colonial past, Brexit campaigners have played communities against each other. Their vision of Britain steeped in capitalist fantasy sees it unshackled from regulations and protections afforded by the European union and aggressive privatisation of services such as the NHS.
I am aware that several Labour voters rightly voted to leave. In areas which has seen little growth and no incentives from being part of the EU, working class people have rightly asked what good has the EU done for them. It is now up to us as politicians on the progressive left to make that radical left case demanding a change and making sure that communities left behind are part of the renewed vision going forward.
As a working class immigrant from India I have been particularly angry to see commentators talk about the ‘real’ working class. This is yet another tactic of the right to divide us, one which we must rise above. Austerity is a political project which effects us all and if we want to see our public services thriving and a strong economy then we have to fight for our internationalist socialist values.
Freedom of movement has been a sore point. What the Brexiteers will never admit is that this primarily benefits working class people since the wealthy and upper middle class can live and work almost anywhere they choose. Not only does it allow working people to escape poverty and unemployment but also oppression – be it Polish and Irish (until recently) women moving to exercise their reproductive rights or the gay couple from Lithuania who cannot get married in their own country.
As a socialist, immigrant whose politics is steeped in feminist and queer politics, these Euro elections really matter to me and should matter to all of us. One of the big concerns is also the loss of protection currently afforded to us by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union which the tory government wants to rip up. This will lead to one of the biggest exercises of rolling back protection for the most vulnerable in UK.
I am by no means saying that the EU is a beacon of progressive politics. When it comes to issues like migration the EU spends millions to guard its external borders, it continues to have greenwashing policies which are starting to be challenged, and the benefits of EU membership just like globalization remain uneven. These can however be changed by making sure we have a set of progressive socialist MEP’s representing our voice in Strasbourg.
We have seen a growth of far-right populism across the country where rape threats from UKIP candidates and homophobic statements from Brexit candidates are being normalised. These people will continue using ethnonationalist comments to discredit those of us who want to make a radical case for Europe in the upcoming elections. We must stand against this rhetoric of hate.
I look forward to start campaigning in Nigel Farage’s own backyard- South East England and make the positive case for Labour. The only way to ensure we halt the rise of far right populism and make sure we have a progressive socialist vision for Europe is to vote Labour.
Dr Rohit K Dasgupta is an MEP candidate in South East England. He is a Labour-Cooperative councillor in Newham and senior lecturer in global communication and development at Loughborough University.
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