By Bev Haigh-Jones
This is the third of our sessions talking to political party representatives in Cornwall to assess their view of their party’s policy. This month is Labour’s turn and originally, we were scheduled to speak to Jayne Kirkham, Labour PPC for Truro & Falmouth. Unfortunately, Jayne was not available on the night, and we were very fortunate that Perran Moon, Labour PPC for Camborne, Redruth & Hayle, stepped in to help us out, for which we were very grateful.
As you can tell from the transcript below, Perran went into great detail and gave us some very honest opinions in his opening statement. He also fielded all our questions with patience and good humour, providing realistic, comprehensive answers to our queries.
“Thank you for the invitation and the chance to speak to you tonight.
I would like to start by saying that I believe that I am currently the most pro-European candidate in the Camborne, Redruth & Hayle constituency. I was born and went to school in Redruth and my father was a GP in the area. I went to university in Hull, during which time I spent a year in Paris, learning the French language. I have one French sister-in-law, one French brother-in-law, and one Swedish sister-in-law. As you might imagine, this has meant I’ve spent a great deal of time in mainland Europe. I say “mainland” deliberately as we are all, after all, European.
I was always conscious of the massive social and political influences that came with being part of the EU and the benefits that provided, which were then lost as a result of Brexit. While living in the Oxford area I decided to enter politics and became a Labour & Co-operative Party councillor. I also joined Banbury for Europe, campaigning for Remain and spending time on the streets raising awareness of the benefits of EU membership. I was an active campaigner with The People’s Vote and carried the banner during the London march in October 2019.
I do accept that there was frustration around the then-Labour leadership’s refusal to fully endorse the UK’s position within the EU, and this was partly responsible for not winning the last election.
The only constituency in which I would ever stand for Parliament is Camborne, Redruth & Hayle, as that is the place of my birth, where I grew up and I feel strongly about relieving the levels of deprivation which now exist here. Fortunately, I was selected as the Labour Parliamentary Candidate for the area in November last year and work has already begun towards the next election.
Five of the six constituencies in Cornwall voted Leave in the referendum, CRH being one, so the task of turning around attitudes to Europe will not be an easy one. Nevertheless, it is pointless blaming Leave voters. Instead we should ensure the blame is pinned squarely on the shoulders of those who lied in the run up to the referendum. I firmly believe that our best chance of rebuilding the UK’s relationship with the EU is by electing pro-European candidates in previously Leave-voting constituencies.
Regarding Labour Party policy, our position is clear. We acknowledge the need for a closer relationship with the EU, particularly in specific sectors such as social care, farming, fishing, Erasmus, scientific cooperation. I’m also a member of Labour Movement for Europe, which is currently chaired by Stella Creasy MP, and if Labour wins the next election a priority would be to sit down with EU representatives in a spirit of collaboration and mutual respect to discuss specific areas of co-operation, from our position outside the EU.
Some people may ask about membership of the EU – I simply do not envisage rejoining under the next Labour government, but I do expect a much closer relationship. Many of the people that we speak to on the doorsteps do still say that they voted Conservative to “get Brexit done”, though a proportion also now admit that they haven’t got what they expected as a result. The current priorities of the constituents, though, tend to be much more centred around the cost-of-living crisis, the housing crisis, the lack of quality social care, and exorbitant energy bills. Not Brexit.”
Q –Good to meet you and congratulations on your selection. We do understand your difficulty with policy, as many of us feel that the basic goals go against ours. My question – all EU countries operate some form of proportional representation, and it seems this goes with us voting the way we did – I wonder if people like yourself would support voting reform in the UK?
PM – Please visit my website as it clearly spells out my position on Electoral Reform. There are many Labour members who do want reform. I am in favour because I’m fed up with knocking on doors and being told “I don’t vote because it doesn’t make any difference”. We need more people engaged in the political process and I totally accept that it would bring us more in line with the EU, though it is not the top priority on the doorstep. I am in favour of electoral reform, not for party political reasons, but for democratic reasons.
Q –Thank you for explaining your campaign and Labour policy. You said you want a closer relationship with the EU and to show the UK that it is meaningful and important. I feel that Labour has missed out many people who are pro-EU and I feel that I am being taken for granted as a Labour voter. I will still vote Labour, but I feel like an orphan – rejected! Even now Labour is not recognising and nurturing the left-leaning element of their voters. I feel that if the Greens were more powerful politically, Labour would lose many voters to them.
PM – We are impotent unless we win the election, so the strategy is about winning. If we don’t win, we will lose the NHS and the housing situation in Cornwall will never improve. We have to go with “First Past the Post”, because we have no choice. Many people that we speak to say that they voted for Boris Johnson last time, but they will vote Labour next time. Things are changing now and even Sky News presenters were laughing the other day when it was suggested that the queues at Dover had nothing to do with Brexit. I want a government that takes us away from fossil fuels, that brings in electoral reform and relieves the cost-of-living crisis, creating sustainable highly skilled jobs. I can’t say that Labour would rejoin the EU after the next election. I’m not saying never, but I certainly don’t think that it will be anytime soon. Basically, the Brexit question was stupid. It should not have been asked and it will take years to rebuild the productive economic relationship we had. It is now clear that the damage is huge and there are no benefits of Brexit.
Q – I know what you are saying. I think Labour lost the last election because they weren’t bold enough. Some people won’t even say the “B” word. All our problems started when we lost freedom of movement, etc.
PM – Those conversations are a lot easier when you’re in government, rather than in opposition. A lot of unions would like me to join them on the picket lines, but while I support them, photos of me on a picket line would be used against me by the Tories. Coldly, what we need is to win the next election. Nothing else matters.
Q – I am not a UK voter as I only live here part of the year, and in Holland most of the time. I’m listening from a Dutch perspective – we have a lot of political parties! If Labour gets in it will be hard to introduce a system which means no absolute power, but always a coalition government. I’m not including CfE in this, but in most groups and parties I see no sign of a willingness to work with others. It would need to be all give-and-take, everyone playing nice. Do you think we’re capable of doing that?
PM – Labour is a rainbow of different political backgrounds. I’m an environmentalist and have lots of Green friends. Rachel Reeves will be judging the economy on a green agenda. Regarding a coalition, the problem within Labour is that there is scepticism around the Liberal Democrats because of the 2010 coalition, and that makes it difficult. I do get it, though, that any form of PR may result in no overall majority. Voters do get really frustrated that every change of government results in alterations of much that the previous government has done. First and foremost, I’m a democrat and for the future of the country it is more beneficial to have strong government.
Q– Cornwall really has three parties, and some constituencies will need to “borrow” votes from others in order to win. Will this happen?
PM – In my experience, voters know what is needed for tactical voting. But as constituency boundaries are changing, work will certainly be needed in places like Hayle and St Agnes to raise awareness that the tactical vote against the Tories is for Labour.
Q – Can you see a situation where you would encourage voters to vote Liberal Democrat?
PM – I can’t say that voters should vote X, or Y, but we need to make people aware of the changes and their options.
Q– I don’t think we have further questions, you seem to have covered everything.
PM – Thank you. Organisations like Cornwall for Europe have been absolutely instrumental in maintaining dialogue and public awareness of the Brexit issues.
Yet again, this exercise proved to be an enjoyable and informative one for us and we thank Perran for his time and support. If you wish to know more about Labour Party policy, you can find more here. You can also find out more about Perran’s position on a wide range of policies here.
At the next of these events, we are hoping to hear from a representative of Mebyon Kernow, but this is yet to be confirmed. Look out for a report on this session in your next newsletter.