A recording of the meeting can be found here
Speakers: David Campbell Bannerman (Tory MEP), Gerard Batton (Ukip MEP) Cllr Helen Harrison (Nation coordinator of GO), Bill Cash (Tory MP), Ruth Lea (Economist ) John Boyd (Campaign against Euro-federalism – CAEF ), Tom Pursglove (Tory MP) , Kate Hoey (Labour MP), David Davis (Tory MP), Nigel Farage (Ukip Leader) , George Galloway (Respect)
The meeting was chaired by Peter Bone (Tory MP)
Report by Robert Henderson
The meeting was encouraging for those who hope for a vote to leave the EU. 2,000 odd people crammed themselves into an arena which could probably only seat 1,500 so that hundreds were left standing. Despite this very few left during the better part of two and a half hours of speeches.
It was a strong hand of speakers. The various speakers gave the audience a good spread of personality: David Davis, who was relaxed, witty and authoritative. Bill Cash unusually animated – for some reason he seemed to be in a rage – Ruth Lea calm, Nigel Farage forthright, Kate Hoey energetic and George Galloway booming.
They pressed hard on the important issues which Cameron had left untouched during his “renegotiation” : national sovereignty, democracy and control of our borders, but several of the speakers also raised issues which have long been kept under wraps by the Left, namely, namely, the undercutting of wages by mass immigration from Europe, the pressure on public services , housing, and schools from immigration.
Perhaps the most interesting speech came from John Boyd of the Campaign against Euro-federalism. Interesting because CAEF was “ founded in 1992 to address the labour and trade union movement and win that movement back to the anti-EU position it held from the 1960’s until 1988.” Labour against the EU will seem an oddity to many, especially the young, but until the Party threw down its traditional aims in despair after being out of office for so long after 1979, it was natural for Labour to object to the EU as being both undemocratic and a capitalist club. Long before Britain joined what was then the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1972 the labour movement including the trade unions had been opposed to mass immigration because it undercut wages, embraced protectionism and saw the nationalisation of industries such as the public utilities, railways and coal mines as simple national common sense. Nor was patriotism a dirty word for Labour then. Men such as Attlee and Ernie Bevan were deep-rooted and natural patriots.
All those ideas and ideals fit quite naturally into the psyche of the working man and woman. It would not be a massive emotional shift for the Labour Party and the unions to come out for Brexit on the grounds that whilst Britain is within the EU immigrants will compete for jobs and reduce wages in Britain (the free movement of labour), vital industries cannot be preserved (the ban on state aid, and the single Market) and pay and conditions be protected by law (the free movement of labour and trade agreements made by the EU). In his speech Boyd pointed to the dangers of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Treaty (TTIP) currently being negotiated by the EU with the USA which bids fair to reduce the pay and conditions of workers and upend the NHS. Boyd was also very firmly against the free movement of labour.
Galloway undoubtedly brings baggage with him, not least over financial matters – there have been questions over various charities he has run and recently a limited company of his has liquidated owing HMRC a reported £100,000 in tax – but in a campaign such as this which is centred on a single issue and one of the of the greatest moment, those who would be strange bedfellows in most circumstances can sleep together without undue difficulty. He is indubitably a gifted public speaker who will appeal to not just Muslims (as long as Galloway persuades them to vote OUT it doesn’t matter), but to working-class people generally, a huge constituency which has been more or less ignored by mainstream politicians in the past quarter century. He might even sway a substantial number of those in Scotland.
The important thing to fix firmly upon is that what matters here is beautifully simple: it is to win the referendum. How it is won is irrelevant in terms of why people vote to leave the EU. It does not matter a jot if people seek different things from a Britain freed from the EU. There are free traders and laissez faire disciples who see Britain’s departure from the EU as a freeing of Britain from the bonds of EU regulation and restriction, there are those who simply want to resurrect British sovereignty by leaving, there are those on the Left who see the EU as a capitalist club. More generally, a large majority of the British people want an end to unlimited immigration from the EU. These varying ends can be fought over after a vote to leave is obtained.
Will GO play a large role in the referendum campaign? Can it persuade the Electoral Commission to designate it as the lead organisation for the OUT campaign? It has got three things going for it.
1.It can reasonably claim to have the broadest political range amongst its leading members of the various OUT organisations.
2. Nigel Farage committed Ukip, the oldest and largest anti-EU in Britain, wholeheartedly to Grassroots Out at the meeting.
3. As yet GO has not fallen prey to the type of internecine squabbling and argument which has afflicted the other groups advocating Brexit.