No deal Brexit ‘won’t deliver what Peterborough public wants’

Lisa Forbes delivering her victory speech at the by-election count
Lisa Forbes delivering her victory speech at the by-election count
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The Labour Group and I are delighted that Lisa Forbes was elected to be our new MP, writes leader of the Labour group on Peterborough City Council Cllr Shaz Nawaz.

A former councillor, she knows very well the challenges which face our city, and I am certain she will be an articulate and forceful advocate for our community.

It was a hard-fought campaign, but fairly won.

The reaction among Conservatives to their third-place result has been interesting. I’ve seen a number of them suggest that the only way forward is to embrace a no-deal Brexit; this reminded me of a political axiom which suggests the Tories have only two modes, complacency and panic. Coming third in a seat which they previously held for 12 years may have pressed the panic button.

Suggesting that the only thing to do is to out-Brexit the Brexit Party is probably unwise.

People tend to prefer originals over imitations. However, there is another element to it: where is the element of leadership in all this? The Tories appear to be running around with a bucket with holes in the bottom, trying to catch any drop of public opinion and approval.

Any good leader will listen and take stock of public opinion; but a leader, by his or her very role, will be there to scan the horizon and urge a particular direction, and encourage and persuade the rest to follow.

For example, the Labour Group is showing leadership with our plans for building more housing. We have listened to the concerns of the public about how it’s difficult to find affordable homes. We have contemplated it, come up with new ideas, and now we are working to persuade Peterborough to go in the direction we have set out. We are challenged to prove our ideas, which we do. But nevertheless, we are setting a course. As this example shows, leadership finds a balance between proposing and listening. We are currently lumbered with a Conservative administration that neither proposes nor listens, unless it’s under extreme duress.

The Conservatives should be warned: embracing a hard Brexit may solve a short-term problem with those who voted Leave. But their plans for hard Brexit as they presently stand will not build one more home, not hire one more nurse or doctor, not ensure one more child is educated, not ensure one more policeman is put out on the beat. On the contrary, the costs associated with such an approach may preclude these necessities from being provided.

Leadership would be trying to find an approach which solves Brexit and the causes of Brexit: I do not believe that it’s pure dissatisfaction with the European Union which persuaded the people of Peterborough to vote Leave. It was hope for a better life, different circumstances, enhanced opportunities. A leader would explain that there is no silver bullet to achieve this; we need to be honest and realistic, and put forward plans which can achieve what the public desperately wants. The Labour Group and I will continue to do so.