Gordon Brown urges Peterborough voters to turn their back on ‘divisive nationalism’ of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party at by-election

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called on Peterborough’s voters to turn their back on Nigel Farage’s “divisive nationalism” during a speech in the city

Thursday, 30th May 2019, 8:03 pm
Updated Thursday, 30th May 2019, 9:03 pm
Gordon Brown speaking to Labour members. Photo: Terry Harris

Mr Brown said Brexit Party leader Mr Farage has more in common with French National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump than the “tolerant, fair-minded, outward looking and pragmatic” British people.

The former Prime Minister’s intervention comes just a week ahead of a by-election in Peterborough where Brexit Party candidate Mike Greene is the favourite to win a seat which for decades has been closely contested between Labour and the Conservatives.

This is the first time the new party has contested a parliamentary seat, but it has momentum after receiving the most votes at the recent European elections.

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Gordon Brown speaking to Labour members. Photo: Terry Harris

In a rallying cry to Labour members at the Holiday Inn at Thorpe Wood, Mr Brown said allowing Mr Farage and his supporters to gain credibility would “diminish ourselves as a nation”.

Directly addressing voters in Peterborough alongside his party’s candidate Lisa forbes, he said it was “time to stand up to these people” and “battle for Britain against prejudice, intolerance, division and disunity”.

He said that nationalism was behind the two world wars but that Mr Farage and his supporters “want to stir up divisive nationalism across Europe and the world”.

He also stated that the former UKIP leader “exploits division, demonising, blaming and targeting immigrants, targeting Europeans and targeting anyone standing in his way.

Gordon Brown and Lisa Forbes. Photo: Terry Harris

“He goes around the country using the vicious language of ‘betrayal’ to anyone who stands up to him.”

He asked if the Brexit Party has “any policies on the housing crisis? Any policies on the squeezed middle? Any policies on child poverty,” while accusing Mr Farage of wanting to revoke anti-equality legislation and replace the NHS with American-style private insurance.

Turning to the consequences of a no deal Brexit, which Mr Farage’s party is pushing for, he said a recent cabinet paper revealed food prices would rise by 10 per cent, businesses would not be able to get components from Europe because of delays at customs and that a recession was “likely”.

He also claimed that the Northern Ireland peace settlement “may fall apart”, while Scottish independence was also possible.

Mr Brown posing for a photo. Photo: Terry Harris

A no deal Brexit would be an act of “economic self-harm” he stated, before ending his speech by telling Labour members: “Never stop believing that we can make a better world.”

Mr Brown, who spoke without notes, regularly praised Ms Forbes during his speech, describing her as a local mother who will “speak for the needs of the people of Peterborough” if elected.

Ms Forbes, who introduced Mr Brown onto stage, also warned that the Brexit Party is “seeking to turn communities against each other and scapegoating migrants”, while also hitting out at the Conservatives for what she described as cuts to policing, a poor record on fly-tipping and Peterborough’s poor performance in education league tables.

Mr Brown received a standing ovation as he entered and left the room.

After the speech, former Conservative Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson tweeted: “Dear #GordonBrown and @LisaForbes_ Would you like to explain why Peterborough City Hospital had the most ruinous and financially crippling PFI contract in the UK - as found by the @CommonsPAC - when Brown was Chancellor?”

A Brexit Party spokesman said: “Gordon Brown has a seriously brass neck. He represents a party that is being investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission for anti-Semitism.

“The Brexit Party does not tolerate anti-Semitism or the negative tribal politics Labour revels in.

“We believe in democracy, fair play and reaching out beyond the narrow confines of the European Union to the wider world.

“You can feel the fear of the success of the Brexit Party in his voice - he is right to be electorally worried.”

All of the candidates for the by-election can be found on the Peterborough Telegraph website.