DiEM25 was formed to build a Progressive International across Europe. The UK, especially since Brexit prevailed in last year’s referendum, is a major battleground for European democracy. The way Brexit is handled will be crucial for the future of Britain but also for European peoples far and wide. DiEM25 could not be absent from this election campaign.
DiEM25’s own position on what should happen once Brexit won the June 2016 referendum is already on record. Following an internal two-stage vote that took place November 2016, DiEM25 members from across Europe opted for the following position:
We support negotiations between the UK and the EU leading to an interim EEA-EFTA UK-EU arrangement (i.e. Norway/Swiss-like) to come into force two years after Article 50’s activation and, subsequently, to a long-term agreement viz. the UK-EU relationship to be approved by the next Parliament (to be elected after Article 50’s activation).
More recently, once Prime Minister Theresa May called an election in search of a mandate for what we consider an ill-fated Brexit negotiation with the EU, DiEM25 UK members decided to demonstrate in practice DiEM25’s progressive, inclusive, transnational politics by identifying candidates across the UK that come close to DiEM25’s progressive agenda for Britain and Europe. Our members have been active in selecting candidates that DiEM25 ought to support in different constituencies with a view not only to improve their chances of being elected but also to give an example of what DiEM25’s commitment to PRINCIPLED VOTING means.
Once DiEM25 UK members put together their recommended list of candidates, the complete list was put to an internal vote. Every DiEM25 member, from across Europe, had a vote in this. This is DiEM25’s weapon against the logic of Brexit, of the UK’s isolation from the rest of Europe: Every DiEM25 member, English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, French, Greek etc., gets to vote on our favourite UK parliamentary candidates. It is our way of illustrating the formation of a European demos that rejects both a one-size fits-all attitude for Europe and isolationism.
The results are now in! Below you will find the list of candidates that DiEM25 endorses for the 8th June 2017 UK general election. It includes candidates from the Labour Party (6); the Liberal Democrats (2); the Scottish National Party (2); Plaid Cymru (1); the Greens (1); the Scottish Greens (1); the National Health Action Party (1) and the Women’s Equality Party (1).
The fact that DiEM25 endorses even Liberal Democrats (like former Prime Minister Nick Clegg, whose connivance with David Cameron’s and George Osborne’s class war against poorer Brits was inexcusable and remains unforgiven) reflects Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system. A proportional system would have, naturally, yielded a different set of recommendations. But, when progressive politicians, even if flawed in a variety of ways; e.g. Nick Clegg), are pitted against hard, xenophobic Brexiteers, it is within the realm of our PRINCIPLED VOTING philosophy to support them. Of course, we need to draw the line somewhere. For example, the failure of a substantial body of dissent against toxic, nationalist Brexiteering to rise within the Conservative party makes it impossible for DiEM25 members to endorse Tory candidates. Our members have, nevertheless, singled out three Tories for their resistance to the Brexit juggernaut: Anna Soubry for her dissent to hard Brexit; Kenneth Clarke who, despite his uncritical support for the EU establishment, has been a courageous adversary to the isolationism of Brexiteers; and Baroness Warsi for upholding basic values of decency in the House of Lords debates.
The fifteen DiEM25 parliamentary endorsees
- Mhairi Black (SNP, Paisley and Renfrewshire South)
- Kelly-Marie Blundell (Liberal Democrat, Lewes)
- Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat, Sheffield Hallam)
- Patrick Harvie (co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party)
- Kelvin Hopkins (Labour, Luton North)
- Louise Irvine (National Health Action Party, South West Surrey)
- Clive Lewis (Labour, Norwich South)
- Rebecca Long Bailey (Labour, Salford and Eccles)
- Caroline Lucas (Green, Brighton Pavilion and an Advisory Panel member of DiEM25)
- John McDonnell (Labour, Hayes and Harlington and an Advisory Panel member of DiEM25)
- Lisa Nandy (Labour, Wigan)
- Sophie Walker (Womens’ Equality Party, Shipley)
- Hywel Williams (Plaid Cymru, Arfon)
- Toni Giugliano (SNP, Edinburgh West)
- Matt Kerr (Labour & Co-operative, Glasgow South West)
Our fifteen candidates in brief
Mhairi Black became SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South in the 2015 general election while still a final year undergraduate student at the University of Glasgow. One of the youngest MP’s ever, she is, however, a longstanding critic of the Westminster government, for its unreality, arrogance and sexism. She considered not standing for a second term due to the fact that “so little gets done”. She is on the Work and Pensions Committee, has campaigned tirelessly for Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI), and has highlighted the increasing dependence of people on food banks, On the EU, she said on one occasion “If I’m honest there was an element of holding my nose when I voted Remain”.
Kelly-Marie Blundell is the Liberal Democrat candidate for Lewes and became active in the party in order to engage more people in politics. Unashamedly pro-EU, Kelly-Marie organised marches following the referendum. She is well known for speaking up on the NHS and Sheltered Housing as well as leading debates on welfare and social security. Kelly-Marie has worked in the charity sector for the last 8 years as a fundraising and marketing professional, having previously worked as a Citizen’s Advice Bureau advisor and as a Union representative. Kelly-Marie is passionate about rural and town life, making sure communities have access to the services they need and that local business can thrive. She says: “Nationally the country is in crisis. Both the Conservatives and Labour are focused entirely on in-fighting while the economy worsens, threatening jobs, public services and our efforts to build the houses Britain so badly needs”.
Nick Clegg was Deputy Prime Minister in Britain’s coalition government from 2010 to 2015, Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2007 to 2015, and has been Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam since 2005. Previously an MEP, he is currently LD Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and LD Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade. In an indirect admission that he was profoundly wrong to go into a coalition government with the Tories, and for helping administer an economic and social policy that disadvantaged and disenfranchised poorer and rural Britons, he now says that Britain is run by an unaccountable cabal coordinating Brexit on behalf of the financial sector. In his view, the only solution to a “rotten” British democracy is non-Conservative and anti-Brexit forces coming together after the election to create a viable opposition against a one-party state, for cleaner politics and for progress. Brexit, he suggests, brazenly ignores the interest of the younger generation and they must keep pointing out that the decision was not taken in their name.
Patrick Harvie, co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, Member of Scottish Parliament for the Glasgow Region and candidate in the UK 2017 General Election for Glasgow North. Patrick is the first openly bisexual Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom and has actively campaigned for civil partnership legislation and more recently for the TIE (Time for Inclusive Education) campaign which focuses on LGBT visibility within the Scottish education system. Patrick, post-Brexit argued that European citizens must focus on changing Europe to serve the interest of the people, as opposed to the corporate interests at present, and for an independent Scotland to re-join a reformed European Union.
Kelvin Hopkins, Labour MP for Luton North, was first elected to the Commons in 1997. His professional career was spent as an economist and policy researcher for trade unions, especially UNISON, and he is deeply sceptical of Labour’s conversion to free market economics. In one debate he described the private finance initiative as “irrational nonsense”, and described it as ‘less popular than the poll tax’. He emerged well from the 2009 MPs expenses scandal, being deemed a “saint” by The Daily Telegraph for his minimal second home claims. He was one of 16 signatories of an open letter to the then Labour leader Ed Miliband in January 2015, which called on the party to commit to oppose further austerity, take rail franchises back into public ownership and strengthen collective bargaining arrangements. Hopkins was one of 36 Labour MPs to nominate Jeremy Corbyn as a candidate in the Labour leadership election of 2015. Before the 2016 referendum on British membership of the EU, Hopkins signed the People’s Pledge, a cross-party campaign for such a referendum, and became a member of its Advisory Council. In 2016 he was one of the leading Labour figures to support the Leave campaign in the UK Referendum on EU membership.
Louise Irvine, is the National Health Action Party candidate standing against Jeremy Hunt in South West Surrey. She is ‘more than ready’ to challenge Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt as many Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green Party members have agreed to back her. Irvine, who led a successful campaign against government plans to downgrade hospital services in Lewisham, where she works, teaches many junior doctors who feel abused and misrepresented by their contracts of employment. She sees widening inequality and opposes the privatisation of the health service, calling for the integration of health and social care, as opposed to the current move towards unaccountable care systems. She says: “the market has wasted billions and we want to make it a public service again. The staff need to be properly valued and properly paid. We have to increase funding by at least £5 billion a year.”
Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Defence in June 2016 and Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in October 2016. He is calling for a second referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal to heal a divided country, and voted against the Brexit bill in order to be “Norwich’s voice in Westminster, not Westminster’s voice in Norwich.” He has said: “The Tories’ plan for Brexit is a plan for a race to the bottom which we will all lose, with weakened human rights, rampant deregulation, and a diminished Britain. It’s an extreme agenda which will not only isolate our country but fatally undermine its democracy, weakening parliament and giving the government unprecedented power to pursue its agenda. We have to wake up before it’s too late, and vote to stop Tory Brexit.”
Rebecca Long Bailey is Labour MP for Salford and Eccles. Previously Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, she is currently Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Rebecca Long Bailey has been an outspoken politician criticising the abysmal record of austerity policies by the conservative government. She stands for one of the most deprived inner city areas, Salford and Eccles, an area of historic significance, made famous by L.S.Lowry. She is highly qualified to speak on economic, energy and financial matters and policy and has therefore would have great authority in future talks with European partners in Brexit negotiations.
Caroline Lucas, is the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion and argues that Britain could lead the way on climate change, She will continue to “put her constituents first by campaigning for Britain to remain as close to the European Union as possible and immediately guaranteeing rights of EU nationals here”, campaigning on housing, the NHS and for school funding. She will be an independent Green voice, not constrained by the party whip but “looking to work across party lines on the issues that matter”. She has said: “There’s absolutely no doubt that Brexit is central to this election. The Tories’ extreme agenda would see the UK leaving the single market, ending free movement and endangering our social and environmental protections. This damaging plan must be resisted and we urge people across to use their vote to reject an extreme Brexit.”
John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington in 1997, became Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer in September 2015. Major architect of Labour’s alternative economic strategy and the current manifesto, committed to scrapping Theresa May’s Brexit plan; committed to introducing a bill to ensure workers’ rights are protected, to guaranteeing that EU nationals can remain in the UK, to negotiating tariff-free access to the European market and to allowing MPs to vote on the final deal. Recently, he challenged a media not doing their job, to help the general public have a democratic election debate, by holding the Tories to account on their “completely uncosted Manifesto of Misery.”
Lisa Nandy, elected Labour MP for Wigan in 2010. A strong advocate for a more humane and sensible refugee policy, she has repeatedly challenged the Home Office for outsourcing refugee housing contracts to private companies such as G4S and Serco, with disastrous effects on both the prospects of integration of refugees into the UK, and the resilience of local communities in these areas. Nandy has focused on the growing divide between British towns and cities, rejecting the rhetoric of “leftbehind communities” by stressing the importance of community bonds in these areas, and people’s right to a dignified life from wherever they come. She understands and has campaigned on one of the central issues that DiEM25 is trying to address: the toxic combination of involuntary underemployment and involuntary migration.
Sophie Walker is the leader of the Women’s Equality Party and is standing in Shipley. Walker, a Remain supporter, wants an “equality impact assessment” of any final Brexit deal, and the chance for MPs to vote it down if necessary. She is standing against a Tory MP who tried to derail a bill to protect women against violence, and told a conference hosted by an anti-feminism party that “feminist zealots really do want women to have their cake and eat it”. As other opposition parties consider giving her a free run in her attempt to unseat the Shipley Conservative MP, the journalist who became the WEP’s inaugural leader in 2015 has been at the forefront of its campaigns for equal representation and pay in working life. She says her opponent‘s anti-equality agenda in Westminster and anti-democratic practices such as filibustering legistlation threatens the rights and freedoms not just of women but also people with disabilities, BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic) and LGBT+ communities.
Hywel Williams MP, Plaid Cymru, was elected in 2015 to the Arfon seat. Appointed Head of the Centre for Social Work Practice at the University of Wales, in 1993, having worked as a mental health social worker in Dwyfor, Williams then became a freelance lecturer, consultant and writer in the fields of social policy, social work, and social care, working primarily through the medium of Welsh. He has been a member of numerous professional bodies in relation to social work and training, and was also spokesman for the Child Poverty Action Group in Wales. His parliamentary responsibilities within Plaid Cymru are work and pensions, defence, international development and culture. Campaigning to remain in the European Union, in PM Question Time, he claimed Theresa May was planning to cut a special deal for Britain’s financial sector: “A soft Brexit for her friends in the city, a hard Brexit for everyone else. Will she cut a similar deal for Wales?”
Toni Giugliano, SNP Candidate for Edinburgh West. Born in Italy, he was President of the Young European Movement in the United Kingdom. He has worked for a number EU organisations in Brussels, including the European University Association, where he represented the interests of 850 universities across Europe and successfully led a campaign that halted cuts to research funding. He now works for one of Scotland’s leading mental health charities. He worked for Yes Scotland campaign during the Scottish Independence referendum and he is now fighting to keep Scotland in the single market and protect Edinburgh’s jobs which rely on single market membership.
Matt Kerr, is the Labour and Co-op candidate for Glasgow South West. A critic of the current benefits system, he is seeking cross-party support for a universal basic income as a way of providing security when people change jobs much more frequently than in the past. He lobbied for changes to UK Border Authority and government policies that denied support to asylum seekers.
Background to the internal DiEM25 vote
The list was discussed and then ratified by our movement based on policies advocated by each candidate measured against DiEM25’s political values and beliefs. Our goal is a politics that is fair, democratic and non-polarising; not limited by party tribes, political sect or faction, or the hopelessly constrained binary opposition of the referendum. As a cross-party movement the DiEM25 UK list supports candidates from a variety of parties which share a progressive agenda. (Regrettably, although Conservative candidates were considered, the current regressive programme of the Conservative Party and the lack of vocal dissent did not allow us to include any.)
DiEM25 wants a harmonious and strong relationship established between the UK and EU notwithstanding the result of the 2016 referendum. ‘Brexit’ and the latter are not mutually exclusive: exiting the EU must not wilfully destroy the irreversible social, political and economic ties we have with the union. This is an unprecedentedly complex and risky period for the UK.
In their recent presidential elections, DiEM25 France compiled an endorsed list of candidates, employing DiEM25’s European New Deal as their guiding philosophy. While drawing inspiration from this text, DiEM25 seeks to address the UK’s specific democratic and transparency deficits and their prospects outside the Eurozone, a wealthy country with a poorly representative electoral system and an overly influential, weakly regulated and opaque financial sector. See the full document entitled ‘Principled Not Tactical’.
When the list went out for voting to all DiEM25 members, our UK Provisional National Committee received several complaints about the potential endorsement of candidate Nick Clegg. DiEM25’s goals are to set in motion a progressive and collaborative politics. In this context of isolation and polarisation, we are convinced that collaboration is the key term. To trigger change on the international level we should be inclusive of all political factions from across the country. Our decision to include Nick Clegg in our selection of candidates was based on our belief that to pave the way for the European New Deal also requires collaboration between progressive political traditions; social and liberal democratic, Leavers and Remainers alike. Nick Clegg’s singular experience of European politics among other things, qualify him to make a contribution to the broad coalition of democrats and progressives that DiEM25 seeks. As a movement, we are here to pick and choose the policies and beliefs that unite us rather than divide us.
We welcome everyone to join our movement whose objective is to put the demos back into our democracy – something that we can only achieve at home if Europe is democratised as a whole.
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