This post is the latest instalment in my by-election series. I’m interviewing the candidates standing in Chesham and Amersham this month.
Today, I am featuring Brendan Donnelly, the Rejoin EU candidate in the upcoming election. A former MEP, Brendan wants to keep the EU firmly in everyone’s minds and re-join the EU as soon as possible.
The by-election is an event “that will attract significant attention”, making it the perfect place to make his case.
Here’s what he had to say…
Any views expressed in this post are not my own, but those of the interviewees.
- The European Union
- Scotland and Northern Ireland
- Affordable housing
- Welfare state
- Progressive alliance
The European Union
If you hadn’t guessed by the party’s name – the European Union is very important to Rejoin EU.
The party wants to re-join the EU as early as possible and ideally before 2030. If enough parties decide to work together, Brendan believes this could possibly become a reality after the next General Election.
“If you keep saying it’s too early, it will never happen,” Brendan stressed.
He also argued that it’s necessary to start the re-joining process straight away. “It’s not possible to rebuild the economy properly without an immediate plan to re-join the EU.”
The services industry will be hit particularly badly and struggle to recover, which will really hamper the City of London, Brendan warned.
Scotland and Northern Ireland
Brendan also warned of problems for Scotland and Northern Ireland because of Brexit.
Having been “marginalised by Brexit” by lack of consultations, there is growing support for Scottish independence. While it’s not inevitable, there’s now a much higher chance.
Meanwhile, if we re-join the EU, Brendan believes we have a “much higher chance” of keeping the UK together.
The problems aren’t just limited to Scotland either. There are huge issues regarding the Northern Ireland protocol – some of which were key discussion points at the recent G7 meeting.
Brendan believes the government is trying to get the EU to sort out the problems we negotiated for part of our country. “That’s obvious nonsense”, he said.
One of the reasons Brendan continues to criticise Brexit is because he thinks it has “injected a culture of fantasy and lies into British politics because of the need to pretend that it is working.”
The rise in populism has been seen across the world in recent years, not least in the UK with the Brexit vote.
Speaking strongly about Brexit, Brendan said it has undermined the “honesty, sincerity and truthfulness of politics”.
Regardless, we now find ourselves faced with an important choice about what kind of society the UK is going to be after Brexit, Brendan said. The choice is likely to be that of a US-style state or an EU-style country.
The US model would be based around lower taxes and lower provisions in terms of welfare and support. The EU model centres more around higher taxes and higher provisions.
With some calling for London to become ‘Singapore-on-Thames’, many seem to be calling for a low tax model as they believe this will encourage investment into the UK.
Affordable housing – as well as the state of the roads – are both good examples of low levels of government provisions, Brendan said.
“We certainly need more houses to be built and you need the government to play a role in the production of houses because the free market will always be tempted to go for the high end,” he added.
However, Brendan thinks the current government is unlikely to do this. “The idea of leaving things to the market is quite deeply embedded in this government’s philosophy.” This is seen in the “ineffectual” contracts handed out for ventilators and Test and Trace, he argued.
Brendan is an advocate for a more benevolent form of government that creates a more secure welfare state.
He said the Covid-19 response – including the furlough scheme and business grants – has demonstrated that government action can be more efficient and benevolent. However, this isn’t really the underlying philosophy of this government.
Politically it could be damaging if they don’t adopt a more benevolent approach, Brendan warned.
“The red wall project is flawed,” Brendan said. This is because those in the “red wall” want public expenditure but not necessarily on big projects like HS2. Brendan argued that they want a better health service, better education, and better pensions.
“While this government thinks it can win over and maintain the red wall by a combination of Brexit and high speed rail, but I don’t think so. I can see a lot of those who voted Conservative in 2019 returning to their traditional Labour roots in 2023.
Brendan expressed his desire for a progressive alliance, saying it is needed to bring about necessary constitutional changes.
He also wants a change in the electoral system to make it more representational. Brendan suggested a system similar to that of Germany, even if it rarely generates a single party government.
When asked whether he would support a progressive alliance in Chesham and Amersham, he said Labour, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats will “need to buck their ideas up” first and start working together.
He has faced criticism for standing and “splitting the anti-Tory vote”. But, if all the other parties are standing, why should his party be the only one not to, Brendan asked.
Despite this criticism, he also praised his fellow candidates, particularly those who are trying to do something new.
“I always sympathise with people who are currently fighting for something that is not currently a popular cause.
“Things can change very quickly,” he concluded.
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