In the middle of the 19th century, my family sailed across the Irish Sea to Liverpool. Like so many people in the city, my family were forced here by the Great Hunger. They were immigrants. They worked on the docks. And they made their home here. Just like our city’s Black community, the oldest in the UK; just like our Chinese community, the first in all of Europe; and just like those who pray at the Abdullah Quilliam, England’s oldest mosque – just like all these, my family and thousands more Irish immigrants are true Scousers.
There have always been people who want to do down our city. So often, they’re also the people who want to turn us against ourselves. Classic divide and rule. In the ’80s, Margaret Thatcher’s Tories plotted the “managed decline” of Liverpool, while demonising our black community. Since 2010, David Cameron and Theresa May’s Conservatives have hacked away at our public services while blaming asylum seekers, or the unemployed, or whomever – anyone but themselves.
Now there’s a new crowd in town, trying to divide us. But whether it’s the Brexit Party or “Tommy Robinson” (real name: Stephen Yaxley-Lennon), these people have got nothing to offer working-class communities hit by nine years of grinding austerity.
Yaxley-Lennon only became famous when the director of a city investment fund and a millionaire property developer recruited him as a bod for their anti-Muslim campaign. Nigel Farage is a private school boy city trader who worships Thatcher and wants the NHS privatised.
These establishment stooges blame “outsiders” for our problems. But our country’s problems were caused by disastrous political decisions that allowed the decline of jobs and industry in our city, slashed Liverpool’s funding by 64% in the last decade, cut funding for our schools, failed to build council houses, and punished the sick and disabled.
Nobel Laureate economist Sir Angus Deaton has warned that rising inequality in Britain is driving “deaths and despair” and undermining democracy. How can it be right that the Tories have handed out £100bn in corporate tax giveaways while at the same time cutting vital services for the rest of us? How can it be right that the wealth of the richest 1,000 people in Britain has increased by £50 billion in the last year, while 40% of children in north Liverpool are growing up in poverty?
You won’t hear far-right candidates talking about these issues. They don’t want to change a rigged economic system that benefits them – they only want to shift the blame for its consequences.
Today, far-right candidates are seeking to exploit the frustration many people genuinely feel after nine years of austerity and the Tory Brexit shambles. They want to scapegoat minorities – on race, religion, sexuality, or anything else – for problems created by the rich and powerful, letting those responsible off the hook.
Real political leadership is about inspiring hope in people, not sowing hatred and division in communities. Since becoming the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn has resisted an onslaught of establishment attacks and vilification to deliver the most radical and transformative socialist vision for our country since 1945.
Labour’s bold, clear policies will redistribute power and wealth on an unprecedented scale and create a more equal country for us all. We will take back energy, water, the Royal Mail and the railways into public ownership, to put an end to decades of rip-off privatisations.
We will set up regional development banks ensuring that nobody and no community is left behind, properly fund our NHS and public services, build a million genuinely affordable homes over 10 years. That’s what a happier, healthier country looks like. A country where we support each other, where we respect each other.
Solidarity is more than just a slogan. Now, more than ever, our communities must stand together against the voices of hate. There are candidates standing in the European elections who want to create anger and division. We must not let them. We cannot trust them. They are the ones who don’t belong here.