Politically Correct by Simon Cartmell

Resort has benefitted from EU for decades

Wednesday, 6th July 2016, 12:28 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 6:34 pm
Vice chairman for Blackpool South Constituency Labour Party

We are two weeks on from the EU Referendum, which saw a narrow 52 per cent -48 per cent victory for the Leave campaign on June 24th, and the fallout from the vote and its result has been nothing short of seismic for politics from all sides in the UK.

Looking back at an at times ill-tempered campaign it is easy to see how those who were undecided going into the voting booth struggled to separate fact from fiction, with Leave presenting a simple case based around the message of taking back control of the UK, while on the Remain side we put forward a more complex message that concentrated on facts and figures about EU membership.

It is easy then to forget in the aftermath of the referendum itself the arguments on the Remain side we felt were important to local people, and which we think should still be remembered when considering how input from the EU has had a positive impact on local people, jobs and everyday life.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

From financial investment in local trams (£670,000) and help to purchase local landmarks like the Tower and the Winter Gardens (roughly £14m) to funding for local career advice and adult learning programs, Blackpool has seen many benefits from membership of the EU.

In fact, if you glanced up at the Tower over the last month or so you’ll have seen a very visible sign of the EU contribution to Blackpool in the shape of the Blue Flag award for clean beaches, a first for the town and which puts Blackpool South beach in the same class as some of the most famous stretches of sand in the world.

If and when Britain triggers Article 50 to leave the EU we should always be mindful of how Blackpool has benefitted from working alongside our European neighbours for over 43 years in both peace and prosperity.

A house divided

The EU Referendum can be quite easily summed up in one word: divisive, and perhaps more so after the result was announced than before.

Families are reported to actually be divided (apparently mainly by age group), communities are torn apart and both major political parties find themselves with at least question marks about their leadership (even UKIP are looking for a new leader after Nigel Farage’s surprising surrender of power, Union flag shoes and all).

What has amazed many, including those of us who campaigned to Remain, is the speed in which the Leave campaign has seen a disintegration of both its arguments and its leadership.

With the hashtag ‘Bregret’ suddenly trending on Twitter we were treated within hours to admissions of “mistakes” and the walking back of key immigration promises as the likes of Boris and Nigel stunned Britain by walking away just as the heavy lifting of Brexit slowly gets underway.

What we need to understand on the Remain side is why so many people were swayed to vote against continued EU membership, just as it would be wise for Leave voters to look at why their friends, family and neighbours wanted to stay in the EU.

It is easy for both sides to belittle their rival, but from our side I can only say we voted for a peaceful, tolerant and inclusive European society that offers those that come after us the chance to be a part of a larger community across the continent, with all the opportunities we feel that provides.

As Abraham Lincoln famously said “if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

Words from the past that ring true now.

The importance of community

If there’s one thing we should keep in mind now more than ever, it is that despite our differences we are one community of various shapes, sizes and colours that sits together on the shores of the Irish Sea.

That’s why community events are so important to people of all walks of life in Blackpool. In the last few months we have seen such great local events as family fun days in Watson Road park and Highfield Road park in South Shore, the Pride parade and festival that takes over town for a weekend, community theatre in Highfield Road park (reminiscences from local people dramatised in the park itself with the help of the Left Coast project) and the moving #WeAreHere living tableau’s in the town centre that marked the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

We are a different and increasingly diverse population in Blackpool, and that is something to be celebrated. As a town built on visitors our ever-changing community perhaps uniquely has the opportunity to evolve its views while maintaining our values of welcome and friendship. Blackpool was built on community, and it’s something I hope it will always be famous for.