Brexit will hurt the North West more than any other region, according to Tony Blair’s former chief strategist Alastair Campbell.
In an interview with the Lancashire Post, Campbell called for a second referendum and argued that people in Leave-voting Lancashire have the right to a final vote on Theresa May’s deal.
“This campaign was only launched seven months ago,” Campbell said, “and already in the polls the most popular outcome is a final say – so I just think we can persuade people.”
“Anything could happen,” he said, when asked how he planned to get a second referendum.
“The deal Theresa May is trying to get is being rejected by the EU, and by her own MPs, and by Labour MPs, so it can’t get through parliament. I think at at some point – out of that chaos – I really think anything could happen.”
And Campbell does not think Labour will suffer in areas like Lancashire if they support another referendum.
“I don’t think that will happen,” he said. “I actually think one of the reasons Labour are struggling in the polls is that they have just been trying to go in the slipstream of the government.”
Campbell is a vocal supporter of the People’s Vote Campaign, which organised the march in Westminster on Saturday – attended by more than 500,000 people – to convince MPs and the public that Brexit is not inevitable.
“People are looking at the government’s negotiations and they see that it’s a mess. It’s chaotic – people are talking about planes not flying and food and medicines being stockpiled, and and I think more and more people are thinking, hold on, this isn’t right.”
Criticising the first referendum, Campbell said: “Both campaigns were terrible.
“You had Project Fear against Project Lies, and the lies won, okay?
“I understand why people in Lancashire voted Leave, and I think it has actually less to do with Europe, and more to do with the idea that globalisation hasn’t worked for them, that the elite in London doesn’t listen - so they gave it all a kicking.
“But whatever they voted leave for, Brexit is going to make their problems worse not better and that is going to spill over into absolutely everything – public services, schools, hospitals.
“Now, that is partly about the economy, and just saying that is not Project Fear – it is what is going to happen.”
But with only six months until the scheduled leave date of March 2019, he admits that time is not on the People’s Vote’s side.
“It’s true that it’s tight – I think ultimately, at some point we’re going to have to ask the EU for more time to be able to hold another referendum.”
Reacting to the government’s refusal to hold another referendum, Campbell said: “The reason is that they think they’ll lose – they know the public have changed their minds.
“Democracy doesn’t work like that. Democracy is a process. If the public decide that actually, this is not what we want to happen, this isn’t what we meant – far from it being anti-democratic to have another vote, it’s anti-democratic not to have one!”
He went on to blast the Conservatives.
“They’ve abandoned saying ‘we’re doing this because you’ll be better off, because your kid’s school will be better, now they’re just saying that we’ve got to do it because you voted for it. The fact that that is the only argument they’ve got is damning.”
Speaking at Turf Moor, home of his beloved Burnley FC, Campbell said the motive behind Brexiteers should concern Lancastrians.
“If you look at the people who are really pushing for Brexit now – the Johnsons, the Rees-Moggs, the Farages – this is the right wing, and Brexit is a right wing project.
“They have a vision of Britain that they’ve never been able to get in an election; uber-low tax, uber-low regulation, selling off the health service to the Yanks – to complete Thatcherism basically, that’s what it’s about.
“And that isn’t going to help Preston, or Burnley, or Blackburn, or Lancaster – it’s going to hurt them, far more than it will ever hurt London or the South East.”
Pressed on the reasons why Lancashire is the 7th most deprived area in Europe, Campbell replied that “that is not to do with the EU, that is to do with Britain, that is to do with inequality in Britain.”
And how does he plan to convince Lancashire’s large Leave majority of that?
“Well,” Campbell replied.
‘Take EU structural funds. That money is incredibly important to the economy in a region like Lancashire.
“Since the government is unable to match the EU funds, once people here understand what it means when that gets taken away – and there’s nothing else coming in – they’re going to change their minds.”
And if Remain loses the next election?
At that point, Campbell says, it’s finished.
“If we do get the second vote though, I think the result will be very different, I think the polling shows that, even in here in Lancashire, public opinion is shifting.”