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Nigel Farage claims Brexit vote "three times bigger" if EU referendum held again

The former Ukip leader was responding to Tony Blair's attack on Brexit. 

If the EU referendum was held tomorrow, the margin by which Leave won would be “at least three times bigger,” Nigel Farage has claimed.

The former Ukip leader used his platform at the party’s spring conference to attack Tony Blair. The thrice-elected Labour Prime Minister had earlier that day urged pro-Europeans to campaign for the right of people to change their minds about Brexit.

Farage told Ukip members that it was “remarkable” that Tony Blair has spoken out against Brexit in the press.

“He seems to think we’re going to change our minds.

“He clearly hasn’t grasped that if that referendum was held tomorrow, the margin would be at least three times bigger than it was after June 23.”

He went further in his takedown of Blair, adding: “Blair is yesterday’s man, he’s like the heavyweight world champion who has been retired for a few years but he needs a bout to make some money and he comes back and gets knocked out in the first round."

Party members booed when Blair’s name was mentioned, and applauded Farage’s speech.

Blair, a committed European, has subjected Farage to withering putdowns in the past. In 2005, speaking at the European Parliament, he told Farage: "You sit there with our country's flag. You do not represent our country's interests. This is the year 2005, not 1945."

In his intervention in the Brexit negotiations, he said people voted “without knowledge of the true terms of Brexit”, and had a right to change their minds. 

Meanwhile at the conference, Ukip's Brexit spokesman Gerard Batten declared "Brexit means exit" and claimed that Britain hadn't had a patriotic government since the end of World War II “as far as Europe is concerned”.

Batten called for Britain to repeal the European Communities Act 1972, and "forget Article 50".

He chimed in with Farage's attack on Blair, demanding: “Why can’t Tony Blair leave us in peace and go and live in America on his blood money?"

 

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Copeland must be Labour's final warning

Unison's general secretary says Jeremy Corbyn is a friend - but must also take responsibility for turning the party's prospects around. 

No one objective could argue that last night’s by-election results were good for Labour.

Whilst it was undoubtedly pleasing to see serial fibber Paul Nuttall and his Trumpian politics put in their place in Stoke, this was never a seat where the result should have been in doubt. 

But to lose Copeland – held by Labour for 83 years – to a party that has inflicted seven years of painful spending cuts on our country, and is damaging the NHS, is disastrous.

Last autumn, I said that Labour had never been farther from government in my lifetime. Five months on the party hasn’t moved an inch closer to Downing Street.

These results do not imply a party headed for victory. Copeland is indicative of a party sliding towards irrelevance. Worse still, Labour faces an irrelevance felt most keenly by those it was founded to represent.

There will be those who seek to place sole blame for this calamity at the door of Jeremy Corbyn. They would be wrong to do so. 

The problems that Labour has in working-class communities across the country did not start with Corbyn’s leadership. They have existed for decades, with successive governments failing to support them or even hear their calls for change. Now these communities are increasingly finding outlets for their understandable discontent.

During the 2015 election, I knocked on doors on a large council estate in Edmonton – similar to the one I grew up on. Most people were surprised to see us. The last time they’d seen Labour canvassers was back in 1997. Perhaps less surprisingly, the most common response was why would any of them bother voting Labour.

As a party we have forgotten our roots, and have arrogantly assumed that our core support would stay loyal because it has nowhere else to go. The party is now paying the price for that complacency. It can no longer ignore what it’s being told on the doorstep, in workplaces, at ballot boxes and in opinion polls.

Unison backed Corbyn in two successive leadership elections because our members believed – and I believe – he can offer a meaningful and positive change in our politics, challenging the austerity that has ravaged our public services. He is a friend of mine, and a friend of our union. He has our support, because his agenda is our agenda.

Yet friendship and support should never stand in the way of candour. True friends don’t let friends lose lifelong Labour seats and pretend everything is OK. Corbyn is the leader of the Labour party, so while he should not be held solely responsible for Labour’s downturn, he must now take responsibility for turning things around.

That means working with the best talents from across the party to rebuild Labour in our communities and in Parliament. That means striving for real unity – not just the absence of open dissent. That means less debate about rule changes and more action on real changes in our economy and our society.

Our public servants and public services need an end to spending cuts, a change that can only be delivered by a Labour government. 

For too many in the Labour party the aim is to win the debate and seize the perceived moral high ground – none of which appears to be winning the party public support. 

But elections aren’t won by telling people they’re ignorant, muddle-headed or naive. Those at the sharp end – in particular the millions of public service employees losing their jobs or facing repeated real-terms pay cuts – cannot afford for the party to be so aloof.

Because if you’re a homecare worker earning less than the minimum wage with no respite in sight, you need an end to austerity and a Labour government.

If you’re a nurse working in a hospital that’s constantly trying to do more with less, you need an end to austerity and a Labour government.

And if you’re a teaching assistant, social worker or local government administrator you desperately need an end to austerity, and an end to this divisive government.

That can only happen through a Labour party that’s winning elections. That has always been the position of the union movement, and the Labour party as its parliamentary wing. 

While there are many ways in which we can change society and our communities for the better, the only way to make lasting change is to win elections, and seize power for working people.

That is, and must always be, the Labour party’s cause. Let Copeland be our final warning, not the latest signpost on the road to decline.

Dave Prentis is Unison's general secretary.