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I represent a Leave constituency – it's our duty to fight to stay in the single market

Labour MPs must do the patriotic thing, and defend what is best for the economy. 

If this year’s general election taught me anything, it was the extent to which voters in my constituency are feeling insecure about the future. Top of the list is anxiety about international security and terrorism, but featuring significantly in conversations on the doorstep were concerns about Brexit. Whether constituents voted Leave or Remain, the common theme was nervousness about the negotiating process and the eventual shape of the Brexit deal.

Of course, in a constituency which boasts four Ukip councillors, there were voters who just wanted Brexit. They told me they didn’t care what it looked like or how many jobs it cost. But such attitudes were significantly outnumbered by those who made it clear they didn’t want Brexit to damage the country or their own living standards. One could feel, in fact, a sense of dismay in relation to the government’s handling of the Article 50 process so far. 

This shouldn’t surprise anybody. If business needs certainty about what Brexit is going to look like and how we are going to get there, then so do voters. In particular, those who voted Leave believed they were opting for a brighter, better future. They believed too that the leaders of the anti-EU campaign would be sure-footed and more than capable of disentangling the UK from its complex web of relationships with EU member states.

What analysis, then, can be drawn from this? I would suggest three things. 

First of all, it is important in the Brexit debate always to bear in mind that public opinion on this topic is complex and ever-shifting. At that crucial moment in June 2016, it was shaped by a very poor referendum campaign which did little to enlighten voters as to the realities of EU membership and the critical nature of the decision to be made. We have to recognise that as the Brexit story develops, so will voter attitudes. We have to understand that very few voters made their initial decision on a purely ideological basis. Most voters did their best with the information available to them and voted for what they thought was best for the country. 

Following on from that, it is clear that strong leadership can make a difference. A myth has grown to explain the Leave vote in post-industrial areas. In this telling, immigration, high levels of unemployment and low wages led to disenchantment with the establishment and a determination to upset the status quo, whatever the consequences. And yet Scotland, with a legacy of lost manufacturing to match anything we have seen in England, voted Remain.

One can only wonder - is that because all the major parties in Scotland unreservedly supported the Remain cause? Yes, of course there are political differences between the two countries. But even so, it is clear that voter anxiety about issues such as immigration and our place in Europe were countered successfully in Scotland. Its leaders never wavered in their belief that the UK should remain a member state. If that could be done in Scotland in 2016, then effective leadership from now onwards can deliver a pro-single market majority across the whole of the UK. 

Finally, and most important, it is clear that leadership in the Brexit debate can be demonstrated at constituency level. With a hard, damaging Brexit still on the table, every Labour member of parliament can play a role in fighting for a Brexit deal that avoids catastrophic damage to the economy. It is time to put the country first. Of course it is true that many Labour MPs represent constituencies where the majority voted Leave, but they were not mandated as to the manner of our leaving. In other words, we are leaving, but we must, for the sake of our economy, argue successfully to stay in the single market.

Let’s not pretend that any of this is easy. MPs willing to fight for the single market are frequently accused of betraying the referendum result. Or they are told they should accept their voters opted for Leave because of concerns about immigration and a belief that freedom of movement should end. Labour parliamentarians can rise above this rather clichéd debate, however, by remembering not just their responsibility to defend the national interest, but also the fact that a robust defence of our economy is far more likely to deliver the resources necessary to shift the UK out of its austerity straitjacket. 

No more Remain constituencies or Leave constituencies, then, in the argument about Brexit. It’s time for Labour MPs to play their part. We must unify the country behind a patriotic argument which keeps the UK in the single market, and a social democratic argument which puts a robust economy at the heart of its political narrative. 

Angela Smith is the Labour MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge.

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Labour’s renationalisation plans look nothing like the 1970s

The Corbynistas are examining models such as Robin Hood Energy in Nottingham, Oldham credit union and John Lewis. 

A community energy company in Nottingham, a credit union in Oldham and, yes, Britain's most popular purveyor of wine coolers. No, this is not another diatribe about about consumer rip-offs. Quite the opposite – this esoteric range of innovative companies represent just a few of those which have come to the attention of the Labour leadership as they plot how to turn the abstract of one of their most popular ideas into a living, neo-liberal-shattering reality.

I am talking about nationalisation – or, more broadly, public ownership, which was the subject of a special conference this month staged by a Labour Party which has pledged to take back control of energy, water, rail and mail.

The form of nationalisation being talked about today at the top of the Labour Party looks very different to the model of state-owned and state-run services that existed in the 1970s, and the accompanying memories of delayed trains, leaves on the line and British rail fruitcake that was as hard as stone.

In John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn’s conference on "alternative models of ownership", the three firms mentioned were Robin Hood Energy in Nottingham, Oldham credit union and, of course, John Lewis. Each represents a different model of public ownership – as, of course, does the straightforward takeover of the East Coast rail line by the Labour government when National Express handed back the franchise in 2009.

Robin Hood is the first not-for-profit energy company set up a by a local authority in 70 years. It was created by Nottingham city council and counts Corbyn himself among its customers. It embodies the "municipal socialism" which innovative local politicians are delivering in an age of austerity and its tariffs delivers annual bills of £1,000 or slightly less for a typical household.

Credit unions share many of the values of community companies, even though they operate in a different manner, and are owned entirely by their customers, who are all members. The credit union model has been championed by Labour MPs for decades. 

Since the financial crisis, credit unions have worked with local authorities, and their supporters see them as ethical alternatives to the scourge of payday loans. The Oldham credit union, highlighted by McDonnell in a speech to councillors in 2016, offers loans from £50 upwards, no set-up costs and typically charges interest of around £75 on a £250 loan repaid over 18 months.

Credit unions have been transformed from what was once seen as a "poor man's bank" to serious and tech-savvy lenders where profits are still returned to customers as dividends.

Then there is John Lewis. The "never-knowingly undersold" department store is owned by its 84,000 staff, or "partners". The Tories have long cooed over its pledge to be a "successful business powered by its people and principles" while Labour approves of its policy of doling out bonuses to ordinary staff, rather than just those at the top. Last year John Lewis awarded a partnership bonus of £89.4m to its staff, which trade website Employee Benefits judged as worth more than three weeks' pay per person (although still less than previous top-ups).

To those of us on the left, it is a painful irony that when John Lewis finally made an entry into politics himself – in the shape of former managing director Andy Street – it was to seize the Birmingham mayoralty ahead of Labour's Sion Simon last year. (John Lewis the company remains apolitical.)

Another model attracting interest is Transport for London, currently controlled by Labour mayor Sadiq Khan. TfL may be a unique structure, but nevertheless trains feature heavily in the thinking of shadow ministers, whether Corbynista or soft left. They know that rail represents their best chance of quick nationalisation with public support, and have begun to spell out how it could be delivered.

Yes, the rhetoric is blunt, promising to take back control of our lines, but the plan is far more gradual. Rather than risk the cost and litigation of passing a law to cancel existing franchises, Labour would ask the Department for Transport to simply bring routes back in-house as each of the private sector deals expires over the next decade.

If Corbyn were to be a single-term prime minister, then a public-owned rail system would be one of the legacies he craves.

His scathing verdict on the health of privatised industries is well known but this month he put the case for the opposite when he addressed the Conference on Alternative Models of Ownership. Profits extracted from public services have been used to "line the pockets of shareholders" he declared. Services are better run when they are controlled by customers and workers, he added. "It is those people not share price speculators who are the real experts."

It is telling, however, that Labour's radical election manifesto did not mention nationalisation once. The phrase "public ownership" is used 10 times though. Perhaps it is a sign that while the leadership may have dumped New Labour "spin", it is not averse to softening its rhetoric when necessary.

So don't look to the past when considering what nationalisation and taking back control of public services might mean if Corbyn made it to Downing Street. The economic models of the 1970s are no more likely to make a comeback then the culinary trends for Blue Nun and creme brûlée.

Instead, if you want to know what public ownership might look like, then cast your gaze to Nottingham, Oldham and dozens more community companies around our country.

Peter Edwards was press secretary to a shadow chancellor, editor of LabourList and a parliamentary candidate in 2015 and 2017.