It is five years since the UK opened our doors to the world through hosting the Olympic and Paralympic games, including holding parts of the games in my South West constituency. From Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony onwards, that summer of 2012 showed Britain at its best — open, tolerant, world-leading and world-embracing.
Boyle’s masterpiece captured the UK recognising its history but as a nation with its eyes firmly on the future; on youth, on climate change, on working in the common interest both domestically and internationally. Celebrating our public services and those who work in our national institutions.
Now our interim Prime Minister and her chaotic Cabinet are attempting to drag our country away from these core British values, turning us into a nation that is inward focussed - talking to ourselves about ourselves.
The Olympics – brought to the country by a Labour government winning the 2005 bid – demonstrated Labour values in action. Investment in infrastructure and disadvantaged communities. Inspiring our young people to reach the very height of their ambitions. And, despite what Theresa May would have us believe, being proud to be British and proud to be part of the world – a truly global Britain already in existence.
That summer showed a Britain that was great and united. This summer is showing a Britain that has shrunk back from that confidence. As Labour politicians we must now hold true to the values that delivered the Olympics and so much more for our country. Our party stands for making sure that everybody gets a good wage and a decent home to live in. For having an NHS, schools and public services that are properly provided for and public sector workers properly rewarded for the work they do. Indeed, this is what we promised in our election manifesto, something that inspired millions to vote for us.
But we must be under no illusions. Any kind of Brexit will make our raison d’être of sustainably growing our economy and making sure it is more equally distributed that much more difficult. I have been unequivocal that for reasons pragmatic, principled and patriotic I firmly believe Britain’s place should be remaining with our closest friends and neighbours inside the European Union.
However, should we be unable to remain in the EU, it is incumbent on us to ensure we get the best deal for our economy and our society. Any deal that sees us exiting the Single Market and Customs Union will make the task of maintaining, let alone increasing, our manufacturing base, being involved in the world’s largest research area, funding our public services and simply staffing our economy and NHS almost impossible.
The 2012 Olympics held a mirror to our country’s face and we saw a Britain proud of itself and proud of our leading place in the world. Should we follow the ideological path currently being set by May, Davis, Johnson and Fox, I fear that same mirror would show a country much diminished on the global stage, indeed a mere shadow of the one that has gone before it. We would see a nation closing itself off to the world, suspicious of its neighbours and finding itself falling behind in the global race.
It is up to us to ensure Britain stays in the running.