We are just two days from a generation-defining vote, says UNISON

Speaking at UNISON’s annual conference in Brighton today (Tuesday) UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said:

 “We are just two days away from a generation-defining vote, and the tragic events of last week have made it even more important to speak out about the way the debate has developed.

 “The murder of Jo Cox has cast a dark shadow over the country. Jo was a young vibrant woman who stood for everything we believe in. She was a dedicated MP, a campaigner and a UNISON member. But Jo was so much more than that – she was a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother. There are no words to describe her family’s loss.

 “This union will never forget Jo and all she achieved. Everything she stood for –kindness, tolerance, and respect for others. And that, in Jo’s words, we are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us.

 “While no sensible, thoughtful person could deny there are not arguments both for and against being part of Europe, Nigel Farage’s contribution has been nothing less than a disgrace. His cries and lies, smears and fears, his rabid xenophobia – all amount to a noxious brew of anti-foreigner, anti-immigrant sentiment.

 “Once upon a time opinions as vile as these would have been limited to the sewer of the far right fringe, but now Nigel Farage has unleashed them upon the mainstream. He has lifted the lid on a dark and ugly politics.

 “An ugly public mood has been stirred up against people who have come to this country for a better life, to work hard, and to help keep our NHS and our other public services going.

 “Now they find themselves attacked every single day as vote leave campaigners unleash the politics of hate for short-term gain, regardless of the consequences. This is dangerous, irresponsible and divisive.

 “When Nigel Farage unveiled his racist poster, which looked for all the world like the Nazi propaganda of yesteryear, UNISON reported him to the Metropolitan Police for inciting racial hatred in what looks like a blatant breach of UK race laws.

 “This is scaremongering in its most extreme and vile form. A new low in campaigning, a descent into the gutter, and one that is all about scaring people senseless into voting leave.

 “Leaving Europe could also hit working people hard in their pockets – especially those in the public sector. People working in our NHS, town halls and schools have yet to see their wages recover following the last economic downturn. If the UK votes to leave on Thursday, the economic turmoil that a leave vote would unleash would herald a whole new round of pay pain.

 “Pensions too are likely to be hit hard. The value of shares has already been affected as the stock market wobbles in fear of a possible Brexit vote. And every time the value of shares falls so do the value of workers’ pensions pots and the incomes of pensioners.

 “Nor should we risk our NHS with a vote to leave Europe. Leaving would see the UK economy embark on a damaging post-Brexit rollercoaster ride, one that would mean huge cuts to public spending. The NHS would be a big loser.

 “Hospital trusts and ambulance services are already struggling to recruit enough nurses and paramedics. Without European health workers, the NHS would be in a much worse state. We must not risk one of our most cherished national institutions with a leave vote on Thursday.

 “Many an insult has been traded during the referendum campaign but, despite bitter divisions in the government, David Cameron and George Osborne, and Michael Gove and Boris Johnson will soon be back together again. Friends reunited, looking after the interests of the privileged, while hitting the poorest in our society, over and over again.

 “So we must stand together like never before. For what is right, not for what is easy. That goes for the Labour Party too. Jeremy Corbyn has our full support, and I want to see every Labour MP work with Jeremy, giving him the chance he has earned to build a different kind of politics.

 “The UK desperately needs a different kind of politics, one that puts people and our public services first. That’s why UNISON will never support renewing Trident nuclear weapons, and that’s why we will fight councils cutting our jobs and services – and that includes Labour councils, like Durham and Derby, slashing the wages of teaching assistants.

 “There are so many reasons that this government should be sent packing. But that can only happen under a united Labour Party. An electable Labour Party, one that can affect real change. One that gives working people a voice in Parliament, and one that can beat this government.”

 Notes to editors:
– Dave Prentis was speaking on the first day of UNISON’s annual conference in Brighton. It runs for the rest of the week and takes place in the Brighton Centre. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will address the conference at 9.45am tomorrow.

 Media contacts:
Liz Chinchen T: 0203 627 2391 M: 07778 158175 E: l.chinchen@unison.co.uk
Sophie Goodchild T: 0203 627 2392 M: 07767 325595 E: s.goodchild@unison.co.uk
Anthony Barnes T: 0207 121 5255 M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk