This week my hometown Sunderland achieved world wide infamy when it became the first area to vote ‘Leave’ – and by a much larger margin than expected.
The Parliamentary Labour Party are imploding again and blaming Jeremy Corbyn for the result at the hands of many of their voters.
But while the referendum result may be partially Labour’s fault, it is not just Corbyn who is to blame.
This is the culmination of a 20-year period during which Labour has all but abandoned any attempt to speak for, or to, the working class communities of the North.
I was born into the kind of family who didn’t question that the party acted in our best interests.I called Neil Kinnock and Arthur Skargill, ‘Uncles’ as a child and was raised to believe the party would fight for us forever.
I’ve written before about how difficult life was as a child living in Sunderland during the Thatcher years while her Government ripped apart my community.
It felt like a war. I couldn’t understand why I, from a Northern single parent family, was so hated. It may be akin to the way the children of immigrants feel today.
My first memories are of picket lines that occasionally turned into pitch battles, of bailiffs turning up to take neighbours’ TVs and collecting food for miner’s families, even though we had very little ourselves.
Poverty can be undignified, but we tried to find to retain our humanity within it.
That was largely due to the fact that through it all, we always believed that The Labour Party was fighting for us.
We listened to powerful men in Miner’s Halls and on picket lines, preaching that our time would come, as long as we stood together.
As we moved from rented home to rented home, waiting on the now endless council list, we always believed a better day was on the horizon.
And just after my 17th birthday, we all thought it had arrived. My Mam held me and wept on the day Tony Blair swept to power. I’m still appreciative of some of what his Government achieved. It enabled me to scramble my way out of poverty and into a profession.
But while I escaped poverty, for many of the people I grew up with, the promises were unfulfilled.
New Labour turned its attention to the interests of the city and forgot the important job of politicising the working classes.
When the Miner’s Halls closed and shipbuilding foreman disappeared, The Labour Party did not fill the political and social gap left behind. They abandoned us and talked instead to big business and for the South.
Into the vacuum stepped first the BNP and then Farage’s UKIP, pouring poison into the ears of the people who felt like the Tory Government had spent 25 years attacking them.
The Tories crippled us and then Labour abandoned us.
People in post-industrial communities felt like they weren’t seen as good enough to be part of the Labour movement. But far-right parties convinced them they were good enough for theirs and set about convincing them that the fight was with other working class people who sounded and looked different.
This week, following the Brexit vote, the grandchildren of the skilled Labour men of the lost North feel empowered for the first time in two generations.
I just feel scared. The EU was a safety net for communities like mine and now it’s gone. Maybe if you’ve grown up in poverty you never feel truly safe, but it’s a long time since I’ve felt as insecure as I do today.
I feel lost between two worlds, both of which I’m furious with.
I’m angry at my childhood community and friends, many of whom voted ‘Leave’ and are celebrating something which I know will make their lives harder.
And I’m angry with The Labour Party, because it helped cause this. Not because Corbyn didn’t speak loud enough, but because for too long it hasn’t spoken to these communities at all.
So tonight I send this heartfelt message to the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Even now you’re too busy cannibalising yourself to acknowledge what abandoning your heartlands caused. If you do not listen, you run the risk of losing these seats to UKIP at the next election and perhaps forever.
Wake up and quickly. Has the loss of Scotland taught you nothing? The North of England is at risk from an entirely different kind of nationalistic party.
Perhaps it is time to acknowledge Corbyn is not the person to unify the left. I believe if he thought there was a better candidate to speak for the poorest in our society, he was step aside without this public bloodletting. Finding that person is now the job of you all.
Unification under the banner of the left must happen and you must find a way to communicate again with and for those most disenfranchised by unfettered capitalism.
The far-right are on the rise. Please win back the hearts and minds of the people you were set up to fight for.
Dear Labour, please return to us before it is too late.