The last few days have been an immensely turbulent and difficult period for our country, as we absorb the consequences of the result of the referendum on membership of the European Union.
Thursday was an abysmal night for all of us who believe that our future would be stronger, more secure and more prosperous together with our partners in Europe. We have already seen the huge implications of this decision and must be prepared for months, and probably years, of uncertainty ahead.
However, in the dark hours of Friday morning, the overwhelming result of the people of Lambeth to vote to Remain was a great source of pride. To win 79% of the vote, more than any other part of mainland Britain, is testament to the people of this borough and the hard work of all those who campaigned to achieve it. In particular, I pay tribute to all of the members who helped make the Lambeth Labour In campaign possible and to our MPs, Chuka and Helen for their leadership on this issue.
Now we face a huge array of challenges, but two are particularly pressing in Lambeth. The first is to maintain community cohesion and to make clear, as Sadiq Khan has done, that this city and our borough remain open and tolerant all. I want to reassure in particular our diverse communities of European citizens that, as the Lambeth vote showed, they are always welcome here and we will lobby through the Labour Party to ensure we fight for that against a rising tide of disunity in our country.
Secondly, we face great uncertainty as a borough, particularly in relation to EU funding. While not at the same level as areas like Cornwall and Wales, there will be implications of the withdrawal of direct EU funding, as well as the indirect impact of declining investment in our capital city as a consequence of economic turmoil.
We also face the prospect of further austerity for years to come which has already been profoundly unfair and damaging to local services. While we will not know the specific impact of this for some time and will continue to fight against it, we have to be clear that Thursday’s decision could have a detrimental impact on investment in areas like housing in Lambeth.
I know many of you, as I do, feel a sense of worry and despair at what is happening to our country at the moment. While this is a very uncertain time for us all and for our party, I want to assure you that in Lambeth, we will continue to fight for the values we campaigned for in this referendum and will continue to deliver on our pledge of ambition and fairness for all of the people of this borough.