Matt Warman: Three-quarters of Boston voted Leave. Now promises must be kept
People who voted to take back control aren’t daft enough to demand perfection. But in my constituency they say bluntly that they want what was bluntly offered.
In Lincolnshire, it surprised nobody that Boston voted to come out of the European Union – the town that recorded the highest level of support for UKIP in the most recent European election has seen levels of immigration from Eastern Europe that mean estimates for the migrant population range up to as high as one in three. In some streets it’s more like three in four. This vibrant, passionate town made an optimistic, positive choice for a different path.
The magnetism of a thriving economy, where migrants from Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and beyond have come to work in agriculture has meant the town has changed in a decade more than it has in six centuries, for better and for worse.
An abundance of labour has meant that for some the minimum wage is the maximum wage; pressure on hospitals and doctors is compounded by the fact Lincolnshire has always been an area where recruitment was a challenge. Unscrupulous landlords turn three bedroom terraced houses into a house where 10 people share at exorbitant rents so they can send as much money home as possible. Freedom of movement meant people came in the hope of a job, and a small few behaved badly when they didn’t get one. Violent crime spiked.
At the same time, new businesses have sprung up to serve these new communities; yet even their focus on Eastern Europeans has made some locals feel more apart than ever. Integration between communities has happened too slowly because ten years ago nobody thought through what open-door immigration meant. But today in schools and beyond it’s nonetheless more positive than in many years.
The campaign to keep the UK in the EU was economics versus identity; in Boston low wages meant many felt the economy was not working for them, so arguments about risk fell flat among most. More than three quarters voted to leave, reasoning that nobody has made a convincing case that the harm would outweigh the benefits. Brexiteers must prove them right locally as well as nationally.
What do Bostonians need now? There’s only one answer: promises delivered. Nobody on the leave side of the argument should be allowed to get away without delivering hugely increased spending on the NHS, or getting immigration down.
As politicians we are responsible not just for every word in a campaign; the tone matters too. People who voted to take back control aren’t daft enough to demand perfection; but in my constituency they say bluntly that they want what was bluntly offered.
Where many market towns are struggling, Boston is thriving much more than most. It is more cosmopolitan than in its thousand-year history. I won in the 2015 election on an optimistic platform.
But it is a proud place where too many have given more than they have received from UK Plc. Britain’s renegotiations owe them simple, straightforward promises delivered, or politicians will rightly be treated with ever more contempt.
Matt Warman is Conservative MP for Boston and Skegness