Bishop of Chelmsford calls for action to counter fear and race hatred after EU referendum

Chelmsford 251115On 27th June 2016, Baroness Stowell of Beeston repeated a statement on the result of the EU Referendum, made by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons. The Bishop of Chelmsford, Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, asked a follow up question:

Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, some commentators have said that the result of the referendum was a resounding victory for Brexit. I am not sure that I see it that way: 52 to 48 is, to my mind, a rather narrow victory. Where there is no overwhelming consensus, there is an overwhelming need to take account of the views of others. Nobody likes a bad winner. There has been too much hyperbole and spite in this debate. Yes, one side did win, the result is clear and we have to act on it. Those who advocated leave obviously need to take the lead in the negotiations that will take place. But we urgently need the sort of wise leadership that can build consensus. We need some sort of national Government—a coalition of good will where we can work together.

I serve the diocese of Chelmsford, which is, “east London in and Essex out”. Yesterday I spoke to a head teacher who said that the children were frightened when they went to school on Friday and that she had seen an increase in race hatred and intolerance. What plans are there to address the lack of unity in our nation and to counter the fear and race hatred that is on the rise? Can we ensure that those who lost this vote, as well as those who won, can be part of the planning going forward?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The right reverend Prelate’s remarks covered a large amount of ground. Although I said that we could, perhaps, do with a little less politics in this House than in the other place, I would not go quite as far as his proposal for the future. But he makes an important point about us avoiding becoming a divided nation as a result of the referendum. All of us who are involved in politics, or business, or who have other positions of authority and responsibility, have to properly understand what people feel when they express their views. During the campaign and over the last few months, I was interested in comments about people no longer wanting or respecting experts. I do not agree with that analysis but people want to feel, more than they do now, that experts understand why they feel the way they do. People may not feel they have benefited from the turnaround of the economy, or have felt left out of many of the advances we have made over the last 10, 20 or 30 years. As we proceed, we all have a responsibility to keep trying to reassure them that we understand why they feel the way they do and why they voted the way they did. We must now make sure, in the way that we implement the country’s decision, that we bring everyone along with us and that everybody in this country feels that they have a proper opportunity to fulfil their potential.


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