How many people, having joined the Labour Party in a swell of optimism at the thought of getting a truly socially-minded government via Jeremy Corbyn, are now at the point of dropping the dream along with the membership – not because they have lost their conviction that Labour would make life far better for the majority of us, but because of the Labour leadership’s approach to Brexit.
‘We must respect the will of the people.’
This seems to be the reason for the Labour leadership’s supporting the chaotic Brexit mess. But what ‘will’ was that? May’s deputy, David Lidington says “People took a decision having heard the arguments both about the economics, but also about sovereignty”. Really?
First, the referendum was an advisory one and did not give the government a mandate to hurriedly implement leaving the EU. Most referenda demand that 51%+ of the total electorate should vote for or against. Many people found they were unable to vote, British citizens resident in the EU for some years among them. When Scotland held its independence referendum, it recognised the result would greatly affect the future of young people, so 16 and 17 year olds were allowed to vote. The same should have held true for the EU referendum.
Taking all those disenfranchised voters into account, Nigel Farage’s ‘overwhelming victory’ was not 52% for Leave against 48% for Remain, but 27% of the total electorate against 25%. Even worse, the Leave campaign was based on dodgy and illegal funding, with one of the main figures, Arron Banks, being investigated for criminal activity. This democratic exercise has turned out to be very undemocratic, and whichever way people voted, they have been cheated. And that’s without taking into account the lies we were told.
The economics? The Leave campaign’s economics consisted almost wholly of that notorious red bus and the £350m for the NHS per week. The Remain side had Project Fear’s George Osborne spouting figures that were meaningless to the general public and nothing like the reality that has emerged since. As for ‘regaining our sovereignty’, we never lost it, as the government admitted in a white paper prior to May triggering Article 50 – which she should not have done without first finding out what issues would have to be solved. As it was, the Northern Ireland border and the threat to the Good Friday Agreement came as a BIG surprise, and it is unsolvable.
One of the things people were promised under Corbyn’s leadership, was a genuine member-led party, where members’ views were listened to and acted on. So what are the members’ views?
For a start, members have been placed in a cleft stick. How do you balance supporting Corbyn with your dissatisfaction in Labour’s policy on Brexit: by sitting on the fence; or trying to ignore the damaging problem which Brexit is proving to be? One ‘problem’ for Labour was that many Labour constituencies voted to Leave. But that is so no longer, as many Leave constituencies have changed their minds and now back Remain; that includes all Labour constituencies.
Why had people voted for Leave? Many, with jobs in mind, were voting against immigration, but there are more immigrants coming to this country who are not EU citizens. MP Ben Bradshaw, speaking at an event in Dorchester, said that people had told him they voted Leave because they ‘thought they were voting against the Tories’.
Back in January 2018 a survey found that 78% of Labour members backed a People’s Vote. At the 2018 Labour Party Conference over half of motions submitted by CLPs were to do with Brexit, many of them wanting a second referendum. What we got was an election first and then, possibly, a People’s Vote – which Corbyn has now ruled out.
The country is already in chaos due to the total incompetence of May’s government and the inept negotiations. Minister after minister has demonstrated a stunning ignorance about the UK’s relationship with the EU, how it works and what leaving it will really entail. None of them seriously have the people’s interests in mind. David Davis came to meetings with no paperwork, or a file that that he ceremonially opened then never consulted or looked at, and left meetings early as he ‘had other things to do’. Was his manic smile and tomfoolery going to get the best Brexit? Or any kind of deal? His replacement Raab has stunned us with the admission he ‘didn’t realise how important the Dover/Calais trade route is’.
Each time ministers resign or get moved, May replaces them with someone even more useless. It seems that the Tory Party is now scraping the barrel for any person in its ranks (and that includes a replacement for May) with the talent to get us out of this mess.
And mess it is. It has got to the point where views in Parliament are too deep, divisive and combative for any rational solution, whichever direction one turns in. Businesses are closing, moving abroad or just plain panicking about how Brexit might affect them and their workers. Farmers, many of whom voted Leave, now see a bleak future, particularly those who depend on immigrant labour and those who import large amounts of animal feed. Our treasured NHS is collapsing, and not just because of creeping privatisation and the lack of proper funding. It is losing staff daily because of Brexit.
And Labour wants to add to that muddle and chaos by forcing an election? If Labour wins that election and still insists on negotiating to leave the EU, does Corbyn really think the party will escape the infighting, lies and arguments that are currently splitting the Tories?
All that seems to matter to the Tories is the survival of the Tory Party. By refusing to look at the option of a People’s Vote now (which could make it clear what the people, rather than parties, want), Labour appears to also put the party before the country, thus, putting the views of the few before the many.
The majority of Labour Party members do rightly support Corbyn and his socialist vision. We want a Labour government that would end austerity, build social housing, nationalise railways, create green jobs in renewable energy, work to combat climate change, protect workers’ rights and keep all the environmental protections. But in return Corbyn should support the majority of members – who want a vote on Brexit. He should support Labour constituencies where the majority of constituents, not just members, now want that vote.
While the country is in such an uncertain situation, Labour should not inflict more chaos by demanding an election.
If a People’s Vote does come out with a Remain result, which polls suggest it will, and with a greater majority than the 2016 referendum produced for Leave, that could bring the Tory government down. An election at that point would be a walkover for Labour.