Monday, 12 November 2018

May and Corbyn Careening Towards Political Self-Destruction

You don't need a crystal ball to realise that Theresa May's Chequers Plan for Brexit is deader than a dead parrot. Not only have the EU made clear that key elements of it in relation to the Irish border and the question of the backstop are dead, even if May drops the other elements of the plan, and agrees to stay in the Customs Union, and Single Market for an indefinite period. They have also insisted that Britain accept the continued role of the ECJ. But, even if she could somehow stitch up yet another fudged agreement with the EU, to get through another day, the fact is that she cannot get any such deal through parliament. The DUP/ERG will vote down anything that does not conform to their requirements for a hard Brexit, and because any deal that May obtains will not conform to Labour's six tests, it will be voted down by Labour, along with the SNP. Or, at least, that is what you would expect given Labour's conference decision, and the fact that 90% of Labour Party members, and around 70% of Labour voters, now support Britain remaining in the EU, as well as the latest polling showing a majority in all Labour held seats now backing Remain. 

However, Corbyn's interview with Spiegel last week throws that into doubt. Once again, Corbyn has allowed his nationalistic tendencies to influence his position in regard to Brexit, telling Spiegel that Brexit could not be stopped. Of course it can be stopped. That was the whole point of Labour's Six Tests, and of the Labour Conference decision on Brexit. In fact, not only can Brexit be stopped, but Labour's Conference decision, plus the latest polling that shows a clear 54-46% of the population, including majorities in formerly Leave voting areas, now in favour of Remain, indicates exactly why Labour should have been firming up its position, and demanding that Brexit be stopped! 

May seems to be simply rushing headlong towards the cliff edge, simply as a result of inertia. She has no clue what to do. Unable to get over the fact that her party is deeply split she is caught, as she has been for the last two years, between the requirement to negotiate with the two poles of her party, along with the DUP, at the same time as trying to sucker the EU into some kind of fudge that she hopes she will be able to reinterpret the moment it has been agreed, as she has done every time over the last year, and that the Tory Brextremists most certainly will do, after March 29th, when they ditch her as leader. So, she has hoped to just keep rushing to the cliff edge, in the belief that faced with the choice of whatever deal she comes up with, whilst the ERG/DUP will vote against it, Corbyn and the Tory Remainers will push it through on the basis that the only alternative would be a disastrous No Deal Brexit. 

Corbyn should say no to such a choice under all circumstances, but his comments to Spiegel once again raise the doubt that he will. Labour should refuse to make that choice, and if the only choice is presented is that it will mean a No Deal Brexit, Labour should say, “So be it, but also, on your head Theresa May, be the consequences.” The truth is that Theresa May could not push through a No Deal Brexit, because the consequences of it would be so disastrous. That is what Jojo realised last week, and apparently other Cabinet members are likely to resign on the same basis. The Tories are headed for a full-blown political crisis. It would be ironic for Theresa May, and this right-wing Tory government to be actually saved, by the supposedly “hard left” Corbyn! Yet, on the basis of his statements and actions over the last year or so, that is by no means an impossibility. 

Whatever happens, May is doomed. If she presses ahead with a No Deal Brexit. she will cause a political crisis, economic chaos, and a destruction of the Tory Party, with Britain undoubtedly having to make an emergency appeal for readmission to the EU. If she pushes ahead with some sort of fudge, backed by Corbyn, the DUP/ERG will oppose it and her, they will force a leadership context, in which she will be kicked out by the Tory rank and file. But, Corbyn appears set on following her into political self-destruction with his continued position of pushing through some form of Brexit. 

With the Tories in chaos over Brexit, with Tory Ministers resigning as they recognise that May's deal has no chance of being agreed, and that a growing majority of the population are opposing Brexit, it should be obvious to Corbyn that Labour should be setting itself at the head of this growing movement opposing the disaster that Brexit threatens. Instead, almost in identical tones to May, he simply repeats the mantra that Brexit cannot be stopped, and that the will of the people must be respected, even though its clear that the will of the people now, is to stop Brexit! 

Whatever we might think about Tony Blair, the fact is that in 2003, he had the appearance that politically, he could walk on water. When Labour came to office in 1997, satisfaction with the NHS had collapsed to extremely low levels. Labour trebled spending on the NHS, and those satisfaction levels recovered quickly. Money was spent on building schools, repairing roads and all the other aspects of UK infrastructure that the Tories had let rot over the previous 20 years. Not only did Blair win another huge majority in 2001, but even after the Iraq invasion in 2003, he was able to win another election in 2005. Yet, it did not take a genius to realise, even in 2003, that Blair's Iraq adventure, and his support for Bush, would lead to his political downfall. As the reality of the Iraq War manifested itself, Blair became as toxic as the depleted uranium munitions that were used in that war. 

Its again ironic that Corbyn appears to be repeating that history, but worse. In 2003, when Blair ignored the 2 million or so of us marching through London to oppose the war, and all of those of us inside the party that opposed it, he had the comfort, at least, of knowing that a majority of the population still backed the war, and that even if a majority in the party opposed the war, it was not an overwhelming majority. But, today, as the Channel 4/Survation study showed, a clear majority of the population now oppose Brexit, whilst 90% of Labour Party members, and around 70% of Labour voters oppose Brexit. For Corbyn to ignore that, and to simply charge ahead in a quixotic crusade for Brexit is foolhardiness rarely witnessed in politics. 

For May, the rush towards oblivion is understandable. She was put in an impossible position of trying to push through a Brexit that from the start was based upon a lie that Britain could somehow be at least as well off outside the EU, as inside. She has been forced by events, and by the constraints of internal Tory party dynamics to pursue the course she has taken, which has led to her current impasse, at the end of the road. But, that is not at all the case for Corbyn. He could from the start of adopted a principled socialist internationalist stance, of opposing Brexit, and arguing for an EU wide progressive social-democratic solution. Had Labour been standing out forcefully on that principled ground over the last two years, the majorities opposing Brexit would be even greater than they are today. 

Instead, Corbyn seems intent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, as he continues to pursue a reactionary nationalist agenda of pushing through Brexit, in the forlorn belief that it would in some way open up the possibility of a version of social-democracy in one country. Instead, it will result in the destruction of the Labour Party, and a strengthening of reaction.

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