Category Archives: Brexit
In spite of Labour’s General Election surge and its continued polling strength – not to mention more than thirty u-turns Labour under Corbyn had already forced from the Conservatives before the election – the line persists in some quarters that Labour is not an effective opposition.
That line tends to be spouted either by those who think defeating Brexit is the only important task for the opposition – or by those who talk like it for factional purposes – ignoring the fact that Corbyn’s handling of the issue has been intelligent, nuanced and politically skilful.
So, as it’s the time of year for round-ups, here is a non-exhaustive list of sixteen u-turns that the Conservatives have been forced to make because there is an opposition party willing and able to stand for something different.
And for those who think Brexit is the only vital issue, the first three are Brexit-related:
- Brexit deal vote u-turn
- Brexit impact assessment u-turn
- European Court of Human Rights u-turn
- Dementia Tax u-turn (unprecedentedly dropped from the manifesto before the GE)
- Pensions triple lock u-turn
- Housing benefit cap for supported housing u-turn
- Self-employed National Insurance increase u-turn
- School meals cost u-turn
- NHS Professionals sell-off u-turn
- Police funding u-turn
- Fire safety in schools u-turn
- Grammar schools u-turn
- Abortion for Northern Irish women u-turn
- Winter fuel payments u-turn
- Universal Credit 7-day waiting period u-turn
- Universal Credit freephone u-turn
- Fox-hunting u-turn
- Diesel tax u-turn
- Manchester terror attack costs u-turn
- Prisoner vote u-turn
The government has been weakened by Corbyn’s Labour taking a clear, firm stand – and the Labour surge resulting from the party presenting a genuine alternative.
2017 has been a historic year for Labour and much of that can be attributed to Corbyn’s vision, leadership and his strength in standing firm against an unprecedented media onslaught – and it’s been a better year for millions of UK people as a result of Labour’s effective opposition.
Today the FT reports that Jeremy Corbyn was given a ‘rapturous reception’ in Brussels on Thursday, as he warned that leaving the EU without a Brexit deal would be “catastrophic” for the UK economy. Mr Corbyn met Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator (above), the European Parliament President Antonio Tajani and the prime ministers of Portugal, Italy and Sweden on Thursday in Brussels.
Mr Corbyn received a standing ovation from Europe’s centre-left parties as he addressed delegates at the Europe Together conference, just hours before prime minister Theresa May was scheduled to meet her EU counterparts at a European leaders’ summit. He said:
“We’re here to make sure that negotiations get on track, that we defend jobs in Britain, and that we make sure there is trade access to Europe in the future . . . We cannot countenance the idea that we rush headlong into a no deal with Europe. No deal would be very dangerous for employment and jobs in Britain. We are clear in our priorities: a jobs-first Brexit which maintains free access to the single market.”
He advocated “radical alternatives” for Europeans after years of austerity, rising job insecurity and falling living standards. “The neoliberal economic model is broken. It doesn’t work for most people,” he said, adding: “Our broken system has provided fertile ground for the growth of nationalist and xenophobic politics.”
The FT ends: “Mr Corbyn’s enthusiastic reception was in stark contrast to Mrs May’s arrival in Brussels on Thursday. The UK prime minister was rebuffed from attending a meeting of Britain’s traditional European allies — including the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries and the Baltic countries — on the sidelines of the summit, though Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s prime minister, was invited to that meeting.”
Comment Writer Jamie Aspden, a third year political science student at the University of Birmingham, argues that that the Conservative Party Conference was the conclusive sign that the government needs to change. A ‘wake-up call’ – read the article here: http://www.redbrick.me/comment/brexit/conservative-party-just-managing/. Some extracts follow.
“For the first time in decades Britain faces the possibility of a truly socialist government, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn”.
After referring to the lost majority and questionable DUP deal, a Cabinet at war with themselves, little good news along the way and detailing the conference mishaps Aspden comments, “Theresa May has just about managed to get through it, whilst being tripped up by countless political debacles”. He ends:
“If the Conservative Party wishes to keep its reputation as one of the oldest, greatest and most successful political parties in the free world, it needs to get its act together and fast. The cost of indecision is too high.
“The United Kingdom can no longer afford this brand of governance. As at this time, when it faces some of the greatest challenges since the Second World War: an ageing population, a changing climate and the departure from the EU, we need a, dare I say it, ’strong and stable’ government. One with innovative and inspired ideas, and with the unity and discipline needed to enact them. ‘Just about managing’ will no longer cut it.
“For the first time in decades Britain faces the possibility of a truly socialist government, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. A party which is ‘just about managing’ to hold itself together is of little use in the fight against such an opposition. Instead the party must unite and move forward as one. If not, the electorate will never forgive it for falling apart right at the moment it needed to come together.
“The country deserves and needs a government that succeeds, and it needs it now”.
Like many others, I have read and appreciated Christian Wolmar’s input on transport issues over the years – HS2 of late. I know nothing of his political views though, and so was intrigued to come across this article a couple of days ago. The last four paragraphs of Wolmar’s thoughtful but pugnacious argument follow:
Labour’s strategy of equivocation on Brexit actually worked on polling day. Far from alienating both sides in the debate, as I had predicted, the party managed, to some extent, to attract both Leavers and Remainers. Suggesting that the benefits of the single market and customs union should be retained while leaving the EU was, however, a conjuring trick that cannot be repeated. At some stage, when Theresa May discovers that she cannot have her cake and eat it, Labour is going to have to decide whether the deal she has negotiated is acceptable or not.
But not now. At the moment, the best strategy is simply to watch the Tories tear themselves apart. This is not Labour’s problem, but theirs. They got us into this mess and therefore they must be held accountable. There is no doubt that once the eight, highly complex Brexit bills start to reach the Commons, then there will be a battle royale between the pro-European and Europhobe wings of the Tory party. It will be a great spectacle but such fights, like boxing matches, are better watched than entered into.
Ultimately, we do not know which way Labour will go. There is no doubt that Corbyn and John McDonnell are sceptical of the present structure and policies of the European Union but that does not necessarily mean they feel Britain’s future is better out of it.
Rather like Corbyn’s brilliant decision to enter the TV leadership debate at the last moment, Labour should wait to pounce until the chaos within government is so apparent that it is about to crumble. My hope is that Labour would then announce it will hold a second referendum because the implications of leaving prove to be so dire, and the advantages so nebulous. But then I have always been an optimist.
Christian Wolmar is a British journalist, author, railway historian and Labour Party politician He is known for his commentary on transport, named as Journalist of the Year in the National Transport Awards in 2007. He is also an advocate for cycling. Wolmar’s books and columns mainly analyse the current state of the British railway industry. He is a critic of rail privatisation and opposes the construction of HS2, the planned high-speed railway between London and Birmingham and further points north.
(Just added to ‘favourites’: https://twitter.com/christianwolmar. No need to sign up- anyone can read this.)