Category Archives: Brexit
A Bournville reader responds to today’s blog (‘one person’s reaction!’)
It is important to learn from those one may not like!
His first two points I agree with. The first is controversial but the second should be obvious. The third point is vacuous as it’s not spelled out.
it was a mistake to allow a General Election on Brexit – LibDems and SNP major culprits but Labour also.
The Labour manifesto was good but not effectively communicated.
The (in my opinion unfair) antisemitism slurs were unfortunate.
Organisation and leadership seemed ropey but that’s my guesswork.
Alas we are where we are, which I guess is the human condition!
A Moseley reader adds:
Blair states that Labour has always won when it secured the centre of British politics and refers to the 2019 campaign as substituting ‘a narcissistic belief in our righteousness for professionalism’. He does have a point. How many years have Labour been in government since 1920?
Britain is basically a liberal conservative nation. (note small l and c). Hence, we still have a royal family that the poor and working poor still respect and savour. Socialism is a thing which sounds like a nice idea but could never work within a monarchy. It’s a contradiction in terms.
Noel Hamel from New Malden: “A measured and thoughtful piece that avoids the pitfalls of mudslinging. Anyone interested in left-leaning progressive politics will find this interesting”.
Summary of Alan Simpson’s paper: Après le déluge
Parliament starts the new decade with Labour still in a state of grief…and anger…about its crushing election defeat. It’s a good place to start. The real grief is the damage done to the bigger dream that once surrounded Corbyn. Only a shift into more circular economics stands a chance.
For the Left, the problems began with Labour’s failure to root its policies in the radical decentralisation regularly espoused by both Corbyn and McDonnell, but which never made it past control obsessions within the ‘Corridoriat’ of Senior Advisors surrounding them.
Killing the dream
In 2017, thousands were drawn towards Jeremy because he symbolised a different sort of politics; something open, honest, radical and inclusive; a politics that promised to be genuinely transformative. Labour lost, but we felt like winners.
Blinded by Brexit
The 2019 election should never have happened. Johnson only had one card – Brexit – and Labour should have forced the Tories to wallow in the Brexit mess Johnson had wrapped himself in. A spring or summer election would have suited Labour much better… on condition that Johnson’s Brexit deal would first be put to a public vote.
Brexit neutrality made Labour look indecisive and Jeremy weak. It spurned Labour’s strongest card in favour of a public vote. Whatever the outcome it would have taken Brexit out of any subsequent election which would have had to address the bigger threats of societal and climate collapse already hovering around our doorsteps.
Labour lacked a simple strap-line
We didn’t even have the wit to dump the ‘Brexit’ part of the Tories’ ‘Get it done’, prefacing it with a succession of bigger issues; ‘Fix the planet: Get it done’, ‘Tackle homelessness:…’, ‘Repair the NHS:…’, ‘End poverty:…’.
The Tories set about casting Jeremy Corbyn as a man who couldn’t lead
Corbyn’s senior team helped, turning Jeremy’s campaigning zeal into an absence rather than an asset. Goodness knows how many rail-miles Jeremy clocked up, but it never became the ‘leadership’ peg the public were looking for, building a mass movement, with a hugely empowered, devolved power base.
Jeremy inherited a PLP that wanted to lynch him and (to their credit) an ofﬁce determined to stop them and he ended up with a corridor cabal.
The opportunity to build a wider consensus got lost behind internal obsessions with control, creating a siege/control mentality that was never able to reach outwards. No national/international ﬁgures were ever brought in to raise Jeremy’s policy/leadership proﬁle. No one who’d ever arm-wrestled in climate negotiations, trade deals or peace diplomacy came in to lead Labour’s transformation planning. Instead, ‘corridor control’ came to dominate. Factionalism overtook radicalism. At the most senior levels, people who’d never negotiated anything more than an extended tea-break were left in charge of the policy sifting process. The most repeated Shadow Ministerial complaint was about delays in getting radical policy proposals through the LOTO soup (LOTO: the Leader of the Opposition Office)
- Sue Hayman saw a string of her environment proposals get lost in this Never-never-land.
- Two years on, Alan Whitehead still awaits approval for publication of his Local Energy book (on radical decentralisation).
- Andy MacDonald’s pledge to set annual carbon budgets for every part of the transport sector never became the platform for transformative changes in aviation and shipping policy.
- His proposed ‘pendulum shift’ of funding from private to public transport infrastructures went the same way.
So where does Labour go next? Back to the Future? There is no ‘nice politics’ of the middle ground to return to. Business as usual will never return.
- Look at the ﬁres currently raging in Australia and the ﬂoods in nearby Indonesia.
- Look at our own pre-Christmas ﬂoods
- Look at earlier ﬁres that wreaked havoc from California to the Arctic Circle.
- Look at the ice melt.
Any wannabe Labour Leader who ducks the centrality of transformative climate politics is not worth following. As climate physicists continually try to warn us, ‘There are no small steps left’ but a systemic, transformative change might hold society together. The Left needs a bigger, anti-poverty, climate politics to hold communities, and the country, together.
Regionalised and localised approaches to ﬂood prevention, food security, air quality, re-wilding, fuel poverty, clean energy and transport must form the backbone of a Labour commitment to refound accountable, secure and inclusive democracy. It needs to go hand in hand with the radical re-empowerment of local government. There is no other way of delivering the 20%+ annual CO2 reductions needed to avoid the next tranche of climate tipping points.
In early 2017, John McDonnell, Jeremy and I began work on what was to be a Labour ‘Smart Cities’ Initiative. The plan was to open up conversations with up to 20 localities about the development of radically decentralised, clean-energy grids. Modelled on lessons from both Denmark and Germany, the plan was to put localities in the driving seat of strategies that made ‘climate’ the centrepiece of tomorrow’s economics. It needed rapid decarbonisation of the energy system, nationwide energy efﬁciency and waste reduction programmes, the use of smart technologies to localise, store and share energy, and a new skills agenda delivering full employment in a more circular economy.
The first Merseyside venue, workshops and speakers were all agreed on. But the political penny began to drop that this posed a serious threat to existing fossil fuel interests and to centralised energy generation. Suddenly no one could ﬁnd a common diary date for Jeremy and John. The 3-D commitment – decarbonisation, decentralisation and democratisation – became the ﬁrst of Labour’s ‘corridor casualties’.
Climate priorities, as well as electoral calculations, dictate that this is where Labour’s repair work must begin in Scotland and Wales as much as in the newly lost heartlands of the North and Midlands. This is where tomorrow’s security, stability and democracy politics will ﬁnd its roots.
The last election should have been the Climate Election. What happens in the next decade will determine whether we tip from crisis to collapse. Labour needs to become the Party that ensures we don’t.
Advisor on Sustainable Economics January 2020
The future for the planet is dire, with business-as-usual Neros fiddling on either side of the Atlantic
Dec 16-Jan 1st – two Gloucestershire correspondents reflect on the election results
Mervyn Hyde quietly predicted two things to himself after the Conservative victory on December 12 and his depressing predictions were confirmed. He has seen:
- gloating triumphalism on the political right
- the re-emergence of long rejected, nasty right-wing policies, like capital punishment and blood sports,
- and the political right using the election result to claim that socialism is dead and buried, perpetuating a rabid neo-liberalism.
He reminds us that the opinion polls showed – when simply presented with the policies with no party label attached to them – Labour’s policies were very popular. And in the popular vote, yn’s Labour won more votes in 2019 than Miliband’s Labour achieved in 2015.
But despite these facts, commentariat propaganda proclaimed that Labour’s policies had been “firmly rejected” and that they had “the worst election defeat since 1935” – a “disaster”.
Hyde’s verdict: “Wrong, wrong and wrong”
The election result actually showed Remain and 2nd-referendum parties winning more votes than Leave parties – with the Tories only winning an overall majority because of our undemocratic voting system. For well over a year now, opinion polls have been confirming that we are now a Remain country by a comfortable majority – which is why Brexiteers were terrified of having another referendum. His conclusion:
“Our antiquated voting system has to go. The election result actually showed Remain and 2nd-referendum parties winning more votes than Leave parties – with the Tories only winning an overall majority because of our undemocratic voting system . . . However I don’t believe that a form of PR would change the situation politically: the media has a massive influence and affects the outcome, whether under a PR or first-pass-the-post voting system”.
Richard House notes that the establishment commentariat is already hard at work creating a false narrative that the result is a rejection of socialism and Corbynism, rather a triumph for the brilliantly deployed self-preservation instincts of the ruling class and their control and manipulation of vast swathes of the population’s access to information.
Its carefully deployed narrative about Labour’s alleged “biggest defeat since 1935” has rapidly become a taken-for-granted “truth,” even in some Labour circles. But it’s a narrative hopelessly caught up in a first-past-the-post ideology — conveniently ignoring the fact that Jeremy Corbyn won more votes in 2019 than did Ed Miliband in 2015. Like Mervyn Hyde, House advocates a fair, proportional voting system, under which a Corbyn-led government would probably have been elected — albeit, perhaps, one held together by uneasy alliances.
The narrative was at best hopelessly simplistic, and at worst mischievous or just plain wrong. In reality, he continues, the election was lost through a highly complex toxic cocktail which included:
- the Brexit wild card,
- an unforgivingly undemocratic first-past-the-post voting system
- and an unprecedentedly vicious Establishment assault on Mr Corbyn’s Labour.
A relentless, ethics-free Tory machine awash with corporate money, played its populist hand well enough to get over the line using the fortune in their war chest, donated by the rich and the powerful. One arm of the propaganda assault was the Tories’ carefully targeted cold-calling of swing voters. Richard knows voters, for example, who were repeatedly rung up in the campaign and told that if they voted Labour, the country would have a communist government.
He fears that – because lies, deceit and unadulterated propaganda were imported into our electoral system to an unprecedented extent – democracy may well never recover and comments: “The relentless attacks on Jeremy Corbyn constituted the most vile character assassination campaign on anyone in British political history. Goebbels would have loved it”.
But, he adds, Labour made at least three major errors in this campaign
- They didn’t wage a sustained exposure of the establishment media’s propaganda assault on them.
- Labour spokespersons and MPs didn’t receive training on how to spot and deconstruct bias and embedded and concealed establishment narratives in media interviews, then “out” them in live interviews on the media (as Tony Benn famously and brilliantly used to do).
- Labour didn’t include a commitment to a fair voting system in its manifesto. “old-politics” tribalism prevails in the party’s leadership, which seems to prefer a majority Tory government to introducing a fair voting system though that might mean we’d have to sacrifice the chance of ever again having a majority Labour government.
The ritual condemnation of Labour’s leadership by Labour’s centre-right – in its carefully choreographed attempt to drag the party back to being the capitalism-friendly party of old – and the far-right’s appalling, power-at-any-price behaviour, will generate a race to the ethical bottom. Once the “ethically disgraceful behaviour” genie is out of the bottle, the winner will be the party who tells the most effective lies, and who cheats more successfully.
And the wealthy establishment, corporations, right-wing tabloids, and four-fifths of the press owned and controlled by non-dom, non-tax-paying billionaires living overseas, will do anything and everything in order to destroy the possibility of a genuinely left-progressive political party being elected. Richard House ends:
“A demonstrably fair voting system has to be part of the package we put together for attacking neo-liberalism. The times we’re in couldn’t be more grave or dangerous: the future for the planet is now truly dire, with two business-as-usual Neros fiddling on either side of the Atlantic”.
Anti-semitism, neoliberalism and austerity rejected by Jeremy Corbyn – the first Labour leader in decades to do so
British Jews, most of whom have family in Israel and lost family in the Holocaust, and all with plenty of experience taking on antisemites face to face across the political spectrum, point out that Jeremy Corbyn is the first Labour leader in decades to promote a policy agenda that rejects neoliberalism and austerity.
They ask: “Is that (policy agenda) why mainstream media don’t want to give access to the counter-narrative?”
They were alarmed to read, yet again, a list of evidence-free accusations charging Jeremy Corbyn with antisemitism (Letters, 15 November) and wrote a letter published in the Guardian today, which continued:
We are not the least surprised that the Jewish friends of the 24 luminaries who signed are worried and frightened about this supposed antisemitism – they repeatedly read and hear unsubstantiated allegations in pages of newsprint and hours of broadcasting, while the vast amount of countervailing evidence that has been collected by highly reputable researchers, many of them Jewish, is entirely disregarded.
As British Jews, most of whom have family in Israel and lost family in the Holocaust, and all of us with plenty of experience taking on antisemites face to face across the political spectrum, we are not prepared to be used as cannon fodder in what is really a political siege of the Labour party.
We beg you, enough – and we beg the 24 protagonists and their Jewish friends – to check out the alternative voices.
- Antony Lerman,Former director, Institute for Jewish Policy Research,
- Lynne Segal, Anniversary professor, psychosocial studies, Birkbeck, University of London,
- Richard Kuper, Founder, Pluto Press,
- Jacqueline Rose, Professor of humanities, Birkbeck, University of London,
- Adam Sutcliffe Professor of European history, King’s College London,
- Miriam David Professor emerita, UCL Institute of Education,
- Dr Brian Klug Senior research fellow in philosophy, St Benet’s Hall, University of Oxford,
- John S Yudkin Professor emeritus, University College London,
- Jonathan Rosenhead Emeritus professor of operational research, LSE,
- Francesca Klug Visiting professor, LSE Human Rights,
- Dr Graeme Segal Emeritus fellow, All Souls, University of Oxford,
- Mica Nava Emeritus professor of cultural studies, University of East London,
- Elizabeth Dore Professor emeritus, Latin American Studies, University of Southampton,
- Naomi Wayne Former chief enforcement officer, Equal Opportunities Commission for Northern Ireland,
- Stephen Sedley
The Guardian also has three other letters on the subject – well worth reading.
Corbyn’s conditions have been met: 28 EU member states give assurances that the No Deal option is off the table
Labour decided to agree to an election during an hour-long shadow cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning at the party’s headquarters in Westminster.
The Financial Times switched to tabloid mode:
“Labour bowed to the inevitable”
“Boxed in’ by the Liberal Democrat and Scottish National party move to trigger a snap poll Jeremy Corbyn supports December poll despite gloomy forecasts”
“Jeremy Corbyn has faced accusations of dithering in recent weeks over how to end the Brexit impasse”
“He felt compelled to jump off the fence”
Not so: Jeremy Corbyn was able to agree to an election because assurances had been given by all 28 EU member states that the No Deal option was off the table. This fact was stated in a video embedded in an article focussing on the reactions of Labour’s back-bench rebels.
In the video, Corbyn delivers his thoughtful and well-considered decision in a manner sharply contrasting with these media offerings.
Opposition parties have been looking for a way to ensure that Mr Johnson is unable to fulfil his stated intention to take the UK out of the EU on October 31 with or without a deal.
There are concerns the prime minister could seek to circumvent the Benn Act – the anti-no deal legislation that requires him to seek an Article 50 extension, if he cannot get a Brexit deal at the European Council next month.
In August, The National reported that Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National party, said she would be prepared to help to install Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of an emergency government to avert the “catastrophe” of a no-deal Brexit.
Today, Laura Hughes reported that this undertaking was repeated by Ms Sturgeon, whilst speaking to the BBC:
“My point is the opposition needs to act to get Boris Johnson — the most disreputable prime minister in my lifetime — out of office, stop a no deal and then, as quickly as possible, move to a general election.”
Plaid Cymru also said it would be open to supporting Mr Corbyn, or anyone who would commit to delivering a second referendum and, remarkably, last month Conservative MP Kenneth Clarke (‘Tory rebel’) signalled qualified agreement.
The European reported that Green MP Caroline Lucas reiterated her support earlier this week. She said: “He’s leader of the opposition and I think he had every right to expect to be interim prime minister . . . I think we need to come together”.
“Labour is now the only party putting the unity of the nation ahead of narrow calculation and easy headlines”
Comments by Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, flesh out the thoughts expressed by Richard House in his recent letter to the Western Daily Press. Some edited extracts follow and his New Statesman article may be read in full here
He opens: “Let the people decide. What could be clearer — or more honourable — than that? In these divided times, where the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, two parties aspiring for government, have opted for the polarising messaging of the demagogue, Jeremy Corbyn is saying that Labour will not dictate to the voters but instead work for them and with them”.
Summarising Jeremy Corbyn’s offer, he makes five points, Corbyn is saying,
- elect me into No 10 and the party I lead will honour the vote of 2016,
- it will do its utmost to secure the best possible Brexit deal,
- Corbyn will then put this deal back to the people,
- act for the whole country, honouring the views of the 48% cent and
- place the Labour deal vs Remain on the ballot.
Corbyn is a good negotiator and well liked by many European leaders, receiving a ‘rapturous reception and a standing ovation in Brussels (Oct 2017) after meetings with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator (below) and the prime ministers of Portugal, Italy and Sweden.
No surprise then that – as Len McCluskey reports – signals have been sent from the highest levels of the EU that the contours of Labour’s deal, which would maintain access to the single market and retain a customs union would be acceptable to the 27 member states.
He points out that no trade unionist would go into negotiations with an employer stating where they will take a stand on any deal before discussions have even begun, so no heed should be paid to calls for Corbyn and the Labour Party to take a position before any deal has been reached adding:.
“The correct position remains that Labour must act for the whole country”
Len McCluskey makes a plea across the party to constituency delegates, trade union delegates, MPs and affiliated society members, trade unionists, socialists and, above all, democrats:
“Do not let us be divided or defined as anything other, either by our enemies or by Brexit. Support Corbyn, support this Brexit position. When a general election comes, we will go to the people with a platform of hope and reform, ensuring that nobody, no community is left behind. We have a programme that will transform this country for the better, healing the dreadful wounds of austerity.
“Amid the heated voices and uncompromising stances, Labour is now the only political party offering an approach on Brexit that speaks in calm tones to the whole country. It is the only party putting the unity of the nation ahead of narrow calculation and easy headlines — because it is the only party that understands that unless we heal this country, our country, our people will suffer”.
Only one political party is attempting to find a mature way through the Brexit morass and heal a deeply divided nation
So writes Richard House (below, left), in the Western Daily Press,17 September 2019, p. 18–19. He is a (reluctant) left-leaver who wants “out of the EU” and is not blind to the “hopelessly flawed nature of the 2016 referendum”.
He sees no conceivable argument for leaving being “democratically” supported – with nearly two-thirds of the voters not voting to leave, and “the disreputable Brexit campaign defined by the propagandist manipulation of spin-meister Dominic Cummings, the Cambridge Analytica outrage, a near-hysterical anti-EU right-wing press, etc”. He continues:
“Ideological Remainers are clearly oblivious to the powder-keg of anger ready to go off across the nation, if by some mischance the Lib Dems were to win the election and revoke Article 50:
“The future of this once-tolerant country is extremely bleak, with many millions of people feeling the referendum result was being ignored by a pro-EU elite determined to drive through the “United States of Europe” political project. I often do political campaigning on the street, and the level of outrage that exists on this issue is truly frightening. The political class will ride rough-shod over it at their, and our nation’s, peril”.
“I pledge to carry out whatever the people decide, as a Labour prime minister”. That pledge made Labour “the only UK-wide party ready to put our trust in the people of Britain” and “bring people together”.
Allies of Jeremy Corbyn said his intention was to stay out of the fray if there was a second Brexit public vote and focus on running the country – a stance adopted by Harold Wilson, in the original 1975 EU referendum and David Cameron in 2016.
Though remaining neutral in a future EU referendum held by a government he leads, Jeremy Corbyn would allow senior colleagues to back either side of the campaign, in which there would be a choice between Remain and a new Labour-negotiated deal involving a customs union and close single market relationship.
Richard House advises Corbyn’s team to find a succinct and convincing narrative for conveying this view that appeals beyond people’s primitive polarising instincts – because if they succeed, the election is there for the taking.
Labour should allow the Johnsonian chaos to unfold, then have an election date of their own choosing
Dr Richard House reasons with those sceptics and wavering loyalists who are finding Labour’s Brexit strategy confusing or inconsistent. Edited extracts:
Successful politics is about being flexible and responding deftly to rapidly changing conjunctures – without sacrificing core principles.
The refusal to agree to Boris Johnson’s desire for an election avoids walking into an electoral trap and risking years of yet more ruling-class assault, it’s surely a no-brainer!”
Ideological Remainers and ideological Leavers are reminded that a rigid adherence to polarised positions, reconfiguring everything to fit those positions, risks five more years of a Johnsonian nightmare, just to cling on to a purist Lexit narrative that dictates leaving the EU immediately.
Johnson and Cummings are manoeuvring to engineer an immediate election fought on their chosen Brexit ground, rather than on nine years of policy-making calamity. Far better, as Emily Thornberry expediently advises, to “let them stay in power for a few more weeks – then people can see how bad they are”.
Far from being “a formula for inaction and indecision”, this is realpolitick and an attempt to maximise the chances of Labour winning next time.
Let’s allow the Johnsonian chaos to unfold a bit, then have an election date of our own choosing, not at an opportunistic date of theirs which might well bury our yearned-for Corbyn project for good.
Richard House draws attention to an article by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party, which had been shared 1600 times at 15.48 today.
Jeremy Corbyn asserts that Boris Johnson’s government wants to use no deal – which would destroy jobs and cause shortages of food and medical supplies from day one and hand our public services and protections over to US corporations – to create an offshore tax haven for the super-rich and sign a sweetheart deal with Donald Trump.
Meeting at the G7 in Biarritz
He reminds us that in 2017, Boris Johnson, when foreign secretary, proclaimed that there was no plan for no deal because they were going to get a deal, continuing: “But clearly they haven’t got a deal. And now, running scared of being held to account for his reckless plans for a Trump-deal Brexit, Johnson has decided to shut down parliament to stop them doing so”.
Adding that, ‘in the maelstrom of the coming days and weeks’, all should remember that sovereignty doesn’t rest in Downing Street, or even in parliament, Jeremy Corbyn states that the democratic way forward, when a government finds itself without a majority, is to let the people determine the country’s future and call a general election which will give them the chance to have the final say in a public vote, with credible options for both sides, including the option to Remain.
He ends by expressing his determination to ensure that Labour will bring people together by giving hope and confidence that a different future is possible and that real change can be delivered for every region of this country.