“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”.
The full text may be read here. Some points made follow:
Twenty years ago, this week, the people of Northern Ireland and of the Republic of Ireland voted in a referendum to accept the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. That vote changed the course of history on this island and represented the clearing of the final hurdle of a long and difficult process that opened the door to two decades of sustained peace.
Many young people across Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain do not remember a time when the bloody hand of conflict held a grip on our respective lands. Communities from Derry to Omagh to Warrington were afflicted by the plague of violence for a generation, leaving deep and long-lasting scars for all those who lived through those troubled times.
All too often in that period, the willingness to use force and reach for weapons instead of dialogue and diplomacy inflicted unnecessary suffering on innocent people.
So as we rightly celebrate the anniversary of the end to those years of violence, it’s important we remember the effort and determination it took on all sides to get where we are today.
I stand here as leader of the British Labour Party, a party that is proud of the part it played in helping to bring peace and stability to this region. Something many believed could never be achieved.
The transformation we have seen in Belfast alone since 1998 is remarkable. I visited this city long before today’s peace became a reality and have witnessed the very visible and cultural transformation that has taken place here.
After paying tribute to Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams, men who led the Republican movement from conflict to negotiation and diplomacy, arts they both mastered in the cause of peace, Corbyn added: “I can’t think of a greater sign of the progress made over the last two decades, when at Martin’s funeral last year, not only were there people in attendance from republican and nationalist communities, but also representatives of the loyalist and unionist side, including First Minister Arlene Foster. It is also right to recognise the work of the British and Irish government leaders of the time, whose determination made the impossible possible. For that, both Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair should both be given credit for their work.”
He also extolled the work of Mo Mowlam in negotiating the peace process, continuing: “I have always believed that to bring about real change, to end conflict, to bring communities together, you have to talk to people with whom you don’t agree. In 1998 we were fortunate to have leaders who were prepared to put that principle into practice . . .
“It was essential we recognised the traditions of each community and recognised and respected the identity of people on either side of the divide. This was and still is important for strong and healthy long-term relationships here, across communities and across borders. Perhaps where the agreement was at it boldest was in its radical reform of Northern Ireland’s political and institutional structures, as well as in creating a framework for North-South relations, and the relationship between Britain and the Republic of Ireland. That gave all parties a basis to find a route out of a generation of conflict together.
“For all the current problems and deadlock, there can be no doubt that devolution and power-sharing have given every community a voice and helped maintain the peace process.
He added that the move to establish the Northern Ireland Victims Commission helped both to promote reconciliation and preserve the memory of victims, bringing a new beginning and laying the ground for the vital work of decommissioning of arms and the removal of military infrastructure.
Looking at Stormont’s achievements, Corbyn noted that it had resisted many of the worst aspects of the government’s punitive social security policies using the powers provided by devolution.
His message to the people of this island: “Labour is as committed to the Good Friday Agreement as we have ever been. It has served us well for twenty years and, with commitment and determination, will provide us with the framework for the next 20. And with that in mind I want to make a plea to all parties and all sides. We must do all we can to make power sharing work again in Stormont. We need all sides to come together and make devolution work again. That means tough choices. It means compromise and give and take. But we owe it to the people of these islands not to allow political disagreements to open the way for any return to the grim days of the past”.
Stormont must be an example throughout the world of how dialogue, negotiation and diplomacy can defeat conflict. Now let’s show we can continue to build on that peace through democracy.
He called on the UK government to reconvene the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference if the current stalemate in Stormont cannot be sorted out in Belfast and to find a creative solution in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement that avoids a return to direct Westminster rule, and lays the ground for further progress for all communities.
Peace can and must be extended through real social and economic advances for all communities, with the state at regional and national level prepared to act to bring about a full-scale upgrade of the economy.
A Labour government in Westminster would make sure that Northern Ireland has more money to invest in its people and its public services, though many economic decisions for Northern Ireland would rightly be decided in Stormont,
He gave a commitment to supporting manufacturing in Northern Ireland and to reverse the decision to put the £1 billion contract to build the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships out to international tender, in order to keep jobs and prosperity in Britain’s shipyards and benefit Belfast. Northern Ireland can have a high tech, high skilled and exciting future.
Brexit, and the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland must be discussed, in particular the securing of future prosperity and peace on these islands:
“Labour will not support any Brexit deal that includes the return of a hard border to this island . . . By negotiating a new and comprehensive customs union with the EU, which includes a British say in future trade deals, we can ensure trade on this island stays frictionless and free flowing and prevent communities being divided . . . Opposition to the idea of bringing back a hard border to this land isn’t just about avoiding paperwork or tariffs, important though that is. It’s about deep rooted cultural and community ties. An open border is a symbol of peace, two communities living and working together after years of conflict, communities who no longer feel that their traditions are under threat”.
He emphasised that, as we leave the European Union, it is essential to ensure our manufacturers have access to markets and on-time supply chains and the communities of Northern Ireland continue to have access to vital funding for energy, research, agriculture and cultural projects.
Powers returned from Brussels to intervene, upgrade and reshape our economy for the 21st century may be used to deliver real social and economic advances for all our communities.
I’m proud to be here in Belfast as leader of the Labour party, a party with a strong record in helping to deliver peace and greater prosperity. I hope to use this visit to talk to people from different communities and listen to their concerns and hopes for the future. We are here to celebrate twenty years of peace, twenty years as an example to the rest of the world of how communities can turn conflict into co-operation.
Let’s work together in the spirit of friendship, co-operation and hope for another twenty and beyond.
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.”
Does Theresa May have the temperament and inter-personal skills to lead successful Brexit negotiations asks Steve Beauchampé?
Extracts from his blog, “ General Election 2017 – May Plays Her Trump Card”
We don’t have to look far for reasons to believe that the Prime Minister might be a potentially toxic mixture of intensely controlling, highly secretive, overly sensitive and with a touch of the feudal monarch about her. There’s her unwillingness to campaign using little apart from slogans, to debate live with rival party leaders, to encounter voters other than pre-vetted Conservative Party members or to place herself in anything less than totally managed and protected situations. There is surely more to all this than a natural awkwardness or introspection, of being uncomfortable around people; it is about avoiding scrutiny and challenge, it indicates a lack of self-confidence, an inability to think on your feet. And it might also display a degree of paranoia.
. . . there was no Conservative Party leadership contest, merely a coronation, with May anointed before most party members even had the opportunity to hear or scrutinise her policy platform or personal suitability for the post, let alone approve it. Rivals quickly fell by the wayside, with the mildly stubborn Andrea Leadsom’s bid terminated after she was allegedly goaded by the Tory hierarchy into making an unwarranted personal remark about May.
A bellicose and bunker-like attitude towards the most important negotiations this country has faced in decades
Theresa May’s most memorable contributions to the remainder of 2016 were her revelations to October’s Conservative Party annual conference that the UK would leave both the Single Market and Customs Union as well as end the free movement of workers, with the formal process of departing the EU commencing by the end of March 2017. None of this had been agreed beforehand by the Cabinet.
When the High Court ruled that Parliament, and not the Prime Minister, had the authority to determine when Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which commences our exiting the EU, could be invoked, May was furious, ordering a government challenge in the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, she permitted Justice Secretary Liz Truss to rail against the judges and failed to intervene to de-escalate tensions both when a Daily Mail front page headline called those judges ‘Enemies of the People’ and when a tirade of online abuse was directed against Gina Miller, who had brought the case.
After government defeat in the Supreme Court, May watched the subsequent House of Lords debate on the Article 50 Bill, staring at Peers from the steps of the royal throne . . .
Having stolen UKIP’s mantle (move much further to the right and the BNP might start to get nervous) Theresa May now seems to be taking cues from US President Donald Trump. Yes there were some leaks against her from EU officials, but then Whitehall also regularly leaks to its political advantage. But Theresa May’s speech outside No. 10 last week was designed to create the illusion of shady foreigners out to get Britain, before claiming that only she can save the country from them. Works every time!
May’s rage against the Brussels machine came only a day after she had revelled in claiming that the next person to find out that she was “a bloody difficult woman” would be European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Although I suspect that she’ll quickly find out that the other 27 EU heads of state and their negotiators can be even more ‘bloody difficult’ should Britain’s attitude be to go looking for a punch up. And if she continues on a confrontational course, Theresa May might now learn that the election of the strongly pro-EU Emmanuel Macron as French President will make her already difficult task just that little bit tougher. . .
Little wonder that many in Brussels are becoming tired with Britain, with its accusations and insults and with our Prime Minister’s testy approach when goodwill, reciprocity and a modicum of inter-personal skills might bring far greater rewards.
Such a bellicose and bunker-like attitude towards the most important negotiations this country has faced in decades, if not centuries, might well bring Theresa May a substantial General Election victory. Yet the country that she is creating has deepening political fissures, geographically and generationally, that both the forthcoming election and the Prime Minister’s anti-consensual and seemingly joyless leadership style appear to be exacerbating. It is a deeply unedifying spectacle. Given all of the above, do I really want to give Theresa May a mandate to negotiate my country’s future?
May 8th 2017