For Jeremy, not the many: the Labour Party’s betrayal of Britain
There are many tragedies to Brexit – politically, economically, socially and culturally. From Brussels, the sharpest scorn is usually reserved for those hard Brexit advocates such as Boris Johnson. His vision of Britain facing a dystopian choice between a “dynamic liberal cosmopolitan open global free-trading” economy or a Britain chained to an “undemocratic system devised in the 1950s” has rightly attracted derision and anger in equal measures.
Often Brexit is characterised as nothing more than an internal Tory Party civil war gone viral. Part populism, part nationalism, part British indifference to the troublesome “continentals” constantly preaching about “integration”.
But this narrative – Tory bad, EU good – misses the biggest political tragedy of the entire Brexit process. Namely, the betrayal of the British people – specifically ordinary British workers - by a Labour Party desperately scavenging for uncertain domestic political gains in the future.
For people who know their British history, the emergence of the Corbyn cult, or as the Labour Party like to call it “a people driven party”, is not surprising. How else could a hard left leader, lacking majority support in his own parliamentary group retain the “support” of his party. Think good old fashioned infiltration, intimidation and abuse.
Often Brexit is characterised as nothing more than an internal Tory Party civil war gone viral.
This is Liverpool in the early 1980s writ large – social anarchy meets the digital age. It took Neil Kinnock the best part of the decade to clean up the Labour Party in the late 1980s, this time Corbyn’s rot may run even deeper. The British Labour Party, for all their talk of progressive values, has been largely dominated by protectionist driven leaders who have sought to disavow Europe. Blair and Brown were the exception, definitely not the norm.
Labour Party policy regarding Brussels has been confused and contradictory since they originally applied for membership as a government in 1967. The Labour Party Conference of 1971 voted with a significant majority against entry into the then EEC (in contrast to large majorities in favour at both the Tory and Liberal Party conferences). In 1975, a special Labour Party Conference again voted comprehensively against membership.
In their minds, European integration would lower conditions for British workers and cripple British industry. Who said the cult of Empire was solely a Tory preserve? In this context, Corbyn is the natural successor to politicians such as Tony Benn who consistently opposed any British involvement in Brussels tinged integration.
Labour Party policy regarding Brussels has been confused and contradictory since they originally applied for membership as a government in 1967.
So what exactly is the Labour Party position on Brexit? Does anybody really know? Corbyn is obviously a clear euro-skeptic who will gladly see Britain out of the EU. But more worrying is his economic illiteracy which prevents him from understanding what a loose or no deal Brexit will mean for ordinary British workers many of whom work for companies involved in international trade.
The Labour pledge to “retain the benefits of the Customs Union and the Single Market” sits beside further pledges to end free movement of labour and cherry pick membership of various EU bodies. This is the Conservative Party position dressed up in softer language. This is Brexit for Jeremy’s benefit, not for the British people.
Corbyn’s approach is simply unsustainable. British Trade Unions are increasingly adopting a more positive position on EU relations, as are younger voters. Both are key elements of maintaining Corbyn in power within the Labour Party. In reality, Corbyn is willing to sacrifice Britain’s membership of the EU on the calculated risk that a Tory Brexit mess will result in a General Election returning him as Prime Minister.
Even the rousing delegate reaction afforded to Keir Starmer’s pledge “not to rule anything out” regarding a second referendum at Party Conference will not shift Corbyn’s visceral distaste for European Integration. His refusal to explicitly endorse a second referendum has only further highlighted the chasm between him (plus his Chief Enforcer John McDonnell) and the majority of the Labour Party rank and file.
So rather than focus on Boris Johnson and his motley band of illusionists, perhaps the real focus should be on Jeremy Corbyn and about how in politics it’s self-interest - not the national interest - that guides Labour Party policy. Even if that mean sacrificing thousands of British jobs, the Irish Peace Process and British global influence. The British Labour Party – perhaps the most successful centre left movement across Europe – is willing to jettison Europe for one final shot at hard left power. In Jeremy’s head, a no deal Brexit is his only route to Number 10.