All the signs are pointing to a General Election before Christmas.
- Downing Street is trying to secure support from the Daily Mail for Johnson’s campaign
- Conservatives are doing fundraising letters saying there will be one!
- Tory MPs are accidentally tweeting picture of inboxes with email subject lines ‘GE2019’
Brexit will dominate in the GE and so I wanted to re-iterate Labour’s position, and why we can be proud of our stance.
Last week Corbyn put forward a plan to work across the House of Commons to stop a No Deal Brexit. The plan is to call a vote of no confidence on Boris Johnson, form a care-taker government to ensure no deal does not happen, then call a general election. He wrote to all leaders of opposition parties, with SNP, Plaid, Green and some Tory back-benchers all backing his idea. Lib Dems still not supporting it, but softening their stance. It is difficult to see how they could have any integrity on their position on stopping Brexit if they cannot back Corbyn’s plan.
Our official party position is to have a public vote in all circumstances. Our position changed this summer because it has been over three years since the initial indicative vote and a lot has changed. The government has lurched to the right with the election of Johnson in July and his extremist cabinet. He wants to pursue a No Deal at all costs and out Brexit the Brexit Party. This summer Johnson is spending £100,000,000 that is £100 million on promoting No Deal to the public, a war-like propaganda exercise.
Labour had to shift position, and Corbyn was right to come out in favour of public vote in all circumstances. During the hustings of my selection campaign I said I would support a ratification referendum. I think it was important that Labour didn’t officially back a second referendum until this summer. It wouldn’t have made much of a difference to outcomes – the Tories were so busy tearing themselves apart they weren’t going to budge, and even when Labour tried to get a second referendum through in the indicative votes it fell short. Labour will never dismiss all the Labour supporters and UK citizens who voted Leave.
I appreciate there is still a significant number of people that supported Brexit due to the possibility of a Lexit (left-wing Brexit). For me there has always been 4 reasons that ‘Lexit’ doesn’t make sense:
- Lexiteers often argue Brexit makes it easier to nationalise our public utilities and transport such as rail and water. This is not true as all of our flagship policies already exist in other northern European countries such as Germany and the Nordic countries, and it would be possible to implement most of these within the EU’s State Aid and competition regimes. However for a more detailed argument take a look at the second half of this piece on Lexit.
- Lexiteers often argue that the EU is a neoliberal project and therefore we should leave it. For me that is akin to arguing that the UK state is an imperialist project and we should abolish it. UK Parliament (still far from where it should be) has been reformed continuously over the last 800 years, the European Parliament (also far from perfect), can also be reformed, rather than abandoned. In fact the EP being much younger at only 66 years old is much more able to evolve and change through a number of mechanisms. (Again see Laurie’s piece)
- Brexit is and always will be a right-wing project. It comes from deep divides within the Tory party, its continuing to threaten to tear them apart (and bring us all down with them). We shouldn’t try and bring this division into the Labour party. Of course we will do our best to sort out their mess (what we are doing now), but it’s not ours.
- Brexit has led to the rise of far-right populism. As soon as I realised that Brexit was actually being used to allow the rhetoric of racism towards immigrants to take hold I knew it wasn’t for me. Prior to that having been in Greece in 2015 I did flirt with the idea of Lexit, but quickly dismissed it when I saw how Brexit was really about problematic concepts linked UK’s identity and history of empire, sovereignty, race, anti-immigrant sentiment. I think you would have been living underground over the last 3 years to not have noticed there has been a spike in racism in our country. As an anti-racist party we must stand against any project that looks to exploit divisions on race, ethnicity, and any other identity.
A Labour remain position, has to be remain and reform, not simply remain. I personally felt very disappointed that many Labour voters swung to the Liberals in the Euro elections this summer. The Lib Dems arch-remainer position is about as useful and dogmatic as the arch-leave position. It offers no solutions to our current problems. What many people don’t seem to appreciate is how right-wing Liberal Democrat economic policy is. The Lib Dems are in the ALDE grouping in the European Parliament, a centre right party focused on free market economics. They offer nothing to the challenges we face: corporatism, shareholder primacy, market monopolies, stagnating wages. They are quite happy with the status quo of the current European Parliament.
So assuming there is an election before Christmas, our position will be as follows:
> A public vote on the Brexit deal
> We will renegotiate the deal and put it back to the public alongside the option of remain
For me this is the best outcome as it means that we avoid the disastrous No Deal and bad Tory deal, we offer a public vote to leave with a decent deal, one negotiated by Keir Starmer MP and team, that doesn’t risk jobs, workers, and environmental rights.
We will get criticised, saying ‘we should be 100% remain’, that’s all well and good, but we cannot simply revoke Article 50, that is undemocratic. We have deep challenges ahead that go way beyond Brexit; climate change, inequality, democracy. We need to reckon with Brexit, but that is just the beginning for building a fairer, more democratic, and just society.
Labour has always put the facts and figures first through the Brexit process. Simply by being the main opposition in an immensely difficult situation we have taken the toll in terms of elections, but I believe our position has had high degrees of integrity with it; trying to be fair, and bring the country together, and not allow a disastrous right-wing Tory Brexit through.