What Next for the Labour Party?

27/06/2016 15:51

Was Brexit the right decision? This is a question for future historians. For better or worse, leaving the EU was the decision of the British people, and must be respected. Accusations, recriminations, and calls for a re-run are unhelpful and counter-productive to the important task of shaping the post-Brexit United Kingdom. Some Labour 'Remain' supporters have shown an ugly face after the result, sneering at "uneducated" working class leave voters, making ageist comments and calling for the will of the people to be overruled. These are mistakes the Labour party cannot afford to make.

Amidst the sound and fury of the post-referendum panic, the Left does have a truly historic opportunity, if it is capable of taking it. The Conservative Party is in meltdown, about to embark in a (doubtless bloody) leadership battle, and desperately struggling to create a post-Brexit plan. There may well be a general election before the end of the year. If the Labour party can grasp this opportunity, they have the chance not just to govern the country for a few years, but to shape the path the UK takes and the relationship it has with Europe and the wider world.

This is not just Labour's opportunity, but its responsibility. It cannot moan at the side-lines, or descend into civil war, and allow the Conservatives to shape the destiny of the UK. Labour must remain united to provide a clear-headed, progressive plan for a post-Brexit UK, of the kind Paul Mason called for. If the party cannot pull itself together, then it risks allowing the nation to slide into anarchy and barbarism.

The immediate battles for the party are obvious: It must fight to stabilise the economy and keep the United Kingdom together, whilst preventing any watering down of workers' rights, environmental protections and anti-discrimination laws, and ensuring that we remain a co-operative, inclusive and tolerant nation.

Labour MPs mounting a coup against Jeremy Corbyn have acted neither in interests of party nor country. Corbyn was handed a historic mandate just 10 months ago, and with no evidence of his popularity amongst members waning, he is unassailable in his position - If there is a leadership election, the only way he would not win again is if MPs deliberately and undemocratically kept him off the ballot paper, against the wishes of party members. What will this say to voters about the Labour Party? That it is divided, inward-looking and irresponsible, that it has no respect for its members, and that it is unable and unfit to govern.

Those complaining of Corbyn being unelectable have clearly misread the political landscape. From Trump and Sanders in the USA, to Syriza and Podermos in Southern Europe, to the vote for Brexit: The Western world has shown its dissatisfaction with the establishment and the status quo, and is willing to back an outsider. Conventional wisdom of holding the mythical "centre-ground" is out the window as people search for an alternative.

The country needs a strong and united Labour Party, it needs a clear-headed and progressive plan for Brexit, it needs hope. If the Labour Party can pull itself together and provide this, it has the chance to shape the future of our nation for decades to come. If it cannot raise itself to the challenge, we may be in serious trouble.