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Jeremy Corbyn May Limp On, But It's Already Over

27/02/2017 09:02 GMT | Updated 27/02/2017 09:10 GMT
Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

The loss of the Copeland by-election by Labour, a seat the party had held since 1935, would have come as no surprise to anyone paying attention to the party's vertiginous political collapse in the context of Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn's bullish response to the Copeland by-election result aside, his leadership of the Labour Party is effectively over. In fact it was over the moment capitulated to Brexit, succumbing to the wave of right wing populism that has swept the land. The result is that currently the UK finds itself in the position of having no official opposition to a government that is intent on pushing the country off the edge of a political, economic, and social cliff in obeisance that a referendum result fuelled by a brand of toxic xenophobia, nativism, and the 'othering' of migrants and foreigners we haven't seen since the 1930s.

The argument put forth by Corbyn and his team that we must respect the result of the referendum because benighted working class communities in Britain's post-industrial North, Midlands, and South Wales voted for it, this is an argument rooted in sociology not socialism. The grievous consequences of confusing both cannot be overstated. Brexit was and is the UK manifestation of the resurgence of a rejuventated right and far right across Europe, wherein millions of working people have been persuaded that the global recession which began in 2008 was the not result of an economic system predicated on unfettered and unregulated greed within the private sector, but instead was the product of unsustainable public spending. In Britain the savage austerity policies implemented in response to this global recession by the Tories, the worst since the 1930s, has proved manna from heaven for Ukip and its reactionary worldview, sowing the kind of hardship and despair that is fertile ground for the scapegoating and 'othering' of migrants and minorities.

The main drivers behind Brexit are not democracy and sovereignty but xenophobia and bigotry. As such, no self-respecting Labour leader should be doing anything other than resisting it with all his muscle and mind. How dare Jeremy Corbyn proclaim that we should respect this tawdry and squalid referendum result. Ten people do not proceed to walk off the edge of a cliff just because a majority in the group decided at the outset that this was the best way home. When they come to the edge of the cliff they stop and turn back in order to avert disaster. Yet here we have the leader of the Labour Party urging his supporters to continue on off the edge of this Brexit cliff in a grotesque paean to right wing populism.

You don't have to be a full blooded supporter of the EU to understand the necessity of opposing Brexit. Indeed the very working class communities that are supporting Britain's exit from the EU are guaranteed to be its biggest victims, entrenching as it will the hegemony of Tory ideas for many years to come -- chief among them the idea that there is no such thing as society or community or the common good.

Corbyn's decision to impose a three line whip on Labour MPs, requiring them to vote in favour of Theresa May's upcoming bill to trigger Article 50, confirmed that under his leadership Labour is currently embarked on a strategy of fighting Ukip by becoming Ukip-lite. The ramifications of such a strategy when it comes to regaining the acres of lost ground in Scotland are guaranteed to be deep and serious in the making, regardless of his stentorian words to the contrary at the Scottish Labour Party conference. His analysis and understanding of Brexit, the reactionary impulses and politics driving it, is so woeful he has become the political equivalent of Marshal Grouchy, the commander of Napoleon's right wing whose late arrival with his army at Waterloo ensured the Corsican general's defeat in a battle that changed the course of history.

Famously, when Grouchy was urged by one of his subordinates to "march to the sound of the guns," he replied that it was his duty is to obey the Emperor's orders, using those orders as justification for inaction.

Labour's current leader is our Marshal Grouchy, a man so intent on respecting the result of a non-binding referendum - despite the nativist, xenophobic, and anti-migrant poison the result reflects  -  that he refuses to march to the sound of the guns in the battle that is currently underway for the very soul of British society. His failure to do so will define his legacy.