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While Rome Is Burning, Jeremy Corbyn Waters The Plants

07/03/2017 11:40

Donald Trump isn't the only western political leader more focused on his ego than the wellbeing of his country.

At this critical moment in our history, negotiating our exit from the EU, there has never been a greater need for an effective opposition. With so much at stake, Jeremy Corbyn's silence on the subject has been deafening. From the first day of the campaign to now just days away from the triggering of article 50, his empty rhetoric on Brexit has badly damaged the UK. Since the get-go, Corbyn has sat on the fence, lacking the balls to take a stand, instead opting to bury his head in the sand.

With the chaotic circus that has marked his tenure as leader, Corbyn's inability to unite his party has distracted from Labour's primary role in Westminster. As time passes, it becomes clearer that Corbyn is more concerned with maintaining his position as leader than he is about Britain's future - and that is deeply concerning, because Brexit is bigger than all of us. As a consequence, without any substantial opposition, Corbyn has written Theresa May a blank cheque, letting this government run amok with our nation's future.

Speaking from experience, serving in government is both an honour and a responsibility of great significance. Having also served on the opposition benches, I can say that without question, the role of an active opposition is of equal importance. To hold a government to account, scrutinise, and steer the debate around issues that matter, are a hallmark of any healthy democracy. Under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour's ability to do just that has been nothing short of pitiful.

If you're reading this article in a public place, do me a favour - look to the person on your left, and to your right. Depending on where you are, it's very likely that one of these people did not vote for Brexit. Now add yourself to the equation: the chances are that amongst you three, two of you don't want us to exit from the EU without a deal. A recent ICM poll found that a mere 35% of British citizens agree with leaving the EU without a deal, something that Theresa May has threatened to do. But Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party don't seem to care, backing the Tories in the Commons all the way.

While I believe that the Lib Dems have been a strong and effective voice against a hard Brexit, I concede that our platform to do so isn't nearly as big as Labour's. But with Labour focused on internal squabbling instead of issues facing the country, it has been left to us, the Liberal Democrats, to lead the charge. We Lib Dems will fight to the very end for a Brexit deal that is both pragmatic and fair. But we cannot do this alone.

The triggering of article 50 is just the beginning of a critical two-year negotiation process. Though it is no doubt a cliché, this issue is one that should supersede partisan lines. So we all must work together to ensure the government pursues the soft Brexit deal we need.

As a guest on Daily Politics this week, Labour MP Liz Kendall decried 'I think that there is a desperate yearning in the country, for a strong and effective opposition'. I could not agree more.

In the hour of our greatest need, we need both the 'official' and the effective Liberal Democrat opposition to be united in challenging a reckless exit from the EU.

Our party is in this for the long haul, and it's high time Labour joined us.

Tom Brake is the Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton & Wallington

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