Corbyn has played a blinder re: Brexit. Yes, I know many are frustrated that he supported triggering Article 50 and has not been on the People’s Vote platform, which after all is calling for the very thing that Jeremy champions relentlessly on countless other platforms - more democracy.
But here’s the thing. I am as indignant as the next Remain supporter about the lies told by the Leave campaign. The financial irregularities, the subversion of democracy by dark money and dodgy individuals linked with Trump, the enormous lie about the NHS receiving a huge funding boost. And of course, the shameless race-baiting with images of Turkey (i.e Muslims) swamping these green isles. Turkey is, of course not even in the EU, a fact the smirking Farage knew full well when posing in front of that huge billboard. Him clutching his pearls at Tommy Robinson being appointed as an advisor to Ukip is therefore even more disingenuous.
But the fact is, the people were told their vote would count. It would be an affirmation of the gap between political elites and citizens if their decision was seen to be simply discounted. I believe successive governments, including New Labour, ignored these communities, allowed the devastating economic decline and social fracture which right wing opportunists are only too happy to exploit with the usual scapegoating strategies. Sadly, complacent Labour Councils as well as indifferent Tory ones are equally to blame.
And finally, we have an opposition leader who is willing to make a break with the neoliberal approach which the mainstream parties have been wedded to since Thatcher, which has caused much of this misery.
The pain and anger is real, even if the real causes have been denied. Labour’s empathy and respect for the people it seeks to represent has to be equally genuine to rebuild that trust.
It would therefore be a huge political risk in Labour Leave heartlands to have only championed Remain. And it would increase the already high hurdle of gaining the required seats in marginal areas to win a General Election. Furthermore, aside from the parliamentary calculation, it would provide fertile grounds for the far right extremists who are already eagerly trying to exploit the situation. This weekend the charlatan Tommy Robinson failed to draw numbers to his latest attempt to jump on a bandwagon, but his backers, which include powerful international alt-right figures such as Steve Bannon, are plotting in the wings.
So Jeremy’s approach has been a canny one. Instead of Labour hectoring at people that they got it wrong, the realities of the impossible promises made by the right wing Brexit charlatans are becoming apparent themselves. The public is shifting as the road to kicking the can runs out (even with Theresa May’s latest avoidance tactics). The appetite for a second referendum, if a general election is not called, is increasing daily as parliament is paralysed. Labour would do well to be seen to respond to that appetite - not having insisted on that option prematurely. That’s what good listening entails, and ensures you take the largest number of people with you. Patience has its rewards.
The People’s Vote campaign has importantly kept the pressure up on behalf of the very many who did not and do not want Brexit. The initial referendum was very much a blind one, and a close one, and they too need their fears and concerns addressing.
A few more days of allowing the Tories to unravel themselves, and Labour should move quickly to confidently articulate a Plan A and a Plan B.
Labour has a national programme that aims to deliver for the many not the few - that is the constant. The manifesto was the star of Labour’s 2017 campaign. Corbyn is popular due to being trusted to deliver on such a manifesto with the consistency he has shown over decades. So Labour needs to keep a focus on that vision. And it can square the Brexit circle by demonstrating it knows how to do that in either a Brexit or Remain scenario.
What the country needs right now is reassurance. Citizens, business, and public services need to know that they are safe in Labour’s hands in either context. The future of this country should not be held further ransom to Cameron’s ill thought through folly. And the country should not be denied a progressive anti-austerity government by a binary over Brexit which divides people in families, never mind within parties, and blurs the lines between Left and Right.
So Plan A is a left wing Brexit vision (the “Lexit” or Bennite option) - under which Labour should be able to show how it would deliver its manifesto pledges whilst leaving the EU. Plan B is delivering its manifesto under a Remain option, should the country return with such an outcome after a Final Say. The point is, Labour is relaxed about either - a sensible, pragmatic and mature attitude.
Here is a strong left wing case for Brexit for those progressives who may think one could not exist. And here’s an analysis that shows a Labour manifesto could be delivered even within some of the existing EU constraints, and how other countries have invested in their industries despite the state aid rules.
Whilst apparently contradictory views can seem confusing, I choose to regard it as reassuring that options exist under both Brexit and Remain scenarios for progressive policies to be implemented. So either Brexit is an opportunity to break with the EU neoliberal cartel and take back our sovereignty and economic freedom or we exercise rights available within the EU, which hitherto the UK government has chosen not to, which still allow enough room to deliver on Labour’s manifesto.
The country needs clarity from Labour. The Tories have imploded as much as they can, but the polls don’t show Labour racing ahead in the way it should be. The ambiguity which has served Labour well up till now, will now hold it back if it continues. The time is now for clarity and rallying the country behind a leadership that is confident in delivering the will of the people, in or out of Europe.