After Theresa Mays overwhelming defeat of her so called Brexit “deal” in Parliament (432 to 202 votes) on Tuesday 14th January this year, it was predictable what would happen.
The Labour party went ahead with their threatened vote of no confidence in the current government, which they must have known would fail. It did so, with 306 supporting it, and with 325 opposing it.
Labour starting to get their Brexit strategy wrong
Prior to their party conference last year, the Labour party were broadly sticking to their election manifesto promises to honour the 2016 referendum decision to leave the EU. They indeed were, to coin a phrase, “boxing very cleverly.”
Labour now trapped in a spider’s web policy
They then made the huge tactical blunder of adopting a conference Brexit policy, which they did think was clever and unifying at the time, but which now is coming back to bite them hard. This ‘Six Brexit Tests’ policy has become constricting to them and is preventing them from making a positive contribution to the Brexit process. The six tests have become like a spider’s web, woven by the remainers, which has trapped the Labour party fly in it, unable to move. They now are increasingly coming across as a party which is trying to use Parliamentary processes to undermine the UK leaving the EU.
The vote of no confidence has served no useful purpose to the Labour party or to the country. It has simply showed up a large number of MP’s of all parties as people who trade insults of each other’s personal and political abilities. This is, quite frankly, not what the country wants to hear at this crucial time.
This was exactly what the Conservative leadership wanted, a distraction from their disastrous Brexit policy. So while there was lot of debate about Brexit policy, the whole tone of the debate was a reminder of the worst aspects of our current, mainly two party system.
The country did not want a pointless debate about how bad the current Conservative policies have been. They already know that. They already know, too, any positive points about that government, which obviously the Conservatives put across in their defence.
This debate simply enabled the Conservatives to attack the Labour party and its leadership. A lot of that was very unacceptable, but it did enable Theresa May to portray herself as the defender of the Conservative party, rather than the defender of her own very poor performance as Prime Minister.
Labour urgently need to have a strategic re-think, as there is a danger that a continuance of their current approach to Brexit in particular will make them as unpopular as the Conservatives. It is such a shame when the policy of bringing about Brexit was serving the party so well.
A Labour policy of No Deal Brexit is not what people voted Labour for
Jeremy Corbyn made the added mistake at the close of the confidence debate by digging Labour in a deeper hole. He unnecessarily argued for a No Deal Brexit being ruled out by the government. In doing so, he also dented his credentials as a Eurosceptic.
However, such a stance would hinder the UK’s negotiating position and hinder the prospects of a good deal. It would also increase the chances of Brexit not proceeding, which would lose Labour a lot of votes at the next election. It comes across as a wrecking tactic, rather than a constructive one to help facilitate Brexit.
Debate a waste of valuable Parliamentary time
Another major point about all this is that the country is well aware that there is a shortage of Parliamentary time for a number of very important issues. Labour have effectively wasted a day of that precious time, which no one will thank them for.
Labour must review its six Brexit tests, which have no mandate from the public
There needs to be more focus on Labour wanting to make a serious contribution to enabling Brexit to be delivered. Labour did the UK an excellent service by helping defeat Theresa May’s so called Brexit “deal.” Now Labour must itself review its six Brexit tests.
Labour is making the classic mistake that parties have made over many years, and that is assuming that what party members want is what the people want. Labour would be foolish in the extreme if party policy became anti-Brexit when their MP’s have not been voted in on a ‘No Deal’ Brexit policy.
As the Prime Minister is now being asked to be flexible, Labour has to be as well, if they want to honour the referendum vote to leave the EU.
The vote of No Confidence could have been won with a different strategy
The ironic point about this no confidence vote is it could have been successful, if the Labour party had come to an accommodation with the DUP. Their ten votes would have ensured a Labour success.
As a political commentator who attends all the main UK political party conferences, I am well are that virtually nothing is impossible in politics.
As the Labour leadership knew they did not have the DUP onside, they simply should not have bothered with insisting on this confidence debate. Now is the time for Labour to stop pandering to remainers and return to being the champions of the British public.
Jeremy Corbyn has so far refused to take up the Prime Minister’s offer for talks on Brexit. It is to be hoped that he will change his mind, otherwise this will not be just damaging for Labour, but for the country too. It is to be hoped it will be the start of Labour Brexit co-operation and delivering what the British people voted for.
If they don’t, they risk the public turning to UKIP or a new party because if the public are betrayed on Brexit, they will desert both Labour and Conservatives.