As we are all aware, Ms May, desperate to get her abomination WA dragged across the finishing lines, has now condescended to ‘work’ with Mr Corbyn and Labour. No matter that the talks broke down on Friday, the delegations (all Remainers), including presumably Mr Oily Robbins, will still meet over the weekend – no matter that her Ministers and MPs have been warning that this is driving the Tory Party to self-destruction.
But – what about Labour? We never thought that Corbyn & crew were doing this out of human kindness. The pounds of flesh they demanded are well documented: second referendum, ‘people’s vote’ and ultimately revoking Article 50. And we do know that their real aim is to get a GE and thus heave Mr Corbyn into 10 Downing Street, with the prospect of turning our country into the Northern Hemisphere version of Venezuela.
Then, two articles in the Saturday papers caught my attention. One is by former Labourite Tom Harris in the paywalled Telegraph and the other by an anonymous Labour MP who writes regularly for the paywalled Times.
Each article illuminates the other, so I’ll quote at length, starting with ‘Anonymous’ who writes:
“Thus far Labour has largely escaped the internecine conflict raging on the Conservative benches. On our side it’s stayed on a more civilised footing. Colleagues who disagree tend not to raise the toughest issues with each other, or we mention it briefly then back away, but there’s increasingly been no escaping the elephant in the room: do you support or oppose a second referendum?
Feelings run deep and everyone’s already taken their stand. They’ve made their decision, they’re sticking to it and for someone like me there’s no point wasting oxygen trying to discuss it. At least 80 of my colleagues strongly support a confirmatory referendum. If they get one, they hope it will lead to the revocation of Article 50. That’s what it’s all about.
I understand their stance but what’s so damaging about this for me – and it’s almost a process of grieving – is the realisation that so many colleagues seem to fail to understand what matters most to my constituents and those in other Leave-voting Labour seats. Those are the people who need our help and support. If Labour isn’t aware of that, what’s the point of the party? Are we supposed to say to those people: “Sorry, you’ve been very useful to us for 100 years but we don’t need you any more?” Do we need to rethink everything we stand for? Colleagues who back a second referendum appear in tune with the overwhelming majority of the new Labour membership, which is largely younger and more urban, but where does that leave our traditional heartlands? If we go into a General Election positioned in the public mind as a Remain party, while the Tories – with a new, openly Brexiteer leader – have rebranded themselves as the Brexit party, I genuinely don’t know if we’ll hold my seat and many others like mine in the north and the Midlands. The party would potentially lose many constituencies that have always been relied upon. It’ll be another Scotland. As more than one person has said to me: “Lose seats like ours and you’ve lost the Labour Party.” (paywalled link)
I’ve emphasised some key phrases.
Now add to this confession the remarkable observations from Tom Harris:
“It is a familiar accusation, and one used more frequently as any political crisis deepens: “X is putting their party before country!” Given that this has become the slam-dunk of all criticisms, the crime for which there can be no forgiveness, it is remarkable how frequently both our main parties transgress in exactly this direction. […] It is Labour which stands accused of the most egregious pattern of behaviour. Were I still a party member, it would be the wing of the party with which I generally associated that has pursued the most cynical and dishonest course of action.
Those in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) who most strongly oppose Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and principles are the traditional right wing: pro-trade union, pro-nuclear, pro-Israel and generally far more connected with (and more comfortable with) the party’s working class base than the cosmopolitan middle class activists of Momentum. This wing of the party prides itself on below-the-radar manoeuvrings, and its guiding philosophy is less “the end justifies the means” than Herbert Morrison’s old adage that “socialism is whatever a Labour government does”. (link, paywalled)
He continues with his analysis which we ought to keep firmly in mind. I emphasise key segments:
“But the party’s right wing is also avowedly pro-EU. And since every politician in the land now agrees that Brexit is the all-consuming issue of the 21st century so far, the advancement of the Labour Right’s European agenda takes precedence over everything else. All the transgressions by Corbyn and his supporters […] are now to be tolerated so long as the ultimate prize of EU membership can be protected. Herein lies the most appalling example of a party explicitly putting itself before the country. The vast majority of Labour MPs, well beyond what might be considered the traditional right wing, believe absolutely that Jeremy Corbyn would be a disaster for Britain if he ever became prime minister. But in the current cross-party talks aiming to break the Brexit deadlock, they see the prospect of a rerun referendum being held, and the last hope of averting our departure from the EU. (link, paywalled)
The following underlines the observations by ‘Anonymous’, quoted above:
“So they will tolerate a Corbyn leadership and perhaps even a Corbyn premiership – not just for the meantime, not just for the short term, but for however long it takes. The damage Corbyn would do to the country in the meantime is of little consequence. The oft-repeated phrase uttered by members and MPs alike – “I’m staying to fight for my party” – does not mention Britain, because Britain plays no part in that calculation. It is Labour first, last and always.” (link, paywalled)
Tom Harris concludes:
“The thing about progressive politics is that it shouldn’t be conditional on other aims being achieved first. If a party pushes an agenda that is pro-human rights, pro-national security, pro-standing up to mafia regimes across the world and supportive of the only country in the Middle East where woman and gay people enjoy the same freedoms and protections as everyone else, then those principles are non-negotiable. Any party that feels able to shelve them, to sweep them under the carpet until a more convenient time presents itself, cannot call itself progressive.” (link, paywalled)
To conclude: just because our MSM are avoiding reporting on Labour’s internecine warfare – Tory blood-on-the-floor is so much more entertaining! – doesn’t mean Labour is a monolithic block. Moreover, these two articles are a good warning for us not to put our trust in Corbyn and Labour either: they are as committed to wreck Brexit as the Remainers on the opposite benches.