Opposing Brexit would unite Labour, rout Corbyn and rob the Lib Dems & SNP of their faux radicalism

by Trevor Fisher

The vote on Article 50 underlined Labour’s existential problem. It is clear that a party which makes a case then abandons it is in trouble but this is not a Corbyn problem as it is the story of the party over the last 25 years, since the 1992 election and the abandoning of John Smith’s National Insurance increases. Having lost the “double whammy” election, this was rational, but  Labour then adopted moving to the right  as a policy – ‘triangulation’ – which left Labour without an identity. And as Atul Hatwal argued on 28th January, Labour’s internal politics from 2015 were dominated by a return to ideological purity when the parliamentary tactic of abstaining on the Benefits issue led to the election of Jeremy Corbyn. However Corbyn has taken the MPs into the lobbies in support of Theresa May. You could not make it up.

With Jezza turning into Tony Blair, it’s time to address the root issue. New Labour accepted the Thatcherite view that There Is No Alternative, so appeasement was the answer, and this worked in the 1997 and 2001 elections. But not thereafter. Now Labour faces challenges on all fronts. It has already lost Scotland, and in England and Wales Lib Dems can take the Remain voters and Tories and UKIP the Leave voters. A party can be wobbly on some issues some of the time, but not on the defining issue of an era.

However a week in politics is a long time, and as a by election strategy giving in to the Brexit lobby has some short term advantages. How it plays in Copeland I do not know, but in Stoke accepting Article 50 has made sense though UKIP is still playing the card that Labour will ignore the Referendum. Hardly! In the local paper the Stoke Sentinel, (17th February) Labour candidate Gareth Snell’s statement is “I accept without hesitation the Referendum result. I have said repeatedly that if I had a vote in parliament I would have voted for Britain to leave the EU. My focus now is on winning the best Brexit deal for Stoke on Trent”. This has allowed Snell to avoid the criticism levelled at Paul Farrelly, in neighbouring Newcastle Under Lyme, who was a rebel.

But as a strategy stealing UKIPs clothes will not work. There is some data that Labour cannot win back Leave voters by being Ukippers anyway. and of course Labour puts at risk the majority of their voters, who were Remain. In Scotland the polarisation of SNP For Remain and Tories for Leave gives Labour no space to occupy, and the polls reflect this.In the rest of the UK while the UKIP strategy is to pick up Labour’s Leave voters, the Lib Dem strategy is to pick up labour Remain voters – and it is clearly the case that in Richmond and the Sleaford by elections, Labour votes went to the Lib Dems. The Lib Dem party is now forgiven the coalition, but the strategy cannot give the Lib Dems many seats but can take seats away from Labour.

Labour cannot move into the space occupied by the Tories and UKIP long term without losing the majority of its supporters to the Lib Dems. However if it were to return to being a Remain party this would have positive effect. Two key points should be noted. Firstly, it would allow Labour to become the effective leaders of the anti-Tory/UKIP front north and south of the border.  Labour members are overwhelmingly pro-Europe and this would unite the Party – and marginalise the Corbyn leadership and its Labour Representation Committee base.

Momentum is a potential ally, having surveyed its membership early on, when it had 11,000 members. 3093 returned the forms, (28% turnout) and 65.5% were Remain, 14.8% Leave and 19.6% neither. Curious the latter camp, but the overall thrust of a sample likely to be hard core Corbynistas to be 2/3 in favour of the EU makes life interesting. The move back to Remain holds out the prospect of a united party, taking the fight to the enemy not supporting it in parliament.

However the second and decisive argument for anti-Brexit is national. If the Brexit option is disastrous and the smart money is that this will be the case, Labour gets no credit unless it opposes Brexit.

The SNP and Lib Dems get the value of being opposed. This week I had a letter in the local paper pointing out lettuce prices are up because of snow in Spain. Food prices must rise with Brexit, as Britain would be out of both EU and EEA (May has no mandate to take us out of EEA) how many Leave voters will be happy with dearer food – and the rest?

But there has to be a strategy. This will involve a second referendum, in which the May deal will be put to the people. Only a referendum can override a referendum and the May take it or leave it parliamentary vote given as a sop to keep Tory rebels in line will be a farce and will be seen as a farce. But a second referendum would not. We have two years to organise and the outcome would not be guaranteed. But it can be won.

And the advantages are massive. I have a dream – of a united Labour party from Momentum to Labour First. The Labour Representation Committee (Mark II) routed. Destroying the faux radicalism of the Lib Dems and the SNP, Marching into battle and routing the hard right May- UKIP Brexiteers. And stopping Trump’s intention to destroy the EU and NATO. Its only a dream.

But you’ve gotta have a dream
If you don’t have a dream
How you gonna have a dream come true?

Trevor Fisher was a member of the Labour Coordinating Committee executive 1987-90 and secretary of the Labour Reform Group 1995- 2007. He was a member of the Compass Executive 2007-2009

Tags: , , , ,

17 Responses to “Opposing Brexit would unite Labour, rout Corbyn and rob the Lib Dems & SNP of their faux radicalism”

  1. Ld Elon says:

    It would settle labour as historic dust…
    Keep adding nails.

  2. LordBlagger says:


    It would also lose you your voters. It went well in Scotland. Where’s Labour now north of the border?

    So you and the Lib Dems end up feeding off each other.

    UKIP gets its act together and you lose in the North, East of England, plus Wales.

  3. LordBlagger says:

    This will involve a second referendum, in which the May deal will be put to the people


    Lets see. Same question? Then we go to a decider.

    Or the a different question

    Do you accept the deal negotiate with the EU? Yes or no.

    If its a no, its a clean Brexit. If its a yes, a messy Brexit.

    The added advantage is the EU has to think hard. Does it want a deal? Will its deal be accepted by the UK electorate?

    Or do you want to impose on the majority?

  4. john P Reid says:

    how well are the libdems doing a the moment,
    I understand the liberal elites view that brexit is racist has caused, The canary and Ava Vidal to be upset that Corbyn demanded MPs vote for article 50


    it would lose us the 37% of labour voters who voted leave, including more members losing, who’s gonna replace corbyn who didn’t want article 50 introduced Diane Abbott, ,who would be even less popular with the public that Jez

    I really don’t think a single scot would vote labour again who currently votes SNP if we were now agaisnt brexit

    Appeasement, appeasement is going along with something bad through fear of something worse, SO A you think its bad B we think going with it is we fear that it’s worse if we didn’t do what exactly, and C no one is forcing us to go along with it, the referendum is over

    I’ve no time for the current leadership ,but if the option was between Jez and this sort of twaddle I’d prefer Jeremy

    not sure about the Jez turning into Blair quote, only they accept that the argument has been lost for the sake of keeping potential votes, as for,monemtum backing remain they fall into the liberal elite “its racist to vote brexit” so they would be opposed without thinking the current anti commonwealth immigration policy is actually racist

    if brexit is a disaster ,and I don’t know how you define a disaster, its going to be financial bad year anyway, will if the Tories win more elections we lose more union rights, or is the fact we’ll have to get a bit of paper if we want to go to France now, a disaster, well 17.5million of us voted for it despite being told we killed Jo cox, we’re racist and that they’ll be a £4,000 tax rise and world war 3

    then that may be bad to you, but that’s what the electorate voted for, it could be a case if the rest of the EU collapse then remainers can say if we’d stayed in we’d have been in the same situation as Greece

    As I pointed out last week triangulation, is possible by getting some libdems who want labour to put candidates in Northern Ireland, are pro making abortion easier ,or anonymity for rape accused, with Blue labour socially conservative types(who appeal to UKIP) who want corporate manslaughter to apply to the MOD, merger of country police forces, to stop the RSPCA having malicious prosecutions for those who have let a dog live with Arthritis, that isn’t animal cruelty

  5. Bill Southern says:

    Everyone in UK wants one thing: continued prosperity. Labour wants it to prop up the Welfare State which was largely brought in by Labour in 1945. If we leave the “Single Market” we are going to crash and burn. And it could be very sudden too. We need to stay in the EEA at all costs for the time being. That means joining EFTA.

    Nobody in UK wants to be part of the Eurozone let alone an Associate Member where we pay tens of billions of pounds as demanded by Brussels whenever they want it, maybe get dragged into a tussle with Russia and get slowly poorer and poorer.

    If the Labour party could solve this – and it can very easily actually – then it would sweep the board.

    Here is the answer: http://www.eureferendum.com/documents/flexcitlite.pdf

  6. Roger Mc says:

    I don’t want Labour to go back to just being Tory-lite.

  7. Tafia says:

    Opposing Brexit would unite Labour, rout Corbyn and rob the Lib Dems & SNP of their faux radicalism

    Dear God. Like hell it would.

    Lets see. First we will deal with the SNP. The vast bulk of SNP voters (over 90%) want independence for Scotland. Not increased devolution, not federalisation, not home rule – independence. So Labour opposing BREXIT (which the SNP already do) will make not a jot of difference. The dynamics of Scotkand have changed and changed for ever – it’snot a case of will there be another IndyRef, rather it’s a case of when it will be. And a unioniust Labour Party would get exactly what it’s already getting – laughed at and pissed on.

    The LibDems. They are by default a socially liberal, mainly middle class party. To start eating into them Lasbour would have to move towards them, further alienating it’s blue-collar bedrock who, it shoulkd be remebered, now have other parties to switch to (SNP, Plaid Cymru, UKIP), won’t think twice about switching to them AND (more importantly) these people are not afraid of the tory bogeyman anymore.

    Then we come to the main point – opposing BREXIT. A more stupid thing than that I struggle to imagine. Not withstanding that Blair has intervened as a Remainer (a man despised), but the figure of 37% of Labour voters voting Leave does not tell the whole story. Analysis shows that a huge chunk of Labour’s. Remain vote is actually in seats already held by the Tories and the Lib Dems, whereas that 37%. Leave vote is mainly in Labour held seats, particulalrly in the north, the east midlands and the welsh valleys. And it is a ball-breaker with them – if you adopt a policy of opposing BREXIT they will not only stop voting Labour they will switch to other parties and you will be in a far worse position than you are now.


    By now, for Labour to have any credibility at the ballot box, it should be in the advanced and finalising stages of it's post-BREXIT strategy – not it's. BREXIT strategy, it's oost BREXIT Strategy. Because I bloody guarentee you the tories are and if you walk into GE2020 without a fully thought out and reasoned one you will be on a hiding second to nothing and deservedly so.

    Labour (and all other parties) should by now be embracing BREXIT with enthusiasm and pledging to make it work – or there is no point to them.

  8. Rob says:

    Unfortunately Trevor this is fantasy – there’s no way around Brexit now so Labour must be seen to support it.

  9. paul barker says:

    How easy will be for a Party to sideline its own Leader, its HQ & The Shadow Cabinet?
    Why would Voters back a Party that voted for Brexit, then against ?
    This is clutching at straws.
    FYI John P Reid wanted to know how well The Liberal Democrats are doing. So far this year, in Council Elections, they have taken a quarter of the vote. The Tories came 2nd, Labour 3rd.

  10. Forlornehope says:

    The whole point of Smith’s national insurance increases was to lose the election. Either he was terminally stupid, which he wasn’t, or he was deliberately trying to scare off exactly the swing voters who could deliver for Labour. Why would he do that? Cui bono?

  11. Toby Ebert says:

    The Labour party must support the brexit process because the people voted for it in the referendum – simple as that – democracy.

    The only way in which brexit might possibly not happen is if the government makes complete pig’s ear of the negotiations, the economy goes into a nosedive and public opinion goes radically against brexit. This would be a poll-tax type scenario, in which the people change the government’s mind. As a remainer I would like this to happen, but it seems unlikely.

  12. Tafia says:

    FYI John P Reid wanted to know how well The Liberal Democrats are doing. So far this year, in Council Elections, they have taken a quarter of the vote. The Tories came 2nd, Labour 3rd.

    I think John Reid was asking how are they doing nationally. And the answer to that is diabolically. They are consistently, poll after poll, across a range of polling companies lin fourth place, behind the dreaded UKIP and doing about the same as they did in GE2015 (whereas UKIP are polling higher). That is actually far more dire for the LibDems than foirst appears. Their natural hunting ground is disaffected middle class Labour voters. But despite Labour collapsing, the Lib Dems are fairly static -which means that the disaffected Labour voters are going to the Tories and UKIP..

  13. Heidstaethefire says:

    Labour didn’t “lose” Scotland; Westminster/Whitehall did. What subsequently happened to Labour in Scotland was a just reward for taking Scotland for granted and for electing numpties to go down to parliament to act as new labour lobby fodder with no regard for the consequence for those who elected them.

  14. Baroness Chukkafarti says:

    We do not want to remain in the EU. We do not want to be part of the Eurozone. We do not want to pay the EU loadsa money which is not accounted for. So we play the Article 50 card as instructed.

    We do need to stay in the common market though. To remain in the EEA (aka common market) however we need to join EFTA. We would then be free of the ECJ, free of the CFP and CAP, able to make our own employment rules in our own parliament, able to discuss immigration sensibly and free to sit as Great Britain on all the world’s trading bodies.

    But, darlings, that is not Tory policy.

  15. John PReid says:

    I can vguwly remember the Libdwms in 1981 supporting many of Margaret Thatcher free market privatization ns Union reforms, while, due to their socially liberal, past working with Roy Jenkins, opposed things like Apartied,if I was a Libdem

    I’d push for things they’ve supported in the past, straight civil partnerships,the major parties standing in Northern Ireland, getting a abortion not having to be so problematic with 3 specialist having to give permission, plus leg,I sung abortion in Northern Ireland, or Their support for rape allegation anonymity, plus their support for legalizing sex workers, yes these are bread and butter issues but many centre left progressives ,who were against the Iraq war and can forgive the coalition, who are maybe real red Tories, or labour (sociL democrats( would see this as away of re aligning the left,

  16. Ane says:

    Good speech by Lord Liddle of Carlisle on subject of BREXIT.
    Normally not in favour of unelected second chamber of the House of Lords but there has been far better debate on the subject than that found in the House of Commons.
    I feel that people are becoming entrenched in their positions on BEXIT without considering informed positions. Teresa May seems fixed on her position – over the cliff edge.
    I am not opposed to Tony Blair producing a cost benefit analysis after all this is what business would do before embarking on such a major step. This will enable informed positions to be established. Whether people will listen I am not sure – a brave effort to try.
    Not sure if the Baroness is a real person but good point. That would be the sensible position to take without, shall we say, putting the baby out with the bath water.

  17. Tafia says:

    I am not opposed to Tony Blair producing a cost benefit analysis
    At best it would be an analysis – it is impossible to forecast. Just ask the Treasury, BoE, ONS etc etc etc who all got their BREXIT projections massively wrong. In fact they were ‘false news’.

    after all this is what business would do before embarking on such a major step.
    Presently, some businesses do well out of being in the EU, some don’t. Once we are out the reverse is true. But the bottom line is that business is capitalism – and in capitalism if you can’t adapt you persish and another business takes your place.

    This will enable informed positions to be established.
    Not of it’s based on a forecast that is more likely to be wrong than right.

Leave a Reply