To those who voted for Labour as a pro-Remain party: you’ve been suckered

by Rob Marchant

The madness that is British politics in 2017 this week continued apace. While Tories continued to flounder in their Brexit negotiations and, Trump-like, blame the media for their self-inflicted disasters, we finally arrived at the point of disarray where the half-bonkers Jacob Rees-Mogg, a throwback, cartoon Tory backbencher, is considered 2nd favourite to be the next Tory leader, when Theresa May is finally defenestrated.

Even so, Labour aimed to outdo them in the madness stakes. The man who was, in theory, the most senior opposition politician campaigning against Brexit, finally admitted that he was not, if he ever had been, anti-Brexit at all. In fact, the Labour leader was now in favour of the hardest of Brexits. Britain would unequivocally leave the Single Market.

Furthermore, it seems that Corbyn does not actually understand the phenomenon of the European Economic Area; he believes that you have to be in the EU to be part of the Single Market (you don’t, as Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland will attest).

His pro-European supporters on the left, such as the redoubtable Guardian columnist Owen Jones, scrambled to find a simultaneously pro-Corbyn and pro-European position which did not involve Houdini-like logical contortions. They failed.

All in a party where the vast majority of the membership, most supporting unions and the majority of the PLP resisted Brexit in the referendum. The party’s Brexit policy, between Corbyn, McDonnell, Keir Starmer and Barry Gardiner is now a jumble of contradictions which shifts daily.

What of those supporters who attempt to defend their leader? The three excuses given by for Jeremy Corbyn’s behaviour on Europe are as follows:

One. The argument used to defend virtually any questionable Corbyn quote from the past: he used to think that way, but people’s views can change, can’t they? Ok. But if his views have changed, why is he now arguing, not just for Brexit, but for the hardest of Brexits?

Two. He is pro-Brexit, but the PLP will act as ballast against him. They will never let him go the whole hog. Wrong. They have so far not done anything to stop him. Furthermore, bear in mind that, for most of the last two years, Corbyn has been unable to make significant changes to party policy.

This is for two reasons: one, because the PLP was in constant revolt and threatened to unseat him; and two, because the early election called by Theresa May in the spring did not give any time to put together a proper manifesto, with at least the veneer of consensus between party, PLP and leadership. That will mostly not be the case for the next five years, during which large numbers of moderate MPs will either be deselected or leave of their own accord, attracted by less thankless jobs outside Parliament. The balance is likely to tilt more in Corbyn’s favour, not less.

Three. He’s never been pro-Brexit. This is clearly not true. Thanks to the magic of Google, you can find a plethora of anti-EU quotes from Corbyn spanning decades. As with many other opinions of his, the only time he has equivocated on EU membership is during the two years since he has been leader, because he knew it was unpalatable to most Labour supporters.

The obvious conclusion to all this is that he has spent two years dissimulating, trying to say as little as possible (especially during the referendum campaign) and hoping no-one would pick him up on it. The minute the vote was won, he was calling for immediate implementation of Article 50, where even the most die-hard Tory Brexiteers could see that that was not practical.

The truth is that Corbyn’s resistance to the EU is born of a deep, small “c” conservatism, that has led him to keep the same views on, well, pretty much everything during his thirty-four years as an MP. Where some MPs evolved from Trotskyites to New Labour, or from backwoods Tories to Tory Reform Group members, he stayed the same. No moving with the times for Corbyn; a fixed point in a changing world.

Worse, even if you forget the obvious bonfire of controls on workers’ rights and other areas dear to Labour supporters’ hearts, his is not even a vision with the plus of a dynamic, free-trade Britain. It is of an isolationist, statist paradise, where intervention in everything is allowed.

It is a return to the sclerotic 1970s, without any of the compensating benefits of that era’s generous public sector spending, which we will be unlikely to be able to afford; a myopic and regressive lose-lose.

Whether or not you agree that Britain has a bright future outside the EU – at best a highly debatable point – it is clear that Corbyn’s vision is as bad, if not worse, than the Tory right’s, of a free-market Switzerland-on-drugs.

More than anything it is now clear, to those who voted for Labour as the party to soften, or even try to reverse, Brexit: you’ve been suckered. It is impossible for Labour return to being a pro-Europe party while Corbyn is still leader.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left


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20 Responses to “To those who voted for Labour as a pro-Remain party: you’ve been suckered”

  1. Tafia says:

    Why have they been suckered?

    The pan-European democratic socialist movement is overwhelmingly anti-EU.

    Corbyn is known to be anti-EU for decades and as recently as the last 2 years slagged the EU on a live phone-in with the President of Venezuela describing it in no uncertain terms as anti-working class.

    During the EU referendum, less than 10% of the UKs Trades Unions backed Remain.

    So, could you please explain what sort of moron thought Labour under Corbyn was/would be “pro-Remain”?

    And any fool that thinks the PLP will do anything to persuade Corbyn otherwise is a grade 1 cretin. The anti-Corbyn wing of the PLP knows that to oppose him means they will be de-selected. They most definately are not people of principle (only cock-wombles think otherwise) and staring doewn the barrell of a gun will shut up and keep their over-paid jobs – because they are two thing above all else – greedy and lacking principle.

    Momentum’s guillotine is coming to claim you Rob – even I can see that. Tick tock tick tock

  2. Tafia says:

    Oh and Rob, you are also being (politely) disengenious with your staement “he believes that you have to be in the EU to be part of the Single Market (you don’t, as Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland will attest).

    Unless you are a liar, then you know full well that the sticking point is freedom of movement and that the Corbynista regime is committed to ending FoM and therefore by extension leaving the Single Market (unless the EU abandons FoM as one of the four components) – Christ on a unicycle, McDonnell has even been on TV and said so, Barry Gardiner was not far away from that the other day.

    Don’t try and claim you didn’t know that well before you wrote this article.

  3. John.p reid says:

    Why would remainers labour voters have been auckered, in February, the whip was for to vote for article 50
    Jeremy said during the election we’d leave the single market
    He also released a press release saying we accept the Tories are voting us out the single market,which we accept,but we want to have the same benefits that the single market offers

    Jeremy has previously said he’d be had with unlimited immigration outside the single market

    The only way a person who voted labour thought we’d stop the Brexit of leaving the single market, was if they convinced themselves or voted for one of the monitory lsbour candidates who’ve said they’ll do all they can to oppose Brexit .

    Owen Jones the intitial brexiter then jumped on the ,Brexit is racist,I’ll get support being a remainers,like lee Jasper, may have now come full circle, to accept Brexit, jones has never spoke for lsbour

    As for Rees among, what the public want is us to get on with Brexit, to negotiate the money we ploughed in, not being, ignored as we pay to leave, mogg, maybe a toff, and aloof, but he’s competent and honest and that’s what the public want

    Youre right that Corbyns position he’s explains at least is a small c conservative view against a undemocratic organization
    Not the anti capitalist view that the left took in the 70’s,but what’s wrong with that, many in labour are small c conservatives

  4. @Tafia: you are I’m afraid poorly informed. The EEA includes Freedom of Movement as well. They are in the Single Market but not in the EU.

  5. Anon says:

    Mr Marchant – I’m, sort of, all for conservative – small ‘c’ – if that means having some democratic principles. And that also means holding to some truths.

    Your beloved Tony made statements – also on Google – on the benefits of leaving the EU.

    The EU IS NOT, and should not be, the arbiter of my working rights; or any other rights for that matter.

    The people who preceded our generations gave blood, sweat, and tears for our rights – the idea that our rights were down to a bunch of parasites in Brussels is preposterous.

    It seems to me that the European Union has been systematically denuding us of our rights – I was made an ‘EU citizen’; I did not want to be.

    National trades union agreements can be overruled by an EU court, and my security and safety are overridden by protecting the rights of the violent and silencing the victim.

    But, it was you, Rob, and New Labour, that created Corbyn: the authoritarian socialist society that Corbyn would create, is no different to the Blairite/Common Purpose corruption of our civic and democratic space by public servants and NGOs.

    I don’t believe that the people of this country want either.

    I don’t actually understand who you claim to speak for now – other than pro-EU empire builders.

  6. Rob says:

    Another LabourUncut article, another anti-Brexit moan-fest. I voted Remain but the verdict was otherwise – time to accept that, nto trying to fight every aspect of Brexit tooth and nail.

  7. steve says:

    “the half-bonkers Jacob Rees-Mogg”

    You and I, Rob, are both supporters of business. Jacob, as a senior business figure, is sure to share our priorities and so, is cut from the same cloth.

    Please Rob, put your undergraduate levity to one one side. Think clearly, appreciate that the battle against Corbyn can on be won by a Tory.

    I understand that some of us may be tempted by Vince Cable’s LidDems – but Cable is a political will o’ the wisp if ever there was one. Refuse to be misled, otherwise only disappointment awaits – Cable wouldn’t think twice before entering into a coalition with Corbyn – if gifted a ministerial position in return.

    In truth, the Tories, even if led by Jacob, remain the best political option in our battle against the Corbyn supremacy.

  8. Tafia says:

    Rob, Im not talking about the EEA though am I. Labour is committed to ending FoM therefore it cannot remain in the single market.

  9. Problems over the party’s stance on the EU is just the latest attempt by the right wing to split the party. Rob has already made it clear that he prefers a clean split in Labour as per the SDP, so this should be taken into account when reading his utterings.

    Rob knows what is needed for a SDP mark 2 is a goodly number of Labour MPs to join a Blair inspired pro-EU party, but how many of our present PLP members are willing to take that chance after looking at the last election numbers.

  10. Peter Carabine says:

    Let’s rid ourselves of Tafia’s nonsense the social democratic and socialist parties of Europe ARE overwhelmingly PRO-EU. Unless he means Albania or Serbia or Turkey which we will join as outsiders …actually I think every European country wants in or is in the SM so he is telling massive porkies.

    Even at its worst situation and most Leftist time Greece wanted to remain. Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Holland , France, Austria, Belgium, Spain,Italy Portugal and Ireland all pro-EU. The European Left know they more equality, more opportunities, more infrastructure, more health and social care, progressive taxes, P. R. etc – the voice of the centre left and left believe in the EU , it’s principles, it’s rights, it’s defence of democracy.

    So where are old Leftists like Tafia coming from? – the old 1970s perhaps but not now he echoes UKIP, Farage, Johnson, Gove, IDS, the Hate Mail, Express and the Murdoch Sun. His isolationism, nationalism and anti-foreigner approach is the opposite of Socialism, internationalism, common purpose as against tyranny in Turkey etc., and it is against the four principles including free movement and no tariffs on our trade.

    But in the end he failures like Corbyn who lost the 2017 election for not reaching out to the less informed Brexit working class voters who have been sold a bag of lies and have been offered scapegoats like Migrants and Brussels. It’s time JC focused on the largest economic crisis facing working people since the war instead of
    wishing it to disappear. He has failed as a Stateman for our times.

  11. Tafia says:

    Peter Carabine Let’s rid ourselves of Tafia’s nonsense the social democratic and socialist parties

    The democratic socialist parties across the EU are overwhelmingly anti-EU. The nonsense is you where you try to cobble together the democratic socialists with the social democrats when they are entirely different creeds – especially economically, as you very well know. You can be one or the other but not both.

  12. john P Reid says:

    the socialist parties of Europe are real socialist they’re neo liberal,
    what you’ve done peter is too fail to realise that labour is no longer a party for working class people and the fact denis Skinner and Jon cruddas had their majorities fall ,yet labour panders to Islington liberals, shows that labour will continue to lose the working class vote, and after a few years this will see us lose seats or become so unpopular that if it wasn’t for FPTP ,we’d be a minority party

    I realise the rot started losing our working class vote 12 years ago,if not a few who voted tory in 1979

    faarge and the sun appeal to working clas people who vote dlaobur in 1997 1987 1979 even upto 2005

    what part of ther’yll be more commonwealth immigration if we leave the EU don’t you understand
    boris Johnson actually being one of the most pro immigration tories

    the idea that labour could have own by getting those who voted Libdem ,as were not so pro brexit as the tores is silly , once Brexit is over then if there was another election and Vince cable said he’d be prepared to have another tory ,Libdem coaltion it wouldn’t stop a single libdem voter from still voting,

    danny Speight you’re on to something in that say Wes Streeting who obvliously has a huge own cult following and would get a few libdem votes if he vormed a new party, maybe John woodcock, could scrap ein but demographics,they think that after brexit they can get a new Neo Liberal leader ,like Chuka or Yvette in,
    but they quit elike oppsotion
    even those who voted labour upto 2015

    well said steve

  13. Anon says:

    @Peter Carabine – no, I’m afraid you are quite wrong in some of your assumptions.

    The first thing that you have to do is to separate the UK’s working class self-interest from your love of global socialism – the lowly unwashed, who have wanted representation in our Parliament, have always been separate from the socialist high priests of Labour.

    When Labour’s socialist Common Purpose ideas harm the working people of the UK you can not expect the people to carry on supporting Labour.
    Quite simply, Labour have forgotten who they were set up by, and for who.

    The poorer countries of the EU are looking to countries like the UK as places to send their unemployed; and a corporatist EU rubs its hands in glee at the prospect – like battered wives, the poorer countries have no option but to stay with their abusive EU partner as it offers them the only relief to their problems.

    But where the poorer countries have gained, it has been at the expense of the British people.

    When I see Labour lining up alongside the corporates of the EU I know that there is something very wrong with the ‘representatives of the people’.

    The “old Leftists” may not be the people who voted to leave the EU, but the UK’s old working class did.

  14. Rob,
    The exception of course is unless you live in Wales and vote for WelshLabour. Our Party Leader Carwyn Jones, his government and the majority of the Welsh Parliamentary Labour Party are clear in backing a Brexit that retains the customs union with the EEA. Only this week the devolved governments of Wales (Labour led with LD support), Scotland (SNP maj) and the soverign government of the Republic of Ireland (Fine Gael minority) joined forces to campaign for such an outcome against the wishes of both the PM and Leader of the Opposition. Today ex-AM and Carwyn consigliere Leighton Andrews has effectively thrown down the gauntlet
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-40754812
    to the Shad Cab to either accept the precedent this pluralism creates or to take on Carwyn on an issue where he is more in line with the rank and file than Jeremy.

  15. Greg says:

    Rob:
    ‘ Obvious bonfire of workers rights’
    Tell me which of these rights has ever stopped one job being outsourced, one less zero hours contract. Try explaining that to workers who suffered from the above. Your stuck in your neoliberal bubble pal..

  16. peter carabine says:

    So where to begin? 1 The Lab. party has always been a broad church from its origins and when it narrows its appeal to a State Socialist variety it loses as with Foot in the 1980s and Corbyn in 2017. It cannot win on a lurch to the far left. Labour wins only when it takes marginals in socially mixed areas and when better off tradesmen, hard working aspirationals or private sector can trust it with economy.

    2 The working class is diverse – compare North with Essex or Cheshire we are now post modern , media saturated and traditional beliefs long gone. The nature of the leader has become more important.

    3 The EU is not perfect but collectively it is a garantee of peace, human and economic rights , anti-monopolies , general prosperity/ tariff free trade, inward investment, gateway to 500 million people market and as I say repeatedly our inequality/ neoliberal issues are a function of AngloSaxon Tory hegemony not EU. Compare U.K. Social indicators with Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Holland, Austria, Belgium, France
    and Germany.

    4 These isolated antiEU types are not social democratic or socialist. They are 1980s throwbacks. They are bedfellows of the most Right wing insurgency this nation has seen post war. UKIP led , Mail propaganda led, Murdoch led, Boris, IDS, Gove opposed by Major , Osbourn, Heseltine, Clarke and the whole of the Centre and Left and regional parties…Brexit remains a threat to Britain politically, ideologically, socially and economically and its consequence is to embed power to a right wing group that even Thatcher would have opposed. For anyone on the left to collude with this isolationist UKIP madness is to betray socialism at its worst and further to kick our most disadvantaged in the teeth.

  17. John P Reid says:

    Peter carabiner, so remainers backed by the CBI was acceptable

  18. NickT says:

    “the Corbynista regime is committed to ending FoM”

    Except that they aren’t, or they are, or they might be, depending on precisely which part of the Corbynite collective jelly you ask. Corbyn has no coherent policy on the EU, got away with peddling his usual lies and evasions on the subject during the election – and is starting to discover that those lies won’t do, but hoping to bluff it out anyway. Since Corbyn either backs or enables hard Brexit, he’ll be caught up with UKIP and the Tories when the roof falls in – as it will. Fantasies about the brave new Brexit world won’t help us. We don’t have a politician capable of negotiating anything like a satisfactory deal and leaving without a deal is economic suicide. The Tory and Labour parties both deserve to be smashed for the lies they’ve told and the clown show they’ve elected as leaders. If it wrecks Corbyn’s Stalinists and May/Farage’s fascists, it might be worth it, but I doubt it. Something even nastier is going to emerge and be very hungry for victims. Momentum’s fascists in pink panties and UKIP’s murderous thugs are just the outriders of the new extremism as a failed people and failed country try desperately to find others to blame for their laziness, self-pity and ignorance. No wonder Europe rolls its eyes when the representatives of the British people yap out their latest line in fatuous nonsense.

  19. Tafia says:

    Peter Carabine – what total and utter bilge. You sound more like a student (as does NickT further down) than a worker.

    A political party is defined above all by its economic idealogy – that dictates everything else. Democratic socialist economic idealogy is social ownership of the means of production, with an emphasis on democratic management of enterprises within a socialist economic system. Social Democrats only seek to “humanize” capitalism through state intervention, democratic socialists see capitalism as inherently incompatible with the democratic values of liberty, equality and solidarity. Democratic Socialists believe reforms aimed at addressing the economic contradictions of capitalism will only cause more problems to emerge elsewhere in the economy and therefore capitalism can never be sufficiently “humanized”, and that it must therefore ultimately be replaced with socialism

  20. MarkL says:

    Merchant should be writing for the Mail. His factual content is about on par with that publication.

    Labour were very clear that they would respect the result of the referendum before and during the election. This article is pure spin and nonsense.

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