The real story of the Commons Brexit vote was the leadership’s disingenuous positioning

by Rob Marchant

“Dennis Skinner…votes with Tories” ran the headline. But the truth is that Dennis Skinner actually voted for what he believes in: that Britain is better-off outside the EU. He only did what Jeremy Corbyn had already done hundreds of times (about five hundred, reportedly): vote with the Tories against his own party. As did six of his backbench colleagues (interestingly, Caroline Flint MP, who abstained, seemed to get more grief on social media than Skinner, who voted for the motion. We leave readers to draw their own conclusions as to why that might be).

Corbyn’s calculation, in contrast, was based on what it usually is: what he could get away with. Does anyone seriously believe that he has changed his opinion on the EU after over three decades opposing it as an MP?

Of course not. The calculation was that he could not get away – either with the public or his own party – with asking the PLP to support the Tories in a hard Brexit, so he allowed Keir Starmer to lead the charge and got out of the way.

And so we ended with the bizarre spectacle of two long-time, hard-left colleagues on opposite sides of the fence: one because he actually believed the same of the Tories, for once; and one because he also believed the same as the Tories, but couldn’t say so.

There was a helpful, complicating factor: that the Tories had come close to overreaching themselves, in insisting on giving themselves a muscular authority over governmental decisions which went so far as to pretty much break the principle of separation of powers between legislature and executive.

This at least provided a welcome fig-leaf for Corbyn: while nominally a champion of Parliament as a check on government in his own country, he happily supports governments (such as Venezuela, or Cuba) which are either currently in the process of removing such checks, or which have done so long ago. And thus he could surf the wave of “protecting our democracy”, all the while desperately hoping that the Tories would win.

Which they duly did.

For Labour, this is a twin disaster: not only have they failed to stop the first step on the road to a hard Brexit, they have failed to stop the government of the day having sweeping powers to amend legislation. That is clearly not governments are for. It’s called separation of powers.

The leadership has failed its party, democrats and largely pro-EU, on both counts. It has failed its supporters in the country, similarly, on the same two counts.

Oh, for a statesman among the Corbynites. All anti-EU. All pretending to be champions of democracy, so as to be able to ride two horses at once. And all failing to realise that the very workers whose rights they claim to represent above all would be failed, and failed terribly, by the dismantling of EU labour protections.

While being in favour of a hard Brexit is a perfectly legitimate political position to hold – albeit contrary to the position of Uncut – it is not remotely compatible with what Labour’s leadership, and their union backers, purport to represent.

And its failure to come clean with the public, wanting hard Brexit while pretending not to, is merely exemplary of the disingenuous brand of politics which the leadership has now made its own.

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

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5 Responses to “The real story of the Commons Brexit vote was the leadership’s disingenuous positioning”

  1. John P Reid says:

    Ironically I know middle clsss liberal pro eU Corbynistas who are fuming wuth Skinner, and want him ousted, saying that his views are compatible aith Corbyn and momentum
    And boycott the movie shout him, thinking Jeremy I’d actually pro the EU,and that his pro EU views will win votes in council estates in the forthcoming council elections in England!

  2. Tafia says:

    by the dismantling of EU labour protections.

    UK workers rights are far superior to those guarenteed by the EU.

    Which begs the question, ‘Do you ant UK workers rights or EU workers rights?’ Because they are not the same. So which do you want.

  3. John P Reid says:

    This ban trolls from voting idea is stupid
    In fact as liberty even argued that prisoners should be able to vote
    But what’s a troll
    My wing of the Labour Party was Christmas 1987-1992 when Neil Kinnock, ditched the closed shop, unilateral nuclear disarnment
    And 2008-2012 when first Gordon brown,junked new labour started to listen to Maurice Glasmans blue labour about, community and faith,and then Ed Miliband took on these ideas
    But before 2913 when he started to panic,listen to middle class liberals at the guardian,junked the wider community policy went for the 35% strategy,and ignored the blue collar working class in favour of middle class white collar public workers and stay at home mums

    Then there’s believing in labour locally,but not being committed to the party nationally

    There fore, if someone disagrees with the party nationally ,and out so on line are they a troll, ,I actually defended labours policy on Labour home in 2008 that many of the readers of it disagreed on, and I was called a troll, for saying I agreed with the policy while the readers of it didn’t
    It’s like, many of the readers of labour home,wanted brown too Abe more left wing,and as such,because I defended him,for not being so left wing, they considered they new best what labours policy should be,and I was the troll, for being. Too Blue!

    So by that definition,if I disagreed with Corbyn for being too liberal now, then that would make defenders of him the troll, because I’m defending the fact that the Labour party’s not a liberal party
    The person al abuse Diane Abbott gives out saying all white people are racist,all brexiters are racist, posh white boys, white people live to play and ru,per, could be called trolling
    Same as Emily thornberry sneering at a bloke with a St George flag,and white van on hid council house,and Shami Chakrobarti saying save me from Essex man
    Th factually intentionally incorrect info nation,they’ve put about the police, crime, the Tories, brexiters,new labour, undermines their hurt feeling complex

  4. Anon says:

    Mr Marchant,

    I have no liking for Dennis Skinner, but at least his stance on the EU corporatist club has been consistent – so I agree with you there.

    And Jeremy Corbyn is a two-faced hypocrite.

    But – “And all failing to realise that the very workers whose rights they claim to represent above all would be failed, and failed terribly, by the dismantling of EU labour protections.”

    Really? And you a member of the Labour Party – you actually believe that all our working rights are down to a bunch of clowns in Brussels?

    You ain’t no Labour man, bruv – and you certainly have no faith whatsoever in the Parliament of this country – legislative or executive.

  5. John p Reid says:

    There’s a side show at conference ,with Liz Davies of the socialist party,who was a councilor when the child abuse at the children’s home, went on said Jeremy acorbyn ignored it, plus Mark Thomas the comedian who use to make jokes about beating up police

    And they’re labeling this debate as the police are institutionally racist, those who died lawfully in custody were really murdered, when labour is ignoring its own institutionalized racism, of assuming black people all vote labour,and our one anti semitism,

    Hopefully the press will report it, see how well it goes down

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