Where would the UK be with any other Labour leader?

by Jonathan Todd

A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of no deal Brexit. The building prospect of this epic disaster makes Theresa May’s triggering of Article 50 in March 2017, sixteen months in advance of anything resembling a united government position on the biggest decision facing us since World War II, recklessly premature.

Jeremy Corbyn demanded that Article 50 be triggered on 24 June 2016. As, in the period since, Labour has done no better than the government in offering up a Brexit plan likely to be compatible with the EU’s long-established and clear positions, we would now be over a month into the wasteland of Corbyn’s no deal if he were then prime minister.

Any other post-Michael Foot Labour leader, recognising that Brexit is incompatible with any viable Labour political economy, would have thrown themselves into the Remain campaign in 2016 with more gusto than Corbyn. We’ve got our party back, Neil Kinnock said when Ed Miliband became leader. But, despite their differences, all leaders from Kinnock to Miliband would, in the circumstances that Corbyn now finds himself in, be putting the national emergency of Brexit above all else.

Once we heard of “one of the easiest trade deals in human history” and Brexit with “the exact same benefits” of EU membership, now we are told of “adequate food” – but even this might prove overly optimistic. There will be, as Corbyn never tells us, no Brexit dividend, no £350m extra a week for the NHS. There will be, to almost recall a bleak Daniel Day-Lewis film, stockpiling of blood. No deal Brexit was meant to be impossible – don’t they want to sell us their prosecco? Not as much as they want to preserve the integrity of EU institutions, it, predictably, transpires – and yet, it looms ever larger.

Exactly how bad does it have to get before Corbyn stops being Brexit’s handmaid? How blatant the corruption of Vote Leave before he condemns it? How troubling the questions over Arron Banks, Dominic Cummings and Russia before he asks them?

The UK is somehow perilously wedged between disaster capitalists (driving government, initially insisting a no deal Brexit couldn’t happen, now sanguine about it) and disaster communists (failing to effectively oppose government, glibly anticipating that the aftermath of no deal won’t be Singapore-on-Thames but socialism in one country). The upper classes, prepared to gamble the livelihoods of others, are over-represented among these capitalists and communists.

For undiluted Corbynites, the recent anti-Brexit march was a thought crime, whereas the anti-Trump one wasn’t. They swerved the former; they wanted us all to know how much the latter meant. But the similarities between Brexit and Trump outnumber the differences.

Same fear of immigrants, especially Muslims. Same Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and dodgy data. Rejection of experts, upending of international alliances, and belligerent pig-headedness. Breaking of rules – criminal proceedings against 32 people initiated by Robert Mueller, the illegality of Vote Leave. Russian bots, money and motives.

There is a scene in The Exorcist (1973) where Father Karras briefs Father Merrin on the possessed girl:

I think it might be helpful if I gave you some background on the different personalities Regan has manifested. So far, I’d say there seem to be three. She’s convinced…

Father Merrin briskly cuts him off:

There is only one.

Trump, Farage and Putin might appear distinct manifestations of western liberalism’s possession. But there is only one.

While western liberalism is founded on win-wins (trade benefits both sides of the exchange, all NATO members enjoy collective security, rules- and rights-based order protects strong and weak, etc), they think in zero sum terms. For a Russian sphere of influence to expand, the EU must be pushed back. For the US to rip off European states, the EU must be dismantled. Farage is the useful idiot of the continent upon which the great game of Trump and Putin plays out.

It is part of this game to tell us that this continent has a “migrant crisis”. But we don’t. Numbers of people seeking asylum in the EU are falling. While policy responses could, as ever, be improved, they have had an impact. These improvements should recognise the potential benefits to an ageing continent of youthful migrants.

We have, rather than a migrant crisis, a fascism crisis. European politicians who admire Trump and Putin more than the EU’s liberal values. Keen to utilise Steve Bannon’s techniques and money. Nationalists with international organisation and resources.

“Complacently,” Daniel Finkelstein, writing in The Times recently, “had always assumed that what happened to my parents couldn’t happen to me or my children … I no longer believe this with the same confidence.”

You don’t need to be Jewish to share his foreboding. Just human.

Rarely has what Labour traditionally represented been more needed. But Corbyn – as he promised – offers something different. Something that deepens a row about antisemitism when it should be rising to a historic moment in which Brexit and Trump are two sides of a counterfeit Russian coin.

Any other Labour leader since Kinnock would have the UK in a different place. As the clock ticks towards Brexit’s needless calamity, we’ll see whether a summer of reflection and plotting leads to an autumn of action.

If not now, when?

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut   

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11 Responses to “Where would the UK be with any other Labour leader?”

  1. I was in the Labour Party from youth to young man. I joined the Liberal Democrats after the Iraq war. All who doubt the sincerity of my party now, who cannot see the mistakes of the Labour government but taunt about the demise of the Liberal Democrats because of the failures in the coalition, look and listen. The centre and centre left are allies. In the US we all are Democrats. The extremism in this era needs the end of pettiness. This excellent piece is a beginning. Now quit the party political obsessiveness and we radicals who are moderates can join in a venture to unite our land and defeat the extremism.

  2. Vern says:

    Good god Jonathan – try getting out and about speaking to those in favour of Brexit – those that are positive about our future rather than reading this weeks Guardian hysteria.
    We used to build cars and ships, mine coal, forge steel, turn fabrics and build the machinery that would make all this possible. We had our place amongst the most revered manufacturers within the world. Whether you are Left or Right, believe Maggie sold us out or the Unions destroyed it all, one thing is consistent and that is that this has happened since we became part of the EU. Successive governments are forced to pander, Cameron comes back with less and the EU gives money to Slovakia to build Engines for Land Rover and then more jobs are lost.

    Meanwhile, as youth unemployment accelelarates across most of Southern Europe leading to a growing army of discontented “supposedly EU citizens” the EU allows further integration from outside the EU. If there are no jobs for EU Nationals presumably there are no jobs for non-EU nationals?

    We need to be in charge of our own destiny and that may mean a tough gig for a while but at least “we” get to determine our futures and not someone else.

    Where there is no hope of jobs as in Italy, Spain, Portugal etc there will be anger amongst the youth (possibly a far right reaction to the EU’s socialist direction) and that is a ticking time bomb of shit which is way more pessimistic than your vision Jonathan. The EU isnt perfect they say, they’re right, its failing and it has been for 40 years. This is why some of us want out before it implodes.

  3. John P Reid says:

    Well that’s 2 minutes of my life I wont get back

    Starting to think if there can be Godfrey Elfwick and Corbyn super fan, spoofs ,there can be a Polly Toynbee/ Progress spoof, called labour-uncut

  4. Anne says:

    Although Jonathan has used dramatic examples to support his points I do agree with most of this article. However I feel he has given Trump more strategic thinking than I believe he possesses – I believe Trump just tweets without thinking of consequences or indeed any form of forward planning. On the other hand Putin is very different. The other superpower is, of course, China, who are marching to economic domination.
    We should be with Europe, certainly for trade and especially security. Yes there is a problem with immigration for Europe and this has caused instability and the growth of the far right, and Europe will have to reform especially on its pillar of free movement of people.
    Looking back to an Industrial Age in our period in history is counterproductive- we must look forward to the digital age of technology but we need partners in many of these areas of science – we cann’t isolate ourselves- Europe is our obvious partner.

  5. paul barker says:

    As a Liberal Democrat, I too hope for an Autumn of “Action” that would see all the “Progressive” forces working together. Brexit can be stopped & the “Mould of British Politics” could be broken.
    One thing that cant happen is that Labour “Centrists” get their Party back. Any new Labour Leader will be from The Far Left.

  6. Tafia says:

    This is utter drivel. Want to know just a simple lie? You cannot stockpile blood – it has a very short shelf life.

    And I say lie because that;’s a simple fact and so the author must have known that.

    And @ Lorenzo Cherin. The Democrats are not centre or centre left. The Democrats are like the Ken Clarke/Anna Soubrey version of conservatism and the Republicans like the Rees-Moggs. Democrats are conservatives (small c), Republicans are Conservatives (big C).

    Meanwhile for all the panic-stricken Remainers, I will be taking out a lease on one of the grounded aircraft and converting it to a cafe. Due to the shortage of sandwich fillings I shall use cuts from the dead diabetics that will be littering the streets. It will be healthy eating as they are largely sugar-free. What’s not to like.

    Now grow up, man up and stop behaving like a f***ing child.

  7. Anon - the presumed racist says:

    It’s very difficult to not be nasty towards the writer of this article.

    I agree with everything written in Vern’s post above.

    I’m sick of seeing our young people wondering around with their faces to the pavement; no hope and no aspiration, and certainly no chance of leaving the streets on which they are born.

    I was raised to believe in a Labour Party that worked for the working class people of the UK, the party has now been hijacked by self-serving leeches.

    Yes, Corbyn is hopeless, and no more or less representative of the people at the bottom than Blair and his motley crew.

    Can we please end this now, so that we can move on – Momentum can take their crowd and go full socialist, the Blairites, progressives, and Fabians can get together with the LibDems and form their own pro-EU sack of self-interested, NGO-polluting parasites – and we, the working class of the UK, can find a hill on which we can stand and fight on.

    FFS – let us go: take the Labour flag with you and we’ll fight under a new one, or leave it with us and you can form your own ‘progressive’ party.

    You serve no purpose now.

  8. Anne says:

    I have supported JC in conversations because he was democratically elected as leader of our party, and I felt he should be given a chance. However recent events are highlighting the poor leadership skills that he has – he should be leading the party but he appears to be ducking out of important decisions – omission is just as culpable.
    In my view Kier Starmer is offering the most pragmatic way forward for this disaster called Brexit.

  9. paul barker says:

    It seems that a dozen Labour MPs are planning some sort of split in the Autumn, could I suggest that try to develop a sense of urgency ?
    Theres never going to be a better time to leave than now, they should get on with it.

  10. anosrep says:

    “Where would the UK be with any other Labour leader?”

    Under a Tory majority government, with Labour at least six points behind in the polls.

  11. John P Reid says:

    Anosrep, We got the protest vote in 2017, people who have vited Libdem 2010 and Ukip 2015 who had bo reason to vote for those parties as a protest vote now

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