Labour needs to avoid another Gogglebox moment on its Brexit policy

by Tom Clements

I still remember the agony of the 2015 exit poll with vivid horror. The chiming of Big Ben leading to David Cameron and the words ‘Largest Party’ winded me; and then David Dimbleby’s confirmation of the projected number of Labour seats knocked me to the ground. I hadn’t given up hope until the result of South Swindon was announced showing that the Tories had done more than enough to continue to govern.

Dazed and confused, it took me a while to process the result before starting to think about what factor could possibly explain it. It wasn’t until I watched that week’s Gogglebox election special that I could start to understand why Labour had been so decisively rejected in 2015.

From the Leader’s Question Time event in Leeds, they saw a voter ask Ed whether he thought New Labour had spent too much. When Ed replied that he didn’t, despite some grumbles from the audience, I barely batted an eyelid.

But on the Gogglebox sofas, family after family spluttered their disbelief. Whatever the validity of the coalition government’s argument about the public debt, it had clearly stuck Miliband and Labour as being economically profligate defecit deniers. And in the stark light of the disastrous election result, the realisation hit me that this is what people had thought all along and we had been unwilling to counter it.

Whether or not we would learn from this has been low on the list of problems facing the Party since 2015 so I hadn’t given it much thought.

Until recently.

Hearing Corbyn, Starmer and other favourites of the front bench struggle through explaining the Party’s Brexit policy, I felt a familiar dread. Upon hearing the dear leader proclaim that his plan is “clear and simple” brought me out in a cold sweat.

Unless Labour establishes a clear, coherent and easily explainable position on the key issue of this election, then we will be facing a similar Gogglebox moment. And, even though it has been plain to many for some time, now that the definitely, maybe plan has been exposed to the public, the penny might finally drop.

So Labour needs to get real on its Brexit indecision and establish a clear plan.

Firstly, they need to publish their proposed deal. Despite the embarrassment of the Ed Stone and shadow budget in 1992, if we are to be taken seriously on Brexit then it is the least we can do. We need to explain why we believe in maintaining the custom’s union and keeping strong ties with the EU.

Yes, we will face some arrows but it will allow us to get out ahead of the debate for the first time since the referendum. The EU won’t criticise our proposal allowing us to show that we will be able to get a deal done quickly, getting Brexit out of the way in the first months of a Labour government.

It will also mean that we can turn the tables on the Tories and expose them, and Farage’s mob, for the charlatans they are. Asking them whether they would vote leave or remain on our terms, will expose them for what they really are. It will show that they don’t want to liberate Britain but incarcerate us in a low pay, low rights state.

Secondly, it would allow shadow ministers, Members of Parliament and PPC’s to be up front and honest with the voters. People are getting fed up with weasel words from politicians and fudged responses are being treated with the disdain that they deserve.

Britain is no longer the country that was ‘fed up of experts’ according to Michael Gove in 2016. Britain today wants things to get sorted. We are bored of indecision and delay and just want somebody, anybody to get Brexit done. Failure to do this will open the doors to snake oil salesmen with simple messages.

Thirdly, it would allow us to proclaim, loudly and proudly, that the Labour Party would campaign for remain in the referendum to come. Yes, allowing MP’s to campaign differently, but finally allowing us to end the Lib Dem squeeze on our vote.

It is only by getting real that we will be able to finally move the debate on to the future of our country. If we don’t, then we will be stuck as the Party of dither and delay; breathing fresh life in Johnson’s fatigued message of ‘let’s get Brexit done’. Otherwise, when we wake up on December 13th facing fourteen years of Tory rule, we will only have ourselves to blame.

Tom Clements is a history and politics teacher in Leeds

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4 Responses to “Labour needs to avoid another Gogglebox moment on its Brexit policy”

  1. Alf says:

    This is no time for a retreat back to Thatcher/Blair-ism. Let’s all get behind Corbyn for the first proper Labour government since 1945!

  2. butley says:

    Tom, Those that can, do…..those that can’t, teach

    Your hypothesis supposes Ed was electable. Then you ignore his policy offer.

    Anyone want to buy a pair of used Sky Breggsit countdown clocks? Fully reset-able.

    Such fun to see so many hacks libel themselves over Labours candidate for Hall Green, shameful behaviour all round, and it will be costly too.

  3. John P Reid says:

    Nomwn ten bit said ,when it was pointed out to him, that labour had the better message,but lost in 1987

    If they had won the campaign,lost the election, then ,it must have been a pretty lousy product

    No matter how well labour try to sell this, if the message is there’s a chance to stop Brexit,and unless it’s a full Brexit outside the single market and customs union,with no treaty

    Then the policy is remain or remain in name in,y, baring in mind the leader clearly wants a proper Brexit to the point he’d accept WTO if he had too, then its fooling no one

  4. Leslie48 says:

    It’s too late. This is a frightening decline of Labour with Johnson now on 42% and Corbyn shockingly sub 20%. Its Labour members who destroyed their party colluding with Corbynism…all of them from the Progressive wing to the Hard Left. Too compromising with him, thinking they could ignore the stalinists like Milne, Murray and McCluskey etc. Ignoring too the shocking referendum performance of Corbyn and membership rejection of the MPs 80% vote of no confidence. Now we see Tories back for five yrs with a strong leader and big majority. Never has the UK witnessed such a serious meltdown in the polls of the Opposition party and such a betrayal of our working class voters who reject him with a vehemence unprecedented in Labour Party history. The Corbyn Cult failed to realise you win from the centre not the old Hard 1980s Left.

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