by Trevor Fisher
The weekly dance at Westminster of the Parliamentary Labour Party over Brexit reached a new stage in the final week of March with Keir Starmer’s 6 tests of what Labour would accept to back Brexit. It is not worth discussing them. They will be voted down and unless the Tories can be induced to split, then Labour faces a bleak future where it continually fails to set the agenda while the SNP (north of the border) and the Lib Dems (South of the border) collect the Remain votes.
While Ed Miliband’s speech at Open Labour was sad, possibly even sadder was Tom Watson’s weekly bulletin (1st April but not alas an April Fool’s joke) in which he claimed “Labour won’t support a final deal which does not pass all these tests”, referring to Keir Starmer’s 6 tests earlier in the week. The PLP has lost every vote where it has voted against the Tory Brexit plans, and this will continue. Theresa May’s game plan is a hard Brexit to win the UKIP voter and destroy Labour in its northern seats, and it is formidable. However the belief that there is a soft Brexit – and not a clear choice to oppose Brexit, without playing a game that would split the party and the Northern MPs who are terrified for their seats – is no response for Labour.
Watson’s blog calls on May to honour her “strong commitments” – she is doing so: she promised to deliver a an uncompromising Brexit – and the relevant section ends “She needs to stand up to those in her party whose vision of Britain’s future is very different from that of most of the people who voted to leave the EU. And she needs to deliver a deal which meets her commitments. Labour’s tests and the aspirations of all British people, whether they voted Leave or Remain”. This is ungrammatical, fantasy politics. There is no evidence Hard Brexit is not what Leavers voted for, though this can change, but arguing that the Leave and Remain voters have the same aspirations is to reinvent reality.