The Brexit calamity is at the heart of Corbyn’s inadequacies

by Jonathan Todd

Peter Mandelson and Will Straw, unsurprisingly, questioned the focus given to the EU referendum by Jeremy Corbyn on Laura Kuenssberg’s Brexit documentary. Given Brexit’s slender victory, a more dedicated Labour campaign may have kept the UK in the EU.

We will await the extra £350m a week for the NHS that the Brexit campaign allowed us to believe would be forthcoming. Not once do I recall Corbyn exploding this myth with, say, the fierce clarity of Ruth Davidson at the Wembley debate on the EU referendum. Only the tediously tribal wouldn’t concede that Davidson is impressive. At the same time, however, it is lamentable that a Labour leader can so pall next to a Scottish Tory, a supposedly extinct bred reborn as the most coherent opposing voice to the SNP hegemony that Corbyn was supposed to shatter.

Rather than Scottish recovery, it feels more like the Labour weaknesses that the SNP have ruthlessly exposed will creep south. Brexit asks questions about the future purpose of UKIP, a party dedicated above all to this end, but also exposes a divergence between Labour and many of our traditional supporters in the north of England and the Midlands, which UKIP might be recalibrated to capitalise upon.

Theresa May will look at Labour’s loosening purchase on these regions and spy opportunities for Tory advance. As May looks north, Corbyn tacitly endorses attempts to deselect Peter Kyle, one of Labour’s few MPs in the south outside of London, providing little sense of a lifting of Labour’s traditional southern discomfort.

In May 2015, Jon Cruddas memorably lamented, we lost everywhere to everyone. If we then thought that this marked the bottom of the Labour market, as I did, we were cruelly deluded. There are new places where we can lose to more people. The electors will end the parliamentary career of Kyle, fighting on geography far from consistently favourable to Labour, if his CLP does not first. He must wonder, if he is at all human, why he bothers.

As Labour activists and candidates, we can only keep putting one foot in front of another – not least when delivering the endless leaflets that are meant to communicate Labour’s message to the electorate – if we feel that the party contains the viable promise of a better tomorrow. No leaflets may have been printed on the grim morning of Brexit – when Boris Johnson and Michael Gove only belatedly appeared to look sheepish – advising that Labour would immediately trigger Article 50. But Corbyn’s declaration to this effect compounded the inadequacies of his referendum performance.

It was the proclamation of a politician who did not comprehend the forces with which he was dealing. Such an action would have caused an immediate and sharp deterioration in the UK’s economic position and political leverage. That Corbyn now denies calling for Article 50 to be triggered, in spite of the clear evidence to the contrary, does seem straight talking, honest politics.

The best hope now for our economy is to stay in the EU single market. This requires the UK to acquiesce with a Norway type position: in the single market but with no say over its rules. Single market membership helps the UK remain a base for EU-wide operations. Over the longer-term, however, single market members with a say over its rules will set them in a way that suits them and not the UK, which will erode the UK’s competitive position.

There is a way to avoid this: the UK remains a full member of the EU. One way to secure the democratic mandate for such a strategy would be a second referendum. Another would be a general election victory by a party with a clear and trumpeted manifesto commitment to EU membership.

In spite of the disingenuous terms upon which the first referendum was fought and the importance to the UK’s competitiveness of remaining in the EU, Corbyn has closed the door on a second referendum. Nor does there seem any prospect of a strong manifesto commitment to EU membership from a party led by him.

Corbyn failed to do all that he could to keep the UK in the EU, responded with unique and extraordinary irresponsibility to the result by wanting Article 50 to be rapidly invoked, and now closes the door on routes out of the dangerous corner that the UK has backed itself into.

This has been one of the most inglorious periods in UK history and no one’s contribution has fallen as short as Corbyn’s. Somehow, however, his grip on the party strengthens. The CLP nominations pile up. The NEC vote is won. The rallies keep on coming.

The tighter Labour is in the grip of a leader as lacking on the key challenge facing the UK, the more we must wonder about the extent to which Labour remains part of the solution to the UK’s problems.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut

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26 Responses to “The Brexit calamity is at the heart of Corbyn’s inadequacies”

  1. Feodor says:

    “This has been one of the most inglorious periods in UK history and no one’s contribution has fallen as short as Corbyn’s.”

    Hyperbole like this spoils what is an otherwise reasonably decent critique, which might of got people thinking. You just can’t help yourself however. Me thinks the deputy editor is in need of an editor of his own. Or perhaps this is what it means to be ‘uncut’?

  2. Tafia says:

    BREXIT is done and dusted and won’t be re-visited.

    Accept it. It’s over. Move on.

  3. Mike Homfray says:

    I don’t think you get it.
    The referendum was lost. Many Labour and former Labour voters opted for Leave.
    anyone with any sense knows the Euro is an unsustainable disaster . Greece was treated appallingly
    The competition rules favour neoliberalism and we would have had to defy them to carry out our policies.
    Jeremy Corbyn has views closer to Labour voters. Those who cannot see the faults in the EU are a small minority.
    I voted remain but it was for a better Europe – not an uncritical rubberstamp of what we have now

  4. Robsterinsheffield says:

    Anyone who believes Corbyns P*sspoor quarter hearted performance was not a direct contribution to BREXIT “does not get it”. Anyone who dusts off the 1970s miss ‘socialism in one country via a siege economy’ “does not get it”. Globalisation and the interconnected liberalisation of markets is a genie out of its bottle and is not going to be reversed despite the primal howls. If you believe you can reverse globalisation with glib talk about greater equality, higher tax, larger public spending etc etc then you “don’t get it”. The Labour Party is not becoming a social movement. It has become a minority interest group echo-chamber whose march/ rally/ demo notion of persuasion merely talks to itself and its members comfort zones. The next general election- and its result- can’t come quickly enough for anyone who wants a centre left alternative to the Tories to reassert itself.

  5. Tafia says:

    Mike – Many Labour and former Labour voters opted for Leave.
    Considered opinion is about one third of Labour voters voted Leave. If Labour suddenly went on a ‘Second Referendum Now – We must Stay’ policiy it would lose most of that third.

    I voted remain but it was for a better Europe – not an uncritical rubberstamp of what we have now
    Right up until Cameron’s ‘negotiations’ I would have voted REMAIN. It was at that point that I realised that to vote REMAIN was to accept the EU as is, not what it might be. And there was no way I was going to endorse it as it is and without guarenteed reform and in it’s current form unacceptable is an understatement so that only left LEAVE. And I’m glad I did. And I would again.

    As an anecdotal, the wife voted Leave. Her daughter – a Labour member and an international media consultant voted Leave. Her husband – an energy broker and also a Labour member also voted Leave. My ex-wife – a G grade nurse and staunch Labour supporter voted Leave. Both my daughter – one a surgeon and the other in international banking also voted Leave. My elder sister – a H Grade nurse voted Leave, my other elder sister – on disability, voted Leave and my brother a construction engineer also voted Leave. All bar me (I’m Plaid) are labour voters.

  6. Mark Livingston says:

    Alan Johnson – the darling of the Tory-lites – was to blame. A hopeless campaign from him.

  7. Anon says:

    It seems that Corbyn, who is stated to be proving ineffectual at winning voters, is so influential that the mere sight of him on a Better In stage would have swung the referendum.

    But does anybody see a divide opening up here – I’m not a Corbyn admirer, but then I do have an inbuilt wish for democracy.

    It seems that we now have individuals, like Jonathan Todd, supposed high level economic expert and seeped in the toxic poisons of Demos and Progress, and full of that ability to wrest money from the taxpayer to fund various ‘arty’ projects – versus – the little people at the bottom.

    And that is where the problem is, isn’t it?

    We now have a group of dependency junkies, not at Benefits Street level, but in that pampered luvvy tier between government and the, not so much dispossessed, but never had.

    The cries of rage never penetrate the cloth ears of people like Jonathan Todd; and unfortunately, a Labour party that was once set up to serve those at the bottom, has now become the plaything of this “progressive” new world order inhabited by the likes of Todd.

    Can we have our old Labour party back please – and by old, I mean immediate post WW2, where the party was working for their own people.

  8. Rallan says:

    I’m no Labour supporter but if I was then this article it would confirm the absolute necessity of keeping Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

    When the Labour membership were given real democratic choice in the 2015 leadership contest they voted for Corbyn like a starving man grabbing for a sandwich. It didn’t matter that the sandwich wasn’t perfect because everything else on the menu made them feel sick. After decades of marginalisation they could finally make a real difference.

    If people like Jonathan Todd regain control of the Labour party they will lock it down forever. The membership know this. The unions know this. That is why Corbyn will win.

  9. John Kelly says:

    What I don’t understand is how Labour are going to win back the votes of people who voted leave, by campaigning for a second referendum, and if we don’t convince them to vote Labour we will not form a government in 2020. Those arguing for a second referendum should bear this in mind when looking for a scapegoat to blame for Labour’s electoral decline.

    People who think that promising a second referendum will somehow improve Labour’s electoral fortunes should explain their thinking in a bit more depth than this article does. Not everyone is as enamoured with Europe as the Europhiles in the Labour Party.

  10. john p Reid says:

    the majority of those who vote din the referendum didn’t think brexit was a calamity,

    by the way even if 80% of all the addtional votes labour needs to win an election came from ukip, and labour relied on the 37% of labour voters who voted Brexit, it would mean that more than half the people labour would need for a overall majority in 2020 voted for leave in 2016.

  11. madasafish says:

    Can we have our old Labour party back please – and by old, I mean immediate post WW2, where the party was working for their own people.”

    Yes , back to the days of full employment, 75% unionised work forces, and mass employment in cars , shipbuilding ,steel and coal – not forgetting the clothing industry. And no computers or mobile phones or teh internet.

    Anyone note the similarities with the 21st century?

  12. Bruce Hosie says:

    The Tories got 22% of the constituency vote and 22.9% of the regional vote in Holyrood, bigging up Davidson is misguided at best. The Tories are no where in Scotland so don’t imply differently.

  13. Anne says:

    Pleased that Andy Burnham has been selected as Labour candidate for mayor of Manchester- he will fight for the Northan powerhouse and better rail networks. To remain in the single market would be best for the economy. I agree with Francis O’Grady (TUC) that we have to invest in the larger projects to keep the UK working. Teresa May is trying to control too many projects and slow at making decisions. Liam Fox has got himself a nothing job – like a travelling salesman.

  14. Mike Homfray says:

    If Labour has to meekly go along with the unsustainable nonsense of globalisation which is utterly in opposition to anything even mildly left wing, we may as well hand power to the Tories permanently.
    Our role is to provide an alternative. If those nostalgic for new Labour want to start a pro-globalisation centre party, they are welcome to do so

  15. Tafia says:

    The Tories got 22% of the constituency vote and 22.9% of the regional vote in Holyrood, bigging up Davidson is misguided at best. The Tories are no where in Scotland so don’t imply differently

    I take it you wrot that ‘tongue-in-cheek’ given that Labour was 22.6 and 19.1 respectively.

  16. Feodor says:

    “Anyone note the similarities with the 21st century?”

    I don’t have anything to say on that front, though I would like to note your childish strawman. Why not address what the poster actually wrote, rather than a fiction of your own invention?

  17. Anne says:

    Most certainly the 350 million on the side of the red bus was a lie and should have been condemned more. Teresa May has said very little about the NHS – appointing Jeremy Hunt was not s sensible appointment due to his poor handling of the junior Drs dispute. The NHS does require more funding due to a growing elderly population and increasing demands on its service.
    Bye the way Anon (who ever you are) we are not all cloth capped here in the north – some of us like a little culture – if that is what you are referring to as ‘arty’

  18. Anne says:

    Glad to see the GMB Union is backing Owen Smith

  19. Anon says:

    @Anne – “cloth eared” was my point, deaf to hearing anything outside Todd’s bubble.

    I would never deride the working class people of this country; I am one of them, I work with them, live amongst them, and love them to bits – whether they wear a cloth cap, or not.

    And I would certainly never patronise or demean them.

    Could we please get this sentiment over to the suited placemen or women that see us as mere vote fodder.

  20. Anon E Mouse says:

    At the moment Labour are nothing more than a reactionary party and will be cosigned to the dustbin of history the way things are going. If anyone out there actually believes that a re-run of the referendum would produce a different result then they are on drugs.

    If it hadn’t been for the murder of Joanne Cox the vote to Leave would have been massively higher imo. I know at least ten families who didn’t vote after that plus now the scaremongering has been shown to be exactly that why wouldn’t people vote to Leave?

    Ironically the only way Corbyn could implement some of his more crazy ideas on workers and taxes is by being outside the EU.

    As for the £350 million on the red bus who cares what the number is? With food banks in Britain and unelected EU Presidents any amount is too much.

    Clowns like Owen Smith and David Lamy should really think how bad they look trying to ignore the will of the people like they know best. It is exactly that attitude by Labour that has turned people from supporting the party.

    The referendum is over. Supporters of remain like Goldman Sachs, Citibank, Morgan Stanley and all the other big business control freaks and spivs out to enrich themselves on the back of the poor lost. Move on.

  21. Anne says:

    Actually Anon E Mouse (again who ever you are) the 350 million on the side of the red bus is extremely important – many millions of people voted to leave the EU in the belief that this money was going to the NHS – they have been deceived on a massive basis. A lie of enormous proportions. Regarding the referendum- this is only the beginning – much as to be discussed and looking at the people who have been trusted with this role – I am not hopeful we will get the best deals. As they say it is not over until the fat lady sings. If we don’t keep and build the economy there will be less money for the NHS.

  22. John P Reid says:

    look at the 3 groups of ex labour voters,who we need ,NOT to win, but to be even in the mid 30s ,in the opinion polls.

    The Dan Hodges sorts, Blairites against Iraq, probably quite left win in the 80’s liked livingstone at the time, pro the EU ,and will say in 2020 hold your nose vote Tory

    The Yvette voter, reads the mirror or the independent, again ,pro the Eu ,will vote Libdem next time, strongly dislikes Gisela Stuart, Kate Hoey

    The blue labour, blue collar working class Sun reader up north will vote Ukip, voted Brexit

    To get the blue labour,Sun vote, labour would need a centre of the party Brexiter as leader,

    The problem then is the Yvette voter Independent readers , wouldn’t vote for A Kate Hoey type, in fact of the current ex labour, libdem voters I know the only Brexiters they had respect for were ,lord Glasman, Christian Wolmar, Tom Harris and Denis Healey ,before he died

    Then there’s the Dan Hodges type, who obviously have respect for some labour Brexiters, jon Cryer, John Mann ,Frank field

    Or would the Ukip voting ,sun reading ex labour voters, vote for one of the few Blue labour types who was pro the EU, Tristan hunt?, Lisa Nandy but then the momentum lot would never tolerate any of this anyway.

  23. Anne says:

    I read that David Davis and Liam For are setting up their own departments with hundreds of people in each to sort out BREXIT – bang goes the 350 million then – spent on administration. Was it all really worth it? Farmers are now moaning they are going to loose their subsidies and universities their funding. Doesn’t sound like a good deal to me.

  24. Tafia says:

    Interesting little piece doing the rounds on social media

    “All over the papers about Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson claiming that Labour has been infiltrated by Totskyites etc and Corbyn rubbishing his claims.

    Labour deputy leader Tom Watson received a £200,000 donation from former motor racing boss Max Mosley (youngest son of Oswald Mosley the head of the British Nazi ‘blackshirts’ in the 1930’s & Hitler was a guest at his wedding) . The donation was registered on 28 June after the vote to leave the European Union and during the move against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

    So who is infiltrating the party and having the biggest influence – a couple of hundred lefties, or an ultra right-wing millionaire.”

  25. john p Reid says:

    Any reason to believe that Mosley junior is a Ultra right winger because of his dad? the donation was due to Watson taking on the Murdoch press aswell

  26. Tafia says:


    ” In his teens and early twenties Mosley was involved with his father’s post-war political party, the Union Movement (UM). ”

    He also worked for the Conservative Party during Thatcher’s tenure.

    And his distaste for the Murdoch press wouldn’t centre around a rather seedy little escapade involving sado-masochism and 5 hookers that appeared in NoW per chance? Nor the fact he bunged in nearly a million quid in order to try and nake the free press a little less free?

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