Labour, co-owner of #brexitshambles

by Rob Marchant

We are out. That’s it, the fat lady has sung.

But of course we are not out at all, not in any meaningful sense. This is just the start of a tortuous, eleven-month scramble to try and get some kind of a sensible result in place by the end of the year.

Remainers have to admit that they – we – lost the argument, at least for now. Leavers have got what they wanted and, ultimately, that’s democracy.

But, Leaver or Remainer, we have had in many ways the worst of all possible worlds. Leavers have not really got what many wanted, at least, not yet. If we leave aside the semi-suicidal, macho contingent who are happy to have the hardest of hard Brexits, moderate Leavers will now see that we now have eleven months to get somewhere on the sliding scale between what one former PM has rightly called the “pointless Brexit” and the “painful Brexit”.

If we end at the “pointless Brexit”, people on both sides will rightly say, we might as well have stayed in. Most of the benefits but without a seat at the table.

If we end at the “painful Brexit”, for example, with few and/or poor-outcome trade deals in place, the economic jolt to come will be memorable. And, it must be said, we have both precious little time to get those deals in place and the poor bargaining power of the supplicant. But we are where we are.

And somewhere in the middle? A bit of both of the above or, perhaps, not even really possible. Perhaps it will quickly converge down to just that binary choice of one or the other: who knows.

As a man of scant firm views Johnson is, of course, capable of pushing for either, depending on what he sees as most expedient. The Tories, egged on by Farage and his allies, have built this edifice up from nothing and must now go through with it.

But it is probably also the right time to just review Labour’s hand in all this. Imagine, if you will, a half-competent leader in charge of the party the last four years. Holding May and then Johnson effectively to account.

Whether Leaver or Remainer, you have to admit that an effective Opposition would have helped get a better deal on the table sooner. Instead we had a Labour leader vacillating between the Remain position his members largely wanted, and the Leave position he had himself openly held his whole adult life, until the moment he became leader in 2015.

In short, Labour has been wildly gesticulating, Janus-like, in both directions. For four years.

The resulting gridlock in Parliament did not help Britain make up its mind. It made the wounds of a divided country fester and left us in the hands of the populists, who had nobody’s best interests at heart, save their own.

When the history books of this time are written, they will surely write that Corbyn’s leadership was asleep at the wheel, when the country needed Labour. It will take us some time to recover from that conclusion, let alone still-growing anti-Semitism or the party’s worst election since 1935.

That heady cocktail would be enough to shame most people. Corbyn, on the other hand, is unrepentant and continues to cling to that position only by avoiding all journalists who might question him on his starring role in the defeat.

But we should also be fair: Corbyn’s team, and their union backers, should not take all the blame.

Labour’s MPs – almost all of them against him, at least at the beginning – had four years to stage a successful coup. The far left is awful, but it knows how to organise. Whereas the party’s moderates, stunned to find themselves suddenly on the back foot, failed palpably to organise. The Grand Old Duke of Watson, who marched them up the hill to stay in the party, and then back down it again as he headed for the exit door last December – handily accompanied by a recommendation for a peerage – did not help.

There are notable exceptions, of course, some of whom have stayed honourably and some of whom left honourably. But any PLP member with an ounce of self-awareness must admit that a collective opportunity was missed; not to mention the indescribably foolish MPs who lent Corbyn their nominations to get him onto the leader shortlist in the first place. And now, of course, the PLP is a very significantly different group from that of 2016. The new intake does not share the blame but they will now have to grow up politically, and fast.

So yes: Farage, Cameron, May and Johnson have been the co-parents of a most dismal Brexit outcome for both Leavers and Remainers, with little resolved and precious little time left to fix things. But Labour has been the midwife.

We can only hope that the current leadership election can draw a line under the whole sorry affair; to start the long, slow grind of cleaning up the toxic sections of the party which led us to its 110-year historical nadir.

Because if it cannot, quite simply, the party cannot survive as a party of government. The stakes could not be higher.

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

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8 Responses to “Labour, co-owner of #brexitshambles”

  1. John P Reid says:

    No the people who’ve lead us to, in your words “dismal Brexit” as those who marched closer to a federal Europe over 30 years without consulting us Major , Blair and Brown, plus the EU themselves

    Whatever the deal we’ve got, look at two things,
    One someone harda old school, Bennite ,Gisela Stuart pointed out, how the EU as a buerocratic institution was just about making money at all costs, at the expense of the working class, and two
    Brexit became a culture war, in the Orwellian Nineteeneighty four days of thought crime’ just saying I consider you a racist, therefore the defence no I’m not, counts for nothumg, so it’s pointless trying to defend ines self,ans if labour doesn’t realise how race gaiters are exploiting this ridiculous law, like James o’brien inviting on radio show Doreen Lawrence to just say, hate crime has been recorded up, since Brexit as a way of trying to silence the concerns of the working class who’ve been ignored by the liberal elite, then there’s no future for the Labour Party

    Fqce that the party is gushing over the no friend of civil liberties former prosecutor at the DOP Kwir starmer who pushed for the second referendum for remain, that lead us to our worse defeat in a century, says it all

    Yes Corbyn should have stood up to Pau Jason admitted he was a. Reciter, but the party broke it by getting the second refrndum for remain,they should oen this defeat

  2. John P Reid says:

    Labour is in such denial of the scale of defeat members actually want corbyn to stay on ,keir starmer Is the epitome of victim identity politics to the point of the covering up of grooming gangs, allowing misogyny dressed up as tran latching onto gay Rights to fetishize men who want to go in women’s changing rooms
    There’s no hope

  3. Alf says:

    Blair and his Remain cultists lost us the election with their silly hats and grins.

  4. Tafia says:

    No matter how badly Labour thinks it did in the election, it’s actually far far worse. Just consider these four points:-

    1. If it hadn’t been for the presence of the Brexit Party, Labour would have lost around a further 30 seats more.

    2. Labour have never ever in the history of it’s existance, ever won a majority without winning the majority of seats in Scotland.

    3. The Constituencies will be re-drawn by GE2024 to make them more balanced and fairer. The impact of that is Labour will need to take around 75 seats directly from the Tories in order to get a majority of 1.

    4. The very best you can come up with is Starmer as Leader. He is dull, boring to listen to, and stuck up his own arse. Boris isn’t the slightest fazed by him and never has been. Virtually every time they have clashed Boris has bounced him fairly easily. ( Boris does have a fear of female politicians though and tends to shy away from them when pressured in the House.)

  5. Tafia says:

    2017 – Labour enter the election accepting the result of the Referendum and saying we will leave. Come within a whisker of toppling the Tories.

    2019 – Labour enter the election on a policy of a second referendum with Remain an option against a weak and feeble Labour leave option, to be negotiated by a remainer (Starmer) that they state they will campaign against anyway. Electorate quite rightly pissed on them and spat in their faces.

  6. Tafia says:

    One of the best observations I have seen in a long time, from the Guardian.

    “Labour is now very much the Party of the urban middle class. A group who, I suspect, are secretly happy for the Tories to run the economy ( thus protecting their house values and pension pots) while they can virtue signal about “ wicked Tories””

  7. anon says:

    So Rob digs up the one word that sums up the whole dilemma – he refers to the people out there on the street as ‘populists’.
    A term created amongst our new EU aristocracy, and taken up by the mantra-spouting sheep of this Godawful progressive New World Order.

    Does it never occur to Rob that the whole EU antagonism thing is not built on GDP, but identity, culture, and – evil of all evils – Democracy ?

    He just can not bring himself to believe that there are people out here who would eat grass for the rest of their lives rather than belong to this anti-democratic monstrosity that is the EU.

    But, you just keep piling on the names – populist, nativist, gammon – and watch the voters just disappear into the aether.

  8. steve says:

    “the party cannot survive as a party of government”

    Too late. That moment is gone.

    You had your chance and now Keir ‘Labour is the party of Remain’ Starmer looks set to win the leadership.

    With Starmer as leader the north will become Labour’s new Scotland.

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