Labour needs to be bolder. Keir Starmer should call for an extension to the Brexit deadline until Covid is under control

by Trevor Fisher

Whatever is happening inside Number 10 with Cummings and Lee Cain reportedly ousted, it is clear that a turning point has been reached. This is likely to be Brexit related, as it was never the case that the slogan “Get Brexit Done” was within reach even before the pandemic struck. There was no “Oven ready deal” that could be simply signed off, and the sensible thing to do even for committed Brexiteers was to postpone the extension deadline to get the pandemic sorted. Labour should be saying this, but instead the Hard Left spokesmen Jon Trickett, Ian Lavery and Laura Smith issued a report titled No Holding Back on 12th November.

This lined up with full throttle Brexiteers who aim to take Britain out of the remaining EU arrangements on January 1st, advocated by Nigel Farage and his associates on the Far Right of the Conservative Party. Farage reacted to reports Cummings was going with the fear that Brexit would not be delivered. We will see in the days to come whether this is the case, but in the meanwhile Trickett and Co demanding that Labour apologise for cautiously wanting a confirmatory referendum on Brexit is nonsense. The 2019 result was bad: it would have been much worse if Labour had drive Remain voters into the arms of other parties: as it managed to do in Scotland anyway.

While a postponement of the Brexit negotiations is the compromise even  Brexiteers could accept,   the fundamentalists like Cummings, Cain and Farage were always unlikely to do so, but Labour could and should be saying it is time to postpone negotiations. Sadly even on less contentious issues Labour is unable to require sensible changes of course by the government. The most immediate is cancelling school exams in England in summer 2021. Tory policy to reinstate exams next summer is a bridge too far. Schools have lost five months teaching March to July. The only pupils who will have been taught the syllabuses completely are in boarding schools, or pupils with rich parents who can buy in coaching or online teaching or both.

Labour’s current policy of postponing the exams for a matter of weeks could never catch up on five months lost, imposing intolerable strain on teachers and students. But the pandemic returned, and student attendance has plummeted – especially for the most disadvantaged pupils. Attendance in the first half term in secondary schools was 13% and 38% have already sent pupils home this half term according to the Socialist Education Association. It is time to call a halt and demand OFQUAL devise an emergency system of teacher moderation.

That Labour is dragging its feet on this is astonishing as Wales has already done this – and the Welsh are of course Labour controlled. This reluctance to challenge the Conservatives on their policies is a long run feature of Labour politics in the time I have been in the Labour Party – I joined in 1975 – but on the current exam situation it is a sign that an inexperienced leader is not grasping the nettles. And on the biggest unavoidable crisis coming, in Scotland, the disaster demands a fundamental rethink of  policies both on nationalism and referendums.

On referendums, the Labour line is the same as the current Tory line, only one is ever allowed and the Scots had their referendum in 2014. This is nonsense: neverendums are possible and a second referendum is certainly allowable under the unwritten constitution. While Trickett led No Holding Backers to endorse the 2016 referendum as the green light for Brexit that can never be turned off, it is bizarre that they and the Guardian and the People’s Vote all endorsed the line that a second referendum was required – or impossible according to Trickett and co, who say “We put liberalism above democracy and that cannot be allowed to happen again”. This one strike philosophy is bizarre – even Farage did not believe it – but particularly bizarre for Labour MPs.

The first EU referendum was in 1975 and I voted in it (and in the second one in 2016).  The lack of historical knowledge of 1975 was astonishing, but once Robert Saunders published his excellent book Yes to Europe; the 1975 referendum and seventies Britain in 2018 the light should have dawned. The UK has had two referendums on the European issue. Nothing happened, even on the Guardian. While there is no chance of a third referendum immediately on Europe, there is every chance of a second Scots referendum and now Johnson has started rethinking his positions he may well agree if Sturgeon wants one. A mandate next year will be the trigger, and Labour should accept the right of the Scots to vote now. And start building its case against nationalism and independence. It is not going to be an easy package to deliver.

If Labour cannot even demand that English school exams are cancelled for an alternative system what hope is there are shifting course on the bigger issues of Brexit and Scotland?  Starmer  has won some support by extreme caution, but this will no longer serve any purpose. The bigger issues are going to happen in the next six months, and on extending the Brexit deadline within seven weeks. There is a perfect storm brewing and Labour playing a long game will not work.

Trevor Fisher was a member of the Labour Coordinating Committee executive 1987-90 and secretary of the Labour Reform Group 1995- 2007. He was a member of the Compass Executive 2007-2009

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32 Responses to “Labour needs to be bolder. Keir Starmer should call for an extension to the Brexit deadline until Covid is under control”

  1. John P Reid says:

    Where to start, sigh

    I seem to recall Lavery and trickett actually backed for labour leader the first time found that Far leftie Andy burnham, and were on the front bench during Gordon browns time served under Blair, and Laura smith walked through the division lobby to ratify brexit against the Corbyn whip with those far left extremists Caroline Flint and Frank field in September 2018

    Tory brexiters aren’t far right from Michael Gove who canvassed for labour as A teen to liberal Boris too Micheal Fabricant to Kemi Badenoch and James cleverly

    For the record you joined labour in ‘75 when labour was mainly a EEC sceptic party as were unions ,from moderate Austin Mitchell peter shore, Jim Callaghan Bryan Gould were against it
    And Harold Wilson feeling it was too late we’d gone in, in 1973 , the referendum to stay i he’s say he wanted to remain but let others campaign as if the public voted to stay in it would finish the debate
    Not realising Foot and benn wouldn’t accept the result
    Wilson was soon to resign but his 2 predecessors Gaitskell and Attlee were both EEC sceptics
    The money the CIA and press threw at the stay in campaign plus the Tories with a few exceptions were a pro tory party
    With that big fan of what would become the single market Maggie Thatcher
    The common market was a idea if we bought cheep good it could stop trade unions holding ecenomics to ransom as their products of the companies their members were at could be under cut, that’s why the left were against and in 1975 there wasn’t even talk of elected

    Representation to a council of Europe

    The 2019 result would’ve been bad had labour had corbyn( although the rot started in 2001)
    Yes labour would have lost Remain voters had labour not had the policy of a 2nd referendum , but that’s because wrongly many ex libdems didn’t read labours 2017 manifesto and didn’t twig labour stood in a manifesto to respect leaving the EU and quitting the chstoms Union/ single martlet

    But that also means labour brexiters like myself held their nose voted labour as my candidate said he’d break the whip not out a 2nd referendum to the commons, plus I knew labour had no chance of winning the election

    Trucker didn’t demand labour apologise for the 2nd referendum, he proposed it, the shi@ in this article about the guardian disagreed and wanted a second referendum, lost me so I won’t comment, but to say that labour should never listen too the guardian again

    As for oven ready or get brexit done
    Your attitude reminds me of the labour slogan from the 80’s “ no compromise with the electorate”
    The thing with starmer he’s got to know scotland will go , we dsn try to win a few seats bwck I scotland it’s not sort. If, get the red wall back and also try to win the south by realising the Shires are traditionalists that’s where it’s at not the Cities
    The whole “dE left/Right” we Xs. Try to win the public around to see they were wrong to vote brexit is so offensive, Esther then saying that brexit aligned its self with extremism or played to low common denominators with dog whistle tactics of falling Tricket/ lavery’s idea of apologising
    A mistake try to realise your hole attitude in why the working class quit labour is offensive, and maybe think it’s you who needs to stop dog whistling with quotes like “Laura smiths criticism of the manifesto was “ nonsense “ or Cunmings is a Fundamentalist , and you should start apologising

  2. Tafia says:

    On the contrary, under no circumstances should Labour call for an extension. That will immediately be seen as Labour still trying to overturn the result.

    And yet again we have another writer that doesn’t understand what oven ready deal actually means – and if you understood it you would know it is actually going to plan. Are you wilfully being stupid or does it come natural.

    Just more gibber from the desrvedly discredited and mocked Remain camp.

    Utter garbage from start to finish.

  3. Alf says:

    If you don’t think KS will advance the class struggle you’re possibly not understanding social democracy correctly from a Marxist viewpoint.

  4. A.J. says:

    Sir Steer Calmer – ‘Stormzy’ to his friends – is almost certainly doomed to failure whichever set of headlights he happens to get caught in. Let him concentrate first, if he can, on clearing us the mess he and his Hard Left chums have made over anti-Jewishness. That, of course, may not be possible without Corbyn and his poisonous ilk doing a little gaol time.

  5. A.J. says:

    Every time I have any doubts about Brexit, I have a good look at my next-door neighbour: cushy public sector job (currently working from home, except when it was good weather, when there was plenty of sunbathing and consumption of cheap alcohol), reader of the infuriating – and infuriatingly named – ‘Independent’, convinced that the NHS is wickedly underfunded by ‘them’ (the evil ‘Tories’), former unwashed student nuisance who lounged about at Greenham Common at the taxpayer’s expense when not pursuing her ‘degree’ in ‘design’ at some obscure Polytechnic. Her old man plays air guitar and golf. My sister-in-law is even worse, apart from the fact she can rustle up a halfway decent Sunday lunch, with her two ‘vegetarian days’ a week and insistence on flying to Dubai to see her grandkid in the middle of this ‘pandemic’ whilst lecturing everyone else on what they should and shouldn’t be doing…
    There must be tens of thousands exactly like this gruesome pair.
    Involvement in Europe was just trendy nonsense, a way for Blair to stick it to the white working class. We already had ongoing problem with immigration and its consequences (and still do), dating from Tory stupidity and sentimentality in the 1950s. So, bring in the cheap labour, the Polish car-washers, the Bulgarian skivvies. I don’t blame them – but I do blame the likes of Blair, Brown and Mandelson for bringing it about.

    I wonder if Mrs. Duffy still happily votes Labour.

  6. A.J. says:

    Anyway, when is Covid likely to ‘come under control’? When the ridiculous Boris Johnson imagines it will? Young Wilf might be in long trousers by then.

  7. A.J. says:

    Hilarious rubbish in ‘The Guardian’ today about working a four day week – from ‘left-leaning’ figures like Len McCluskey plus some ladies and gentlemen from across the Channel. I suppose the idea might catch on if, say, the Chinese were to give it some consideration. The article refers back to Labour’s ‘ideas’ on this subject before the last election. Arty-farty, airy-fairy drivel. Work fewer hours for more money if you please – which will be the way it’ll work out if the lazy bastard unions have anything to do with it. I seem to remember reading that Attlee and Bevin’s slogan after 1945 was ‘Export Or Die’ or something along those lines. Be interesting to see a post-independence Scotland working a four day week. Those shortbread factories will need at least eight days to provide the goodies every Jock now expects as his or her God-given right.

  8. A.J. says:

    Just as tiresome is the talking up of Farage in the ‘Daily Express’.

    Would that gentleman kindly leave the saloon bar and close the door behind him.

  9. A.J. says:

    Someone in the comments section of the ‘Daily Mail’ today saying that him and his mates, in Liverpool, have never thought of voting for but ‘moving forward’ (I suppose he must mean ‘at some time in the future’) him and his mates might think about voting Labour. Liverpool must be very short of Labour votes, mustn’t it? Stack ’em high in Liverpool, London, Bristol, Manchester, on Tyneside, but it won’t help Stormzy Starmer win a working majority, particular now that Scotland is more or less a one-party dictatorship. And that’s where the once-great Labour Party is now at. It’s a coalition of freaks, fools and supporters of lost causes who still can’t land a punch on a so-called ‘Conservative Party’ that has been scarcely worth the name since they threw Margaret Thatcher out of a window at Number Ten. Look at the list of failures: Major, Room-Sharer, the Prince Of Darkness, The Quiet Man, Piglet, Sponge-Brain, now this shambling clown Johnson. If not now, when? Probably never. The party is over, leaving too many of us politically homeless. Brexit won’t save you, nor will reentry into the EU. Someone slit your collective throats and you weren’t even looking.

    This, Mr. Bond, is the price of failure…

  10. Ted Wilson says:

    It’s not that you can’t have a 2nd referendum in Scotland it’s that the Nationalists have to be held to their promise – once in a generation.

    Every time someone down south postulates that Labour should give in to the Nationalists it costs more votes up here – and without Scottish MPs how can Labour ever hope to govern the UK again?

  11. A.J. says:

    I’m too young to remember just how the Common Market idea was sold to the British working class, but our headmaster gave us a bit of a lecture in lower school library. I think I might have asked him what would happen if it all went tits up, but I’m not sure he had an answer. Anyway, we were mostly interested in Mott The Hoople and taking girls knickers down at the time, so most of it would have gone in one ear and out the other.
    Trevor Fisher was probably a clever grammar school boy and Genesis fan.

  12. A.J. says:

    Oh, and as for Scotland I think it would be a good idea if they were to have their referendum and then, hopefully, fuck off.

  13. A.J. says:

    I like Alf – even though I don’t always understand the point he’s trying to make. But he should copyright the phrase ‘Tory-Lite’ and get it on mugs, t-shirts and stationary in time for the coming Covid Christmas. Alf isn’t interested in Labour winning elections – only in ‘ideological purity’. I knew a few ‘Marxists’ in my youth. Most were good friends of Midlands breweries. I should imagine they got a card every Christmas from the shareholders.

  14. A.J. says:

    Johnson has just gone up a notch in my estimation by giving it to the SNP with both barrels. Tony Blair did his party a bloody good turn by devolving power to our cousins north of the border, didn’t he? Ian Murray must be feeling pretty lonely up there. Still, the paucity of Labour MPs ensured that Corbyn had no chance whatever of forming a government. The SNP, though, have gone from fantasizing whingebags and fringe lunatics back in the day to virtual fascists now. Most PC nonsense used to be imported from the American West Coast – now it’s originating much closer to home.

  15. A.J. says:

    I banned a second sister-in-law from the house after tiring of her singing the praises of ‘Nicola’. Who is mostly responsible for this first-name nonsense? ‘Boris’. ‘Jeremy’. The lady in question is English but has lived in Scotland for something like forty five years and has married two Scots, the second of whom I like pretty well. Supports Rangers so one has to feel a bit sorry for him. Regarding Krankie, though, anyone in any doubt as to her mentality should watch her response to Jo Swinson losing her seat. Pure nastiness. All right, Swinson was a completely out-of-touch loon, reminding me for some reason of that woman with hundreds of teeth that runs New Zealand, but Sturgeon might have had a bit of gumption. I found Salmond irritating, but Wee Jenny would definitely benefit from a few well-aimed kicks up the knickers. Ian Blackford I adore – the comedy Scotsman personified. Who ate all the pies, who ate all the pies?
    They’re a pest, though, on the whole: Westminster give us the cash – but we won’t stop hating your guts.

    Two can play at that game.

    Not that Drakeford and his tossers are much better.

  16. A.J. says:

    Mind you, I yield to no-one in my love of a full Scottish breakfast: fruit pudding, black pudding, square sausage, three eggs, all washed down with a mug of strong tea. Highly disappointed to be handed English crap on my last visit to Loch Lomond.

  17. A.J. says:

    Watching the appallingly tedious ‘Edge Of Darkness’ the other night on DVD, I was brusquely reminded of why Labour have been unappealing to the electorate for so long – Michael Meacher appeared near the beginning, sucking up to a bunch of students. Nor were they the kind of Labour students I remember from university, who were nice, thoughtful, caring young men and women (quite unlike the toffee-nosed Thatcherite rabble). Why Meacher? Why him of all people? Why not go the whole hog and have Bernie Grant?
    I had to seriously restrain myself from hurling something at the screen. Meacher the Second Home Preacher… The sheer bloody insolence of the man!

  18. A.J. says:

    Forget Brexit. Forget moral authority. Labour have just pissed all over the Jews again. And the Jews know it.

  19. A.J. says:

    ‘The Guardian’ is already waffling about ‘unity’. Wasn’t it once taken seriously as a newspaper? Back in the days of C.P.Scott possibly? I’d imagine it once graced the breakfast table of many an educated Jewish household. Does it still?

  20. A.J. says:

    There’s a smashing photograph in ‘The Guardian’ of Comrade Corbyn and Sir Keir Stormzy taken last November (according to the caption) and looking very chummy indeed. The vulgar phrase ‘slimeball’ pops into my head each time I see a photograph of Stormzy looking increasingly shifty.
    Is there anyone on here who seriously imagines Labour could win the next election? What then? More babbling about PR? More waffling about a ‘Rainbow Coalition’? But who’d want to get into bed with a gang of anti-semites? Oh, I suppose the Liberal Democrats might if they imagined that to do so would bring them a couple more useless MPs.

  21. A.J. says:

    Now the Scottish ‘Conservatives/Tories’ are saying they might consider going it alone, after Johnson was caught in the rare act of, not actually lying perhaps, but blundering in where virtue-signalling angels fear to tread. His position reminds me of a ‘William’ story, in which Richmal Crompton’s immortal creation is exhorted by a well-meaning parson to tell the truth and not be deceitful – with disastrous yet slightly hilarious consequences. Even one of two of the ‘Daily Telegraph’/’Spectator’ types are piling in, and, needless to say, the leftie papers are rubbing their oily hands together with glee – the more so now that their favourite pin-up boy seems, yet again, to have wriggled off the hook.
    Now we have McCluskey burbling on about ‘the nations’. Come again? The Welsh, in some ways, are even more absurd, as anyone who has read ‘The Old Devils’ more than once will appreciate. I’d love to see an independent Wales!

  22. A.J. says:

    It would appear that Lancaster already has a ‘Rainbow Coalition’ running the show. The ‘Labour’ members appear not to like Stormzy – and will probably like him even less now that he’s said Saint Jeremy – that ‘fundamentally decent man’, who was an ‘anti-racist’ even as he imbibed his mother’s milk – will not (at least for the time being) be allowed back into the gang.
    Stop Press – Labour Civil War. But didn’t some kind of insurrection break out back in 2015 or thereabouts? Wasn’t somebody called Smith involved? Eddie The Eagle? Didn’t Jessica Phillips tell us she’d do us all a favour and flounce off stage right? Still in place, of course, after having presumably campaigned for Saint Jeremy to become PM last year. Maybe she didn’t fancy going back to pulling pints.
    Now, it would appear that the so-called ‘Tory Party’ is riddled with Covid Corruption – would anyone doubt it? – aside from being blundering, shambling, sleepwalking and zombiefied. Yet HM Opposition carries on asking for much bigger spades for the purpose of digging much bigger holes. Anyone with doubts should read the sweet comments coming from the Rainbow Coalition chaps and chapesses in Lancaster. Tafia will find it particularly compelling reading…

  23. A.J. says:

    For the record, I’m not Jewish (though I have Jewish relatives), but I’m a hundred per cent pro-Israel.
    Anyone seen the comments on Corbyn in the so-called ‘Independent’, a so-called ‘newspaper’ much beloved of my next-door neighbour on lazy sunny mornings, together with the muesli and apple juice. Presumably at least some of them were placard-carriers for the SWP/WRP etc. Nothing much to be done about them but a witch-hunt should be initiated to hound out of the Labour Party the kind of garbage that hurt Smeeth, Ellman, Berger and Austin – to name just a few. I just can’t see any other way forward.

  24. A.J. says:

    Hilarious rubbish from Sir John Guru in the ‘Daily Express’.

    “Well, Sir John, do you think the Scots will go for independence?’

    ‘They might, I suppose. On the other hand, they might not”.

    Toss of a coin, then, Sir John?

    How much do you suppose he gets paid?

  25. A.J. says:

    Now, Johnson does appear to be farting about over Brexit. Or someone is. Patrick O’Flynn reckons he’ll lose Red Wall support over this green bollocks. I wonder. Previously safe areas were already drifting away from Labour before Johnson was in the driving seat. I was amazed at South Stoke going. When I lived there, had you told anyone it would elect a ‘Conservative’ they’d have thought you’d been drinking the old Kool-Aid. It was that solid. Then the area around Clay Cross. Clay Cross! Google it if you don’t know. Mansfield, too. More likely Johnson will see his majority take a hit in certain places, but not necessarily because of talking balls about electric cars. Some will simply see him as just another snake-oil peddler like Blair, or Labour will have managed to find a few halfway decent MPs again – you know, people like Gareth Snell.

  26. Tafia says:

    A.J. – Back in the day when I had a real ale pub in Oldham, I used to drink occasionally with Mike Meacher (a faux-socialist if ever there was one) and the now discredited Phil Woolas.

    Outside of politics, Mike Meacher was a real nice bloke, very down to earth and definately not politically correct – said what he felt like saying, wherever and whenever and bollocks to anyone who might take offence and my God, that man could put the ale away. He was a legend in the Buck & Union on Union St.

  27. A.J. says:

    Oh brother, now poor old Jeremy is being ‘persecuted’. Seen the ‘usual suspects’ list of those supporting him? Impressive, eh? Not a lot of jumping up and down and squawking from the likes of Jessica Phillips, though.

  28. A.J. says:

    A wry smile comes to my face every time I see Martin Kettle in ‘The Guardian’. This was the self-important little man who told us Theresa May wouldn’t call an early election; even went into all the reasons why.
    Like all his type, he has nothing good to say about Boris Johnson and is on the side of Barnier, Sturgeon and co. – this working for an allegedly once great newspaper that was vile to Melanie Phillips and has now conspired to get rid of Suzanne Moore – who was a crashing bore yet, like Julie Burchill, entitled to her opinion. Aside from Simon Jenkins, I see little reason for bothering with ‘The Guardian’ any longer. At one time – possibly – there would have been a major outcry against racial predjudice in the Labour Party. But the likes of Toynbee were too hostile to the ‘Tories’ – wicked people – and so desperately wanted to cuddle up to Jeremy. Even Freedland and Cohen have sometimes seemed a bit ineffectual.
    Seriously, I never worried too much about Starmer and anything he had to say on Brexit – quite likely because I thought it would make not a scrap of difference to the outcome. But he is not the man to shaft Corbyn. What did he, Starmer, think to himself when Corbyn offered him an important job? Would Dame Margaret Hodge be willing to splash that across the pages of the tabloids? Her opinion, I mean. After all, Corbyn already had quite a track record. Now Starmer is finding himself shot by both sides. Readers of the ‘DT’, ‘DM’ and ‘DE’ are doubtless rubbing their hands with glee, anticipating some rerun of the French and Russian revolutions. He’ll probably find his head spinning long before Christmas.
    Meanwhile, our eminent scientists seem to be simply getting their information on Covid from the Observer Book Of Nasty Diseases. Does any Labour MP yet have the intelligence to challenge some of what they’ve been hearing? Blackburn in ‘permanent lockdown’? Whatever next?

  29. A.J. says:

    Lisa Forbes: either anti-Jewish or as thick as two short planks. The odious Gordon Brown, jumping up like a habitual twat-in-a-box, weighs into the arguments now surrounding Saint Jeremy. But did Brown not trek off to Peterborough to speak on behalf of Forbes when the Party thought it might lose the seat? So how come Brown gets off scot-free? One of the worst kinds of nasty machine politician; old habits die hard – or, in Brown’s case, they don’t die at all.

  30. A.J. says:

    Bye bye, then, Thelma Walker. No-one is likely to miss you. No-one had even heard of you.

  31. John P Reid says:

    Trouble was remain thought screaming racism would win it
    words people use, supposed to be promoting the remain campaign
    Those doing it werent interested in doing it in other words, people going around browsing into it ,viewing the public feeling
    And I don’t recall if it ,worked If if did fine
    But Cameron he was being misinformed by experts in the mood swing

  32. Anne says:

    Thought provoking article Trevor but don’t agree with you on Brexit – a deal needs to be done for better or worse, but we need to move on. The deal will be far from perfect and their is going to be considerable pain for many as a consequence.
    Do agree about the school exams for next year.
    On the subject of Scotland – it is now going to be very difficult to stop the call for independence- the last 30 polls undertaken have shown Scotland for independence and returning to the EU. Gordon Brown still has a big following, especially in Scotland – when the debate on Scotland arrives he is the best speaker on this subject.

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