Friday, 30 June 2017

Thank You Chuka Umunna


"We will scrap the Conservatives' Brexit White Paper and replace it with fresh negotiating priorities that have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union - which are essential for maintaining industries, jobs and businesses in Britain. Labour will always put jobs and the economy first." There you go, clear as day. Labour's position from the 2017 manifesto on the Brexit negotiations. That nicely prefaces a look at Chuka Umunna's rebel amendment on retaining single market membership that was put to the Commons yesterday.

I would like to make a basic distinction between the people who rebelled between the principled and the self-serving. On the one hand you have those who retired from shadow positions and appeared to vote out of conviction, like David Zeichner and Rupa Huq. I do have some sympathy with their position. Dis-integrating Britain from the European economy after 40 years is incredibly damaging and a complete waste of time when there are more pressing problems, not least climate change, structural reform of the economy, etc. And it should be rowed back on were the casting aside of a majority decision, flawed and as slight as it was, not an unacceptable precedent to be set in a democracy. I would therefore hope they could come back in the future and that the door be left open for them. Completely different are the dismal band of familiar names, the suicide squad of the Progress and Primadonna tendency. Without seeing a list you could guess who I'm talking about, they're all there. Chuka himself, Chris Leslie, Jess Phillips, Wes Streeting, Alison McGovern, Mike Gapes, Stella Creasy - a who's who of the entitled, the vain, and the ridiculous. You might believe they too were making a principled stance about the kind of Brexit Labour should be shooting for, except a) the manifesto that ensured their reelection to the Commons was explicit on the matter as per above, and b) the amendment wasn't sponsored by someone who believes sacrificing single market membership is a price worth paying for ending free movement. Nor, it must be noted, are any of these people synonymous with the principled defence of free movement across the European Union. Indeed, it was Progress supporters in the PLP who demanded Labour wallow in the immigrant-bashing gutter to win votes on a prospectus set by The Sun and the Daily Mail editorial offices.

There's the hypocrisy and there's the politics. Never team players unless they were the managers, did they stop to think for a moment that reopening divisions or, to be blunt, parliamentary party divisions seeing as the membership are minded to get on with Brexit as per the manifesto, might damage the party's standing? Of course they did but they do not care, as nearly two years' worth of backbiting and whingeing demonstrate. Yes, I note a dubious argument has done the rounds justifying die-hard remainism. You have probably heard more than a few pundits, the ones that get everything wrong mention it. This is the view (the hope) people will find out Labour is a party committed to following Brexit through, and the realisation is going to pull our new coalition of voters apart. The problem with this drivel is the assumption Labour voters are thick and didn't realise what the party's position was, despite it being in the manifesto and having got raked over many times during the campaign and since. This justification is no justification, a cobbled together rationale from a dying faction in a bid to stay relevant. It says more about their desperation than the real state of affairs.

Nevertheless, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Chuka and his mates for their cynical amendment. In the prevailing good mood post-election, some Labour folks were happy to overlook recent PLP behaviour that crippled our party and cost us a better result. There were even people arguing that Jeremy should bring some of the personnel managers back to the front bench in a big show of reaching out. By cynically and pointlessly putting down their own amendment to the Queen's Speech, Chuka has dosed the party up with a helpful spoon of reality medicine. We are reminded that they are never going to reconcile themselves to a left-led Labour Party, regardless of the votes the party receives or the extent to which it has redefined the terms of politics in this country. Success is on their terms only, and that is measured by column inches, media portraits, front bench positions and, ultimately, the ministerial chauffeur. Whereas others are keeping their heads down and biding their time, in a display of brilliant politics we are reminded that they are fundamentally opposed to the direction Labour is taking. This means there is no way around it. If Labour and the country are going to be remade to reflect the interests and aspirations of working people, they need to be deselected and replaced by MPs prepared to stand up and be counted.

25 comments:

Mark Livingston said...

What yesterdays's helping of Blairite antics brought home to me was just how powerless the Blairites are nowadays. I'm on the left of the party, I'm right behind our new leadership, and I just don't feel anxious about those guys anymore. They're finished. I just see them as nuisances. Nuisances who should now be deselected.

Andrew King said...

"We will scrap the Conservatives' Brexit White Paper and replace it with fresh negotiating priorities that have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union - which are essential for maintaining industries, jobs and businesses in Britain. Labour will always put jobs and the economy first." There you go, clear as day.

That's a very clear wish-list, which neatly side-steps the vital question of whether anybody out there is offering, or is likely to offer, the UK such a bespoke deal, just because the UK happens to want it. Which, AFAIK, they're not. In which case, an amendment which cites actually existing arrangements, rather than ones the UK would just like to exist, makes sense.

I'm no fan of the Labour right's careerist back-stabbers and I'm overjoyed that the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn, has finally dropped the austerity-lite nonsense. But, in this case, I think Chuka and friends are like the boy who cried wolf once too often. Because Brexit is a real wolf, with the potential to do more damage to the UK economy than the global financial crisis of 2008.

It would be a tragedy if a Corbyn post-austerity government came to power, only to be flattened and discredited when the biggest economic crisis the UK has seen since the last world war unfolds on its watch. But that's what will happen, unless somebody in the UK can come up with a plan more substantial than a wish-list of all the special favours that we'd like the rest of the world to do us. And quickly - we've only got until March 2019, or which ever poor unfortunate is left holding the reins of power on that date will be toast.

KevM said...

Thanks for this. I've quoted a large chunk in another forum. Credited and linked. Hope you don't mind, I'll remove it if you would like.

SimonB said...

Of course it was a piece of vanity politics by Umunna, but I think you're glossing over the problems with the manifesto position. Simply put, the 27 have made it clear that Single Market and Custome Union benefits come with conditions that cannot be cherry picked. While our position is not as crazy and delusional as the tories' it's still fantasy politics.

pius m said...

Wondeerful update

Anonymous said...

The above MPs have absolutely no idea how substantially the political landscape has changed. They're still singing from the dubious "Brexit was solely about immigration" hymnsheet.

They'll either learn or they won't.



Jonathan said...

We are reminded that they are never going to reconcile themselves to a left-led Labour Party, regardless of the votes the party receives or the extent to which it has redefined the terms of politics in this country. Success is on their terms only, and that is measured by column inches, media portraits, front bench positions and, ultimately, the ministerial chauffeur. Whereas others are keeping their heads down and biding their time, in a display of brilliant politics we are reminded that they are fundamentally opposed to the direction Labour is taking. This means there is no way around it. If Labour and the country are going to be remade to reflect the interests and aspirations of working people, they need to be deselected and replaced by MPs prepared to stand up and be counted.

and the same could be said about your faction.

Phil said...

Show your workings.

Steve Perry said...

They should have one chance either support the leader or be deselected or leave the party,we were nowhere before JC ex labour voters and the youth voted for JC not the old Labour Party who would have been annihilated ,we are now in touch of governing please support JC unless you're really tories,when we are in government you will have a chance to influence JC and we'll rule with collective ideas,please MPs think before you oppose our party line you will harm us all ....For the Many not the Few .....MPS hope you understand OUR party line

Miriam said...

I hope you're right Mark.
I don't feel as certain that we have containe or buried the Blairite tendency just yet.

Boffy said...

Chuka's amendment was clearly mischief making, but its potential arises from the fact that Labour's Brexit stance currently makes no sense.

It was fine when David Davis said that Britain would obtain all of the benefits and more of being in the EU club, without being in it, and having any of the costs or responsibilities of membership, to point out the lunacy of such a position of "Have cake and eat it", by saying Labour would hold the Tories to that commitment.

It is quite another to adopt as your own stance that same lunatic stance of misleading workers into a belief that a policy of "Have cake and eat it", is viable! No club is going to guarantee to non-members, the same or better rights than those offered to members, if it wants to continue in existence.

There is no way that Britain can obtain the exact same benefits of membership of the single market and customs union, without actually being a member of the single market and customs union or at least having all of the same costs and obligations of membership, whilst at the same time having no participation in the decision making of those organisations (so why would you do that?)

But, its clear that if the UK economy is not go even more rapidly into the toilet, destroying workers living standards, continued frictionless and tariff free trade to the single market and customs union is vital. The Stalinists in the Corbyn camp like Milne and Murray, with their national socialist visions of autarchy and Socialism In One Country, might delude themselves otherwise, and want to consign British workers to a repeat of Cuba or Venezuela. or Poland, but its not a prospect I or British workers should relish!

Those elements might secretly welcome the Brexit vote for those reasons, but the majority of the Labour Party has the good sense to realise that such an autarchic economic model like the AES of the 1970's, has nothing good to offer British workers. Our future depends on keeping the current economic relations with the EU, which is why Brexit is a disaster and a reactionary policy that Labour should never have committed itself to, just because of a referendum vote. As I have said before, would we on the same basis commit ourselves to the return of hanging or anti-gay laws etc.

By making that ridiculous mistake of tying itself to a concept of democratic primitivism Labour has shackled itself. Hence the contortions. The argument is being put that we can't commit to the SM or CU, because it means accepting free movement. But, again, Labour should be IN FAVOUR of free movement as a basic human right. Supporting one reactionary policy - BREXIT - is then being defended by the promotion of other reactionary policies, i.e. immigration controls, and restrictions on workers freedoms.

Chuka's amendment was mischief making, but it had the benefit of at least being logical and honest, which Labour's current stance is not.

Boffy said...

Phil,

You say,

"This is the view (the hope) people will find out Labour is a party committed to following Brexit through, and the realisation is going to pull our new coalition of voters apart. The problem with this drivel is the assumption Labour voters are thick and didn't realise what the party's position was, despite it being in the manifesto and having got raked over many times during the campaign and since."

I think the real issue is more nuanced than that. Before the election, I predicted that the Liberals, Plaid, Greens would get squeezed, by Labour, because although a lot of Remain voters might be more attracted to the more rational and consistent anti_Brexit positions of these other parties and sects, none of them had a chance of winning, or forming a credible opposition to be able to even limit hard Brexit. Only Labour could do that.

Many I'm sure voted Labour in order to oppose Hard Brexit, and with a sneaking hope that the longer ist prolonged the greater the chance that Brexit itself would be scrapped as the truth about its effects on the economy and individual freedoms become more apparent.

But, Labour is in danger of fulfilling all of the spurious claims of Tories and hard Brexiters that there is no difference between Labour and Tories in regard to Brexit, because time and again Labour in Parliament is Theresa May's second eleven in these votes. Its a repetition of being Tory-lite, or UKIP-lite, but in relation to Brexit rather than austerity.

The illusion can only work for as long as you can pretend that the policy of having all the benefits of membership of the single market and customs union can be had without being a member, which again is the basis both of the Tory and Labour position - i.e. the policy of "have cake and eat it."

But that stance was nonsense when Bojo promoted it, and it is no less nonsense when Keir Starmer is lumbered with it. When it becomes obvious to all those Remain supporting new members that won us Kensington and Canterbury etc. that Labour's stance is just a face saving delusion, I fear they may indeed quickly disappear as quickly as they materialised.

Frankie D. said...

So the fact that Chuka is correct and corbyn's idea of fucking over the country just so he can become The King of Jam involves corbyn once again supporting the tories doesn't bother you?

Anonymous said...

Chuka is correct - how??

And doesn't the fact that HE was saying the EXACT OPPOSITE just a few MONTHS ago bother YOU?? At all??

Fact is he is just an unprincipled slippery charlatan who believes in literally nothing, save of course his own personal wonderfulness.

Makhno said...

"But, again, Labour should be IN FAVOUR of free movement as a basic human right."

The amendment had nothing to do with freedom of movement, and Umunna is on record opposing freedom of movement and willing to sacrifice single market entry in order to do so.

The simple fact of the matter is that the amendment is just as much "have cake and eat it" as anything else. The EU is in the driving seat and is as unlikely to make concessions to this amendment as anything else.

I am a Remainer, and in an ideal world a European federalist, but to pretend that Labour can get anywhere near winning an election on a promise to repeal Brexit is pure fantasy. Nor was the amendment any attempt to do so.

In either case, the amendment had no hope of passing, even with full PLP support. It had nothing to do with opposing a hard Brexit and everything to do with petty power games. Umunna also put otherwise excellent MPs in an invidous position. There was no endgame to what he was doing other than ensuring Labour disunity was again front page news.

Anonymous said...

Good article

There seems to be a risk of some of those who supported Remain (which is not a viable option at the moment unless something changes massively) falling into the same trap as the Leavers in respect of assuming that there is only one option

The UK will, on current understanding, leave the EU and thus the Single Market and Customs Union at that point. I would say that a sensible option would be a transition period which will allow for an orderly move to a future arrangement

The access to the Single Market and the Customs Union afterwards though is then going to be a bespoke deal based on the negotiations

I live in a country outside the EU that has partial access to the SM but is not in the EU - Turkey is in the CU but has much less access to the SM and Norway has greater access to the SM but is not a full member, and again is not in the CU

The level of access to the SM will then come with a cost, as we can see with Norway and Switzerland. Free Movement and paying over money. There is now need to be in the CU to have a high level of access to the SM though

Also, living abroad you get to see other approaches to managing the free Movement of People and you actually realise a lot of the problems are because the British do not actually manage immigration from the EU at all - there is no register of who is resident or whether they meet the requirements to be able to stay. Free movement of Labour is the right to work not the right to reside indefinitely

Labour have not committed to anything yet, wisely in my view, and shouldn't until we get a feel for the negotiation. The manifesto leaves open the door to an EEA type arrangement but it would require a different way to how we apply free movement post-Brexit to how we do it now

There will be some principles they apply though

EU residents of UK will maintain pretty much all the rights they have now
The UK will get a worse deal outside the EU than if we had stayed in it (but that can mean a myriad of different things)
The 4 freedoms set out in the Lisbon Treaty will need to apply - but then Norwegian and Swiss examples show that there is not just one approach
The EU will want to have as good a deal as possible - there will be no punishment nut no favours either

One of the problems is this focus on the word 'membership' of the SM - only EU members are really full members as they are the ones that have signed the treaties. The other countries have differing levels of access via the EEA agreement such as Norway, or a bilateral such as Switzerland. Both these countries show as well that being able to have participation in the SM to a high level and being a member of Schengen does not necessarily mean that you have to be a member of the CU or vice versa so I don't see why everyone treats them as being inextricably linked

No-one knows what the EU will give up and so all these certainties being expressed by some of the comments above are flawed in my view.

This is based not he assumption we will leave which is the right assumption now - it things change and there becomes a movement to stay then I would need to readjust my opinion

jim mclean said...

I regret Labours stance, the three lined whip was silly, Corbyn should have allowed a free vote, the other thing is it is still difficult to distinguish between pro Corbyn and anti May votes, I do not feel ant great anti Capitalist feeling out there, think Labour has attracted the centre liberal vote.

Boffy said...

Anonymous said,

"Free movement of Labour is the right to work not the right to reside indefinitely"

In which case, Britain should expect all those millions of retired Brits who moved to France, Spain and Italy to get turfed out and sent back home?

If free movement does not mean the right to live anywhere then it is simply a right for capital to get labour when and where it needs it, not a right and basic human freedom for people to move across the globe, a right that humans enjoyed for thousands of years, and was only taken away by the introduction of slavery, and which continued to exist for free labourers until the start of the twentieth century, when the first immigration laws were introduced.

The first priority for Labour should be to fight for that basic human right of free movement. The idea that workers can simply be shunted back to where they came from when capitalism cannot find them employment is no right for workers at all. Who would move their home and their family to some other part of the globe, or even a different part of the country, if they were told that if they lost their job in this new location, they would have to up sticks and move back again?

These kinds of ideas, and the idea of transitional arrangements being advocated by the Labour Right such as Stephen Kinnock are the typical conservative fudge rather than addressing the issues of principle. They continue the idea of "have cake and eat it", which is a delusion.

The fact is that as the EU have said from the beginning, the choice facing Britain is hard Brexit or no Brexit. Britain could as Umunna suggested argue for staying inside the Single Market and Customs Union, but that would mean taking on all of the costs and responsibilities, whilst having no say in formulating the rules. So, why would you do that, rather than stay in the EU? But, outside the Single Market and Customs Union, the 100 year relative decline of the British economy will simply accelerate.

Even inside the EU, on present trends, Britain is set to drop from the fifth largest national economy to about 15th largest national economy within the next decade, behind countries like Mexico and South Korea. And compared with the US, Chinese, and EU economies, Britain is already a minnow. With national economies across the globe being subsumed under EU type economic blocs, from South America, to Asia to Africa, British conservatives are again setting their compass for the past, when the world is steaming into the future. Its suitable that the Tory archetype is Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP for the 15th century.

jim mclean said...

Still cannot fathom out why we in Labour are supporting Brexit, it is wrong, the referendum was run in such a manner I do not see how it can be considered legitimate. Hosking, Hargreaves,Edmiston and Odey bought the result with lies and racism. Corbyn's stance is little more than being a little Englander. Labour drift towards a point system which is the worst of all options.

Ed said...

'Corbyn should have allowed a free vote' - please, please, please can we not hear this argument ever again? Can we have a sort of swear jar, except people pay into it when they say 'Corbyn should have allowed a free vote' (always over EU issues)? No, he shouldn't; not over Article 50, not over this. I have more respect for people saying he should have whipped his MPs to vote against Article 50 or on favour of the SM amendment; I think they're wrong, but at least they recognise how parliamentary politics is meant to work. Parties can't function if they just say 'sure whatever you're having yourself lads' on important votes. They look absolutely ridiculous, saying 'we have no position on this issue as such', and the leader looks weak and ineffectual.

MikeB said...

@Boffy - thanks for your comments here, and especially for the clearest, principled, defence of the right of freedom of movement that I have read.

Anonymous said...

Labour are not "supporting Brexit" Jim - they just recognise that barring something major and unforseen, it is inevitable

And one reason is that most people - including most remain voters - see the referendum as fully legitimate, even if you don't.

Ludus57 said...

Ludicrous. Why on earth would yo make those ridiculous comparisons with Cuba and Venezuelan, and refer to "the Stalinists in Corbyn's camp"? You are in clear need of therapy and a serious credibility transplant. I despair!

Boffy said...

"Labour are not "supporting Brexit" Jim - they just recognise that barring something major and unforeseen, it is inevitable"

So, its as inevitable as say Jeremy Corbyn not being elected as Labour Leader, or as inevitable as Theresa May winning a landslide in the General Election. then?

By something "unforeseen" happening, would that be something like a Labour Party of more than half a million members, the large majority of whom back Remain, going out and fighting for a progressive cause, and opposing a reactionary decision?

Is say as inevitable as when Margaret Thatcher won large election wins, and introduced the Poll Tax? So, was Kinnock right then to have refused to support all of the anti-Poll Tax actions and demonstrations, because Thatcher's election was the result of a legitimate election, and the introduction of the Poll Tax was inevitable?

Was the last election legitimate that has allowed Thesa May as largest party to form a government, with DUP support, and so to press ahead with austerity? Is then austerity inevitable unless something unforeseen comes along such as Labour and the working-class mobilising to oppose it?

Was labour then wrong to have supported yesterday's demonstration against austerity? Should they not have simply sat back and accepted the inevitable result of a legitimate election?

What does such passivity and democratic primitivism have to offer the working-class?

Steve Perry said...

Can anyone explain
How is this disgusting government still in power
As we have all probably seen there are many posts regarding corruption in the Conservative government yet there are no prosecutions
Ranging from election corruption and did 13 million twerps really vote for this,over spending in MPs constituencies selling off Our NHS to the highest bidder and having shares in the company involved many many questionable deals done by Mr Hunt only surpassed by Ian Duncan Smith crucifying disabled with thousands dying within six weeks of being declared fit for work all of our vital services are underfunded police numbers cut so it is not even safe to walk on our streets anymore with acid attacks stabbings and shootings seem an every day occurrence not to mention the terror attacks firefighters numbers cut just look at Grenfell Towers and NHS understaffed and funding cut to the bone and our education system is in crisis surely this government Has many cases of corruption to answer to and they should have a duty to look after The people of its country too,just watched a BBC video of nationalist bonfires in Northern Ireland please find the video having watched it I could not believe it had,one half billion build you a very large bonfire to intimidate your neighbours there must be enough evidence. To bring charges against this government they must be prosecuted so any lawyers out there please explain why this has not happened

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