Tuesday 11 July 2017

Against a Tory/Labour Brexit Coalition

Theresa May fails at politics. What some of us knew a few months ago is now common currency, thanks to the worst campaign in modern times and plunging the Tories into a hole so big they haven't even found the sides yet. And she carries on blundering along. Cosying up to the man you derided as useless and a terrorist sympathiser is a terrible look. With hope it will shake loose softer Tory voters, versus those clinging on because Labour's social democratic programme is a prelude to fully expropriated propertyless communism.

Luckily for Theresa May, even the most desperate political position has some options. Though surely the one saying 'speedy, early retirement' must look more beguiling as the days pass. Still, there is an opportunity to take back some ground and, unwittingly, it's our friends Chuka Umunna and Yvette Cooper showing how this is possible. For Chuka, he's finally found a leadership role by palling with Anna Soubry and sundry others in their new All-Party Parliamentary Group on EU Relations. After his silly and pointless rebel amendment on single market membership, the latest ruse sees an attempted usurpation of Keir Stamer to position himself as Labour's leading voice on Brexit. On this, it's likely he can count on most of the Labour MPs who backed him previously, though the recent talk of deselection could temper some honourable members' enthusiasm for the single market.

And then there's Yvette's speech at the Fabians at the weekend where, you may recall she called for more cross-party collaboration on Brexit. She didn't say much except that Labour input would be crucial if Britain is to get a good deal. As I have previously said, this is potentially catastrophic. Having Labour joining with the Tories in taking Britain out of the EU, and being complicit in the baleful economic consequences sure to follow is suicidal. That doesn't mean Labour should be aloof from the negotiations, but its job is to scrutinise the government and use Parliament to knock the sharp edges off their haphazard and shortsighted negotiating strategy. Labour has to be seen to stand up to protect the interests of our people, and in 2022 or whenever go to the country with a plan for clearing up after Brexit and reforging these islands anew.

You can almost hear the "country first, not party!" crowd squealing, as if politics is just about grubbing for votes. Labour is undergoing a process of recomposition that has not only saved the party, but can change politics here for the better permanently and give impetus to movements of the new socialism elsewhere. The fate of this movement, this coming into political consciousness of millions of people is, quite frankly, more important than Brexit. Putting Labour at the negotiating table could risk an unraveling of this still-tentative and fragile process and undo everything that has been done. That is going to suit some, of course, but their inheritance would be a desiccated husk, a fate similar to the last two years of Scottish Labour but this time with no hope of coming back.

Nevertheless, the willingness of our leading would-be leaders to work across the House on something more than an episodic basis offers the Tories an olive branch. Desperation has forced May to make an offer to Labour and the other parties, but just as jumping feet first into Brexit negotiations is not in our interest, sharing a stinking wallow adjacent to the Tories absolutely suits them. And, if things get tricky as the negotiations proceed, those around May in possession of sufficient low cunning know if a Brexit "crisis" plus a soft "unity" offer was made over Jeremy Corbyn's head to the Chukas, the Yvettes, and/or their supporters, they might find some willing takers, particularly among the anti-Corbyn die-hards who keep threatening retirement and by-elections.

What would have been a preposterous suggestion immediately after the election is now a possible trick May's beleaguered team might think has legs, thanks mainly to two of the PLP's bestest and brightest.


Speedy said...

Yes. Obviously, it's a trap - they want to share blame for the mess they've made.

However - "not in our interest" should not be confused with the country's interest. Tribalism is what got us here in the first place.

Also, Labour is unclear where they stand - so they want to leave the customs union and single market? Why? And how is that workers Brexit? They garnered votes in the election not only from the young but also from people who supported remain and who would support a Norway option, for example. And what exactly is their alternative?

It is foreseeable that this cross-party group may act to save the UK from both the Tory and the Labour Party. Not losing the election appeared to have changed everything, but it has not changed Tory intransigence and Labour's ambivalence on Europe.

Speedy said...

Incidentally, am i alone in thinking the election may have been a high-water mark for Labour? Call me Casandra but when again are the Tories going to be so shit?

Phil said...

No, not likely to be a high water mark for these two reasons.

Dave Cohen said...

Depends what you mean by Tory/Brexit coalition. This is effectively the route we are already going down. As Farage, Hannan and many in my local party keep reminding me, both party manifestoes called for a clean Brexit. You may mock the Chuka/Soubry alliance, but the 450+ MPs who would honestly prefer no Brexit at all is a powerful collective.

I'm glad to see though that people like Manuel Cortes are coming round to the idea that there is still everything to play for, and despite 'the will of the people' there may yet be a way to steer through this mess. It also makes it a lot harder for the likes of Owen Jones to turn this into a left-right spat.

Ed said...

Tribalism is not what got us here in the first place - Toryism is (along with a few other things, not least a lack of tribalism from senior Labour figures in opposing Toryism). The best thing Labour can do for 'the country' (which is to say, the interests of the majority of the population) is to oppose Toryism tooth-and-nail and hopefully bury it at the next election. Everything Labour does should be subordinated to that goal, as Phil says.

Shai Masot said...

Deselect Chuka. Deselect Yvette.

Jonathan said...

@Dave Cohen

I know hilariously Phil was slagging off Chuka Ummunna over his stance on the SM and know he's saying we shouldn't cooperate with them on Brexit, So what's caused this U-turn. Oh wait Yvette Cooper said we should do and she's part of the Labour Right that means what she said was wrong.

Even though Phil is happy to defend Jeremy's stance on hard brexit.

andrew adams said...

The problem here is the notion that somehow Labour can be insulated from responsibility for the negative consequences of Brexit if it goes ahead.

If Brexit is a disaster, which it will be unless we get some kind of "soft Brexit" EFTA/EEA arrangement, and Labour has done nothing other than knock off some of the rough edges then it will deservedly get as much of the blame as the Tories. Out new found support, which is mainly from younger age groups, is likely to desert us as they see their future prospects trashed, their freedom of movement taken away.

So yes, there would be big risks for Labour in working with the government on Brexit, and I'm not advocating it, but there are still risks for Labour in maintaining its current strategy.

Doug Holton said...

differences between Tories and socialists can't reduced to 'tribalism'. The issue is values. Similarly 'left - right spat.
I voted 'remain' not because I am in favour of the EU with its inherent and increasingly apparent democratic deficit. I voted against the carbival of reactiThe on I feared if the Brexiteers prevailed. I did not think the left was strong enough to resist it. The situation is different now. The unelectable has become transformed in the public perception. We have advanced beyond my expectations and that advance has been fuelled by the engagement with the political process that honesty and commitment brings.
Welfare, the NHS, acccess to housing, education and everything that makes life worth living for working people will not be saved by the EU. In fact trades deals could hamper the ability of governments to intervene in economic activity.
Leaving the detailed argument aside for a moment, the initiative of Umuna and his allies puts the EU above all the social issues that got him and his chums elected. Alliances with Tories however personable are not going to solve the burning issues and are going to set back progress towards a just society.
It is hardly relevant to call out the right of the Labour Party as cynical and self serving. Even if they were honest and not seeking space to sharpen their knives, they are wrong. Of course it is only right to acknowledge there are many people who are perfectly sincere in the belief that the EU is a force for good. It is, however, not an agent of significant social change.
Social justice is more important than the EU for working people in the UK, mainland Europe and the global south.

Anonymous said...

I see that the Brexit bores are out in force here, then.

Show me somebody who claims that "Labour/Corbyn are fanatically in favour of Hard Brexit" or "Labour/Tory positions on Brexit are identical" and I will show you.......a liar. Simple as that.

These statements are very easily disprovable, so people persisting with them ultimately only embarrass themselves.

BCFG said...

“Oh wait Yvette Cooper said we should do and she's part of the Labour Right that means what she said was wrong. “

You should be aware that Phil was a supporter of Yvette Cooper and campaigned for her during the labour leadership election,, probably justified with some guff about lesser evilism or some such Shiite. Maybe flowered up in Gramscian language or something.

Luckily the damage done by new labour who are utterly complicit in everything from ISIS, the destruction of a number of nations to Grenfell Towers and anti trade union laws was too great for most genuine leftists to countenance.

I know Phil has now seen the light but I hope he wakes up in a hot sweat every night shaking at the thought of Yvette Cooper winning that election. And I hope that guilt/horror stays with him until his dying days.

Not that I am bitter or anything. I am actually quite a nice guy.

Though I am disappointed to see the UKIP right supporter speedy is still fit to type.

I can at least hope that somewhere right now Howard Fuller is self harming at the thought of the anti Zionist Corbyn team in power. I guess if he isn’t self harming he will be trying to whip up an anti Semitism is the single biggest threat to humanity in Britain today frenzy. And if he is self harming then at least Corbyn will properly fund mental health services. Though personally if I were taking a call from Fuller I would direct him toward the nearest railway bridge.

Happy Christmas everyone!