Wednesday 1 April 2020

Brexit after Coronavirus

A frightful ghoul stalks my nightmares. Boris Johnson makes a complete hash of the Coronavirus crisis, which is what he's presently doing (despite what the polls think), and he then screws up the subsequent peace with austerity 2.0. After all, we have to pay for all those bail outs. Yet, even then, despite a smooth new Labour leader at the helm we still lose. Because with everything else gone to pot, the Tories decide on replaying the 2019 general election. And Labour hasn't drawn a single bloody lesson from December's catastrophe and lose because significant chunks of the party can't stop banging on about Brexit.

A portent of siren calls to come hails this time from Rafael Behr, who uses the occasion of unprecedented crisis to moan about Brexit. Padding out his piece, we are pointed to the tomb of Tory orthodoxy, wherein lies the mouldering bones of laissez faire and small statism. If these can be interred in the ossuary in the first throes of the crisis, he muses, then further down the track surely a Brexit delay and an extension to the transition period - lobbied for by the European Union, but so far resisted by Johnson - could be pulled off after a few more weeks of lock down. His second argument is against the very real threat Coronavirus poses, Brexit seems like a petty, trivial, and small-minded affair which this crisis could confirm and then write off as a bad idea. Unfortunately, this sounds very much like Coronavirus-conditioned wishful thinking.

Politically, the pandemic has changed a lot. But that doesn't mean we're in Year Zero. A number of leftist writers have argued, including yours truly, how the government have skipped the most expeditious means of addressing employment and welfare problems (i.e. the payment of a flat, relatively generous basic income) in favour of measures designed to protect the wage relation, keep punitive social security arrangements in place, and guard against the principle of income deriving from anything but work. Like duh, capitalist states are going to protect capitalist economies, and that's true of any mainstream party regardless of political colours. In this sense, the Tories are ensuring that, at least where the fundamentals of political economy are concerned, there will be no great reset. Their pre-Corona budget set out a strategy for big spending, and the (intentionally blank) manifesto gives them plenty of room to liberally raid Labour's discarded document and do whatever they see fit.

And doing whatever they see fit has the dual project of preserving class relationships, which is to be achieved by their continuing political dominance. And, yes, that means carrying on with Brexit. As Rafael observes, Johnson does have wiggle room here as some two thirds of voters, or thereabouts, are chill with delaying the negotiations and having an extension to the transition period. And it's probable Johnson will take it up in time once the practicalities assert themselves. Yet, seeing as his winning formula of sticking to Brexit made his political fortune, for as long as possible he will stick with the rhetoric of getting it done. The problem then comes with what happens next. One extension is fine, but given this crisis is with us for at least six months and rolling lock downs could be a feature of everyday life for the next year, the danger lies in the number of times the talks are extended and/or its length. The longer this goes on, the politics of old, the angry impatience with delay and Brexit thwarted will find ingress back into political life, and the greater the potential cost to Johnson.

This is where the danger to Labour presents itself. Considering who we're about to make our party leader, Keir Starmer's base is, to put it euphemistically, enthusiastically pro-EU. And despite prior promises of Brexit being a settled issue, fools could easily rush in where Rafael happily treads. Coronavirus-induced Brexit delays are going to be seized upon to reopen the arguments we've enjoyed these last four years. I don't think it's going to be particularly helpful for Labour to enter into the politics of reconstruction and recovery with a prominent and vocal strand calling for a reassessment of Brexit, up to and including rejoining the EU as full members. What it would do, however, is throw Johnson and the Tories a life line when they most need it. Don't let them deflect attention from their reckless necropolitics and general incompetence, but this is precisely what reopening the Brexit debate on remain terms will do. It will then be Labour who'll be accused of exploiting a serious crisis to thwart a democratic vote, and Labour who'll be seen to disrespect the memory of those voters who didn't make it through the pandemic. And the result? The same polarisation, and the same outcome.

If the new leadership has any sense it will abandon the Coronavirus timidity evidenced by Keir Starmer's candidacy, and ignore the temptation to bang the remain drum as Johnson founders in the Brexit negotiations. If we are to believe the forensically forensic hype, surely we're not about to lose focus as the task as the politics of recovery looms over everything?


Anonymous said...

Sad truth behind the deafening silence from Labour leadership candidates: Johnson is lying there (NPI), prone, with his big yellow belly exposed, just inviting a swift swording.

But what he's lying on is a comfy mattress, stuffed with stratospheric poll ratings.

Anyone taking on Johnson's miserable failure to deal with the British front of the pandemic is going to be made to look incredibly bad, not least in the Tory media - who will play up the candidates' criticism until it seems to assume the magnitude of High Treason.

After all, if you're not with us, you must be on the side of the virus. Or something like that.

Anonymous said...

It would also help if the parliamentary Labour Party stays tight, more internal discipline than there has been in the past. Not the full picture I know but really basic starting points for any party. Otherwise just get out of the game.

Boffy said...

"et, even then, despite a smooth new Labour leader at the helm we still lose. Because with everything else gone to pot, the Tories decide on replaying the 2019 general election. And Labour hasn't drawn a single bloody lesson from December's catastrophe and lose because significant chunks of the party can't stop banging on about Brexit."

That assumes that a majority of Labour voters, and those that Labour needs to win over support your pro-Brexit position, which all the evidence shows is not the case. All the evidence indicates that around 75-80% of Labour voters continue to oppose Brexit, and as the current fiasco unfolds that is likely to get even larger. And, the only progressive voters Labour is likely to attract to its cause are those that voted Liberal, Green, Plaid or SNP, again the vast majority of whom continue to oppose Brexit.

As, the cartoon illustrates the current closing down of the economy due to the COVID19 moral panic (the Channel4 News coverage of the situation in Sweden, where life is continuing much as normal, was a welcome antidote) is just a sample of what life would be like under Brexit, so why would any decent opposition party, let alone one which has supposedly socialist and internationalist principles and aspirations, not want to "bang on" about where such a disastrous decision would lead?

Anonymous said...

No intrinsic reason the LP can't win the next GE.

Anonymous said...

Boffy: "the COVID19 moral panic"

You're still saying this on 02/04/20, when we have upwards of 500 people dying of Covid19 every day in the UK alone? What is wrong with you?

Jim Denham said...

Phil: you need to answer this elementary question: was Labour correct to oppose Brexit in 2016?

Then (ssuming your answer's "yes"), answer: what's changed since then?

And if your answer to that last one is "the democratic vote" ...

...then I would simply ask you: would you also simply roll over and accept a vote to restore capital punishment?

Neil said...

Jim, the answer is no, Labour were wrong to oppose Brexit in 2016, wronger still to revert to opposition post 2017.

Lidl_Janus said...

"No intrinsic reason the LP can't win the next GE."

The intrinsic reason is arguably mathematics. A 1997 level swing puts Labour in minority government territory, assuming it doesn't disproportionately pile up majorities in safe seats (a problem even in 2017). Labour in 2024 will have to break historic precedent just to get a majority. The top 124 target seats include 17 by the SNP, so Scotland will likely have to be won back somehow. And over a quarter (56/202) of Labour seats have a majority under 5,000, so the next GE might have to run numerous defences too.

I'm not saying any of this is impossible, but there seems to be a level of denialism circulating around the Corbyn wing of Labour. 2019 was a colossal fuckup.

dermot said...

Boffy, I hope to god you never get your hands on power.

As much as I despise the Tories, you terrify me more.
Take your sorry arse to an NHS hospital and put your body on the frontline, or STFU.

Concerned Citizen said...

Boffy is a prize jerk of epic proportions.

He is the Harold Shipman of neo liberalism.

Like all the right wing neo liberal free market fanatics he is the one in a panic as all his dogmas fall about in pieces. He now stands directly opposed to all the very latest and best scientific evidence and data.

This is nothing new, every assumption Boffy makes is a denial of basic physics.

Boffy is a religious fanatic and his religion is the power of the market and the civilising of capitalism.

The world is currently suffering from too much capitalism.

TowerBridge said...

I don't think there is a need to be rude to Boffy. He's clearly got a point, in that Brexit is and will be a disaster.

He's also right that most members and the polls say, most people in the country, think it's a bad idea.

It is also correct that this is a lifeline for the Tories.

Personally, the question is whether the labour party goes backwards now and that does include Brexit, but it's only one of many areas.

DFTM said...

"He's clearly got a point, in that Brexit is and will be a disaster."

Personally, before the virus hit, I hadn't yet noticed any difference at all. Brexit may be a disaster but to say it already is a disaster is just another way of saying being in the EU was a disaster, because in the here and now we are still in the EU and feeling the affects of being in the EU for decades!

Since the virus hit I have noticed a lot less traffic pollution, less air pollution, neighbours who actually engage with each other, families who actually eat together, less car deaths, less town centre violence and more people actually exercising instead of stuffing their faces sat on the sofa! People actually now shop and instead of buying food that is unhealthy we see the things out of stock are the nutritious items, so it has even improved peoples lifestyle and instead of general overeating we have conscious consumers buying what is best for them.

If it wasn't for the virus and its devastating affects I would say things had actually got a lot better.

If we were to pursue lockdown for another couple of years I suspect heart disease and all the illnesses which result from unhealthy eating would drastically reduce. I was reading that as of 2019 data in the US only 15% of people are clinically well. So much for the pre lockdown world!

"He's also right that most members and the polls say,"

The polls are irrelevant, its the actual vote that counts.

"the question is whether the labour party goes backwards now"

i would have thought for any genuine leftist the election of Starmer more than answers that question.

Boffy said...

Why does the "Sentinel" (as he called himself when he was pretending to be a BNP supporting fascist) continue to bother to use all these different pseudonyms such as Concerned Citizen, DFTM, BCFG, CAAC and so on ad nauseum, when we all know they are him?

Does he really think that when he has these continued discussions with himself in these various persona, it really fools anyone or adds anything to his credibility, which was nil to begin with? Does he really think that, however, provocative and insulting the crap he writes, he is ever going to get me to knowingly respond to him, which I'm not?

I'm happy to simply watch him self destruct in his own bile and idiocy. In the meantime, I am also happy to see that yet again the predictions I have made are being confirmed once more. I see that the government advisor Professor Graham Medley has admitted that the Emperor has no clothes, and that he says the policy of lockdown has painted the government into a corner. He admits that the economic and social damage it is causing is greater than the damage that COVID19 is likely to inflict, and that the only sustainable strategy is to develop herd immunity as safely as possible amongst that part of the population not at risk from the virus.

Eventually COVID19 will go away, and I doubt the same mistakes will be made when next year's strain of coronavirus begins to circulate in the population. Then its only Boris Johnson and the brexiteers, and their Brexit supporting equivalents in the LP, like Phil, that will represent the clear and present danger.

Boffy said...

Incidentally, I remember the Brexit supporting Sentinel, back then in 2009, it was just presented as nationalistic hostily to the EU and foreigners by the BNP, whilst Phil was supporting its Stalinist equivalent, No2EU, also suggested that if the country essentially closed down, and adopted a form of autarky he would get his fishing rod out, and feed his family by going off to fish in the river etc.

Its interesting to see that whether the troll writes in his persona as the fascist Sentinel, or the idiot anti-imperialist, no-nothing Leftist, pretending to be knowledgeable when his every word shows he knows less than nothing, he still arrives at the same kinds of conclusions about how wonderful life would be if we all returned to some state of stone age primitivism.

DFTM said...

For the record I have never supported the BNP and have no idea who the sentinel is.

So Boffy is lying pure and simple

Anonymous said...

"I am also happy to see that yet again the predictions I have made are being , confirmed once more"

You really are priceless Boffy. The chief scientific officer has literally contradicted everything you have argued for and you somehow twist this into claiming he supports your insane logic.