Wednesday, 31 May 2023

Betraying Remain

There are moments when the scales fall from the eyes and what is desired or admired is shown up to be anything but. Today was the occasion when the penny dropped for continuity remain. Their former champion, Mr Second-Referendum-with-an-Option-to-Remain took to the pages of the Daily Express to pledge there would be no return to the European Union, no customs union or single market, and no freedom of movement on his watch. Dear oh dear. Some might pretend that even now, Keir Starmer's embrace of Brexit is all a ruse and that after five years of trying to make it work he'll take us back into the EU, but credulity can only be stretched so far.

As with Starmer's proclamation on matters Europe, the role he played in splitting the Labour Party and trying to reverse Brexit are far down the memory hole. He writes that during the campaign he found plenty of Leave voters wanted the same sorts of things he did: "a better health service, better jobs, better wages, more security, a sense of control over their lives and their communities." A pity he wasn't as keen on upholding their votes when he spent the subsequent three years telling leavers they were wrong and he knew better than them. But when there is a leadership to win, disrespecting a referendum vote and shepherding one's party down the path to an historic defeat were but trifles next to his ambition.

But this isn't just about buttering up the declining Express's Tory-voting readership. It's an effort to close Brexit off as a political issue. Starmer wants to concentrate on Tory mismanagement of Brexit, the betrayal over levelling up, the grandiose promises, and the damage inflicted on the economy. This becomes much more difficult if the question of Brexit is reopened, despite polling registering record levels of Bregret. With the Tories flailing and consumed by more Boris Johnson mess, what would be helpful is something for them to rally around. As their war on woke efforts resonate with few people who aren't Tory journalists, re-opening Brexit would be like manna from heaven. Memories of Starmer's second referendum campaigning would be revived and Labour would have a more difficult time of it. Why turn into a long hard road when an easier, smoother shortcut to office is available?

This isn't without cost. Neutralising Brexit to the right re-opens it to the centre and the left. While the campaign to rerun the referendum had ulterior motives between 2016 and 2019, that wasn't the case for the hundreds of thousands who marched, who protest voted in the EU election debacle, who supported overturning the acceptance of Brexit in the Labour Party, and who backed Starmer on the strength of his European credentials. In the scheme of things, it is reasonable for Starmer to assume that dunking on this constituency will have fewer immediate consequences than antagonising leave opinion. And that's true. If losing council by-elections to the Liberal Democrats and the Greens is the butcher's price, that's entirely acceptable. After the election is when it will become difficult as continuity remain becomes an oppositional current, and one both these parties can exploit. But that's a problem for then.

Image Credit


Duncan said...

With Starmer writing in the Express, this must be a new low. The most rabidly right wing paper in the country. Utterly, utterly awful. With Starmer at the helm I am hoping the Greens and Lib Dems could tear things up in the future, as this is not were the younger generation are.

Kriss said...

People don't seem to consider that the EU wouldn't have us back. We're stuck with this now. Bremain, bregret, brexit, none of those original positions or votes matter any more. We don't have the choice and we need to make the best of it.

Blissex said...

I stand astonished because:

* Our blogger has written that Starmer as a topic had fatigued him... :-)

* This is not exactly news: Starmer's first main act as New New Labour leader was to impose a 3-line whip to vote in favour of the ultra-brexiter hard-exit deal. Corbyn (no longer a member of the PLP) instead abstained.

* The speech today had is just a repetition of old declarations, for example 30 months ago:
«Keir Starmer has abandoned the commitment to free movement of people in the European Union he made to Labour members during the party’s leadership contest. The Labour leader said his party had to be honest with the public, and that if it won the next general election a major renegotiation of the Brexit treaty would not be possible.»

«With Starmer writing in the Express, this must be a new low.»

Starmer was also given a column in the "Daily Telegraph", such is his popularity with "The establishment", so little surprise there.

«no freedom of movement on his watch»

What would be the point of "freedom of movement" with the EU? Since 2016 immigration has been booming and in 2021 and 2022 it reached and exceeded the highest levels during EU membership. Plus for "progressives" more than replacing "white supremacist" un-english european immigrants with "people of global majority" genial cricket-playing ex-empire immigrants can only be seend as an DEI success, thanks to the Conservatives. Large majorities of the voers from "people of global majority" communities of the UK voted for Brexit because "freedom of movement" unfairly gave more rights to "white supremacist" eastern europeans, and they are more "competitive" too.
«One of the biggest names in European private equity said that Brexit will be good for his business, but will mean a 30% wage reduction for UK workers. [...] He added that EU immigration will be replaced with workers from the Indian subcontinent and Africa, willing to accept "substantially" lower pay.»

Overall this relates to one of the few political differences between Blair's New Labour and Starmer's New New Labour:

* Blair saw as his core constituency "soft tories", that is Liberals who voted Conservative because of their property class interests.

* Starmer sees as his constituency "hardcore kippers", that is UKIP voters who switched Conservative because of their property class interests.
«Party sees identifying 50-year-old male home-owners as key to electoral success this archetypical voter as male, 50 years old, without a university degree but with a decent job in the private sector and, crucially, a homeowner with a mortgage. This person almost certainly voted leave, Ford added, explaining Labour’s insistence that it will not take the UK back into the single market.»

«People don't seem to consider that the EU wouldn't have us back.»

Well, there are options short of membership that would be much better than the kipper hard exit that Starmer and New New labour have loudly endorsed. The EU negotiator had made clear that all options short of membership were available and would continue to be, including full single market participation, as long as all four freedoms were respected. EFTA membership probably is also an option (even if they are not enthusiastic) given the new "Northern alliances" promoted by the english elites.

Imrix said...

Nah, the EU wouldn't have us back on the sweetheart deal we had before. They'd be happy to see us eat some humble pie and sign on as a regular member state. It'd prove the integrity of the EU, that leaving it is a terrible idea, and the value of cooperation. It wouldn't be sunshine and rainbows for us, but it'd be better than what we have.