Well if you were counting on the Labour party to save us all from a Tory Brexit, think again. Jeremy Corbyn has written to Theresa May to lay out his terms for supporting her deal. It’s clear that a second referendum on EU membership is the last thing that he wants. He has as much interest in representing the views of those parts of the UK which voted to remain as he does of appearing on Strictly. Although even the most flat flooted two left feet minor celeb on Strictly possesses considerably more grace than Jezza seems capable of when dealing with remainers.
It’s not just Scotland that Jeremy isn’t representing, it’s also most Labour party members and voters. Opinion polls show that by a large majority, Labour voters believe that May’s deal is bad for the economy. The latest poll makes it clear that if Labour is seen to enable Brexit, voters will punish it at the next election.
Jeremy Corbyn might think that his letter is really a clever ruse, making an offer to Theresa May that she cannot accept. The Prime Minister is never going to sign up to the customs union or agree to remain closely aligned in perpetuity to the single market. But what Jeremy has done is to give her leverage with Labour MPs in leave voting seats. She can sweeten them with bribes in the form of promises of investment in their constituencies. She can offer to respect the rights given to workers by EU law, a meaningless promise that the next Tory leader will quickly trash. And she can do all that telling them that their leader isn’t against her deal, he’s just quibbling with some of its details.
Since the Labour leader only takes action against those of his MPs who adopt pro-Remain positions, and has done absolutely nothing to discipline those Labour MPs who enabled the Conservatives last week, Theresa May knows she’s pushing at an open door. She can pick off Labour MPs safe in the knowledge that they’ve got nothing to fear from their own party leader.
Just today, Jeremy slapped down his MPs who said that Theresa May must accept Labour’s offer in full, or they’d press for another referendum. Labour is complicit in Brexit. It is the enabler and deliverer of a hard Conservative Brexit. Vote Labour, vote for a Tory Brexit. The Labour leadership has signed Labour up to the xenophobic and nativist tendencies of the worst of British nationalism. It’s signed Labour up to the ending of freedom of movement. That’s yer internationalism. That’s a gross betrayal of Scotland, and a gross betrayal of the majority of Labour members. Jeremy never promised to listen to Scotland, but he did promise to listen to his party’s membership. Now it transpires that he’s only going to listen to them when they agree with him.
Meanwhile, the Labour leader has also announced that the last Scottish independence referendum was a “once in a lifetime” event. He’s literally telling Scotland that we can only have another independence vote over his dead body. For a supposed internationalist, he’s doing a damn good impression of being every bit as much a narrow British nationalist as the Conservatives he effects to despise.
Labour’s remainers are deeply unhappy with their leader’s position. Chuka Umunna tweeted that what Corbyn was offering was the opposite of opposition. It was facilitating a Tory deal which would make the UK poorer. He said that it was a joke to suggest that a Prime Minister who had sponsored employment tribunal fees, supported weakening unfair dismissal protection would ensure “dynamic alignment on rights and protections”. In an article for The Independent he angrily castigated the Labour leader for betraying the spirit of Labour’s conference policy, which said that if the party couldn’t get an early election it should back another EU referendum. Meanwhile Owen Smith hinted that he was considering leaving Labour to start a new pro-European party. Thousand of ordinary Labour members are voting with their feet and their membership fees and drifting away.
Labour politicians know better than anyone else that it was the split in the party during the 1980s when the so-called Gang of Four left and founded the SDP which was responsible more than any other single factor for the almost two decades of Tory rule which followed. The fact that they are now willing to consider another split speaks volumes about their desperation and despair with the current party leadership.
And all this, let us not forget, when the official opposition is facing the weakest, most divided, and least capable governments in living memory. A half way competent Labour leader would have his or her party soaring ahead in the polls at this point. Yet the chances are that Labour is going to split, that the leadership will enable a Tory Brexit, and we’ll all be left powerless and helpless in the face of a Brexit driven permausterity.
We’ve known for years that Labour won’t stand up for Scotland. The only point to the Labour party in Scotland, the only justification for its existence, was its claim that it alone can prevent a Conservative government and protect Scotland from the Tories. It’s abundantly clear now that it can’t do even that. Its incompetence, division, and ineptitude means that it enables Tory policies instead. Labour’s inadequacies mean we could be staring at another decade of Conservative rule. The gods alone know what damage the Tories could wreak in that time.
The Tories have acheived gobsmacking incompetence in the two short years that Theresa May has been in power. Labour has been working hard at it for years. The problem with the UK is, in the words of the late great Quentin Crisp, “The English think incompetence is the same thing as sincerity.” Labour is doing nothing and still making a mess of it, and his supporters are still praising Jeremy’s sincerity.
There’s only one way out of this Brexmess, Scotland. We need a vote of our own, and we need to take charge of our own destiny. It’s time to break the chains.
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