‘Brexit means Brexit’. Have you ever heard such tautological gibberish in your life? Theresa May’s catch phrase is getting people to laugh at her, not with her. Great start for a Britain’s new 0.0% Tory Prime Minister.
Brexit is a crisis at the heart of the British Establishment. It’s going to linger around for many months if not years to come. Their crisis is our golden opportunity. They don’t fall into the left’s lap all that often that we can afford to toss them away when they do.
On this week’s Dateline London on the BBC News Channel, Steve Richards, with touching naivety, said Theresa May is not a devious politician. Anyone believe that? I certainly don’t. What he said about Brexit was contradictory. He said she’d trigger Article 50, but went on to admit, correctly in my opinion, Brexit might never happen. That makes no sense. Brexit may not happen for a variety of reasons, and the left needs to explore what could get in its way, and to what extent we can support at least some of the powerful forces frustrating it.
While the British Establishment was overwhelmingly opposed to Brexit before the vote, there has been a quite marked shift. All major broadcast networks acted as echo chambers for David Cameron until the votes came in, but that’s changed. Now we find the most intelligent critics of Brexit among broadcasters appear to have been reined in. Senior editors and proprietors are no doubt applying pressure; and every journalist is quite naturally terrified of being sacked, then possibly blacklisted for not doing what their bosses tell them to do.
I think the overwhelming capitulation to Theresa May’s gibberish about Brexit won’t last very long. The left was seriously split during the EU referendum, but that could change rather fast, especially if the left doesn’t attempt to close down internal debate. Disillusion with Theresa May is likely to overwhelm her, inside and outside pariament, from left, right and center. Her powerbase within Westminster could evaporate almost overnight.
Nesrine Malik said on Dateline London 24 hours ago that the world is laughing at Britain. And she’s absolutely right. Others are saying the world is just baffled. No one can make any sense of what is going on. And Britain’s voters are being kept in the dark about the lack of planning for Brexit. This can’t last. Voters will soon realize that the people with money will use their economic power to pull the strings of the politicians. The single market won’t be destroyed just because of a vote by the electorate. This plebecite was a stunt by David Cameron to eat away at UKIP’s vote sufficiently to stop Labour taking advantage of a split vote on the right, enough to form a government.
Cameron’s referendum stunt, courtesy of Ed Miliband’s behavior, actually delivered a majority Tory government which was something no one predicted. The inept way Alan Johnson and Will Straw ran Labour’s referendum campaign – a carbon copy of Scottish Labour’s ‘Better Together’ Popular Front – pushed Labour voters impoverished by David Cameron’s Tories into the Brexit camp, doing so explicitly to punish Labour’s right-wing for reducing themselves to shadow puppets of Dodgy Dave’s Tory dictatorship. Now what?
The markets have not plunged the way that had been predicted. This surprises many commentators who now genuinely suspect they must have miscalculated. I think it is probably much more complicated than that, with the economic catastrophe merely delayed until closer to what looks like the immanent triggering of Article 50. The reason why that is relates to the irrationality of the market mechanism, especially these days.
People are no longer gambling on what they think commodities are intrinsically worth. What determines rises and falls in prices is determined by those with enough money to gamble, and also insider information, thinking others have less knowedge and who will, foolishly, keep buying long after the bankruptcy of an asset is known to a privileged elite. If those with market power believe Theresa May is incapable of triggering Article 50 successfully (and I personally believe she will find this impossible), then why sell today when others will keep buying and pushing prices up? Bide your time. Get out just before the crash. It’s coming. The crash is definitely coming. It’s just been delayed.
Theresa May lacks the majority she needs in parliament to trigger Article 50, not just because the anti-Corbyn MPs in Labour (most of them), Lib Dems, Greens, SNP and a very substantial wing of the Tory Party will try to stop Brexit if they can. So Theresa May threatens to ignore parliament, much to the delight of the Brexit wing of the Tory Party. But doesn’t that threaten to topple her government with a vote of no confidence? It certainly does. Would the Prime Minister and the Blairities be willing to deviously cobble together a vote of no confidence in this government simply to trigger a snap election? Neither could admit doing this, but it can’t be ruled out if both Labour’s right and Theresa May’s supporters in the Tory Party believed it could destroy Jeremy Corbyn’s hold of the Labour Party. However, under first past the post, with the crippling divisions within Tory MPs and their members and voters across Britain, nobody knows for certain how any snap election would pan out, with a potential revival of UKIP, or UKIP 2.0. Labour would hardly be standing anti-Corbyn MPs as Labour candidates so the anti-Corbyn MPs would have to set up a new party, which is something they’ve clearly been preparing. A whole new generation of MPs will swell Labour’s benches, and they could very well be government benches. Too soon to tell.
Jeremy Corbyn can be Prime Minister in a landslide Labour government. Partly this will come about by the entire left agreeing to compromise for all our sakes. First-past-the-post is a fact of life, until we can change it. Caroline Lucas should realize how childish it would be for the Greens to split the vote given who is now Labour’s leader.. Greens should join Labour, and if that means Tom Watson and Iain McNicol hastily ripping up their membership cards, that’s their prerogative.
The left needs to join Labour. In England, that is. In Scotland, political arithmetic complicates everything. The state of Scottish Labour’s leadership is repulsive to the party’s core vote and activists who decamped to either The SNP or Greens or other splits from the SSP years ago. Reversing that trend at Holyrood or Westminster will not be easy. Long term project.. But potential allies of a Corbyn government exist in many parties in Scotland. That is important.
Jeremy Corbyn fought to remain in the EU, and he did a good job. But his instincts have been to accept the majority decision and leave it at that. I think he’s being hasty. We need to play it by ear. In the first place, if most Labour voters, and most voters overall, have a rethink, then Corbyn should accept their right to change their mind. I predict there could be a rapid change of mind. Theresa May will be held to account by left-wing voters who were promised things that are not going to be delivered. Corbyn must use the promises that were made to raise demands that pile intolerable, but perfectly legitimate, pressure on this 0% Tory dictator: £350,000,000 for the NHS, much more nationalisation previously frusrated by the EU, wage increases due to a lowering of the supply of labour. All this was promised during the referendum, and none of it was intended as anything more than cheap bribes that were never going to be delivered. Anything else? Democracy?
Labour’s voters were promised more democracy, but the reality is things are going to get a whole lot worse. This will allow a rapid syphoning of votes from the Brexit camp into the Corbyn camp. The SNP should be accepted as a key ally of Corbyn in the struggle for an extention of democracy. Abolish the House of Lords. Dismantling of Westminster’s first-past-the-post that allowed David Cameron to be Prime Minister when 63% voted against him, and over three quarter of the electorate refused to give these Tory MPs any mandate. One reason I didn’t want Brexit is the loss – in England – of key elections by proportional representation. That is extraordinarily helpful to conservative forces, and was missing entirely from the political calculations of TUSC or Morning Star and others. This was a mistake on their part, but it’s not a hanging offense, and it is a mistake that can be fixed.
Proportional representation allows rapid shifts in public consciousness to be reflected in changes in democratic institutions. The British Establishment cannot so easily frustrate change with such an electoral system. The loss of EU elections is a serious problem for England’s left. And that’s one reason to delay Brexit, at least until Westminster’s system is overhauled.