A no deal Brexit is irreversible, a Jeremy Corbyn government is not

As someone who has spent a considerable amount of time in Latin America, I am extremely worried about the prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn lead Labour government in the long term. From the corruption, poverty and rising crime, in Argentina under the previous hard left government, to the decay in Venezuela where people are having to buy rotten meet in the markets to survive and where medicines have run out in many hospitals, it is clear that what damage a hard left government can do.

I am also angry about what has become of our country in the five years since I came back to the UK. I have suffered myself from the consequences of austerity when I had to pay £4,000 for mental health treatment in 2014. Millions of others would not have been able to dig into savings to do this.

Like many parents I now have to pay money to my children’s school to keep it afloat financially. My local Council, Richmond, has seen its central government grant slashed and is desperately under-funded when it comes to special needs education. Children’s services are at crisis point and adult social care still has a gaping black hole in its finances. On a personal level, I have seen the damage that Brexit is doing to people’s lives. Friends have had to relocate abroad because of Brexit. Someone I know was beaten up by yobs in 2016 and told to “eff off” back to France – he could not work for two weeks. With Boris Johnson once again using war like language about pro-Remain MPs yesterday, I am truly ashamed of the image our country has when I travel around the world on business.

There is so much to do to make life better for millions of people. However as of today, the most important priority for our country has to be stopping a no-deal Brexit. Like it or not, the only person with the democratic mandate to take over a caretaker government is Jeremy Corbyn.

If the party wants to prevent a no-deal Brexit, it is going to have to make a Hobson’s choice – prop up a temporary Corbyn government, so that he seeks an extension to Article 50 and calls a General Election or see Boris Johnson ram through no deal.

If we allow a no-deal Brexit to happen because we fail to work with other parties, then we will never be forgiven by the millions of people who voted to Remain and the tens of thousands who have joined us since the referendum.

* Chris Key is dad of two girls, multilingual and internationalist. He is a Lib Dem member in Twickenham who likes holding the local council and MPs to account.

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26 Comments

  • Mark Goodrich 15th Aug '19 - 2:14pm

    Hi Chris

    If you are following Lib Dem Voice, you won’t be surprised to hear that I agree.

    Unfortunately, I think we have fallen into a Labour trap. The Corbyn letter was written craftily to set us up. Note in particular that it expressly committed to a referendum on any deal. After the rejection, Corbyn outriders have been all over social media, saying:

    – Lib Dems are not committed to preventing No Deal Brexit
    – Their hatred of the left means prepared to see it happen
    – Dragging up coalition, propping up Tories for years etc etc

    You don’t have to buy this nonsense to see that it is muddying the waters and putting us in a difficult spot. I would like to see us challenge Corbyn back saying that we will back a vote of no confidence, will reluctantly support him as caretaker PM if he will agree to back a neutral figure if VONC passes but the votes aren’t there for him to be caretaker PM.

    Then the pressure is all back on him. Can he refuse such a reasonable position? Possibly but it would be devastating for his support.

    (We should, of course, try the legislative route first. This, to coin a phrase, is the backstop that we hope not to have to use).

  • Richard Malim 15th Aug '19 - 2:51pm

    i wouldn’t take the chance on a JC government being irreversible. An Ld or LD supported government can always reapply to join EU

  • Tristan Ward 15th Aug '19 - 3:29pm

    Don’t panic Chris. Labour cannot face an election unless it unequivavbly becomes the party of remain – and that means promising to campaign for remian in a second referndum – otherwise it will split asunder in any general election campaign. Labour MPs and activists know this.

    There’s a lot more discussion to comeon this, and I suspect the Party has already been discussing it with MPs accross the House.

  • David Evershed 15th Aug '19 - 3:33pm

    Chris you say ” If the party wants to prevent a no-deal Brexit, it is going to have to make a Hobson’s choice – prop up a temporary Corbyn government, so that he seeks an extension to Article 50 and calls a General Election or see Boris Johnson ram through no deal.”

    There is a third way which is to work for a Brexit deal.

    This also has the advantage of implementing the outcome of the people’s vote in the 2016 referendum and so justifying the Democracy part of the Lib Dem title.

  • David Hughes 15th Aug '19 - 3:46pm

    Jo’s approach to this issue is absolutely correct in arguing that an interim Prime Minister should be a figure without a longer-term agenda such as Harriet Harman, Ken Clarke or Margaret Beckett, all of whom, like Jo, but unlike Corbyn, have experience of government. Corbyn lacks anything approaching majority support amongst Labour MPs — on the only occasion they had an opportunity to express an opinion more than 170 of them supported a motion of no confidence in him. Corbyn has no track record of opposing Brexit — replacing Boris Johnson with Corbyn would amount to replacing someone who has advocated Brexit — opportunisticly — since 2016, with someone who has advocated it since 1983. And then there’s the matter of his disgraceful tolerance of anti-semitism ……

  • Absolutely.
    And, remember, a Corbyn government can _also_ be brought down with a vote of no confidence if it tries any funny business. And can’t pass any business without a majority.

    I don’t really see what the danger would be of a short-lived Corbyn government which is kept on a very tight leash.

  • Ha ha! Well there’d certainly be no more taunts about backing austerity if we put Corbyn into number 10, but actually, whilst I’d prefer a more neutral big beast in just to destroy brexit, I don’t think there could be any choice but to install Corbyn pro tem. Labour would be the biggest player, and the Corbynite rump are unlikely to put in Yvette Cooper, Hillary Benn, Ken Clarke or Dominic Grieve.

    The coalition was the first test of realpolitik in the no majorities era, this will be the next. May I offer only that disengaging will take real thought and guile … having quashed brexit about half the country will be hopping mad (we’ll, more than usual even) and we may not find it politic to collapse the Labour government as quickly as we might like. Therefore an agreed programme at the outset on other matters may be inevitable.

  • Linking the UK Labour party to Venezuela is absurd. Akin to those who call the Tories ‘fascists’.

    Accounting for no less than 95% of their exports , Venezuela’s economy was and is virtually entirely oil revenue dependent. Chavez nationalised thousands of companies. To even imply the UK and specifically Labour’s 2017 manifesto, could’ve created Venezuela here, does the author of this piece no favours.

  • Let’s imagine that Jeremy Corbyn becomes a PM with Lib Dem support. He keeps his promises, and asks extension from the EU (which EU has told it grants only in case it’s to arrange a new referendum or a new general election), and arranges new general election.

    In the new general election the Tories will be in opposition, and Boris Johnson tells, that he would have delivered the Brexit by the end of October, wasn’t it for the Lib Dems who brought Jeremy Corbyn in power.

    Johnson then unites the Tory vote and the Brexit party wote, while many Remain voters who considered voting for the Lib Dems will be disillusioned, because Lib Dems allied themselves with Corbyn. Corbyn will remain unpopular, but the disillusioned Remain voters will stay home, because they are afraid, that the vote for Lib Dems is a vote for Corbyn. Johnson wins the elections, will have a majority in parliament for a no deal Brexit, and just waits till the end of the new extension or takes UK out without a deal before that with his new majority.

    Boris Johnson will be happy, because he will be the PM and delivered the Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn will be happy because he prevented Lib Dems becoming the official opposition (or the government) and replacing Labour as one of the two big parties, and because he actually privately always supported Brexit. The only ones who will not be the Remainers, because after all their sacrifices UK still left the EU, with dire consequences to the ordinary people, and the Lib Dems, who lost the election and their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead UK back to Europe.

  • https://youtu.be/9lCcFjRhiaw

    I wouldn’t bet on a Corbyn government being reversible. Marxists tend not to give up power once gained.

  • David Allen 15th Aug '19 - 6:07pm

    Chris Key is right, and his message is urgent. Johnson and Cummings are preparing a bear trap for their opponents, and we are blundering into it.

    Johnson is blatantly gearing up for a jingoistic election he can win by inflaming passions over Brexit, the “Will of the People” and a “Remoaner” Parliament standing in its way. That election must be held while Brexit is still all-to-play-for, because if it is left until after Brexit is done and dusted, the wind will have dropped out of Johnson’s sails. A post-Brexit election would be about all the “unexpected” problems Brexit has caused, and how to face up to new uncertainties. Patriotic bombast, and Boris’s bluff and bluster, would lose their appeal. So, Johnson needs an election ahead of Brexit, a fight for a No Deal mandate.

    But Johnson has a problem. He cannot just call that election, partly because he might not get 434 MP votes, but more critically, because it would just look too opportunist. “If No Deal Brexit is such a great idea” we would all declaim “why don’t you just do it, and then hold the election after we find out what disasters it has caused?”

    So Johnson sincerely wants to be VONCed. Then he can claim he was “forced” to hold an early election, and fight to clear the undemocratic Remoaner dead wood out of Parliament, so that he can heroically implement the “Will of the People”. (And then get five years to forget how much trouble it all caused.)

    But Johnson wants VONC to be the final step. He wants his opponents to fall out amongst themselves, demonstrating that they cannot offer a valid alternative. Then he can go ahead with his jingoist election, on his own terms and timescale, just ahead of the NDB deadline to create maximum emotional panic.

    What Johnson does NOT want is for VONC to be followed by his opponents “taking back control”, getting a 6+ months extension from the EU to enable an election and renegotiation, and quenching all the panic. An election at which the NDB risk had dropped back to low, at which the decision to Brexit or not to Brexit would clearly be made afresh, would be a completely different kettle of fish. The “will of the people” would finally be past its sell-by date.

    That’s why we need to work with Corbyn to get, not only VONC, but also an emergency government.

  • John Bicknell 15th Aug '19 - 7:38pm

    Corbyn is playing a political game; he is no doubt aware that he would be unlikely to command a majority, even as a temporary PM. However, I feel that Jo Swinson may have fallen into his trap by being so dismissive of his offer -it is easy now for Labour to portray her as petulant and tribal, whilst cloaking the blessed Jeremy in the mantle of ‘the man who tried to stop a no deal Brexit.’

  • Jo Swinson is fully aware of the often bitter turf war within Labour over policy direction. It should therefore be easily understandable why it’s wholly unreasonable to expect Corbyn to step aside for Harriet Harman (definitely not a Corbynista).

    I ask, as a thought experiment, to imagine for a moment, were the relative party strengths reversed and the Lib Dems were the main opposition with 262 MPs after the last election. Would the Lib Dem leader and leader of the opposition take kindly to a party that won 8 seats in that election, telling them to step aside as they try to dictate who should lead a collective multi-party effort to dislodge a govt?

  • chris moore 15th Aug '19 - 9:45pm

    @ Andy: Would the Lib Dem leader and leader of the opposition take kindly to a party that won 8 seats in that election, telling them to step aside as they try to dictate who should lead a collective multi-party effort to dislodge a govt?

    The Lib Dems won 12 seats.

    Jeremy Corbyn will not get the support of Change MPs either, nor various potential Tory rebels. He won’t have a majority.

    Labour strategists surely know this.

    If they really want a government of national unity, it would have to be with another leader.

    If they really DO want to unify, which I doubt.

  • Jayne Mansfield 15th Aug '19 - 9:55pm

    I hope for the sake of the country this initiative leads to no deal being defeated.

    There are MPs in different parties who have supported Brexit simply because of the referendum result. The possibility of a reckless no deal exit and its consequences, ought, all things being equal, to concentrate their minds on what level of damage they are prepared to enable.

    Boris Johnson and the reckless right wing that he and Nigel Farage represent, will no doubt be hoping that those opposed to a no deal Brexit remain divided and impotent, as they press on unopposed

  • If a party doesn’t win enough seats to command a majority then it needs to co-operate with other parties if it wants to form a government. It’s not enough to get us on board, they need the independents and a number of Tories, and pointing out that this would be better achieved with a more moderate MP is more than reasonable.

    We’re not asking Labour to ‘step aside’, but being mindful that the clock is ticking and putting plans in place. No Remainer can fully trust Corbyn on Brexit, but that’s not the main point here. A Government of National Unity will require Tory MPs to explicitly vote for a new PM against their current Tory one. How many of them will be persuaded to vote Corbyn into number 10?

    No other party leader is pushing themselves forward to lead a temporary caretaker government. It’s far better than anyone short-listed for the job is someone who doesn’t have long-term aspirations for the job. There’s nothing stopping Corbyn from staying at Labour Party leader if they still want him, but refusing to entertain the idea of any other MP, including another Labour MP, from being the temporary PM in order to stop Brexit makes this proposal feel like a scam. It feels like Corbyn doesn’t want it to succeed, but wants to find someone else to blame for it not succeeding.

  • So, the torygraph is naming 4 Tory remainers who seem open to a caretaker Corbyn government – add the likes of ken Clarke and Guto Bebb there really may be a chance to kick Brexit back – BUT we have to still be able to win any subsequent election. That would be easier if the remainers has united around say ken Clarke, but holding out for that might mean missing the chance. Eek!

  • Both actions can be reversed, as that is the nature of democracy. If a future UK government wants to rejoin the EU, assuming the UK left at one point, then that is a manifesto pledge that can be argued for in the public sphere.

  • “…it is easy now for Labour to portray her as petulant and tribal…” I don’t think that would be terribly difficult unfortunately. What is the greater risk to the UK, a temporary Corbyn-led government, or a permanent no-deal Brexit?!

  • Simon Hebditch 16th Aug '19 - 3:38pm

    I am afraid that Jo Swinson shot from the hip rather than allowed time for thought. We should simply have agreed, at this stage, that there should be talks between all opposition parties to plan a way forward. That is what Caroline Lucas has agreed to. Lets explore the options with everything being on the table. There are two vital stages to this process – putting together an alliance which will support a vote of no confidence and then subsequently, if this vote was successful, a period of 14 days in which Boris Johnson tries win back support and someone else (Corbyn etc) who equally seeks to build a coalition for an alternative.

  • nvelope2003 16th Aug '19 - 5:02pm

    There is no real guarantee that another referendum would produce a different result. Opinion polls were wrong about the last one and the most recent seem to show a majority for leaving the EU although 29% prefer leaving with a deal and 19% want to leave with no deal as against 43% for Remain.
    The argument has gone on too long and the only way left is to leave. If it works then the Leavers were right but if it does not then those who have argued for it will have some explaining to do and could be out of power for a generation if it turned into a real catastrophe though it is more likely to be a gradual process of decline and subservience to US interests. Apparently Trump wants to buy Greenland from Denmark but he will not need to pay to acquire Britain as it is being handed to him on a plate.

  • Absolutely agree with the argument of this article, and with @Mark Goodrich’s comment that in their initial reaction to Corbyn’s offer the Lib Dem leadership really walked into a mess – giving an impression that, after months saying we are the party of anti-Brexit, when the time comes, we’re just going to say yes-but and stand aside.

    I know Jo Swinson put her objections much better in her own letter and a lot of them are quite right. The problem is, as Simon Hebditch says, her first reaction should have been to agree to talks, and then the difficulties everyone’s aware of would have come out in later conversations. This would have been sensible politics. As it is, to a great many people, in the last few days the Lib Dem leadership have appeared clumsy and divisive. And first impressions are all important, much more than long detailed letters that not enough people will read.

    Also, the Liberal Democrats cannot choose the leader of the Labour Party, that’s a fact. So we have to make do with whatever’s available to stop a no-deal Brexit.

    And on the idea that a Corbyn government – or the slightest touch by Corbyn on the levers of power – is such a terrible threat that it has to be avoided at all costs. Some people have talked up Corbyn as the Red Monster to the extent that his myth has got a bit hysterical, and given him an importance he doesn’t really merit. He’s not the new Stalin even if he wants to be (no one knows what he wants, he’s so vague). He’s a weak politician of limited ability who doesn’t even control his own party. In any time-limited stop-Brexit administration he wouldn’t even remotely have any chance of introducing Leninist-style changes to the UK, no matter how much they might float around the imagination of Seamus Milne. He just wouldn’t have the power.

    So this danger is wildly exaggerated. It gives bumbling Jeremy and his bunch an importance they really don’t justify. And so equally the idea that ‘Ooh, we cannot accept any contact with Corbyn, as a sacred principle’, which seemed to have played at least a part in the Lib Dem leadership reaction this week, is a bit silly too.

    Meanwhile in Downing Street there is a government with full powers and a very determined plan to take us out of the EU with no deal in a few weeks, and damn the consequences. This has to be the greater danger, by a country mile.

  • Simon Hebditch – superb analysis and totally agree about falling into a trap. We should have given the idea a circumspect welcome without committing to something.
    Geoff Payne also right to say we should have been less vocal in public.

  • Good to hear some mature good sense from Simon Hebditch and Nick Rider…… something the current Liberal Democrat leadership appear to be in need of. Let’s hope it’s a steep learning curve rather than a permanent affliction.

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