Observations of an ex pat: The Brexit spotlight

It’s time to move the Brexit spotlight. Its focus on Theresa May’s deal has thoroughly exposed the bankruptcy of the British Prime Minister’s proposal and left the government frantically planning to minimise the chaos of a no-deal Brexit.

But Opposition Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn is so wedded to his revolutionary socialist ideology that he is making as big a contribution to the national crisis as the conservative government.

The British House of Commons is divided—and in the strangest of ways. The vast majority of its members voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum.  And, if the truth be known, would probably vote the same again. But in both parties there are powerful minorities in favour of Brexit, and they are determining their respective  party’s actions.

The Labour Party’s Brexiteer wing is much smaller than that of the conservatives. But it is led by party leader Corbyn.  He is a lifelong Eurosceptic. He voted against Britain joining the European Economic Community in 1973 and campaigned to leave it in the 1975 referendum. And since then Corbyn has voted against every European treaty, law and regulation that has come before the British parliament.

In the 2016 referendum he was faced with a dilemma. He was leader of a party whose clearly stated policy was to remain in the EU but he was personally opposed to membership of what he regarded as a neo-liberal capitalist club. So Corbyn did the dishonest thing.  He paid lip service to party policy but conducted a campaign that was so ineffectual that he might as well have been sharing a platform with staunch Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

Since the Labour Party’s autumn conference it has been overwhelming official party policy to push for a second referendum on EU membership. Corbyn has ignored every opportunity to fulfil this policy decision and focused instead on the impossible task of forcing a general election.

Jeremy Corbyn knows full well that a second referendum could very easily lead to a Brexit reversal. That is the last thing he wants. He could have secured a second referendum this week by tabling a vote of no confidence in the government.  But instead he tabled an ineffectual no confidence vote in the prime minister.

Corbyn wants out of Europe. The EU’s rules enshrining fair competition and prohibiting industrial subsidies and state aid are a major obstacle to his plans for a revolutionary socialist Britain. As well as introducing socialist economic policies, Corbyn wants to abandon Britain’s nuclear deterrent, withdraw from NATO,  relinquish Northern Ireland, cozy up to Vladimir Putin, support Cuba and Venezuela  and actively back the Palestinian cause

In normal times such a radical platform would make the Labour Party unelectable. That was the case in the 1980s when they were forced to ditch Clause 4 of their constitution which called for “the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.”

The British voting public are not radical socialists. They are a nation of shopkeepers struggling to feed their families and know full well that a radical socialist model would be a major obstacle in the pursuit of that simple goal. That is why—despite all their failures—the conservative government is four points ahead of Labour in the polls and Theresa May is 11 points ahead of Jeremy Corbyn.

That could change with an election. With all his faults, Jeremy Corbyn, is a formidable campaigner, and if an election was called soon British voters would be faced with the unpalatable two-way choice between perhaps the most incompetent government in British history and a Labour leader who hides his radical agenda behind the confusion of Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn recently referred to Theresa May as a “stupid woman” (although he unconvincingly denied it). He is a manipulative, disingenuous and—most of all– dangerous man.

* Tom Arms is membership secretary for Tooting Lib Dems. He also broadcasts on foreign affairs for US Radio, regularly contributes to Lib Dem Voice, lectures and is working on a book on Anglo—American relations which is due to be published next year.

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31 Comments

  • What a lazy and nasty article! For a start Corbyn would have had trouble voting against going into the EEC in 1973 because there was no public vote at that point, and he didn’t become an MP for another decade. Clause 4 was ditched by Labour not in the 80s but under Blair in the 90s. Current Labour policy on the referendum remains a ‘keep all options on the table’ (yawn) fudge, but this reflects divisions in the PLP more than anything else. Or is Corbyn to be held responsible for the Brexity positions of the likes of Stephen Kinnock and Caroline Flint?

    The success of a second referendum (probably the only way out of the current mess) depends on people changing their minds. Could I suggest that it is possible that Corbyn has changed his, and that – rather than bad faith – would explain his working for a Remain vote in 2016?

    I sometimes wonder what would have happened in 2016 if the Lib Dem voice had been heard, and the party hadn’t so comprehensively shredded its credibility by going into coalition on such terrible terms. Such self-reflection seems to be beyond the author of this article, unfortunately.

  • “As well as introducing socialist economic policies, Corbyn wants to abandon Britain’s nuclear deterrent, withdraw from NATO, relinquish Northern Ireland, cozy up to Vladimir Putin, support Cuba and Venezuela and actively back the Palestinian cause”
    He should get some credit for getting one out of seven right!

  • Michael Maybridge 21st Dec '18 - 11:00am

    @John Payne: Ooh, which one do you think he gets right? (I know which one I do!)

  • John Marriott 21st Dec '18 - 11:23am

    It looks increasingly like parliament taking control of the Brexit process from May and Corbyn and elements in all parties at Westminster coming together to come up with a compromise that might, in the end, require endorsement from the electorate, either by a General Election or another Referendum.

    For this to happen a so called ‘Meaningful Vote’ has to take place in Parliament ASAP. If this signals a defeat for the Government’s plans then the next move has got to be for us to buy some time by suspending Article 50, or whatever the correct verb is. I am not interested on how big a lead the opinion polls currently give ‘Remain’. 10% is not an unassailable lead. Another referendum at the moment will only make matters worse. Although only 38% of those eligible to vote supported Leave in 2016 you cannot assume that all of the 27%, who didn’t vote, were closet Remainers.

    With this in mind, it’s up to parliamentarians to work out a modus vivendi with the EU. Yes, we might well be poorer for many years to come; but surely the closeness of the result last time should make both sides accept that, as the famous saying goes, you can’t have your cake and eat it. Our history as an island people makes us very different from our European neighbours. That may be a price we shall for ever have to pay.

  • Socialism is a mainstream political creed which some of us find woefully inadequate. That does not mean that all Labour Party policies emerging from the socialist bit of their tradition are wrong. There have been times when Liberals have campaigned to get Labour governments to implement one or two of them. As John Payne enigmatically reminds us Corbyn’s faction get it right sometimes.

  • Peter Martin 21st Dec '18 - 12:44pm

    @ John Payne,

    Yep. He’ll depose the monarchy, nationalise everything down to the local sweetshop, we’ll all have to wear Chairman Mao style uniforms and call each other ‘comrade’.

    The plus side is that will be no more bad behaviour in Parliament. Jeremy Corbyn will deliver his Great Leader speech and the clapping will continue for many minutes afterwards. MPs, who will have been renamed ‘Comrade Delegates’, won’t want to be the one to stop clapping first.

  • @John Marriott – I agree the sensible way forward is to for Parliament to vote down T.May’s deal. With the UK media now looking at the reality of hard Brexit, assisted by the EU’s own commonsense preparations for a hard Brexit, it looks as if Mogg et al will be further marginalised, so the only viable option is to withdraw our notice under Article 50.

    Note thisis different to the style of remain portrayed by Brexiteers, it is more in the style of remain that M.Thatcher envisaged when she helped transform the EEC into the Single Market and EU.

  • Christopher Haigh 21st Dec '18 - 1:38pm

    @TomArmes-you can swear and curse at Corbyn all you like but the fact of the matter is that the LibDems in the Tory coalition supported the horrendous attack on the disabled. Instituting massive stress in the most vulnerable to reapply for PIP. Why was the first act of the Coalition to abolish Remploy factories.? The leadership of this party has to acknowledge its contribution to the Brexit disaster that unfolded.

  • David Becket 21st Dec '18 - 2:26pm

    @ Christopher Haig
    It is reasonable to state that the Lib Dems made mistakes during coalition, many of us would have preferred Labour, but Labour were not interested.
    However we are now at a critical stage in our history, does it make sense to continually blame the one party that has a way forward for past mistakes? The Labour Party produced Iraq and the Tories Suez, but you are not still blaming them.

    Let us have facts rather than glib statements.

    Take Remploy, 29 factories were closed under Labour.
    As for the remainder In December 2010, the Coalition government commissioned a review of the government’s special employment programmes for the disabled. The review was carried out by Liz Sayce, the head of RADAR, the largest disability campaigning organisation in the country, and was published in early 2012.

    The Review concluded that there would be inevitably be people who don’t benefit from whatever the government does, but the best use of government money would be to concentrate on getting disabled people into mainstream work, rather than subsidising disabled-only factories.

    Hardly the first thing we did, and it was proposed by a Disabled Charity.

  • John Marriott 21st Dec '18 - 3:46pm

    @Jenny Barnes
    But is ‘winning’ really enough? It’s really not about winning or losing. It’s far more important. Only if one side won ‘big’, and by that I mean by nearer 20 than 10% could we possibly up the matter to bed. Anything else would mean that the nightmare would continue. The chances are any ‘win’ could be by a small margin, which will settle nothing, I’m afraid.

  • Hove Howard 21st Dec '18 - 4:59pm

    @ Russell Simpson well, the arithmetic of every election since 2010 would suggest to me that the Lib Dems do have a credibility problem, and that the resulting low profile of the most pro-European party had a very negative effect.

    It’s also pretty established that austerity drove the Brexit vote to a considerable extent. So by enabling that, I am afraid the Lib Dems not only shot themsleves in the foot but bear some responsibility for the mess that we are now in. Rather more so than Mr Corbyn, I would say.

    You mention how history will judge all this. Be honest, how is that ‘national interest’ argument looking right now? Always seemed like Tory-serving hogwash to me anyway. The financial crisis had passed. But painting Labour as financial incompetents suited the blue team – and to their lasting and eternal shame the Lib Dems joined in. Much good it has done them.

  • John Marriott 21st Dec '18 - 5:14pm

    @Russell Simpson
    There is no doubt that the U.K. has benefitted in many ways from being a member of the EEC/EU. If only we had joined at the start- and the post war Labour and Tory governments had ample opportunity to do this- we might not have taken the route we are currently embarked upon.

    However despite everything thrown at them, truth, fiction, threats, even ridicule, there is a significant percentage of our population that will probably always want to be outside the tent. Had the genie been kept in the bottle all might have been fine. After all, in most opinion polls pre 2016 ‘Europe’ didn’t feature greatly in people’s concerns. Now he’s out, it’s unlikely that we will ever get him back in. That’s why I can’t get my head around ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ in this particular contest.

  • Peter Watson 21st Dec '18 - 5:19pm

    @Russell Simpson “Polls (in the Economist) show Remain leading May’s “deal” by 10 pts and no deal/WTO by 10 pts”
    I don’t know the details of those polls, but something similar by Yougov a couple of weeks ago showed that as a first preference “Deal” + “No Deal” > “Remain” but that not all supporters of one Brexit option preferred the other as a second choice. Whilst I’m sure that many here would understand and accept the result of any electoral system applied to such a referendum (if it delivered a Remain victory, anyway! 😉 ), that is an indication of how divided the country still is and how difficult it will be to convince the losing side that any outcome is conclusive.
    My gut-feeling (this afternoon, anyway, it changes frequently!) is that we’ll either Brexit with no deal because the government runs out of time for anything else (though there is a vanishingly slim chance of May’s deal being accepted as a compromise) or a Parliamentary vote and/or another referendum will cause us to Remain, and in both scenarios there will be an awful lot of anger and resentment around with an unpredictable effect on support for political parties and the establishment.

  • According to Mr Tom Arms, Jeremy Corbyn, “voted against Britain joining the European Economic Community in 1973”.

    Could Mr Arms please explain how Mr Corbyn managed to achieve this miraculous feat in 1973 given that he wasn’t elected to parliament until 1983 ?

    Sorry, Mr Arms, I’m afraid ‘I demand better.’

  • I see Mr Corbyn has finally fallen of his fence for all seasons
    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/dec/21/jeremy-corbyn-labour-policy-leaving-eu
    Well were do we go from here, a few red faces for those claiming we where too hard on Jeremey, the claims he was a not so secret Brexiteer are hard to discount now. I suspect many of the Labour leadership will be herocially trying to get him back on the comfortable fence for all seasons, they may succeed but he is bound to fall off again as he searches for his own personal Brexit.

  • I do not believe that it helps rational debate to accuse opponents of dishonesty. Especially when the evidence is that they do not agree with you. If the Labour leader is guilty of dishonesty because he is failing to conduct a strongly pro-EU campaign, then where does that leave the LibDem leadership? When are they going to even start a strongly Pro-EU campaign?
    I am amused by the nonsense about the labour leader being a revolutionary socialist. The reality is of course that political discourse has moved in a corporatist direction in recent years, certainly since 1951.
    When corporate establishment have no real argument to make then they resort to phantasy arguments. I have time to keep up with what is being said by the dominant corporatist forces in the US about Democrats who regard themselves as socialists. These people have been elected having supported things like free at the point of delivery health care, free education, and ensuring that people do not die because of poverty.
    The reality is that the leader of the Labour Party is a centrist with a right wing party. There is now no left in politics. I define left in terms of things like freedom from poverty, ensuring that everyone has a decent like, and of course a return to a society which controls monopolies. Capitalism depended independent laws, and of course laws which can be enforced.

  • Peter Hirst 22nd Dec '18 - 4:16pm

    Does Jeremy Corbyn really want to abandon Northern Ireland against the wishes of its inhabitants? If so he is also abandoning democracy. The people of Northern Ireland are the only ones able to alter its present constitutional arrangements. Democracy is far from perfect but its certainly preferable to totalitarianism.

  • Teresa Wilson 22nd Dec '18 - 4:25pm

    @Jenny Barnes

    You asked what has changed in the past 2 years to make people vote differently?

    I’d have though quite a lot has changed since June 2016, both in this country and in the wider world. Wouldn’t you?

  • @ michael maybridge
    I had in mind his support for Palestinian rights. Perhaps Thom would enlighten us as to what aspect of Corbyn’s position on Palestine he particularly opposes.

  • sorry for typo Tom

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