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Corbyn’s Plea is NOT About Brexit


However, as several people have brought to my attention, our friend Atrios appears to have drunk vigorously from the keg of Kool-Aid fuelling Corbynism. “The group of people have made their entire political raison d’etre opposition to Brexit were, in fact, just using it as one more thing to use to complain about Corbyn with . . . ” is essentially Remainers are only remainers because they know they can use it as yet another way to undermine the magic grandpa.

I was going to concentrate more on the original Atrios post, but it’s basically that sort of generic conspiracy theory silliness that does nothing to advance the genre, which is best exemplified by this seminal entry from our friends in a Marxist boogie wonderland, the idiosyncratic take by The Waplington Files: a non-exhaustive list of centrist conspiracy theories, or the emerging classic Plot to Keep Corbyn Out of Power. He is usually a lot better than this, which might explain why this half-hearted attempt does nothing to further the genre or any of its subforms.

I’ll keep this simple, out of sheer frustration (which, of course, I failed to do).

This is not about Brexit, a second referendum, and certainly not about remaining in the European Union. As I wrote here in June, Corbyn wants Brexit:

The elephant in the room isn’t the handful of Labour-supporting Leave voters in Sunderland (it’s always Sunderland). Rather, it’s the bloody open secret that Jeremy Corbyn himself, is a staunch opponent of the European Union. So, too, are those in his innermost circle. Corbyn’s history of opposition to the EU is well documented (even in that older article), and those to whom I’ve spoken that served in parliament with him during his days on the back benches confirm this. And he’s not going to change.

This is about a general election, not stopping Brexit. His policy, and I believe the policy of my party (though that has a wearying habit of changing based on to whom you speak or what time of day you ask) is the following:

  1. Prevent a “damaging” Tory or no-deal Brexit.
  2. Hold, and win, General Election
  3. Return to Brussels seeking a different sort of Brexit (this is where things get even vaguer than usual in Labourville).
  4. Deliver his own version of Brexit.

Nowhere in there do we find anything about stopping Brexit, but there is a lot of serious unicorn action going on unsupervised. He has, as is his wont, stopped “short of saying the party would campaign for Remain if it was in power and there was a referendum,” which is basically consistent with where we were on 9 July, more or less:

1) Labour supports a second referendum in all scenarios. 2) If Labour is the opposition party then they will campaign for Remain in this referendum – against “a Tory Brexit.” 3) If Labour is the party in government then they will renegotiate the deal and decide whether they will campaign for Leave or Remain after that.

This is all well and good. We’re a hell of a lot closer to Labour supporting Remain than we were when in 2016 an acquaintance* took this photo in a cafe in Finsbury Park. In June of that year. On the 23rd of June of that year.

However, if Corbyn does want to stop Brexit, or at least wants a “public vote on the terms of leaving the European Union” as his letter to opposition leaders insists, why in hell add the extraneous step of a General Election between us and a “public vote”? Once your caretaker government is in situ, and you’ve lined up your freshly grown courgettes from the allotment in the kitchen of No. 10, just . . . hold a referendum?

Under the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011, there are two routes to an early election. The second, requiring a two-thirds vote of MPs, was used by Theresa May in 2017. The first, the route that Corbyn presumably hopes to take, requires a simple vote of no confidence (VONC) in the sitting government, but also allows for a two week period for cooling off or a new government to be formed. Jeremy Corbyn would then require the support of a majority of the House of Commons to head up a “strictly time-limited” caretaker government. The support of this current House of Commons:

It’s possible to imagine a VONC against PM Johnson, but I dare anybody to tell me how Jeremy Corbyn magics up a majority in support of Jeremy Corbyn from those numbers.

But, OK, say it does happen — that Corbyn manages to get the support of every single minor party, the SNP, all the independents of various hues . . . and at least one sitting real live Conservative MP. Just to head into a General Election. Polls right now are a bit all over the place, but there are only two outcomes which any of them coalesce around: either a bare Conservative outright majority, or yet another hung parliament (i.e. right back where we are today) with the Conservatives as the largest party. Since GE 2017, the most favourable to Labour has been Survation, and this is their most recent estimate (I’m not at all sold on the Flavible seat-level projections, but from what I’ve sorted out, they’re more sophisticated than simple uniform swing, but not as rigorous as full blown MRP):

Obviously, Corbyn thinks he can win a General Election, and those on the . . . more starry-eyed side of the party will point to us being 20 points down when the election was called in 2017, and yet it resulted in a glorious victory surprisingly close second place finish for us. I’m more realistic.

But even so, why take the chance? If the political objective is to stop a no-deal Brexit or hold a second referendum, why not just hold a second referendum under the auspices of this caretaker government?

I’ll leave it with the brilliant Sara Gibbs to point out that “isn’t it really mean to be saying that Jeremy isn’t the right person to stop a no-deal Brexit just because he’s been a little bit Eurosceptic consistently over the last 30 years or so . . .” (seriously, if I haven’t flagged it up yet, watch her stuff).

* OK, “an acquaintance” is a bit of a reach (though in these social-media mediated days, who knows). We’re in the same, somewhat small, Labour Party orientated FB group. One of hundreds and hundreds of such things.

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