SINCE FRIDAY MORNING
June 28, 2016 § 4 Comments
On Friday morning I felt sick at heart with the Brexit result and I’ve had numerous conversations with others similarly stricken, most of them Corbyn supporters until now. Even before the first shadow cabinet resignations some blamed him, citing his half-hearted campaigning and marginal presence in the media. I countered that much of what he did was denied media coverage because of Tory splits and pro-Brexit bias, as well as pervasive press hostility to Corbyn himself. I observed that Alan Johnson, who was meant to be running Labour Remain, didn’t exactly distinguish himself, and no one seemed to be attacking him. Of course there was a coup in waiting.
Now that Corbyn has lost a no-confidence vote by the Parliamentary Labour Party (only 40 MPs on his side, 172 against) what future does he have as leader? A leadership contest might still place him on top with support, albeit diminished, from the membership. Would that be viable?
None of the candidates being mooted to replace him stands for what Corbyn stands for: a refusal of neoliberal economics, an anti-austerity agenda that prioritises investment in education, training and apprenticeships, workers’ rights and a decent living wage, protection of the NHS, of everything that will be further undermined by a Tory government to the right of Cameron’s regime.
Would a more enthusiastic Corbyn have saved us from the Brexit vote? I don’t think so. Honesty required an admission that the EU needed reform. Brexiteers were offering a loud cut-and-dried choice: leave and everything will change for the better. They fostered diehard notions of British superiority among ready-made malcontents, in the North-East of England, in the Welsh valleys and in East Anglia. These were former Labour heartlands now economically ruined by the legacy of Thatcher and Blair, and, if not already lost to Labour, have been inclined by despair to listen to the nationalistic urgings of UKIP.
We have a lot to fear, not just from the Tories, not just from Brexit’s economic consequences, but from the growth of UKIP-fuelled hatreds scapegoating immigrants and others, especially as Brexit’s failures to deliver become apparent. Last night I watched a Channel 4 News interview with Farage, on his chosen territory, the battlefield of the Somme, which he claims to visit at least once a year. Already he was articulating his sense that his principles are being betrayed by compromise. Despite the sombre, quiet tones appropriate to the location, this struck me as a warning statement. How is a Labour Party split in two going to fight off the threats it implies? Since Friday morning we’ve already witnessed revolting eruptions of racism that seem to be licensed by Brexit’s victory.
We face multiple crises, for which Corbyn’s resignation would not provide any answer. If there were another candidate who stood for what he represents and could prove to be a better orator, a more forceful questioner at PMQ’s, a skilful operator in a Parliamentary Labour Party where his principles remain largely unshared, then I might well opt for her or him. But there isn’t.
Should Corbyn hold on and face a general election as part of a coalition along the lines already suggested by Paul Mason and others? Is there an alternative?
I write this blog to find out what I think and know, a process of clarification. For now I’m still asking questions.