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A Corbyn Brexit or a May Brexit?

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks to the crowd from the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Both will be as bad as the other.

Julia Hartley-Brewer is a nice person. There, I said it.

No, really; I’ve worked with her a few times over the years on various radio things (although last time we actually conversed on Twitter she insisted she had no idea who I was, which is entirely possible) and she’s always come across as friendly and reasonable. She has, of late, veered occasionally into what looks like tiresome controversialism for its own sake, but I’ve always defended her against those who have called her, among other things, ‘the Aldi Katie Hopkins’, partly because she’s never stooped that low, (nor do I think she would) and also if she were ever to stoop that low, JH-B would be the Waitrose Katie Hopkins. I think Ms H-B may just be an example of a thing one encounters in political and journalistic circles; a good person who believes (perhaps as a matter of background) and sometimes says (perhaps for professional reasons) horrible things.

Ms H-B popped into my timeline this week to ask why there was no outpouring of public anger against those residents of Grenfell Tower who’d been illegally subletting their flats and were now causing confusion about the final death toll by refusing to admit it.

While I concur that such behaviour would be reprehensible in the extreme (although probably better addressed in this instance by an offer of amnesty than threats of punishment) I answered that the reason there’s no great outcry against this is that people are, I think, recognising this ‘angle’ for what it is: an attempt by the conservative media to switch the focus from things they’re profoundly uncomfortable discussing (the ultimate callousness of ‘austerity’ as a philosophy, social cleansing, the recklessness of the ongoing cuts to public services, the way the media and the Estabishment in general simply don’t place that much value on the lives of the poor) and onto subjects they’re much happier to talk about (scroungers! immigrants! scrounging immigrants! illegal immigrants! immigrants scrounging illegally!).

This is all too familiar to my fellow Liverpudlians; it was far easier to sell a story about drunken rioting Scousers than to address the issue of rampant incompetence and corruption in the police and justice system back in 1989, and the same attitudes prevail today.

There are always topics that all sides of the political polygon are reluctant to discuss, and just at the moment we Remainers are one of them.

My pal and occasional writing partner Budgie Barnett, as much to his own surprise as anyone else’s, joined the Labour Party after the 2015 election, keen to see how he could help the party re-build itself after defeat. He grew up in a (small c) conservative Jewish family in north London and hadn’t been party politically active since his student days. He’s now left the party, and currently can’t ever imagine rejoining or indeed voting for them again.

He’d been enervated by the party’s reluctance to address or even acknowledge the frequency with which legitimate criticism of Israel tipped over into anti-Semitic tropes, he was disappointed (as was I) by Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘all lives matter’ replies to questions about anti-Semitism in Labour (‘We’re opposed to all forms of racism’ etc.) and appalled by Shami Chakrabarti’s perfunctory, whitewashing ‘investigation’. The half-hearted response to Ken Livingstone’s ‘Hitler invented Zionism’ incident was the final straw. He couldn’t stay in a party which, while never endorsing anti-Semitism, seemed to him to be far too comfortable with it.

As you can imagine, Budgie has lost quite a few friends over this. It’s not so much that his (and, by and large, my) left-wing pals are making excuses for anti-Semites, or even going so far as to deny that Labour has an anti-Semitism problem; their attitude is simply ‘Yeah, whatever, shut up, we’re winning’.

And without ever wanting to draw some sort of equivalence between anti-Semitism and anti-Remoanerism (!), we’re now coming in for a bit of the same dismissive attitude.

It’s not that Labour supporters don’t know that Corbyn and John McDonnell are every bit as pro-hard (as in HARD) Brexit as anyone on the Tory benches (although it seems to be news to some of them), it’s not that they either tacitly or openly support this, nor (apart from a truly delusional rump) do they seem to think that this is the saintly JC playing some sort of psychological long game to get the bourgeoisie onside before triumphantly revealing his true pro-European colours, it’s just ‘Yeah, whatever, shut up, we’re winning’. Even Corbyn himself seems reluctant to address the question openly; given 15 minutes to address the crowd (and, thereby, the nation) at Glastonbury, he didn’t mention Brexit once. That’s a bit like Churchill addressing a crowd in 1940 and not mentioning the war. He even approvingly pointed out a mural on the festival site reading ‘Build Bridges, Not Walls’; he did so by way of a dig at Donald Trump, but what the hell is Brexit if not burning a bridge and building a wall?

Some of his supporters, while acknowledging Labour and the Tories’ common goal, insist that LABOUR Brexit will be different, given that it’s being motivated by anti-globalism and pro-collectivism rather than jingoism and xenophobia. This is, and I trust you’ll excuse my use of technical jargon here, bollocks.

Whether you shoot yourself in the head in a sincere suicide bid or in a horribly misguided attempt to relieve toothache, you still end up with a bullet in your head.

Your motivations don’t matter a damn to anyone but yourself. What matters – what everyone else actually has to deal with – is the result of your actions. Brexit will do untold social and economic damage to this country, no matter whether we’re singing Rule Britannia or The Internationale when it happens. Brexit is the single biggest unforced error in British political history. It makes Suez look like a typo. A Labour Party hellbent on seeing it through in the face of all evidence and reason is only marginally preferable to a Conservative party similarly committed to it. There’s no point backslapping each other on the Tories’ post electoral humiliation or plotting their eventual (or indeed immediate) downfall if we don’t replace them with something better, or at the very least, saner.

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