What would the leader of the opposition’s ‘for’ and ‘against’ Brexit lists look like?
Boris Johnson famously wrote his ‘for’ and ‘against’ Brexit articles when deciding which way to plump. So why can’t Jeremy Corbyn do the same? Let’s imagine how he might do it. This is to clarify his views and is only for circulation in the leader of the opposition’s office. Please treat it as securely as a diplomatic cable. No leaks!
The problem with the EU is that it isn’t a Latin American liberation movement. It’s so boring and capitalist! All that trade. All those suits and tedious negotiations. Endless council meetings in that Brussels building as revolutionary as Buckingham Palace.
How can I be England’s Che, or even Aneurin Bevan, hemmed in like that? The social democrats are the worst, though I quite like that new Spanish socialist, Sánchez, who campaigned across Spain in a battered old car against Franco’s heirs. I could do the same in Croydon!
The EU is never going to become a hammer and sickle. But there is one truly revolutionary thing happening out there: Brexit itself. Amazingly, the Tories have become ‘freedom fighters’ in their assault on Europe, egged on by Farage and their Faragised petty bourgeois grass roots who wouldn’t let May – and won’t let Johnson – steer the country away from the most extreme Brexit possible after the 2016 referendum.
Our strategy so far has been to wait for the implosion of their minority government propped up by the DUP ultras. Then we win the inevitable snap election. Preferably this is after Brexit has gone through, so the crisis is so bad that we are bound to win, provided we can get to that point without dipping our hands in the blood.
It hasn’t worked yet. But Johnson is the last throw of the Brexit dice. We don’t want Brexit to collapse before it brings him down.
There is of course the problem of what to do on Europe once the Bastille has fallen. Keir can sort all that out, either in or out of the EU, while I get on with the exciting stuff on nationalisation and Palestine. I like the sound of ‘Common Market 2.0.’ It sort of rhymes with ‘Great Britain 2.0’ which comes when the new dawn breaks… sorry, forget that, it was Blair’s line in 1997 when neo-liberalism is all that dawned.
Well, it hasn’t worked so far! The only thing that keeps falling off the fence is me. And though I keep getting back on, as someone – Churchill? – said of someone else, ‘he has sat on the fence so long, the iron has entered his soul’.
We are losing everyone. It was always bizarre for Caroline Flint and her crew to think that ardent Brexiters would vote for us just because we said we ‘respected the referendum result’ and waffled about a ‘Better Brexit’. If people really want Brexit, they will vote for the real thing, Tory or Farage, while Remainers are going Green and Lib Dem.
Anyway, it is a mistake to think that most of the Brexit vote was about Brexit. It was far more about austerity and ‘s**t life syndrome,’ and the only solution to that is a Labour government which isn’t bankrupt because of Brexit.
There’s also the problem of the Labour party itself. It really hates Brexit! And it really likes Europe and the EU! It likes all that internationalism and trade and prosperity and peace. I can’t even stop half of Momentum saying they don’t want to go back to the 1930 and that we need a People’s Vote! They keep telling me I said I would listen to the members, and isn’t about time I actually did so rather than just fixing the NEC with Len?
The young are especially pro-European. As a student put it to me: “Jeremy, we don’t want to be shut up on a small island with Farage, Johnson and Rees-Mogg – or even you, to be frank.”
I also need to tell make a confession, Seumas. I know I used to trot out all that anti-Brussels stuff – “club of capitalists” etc. But I’ve come to think that the EU isn’t just the best of a bad job; it has positive virtue.
It’s what Sánchez told me. Europe has done a better job of standing up to Thatcherism at home and Trump abroad than anything outside Highgate cemetery. It is the ally, not the enemy, of the left. I know you think Merkel and Macron are Marks and Spencer, but they’re better than anyone you meet at a summit these days. And if it’s a bit anti-Russian, well, Putin has gone the way of Beria not Trotsky.
I’m struck by that remark of Nigel Lawson, the godfather of Thatcherism, that “Brexit gives us the chance to complete the Thatcher revolution”. That’s what Brexit is fundamentally about. We need to kill it before it kills us. That’s why I’m going to make a statement saying that, after all, we stand for referendum and Remain. Well, almost.