MATT KELLY: Corbyn’s great betrayal would never be forgiven
- Credit: Archant
If Jeremy Corbyn helps Theresa May to deliver Brexit, voters will never forgive him, writes MATT KELLY.
Let's play a little game, shall we?
See if you can spot which of the following quotes came from the mouth of Nigel Farage, and which from Jeremy Corbyn:
1: 'If you succeed in getting a No vote… it will be such a boost to people like us who do not want to live in a European empire of the 21st century.'
2: 'I've just got a feeling they're going to [make you] keep on voting until they get the answer they want.'
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3: 'Europe will become subservient to Nato… we are creating for ourselves here one massive great Frankenstein, which will damage all of us in the long run.'
The cynical amongst you (and if you aren't cynical by now you really should give your head a wobble) will be way ahead of me. They're all Corbyn.
His clear expression of hatred for the European Union came in a 2009 speech in Ireland, a video of which emerged this week. He was trying to cajole the Irish into voting against the Lisbon Treaty.
Take a minute to watch it on The New European website. If you are still in any doubt about the sincerity of his pledge to honour the wishes of his members and fight for a People's Vote, it will clear your mind. Corbyn is as sincere as he is clean-shaven.
Now, people can and do change their minds. Everyone's entitled to evolve their position when the circumstances change. After all, that's the entire basis of the argument for a People's Vote.
So it is possible Corbyn really did vote Remain in 2016. It is possible he is genuinely torn between wanting to respect the result of the referendum and taking the issue back to the people.
But a much more credible reading of the internal dilemma whirling away in Corbyn's head is this: How do I make sure I get out of the ghastly European Union and cling onto the support of the two-thirds of Labour voters who backed Remain and who I'm going to need to get me into Downing Street?
That's the high-wire he dances upon. Neither losing Leave constituencies, nor losing Remain voters.
So Labour voters must now reconcile themselves with a rather unpalatable reality. The messiah isn't quite the straight-shooter he pretends to be. In fact, as far as Brexit's concerned, he's entirely duplicitous.
Corbyn's performance on Brexit has been a masterclass in deferring reality. The cynical phrase coined to string Labour voters along – 'everything is on the table' – is every bit as deceitful as 'Take Back Control'. As Paul Simon sang: 'A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.'
If you're a Remainer you can hear Corbyn and believe he means a second referendum. Leavers can hear him and believe he means anything but.
Tragically, it is increasingly obvious it is the Leavers who are right. And it is costing Labour dear.
Party members, particularly the young, are deserting the party in droves. Not long ago they chanted 'Oh Jeremy Corbyn!' in adulation. Today they gasp the same phrase in dismay.
It's reported that anywhere between 50,000 and 150,000 members have left the Labour Party in the past year or so. That's a fall of between 10% and 25%. Even if it's the former, that's a crisis for the party that saw itself riding to power on the crest of a surging popular movement.
And despite having had another two years to shine against the worst government in memory, a procession of polls suggest Labour simply cannot generate a meaningful lead over the Tories.
But polls are irrelevant, Corbynistas say. Labour will enjoy a surge of support if and when Theresa May calls an election, they reassure voters. Or is it they themselves they are trying to reassure? Because such supernatural confidence looks irrational and complacent.
The Labour leadership won't reverse significant drops in membership and unconvincing polling by letting Brexit scrape over the line – just because they lacked the courage to honestly represent the voice of the members who invested in them so much hope and trust.
If the British public hate one thing more than anything in politics, it's a Judas. Just ask Nick Clegg.
The Liberal Democrats have yet to recover from jumping into bed with the Tories and delivering university tuition fees.
The next generation of voters saw that as an unforgivable betrayal.
If Jeremy Corbyn does the same in delivering Brexit, that same generation will never forgive him for it either.
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