The New European says: Labour is climbing the North Face of Brexit

PUBLISHED: 10:37 09 December 2016 | UPDATED: 13:29 09 December 2016

Brexit is a long, hard, treacherous mountain climb

Brexit is a long, hard, treacherous mountain climb

Archant

For the Labour Party, Brexit is neither a sprint nor a marathon.

Brexit is a long, hard, treacherous mountain climb; just one slip and you could find yourself tumbling headlong to your doom.

Many greeted the Opposition Day Motion to accept the timetable for Article 50 in return for a concrete plan for Brexit as a victory for Theresa May; the day Parliament caved in and swung behind Brexit.

This is, of course, daft.

For a start, 89 MPs across the House stood up with conviction and said no. (No cheap gesture this, knowing full-well how you’ll be being pilloried and shamed by MailOnline, competing for a brief moment with their core business of publishing gallery-upon-gallery of bikini-clad girls on beaches).

Frankly, The New European wishes politicians could be more honest and straightforward; that those 89 could be joined by the many more MPs who hold the same conviction – that Brexit is, ultimately, a bad deal for Britain.

We love the spirit of Tim Farron in openly declaring that we, the nation, must fight for the right to have a second view once the actual facts – remember facts? – of our departure from the EU are clear. How much more democratic can you get?

But let’s not kid ourselves either. This is, after all, politics.

For the Lib Dems, striking out like this and reflecting the views of the (more than, if polls of markedly swinging sentiment are to be believed) 48% is a good, intelligent, strategy.

It has given them purpose. Farron has articulated brilliantly what many of us believe to be obvious; that it is entirely sensible to leave our options open until we actually know what we’re in for.

And, apart from being labelled an unpatriotic enemy of the people, there is zero political downside and much to gain. Witness their encouraging and welcome performance in Richmond, another clear indication that the appetite in Britain for a rush towards the cliff edge is much diminished.

For Labour, however, the route is altogether trickier.

In mountaineeirng terms, Keir Starmer is tackling the North Face of the Eiger. Hard enough at the best of the times, but no fun at all when members of your own climbing party keep tugging the rope and wandering off in different directions.

For Starmer, delaying Article 50 is not the point.

Holding the government to account is the point – and that’s what he’s delivered. For the first time, Theresa May has been forced to accept that our parliament has an actual role to play in this most awesome of decisions for our future. Who have thought it?

Anyone crying this week over their croissant and copy of The Morning Star about how Labour have fallen into a Tory trap, misses the point. And ignores the political reality.

If Labour made blocking Article 50 their purpose, it would almost certainly trigger not just a series of violent fits in Daily Mail headquarters, but an early General Election.

This would have only one outcome; the ruination of the Labour Party and a parliament crammed full of hard brexiteers. In other words, disaster.

If you deeply regret - as we do - the shambolic and confused nature of today’s Labour Party leadership, just imagine life without them. As much as a resurgent Lib Dems is to be celebrated, it’s essential we have a strong Labour voice to keep this government honest, hold them to account, and fight for right of our representitive democracy.

The route Starmer has charted gives both his party and the country the best chance of a happy outcome from this perilous excursion.

Of course, the truth is that this is not just Starmer’s political climb for survival. We are all roped in, together - 48 and 52. The crux, a parliamentary vote on the clearly understood consequences of Brexit, is long way off.

The shrill displays of glee from Hard Brexit has-beens like Iain Duncan Smith, the increasingly sinister Daily Mail and the pathetically repetitive Daily Express are telling.

Sinister and shrill they may be, but they are not fools.

Their premature jig is an act. It’s an act born of nervous frustration.

They are scared, too.

Like dodgy travel agents, they sold the nation on a gentle sunny stroll through a golden English valley. Now, as skies blacken, and as the compass whirls meaninglessly, the nation is beginning to look to see if it’s still got the receipt.

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