Monday, 29 May 2017

I can't vote Labour, but I wouldn't blame you if you did

So May is clinging on to her "no deal is better than a bad deal" rhetoric. This is no longer a leave/remain issue. This is ultimately a matter of national survival. There is no room for silly little games. We are not haggling over the price of a carpet. If we walk away that's a termination of all our relations with the EU and its constituent members. The treaties shall cease to apply.

So much as that then unleashes the full force of such a severance overnight, we are still in the position of needing a deal with the EU but with zero standing and no leverage. What is often forgotten is that any third party agreements with have with other states are also nullified in that they are agreements with the EU, not the UK - so we would lose most of our formal trade relations. Without a deal from the EU, each of them would have to renegotiated individually.

Now you will have to forgive me for being single track on this, but this really is the only issue in the election that matters. No party's spending plans or fiscal credibility can be taken at face value without talking about its position on Brexit. Without trade you don't have the same tax base and considerably shrunken tax receipts. We are talking about a decade or more of severe "austerity". An order of magnitude more than you have seen to date.

Outside of this consideration everything else is just noise. I don't really care if Diane Abbott is thick as two short planks. Stupid is as stupid does - and by far the most stupid proposal on the table is that we can walk away from the EU without a deal. In the stupidity stakes, the Tories are leading by a country mile.

We continue to be starved of any detail, and are subjected to the same mantras we have heard since January. We are being asked to vote for May on trust. But why should we trust her? Not one of her front bench are able to speak with any authority on EU issues, she herself does not even understand the negotiating framework, let alone the scale and scope of Brexit, and the Tory party faithful continue to assert that the WTO option is viable. There is no basis on which to trust them whatsoever.

But now we have to choose. In last night's televised electioneering, when Corbyn was asked whether he would contemplate a scenario where Britain failed to strike an arrangement he said: "There's going to be a deal. We will make sure there is a deal". So for all his lack of fiscal credibility, he at least passes the basic test where May does not. And then we have to look at who would hold the brief. I am not overly taken with Keir Starmer, but he is streets ahead of David Davis who continues to hold a blasé attitude. In a speech last month Starmer said:
We recognise that immigration rules will have to change as we exit the EU, but we do not believe that immigration should be the overarching priority. We do not believe that leaving the EU means severing our ties with Europe. We do not believe that Brexit means weakening workers’ rights and environmental protections or slashing corporate tax rates.

Labour believe in a very different vision of how Brexit can work for Britain and the EU. We believe in building a new relationship with the EU – not as members but as partners. Where jobs, the economy and retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union are our priority. 
Though I may find cause to argue the toss over the customs union, if forced to choose between the oblivion that May offers and an unhappy compromise, Starmer gets my vote. But then comes down to the question of who we would be electing.

Corbyn's prevarication on terrorism and his apparent sympathies is clearly unacceptable. His economic policies can be shot down by a sixth form student. I find him and his team repellent and morally objectionable. In any other circumstances there would be no question of voting for a Corbyn Labour party. The question is whether a Corbyn government would cause more damage than a "no deal" Brexit.

I am of the view that Corbyn does not have the backing of his MPs and would struggle to implement his agenda. We could probably survive a term of Corbyn and sooner or later, the knives will be out for him. I do not, however, think that Britain could survive as a trading nation should we walk away from the table - and even if the Tories do manage to get as far as negotiating a trade deal their pig headed and issue illiterate red lines would more than likely produce an abysmal deal that would see us substantially poorer for no real gains.

If you know me at all, then you know it goes against every fibre of my being to even consider Labour as an option. Thankfully that is is not a choice I personally have to make. My local Tory MP has a majority of around ten thousand in a constituency where Ukip polled well. I expect that will see a lower turnout but that majority will be upheld by the transference of Ukip votes. There is zero chance of dislodging the incumbent Tory so I am as well not voting.

Having said that though, I would recommend that readers give this some serious thought. May must be sent a warning, and a Tory landslide would be a very bad development for the UK. If you live in a marginal seat, I would give very serious consideration to voting for whoever can oust a Tory even if that means holding your nose while you vote.

Normally Labour would not be a serious proposition for government, but we are faced with a grim decision and ultimately Brexit is the only issue that matters. I voted to leave but I did not vote for a national suicide and May is simply not competent. More to the point, Brexit will be the driving concern of the next parliament, distracting any government from other matters - which could well stand in the way of Corbyn implementing his agenda. Given the realities he would face there are enough safeguards to risk it. Trusting the Tories though is a far bigger gamble. Not one I would make.

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