Monday, 23 September 2019

Labour: an absence of leadership and a surplus of cowardice

Labour's non-policy on Brexit has won out at their conference. For now. But even our media can see that it's a wholly unworkable position and that, fundamentally, it stands on a foundation of political cowardice. It is not leadership. The sad part is that a better man than Corbyn could perhaps inject some leadership into this. What we need now more than ever is for a candid appraisal of the issues.

It would have to start from the anchoring premise that we held a referendum and Remain didn't win it. That is a political artefact that isn't going away however much certain people may wish it would. Through various parlour tricks it is conceivable that the referendum result could be overturned but you still wouldn't have a positive mandate for our continued membership and certainly not consent for the destination of the project. The democrat and the pragmatist recognise that Britain's future must take a path other than EU membership.

True leadership would face down the petulant metropolitan remain camp and stand up for the fundamental principle that the verdict of the British people must be respected. All the equivocation and second guessing in the world does not change the fact that those who voted to leave expect and demand that we do leave.

But then the leave side needs a few home truths too. Namely that British trade has ballooned inside the single market (over the last three decades especially), and leaving the most sophisticated market governance system ever devised without a plan and without a negotiated replacement schema is quite simply crass. We stand to do long term, possibly irreparable damage to the economy for no discernible gain.

What we're going to find by leaving without a deal is that the UK is excluded from a number of lucrative markets by way of being detached from the European regulatory ecosystem, but being in such a position of legacy dependence that we couldn't diverge even if we identified areas where we usefully could. Which are seemingly few.

But there is no chance of leadership from Corbyn or indeed anyone in Labour for one simple reason. You need credibility to lead and to lead you need to have the fullest possible understanding of the issues which Labour demonstrably does not. In spite of three years of debate, Labour politicians are still paddling in the shallow end, believing we can have a customs union (for whatever use that might be) where the UK has a say in EU trade deals. This is irrecoverable issue illiteracy.

Furthermore, were Labour in power they would face the same dilemmas and the same constraints where any flights of fancy they may have would be shunted into the political declaration. Labour hasn't managed to grasp even the basics of Article 50 sequencing, failing to realise the distinction between the withdrawal instrument and the future relationship. Much like the Tories the Labour party has suffered from a dangerous intellectual atrophy.

There are several other holes we can pick in the Labour position but it ultimately comes down to Labour trying to ride two horses, unable to reconcile the irreconcilable. Falling back on lazy stereotypes, there's the leave voting northern working class base and the London metropolitan remain bubble of Blairites and "toytown revolutionaries". Where Brexit is concerned, and indeed much else, there is no way to marry the two disparate factions. One side has to lose. Corbyn would rather make no decision at all than risk alienating on of the factions.

But this is hardly cutting edge observation. We could have said this of Labour at any point in the last four years. Labour has evolved into a paternalistic entity comprised of privately educated, wealthy "progressives" who seem to think the working class need them as their white knight protectors - even to the extent of protecting them from themselves and their under-informed voting habits. All it needs to survive is the bovine passivity of the traditional base which they have long taken for granted. That applecart is sure to be upset by the Farage party.

Leadership would require a coherent position but more importantly, a decisive one. Presently Labour is leaving Brexit an open question whereby they would overturn the 2016 referendum to negotiate an imaginary deal that no self respecting leaver could ever vote for, or remain - which is ultimately stacking the deck - ensuring enough people lose faith in the vote to ensure remain wins. It's both lazy and cynical. Courageous it is not. Leadership it is not.

If Corbyn really were intent of speaking for the many rather than the few, he would speak for those who voted to leave and those ordinary remain voters who accept that leave won the vote. The clear majority here are those who think the referendum must be delivered and we should have a close trade relationship with the EU. But they don't seem to have a dog in the fight. Westminster parties speak only for the dogmatists and radicals on both sides while Labour dare not put its head above the parapet.

By now, anyone who has given the issue any serious consideration has concluded that the EEA Efta path is the only sensible foundation for a way forward and one that moderates on either side of the debate could live with. I think even I could hold my nose and vote Labour were they to speak for the unrepresented majority (though I would need to take a shower afterwards and burn all my clothes).

To credibly argue the EEA case, though, you need to really understand the nuances of how the system works in order to defeat the critics and the propagandists. This is where Labour would again fall over simply because our politicians don't do detail. Information is transmitted orally, they rely on the legacy media to inform them and editorial standards have collapsed to the point where they mythology is impossible to dislodge. It would take a herculean intellectual investment by Labour to carve through the noise and lead the way.

But that's just not going to happen is it? Because let's face it; the collective IQ of the Labour front bench would not rival that of a potato and there isn't a scintilla of integrity among them. Labour is a write off of a party that can no longer offer anything of value. All it has is foaming antisemitism and the usual leftist politics of envy. It is an empty husk, eaten alive by political termites. That is Corbyn's legacy. At at time when Britain most needed a coherent opposition and leadership, Labour went AWOL and into self-destruct mode. Corbyn's negligence and cowardice may very well earn him the title as the worst politician in British history.

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