There is huge anger on social media and from the ‘liberal’ media about Corbyn imposing a three line whip on LP MP’s to vote to trigger Article 50.
Many middle class ‘liberal’ LP supporters are outraged that ‘their’ party is choosing not to reflect their core values. Well, hi folks, welcome to the world many of us have been living in for 30 years!
Lets face it by 1997 the Gang Of Four who split from the LP in the early eighties to form the SDLP, must have been sick to their stomachs because Blair’s New Labour was everything they have could have ever hoped for! And during New Labour the LP became an overwhelmingly middle-class party. Labour MP’s had always tended to be from the professional middle classes but in the Blair years the activists and bureaucrats all became middle-class. As a result the values and priorities of the party became increasingly middle-class. New Labour was the Libdems but having stolen the history, structures and electoral success of the LP.
It is widely accepted that there is a significant class dimension to the split on the EU? Broadly put, the middle-class think the EU is great, the working class don’t. It is obviously more nuanced than that but there is some truth in this simplification.
Thus Corbyn’s LP is in an impossible position on Europe; does it defend the position of its middle-class Tuscany-loving supporters or of its working-class core voters who are have seen their lives get significantly harsher in the last 20 years and have been persuade that it is the EU to blame.
For 20 years the LP has assumed the loyalty of its working class voters while pursuing policies aimed to please its middle-class ‘liberal’ voters. This has unsurprisingly turned out to be a disaster as working class voters turn away from the party of ‘labour’ in their millions and look to parties like UKIP as somehow more authentically representing their voice.
One of the myths of New Labour is that it engaged with ‘the electorate’, whereas so it is alleged the Corbynistas just want to engage with each other. Except this is nonsense. New Labour took its core working class vote for granted and concentrated all is energies on engaging with swing voters in marginal seats. This is NOT the same as engaging with ‘the electorate’ at large. Indeed, New Labour paid very little attention to the electorate at large.
Swing voters in marginal seats are almost by definition apolitical and risk averse. So in order to attract these voters New Labour itself became apolitical and used the Press to present itself as a non-threatening part of the establishment. In the short term the strategy was manifestly successful in terms of winning elections but 20 years of promoting the corporate, commercial values of the business class to pacify timid swing voters while ignoring the interests of your own core voters has finally come home to roost.
The LP cannot win elections without the working class vote. And now it also cannot win without the middle-class ‘liberal’ vote either. But on the issue of Brexit the two are fundamentally and irreconcilably split.
For the party of ‘labour’ to actively participate in an attempt to prevent Brexit would be the final nail in the coffin of the LP as a party of the working class and in the Midlands and the North the LP would be electorally decimated.
And lets not bullshit each other here. The aim of the Remainers is to prevent Brexit. To stop it taking place. To purposefully frustrate the result of a democratic vote. In fact this was openly stated by a member of the Exec at my constituency CLP AGM last night. [I wonder if he will get expelled or suspended for so publicly going against Party policy?]
The sneering, superiority and arrogance of the middle class ‘liberal’ Remainers turns my stomach as they illiberally brand anyone who does’t agree with them as stupid and racist, but setting aside my distaste the real problem is that the ‘liberal’ middle class will ultimately always defend their perceived interests at the cost of the poor and disadvantaged. Indeed it has ever been true since the emergence of the commercial bourgeoisie in the 16th century, and no less so in the Labour Party. The right of the LP are always prepared to sacrifice the party to get their own way. In the 30’s Ramsey Macdonald almost dissolved the LP as he formed a government with the Tories. Then in the 80’s we had the Libdems who split the anti-Tory vote resulting in 13 years of Tory rule.
I am also increasingly of the view that Corbyn hasn’t got it in him to fight this fight. He is honest, principled and consistent and people value those characteristics in him. People so viscerally hate the disembling hypocrisy and arrogant cynicism of our professional political class; so despise the pragmatic, triangulating, PR driven, corporate politics of Clinton and Blair, that Farage and Trump are successful simply because they are not slick and professional! A significant part of Corbyn’s attraction is that he too is not slick and professional. Unfortunately he is also lacking in guile and political strategy and I thing Brexit has fatally exposed the class divisions in the party.
In or out of the EU we need a LP that puts forward a coherent neo-Keynsian, socialist, alternative to neoliberalism and fights for the working class. Corbyn is not being allowed to do that either by the PLP or the media. He is clearly not strong enough or wily enough to fight on all these fronts, and is I fear doomed to failure.
To be fair to him it would take an extraordinarily talented politician to reconcile all these elements and unite a LP so fundamentally and bitterly split along both ideological and class lines. And unfortunately I can see no one in the current LP who is any way near being such a towering figure. What is absolutely clear is that a slick, professional, corporate, 40-something, Blairite leader of the LP who unconditionally supported the EU would NOT win elections today. We live in political times that are completely and utterly different to 1997. The neoliberal consensus is over and we are moving into a new and very, very dangerous political era. Our education and media are now so thoroughly debased that few people have the resources to fully appreciate why the world is how it is and in whose interests it is being run, and the possibility of far-right, neo-fascists opportunistically taking advantage is as high now as it was in the 1930’s after the last catastrophic financial crash in 1929.
And just as they did in the 1930’s, I fear that these political tensions mean that the LP is no longer credible as a single party and that something will have to give. The LP has always been split down the middle ideologically between Libdem style social democrats on one side and socialists on the other, and now once again the two sides are irreconcilable. I think in the long term we will need to see a profound realignment of the English political scene with a Tory Party shifted significantly to the right, a new centre party that includes the wet wing of the Tories, the Blairites and the libdems, and then a proper left-of-centre socialist party. This would more accurately reflect the political spectrum in the UK but we would need PR for it to make sense… and to get there eventually will involve a great deal of struggle, suffering and heart-ache.