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Support Corbyn and McDonnell to secure Brexit?

The Guardian reports,

John McDonnell: Labour wants to push ahead with Brexit

On eve of conference, shadow chancellor defies calls for party to promise second referendum

Labour would fight a snap general election vowing to press ahead with Brexit, but it would secure better terms, John McDonnell has said, defying demands from party members to include a second-referendum pledge in any manifesto.

Read the comments to that Guardian piece to get a sense of how well that goes down with most Labour members. The current top comment is:

Fine, well you do that Labour, and enjoy being in permanent opposition when remainers like me stop voting for you.

The next most recommended comment is:

For gods sake Labour. This was your chance and you’ve blown it. You’ve completely misread the way the wind is blowing and put your desire for hard-line socialism in front of taking care of the most vulnerable, which Brexit will hit the hardest. I despair with the state of things right now.

In all matters but one I am much closer to sympathy with folks like “ArchNemesis666” and “Stimpers” than with Corbyn or the self-proclaimed Marxist McDonnell. So why do I find myself beginning to wonder if it might not be best for the country that he and his see-no-evil “present but not involved” boss Corbyn retain the affections of their student fans in the Labour party for the foreseeable future?

For the UK as a whole, for many months now polls have given a slight majority for the idea that leaving the EU was a bad decision. We should expect this. After any vote there is usually a sense of buyer’s remorse. Those who got the result they wanted move on with their lives. Those who did not dwell bitterly on their loss and as a result dominate the conversation, prompting a switch by the least committed supporters of the winning side. This is why after most elections the new government has only a short honeymoon before it is overtaken in the polls by the Opposition. That can flip back quite fast if another election is called, as the general election of 2015 demonstrated.

So I am not moved by arguments that the few percentage points by which the answer “wrong” leads “right” to the question “Was it right or wrong to leave the EU?” in opinion polls means that “the people have changed their minds” and Brexit has lost its “democratic legitimacy”. On those grounds scarcely any government’s democratic legitimacy would last longer than a few weeks. It would become impossible for any government to get anything done… whoa, I could get into that idea. But I want it applied to equally to all sides.

So, as a matter of fact, if another EU referendum were held I would have good hope that Leave would win again on those grounds alone. Only a very small part of my visceral hatred of the idea of another referendum comes from the odds I give for my chosen side to win. There is more at stake.

The EU referendum was no ordinary vote. Its supporters waited forty years. They were not meant to win; in large part they were the disillusioned and disaffected who do not usually turn out to vote. But les miserables awoke from their slumber, an outcome the Left has always claimed to be its dearest desire. And they won.

Imagine a football game. The underdogs play the game of their lives and against the odds win the cup. Only the referee is in league with the favourites and finds a way to disallow the victory and force a rematch. There is consternation. “My dear chaps, no need to get so worked up,” says the chairman of the other team from his VIP box, “it’s not as if we are being given the cup without another match. You will have another chance.” And he smiles, because he knows that his side only has to win once.

We forget. Nations vote because civil war is expensive. Referendums are used when the sides are entrenched, well matched in size and compromise is impossible.

Does that seem melodramatic? Remainers are fond of pointing out that the Leave vote skews old. What are they gonna do, rise up in revolt from their Zimmer frames?

What people do not take into account is that the lesson that the result of a referendum will only be honoured when the government side wins will not only be learned by the Brexiteers. It will also be learned by supporters of any cause who are tempted to violence. In Northern Ireland, the IRA have accepted that Irish reunification can be striven for by the ballot rather than the bullet. What would be the effect on them of a demonstration that a majority vote will not necessarily be honoured by the British government?

John McDonnell is quite right:

“The debate around the next manifesto will go on, but I really worry about another referendum,” he said.

“I’m desperately trying to avoid any rise of xenophobia that happened last time around; I’m desperately trying to avoid giving any opportunity to Ukip or the far right. I think there’s the real risk of that. We’re not ruling out a people’s vote, but there’s a real risk, and I think people need to take that into account when we’re arguing for one.”

22 comments to Support Corbyn and McDonnell to secure Brexit?

  • Katy Hibbert

    On Brexit Corbyn is right, and stubbornly so. On everything else he’s wrong, and stubbornly so.

    He’s the Brexiteers’ useful idiot. With all the power being on the side of the Remain establishment, both left and right, Brexiteers need to use what they can get.

    Also, this may split the Labour party, which will be good.

  • “For the UK as a whole, for many months now polls have given a slight majority for the idea that leaving the EU was a bad decision. ”

    My view of the whole matter may well be distorted by being on the other side of the Atlantic, but I’ve gotten the pretty strong impression that the UK government has been doing its level best to _make_ leaving a bad decision by coming up with a “deal” that harshly punishes their own citizens for daring to vote the wrong way on the referendum.

  • Jimmers

    “how well that goes down with most Labour members“
    I’m not sure comments in the Grauniad are really representative of Labour, more like the trendy lefty North London bubble types.
    Also, Corbyn has always been against the EU as it prevents a lot of his hard left policies being adopted. I’m completely pro-brexit, but the thought of Corbyn in power is utterly terrifying.

    Ken. Those at the top of the UK government are not seeking a ‘punishment ‘ brexit, rather they are seeking BRINO. Theresa May is a despicable politician. (But I repeat myself)

  • Zerren Yeoville

    Remember how, just after the referendum result, the Remainers were all flocking to sign a petition to impose conditions – specifically, a supermajority – on it retrospectively, that would have invalidated the result … I can’t remember the exact figures cited but it was something like ‘result only to be considered a valid mandate for change with a minimum 2/3rds+1 majority on a minimum 70% turnout’ or something like that.

    Well, now the ‘status quo’ situation is that the UK will formally leave the EU on 29th March next year. So maybe they can be conceded their much-desired ‘second referendum with an option to remain’ – on the very strict condition that Brexit will still go ahead as billed unless a different result (i.e. Remain) achieves the exact same ‘supermajority’ conditions that the Remain side themselves petitioned for two years ago!

    Anything less would simply not be considered a sufficient mandate to change course and cancel Brexit now. The Remain side could hardly object to the ‘supermajority’ threshold on a new referendum, as it is only what they tried to impose on the first one – after it had been held.

  • Mr Ed

    The BBC are reporting that the Labour Party will back a second EU referendum if its members vote for one.

    The Labour Party Conference starts today, Jewish delegates are allowed bodyguards.

  • Eric

    I can’t imagine supporting a party at whose gatherings I felt compelled to bring bodyguards.

  • bobby b

    “I can’t imagine supporting a party at whose gatherings I felt compelled to bring bodyguards.”

    You’re just not properly embracing the diversity.

  • I’m not keen on supporting McDonnell in any way, but I do see Natalie making some excellent points.

    Imagine a football game. The underdogs play the game of their lives and against the odds win the cup. Only the referee is in league with the favourites and finds a way to disallow the victory and force a rematch.

    The trouble, on any particular issue, with any non-first referendum is that it has no legitimacy against a non-first-plus-one referendum. Only the first referendum has that special and desirable (nay: essential) attribute.

    In this, referendums are no different from general and other elections: you cannot have another one, and another, and another – until you win. That may be a European thingy, but it’s not a British thingy.

    Referendums are used when the sides are entrenched, well matched in size and compromise is impossible.

    Indeed: the UK’s two main political parties have been split on the EEC/EC/EU (and later have been split on the ERM/Euro), for over 45 years. The EU referendum was an extremely good thing, because it shows the way forward: a small (but nevertheless existent) majority want out. They whole population have, very helpfully, cut the knot for the politicians – and IMHO it was a carefully considered opinion.

    I also find it very interesting that the whole BREXIT issue seems to be argued on economics; there are other issues as well: not least being a sovereign nation-state. The UN has 193 members, so there are well over five times as many not-EU states that have economies; even if we exclude those in the pits like V, NK and the war-torn. The EU state (for over a decade) with the smallest GDP/capita ranks 74th in the world on that measure. Thus there are 46 non-EU countries with economies (on that measure) better; they including China, Kazakhstan, Mexico and Brazil. The UK can easily join those outside the EU that have and retain good economies. It can regain the flexibility to be of its own nature, which includes being a true democracy – again a beacon to the world.

    My last point is on the mistaken labelling of BREXIT as xenophobic. On that particular aspect WRT immigration, why is it an irrational fear of foreigners to want the same treatment for people from the 27 other EU states as for those from the rest of the world. And if you want to throw racism into the mix (I don’t really: because), most of the EU27 are pink – in far higher proportion than the rest of the world.

    Best regards

  • Albion's Blue Front Door

    One could vote Labour, of course, for a supposed specific advantage. Initially, it seems like so much of politics, a good idea. But given the way Labour have, over many years and numerous spells in power, consistently pissed things up (yes, even more than the Tories though their fans are loath to admit it) then I would caution against it.

    Once in power I suspect while Labour might ‘leave’ the EU they are just as likely in their term of office to ‘rejoin’ us, and perhaps on terms even worse than we now endure. After all, someone has to be punished for not loving the EU enough and the British people will do just fine.

  • I agree with Natalie’s assessment that a second referendum would have the same result. Leave did several points better than the polls said when the referendum was held. It is rational to assume that polls showing a slight lead for Remain (or should we now call it ‘Regret’) are in fact indicating a slight lead for Leave at this very moment. Also (as she argues), a move towards Leave during any such repeat campaign is very likely.

    Imagine a football game. The underdogs play the game of their lives and against the odds win the cup. Only the referee is in league with the favourites and finds a way to disallow the victory and force a rematch.

    I don’t have to imagine very hard: it suffices to watch Serena Williams recent match while imagining that Katrina “not the finish we were looking for” Adams (president of the US Tennis Association) had the power to “correct” umpires.

    It would be an evil thing to give precedent for negating a vote. Let us hope such evil is not attempted.

  • I also find it very interesting that the whole BREXIT issue seems to be argued on economics; there are other issues as well (Nigel Sedgwick, September 23, 2018 at 10:06 am

    The indyref was the same: most Scots did not vote for economic reasons at all, but the vast majority of politicians’ and pundits’ discussion was at least superficially about whether Scotland would prosper more or less if in or out.

    Obviously, anyone who regards their nationality in a strictly commercial light has no nationality at all. However:

    – Economics offers a veneer of objectivity, of being something pundits can argue about, based on numbers they are accustomed to treating as facts, for a goal all want (we don’t debate whether we want simpliciter to be better off or not).

    – Important reasons for the UK leaving the EU, and for Scotland not leaving the UK, reflect fundamentals of political maturity and tribal identity. These are more important but harder for anyone to articulate, and today’s chattering class is especially ill-equipped to do so.

  • Stonyground

    I still can’t even begin to understand the kind of mentality that would think that repeating a referendum because you got the wrong result was a reasonable idea. Maybe it should have been decided in advance that should the electorate vote to leave the poll will be repeated until there is a result for remain after which the vote for remain will be accepted. I voted leave and I believe that the remainers are wrong. Their behaviour since the referendum doesn’t suggest that their reasoning ability is very impressive at all.

  • Alisa

    fundamentals of political maturity and tribal identity. These are more important but harder for anyone to articulate, and today’s chattering class is especially ill-equipped to do so.

    I suggest Yoram Hazoni’s writings on nationalism as an example of well-articulated arguments on the subject.

  • Jason D May

    Of course Labour bloody wants to push ahead with Brexit.
    With the EU out of the way, they will have a free hand to nationalise everything in sight.
    You didn’t really think Brexit was some kind of Libertarian project, did you?

  • Slartibartfarst

    @Stonyground wrote, on September 23, 2018 at 4:31 pm:

    …Maybe it should have been decided in advance that should the electorate vote to leave the poll will be repeated until there is a result for remain after which the vote for remain will be accepted. …

    I mentioned this to an Imam today and he said that the above quote would seem to be a rather erudite observation and that it is based on a principle for which – as in all things – Allah had already set a precedent some 1,400 years ago.
    The Imam was referring, of course, to the first pillar of Islamic theology and the principle of “kafir khumafta”, in which Jesus Christ, a mere mortal man and a True Prophet of Allah, preceded another mortal man – the last and final True Prophet of Allah – Mohammed (pbuh) – after whom Allah has decreed there can be no other prophet and that if one should claim or pretend to be such, then the penalty would be death and the offender should be forthwith beheaded for blasphemy.

    Similarly, the Imam suggested, for the last and final (correct) and irreversible referendum result – for REMAIN, of course – and which would be the principle of “surah khumafta”. Since offending the principle of “surah khumafta” would not be classed as a blasphemy, then the penalty could be, for example, lopping off a hand/foot/ear, or something, or otherwise as may be usual for minor crimes under Shariah law.

    Such clarity of thought! Obviously, the Imam is right. It is at times like this that one cannot help but feel that (and I’m sure I’ve said this before), if everyone converted/submitted to Islam as they should, then the EU and the rest of the Caliphate would be a much happier and peaceful place, with no more bickering or wars over archaic and irreligious concepts such as “freedom” or “democracy” and we would be unified in an all-pervading clarity of thought and trust in Allah to take us forwards.

    Indeed, Allah is wise and all-knowing.
    (((:{>

  • Stonyground

    Since the various countries within the Islamic world tend to be in a fairly constant state of armed conflict with one another, I’m not sure that the entire world converting to Islam would be any kind of panacea.

  • Dr Evil

    McDonnel said today that any referendum would be on the terms of leaving the EU. There should not be a remain option as the result of the 2016 referendum must be honoured. That’s upset a few idiots on the People’s Vote campaign. Good! McDonnel is quite right. We have already decided the outcome. We have not agreed on the method. We don’t need to if it’s a clean brexit.

  • Runcie Balspune

    I’m desperately trying to avoid any rise of xenophobia that happened last time around

    Doing something about the rampant anti-semitism in your on party would be a start.

    The leftist view that xenophobia was _caused_ by the referendum are misguided, xenophobia was on the rise because of the unstoppable amount of migrants being let in under EU rulings, if anything, the decision to leave will stem this.

    Not that Labour is particularly keen on this, they instigated the policy of importing Labour voters wholesale, the social response has been something they are unwilling to address, other than the usual cry of racism.

  • Alisa (September 23, 2018 at 7:29 pm), thanks for the pointer.

    By a chance too intricate to be worth discussing, I got interested years back in the book of Esther, so I may also look at Yoram Hazoni’s “God and Politics in Esther”.

  • Mr Ecks

    All any second vote ensures is that NO vote will stand again ever.

    As for the polls they were weaponised long ago. The antics of the EU and the remainiacs have likely turned several million devil-you-know remain voters into Leavers. Of course the remainiac scum would try to split the leave vote on the ballot paper.

    But they won’t get one. There is no mess over Brexit save the mess created by the remain gang and their agent of treason May. To whom I would–in all seriousness were I in power–see tried and hanged for her attempted betrayal. For so vile a creature perhaps Satan might send Judas himself to collect her soul for the trip down.

  • Paul Marks

    The British people voted for independence (not “Brexit” – whatever that stupid media word is supposed to mean) from the European Union in June 2016.

    It is now September 2018 – after more than two year there is no excuse, none, for the United Kingdom not having left the European Union. We should no longer be sending money to the European Union and the laws (regulations) of the European Union should no longer have any legal force inside the United Kingdom.

    I am not interested in the opinions of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell on this matter – they have not been in power over the last two years, so what has happened (or rather NOT happened) is nothing to do with them.

    What I am interested in is the fact that Prime Minister May has repeatedly broken her word to carry out the vote to leave the European Union in June 2016. It has long been clear (at least since “Chequers” – and I would say long before) that all the promises from Mrs May to carry out the result of the referendum of June 2016 have been lies (a false statement intended to deceive is a LIE – and the word LIE should be used), and it is also, tragically, clear that Conservative Members of Parliament do not have courage to remove the liar Mrs May.

    Again neither Mr Corbyn nor Mr McDonnell have a vote in the Parliamentary Conservative Party, the fact that the liar Mrs May is leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is NOT the fault of these two men (much though I utterly oppose their politics).

  • Slartibartfarst

    @Paul Marks: Some people (not me, you understand) might say that you would seem to be quite correct where you wrote:

    “The British people voted for independence (not “Brexit” – whatever that stupid media word is supposed to mean) from the European Union in June 2016.”

    – but I couldn’t possibly comment.
    .
    I did feel though that you might have been a tad harsh where you seemed to be implicitly name-calling when you wrote:

    “What I am interested in is the fact that Prime Minister May has repeatedly broken her word to carry out the vote to leave the European Union in June 2016. It has long been clear (at least since “Chequers” – and I would say long before) that all the promises from Mrs May to carry out the result of the referendum of June 2016 have been lies (a false statement intended to deceive is a LIE – and the word LIE should be used),…”

    – but then, after a moment’s thought I realised that some people (not me, you understand) might say that you would seem to be quite correct there also, though again, I couldn’t possibly comment.

    So, if she was lying, as you suppose, and if it was intentionally done to deceive, then maybe it started a lot earlier – at or before the point at which she is so famously reputed to have uttered the statement:

    “Brexit means Brexit.”

    (or words to that effect).

    Perhaps, therefore, it’s all simply a matter of sophistry, where “Brexit” does indeed mean “Brexit” and only that and nothing else, because, as you have suggested, above:

    “…whatever that stupid media word is supposed to mean”

    – that is, the label “Brexit” might have no real meaning – or at least, may have no clear formal definition, so it can mean whatever the speaker might want it to mean, or whatever they might want other people to think it might mean.
    For all we know, it could be a label/word that Humpty Dumpty might have approved the use of. I wonder whether the PM will have considered the potential for its misunderstanding by herself and/or others.

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