For the first time in decades, UK politics will be dominated by an issue which is not the economy; and this dominance will continue for several years.
On 12 October the Commons debated a Labour motion which was agreed without a division:
“That this House recognises that leaving the EU is the defining issue facing the UK; believes that there should be a full and transparent debate on the Government’s plan for leaving the EU, and calls on the Prime Minister to ensure that this House is able properly to scrutinise that plan for leaving the EU before Article 50 is invoked”
[with the agreed addition of an accepted amendment from the Conservatives:]
“and believes that the process should be undertaken in such a way that respects the decision of the people of the UK when they voted to leave the EU on 23 June and does not undermine the negotiating position of the Government as negotiations are entered into which will take place after Article 50 has been triggered.’
Despite such agreement, it is almost totally unclear what Brexit will look like. Even the Prime Minister has no idea. That’s why she keeps tautologically saying that “Brexit means Brexit”. That’s why she keeps saying that she will not provide “a running commentary” – because she has no commentary of any sort to provide, running or otherwise. Chicken/headlights.
Much as I did not want Brexit to happen, it is; and so I want Brexit to be progressive. The majority of MPs was Remainers. As far as I can tell, Remainer MPs have not even started to look for the “silver linings” made possible by Brexit. For example, control of fisheries policy, control of farm subsidies, state intervention in the economy, rules on takeovers of UK companies by foreign companies, using taxation as a lever to encourage altered behaviour [c.f. excise duty on chemical ciders].
Meanwhile, the economy still does matter, and it is looking increasingly fragile. That said, Labour must publicly recognise the economic achievements of the Conservatives in government: 2.5 million more jobs (most of them full-time; one-fifth of them zero hours); and, in comparison with other G7 and EU countries, good GDP growth. Until Labour accepts the economic positives, we are going to remain out-of-touch with the electorate; particularly those who voted Tory in 2010 and 2015 whom we wish to persuade to vote Labour in 2020. Of course there are huge problems created or contributed to by the Tories (e.g. poverty, food banks, centralisation of power, inadequate NHS funding, housing shortages) but, if we sound as if we live in a different world, then we will not even get a hearing from the voters – which is what happened in many seats in 2015, across Scotland and in the southern half of England.
Mr Corbyn won a large majority. Thus it is up to all members and registered supporters to do what they can to try to assist him to lead our party to victory in 2020 (or whenever the next General Election is: I still think it will be early …). I am proud to be Labour Member of Parliament; one who believes in the Parliamentary road to socialism as set out in clause 1 of our party’s constitution. As such, I shall try to do my bit to hold the government to account – which is a vital role for the opposition in a Parliamentary democracy.
Regardless of which candidate they supported, I hope that all will work hard for Labour values – starting with the campaign for the Labour candidate in the West Midlands Combined Authority mayoral election in May 2017, Sîon Simon.
I should be grateful if in the near future members and registered supporters – particularly the newer ones – could let me know how they might be able to assist and what training (if any) they need for the campaigning they will soon be doing.
Brexit For the first time in decades, UK politics will be dominated by an issue which is not the economy; and this dominance will continue for several years.