EU elections as a confirmatory referendum

The European elections are more or less irrelevant and a distraction from the battle against Tory Brexit. They are of course useful to assess the state of public opinion but not for deciding strategy and tactics. Paul Mason saw the results and drew the wrong conclusions. He argues that Labour must shift further to the right to embrace the liberal position of “remain and reform and the call for a second referendum on any deal” (Guardian 27 May 2019)

He thinks that “Given the scale of the reversal, it looks likely that the Labour right will launch a new leadership challenge against Corbyn. They may wait until after the Peterborough by election and the announcement of a formal probe into alleged anti-Semitism by the Equality and Human Rights Commission”.

Yet getting smashed in an election that nobody expected, and with a low turnout, suggests people understand reality. It was an opportunity for Faragean grandstanding, not least in offering to join the next EU negotiating team whilst saying there is nothing to negotiate. Paul Mason says “Labour supporters have to look reality in the face” before he himself fails to do so.

The Corbyn Labour Party has rightly pitched its tent on the ‘Remain-Democrat’ hill as the party of remain which accepts the 2016 result. On this little hillock it subsequently constructed a small fort from which to resist Tory Brexit. These fortifications are not strong enough and will eventually be overrun.

However so far General Corbyn has been able to keep his parliamentary army relatively united to beat off Tory Brexit and push the Tories to dump May. His greatest hits have included the 2017 general election that wrecked May’s parliamentary majority, then three defeats of the Tory Withdrawal Agreement and finally halting the decision to leave on the 29 March. Corbyn can take the lion’s share of the congratulations for enabling the people to vote in the May 23 European election.

His leadership of Labour’s divided party allowed the people to have this confirmatory referendum. Not surprisingly an angry public confirmed they did not like it. They decamped on mass to the rival protest parties for Ultra Brexit or Ultra Remain often encouraged by Labour members.

Still this is no time to race round like Corporal Jones shouting “Don’t panic Mr Mainwaring”. But panic ran away with Emile Thornbury and Paul Mason. All the mainstream media cheered and demanded that Corbyn abandon his little fort on the hill and join them in the valley of death. Let cowards flinch and traitors sneer but it is time to stick to the Remain-Democrat position for the next stage of the battle with a tweak or two.

Labour had eight million remain voters and four million leavers in 2017. If you want to stop Corbyn winning the next election then you must drive a wedge between these two sets of voters. This is exactly what the Ultra-Remainers are trying to do, including many socialists such as Paul Mason, Another Europe and the AWL acting as the ‘useful idiots’ for the liberals who all want a remain-referendum and a “reformed” (sic) EU.

Corbyn’s confirmatory EU referendum confirmed what we already knew. Not much has changed since 2016. Unlike the last time nobody agreed to carry out the ‘will of the people’. Westminster will continue with the same dead-locked parliament as before, with a new Tory PM. None of those new European MEPs will be in the Commons where the next battle will take place in September.

The one most important lesson from this confirmatory referendum is that up to two million EU citizens were again denied a vote. History was repeating itself. If the Ultra-Remainers were serious they would be calling this out. The result should be declared illegal.

All democrats should recognise this was gerrymandered by incompetence, duplicity and inefficiency. By making the democratic case against this ‘referendum’ we remind everybody about the deliberate exclusion of EU residents from the last one and which created such a mess.

The Guardian reports that Corbyn has shifted a little. He says “Labour will support a second referendum on any Brexit deal”. We have not had a first referendum on any Brexit deal never mind a second one! But at least this goes beyond holding a referendum only on a ‘bad’ deal. He should remember Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain in 2016.

Corbyn says “Labour’s preference would be for a general election but any Brexit deal has to be put to a public vote”. (Guardian 28 May 2019). I agree with that. If he doesn’t go beyond ratification then he is still on his little hillock in his small fort and not with Paul Mason in the valley of death with the rest of the light brigade.

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European elections and opposing Tory Brexit

On Thursday 23 May we are invited to vote in an election that was never going to happen. It is a special European election when the normal rules don’t apply. As far as England (and Wales) is concerned I will be voting Labour. Northern Ireland and Scotland are different cases. You can’t vote Labour in Northern Ireland. I would not support voting Labour in Scotland since the party has done nothing to support Scotland’s right to remain.

Yesterday I went to Vauxhall to canvass with Labour Party members. Jeremy Corbyn, Emile Thornberry and Richard Burgin turned up. So I was able to talk to them and with the Labour leader about a ratification referendum. I emphasised the important distinction between ratification and repeat-remain (or multiple-choice) referendum. The democratic case for the former and need to oppose the latter got a fair hearing.

As a republican I don’t normally vote for Her Majesty’s Labour Party which is institutionally loyal to the constitutional monarchy and the British union. It has produced Labour governments responsible for the Iraq war, support for NATO and Trident and continuing Thatcher’s neo-liberal assault on the working class etc. So this is no auto-Labourism where you vote Labour every election out of routine, or from ‘proletarian’ dogma, or because you are a loyal member of the Party.

Jonathan Freedland says “If you don’t vote Labour on Thursday you are not abandoning the party for ever; you are not even committing yourself to voting the same way at the next Westminster election. That will be a different contest. Each election is about the decision in front of you at the moment”. (Guardian 18 May 2019) I agree with this but draw the opposite conclusion.

In this election Freedland wants Labour members to back any Remain party. The anti-Corbyn Labour MP Margaret Hodge urged something similar. Tory grandee, Michael Heseltine, is going to vote Liberal Democrat this time. So in the game of Brexit musical chairs I would urge working class people in England and Wales to vote Labour as the best means to finish off Tory Brexit and oppose the Brexit party but from a republican socialist perspective.

Federal Republic

A European Federal Republic would be a most radical extension of popular sovereignty and democracy. It would empower people across Europe and strengthen the political influence of the European working class. A pan-European democracy would be better able to challenge the corporate free market with a social republic.

The UK, like the EU, is not a democratic republic. A federal republic of England, Scotland and Wales and a united Ireland would be a democratic step forward or advance on the current state. A radical extension of popular sovereignty and democracy requires a voluntary unity between nations and hence the right of nations to self determination through a referendum.

A federal republic of England, Scotland and Wales requires the abolition of the British Union, the sovereignty of the Crown-In-Parliament and a parliament for England based on popular sovereignty. It does not prevent any nation becoming a democratic republic by exercising its right to self determination. On the contrary republicans in the UK support the right of people in each nation to take their own road to a democratic republic.

A European federal republic which includes England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland is a democratic alternative to the United Kingdom’s antiquated and broken liberal state and to the European Union liberal semi-state. It makes the call for a federal republic of England, Scotland and Wales obsolete and unnecessary.

The 2014 Scottish referendum and the 2016 EU referendum provide concrete evidence of from which to estimate the state of public opinion. The suspension or break down of the Good Friday agreement adds to the picture. This indicates that Scotland and Ireland are heading towards a republican future. England is now the largest nation in the EU without its own parliament or written constitution.

Republican Exit

Republicans oppose the EU and the UK on democratic grounds. The British Crown and the European Commission have too much unaccountable and unelected power. The EU should be opposed in a similar way and for similar reasons to opposition to constitutional monarchies like the UK and Spain, from a democratic republican position. Hence republicans support the Catalan republic and the right of the Catalan people to self determination.

Republicans oppose British Exit or ‘Brexit’ because only England and Wales voted to leave and Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain. As democrats we reject every version of Brexit which forces Northern Ireland and Scotland to leave the EU, the single market and customs union against their democratic will. British unionists ignore the votes in Scotland and Northern Ireland in favour of imposing an All-UK exit. This is a heinous crime against democracy and encourages nationalism.

A ‘Republican Exit’ is a based on the democratic mandates given by the people in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It recognises the sovereignty of the nations in the UK state and their rights as nations to self determination. A ‘Republican Exit’ demands that any proposed settlement negotiated between the EU and Her Majesty’s Government must be returned to the sovereign people to be approved or rejected in a ratification referendum.


The current political paralysis goes back to the 2016 EU referendum. It realigned UK politics into three camps – Ultra-Leave, Remain-Democrat and Ultra-Remain. ‘Remain-Democrats’ are those who in 2016 supported remaining in the EU but recognise that a majority voted to leave and this should be acted on.

The Labour Party leadership has positioned itself as the party of Remain-Democrats. It seeks the middle or centre between Ultra-Leave and Ultra-Remain. Both Sinn Fein and the SNP should be identified as Remain-Democrats since they are defending the democratic right of Ireland and Scotland to remain in the EU.

James Ball examines the polling data. (New European 16 May 2019). He divides the results into three camps. On the right are the “Pro-Brexit parties” with total support of 47%. This breaks down into the Brexit Party 34%, Tories 10% and UKIP 3%. On the opposite side are “Anti-Brexit” with 38%. This breaks down into Liberal Democrats 15%, Greens 11%, Change UK 5% and Others 7% which probably refers to the SNP and Plaid.

Voting projections suggest the Brexit Party will have 32 seats and the Tories 4. Labour will hold 12 seats. Then the Liberal Democrats will hold 10 and the Greens 8 with the SNP 3 and Plaid 1.Chukka and Co will win 0. (Times 22 May 2019).

In the centre of this poll is the Labour Party with 16% as the pivot between “Pro-Brexit parties” and “Pro-Remain” parties. The centre ground is an uncomfortable place to occupy. But for socialists the ‘Remain-Democrat’ position is not just about accepting the majority vote. It recognises the importance of the working class, deeply divided over the EU. That is a dangerous situation which opens up possibilities for the extreme right to build a larger base among working people. No socialist or trade unionist can ignore this.

Corbyn’s Labour is trying against the odds to find and hold the centre ground in a party whose divisions reflect a divided working class. Both the Brexit and Remain press have laid siege to Labour’s confusion. Jonathan Friedland says “There’s Tom Watson who says “We are a Remain and Reform party”. But there is also Barry Gardiner who says Labour is not a remain party now”. (Guardian 18 May 2019)

Republicans in England and Wales, who recognise the importance of the working class, should locate their case in the ‘Remain-Democrat’ camp which Corbyn’s Labour is occupying. This is ‘critical support’ whilst raising the rights of Northern Ireland and Scotland to remain in the EU and the democratic right to ratify any settlement whether from a Tory or Labour government.


Ultra-Remain does not accept the 2016 referendum and aims to reverse the decision by means of a second-remain referendum. The liberals back a second referendum to overthrow the 2016 result. It is a stupid idea and dangerous too. The battle for working class opinion has to be won before such a referendum could be considered.

Labour peer, Andrew Adonis, writes about “Decoding Double Speak”. He identifies examples of Orwellian newspeak. He says “the funniest is the second referendum which became a Peoples Vote, then a public vote and is now a ‘confirmatory vote’ with an option to remain – except the last five words sometimes have to be construed because they are not always stated”.(New European 16 May 2019)

A ratification referendum is another term for a confirmatory referendum without an option to remain. Including “an option to remain” on the ballot paper turns it into a second or repeat referendum. Liberals and reactionaries have joined forces to sow confusion. Corbyn should be supporting a ratification referendum and opposing a second-remain referendum.

Corbyn and the fight against Tory Brexit

There are many options or policies towards the EU from No Deal, Tory Brexit, Labour Brexit, Republican exit and Remain. The only one that confronts us is Tory Brexit. The others are theoretical or politically impossible. At present there is only one deal facing parliament and the people – the Tory ‘Withdrawal Agreement’ negotiated by the May government – a zombie deal that has refused to die.

The zombie deal is highly toxic in poisoning the body politic. As it drags on it gives every encouragement to reactionary forces to grow fuelled by the impossibility of dealing with austerity and poverty. Some people may think ‘Brexit’ and poverty are two separate questions facing the people. But politics and economics are connected as Tory Brexit is to Tory austerity.

Fighting and defeating Tory Brexit is the spearhead against Tory austerity not least in making an early general election necessary. The opposition to Tory Brexit in parliament led by Corbyn’s Labour not the Ultra-Remain MP’s and parties. They have at every stage sought to undermine Corbyn Labour with the slogan of a second referendum and thus undermine the fight against Tory austerity.

Corbyn’s victories

The main stream media have kept up a constant war against Corbyn, slandering him as an anti-Semite and claiming he is confused (does not know what is doing) and dishonest (a secret Brexit supporter). He can be criticised for being less than robust in making his positions crystal clear not least in rebutting false claims about anti-Semitism and on the ratification referendum question.

Corbyn Labour, despite accepting the 2016 result, has so far torpedoed Tory Brexit. The 2017 general election was a massive blow against it. May wanted an even bigger majority to deliver it and lost her majority. Despite the many knives sticking out of his back from his own MPs, Cobyn won a remarkable victory. He has kept his ship afloat with a ‘Labour Brexit’ which may yet be a movable feast.

May lost her majority and became dependent on the DUP. Corbyn’s ‘victory’ made the Irish question an impossible stumbling block. His centrist coalition handed out three parliamentary defeats to Tory Brexit. The UK was due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019. This was an unmovable deadline which the Tories swore to deliver. The UK is still in the EU and now holding elections that were never going to happen.

Corbyn has to get credit because he was able to keep his parliamentary Labour Party sufficiently united to be the main force blocking May’s deal. So while the Ultra-Remain and Ultra-Leave have continued to savage Corbyn and undermine him at every step, it is his Labour Party that means we are still in the EU months after we were due to leave. Yet at some point Corbyn’s line will run its course and become a block on opposition to Brexit. The ‘weapon’ of Labour Brexit will be overtaken by events.

So in conclusion I support Labour in this European election in England and Wales for a republican perspective. If I lived in Northern Ireland I would be tempted to support Sinn Fein. I say “tempted” because I do not know the situation on the ground. In Scotland republicans should be looking for a party that fought for Scotland to Remain in the EU and supported a ratification referendum whether held by the UK government or called by the Scottish parliament.

22 May 2019

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Civil War or Civil Peace

Recently I wrote to Labour MP Helen Hayes, urging her to support a ratification referendum on May’s Withdrawal deal (or even a May-Labour version). This is a democratic right which enables both leave and remain supporters to reject (or support) the Tory deal.

I opposed including a remain question saying it “would be dangerously divisive to try at this time to reverse the 2016 vote and would be a gift to the Tories and the extreme right in many working class communities suffering from Tory austerity”.

My only qualification is that Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain and should not be forced to leave the EU against their will. If they are, they should fight for a referendum on leaving the UK.

Helen Hayes replied that “I continue to hold the view that in any future referendum remain must be an option on the ballot paper. I have consistently held this view”. Many Labour MPs, Tiggers, Greens and Liberal Democrats support this.

The Brexit crisis has polarised people. Many working class Leavers now support a Full Total Brexit. A referendum which offers working class Leave supporters a choice to vote for May’s deal OR Remain will be seen as betrayal and cause outrage. Surely they will boycott it and take to the streets?

In England and Wales a “May Deal or Remain” referendum plays into the hands of the Tory right and the neo-fascists. They will think Christmas has come early, whilst socialists will remember that liberals have always been the midwives of authoritarianism and fascism.

We are at a fork in the road on the referendum question. One sign says “Civil Peace” and the other says “Civil War”. The democratic demand for ratification is the road towards peace. A Remain ballot risks civil war.

Rex Dunn’s article in Weekly Worker (No 1246 11 April 2019) highlights the war path. He says “Hatred and intolerance is on the rise. This is the ‘ugly face of Brexit’ as the pro-Brexit demonstration on March 29 clearly showed”. He continues “if there is a general election – or another referendum – there could well be fighting in the streets. If that happens, of course, this would not be the first time that there would be civil violence in Britain”.

Rex says “today if fighting does break out in the coming period, it will be between pro-‘remain’ and pro-Brexit supporters: a civil war without class struggle, because it crosses class lines”. Boycotting referenda is not like boycotting civil war.

All civil wars in capitalist society involve struggle between classes which ‘cross class lines’. In his discussion of the national question, Lenin rejected any notions of pure class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat in which one side lines up “for capitalism” and the other “for socialism”. Revolution and civil war is a messy business.

Labour MP Helen Hayes has naively chosen the path of civil war although there is as yet no majority in parliament to issue the call to arms. Liberals don’t care. They have a stick to beat ‘peacenik’ Corbyn, who seems reluctant to back a second-remain ballot. He should rule it out and not beat about the bush.

The Corbyn ‘peace plan’ without the democratic right to ratify echoes Stalinist bureaucratic politics that fears and avoids the democratic verdict of the working class. It would be disastrous if Labour makes a Brexit peace deal with the Tories. It is even more dangerous if working people are denied the right to ratify or reject it.

The working class needs its own independent democratic policy rather than simply following the reactionaries and liberals. This includes following the path of civil peace not civil war and hence fighting for a ratification referendum and rejecting a dangerous attempt to MP’s like Helen Hayes to include a remain question.

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Dangerous Times

Jack Conrad (Weekly Worker 28 March 2019) says “the UK is in the grip of a profound constitutional crisis” and “the left must reject referendum as a matter of principle” and instead “we need our own programme and our own tactics”.

The first and last of these three statements are undoubtedly correct. A “profound constitutional crisis” and the need for “our own programme and our own tactics” go together. But the meaty “principle” in the sandwich is surely infected with mad cow disease. Nice bread but crap sandwich.

Let us ignore the constitutional crisis and concentrate on programme and tactics by contrasting three examples – Corbyn-Labour, Labour Party Marxists and a working class democratic programme and tactics.

The Corbyn-Labour Party accepts the 2016 referendum result and is in favour of leaving the EU by securing a customs union and close regulatory alignment. Labour calls for a general election and is prepared to support a second remain referendum. This places Labour in a dangerous position just to the left of the Tories.

The Labour Party Marxists seem to support a British (or UKanian) republic etc. This is like the CPGB programme from ten or twenty years before Cameron’s Brexit referendum. It has little or nothing to say about Brexit except to oppose a second referendum.

A democratic programme supports Northern Ireland and Scotland remaining in the EU and England and Wales leaving the EU but not the single market or customs union. Such a democratic exit recognises the ‘will of the people’ which, despite its obvious flaws, remains valid until working class opinion changes significantly.

A democratic exit is totally opposed to every kind of British Exit whether Tory or Labour. Of course no democrat would try to impose a democratic exit on the people. So this includes the democratic demand for a ratification referendum on any deal.

All this is located in the struggle between ‘reactionaries’ and ‘liberals’ which Jack describes in his article. The reactionaries are opposed to another second referendum because they don’t trust the people and fear voters will betray them. The liberals want a second referendum to overthrow the 2016 vote. This must include a Remain question, otherwise it has no purpose.

The EU is, as Jack describes, a capitalist semi-state with “anti-union laws” and a “constitutional commitment to the market and neo-liberalism” which has imposed “barbaric austerity on Spain, Portugal and Greece” and more. Yet this is not a case for leaving the EU because outside will be worse.

Working class democracy is not neutral between ‘reactionaries’ and ‘liberals’. The future of democracy is in Europe not outside it. We need an independent democratic programme which links our democratic future with the future of European democracy. The starting point is the democratic questions thrown up by the 2016 referendum.

Groucho Marx famously said “these are my principles and if you don’t like them …well, I have others”. Labour Party Marxists generally oppose all referenda on principle. But Jack argues they could call a referendum or participate in voting either for or against any proposition on the ballot paper.

I won’t now go over the argument that referenda are tactical questions not matters of principle. Suffice to say that ‘principles’ cannot distinguish between a ratification referendum and repeating the 2016 referendum with the intention of reversing it.

The liberals are fighting for a second referendum. Working class democrats are opposed to that, not because of some fake ‘principles’ but simply because it is the wrong time and the wrong approach to a divided working class.

With Corbyn talking about a deal with May, working class democrats have to make the democratic case that any dodgy deal must be put to working people for ratification in a referendum, whether a Tory or a Labour deal or a Tory-Labour deal.

The problem with Jack’s ‘no referendum’ principles is that it is incapable of distinguishing between a ratification referendum, like on the Good Friday Agreement, and a second referendum like Scotland’s plans for IndieRef2 or recognising the duplicitous liberals using the former as camouflage for the latter.

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European elections

Hardly a day goes by without the ‘Brexit revolution’ taking some new turn. The plot to overthrow May was slapped down when she called the conspirators to her Chequers country palace. Next day in parliament she ruled out ‘no deal’ and pulled the Withdrawal Agreement to avoid a third meaningless vote. Parliament has taken over. Yet her Zombie deal is very likely come back again.

During the debate a series of senior backbenchers highlighted a deep political crisis threatening the Tories. “What on earth has happened to our pragmatism, our self-restraint and our common sense?” asked Tory MP Nicholas Soames. “Like many others, I have found myself truly distraught at the painful, difficult and intractable position in which our country finds itself”. (Guardian Rafael Behr 26 March 2019)

Jeremy Corbyn told May – “The government’s approach to Brexit has now become a national embarrassment. Every step of the way along this process the government has refused to reach out, refused to listen and refused to find a consensus that can represent the views of the whole of the country, not just her own party.” (Guardian Rafael Behr 26 March 2019)

What is wrong with Corbyn Labour’s position? First is the immediate programme. He is not talking ‘democracy’ but about reaching out, finding consensus and listening. Labour has tried to find a middle ground between reactionary Leave and liberal Remain, calling for a customs union and remaining close to the single market. There is no democratic rationale for this.

A democratic programme is not about consensus but taking seriously the votes in Northern Ireland and Scotland to remain and England and Wales to leave the EU. Let us call this, the ‘Republic of 23 June’ and remember that England and Wales did not vote to leave the single market and customs union. Respecting this is consistent with the rights of all UK citizens to move freely around the EU.

Labour should have reinforced its position by making it clear that any settlement would be put to a ratification referendum. Any deal would not be imposed on the people. It is a democratic right to vote to approve whatever comes through. Labour must commit to that.

The one thing that Corbyn does have right is his continued opposition to the Withdrawal Agreement. Yet because of his adoption of ‘consensus’ he is vulnerable to being pushed and pulled to compromise. It is easier to oppose Mays deal on democratic grounds than a ‘consensus’ which has one foot in the Tory cess pit.

Then we have Labour’s tactics. The party has made the call for a general election its first demand and only later a peoples vote. If Labour’s tactics were correct he would be marching at the head of one million people demanding a general election. What other weapons does he have? Wait for the Tory coup? Move a vote of no confidence in May?

In an interview on BBC Radio 4 Today (25 March 2019) Deborah Matinson, from the ‘Britain Thinks’, explained that people are hostile to the idea of a general election. Only 13% thought it would help the Brexit debacle, 45% thought it will make it worse and 32% thought it will make no difference.

People blamed May for the mess but were “bemused” by Corbyn’s call for a general election. They thought a man of principle was now “playing politics” with a national disaster. This was not building up trust in Corbyn or Labour’s leadership. The offer of a ratification referendum is something which engenders trust because it implies Labour trusts working people with important decisions.

Then we have the failure to turn up and support the Peoples march. One million people were not marching for a general election but the right to vote. It is not ruled out by Labour’s own policy. Of course this campaign is being led by liberals to the right of Corbyn who want a Remain question on the ballot paper.

Corbyn needed to be brave enough to explain the distinction between ratification and a second remain referendum which prematurely tries to reverse the 2016 vote and could deepen divisions in the working class. By staying away he left the door open for his arch enemy, Tom Watson, to speak at the demo and offer to back May’s deal in exchange for a second referendum May Deal or Remain.

The crisis is deepening. Now the Leave section of the working class has been abandoned by its Brexit leaders, Johnson, Ress-Mogg, Davies etc who condemned May’s Agreement and are now going to support it. The sense of betrayal by their rotten millionaire leaders will make them angry. They too have a right to ratify. But a referendum on May’s deal versus remain simply cuts them out of the process and should be unacceptable to any democrat.

It is not necessary to revoke Article 50 but democracy and any alternative to May’s deal will require a long extension as offered by Germany. Labour should declare it is ready to fight the European elections and Corbyn should take his message to European working class.

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Putrid Porridge

Tony Blair (Observer 3 March 2019) said “President Macron is right. Any extension of the article 50 process should be for a reason. It should be to eliminate the blind Brexit Theresa May proposes. But first her deal must be defeated”. Blair has put his finger on the key issue – defeating May’s deal. He says “if I were an MP I wouldn’t want to own this putrid porridge of poor political leadership”.

Today May’s deal went down. It has now been defeated in parliament twice. Has it finally been killed off or will it comeback for a third time? While May survives this is surely possible and the Tories are unlikely to get rid of her unless really forced to because they fear a general election.

We are in a peculiar constitutional situation between Crown, parliament and people. The ‘sovereign people’ voted to leave even though they have no place in the constitution. The Crown, through the PM, promised to carry out the will of the people. Despite repeated evasions and defeats in parliament, the PM has continued ‘representing’ the people against parliament.

In the UK constitution the people are not sovereign and have no authority to halt the parliamentary farce by taking control of the decision. Of course, there is no need for a ratification referendum if the May deal is finally finished. But is it? It may now hide in the shadows awaiting a moment to come out again. The people seem powerless to prevent this nonsense carrying on unless they can force a vote on her deal.

The Observer editorial (10 March 20019) says “The principled case for a referendum on May’s deal remains as strong as ever. It is critical that the negotiated agreement is put before voters for ratification or rejection. This is not re-running the 2016 referendum, but about making sense of its result: the government has not been able to secure what voters were promised, and it must give the public the chance to accept or reject the deal”.

Unfortunately liberals, like Blair, are playing a different game. Last week he said if all else fails MP’s should “accept her deal” but “with a Kyle-Wilson amendment for a confirmatory referendum”. This is smoke and mirrors. In the name of ‘confirmation’ Blair and his allies want to us to vote against putrid porridge and for remaining in the EU.

Keir Starmer takes the same line. He calls for a public vote between “May’s deal and Remain”. (New European 6 March 2019) He is backed up by John McDonnell MP and no doubt deputy Labour leader Tom Watson under the banner of a second referendum. Michael White is cautious about this. He says “I am not sure remain will pull it off”. (New European 6 March 2019).

There are two obvious objections to voting for “May’s deal or Remain”. It will be seen as illegitimate by many who voted to leave. There would be no question in this kind of ballot for millions of leave voters who want No-deal. It will be seen as the liberal elite fixing the result.

Polling evidence suggests that public opinion has not changed much among those who voted. It may even have hardened people’s views. But there is a shift towards remain because new young voters have joined the electoral register. Re-fighting the 2016 referendum with a marginal shift among those who voted first time will deepen the divisions and settle nothing.

Hence White says “I remain nervous about the prospect for a second referendum. It is hard for reason to defeat zeal, especially when coupled with anger and mendacity on a scale likely to be far nastier that the last time because leave voters will insist that the 2016 verdict must stand”. (New European 6 March 2019)

Corbyn seems to have been dragged into a ‘confirm or remain’ second referendum because he, his advisors and his supporters don’t seem to have grasped the basic democratic case for a ratification referendum. If May or her deal survives, it is Labour’s only route to an early general election with the prospects of a Labour victory. Otherwise there is a danger the Corbyn will drown in a bowl of putrid porridge, with a Tory dollop of alleged anti-Semitism and a dash of Hezbollah sauce. Let us see what happens when the dust settles.

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Republican Exit

The latest twist in the political crisis has seen the ‘magnificent seven’ Labour MPs forming their break-away grouping. Comparison has been made with 1981 and the ‘Gang of Four’ who left Labour to form the SDP. History seems to be repeating itself but this time something is different.

The tectonic plates of the ‘Brexit Revolution’ are in motion. The English or Anglo-British two party system of Tory and Labour is being overlaid by three shadow ‘parties’. Of course Scotland and Northern Ireland and to a lesser extent Wales are in the same Westminster system and yet work with a different party dynamic.

The three shadow Brexit ‘parties’ in Westminster are Leave, Democratic-Remain and Remain. The seeds of the Remain ‘party’ are now in the open as an independent group. Their policies are for another referendum with a Remain question, the condemnation of Labour as an anti-Semitic party (i.e. support for a Zionist Israel) and total opposition to Corbyn as Labour leader and future PM.

Of course Corbyn is not an anti-Semite. I condemn slanders against him. I condemn the anti-Semitic campaign against the Labour Party, whose main motive is to undermine and overthrow Corbyn by splitting the Labour Party.

The Democratic-Remain ‘party’ are those in favour of remaining in the EU but who accept the result of the 2016 EU referendum. Acceptance does not mean ignoring the gerrymandering by Cameron and the Tories, to exclude most EU residents paying taxes and living in the UK.

Labour under Corbyn is leading the Democratic-Remain ‘party’. I would urge all members of Corbyn-Labour to oppose any repeat and remain referendum or any remain question on the ballot, at least until it is included in a general election manifesto or there is a significant change in public opinion.

Despite not being a member of the Labour Party, I have nailed my republican colours to the Democratic-Remain ‘party’ mast. Republicans should go further and support a policy of a Democratic Exit from the European Union, which leads towards a republican road.

A Democratic Exit accepts it was right to trigger Article 50 whilst recognising that Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain and England and Wales voted to leave the EU. There was no mandate to leave the single market or the customs union.

Supporters of a Democratic Exit must take up cudgels for the right of Northern Ireland and Scotland to remain. They should demand a ratification referendum on any negotiated settlement with an extended franchise. This should include all resident EU citizens and 16-17 year olds, enabled in the 2014 Scottish referendum.

Far from defending the right of the Scottish people to remain in the EU, the SNP capitulated. They settled for a British Unionist compromise whereby all parts of the UK to remain in the single market and the customs union.

This was a consequence of paying too much attention to Westminster. The SNP ‘sold out’ the majority vote in Scotland. They failed to promise the Scottish people a ratification referendum on any deal coming from the Crown, regardless of whether the UK parliament grants a UK wide Yes/No referendum.

The SNP failed to use their majority in the Scottish parliament to implement the right to ratify. Instead they played the Westminster game by supporting a Repeat-Remain referendum and lining up with the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, left Tories and Magnificent Seven party. They have acted like British liberals not Scottish democrats.

As a regular reader of Weekly Worker I can’t work out the current tactics advocated by the CPGB. I still see the CPGB as Pontius Pilate mixing his metaphors and casting a plague on all houses. I don’t know if you are backing a Democratic-Remain line, or the Remain line now being advocated by the liberals. So far Weekly Worker seems unable or incapable of recognising the distinction between ratification Yes-No referendum and a repeat In-Out referendum.

This distinction is now crucial for the fight against the Tory government, against the new Remain party. It is important for the Tories winning a general election in May or June if Theresa May’s deal goes through the Commons. Finally there is no recognition by the CPGB of the rights of the Irish and Scottish people to remain in the EU.

Steve Freeman

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May’s unexpected victory

The ratifications crisis continues to drag on as Theresa May runs down the clock until there is no time for Labour MPs to do anything other than vote for her Backstop-Brexit. They will have the added pleasure of stabbing Corbyn in the back, yet again. If her deal passes through the Commons, it will be a triumph. But she will lose the support of the DUP and call another ‘Falkland’s general election’. The plan is already in place.

May has already got 44% support in the opinion polls. It is shocking to see the most incompetent anti-working class government in living memory doing so well. But the people feel sorry for May. There is national sympathy for a women PM struggling against impossible odds with the world against her.

National sympathy can surely be turned into real votes if she gets her deal through the Commons. Yet behind the manufactured sympathy is a cunning and devious politician and a ruthless party. Pretending to negotiate to remove the Backstop is a smart move to keep the support of the Tory right. But when the time is right she will pull the plug on them.

Corbyn is likely to get his general election, but not as he imagined it. Fighting a triumphant May will surely have him recast himself as Michael Foot taking on Thatcher in 1983 Khaki election. Fortunately there is another way to a different kind of general election which takes place after the May is defeated and resigns. This starts with the fight for the democratic demand for the people to decide.

So far Corbyn’s tactics have been unconvincing. He does not seem to have grasped the fundamental democratic argument. In 2016 the people voted to leave. Whichever government comes up with a deal, the people must have the democratic right to ratify it. This is a Yes/No referendum not an In/Out one.

Corbyn must demand a ratification referendum on May’s deal. Labour’s election manifesto should promise a Yes/No referendum if a Labour government negotiates an alternative deal with the EU. However Corbyn must kill off the ‘Remoaners’ idea of a second ‘repeat-remain’ In/Out referendum. He must totally oppose it.

So what is Corbyn’s route to a general election victory? Labour must support the people’s right to ratify any deal. Then Labour puts down a resolution in the Commons for a Yes/No referendum and for the suspension of Article 50 until the people have the opportunity to vote. If the people reject May’s deal she will have no option but to resign. A general election will surely follow.

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Ratification Crisis

Politics is living through a ‘ratification crisis’, lasting over a period of months when nobody knows who, how or whether the Crown’s Withdrawal Agreement will be ratified or not. The crisis began in December when May pulled her deal out of a Commons ratification vote. It continued on 15 January 2019 when her deal was massively rejected by 230 votes in the Commons.

Such a major defeat should have sunk any government, got May sacked and brought a general election. But Brexit has blown away any ‘normality’. There are two ways out of the ratification crisis – getting ratification by parliament or by the people. May is strongest in parliament and Corbyn has more strength amongst the people. So why would Corbyn tie himself to a contest in parliament instead of taking his ratification case to the people.

If May had any idea about democracy she would logically appeal over the heads of the Commons to the people. She would put her Withdrawal Agreement to a ratification referendum. Will the people back May’s deal and over-rule the Commons? But May is no democrat.

What could be worse than allowing the working class to have a vote? Every Minister of the Crown understands the danger of sub-contracting their powers to the people. Look what happened to Cameron? So May fights by parliamentary manoeuvres. She deploys all the powers of the Crown in secret deals, manipulation, bribery and corruption etc.

By these means May can still emerge triumphant from the current debacle. She has switched tactically to the right after her heavy defeat. The chance of a ‘No Deal’ option has enthused the Tory right. They are so desperate that they fell over themselves to believe the ‘good news’. May was listening ‘seriously’ to them after all! How disappointed or angry will they be?

The next step is for May to run the clock down until one minute to midnight. Then comes some cosmetic changes from her Tory friends in Europe. Next by tacking to the ‘left’ get it through the Commons with the help of Labour MPs without the DUP. Finally is the knockout blow. If her Withdrawal Deal is ratified she will gamble on a triumphant Falklands style general election in June.

A ‘great’ national leader, like Churchill and Thatcher, had saved the country against all the odds. Hitler and Argentinean generals were beaten. Now May can big up as the Iron Lady taking on the German Reich. Meanwhile Corbyn could be further destabilised by demands for a second EU referendum and stepping up the anti-Semitism row or ‘Israel’ as some perceptively see it.

If Corbyn doesn’t’ have an answer to the ratification crisis then he will be defeated. He has tried everything and failed. He called a vote of no confidence. Then he wants a general election. Then he refused to meet May unless no deal is taken off the table. Then he met her anyway and demanded no deal be removed as an option. That did not work either. So he has to take his case on Europe to the country through a ratification referendum.

May has set her face against any referendum. But ‘no’ always means possibly if there is no other way out. Meanwhile there is a wide open goal for Corbyn to shoot at. Even Arsenal wouldn’t miss such an opportunity. He has tried every other tactic to overthrow May’s deal except a ratification referendum. If we have eliminated everything else it’s the only thing left.

Corbyn cannot overthrow May by parliamentary means. He cannot win a vote of no confidence nor take no deal off the table until it is too late. Asking or demanding May abandons her main ‘no deal’ weapon which keeps her afloat is never going to work. Demanding a general election while her Withdrawal Agreement is still alive is a waste of time. May has shown that if she cannot get her deal through parliament she can fight on. But if she cannot get it through a ratification referendum then she is as dead as Cameron.

Corbyn should confound May and all his liberal critics in the Labour Party. He should champion the people’s right to decide on May’s deal by proposing a ratification referendum. He should totally reject any idea of a second repeat-remain referendum. It is the only way we can get to a general election before May gets her deal through the Commons and then fights an election on the ground of her own choosing.

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Kill the Bill

UK politics is now in the process of ratifying the Crown’s Withdrawal Agreement. This is the only deal on the table. There is no other. Therefore we have to keep total focus on this. Should it be supported or opposed? If we oppose it, how can it be defeated?

Everything else – general election, exit on World Trade Organisation rules, remaining in the EU, Norway option, Denmark-Greenland option or global socialism – is, if not pie in the sky, then certainly jam tomorrow. We have to start with the enemy in front of us. As football managers like to say the most important game is the next one.

The Withdrawal Agreement has already been roundly beaten by the House of Commons by 432 to 202 votes. That should have been the end of the road for May. But the Crown has the power to carry on. The deal is a dead duck and yet sprung to life again. It serves as her shield. It protects her. She cannot be ousted while her shield remains in place.

So a zombie Prime Minister staggers on. Kill the Bill and kill the zombie. How can it be done? One thing that can trump parliament’s ratification vote is a ratification referendum. Forty five million voters is far more powerful that 635 MPs. Nothing is certain but we should trust the people.


May has two options. The first is to bully, bribe and threaten MPs so that sufficient change their minds and get the deal through the Commons on the second or third attempt. If this happens, the world outside parliament will be angry. It will settle nothing. The country will end up with a deal that eighty percent of people oppose. The ‘Great Betrayal’ story will have a larger audience.

The second option is putting her deal to the electorate in a referendum. This is not a second referendum with a Remain and/or no deal question. May has ruled out a second referendum as a betrayal the 2016 majority. But she has avoided the issue of whether people should be able to vote for or against her deal. If she was a democrat rather than a racist politician she would have offered this already.

A ratification referendum on the Withdrawal Agreement is a democratic demand. If it is voted down then May, like Cameron, would have to resign. A new Tory leader is a big step towards a general election. On the other hand if the country decides to support May’s deal we move on. At least if a majority vote for it the betrayal story is detoxified. “Let the people decide on the May deal” and then “Kill the (withdrawal agreement) Bill” is the only democratic road to a general election. Article 50 has to be delayed.


Democracy is a gamble. You can never be sure how people will vote. Putting the Withdrawal Agreement to a peoples vote is a democratic way forward. This is not about reversing the 2016 referendum. It is about making the government accountable for what it is being done in our name.

Democratic accountability is the completion of the 2016 referendum. It is not about self indulgence where everybody’s favourite option – remain, no deal, communism, Singapore, Corbyn government etc – is on the ballot paper. It is about making the government accountable for the Withdrawal Agreement and then removing May’s road block.

The Remain camp is divided into democrats and liberals. The ‘democrats’ accept the 2016 result even though there are many violations of democratic good practice. A consistent democrat calls for a ratification referendum and opposes Northern Ireland and Scotland being forced out of the EU against their will. Corbyn has accepted the 2016 result and rejects a second-remain referendum.

The Liberal-Remain camp wants to overthrow or reverse the 2016 referendum. They demand a second referendum which must include the question do you want to remain in the EU? The intention is to overthrow or reverse the result of the last referendum before any deal is implemented. The liberals include Tories, Liberal Democrats, the Labour right the Greens and the SNP etc. Prominent advocates of this slogan include Blair, Major, Campbell, Soubry, Cable, Ummuna, Lucas and on the far left “Another Europe is Possible”.


May has called for ‘talks’ to breathe life into her ‘dead deal’. Corbyn refused to attend talks unless May took “No Deal” off the table. He was right to demand the impossible and not waste time talking about it.

His main target should have been the May deal not the No deal. He should have demanded the May deal is either abandoned or it is put to the people in a ratification referendum. That might have been worth a trip to Downing Street with a democratic message and a chance for Corbyn to view his future residence and see where this furniture would fit.

He should have made ‘Kill the Bill’ his main target. Once that is off the table then no deal is exposed for what it is – a bullies bluff. Parliament and the majority of business, trade unions, citizens and the EU would prevent it. If parliament could not act with sufficient urgency to extend article 50 then we would be facing a major constitutional and political crisis. A ratification referendum is the democratic means to progress.

Corbyn is edging his way to a ratification referendum. Labour has put forward an amendment to the Governments Brexit motion which is aimed at blocking a ‘No Deal option’ and includes the words “Legislating to hold a public vote on a deal or a proposition that has commanded the support of the majority of the House of Commons”. This is still ambiguous. “A public vote on a deal” sounds like ratification. The words about a proposition commanding support in the House is either a truism or a door to a repeat remain referendum.

If Corbyn demanded a ratification referendum would the EU refuse to give an extension to article 50? Of course they have no interest in forcing the UK into an early exit on March 29 when there is a democratic process still to be concluded. They are well aware of the balance of parliament and the role of the DUP. They understand that a Corbyn government and the Labour Party is more favourable to the EU.

Another Europe

Another Europe is the left wing campaign which supports the liberals demand for a second referendum. It says “Any public vote on Brexit must, to be meaningful, include an option to remain. Labour should campaign for such a vote – and to remain”. Their resolution for the Labour Party calls for:

“1. That all Labour MPs must vote against any Tory Brexit deal
2. That Labour must demand, and to prepare for, an immediate general election
3. That Labour must campaign for a public vote on Brexit with an option to remain, and include such a vote in our manifesto”.

This resolution misses the mark. The number one issue is completely and fully defeating the “Withdrawal Agreement”. The resolution only calls on Labour MPs to vote against it. They have already done so. It made no difference. Then they call for a general election which is already Labour policy.

Nowhere do they call for the people to be allowed to vote on the Withdrawal Agreement. They restrict it to MPs. They want a “public vote on Brexit” which ignores the fact that Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain. They are demanding that a referendum is kicked down the road until after the next general election. Hence they call for a remain-referendum to be included in the Labour Manifesto.

It is a misconceived resolution. It does not do anything to “Kill the Bill”. It raises the liberal-slogan for a remain-referendum. This is a stick for May to beat Corbyn. The resolution says in effect wait until after the next general election.

Whether the Labour Party should include a Remain-Referendum in its election manifesto is something to be considered. But if the political situation hasn’t changed significantly then it would be divisive madness to include it. But a Remain-Referendum is pie in the sky unless May’s Agreement is finally killed off.

Calling for a democratic decision on May’s deal is no more than a democratic demand. It is a democratic right for all citizens both Leave, Remain and those who abstained last time. If the people vote to “Kill the Bill” then the search for a new answer can begin again. Then and only then does a general election become possible or highly likely.

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