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.