he election of Johnson as Prime Minister is a time to reflect on the dangers the working class movement now faces. Johnson can win as long as he avoids imposing a no-deal Brexit and avoids a general election before the UK leaves the EU on 31 October. After the deal is ratified by the Commons, Johnson will use this patriotic kudos to call and win a general election.
In 2016 the centre ground shifted as millions of people voted to leave the EU in England and Wales and to remain in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Nobody voted to leave the single market and the customs union. Of course any deal negotiated with the EU must be referred back to the people for ratification.
Labour’s policy was very close to occupying this centre ground. After 2016 Labour became a ‘remain-democrat’ party signalled by Corbyn agreeing to trigger article 50. This policy was then set out in the 2017 Labour Manifesto and the 2018 Labour conference policy. It enabled the Parliamentary Labour Party to remain sufficiently united to defeat May’s deal. Labour led a series of victories over May’s Tory Brexit which led to her sacking.
Labour has recently made a big tactical blunder that will help Johnson secure a Tory Brexit. The party abandoned the centre ground and swung to the left to become a ‘Remain and Reform’ party to fight it out with the Liberal Democrats. It is a crack pot idea pushed onto Corbyn by Blair, Campbell, Wes Streeting and fronted by arch witch finder, Tom Watson. Corbyn could have fended them off until Thornberry, McDonnell, Abbott and other left MPs like Clive Lewis backed a remain referendum.
This has created a Labour shambles not least because ‘remaining’ is in contradiction to calling a general election for a Labour government to go back to Brussels for another deal. But more than this it has released around 29 Labour MP’s who had been shackled by the promise to respect the referendum result. It had enabled Tory Brexit to be blocked by Labour MPs from both leave and remain.
Now the new PM is a man with a plan. He is going to get Tory Brexit through the Commons and then fight a general election. How can he pull it off? He is threatening no-deal as a negotiating tactic. In practice he will seek to come back with a disguised version of the May Deal. The Tories will see through this disguise but pretend not to notice.
Fear stalks the Tory party. Vote for the Johnson Deal or hand the keys to number 10 to the extreme ‘Marxist’ Jeremy Corbyn. At the same time 29 Labour MPs released from their obligations by Labour’s switch to an ultra- remain party will back the Johnson deal and get it over the line.
Peter Mandelson and his mouthpiece, Tom Watson, will have delivered a win-double – helping the Tories to secure a majority in the Commons and hence to win a victory over Corbyn in the general election.
Of course there is a democratic case for working people to vote in a ratification referendum (i.e. Yes/No without a Remain option). The idea there is a parliamentary majority for a second referendum with a remain question is for the birds. The only practical purpose for adding a remain question is to undermine Corbyn and further divide the working class.
We can only guess how Johnson will get his revised May-deal. The most straightforward is to draw the economic border with the EU down the Irish Sea and do the checks in Liverpool etc. There is then no need for an Irish backstop. Of course Johnson will have to throw the DUP under the bus. Yet the Tory rank and file have already said they would happily lose Ireland if only they could get Brexit and defeat Corbyn.
This is not to say that Johnson is brave enough to sacrifice Irish Unionism so essential for Tory politics. Perhaps they will come up with something more complex to save the Tories from a terminal crisis. The main point is that Watson’s ultra-remain victory was a setback for Labour and may be the point when Corbyn was finally scuppered by a fatal combination of his enemies and his allies.