Saturday, 4 February 2017
A Vote For The Right To Vote
Patrick West writes:
Many Remainers assume that they are on the side of progress, human rights and compassionate internationalism.
Brexiteers, by contrast, are regarded by them as hopeless anachronisms beholden to nostalgia, selfish conservatism and retrograde nationalism.
This assumption has manifested itself in recent days, in the wake of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s edict to his party to vote to trigger Article 50.
This sparked a grassroots rebellion and series of resignations in the party, and by Saturday evening a critical open letter to Corbyn had been signed by 2,000 members in constituency parties nationwide [well, see below on that one].
The letter accused Corbyn of a ‘betrayal of your socialist values’ and said leaving the EU would hurt working people.
In the end, on Wednesday, 47 Labour MPs voted against triggering Article 50.
Corbyn is often caricatured as a fossil whose politics haven’t changed in decades.
And on the EU this was true for many years, until he abandoned his opposition to it and campaigned for Remain in the months before the referendum last June.
While he’s either derided as belonging to the out-of-touch metropolitan left or mocked as a crypto-Marxist dinosaur, it’s important to remember that he belongs to a third category: Old Labour.
One of the defining aspects of the Labour Party in the 1960s and 1970s, the era in which Corbyn’s politics came to formation, is that it had a deep suspicion of what was then the European Economic Community (EEC).
It was Conservatives, especially those with connections to business and the City, who were most enthusiastic about the EEC.
Labour recognised that the EU in gestation was a club that primarily served capitalism and had scant interest in democracy.
Corbyn’s politics today remain faithful to the spirit of Tony Benn, so the word that he remains anti-EU, if more privately than in the past, isn’t difficult to believe.
Little has changed about the EU since Benn warned of its trajectory in 1975.
The institution has been long run by free-market fundamentalists.
There were many, particularly on the left, who would have liked to see the British state rescue Port Talbot steelworks last year.
Except it couldn’t. EU doctrine forbids it.
Free-market EU law also makes it impossible fully to renationalise Britain’s railways, another cause dear to many on the left.
The Labour Party of the 1970s would recognise today, as indeed the trade unions used to, that high levels of immigration would depress wages and also be detrimental to the British worker.
No socialist today would hail EU levels of red-tape that favour corporations at the expense of small businesses.
No socialist organisation would crucify Greece in the hallowed name of austerity the way the EU has.
No socialist body would have sought to sign up to the pro-big business Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), as the EU has — this is a treaty that wants to open up Europe’s public-health, education and water services to US companies, potentially paving the way for NHS privatisation.
The vote for Brexit was not a vote for UKIP or the Tories. It was a vote for the right to vote.
Whether the state should run the railways, bail out failing industries or reduce immigration, these are matters that the British parliament, given a mandate by us, should decide.
Benn recognised this.
It was the Westminster parliament that brought in gender-equality laws in the 1970s, and laws to protect workers.
The EU is no pioneer or guarantor of employment rights.
The protectionist, anti-democratic EU run by incurable ideologues — who literally have free movement of people and the free market as pillars of faith — has seldom been a force for progress.
It’s always been the friend of the businessman, and seldom a friend of the working man.
And Shabbir Lakha writes:
Following the Supreme Court decision that the government is constitutionally required to get Parliamentary authorisation to invoke Article 50, MPs have begun the debate on the White Paper that the government has been forced to produce.
The Labour Party has put forward several amendments to the Bill which they hope to pass, but support the triggering of Article 50.
However, despite Jeremy Corbyn imposing a three line whip on MPs to vote in favour of triggering Article 50, a small number of MPs are set to defy the whip and have tabled a motion to have the bill thrown out.
It should be no surprise that the MPs leading this ‘rebellion’ – which include Heidi Alexander, Ann Coffey and Owen Smith (who has just resurfaced following his overwhelming defeat in last year’s leadership challenge) are the same MPs that led the attempted coup against Jeremy Corbyn last year.
Similarly, a small but vocal number of people have supported an open letter (dubbed a “grassroots revolt against Jeremy Corbyn” by the Guardian) which has been led by the same people that led the charge against Corbyn during the coup.
One of the organisers is Jonathan Proctor who campaigned for Owen Smith last year, and only recently rejoined Labour after quitting in October following Jeremy Corbyn’s victory.
The term post-truth is being used by people who are against Brexit as reasoning for discarding the referendum result.
There is no doubt that there was plenty of misinformation during the referendum debate, but this was not unique to the Leave campaign.
If Britain had voted to remain in the EU last year, would the validity of the referendum be in question because Cameron said it would be WW3 if we left?
When both the Tories and Labour right pushed for immigration controls as they are now, would we be calling for a second referendum because people were duped into believing remaining was a vote against xenophobia?
Having complete and accurate information is something we should all strive to achieve, but predicating the validity of democracy on it a) undermines our own agency and democratic rights, b) sets a standard that no election or referendum in any Western democracy has ever met - including very much the Remain side of the EU referendum.
There is also arrogance among the people who are arguing to block Article 50.
Everybody else was fooled, made the wrong choice and don’t understand the repercussions of Brexit and therefore we the enlightened have a duty to save you from yourselves and your horrible mistake.
This idea flies in the face of any standard of democracy.
During the referendum debate, the far right and nationalists framed themselves as representing the voices of those who have been disenfranchised by the status quo.
Blocking Article 50 only serves to alienate disillusioned communities who have been marginalised by the establishment and gives credence to the false narrative of the far right.
There are two options now: a bargain basement, red white and blue, hard, whatever you want to call it Brexit that allows the establishment to overturn this crisis at our expense, or a People’s Brexit that defends workers rights, freedom of movement [well, see above on that one] and our NHS.
The left should move past the debates of last year, reject the campaigns that undermine democracy and be united around the key tenets of our shared principles in fighting for a People’s Brexit.