At least that’s over. The Article 50 Bill has now passed through the House of Commons with a massive 300+ majority. It now goes to the House of Lords where, whatever happens, at least Jeremy Corbyn will not be intimately involved.
I want to start by saying that I do not want the rest of this article to be confused for a Remoan. Whatever you think about Britain leaving the EU, I’m sure we can all agree on this: Corbyn’s Labour have been woeful on an epic scale this past week. And I am not being hyperbolic when I use the word epic here: in the past seven days or so, we have probably seen the most inept attempt to run an opposition in the history of parliamentary politics anywhere in the world.
Starmer misunderstanding what the substance of Labour’s “final vote” amendment actually was. Abbott skipping the Second Reading, then voting for the Bill at Third Reading anyway. Everything Emily Thornberry did or said in public. Then, this tweet from Corbyn this morning:
“Real fight starts now. Over next two years Labour will use every opportunity to ensure Brexit protects jobs, living standards & the economy.”
This is a tweet worthy of Donald Trump in its lack of self-awarness. Is Corbyn genuinely confused about how this process of leaving the EU will unfold from here? The Bill gives the government the right in law to do whatever it needs to in regards to the negotiation. Now, you can think that’s a good idea or a bad idea – what you cannot do is whip your troops to vote to allow the government a free hand and then start tweeting about a “real fight”. Seriously, what was the point of voting to trigger Article 50 by a huge margin, with no concessions whatsoever gained from the passing of the Bill, and then still be talking about a fight? The battle is over, Jeremy, and you didn’t lose so much as not bother to fight in the first place.
If Labour felt it had to vote for Article 50, out of principle or future electoral consideration, then they had to do the following: get Corbyn to give a Eurosceptic speech in which he does his own version of Theresa May. Basically, he campaigned rather meekly for Remain because he thought on balance it was better than leaving, but now that we are definitely leaving, he realises this a great time to get out of the grubby Brussels capitalist club. Then, have the party go to the mat for one concession – I would suggest protection of the social chapter. Then you start to smell Brexity enough for the whole thing to just about work out for you.
Instead, we have just had Labour talking endlessly about how Brexit is the worst idea in the history of the universe, but they have to vote for it to happen anyway because of all the racist goobs in their constituencies who are too ignorant to understand the error of their ways. Seriously, that is exactly how they have sounded to most Leavers out there. The idea that this is going to help them in the Stoke by election is a joke. If they keep Stoke Central, it will be down to pure luck and nothing else – not some half-arsed attempt to seem medium Brexity.
The battle is over, Jeremy, and you didn’t lose so much as not bother to fight in the first place.
I think this again shows that Corbyn regards the House of Commons as a sideshow: the real action, the ‘real fight’, the things he is actually in politics to do, are the marches and demos and rallies, the placards and the singing of The Red Flag.
That’s what gets his blood pumping, so that’s what he regards as Real Politics. I honestly don’t think he gets that votes in the House of Commons have any real effect. Perhaps it’s because for years his votes have had no real effect. And he certainly doesn’t get that you might use the media to change the minds of people who don’t already agree with you.
So I think this all fits in with his stated desire to remake the Labour Party into a social protest movement, instead of a political party. Because in his eyes, that is where the ‘real fight’ takes place, that is what it’s all about.
In his eyes, his message is perfectly sincere, he didn’t give up on the fight: in fact, he’s outflanked his enemy, allowing them a victory in the commons (which he regards as meaningless) while positioning Labour as the party able to have the biggest marches and rallies and loudest sing-alongs (which is what he regards as real victory).
It’s a weird, topsy-turvey world, but it’s the only way to make sense of Jeremy Corbyn: to see the world as he sees it.