At long last, the “deal” has landed, bringing with it opprobrium from both Leavers and Remainers. Speculation today has mostly been centred on which cabinet members will resign shortly (so far, none have) and whether May has any hope of getting this “deal” through parliament. Thinking ahead, however, a much more interesting question emerges, this one surrounding Labour and their response to the “deal” once it goes to parliament, and with that what the fallout might be for Jeremy Corbyn.
Assuming for the moment May’s “deal” falls at the first hurdle and then the substantive motions regarding what to do next follow, this puts Corbyn in an oddly difficult situation. The latest word is that if the “deal” doesn’t get through on the first run, Labour will put down its own, alternative plan. Which, in case you haven’t been following to date, is mostly just more of the usual fantasy stuff that this debate is unfortunately soaked through with.
This will almost certainly cause a split on what to do about Brexit within the Labour camp, with those who will see a People’s Vote as the answer on one side and several other factions within the PLP, mostly united by a desire to avoid another referendum on the subject, on the other. If Keir Starmer rises as the champion of said People’s Vote at this time, it will put Corbyn in a real bind: he is letting a charismatic rising star become the poster boy for what the vast majority of the Labour Left wants, all while putting himself in opposition to the wishes of those very same people. You don’t have to be an expert in political strategy to understand just how bad a place that is for Jezza to end up.
It would only get worse if an actual second referendum did arise. You’d have the Left rally like never before around the Remain camp – probably led by Chuka and Keir, if Corbyn isn’t careful. If he lets that happen, then Corbyn could really lose his shine with the activists in a way that was permanent.
To summarise, as per usual, the media is taking the potential problems lying in wait for Corbyn and the Labour Party in general way too lightly while the focus is (understandably) on the Tories who have to figure out collectively what their response is to the broad outline of a deal, tortuously assembled by their leader over two years and a bit, that ties them into possibly remaining in a customs union with the EU for the rest of time. The focus isn’t on Labour yet, but it will be at some point if any of the very possible ways Brexit could turn from here come to fruition.