Clive Lewis, David Lammy, along with trade unionists and Momentum members have written an open letter to Jeremy Corbyn, asking the Labour leader to accept continuing freedom of movement post-Brexit as the party’s official position. Not, for clarity, that freedom of movement should be swallowed as part of a trade deal; but that freedom of movement should be defended for its own sake:
“Migrants are not to blame for falling wages, insecurity, bad housing and overstretched public services. These are the product of decades of underinvestment, deregulation, privatisation, and the harshest anti-union laws in Europe. On the contrary, migrant workers have been on the frontline of fighting for better pay and working conditions. Labour is the party of all working people – regardless of where they were born. A system of free movement is the best way to protect and advance the interests of all workers, by giving everyone the right to work legally, join a union and stand up to their boss without fear of deportation or destitution. Curtailing those rights, or limiting migrants’ access to public services and benefits, will make it easier for unscrupulous employers to hyper-exploit migrant labour, which in turn undermines the rights and conditions of all workers.”
Once upon a time, not all that long ago, as in at the last Labour conference less than a year ago, Jeremy Corbyn was Mr Freedom of Movement. It was his thing, really. In fact, he seemed to call from freedom of movement to continue while halting freedom of capital – in other words, let’s leave the single market but then continue with the one element of it that is easily the least popular. While the British public were calling for open trade but only if it meant controlled borders, the Corbmeister was arguing for the precise reverse.
I know he’s gone all Nigel Farage on the subject now, and none of his liberal-left supporters seem to care – whenever Corbyn says something they don’t agree with, they assume he must be being inauthentic to some greater purpose, which they somehow easily reconcile with their vision of him as a straight shooter – but there are greater problems than that here for Labour. Wasn’t Lewis the guy calling Chris Leslie a “sad, lonely man” for daring to go on the radio and suggest that Labour had lost an election that they had just lost? Now it’s okay to put Corbyn into a corner on immigration and blow apart the fragile coalition that made the “glorious defeat” possible? I really don’t understand the Labour Party at the moment, I really don’t.
Given freedom of movement goes along with the single market membership thing that people like Chuka are calling for, at the very least as a transitional arrangement, I don’t see why Lewis and Lammy felt the need for a separate letter calling for the same thing in a different way. Unless, Lewis and Lammy want to leave the single market and keep freedom of movement anyway, a la Corbyn this time last year? I’m going to stop thinking about this now, I have a headache.