I wasn’t surprised when Corbyn said he will three-line whip his MPs to vote for May’s brief Article 50 bill; we all knew that was coming. However, even I didn’t think Corbyn would just roll over on the timetable, which must still be causing giggles in the government whips office. I can just imagine the discussions there before they tabled the programme.
“That’s taking the piss; even Corbyn won’t just accept that brief a period for debate on this.”
“Care to make a wager on that one?”
The government have given over just five days for all of the debates. Whether you think that is sufficient or not will probably have a lot to do with your position on Brexit, I grant you that, but put that aside for one moment and consider this: we are talking about a major bill that will almost certainly be instrumental in deciding the near future of the country. Labour is the official opposition. Yet they want to seem so pro-Brexit they won’t even block the government from tabling a piss-taking timetable on the matter.
It makes a total joke of what Corbyn, Thornberry and others have been saying about laying down amendments and “hand-to-hand combat” over the past week. It seems like Corbyn isn’t concerned any longer about the threat of a low-tax, low-regulation remake of Great Britain, which is kind of odd given his ideology. Apparently, wanting to seem pro-Brexit, again, trumps everything, all in the name of their electoral fears regarding Leave leaning seats.
But here’s the thing on Labour and Brexit: yes, 149 of their 232 (soon to be 230) seats are where a majority voted Leave. But what Labour HQ don’t seem to understand is to people for whom leaving the EU is a big issue, the party is finished anyhow. I’m not saying that everyone who voted Leave will never vote Labour again, I’m just saying there is no way for Labour to be sufficiently Brexity enough to entice those for whom this is the key issue back into the fold. The party campaigned for Remain, as did Corbyn. Labour have made their beds in this regard already and there is no going back.
Labour can, however, lose Remain seats, and if the government does decide later down the line to leave the EU without a deal and really does go with the low-tax, low-regulation economy, the blame Corbyn and those around him will receive will make the anti-Clegg stuff of five odd years ago seem like fun and games by comparison. Yet most of the Labour Party just can’t seem to see this at present. Even the ones saying they’ll defy the whip are mostly MPs from very Remainy seats, simply scared of the electoral repercussions of voting A50 through without batting an eyelid as opposed to what it means for the party overall.
A Steve Reed tweet yesterday summarised this kind of awry thinking perfectly:
“If Labour blocks Art50 May will call election & on current polls Labour will lose seats to Tories/UKIP who will then make Brexit deal worse”
One, I don’t see how having more Tory and UKIP seats will make the Brexit deal “worse” – once the bill you’re about to wave through parliament gets Royal Assent, the government has full power to negotiate in any manner it chooses with no caveats. How many Tory or UKIP MPs there are in parliament makes no difference then to the Brexit deal, since Labour won’t have the time to make stick any amendments that might make a difference to what parliament’s approval of the final deal amounts to in the end.
Two, whether that election happens in 2017 or 2020, Labour are going to lose seats. You might as well save your Remain seats while you can.
In the meantime, will Corbyn sack those frontbenchers who defy the whip on this one? If he looks the other way, he is then making the three-line whip totally meaningless going forward, and might as well have made it a free vote. Oh, sorry, I forgot, that wouldn’t look sufficiently Brexity, I suppose. Labour’s attempts to woo Leave voters with their latest moves reminds me of a middle-aged man in a crappy car trying to get young women to accept a ride while blasting Pearl Jam and saying things like, “Hoka-Loka, pretty mamas!” – the whole thing is so far off the mark as to make viewing of it extremely painful.
Voting the way Corbyn is intending to will not make Labour look Brexity. It will make him and the party look weak and unprincipled. As always, Corbyn will have no effect on Brexit, either in improving the deal or helping to make it less painful for his supposed constituency.