It has been a week where what the public actually voted for in the EU referendum was finally, albeit slightly, revealed through Theresa May’s 12 point Brexit plan. Finally, we have some level of understanding of what a ‘Red, White and Blue Brexit’ signifies. These twelve points, which I will not discuss in detail here as it is not the purpose of my writing, are the backbone of what May hopes to achieve through her enacting of article 50 and the leaving of the European Union. But in summary, it makes Britain defy all laws of economics and sociology and become a centre of free trade.
However, what caught my eye was that, in spite of her pathetic attempts to stop it, May has agreed to let parliament vote on this issue. Democratically elected representatives will actually get a say on what constitutes such issues such as national sovereignty and will be allowed to debate the Brexit strategy. Despite the wishes of at least 48% of the nation there will be, and probably should not be, a repeal of the plebiscite that pushed the UK into Brexit, but a debate in parliament has the benefit of vetting the leaving plan and strategy. It allows parliament to check that this strategy does work in the UK’s favour, to the best of its ability.
With this in mind, what strikes me as odd is the complete nonchalance shown by Jeremy Corbyn by enacting the party whip in making sure his MPs vote in favour of the Article 50 trigger. By saying this Corbyn is essentially saying that what the Conservative government wants to happen in regards to Brexit will happen. Corbyn is making his MPs neglect their own constituents, the members of his party who mainly voted in favour of Remain and those people who may not oppose Brexit as an idea, but reject Theresa May’s vision of Brexit.
But to me, this is synonymous of the problems that embody Corbyn as the leader of the opposition. In the wake of Brexit, the Conservative party was in disarray, the Prime Minister had to step down and there was chaos. As much as the coup within the Labour Party did not help (and no it was not just the work of ‘Blairites’ and ‘Red Tories’ there are legitimate reasons from socialists such as myself why they had lost faith in Corbyn) absolutely no effort was made to try and make political gains from the self-destruction of the Conservatives, instead Labour self-destructed too and has not rebuilt at all in the same way the Conservatives have managed to. Corbyn cemented himself as the leader, but he has done little to actually oppose.
The media are partly to blame, as always, it is hard for Corbyn to get good press when he levels himself as someone who opposes the press. But press is not the issue, as we inhabit the world in which people are increasingly accessing news that only agrees with their opinion, not once have I seen Corbyn actually pressure the Government. Brexit would be a perfect time to state what he would do differently, how a Labour Government would handle Brexit. To oppose Article 50 in the commons, not because he wants to vote against the people, but to show the people that he does not agree with May’s Brexit. That he wants a Brexit that works for the people, rather than letting Phillip Hammond speculate that Britain may become a tax haven for the wealthy.
If Corbyn so drastically wants a rebrand to a more populist image, a man of the people for the people, then he should start listening to the people because at the moment people are rejecting him. If he wants to ‘respect the decision of the British People’ then he should also start respecting the opinion polls of the British people that put him behind Theresa May. That show a growing Liberal Democrat party whose leader is actually making and pushing the point of opposing Brexit.
There is cause for hope, as much as the dreaded rise of the far right is occurring through candidates such as Trump and Le Pen, the success of Bernie Sanders in the US Democratic primaries and Benoit Hamon recently surging in the polls in France shows that maybe it is dramatic change that people want rather than Fascism and Right Wing intolerance. Corbyn surged to Labour Party leadership because of these reasons. But unlike the aforementioned candidates, Corbyn has not been able to get his message out to outside of his own party. The issue is not so much what he stands for, but getting his message across.
Opposing Article 50 being triggered would show his leadership skills. It would send a message the Media could not ignore and one that would appeal to about 48% of the nation. In a world that is looking for alternatives, it is time that Labour, and by extension Corbyn, show the UK that Brexit can mean Brexit, but it does not mean May’s Brexit.