Brexit is the anarchic force that threatens to destroy Labour altogether, wrecking everything constructive in its path.
For several generations, Labour has been the ‘broad church’ party that holds together a range of progressive political forces in a coalition to defeat regressive political forces. But Brexit is an issue which cuts through that coalition.
In Scotland the combination is even more toxic for Labour. The SNP, a nationalist party, is able to paint itself as the party of internationalism and Labour looks, up here, like a spent force of yesterday’s people, still fighting the battles of last century while the real battle of this century can only be won through international collaboration.
From the beginning we should have taken on this toxic debate and promoted internationalism and the collaboration of progressive forces across Europe first and the world beyond in order to fight for social and environmental justice. These are the issues of the future across our planet. The national-centric myopia of the game we have been drawn into will never suit a progressive party. Red and green must work together for a better sustainable future for all.
Here in Scotland, the effect of Brexit has been to push the SNP into an unassailable lead and to destroy support for Labour across the country. I will not be the only long-standing Labour member (since the 1970s) who voted Green in the European elections in despair at the incompetence and apparent irrelevance of some of our policy positions.
But worse than the policy positions by far (they are mainly quite reasonable – it is their limited scope that is often the problem) is the leadership. This is/has been our biggest problem. At UK level, we have a leader who cannot command support across the country at a time when we have the most appalling Tory party mess-up in living memory led by the worst-ever Prime MInister – that’s how bad his leadership is.
Mr Corbyn’s credentials as a man of the left helped him to be an effective ‘conscience of the party’ but it is now clear he lacks many of the skills required of a party leader. How many elections has Mr Corbyn now lost!!! If he has any regard for the party he serves, he should step aside.
At Scottish level, Richard Leonard comes over as a nice man, whom you might trust as a member of your team but not someone who can lead national renewal and certainly not someone capable of denting the national force that is Nicola Sturgeon.
The crisis in the Labour Party is not just a crisis of Brexit. It is a crisis of leadership. Neither Mr Corbyn nor Mr Leonard are capable of doing the job required – presenting an exciting vision of a new politics capable of meeting the challenges of the 21st century, not those of the 1980s. Red and green must join if we are to bring the younger generation with us towards a vision of a more co-operative, collaborative, sustainable future.
First published on the author’s blog site as a submission to Labour’s policy forum
update on ScoLab executive meeting 08/06/2019:
Scottish Labour: Statement on Brexit position
Since we agreed our Scottish Labour Party statement on Brexit at the Scottish Labour Party Conference in Dundee in March 2019 there have been significant developments in the Brexit process:
• Labour voted to extend article 50 beyond the end of March deadline. It has now been extended to the 31st October.
• The UK Parliament has been unable to find a clear majority for a way forward.
• Attempts by Labour’s Front Bench Team Labour in bi-lateral talks with the Government to find a deal around a Customs Union and Single Market alignment were unsuccessful.
• Theresa May has resigned as leader of the Conservative Party.
• The European Elections saw a squeeze on major parties with voters opting for clearer ‘anti-Brexit’ or ‘Harder Brexit’ messages.
• The prospects of a General Election have become less likely
• Theresa May’s deal is dead. It is almost inevitable that we will be facing a UK Conservative Government with a strategy and an unelected Prime Minister leading us to a ‘No deal’ Brexit, making ‘No deal’ increasingly likely.
Under these circumstances, and in line with our Scottish Labour Party Conference policy, Scottish Labour will therefore campaign for any Brexit deal to be automatically put to the people in a confirmatory vote. We will campaign for that vote to have a clear option to Remain. Scottish Labour will campaign in the confirmatory vote to Remain in the European Union.
florian albert says
Growing up in a Glasgow housing scheme in the 1950s and 1960s, there was little talk of ‘progressive political forces’. (At that time, ‘Progressives.’ were what the Tories called themselves in local elections.)
Labour was seen as the party to defend the interests of the working class and the least well off; at that time, pretty much one and the same thing.
The Labour Party in Scotland mutated into something else. A big tent where nearly everyone was welcome. However, when this big tent movement came to share out the economic and social spoils, the party’s traditional working class supporters did not fare well. As the industrial economy collapsed, the party came to be dominated by a new class. This class was made up of the traditional middle class and those who had benefited from the massive expansion in Higher education. They rewarded themselves, rather than traditional Labour supporters.
As a result, the traditional working class lost faith in Labour. This loss of faith was shown in 2007, 2011 and most spectacularly in the Labour’s annihilation in the 2015 General Election.
This was the crisis of the Labour Party and it had left the Labour Party on its death bed before the Brexit vote in 2016.
A red and green coalition is a non-starter since the Greens are (understandably) not interested.
There is no way back.
Reply to Florian Albert:
There’s some truth in your analysis … there certainly was never was a way back with Corbyn in power, even given the UK’s skewed electoral system. In any event, the demographic of the country has changed, decimating the ‘traditional working class’ you talk about.
Lots of green voters are interested in alliances with other progressive (not ‘Progressive’) parties seeking to build a better future. Greens can only have political influence by working with others. With a democratically representative constitution, neither Labour nor Tory would ever command a majority.
There still has to be space for a UK-wide, internationally collaborative broad church party or electoral coalition, offering a just and fair balance between the ‘liberties’ which people find hard to give up nowadays (including liberty over their own spending) and fair levels of social and economic equality – it is that balance of liberty and equality (infused with the compassion and fellowship/friendship that the gendered concept of ‘fraternity’ tried to capture) which lies at the heart of democracy.