I’ve long argued that Jeremy Corbyn need to be given the chance to make his case for an alternative to the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of Tories and New Labour. However, the current circumstances have changed things. The country is in a crisis, there’s too much at stake now.
The labour party needs to unite behind a leader who can either try to block the Brexit process or alternatively at least put pressure on the Tories to make sure any such Brexit vote will guarantee the rights of EU citizens (and thus protect the rights of UK citizens in Europe) and ensure open borders as well as free trade. Given the likelihood that the Tories will now try to gut environmental legislation as well as the rights of workers, the labour party needs to act fast to stop a historic unravelling of many of the things the party has spent the bulk of its history fighting for. If Corbyn can’t supply this leadership, then he has to go.
And yes, I know, the media have never given him a chance. I’ve highlighted such silliness on this blog on many occasions. I’ve said it before, but if he ran into a burning building and rescued a baby the media would accuse him of taking jobs away from hard working firemen. The PLP have never rallied around him either, they’ve been against him from day one. But a leader leads from the front. If the troops don’t respect their commander, they ain’t going to follow him over the top (instead they’ll wait till he goes over the top, send up flares to draw the attention of enemy gunners, then hit the deck!).
One rumour I’ve been hearing from pro-Corbyn supporters, has been that the real reason for this push against him was the impending release of the Chilcot report. Well that storm has passed and it hasn’t revealed anything we didn’t already know (Blair lied, he worked against efforts to stop the war, tell me something I didn’t know!). Indeed Alastair Campbell even went to far as to say that Chilcot proves that they didn’t sex up the dodgy dossier….so in essence what he’s saying is “We shot the sheriff, but I did not shoot his deputy”
But I digress! The truth is that Corbyn’s muted performance in the EU referendum has given his enemies the chance to try and oust him. And yes, I know, the person most responsible for this mess is the “pig appreciating” Bullingdon boy. But Corbyn didn’t exactly put up much of a fight. This naturally led some to question whether his own prior commitment to euroscepticism meant he wasn’t committed to the leave campaign.
He’s also refused to confirm which way he voted himself. And his recent open letter in the Guardian, raises more questions than it answers, as he again fails to clarify his position. Indeed, as his article seems to be an apology for those on the left who voted leave, one is forced to conclude it confirms what his critics have claimed. This puts him at odds not just with the PLP (96% in favour of remain) but with the vast majority of labour voters (66% support for remain).
Certainly a UK not in the EU does push up Corbyn’s stock. It would make it easier for example to renationalise core industries (its still possible to do that in the EU, many of the UK’s public services are owned by the state owned public service companies of other nations, but its not as easy). And an economy in chaos, the inevitable recriminations when the Tory party betray the Brexit bigot brigade, it would be the sort of climate where an anti-establishment type like Corbyn could win .
But he has to get his party to that election intact for that plan to work. And between now and then, as noted, the Tories will be gutting many of the laws that protect the rights of UK workers. In short, Corbyn’s position seems to be that he’s happy to leave the fox in charge of the hen house, in the hope that he gets to have a go himself later.
And ultimately his performance at the dispatch box has been lack lustre at best. Bottom line, putting him in charge was a noble experiment, but its run its course. Events have taken precedence. And furthermore, if he leaves now it means getting some compromise candidate in place whom the party can unite around (Tom Watson? Andy Burnham?).
If Corbyn doesn’t go the likelihood is that either the party will split (as happened during the Micheal Foot days). Or worse a certain Eagle (or “the Thrush” as I prefer to call her) will end up in charge. So reluctantly I’d argue, the time has come for Corbyn to step aside.
And if he is to stay on, he must nail his colours to the mast. The Tories are clearly in the Brexit camp (some reluctantly perhaps). The lib dems, Greens and the SNP have all been very clear, they speak for the 48%. They will try to block Brexit if they can. And if not, they will campaign on a ticket of re-entry into the EU at the earliest opportunity. With a surge in people joining the labour party, likely including many remain voters, it is simply not acceptable for Corbyn to be a closet leave voter. If he campaigns on a similar ticket to the other parties of the left and then betrays them afterwards (i.e. refuses to rejoin the EU), this will make him as bad as the liars in the leave camp, if not worse.
So if labour is now a pro-Brexit party he needs to say that and give the PLP and the rank and file party supporters the chance to decide if they want to stay in the labour party under such circumstances or not. Or indeed, if they want someone else as leader.