Anti-Brexit campaigns must stop their incessant attacks on Corbynism

, by Alex Jensen

Anti-Brexit campaigns must stop their incessant attacks on Corbynism
Jeremy Corbyn at the launch of Labour’s General Election campaign in 2017. Photo: Sophie Brown // Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The movement to put a stop to Brexit is a vital one. Investment is drying up, opportunities and jobs are vanishing and household bills are set to rocket. Leaving the European Union will be devastating for British society and especially to its working class. It is no surprise then that the overwhelming majority of Labour’s 2017 voters opted for Remain in the 2016 referendum. Within the Labour Party itself pro-Europeans dominate the membership numbers to an even greater extent.

With the influence of the Liberal Democrats and Green Parties being relatively low and the Conservative government being pulled along at the ideological whim of the so-called Hard Brexiteers, the job falls to Labour to set a different course. Yet despite this situation, many prominent anti-Brexit campaigns appear to focus their attacks upon Jeremy Corbyn and sometimes even Labour as a whole.

The rationale behind this strategy is that Labour’s essential role in the Brexit process is acknowledged, so major figures in the party need to be targeted in campaigning for change to occur. This plan is not working however and with good reason. Labour’s membership, as proved in two successive leadership elections, is behind Jeremy Corbyn and like his atypical (by modern British standards) flavour of politics. By attacking the leader over and over again, it increasingly feels like some anti-Brexit campaigners want to force Labourites to choose between Jeremy Corbyn and stopping Brexit. As previously mentioned, Labour’s base is majority pro-European and within the wider public, they make up a significant chunk of Britain’s Remainers. This strategy is therefore isolating and dangerously counterproductive as it is only raw numbers and public feeling that can ultimately set a new democratic mandate to stop an untimely European exit.

Many pro-Europeans are frustrated over the Labour leader’s lack of clear resistance to some of the more dangerous elements of Theresa May’s Brexit. He is the Leader of the Opposition after all, why isn’t he doing more opposing? What demands to be understood is Corbyn’s unenviable current position. Narrow a result as it may have been, the public voted for Brexit in 2016 and many of Labour’s northern heartlands overwhelmingly voted Leave.

For Corbyn to suddenly turn on Brexit he would be opening himself up to a barrage of claims that he is disrespecting the view expressed in the referendum. The only way that Corbyn and many other figures in Labour would back a serious rethink of Brexit is if it is proven to be democratically viable – that the will of the people has changed. This can only be achieved by holding onto the base that are already in the pro-European camp and also branching out into former Leave voters, the undecided and the 18-year-olds who didn’t have a vote last time around. This can work, Labour has already softened its Brexit stance since the 2017 election, for example now embracing a customs union with the EU.

If a no-deal Brexit occurs, it will devastate Britain’s finances which will make Jeremy Corbyn’s radical manifesto plans economically unviable. Brexit in and of itself will severely weaken the influence the Labour leader could have internationally. There are some solid left-wing criticisms of the European Union, for example its response to the Greek debt crisis, but none of these problems can be solved from the outside. Having Prime Minister Corbyn on the European Council could help usher a new wave of left-wing initiatives, boosted by a reinvigorated Socialists and Democrats group at the European level. Essentially, the movement to stop Brexit is a natural ally of the movement to put Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10.

It is such a shame to see some of those campaigning to stop Brexit push away such an essential part of this political struggle. The people Labour are sworn to stand up for in society will be the hardest hit by the UK’s current trajectory and so Labourites cannot become complacent. This must happen through making a fresh mandate to stop Brexit democratically sensible for the Labour leadership to support. The public must be won over before the major politicians fighting for Number 10 can be expected to shift. Until that moment, pro-Europeans must continue to find allies while not isolating core support. Labour members can indeed have both Corbyn leading the UK and membership of the EU, for these positions nicely complement rather than contradict one another.

Your comments

  • On 2 July at 10:13, by Ian Beckett Replying to: Anti-Brexit campaigns must stop their incessant attacks on Corbynism

    The only problem is of course is that Jeremy Corbyn is now and always has been anti EU. He sees it as a capitalist mechanism aimed at furthering the goals of the few against those of the many and fundamentally anti democratic. One thing you can say with complete fairness about Mr Corbyn is that he is a man of integrity who will stick to his principles. It is difficult therefore to see him as anything other than fundamentally pro Brexit.

    In the 2015 general election Labour were wiped out in their Scottish heartland, they made a slight come back in 2017 gaining 7 of the 60 seats available, the Conservatives got 13! So the views of the northern heartlands would need to be considered very carefully before a change in the Labour stance on EU membership, as Mr Jensen comments, these staunch Labour constituencies “overwhelmingly voted Leave”. One might suggest this is why Labour stood specifically on a pro Brexit platform in 2017, despite the pro EU tendencies of senior members of the Party.

    With regards to “a reinvigorated Socialists and Democrats group at the European level”, I suggest Mr Jensen spends some time reading political reports and analysis from Europe. The socialist and democrat vote has collapsed around the continent with no indication at all of a resurgence anytime soon. Indeed the current fear being widely expressed is that the EPP vote will go the same way and 2019 could very well see a European Parliament with a majority of anti EU MEPs. Whether they could ever work together is of course a different question.

    Please pass this on to Mr Jensen.

  • On 2 July at 18:11, by Your talking rubbish Replying to: Anti-Brexit campaigns must stop their incessant attacks on Corbynism

    Article written by a freeloader, supporting freeloaders, moderated by freeloaders so the comment can’t be publish #freedomofspeechdeniedunderleftybullies Get a job work hard and look at the uk and eu freeloading scum claiming benefits from your hard work! When you have grown up and lived in the real world you maybe qualified to comment.

  • On 2 July at 20:09, by Ambi Valent Replying to: Anti-Brexit campaigns must stop their incessant attacks on Corbynism

    Well excuse me, princess! The EU was pushed to the right again and again by Tories and pseudo-Tories, and now Corbyn is criticising the EU for being on the right...

    This would be acceptable only if Corbyn would attack the Tory policies for pushing the EU to the right. He’d get support from other states and people for trying to move the EU leftwards - it wouldn’t be “on the left” as it would first have to reach the center again. But apparently, he doesn’t dare to do that out of fear of seeming anti-British.

    So if he’s so afraid that he’d rather face a hard-Brexit disaster that would make his reforms impossible then he’s either too much of a coward to deserve our support - or maybe he actually believes that other EU member states should again just give in to British demands because Britain is just so superior - and then he also wouldn’t deserve our support.

    His choice - and your choice to get rid of him if he just want to steer Britain into the abyss.

  • On 25 July at 15:53, by Dylan Williams Replying to: Anti-Brexit campaigns must stop their incessant attacks on Corbynism

    You have to be joking? Corbyn is one of the biggest enemies of the pro-Remain movement, and has had multiple opportunities to even take power based on the fact he could have advertised Labour as the pro-Europe party.

    However he has his silly little mind stuck in past politics that don’t work in the modern world, and crippled his party to the point of not even being able to put up effective opposition to one of the weakest governments the UK has ever had.

    I am a socialist, but I can never be a Labour member again after the past 8 years of disappointment and failure.

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