[A companion piece to Why is Theresa May doing this?]
I have tended to be optimistic about Jeremy Corbyn, hoping that his Labour leadership signalled a real change in the nature of political discourse in Britain. Those hopes on the whole have been disappointed — it seems to me that having had to re-fight the leadership election again almost immediately after winning it the first time has left him so drained by his own party that he has little energy left to act as an effective Leader of the Opposition.
But it’s got much worse than that.
Despite having campaigned pretty energetically for the Remain campaign (at least ten rallies, though the sometimes-cited figure of 122(!) is a mistake), Corbyn has not only decided himself to vote in favour of activating Article 50, but has also decided to mandate all Labour MPs to do the same using the so-called “three-line whip“.
Why is he doing this?
It makes no sense at all to me. Now that the high court has ruled that only Parliament can activate Article 50 (and that Theresa May can’t simply make a royal pronouncement as she had wished), Labour and the Liberal Democrats — and for that matter, the many pro-Europe Conservative MPs — have the opportunity to force debate. That gives them a chance to vote in important amendments to the triggering-Article-50 act. In fact, Labour have a list of seven such amendments, which would go some way to ameliorating the damage of Brexit — and doubt other parties will offer more.
But why would the Government give any ground at all on any of these amendments when they already know in advance that all the Labour MPs will vote for the bill, whatever amendments do or don’t get tacked on?
Once more — as with his up-front admission that he would never use nuclear weapons — Corbyn shows himself to be a terrible, terrible negotiator. He has literally given the game away before the first move have been played.
It’s to the credit of many other Labour MPs, including party whips and shadow-cabinet members, that they are going to defy the three-line whip. We can hope that their actions will help to make the debate of the Article-50 bill something more than shadow boxing.
But really: what the heck is Corbyn thinking?
What it amounts to is that he is aligning Labour policy on Europe with Conservative policy on Europe. And since the Conservatives arrived at their own present Europhobic stance by aping UKIP policy on Europe, that means that the leaders of two Big Two parties have allowed the whole of mainstream political discourse in the UK to be co-opted by the deluded imperialist agenda of UKIP. (Honorable exception: the Liberal Democrats. But since they hold only nine of the 650 Parliamentary seats, they can hardly claim to be mainstream at the moment.)
Seriously, Jeremy Corbyn: you have let capitalist lackey running-dog Nigel Farage dictate your policy on Europe.
What it amounts to is that Corbyn, who I had such high hopes of, has fallen into exactly the same trap that Ed Milliband did: trying to present Labour as basically the same as the Conservatives, but very slightly less so. In other words, pursuing “electability” by the most inept and doomed strategy possible: by becoming an visible less good version of the exact same thing as their opponents.
As I said last time …
There’s no percentage in trying to out-Tory the Tories. They’re good at it. They’ve been doing it all their lives. They can do it with conviction, because they believe in it. How could Labour think they could out-play them at their own game?
And Corbyn was supposed to be the alternative to this. That’s why I went as far as becoming a registered Labour supporter so I could vote for him in the leadership election.
Just go and sit on the naughty step, and think about what you’ve done.