Friday, 6 September 2019

To win a general election Labour must respect the referendum result

I have to start this post off by saying that I am a member of the Labour Party and that I think a Labour win the forthcoming general election (GE) is essential for the future of the UK. Only Labour can end austerity, revive our economy, save our public services - including the NHS - and take the necessary action to reduce carbon and avert catastrophic climate change. Labour might just avert a break up of the union as well.

Of course, the elephant in the room is Brexit and it's not going away anytime soon, but this is dangerous ground for Labour to fight the election on. Labour has always said it would respect the 2016 referendum result and has sought to deliver a soft Brexit by being in a customs union with the EU and seeking access to the single market. I think that is the correct position but there is a huge problem with it - it's not black or white - remain or leave. In the sound and fury that Brexit generates its easy for Labour's 'nuanced' approach to be drowned out. And it's been far too easy for the MSM to pretend - as they have been doing for months - that they and everyone else can't understand what Labour's position is.

How to get round this? Steve Howell, who worked on campaigns for Labour in the 2017 election wrote a thoughtful article for the New Statesman about this and in it he says:
"Corbyn’s position avoids gifting the No Dealers the argument that they are the only ones respecting the 2016 referendum. At the same time, it gives Remainers the promise of a chance to win a second vote"
He's right, but will voters take any notice? Especially if the media works hard to muddy the water - as they will.

My fear is that Labour's voice will be drowned out in the battle between leavers and remainers - with fatal consequences for the whole Corbyn project. What can Labour do? Well, they will have to make their position on Brexit as clear and simple as possible but also ensure that the election is NOT fought on Brexit but far more important issues such as climate breakdown, austerity, rejuvenating the economy and public services. If Labour adopts the idea of a green new deal - which it probably will - this needs to be pushed really hard. Labour will have an even more radical manifesto than in 2017 and they need to make sure voters are well aware of its contents.

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