“WE MUSTN’T mistake the drama at Westminster for what real politics is about,” Jeremy Corbyn told the Trades Union Congress today.
This is undoubtedly correct, and a barnstorming speech in which the Labour leader welcomed attacks by the Financial Times (which sniffed that his party was “determined to shift power away from bosses and landlords and to workers and tenants”) and vowed to “unleash the biggest people-powered campaign we’ve ever seen” marks a welcome shift from the parliamentary games in which Labour has been complicit in recent weeks.
Voting against a general election offered by the sitting PM when Labour has been calling for one for months is not a good look.
Ordering the Prime Minister to seek a further extension to Article 50 is a gift to Boris Johnson’s bid to present himself as the champion of the biggest democratic vote in British history who has to face off a Parliament determined to thwart the people’s will.
Wild claims that he could be jailed for refusing to obey this law only help his martyr act, and even if Parliament can order him to request an extension, it cannot control the EU’s response.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has already suggested that France would veto yet another delay to Brexit, warning: “We are not going to go through this every three months.”
The permanent bureaucracy of the EU seems keen to work with Britain’s Remain-at-all-costs crowd to annul the referendum result.
But there is concern in Paris and Berlin. Acutely aware that the eurozone remains economically sluggish with sky-high unemployment, that tensions with the Polish, Romanian and Italian governments are growing and, in France’s case, that its own privatisation project and attacks on workers’ rights have led to widespread and incendiary resentment, some see Britain’s never-ending Brexit saga as a source of further destabilisation they could do without.
So aside from the rather melodramatic spectacle of MPs who had just voted against an election holding up placards saying they were being silenced, there is no guarantee that their multiple defeats of Johnson in parliamentary votes will achieve anything tangible except to delay a general election until November at the earliest.
Labour’s unhelpful insistence on rerunning the referendum may be an obsolete policy by election time. Whether it is or isn’t, the labour movement mobilisation against Boris Johnson’s government should build throughout September and aim at a huge demonstration for democracy outside the Conservative Party conference, focused on forcing an election to address the catastrophic social, economic and environmental crises afflicting our country and the world.
If Labour is to regain the insurgent momentum of 2017 the focus of Corbyn and shadow minister of labour Laura Pidcock’s speeches to TUC show us where to start. They demonstrate that it is the only party with a vision radical enough to tackle the deep-rooted systemic problems we face. This must replace all talk of some “rebel alliance” with architects of austerity like the Lib Dems.
But we do not have the luxury of acclaiming or lamenting the Labour leadership’s decisions from the sidelines. What is and what is not possible for the leadership depends on the balance of forces in the party and the movement and all of us have a part to play in determining that.
That means there can be no truce with those that are irretrievably hostile to the socialist direction the party has taken since 2015, whose constant attacks and sabotage have been responsible for serious retreats.
Constituency parties meeting to discuss trigger ballots against serial saboteurs such as deputy leader Tom Watson must carry on even as we gear up for a looming battle with the Conservatives.
The inspirational policies Corbyn reminded us of at TUC will not be delivered by a parliamentary party half in hock to the very vested interests Labour plans to confront.
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