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Editorial Keep our eye on the main prize – a Labour government

PRAISE from Michael Gove tends to confer pariah status on its recipient. And so it proved for the renegade MP John Woodcock. 

The Blairite ex-Labour member for Barrow in Furness was thus branded for his attack on Jeremy Corbyn by the sharp-eyed aspirant for Tory leadership.

Tom Watson was next on Gove’s checklist. He detailed enough points of convergence with the newly lightweight contender to claim him for the Conservative assault on Corbyn. 

The onslaught continues. We awoke today to an opportunity — provided by the BBC Four’s Today programme — to hear at great length Tony Blair. 

The same theme was renewed at lunchtime by Mike Gapes, the Labour MP who joins to his duties as the right honourable member for Nato the honour of representing the electors of Ilford South.

This cabal chooses to dress up its visceral opposition to Labour’s renaissance by adopting a posture of outrage at Corbyn’s refusal to pow-wow with Theresa May unless or until the she excludes the possibility of a no-deal exit from the EU. 

Corbyn’s position strikes a chord with a wider range of Labour parliamentary opinion than can usually be relied on to support his leadership. 

In addition it helpfully serves to sharpen the divisions in the Tory Party and give fresh impetus to Labour’s call for an election to resolve the wider political crisis.

The people from the SNP, the Greens, the Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru currently in conclave with the government mostly want a second referendum or some other mechanism to delay, divert or destroy Britain’s exit from the EU. 

Sentiment in sizeable sections of both the Labour and Tory parliamentary parties are in accord with this.

All these strands of opinion are confounded not just by the Brexit vote itself but from the logic that flows from the 2018 EU (Withdrawal) Act which sets a deadline of March 29 for Britain’s exit.

Attempts, in concert with the EU Establishment, to find ways of extending Article 50 are designed to provide time to tweak the deal struck between the EU and the government enough to revive its chances in Parliament. 

Behind the slew of scaremongering stories that pepper the liberal press is the bid to create a climate in which Brexit is endlessly deferred.

Some Labour MPs want the party to prioritise campaigning for a second referendum over pushing for an election. Apart from the violence this does to the party’s conference policy, such a course of action holds great dangers for Labour.

It serves the Conservative interest in that it diverts attention from the very wide range of issues on which the Tories are extremely vulnerable and which will provide the meat and strong drink of a Labour election campaign. 

It threatens Labour’s carefully constructed appeal to the votes it is recovering in working-class areas. And equally seriously it would revive the appeal of Ukip or some such formation as well as giving the fascist fringe a boost. 

The recognition by many Labour MPs that their seats are at risk puts a limit on the potential for this course of action to succeed in gaining a majority in the PLP and underpins the trend to hard-headed realism in Labour’s rank and file. 

Reasoned debate about the immediate consequences of a no-deal Brexit is near impossible in the present climate. But Labour’s prospects for forming the next government are ill-served by a refusal to consider how the implementation of a radical manifesto would be hindered by continued entanglement in the neoliberal straitjacket of EU treaties or each of the possible scenarios in which our exit takes place.

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