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Editorial: Making the election about Brexit would fall into the Tories’ trap

THE balance of forces inside Labour has shifted towards those who want to take the fight to the Tories. 

This is a real defeat for the oddball alliance of those in the party who make reversing the EU referendum result a priority over all else. 

Fighting the election as just one of the contending parties of Remain will fall straight into the Tory trap.

The cross-party enemies of change have but one serious strategy. That is to make this election about Brexit. 

How the media, especially the broadcast media, handle the election debate will be a clear demonstration of how complicit it is in this conspiracy of noise now that its routine conspiracy of silence about Labour’s prospectus is more difficult to justify.

Boris Johnson has a mandate from both the EU and the “realistic” core of the ruling class for a Brexit deal which preserves as much of a close alignment with the EU as is compatible with restoring a functioning unity in his party.

The warring tribes of the well-endowed who make up the big-business-sponsored anti-Brexit campaign have fallen out over precisely what tactics to employ in heading off Johnson’s bourgeois Brexit, or indeed, any kind of Brexit.

The division there is between those who simply want a “sabotage Brexit” campaign versus those who understand that this frankly anti-democratic tactic narrows its attraction. Dressing up the beast as a “People’s Vote” they calculate achieves the same effect.

In among their party’s disarray, some Liberal Democrats show an awareness that Jo Swinson’s main tactic, to present themselves as the party of irreconcilable Remainers, not only appeals to a very narrow demographic — narrower indeed than their normal constituency — but that the field is crowded with competitors.

The shenanigans in the Remain campaign camp give us a revealing glimpse of the patrician mindset of these privileged people.

Johnson is taking a big risk. His own party is divided and depleted. He will bleed some traditional Tory voters to the Lib Dems and others to the Brexit Party. 

His presumptuous bid to capture Brexit-leaning voters in working-class areas may not be enough to surmount the deep anger that exists at Tory (and Lib Dem) austerity policies.

We have to recognise that Labour’s erratic behaviour and its untidy retreat from the party’s initial position of respecting the referendum result has narrowed its potential support in some working-class areas where it needs to win if it is to form the next government.

The party possesses enormous reservoirs of support. The last election proved that its membership can be mobilised; its policies can break through the media blanket; its social media operation can outclass the power of the millionaire press and that a leadership of probity and straightforward honesty is a priceless asset.

These things are important, but the critical difference, even from the last election, is the prospect of a truly transformational political campaign that unlocks the latent reserves of anger in working-class areas, that projects policies that speak to the real material needs and deep anxieties of working people.

There is a yearning for the security of a home, a job worth doing, an education that fits people for a world of valuable and productive work, a health and care service that cares for them throughout their lives.

People from all walks of life want security and stability in Britain and the world. They want an ethical foreign policy, a fair migration system and effective action to tackle climate change and enhance the environment.

Labour’s job is to make this a realistic and achievable goal.

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