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Editorial Labour is showing European socialists the road to their renewal

IT’S my deal or no deal is the unwelcome message that Ms May’s little helpers have been carrying to the far corners of Torydom over this weekend.

Gin and tonic-fuelled discussions in the bars of Conservative clubs up and down the shires is perhaps not the most accurate measure of Britain’s mood. But these ministerial missions to this least representative loci of public opinion are more about framing a consensus — any kind of consensus — among the warring tribes of Tory MPs than any more ambitious political project.

May’s message — threat really — is unlikely to establish unanimity or even order in the parliamentary Tory party let alone the parliament as a whole. And what chances it had are weakened by the intervention over the weekend of Romano Prodi that, in the event of the deal not going through the Commons, the EU would return to negotiations.

Prodi preceded Jean-Claude Juncker as the Commission president. His Democratic political identity and career connection to Goldman Sachs makes him the ideal representative of both the institutional imperatives of the Brussels bureaucracy and the EU’s communion with the so-called centre left.

We should see Prodi’s intervention as yet another manoeuvre in the eternal efforts of our rulers to ensure that their interests endure. Another wearisome round of talks will likely resume in which the internal convulsions of the Tory Party may play a less significant role then the strategic considerations of a ruling class becoming accustomed to the idea that Jeremy Corbyn is likely to become prime minister.

The great benefit – to our bourgeoisie – of Britain’s infinitely flexible constitutional set-up is that the politics of the workplace and working-class communities finds a very imperfect reflection in the parliament.

For most of the time this arrangement causes few problems for those set above us. But, as that president des riches Emmanuel Macron is finding out, a parliamentary majority that fails to represent the many is little use when the streets are aflame and the police take off their riot helmets.

Our rulers find both an election anytime soon and the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn in office equally disturbing prospects.

These fears will not have been allayed by Corbyn’s assured and incisive speech to the Lisbon conference of the Party of European Socialists. 

PES brings together the remnants of what was once the pace setter in the structures of the European Union but it now lacks a majority, a cohesive or unifying ideology or even a common political language. The social democratic consensus which once underpinned decades of relative class peace has vanished and with it many of the reasons for working people to vote for it.

Not so in Britain. Corbyn’s Labour is a different beast to the continental parties of class conciliation.

Jeremy Corbyn pointed out — to an audience that included representatives of both Merkel’s SPD coalition partners and Prodi’s eurocratic Partito Democratico – that “EU support for austerity and failed neoliberal policies have caused serious hardship for working people across Europe” and had damaged the credibility of European social democratic parties.

This is not a welcome message in parts of the PES and Corbyn’s speech was in marked contrast to some that preceded it. He commended Portugal’s political arrangement where the PS governs with the conditional support of the communists and other lefts and set out a political programme which offers Europe’s socialists and social democrats a way back to government.

Labour may well inherit the mess May has made of the Brexit negotiations. It is in the renegotiations that Prodi foretold that we will see how a People’s Brexit is fashioned.


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