It was all in the railways. Trains connect – cities, regions, countries even. They can keep a whole continent together. The latest coup de théâtre in the Brexit saga was always bound to come from that industry.
The series of events is spectacular: Jeremy Corbyn’s insistence on the relevance of nationalising train companies, now means that Lord Andrew Adonis’ exposure of Chris Grayling’s gift to Stagecoach and Virgin – the beneficiaries of the East Coast ‘bailout’ – as public funds robbery has the effect of a huge double whammy.
For, Adonis’ denunciation signifies: a) the Conservative party is indeed economically incompetent and b) it is even unpatriotic, in the sense it does not work in the national interest, but only in the interest of oligarchs. But there’s also a c) in this formidable story: Adonis is now freer. Unencumbered. No more direct work for the benefit of a government that has shown – once again – complete disregard for ordinary people.
The HS2 high speed rail project Adonis was busy giving advice on will suffer as a result. This is a smaller issue compared to the big Brexit problem the Labour peer can now fully devote his energy to.
Opposing Brexit – even soft Brexit – badly needs a couple of heavyweights like him. A few political hulks shacking things up a bit: no Brexit would be good for Britain. It’s illusory to think otherwise.
In fact, there’s widespread torpor on this. Hence the magnificence of Adonis’ ability to turn things around. All of a sudden. What a smasher. Precisely what Lou Ferrigno’s green and benign monster would do on set. Today, we have a handsome version of that captivating ugly character, but potentially just as effective. (The play on words with the former minister’s surname was too tempting, sorry.)
With Tony Blair and Gordon Brown now to varying degrees offstage spent – and in Blair’s case facing a lot of opposition among Labour members – the Labour movement does need as many credible figures to shoulder Corbyn as possible, people who can grab the centre stage and speak to the whole country in the face.
March 2019 is approaching fast; plus, democracy didn’t stop in the early summer of 2016. In between we have witnessed total chaos. Talking tripe has become the new norm. British good governance in the economic interest of everyone, which incidentally the anti-corruption movements of southern Europe have always looked up to, is something of the past. Fading away.
The same is happening in America. A former Labour pillar – one Corbyn’s team could do with – said something poignant in this respect not long ago. Penning for the Observer last summer and referring to both the UK and the US, David Miliband claimed that “today our politics and government are setting new standards for dysfunction. Rather than stability and global leadership there is confusion.”
Brexiters, the CEO of the New York-based NGO International Rescue Committee said, “mis-sold [leaving the EU] as a quick fix.” It’s now clear that this is far from true. “This transatlantic malaise has a common root: politics based on what you are against, not what you are for. Look at the campaigns against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and against the EU. There is a common trope: the politics of grievance.”
In other words: the moaners carp on Cassandra remoaners’ warnings, but have no tangible solutions to offer. Only blue passports, for the time being. His analysis hits the spot very quickly. “In Britain, the implementation of the EU referendum decision has been rash and chaotic.
The timing and content has been governed by factions in the Tory party. Our negotiating position is a mystery – even on immigration. So the fightback against the worst consequences of the referendum has the opportunity and responsibility to get its bearings fast.”
This is why Adonis’ commitment and words of hope come just in time, at the end of a bumpy 2017. Any later would be unproductive:
“What I hope Jeremy [Corbyn] will do is come out for a referendum on Mrs [Theresa] May’s final deal, which I do not believe he can in all conscience support, since it is going to destroy British jobs and British trade … That is my strategy for the next year.”
If all goes well in the end (no Brexit that is), maybe even something serious to improve the British railways could be done – more long-term stuff, for the benefit of everyone. With no visas and just a ticket in hand – one-way or return –, Europeans keep looking on.
Alessio Colonnelli has written for publications including The Independent, the International Business Times and Open Democracy.