Labour’s new message must be ‘Building a Better Britain Without Brexit’

Manuel Cortes
© Jess Hurd/Another Europe is Possible

The European election results were grim for the Labour Party, and they come after local election results that weren’t great either. We need to face the reality that 45% of Labour’s 2017 voters who went to the polls on Thursday opted instead for Remain parties, while just 15% gave their support to The Brexit Party or UKIP.

Ironically enough, the Euro election results aren’t really a verdict on our relationship with the European Union. Rather they are a damning indictment of Theresa May’s chaotic government and her inability to deliver her Brexit unicorns. Take note, though – what we have seen at the ballot box must also prompt those within our party to drop their own unicorns.

There will be no crocodile tears from me for the departure of the least strong, least stable Prime Minister since Anthony Eden. No commendations from me for a disaster-class PM, on whose watch Britain is condemned by the United Nations for increasing poverty across our country.

My contempt for the sheer incompetence of this set of Conservative wreckers knows no bounds. Much of my day job is spent resisting and rectifying the effects of Tory mismanagement of our rail industry – that’s what unions do. However, fully overcoming the effects of Tory mismanagement of our economy, which sees one in three of our country’s children living in poverty, will take a radical Labour government.

Be in no doubt – a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government is what our country is crying out for. And I’m confident that we can win the general election when it comes. But it’s not as simple as wishing for a nationwide poll to arrive.

As our Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has wisely observed, turkey’s don’t vote for Christmas. Indeed, the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act makes bringing down a government very difficult – that is what it was designed to do. So how do we force an election? The surest way of doing so right at this moment is by sinking Brexit. Do that, and the Tories will split asunder.

What we need now is a quick and honest stock take of these election results, which left Labour exposed and blamed for a Brexit policy that has never been ours to control. How can we when we are not the government of the day? It’ll come as no surprise that I hold our mixed Brexit messaging responsible for where we are after Thursday’s ballot box debacle. We sowed confusion where people on the doorsteps I stood on were crying out for clarity.

Straight-talking is what we do best. We are straight-talking on our commitments to our NHS, on the abolition of tuition fees, on creating an economy For The Many and on our climate emergency. Yet on Brexit we were as clear as mud.

It would be an outrage to blame Jeremy Corbyn for that. Let’s face it, he has tried to lead even though there are divisions within our parliamentary party and shadow cabinet, but remarkably he has so far stopped Brexit in its tracks. He’s been so successful in doing this that May was forced to admit she can no longer occupy Downing Street long before the outcome of these results were known.

During the campaign, Jeremy restated his commitment to remain and reform. He even said a public vote could be the start of “a healing process”. So to those in our party who have failed to amplify our leader’s public words or gone against them, it’s time to follow his message.

To those who have preferred to use Brexit as a proxy for an outmoded and unnecessary ideological battleground between our party’s left and right, these results should be the wake-up call to cease your political self-indulgence. One in three British children need us, and all of us in our Labour Party must urgently get a grip. We must join together in a disciplined, united opposition to this leaderless Tory Party.

There are questions that remain unanswered about how we approached the EU election. I would like to know why this was the first time in my 30+ years of Labour membership that I did not receive a poster to put on my window. Why is it that not enough leaflets were produced on time for our activists to hand out? Cock-up, complacency, incompetence probably all have their part to play. Sadly, for our many wonderful activists it felt like our party didn’t want to win the European elections. This can never be allowed to happen again.

The Tory leadership election is already an ugly spectacle; one fought out on the no-deal terrain of Nigel Farage’s choosing. The dog-whistle xenophobia and racism that will accompany the strutting of the wannabe PMs is already sickening me to my stomach. Yet whoever is elected will have no mandate to negotiate with Europe or to run our country.

Labour has respected the three-year-old referendum result. We voted in parliament to trigger Article 50 and God knows our party sat in negotiations and tried to broker a deal that protected our workers’ rights, our environment, our food standards and our jobs. Labour has more than held that side of our bargain. However, as no-deal now becomes the mantra of those who would be PM, the only clear message available to Labour is ‘no Brexit’.

Looking back, Theresa May did actually, for once, tell us the truth in December when she said there were three options facing parliament – her deal, no deal, or no Brexit at all. With her deal gone with her Premiership, is it perhaps time to consider this truth: Brexit is simply not negotiable. It’s a rock and a hard place: vassalage or deep economic harm. The squeeze on Britons whilst Theresa May tried to conjure the impossible has not been worth the juice.

With the Tories changing their leader and gearing up for Armageddon Brexit, our generals must recalibrate too. This trade union general secretary is recommending Jeremy now leads an all-out assault on Brexit. A new election strategy committed to ‘Building a Better Britain Without Brexit’ is clear messaging. It’s the unifying message our party members want. Sink Brexit and bring on a general election – it’s Labour’s to win.

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