Boris Johnson won a clear mandate yesterday with 66% of the vote on a turnout of over 87%. But it was only from the Tory membership, with fewer than 160,000 ballots cast. The leadership contest victor will be appointed Britain’s new Prime Minister after our final PMQs featuring Theresa May and a visit to the Palace. And yet his plans for Brexit – from which we can only conclude, so far, that no deal will ultimately be pursued – do not have the support of the country, nor parliament. This is the most crucial fact for Labour, as it could deliver its core aims: block no deal and get the Tories out.
Labour is a force to be reckoned with when the party unites. To do that, it must address its principle divisions: Brexit and antisemitism. Barry Gardiner was happy to admit on Radio 4 this morning that, although the matter of Labour’s election pledge on our future relationship with the EU is unknown until the ‘Clause V’ manifesto meeting, the expectation is that the position will “build upon” the current Remain stance. MPs and, to a lesser extent, activists won’t all be backing the pivot, but the leadership and party as a whole at least has a clear position.
Progress is being made on the antisemitism front, in that steps are being taken to address concerns over the way Labour handles disciplinary cases. However, the new moves aren’t exactly what many detractors had in mind. Quite the opposite, in fact. Labour’s ruling national executive committee meeting yesterday saw Tom Watson drop his motion for an independent complaints process, faced with little support for the proposal. The body instead endorsed the idea of handing more power to NEC panels, which could then “fast-track expulsions in the most serious cases”. The rule change would speed up processes, but directly clash with calls for more independence. A detailed argument must be made publicly if the leadership wants to convince critics that an entirely “outsourced” procedure is undesirable and unworkable.
Internal problems aside, the fightback against Johnson starts today. This morning, manufacturing workers will demand that no deal is taken off the table, saying “no to no deal” and “our jobs matter”. Unite reps are set to unfurl a big banner at 11am, Old Palace Yard. They will then enter parliament and lobby MPs, explaining the damaging effects that leaving without a deal would have on their specific industries and the livelihoods of workers.
In town, Russell Square will host a “street festival of noise, music and art” called Fck Boris. Supported by Sisters Uncut, Momentum and other organisations, activists will take to the streets and “say nah” as Johnson delivers his first speech as Prime Minister. With a reckless leader at the helm ready to carry out the most reckless policy, this is a terrifying time for our country – and Labour has a duty to put up the best fight possible. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.