Without shame, the Tory government is casually dropping important commitments that Boris Johnson made before and during the general election campaign. So much for the idea that the Prime Minister would lead a socially liberal administration and implement a softer Brexit if he got a large majority of, say, 80 MPs. Remember that national minimum wage increase to £10.50 within five years? It paled in comparison to Labour’s pledge of an immediate £10 minimum for everyone over 16. Well, the Tory version is now only happening “provided economic conditions allow”. This backtracking cannot be separated from the main issue of the day: Brexit.
The new Brexit bill will be introduced to the House of Commons today. Johnson is set to make progress on his mission to deliver Brexit by the end of January, with every Tory candidate having signed up to his deal ahead of the election. There will be no more exciting reports of huge rebel numbers on the government benches, though Labour will whip against the bill at second reading this afternoon. Some readers might wonder whether that is really the right thing to do: should Jeremy Corbyn’s party not simply accept the result, post-election, and whip MPs to abstain?
There are a few reasons for which that could not happen. The leadership election means such a whipping decision would boost the anti-Brexit credentials of Keir Starmer and newly declared Clive Lewis, both frontbenchers who would likely resign in that scenario, while left-favoured Rebecca Long-Bailey would surely follow the whip. The latter risks displeasing the pro-EU membership. But there have also been big changes made to the Brexit bill, which offer more substantive reasons for the whip against.
Potential candidate Lisa Nandy, who opposed a fresh referendum and voted for the bill at second reading last time, was quick to tweet a thread of criticisms. Workers’ rights and environmental protections binned, the new no-deal cliff edge formalised, and transparent processes scrapped. Perhaps most deplorable is the decision to drop the obligation to protect child refugees after Brexit. No longer a requirement in negotiations, the government will now simply make a statement to parliament. As Shadow Brexit Secretary, Starmer pointed out this change and emphasised Labour’s commitment to human rights in response.
Starmer has also written an exclusive comment piece for LabourList further setting out his own values and his thoughts on the future of the Labour Party. A bit like Labour’s ‘another world is possible’ line in the election and the anti-Brexit ‘another Europe is possible’ slogan, ‘another future is possible’ has become Starmer’s key message – at least at this early stage of the campaign (which hasn’t even officially started yet). It is well worth a read.
And if you’re interested in a counter view, former MP Gareth Snell has penned an excoriating piece criticising the architect of Labour’s Brexit policy and other Remainers in the shadow cabinet. Leave seat MPs “begged Sir Keir Starmer and others in the shadow cabinet” to listen to them on Brexit, Snell writes. He adds: “Turns out being popular with the membership was more important than holding parliamentary seats.”
Parliament rises today, and this will be our final regular morning email of 2019. The LabourList briefing will return in the new year – and we’ll be in touch much sooner than that, I’m sure. The site will still be active, with any developments on the leadership contest followed closely by our reporter Elliot and I. Don’t worry: we’ll be balancing comment and criticism across the board to make sure that readers get a fair view of each potential candidate. Have a wonderful festive period and New Year. Thank you for all your support via page views and donations. See you on the other side.Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.