Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit approach is stubborn and reckless
Initially, in the early days of Jeremy Corbyn’s premiership, I was one of the young Labour supporters who was on the side of the hard-left candidate. In 2017, in my former home constituency of Barnsley East, I was on the telephone lines calling the electorate to see if they had voted. As I contacted the voters, it became clear many would be voting Labour but not because of Jeremy Corbyn. Often, they would criticise him and the Labour front bench for being weak, distant and taking the Labour Party in a direction that they could not follow. I had to remind them that it was the party and the MP that they were voting for, not the leader.
This split in Labour voters has grown since the Brexit vote in 2016 due to the lack of trust in the leader. Consequently, this led to Corbyn losing supporters, including myself, who believe that he could form a government. Right now, a general election would be the worst possible solution to Brexit. Not only would it be political suicide for the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), but it would mean Corbyn and his team would have to form a Brexit plan with no negotiation, no idea of what concessions the EU would give and have little to no chance of gaining a majority in Parliament.
In the 1975 referendum, Corbyn voted to leave Europe, he spoke out against the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 and he voted against the Lisbon Treaty in 2008. History would therefore dictate that, come the time of the EU referendum, you would expect a relatively hard-line Eurosceptic in Jeremy Corbyn who would campaign to leave the EU. However, during the campaign he put party loyalties first and half-heartedly campaigned for remaining a member the EU (a position which the majority of Labour MPs decided upon). Corbyn has said it is ‘perfectly possible to be critical and still convinced we need to remain a member’ which, on the face of it, is a very plausible answer but, in it, reveals the image of a man who would be apathetic towards any campaign to leave the EU.
Then comes the campaign to leave the EU. The official Vote Leave campaign was fighting hard with a big red bus whereas the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign was nowhere to be seen. Unfortunately, the same complacency within the remain campaign spread to Corbyn himself, who hardly campaigned at all, with voters not knowing the party backs remaining in the EU’.
Since the vote, Corbyn, like Theresa May, has taken the stance of ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and it seems as though the government has been twiddling its thumbs for two years in order to try and force its deal through Parliament, at the eleventh hour, by running down the clock. The antics of last month in the Commons have shown how weak the government itself is in trying to deliver Brexit and how weak the opposition is, when the government is on its knees, in delaying calling for a vote of no confidence after the Prime Minister postponed the Brexit deal. As SNP MP Mhairi Black said: ‘I can’t get my head around how he has delayed calling for a vote of no confidence. All that’s happened is this lot has had another month in power’ - she is correct. We are running out of time. If the vote of no confidence was called properly, when the Prime Minister pulled the deal the first time, she might have realised that she was weaker than she thought. This may have prompted her to hold the crucial cross-party talks which could break the deadlock therefore, showing that Corbyn is somewhat to blame for the failings of Parliament in the past month.
After the government won their vote of no confidence last week, the Prime Minister invited ‘the leaders of parliamentary parties to meet with her individually’, but Jeremy Corbyn refused to get involved in talks with the Prime Minister unless the government removed the prospect of a No Deal Brexit, which is a childish and partisan way of entering into these discussions - a view shared by Vince Cable who said it would be “silly not to talk”. This stubborn attitude that the Labour leader has adopted will not get him very far in these talks and if the leader of the Liberal Democrats, a party who is ‘extreme’ to the point of calling for another vote on the referendum, can at least talk with the Prime Minister then why can’t he?
I see this as a power grab to try and discredit the government and keep Parliament divided over the issue just so Labour can swoop in at the next election, whenever that may be, and use it as a political bargaining chip against the Conservative Party. A move so reckless it undermines our very democracy.