Corbyn isn’t working for Labour

The two main political parties are in meltdown and I feel like we’re just visiting different chapters of ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’. Each day I wonder which crazy land we are going to visit. Britain is on a full-on chaos trip and we must take care to not encourage or advance it. That does not mean, however that all radical and courageous options should be refuted or neglected: there is still useful chaos to be had.

First, I’m not a labour member. I’m just an ordinary voter who wants a credible, competent, pro-EU, not-Tory government. I welcomed Corbyn’s election and the opportunity to give oxygen to anti-TINA economics and a platform for socio-economic justice. I recognised and called out the sabotaging acts of his party’s right-wing and Media’s eagerness to scrutinise and sensationalise everything except his ideas. I voiced apprehension that he would be chewed up and spat out in our political climate. I mused over why he stuck with Labour and didn’t join the Green Party. And I wondered and worried about whether Jeremy would have the capacity, temperament and level of sophistication required to be a credible, long-term prospect. I wrote to those effects, several times, on this site and on social media. I did give him a chance. Chances, actually. In the end, the face palms I performed were over his own doing or failure to do and I saw that a glimmer of timely semi-eloquence, here and there, his constant need to maintain a difficult relationship with journalism, his inability to manage and command authority over his MPs and his preference for preaching to echo chambers was just not going to cut it.

But it was never actually about Jeremy Corbyn, for me; it was only ever about promoting the socio-economic narrative into mainstream discourse with a hope that Labour would recognise its mislaid purpose again.

It doesn’t mean I don’t sincerely wish that things were different. But they are not and now, the EU referendum result has produced special circumstances. Undoubtedly, Corbyn could have done more to better put the remain case for Labour but, how much he is responsible for the result is best left for in-party squabbles and psephologists: I was struggling to see him as a viable party leader, let alone a prime minister, way before that. We are in extraordinary times and now have a sudden opportunity for a General Election that may void Brexit, altogether and avert an utter catastrophe. I need a credible Labour Party to vote for but it has a shed load of work to do and time is of the essence.

The referendum campaign was a farce of outrageous proportions and yet Corbyn’s first public response, after the result was declared, was to announce that he’d respect the democratic will of the electorate. This is supposed to be how it works, except, this was a democratic will to irreversibly leave the EU, expressed by an indecently narrow majority, based on a campaign of incompetence, deception and outright lies. And there he was, the next day, calling for the government to get going on our exit negotiations immediately. This does not square with a self-declared Remainer who could be seizing the opportunity to void the referendum he has reduced to ‘a rejection of the status quo’. The rejection of the status quo is why people chose him, in the first place and he would put it in jeopardy.

At PMQs, Cameron’s evident concern for what he, himself, has recklessly unleashed was clear in his emotionally sincere and frustrated plea, to Corbyn of “for Heaven’s sake man, go!”. On previous days, Cameron’s response to Corbyn’s clumsy, accusatory validation of protest as motivation, I would have put down to his typical Flashman expedience. But Cameron knows, whatever he insists, publicly, that the referendum was a disaster and he was suggesting that Corbyn’s intransigence is now just adding to what stands in the way of a return to effective political sense. That sense being to hold a disreputable Conservative government to account, play smart, limit the damage and rescue Britain – as was already clear in his answers to the House, on Monday, when he quietly and quite cleverly hung Brexit out to dry.

Even if he could win a general election, it seems Corbyn would take us out of the EU, irrespective of current events, options and changing mood. The waves of resignation are from across Labour’s spectrum. They are not just from the opportunists who were always looking for this chance: many are from those who support his politics and have tried hard to promote them and yet his voting base focuses on conspiracy theories. There might well be a bit of two-birds-one-stone truth in them but there are also many, way better reasons for this ‘coup’ than Chilcot opportunism and/or deflection and ‘Red Tory’ framing.

Equally, I can’t blame people for being anxious at the idea of losing Corbyn, since no replacement can necessarily be guaranteed not to swing back to the right. What do his most ardent supporters want most, though? That Jeremy stay as a leader of a cult and lose the general election or perhaps win and be so Brexity or authoritatively hamstrung that the crises continue with more years squandered? Do he and his supporters not realise that the movement towards social justice would come to nothing if he cannot be taken seriously, once PM or if he lets the Tory/UKIP hands of the deregulating-market-is-God, bread and circus (bring your own bread) Brexiteers have their way? The first best chance for the country to achieve his socio-economic vision is by not leaving the EU and, right now, his lovely socio-economic visions count for little if he can’t even acknowledge that Brexit and increasingly he, himself, risks them all.

He says, rightly, that the Government is in disarray. He acknowledges that two thirds of his own party’s voters chose ‘remain’. And yet he only listens to his followers. And yet he wants to start exit plans now. It really doesn’t compute. Jeremy claims he is not resigning because he must represent his own voting base and, of course he must and I respect that. Nevertheless, he has to weigh the blind faith of his fans against the best interests of the country’s whole electorate.

If the Labour leadership election sees Jeremy Corbyn ousted, what I want to know, now, is: 1) will the candidate(s) who stands against Corbyn be actively concerned with trying to void the EU referendum and 2) can the Labour Party give reassurance that they have shifted left and that his replacement now shares his anti-neoliberal, pro social justice mindset. If the answer to either is no, then Labour dooms us all, anyway.

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Before we just Brexit

You know when you toss a coin or do eeny, meeny, miny, moe and it isn’t until you have your decision made for you that you truly know you feel about it? Well, I think that same effect has just occurred in a large number of people who will not be the only ones forced to bear the consequences.

This EU referendum is advisory and is not legally binding and it is not too late to stop this fiasco, though to ignore it would obviously cause uproar and insult a great part of the electorate. Mind you, I’m insulted that a 52-48 split was ever considered acceptable, either way it might have fallen.

The whole campaign was a travesty of democracy, so perhaps it should be rendered void on grounds of political malfeasance. Brexit voters were fed a pack of non-issues, half-truths and outright lies by Leave campaigners who voiced hardly any unified opinions between them and the Remain campaigners who completely squandered the opportunity to provide information that could have encouraged real understanding and critical thinking. The right-wing Press were despicable and primetime Media was often pretty unhelpful, even on its better days.

You know I already believe that having the EU referendum was a mistake in the first place, both in timing and necessity. Just a four percent difference between the Ins and the Outs is intolerably close and the worst possible outcome, that can only highlight the polarisation in the country and eventually undermine the result. The country is split in two: the losing side is very distressed and the winning side has been scandalously misled. Both sides are more likely to become angrier than accommodating as the days slip into weeks and the full implications surface for scrutiny. Social justice is what a great many Leave voters thought they were choosing but it will soon sink in that they have voted for the opposite; that globalising banks and corporate businesses have not been vanquished; that they have just reinforced the establishment of more elites.

But, to transform the result into deed, Article 50 needs to be invoked and some experts, yes, experts say that we can avoid leaving by just not activating it. There is talk of a second referendum, both as an ask-until-you-get-the-right-answer solution and as a matter of our withdrawal process. And there are stories, everywhere, about people who are only just realising the consequences of their will to Out and are anxiously regretting it.

I think we should let the Tories choose their new leader, as soon as possible and have a General Election. This would have the same effect as a second referendum. Labour could stand on a campaign platform promising that a vote for them is a mandate for voiding the result. The Greens, SNP, Plaid and Sinn Féin could support this and do the same.

The referendum did not include a manifesto, a reasonably detailed plan, a programme on which to vote. The Conservatives and UKIP, from which most Brexiters come, must clarify, both to their voting base and the Remain side, what we are getting. Those from the left, who chose Brexit, would then have the best chance of being able to vote for the direction in which they actually wanted to travel.

This would have to be done fairly swiftly to minimise instabilities and before the notification of Article 50 made it a futile exercise. It would give space for the entire electorate to take a breath, reflect and consider what they want and how best to achieve it. I know some will think this is adding to the risk and that it wouldn’t guarantee that we wouldn’t still leave the EU – and if the decision were still for Brexit, then so be it – but it would give Britain’s people a chance to test their confidence and check their expectations. It seems the more sensible course of action and a more palatable risk than the constitutional, democratic, diplomatic, economic and social crises we are facing right now.

Referendum Day!

Hey quibble quibble,
The vote is a wriggle,
The ciao slumps over the tune,
The whistle fog barks in Adlibport
And the wisps damn away in the gloom.

The binary choice is upon us

I did not need this referendum on the European Union. Not at this time. Not over the issues of immigration, the economy and red tape and not even over sovereignty and democracy, now that I’ve informed myself sufficiently.

I wouldn’t vote to join the EU now, of course, not least because of the compulsory Schengen and Euro elements but that is not the choice we are making. I do understand the desire in trying to regain absolute self-determination but it’s quite unrealistic. The only way I’d entertain really going it alone – enough to vote for it – is if I truly thought there was no alternative for our well-being or perhaps if the rest of the world were to do it, too. Albeit there’s been a rise in pro-secessionist regions, I don’t see all the world’s parts simply turning away from collective cooperation. I can’t see them deliberately choosing a self-ghettoising course and making a success of it. Such a disconnecting seems a bit late in the day to be even possible; like not being able to unknow something.

I think being forced into making such a simplistic in/out choice over a jumble of complexities is an unnecessary and reckless distraction. I resent it. It’s having to pre-empt and then try to control not only what Britain and the European Union will look like in the future but the entire globe. We’re a small world, irrevocably intertwined and we are all dancing on a rapidly shifting carpet. There are conflicts at every turn, vital resource scarcity, environmental challenges and great shifts in individual and collective consciousness. No one knows how anything will turn out, beyond that nothing happens in a vacuum and that there will be multi-dimensional consequences.

I know that Remain has played some aspects rather badly – many of my alignments have been coincidental and conditional and barely have my reasons been represented. But that Leave campaign: well, it’s all a bit much, really, isn’t it? To the Right we’ve got authoritarian Gove with his disdain for experts, IDS with his bulging hubris and record of contempt for the disabled and working poor and Boris who doesn’t give a fig for facts or accountability. Then we’ve got the likes of Gisela Stuart and Kate Hoey on the Left, who naively believe that everything will be alright because they are putting their trust in people voting sensibly and the possibility of a Labour government. And bridging the sides of Brexit, the hollow keystone that is Farage, with his shamelessly irresponsible propaganda and populist nostalgia. He started this reckless, ill-informed, pseudo-patriotic nonsense that has turned the country against itself.

Nearly every mess that Brexit wants to “take back control” over has been created by the socio-economic ignorance and injustice of our very own governments, not immigrants and the EU. They are our governments who have undermined good will, public services and vital infrastructure. And, just because a load of people are repeatedly proclaiming “take back control” doesn’t mean any of it will be given to the electorate, or that it even will be used in our interests. Just because they are promising to spend (the same) money on everyone’s pet projects while upholding, nay, increasing current funding levels in key services, doesn’t mean that they will be able to or always want to. Social justice? Simply look at the last few years.

Of course the EU and the Euro zone are both in need of reform. The Euro zone is in a sorry state but that’s because the same relentless, neoliberal, false economy nonsense has been meted out there as here and exacerbated by its currency union. But we’re not in the Euro. And we are not in Schengen. We have vetoes and protections; we have trading clout. We’re not even attached by land, except by way of the two Irelands on another island. No one in the EU is arguing against reform and neither are their minds solely and unanimously fixed on “ever closer union” as the solution. For Leave to say it is not reformable is disingenuous. Have our MPs ever seriously and earnestly tried to lead a proper, EU-wide campaign for reform of its institutions, structures and processes? I’ve witnessed decades of them mostly carping from the side or flapping over relative mundanities. We could easily make a much more effective fuss about what we want and decisions we don’t like. We could even just refuse to comply when our interests are compromised. What would happen? A court fine? A meeting to plan a meeting to talk about sanctioning us? We could leave at the drop of a hat if we thought we were in actual danger. Despite effort, I can’t find a risk in being in the EU that Brexit’s champions would properly solve. And anyway, if a credible risk does ever present, enough to invoke a Treaty mechanism or to warrant immediate escape, then, THEN a referendum might be justified – if not already rendered moot.

Given that we appear not to have enough actors with the experience and capacity, let alone the integrity and wisdom required, what confidence can we have in their ability to untangle the political, diplomatic, legal and technical knots involved in leaving? All that while simultaneously trying to create new deals and relationships? While simultaneously managing the day-to-running of a country? And an impatient electorate’s understandable frustration and much incited but unrealistic expectations? Personally, I can’t afford another lost decade, especially after the last six years which have seen enough time, money and opportunity wasted.

Demanding people make an unnecessary, ill-informed choice, based on neurotic sections of the Press and the hyperbole of political fools and charlatans, likely undermines our already fragile democracy. The BBC should have commissioned an Open University series that explained the EU’s structure and processes and broadcast them on BBC1 at peak viewing time. That would have cut through a great deal of rubbish and provided a commonly known foundation for much better questioning. What we’ve had, instead, are historical rhymes and speculation, non-issues and appeals to baser instincts, little-challenged opinion-by-rote and facts either given erratically and too late to make an impact or flimsy find-them-yourself signposting.

But it’s too late, now: the binary choice is upon us and I have to hope that the turnout is high and that the percentage of whichever side wins is great enough to be considered definitive, otherwise the nasty divisiveness that we have already endured in our communities; the tawdriness that has diminished our social fabric and reputation: they will be mere prologue.

What is amusing, perhaps, is that, regardless of which side prominent people declare for, they can vote the opposite, once at the polling station. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Boris Johnson stepped into the booth on Thursday and voted ‘Remain’ once he’d got his little pencil out in private. I shall vote to remain. I want to wrest control from Brexit. I, too, want my country back.

Summer Solstice

Day Star makes zenith
and carpe diem
wakes the wise adventurer to rise
and catch momentum like a wave
and ride the solar rays
that light upon the crop
the soul has sung and sown
that ripens under dying sun
the fruit the path of Will has grown

Merry Solstice! 🌞

 

Originally posted June, 2014

especially in times of dark

Always
but especially in times of dark,
encroaching space,
my hope alights and leans
on an enduring faith
in the human spirit
and the myriad illumined pockets
of kindness and enlightened thought.
They are as the stars in a night sky:
escape the density of beamed artifice
and they are constant; visible.
For the heart sees what it looks for
as much as does the mind’s lensed eye.

 

Originally posted: October 29, 2014