Sunday, 10 July 2016

Bring all sides together

In an excellent article in the Guardian, 'Bring all sides together to negotiate our future with Europe', Shirley Williams argues that the vote to leave the EU has left our country in a dire state: "With every passing day, the problems confronting the new prime minister multiply. The balance of payments worsens, the pound sinks against the dollar ... and Brexit begins to look more and more like snake oil."

Whatever the "snake oil" deceptions of the campaign, we are now in the situation we are in, and Brexit is imminent. The risk to the UK economy is very real. The 48 Movement has therefore argued that we need a radical programme of public investment to stave off unemployment, by borrowing to invest in infrastructure and housing - and no more public spending cuts.

The Guardian article continues: "To get through the business of negotiating an alternative to membership of the European Union, and to do so without our country falling apart, will require patience, tolerance of different and often strongly held views and good, grown-up government. None of these were evident in the bitter, brutal referendum debate. We need not just good government but a serious, responsible opposition as well. It is therefore dismaying that the Labour party cannot in its current state fulfil that role."

We agree, and have called for divisions in the Labour Party to be resolved, and quickly, in the interests of the country. Shirley Williams' analysis of the problem is worth considering in detail:

  • Labour has not yet been able to reconcile its parliamentary party with its members.
  • Membership has increased significantly under Jeremy Corbyn, almost doubling from just over 200,000 in May 2015 to 388,000 in January of this year.
  • 100,000 more members have joined since the Brexit vote, although we do not know how many support Jeremy Corbyn.
  • His standing among members still remains high, and if he is involved in a new leadership contest it is very likely he would be re-elected.
  • Some on the hard left outside Labour, like the Trotskyite Socialist Workers’ Party, saw Jeremy Corbyn’s election as the chance to gain power - and used the same "entryist" tactics that split Labour in the 1970s, nearly destroying it in the process.
  • While Jeremy Corbyn is viewed by many Labour voters and supporters as an incorruptible politician, he is not generally thought of - and particularly not by most of his MPs - as a natural leader or someone willing to compromise.

Following that analysis, she asks: "With Labour in such disarray, how do we ensure that our future relationship with the European Union reflects the range of disparate opinion in this country, in a way that will avoid the referendum result leaving an appalling legacy of division?"

It is the possibility of an "appalling legacy of division" that most concerns The 48 Movement. We want to build a new consensus around the eight-point post-Brexit programme we have set out.

For her part, Shirley Williams calls for parties that supported remaining in the EU to be included on a new parliamentary committee, adding: "Consensus has to be reached before any deal is struck and any proposed deal must be approved by the committee before it is submitted to the government."

Her article concludes: "An all-party approach is essential if the country is to be drawn together again. The result of the referendum was very close and a new round of battles could irreparably split the country even to the point where the UK might fall apart. This would be a terrible price to pay for the referendum outcome."