Okay, so I’m struggling now.
The Brexit vote won 52% to 48% Remain. Therefore Britain has voted to leave the EU.
I get that….It was close (and had it gone the other way, the Leavers would had been campaigning constantly in the streets…), but I get that….
So, the Labour Party leadership and most Labour MPs agree that they must carry out the voters’ wishes and vote for the Article 50 Bill. I get that too…
I get it even though it’s hard to take, and, although I definitely did not want us to leave the EU with the Tories controlling proceedings, I understand why Labour feels that we must do this…
Well, I did ‘get it’ up until yesterday, when May responded to the High Court ruling that there must be a Parliamentary debate before the triggering of Article 50, and she responded with a real ‘gotcha’..
May ‘gave in’ (but not really…). She has produced the called-for White Paper for MPs to debate. But the White Paper is short; there is hardly any wording to make ammendments out of, and May has set the debate as short as she possibly can.
These are all steps to ensure that Article 50 is triggered in such a way that no concessions are made to workers, to human rights… to anything that isn’t part of the Tory plan for Britain.
Nevertheless, Corbyn’s response not only says that Labour should let the Article 50 Bill go through unopposed, but that he will set in place a three-line whip to make sure that Labour MPs vote for it.
May has wrong-footed Corbyn and thwarted his plans that Brexit should ensure a good deal for workers, families, human rights, and the environment. But despite this he is sticking to his plan that Labour MPs should not oppose what is seen as a democratic vote to leave the EU.
Those Labour MPs who represent constituencies where there was a strong Remain vote will be expected to vote for the triggering of Article 50, despite no safeguards being put in place for their constituents.
Now don’t get me wrong… Although I have always seen the EU Referendum as an advisory vote rather than a firm mandate, I do understand that MPs feel that they must support the winning Leave vote in order to maintain Democracy. In legislative terms, that is debatable, but I can understand why Labour MPs, especially those from consituences that voted Leave, should feel this way.
But what I cannot understand, is how it is considered ‘democratic’ to ask an MP to vote in opposition to the majority of those who voted for her/him in their constituency.
Surely, under democracy, an MP ‘represents’ their constituents?
I realise that this means that they are not pressed to vote exactly as their constituents say, but in what they consider to be their constituent’s best interests.
But voting against their constituents and triggering a bill which the majority of them would oppose, and, more importantly, when you know that this is not in their constituent’s interests…
That, I believe, is plain wrong.
Of course, alongside all this is the feeling, from those on the left of the Labour Party, that the article 50 debate and bill will form part of a new ‘coup’ against Corbyn’s leadership.
MPs who oppose Corbyn will vote against the whip not so much because they are thinking about their constituents (and here I agree in the case of Owen Smith, the majority of whose constituents voted Leave) but because they oppose Corbyn as Labour leader and will seize this chance to call for another vote of no confidence against him.
To make matters even more complicated, Clive Lewis had been speaking out against the Bill and had been touted as the new replacement to Corbyn. A left-winger who didn’t mind speaking out against the leadership when he felt he must. In which case, the assumption goes, he could be ‘brought around’ to more ‘moderate’ thinking…
However, Clive Lewis has now stated that he will vote with the party and will not oppose Article 50. This has not halted the ‘whisperers’ however – they have just changed their agenda to say that Lewis has ‘spoilt his chances’ of ever becoming a Labour Leader (they are nothing if not vindictive…).
Now, I see all these shenanigans (as my gran would call it) going on and I despair.
I do not want to leave the EU. Europe is as much my home as is England. I have many family and friends there.
But I do not like the character of the EU itself – its neoliberalism, with anti-austerity measures that are bankrupting many countries; its expansionism which I deem to be dangerous; and it’s growing ‘fortress’ mentality towards immigrants and anyone from other nations who does not have mega-bucks.
What I wanted to see was a way to change the EU – for workers across Europe to get together to fight for their rights and for the rights of others.
This was never going to be easy to achieve, but any workers’ movement trying to achieve this outside the EU and under an increasingly right-wing, authoritarian government as is growing in the UK (and now in the hoped-for [by May] sickening ‘special relationship’ with the Trump administration) stands little to no chance at all.
I actually feel in depair at this point.
I had real hope for Corbyn and his policies.
But I feel no assurance that Labour will be able to get the concessions they say they will out of the Article 50 debate.
We are now told that ‘after the Bill goes through’ Labour will get their say and influence, but I wonder….
I want to follow the line that ‘we are playing the long game here’ and that this is all that Labour can do at this point, having been placed in a bad position. And that with hard work we can still save worker’s rights, human rights, the NHS, the environment….
But I’m not so sure anymore…