Labour’s Failure and Institutional Analysis 853


Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to oppose Brexit in Parliament is as culpable as Harriet Harman’s failure to oppose welfare cuts. It will haunt Labour just as much. The job of opposition is to oppose. We currently have a more right wing government than I imagined the UK would ever see in my lifetime, and it is riding a tide of racist populism in England and Wales, barked on by a far right media whose ownership and world view is ever more concentrated. This is no time to drop the duty of resistance.

Corbyn’s view of the EU is ambivalent. Both major English and Welsh parties are led by people who are at least highly sympathetic to Brexit. That is a democratic failure when 47 per cent of the English and Welsh voters supported the EU.

The problem with the EU as a cause is that it is supported by some extremely unpleasant people. Straw (father and son), Mandelson, Osborne. The EU has nobody given media coverage to speak for it in the UK that is not amongst the most despised members of the political class. And in criticising Corbyn’s failure to oppose Brexit, I find myself echoing Blairites, which is uncomfortable.

But there are two major problems with the left criticism of the EU. The first is its willingness to be hijacked to the racist cause with the economically illiterate argument that immigration means competition for the fixed number of jobs, and thus drives down the living standards of British workers. That atavism I dismiss with contempt. Not least because even if it were true, it shows a very narrow lack of concern for workers of the world outside Thanet. Beggar thy neighbour is not a socialist motto.

The second and more subtle trap into which the left falls is to view the EU as a set of policies. It is not a set of policies, it is a supra-national institution. At the moment its policies tend towards the neo-liberal because at the moment Europe, and especially the UK, is dominated by neo-liberal governments. The notion that leaving the EU will bring more social justice under the reality of continual Tory governments is one of the more risible contentions of much of the British left.

The EU can very much be a force for good. I am personally convinced that there are two reasons Scotland is so much more pro-EU than England. The first is a generally more internationalist and communal outlook in society at large. The second is that during the Thatcher years, when Scottish industry was being devastated and there was a deliberate government policy of no action to alleviate suffering communities, EU regional policy provided the only ray of light. I recall personally seeing big signboards at the dualling of the A9 and the construction of Dundee airport, stating that they were paid for by EU Regional Funds. As Corbyn pointed out in the referendum, workers’ rights, the maximum working week, tachometers, many health and safety standards, all came from the EU when doctrinaire right wing Westminster documents were abolishing “red tape”.

This failure to note that the EU is an institution not a policy, is reflected in the Left’s current attitude to trade agreements. Trade is an extremely good thing. Neo-liberal governments around the world have added highly undesirable extras to trade agreements. The role of Investor Protection clauses which allow cabals of lawyers to adjudicate billions of dollars to rapacious corporations is well understood. But it is not a necessary feature of a trade agreement. Nor is it necessary for a trade agreement to forbid state aid. It is a perfectly logical position for two states to trade without tariffs while accepting that the organisation of the internal resources of a state is its own affair. The neo-liberals are in any event inconsistent here. They ought to believe that state aid to one industry is going to cause inefficiencies which will balance out by giving the state traded with comparative advantage elsewhere. Because neo-liberal governments have secured the addition of these unnecessary bolt-ons to multilateral trade deals, does not make the concept of multilateral trade deals in itself bad. And again, the notion that Liam Fox is going to negotiate anything fairer is hysterical.

Corbyn’s failure to oppose Brexit is a symptom of the abandonment by much of the left of the principles of internationalism. Internationalism is not possible without international institutions. To write off those institutions because they are currently controlled by right wing governments is short-sighted to the point of being stupid. That it leaves the left vying for the racist vote with the atavistic right is a plain signal of what a wrong direction it is.

Labour is becoming an irrelevance in Scotland. The latest opinion poll has SNP 47%, Conservative 27%, Labour 15%, Lib Dems 4%, Greens 3%. This continues a trend of Labour bleeding support to the Tories. It is however fascinating that the Tories in Scotland having achieved their highest point, that point is still lower than the lowest point of Labour in the UK under Corbyn. Yet Tory ministers are prepared to take this Tory “popularity” in Scotland as evidence they can ride roughshod over the Scottish people en route to Brexit.

More significant is what is happening at council by-elections all over Scotland, held under Single Transferable Vote. It has become an accepted part of political life here that Tories, Lib Dems and Labour will transfer their preferences to each other. So Labour voters will transfer to Tory rather than to SNP or Green. This everyday collusion with the Tories reveals Scotland’s remaining Red Tories for what they are. It also makes it essential that everybody in the crucial council elections looming in Scotland votes SNP first or at the very least ensures they use all their preferences and include all the SNP candidates.

I have blogged for some years now about the deep gap in social and political attitudes between England and Scotland. That this gap manifests itself in attitudes to the EU is not surprising, and if that has become the wedge all well and good. That the same gap is resulting in a clear choice between Independence and the Tories – both Tory rule from Westminster and the Tories in Scotland – is the inevitable working out of the same process.

That is why all the Scottish left should now suspend dispute and get behind the SNP until after Independence, provided the referendum happens before the end of next year (which appears happily almost inevitable).


853 thoughts on “Labour’s Failure and Institutional Analysis

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    • Dave Lawton

      “Is absolutely necesarry for some to study what is EU and what they stand for! Then to think about Brexit!”

      The EU was created as a CIA project and the people involved were Allen Dulles fascist spy master and the Ford Foundation which was funded by Hitler before WW2.Before it was the EU it was the Common Market which people in the UK were brainwashed to vote for by the use of a propaganda campaign by MI6 and the CIA through literature and music and song.The Common Market was a total Fraud as C.Gordan Tether ex editor Lombard column of the financial times showed in his booklet “Common Market Fraud” which he managed to get published through an underground press
      as all mainstream publishing houses blacklisted his writings after he was sacked from FT after ten years working for them because of his opposition to the Common Market.If you drill down into the EU you will find it is a fascist gangster organisation.

      • Old Mark

        Dave L-

        Interesting character C Gordon Tether- he was in fact the founder of the FT’s Lombard colummn, and had been a staffer there since 1945, when Bracken’s outfit took over/merged with its rival, the Financial News, where Tether started as a City journalist before the war.

        He got the push from the FT in the summer of 1976, but he’d been deviating from the establishment line on a number of issues for about a decade prior to his dismissal. He was a gold bug (although strangely enough that ‘deviation’ from orthodoxy never really harmed Lord Rees Mogg’s more stellar near parallel career at The Times, where he ended up as Editor- but then again, back in the 70s, he was, unlike Thether, pro Common Market- a view Mogg has noisily rescinded over the past couple of decades).

        It is also believed that Thether’s persistence in linking the disgraced Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands to the then virtually unheard of Bilderberg group was also factor in his eventual dismissal from the FT. (In 1975-76 the Lockheed bribery scandal was big in the financial pages, and Prince Bernhard, a senior figure at Bilderberg for two decades since its foundation in his country in 1954, was one of those found to be on the take).

  • michael norton

    Two Labour – to lose by-elections on Thursday.
    If they lose both, the writing is on the wall for Labour.

  • John Monro

    Corbyn’s response to the EU referendum has indeed been pretty disappointing. There’s a disturbing level of political and intellectual confusion in his handling of this matter. We know he has considerable ambivalence to the EU, no-one who isn’t actually thinking could avoid this, but as a politician, he has to come to terms with this, and not continue to sit on the fence as he seems to be doing. I strongly supported Corbyn as Labour leader, but in regard to the EU at least, his opponent for the leadership, Owen Smith, was, I thought, quite politically brave in so forcefully stating his opposition to “Brexit”. Now I have to think that perhaps Owen had the needed political acumen and forthrightness that’s been so sorely missing from the left. On the other hand, Scotland’s continue wish to stay in the EU seems to sit oddly with the idea that Scotland should leave the UK, with the thought perhaps that the EU can reform? But is the is the EU truly reformable? I hae me doots. If not, then couldn’t it be a case of out of the frying pan, into the fire. For instance, your Scottish fisheries are a very valuable resource which you no longer control and have to share with all the other European Union members. That alone would be sufficient reason for many not to be a continued part of the EU. And when you think what the EU have done to another small country on the periphery of the Union, Greece, would you wish to be treated the same way?

  • michael norton

    Only two nail biting days to go till the two Labour by-elections Up North
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-stoke-staffordshire-39037554

    Stoke-on-Trent

    A man has been charged with eight terrorism offences in connection with his work at a mosque.

    Kamran Sabir Hussain is accused of encouraging support for so-called Islamic State (IS) at the site in Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, police said.

    He is accused of giving a sermon to a congregation “with the alleged purpose” of encouraging support for IS.

    Labour are after the Islamic vote.
    UKIP are after the English vote.

  • K

    What about Greece? I am shocked at how naive you are about the EU. The EU is an organization for big business, not normal people. It seems like a lot of the fake left in UK (Owen Jones, Robert Fisk, Mason etc) are afraid of loosing their privilege. If you were left, you would oppose EU.

  • John G

    Leaving the EU will not guarantee overturning neoliberalism in the UK. But leaving the EU is a precondition for overturning neoliberalism in the UK.
    Look what they’ve done to Greece. That’s just the most obvious example.

    • michael norton

      Jeremy Corbyn has goaded Nicola Sturgeon into an attack on his leadership of the Labour party after he claimed SCOTLAND
      could not afford to become independent.

      Corbyn told an audience of Scottish Labour MSPs and activists in Glasgow that independence would be a serious mistake,
      and would lead to “turbocharged austerity and a GLARING HOLE in the money required to fund essential services”.

      Referring to Scotland’s £15bn public spending deficit after the collapse in oil prices, £200 million debt of Police SCOTLAND
      Corbyn said on Friday the first minister was surrendering to Tory tax cuts and big business by refusing to raise Scottish income tax rates while cutting council funding.

      • michael norton

        Labour now have yet another by-election in the offing.
        Labour MP Gerald Kaufman dies at 86

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