Media get their coup: Just not the one they wanted
For months an assortment of commentators and analysts have been praying for a parliamentary insurrection. With every column inch and skewed editorial they have chipped away hoping to make their predictions of a coup a self-fulfilling prophecy. The world hasn’t seemed right to them since the general election and everything that’s transpired in the days and months after Cameron’s Conservatives won, has defied all of their ‘well informed’ predictions.
It seems at last they have finally succeeded. There is indeed an uprising afoot and the right-wing of one of Britain’s major parties is now in open and joyous revolt. The obvious problem for our esteemed fourth estate is of course that the struggle, now an all-out war, is being waged, not among Labour ranks, but at the heart of the Tory Party.
Of course when it comes to internecine warfare the Tories are past masters. As Dennis Skinner rightly pointed out even their heroine, Thatcher, wasn’t immune from all out attack. Once she had outlived her usefulness, the knives came out faster than a lie from Nigel Farrage’s mouth. For her the cracks had begun to appear with a back-bench attack from a scorned Geoffrey Howe. It was an intervention that would later be compared to a savaging by a dead sheep, nevertheless the die was cast.
You could say the same of today’s broadside by former Prime Minister, John Major on the deceit of the ‘leave’ campaign, or the previous attempt by Iain Duncan-Smith to knife the Prime Minister, albeit from the opposite side of the political spectrum. IDS suggested that Cameron’s ‘we’re all in it together’ slogan was a lie and Major suggested the NHS was as safe in the hands of the Brexiters as a hamster would be in the clutches of a hungry python. Ironically they are both right, but their assertions say more about the hatred of each wing of the party for each other, than it does for their sense of social justice.
Jeremy Corbyn has predicted a “bonfire of worker’s rights” should the ‘Brexiters’ be victorious on June 23rd. He is of course spot on. After all, on current evidence, the current Conservative crop cannot be trusted to look out for each other in the event of a leave vote, let alone the rest of us. Time and again they have shown themselves to be the party of self-interest, bloated by a sense of entitlement and driven by a need to preserve their grip on power. Things like trade union rights, the minimum wage, statutory maternity pay and working time directives are all simply obstacles that get in the way of free enterprize.
Cameron, the self-styled leader of the ‘Remain’ campaign, had already sought to negotiate away all of these protections, long before the referendum campaigns kicked into gear. If the Tories are united on anything it’s their desire to shift the balance of power in society in favour of business and private monopoly. In this sense we can confidently predict that, regardless of the result, both wings of the Tory Party will continue to pursue deregulation and austerity. An exit vote would probably speed this process up, but a vote to stay, on its own, wouldn’t be enough to reverse the assault the pubic services and worker’s rights.
This is why I believe the Labour leadership are correct to distance themselves from Cameron and refuse to share a platform with him. It is a great shame that Sadiq Khan chose to share a platform with the Prime Minister recently. This is no popular front. The motives of the respective leaders on Europe are entirely different. Labour should therefore march under it’s own banner and programme on Europe and I would argue that Corbyn and McDonnell have walked this line perfectly in recent weeks.
We cannot argue for a remain vote without an honest assessment of Europe’s flaws. French workers are in revolt as we speak, bravely resisting their governments attempts to strip them of their rights. The Greeks have also fought bravely, only to suffer at the hands of the European Central bank, aided and abetted by Germany and France. In Portugal and Spain, leftist movements have sprung forth and sought to challenge the existing order.
A new Europe is indeed possible, but only if it is a Europe of solidarity not division. Only if British labour throws it weight behind others clamouring for social justice on the continent. We cannot argue to remain, only to leave the same crooks and swindlers controlling the levers of power in Brussels. To this end it was great to see Jeremy Corbyn join Ken Loach send messages of support to striking French workers in Le Havre this weekend.
For too long the debate on the left has been split between those who correctly argue that the European Union is no more than a bosses club and comrades who argue, with equal accuracy, that leaving will expose British workers to the worst excesses of the right. It’s time to move on from this debate in my view. It doesn’t have to be a choice between British or European austerity.
My vote to remain is no more an endorsement of the current order, than a left leave vote would be of the Johnson, Gove and Farrage triumvirate. If we are to remain then it must be on the basis of hope not austerity; and of fundamental reform of the whole system of power. Those French workers, packed into streets and striking all over France are demanding just that. The Greeks, Portuguese and Spaniards want the same. Their grievances are remarkably similar to our own.
Therefore I am voting to stay because I want an opportunity to argue inside Europe for type of society our fellow Europeans are currently fighting for. I want us join with them in resisting austerity and, not only protecting the rights we have won over decades, but enhancing and advancing them. This is the argument being put forward by Labour and it is diametrically opposed to Cameron’s vision of a post ‘Remain’ Britain.
The campaign led by the Prime Minister can be best characterised as one based on apocalyptic predictions, designed to frighten people into staying; and a desire to preserve London as the centre of European capitalism. This is a thoroughly uninspiring message and at time of writing it threatens to hand victory to the out campaign.
In the remaining weeks of the referendum campaign, there is an opportunity for Labour to distance themselves even further from the negativity epitomised by both sides of the Tory chasm on Europe. We’ve heard from the Labour leadership that a ‘new Europe is possible’. It is now time to set out what that Europe would look like. For example it would be interesting to hear how Labour MEP’s, as part of a Socialist Bloc in the EU parliament, could fight to improve the lives of all of the continents citizens and transform the whole European political system? Let’s give voters something to rally to, not run away from.
Whatever the result on the 23rd, the political landscape of Britain and Europe has changed forever. At home the Tory Party will be in ruins and will almost certainly lurch even further to the right. Cameron is on a hiding to nothing. His position is untenable, win or lose. This can only mean an intensification of austerity politics, divisive ideologies and the stripping away of workers rights. There has never been a greater need for a Labour opposition, offering an alternative message of hope and community, based on social justice and solidarity across geographical an ethnic boundaries.
A better Europe is possible. It’s one of strength in unity, of the democratisation of industry, of cooperative forms of ownership and redistribution of wealth. It is a Europe of tolerance and compassion, where health and education are rights not privileges and all have access shelter and sustenance. That is surely a prize worth fighting for, it is at least one people would vote for, but do they know that this is even an option? It’s time they did.