Ozzy's Corner

A view from the Libertarian Left. With no spin


Progressives must accept a Brexit world

If the UK votes to leave the EU, mark the evening of June 13th 2016 as the time when everything changed.

The news of two new polls broke last night. You Gov recorded a seven point lead for Leave, and ICM reported a six point lead. My social media stream, mostly populated by left wing people, was mostly silent. I think the reaction was one of shock and incredulity. The nightmare of Remain supporters could be becoming a reality very sharply.

Also, The Sun came out backing Brexit. That is of no real surprise to anyone, but The Sun does not lead opinion, it follows it. It only backs who it seriously thinks will win, and this can be judged by the way it has backed the GE winner for a very long period of time. If The Sun backs your horse, it’s probably favourite to win.

This morning, the social media streams that were stunned into silence last night, have gone into panic mode. You can smell the fear. Remain just might be heading for serious electoral kicking. The public could be about to reject a core belief of the UK’s mainstream progressive parties.

At this point it is vital all progressive parties think very, very hard. It has two choices.

Firstly, it can continue to run around like Chicken Licken, screaming the sky is about fall down should the vote go for Brexit next week. Will this help? Almost certainly not. All sorts of negative information about what Brexit could mean has been the core of the Remain argument for weeks, yet the referendum is going away from them. If the public has discounted the risks already, there is no sign yet further warnings will help either. The remain campaign looks like a collective group of Cassandras

Alternatively, it can begin to think how it could influence a post-Brexit United Kingdom. Occasionally politics goes through a sea change. In 1979, there was no going back for Labour. They had been heavily beaten. In 1997, when Tony Blair routed the Conservatives, the game had changed. Labour and the Conservatives spent a long time in opposition until they realised change was required, before the public would listen to them again. In the same fashion, progressive parties need to consider an independent United Kingdom, and how they can ensure they are part of the process that rewrites what is a brand new rule book.

If they can’t learn and adapt to the new political geography, they will simply be ignored, and the foundations of the country will be written by conservative and reactionary forces. It is time for progressive parties to move on from the apron strings of the EU and work out how Labour, Lib Dems, Greens, SNP and Plaid can cooperate and ensure they lay down the foundation blocks. Holding grudges about who voted for what during this referendum is pointless, and will result in wasted years of counter-productive arguments, while the electorate shake their heads and give their support to other parties.

The left needs to wake and smell the coffee fast. If the public vote to leave the EU, the left had better accept it or be irrelevant.

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A Response to a Left-wing ‘Remainer’

Yesterday, an person who I will not name posted this on the Internet:

My warning to all Lexiters – and there are many on my timeline, unfortunately.
I’m afraid this is my vision. On June 24th we wake up to discover the UK has voted “Leave”. Soon after, Cameron resigns. We then probably get Boris as PM.He may call a General Election, because a) he can and b) he wants a full term to put through HIS changes. He will negotiate our exit, on his terms, not by referring to the country. Those terms will be followed by a gradual or not so gradual erosion of our rights at work, because there is no EU to protect them, and because that’s what he, IDS and Priti Patel have promised, under the banner of “a more flexible workforce”. He’ll also tear up our environmental protections, hastening the advent of mass fracking etc. And he’ll also continue apace with the project to sculpt our democratic system into a permanent Tory-electing one. One of the more exciting things he’ll do along the way is to get a TTIP-style deal with the USA – whether Clinton or Trump – which will almost certainly be on worse terms (is that possible?) than the current one. Come 2021, there’ll be another General Election. With the changes Boris will have made to the system, and despite our best endeavours, Boris will win a second term.
If that, or anywhere near that, happens, I shall hold each and every lexiter responsible for the disaster.

I post this, as it is very much typical of the doomsday prediction that is driving left-wing voters to vote to remain in the EU. I was challenged to respond with the scenario I think is likely to occur, to defend my position as a ‘Lexiter’.

Dear Remainer,

Thank you for outlining your vision.

I agree that a Leave vote would be terminally damaging to David Cameron. He has already given notice he will quit anyway, and as evidenced by Tony Blair’s departure, stating an intent to step down makes you yesterday’s man immediately. If Leave wins, he would not only have backed the wrong horse, he has stated many times the disaster that Leave brings to the UK. How could he lead UK negotiations after that? In addition, 50% of his MPs and the majority of his grassroots members will be against him.

Who follows David Cameron? Boris would like it to be Boris, but he has demonstrated on a continual basis to change his mind more frequently than his underpants, and suffers ‘foot-in-mouth’ disease. He’s great for rent-a-quote Journalists, but I can’t imagine enough MPs or party members trust him to be Leader. Even if they did, the public would quickly realise they have a buffoon as PM.

Therefore, I reject the idea that he would become PM.

Whoever follows will be keenly aware that the misery of being an unelected PM brought upon Gordon Brown makes it unlikely anyone else would try it. Also, even before the referendum, the Conservative Party had a small majority and simply couldn’t get controversial bills through Parliament without lots of U-turns. Given the massive fissures that would have opened up in the last few months – wounds that won’t heal quickly – leading the Conservative Party will be a nightmare akin to John Major’s last few years.

For all these reasons, I conclude a new Leader will quickly be established and an election will follow, probably in October. The Fixed Term Parliament Act can be easily be engineered to do this.

All the policy ideas of the Tory right (Priti Patel and IDS et la) are very controversial. Do you really think the public would vote for such a manifesto in big numbers? Who would vote for reduced holidays, the loss of maternity rights and so on? I think the chances of a big Tory election win in October looks slim, as the party will still be fighting over Europe.

Assuming that this hurdle is overcome, if a small majority Tory Government tried to reduced holiday entitlement etc, there would be too many Tory MPs in marginal constituencies with post bags full of opposition from their voters, to get such measures through. Conservative MPs are nothing less that practical, and they won’t vote in a way that threatens their seat at the next GE.

So what do I think would happen should Brexit occur?

  1. David Cameron would resign very quickly or get pushed out by his party
  2. A non-Boris Candidate would win – my personal tip would be Theresa May or Phillip Hammond
  3. The Conservatives would win a small majority at best (my bet would be a hung Parliament)
  4. The negotiation to leave the EU would be hampered from the Tory-side by lots of infighting and old grievances. The list of right-wing fantasy policies would be ditched to get something through Parliament that other parties could support

There would plenty of scope for a progressive alliance of Labour, the SNP, Lib Dems and Greens to ensure the shape of the UK as independent nation would be far from the right-wing nightmare you have envisaged. In fact I can see scope to improve the country, as everything would be down to the UK voters without reference to another supra-nation body.

Best Wishes,

A Lexiter

 


1 Comment

The Left must not turn on itself over Europe

Until recently, much of the EU Referendum debate has been seen as a blue-on-blue matter. David Cameron on one side, and the person most keen to replace him, Boris Johnson, on the other. This has been the perception, but it hides a more complex picture under the surface.

Without a doubt, the Conservative Party is deeply split, and the rift could be very long lasting. Conservative MPs are evenly divided between Remain and Leave, and the membership similarly affected. No matter what the referendum result, the Conservatives will have to try to form a working Government with a tiny majority, hindered by the self-inflicted campaign wounds.

Labour also have difficulties. Their Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has been a long term critic of the EU, but is supporting Remain alongside 90%+ of the PLP. Labour voters are far less supportive of the Remain camp than the Labour Party itself. The latest You Gov poll show support for Remain at 65% and Leave at 24%. There have been warnings from Labour Campaigners that in many areas of the country, Labour voters are not coming to the Remain side. If the country votes for Brexit, the vast majority of Labour MPs will have backed the wrong horse.

I support Green Leaves, a campaign group for Green Party members and supporters who wish to leave the EU. Labour also has a campaign to leave the EU. There is a substantial debate within the left about how to vote on the 23rd June. This debate has become more and more fractious, and has become very hostile in recent days, given the poll movements that have brought the chance of a Brexit vote becoming more likely.

Baroness Jenny Jones, Green Party Peer, has published a number of articles setting out a left-wing and progressive case for Brexit. I have seen comments about her that are utterly disgraceful, and disrespectful to a person who has worked for the Green Party and progressive causes for decades.

I know good left wing people, who were supporting Leave, but due to being tired of being called fascists, UKIP supporters, traitors and so on have switched their support to Remain under duress.

There are no certain outcomes, no matter what the referendum result is. There are a range of possibilities that exist, and it is for each person to evaluate the best way to vote for themselves. Supporting Leave does not mean supporting Nigel Farage or the Tory right. Leaving the EU does not mean workers rights being destroyed or environmental protections diminished. Should Brexit occur, our Government who has struggled to get fairly basic things passed with a tiny majority, will have even more difficulty removing holiday pay or others workers rights, given they will be in civil war. The Conservative Party has too many MPs in marginal seats, who will surely cave in under the pressure a constituency mail bag, threatening their seat at the next GE. And the power handed to UKIP? They have one MP now, and will still have one after June 23rd.

I ask that people of the left understand that voting Leave isn’t traitorous.

I ask that people of the left understand that voting Leave isn’t a sign of stupidity or character defect.

I ask that people of the left understand that given the same partial and ultimately subjective information, others may come to a different conclusion.