With a snap election in prospect, Peter Kenyon suggests a way forward for Labour
Labour people have spoken. Jeremy Corbyn has an even stronger mandate. His supporters have shown superior organisational capacity. Now, what? Corbyn’s broad-church shadow cabinet Mark II is landing blows on the Tories. But the public is still disinclined to trust Labour. How can that be? For Labour to have any hope of unseating the Tories and form the next government, it has to shift public opinion pretty damn quick. Its prime target has to be through Brexit. The result of the EU referendum stands – no question. However, it is becoming obvious to this correspondent that calling the referendum was a monumental mistake by former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. Regrettably, the majority of voters don’t seem to see it in those terms. Nor more worryingly do some Labour MPs. On the positive side, there are straws in the wind, three months on, public opinion about Brexit is wavering. Sterling’s collapse is having an impact, not just on prices but public sentiment. Rocketing costs of holidays abroad, and rising petrol prices at the pumps are too easily blamed on those nasty bankers and greedy multinationals. So far the Conservatives and their new leader are getting off ‘scot-free’ (as indeed the reduced UK will be if Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has her way). Labour’s job in Parliament is to to calmly prepare the Tories for burial by the electorate. That can’t be achieved by wasting time trying to seek the best Brexit deal. The best deal is to Remain.
A cunning plan is need to encourage enough Tories to agree, thus depriving Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May of her slender majority in the House of Commons. Her Party Conference speech setting a date for invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty activating the UK’s withdrawal from the EU was her ‘Black Wednesday’ moment. Responsibility for every company announcement of job losses, transfers out of the UK, investment plan shelved has to be laid firmly on May’s shoulders and those of the Conservative Party. Unlike in 1992, when Labour in opposition relied on the mainstream media (MSM) to get across its message – you can’t trust the Tories with the economy – Corbyn and Labour Party HQ will need to mobilise its 600,000 plus members to shift public opinion faster. Brexit is just the latest in a long list of Conservative blunders that are impoverishing the majority of Britons. A massive public re-education programme is needed to open the eyes of at least five million extra people to vote and vote Labour in the next General Election, or switch their vote to Labour. Under first past the post (FPTP) voting for Westminster Parliaments, there is scope for a ‘Progressive Alliance’ to form the next government as discussed elsewhere in this issue of Chartist. That risks detracting from the urgent work of the moment – creating the messages that will help family, friends, and neighbours change the political weather. Some awkward truths have to be acknowledged.
In a reckless attempt to cleanse the Conservative Party of its own canker, Cameron gambled the country in a referendum. May appears set on leaving the EU. Too many Labour MPs appear supine in the face of that ill-fated vote. Business leaders are not so squeamish. This is the point that business may be able to assist Labour to bury the Tories