A few stubborn and isolated MPs, or a future political party? What could The Independent Group become?

The landscape of British Politics took a massive turn when seven Labour MPs decided to resign their party whip and start up their own party group in the Commons called The Independent Group. Their main reasons for leaving were; antisemitism, toxicity and entryism within the Labour Party alongside their opposition to Jeremy Corbyn’s acceptance of Brexit as an inevitability. Other reasons likely include their different economic and social views, with most of these MPs being from the political centre of the party.

The next day, these seven ex-Labour MPs were joined by three Conservative MPs, with similar albeit different reasons for defecting. These reasons being; isolation from the party leadership over Brexit, toxicity of the party due to entryism and being held ransom by the European Research Group (ERG- a group of right-wing Tories) and the Vote Leave campaign. They were also joined on that day by another ex-Labour MP, totalling them now at 11: the same number of MPs as the Liberal Democrats.

They all left for similar reasons, but do they actually have similar political views?

As The Independent Group regularly says: they are neither an official party (yet) nor contesting elections. Therefore they do not yet have a manifesto or any concrete policies- which is logical because they aren’t an established party- although it does play into the ‘centrists don’t actually have any policies’ myth. So far though, we can see a few rough themes forming which could plant the basis of a future political party.

The movement is quite clearly pro-EU in all of its forms, from accepting EU regulations and environmental standards to accepting free movement of people. The only solid policy we can see that all of The Independent Group’s MPs support is a People’s Vote, with the goal of remaining in the EU. The group tends to favour multiculturalism and traditional feminism which could manifest itself into policies in the future.

Although some accepted that austerity was necessary during the recession whilst some don’t, they have a general consensus that they don’t want more austerity, as shown by ex-Conservative Heidi Allen admitting that the Tories have “deepened suffering” when they could have reduced it. Chuka summed up his view saying that the “circumstances of your birth [shouldn’t] dictate your future”. He has also said that they are “leaving old, tribal politics behind” and many, when asked about policy, have used words such as “evidence” and “expert[s]”, overall suggesting that when it comes to policy formulation, they will look at what policy works, is popular and overall benefits the most people, rather than what a party or certain ideology dictates.

This is further supported by Heidi Allen’s comments, that they will determine their support for policies “not in a right-left way…but [based off of] what’s actually going to work”. It seems so far that what they have in common would form the backbone of any future political party which they might evolve into: pro-EU, pro-migration, multicultural, compassionate, transparent and fiscally responsible.

What does the future of this group look like?

The MPs have have been subtly threatening their old parties that if they don’t change, more resignations could follow. This has been humoured more seriously by Tory MPs it seems than Labour ones, although it would be expected (based off the current defection numbers) that more Labour MPs are likely to join. From the Tories though, there are moderate MPs that feel isolated from the party due to its Brexit stance and internal toxicity. Soubry says that she received “smiles” and “waves” upon entering the Commons chamber and sitting on the opposition benches. She also admitted to receiving “lovely texts” from her former-colleagues.

Three likely defectors are Justine Greening, Dr Phillip Lee and Dominic Grieve; all threatening to leave the Conservative Party if they end up accepting no deal from the EU. Lee says that he “can’t guarantee” that he’ll stay and that there would be a “stampede” of MPs leaving the party if the government was to go ahead with a no-deal Brexit. Another moderate, Nicky Morgan, however has recently written an article on why moderates should stay in the party and fight rather than flee, which sounds very similar to what Ruth Smeeth has written, albeit for the Labour party. The Labour Party seems to have divided into four different takes on the split. Looking at these four different takes is a good way of differentiating between those who plan on keeping everything the same, those who seek to amend their errors and those that plan on leaving.

Take 1: tends to be a grassroots approach, seen a lot on Twitter from people with Twitter handles including JC4PM (Jeremy Corbyn for Prime Minister) and GTTO (Get The Tories Out). This take denies that there is an antisemitism problem within the party overall and takes the form of retweeting the likes of Galloway and Hatton. Take 2: this tends to be the more genuine Corbynite approach which is to acknowledge the problem, mentioning it and then taking no solid action on it. This is seen mainly in the Tweets, interviews and videos by Corbyn and his leadership team/close allies such as John McDonnell. Take 3: this is not just from the moderate MPs determined to fix their party, but from a wide range of Labour MPs: this take acknowledges that there is a problem and that they need to take firm action on it as soon as possible, an example of this is Tom Watson’s video statement and Barry Gardiner’s contribution to the antisemitism debate in the House of Commons. Take 4: threatening to leave the party if nothing changes, removing connections to the Labour Party on social media and retweeting/defending The Independent Group.

Very few, if any, of Labour’s current MPs have done the latter (threatened to leave in the same way as Greening, Lee and Grieve in the Conservative Party), but a few have been jumping to the defence of The Independent Group. Not many MPs fall into the Take 1 category. A few, mainly shadow cabinet, fall into Take 2. A majority fall into Take 3, even hard-core moderates and good friends of the defected MPs have doubled down on their support for the Labour Party and a dedication to right the wrongs from within. Moderates such as Alison Mcgovern, Tulip Siddiq (who said “I’m Labour to the core”), Peter Kyle, Neil Coyle, Dan Jarvis, Stephen Kinnock (saying “my dedication to my party is unconditional, my dedication to the leadership is conditional”) and John Mann all look like they are staying in the party. Hilary Benn hasn’t said much recently and Ben Bradshaw, although urging colleagues not to defect, says that the party is on the brink of being destroyed and that more MPs could break away. Owen Smith (who contested Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership back in 2016) said that he “might quit” back on the 7th of February, so he would probably be the bookies’ most likely to go next: but the general consensus is that there are more to come.

So is it just a group of disgruntled MPs or a future political party?

The Independent Group have put an emphasis on the fact that they desire to grow into a political party, saying how they want to be more than a group MPs in a committee room. They have already received thousands of small donations. However, the future for them is uncertain. The average majority for the group is 16,114 which is safe but contestable, especially if they are dropping their old party label, which can have a massive effect in places like Liverpool and Streatham.

Moreover, as shown earlier, a few of them are in leave-supporting areas and some have very slim majorities – such as Soubry and Smith. However, they seem to be doing well on the diversity front. Two-thirds of their MPs so far are women, which is the largest ever for any parliamentary party (discounting the Greens which naturally, with 1 MP, have 100% women). They have a decent mix (for their modest size) of minority representation in Berger and Umunna.

What is impressive though is their geographical diversity. Although they have no MPs from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, they do have commendable English diversity. From Liverpool, to Manchester, to Sheffield, to Nottingham to Cambridgeshire, to North London, to South London all the way down to Devon. English geographical diversity is not the only (usually overlooked) asset this group has: it also has a good diversity of opinion.

The main difference between the ex-Labour and ex-Conservative MPs are their varying views concerning Blair’s government compared to the coalition government. The ex-Labour MPs see Blair’s economic model as ideal (more government spending on public services through taxation) whereas the ex-Conservative MPs see the coalition’s economic policies as sound (less spending on public services and less taxation). However, it is this kind of difference in opinion, yet similar worldview, that they hope will form their party’s manifesto in the future. They seem to align on issues that they see as common sense: social policy such as civil rights, LGBT rights (with the historical exception of Shuker), feminism and multiculturalism but they disagree on issues that they see as less-contentious, such as economics, and therefore seem to have this smiley-harmony that no other group in the Commons possesses (other than maybe the Lib Dems who, like The Independent Group, have an advantage on the unity-front due to their modest size).

 

The Independent Group are definitely an interesting project and could provide the political shakeup that this Brexit stalemate needs. Don’t discount the power that small parties with 10 or more MPs can have in toppling or supporting governments. There have already been rumours about The Independent Group offering the Conservatives a majority through a confidence and supply agreement in exchange for a People’s Vote. These 11 MPs, along with the 11 Lib Dem MPs, could have a disproportionately large impact on the outcome of Brexit.

Wollaston has described them as a “third way” which is a phrase that has been used to describe Blair’s centrist agenda, although Umunna has made clear that they are “not the old tunes of the past” and he even rejected Blair’s “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” as he sees it as an out of date prescription. Heidi Allen summed up their movement best. She puts forward a vision for a party of confidence, collaboration and expert analysis with an emphasis on care, compassion and fairness. She says she wants it to be a party of the best minds, biggest hearts and made up of effective communicators.

There has been speculation about who would lead this party but Umunna showed the radical nature of this group when, in his Channel 4 interview, he said that they don’t want the “soap opera” and “hierarchy” of the normal political parties, although acknowledging that “you need a leadership team” and that he wants to “play the biggest role possible”. This project is very risky and in the current political climate, it could either prosper massively or flounder awfully. With Brexit hurtling towards us, if it is to go ahead, with or without a People’s Vote, then it is hard to see what the future of this party would be; if we leave anyway then they become pointless and if we remain then surely they become unnecessary – that is, at least, if they fail to reach out and become a broader political movement.

Overall, this is a highly ambitious political project and despite one’s political views one can acknowledge that it takes bravery to start said project at such a crucial time, especially for people that have been such long-standing members to their previous parties- and in some cases even governments. These MPs have most likely thrown their careers under the bus (mainly due to how our current electoral system works) because they have seen the potential to change the country for the better in a way that the two main parties have neglected for decades. The odds are stacked against them, but as Heidi Allen said; “We might fail, but isn’t the prize worth fighting for?”

AROUND THE WORLD: Political Prisoners Across Turkey Continue Hunger Strike As Repression Continues

More than 700 Kurdish and leftist political prisoners and 300 Kurdish people worldwide are on an indefinite hunger strike as prison conditions continue to worsen for leftist militants currently imprisoned in Turkey.

The hunger strike was first started by the formerly imprisoned HDP MP Leyla Guven in protest over the increasing isolation of the Kurdish Workers Party leader, Abdullah Ocalan. Guven herself was imprisoned following her public critique of Turkish military actions in the predominately Kurdish town of Afrin.

Worldwide solidarity has been shown to the strike especially within Germany where Left Party and Communist Party of Germany activists joined with Kurdish protesters in numerous cities across Germany. Here in the UK, Imam Sis (a Kurdish rights activist) has been on hunger strike for 52 days and has been supported within his new home of Wales by Liz Saville Roberts MP, of Plaid Cymru. Over in France, Leyla Guven was awarded honorary citizenship of Paris after a motion was tabled and supported by French leftist opposition parties including the French Communist Party and France Insoumise.

The strike has been primarily driven by a desire to end the isolation and horrific conditions faced by Abdullah Ocalan who has been imprisoned since 1999. Since 2011 his lawyers have been refused access to him and have attempted to appeal over 700 times. This is not the first hunger strike in support of Ocalan. In October 2012 several hundred Kurdish political prisoners went on hunger strike for 68 days until Ocalan demanded for it to be stopped.

The hunger strike comes amid a wave of repression by the Erdogan regime and its benefactors against not only Kurdish activists but also against any form of opposition including numerous radical leftists. It also comes as a part of Turkeys long running history of political violence between right wing Salafists and nationalists against communist revolutionary organisations and pro-Kurdish groups.

Turkish politics lives in the shadow of the years of leadership in the late 70’s that cost the lives of around 5000 people from rival left wing and right wing paramilitaries. The scars of the war can still be seen today as this week saw the imprisonment in Germany of key Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front leader Musa Asoglu who is accused of masterminding the bombing of the United States embassy in 2013 as well as numerous attacks against Erdogans right wing Islamist party, the Justice and Development Party.

Asoglu’s Marxist-Leninist revolutionary group (commonly known as the DHKP-C) is part of the numerous armed opposition groups who have long opposed Erdogan and Turkeys authoritarian rightist governance which has been long plagued by numerous military coups and NATO’s stay behind operational forces known as the Gladio Organization. A 38 year old Maoist peoples war has also gripped the country mainly in the east Tunceli region. The current hunger strike can be seen as part of a long running, although not necessarily united, struggle by Kurds and leftists to topple the Erdogan regime.

The ongoing hunger strikes success hinges on the solidarity shown to oppressed groups in Turkey. A hunger strike in the year 2000 by numerous communist organisations with a total of 816 prisoners in 18 prisons against the holding of political prisoners in isolation eventually succeeded after the martyrdom of 122 people, some of whom died by self-immolation. The Turkish opposition faces a formidable challenge against the Erdogan government but its continued resolve will no doubt see it remain committed to ending the authoritarian rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Brexit has already cost the UK taxpayer £17 billion estimates Thinktank

UK economic growth has reportedly slowed by 2.3% since 2016, when the Brexit referendum was running, leading to a decrease in public spending budgets of around £17 billion this year in a new update published by the Centre for European Reform, a Thinktank specialising in European Economic and Political research.

The hit to public spending equals around £320 million a week to the taxpayer, however this estimate is slightly lower than the estimated cost of Brexit to previous estimates of 2.5% of the British economy.

The slight recalculations of the estimated costs were due to UK growth outperforming other countries that matched Britain economically that were used to gauge UK economic performance following the Brexit vote.

The UK economy grew by 0.6% in the final months of 2018, the fastest it has grown since 2016 when the economy was recovering from the initial hits suffered from the immediate market backlash from the results of the referendum, this was coupled with other countries being measured against the UK by the thinktank such as Germany  seeing an unusually difficult winter, where the German economy shrank by 0.3%.

The increased uncertainty may be due to UK companies acting more conservative in their spending and growth investment in preparation for the possible economic impacts of the UK fully exiting the EU, and increased inflation, with the UK largely missing out on a general increase in growth felt across Western economies between early 2017 and early 2018.

The data constructs a simulated economy of a “doppleganger” UK made up from the economic information of other Western economies, including the United States, Germany, Luxembourg, Iceland, and Greece, and uses a proportion of each country’s economic performance based on how similar it is to the UK in terms of economic structure and its pre-referendum growth rates. In combination with each other, they very closely match the UK’s pre-referendum economic performance. This “doppleganger” UK is then simulated in the post-referendum market environment and compared to the actual growth rates of the UK economy.

The estimated loss of spending derives from government analyses that a 1% loss of GDP resulted in almost £8 billion extra government borrowing. After increasing this to a loss of 2.3%, this adds up to an estimated £17 billion cut to government spending. This has also been coupled with higher government borrowing in general due to a higher amount of spending on the NHS and public services as part of the Conservative Party’s campaign promises.

While it doesn’t appear that the UK economy’s growth has taken a significant hit to a gradual increase in growth rates since 2009 without comparing it to the simulated economy, the simulation predicts that the world-wide economic growth felt in other countries has not influenced the UK economy as much as it has elsewhere. Whether this is a direct result of Brexit, or whether this is due to numerous other factors, such as Austerity measures and Conservative Government Policies leading to decreased public spending and increased inflation, or just natural fluxuations in economic practice on a societal scale, is not currently understood.

The Left should stop entertaining the idea of a second referendum.

A brief glance at the history of the Eurosceptic movement sees a deep rooted connection to the Labour Party and the left wing movements in Britain. This was no doubt evident in the 1975 Common Market Referendum in which the ‘Leave’ campaign was spearheaded by major Labour politicians such as Michael Foot and Tony Benn, who claimed the European Commission caused the ‘decapitation of British democracy without any countervailing advantage’, a democratic deficit which still exists today.

Despite Labour’s official Remain stance in the 2016 referendum, the party’s voters were highly divided. The politicians may not have been though and merely 7 Labour MPs backed the Leave campaign. This showed the prominence of the remain wing in Labour, especially in recent years, as Tony Blair sought to drive Britain to the heart of Europe. But after Britain voted to leave the European Union, the party has once more become disunited, with some accepting the result of the referendum and wishing to implement it and others wanting a second referendum. The answer though, is clear – as a democratic socialist party, as stated in Clause IV of our manifesto we should reject calls for a so called ‘People’s Vote’, and respect the will of the people as manifested by the referendum, not only because the People’s Vote campaign cannot produce any worthy argument for what the impetus for repeating a vote is, but that Labour itself would be much more free to pursue its manifesto pledges outside the EU.

There are several reasons why many want to repeat the referendum, but they boil down to two main arguments: that the first campaign was based off misinformation and lies, and secondly that after people know how Brexit has turned out, their will should be confirmed in a second vote. In both scenarios, they advocate wishes for Britain to remain in the EU, but disguises it through the allure of wanting the people to have a chance to put forward their opinion.

Firstly, to say that misinformation, or spin is not a large part of every political campaign would be dishonest. The very people who are advocating for a second referendum, and indeed the Remain campaign spread misinformation in the 2016 referendum campaign. Remainers claimed that an immediate recession would follow a vote to leave the European Union, something which has not yet been manifested. In fact, the economy has seen strong growth in 2018. George Osbourne threatened us with a ‘punishment budget’ with further spending cuts and tax rises. Something which again never occurred. Remainers denied and mocked Leavers for suggesting that a European Army could emerge, yet key figures in the EU such as Emmanuel Macron are now endorsing plans for one. Thus, it is incorrect to say that misinformation was confined to the Leave campaign- and indeed that misinformation would not take place in the event of a second referendum. As regrettable as it may be, it is inevitable there will be a degree of spin in a political campaign, but a free press and democracy means we must put our faith in the people to make the right choice, something that those pressing for a second vote often forget.

The second argument, that people didn’t know which type of Brexit they were voting for, does not mean that the result should be reversed. No matter what type of Brexit people wanted we can be sure of at least one thing; more than half of them wanted to Leave in the largest democratic exercise in the UK since the 1992 General Election. Citing polls to show that the will for Brexit has dissolved is again invalided by the fact that most polls are within the margin of error, and that the sample size of any poll taken is several hundred times smaller than the turnout of the referendum. Regardless of what type of Brexit people want, our system relies on parliamentary democracy, not constant referendums to weed out the exact will of the people. Parliament should be the arbiters of the type of Brexit that people want. There is indeed a certain irony that the people who opposed the referendum on the European question in the first place now call for another one

Finally, those on the left should know that leaving the European Union will provide a new opportunity for a Labour government to be ever more radical. Regardless of one’s views on the European question, it cannot be denied that it is a representation of the neoliberal ideology, placing restrictions on state aid and opening up one’s borders to unlimited trade – while at the same time removing power away from our elected representatives in Westminster and giving it to unelected bureaucrats in the European Commission. Are these not things that can and should be changed by a Corbyn led Labour government post Brexit, by nationalising our industries, utilising state aid, and reversing the industrial decline that Britain has faced? It would be wrong to say leaving the EU is not a risk, but with risk there is opportunity –
Britain has taken a decision, reversing that will plunge us into further political, (if not economic) uncertainty, and unleash the divisions of the first referendum. Let’s pursue a jobs first Brexit, and make the most of what opportunities leaving the European Union can bring.

Brexit and Brexit: The two competing visions

The EU is the worlds largest trading bloc and as an institution, is unrivalled in its commitment to defending the world order under which it was first constructed. Sadly, at least for Europhiles (a term I despise even more than Eurosceptic), that world no longer exists.

When the prospect of an EU referendum was first floated publicly by David Cameron, I was quite firmly on the side of Leave. I can talk about the EU’s shortcomings for hours.

However, I was pushed reluctantly to the side of remain by the somewhat veiled intentions of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Sir John Redwood, Owen Patterson, and the rest of the ‘hard-Brexit’ gang because I knew that a Tory-led Brexit would be a disaster for working-class people in this country, the likes of which we have never seen before.

All of which brings me to my main point: there are two competing visions of Brexit on offer right now — the 2016 referendum result means we are leaving — so why are neither of these options being argued for openly?

The first plan is that of the Brexit-backing Conservatives, supported by UKIP, Donald Trump, and the Russian Oligarchy, to name but a few. In this vision of the future, Britain remains competitive with the EU by lowering its regulations. It’s not complicated, if we are not in a customs union and are not perfectly aligned, in terms of regulation, with the single market, our companies that trade in Europe will find that external tariffs and other barriers to trade will make them uncompetitive with their corporate rivals. The only way to level the playing field here is to scale back on health & hygiene, environmental, and workers safety regulations in order to save money in production and ultimately, be able to produce goods or provide services at a reduced cost, thereby negating the penalties for being outside of the economic bloc.

There is no way around this. Once we are outside of the EU, in order to attract investment the Tories will lower taxes on businesses and the wealthiest among us, undermining twenty-five years of a cross-party, cross-continental effort to hold the powerful to account and force them to pay their fair share. When Brexiteers like those mentioned above, hail the benefits of free-trade agreements with the rest of the world, they purposefully omit two key pieces of information. Firstly, and in my opinion, most importantly, the government’s own analysis of the benefits of signing free-trade agreements with the rest of the world suggest that it would amount to a measly 0.2% of GDP — compare that to a predicted loss of 8% over the next fifteen years if we were to leave without a deal. Yes, that 0.2% would potentially increase over time as our trade balance adjusted and we began to trade more with the rest of the world and less with the EU, but it would take a generation and radical change in the structure of our economy before we began to see the net benefits of this.

Secondly and perhaps most importantly to the people who voted for Brexit, is that we have one major bargaining chip in our negotiations with the rest of the world. One thing, that countries from China to India to Brazil want, and that is to send more people to live, work, and study in the United Kingdom. As someone who believes, without doubt, that higher levels of immigration into this country are going to be necessary over the next thirty, forty, and fifty years if we wish to maintain our current standard of living — which we should be working to improve — I am more than happy for us to invite more people to come here from other countries. But, every single Brexit-voter I have explained this to either does not believe me or becomes visibly angry at the idea that they had traded white, eastern-European, English speaking migrants for brown, ‘foreign-speaking’ (a phrase lifted straight from the lips of a Brexit-voter in my hometown) migrants from across the world. That is not an acceptable outcome for the majority of people who voted for Brexit. That is the ERG’s (a group of far-right Tory backbenchers) plan to make Brexit a success and the people working tirelessly to deliver that kind of Brexit should be honest about it.

But, that, thank the lord, is not the only way to make Brexit a ‘success’. Over the last two years, there has been a concerted effort by the political-right to hijack Brexit and now, for the first time since the referendum result, the idea of a Lexit — that is,  a left-wing exit from the European Union — is starting to gain momentum.

This was the kind of Brexit I envisaged back in 2015. I was certain that we could sell the idea of leaving the European Union to liberate ourselves and our economy, to better protect and invest in the future of our country, to a majority of the public. I believe that the result of the referendum proved me right. The problem is that no one with a big enough platform made that case during the referendum. In a bizarre turn of events, the political-left became the defenders of the neo-liberal economic consensus that the European Union was founded on. Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, two of British socialism’s most staunch Eurosceptics, actually campaigned to remain… Never before have I been so disenfranchised by politicians with whom I agree so much.

I was pleased then, unsurprisingly, when three months after the referendum, Labour came out firmly in support of a customs union, close alignment with the single market, and robust and unwavering guarantees to protect our health & hygiene, environmental, and workers safety standards. This is the alternative plan to make Brexit a ‘success’.

In this vision of our future, Britain would leave the political unions of Europe but remain as economically close as possible. We would take advantage of our new found sovereignty by implementing sweeping reforms that would see us take back the vital industries that Conservatives stole from the people and sold to their friends. We would invest in the industries that are struggling in the modern age and more crucially, invest even heavier in the industries of the future. We would actively spread London’s wealth across the country and in the end, we would all be richer for it. I appreciate that there is a growing chorus of European constitutional experts who argue that much of this could be achieved as a member of the EU. I am by no means an expert in European law, but I humbly disagree with them. Merkel, master of compromise, is on her way out and Macron is setting much of the EU’s agenda these days. The direction in which they are heading (ever closer union) is very different to the two paths currently at Britains feet and they would not abide by one of their largest members so flagrantly breaking their most fundamental rules. It would undermine the integrity of the EU in a way that I would not encourage. If we believe this is the way to transform our country, then we must leave.

And there we have it, our two competing visions of the future. The choice couldn’t be starker or simpler. On the one hand, market-driven socialism and a country governed by principles of freedom and fairness, or on the other, unfettered free-market capitalism and a race to the regulatory bottom. The public must make an informed decision on this because at the end of either of these two Brexit paths, is a world very different from the one we know now. The people will not forgive those who pushed them into a future they did not want.

The People’s Vote campaign needs Labour, and to serve the country Labour should finally back a PV

Throughout the Brexit negotiations, Labour’s frontbench has continuously appeared ambiguous, sitting on the fence when asked about what they’d do as an opposition to the Tories. By doing so, they’ve managed to hold on to their Leave and Remain voters throughout the negotiating period.

But has it all been worth it when it comes down to the wire?

Whether it was Keir Starmer who has pushed for the opportunity of a second referendum, or Dianne Abbott ruling out any sort of referendum, Labour’s shadow cabinet has seriously harmed the People’s Vote campaign. As a result, there is little chance that any sort of integrity can be found on Brexit.

Let’s remind ourselves of why the People’s Vote has been campaigning for another referendum. Firstly, they argue that democracy did not stop after June 2016, meaning the people are still allowed to have their say, particularly as polls have shown that the nation’s attitudes are gradually changing towards a larger Remain majority. Secondly, and more importantly, they argue that the June 2016 referendum was based on lies and corruption, pushing the electorate to vote for promises which have not been delivered.

Alternatively, Labour are now considering another referendum as a ‘last resort’ option to break the Brexit deadlock, and it is this discourse that will seriously harm the integrity of a second referendum.

Why? Because it defeats the purpose of a “People’s Vote”. A second referendum has not been campaigned for because we would need to go back to square one. Instead, A second referendum has been campaigned for because of the corruption of the first referendum. Labour will be ignoring the vital messages of the carefully constructed People’s Vote campaign.

Vital they were. By going back to square one, Labour will alienate all those who voted Leave in June 2016, angry at the thought that their vote didn’t count the first time around.

Where does this leave us? With a second referendum with no integrity. The Murdoch monopoly alongside another carefully constructed Leave campaign will continue to spout anti-establishment messages, calling for the people to rise against the elite who believe they know better.

Will we ever get a decision based on fact and change for the greater good rather than based on anti-establishment messages?

Labour’s shadow cabinet will seriously damage the People’s Vote campaign, and it’s all down to the political games of survival which Labour and the Conservatives have been playing.

By remaining ambivalent, Labour has remained relevant. Yet, this has also left Labour stuck in a rut after the intrinsic route which has been taken after the defeat of May’s deal. By playing with tactics, members of Labour’s frontbench are missing the point. Why are their decisions being made for the sake of the party over the needs of the people? How can they ignore the fact that the people’s needs will not be met from the promises of the June 2016 campaign?

By remaining ambivalent, Labour’s frontbench has missed a clear chance at reinstating political integrity. By ignoring the messaging of the People’s Vote, Corbyn is taking us back to square one and missing the opportunity to give Britain a credible future.

A Revolutionary Socialist: 100 Years Since The Assassination Of Rosa Luxemburg

 

This past week has seen the remembrance and commemoration of one the worlds greatest Marxist thinkers, the Polish-born revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg. In Germany, an estimated 20,000 people came out in dignified fashion to remember the communist leaders of the Spartacist Uprising, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, and the multiple leftist workers who were tortured and murdered by right-wing death squads when the uprising fell.

In Berlin, leftists of various radical affiliations solemnly paid respects to the two lost leaders of the working class, placing flowers at their graves and a note which read  “Peace, bread, roses, freedom”. Communists from across Europe came out to commemorate the event including British communists who ran the headline “Red Rosa, the communist eagle”, Soviet Union founder Vladimir Lenin’s description of the budding revolutionary.

Rosa Luxemburg’s popularity and important place in left-wing circles can be owed to her pioneering role in revolutionary politics in a scene mostly dominated by men. A notable critic of World War 1, she became a founding member of the Communist Party of Germany. Her brutal death, beaten tortured shot and thrown in a lake, by the Freikorps (the far right paramilitary forerunners to Hitlers Brownshirts) mean that many radicals see her as a lost leader of the working class in Europe. Whilst she disagreed with the Bolsheviks on various issues, her solidarity to the international revolution led her to help lead the Spartacist League and attempt to establish a Soviet government in Germany.

Her murder and subsequent martyrdom lay not only at the hands of the far right but also the centre-left Social Democratic Party who sanctioned the Freikorps to brutally put down the workers’ revolt. The state-sanctioned assassinations of Liebknecht and Luxemburg led to an irreversible split between the social democrats and the communists with both parties pitted against each other throughout the history of the Weimar Republic. The lack of a united front became one of the factors that led to the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party in the 1930s.

To date, the SPD has never officially apologised for its role in the murders despite evidence that Gustav Noske, the minister of defence at the time, signed off on the murders instead of imprisoning the leaders. After effects of the killings of 1919 can still be felt today in German politics. Die Linke, the descendant of the former ruling socialist party of East Germany, accuses the SPD of betraying the working class now as it did then.

Rosa Luxemburg’s impact on politics cannot be downplayed. Her contributions to Marxist theory on issues such as imperialism and the national question are considerable. Her writings most famous statement of “Socialism or Barbarism” rings true today as it did in the ’30s with the rise of far-right forces and decaying capitalism. Rosa Luxemburg message is as factual now as it was when she wrote her thesis’ and through this acknowledgement can her memory be best remembered. Her sorrowful demise at the hands of fascists and opportunists cannot compromise her work as an empowered Jewish female spokesperson of the working class.

A true revolutionary, her message lives on.

Seven times Theresa May should have resigned (but didn’t)

Many years in the future, Theresa May (assuming she’s gone by then) may well be remembered as the greatest British Prime Minister in at least one respect… hanging on to power.

Most Prime Ministers will struggle through a couple of crises/scandals in their time in office, but May – with an enviable track-record of surviving crushing defeats, scandals and resignations – is on course to outdo them all.

So, looking back on the past three years, here are seven times Theresa May should’ve resigned (but didn’t):

 

1. The 2017 Snap Election:

The 2017 election appeared to be the beginning of the (agonisingly drawn out) end for May’s premiership. Armed with a poll bounce giving her a 20+ point lead over Labour in the polls, May made a dramatic U-turn on her promise not to call a snap election – hoping to shore up her majority for the Brexit battles ahead.

Of course, this did not materialise, and in one of the greatest humiliations of British political history, May lost her majority to a resurgent Labour Party. May clung on, negotiating a confidence and supply agreement with the DUP, giving her a wafer-thin majority in parliament.

Desires in her party to avoid another election at all costs and paralysis over which wing of the party a future leader would emerge from, meant May was allowed to stay as caretaker leader for the short term. A year and a half later though, very little has changed in this regard – giving hope to May that she may end up more than a caretaker leader after all.

 

2. The Windrush Scandal:

Windrush was a huge political scandal in April 2018 about the deportation (or threatened deportation) of legal British immigrants, who had arrived mostly from Caribbean countries before 1973.

Although it is difficult to pin the blame for this scandal entirely on a single minister, the scandal has been primarily attributed to the ‘hostile environment’ policy instituted during Theresa May’s time as Home Secretary.

Despite May’s six-year tenure in the job, Amber Rudd (who had replaced May as Home Secretary) took the fall for the scandal and resigned, meaning May could survive another crisis.

 

3. The Brexit Secretary and Foreign Secretary Both Resigning Within 24 hours:

Following the failed 2017 election gamble, legislating Brexit issues was always going to be difficult for May with her reduced majority. But when her draft plans were revealed at Chequers, they were too much for the two most senior Brexiteers in the cabinet.

After months of speculation, Boris Johnson eventually resigned as foreign secretary, followed by the Brexit secretary David Davis – leaving May to face the fallout of the resignations of two senior cabinet ministers.

Never to be deterred by a career-ending crisis, May quickly replaced the two – presumably hoping to resolve these issues by the time the plan actually had to be voted on.

 

4. Having Essentially the Same Thing Happen Again:

For some Brexiteers the Chequers plan was bad, but as it wasn’t the final agreement with the EU they could hold their noses and continue to work with the government.

When the final EU withdrawal agreement was revealed to the public though, senior Brexiteers Dominic Raab (her replacement Brexit secretary) and Esther McVey (the work and pensions secretary) both resigned in protest.

May responded in the same way as the last time two senior Brexiteers resigned from her cabinet over her deal, she replaced them and moved on.

 

5. A Third of Conservative MPs Voting No Confidence in Her Leadership:

After Chequers and the withdrawal agreement, the Conservative Brexiteers were readying themselves to show their strength by sinking May’s withdrawal agreement when it came to a vote in the commons.

But, at the 11th hour, May (ever the survivor) delayed the vote to avoid defeat. The Brexiteers finally mustered the support needed to trigger a confidence vote in her leadership, which May won by 200 to 117 votes.

Although May won the vote, a third of her own MPs voting against her leadership would’ve been more than enough to sink most Prime Ministers (Thatcher won her confidence vote 204 to 152 but resigned quickly afterwards), but apparently not May.

 

6. The Government Being Found in Contempt of Parliament (for the first time ever):

Number six is, surprisingly, another Brexit crisis.

After failing to release the full legal advice obtained by the government on the withdrawal agreement negotiated between the UK and EU, the House of Commons took the unprecedented move of finding the government in contempt of parliament and forcing the release of the advice.

Facing a humiliating and unprecedented defeat in parliament could well have collapsed a government just years ago. Now it’s just another day in British politics.

 

7. Losing the Vote on Her Flagship Policy with the Biggest Margin of Defeat in History:

So here it is, after two years of bitter infighting, parliamentary battles, drawn out negotiations and last-minute delays, the deal that had come to define the May premiership was finally put before parliament on the 16th January…

And was defeated by a majority of 230 votes. The biggest defeat of a government in modern British political history.

A vote of no confidence has been called in the government by the opposition, but with Tory rebels from across the party confirming their support for May, as well as the DUP, May is almost certain to survive the vote.

If May can survive this devastating defeat, then the only logical conclusion is that she is politically immortal and all efforts to remove her from power are futile. I only hope that in 10 years’ time, when May returns her renegotiated Brexit deal to parliament for the 40th time and she is still expected to resign ‘by the end of next week’, that maybe we can look back on these early years to make some sense of May’s eternal survival and the groundhog day we all now live in.