It isn’t exactly astute analysis to note that Brexit is a divisive issue, nor is it revolutionary to point out that these divisions don’t neatly fall across party lines. However, more interesting is how Brexit tests MPs commitment to the party line and the unusual alliances that follow.
Over the last couple of days, in what should have finished Theresa May, the opposition only managed a few near misses and couldn’t land a punch. Serious questions must be asked as to how Labour have allowed this to happen. The Tory remain rebels, who until now have been notable for their complete lack of rebellion, put Jeremy Corbyn straight through on goal, oneon-one. But alas, defying all political strategy the likes of Kate Hoey and Frank Field far from lining up to put it in the back of the net, have decided that their best move is to help the Tory reserves and cynically take Corbyn out.
If that footballing metaphor is too convoluted, I shall be clearer. This is a monumental cock up. Even as a Labour Leaver myself, it is clear that they have damaged our movement. Recent weeks have seen the Labour right call for a ‘national government’ to deliver on the Chequers Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t want that, nor does the country, and nor is it party policy.
With the bringing down of May and this government, a Labour Brexit would become far closer to reality, and it has shown a complete lack of judgement on the part of Hoey and Field not to see that. And is the case for bringing down this government, even putting Brexit to one side for a moment, not entirely overwhelming? How can these Labour MPs prop up this Tory government when we live in a nation of food banks, near negative wage growth, precarious employment, and grotesque inequality? It’s simply morally reprehensible.
Similarly morally reprehensible however, is the Labour right lining up to sing the praises of the likes of Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke. These are people that have supported austerity, supported the bedroom tax, and supported a systematic attack on working people. It is frankly a disgrace that every day we are seeing people (supposedly) on the left declaring them heroes while attempting to destabilise the Labour leadership. To those that call for a national government I say this – if ever there was a time for a strong opposition it is now, and that means no absurd national government. It means a general election. The ultimate People’s Vote.
This crooked Tory government is on its last legs. Labour has the biggest lead in the polls it has had since the last election. But to bring this government down it needs to exploit Tory divisions and use their rebellions to defeat the government on key Brexit votes. This is only possible through a united PLP willing to put the country first and vote for a socialist Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn.
Lastly, it would be wrong of me to ignore the fact that the two leading Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable and Tim Farron avoided voting on Monday altogether. Farron prioritised going to give a talk about the demise of liberalism. We don’t even know, at this stage, what on Earth gallant Sir Vince thought was a better use of his time. You might think that the Lib Dems, who have repurposed themselves as a party that fights Brexit and does nothing else, would attest to Monday’s vote being important. When I picture Tim Farron, I can’t help but be reminded of Glenn Cullen’s words in the Thick of It. “He’s a man without a spine, he’s a man-worm. He’s a riving mollusk without any strategies or convictions. He simply slimes his way into the nearest crack every night.” But as we know, Lib Dems propping up useless Tory governments is hardly a new occurrence, so we should hardly be too surprised.
It is the job of Labour to take down the Tories, and we cannot rely on flakey Liberals to make sure that happens, as this shows. The Labour Party is faced with many huge challenges about how it restructures, democratises, and empowers a post-Brexit UK. It simply doesn’t need this added disunity from both Labour Brexiteers and Blairites, not now. To those MPs their choice is clear: choose the country or their petty rebellion. Of those options, history will only look kindly upon one.