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UK General Election and the Chance to Get a Corbyn Government

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

Last year, Mexicans elected a leftish leader, López Obrador, who pledged “a Robin Hood institute” (Reuters) to “return everything to the people that’s been stolen” by elites and small-time crooks (Obrador). Argentines recently rejected the creeping rightward trend in South America and also elected a leftish President, Alberto Fernández. In the US, Presidential candidate Bernie “the bomber” Sanders is about as left as is realistically possible in the current political system. Despite suffering a heart-attack, he is continuing to fight off Elizabeth “capitalist to my bones” Warren and Creepy Joe Biden. (The Week reminds us: “[Sanders] voted in favor of Clinton’s pet intervention in Libya, in favor of the interminable war in Afghanistan, and even in favor of multiple funding measures to maintain the war in Iraq — a repeated ‘yes’ to bankrolling the very conflict he so often boasts of opposing.”)

BRITAIN: A DIVIDED LABOUR PARTY

In the UK, a general election for a new government looms. Britons will have the chance not only to change the arithmetic in Parliament, but to elect a genuinely leftish Prime Minister, Jeremy Corbyn, and in doing so to join and reinforce the leftward shift happening in some parts of the world. Part of Corbyn’s problem is that, internal to his Labour Party, he’s a consensus-builder, not a dictator. But one cannot build consensus among those who wish to be divided. That means that some of Labour’s core policies are muddled, with some in the Parliamentary Labour Party saying one thing (e.g., Leave the EU, also Labour has a serious problem with anti-Semitism), and others saying something completely different (e.g., Remain in the EU, Labour doesn’t have a serious problem with anti-Semitism). Corbyn’s consensus-building also means that things work slowly and in the endless “news” cycles, that’s a big no-no.

For example, at Conference, where the grassroots Labour Party members send delegates to vote on policies, it was hoped by the majority of Remainers and indeed Labour voters in general that Labour’s electorally-suicidal Brexit policy (i.e., negotiate their own Withdrawal Agreement and then allow most Labour MPs to campaign against it in a second referendum) would be voted down in favor of a clearer Remain policy. But no. To give another example, grassroots members au fait with modern Zionism (i.e., Israel can do anything its elites wish it to do) were hoping that Corbyn–a lifelong campaigner against Israel’s annexation of Palestine and an advocate for Palestinian rights–would tell the Zionists in his party that they were not permitted to spread their bile and accuse the Party of being inherently anti-Semitic. (The Zionists include his deputy Tom Watson, Dame Margaret “it’s like 1930s’ Germany” Hodge, US spy Ruth “strictly protect” Smeeth, and John “sent a dead bird” Mann MP.) But no.

This lack of clarity on Brexit and admission of guilt for a type of racism that exists to the same extent in all other mainstream British parties (according to data by one of Labour’s accusers), has meant that Corbyn looks incredibly weak. And people don’t like weak-looking leaders. The Tory Prime Minister, Boris Johnson (BoJo the Racist Clown) and his apparently psychotic adviser, Dominic Cummings (who ran the Vote Leave Brexit campaign on behalf of asset managers and hedge funds unhappy with EU regulations), took note of a recent poll which suggested that growing numbers of Britons prefer efficient authoritarian leaders to slow consensus-builders, hence the BoJo-Cummings strategy to: try to shut down Parliament (ruled null and void by the Supreme Court), pretend that BoJo will disobey the law by refusing to seek an extension to delay Brexit, and send but not sign the EU extension request letter. BoJo can posture as a dictator without actually being one. And the plan is working. A significant minority of voters enjoy BoJo’s circus act, according to survey data.

When asked by pollsters who would make the best PM, Corbyn is third behind BoJo and “don’t know.” This is a tribute to Corbyn’s failings as a leader but, far more significantly, the unprecedented hostile mainstream media, including those on the “left.”

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM THEIR ENEMIES

But there is still hope. BoJo as opposed to a more sensible Tory (an oxymoron, admittedly,) was only elected by Tory party members to succeed Theresa May because, for the first time, a significant threat to the Tories’ electoral domination emerged in the form of the Brexit Party. (The Brexit Party’s de facto predecessor, the UK Independence Party, which is still going, was not a serious electoral threat to the Tories, mainly due to in-fighting and lost votes, due to the apparent sincerity of May to complete the Withdrawal phase of Brexit.) Because Parliament has frustrated BoJo’s Brexit (in reality May’s rehashed Withdrawal Agreement Bill), BoJo has failed to deliver his “do or die” pledge to leave the EU on October 31st. This means that the Brexit Party, which is running on a “no-deal only” electoral platform, has the potential to split the Tory vote and inadvertantly help Labour to win the election by default.

Labour should be able to win on its merits. Policies are built from the grassroots up at local forums. They include a national investment fund, renationalization of key services, a living wage, the creation of a National Education System to do for lifelong-learning what the National Health Service does for wellbeing, and to pay for it all with a financial transaction fees (Tobin-type tax) and by raising taxes on the rich–millionaires like BoJo himself. But sadly, large swathes of the public have been radicalized by Brexit and more generally brainwashed to vote against their own interests by the right-wing and “liberal” media.

BREXIT PARTY SPLITS VOTE, REMAINERS RELUCTANTLY VOTE LABOUR?

The Tories lost their small majority in Parliament in 2017, following PM May’s snap general election, which was designed to win a huge majority and outnumber the Tory MPs opposed to her impending Brexit treaty. Repeating the pattern, BoJo wants a general election to win a huge Tory majority for a hard-core Brexit. But back in 2010, the Tories and Liberal Democrats had formed a governing coalition because the Tories failed to get a majority then, also. Like all good autocrats, they changed the law to cement their rule. Instead of either simply calling an election or gaining a majority, the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 now required the given PM to get a two-thirds majority (424 MPs) to trigger a general election. But this law, which helped the Tory-Liberal coalition cling to power, became an obstacle for BoJo, trapping him in a zombie Parliament.

Corbyn personally wanted a general election, at least judging by how happy he seemed upon agreeing to one. But many within the Labour Party did not. This disagreement caused Corbyn to delay voting for one and thus giving BoJo’s his requisite two-thirds majority. With Labour’s second referendum policy, the Brexiteer Labourites fear losing their seats in the North of England (because they believe the propaganda that “the North voted Brexit,” when in fact the Leave vote was split across the country. Scotland, which is in the North of the UK, voted Remain. Brexiteer Labour MPs also erroneously assume that most people will vote on the single issue of Brexit, when in fact most are more concerned with health, housing, public transport, local bank branch closures, and so on.) The Remain Labourites, many of them former friends of ex-Labour PM and war criminal Tony Blair, fear that Labour’s ambiguous and frankly ludicrous Brexit policy will worsen the hemorrhage of votes to the clearly anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats.

Many of the Remain Labourites want a second referendum prior to any general election so that they do not have to face the humiliation of campaigning with a laughable Brexit policy. But they fail to accept that a second referendum would mean that Britain remains in the EU and thus evaporates the crucial Tory vote-splitting that the Brexit Party provides, making it harder for Labour to win a general election. They also forget that Labour comes third or fourth in sparsely-populated, rural Tory-voting areas, behind the Liberal Democrats. Some moderate Tory voters (“moderate” compared to BoJo-Cummings) are horrified at the ultra-hard-right direction in which their party is heading. They were happy with May’s brand of hard-right Torism, which they liked to believe was moderate. Many of these “moderates” are also Remainers and will either abstain or vote for the Liberal Democrats in protest. This could see the loss of traditional Tory rural seats.

HAPPY JEZZA

As a result of this internal Labour split over strategy, and given that Corbyn is a consensus-builder not a dictator, the Parliamentary Labour Party could not agree to a general election. Corbyn’s excuse was that BoJo could call an election and then change the voting date for a time after the EU’s Brexit extension before getting his Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament. In other words, Corbyn said that a General Election was a BoJo-Cummings trap to force through a no-deal Brexit. But as the EU extended until January 2020, Corbyn’s number of potential excuses for avoiding an election shrank. A significant number of Brexiteer Labour MPs empowered BoJo by voting for the second stage (out of three) of his Withdrawal Agreement Bill. This spooked the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats and the anti-Brexit Scottish National Party (SNP). Both parties realized that Brexit could indeed happen after all, with help from Brexity Labour MPs. The Liberals and SNP introduced joint legislation to vote with BoJo and force a general election as a high-risk way of avoiding any form of Brexit, even a watered-down BoJo Brexit with Labour amendments.

Suddenly, Corbyn really did look like the “chicken” that the Tories had accused him of being for not agreeing to walk into their trap (such is the childishness of the Eton-educated elite brigade). But at last, Corbyn convinced his colleagues–or perhaps took the decision–to back BoJo’s Liberal-SNP-assisted general election. Corbyn can’t wait to campaign. “The Labour party loves a debate, but they also love the END of the debate,” Corbyn snapped at a journalist, smiling as he spoke. “And this is the end of the debate and we’re going out there to win, okay?!”

CONCLUSION

Labour’s electoral success depends on the Brexit Party. In the recent past, the Brexit Party’s de facto leader, Nigel Farage, has said that he will field candidates in constituencies where Tory MPs voted for Theresa May’s (in their eyes soft) Brexit bill. If Farage is true to his word, this means that seemingly hard-core Brexiteers like BoJo will lose votes because they voted for May’s bill on the third occasion, whereas other Tories who never voted for her bill will not have to face Brexit Party candidates. There is a danger that the Brexit Party will only stand candidates in Labour-majority constituencies (a so-called non-aggression pact with the Tories). But for one thing, the Tories are targeting those marginal seats anyway and, for another, Brexit has become a religion and indeed a raison d’être for many of England’s elderly white men looking for their last hurrah before shuffling off this mortal coil. These kind of people would never vote for Corbyn anyway. Farage’s ego may see him campaigning hard after all. If Brexit happens Farage will have no reason to stay in the limelight. In addition, the multimillionaires behind the Brexit Party, like its chairman Richard Tice, have invested in the organization and hopefully won’t want to waste their money.

Although most of them hate Corbyn and think that Labour is too far to the left (because they don’t actually look at Labour’s policies), most Remain-voters will have to choose to vote tactically for the second referendum-backing Labour Party. This is because the anti-Brexit Liberals simply will not win a majority. If Corbyn’s Labour Party wins the election, the tens of millions of exploited and impoverished people in the UK will be able to thank Nigel Farage for splitting the Tory vote and the Liberal Democrats and SNP for pushing Corbyn to finally agreeing to the election. If Labour loses, the UK will sink deeper into the US model of ultra-neoliberalism. The future of the UK’s already poor cultural health depends on this general election. For the rest of the world, another nation led by leftists will boost morale. Come on, Jezza!

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T. J. Coles is director of the Plymouth Institute for Peace Research and the author of several books, including Voices for Peace (with Noam Chomsky and others) and  Fire and Fury: How the US Isolates North Korea, Encircles China and Risks Nuclear War in Asia (both Clairview Books).

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