Posts Tagged ‘Labour’

My constituents backed Brexit. But I didn’t enter politics to make them poorer | Phil Wilson

Now we know what leaving means, let’s do the right thing and have a second referendum

In normal times and in all good faith, politicians at a general election present a manifesto they believe will improve people’s lives. Politicians of a like mind will largely agree with that manifesto, believing it to be better than the alternative. In government, with all good intentions, the manifesto is implemented – maybe not in its entirety and with compromises being made. That is politics, in normal times.

But these are not normal times. Brexit is different. As an MP who campaigned for Remain during the EU referendum in June 2016, I do not believe I can, in all good faith and with all good intentions, tell my electorate that I have changed my mind. First, my constituents won’t believe me. And second, I did not enter politics to knowingly make my constituents poorer. This presents a moral dilemma for Remain-supporting MPs, especially those whose constituents voted to leave.

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Staying in a customs union would be dire for British trade. Here’s why | Greg Hands

I say this as a remain voter – customs union membership without EU membership would mean ceding control on vital economic policies

• Greg Hands is a former trade minister

I campaigned for remain in 2016 and served as trade minister two years, and I believe we can still get a good, compromise deal with the EU on Brexit.

At such a critical juncture in the negotiations, it is normal to search for compromises. However, many of those being discussed are poor choices. That is why it is such a dangerous time. We must remember that the arrangements we set in place now may last for generations and it may be difficult to change them once this window closes.

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The Guardian view on the march for a people’s vote: a step forward | Editorial

When more people than are members of both main parties put together march against Brexit, both parties should listen

If participation in a march counted as membership of a political party, the party opposed to Brexit is now probably the largest in Britain, and on some counts larger than the Labour and Conservative parties combined. 700,000 people demonstrated for a referendum on the final terms of any Brexit deal; the Conservatives claim 125,000 and Labour 540,000 ordinary members.

Both main parties are, to different degrees, divided over the question. The idea that a small group of self-regarding and self-deluding fanatics inside the Conservative party and the DUP should be able to dictate the most damaging possible form of Brexit is an affront to common sense. There is a real concern that a parliamentary majority is cowed by a hardline interpretation of the 2016 referendum result. Those MPs need the reassurance that hundreds of thousands of politically engaged fellow citizens now see Brexit for the self-inflicted wound it looks to be. That is what Saturday’s march supplied.

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People’s Vote identifies 50 Tory MPs who could be swayed on Brexit

After success of huge London march for second referendum, focus shifts to lobbying

Campaigners for a second Brexit referendum are hoping to harness the energy demonstrated by Saturday’s 700,000-strong march in London to lobby MPs in the run-up to a crucial Commons vote.

The People’s Vote group will focus on 50 Conservative MPs – including five ministers – who they believe could be persuaded to vote for a second referendum should Theresa May’s final Brexit deal be voted down.

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Only Labour can save Britain from this disastrous Brexit | Manuel Cortes

Jeremy Corbyn must make a manifesto commitment to keeping Britain’s EU voting rights

And so, it comes to pass that Brexit is not a British liberation strategy. It is vassalisation; the annihilation of our equal-rights status as a European country. The dawn of a new age of British colonialism. But this time round it is Britain that is the colony. This is where the Tories’ 40-year war with Europe has landed us. Brexiters who thought their leave vote was going to set Britain back on course to rule the waves should be feeling humiliated.

The Tories have not delivered their promised victory over the EU, and Brexit has become a Great British rout. Sunny utopian leave has vanished in the turbulent storms of exit reality. Theresa May has been humiliated in the latest summit negotiations, not because the European Union is being nasty, but because her own mob are fighting each other. Her arbitrary Alice in Wonderland red lines were an ill-fated attempt to placate Brexiteers within her own ranks rather than a serious attempt to get the best deal for our people. Her focus is firmly on saving her skin from a Brexiteer mutiny threatening to topple her and now she wants us to cede British sovereignty, parity and self-determination to stay in the customs union and the single market for an extended transition phase after Brexit. It looks increasingly likely that in all but name we will remain in the EU until at least the end of 2021. Who in their right minds would want to remain a member of a club, pay its fees, abide by its rules but give up the right to have any say in making them?

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The transformation of British politics: was it really caused by the 2008 crisis?

The vote to leave the EU, the rise of the SNP, the demise of the Liberal Democrats, and Labour’s turn to the left mean British politics looks very different now than it did in 2008. But these changes are not the product of the 2008 crash per se; rather they are the result of the intense politicisation of issues that were already evident as fault lines when the crisis happened, writes Helen Thompson.

A decade after the 2008 crash, British politics looks very different than it did. Britain is on course to leave the EU; the Union has been stretched to near breaking point by the ascendancy in Scotland of the Scottish Nationalist Party over the Labour Party; the Liberal Democrats have sunk into near irrelevance; and the Labour Party has moved radically to the left and back towards being a mass membership party. Yet this rapid political change has dovetailed with an economy that in most structural respects looks considerably as it did in 2007, even as average real wages remain below what they then were. Despite the promises of the Coalition government to rebalance the economy towards the manufacturing sector, Britain remains a service-dominated economy in which finance plays a significant part. The economy also remains characterised by low unemployment, sizeable consumer debt, quite high levels of net immigration, and a significant current account deficit.

What is striking about the political transformation of the past ten years is the way much of it has arisen from the intense politicisation of issues that were actually already evident as fault lines before 2008. This pattern begins with Brexit. Prior to 2008, Britain had a singular political economy in regard to EU membership. It was outside the euro and had eschewed transition arrangements on freedom of movement, in good part because the Blair government had seen high levels of immigration as an anti-inflationary discipline in an economy that was more prone to inflationary pressures than those in the euro-zone. British membership of the EU worked by keeping the question of Britain’s participation in the European Single Market, including freedom of movement, separate from its non-membership of the euro.

What the fallout of the 2008 crash shattered was this compartmentalisation. It in part did so because British governments and the Bank of England could respond to the crash in macro-economic terms with policy tools that Britain retained in the 1990s and the eurozone states renounced. Under crisis conditions, the substantial differences between the macro political economy of British politics and those of the eurozone states could not be masked, and neither could the problems that London’s position as the offshore financial centre of the eurozone posed for other states.

The ascendancy of the Scottish Nationalists over Labour in Edinburgh and later at Westminster is also hard to explain if the 2008 crash is seen as a primary cause. Labour did extremely well in Scotland in the 2010 general election. What changed Scottish politics was the manner in which the end of Gordon Brown’s leadership of the Labour Party exposed the organisational hollowness of Scottish Labour and the inability of Ed Miliband to calibrate himself to Scottish politics at the time of the 2011 elections. The fact that under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership Labour has made little progress in recovering its position in Scotland suggests that the pre-Corbyn party’s stance on fiscal austerity had a limited effect on this political change. Given the issues generated by the manner of Scottish devolution in 1999, including in relation to the governance of England, Scottish politics was always likely to be rendered unstable under conditions when Labour was no longer in power both in Westminster and Edinburgh.

Indeed, the issues caused by the rise of the Scottish Nationalists at the expense of Labour under conditions of asymmetrical devolution are also central to the demise of the Liberal Democrats. Certainly the Liberal Democrats lost credibility among their left-wing voters by entering into coalition with the Conservatives and supporting specific expenditure-cutting measures to reduce the budget deficit as well as for their U-turn on tuition fees. But what cost them their position as a necessary governing coalition partner for the Conservatives was their unwillingness to rule out a coalition with Labour in circumstances when such a coalition would, by necessity, also have to have included the Scottish Nationalists and their consequent electoral wipe-out in constituencies where their rival was the Conservatives.

Labour’s move to the left under Corbyn is the clearest case where what has happened is almost certainly dependent on the deterioration of real average wages and the fiscal response to the 2008 crash, given the way Corbyn was able to use austerity as an issue of attack against his opponents for the leadership in 2015. The internal rebellion among Labour members against the cadre of former special advisors that came to dominate the upper echelons of the party after Blair and Brown’s exit also arose in part from the inability of that group of politicians to respond to the wider political backlash triggered by the 2008 crash against the material corruption of parts of the political class by their relationship to the donor and influence-seeking class.

Nonetheless, a significant social basis of Labour’s mass membership and an important constituency of its electoral support in 2017 have also arisen from structural changes that were already occurring before 2008, namely the falling rates of home ownership among millennials and younger generation Xers and the large expansion in the number of those going to university without anything like a concurrent increase in graduate level jobs. In taking control of the party, Corbyn also hugely benefitted from the ongoing political fallout of the Iraq war. Fifteen years later it is still not plausible that anyone who supported that war can secure the leadership.

Paradoxically, Corbyn’s success as an insurgent politician takes us back to what 2008 revealed about the long-standing distinctive nature of Britain’s macro political economy. Labour is one of the few European centre-left parties that has not had a dismal time since the 2008 crash. British politicians can sound plausible talking the language of anti-austerity and borrowing to invest because Britain is not bound by the fiscal rules of the euro. Moreover, the reason why bond markets are not such an obvious constraint on the Corbyn economic project is precisely because the British monetary response to 2008 that non-euro membership made possible demonstrated that the Bank of England can support government borrowing without necessarily igniting inflation. Whether the policy tools that appear to be be available to the Labour government could be anything like sufficient to achieve economic outcomes that would benefit Labour’s new electoral coalition must remain a very open question, even before the (at least short-term) difficulties of transitioning away from EU membership are considered. But even the experiment, if and when it comes, will speak to the political consequences of the rather singular long-term trajectory of Britain’s macro political economy.

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About the Author

Helen Thompson is Professor of Political Economy at the University of Cambridge. Her latest book Oil and the western economic crisis was published by Palgrave in 2017. For a full list of publications, see here.

 

 

All articles posted on this blog give the views of the author(s), and not the position of LSE British Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Featured image credit: Pixabay, Public Domain.

Has the time come for remainers to compromise? | Martin Kettle

While the focus has been on how Tory backbenchers will vote on a Brexit deal, pro-Europeans on the opposition benches will face a crucial dilemma too

For politicians, compromise can be a surprisingly hard word. So it is today over the Brexit endgame. The talk is still of crashing out, no deals and blood red lines. But this is paradoxical. Politics, like life itself, is mostly built on compromises. That is why the Brexit sherpas are, in fact, still talking in Brussels and London. Even on Brexit, it remains likelier than not that the practical human instinct to compromise will eventually have its way.

This is not, though, the certainty it ought logically to be. Brexit is not simply another political process to be settled through compromise. To many, it is also a series of absolutes. One is that Britain’s vote to leave the European Union was not just decisive but the immutable will of an entire people that cannot be questioned – or compromised. A second, never properly understood in Westminster, is that the EU sees leaving as a treaty process governed by rules that cannot be bent.

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