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January 02, 2019


Jonathan da Silva

Some quite happy to pretend that despite being 52-48, not exactly close, so many of the Leave voters were nothing but rubes influenced by Russia. The pretence a comic clown like Putin has so much sway!

The sanctimony around negligible (compared to the economic mistakes of last 22 years) shortfall in GDP growth from say an EFTA option (whether that be falls in currency, imputed rent and a lot of stuff no one notices) has got ridiculous - esp from people who supported the economic mistakes of the last 22 years -> Labour proffered austerity lite in 2010/5 and Brown peddles PFI as not a 100Bn+ mistake even now.

As a Remain voter I kinda feel we've had the pain and should leave in a token way - EFTA or whatever. No strong feeling about remaining but can't feel it's a strong position for the UK or a good look.

The EZ particularly but the EU is not something I would support joining now. For a small cost we can not be a part of this vile body but enjoy most of the benefits.... The body that attacked Ireland, Cyprus and Greece: has openly fascist Govts in its number: lunatic technocrats who want more power to an undemocratic body: etc Accept others think a small loss of GDP worth the price!

If we go back tail between the legs the next Maastricht or Lisbon* do we get to vote on that? Or are we forced into abject surrender? Cucked by ourselves?

* No votes on those would have been likely and not led us here and Brown certainly promised one of them.


"Chris Bertram says Brexit could be “the end of Labour”.

"why should I pay taxes to bail out a bunch of racist idiots in Sunderland or Stoke? What do I care if some elderly xenophobe can’t find a nurse or a doctor because too few EU nationals have stayed to look after the people who voted to take their rights away?"

Jesus. If it includes far right cunts like him it deserves to die.

This is why the outcome of allowing reactionary bourgeois elements into a purported left party is ultimately either suicide or willed uselessness.

Angus French

Couldn't Corbyn and Labour make more of a case for Remain by campaigning for investment *and* for reversing Osborne's decision on local authority funding which phases out the Revenue Support Grant in favour of retention of income from Business Rates, hitting the poorest and neediest areas hardest? Wouldn't this help kill the bogeyman which says that lack of available resources is due to increased pressure from immigrants?

Chris Bertram

I don't know who the anonymous "Scratch" who calls me a "far right cunt" is, but I do know that the sentences he quotes from me describe a psychological reaction that I do not endorse and are immediately followed by the sentence "Usually, I put away such thoughts: the homeless in the doorways of our major cities provide urgent enough reason for a redistributive and reconstructive politics." I can only assume that "Scratch" is either so illiterate that he missed that sentence or so dishonest that he chose to omit it in order to give a false impression.


Heh. Who even thinks shit like that and how come Sevenoaks gets a pass?


One might add that "usually" is kind of telling in the above sentence.

One wonders how often such merciless fantasies waft through your mind and how often you decide "yeah, I'm perfectly okay with that."


"Brexit is a big heap of Tory shit."

Quite, thats why Tory strongholds like Sunderland and Ebbw Vale voted for it.........

Dave Timoney

I think this is a correct analysis given the Parliamentary arithmetic and Labour's conference decisions. That Corbyn & co are simply following their own policy to the letter seems to have surprised many people, for some reason.

What was notable about both Simon's and Chris's posts was the emphasis on emotion - the strength of feeling among remainers and the fear of betrayal - which led them to imagine that Labour could be kept out of power by the desertion of progressive voters, or even ended as a viable party.

This strikes me an exaggeration. The rarely admitted truth is that "progressive voters" are not all die-hard remainers, and some don't even consider Brexit to be that important. I fear too many people have become emotionally invested in Brexit, which partly explains why Labour's pragmatic approach causes a lot of otherwise rational individuals to lose their shit over anodyne statements on issues such as state aid.


From Arse to Elbow seems to have missed the point. The claim is not that progressive voters are all die-hard Remainers, or that they all consider it to be important. Instead it is that enough of them do so that losing their votes would finish Labour as a viable party of government.

As it is, opposing easily the worst government in most people's living memory (ever?), Labour are barely scraping even in the polls. This may be primarily due to the depth of emotional feeling in the other side: the people who would never under any circumstances vote for a Corbyn government. Given this, following a policy that materially damages and emotionally alienates the biggest section of your own support is simply suicide. Even if only a relatively small fraction of them drop their support, it is game over for Labour, perhaps for ever.

As evidence, refer to Chris's statement in the piece above. If Corbyn can lose the support even of Marxists like Chris on this, he can and will lose the election.

Richard Gadsden

I do wonder what happens if Corbyn becomes PM, seeks renegotiation with the EU and they say "we've negotiated a withdrawal agreement with the UK government. Take it or leave it"?

There needs to be some sort of contingency plan for what happens if the renegotiation option doesn't exist.

There have been repeated statements that they would extend the deadline for a referendum, but not for a renegotiation, and there clearly isn't time for Corbyn to take over and then renegotiate without extending the deadline. And the court case on unilateral withdrawal was that it was OK provided you weren't using it to just restart the clock for more negotiations, so that isn't an option.

It would be a mess if he said he could get a better deal and then it was immediately shown as impossible by 29 March this year.

I suppose an option would be to withdraw from Brexit and hold a new referendum on whether or not to restart - announcing then that the results of the renegotiation would be put to the people at the end.

(that should be enough to make the withdrawal "serious enough" to suit the courts, while essentially resetting the process with a rerun of the 2016 referendum, which Leave would probably win, and then two more years of negotiations leading to another referendum on accepting or rejecting Corbyn's deal).

Robert Mitchell

What's happened to Brits? They panic like little girls at nonexistent drones. They eagerly embrace German economic hegemony. Simon Wren-Lewis seems like an Appeaser, like Chamberlain ...


A referendum which excludes a No-Deal Brexit option would be as valid as a Scottish Independence referendum which excluded independence, and merely offered voters a choice between the status quo and more devolution. It could result in a Leave boycott.

A victory for remain on a 40% turnout would resolve nothing.

Dave Timoney

@Sesh, I stand by my last paragraph. You are exaggerating. In 2003 it was claimed that Labour were doomed because they'd lost the progressive vote over Iraq. They then won the 2005 general election. It was on a reduced vote (40.7%), but still decisive.

Bear in mind that there are plenty of self-styled "progressives" who find an excuse to shun Labour and vote LibDem or Green (not to mention Conservative) at each and every election. They are a noisy claque that is over-represented in the media.

The significance of the polls is not that Labour haven't opened up a 20-point lead but that both main parties are on 40%. I suspect the Tories' healthy showing is entirely down to grudging support to get Brexit done. Once it happens, it is hard to believe their numbers will go anywhere but down. Labour's showing is clearly a continuation of the support built in 2017, which has little to do with Brexit and everything to do with their other policies.

I'm no fan of the perverse death-wish that is Brexit, but I'm equally repelled by the perversity of so-called progressives who would terminate Labour with extreme prejudice simply to secure a referendum that they've shown themselves as all too capable of losing again.

Given that the only viable route to a 2nd referendum is through Labour, you'd imagine that building bridges would be a better strategy for the PV crowd, but it appears they have another agenda.

Adrian Kent

Corbyn also has to consider the electoral realities as they stand wrt to the next General Election. Almost all of the marginal seats that Labour has to win are istrongly Leave voting areas and the gains from Remainers elsewhere likely illusory.


Jumping aboard a bus (however painted) with the likes of Blair, Mandelson, Campbell, Straw etc. will do untold harm to their chances.

Personally, I think he's playing a blinder.

B.L. Zebub


"Labour’s ambivalence towards Brexit is coming under attack from good people. Simon Wren-Lewis says it would be an “historic error” for Labour to enable Brexit, and Chris Bertram says Brexit could be “the end of Labour”. I fear such criticisms are too harsh."

God, you have a gift for the understatement, Chris. "Too harsh"? Really?

Try hysterical, brutal, malicious. They are asking Labour to self-destruct.

Maybe you know those critics personally, in which case your opinion about their goodness would carry more weight. Without knowing them personally, I think they are bastards.

B.L. Zebub

And I forgot this: "This dilemma [Labour's] has little force for technocrats who think voters are Putin’s dupes or for paternalistic centrists."

I don't know about you, Chris, but when I read them admitting that they think of the "(white) working class" as homogeneously composed of "racists" the words that come to me are neither "paternalistic" nor "technocrats".

But -- hey! -- that's me!

B.L. Zebub


For the love of God! In what sense are Chris Bertram and Simon Wren-Lewis "progressive"? "Progressive" as compared to whom?

I am not even suggesting a comparison between them and any real socialist. They aren't progressive even if compared to Aneurin Bevan, Ramsay MacDonald, or the Fabian Socialists.

"Progressive" is one of those words whose only effect is to obfuscate.

Both guys are liberal. They don't belong in a Labour Party. They belong in the Liberal Democrats. If that makes them happy, they could call themselves the "left wing" of the Liberal Democrats. Perhaps there they would have something positive to contribute. Within Labour they are poison.

They want to reform a party to their image and likeness? They should try with the Lib Dems.


Whether you believe it or not, I used to sit on the fence on this Leaving/Remaining thing.

Maybe the sheer bigotry and rudeness of characters like Bertram doesn't help their arguments.

Whatever the reason, I'm starting to appreciate the advantages of Leaving: the Labour Party could rid itself of lots of people with no business there.


All of this debate is missing the first, crucial element; being in control. Labour is not, so it doesn’t matter what the leadership think or various commentators want to influence them to think once in power. They aren’t in power so nothing matters until they are.

If they can’t get the whip-hand in a coalition government or can’t get a General Election called and the March deadline extended as a result, the country will exit with ‘No Deal’ at the end of March as parliament will not vote for May’s deal and May will do nothing else until the deadline.

My advice to Corbyn and the Labour leadership? If in power before the end of March;
- Immediately revoke article 50. This takes the pressure for a decision off. We remain in the single market.
- Announce that the referendum result will be honoured but a new deal to leave will be negotiated. Will buy time from the Leavers.
- Announce a one-year timescale for handing Northern Ireland to the Republic, creating a united Ireland. Nice big relocation pot available for people and businesses who wish to leave and relocate back to the mainland is available.
- Three months later announce to the EU that in 3 months’ time we will revoke Article 50 and will have no more than a 6 month preparatory timescale for leaving the EU. However this time we don’t need more than 6 months to prepare so negotiate from day 1 on full deal or we leave on ‘No Deal’ terms.

That should achieve a comprehensive, agreed deal on decent terms in a decent timescale that the country can live with.

If not in power, continue to ignore the red Tories in their own ranks who wish to remove Corbyn by any means and are using this issue as a lever, and do whatever you can to obtain power.


Corbyn’s problem is that he seeks to position himself as a leader without actually leading on the single biggest issue in British politics. That doesn’t scan for most people. It looks like fence sitting and goal hanging combined. Tactics rather than strategy. The opposite of leadership.

I suppose it depends on your view of what wins elections. Do incumbents lose them, and it really doesn’t matter who the alternative is? Or do oppositions needs to offer a compelling vision for the country?

It looks like Corbyn subscribes to the latter view, and I guess we’ll see...


«The claim is not that progressive voters are all die-hard Remainers, or that they all consider it to be important. Instead it is that enough of them do so that losing their votes would finish Labour as a viable party of government.»

That's a call to "triangulation". Same as the claim that the Labour party must champion affluent property rentiers or else they will vote for another tory party.

The basis for both claims is that Labour-voting "Leavers" or renters/workers will keep voting Labour as they have nowhere else to go, so screw them.

The practical problem with the application of mandelson-thought to "Leave"/"Remain" is that Labour-friendly "Remainers" don't care much about "Remain", but the "Leavers" care a lot about "Leave".

Corbyn's strategy to advocate a soft/very soft exit keeps most people on-board.
Members, most of which are pro-"Remain", are not that stupid, according to polls (from LeftFootForward.org):

“while 72% want a second referendum, just 29% say they oppose Labour’s Brexit policy. On the other hand, 47% say they support Labour’s stance.
[ ... ] round 65% think he’s doing well as Labour leader versus just 33% who think he is doing badly.”

It's just that right-winger entrysts into Labour think "Remain" is a tool to give Corbyn a "Gotcha!" moment, they seem to really care about property prices, less so about EU membership, and even less about Labour.

Handy Mike

This blog's defence of Corbyn has reminded me of something for a while now without me being able to pin down exactly what it was.

Then today, fortuitously, my idle browsing habits made the connection, as I pivoted from this post to Twitter and saw the very thing that's been snagging my subconscious recognition.


Seriously, look at the stuff on Brexit in particular.


I'm not really sure who Chris Bertram is, but his remarks appear both smug and unpleasant.

On the topic itself, I'm sure there are more Labour Remainers than Leavers, and indeed some may defect to the irrelevant parties.
But it is the geographic distribution of possible Leaver defections, if Labour decides to go the other way, which I understand may be more important as that could affect the key marginal seats which Labour needs to win.


Blissex: «The practical problem with the application of mandelson-thought to "Leave"/"Remain" is that Labour-friendly "Remainers" don't care much about "Remain", but the "Leavers" care a lot about "Leave".»

That's not actually true: recent polls (which show strong swings towards Remain in the Labour heartlands) suggest that the Labour Leave voters were much less committed to Brexit than the Tory Leave voters.

See also https://flipchartfairytales.wordpress.com/2018/12/21/a-tale-of-two-constituencies/

Corbyn's reluctance to come out against Brexit results from a combination of his own personal Euroscepticism, the influence of Seamus Milne, and the geographical importance of Labour Leave voters that cjcjc alluded to.


Stepping back from the immediate issues of Labour strategy it seems more relevant that the UK is now two new staunch political tribes: Remain or Leave. Labour or Tory has become almost irrelevant. It is who best represents Leave or Remain opposing world views. Which party is least spilt on those views?

After 3 years of continued political debate on key UK political and trade issues the country (England mostly), I sense, no longer strongly identifies itself as a Tory voter or a Labour voter. 3 years is 25 times longer than the normal 6 weeks debate before a General Election. Never has such intense political debate been held and many are questioning a whole range of fundamental things about UK they took as received wisdom before.

What started out as attacks on the EU now have moved to a realisation that UK Westminster politics itself has far more serious and deep seated faults. People starkly realise it is Westminster once tested that has failed and can only fail. It has proven leaderless, undemocratic and incompetent and does not represent the UK's views in any shape or form so can no longer pretend to be a representative democracy.

There is no way that the "people" can be heard in an outdated Westminster "winner takes all" top down "this is what you do" approach. The "people" are the political "experts" now.

Whether they identify themselves as Leavers or Remainers, the complacent 'just vote once in 5 years and shut up' approach has gone for good. Neither Labour or Conservatives are remotely ready for that sea change. June 2016 was an inflection point where UK political volatility dramatically increased. The Tories totally missed that in the GE of 2017 and Labour continues to totally miss it in its voter baffling Brexit strategy.


I don't agree that "Brexit is a big heap of Tory shit" because this has had support from both sides of the political spectrum:

Fullfact.org: "70% of Conservative constituencies and 60% of Labour constituencies voted to Leave in the EU referendum."

Yes, there was a greater proportion of Conservatives voting for Brexit, but the outcome would have been the same had only Labour voters been allowed to vote.

We also see that Labour (or more Corbyn) has not been pushing for us to revoke Article 50 - the only party that has been pushing that agenda fully has been the Liberal Democrats. The quote about sitting and waiting for the Conservatives to implode implies that this is a tactic that Corbyn is using, though I would take the alternative view that he doesn't have any other solution (because either he agrees to push for Brexit, and gets a terrible deal, or he pushes for a second referendum, and makes a mockery of a previous democratic vote).

Purely because of these facts, I think it is interesting that you have taken the view that this is a way to compliment the Labour party, and shut down the Conservatives.

I am pro-Remain myself, but wanted to ask you about whether you have written this article with bias, or impartiality?


The elephant in the room is immigration. If the immigration issue could be solved, the Brexiters (whose real agenda is to create a smaller state) have lost. In particular it is concern over economic integration (large numbers of low wage, but relatively high skilled workers, the endless supply of which reduces the incentive to train up local workers in house;. economic integration is not the same as allowing the entry of refugees). The result is that we have an increased dependence on foreign labour even with high native unemployment. Allowing high levels of economic immigration but simultaneously allowing high native unemployment has fuelled a perception that there is a disconnect between the political class and lower income groups.

Britain asked for the rapid expansion of the EU without transition controls and got what it wanted. Britain largely absorbed the shock alone; other EU states were relatively unaffected by labour movements (although the Southern periphery arguably was by a redirection of German capital from the South to the East). But there was a big political price.

With the EU unwilling and now perhaps unable to compromise on free movement, we are now stuck with Brexit.

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