Wednesday, December 2, 2020
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An open letter to the Labour Party

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DEAR All, So you are in talks with Mrs May over some rehash of the EU Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration. That blancmange has been served up three times already and I’m afraid that even when it’s covered in whipped cream and hundreds & thousands the taste of mould will overwhelm. If it doesn’t sicken Parliament it will certainly sicken the country.

But you know that, don’t you?

You know that your party is divided on the EU just as much as the Conservatives – that is, most of those on each side that understand the EU are Leavers, while many Remainers are, as Dr North observed,  ‘quite unable adequately to describe the nature of the object of their affection’. I can only think Euro-enthusiasm is down to childish gullibility, in the way that we were softened up for Communism by Russian girl gymnasts and Chinese pandas. I do like the colour blue, and we all worked hard for gold stars at primary school.

The workers by hand and brain aren’t fooled, though. I was in a Cornish open-all-hours last week and a holidaymaking Dutch couple tried to tell me and the owner about the generosity of the EU in this area, until we explained that it was our own money coming back; only not all of it, of course. A few years ago I mentioned Spanish fishermen to a Penwith garage worker and got an entertaining half-hour’s lecture in reply. All may be well in the bubble world of the ABs, but the CDEs know where the shoe pinches them and until you change the law, it’s one person, one vote.

Yes, you know that if you make common cause with the PM it will be seen, as Mr Farage said, as a ‘coalition against the people’. And once the LibDems’ longstanding policy on the EU is highlighted (they kept schtum on the subject during the local elections), all three parties can go hang. Only first-past-the-post saves the Establishment’s bacon: if we had gone for AV (which you and the Tories so successfully opposed) the number of independents returned in last week’s vote might have beaten the LibDems and challenged Labour’s total. As for GE 2022 . . .

I suppose you’re in a bit of a cleft stick, trying not to lose either half of your supporters.

But if you really care about ordinary people who work for a living, maybe you can let the tide of events do your work for you.

Yes, string Mrs May along, then find some insuperable difficulty at the last minute. After 23 May, when (as seems very likely) the Brexit Party and EU-sceptic parties from other countries start filling the EU Parliament’s seats and rocking the boat, you will have the perfect excuse to come off the fence and plump for Brexit.

Why would you do such a thing?

Well, your campaign broadcast a few days ago got the argument half right.

In theory, giving ordinary people more money means that they are likely to spend it, recycling the cash faster. Up go GDP and total tax revenue, people earn more, fewer claim benefits and so on.

But you’re not going to get the rich to pay for it. The collective wealth of all UK billionaires is less than three months’ GDP, assuming you could wrest it from them. Which you won’t, as they are able to flee rapacious taxation, like the rock and pop musicians of the 1970s. In any case, many of them would be delighted to stay here and carry on creating employment.

And the biggest problem is with the velocity-of-money argument. If all the extra income given to the plebs is blown on Chinese-made gewgaws and beans airlifted from Zimbabwe, it won’t be recycled here, it will leak out of Britain as it does now. And the big profits will be made by middleman businesses incorporated in tax havens, as they are now; while British factories lie empty, British fishing boats are beached and British farmers spend their evenings applying for grants to stay in business.

We have to have the flexibility to tailor trade deals and tariffs to support our own producers and begin to rebuild the UK’s skills base. That won’t happen in the one-size-fits-all EU.

Remember Peter Shore at the Oxford Union in 1975, his optimism unquenched by the cold, malevolent eye of Ted Heath?  Parliamentary democracy and national economics are calling: Help Mrs May to fail and put her out of everyone else’s misery.

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Rolf Norfolk
Rolf Norfolk is a former teacher and retired independent financial adviser.

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