He is like the dog that almost didn’t bark. While former Labour leaders, as well as leaders from all the other parties, are falling over themselves to get airtime for their opinion on the EU referendum, Jeremy Corbyn, the actual Leader of the Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, has been virtually silent.
It is an open secret that Corbyn has opposed the EU for the bulk of his political career. The reason is obvious; the EU started life as a mutually supporting club of capitalist countries, helping private sector businesses to compete and grow inside an international customs union. The EEC was a kind of insurance policy against national economic collapse and socialist revolution. It protected Western Europeans against communism from within, just as NATO protected them against communism from without. Corbyn despises NATO as much as he despises the EU.
As Dennis Skinner said this week:
“My opposition from the very beginning has been on the lines that fighting capitalism state by state is hard enough. It’s even harder when you’re fighting it on the basis of eight states, 10 states and now 28.”
It is not unreasonable that Corbyn shares the same sentiments.
However, all that has changed. The real reason must be that Corbyn cannot take most of his his party with him, especially as he has voted against his party’s whip more times than any other Labour MP during the Blair/Brown years and thus lacks credibility over whipping recalcitrant MPs, as the Syria vote last year demonstrated. So Corbyn is reluctantly following the sane wing of the Labour Party and supporting Remain against all his previous political instincts.
However his reason he has so far given for doing so is interesting. He states he supports remaining in the EU because:
“[…] we recognise that our membership offers a crucial route to meeting the challenges we face in the 21st century, on climate change, on restraining the power of global corporations and ensuring they pay fair taxes, on tackling cyber-crime and terrorism, on ensuring trade is fair with protections for workers and consumers and in addressing refugee movements.”
Note Corbyn makes no mention of the benefits to capitalist businesses of membership of the EU. He seems to have no interest in that. Nor does he have any comment on the high levels of unemployment in the Eurozone.
But surely, all of these things Corbyn wants could be addressed by an incoming Labour government as well? It would not need the EU to make the British government do these things if Jeremy Corbyn was prime minister. After all, if the UK voted for Brexit, a Labour Government in 2020 could simply implement these policies to the level that satisfied Corbyn, EU or no EU.
By stating that only membership of the EU can offer the ‘crucial route to meeting the challenge’, Corbyn implies that he recognises that there is no way Labour will win in 2020 to provide this ‘crucial route’ on its own. He is, in effect, throwing in the towel four years early. Labour is, under Corbyn, set to become a protest movement and not a potential party of government. No wonder Andy Burnham is looking to become Mayor of Manchester. His chances of being a Labour government minister are zero.
Moderate Labour MPs take note. Brexit or no, even their own leader expects Labour to spend at least one decade on the opposition benches. Time to update the CV, or sharpen those knives before it is way too late.