The 2017 General Election saw a return to two-party politics, as Labour absorbed the votes of the Greens and the Conservatives did the same for UKIP.
That seems to be continuing. However the two parties now facing off have never fought a General Election.
There is the Remain Party, led by Lord Adonis and ably supported by Ex-EU Commissioner Lord Mandelson and Alastair Campbell, both experts in media manipulation. And there is the Leave Party, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg and backed by Boris Johnson.
The existence of these two parties does rather complicate matters for the leaders of parties that have legally declared their existence, Mrs May and Mr Corbyn. It is interesting that, while Leave and Remain attract large levels of support, the only GB-wide Parliamentary party that campaigns for Remain, the Liberal Democrats, has seen no electoral advantage for this stance. But then the same is true of UKIP on the other side.
So both major parties are split, but the nature of the split appears more visible in the Conservatives. This might be due to incumbency and little more. The Conservatives are required to formulate a policy and be measured against its delivery. Labour just has to oppose. It is not required to compete, just to disagree.
And this may explain how Labour can be led, and also have a front bench mostly populated, by convinced Leavers, while at the same time trimming the wider party towards Remain by calculated ambiguity. Corbyn’s strategy is simple. He wishes to capture Remain supporters who previously backed the Conservatives, leaving the Conservatives as a rump Leave party in Parliament. It is this position that explains why Labour has no fixed position on Brexit. It is trying to please all of the people all of the time until the last possible moment.
Corbyn depends upon tribal loyalty to Labour amongst its Leave supporters being more important to them than Labour backing some form of Remain which is Brexit In Name Only. Labour’s Six Tests are just a tactic in this strategy, and not serious points for debate. The tests were devised so that the Conservatives would fail them, so Labour could denounce policy without denouncing Brexit. Corbyn is also taking advantage of the fact that he can create novel policy proposals (free money, or ‘bribes’ as they are commonly known) to retain Labour’s Leave supporters.
Labour are assisted in their endeavours by the EU. The EU are playing hardball, but they have no choice in the matter. They cannot allow the UK to have a deal that is better than remaining in the EU, or the whole EU project is apparently pointless. That is not, however, actually the case.
It makes sense for the smaller EU countries to have an economic, and possibly political union, even if it is dominated by the Berlin-Paris Axis. It would be absurd for Greece to leave the EU on the same terms as the UK will do, simply because the Greek economy is radically different. The EU’s fear is that national populations might not see things that way, as nationalism is always more about sentiment than pragmatism. The referendum vote here was not about nationalism, we do not go in for that at a UK level, and it is officially discouraged. It was about the confidence that the world’s fifth-largest economy is more than capable to function as a sovereign country in a way that lesser countries might not.
The repeated conduct of the President of the European Commission in mocking this country and Prime Minister is disgraceful, more so because there is no possible dignified response. Yet when our newspapers mock the ‘drunken Juncker’, the old soak calls for restrictions on press freedom!
The negotiations are also unequal. While we in the UK vociferously disagree amongst ourselves over the negotiations, the EU does not display any internal disagreement. This is because they are appointed bureaucrats and not elected politicians. They know, too, that they can weaken us by a series of national humiliations.
The problem is that a technocratic issue in the EU is political here. Opposition parties are trying to score advantage. A foreign organisation that does not depend on votes is pummelling one here that does. This is an unequal contest.
But this is precisely the reason why we are leaving. The EU does not have a leader of the opposition. It does not have critical votes. There is no debate, disagreement, or dissent. There are no EU-wide elections that can change policy, and no national elections can do that either. Jeremy Hunt was widely criticised for his comparison of the EU to the USSR, but his observations were spot-on.
Realistically, there shouldn’t be any Remainers in the UK, let alone this Remain party. We voted to Leave. But Remainers are fighting this battle because they have seen that referendum results in other countries can be reversed, given the right pro-EU propaganda and some stirring. It is difficult not to believe that the EU is behind the Remain Party in some way. Labour is trying to take cheap electoral advantage of an issue of national importance. If it had a better leader and a more capable front bench, it would be considerably more successful. Not that any Corbynite would ever admit this inconvenient truth.