AFTER the overwhelming defeat of Theresa May’s so-called Brexit ‘deal’ in Parliament on Tuesday, it was predictable the Labour Party would go ahead with their threatened vote of no confidence in the current government, though knowing it had little chance of succeeding. It did not, with 306 supporting it and 325 opposing it.
Yet not much more than a year ago Labour were broadly sticking to their election manifesto promises to honour the 2016 referendum decision to leave the EU. They were boxing clever.
Then they made the huge tactical blunder of adopting a conference Brexit policy, a compromise intended to unify their divided party. It has come back to bite them. Described as ‘bollocks’ by Barry Gardiner, the party’s spokesman for International Trade, the six Brexit tests policy has succeeded in preventing Labour from making a positive contribution to the Brexit process.
The result is a party that comes across as having one aim other than a General Election – which is to use Parliamentary processes to undermine the UK’s exit from the EU.
Corbyn’s vote of no confidence has served no useful purpose to Labour or to the country. Without a prior accommodation with the DUP (impossible without a change of Labour policy) it was a waste of time. It has simply shown up a large number of MPs of all parties as people who trade insults about each other’s personal and political abilities – not what the country wants to hear at this crucial time.
And it was exactly what May needed, a distraction from her disastrous Brexit policy, and allowed her to play a blinder when what she should have been doing, at the very least, was contemplating her resignation. It enabled her to portray herself as the defender of the Conservative Party, and even more alarmingly as the champion of Brexit and ‘the people’ – rather than as a humiliated defender of her own very poor performance as Prime Minister.
Now it looks as though the Terminator is here to stay. The latest YouGov poll may not be great for May – she’s tied with ‘Don’t Know’ on 38 per cent for who would make the best Prime Minister – but it’s absolutely dire for Corbyn. And despite May’s anarchic premiership, Corbyn barely musters half as much support, with only 20 per cent backing him as the best Prime Minister. He doesn’t even have the support of a majority who voted Labour in 2017, only 46 per cent of whom back him now.
May is ahead in every single region of the country, including London and Scotland. Incredibly, she even has a 1 per cent lead among Remain voters, while she is comfortably ahead among the C2DE voters that Corbyn claims to be speaking for.
At the close of the confidence debate Corbyn dug himself and Labour in a deeper hole. Unnecessarily arguing that May should rule out a no-deal Brexit, which would hinder the prospect of any government negotiating a good deal out of the EU, he dented any last credentials he had as a Eurosceptic. A tactical dream shared by hardline Remainers to increase the chances of Brexit not proceeding was a Labour own goal that will surely lose the party votes at the next election whenever that comes. There was only one way to interpret it – as a wrecking tactic, rather than a constructive one to help facilitate Brexit.
The country deserves better from the main opposition party. Labour, just like the Tories, have a critical choice to make – they can pander to the Remainers or they can return to being the champions of a British public that voted for Brexit. Corbyn’s Hastings speech last night and his demand that Mrs May ditch her so called red lines indicated little chance to the latter. But if he and his party continue this policy of intransigence, then there is indeed a risk of the Labour voting public turning to UKIP or to a new party – or on to the streets.
It is not just the Conservatives that the people betrayed on Brexit will be deserting.