Since the Labour plotters are using a moment of critical importance to the country to indulge their small-minded coup against a democratically elected leader, let me do the same.
I’ll start with Labour in order to dismiss them from the key debate which is all they deserve. The MPs, most of whom have spent their years at Westminster scoffing at Corbyn as a corduroy comrade, have never resolved their prejudice and simply can’t accept him as leader of anything. They don’t care that the membership preferred him, massively, to their emollient elitist candidates and now talk about the three-pounders – those who bought their way in – rather than true Labour supporters. They have mentally separated the two groups believing that ‘genuine, working class Labour people’ still support them not the Corbyn insurgency.
The pleas of so-called socialists that the staggered resignations were in no way orchestrated displays another example of their wishful blindness. It is an insult not to BBC journalists but to the voters. This rebellion has been on the stocks for the entire period of Corbyn’s leadership and those like Eagle who accepted posts only to renege now, planned their departure from the outset.
Judged by conventional standards, Corbyn is a failure as the norms for political leadership are long established by the inner core of British opinion-formers. Anyone failing to meet pre-set protocols is derided like the new boy at school, the one with the wrong blazer and the funny accent. This is Westminster, a private school for grown-ups. Its inhabitants are used to pointing and sniggering at anything outwith their understanding – proportional voting, Scotland etc. So Labour does have a problem. However popular Corbyn is in the country, his failure to play the game, appease the newspapers and sing God Save the Queen means he doesn’t cut it with the nomenclature. And they take themselves way more seriously than any Mirror-reading spanner-wielder in the Midlands.
But the middle of the nuclear cloudburst that is now engulfing the UK is absolutely not the right time to mount a challenge of any sort. If Labour means anything, it is to offer advice and opposition to a dangerously inept and ideologically warped right wing government which is taking the country to the brink. The people of the UK deserve and demand leadership, insight, reassurance – an alternative, if that be possible. An alternative personality cloned from the usual studio fodder won’t make an ounce of difference except to the hundreds of thousands out there to will be infuriated at being disenfranchised – again – by an elite, especially if there is a contest in which the party machine contrives to lose Corbyn.
I didn’t rate Corbyn’s EU campaign because he seems unable to sound passionate about anything that doesn’t include Palestine or Syrian refugees. They have their place but Mr and Mrs Britain have been counting pennies for the last nine years and now see more pain stretching a decade ahead. It may well the vote was lost by former Labour voters who moved UKIP-style to Leave, they started that journey long before Corbyn morphed into leader. Labour lost four million votes under Blair and Brown and it is exactly the same type of fast-talking MP spivs who now want to wrest back control.
It takes some believing that when Wodehouse comedy characters like Johnson, Gove, Farage and Duncan Smith are destroying the economy and the national reputation, the people’s party is playing musical chairs in the playground. Indeed, history may well make a harsher judgment and call it dereliction of duty – the day the country called and Labour was otherwise engaged.
Meanwhile, the SNP, cheekily, tries to prise the title of Opposition from Labour at Westminster which rather neatly sums it up. And Sturgeon plays the role of international statesman in Brussels to the dismay of her critics who prefer the Scottish cringe when they are represented on the larger stage. The way this is reported like a foreign government descending on Brussels while editorials laud her statecraft and social media voices in England wish she were their leader, adds lustre to idea of an SNP-run state-in-waiting.
I can’t see how the FM can expect anything other than honeyed words though. Her approach is political and so is the response from Commission and Parliament. It’s as if she says: I have to be seen to this. And they reply: Us too.
Realistically, what have they to offer? The UK still hasn’t triggered Article 50. Until that happens, there is nothing to debate, nothing of substance to react to. There must still be chance that with Britain behaving like the parliamentary equivalent of TISWAS that no request will be made.
The EU is a club of nations. Scotland is not a nation. The UK will always take precedence. There are important protocols and practices to be observed and, as Spain have shown, diverse interests at work.
It doesn’t mean that over the next two years or so, a situation won’t arise in which separate deals can be done over direct engagement between Edinburgh and Brussels. Who knows – licensing for financial services no longer available in London?
What may prove critical is the channel of communication itself if Scotland wants to demonstrate it has friends in Brussels with the kind of leverage that could sway votes ahead of a second referendum. Even the absence of the Barroso-inspired negativity would be a help.
Spanish resistance could turn out to be a red herring too if an independent Scotland, rather than a devolved one, is seeking early entry. It is the subsidiary element that frightens Madrid where the hard line policy is to deny even a referendum in order to contain Catalan rebellion. It is true a fast track would worry them but acceptance into membership of any European country that can meet the criteria is a founding principle of the EU that would not be jettisoned casually out of deference to one country’s domestic self-interest.
If all fails of course we have to face the stark fact that we had our chance to shape our own destiny and declined. We preferred to give back the sovereignty we held on voting day and put our trust in Cameron, Gove, Johnson et al. Yes even in Corbyn. Life is about taking your chances when they’re presented and we as a people didn’t. In that sense the Tories are right. We voted to throw in our lot with the UK come what may and while the whole basis of the UK itself has now changed, clearing the way for another vote, we have left ourselves in the hands of others to decide if that happens. Again the whip hand is in London and it is in Brussels.
Yet there are real reasons to be optimistic this time as unforeseen events unfold before us. Surely this time, if the moment arises, the Scots will seize it whatever misgivings we have over the economy or defence or relationships? There could hardly be more uncertainty than there is today. Just ask Jeremy.by