Why the Left is Betraying Us Over Brexit, and How It Leads to the Hypocrisy of Protesting Against Donald Trump But Not Theresa May

4.2.17

A poster I made for February 4, 2017, as a comment on the protest against Donald Trump organised by the Stop the War Coalition.

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OK, I admit it: I’m thoroughly fed up with the Left in Britain, which largely supported the campaign to leave the EU, and is now facilitating Theresa May’s efforts to destroy our economy by following through on the outcome of the ludicrous referendum last June that saw the Leave campaign win by a small majority.

The referendum was not legally binding; its outcome was advisory, meaning that it should have been taken as the starting point for further discussion, not as an end in itself. In addition, a decision about something as seismically important as leaving the EU shouldn’t have been allowed to be dependent on a simple majority vote. Generally, a referendum on a topic this important would have required a majority to consist of over 50% of all those eligible to vote, or over two-thirds of those who voted, whereas in June’s referendum 27.9% of those eligible to vote (13m people) didn’t bother to vote, and the decision to leave was taken by 37.4% of eligible voters (17.4m people), with 34.7% (16.1m people) voting to stay in the EU.

What has particularly annoyed me today — and the reason I made the poster at the top of this article — is that the Stop the War Coalition today held a protest against Donald Trump’s recently imposed immigration ban and his proposed state visit to the UK — a worthwhile cause, certainly, but one that, noticeably, didn’t involve protesting against Theresa May, even though there is no reason to suppose that she is any less racist and Islamophobic than Donald Trump.

Stop the War, however, is not going to organise a march to criticise Theresa May, because she is in charge of leading us out of the EU, and Stop the War, and most of those who are politically on the left in the UK, support our departure from the EU — even, it seems, if doing so will, as seems probable, be the biggest act of economic suicide in our lifetimes, and even though it can only strengthen anti-immigrant sentiment in the UK, because that was the major driver of people’s discontent last June.

Yes, there was a strong backlash against austerity, and against the Westminster elites who have lost touch with the electorate, but racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia were prominent throughout the campaign, and will only be strengthened if Brexit actually goes ahead, with, I believe, the probability that an isolated Britain would then, like Trump’s America, only become more racist, obsessed with repatriating foreigners, and obsessed with keeping out those regarded as undesirable, through just the sort of ban that Donald Trump has implemented.

So you see my problem, I hope: those protesting today were doing so on behalf of an organisation and movement that is actually helping to facilitate what they’re protesting against.

Trump is a nightmare, of course, and his immigration ban is despicable — as I described it last week, in my article, Trump’s Dystopian America: The Unforgivable First Ten Days, it is a “ban on citizens from seven countries — Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen (at least 134 million people) from entering the US — for an initial period of 90 days, with Syrian refugees banned indefinitely. The ban was so scattershot and chaotic that, incredibly, it also included permanent US residents who were abroad when it took effect, and even dual nationals, born in any of the proscribed countries.”

However, Theresa May is no angel when it comes to immigration, as I explained in July in my article, As Theresa May Becomes Prime Minister, A Look Back at Her Authoritarianism, Islamophobia and Harshness on Immigration. As a hardline Home Secretary for six long years, she was responsible for the vans telling immigrants to go home that she sent around the streets of London, and she became obsessed with sending alleged terrorist suspect Abu Qatada back to Jordan (see here and here), even though that required the UK to turn its back on its international treaty obligations requiring countries that are part of the European Convention on Human Rights, and that are signatories to the UN Convention Against Torture, not to send foreign nationals back to their home countries if they face the risk of torture.

Such is her obsession that it underpins her drive to rid the UK of its human rights obligations altogether, a disgraceful aim that I highlighted in my 2015 article, What Does It Say About the Tories That They Want to Scrap Human Rights Legislation?

These are not her only crimes. In October 2012, she bragged to the Conservative Party Conference about her delight in extraditing a number of Muslims, who were alleged terrorist suspects, to the US for prosecution, including Talha Ahsan, a poet with Asberger’s (who was later sent home by a US judge), while the week after she refused to approve the extradition of another man with Asperger’s, Gary McKinnon, who was white.

She has also been an enthusiast for stripping the citizenship of dual national British citizens she regards as terrorists, without any due process requirements, and, in some cases, then letting the US know where they were so they could be killed by drone strikes.

She was also resistant to Europe’s effort to rehouse refugees during the huge refugee crisis that began in 2015, and she also refused to grant visas to the foreign spouses of UK nationals if the latter do not earn £18,600 a year, which, it should be noted, is more than the national median income for the UK, and roughly the same as the median income in London. She also has a track record of being obsessed with snooping and surveillance, and, after the EU referendum, failed to reassure EU nationals living in the UK that they would be able to stay in the country.

Last week, after Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party leader, imposed an outrageous three-line whip on his MPs in an effort to compel them all to vote with the Tories to support the triggering of Article 50, which starts the two-year process of leaving the EU, just 47 of his MPs rebelled, joining 67 others (primarily from the SNP). The reason for the whip was, I presume, because of elements of Corbyn’s own antipathy towards the EU, but also because the party didn’t want to send a message to its Leave voters that it might disagree with them.

Unfortunately, those who support remaining in Europe have been shamefully dismissed by Corbyn’s actions, just as the Remainers in the Conservative Party have been silenced by Theresa May and her Brexit ministers.

This is disgraceful and unacceptable. 75% of MPs supported remaining in the EU before the referendum, but in last week’s vote the 16.1m of us who voted Remain (48.1% of those who voted) were represented by just 18.6% of MPs.

As a left-wing Remainer, I feel more isolated than I ever have in the UK, and I really hope I don’t have to spend the next two years, before Brexit becomes a reality (unless we stop it, as I believe we can and must!), pointing out the betrayal by the Left as, presumably, more and more creative ways are invented to engage in political protest without actually attacking the root of the UK’s current problems — the racist Theresa May and her racist Brexiteers, who are intent on destroying the UK for their own deluded ideological reasons, and who only pay lip service to a multicultural Britain, and will, if they can, implement their own version of Donald Trump’s ban as soon as they think they can get away with it.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

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32 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, a detailed explanation of how disastrous the Left’s support for the UK leaving the EU has been, and continues to be. It plays a part in Labour’s disdain for its own Remain voters, swept aside in the obsession with not alienating Leave voters, and it was on full show today, as Stop the War led a protest against Donald Trump and his disgraceful immigration ban, but not against Theresa May, even though Brexit is clearly a racist project, and May – a notorious racist and Islamophobic Home Secretary for six years – is no less deserving of criticism than Trump. However, because Theresa May is leading us out of the EU, she mustn’t be criticised, according to the logic of the Left. How ridiculous is this? Does the Left really believe that a Tory-led UK freed from the EU won’t be just as racist as Trump’s America? Wake up and fight back against the enemy here in the UK, not the one in the White House.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Betty Molchany wrote:

    🙂

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Betty.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Amy Phillips wrote:

    Trump not welcome, May not welcome – maybe they can go live at Guantanamo together.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Ha! Yes, Amy!

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    You’ve clearly not been listening to her Bevinite speeches about social justice et al Andy 😉

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Very funny, David.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Bill Weinberg wrote:

    Is she really [a maniac]?

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    She’s a dangerous leader to have right now, Bill – six years as an authoritarian Home Secretary, honing her sense of threats from the “other” – Muslims, immigrants – before becoming Prime Minister. She’s from the kind of white southern English Christian background that can easily become jingoistic and that tends to be deluded about Britain’s importance in the world, and that’s just what’s happening.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Bill Weinberg wrote:

    I think there’s a lot of breathing space between “dangerous leader” and “maniac just like Trump”

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    She’s not as unhinged as Trump, Bill, but she has a maniacal drive to fulfil “the will of the people” and get us out of the EU, even though that will be economic suicide. I stand by my comparison, but I don’t wish to underplay the dangerousness of Donald Trump, who needs combatting every hour of every day: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2017/01/30/trumps-dystopian-america-the-unforgivable-first-ten-days/

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Lilia Patterson wrote:

    Nobody voted for her. Therefore anything she says can not be taken seriously. The same with Trump. There is various evidence that the US banks refused to fund his election campaign he was only funded by Russian foreign oligarchs and supported by people in the FBI due to personal preferences regardless of representing either due legal process, nor what anyone in the US actually wanted. This represents a conflict of interests in the various processes of who or what says what and how laws etc. get decided and implemented. May since she was never elected technically has no legal authority to represent the UK public, the same Brexit likewise was a strange legal action due to a minority party likewise nobody ever elected and therefore has to be questioned in legal terms. In terms of legal responsibility I don’t think that what they think they are doing has been planned very effectively.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Lilia. Yes, we definitely have the problem of delusional leaders on both sides of the Atlantic right now.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Excellent Andy. I posted a few words about the march and poor priorities. I will share this.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, George. I’m glad you get it. It’s heartening to see so much opposition to Trump – in America, in particular, where it really counts – but it was profoundly dispiriting for me last week to see Labour voting with the government to trigger Brexit, a whimpering defeat that is simply inexcusable. My congratulations to the 47 rebels, but come on! Nearly half of those who voted in the referendum in June want to stay the EU, and yet we are so inadequately represented in Parliament right now that you’d think we were pariahs. Brexit can be stopped, and needs to be, but not if MPs who believe in the EU and who recognise the extraordinary perils of leaving it, continue to be so spineless.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Paul O’Hanlon wrote:

    Report of anti -Trump march in Edinburgh: http://www.indymedia.org.nz/articles/6933

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Paul. It’s heartening to see so many young people protesting against a hateful figure in a position of power and standing up for refugees, but again I can only ask: why not protest against Theresa May? The intention of Brexit is specifically to prevent immigration. Let’s not pretend otherwise. In fact, it’s such a driver that May is prepared to hobble our economy by withdrawing from the single market and the customs union just so that she can shut our borders. Those who care about combating racism need to be protesting against the plans of Theresa May and her ministers.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    A powerful editorial in the Observer: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/05/parliament-must-ensure-second-brexit-referendum

    Key excerpts:

    It is imperative that parliament asserts itself in the coming days. The Observer supports the triggering of article 50 as the natural next step in negotiating our EU exit, but only if MPs, acting in the national interest, attach two essential democratic safeguards to the bill.

    First, parliament must be able to meaningfully scrutinise the terms of any deal the government negotiates with the European Union. This must mean the opportunity to reject any agreement before it goes to the European council for approval, and to give the government a mandate to seek further time for negotiation, should it reject it. Any MP planning to vote against the amendments to the bill that seek to ensure this – whether or not they supported Brexit – should reflect long and hard on precisely what they think parliament is for, if not to scrutinise the government on this most momentous of decisions.

    Second, the British people must have the opportunity to accept or reject the deal negotiated by the government. The referendum result provided a democratic mandate for Britain to leave the EU; it did not give permission to the prime minister to negotiate any deal she sees fit.

    Voters may choose to ratify the government’s deal in a second referendum or, faced with a concrete set of terms for Britain’s exit, they may choose to reject the deal and deliver a mandate for the government to seek to try to remain in the EU. But the final say should rest with them.

  19. damo says...

    The left have betrayed everyone and id go so far as to say as vile as the tories….the left is full of creeps idiots and bullshitters…phonie social justice worriors sorry to sound hard andy but thease are hard times can i be honest andy but that march the one here im sorry andy it was a turnoff it just seemed full of people..acting…..people from wealthy safe comfortable backgrounds….who are not oppressed or struggling…marching alonge holding cups of…..expencive…coffeee..to go….and again andy i dont wanna sound like a meanie ……but it seemed like play acting to me….there seemed a lot of attitude …and not of the inclusive kind……you know if people wanna change things in his world we all gotta be together support everyone regaurdless of social standing

  20. damo says...

    You cannot have a left that cherry picks ….ie those poor oppressed peasant women in outer wherever and then on the other hand view poor oppressed people in this country as….ignorant chav scum who deserve every thing they get…..and ive heard and whittnessed those words and attitudes from a certain class and type of left…….sorry but isnt the left here to save the day …to include everyone …cant cherry pick one type of oppressed and dissmiss and villifiey another class and type of oppressed peoples

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the interesting comments, Damo. Play acting wasn’t something I’d considered, but now you mention it I can see how it might be so, with Trump as the focal point, the sum of everyone’s projections about what is intolerable.
    And yet everyday is intolerable, as the poor and weak are trampled on and vilified, and – my bugbear as you’ll have worked out by now – Theresa May getting a free pass because she’s not enough of a cartoon villain, unlike Trump.
    I really wonder what those people on the march yesterday think about the Tories’ ongoing assault on the poor, the weak, the disabled, the unemployed, the poorly-paid, what they think about the Tories’ efforts to destroy the NHS, and what they really think about Brexit. Are they Lexiteer lunatics, or have they bought into the officially sanctioned delusion that Brexit is “the will of the people” that must not been denied – like we’re all being mugged down an alley somewhere but it has officially been decided that we must now accept the mugger’s point of view. Unless these people are genuinely delusional, like so much of the Left, they need to take a long hard look in the mirror and ask what Donald Trump really has to do with the menace posed by their own government.

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Adam Johannes wrote:

    I find this an odd post. As the mobilisations are precisely about the special relationship between Trump and May, Britain and America, so are targeting our government too, and the rainbow coalition coming together against Trump is implicitly the start of a social force that can challenge the same Islamophobia, anti-migrant and anti-women policies pursued at home. As a demonstration of how things are not detached, Cardiff where I live saw one of the biggest protests in years on Monday night that was explicitly linked with the visit of Theresa May to our city, who was confronted earlier in the afternoon by a smaller protest of around 200 people called at an hours notice as she left our City Hall
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEzbLdbOpPY

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Not quite Adam. As you forget Leave, which Trump would like as does the Left. That has been largely detached, perhaps lost sight of by many. What is left, various kinds of identity politics as personal reasons for marching? That trend fragmented the left and dangerously weakened solidarity.

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I appreciate that Theresa May was being targeted by protests, Adam, but how much of that is because of her perceived relationship with Donald Trump, and how much is because she is in charge of Brexit, and wants to turn us into an offshore tax haven slave economy with a fortress mentality that will have been created specifically to prevent immigration, just like Donald Trump wants? I think the latter is being sidelined or ignored, and even accepted and embraced by those who believe that Brexit is about something other than making the UK very specifically anti-immigrant and isolated. On the video you linked to, one commenter wrote, “She has disgraced the office of P.M. of a nation who fought the greatest war against fascism in history, and arselicked an insane despot that is about to destroy civilization as we know it.” No mention of how she alone, without any reference to Trump, is trying to make the UK into an immigrant-free zone.

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    We need to deal with Donald Trump as Donald Trump and Theresa May as Theresa May… Both provide challenges but we shouldn’t over-simplify their characters or their traits. May is a meritocrat with Thatcherite leanings but she doesn’t share Trump’s zealotry for doing things intemperately, loudly and as a result less effectively. In just two weeks Trump has remarkably managed to unite both Liberal and Conservative Judges in blocking his 20 plus executive orders. May will quietly work to serve the established vested interests and as such will carry most of the media with her. She presents a much more formidable target for the left to deal with especially as she is doing this with the least effective opposition party in my living memory. The left need to look to their own laurels before trying to take down May. Possibly the worst own goal in decades was Corbyn calling for a three line whip over Article 50.

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your thoughts, David. Yes, the three-line whip was inexplicable to me. How was it supposed to be acceptable to tell MPs whose constituents voted Remain by large majorities that they had to vote with Theresa May? Or, for that matter, to place that demand on MPs whose constituents voted Leave but who themselves supported Remain? As I note, it smacks of the Parliamentary Labour Party’s desperate efforts not to upset Leave voters (while treating Remain voters with contempt), and, to my mind, also conveys something of Corbyn’s own inability to stand up and defend the EU against the much worse prospect of a Tory Little England.

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    Andy I entirely agree. I’m afraid Jeremy Corbyn seems to have finally managed to outwit himself in the shitstorm that came his way. UKIP are being offered the kind of power vacuum national socialists like Adolf Hitler dreamed of in his wilderness years

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    Ugh, yes, David. I’m not sure how viable UKIP are without the slimeball Farage, though, but certainly there’s no opposition. I know it’s not entirely Corbyn’s fault, but we need a Labour leader who’s prepared to openly defend the EU and argue back against the pandering to Leave voters to which Theresa May is directing almost everything she does. I’m also wondering if any of the Tory Remainers apart from Ken Clarke will ever manage to find a spine, of if they’ll just meekly obey their leader, and – all of them – duly lose their seats to the Lib Dems at the next General Election.

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Gareth Richards wrote:

    agreed Andy…

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Gareth!

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    Gareth Richards wrote:

    love your band too, I think I heard you interviewed on 6music?

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    That’s lovely to hear that you like the band, Gareth. New album coming soon: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2017/02/03/andy-worthingtons-band-the-four-fathers-complete-mixes-for-new-album-how-much-is-a-life-worth/
    Wish we had been interviewed for 6Music – that would certainly help get the word out!

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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