Corbyn Rises, Theresa May Falls; Hard Brexit Now Looks Untenable

9.6.17

A Jeremy Corbyn 'Hope' poster by Posterrity.com on Deviant Art.

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What a great, great, great, great, great day for the fundamental decency of so many of the British people, after seven long years of cruelty, mean-mindedness and division.

Last night was, undoubtedly, Jeremy Corbyn’s night. Vilified by the media since winning the Labour leadership contest in September 2015, he nevertheless survived a cynical coup implemented, insanely, the day after the EU referendum by the Blairites in his own party, when Labour should have been focusing all their energies on discrediting the Tories, and two months ago, when Theresa May cynically called a General Election, he finally got to shine.

In complete contrast to the Prime Minister — shifty, aloof, paranoid, disdainful, dismissive, invisible — Corbyn staged an honest and heartfelt assault on the disgraceful and horrendously damaging “age of austerity” the Tories introduced in 2010 — pretending that the bankers’ 2008 crimes were the fault of Labour’s investment in public services, and using it as an excuse to try to destroy the state provision of services almost entirely, to remove the safety net of the welfare state, and, for good measure, to relentlessly kick those who then fell into abject poverty and misery; primarily, the disabled and the unemployed.

In contrast to Theresa May’s hugely damaging own goals — breaking her repeated promises not to hold a snap election, producing an uncosted and ill-conceived manifesto, which included a ludicrous “dementia tax” that couldn’t have been better conceived to damage her own standing amongst her own elderly voters, and then compounding the damage by attempting to reverse it in a shamefully clumsy manner — Labour produced a fully-costed manifesto, demonstrating how public services can be funded via the pursuit of tax avoiders and tax evaders, a rise in corporation tax and an increase in the rate of taxation on the wealthiest members of society.

Labour’s leader also impressed voters with his refusal to engage in the type of bleak, negative campaigning for which Tory strategist Lynton Crosby is known, and successfully wooed not just the socialists abandoned since the days of John Smith, but also the young — getting huge numbers of young people to register to vote, and to vote for the first time, with extraordinary developments like the #grime4corbyn movement — confirming what I perceived when he first got elected as Labour leader: that, if Labour was to rise again as an electoral force, it would need to be by attracting new people to vote, rather than focusing on existing voters in marginal seats, in a never-ending diminishing waste of energy trying to be ever so slightly less right-wing than the Tories.

A tweet by the Spectator's editor, Fraser Nelson, showing how the increase in Labour's vote share under Jeremy Corbyn was higher than at any time since Clement Attlee's victory after the Second World War.Corbyn’s campaign not only hammered the final nail into the coffin of that tired and futile old-school centre-right Blairism; it also increased Labour’s share of the vote by 9.6%, the largest increase since Clement Attlee after the Second World War; bigger, even, than the 8.8% increase that Tony Blair secured in his landslide victory in 1997. In the image to the left, the text is from a tweet by, of all people, Fraser Nelson, the editor of the Spectator (click to enlarge).

The swing to Labour wasn’t enough to win the election, but it undoubtedly marked a moral victory, a huge endorsement of decency and inclusiveness, and a resounding endorsement of Jeremy Corbyn’s position, as he reduced a 19-point lead for May in mid-April to almost nothing. With just one seat left to declare (the staunchly Tory Kensington & Chelsea, where Labour may have won), the Tories have 13,650,900 votes (42.4% of the total), while Labour have 12,858,652 votes (40%). Interestingly, the result was also a decisive blow to the “hard Brexit” plans of Theresa May, albeit one that was not openly declared. May’s contempt for those who voted to remain in the EU last June was key to her failure. A soft Remainer who became a virulently evangelical hard Brexiteer, she thought she could silence the 16.1m Remainers, including a substantial number in her own party, but was proven wrong.

The irony is that, while she pretended that this was an election about Brexit, but then destroyed herself by continuing to refuse to discuss anything whatsoever about Brexit, leaving voters to dwell, with increasingly negativity, on the rest of the Tories’ policies, the Brexit backlash was also largely not discussed by the Labour Party either, which has been largely paralysed by conflicting views since last June.

While their Brexit spokesman Kier Starmer has introduced detailed challenges to the Tories’ hard Brexit plans, and, last October, asked 170 questions of the Tory’s Brexit supremo David Davis, Corbyn never appeared as a staunch defender of EU, and cannot dissemble to pretend otherwise, and the party as a whole was so desperate not to alienate its many Leave voters — primarily from its former working class heartlands outside the south — that it capitulated to all of May’s authoritarian and undemocratic demands to give her a free rein to do whatever she wanted, even after concerned citizens has taken May to court to establish that she had no right to act like a tyrant and to exclude Parliament from involvement in the Brexit negotiations. For more on this, see my articles, Worthless MPs Refuse to Challenge Tyrannical Theresa May on Their Own Right to Vote on Final Brexit Deal or on the Rights of EU Nationals in the UK (from March), and Theresa May: An Unstoppable Undemocratic Disaster in a Dismal Brexit Britain Without Adequate Opposition (from April).

I presume that many voters, like me, are expecting that, if May’s hard Brexit plans are abandoned, and Labour can get involved in negotiations, a much softer approach will enable a vibrant demonstration of how insanely ruinous the whole Brexit process will be if implemented, and why, fundamentally, it must not go ahead. I certainly hope so, as that is the only path I can see that avoids us very deliberately engineering our own ruin on the basis of isolationist Tory delusions, and a narrow victory in a referendum that should never have been called, that was not legally binding, and that was only secured via horrendous lies and distortions by politicians and the corrupt right-wing media.

For now, however, the short-term question is whether Theresa May — spectacularly damaged goods — can survive, if she can form a practical working government with the only potential allies available — the dangerously right-wing Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland — and if it is at all credible that she enters into detailed Brexit negotiations with the EU in just ten days’ time.

I suspect that it may be more satisfying, and more damaging to the Tories in the short run, for her to cling on somehow, giving her supposed colleagues more time to sharpen their knives, and for her to continue the Tories’ implosion. However, on the latter point, at least — regarding the start of Brexit negotiations — I suspect the immediate answer is that no, she cannot now be trusted to undertake the most important political and bureaucratic process in modern British history, and that one way or another there needs to be a grown-up acceptance on her part, and on the part of the other idiotic Tory Brexit evangelists, that the game is up, that hard Brexit is a deluded fantasy, that we need to sit down calmly and humbly with the EU and try to work out a way forward that is not completely ruinous for us, and that the only way to do that is through a genuine cross-party process.

Just for today, however, I’m not going to dwell too much on all of this — or on the rather dark truth that, even if she can find a way to forge ahead regardless, she will metaphorically kill herself and the Tory Party, because the hard Brexit fantasy is the very definition of a poisoned chalice — and I am, instead, going to continue revelling in Jeremy Corbyn’s success and in Theresa May’s demonstration — so clearly that it should be included from now on in dictionary definitions — of what hubris means.

Note: The poster at the top of this article is by Posterrity.com, via Deviant Art.

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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25 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    So here’s my post-election analysis – primarily congratulating Jeremy Corbyn for sticking to his principles and his decency, and notching up a 9.6% increase in the Labour vote, the largest since Clement Attlee after WWII, in which, crucially, he attracted lots of first-time voters, primarily the young. I also, of course, condemn Theresa May for the very definition of hubris, and await her fall, even though she is currently trying to forge a zombie Frankenstein government with the support of the rabid Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party. This election, as well as providing a condemnation of May’s hollow inflexibility, was also an assertion of the decency of so many of the British people, shamefully silenced by the authoritarian May since the Brexit vote, and sick of the Tories’ vile and cynical “age of austerity,” and her hard Brexit plans are now thoroughly discredited, and must be derailed. More analysis in the days to come, but for now I’m basking in the positive results from yesterday. Many of us have been waiting many, many long years for this kind of positivity, and – yes – a demonstration of hope.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    And not forgetting, of course, #StandDownTheresa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpVb06VXkOM&feature=youtu.be

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Ruth Hankins wrote:

    Please explain something for me if you will Andy: Being from the States, I would have thought that the DUP would be more aligned with the Labor Party in principle. How is this? Thanks.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    James Koblenzer wrote:

    They are in some ways Ruth; the DUP supports social care but is more conservative than the Tories on social issues. They do support a soft brexit though because they would be hurt by a return to Ulster’s old borders with the Republic.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Ruth Hankins wrote:

    Thanks James, what would be considered a “soft brexit”?

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Kimberly Gnaw wrote:

    Yes. I’m curious too.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    At present, Ruth and Kimberly, membership of the EU involves free movement between member states, plus membership of the single market and customs union, which are enormously beneficial to the ease of trade and movement of materials etc. between member states. Leave voters in last year’s EU referendum were primarily concerned at stopping free movement of people, but without that, by EU rules, we also lose access to the free market and the customs union, meaning prohibitive tariffs being imposed on our goods and services, causing huge, huge damage to our economy. The irony is that it is difficult to stop the movement of people and leaving the EU is unlikely to make much difference. The best way to prevent people wanting to come here is to destroy our economy, which is what leaving the EU will achieve if it is not stopped (my preference) or subject to grown-up negotiations (as opposed to the Tories’ threats and shouting). It is not known if it’s possible to restrict movement but retain access to the single market and the customs union, which is basically what a soft Brexit would be, but if not then we shouldn’t leave the EU. It’s as simple as that. The damage to our economy would be too great.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    When my friend Michael Bentley shared this on Facebook, he wrote:

    A hopeful and brilliantly written response to last night, by my friend Andy Worthington.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Michael. Good to hear from you. I’m very glad you liked my article. What an exhilarating night, that hope spilling over into the rest of the day.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Richard K Worthington in Seattle wrote:

    Andy Worthington is not my relative. I do pay attention to what he has to say. I’m ready for any good news … and this is really good news.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Richard. Great to hear from you.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Manahil Sikandar‎ wrote:

    Stop the DUP & TORIES forming a Minority Government!
    https://www.change.org/p/may-out-no-coalition-with-the-d-u-p

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Wow! 242,250 signatures already! Thanks for sharing, Manahil.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    After recounts, Kensington seat goes to Labour for the first time in its history – by just 20 votes! http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/kensington-election-result-labour-wins-tory-safe-seat-corbyn-may-latest-a7782961.html

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Here’s the Guardian’s editorial, ‘The Guardian view on the 2017 election result: a call for a different Britain’: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/09/the-guardian-view-on-the-2017-election-result-a-call-for-a-different-britain

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Michael Bentley wrote, in response to 9, above:

    Yes, it was quite a night, Andy! I couldn’t quite believe what was happening at the time. As is my wont, though, I’m still worried about the NHS, Brexit and that rather scary alliance with the DUP. And the Blairites still in Labour – though they’d be stupid to make life hard for Corbyn now (what idiots people like Angela Eagle must feel now!) And the mainstream media and Murdoch rags. Lots of things to still be concerned about – yet life will surely be harder for the Tories now. At least things are so much better than anything we dated to hope for yesterday!

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    I share your concerns, Michael – but briefly, I honestly do think that yesterday saw the return of hope after seven years of grinding, relentless misery emanating from central government.

  18. Tom Pettinger says...

    Phenomenal result considering the last ten weeks of polls… Half a breath of relief but what happens next is totally unknown, which isn’t great. I think we’ve become a laughing stock though – Cameron calls a referendum he’s never going to lose and loses it, and the very next PM calls an election to shore up support and does the exact opposite. Fascinating times!! Do you think another election within the next 12 months is likely? I could see it happening, and just more chaos

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Another election, Tom? I really hope not. Surely we’d see election fatigue like never before, wouldn’t we?
    But I suppose there’s no other way of getting the Tories out when this desperate proposed coalition collapses, which it surely has to, doesn’t it? The DUP? For real?

  20. Tom Pettinger says...

    I know. It’s absolutely ludicrous. I can’t see anybody being happy though, not least the backbenchers who are all utterly livid. There’s got to be a fight over May’s position at least!

    I think it’s hilarious how the Tories have consistently slated Corbyn for his so-called ‘links with terrorists’ and now they’re going into a power-sharing agreement with a party founded in the context of terrorism…..!! The hypocrisy is SO bare-faced. I care not at all: the DUP, like the former political freedom fighers/ terrorists (depending on how you see them) that Corbyn has ‘links’ with are now not associated with violence – but the Tories were actively denouncing him for it.

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, she looks to be a dead woman walking, Tom. How can she not be? The Tories love the smell of a wounded animal, fox ban or not!
    I see a lengthy Times editorial is calling for her to go: https://twitter.com/JohnWitherow/status/873297908791209984
    I’m also glad to see the story’s coming out fully about what a narrow, negative atmosphere exists in No. 10, where she gave far too much power to Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, the advisers she brought from the Home Office, who are responsible for her disastrous manifesto, and, it now transpires, alienated countless MPs with their ‘rude, abusive and childish’ behaviour: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/10/theresa-mays-rude-abusive-and-childish-advisers-face-calls-to-quit

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Meanwhile, the Times’ editorial today calls for Theresa May to resign: https://twitter.com/JohnWitherow/status/873297908791209984

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    The Sun and Mail also turn on her, a ConservativeHome poll finds 60% of Tory party members think she should resign, and criticism mounts about the damaging role played by her toxic advisers: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/10/theresa-mays-rude-abusive-and-childish-advisers-face-calls-to-quit
    https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/jun/09/tories-turn-on-theresa-papers-across-the-spectrum-have-knives-out-for-may

  24. Julius Gordon says...

    Andy: I‘m a new visitor from the USA. Somewhat ironically, I got to your site via a referral from Paul Craig Roberts, who praised your investigative and writing skills. The irony lies in the fact that Roberts sees the EU as a diabolical plot hatched by the elites of the United States (in a word: Washington). Speaking of NATO and the EU, he writes, “These two institutions give Washington control over the Western world and serve both as cover and enabler of Washington’s aggression.”
    Roberts views European nations, the UK, and the EU through the lens of economics (you probably know he was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Ronnie Reagan), expressing the idea that the bankers who control the financial destiny of the western world are using the Euro and the unrepresentative institutions of the Union to destroy the sovereignty of, and thus exert control over, its member nations. In particular, see the example of Greece.
    Since Roberts has strongly recommended your writing, I would like to hear your explanation of why the Leave vote was such a huge mistake and why EU membership is in your opinion a good thing.

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Julius,
    That’s a great question, and it deserves a comprehensive answer.
    I share concerns about the EU’s structure, and, in particular, the Euro project, which is being used to keep Greece permanently crushed. That is unforgivable, and certainly discredits the Euro – and this was a major driver of left-wing discontent with the EU. Another area of concern is the EU’s neo-liberal tendencies – the requirement for privatisations, for example, and the ease with which a multi-national entity like the EU can facilitate corporate control, and expansion.
    However, my answer to this problem is to call for concerted efforts to reform the EU from within, as the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis recommends. See this major article from April 2016, ‘Why we must save the EU’, which has the tagline, ‘The European Union is disintegrating – but leaving is not the answer’:
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/05/yanis-varoufakis-why-we-must-save-the-eu
    And so to turn to the UK, my other fundamental reasons for not wanting the UK to leave the EU are because our economy will collapse without the free movement of people, trade and ideas, and the reintroduction of quote and tariffs and protectionism, and because the Tory government want to use our departure to destroy all the EU legislation that protects us from the predatory employers and abusers that make up so much of Britain’s long and ignoble history, want to sell off whatever is still unsold to foreigners (who already who own a shockingly large percentage of British land, buildings and businesses) and, with the economy in freefall after cutting our ties with our biggest trading partners (in the EU), want to turn us into an offshore tax haven in which we the people, with no rights, become quasi-slave labourers for the global super-rich who will continue to be present in huge numbers, paying nothing to support the country but being regarded by politicians as somehow useful; in other words, just a turbo-charged version of the disastrous situation we’re already in. This tax haven scenario is in fact the only fantasy the “hard Brexit” Tories can come up with to justify their idiotic obsession with leaving the EU, and it’s genuinely quite chilling to watch them rationalise themselves into a position where, for no good reason, they cut us off from the EU and plunge the UK into a medieval horror story in which the worth of ordinary British people is downgraded to almost nothing.

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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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