Labour’s good arguments against the unrealistic Article 50/Brexit rebellions

The Labour leader has felt that it would be wrong to stand in the way of the public’s decision. [Image: Andrew Milligan/PA].

The most disturbing part of the Guardian‘s report is the claim that 3,000 members have quit the Labour Party since the start of the year, over Brexit. What exactly do they want?

The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union. Nothing Labour does can prevent that, because of the Conservative Party’s majority in Parliament.

Nobody has researched how many of Labour’s current membership – or indeed how many of those who voted Remain in the EU referendum – actually did anything to prevent the Conservatives getting that majority and calling the referendum in the first place. Those who stood by and let it happen have no right to complain about the consequences now.

We are where we are. Labour, as the main Opposition party, has a duty to be a government-in-waiting – and a government-in-waiting cannot be seen to represent only a small proportion of the nation, as it would if it championed the already-lost cause of the Remainers.

So Keir Starmer, and Jeremy Corbyn, are right. Labour cannot stand in the way of the decision that was made on June 23. Like it or not, all the arguments about the referendum are over and rehashing them won’t make a scrap of difference. The vote has been taken; the choice has been made.

All Labour can do now is try to ensure that the UK decouples from the EU in as painless a way as possible.

Anybody calling for Labour to run away from that battle is arguing for the Tories to have absolute control over what happens next – with no checks and balances imposed on them at all.

Perhaps the members who have quit the party, and the MPs who have split it, didn’t think about that.

Or, worse, perhaps they did.

Corbyn and the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, have felt throughout that it would be wrong to stand in the way of the public’s decision, expressed in the result of last June’s referendum, to leave the EU.

But Starmer, whose Holborn and St Pancras seat voted three to one for remain, has also faced calls to resign. In a letter to constituents seen by the Guardian, he said: “I know that many people have urged me to reflect the 75% remain vote in Holborn and St Pancras by voting against article 50 and resigning my post in the shadow cabinet.

“I see the argument, but that would prevent me pressing Labour’s amendments, it would prevent me questioning the government relentlessly from the frontbench over the coming years and it would prevent me fighting as hard as I can for a Brexit on the right terms. It would be to walk off the pitch just when we need effective challenge to government.”

Starmer has given a robust defence of the party’s stance in an interview in Progress, the magazine of Labour’s centrist pressure group, saying he wants to speak for both leavers and remainers.

“It will be wrong for the Labour party to rip up its history and tradition of representing a broad group of people, as a broad church, and have no greater ambition than to represent half the country. We need to be a party that aspires to govern, and a party that aspires to govern has to be able to represent and speak to all of the country,” he said.

Source: Jeremy Corbyn’s team braces for fresh Labour rebellion over article 50 | Politics | The Guardian

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26 thoughts on “Labour’s good arguments against the unrealistic Article 50/Brexit rebellions

  1. plhepworth

    I don’t believe that the referendum verdict must necessarily be viewed as final. The result was very close, close enough to justify a second referendum when the terms of Brexit are eventually defined. Another democratic implication of the close result is that the outcome such reflect the balance of opinion, which the government’s position plainly fails to do. We are facing dictatorship by a minority, and it is Labour’s duty to challenge it.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      My point is that whatever you believe stopped mattering as soon as you had cast your vote.
      Because the Conservatives have a majority in Parliament, and they want Brexit to happen because otherwise their own party will split, it’s going to happen.
      You are right that Tory Brexit doesn’t reflect the balance of opinion; that is why Labour is doing what it can to rectify that.
      Unfortunately, certain people seem to be trying to derail that effort, for reasons they are unlikely to reveal honestly (in my opinion).
      Labour is challenging the dictatorship by minority that you believe to be happening – in the only meaningful way.

  2. gfranklinpercival

    At the head of this piece you write:

    “The most disturbing part of the Guardian‘s report is the claim that 3,000 members have quit the Labour Party since the start of the year, over Brexit. What exactly do they want?”

    The Guardian piece offers no credible independent evidence of this, saying at best merely:

    “More than 1,800 Labour members have resigned in the past three weeks, with many citing the party’s Brexit stance, according to data seen by the Guardian.”

    It is therefore an unsubstantiated claim, or piece of propaganda, produced by mainstream media, and reproduced without criticism by the author. Data can be an contained in an official document, or scribbled on the back of a fag packet. If the dear old Graun will not cite its sources, we cannot judge the truth of its assertions.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I point out very clearly that it is just a claim – as evidenced in the words you quote. Don’t you find it disturbing, evidenced or not?

      1. Florence

        Other figures for ppl leaving Labour,and claimed to be “going over ” to the FibDems have been bandied about. Like the figures here, they are all based on unattributed “sources”, such as the Staggers article where it is claimed to be 7,000. All taken with an enormous pinch of salt, thrown over ones left shoulder hopefully to hit in the eye whatever devil or (Uncle) Tom, Iain or whoever is doing these off the record briefings.

        Its less than the number who would routinely be expected to fail to renew their membership each month, and we saw the same 7000 being regularly claimed as flouncers and huffers after both of JCs elections. If by chance these really are disaffected Labour members leaving, all most members will be pleased to see them go, whatever their numbers.

  3. wildswimmerpete

    I might be jumping the gun a little, but the future of Brexit seems very much in the air. Looks like Wee Nicola might be eying up a form of UDI together with reunification noises coming from Stormont. Don’t know about Wales but in the event the UK breaks up it could be Westminster’s Little Brexit England on it’s own.

    1. Florence

      Wales is complex, and not helped by a Welsh Labour group in Cardiff lead by Carwyn Jones who have decided to take an anti Corbyn and a Remainer stance in contradiction to the party membership and electorate respectively.

  4. Fibro confused

    what gets my goat is some say Jeremy etc have turned Labour into the party of protest, but forgive me if I’m missing something here, as the opposition that’s all any can do, is protest argue the points forcefully as Sir Kier has done and force the Govt into altering legislation/bills, since Jeremy became leader quite successfully too, 24 in his first year I think that’s a record too. It’s impossible to stop Article 50 being triggered no matter how many on the opposition benches vote against, why can’t people see that the only thing Labour and the other opposition parties can do is to try and force amendments. Why is that so difficult for people to understand, Grandstanding voting against won’t achieve a bloody thing.

    1. wildswimmerpete

      “It’s impossible to stop Article 50 being triggered no matter how many on the opposition benches vote against”…………. but the Scots having a snap 2nd Indyref before Maybe can trigger Art.50 would certainly put the cat among the Brexit pigeons. There’s already talk of a snap referendum and the SNP have the mandate.

      1. Fibro confused

        Unless May calls an election in between times 2020 will be when any changes would be made with boundary changes coming into if Scotland do vote to leave the UK it will be likely to be made after Article 50 is triggered, Scotland would then be free to join the EU on their own terms.

      2. Barry Davies

        The SNP calling an referendum would actually be illegal under international Law, and had the SNP got its way Scotland would effectively have voted to leave the eu anyway, because it is the UK not Scotland that is the member. All this Scottish referendum is, is a red herring.

  5. Claire Spencer

    I don’t go with this defeatist talk that Brexit is bound to happen. The referendum was only advisory in any case, and was won by downright lies propagated by the right wing press, and was hardly democratic. If it does indeed go ahead it will be thanks to the ineptitude of Labour; they could have halted Brexit had they voted with the SNP and others. This isn’t the first time Labour has voted with the government on important issues. For crying out loud they are supposed to be the opposition!

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      All the arguments about the referendum are over. The Tory government is in charge and the Tory government will push Brexit through, simply because failure to do so in the light of the referendum result would trigger a backbencher revolt that would split the Conservative Party.
      Labour, the SNP and the other Opposition parties cannot do a single thing to prevent this from happening. Really. Nothing.
      All they can do is try to persuade enough Tories to support their amendments that would make Brexit better for the people of this country than the Tory government would otherwise demand.
      No, Labour did not vote with the government on Article 50! As a democratic party that believes in democracy, Labour voted in line with the result of the EU referendum.
      Yes – Labour is the Opposition. And Labour is opposing the government in the best way possible.
      It isn’t hard to understand so I think your only problem is in accepting what is happening.

      1. Claire Spencer

        But surely JC put a three line whip on the vote not to oppose the triggering of Art 50!
        Or I am I living in a parallel universe?
        I will not accept to see my country flushed down the lavatory pan, it is a shame that others cannot.
        You stay on the sinking ship if you wish, I will not

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        You can’t do anything about it.
        The whip was to honour democracy. The amendments are to safeguard the people. None of it has anything to do with co-operating with Tories. It is intelligent politics, in the face of a really stupid situation.

  6. Claire Spencer

    You also need to accept that this referendum was advisory only, and the referendum was in no way democratic. “The will of the people” was in fact the will of Rupert Murdoch, Nigel Farage et al.

      1. Claire Spencer

        Is that really your reply? irrelevant? I fear for the future of the country with remarks like that

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        Your assertion WAS irrelevant. Brexit isn’t happening because of the referendum – that’s the excuse. It is happening because the Tory Party will split otherwise.
        So your arguments about the referendum have no weight at all.

  7. Mike Parr

    “All the arguments about the referendum are over”
    Nope – the vote was close & one section of voters who supported Brexit, did so on the basis of staying in the single market – which the brexiteers promised – all there in black and white and on video – UK leaves but stays in the single market. It was a key part of their campaign – you can have your cake *& eat it. This is no different to buying a car – “yep comes with a motor” – turns up – no motor. The voters were sold a pup – a pack of lies.

    In terms of preventing this slo mo disaster – they need to work with the Scots – who will walk if Brexit goes ahead – & unlike you – I talk to the Scots gov’ trust me on this – they have the appetite.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      No. All the arguments about the referendum are over, for reasons I have already stated and you have already read. If not, then why do you feel qualified to try to contradict me?
      Tell you what, I’ll give you a hint: It has to do with the stability of the Conservative Party.
      As for working with the Scots: The Tories don’t care. They have already said they won’t allow another independence referendum.

      1. plhepworth

        The situation is now as predicted by Mike. Labour has avoided excoriation in the right wing media (ie, all but the Morning Star) but having now set out clear conditions via amendments to the bill will be free to vote against it, if, as is probable, the amendments fail to carry, on 8th inst. The bill won’t be defeated but for future reference it will unequivocally represent solely the Tory position. The Tories have a majority in parliament but not amongst voters, and it will be they who are seen as defying the ‘will of the people’.

  8. Claire Spencer

    At least the Scots have the balls for a fight, it seems nobody else, Labour included have.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Either you are mistaken or you are deliberately trying to misinform people, especially about Labour.
      Labour is following the only workable strategy – hence my headline calling the party’s arguments good.
      The Scots are considering something completely different, due to the particular circumstances in which they find themselves. If you are trying to compare the SNP – in Scotland – with the national Labour Party on the issue of Brexit then you are not comparing like with like and are therefore presenting a false argument.

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