Jeremy Corbyn has claimed he is “champing at the bit” to have a new general election – but is his timing right?
He said in a major speech in Northampton that he wants to have an election, then hold a new referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU:
“The first task of a Labour government will be to finally get Brexit sorted.
“After three years of Tory failure, it’s time to take the decision out of the hands of politicians and let the people have the final say.
“So a Labour government will immediately legislate for a referendum.
“That referendum won’t be a re-run of 2016. No one knew what a deal with the EU would look like back then and the prospect of No Deal was dismissed out-of-hand by leading Leave campaigners, including Boris Johnson.
“This time the choice will be between leaving with a sensible deal or remaining in the European Union.
“Two clear options, both agreed with the EU – no false promises, no bluster.
“So within three months of coming to power, a Labour government will secure a sensible deal, based on the terms we have long advocated and discussed with the EU, trade unions and businesses, including a new customs union, a close single market relationship and guarantees of rights and protections.
“Within six months of being elected we will put that deal to a public vote alongside remain.
“And as prime minister I will carry out whatever the people decide.”
The trouble is, this would make Brexit the main issue of the election – and the Tories are expert at presenting a false impression of the choices.
Boris Johnson will say he offers a clean break from the EU at the earliest opportunity while Labour can only dither. This is a lie – Johnson’s Brexit would lead into at least 10 years of negotiation in which the UK would have very little chance of getting anything close to an advantageous deal.
He may say that Labour is pretending to offer to take the UK out of the EU if that’s the choice in a post-election referendum, but that the plan is to remain in the EU no matter what. This is a lie – but it could split the ‘Remain’ vote between Labour and the Liberal Democrats and give him a way back with a majority government.
And Jo Swinson will say she offers a chance to remain in the EU without bothering with a referendum, while Labour can only dither. This would be a betrayal of democracy.
But then, the latest polls suggest that a majority of the UK electorate now wants to stay in the EU in any case. So would it not be a betrayal of democracy to refuse them their say?
And what’s the alternative?
There would be no point in holding a referendum before an election because Johnson would probably boycott it. He needs Brexit to be the focus of any election because Brexit is the only way he can win. See this Mainly Macro article for a few reasons.
Meanwhile, all other issues will be sidelined.
It will be no good discussing any of the other policies Labour has lined up to tackle nine years of Tory misrule (not to mention the mistakes made during the 13 New Labour years and the disastrous 17 years of Tory rule before them), because all anybody will hear is Brexit, Brexit, Brexit.
This is because Mr Johnson knows full well that his party’s legacy is one of failure.
He will insist on a Brexit-dominated election because he has nowhere else to go.
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