Friday, 30 June 2017
Corbyn, Labour and the Single Market
In her pre-election literature my Labour MP, Mrs Tracy Brabin, who was re-elected, made an explicit promise that she would fight for "full access to the single market, vital for jobs in our community." I quote her words exactly.
Yesterday, 29th June, a senior Labour MP, Chuka Umunna, moved an amendment to the Queen's Speech calling for the government to try to obtain exactly that, full access to the single market. Mrs Brabin did not vote for the motion. Some fighter.
Well, I suppose she's not the first MP to break an explicit promise, and in any case (I'll get this in first) who are we Liberal Democrats to cast stones?
But I am genuinely puzzled by Labour's attitude on this issue. On this blog I have consistently praised Mr Corbyn for his honesty, consistency , integrity and ability to enthuse others, and especially the young. I've welcomed his manifesto as "a breath of fresh air" and rejoiced at the progress he made in the General Election. I am still hoping that the tectonic shift he has achieved in our politics will lead to some form of progressive alliance and an end to the damaging Tory misrule.
The curious thing is that both Corbyn and the Labour hierarchy, including their responsible shadow minister , Sir Kier Starmer, have consistently argued that we should make the economy and jobs in the UK a priority in the Brexit negotiations, and clearly full access to the single market would be a considerable help.
Some Labour big-wigs could be anxious that some of their support could be disgruntled if access to the market involved a bit of a trade-off on immigration, but Corbyn himself has been refreshingly and , in my view admirably, relaxed on immigration, stressing the enormous benefits that past immigrants have brought to our economy, culture and society, and being reluctant to follow the Tories in their quest for draconian and unsustainable reductions.
It may be that the Labour establishment are timid about being seen to go against the so-called "will of the people" as expressed by by a narrow majority in a seriously flawed referendum. But even senior Brexiteer Boris Johnson assured us during the referendum campaign that voting to leave the EU did not imply leaving the single market.
So Labour don't have that excuse.
Yet Labour MPs were officially instructed to abstain on the Umunna amendment. 49 of them defied the whip and voted for it, along with all our gallant band of Liberal Democrat, the one Green and I think most if not all of the SNP and Plaid Cymru. But not the doughty Mrs Brabin.
I am saddened but not surprised by Mrs Brabin's lack of fight, but genuinely puzzled by Labour's stance. It is becoming increasingly clear that public opinion is moving against a hard Brexit. Here was a golden opportunity to run the government close if not actually defeat them and Labour just didn't take it.