Monday 28 August 2017
Labour shuffles towards sanity
The big political news of the weekend is that Labour has realised it would be a good idea for the UK to remain in the EU single market for a transition period after Brexit until trade deals with others have been sorted out.
That this should be big news, hitting the front pages and leading the bulletins, illustrates the pathetic lack of backbone in our politicians. Note what policy has actually changed. Not what surely is now obvious, that we should stay in the EU, but just stay in the single market. And not in the single market permanently, but just for a traditional period..
So effectively, if this Labour idea wins the day, we are lumbered with the Norway option, of obeying all EU rules but having no part in making them, and then just for while until we plunge out into the commercial cold.
Politicians with any guts would have had the courage to state, immediately after the advisory referendum, thanks for your advice but, on such a small majority after a flawed referendum and fraudulent campaign, we won't take it: we'll stay where we are but give urgent priority to those issues which we think motivated you, quite rightly, to give us a metaphorical kick in the teeth.
Either that or the rather less courageous Liberal Democrat option: we will waste time in carrying out negotiations to leave, and then have another referendum on whatever deal we achieve.
Some time ago a leading Labour politician, I forget which, admitted that, if public opinion changes Labour's policy could change too. This is spineless populism: tell us what your principles are and we'll adopt them. The late Tony Benn delighted in pointing out that he regarded his function in politics to be a signpost and not a weathervane. Our political parties should have the courage to lead and not be blind followers of a superficial public emotion whipped up by well-financed agitators and a biassed press.
In fairness it may be that Labour are playing a long, or "softly-softly" game in which, to curry favour with their Brexit voters they have initially adopted a policy identical to that of the Tories. Now they have shifted a bit. Maybe, in some sort of Fabian gradualism, there are more shifts in the pipeline. I hope so.
This is certainly a step in the right direction, but, as the overwhelming evidence of the folly of Brexit is revealed day buy day, it is both timid and time-wasting.