After Domini Raab’s resignation Tory Brexit is doomed but Mark Perryman warns it’s never wise to underestimate the complexities of who votes for what and why
Dominic Raab’s resignation will now ignite a Tory rebellion on a scale to sink May, and in the wake launch his leadership bid no doubt, too. She can cope with the ‘out’ Cabinet Brexiteers resigning , Esther McVey and her like, they’re in the Cabinet to keep them onside but their opposition has always been obvious. Raab though is different. He was May’s appointment, her choice to steer her deal through. Nobody forced her to appoint him, with Davis and Johnson she probably had little or no choice but to give them their jobs. Raab was May’s call and she’s got it horribly wrong. My heart bleeds. Not only will he now lead the opposition to her deal but his resignation will bolster the confidence of his fellow Conservative MPs who had been pondering whether to rebel or not. The pragmatic Brexiteers will no longer stick with May. While on the other side of their party’s divide fewer of the Remain wobblers will give May’s deal the benefit of the doubt, and their votes, as the least worst option.
Labour doesn’t actually want a ‘no deal’ but sees this as the means to secure a General Election, or failing that a second referendum, let be honest that’s what it is, forget the nonsense of a ‘people’s vote’. So to bring this about it has to help maximise those who will vote with the hardline Brexiteers against whatever deal May concocts. That will be Labour’s position, it’s Corbyn’s too, and most Labour MPs will go along with it, quite rightly. The only ones that won’t are the Labour Leavers . Few in number, of disparate politics, they probably can’t be shifted and probably now not enough of them to save May, and she knows it. . There’s a smattering of the like-minded across the other opposition parties too. The only plausible position to get them to vote against May is that her’s isn’t the real deal, unlikely to convince, but she is counting on their support so worth a try. A Eurosceptic Labour Leader is better placed to have a go at this than most. The more likely source of switchers will be those Labour MPs who while not ardent Leavers themselves represent Leave-voting constituencies. Here the same argument could have more purchase, their constituents voted for Brexit but May’s deal fails to deliver it, stick with us and we’ll get you the kind of deal you want. And that could be in, or out of the EU, there’s absolutely no need to make a definitive on this right now. Again having a Eurosceptic as Labour leader is going to help those MPs make such a case and vote against May. What Raab’s resignation secures now tho’ should secure is a united PLP, on Brexit at least, not many stranger things have happened.
This is because the balance of forces adds up to is a defeat of a Tory Prime Minister via those to the Left and the Right of her combining. It’s the complexity of Brexit for Labour that few recognise. The first objective isn’t a 2nd referendum, a General Election or to ‘stop’ Brexit but to vote down May’s deal. Out of complexity, simplicity. None of these other objectuves are possible unless the deal is first voted down. Corbyn is absolutely clear on that as Labour’s objective, Labour will vote against. In doing so they will vote with the hard right of the Conservative party. Take my own constituency, Lewes in East Sussex. Our Tory MP Maria Caulfield, one of the worst of a very bad bunch, has already announced she will vote against the deal. Ours is the same position as her’s, so is the Lib Dems who are her nearest challengers and the Greens who are also strong in these parts, but for different reasons. Soon this there’s going to be no pressure on Caulfield from us to change her mind, Caulfield and Corbyn, both are solidly against May’s deal. Good. So the hard right are our allies while MPs in our own party and the so called moderate Remain Rebel Tories could yet save the day for May Complex? Doesn’t even begin to describe it.
But should May lose it will be a Labour victory because it our party providing the overwhelming number of votes to secure this defeat. We can still sell it as our win, and the party needs to be mobilised in Labour’s Leave consitituencies especially to do so. And why would that be important? Because should May suffering such a humiliating loss everything would then be possible but that only take a Left complexion if we can muster the political forces towards that end.
Even having said that we should still be careful what we wish for. The parliamentary majority that sinks May is entirely different to the one that might deliver the Left’s fantasy, an early General Election. Sure, the Tories would be in crisis but that doesn’t mean they will have lost all sense of proportion. However a second referendum may prove their best way out. Because whoever is in government controls the terms of the referendum. A ballot paper that is May’s deal versus No Deal would leave Labour in a near impossible position, while the Tories divided yet victorious. Great.
It is entirely credible that Labour’s first objective is to defeat May’s deal, and second, however unlikely, to secure an early General Election. But in the near certainty that the latter doesn’t happen a commitment to a second referendum in Labour’s manifesto should be made immediately May’s deal sinks without trace. For Labour our position should be neither simply Remain nor Leave, but C-H-A-N-G-E. The Remainers hate the fact that when asked during the 2016 Referendum campaign what he’d give the EU out of ten Jeremy answered ‘ about seven’ and he spoke for tens of millions when he did so.
Nobody would describe the period since 23rd June 2016 as anything other than politically chaotic. But one unsavoury factor hardly muddied the mess. UKIP has virtually ceased to exist as a political party yet in the polls is attracting a steady 10% support or thereabouts, dwarfing the Greens and not that far behind the Lib Dems either. Out of this chaos they are well placed to emerge bigger, and a whole lot nastier, than before. Whatever the outcome of this parliamentary vote on May’s deal the repercussions will transform the entire political terrain. With the deal voted down, the era of being tangled up in complexities will be more or less over, settled if not once and for all, for now. We’ll be back to us versus them.
Mark Perryman is the editor of The Corbyn Effect his new book Corbynism from Below will be published by Lawrence and Wishart in Septenber 2019.