The Public Vote we Need is a General Election

By Michael Calderbank

If his article today in the Murdoch press is to be believed, Tony Blair is worried.   He’s concerned not only about the prospect for a no-deal Brexit under Boris Johnson, but also about the new PM might call an early General Election.    Blair clearly fancies his chances of winning a second referendum against a Tory party backing a “no deal” option (quite why he’s so confident remains a mystery), but he’d  apparently prefer to stay in the EU under a Tory government, than risk a socialist government under Corbyn.     

Blair’s logic is characteristically disingenuous.   Boris might be “tempted” to call an election “because of the weakness of Labour”, he asserts.  Yet despite the best efforts of Corbyn’s internal critics most pollsters still have Labour showing a narrow lead in terms of national polling intenations.  There’s no reason for Labour to feel scared of calling for an election. Indeed, given that in 2017 the party made serious inroads into the Tory majority despite starting the campaign 22 points behind in the polls, there is every reason to be hopeful. 

Blair’s real fear is that he understands all too well that in this scenario the only way to avoid the re-election of a Tory government committed to a hard right “no-deal” is to elect a Labour-led government instead.  In many places under our FPTP electoral system, voting for a minor Remain party would be an ineffectual waste of a vote. 

So what’s his game?   He offers us an oblique glimpse into his psychology when he writes “a significant proportion of Remain voters might choose the former over the latter, despite hating Brexit.” 

Now, it’s fair to say that most working class voters who voted Remain understand perfectly well the need to kick out the Tories.    So, Blair is in effect talking about the attitudes of his own privileged social circle, for whom a Corbyn-led socialist government is even more unthinkable than a “no deal” Brexit.    So fanatically hostile are these people to Corbyn that they might prefer to re-elect Boris despite everything.   

Even Blair himself is probably savvy enough to realise that such unthinking hostility to Corbyn’s Labour is not, in fact, remotely “significant” on any serious analysis.     The real fear is that a General Election, resulting in a Labour victory, would demonstrate precisely how insignificant the die-hard anti-Corbynite faction really is.    

So, as Parliament rises this Thursday as MPs head off on their summer break, a major rally has been organised at 6pm in Pariament Square with the slogan “General Election Now”.   This is exactly the right demand.  Boris Johnson might have been elected by his Tory colleagues in Westminster, but has no democratic mandate to be Prime Minister. He has no authority to pursue a reckless gamble with our livelihoods.    Only Labour offers the opportunity to resolve the Brexit impasse on terms which respect democracy and can avoid a race to the bottom.