The national unity delusion

10th August 2019

Corbyn election

Jeremy Corbyn: No10 on the horizon?

The anti-Jeremy Corbyn campaign of the political and media establishment in the UK took a new turn this week, with the calls for a government of national unity to stop a no deal Brexit.  The Tories have installed the most volatile and unstable leader in years as Prime Minister, in the form of Boris Johnson.  The Liberal Democrats have elected a diehard anti- Labour, anti-Corbyn leader in the form of Jo Swinson.  Labour have been calling for a general election for months, as the only way out of the Brexit impasse, in spite of the insistence of the BBC and other media that they have been sitting on the fence.

The manoeuvrings of the political establishment to avoid a general election are a measure of how afraid they are of the prospect of a progressive Labour government being elected.  It should have happened when Theresa May suffered an unprecedented parliamentary defeat when her EU Withdrawal Bill first went before the House of Commons.  It should have happened immediately following the Tory leadership election, in order to test the positions of the major parties with the electorate.

With the government in a state of turmoil, the Tory leadership barely keeping the parliamentary party together, it would be logical for the Labour opposition to unite behind the leadership in order to demand a real people’s vote in the form of an election.

Why is this not happening?

Unfortunately, the diehard right wing within Labour, with Deputy Leader Tom Watson at the forefront, cannot grasp that the defeat of the Tory government is a higher priority than stopping Brexit.

A vote of no confidence in the government must be tabled once Parliament reconvenes in September.  If that vote is carried it must be the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, who is invited to form a government.  If he cannot do so within 14 days a general election must be the outcome.  If Johnson refused to quit and Labour was unable to form a caretaker government, there could then be a second no confidence motion 14 days after the first where Labour would try to force a general election.

The call for a so called government of national unity is nothing more than an attempt to circumvent this process and suggest that a leader with cross party support should be selected, in order to ensure a no deal Brexit is stopped by seeking an extension to the Article 50 process, before an election can be held.

Labour renegades Chuka Umunna and Chris Leslie have leapt on the bandwagon, seeing yet another chance to stop Corbyn by any means, in the process doing nothing more than expose their opportunist credentials still further.  Candidates mooted for the ludicrous national unity government notion have been as diverse as the Green Party’s sole MP, Caroline Lucas, Tory octogenarian Ken Clarke and Tory renegade Change UK MP, Heidi Allen.  Labour backbenchers Hilary Benn and Yvette Cooper have also been in the frame.  The idea that any of these could mobilise a parliamentary majority to stop a no-deal Brexit is frankly bizarre.

The parliamentary arithmetic suggests that the national unity notion is a dead duck from the start, so why raise it?  The reality is that there are sections of the Labour Party which have never come to terms with Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victories and remain more committed to undermining him than they do to punishing the Tories and Liberal Democrats for a decade of austerity.

These people will continue to seek any avenue to bring the leadership of Corbyn into question and add to the prevailing media narrative that he should not be Prime Minister.  They know that a Corbyn government would not be ‘business as usual’.  They know that his leadership so far has not been ‘business as usual’.  They know that a Labour government with a socialist programme, committed to tackling the profound economic, social, environmental and democratic crises engulfing the country, would be an uncomfortable place for them.  However, that is the place we need to be.

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