12th May 2019
Euro elections – panic and absurdity
Farage – absurd but ahead in the polls
Panic on the streets of London,
Panic on the streets of Birmingham,
I wonder to myself,
Could life ever be sane again?
Panic by The Smiths should be the theme tune of the up and coming European elections, with panic characterising the positions of most of the major UK political parties, and some of the minor ones, in the face of the tsunami of support being garnered by Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.
The Conservatives in particular appear to have surrendered any hope of mounting even a cursory campaign on the assumption that their right wing supporters will protest by voting with Farage, while the Remain loving Tory centre will simply not turn up to vote.
The media driven Farage machine appears to be hoovering up any hopes UKIP may have harboured of a revival on the back of the Brexit debacle. UKIP without Farage was always a busted flush and now that the media darling has formed another vehicle for his vanity, his erstwhile cohorts are simply left coughing out Farage’s exhaust fumes.
On the Remain side there are the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, both cravenly pro-EU to the core, and the Tory in disguise Change UK, made up of Labour and Tory splitters and a variety of media personalities hoping to catch the Brussels gravy train. While this liberal hotch potch share common ground in their love of the EU and hatred of Brexit, it does not extend to them being able to co-operate to generate a pro-Remain platform.
That leaves the Labour Party as the only consistently credible force capable of minimising the impact of Farage and providing some coherence and focus to the EU election debate. The media, in particular the BBC, are set against the Labour position and will do their utmost to characterise the Labour leadership as not having a clear position. However, as Jeremy Corbyn states in the introduction to Labour’s European election manifesto,
“Labour has put forward an alternative plan to seek a close and cooperative relationship with the European Union, including a new comprehensive customs union with a UK say, close single market alignment, guaranteed rights and standards, and the protection of the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland.”
It may be a position based on some compromise, given the make up of the Parliamentary Labour Party and some of the factional infighting Corbyn still has to contend with, but it is a position and one which has been consistently articulated. It is also a position that is either too subtle or too complex for large sections of the media to be able to grasp as they seem to be largely incapable of reflecting it.
Labour’s position is further clarified in the manifesto introduction as follows,
“Labour will continue to oppose the Government’s bad deal or a disastrous no deal. And if we can’t get agreement along the lines of our alternative plan, or a general election, Labour backs the option of a public vote.”
Once again this appears to be too nuanced a position for either the media or the Remain supporting parties and factions to grasp. Labour is not opposed to a public vote but it is clearly a last resort as it will, of itself, not solve the Brexit question. It is therefore vital that all other means to find a negotiated solution are explored, in order to deliver on the outcome of the 2016 referendum result, consistent with Labour’s policy position to do so.
The political establishment in the UK has always been in the Remain camp and will continue to do all in their power to overturn the 2016 referendum outcome. The EU’s status as a capitalist club par excellence for UK banks and corporations is not something they will give up on easily. The Liberal, Green and Change UK agenda effectively falls within this camp, albeit dressed in a form of faux internationalism which fails to realise that the ‘free’ movement of people is simply a cover for the easy movement of cheap labour.
The incoherence of the Remain position, combined with the difficulty Labour faces in getting anything other than a distorted version of its message across, leaves the field open for Farage to keep plugging away with his single issue Brexit Party campaign. Farage’s party will end up with the most UK seats in a parliament it is dedicated to dissolve.
The fact that these European elections are happening at all is an absurdity. It is no more absurd however than seeing the EU as a vehicle for peace and progress. The tragedy remains that the real reasons for needing to leave the EU have been buried. A real socialist internationalism, as called for by Labour’s John McDonnell recently, which actually works in the interests of the peoples of Europe, not its banks and corporations, is what is needed. No amount of voting for Farage and his ilk will achieve that.