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Damned if they do… damned if they don’t… December 7, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Good analysis here from the Guardian on the surprise Liberal Democrat win in Richmond Park. I’m no fan of the LDs – particularly the pernicious role they played in 2010-2015 but there is some pleasure to see Goldsmith ejected from parliament. I’m not pushed one way or another about his pro-Brexit position, but his attacks on Sadiq Khan were abysmal and should have seen him isolated long before now.

But as interesting is this, which in a way explains why the LP (and Ed had an excellent analysis of that issue last week on this very site) has to be so cautious in relation to Brexit.

Labour’s candidate, Christian Wolmar, was unable to break through a wave of tactical voting that squeezed his vote to an embarrassingly low, deposit-losing level as supporters turned in droves to Olney instead. The result underlines a major challenge for Jeremy Corbyn’s party, which must beware that while it understandably needs to look over its shoulder at Ukip, it should not forget that its potential supporters are also packed at the other end of the Brexit divide. On the final weekend, three Labour activists even turned up at Lib Dem HQ and asked if they could go door-knocking to help get out the vote.

This too is concerning in that respect:

Prof John Curtice said Sarah Olney’s defeat of Zac Goldsmith was not simply about the Conservative party but also something that ought to worry Labour, which he described as a “fragile creature” that had taken another blow.

If I were the Labour party I would be worried if the Lib Dems are back in the game. Labour is worrying about losing socially conservative end of the coalition, but they forget that it is smaller than the socially liberal end.

As Ed noted, despite the strong pro-Remain sentiment in the BLP there’s little point in that party attempting to stymie Brexit. That is going to happen and it would be perverse for the LP to attempt to roll back the result of the referendum. This isn’t to say that others are incorrect to campaign against it – that’s their democratic right, but rather that the referendum does have some democratic effect and should not be revisited as such – I’d argue, at least half a decade or more. The UK should leave the EU. What its status outside the EU should be is a different matter.

Nor should the LP feel in the future it should argue against returning to the EU – but that’s a different matter for LP members to determine as and when and if they see fit. It could be that outside the EU is an EEA style position and it could be that that is not a bad place for either the UK or the EU (certainly it would be a relief to see some of the most toxic rhetoric of an UK only partly attached and strongly wedded to the neoliberal orthodoxy, as was, removed from that latter organisation). Or something else entirely. And that’s where the LP could usefully be exercised by attempting to salvage something from the wreckage albeit in a different context. Strong links with the EU, but not in the EU and instead in some other entity. That might be a message that would resonate well with both those upset at the departure from the EU but also those who entirely sincerely support the departure but might be wondering just what is going on.

What’s telling, and problematic, is that the penny may have dropped on the Tory side on this. To read Davis, IIRC, saying the UK might pay for access to the single market in some sort of EEA-lite situation underlines the vacuity of the Tory led process taking place.

But Labour can ill afford to become the voice of a Remain that – short of being overturned constitutionally/legally, is simply finished for the meantime. Nor can it become a echo of UKIP. As Curtice notes, that demographic is even smaller – at least the part that Labour can access. And Curtice notes something else:

Everyone is going around with an outdated vision of what a typical Labour voter is about. Between two thirds and three quarters of Labour supporters voted remain.

In that context it is correct to move on, all the while pointing up what a complete shambles Brexit is and will be. That’s another part of the argument – damage limitation but no aversion to pointing up the damage and who is responsible and how there may be a least worse solution on offer, and one that the Tories are unwilling to take due to their fear of their right and UKIP.

By the way, this is worth keeping in mind. The Tories are now down to a majority of 13. Far from the end, but could that impel May to an early election? Or not?


1. GW - December 7, 2016

I was wondering about that majority.

If Brexit continues to be as shambolic as it has been so far, how fast are they likely to loose seats?

Can the Tories afford to call an election which would inevitably become about forms of Brexit (rather than anything like the class-based politics that some would like to see)?

The Lib Dems and the SNP aren’t available as coalition partners because of the Brexit issue, so they’d have to be sure of a majority.

Liked by 1 person

2. Ed - December 7, 2016

Phil, sometime of this parish, had a useful blog the other day addressing the idea that Labour is going to be squeezed to death between Lib Dems and UKIP:


(also contains a few merited digs, IMO, at Owen Jones over the reaction to Castro’s death)


WorldbyStorm - December 7, 2016

Yeah, excellent piece Ed. And the point about the LP not being overly squeezed is extremely important. There’s a lot of wishful thinking from people who should know better – or have moved to a position of utter hostility to the LP. Vile.


sonofstan - December 7, 2016

Completely agree. As usual the distortion produced by FPTP means labour will pay far more attention to voters likely to stray to UKIP that to millions of labour voters in the south who don’t count, because they live in constituencies that will never elect a labour MP. Labour came a distant second here in Wycombe, but that’s still 12k votes and, from talking to local labour people, solidly remain.


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