This is a brain-emptying discussion of the possible political fallout of Brexit primarily looking at the immediate prospects for Labour.
Corbyn or Corbout?
There is now inevitable discussion about whether Corbyn should take any blame for the Brexit result and whether he should subsequently stand down as Labour leader.
Well firstly, the numbers do not tell a tale of failure.
The 63/37% split in Labour’s EU vote was disproportionately in favour of Remain – comparing well with the most enthusiastically pro-Remain areas of the country. It was only the Lib Dems who were more pro-Remain with a 70/30 split. So for such a cross-party issue, that is not a poor showing.
However, Corbyn’s impact on the EU debate was weak. Unable to engage fully with the media, Labour supporters have now fallen into a daily mantra of complaint about an unfair media environment. That may or not be the case, but Corbyn’s (or Corbyn’s advisers’) obstinate perseverance with the same strategy is not working. Corbyn talks to Corbyn supporters at Corbyn rallies and on sympathetic social media. He does not engage with wider media events – and when he does he performances are weak. He stubbornly refuses to do anything about his appearance which infuriates many voters and makes him an easy target for others. His performance at Prime Minister’s Question Time and his lack of devation from the “Steve in Barnsley Asks…” format is poor – even earning derision from left-wing comedian Stewart Lee who one would expect to be supportive of the Corbyn leadership.
Scotch Egg-xit and Farron’s Sandwich
With Boris set to take the premiership, Tim Farron must now be licking his lips at the prospect of the widest centre ground in politics for decades – with Boris and Corbyn both seen as bizarre caricatures by large parts of the population.
Farron has a blank canvass. No one knows who he is, or what his micro-party stands for. If he can represent a strong competent middle, he could snaffle up support from Labour and Conservative centrists looking for a sensible and “presentable” option.
Add to this the likely detachment of Scotland from the UK and a new voter landscape with newly politicised voters (likely to be pro-Boris or UKIP) and Labour’s task seems insurmountable.
Reality not Ideology
I have been lucky in my job to have worked all over England (working with every council but three) over the last 15 years – often in deprived areas – and I am absolutely committed to the idea that Labour must be a party of power, not a party of purist doctrine. I am extremely concerned that there is significant pressure from within the party from idealists and financially comfortable members who have nothing real to lose from a Labour election loss. Whereas in the areas of the country where I work, a Labour loss is not an option – it is a necessity. Corbyn is a figurehead for an ideology that will not get the party elected.
Better Economics not Marxism
Corbyn’s stunning victory was largely about him being the sole representative of “not business as usual”. It may appear that members were enthusiastic about a “true socialist” taking charge, but from numerous conversations (especially during the work I did for my local branch talking to people who signed up to vote for the leadership contest, but didn’t join Labour) there is a significant proportion of people who want a new economic strategy, but are less enthusiastic about Corbyn’s stance on other issues. The problem with austerity is that it is flawed macro-economic theory. Where the other issues are more open to political debate.
Moaning is not Working
My local MP has said in the past that a politician moaning about the media is like a sailor moaning about the sea. Labour supporters’ daily declarations of frustration about the media (notably the booing of Laura Kuenssberg) makes the party look extremely weak. Corbyn has failed to grasp control of his media messaging in any way. In fact, his media image is so poor – obdurately so – that his continuing as leader can do nothing but damage the party in the eyes of non-members.
It is extremely unlikely that Corbyn will be deposed as the party membership will not allow it. Although it is possible he may resign. So as we look into the bleak future of our now lonely island, Tim Farron may be the only one smiling.