The Labour leadership election and Brexit

Like many, I have been watching the Labour leadership going ons with interest. This is not merely out of curiosity or academic interest, for I view having a strong Labour opposition as important for democracy. I find it rather sad when comparing the smooth transition in leadership of the Tories that proceedings to date for Labour have gone on with relative acrimony, which appear to have been damaging to party credibility. I recognize the Labour dilemma and the frustration of Labour MPs – in spite of Jeremy Corbyn’s admirable qualities, not least his commitment to democracy, yet when it comes to forming a government, he is unelectable.

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“Traingate” is regrettable. Not only do Virgin and Richard Branson and Jeremy Corbyn come out poorly on the matter for twisting the truth in order to make political or whatever capital but so do the press for focusing on trivia when there is far more important things at stake. As for the alternatives to Corbyn, I know too little about the personalities involved to come to a fully rounded view. However, regarding his rival, Owen Smith, for the leadership contest, soon to be decided, in at least one respect I have grave concerns.

I refer to the BBC report “Brexit: Owen Smith opposes Article 50 move without vote” which begins: “Owen Smith says he will try to stop Theresa May formally triggering Brexit unless she promises a referendum on the final deal or calls a general election to approve it”. As far as I am concerned, the Lib Dems have already blotted their copy book by declaring they will not be bound, i.e. they will effectively ignore, by the EU Referendum result, voting to leave the EU, and it appears that Labour under Smith will take a similar position. This is not made better by a government that has been dragging its feet on acting on the EU Referendum result.

As people who read my blogs know, I am not a fan of the present Conservative administration. It is not that I am any less Conservative than any of the other parties but too much has transpired, especially to do with social injustice, that have left me disturbed. I have sometimes toyed with the idea of joining the Labour Party in order to provide a credible alternative, but the current shenanigans, and the choice between an inept leader and an undemocratic one does not inspire enthusiasm. As for Brexit, while there is a lot of detail to work out in road mapping the UK’s future outside of the EU, it is important we get on with implementing the wishes of the people and the manifesto commitment of the government, as we seriously plan for life outside of the EU.

Postscript: I must confess that I have not been following the Labour leadership contest too closely and I have not been helped by the small amount of media coverage (mainstream and social) on what is going on that might trigger my thinking. I know a little bit more about Owen Smith now and his ideas on reducing homelessness (see here), for example, are commendable, even though there is a lot more that needs scrutinizing before I come to a fully rounded view. Checking out the Oddschecker website, it appears from the odds given that Corbyn is pulling even further ahead in the leadership race. While Smith may be the preferred choice of the majority of Labour MPs, he is not as far as rank and file members goes and, given their numbers and Labour’s policy of one person, one vote when it comes to choosing its leader, their views will likely hold sway. It does create a problem though given the number of senior Labour MPs that have indicated they do not want to work with Corbyn and some have already said they will not serve under him, which does not bode well for effective opposition.

While a more socialist leaning Labour party as opposed to one that pays mere lip service to socialist ideals, being more concerned with gaining power and keeping “middle England” happy rather than tackling social injustice and poverty, appeals to some members, especially many who have recently joined, such a prospect fills others with foreboding. An article today in a hard left online journal, Social Voice, and the appalled reaction to it by some of my Labour Facebook friends, confirms as much. For now it is wait and see, and we will know later this month whether Corbyn continues as leader or is replaced by Smith. While I am not a Labour Party member, I have a soft spot for the Labour Party and want it to do well, even if we disagree on many issues e.g. Brexit. That we need an effective opposition and there being doubts we have one at the moment seems clear. Recent news that the junior doctors are about to go on strike – yet again, less recent news that the NHS is being dismantled and sold off by stealth and self righteous government rhetoric claiming they are the good guys, all cry out for a decent opposition, although who should lead it is not for me to say – ed 01/09/2016

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