There is a tide in the affairs of men. Throughout his political career Jeremy Corbyn has fought for Labours leadership to honour the views of the membership. Some of the most influential of his staff will not be aware of those struggles as they only joined the party in 2016. Long before, Corbyn, together with Tony Benn and John McDonnell, supported the radical demands of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. The most contentious of these was that elected MPs must be accountable to the membership.
Corbyns strength has always lain in being at one with the membership. He knew he could stand strong in the face of overwhelming rejection by the PLP because the members were with him. This gave him the mandate to draft the 2017 manifesto which offered economic policies that would transform Britain in favour of the many not the few, and added ten points to Labours performance as a result.
The membership today is overwhelmingly in favour of referring the governments Brexit negotiations to the public, so that voters can deliver a verdict on whether Theresa Mays toxic deal will serve the economic interests of the British people. Labours leadership team is not honouring that demand in full. Instead Lexiteers with little understanding of the democratic forces that have shaped Labour, recommend political passivity – effectively backing Brexit. By doing so, they risk handing the baton of leadership on the issue of Europe to those MPs most opposed to Corbyn.
If Corbyn breaks decisively from what the membership has overwhelmingly said they want on the single most important economic and political issue of our times – to stay in the European Union – there are no guarantees they will continue to back him. Instead – they may well look for a new leader who embodies the internationalist values they hold dear.
A second risk is that when and if a referendum is called, the same mistake that was made in 2016 will be repeated. Unless the Labour leadership chooses otherwise, the official campaign will be framed and led by those on the right of the political spectrum. If that group – and not say, Laura Parker of Momentum or the groups on the left of Labour who have been campaigning on this issue – is chosen to lead the official campaign to stay in the union, they will benefit from the ability to spend up to £7m. All other campaigns will be less effective as they will be limited to a spend of £800,000. We would lose the opportunity to set out a radical vision of a socialist UK in a socialist Europe, with all the good that could do for the many across the EU.
While it is clear that there are Labour constituencies split on the question of Europe, Labours membership is not. Of course there are risks in alienating Labour Leavers. Electorally however the far greater risk to the party would be to alienate Labours Remain voters. But this is a perilous time for both Labours electoral base and for Britain. Labour members are fully aware of the risks. They recognise that the times require courage and leadership to do the right thing: to acknowledge that membership of the European Union carries costs, but that the costs of Brexit – and especially a chaotic Brexit designed by the Tory Right – to the working people of Britain will be far greater. They understand that the courageous choice is for Labour to commit to stay in the European Union, not for the status quo but to work with social democratic partners across Europe to transform the Union away from the neoliberal economic policies embedded in its Treaties – many of which originated in Britains universities, think-tanks and government departments.
A failure of leadership on this issue, will result, we believe, to Labour being punished by the electorate. Every poll over the last year has told the same story – a potential electoral dividend for Labour if we back a second vote and Remain, or a catastrophic loss of support if we allow the Tories to win the Brexit they are so desperate to get over the line. In Scotland, weak leadership over a constitutional issue destroyed Labour as an electoral force in just a matter of years. We cannot afford to let the same happen in the rest of the UK over Brexit.
Millions of Labours new voters – overwhelmingly the young – may well switch their support to the Green or Lib Dem parties. A poll of Labours 41 most marginal constituencies recently showed us losing 40 of them if we failed to back Remain – the Remain vote splintering to the Greens, Lib Dems and SNP while the Tories held on to their Leave vote. While not dewy-eyed about the EU, these voters are nevertheless clear that Britain will gain more from building alliances with socialists across Europe to tackle global corporations, tax avoidance, crime and the greatest threat to Britains security: climate breakdown. They cannot understand why Labour MPs offer tacit support to the far right of the Tory party.
To fail to exercise progressive leadership on this crucial issue is to imperil the Corbyn project. It would take decades before the left could recover from such a defeat.
The Left EU Strategy and Policy Commission, which I chair, urges Jeremy Corbyn to honour the democratic struggles and achievements of Labours grassroots members. We call on him to announce immediately that he will respect the overwhelming mandate of Labours membership – for the right of the British people to have a final say on their future – to deliver a verdict on the governments negotiations.
Above all, he must commit the Labour party to both support and lead the national campaign to stay within the EU. And, as the only popular social democratic leader in Europe, commit to work with partners to reform and transform the European Union.
To quote Shakespeare, “On such a full sea are we now afloat”. And on that turbulent political sea Labour must “take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures”. The future is ours to make. But to achieve our goals of cementing the left as the holders of power in the Labour Party, and to gain power in government and influence in Europe we have to choose the path of democracy, and the path of continued EU membership.
China deploys anti-ship missiles in the desert making them harder to intercept
Beijing has announced it has deployed intermediate ballistic missiles to the country's north-we..
Beijing has announced it has deployed intermediate ballistic missiles to the country's north-west region, saying the weapons have the capacity to destroy US ships entering disputed waters in the South China Sea.
- The missiles can fire long distances and would be difficult for US ships to shoot down
- Defence strategy expert Dr Malcom Davis said the move means China can back up its threats
- The news came after a US guided missile destroyer passed through the South China Sea
The DF-26 missiles — which have been previously dubbed the 'Guam Killer' or 'Guam Express' by Chinese media and defence experts — are capable of carrying conventional or nuclear warheads.
They have a range of 4,500 kilometres, making them capable of reaching as far as Guam in the east and Indonesia in the south, providing Beijing with a powerful weapon as tensions continue to rise in the South China Sea.
According to Chinese state media publication The Global Times, the DF-26 missiles are now stationed in north-west China's sparse plateau and desert areas, carried on the backs of trucks able to traverse the harsh terrain.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Beijing-based military expert told the Times that positioning the missiles deep in China's mainland made them more difficult to intercept as it allowed the missile to enter its final stages at a high speed.
Footage on CCTV showed trucks carrying the missiles driving through rough terrain and sand dunes.
The missiles were first paraded in 2015 and China confirmed they were now operational in April last year, but this is the first footage of the missiles outside of a parade.
It is unclear when the missiles were moved to the northwest region, the Times reported. (more…)
Melbourne driver who cheated death when sign fell on car in no rush to drive again
Related Story: Dashcam footage shows moment car was crushed by falling freeway sign
The Melbourne ..
The Melbourne driver who cheated death when an overhead road sign fell and crushed her car says she cannot believe such an accident could happen in Australia.
- A second sign on the Tullamarine Freeway has been taken down as a precautionary measure
- An inspection of similar-sized sign and gantries is underway
- VicRoads says an independent investigator has been brought in to determine what happened
Extraordinary dashcam footage shows the moment the five-by-four metre sign fell in front of, and then on top of, Nella Lettieri's car as she was travelling on Melbourne's Tullamarine Freeway earlier this week.
While the 53-year-old was not seriously injured, she is bruised and battered — and wondering how she is still alive.
"It felt like a roller door had slammed shut in front of me," Ms Lettieri said.
"I've gone to swerve, but as I swerved, it just felt like the sign was actually falling on the car.
"And it just kept bouncing, and I felt like it was pushing me to the right, and I'm thinking, 'OK, is it going to stop?'"
She thought the metal object may have been from a plane landing or taking off from the nearby Essendon Airport, or from a truck on the freeway.
But she was shocked to discover it was actually an overhead sign, meant to be directing drivers to their destination. (more…)
In his Brexit speech in Wakefield, Jeremy Corbyn again demanded the impossible
Speaking in Wakefield this morning, Jeremy Corbyn restated his demand for a solution to the Brexit i..
Speaking in Wakefield this morning, Jeremy Corbyn restated his demand for a solution to the Brexit impasse that appears effectively impossible: a general election.
In what is likely to be his last major public statement before MPs vote on the withdrawal agreement next Tuesday, he attempted to redefine the terms of the question facing both the Labour leadership and its MPs – from those that threaten to stretch his fissiparous electoral coalition to breaking point, to those which, on paper, unite it.
That resulted in a speech whose thrust was an appeal to class consciousness from Remainers in Tottenham and Leavers in Mansfield, rather than any meaningful debate over the validity or viability of Brexit itself. “Youre up against it,” Corbyn said, citing austerity, stagnant wages, and the cost of living crisis, “but youre not against each other.”
Accordingly, his cursory repetition of Labours policy – that a second referendum should remain on the table as an option in the event a general election does not happen – came with a caveat so huge that it amounted to an implicit dismissal of a so-called peoples vote. “Any political leader who wants to bring the country together cannot wish away the votes of 17 million people who wanted to leave, any more than they can ignore the concerns of the 16 million who voted to remain.”
But despite the fact that his attention was more or less exclusively focussed on the question of what sort of future relationship with Europe would negotiate – with the fact of the divorce undisputed – Corbyn categorically ruled out doing anything but whipping his MPs to vote against the withdrawal agreement. The vast majority of them will do so on Thursday, after which point Corbyn said, as expected, that Labour would table a motion of no confidence in the hope of securing an election and with it the chance to renegotiate Brexit (rather than, say, holding a second referendum).
Notably, however, he did not specify a timescale for tabling a confidence vote after Mays deal falls – despite several of his shadow cabinet ministers insisting that he would do so “immediately”. He instead put on the record the more cautious line briefed by his team yesterday: “Labour will table a motion of no confidence in the government at the moment we judge it to have the best chance of success.”
That statement of intent was followed with a caveat seldom offered by shadow cabinet ministers sent out to spin the partys line on Brexit. “Clearly,” Corbyn said, “Labour does not have enough MPs in parliament to win a confidence vote on its own.” As he himself alluded to when he urged opposition MPs to join Labour in voting against the government, Labours chances remain slim until such time that the ten DUP MPs drop the government. (That every other party will is a racing certainty.) Paradoxically, the defeat of the withdrawal agreement – and with it the backstop Mays sometime coalition partners object to – will make that chance even slimmer.
We know from what Corbyn said this morning that the Labour leadership will not whip its MPs to approve Theresa Mays Brexit, back a second referendum out of choice – both courses threaten its electoral base in different ways – or support any attempt by Downing Street to make the Brexit deal more amenable to Labour MPs by tacking on guarantees on workers rights. That strategy has held until now.
But failure to roll the pitch for any alternative at all – or, indeed, for the inevitable breakdown in party discipline after Mays vote is defeated and Labour has no way to bind MPs who seek mutually exclusive Brexit aims – will make the messy politics of the aftermath of next Tuesday rather more difficult to finesse.
Patrick Maguire is the New Statesman's political correspondent. (more…)
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