So the world has had a weekend to digest the Brexit result. Ultimately, there is just quite a bit of certainty in the UK and abroad. This is an unprecedented moment and the developments going forward will likely continue to expose the ugly underbelly this entire referendum was built upon.
You would think that Britain’s Labour Party would rally together to lead Britain through the difficult times ahead. Yes, concede it will be painful, but make the case that it doesn’t have to be as painful as it could be if capable hands lead the transition. Yes, Boris, Cameron, Farage, they really botched this thing, now the adults in the room will come in and clean up.
Instead, predictably one must add, the Labour Party has chosen now to be the opportune time to grind an internal axe and lead a coup to try and sack their leader Jeremy Corbyn. The very moment that the British people, particularly Britain’s Labour base that voted to remain in the EU by a 2:1 margin, are looking for somewhere to turn as the world as they know it hangs in the balance, much of Labour’s leadership has decided to settle political scores.
The party leadership has never liked Corbyn. I’m always hard-struck to find a piece on The Guardian that doesn’t anoint him with the patronizing “idealist” label, as if promoting anti-austerity in Britain should be considered idealism in the first place. In spite of having the least amount of support from his own MPs for a leader ever elected, he received the largest mandate ever won by a party leader from Labour voters. It’s a clear case of the voters liking a man the party (and the media) doesn’t.
Now the Labour politicians who have planned the coup to oust Corbyn will make the case that he did not campaign hard enough for “Remain”. This is a fair criticism. Corbyn could’ve campaigned harder for “Remain,” but he has never hidden from the fact that he has Euroskeptic views on some issues and bemoans the bureaucratic nature of the EU altogether.
He’s not wrong. There’s a very good chance that’s how thousands of British people, Labour voters in particular, feel. That’s the reason the “Remain” campaign was always doomed in the first place: defending the EU is hardly a sexy position and the EU has its flaws that are impossible to deny. Corbyn could’ve bullshitted his position as a fairly reluctant Remainer to a full-on EU-lover to try and secure more votes, but that would entail betraying the very attribute that led to his overwhelming mandate in the first place: his principle.
So Corbyn chose to reflect the position of the people that voted him to be their leader: acknowledgment that Britain is better off in the EU (but there are massive flaws within the EU that shouldn’t be ignored!). Some will argue this is poor politics on his part. If Labour’s official position was “Remain,” then Corbyn should put personal sentiments aside and fully wrap himself in it. This can be debated until the cows come home. If he had done this, maybe(!!!) “Remain” prevails but it would’ve been at the expense of the principle that voters love about him. They love that Corbyn has the conviction to look into their eyes and tell them that, yes, they should vote to stay but equally the EU poses some problems. Detractors will say he put ideological purity ahead of the party’s electoral prospects.
What detractors struggle to explain away, however, is the math. 2/3 of Labour voters voted to stay in the EU. Labour is up in the polls with the Tories in free-fall. The data doesn’t back the notion that Labour’s base is disgruntled with Corbyn’s leadership. They seem to still appreciate that they have a straight-shooter finally leading the party. It’s only the bitter party leaders that still can’t get over the fact he won the election.
I laid out my plan for what Labour should do strategically in my immediate reaction to the shock result. It doesn’t even have to be framed as a left vs. right debate if UKIP’s rise makes Labour reluctant to openly state their shift is a leftward one. The people want policies favorable to the working class. That’s how you chip into the Greens support on the left, UKIP on the right, SNP in the north. When voters see the ethical (good policy) and politically expedient (get Tories out) case for your cause, that’s when you win.
Corbyn understands this and he doesn’t see a disconnect between his moral cause and its ability to win majorities at the ballot box. Until numbers suggest otherwise, his case makes sense to me.
Labour needs to get over the fact Corbyn beat them in their own house. Britain has bigger fish to fry.
Alternatively, if you’re going to plan a coup when your people are confused and hurting, at least be in the right.