Labour is spec­tac­u­larly fail­ing to halt Brexit mess

The Herald - - FRONT PAGE - KEVIN MCKENNA

WHEN the fog of Brexit clears in­evitably Bri­tain will be urged to pause and to take stock of its sit­u­a­tion. Old and fa­mil­iar nar­ra­tives, which have served the UK rul­ing classes for gen­er­a­tions are al­ready be­ing dusted down and made ready for the post-brexit chal­lenges.

Theresa May is mak­ing plans to stage a fes­ti­val of Brexit in 2022 which, she says, will be a “mo­ment of na­tional re­newal”. Ear­lier this week Justin Welby, the Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury, called for “na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion”. His Grace doesn’t need me to tell him that any act of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, ac­cord­ing to Chris­tian teach­ing and tra­di­tion, re­quires one of the par­ties at least to ad­mit wrong­do­ing and to pledge, to the best of their en­deav­ours, not to re­peat their er­rors. I wish him good luck with that when he dis­cusses how best to achieve this with Mrs May or her suc­ces­sor.

Thus, the process of soft­en­ing up the elec­torate has al­ready be­gun. The next stage will be to con­demn those cur­mud­geons who in­sist still on com­plain­ing of un­der­min­ing na­tional unity and seek­ing to sew divi­sion dur­ing a frag­ile pe­riod. Per­haps an­other lit­tle one-sided over­seas mil­i­tary en­gage­ment might be or­gan­ised to drive home the mes­sage of na­tional pride and sol­i­dar­ity. This worked a treat with the Falk­lands.

There­after, it will only be a mat­ter of pin­ning the blame on the un­rea­son­able be­hav­iour of our for­mer Euro­pean partners in hold­ing the UK to ran­som. The Sun­day Times, Daily Mail and the Daily Tele­graph will bid against each other to pub­lish the Brexit di­aries of David Davis or Liam Fox in which EU per­fidy dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions is laid bare.

You might fondly imag­ine that the lead­er­ship of the UK Labour Party and its myr­iad ad­vis­ers might be alive to this and be mak­ing plans to un­der­mine and to ex­pose the im­pend­ing fic­tion of na­tional well­be­ing. This can­not be guar­an­teed.

Last week the party leader, Jeremy Cor­byn, was pre­sented with the big­gest po­lit­i­cal open-goal since Harold Macmil­lan cashed in on An­thony Eden’s cat­a­strophic han­dling of the Suez Cri­sis in 1957. Un­like that great Tory grandee Mr Cor­byn missed his op­por­tu­nity. Mrs May was reel­ing from three Com­mons de­feats in a sin­gle hour which in­cluded her gov­ern­ment be­ing found to be in con­tempt of par­lia­ment for the first time in mod­ern his­tory. She was then forced to pub­lish in full the le­gal ad­vice on her EU with­drawal deal by her at­tor­ney­gen­eral. Her po­si­tion and Geoffrey Cox’s in­tegrity was fur­ther un­der­mined when this ad­vice was re­vealed to have in­cluded the warn­ing that the North­ern Ire­land back­stop might be “in­def­i­nite” and that there was no guar­an­tee that trade talks might lead to a sat­is­fac­tory con­clu­sion.

Mr Cor­byn’s task was a sim­ple one: to point out that what re­mained of the Prime Minister’s po­lit­i­cal cred­i­bil­ity was in tat­ters; that Homer Simp­son could have done a bet­ter job than her Brexit ne­go­ti­at­ing team and that she was now morally bound ei­ther to re­sign or to call a gen­eral elec­tion which would ef­fec­tively be­come the sto­ried “Peo­ple’s Vote”. In­stead he chose to talk for the 94th time about the in­iq­ui­ties of Uni­ver­sal Credit, de­ploy­ing themes which are now so fa­mil­iar that sevenyear-olds are re­peat­ing them in their school es­says.

In­stead it was left to the SNP’S for­mi­da­ble West­min­ster duo of Ian Black­ford and Joanna Cherry to show Mr Cor­byn yet again what ef­fec­tive par­lia­men­tary op­po­si­tion ought to look like. Such has been the scale of the Con­ser­va­tive Party’s in­com­pe­tence and dis­hon­esty that in any other era a gen­uinely left-wing Labour Party would have had an out­stand­ing and his­toric op­por­tu­nity of win­ning a gen­eral elec­tion. These last two years or so have re­peat­edly ex­posed the es­sen­tial vil­lainy and cal­lous­ness that form the twin rib­bons of the UK Con­ser­va­tives’ DNA. Each week brings fresh ev­i­dence of it.

The Times re­vealed this week that Priti Pa­tel, the UK’S for­mer Trade Minister, had ef­fec­tively sought to use the pos­si­bil­ity of food short­ages in a No Deal sce­nario as lever­age in forc­ing Ire­land’s hand dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions. In her favour you could ar­gue that Ms Pa­tel was sim­ply echo­ing Tory at­ti­tudes to Ire­land 200 years ago which led to the Great Famine and the deaths of more than one mil­lion peo­ple. This chimes with ear­lier sen­ti­ments about Ire­land made by Ja­cob Rees-mogg who doesn’t think that a hard border be­tween North­ern Ire­land and the Ir­ish Repub­lic presents a prob­lem. “There would be our abil­ity, as we had dur­ing the Trou­bles, to have peo­ple in­spected. It’s not a border that ev­ery­one has to go through ev­ery day, but of course for se­cu­rity rea­sons dur­ing the Trou­bles we kept a very close eye on the border, to try and stop gun-run­ning and things like that.”

Ear­lier this week David Davis, in a rare mo­ment of Tory can­dour, said that if ster­ling crashed fol­low­ing a No Deal Brexit this “was not a bad thing”. This as­ser­tion only lacked the words “for multi-mil­lion­aires like me”. That mil­lions of nor­mal peo­ple with av­er­age jobs and av­er­age in­comes would be harmed by the pound crash­ing didn’t merit a mo­ment’s thought from the for­mer Brexit minister. In the midst of such ca­sual in­dif­fer­ence to the po­ten­tial for hu­man suf­fer­ing it’s been left to party grandees such as Michael He­sel­tine and Ken Clarke to show that de­cency can still be found in this Tory Nin­eveh.

Theresa May has now asked an as­sort­ment of Tory foot-soldiers to fan out across the UK in a charm of­fen­sive to sell her Brexit deal to the peo­ple. Glas­gow is to get David Mun­dell. Is this the first sign that Mrs May ac­tu­ally pos­sesses a sense of hu­mour? The Scot­tish Sec­re­tary had pre­vi­ously pledged to re­sign if Mrs May’s deal eroded North­ern Ire­land’s place in the Union. Yet this is the deal he is tasked with sell­ing to the peo­ple of Glas­gow (pre­sum­ably hav­ing weighed up the ben­e­fits of a min­is­te­rial salary and car be­fore the fis­cally tax­ing Christ­mas pe­riod).

This week has shown that the Con­ser­va­tives are ut­terly im­per­vi­ous to the hu­man con­se­quences of its Brexit ad­ven­ture. It’s also cast doubt on the abil­ity of the UK Labour Party to take ad­van­tage of this wicked­ness.

This week has shown that the Con­ser­va­tives are ut­terly im­per­vi­ous to the hu­man con­se­quences of its Brexit ad­ven­ture

„ Scot­tish Sec­re­tary David Mun­dell leaves Num­ber 10 this week. He had pre­vi­ously pledged to re­sign ifMrs May’s deal eroded North­ern Ire­land’s place in the Union.

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