Cor­byn should lis­ten to his party and force through a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum

The Independent - - News -

To bor­row a phrase, Jeremy Cor­byn is not a stupid man. He is sin­cere in his so­cial­ist be­liefs and his pa­tri­o­tism. He wants what is best for the coun­try, just as his op­po­nents in the gov­ern­ment do.

Trou­ble is, he has even less of a plan than they do. Around 10 weeks away from pu­ta­tive Brexit day, Mr Cor­byn is ei­ther be­ing ex­ces­sively cagey about his true in­ten­tions or he doesn’t know what to do. Per­haps

for that rea­son, and to cam­ou­flage the lack of pol­icy, he projects some sort of enig­matic guru vibe in his pub­lic state­ments, as when ques­tioned on The An­drew Marr Show yes­ter­day.

He seeks to re­as­sure. It is not en­tirely con­vinc­ing.

Tak­ing him at his word, the clear­est mes­sage he has is that he wants a gen­eral elec­tion, and is pre­pared to ta­ble a mo­tion of no con­fi­dence in Her Majesty’s gov­ern­ment to achieve it. But when? Such busi­ness takes prece­dence in the Com­mons, and he could eas­ily have tried to bring the gov­ern­ment down be­fore Christ­mas, when Theresa May ran away from her own MPs.

The chances are, though, that when­ever he calls the vote he will lose it. Fear and loathing for Mr Cor­byn is the only thing that unites the Con­ser­va­tives and the DUP, and, be­wil­dered as they are, they are not about to usher a so­cial­ist Ir­ish Repub­li­can sympathiser into Down­ing Street.

For many of them, Brexit plus Cor­byn equals the worst pos­si­ble dam­age to the econ­omy and the na­tional in­ter­est. Their ma­jor­ity will be slen­der, but one is enough.

To be clear: there will be no par­lia­men­tary machi­na­tions to se­cure a mi­nor­ity Labour gov­ern­ment with­out a gen­eral elec­tion. Yet, even if Mr Cor­byn did get his elec­tion in the cold, dark days of win­ter, there is no guar­an­tee he would ac­tu­ally win it.

Ab­sent that and, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial party con­fer­ence pol­icy, Mr Cor­byn can turn to his fa­mous ta­ble, upon which “all op­tions” have been heaped, a cor­nu­copia of de­li­cious po­lit­i­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties. In re­al­ity, though, the ta­ble is bare. There are no op­tions left, short of a work­ers’ rev­o­lu­tion, ex­cept a Fi­nal Say ap­peal to the peo­ple on the gov­ern­ment’s Brexit deal.

Mr Cor­byn will not have the chance to put his Brexit rene­go­ti­a­tion to the peo­ple. He won’t have a chance to bring it back from Brus­sels be­cause he’s not go­ing to be prime min­is­ter just yet. Be­sides, his pro­pos­als about the cus­toms union and the sin­gle mar­ket are il­log­i­cal and un­ac­cept­able to the EU. Brexit on Labour’s terms is a chimera.

Mr Cor­byn has the obli­ga­tion to fol­low the clear wishes and pol­icy of his party. He has cam­paigned for greater in­ter­nal party democ­racy for 40 years. Now is not the time to dump it.

The Labour Party be­longs to its mem­bers. They are fond of Mr Cor­byn, but also pas­sion­ate Re­main­ers – “Love Cor­byn, Hate Brexit” was a pop­u­lar T-shirt slo­gan at the party con­fer­ence last year. The pol­icy is clear. It is for a fur­ther pop­u­lar vote, and with Re­main on the bal­lot paper.

Some­times Mr Cor­byn sounds like he’d rather ig­nore his mem­bers and his MPs (united for once) and carry on cam­paign­ing for his kind of Brexit, the il­log­i­cal one that doesn’t ex­ist and never will.

He would rather tell peo­ple, as he has been try­ing lately, that the EU doesn’t mat­ter as much as unit­ing the coun­try – Leavers and Re­main­ers – through a new so­cial­ist Bri­tain with ex­cel­lent pub­lic ser­vices and a just so­ci­ety, a po­si­tion that is also not go­ing to be built from the op­po­si­tion benches.

Europe is the tran­scen­dent is­sue of the mo­ment. For­get the par­lia­men­tary shenani­gans, Speaker Ber­cow, the Tory rebels and Do­minic Grieve: Mr Cor­byn alone has the power to pause Brexit, force a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum and put the power into the hands of the peo­ple, just as his party re­quires him to.

It would de­stroy the gov­ern­ment’s re­main­ing au­thor­ity, with un­pre­dictable con­se­quences, and it is prob­a­bly Labour’s best chance of get­ting into power this year. In any event, it re­mains a demo­cratic im­per­a­tive, not least for Labour mem­bers.

If Mr Cor­byn does not score when faced with such an open goal, and de­fies his own con­fer­ence pol­icy, then his mem­bers may never for­give him.

Mr Cor­byn’s his­toric be­trayal would make Tony Blair and Ram­say Mac­Don­ald look an­gelic. The Labour Party might even judge him to have been rather a stupid man, or worse: Hate Brexit, Hate Cor­byn.

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