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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/15/19

The Brexit Election: British Activist Tariq Ali

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Republished from The Real News Network


All Is Not Lost for Labour

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This is a rush transcript and may contain errors. It will be updated.

MARC STEINER: Welcome to the Real News Network. I'm Marc Steiner. Great to have you with us, as usual.

What just happened in Britain? Why did Labour tank? Was this, as some are saying, the Brexit election? Jeremy Corbyn thinks so. He said as much after he lost. And this is what Jeremy Corbyn had to say.

JEREMY CORBYN: I have pride in our manifesto that we've put forward; and all the policies we've put forward, which actually had huge public support on issues of universal credit, the green industrial revolution, and investment for the future. But this election was taken over ultimately by Brexit, and we as a party represent people who both voted remain and leave. My whole strategy was to reach out beyond the Brexit divide to try and bring people together.

MARC STEINER: Was Jeremy Corbyn right? Some say the blame falls partly on his shoulders, and a lack of clarity from Labour about Brexit. The Tory won seats that have always been Labour seats, in part because disgruntled Labour voters not only voted for Conservatives, but for smaller parties as well, giving them, the Conservatives, their victory. It reminds a little bit of the French elections where those who voted Communists after years of economic dislocation, voted for the right-wing. But maybe it's much more complex than that.

However you explain what happened, this was a decisive victory for the Conservatives. They now have an absolute majority in parliament. Not only will Brexit follow, but their vaunted national health care service will be under attack. Privatization could run rampant, making Thatcher look like a piker, and deals may be cut with Trump. How will all this fit into the political right-wing surge we see going across the globe? Is it part of it? The Scottish vote went left, but for the Scottish National Party, the SNP, and they push now, for a new referendum to declare their independence from Britain. How will that turn out? A lot at stake for the future.

So to begin our conversation, we have a conversation today with Tariq Ali; writer, filmmaker, editor at Review. He's written numerous books on history and politics, seven novels, produced at least three films that I know about; wrote screenplays. His latest book is the Dilemmas of Lenin-which I have not read, but I will. Tariq, welcome. Good to have you with us.

TARIQ ALI: Very nice to be with you, Marc.

MARC STEINER: Was Jeremy Corbyn right? Was this the Brexit election? Is that why they lost? What happened here?

TARIQ ALI: Well, it was the Brexit election. Labour's strategy of playing both sides failed, but more importantly, Marc, I think the point has to be made that once the referendum had taken place in 2015, it was obvious a majority of the country wanted to quit the European union, for a variety of reasons. Some right-wing reasons, some did it to give the establishment taken the posterior because of the neoliberal agendas they were following. Then people expected that Brexit would be implemented. All the political parties, including Labour, said that they would implement the will of the people as expressed in this referendum. As the Conservatives managed to stitch a coalition together after the 2017 election, in which Corbyn did very well, adding a million more votes to Labour, and denying the Tories a majority in the interim, that gap between 2017 and 2019, Labour started behaving differently.

In my opinion, they should have let Theresa May or Boris Johnson get on with it, and deliver Brexit. Then, six months later when there was an election, Labour could have fought on this program and won. Instead Labour united with the Lib Dems and the remainer groups inside parliament, and actually made a big play of having stopped the Conservatives from implementing some things that had been voted for. So, the impression created in the minds of large numbers of people, not exclusively leavers, Brexiteers, was that an attempt was being made to sabotage the referendum by establishment politicians. Labour could never cut loose from that. Jeremy Corbyn, to his credit, was not in favor of this initially, but John McDonnell, other people within the Labour left and of course large numbers of supporters of Blair and Brown in the parliamentary Labour party pushed this through, then followed it up by promising his second referendum.

That, I think, was the last straw for many, many working-class Labour voters in the North, who voted, in some cases for Conservatives, and but in many cases by voting for the Brexit Party, led by Nigel Farage. These flit off votes to Nigel Farage denied Labour a majority in their traditional seats. You can see it in a number of seats. It's quite shocking to see seats which are being Labour seats, in some cases since there was that universal [inaudible 00:05:33] franchise almost, now going to put Conservatives. If you look at the map, it's pretty horrific. I think it was definitely Brexit, and I think it was a monumental strategic blunder by Labour to promise the second referendum, and not to stand aside one, the Tories implemented what they wanted to implement. Then we could invite a clean fight.

Boris has won, and he's won because this is what he promised to people. He said, "M own party has been dilly-dallying. The other parties have been attempting to sabotage the the referendum results. I will deliver." He attempted to deliver, and was blocked, and so he played that for all it was worth, kept the election exclusively on Brexit, and not all Labour's forces, all men and women could change that agenda. Jeremy's absolutely right. A majority of people like many of the key elements in the Labour program, but that is not what the election turned out to be about.

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