WITH Boris Johnson’s claim to have reached a deal, we are moving, not towards the endgame in Britain’s Brexit saga, but to a clearer picture of the field of battle.
Tony Blair’s disgraced apologist for the Iraq war told readers of the online news outlet The Independent that winning a final say on Brexit is a fight worth fighting.
He put the question as a simple binary choice — “a referendum to check whether, on the basis of what we know now, the country wants to proceed” or “an election unlikely to solve anything.”
It is instructive that the infamous spin doctor — who played a key part in the election of several New Labour governments — thinks at this present conjuncture that the prospect of a Labour government is irrelevant to the solution of Britain’s problems.
It is unlikely that anyone who exists on benefits, can’t afford a mortgage, is paying an exorbitant rent, faces a long wait for medical treatment, needs to attend a foodbank, faces a deferred pension or is worried about whether a pay cheque at the end of the month is guaranteed would regard the election of a Labour government with such indifference.
It is this weekend’s march in support of a second referendum that is the occasion for Alastair Campbell’s curiously forlorn and dispirited puff piece.
It will be instructive to see how these most starry-eyed fans of the EU will react to Jean-Claude Juncker’s assessment that the deal is a “fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK.”
Presumably they would vote for it in any confirmatory referendum. Don’t hold your breath.
Campbell goes on to quote a woman he met on a Preston train who told him that she had been on all the big marches but said: “…I do wonder sometimes whether they have any effect.”
She now has the answer. According to the latest poll, a blockbuster survey of 26,000 voters by ComRes and Channel Five, 50 per cent want Britain to leave compared with 42 per cent who want to remain.
This shows a drop of 6 per cent support for Remain compared with the referendum result itself. When the “don’t knows” are excluded, the Leave majority grows to 54 per cent.
The big money forces behind the second referendum campaign are not as innocent of political reality as many of their supporters.
Some time ago the focus was shifted from a frankly subversive and undemocratic bid to reverse the result of the most comprehensive vote in living memory to a call for a second referendum or at least a confirmatory vote on whatever deal is on the table.
An accommodation to this pressure saw Emily Thornberry trapped into arguing for a Labour government to renegotiate a withdrawal agreement so that she could then vote it down.
This was the political equivalent of a defence barrister arguing a convincing defence case before the beak, then telling the jury that as a juror they would convict.
It didn’t do much for the eminent advocate’s leadership ambitions. Her rival in this, Keir Starmer, wisely kept quieter counsel and stayed away from the Question Time hot spot.
Labour’s deliberations over the past few days went some way to reasserting the salience of the position decided just a month ago at Labour’s annual conference over the more creative deviations of recent weeks.
This at least puts Labour in a more credible position to focus on the coming election campaign — that is the one public cash is already funding on behalf of the Tory Party — and on the big package of positive policies lined up by Labour.
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