Being of the left, Jeremy Corbyn should be my guy. That is why I was chuffed to see him elected as Labour leader in 2015 and why I anticipated positive change in the official opposition at Westminster. I agree with his views on a variety of policy areas from how to fund public services, social justice, renationalisation of infrastructure, less conflict driven foreign policy and many others. Because of his stance on Brexit, however, I have lost any faith I had left in UK Labour.
What is next for the UK and the Labour Party?
Now, opposing Corbyn on Brexit has been branded on Twitter, predominately in the ongoing scuffle of #FBPEs vs Corbynistas, as ‘centrists’ trying to stop Brexit. I do understand the agenda of the perspective taken by Alistair Campbell’s newspaper The New European attempting to undermine the ‘Labour left’ and Corbyn’s leadership. But Brexit is much bigger and more important than internal feuds within the Labour party. Left Foot Forward reported findings that Corbyn’s Brexit stance isn’t as much at odds with Labour party members as many mainstream media outlets suggest. In fact, Left Foot Forward states that only 29% of the 1000+ Labour members polled oppose Corbyn’s Brexit stance. Those who support this position are concerned that a People’s Vote could cause a constitutional crisis if the result of the 2016 EU referendum is overturned. This confirms that the Labour Party is not for me and why I support the Scottish Green Party.
Corbyn’s stance is valid, if the Leave vote was to be ‘gazumped’ it could risk alienating heavy Leave leaning Labour constituencies in England. These are the working class communities that have been left behind for decades. But with that said, the Leave result was won on the back of suspected financial corruption, post-truth politics, data collection with potential social media manipulation and right-wing ideologies over a ‘freer‘ free-market alongside their obsession with tighter immigration controls. None of this will be a benefit to the constituents that voted against the establishment in 2016. It has been the two-party system at Westminster and Neo-liberal cheerleaders in Number 10 that has left these communities behind, not necessarily the EU.
Every single financial prediction in relation to Brexit is going to have a negative impact on the economy. The worst of course being a no deal Brexit, which is looking more likely than ever before. Any Brexit outcome will ultimately affect the most vulnerable people in society and cause further financial inequality. It will not facilitate Corbyn’s aims of a fair and equal society for the many. I understand Corbyn is stuck between a rock and a hard place. But he has historically been anti-EU which may have some bearing on his thought process.
In Scotland however, we voted Remain and have no desire to leave the EU. And we meant it.
Scotland and Brexit
Every single local authority in Scotland voted to Remain in the 2016 EU referendum. That, in my opinion, is a pretty strong and decisive statement. Scotland wasn’t the only nation to vote to Remain, Northern Ireland did too as well as the overseas territory Gibraltar. However, the rhetoric we all hear is we must respect the will of the “British people”. Which ones are they referring to? Those who favoured Leave in England and Wales? I’m sorry, but I am not willing to accept that nor should anyone from a Remain voting nation or overseas territory. If Corbyn believed in the importance of the integrity of the United Kingdom he would be vocalising an alternative vision for Scotland and Brexit. But alas, he has not and there is no such thing as a “jobs first Brexit” for Scotland or anywhere else the UK for that matter.
For Northern Ireland, a differential arrangement has been agreed between the UK Government and the EU because of the Irish border concerns. I am not taking away from the importance of the unique complexities of Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic of Ireland, but where differentiation can be agreed for one nation it can be done for another. Perhaps it is just a lack of political will from Theresa May and her negotiating team to secure single market and customs union access for Scotland.
The Scottish Government presented several compromises in relation to Brexit and the Scottish Parliament even refused to give consent to the UK Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill. These have been ignored by May and have not been advocated by Corbyn. This is ‘surprising’ after Labour MSPs backed the Scottish Government’s comprises and refused consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill in Holyrood. To add salt to the wounds, just 15 minutes was given in the House of Commons to debate on concerns that the EU Withdrawal Bill was breaching the devolution settlement – accusations were made that the UK Government were using Brexit for a ‘power grab‘ of powers held at the Scottish Parliament.
And even now, a handful of Scottish Labour MPs openly back a People’s Vote including Ian Murray and Gerard Killen. What will it take for Scotland to be heard amongst this chaos and din in the UK Parliament? And will Corbyn have the guts to bring forward a vote of no confidence in the Conservative UK Government if May’s deal doesn’t get through Parliament? I remain sceptical.
The democratic deficit
It is becoming clear that the only option left for Scotland is to consider independence from the UK. Brexit has shed light on the democratic deficit and the contempt shown towards the Scottish electorate in major UK constitutional issues. However, Brexit is just one of many issues Scotland has voted against but its voice has been disregarded. All but one Scottish MP voted against the renewal of the UK’s nuclear weapons programme, named Trident, which was overlooked. Most noteworthy, these weapons of mass destruction are housed in Scotland just over 40 miles away from its largest city. Scottish MPs also voted against the two child cap on welfare, that UK Labour abstained on, in 2015 which gave birth to the ‘rape clause‘. Scotland also rejected the bombing campaign in Syria when the vote took place in December 2015.
This cannot continue to happen. Under the current Westminster system and the revolving door of Tory to Labour and round again, Scotland will never be heard. Whilst Labour continue to prop up the current political status quo and facilitating traditions like the first past the post system and ridiculous House of Lords we will not see the radical change needed in the UK. Scotland will not be heard on important issues like Brexit or on issues such as defence. And I cannot see how Labour or Corbyn will provide an alternative nor have the political will to find a solution to Scotland being ignored.
We must have the option to choose independence at the earliest sensible opportunity. After all, the Scottish Parliament voted in favour of one in March 2017 and the SNP Scottish Government has a cast iron mandate to revisit Scottish independence in the context of Brexit.
Featured image sourced from Sophie Brown on WikiMedia