Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Wednesday 29 June 2016

The EU Referendum part iv: Leadership Challenges

Jeremy Corbyn has decided not to resign.

Well… Good for him.

Jeremy Corbyn is a Socialist and the labour party faithful knew it when they elected him leader ten months ago.

At the last general election, a great many New Labour Blairites were standing for the Labour party. Many were elected.

It’s a contradiction, of course, and one that clearly needs to be addressed. 

In the wake of the no-confidence vote, and the debacle with Hillary Benn that ended in his resignation, the shadow cabinet fell apart. I guess that was no surprise, either, and I guess it was no surprise to Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn stood tall and shuffled his cabinet to include the most diverse mix ever seen in a cabinet, shadow or otherwise. The cabinet is more socialist than it was, and, by extension, closer to what the labour party faithful might want and expect… Let’s not forget they voted for a socialist leader only very recently.

A great many pundits are suggesting that Jeremy Corbyn has come out of the EU Referendum looking bad. I’m tempted to think the opposite.

We are all in a state of dudgeon over the lies that were told to us by Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage ahead of the referendum. Does anyone remember what Corbyn said and did?

I remember.

Corbyn has always had doubts about the EU, but they’re based on his Socialist ideals, and they have been consistent.

Corbyn decided not to stand next to David Cameron during the Remain campaign. He has never agreed with the Prime Minister on any of the leading issues. The two have very little in common. Why would we expect Jeremy Corbyn to stand beside the Conservative PM in front of the public and his labour party faithful on this issue? Why would we expect Jeremy Corbyn to stand next to Cameron in order to make a man he fundamentally disagrees with look good. I wouldn’t do it, and I think it only suggests that Corbyn is a man of principle… That he is, for want of a better word, honest.

New Labour was, for all intents and purposes based around capitalist, neoliberal ideals. Thatcher even claimed that Blair and New Labour were her greatest legacies. Corbyn has always bucked that trend and he bucks it still. I admire the man’s consistency over what has been a long career in politics, and which has included grassroots movements that have not always been popular.

To thine own self be true is not a bad adage for anyone to live by. In the UK, in the twenty-first century it seems that very few politicians live up to this ideal; I suspect Jeremy Corbyn might be one of them.

Nevertheless, it looks as if Jeremy Corbyn will face a leadership challenge.

The Conservatives are also in disarray. Appeasing the Eurosceptics might have got Cameron elected leader in the first instance, but it seems to have played out badly for him, and for the party in the long run.

Boris Johnson, Teresa May, Stephen Crabb, Nicky Morgan and possibly one or two others will throw their hats into the leadership election ring. Teresa May is the strongest of the Remain candidates, but Nicky Morgan campaigned most fiercely to stay in Europe. Boris Johnson was the poster boy for Brexit, but Stephen Crabb was also a Leaver.

Talking of Stephen Crabb, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions… It’s worth taking a look at his history, personal and political.

Stephen Crabb was born in Scotland and was raised by his mother, on benefits, living in a council house in Wales. He went to Bristol University as an undergraduate and got his degree before student loans were imposed in 1998. His entire young life was funded by the tax payer. Crabb’s estranged father drew the invalidity benefit for the longterm sick, going back to as early as 1972. For all sensible purposes he was on disability benefits.

I have no problem with that. I want to look after those least able to take care of themselves, whether that’s short term or indefinitely.

I wonder what Crabb’s life would be like had he been born in 2003 and not 1973. He doesn’t seem to question that.

Stephen Crabb’s voting record makes for interesting reading. In March of this year, Crabb voted in favour of cutting disability benefits… Yes, you read that right.

At the Welsh office, Crabb brokered a deal with the treasury to compensate Welsh industries for rising energy costs.

Crabb is a Christian, and he’s married to a French woman. I guess if things get really bad, at least his kids are entitled to dual nationality.

I have no problems with Crabb’s religious beliefs. I do have a problem with his association with Christian Action Research and Education, a Christian, right-wing lobbying group. This group lobbied in support of Section 28, prohibiting sex education, in particular teaching about homosexuality. Some of CARE’s pregnancy centres have also come under scrutiny for misinformation concerning abortion. The organisation has a record of being anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ and anti-prostitution. Crabb’s association with CARE goes back to his internship with the organisation during the 1990s.

Crabb is a mass of contradictions, but he continues to hold considerable power in the Conservative party and in government. He could be our next Prime Minister. Perish the thought.

The most likely candidates in a Labour Party leadership election are Angela Eagle and Tom Watson, and, of course, Corbyn himself.

Angela Eagle is Oxford educated with a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Education, and she’s be in parliament since 1992. She worked with both Brown and, significantly, Blair. Eagle and Corbyn are fairly distant political cousins. Eagle has toed the party line for the most part, but she voted with the Government on the issues of Syrian Airstrikes in 2015, clearly in opposition to Corbyn and her party. Eagle was however, a campaigner in the Remain camp.

Tom Watson was also in favour of remaining in Europe, saying, "I believe the UK should stay in the EU because our continued membership is vital for exports, jobs and the future of the manufacturing industry in our region.” He’s also in favour of an immigration fund to support those communities with the highest numbers of immigrants.

Only three Labour members campaigned to leave the EU, they included Kate Hoey, born and raised in Northern Ireland, and a stalwart of the Blair administration; Graham Stringer, elected to his safe seat in 1997, and the first MP to call for Gordon Brown’s resignation; and Kelvin Hopkins, who has worked his entire career with the trade unions. Hopkins was one of thirty-six MPs to nominate Corbyn to the leadership, but he is widely known as a rebel within the party. Kate Hoey and Graham Stringer have one other thing in common; they were among only ten Labour MPs to vote for the Raab Amendment, the inclusion of a clause in the immigration bill to allow for immigrants to be deported if they are sentenced to a year in prison for any crime.

It is unlikely that any of the three Eurosceptics on the Labour benches will contest the leadership.

The Conservatives in the House of Commons seem pretty well divided down the middle on the subject of the EU Referendum, while the Labour Party has only three outliers in favour of leaving the EU. That suggests to me that the Conservative Party is significantly more divided than is the Labour Party. And let’s not forget that one of the most vociferous supporters of Brexit is Nigel Farage of the United Kingdom Independence party. Of course, he has made his living in Europe as an MEP for the south-east since 1999. When his job no longer exists, (and I wonder why he wanted the job in the first place. Could it be because he didn’t win any of the five UK elections he fought to be an MP?), I imagine that Farage will return to the Conservative Party, which he left in 1992. As a young conservative, Farage was a follower of Enoch Powell. And if you haven’t read the Rivers of Blood speech, you really should; it’s a great eye-opener on this issue.
Thinking the thoughts of just one woman
Photo by James K Barnett

So… I’ve been rambling on for several hundred words, and I see that I’ve failed to make a coherent point… Perhaps that’s understandable, though. The political situation we’ve been forced into is complicated, to some incomprehensible. It’s tough to draw conclusions, but perhaps one way to do that, is to do some research, to learn who we’re dealing with and why.

I look for constancy, consistency and honesty in a leader, and to broadly agree with their philosophies. Take some time to have a look around at the kinds of people we are electing to power, and you might find yourself thinking again.

I am European.

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