PETER OBORNE: Comrade Corbyn is becoming a liability after the worst Labour election result in memory
Just 3 per cent of those eligible to participate in the EU elections voted Tory. A truly awful statistic.
That said, I believe Labour’s problems may be greater.
Although Jeremy Corbyn has many faults, I have admired his consistent record of opposition to Britain’s disastrous intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. But his Brexit strategy has suddenly derailed.
No wonder many senior Labour MPs and trade unionists are gunning for him.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (pictured leaving his London home yesterday) has told his MPs that the party is ‘ready to support a public vote’ on Brexit
For a long time ahead of Thursday’s vote, they repeatedly warned Corbyn that he would face electoral meltdown if he sat on the fence over Europe.
By not committing to a second referendum, he would lose those Labour supporters (in London and middle-class areas) who want the UK to remain in the EU. And by not doing enough to cherish those Labourites in the North and Wales, for example, his critics said he risked losing them to the Brexit Party.
Complacently, Corbyn brushed their warnings aside. Instead, he took the advice of his clique of hard-Left advisers.
The result? The worst Labour election result in memory.
True, slightly better than the Tories. But with a government party riven by civil war and a lame duck prime minister, Labour should have got much, much more than a 14 per cent share of votes nationally.
Such is the widespread sense of despair in Labour circles that there is understandable talk of a challenge to Corbyn’s leadership.
Even some of those who have behaved like cult members worshipping at his feet now want him to set party policy and demand that the British public has a ‘final say’ vote on any Tory Brexit deal.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell (pictured) said Labour could unite the party and country by ‘taking the issue back to people in a public vote’
Over the next few weeks, Corbyn’s pro-Remain critics want him to make up his mind once and for all.
Personally, this will be an agonising decision for their party leader. Yesterday, Corbyn was still refusing to explicitly back another referendum.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, along with many other senior colleagues, has urged her boss to stop trying to keep both Leave and Remain supporters on side and to ‘campaign to remain in the EU’.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, too, says any government Brexit deal ‘needs to go back to the people’ if a No Deal Brexit is to be avoided.
All politicians have to duck and dive. Weak ones become adept at avoiding difficult decisions.
There is something magnificently bloody-minded – or reckless – about Corbyn when it comes to Brexit.
His views date back to the Seventies. At heart, he is anti-EU – having voted in the 1975 referendum for Britain to pull out of the Common Market, alongside his hero Tony Benn who saw it as an anti-democratic ‘capitalist club’. Indeed, he has spoken witheringly of the EU’s ‘failed neo- liberal policies’.
What is more, he has strong support for this stance from key allies, including the hard-Left Unite trade union and his omnipresent lieutenant, the former Guardian journalist Seumas Milne.
Trade union boss Len McCluskey (pictured), an opponent of a second vote, demanded that Mr Corbyn stick to his existing position of trying to keep Leave and Remain supporters together
The Brexit Party won the most seats in the election last Thursday, followed by the Lib Dems
Labour Remainers speculate that the hard-Left acolytes who surround Corbyn secretly want a No Deal Brexit in order to create economic chaos – which, of course, has long been the aim of anti-capitalists everywhere.
Remember this: the men and women who surround Corbyn want to change this country irrevocably and turn it into a hardline socialist state.
Thus their hostility to the EU, as membership means that Britain is subject to a host of rules – such as those restricting state aid – that prevent countries going down the path of full-blooded socialism.
This is why Corbyn’s hard-Left clique is determined to stop him making any move that gives comfort to Remainers. However, not all of Corbyn’s fanatical supporters accept this analysis.
Very different to the Seumas Milne breed of Corbynistas are the Momentum political movement, whose activists made Corbyn party leader.
This diagram shows the Brexit Party’s dominance everywhere except London and Scotland
With a large number of their members being millennials who tend to feel more European than British, they are insistent that we remain part of the EU.
Corbyn, therefore, can’t please both groups. That’s why he’s sat on the fence for so long – reluctant to offend either his Momentum power base or the quasi-communists who form his inner circle.
So what does the Labour leader do? Yesterday’s refusal to budge suggests he’ll try to keep facing both ways. In a statement, he said: ‘With the Conservatives disintegrating and unable to govern, and parliament deadlocked, this issue will have to go back to the people, whether through a general election or a public vote.’
How ludicrously opaque. The phrase ‘a general election or a public vote’ will never appease those clamouring for a second referendum.
But it was typical of the deliberately ambiguous language that Corbyn has used throughout his leadership.
Yesterday, he also said there would be a discussion on Brexit ‘across our party and movement’. Another delaying tactic which I’m sure won’t work.
Amid this mire, one thing is certain. By refusing to show firm leadership, Comrade Corbyn – an idol for many years for his cultish supporters – risks becoming a serious liability and an impediment to Labour’s chances of forming the next government.