Too many Labour MPs have spent their time searching for a unicorn rather than deciding what trade-offs to make. But you can't triangulate foreverby Chaminda Jayanetti / March 22, 2019 / Leave a comment
Divining Yvette Cooper’s views on anything is difficult at the best of times.
These are not the best of times.
“I have deliberately not argued for a particular endpoint today,” she said in a speech earlier this month. “I am deliberately trying to find a process that has some legitimacy that people can sign up to whatever their view on Brexit and whatever final outcome they want to see.”
“I have done so because I see no other way through and I think we will only solve this step by step. I realise there are plenty of reasons why this might not work, but I can see far more reasons why every other option won’t work and something still has to happen.”
Such rousing rhetoric and clarity of vision make it a wonder she failed in her bid for the Labour leadership four years ago.
But regardless of how logical her approach may be—delaying Brexit to allow cross-party consensus and possibly citizens’ assemblies—the time for that is rapidly dwindling. Labour MPs must soon decide on endpoints, not processes. It’s time for them to make up their minds.
Labour MPs in Leave-voting seats have faced the biggest Brexit conundrum of all parliamentarians. Since 2017, Tory Leavers are mostly found in pro-Brexit seats. Tory Remainers tend to be soft Eurosceptics rather than true believers—Brexit doesn’t make their blood boil. Labour’s leaders are ambivalent about the EU, while it is politically painless for many of their metropolitan MPs to oppose Brexit outright.
Labour MPs in Leave-voting seats have no such luxury. They themselves are more Europhilic than Tory Remainers; Brexit is anathema to most. But many of their seats are on Tory target lists, and whole swathes of them looked set to turn blue two years ago before Theresa May self-destructed.
They know from the doorstep that in many areas public opinion remains unflinchingly pro-Brexit. Whilst most local Labour voters likely backed Remain, many MPs see their job as trying to represent all their constituents, not just the ones who voted for them.
These Labour MPs are not a homogenous blob. For the most part, they are caught in a mesh of conflicting instincts, identities, interests and opinions. Most back some form of customs union, but their views on single market membership and…