The focus on a single subject poses a particular challenge for the Labour party. But perversely, it could also be an opportunity to widen the debateby Emma Burnell / October 30, 2019 / Leave a comment
Labour HQ will be asking themselves two questions today: Can we stop this from being a Brexit election and should we try?
It seems from the outset that the answer to the first question is likely to be no. That makes the second part redundant.
Much as Labour would like to run this election as they did in 2017—where they nuzzled both Remainers and Leavers into submission on Brexit then flooded them with post-austerity spending promises—we’re in different territory now.
While for those of us who live and die by the latest download of Brexitcast might not have been fully aware of it at the time, 2017 was somewhat of a lull in the Brexit proceedings. Article 50 had been triggered, sure. But it was all a long way off. Remainers swung behind Labour when it was not particularly Remain because May’s Leave red lines were then seen by them as “Hard Brexit.”
Labour’s manifesto offered a medium Brexit—with an end to Freedom of Movement (and thus the Single Market) that still felt both possible and—to most Remainers at the time—acceptable. Labour offered the softer of the two Brexit options and Brexit seemed both far away and inevitable.
In 2017, once it was clear that the Brexit options were narrowed between two different flavours of semi-flaccid, the election moved onto other issues. And here the Tories—so convinced they were fighting a Brexit election—had few appealing answers. Their key policy to move on from beyond austerity was essentially translated by the electorate as “we’re coming for your house old lady.”
Meanwhile, at outdoor rallies Jeremy Corbyn was shown on TV being cheered by huge crowds (which will be much harder in December) for stating such radical ideas as “it would be quite a good idea to fund the NHS properly” and “perhaps we shouldn’t cut so much money from schools.”
So, 2017 wasn’t a Brexit election but a break from Brexit. One last chance for politics to go back to its traditional corners: left and right. Labour desperately want to see that again, but they won’t.
There is a long list of things Labour will want to speak about before Brexit. But they will only be given the opportunity to do so once they have…