We need an open discussion, led by a cross-party group of MPsby Caroline Macfarland / June 13, 2017 / Leave a comment
I spent election night at a party hosted by a bunch of organisations who had tasked themselves with blocking a hard Brexit, campaigning for a second referendum, and mobilising people to vote tactically to do so. Broadly supporting the sentiment behind all three endeavours but having contributed in a tangible way to none of them, I was already suffering from vague imposter syndrome which only got worse as the evening progressed.
As the exit polls predicted a hung Parliament, a huge cheer resounded through the room. “We did it!” everyone cried as they hugged each other and jumped up and down in excitement. “Did what?” I couldn’t help but wonder. We “Remoaners”—if the phrase can be used to describe someone like me, who is resigned to the outcome of the referendum, but not the fact that it gave an unequivocal mandate for one, hard, approach to accomplishing Brexit—were left with no more “stability and certainty” from the election than Theresa May herself.
On the one hand, the election result has opened the floor for the more moderate Conservative MPs to demand a softer Brexit. On the other hand, it removed some of the most outspoken moderates: of the 20 Conservative MPs who lost their seats, 13 had backed Remain. A potential leadership contest—with Brexiteers David Davis and Boris Johnson as frontrunners—would drive the party in the opposite direction.
Meanwhile, the Labour Party’s success could be attributed to so many things that it is impossible to have a coherent analysis of what this means for Brexit. Corbyn’s ambivalence on Brexit may have attracted UKIP voters, or his surge in support could equally have come from people who wanted a strong opposition to stand up to the Conservatives in Parliament. It remains to be seen whether the Labour Party can turn their election successes into a unified and effective vehicle to do scrutinise and challenge the Brexit negotiations.
So, what now? It seems to me that we have two options. The first would be to take the election result at lowest-common-denominator face value, proclaim we now have reverted to a two-party system, and look for ways to confirm this binary analysis: namely, through calling for another general election, ASAP, regardless of whether people want one or not.