When I woke up on Monday morning and saw the European election results, I wrote this tweet
“Woke up to a triumph for Remain. On latest vote count from BBC, UK clear Remain 40.3%, clear No Deal 34.9%, Lab 14.1% Con 9,1%. Clear Remain even just beat No Deal Brexit in England. If that is not the headline you are seeing, it is another example of Brexit bias I'm afraid.”
I have written recently about how the Tories are likely to respond to these results. Labour have already responded by making their support for a referendum unconditional, but they have not said that any referendum would contain a Remain option and they have certainly not said they would always support Remain. Corbyn’s dream of a Labour deal remains alive and party policy, and he seems not to have realised that he could never implement it. Whether what they have already done is enough to win back enough Remain voters in any general election seems 50/50 at best, so their current stance certainly puts an election victory at risk.
Before anyone mentions seats in the North East, according to Ashcroft 15% of European election voters who voted for Labour in the 2017 election voted for the Brexit party. An amazing 45% of Labour voters in 2017 voted for combined Remain parties. That 3 to 1 ratio matches what opinion polls have been saying, but it is one thing to say it to a pollster and quite another to break in many cases a habit of a lifetime and actually vote against Labour. And to those who say Labour cannot desert its heartlands, what about those in the North East that want to Remain? Ashcroft suggests that 42% of voters in the North East think they voted Labour in 2017, and 38% of voters in the North East want to remain in the EU. See this post on how attempts to attract Brexit voters in Brexit constituencies are more likely to push away the considerable number of Remain voters in those constituencies.
Labour’ choice is do they keep being a Brexit party and stay an opposition party with a romantic dream of becoming once again being a party of the working class, or do they follow their voters and members and become a Remain party that can win an election and actually do something for the working class. The European elections showed up a fundamental imbalance. Brexit is the policy of both major parties, so no major party supports Remain, and that is a vacuum that will be filled. (The Tories got punished because they failed to deliver Brexit.) Hence Labour should support Remain.
Right now we want a Labour leadership that is actively campaigning against a No Deal Brexit, telling people how a No Deal Brexit Britain would become an impoverished and powerless satellite of the USA like Puerto Rico but with a tax haven status for the rich. We do not want a Labour leadership who spend whatever air time they get explaining what their Brexit policy actually is.
If Labour think things can only get better, they may have already inspired what could be a sea change in any general election. The lesson for the Greens and the Lib Dems is that if they cooperate they could do remarkably well in a future general election, particularly if the Conservatives go for No Deal and Labour stay a Brexit party. Cooperation would involve the LibDems giving way in some seats where both they and the Greens are strong, but in exchange being the only party of Remain in most other seats.
If that happened, it would be a disaster for Labour. I have made it no secret that I believe the next government must be a radical party that can challenge neoliberal hegemony and also do something about the sorry state of our media, and I do not think the LibDems are there yet, although they are moving back to their traditional left of centre position. I therefore view anything that could stop the next government being Labour as a disaster. It would be tragic if that was to happen as a result of Brexit.