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January 22, 2020

Labour politics

Opinion

January 22, 2020

Recent elections in the UK have resulted in a seismic shift in the political landscape with the Labour Party being completely decimated: losing over 50 seats, many in places that had voted Labour for generations.

The significance of this defeat, particularly regarding the party’s long-term prospects, is currently being hotly debated. With the Tories under Boris Johnson having an 80 seat majority in parliament and being entitled to effectively rule without opposition for the next five years, there is speculation about whether the Labour Party will ever recover and, indeed, whether it still has a place in British politics, having been so roundly abandoned by the very class it is supposed to represent.

The referendum on EU membership, which was held in June 2016 and saw the Leave side triumph, was a special factor in the demise of UK Socialism under Labour. However, it was the Labour Party’s reaction to the referendum result rather than the Leave vote itself which has proved so destructive.

What the question of continued membership of the EU brought into focus were the social, political and economic priorities of the British people. When they were asked what was most important, the British public powerfully responded by putting politics first: they chose democracy over technocracy.

Since for many Brits the EU is seen as an anti-democratic, corporate institution, run by technocrats and supported by self-serving politicians. This was a response large swathes of the political establishment, the entire middle ground in fact, could not understand and refused to accept. The result has been a 3 year impasse in parliament, with a minority Tory government being unable to put into effect the will of the British people. The essential problem has been a predominantly Remain parliament – made up of Remain-backing MPs from all parties – unwilling to enact the legislation required for leaving the EU.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, given that all political parties, the media, and most economic ‘experts’ campaigned strongly for Remain, the result came as quite a shock. That and the ensuing parliamentary gridlock led to a degree of political fragmentation within the Remain camp. As a number of Remain-voting MPs simply refused to accept the new status quo.

This led to a number of party defections and the formation of entirely new cross-party allegiances, which not only insisted that they represented a new vision of politics, but that they embodied higher moral values. Without exception, these unelected new alliances for Remain, which were united in their determination to set aside the referendum result, were easily recognisable as expressions of self-aggrandisement, and were wiped out at the last election.

Excerpted from: ‘The Demise of the Labour Party and the Future For UK Socialism’.

Counterpunch.org

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