By Russell Bruce
The immediate rejection to backing Jeremy Corbyn as a temporary PM for the sole reason of stopping a No Deal crash was the instinctive reaction of a non thinking through and inexperienced political leader. Jo Swinson has been round long enough to have been more careful about making a knee jerk reaction.
Everybody needs to stand back and understand that the problem with the House of Commons finding agreement has been beset with red lines in almost every corner of the Commons because paralysis stems from MPs and party leaders who want their particular outcome. That has failed dismally.
All credit to Jeremy Corbyn that what he proposed was based on the lowest common denominator i.e those against a No Deal crash. Different parties have different objectives they wish to achieve in a future relationship with the EU. It is a given that those parties talking or disagreeing with Corbyn seek different end outcomes to those of the Labour party.
For months and months the inability of the House of Commons to find common ground has led to stalemate and allowed Johnson to command and lead a dangerous agenda. For long we have heard there is a majority opposed to No Deal. Now it is time to demand that all those of that mind come together to ensure No Deal is impossible. As long as Johnson is PM he will use the instruments of government to ensure his No Deal crash remains on course.
Swinson’s political immaturity and right wing instincts meant she has damaged this initiative, no doubt as she intended. Naturally other opposition MPs are not enthusiasts for a Corbyn premiership, but what he has proposed is a time limited administration with just three aims: 1. to remove Johnson as prime minister 2. to seek approval for a temporary administration 3. to set an early date for an early general election.
Swinson has been throwing weight about she does not have. At her press conference she attempted to justify her position but lacked all credibility, albeit to muted and dutiful clapping. To be fair, she has a point that for conservative and even ex-conservative MPs it would be difficult to support even a temporary Corbyn administration.
What the public expect, even at this eleventh hour, is that MPs finally make progress towards solving the Brexit conundrum with the least damage to the economy and ordinary people’s living standards. Listening to Jo Swinson we are given the impression she leads a party of 140 rather than a mere 14 MPs. Lesson: if you are going to throw your weight around make sure you have the ballast to carry it off.
What, we as individuals, think about Jeremy Corbyn and the type of full blown government he might actually lead is now immaterial. What he is proposing is a short fix not a long tenure. He is the official Leader of the Opposition, a position well defined in the ways of the House of Commons and in democracies round the world. The Lib Dems are only the fourth largest party, although they do outrank the DUP in numbers by a few fingers, if not influence.
Swinson gave those on the centre-right opposed to No Deal the perfect opportunity to take the stance she had set out for them. A responsible pro-Europe politician would have been more careful and attempted to be a possible link with those for whom removing Johnson was a much more difficult leap.
Centre-right support is needed to make this work. It is important to understand that they are facing the political equivalent of the Everest Death Zone in voting Johnson out. I suggested in a previous article, that if their conservatism is so different to the Johnson model, they should form their own more centralist Conservative party.
A more appropriate role for Swinson was to be more open and to act as a bridge to former colleagues from her time in the Cameron coalition. Exploring possibilities and talking about opportunity is always more likely to find a way for Westminster to finally climb out of the three and a half year impasse. That is what a concerned public has been waiting for in vain, for months and months.
Instead Ms Swinson ensured they followed her lead in refusing to consider a Corbyn temporary administration. I would remind Ms Swinson of the words of Bill Clinton: “It’s the economy, stupid.” The markets are not keen, to put it mildly, on a Corbyn government but even less do they like the instability of a No Deal Brexit from a Johnson government. The pound had its first good day in weeks following Corbyn’s proposal. The FT couldn’t quite give the credit to Jeremy Corbyn, only referring to the impact of Labour’s proposal resulting in a good day for sterling.
“This is not a party-partisan blog and many have Very Strong Opinions about Corbyn and the state of the party he currently leads.
“But from the perspective of law and policy, the letter contains a significant offer, and it should be taken seriously.
“If your objective is either to stop Brexit or to avoid a No Deal Brexit there are now few options still available before the United Kingdom is set to depart the European Union by automatic operation of law on 31st October 2019.”David Allen Green: Mr Corbyn writes a letter 15th August 2019
The Lib Dems latest recruit, former Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, was more nuanced than her leader, when she told the Guardian that a caretaker government led by Jeremy Corbyn may be “the lesser of two evils”. Nicola Sturgeon described it as “daft” not to talk to Corbyn.
Business and the markets may not be keen on Jeremy Corbyn but they are scared stiff about this Boris ‘fuck business’ Johnson government. The impact of No Deal will be disastrous for the Scottish economy. No responsible government can let any chance of ruling out No Deal pass and the SNP has much to gain in the subsequent general election, as preparations ramp up for a second independence referendum.
For now it is back to Corbyn to raise the stakes. He has 247 MPs so now he needs to show he can carry virtually all of them behind him. Even Leave supporting Labour MPs would be daft to vote against him because No deal will devastate the livelihoods of their constituents. Just get behind the lowest common denominator and prove Westminster has no appetite for No Deal.
Then it is back to the electorate to decide how it wants to reshape the House of Commons. How that turns out is anybody’s guess for now, but it is looking good for the SNP if the polls hold.