This is Not a Game, The Single Market Must Now be Fought For!

The idea that anyone can tell us what a Leave vote represented is folly. The referendum was based upon our continued membership of the European Union, not upon what the terms of a theoretical exit would be. The idea that the 52% voted to take us out the single market, the customs union, and out of entities such as the European Court of Justice is ridiculous. Yet that is the drivel being spouted, not only by the Tories but by senior members of the Labour Party. There is no precedent for our exit from the EU whatsoever.

Because of this, Brexit is an absolute shambles. The government have absolutely no clue what they are doing and contradict each other one day to the next, and so do the opposition. The only party with clarity on these issues are the EU, and they will be licking their lips at the prospect of two years of discussions with David Davis. With a hung parliament, and the government lacking their own majority to enforce such a hard Brexit, the Labour front bench could play a divisive role in the future of our relations with the EU, and whether we stay within the single market. But alas, they are now standing back. As Rob Francis puts it quite simply, Labour and Corbyn should be leading, not following.

Labour’s stance on Brexit is, let’s face it, is anybody’s guess. Last Sunday on Andrew Marr, Jeremy Corbyn said that a Labour government would leave the single market because it is dependent on membership of the EU, which is both wrong, and harmful. Norway is one example of a country who are not in the EU but have full membership within the single market, and Corbyn knows this. By Wednesday, his Chancellor said the opposite, then Dianne Abbott mimicked this before Barry Gardiner said that we should leave both the single market and the customs union!

I do understand the arguments behind Labour not landing on one concrete position regarding Brexit, as the party hopes to capitalise on a changing public mood and Tory mistakes. But there are times when national interest comes first. Leaving the single market would be catastrophic for the UK’s economy, and even if Brexit led to a Labour government, leaving the single market would make it even harder and more treacherous for Labour to meet their manifesto spending pledges. The IFS has forecast that leaving the single market for a free trade agreement could cause a £31bn hit to the public finances, extending austerity even further.

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Time to Think the Unthinkable?

We are now less than a week away from heading to the polling booths, and suddenly, we seem to have an actual contest on our hands. Over the past month, the Tories lead has collapsed. Their average polling lead has fallen from 16% in early April, to just 5.3% now, and YouGov has even gone as far to predict a possible hung parliament at this stage. Britain Elects, who use the polls of polls average, have the Tories increasing their majority to roughly 70, but this is still a long way off the 150+ majority we looked to be heading towards just a few weeks ago. The question many are asking, could Corbyn do it?

One of the main reasons for the turn in fortunes has been both parties’ campaign performances, which like the poll turn, looked highly unlikely a few weeks ago. It’s clear that May’s campaign has damaged her reputation among the public, and the Conservative’s campaign has been to put it frank, shocking. From the lack of costings in the published manifesto, to the dreaded ‘Dementia Tax’, and the refusal to turn up at the recent live television debates, May’s impregnable brand has taken a big hit. For the first time since she took office, more Britons are dissatisfied (50%) than satisfied with her performance as PM (43%), although she does still hold a sizable lead in popularity over Corbyn.

On the other hand, Corbyn’s popularity is on the rise. Last month roughly 15% thought he’d make a better PM than May, this has grown to roughly 35% now. Whether it’s a heck of a lot of media training, unity across the Labour Party, or a willingness to adapt, it has brought improvements. Corbyn and Labour have had a positive campaign so far, although they have been given a helping hand by May and the Tories. Corbyn has shown in the past that it’s within election campaigns he seems to shine brightest, and his performances in debates has shown huge advances.

Another positive for Labour has been their manifesto. As I stated previously here, Labour’s manifesto policies have received widespread support from the public. 58% support re-nationalising the railways, water companies, and other utilities, 61% support the increase in minimum wage, 52% support increasing the top rate of tax, 64% back abolishing zero-hour contracts, 53% want universal free school meals for primary school students, and 59% back better rent control. But the truth of the matter is, we’ve seen this all before. We’ve seen much of these election signs before.

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Incompetence, or Confidence?

Although Labour’s draft manifesto was leaked somewhat early, this week was ‘Manifesto Week’, where the main parties outlined their plans, pledges, and policies for government. The Conservatives launched theirs in Halifax on Thursday, under the banner ‘Forward, Together’, representing the steps the UK takes forward as we leave the European Union in 2019. However, you only have to flip over to page 2 to see the true meaning and message of their election campaign: ‘Theresa May’s Team’. This has been a campaign built on the idea of her against Corbyn, rather than the Tories against the Labour Party.

The Manifesto certainly matched the conservatism brand of politics, but in terms of what the Conservatives stand for, and their audience, it can be argued there’s definite change. So, what were the key pledges? Those with assets over 100k will now have to pay for care out of the value of their house, immigration will be reduced to the tens of thousands, companies will be charged to employ skilled workers from outside the EU, the pension triple-lock will be scrapped, Britain will leave the single market, grammar schools reintroduced, increased funding for education and health, and corporation tax lowered.

Once again, the date to end the budget deficit has been pushed back. In 2010, we were told a surplus by 2014. By 2014, it was 2017. And now, it’s the middle of the next decade. This isn’t the only policy or pledge rehashed or pushed back. The 2015 manifesto said, “Yes to the single market”, and the 2017 manifesto says the opposite. The 2015 manifesto wanted to ‘eliminate’ child poverty, and the 2017 edition wants to ‘reduce levels’. This wasn’t on a manifesto, rather a bus, but there’s no sign of the extra £350 million a week for the NHS; just like Boris, it’s message carrier.

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An Inconvenient Truth

Earlier this week, the Labour leadership released (leaked) their draft 2017 GE manifesto, to a mixed reception, but masses of coverage. It’s definitely the case that Corbynites can’t complain about the media attention the document received, something they have been arguing for since he became the party’s leader over 18 months ago. The manifesto pleased Corbyn backers, and was very radical in terms of the re-nationalisation of entities, and investment in infrastructure, and health. It included pledges to re-nationalise the railways, Royal Mail, and the energy grid, build 100,000 new homes a year, abolish tuition fees, increase health funding, and raise the minimum wage to £10 a year.

It’s fair to say the manifesto is packed full of good ideas, and many of them have received widespread support from the public. Polls since have found that 58% support re-nationalising the railways, water companies and other utilities, 61% support the increase in minimum wage, 52% support increasing the top rate of tax, 64% back abolishing zero-hour contracts, 53% want universal free school meals for primary school students, and 59% back better rent control.

Many of the ideas will also please, and appease the left wing of the party. There will be many Corbyn supporters whose pulses will be racing at the idea of public ownership of the railways, reversals of tax cuts, abolishment of university tuition fees, and big spending pledges. But they’ll be many in the party who see it as letting down the swing voters we need to have any chance of forming a government.

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The Self-Righteous Stain Across the Left

En Marche! Tomorrow is the day that French voters head to the polls again in the second round of the Presidential election, and it’s extremely likely that once the votes are counted, Emmanuel Macron will comfortably win. Not only would it be a great result for centrist politics, echoing that of New Labour, Trudeau, Obama; but once again a fascist right wing leader with the surname Le Pen, would be defeated.

Realistically, this should be a formality. But why are many still holding off from the celebrations? Primarily, because we’ve seen this before. Many are comparing this election to that of Trumps, as well as the EU referendum, and whilst there are similarities, this would be a far greater upset. Remain led Leave by 2-3 points on the day, and Clinton by 4-5 (she still won by 3 on popular vote); but these dwarf the gap between Macron and Le Pen, which is 20+ points.

However, there is one underlying factor across all 3 scenarios, a factor that is currently sweeping across politics. The self-righteous attitude of the hard left.

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Labour must move towards the centre, and the issues that matter

As we all know, Labour’s situation is dire. We trail the Conservatives on average by 17 points in the polls, Corbyn trails May by 40%, and the electorate trust the Tories over us in key areas such as health and the economy. We are roughly 20-25 net points behind our position at this point in the last parliament, and are heading for electoral wipeout in 2020. Most of us hope and pray for the resignation and removal of Corbyn as leader, but this seems a distant dream; so we must work with what we have, and to an extent lessen the damage.

Despite the fact we have a party leader who is hugely unpopular, we have also been let down by the leaderships attitude towards engagement and the media, and their unwillingness to communicate. The last 2-3 weeks have shown a slight improvement in policy and spin, but more must be done if Labour is to stand a chance. We, as a party, are not offering hope or security to voters up and down the country, and this simply, will be election disaster.

It’s important for the left, and for Labour to focus on the issues that matter to ordinary, every-day voters. Too often the left gets distracted by abstract notions, and focus on subjects and policy that simply do not matter to swing voters when they reach the ballot. The current leadership, and the membership, need to realise that hard-left views will never win an election. Labour needs to move into the centre-left, and talk the language of those who we need to vote for us in 2020. Corbyn supporters talk of concentrating on enthusing non-voters, but this is folly. The central ground is where elections are won, and lost.

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UKIP is very much alive – and a threat!

After the by-election in Stoke Central just two weeks ago, all rejoiced in the fact that UKIP’s toxic leader, Paul Nuttall, had been defeated, but Jeremy Corbyn, as well as other Labour Party members, even went as far as to declare that UKIP were finished.

The by-election itself was arguably all about Nuttall, and UKIP. He, the Labour Party, and the whole country knew this would be a crucial campaign; even Farage called it incredibly vital to future of UKIP. Now that Brexit had been achieved, would UKIP fade slowly into irrelevance? Would it even become more of a social movement, using populism on other right wing issues? Or would it maintain its core support with its anti-establishment rhetoric, even increase its share? If UKIP and Nuttall could pull off a victory and take the seat, it would have meant their threat to the Labour heartlands was very much real, and would show they have clear support, even after Brexit.

As we know, UKIP and Nuttall didn’t take the seat, but for Corbyn and the Labour Party to rationalise this as being the end of UKIP was a big mistake, and here’s why.

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