Labour as we knew it is no more

Labour Leave’s Brendan Chilton on this day of Brexit betrayal.

Brendan Chilton

Topics Brexit Politics UK

In an extraordinary and unprecedented u-turn, the Labour Party announced today that it would campaign for Remain in a future EU referendum. This is despite the 2017 manifesto promise, written in ink, to accept the outcome of the original 2016 referendum. This follows three years of campaigning by those within the Labour movement who refused to accept the referendum result. They piled enormous pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to change Labour’s stance. Today he buckled to those very same people who a few years ago were challenging him for his leadership of the party.

Today is a tragic day in the Labour Party’s history, and a fatal day for British democracy. It is, potentially, the beginning of the end of the Labour Party as we know it. Labour continues to spiral downwards in the opinion polls, despite Labour MPs from the Leave-voting Midlands and north making a gallant last stand in the defence of democracy, and for the preservation of Labour as a party of the working man and woman. Their efforts may be too late to save Labour from a possible catastrophic defeat at the next election.

The British people voted for the Labour Party in their millions in 2017, in the knowledge that the party accepted the outcome of the referendum. Labour was able to deprive the Tories of a majority in part because of the stance it took on leaving the European Union. Four million Labour Leave voters stayed loyal to Labour, and despite great concerns about the party’s commitment to Brexit, they voted for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. A Europhile Labour Party has now discounted their loyalty and trust. Many will now be looking elsewhere, seeking political representation through other parties that share their views.

The victorious Remain campaign within the Labour Party will be celebrating today, but its jubilation will be short-lived. The Brexit Party and the Boris Johnson leadership campaign will be the other people celebrating today. They probably cannot believe their luck. Having already breached the outer perimeter walls of fort Labour in the European elections, the Brexit Party will now march full speed into the void left in the Labour heartlands. There is nothing there to stop them. Swathes of constituencies, dominated by working-class Leave voters, are now ripe for the picking as Labour finally abandons its core.

Seventy per cent of Labour constituencies at the time of the 2016 referendum voted to leave the European Union. Support for Brexit was highest among the lowest socioeconomic classes within our society. A majority of Labour’s most marginal seats voted Leave and a majority of the seats Labour needs to win in order to form a government also voted Leave. Those seats are now beyond reach, as Labour returns to the protective shield of the M25. Who will stand up for the working classes of England now? Who will represent the millions of our poorest people who voted in the hope of a better future outside the European Union?

We are witnessing the splintering of party politics in the United Kingdom. Labour’s old alliance of middle-class professionals and working-class voters is broken. It is, perhaps, now beyond repair. That century-old party that brought about great social, economic and political advances for ordinary men and women has succumbed to the will of the British Remain establishment. So many European social-democratic parties who pursued the same metropolitan demographic and political agenda have fallen into history. Labour, following this same path now, risks its very existence as a major party in British politics.

The Red Flag, the old and famous symbol of labour social democracy, internationalism and working-class representation has been tattered and torn down. In its place, the blue flag studded with yellow stars has been hoisted over the Labour and trade-union movement. Capital has beaten labour. The bosses have beaten the workers. Europe has beaten democracy. The establishment has won. When history is written, it will record a peculiar paradox: that the party that was established to challenge the elites was ultimately the party that knelt before our masters and propped up the old order.

Brendan Chilton is director of Labour Future and co-author of 30 Truths About Leaving on WTO Terms.

Picture by: Getty.