Corbyn has turned his back on his beliefs

Why has this Bennite Eurosceptic become so anti-Brexit?

Michael Northcott

Topics Brexit Politics UK

Back in the early Nineties, a younger, beardier Jeremy Corbyn would stand up in the House of Commons and say things like this, from 1993: ‘Does my honourable friend [then Labour leader John Smith] recognise that the imposition of a bankers’ Europe on the people of this continent will endanger the cause of socialism in the United Kingdom and in any other country?’

For decades this was typical of the now Labour leader’s view of Europe: the EU was an ‘imposition’ on Britain and a ‘danger’ to its people – adjectives straight from the lexicon of today’s Brexiteers. He rightly thought that transferring more and more power to Brussels represented a serious obstacle to the socialist agenda he and his fellow Labour leftists, including his mentor Tony Benn, yearned to pursue in Britain.

Fast forward almost three decades, and the greyer, more smartly dressed Corbyn is within a whisker of No10. But the assertive anti-EU statements have made way for something more insipid — namely, a political skill which is best described as ‘tactical equivocation’. By feigning indecision on whether he’s for Leave or Remain, he is trying to reconcile the pro-EU grassroots support that made him leader with his lifelong Euroscepticism. The man of iron-leftist and Bennite principle has been hamstrung by realpolitik, or so the story goes.

I propose a different reading of Corbyn’s Brexit position.

To listen to Corbyn in the House of Commons today is to hear a man whose conviction has waned. He warns of a ‘race to the bottom on standards’, and the creation of a ‘tax haven off the coast of Europe’, which he claims the Tories will pursue in the event of a No Deal Brexit. And he helps design traps to prevent the government being able to negotiate properly for a deal, including taking No Deal off the table through the so-called ‘Benn Act’, a grotesquely ironic nickname for an anti-Brexit law that would have Tony spinning in his grave.

It is a spectacular volte face on Corbyn’s part. The man who might once have championed the socialist possibilities of a nation outside the bankers’ Europe has now turned his back on precisely those possibilities. He has aligned himself with those who fear that, if the British once again govern themselves, the liberal orthodoxy will come under real electoral scrutiny.

It is this scrutiny that today’s Remainiac defenders of the status quo have long been able to avoid. For decades, a whole range of policy positions on anything from freedom of movement to climate change have all been the preserve of the EU. This has meant that too many politicians have grown comfortable not having to argue for these positions. The EU has stood as a buffer between MPs and the electorate, because parliament can just say: ‘We don’t have any say over it anyway.’

After Brexit, these policy areas will become fair electoral game, the objects of debate and argument – and this scares the living daylights out of Remain MPs. They know, in their heart of hearts, that voters have had enough of some of this stuff. Power returning to Westminster is therefore a dangerous proposition – for the first time in years, the high priests of liberal metropolitanism know they might not be able to hang on to it. Without the EU to cordon off policymaking areas from the influence of the electorate, precious aspects of Remainers’ worldview will finally be up for debate. Hence they are doing anything and everything to preserve the EU-endorsed status quo.

This is why they routinely write off Brexit voters as bigots and racists because some had the temerity to object to high levels of immigration. This is why they collude with EU technocrats to bind the hands of their own nation’s negotiators. This is why they call for a second referendum, with Remain on the ballot paper, to silence and override the decision of the electorate.

All of which makes Corbyn’s waning of conviction and subsequent alliance with Remain so tragic. He hasn’t reconciled his past Euroscepticism with the demands of a Remainer-dominated Labour Party. No, he has turned against everything he once stood for. His great idol Tony Benn often said there are five essential questions to be asked of those in power, one of which was, ‘How do we get rid of you?’. Corbyn, the Remainer MPs and all those seeking to preserve the EU’s power over us now have one answer: ‘You can’t.’

Michael Northcott is a writer.

Picture by: Getty.

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Modern Money

17th October 2019 at 8:34 am

It is all politics. The geographical political landscape.

He is surrounded in Scotland by Remain voters.

He knows to have a chance he has to win Seats in Scotland.

The liberal left have finally found a way to get rid of him. They tried and tried and tried to get rid of him as he started to purge the liberal left from the party – The blairites. Without success.

Brexit is how the liberal left will get rid of Corbyn. Because he has moved from his position he will get destroyed at the next election then a neoliberal will take his place. A Blairite who lost Labour all of Scotland and the North of England with their neoliberal policies.

Michael Lynch

9th October 2019 at 7:56 pm

The perennial protester has met with the reality of power and the two are incompatible. He is also an old school socialist that has nothing in common with most of the Party he leads. Labour looks to be very much a party in its death throes and we were robbed of watching it fall apart at its own conference by the High Court judgement.

antoni orgill

9th October 2019 at 11:00 am

Yeah, but where does comparing Corbyn to Benn get us? Frankly, nowhere. “How do we get rid of you?” LOL

Asif Qadir

9th October 2019 at 3:16 pm

I’ve actually got some idea’s, my dungeon-bitch.

If Jerry Oven-loser is still here for much longer, then he’s obviously a masochist like you.

Jim Lawrie

9th October 2019 at 10:59 am

A leader would have purged the Parliamentary Labour Party of his usupers. He had the mandate to do so. He did not because if deselected, they would still be there for 5yrs as Theresa said she would not call an election and he swallowed it.

It is fitting that he is hemmed in by enemies who did not accept the result of an election and has now been forced to abandon his own mandates.
The mass support in his Party want socialism within Europe, the very thing that cannot be delivered, but that Corbyn did not raise with them, because, as the article makes clear, he and they are not used to arguing for any position.

H McLean

9th October 2019 at 10:36 am

Surely this is hardly surprising, seeing the defining characteristic of the modern socialist is a willingness to abandon any principled stance if it becomes even slightly inconvenient. Whether it’s protesting climate change – which only really happens when the left are in opposition – or men being victims of partner abuse, or unjust wars, or banning words and enacting hate speech laws, or anything else you can think of, really, a leftist will always abandon reason and embrace wilful ignorance if it makes their path to power any easier. Because ‘power by any means necessary’ is all the left truly stands for now.

Their lack of reason and desertion of basic principles is why I stopped considering myself of the left. If you ask what they think of a particular crime, law or incident, their response if always contingent on the identity of the person who committed the crime. Their principles are fluid. This is why society cannot have an honest and open conversation about the racial aspect of violence (London for knives, the USA for guns) or family court bias against men in all western countries, for example.

Francesco Lucibello

9th October 2019 at 10:13 am

Yep, Corbyn has bottled it alright. But he is a social-democratic and social democracy all over Europe has sold out. See the following list of shame. PS (France) SPD (Germany) PASOK and Syriza (Greece) Democratic Party (Italy) … and so forth. The Labour party is now party of the Remainer centre-right/centre-left mish-mash. A party which embraces identity politics and a watered down neoliberal agenda. A party which is a loyal supporter of NATO, the IMF, WTO, World Bank and all the other institutions of globalist capitalism. Labour is now a technocratic, middle-class, cosmopolitan without a political idea or principle in its collective head. It’s time has gone, it is now part of the problem, not the solution.

Jim Lawrie

9th October 2019 at 11:32 am

Labour are fighting Lib-Dem for the metropolitan, liberal, middle class vote. That demographic have to decide who will stoke up the national debt the most in order to keep them comfortable. Trouble is, the coalman has to be paid, and if he is not, he will cut off the supply.

John Millson

9th October 2019 at 9:05 am

Corbyn as Labour Leader is a mistake. The great equivocator, kept in place by same self-centered, grass-roots, idiots without any political nous, who voted for him in Sept 2015.
With a more mainstream leader, without an ‘illustrious past’, i.e. someone electable, May would have had less reason to not reach out and include the official Opposition in Brexit planning and negotiation.
Her withdrawal agreement would have got through with the help of the Labour Party and the UK would now be on its way out of the EU, relatively painlessly.
Corbyn’s election has alot to answer for. How he has or hasn’t modified his views on the EU over the decades is irrelevant. He was always going to be a liability. And he knows it.

Steve Roberts

9th October 2019 at 8:30 am

Northcott like many others is making a fundamental mistake here with regard to Corbyn and is also spreading the idea that no person in the past, present or future who wishes to be our representative can ever be trusted.
This then obviously becomes a serious problem that leads to cynicism and apathy, it effectively says that all none of us are infallible, we will eventually “sell out” or succumb to the “riches” we will be bought in some way by the system.
There is of course some truth in that, indeed it has been the case for many individuals, that is the reality and is part of people demanding change from the norm, enough is enough, but to prevent that happening in the future there will need to be more vigilance from the electorate, but also some instrumental means to recall and control any representative as we wish, that is a basic democratic demand that is necessary to control those who stray from our decisions and defy us.
However it is vital that we understand that beyond the fallibility or personal weaknesses there is something much more insidious that leads to this “selling out” and that is that it isn’t that at all,when unpicked it is the logical consequence of the political ideas that individuals, like Corbyn hold, and have always held.
While appearing radical and “leftist” they are nothing of the sort, it is only when, like the elite themselves, the status quo is really challenged ,as the referendum result has, that we discover which side of the fence these “leftists” really are on, they have to jump away from their words and posturing and make an action because that is the necessity.
Corbyn et al have done exactly that, for me there is no surprise, no tragedy, no sorrow or disbelief that this has happened, Corbyn and his lackeys in the wider labour movement have joined against us all and taken sides with the establishment, it was always going to be so, it is time now that this is more widely understood and allow it to inform our approach to these “leftists” and others.

Jim Lawrie

9th October 2019 at 11:14 am

The article is about Corbyn and his past. It is not “also spreading the idea that no person in the past, present or future who wishes to be our representative can ever be trusted.”. That is your straw man for an opener upon which you piggy back your whole post. Why do you use the term “also spreading”? What is the “fundamental mistake about Corbyn”?

Corbyn’s weakness and vacillation exactly reflect how he came to power – by keeping quiet about what mattered.

Asif Qadir

9th October 2019 at 3:30 pm

Ura tool, Peeved Goobbett’s.

How about giving account of ur lies for once.

Jerry Owen

9th October 2019 at 8:08 am

Tony Benn
A socialist for the fair minded thinking socialist … A dying breed .
It mustn’t ever be forgotten that Corbyn has some odious
bedfellows. One of the reasons he comes across as a shallow opposition leader is because if his true colours were widely known, he would be even less electable than he already is.
Scratch below his shallow surface and nasty stuff can be found .

Anna Borrence

9th October 2019 at 3:27 pm

You decided to defy me.

Asif Qadir

9th October 2019 at 3:31 pm

You can be here, Oven-creep..but yu can’t. Thats how it is for you.

Andrew Best

9th October 2019 at 7:09 am

I am poor, working class, white and english. Keir starmer is my local labour MP, a rich, upper middle class, European. No idea what it is to be working class and this man represents me and every other persons know?
The labour party is a joke

a watson

9th October 2019 at 9:38 am

Local working people, especially men, have been carefully excluded from the London Labour party at a local level over many years. Patronised and feared.

a watson

9th October 2019 at 9:49 am

And housing policies pursued to enrich themselves and their friends and force working families out whilst squeezing more and more impoverished immigrants into ‘social’ housing into once well run communities.

Warren Alexander

9th October 2019 at 9:38 am

I hope you’re not suggesting the Sir Kier Starmer, QC, Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, is not qualified to know better than you how you should live your life? You’ll next be suggesting that his grand title isn’t appropriate for a man who claims to be a socialist.

Winston Stanley

9th October 2019 at 10:20 am

Clown. An imaginary commander. Of imaginary knights. In an imaginary order.

/ face palm

Do you think that he has official long stocking to go with his garters?

Sounds more like a bizarre bedroom fantasy. “Command me, sir knight, command me.”

Some blokes never grow up.


9th October 2019 at 2:18 pm

British titles are absurd, alluding to some imaginary British Empire existing only in the rabid fantasies of Essex Man. Get rid of them, and get rid of the unelected parasite in Buckingham Palace and her dreadful family of wealth scroungers.

Andy Wells

9th October 2019 at 12:22 am

To save people googling it, Benn’s five “essential questions of democracy” were : “What power have you got?”, “Where did you get it from?”, “In whose interests do you use it?”, “To whom are you accountable?”, “How do we get rid of you?”. God I miss him.

Jim Lawrie

9th October 2019 at 10:42 am

The Supreme Court Judges would be outed by those tests.

1. Unlimited.
2. We assume and usrp.
3. Us and ours.
4. No-one.
5. You cannot.

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