Corbyn’s Brexit surprise is a leadership masterstroke and masterclass


On Tuesday 10 Jan 2017, Jeremy Corbyn will deliver a speech in the marginal, Tory-held, strongly pro-Brexit constituency of Peterborough, in which he will outline his vision for the UK’s impending exit from the European Union.

Corbyn will tell his audience and those watching or reading via the media that Labour wants ‘managed migration‘ and to repatriate powers from Brussels to be able to intervene when necessary in struggling industries.

He will also outline his positive vision for a post-Brexit Britain that can be better off than it was as an EU country. In this he has already started, and will continue, to draw fire from strongly pro-Remain right-wingers in the Labour party – but in fact this speech represents both a masterstroke and a masterclass in real leadership and political intelligence.

In one speech, he is putting all of his opponents on the back foot and laying bare their lack of conviction, vision and courage:

The ‘moderates’

Labour’s mis-named parliamentary ‘moderates’ have not hesitated to bleat about Corbyn’s supposed lack, and Labour’s under him, of a coherent ‘position’ on Brexit.

They will bleat now about his positive words and position – they will bleat no matter what – so he has nothing to lose by laying out a positive vision of the future of the country post-Brexit, which, for all the wrongs of the way it was achieved, is now a political fact that it can only be damaging for the country and the party to deny.

What’s more, for all their bleating the right-wingers have not even the semblance of a coherent position on the matter. Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader and ‘chickencoup’/’Project Anaconda’ architect, has run scared from the topic, refusing to give even the outline of a stance on, for example, immigration, when asked about it during a Sky interview last weekend:

watson sky.png

Let’s wait and see what Theresa May comes up with.

Wow. “Let’s wait and see”. There’s nothing like decisive leadership – and that is nothing like decisive leadership.

By contrast, Corbyn’s willingness to step out – in other words, to lead – shows strength, decisiveness and the strength of character his supporters love and his enemies lack.

The Tories

Just like Watson and his like in the Labour party, Theresa May has shown nothing but dithering – with the added gravy of ever more ridiculous and meaningless soundbites. When ‘Brexit means Brexit’ finally became too embarrassingly vacuous, the best she could come up with was ‘red, white and blue Brexit’ as she lurched from emptiness to outright inanity.

Not only that, but by failing to give even a hint of an actual answer to questions from Corbyn at PMQs, or to anyone for that matter, about her government’s priorities for the Brexit negotiations, she has shown herself to be not only weak but terrified – and doing a woeful job of masking it.


‘We want to get the best possible deal’ is just as vapid as ‘Brexit means Brexit’, because ‘the best possible’ might be absolutely awful. The best possible deal an unskilled negotiator achieves versus a skilled negotiator is likely to be very bad indeed – and, as the outgoing UK ambassador to the EU admitted in his goodbye letter to staff,

Serious multilateral negotiating experience is in short supply in Whitehall, and that is not the case in the Commission or in the Council.

By refusing to give an indication about which is more important to the Tory government – control over immigration or access to the single European market – Theresa May puts herself in the position of ‘doing the splits’ across two mutually exclusive and widely separated stools.

By failing to take any position, she pleases neither business nor communities worried about job security, living standards and access to services. By trying not to displease anyone, she pleases no one.

Corbyn’s speech will embarrass a Prime Minister desperate not to name a priority for fear of being seen not to achieve it and terrified of estranging either her otherwise-natural constituency among business leaders or the electorate she hopes to continue fooling into supporting her.

The media

The majority of the media being anti-Corbyn, they are desperate above all – with the collusion of the Labour right – to portray him as indecisive or, even better, absent. What they do not want is to have to tell people what he actually thinks and plans – especially when that position is likely to resonate better with their readers than their own bias or the dithering of their political pets.

By this speech – by just giving voice to the words ‘managed migration’, Corbyn will put the billionaire-owned press and Tory-suborned BBC in a quandary: communicate his words to readers/viewers – or ignore them but in doing so expose their agenda to those readers/viewers in terms they can clearly grasp because they are words many of them want to hear.

In putting the three constituencies of his opponents on the back foot, Corbyn clears a route to reaching the one constituency he needs to reach:

The electorate

In a nation that split 52/48 on the EU issue and has probably become even tighter after the Leave campaigns’ lies about NHS spending etc, trying to ‘please all of the people all of the time’ would be a ‘Brexercise’ in futility.

Some will not be thrilled at the concept of ‘managed migration’. Some will love it. But the majority in both camps is likely to be thrilled that a political leader is actually grasping the nettle – and doing so in positive terms about Britain’s future, without the racism of Farage and others.

Doing so – especially being the only one to do so – shows Corbyn’s strength of character and leadership qualities, as well as playing to his authentic ‘insurgent’, anti-Establishment credentials.

By giving them a metaphorical ‘black eye’ with his punchy, fearless speech on a topic the Establishment is pussyfooting around, Corbyn is showing himself to be both better than and distinct from that Establishment.

And that’s a language that will resonate with the majority of people outside that Establishment – on both sides of the Brexit debate – which will make waves and win votes, even in places like Peterborough.

Like I said: a masterstroke and a masterclass.

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  1. I personally, am anything but right wing. To be labelled as such, is an affront every bit as reprehensible as the narrative offered by those who happen to be so!
    Drop the sensationalism and hide the ‘tar brush’

  2. So far the announcement seems to be an attempt to deal with the reasons why people have little option but to migrate to escape poverty and exclusion in the countries of their birth – low wages, no representation – and to stop pitting worker against worker in a market led world. The plans to control UK industry by abandoning the free marker approach of the EU seem sensible. Of course, this announcement will spun both ways by the right wing of the UK – ‘a backtrack, a sell-out, an abandonment of socialist principles’ and the like. Personally, I’d like to see global socialism go further to force countries where people have little choice but to move to survive to abandon the neoliberal consensus that drives that.

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