The media seem determined to prove its ‘Westminster bubble’ credentials today, as well as their enslavement to the right wing agenda, by continuing to focus on Labour’s supposed troubles in the Brexit/Article 50 situation – and, of course, using that to make snide or obvious digs at Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party.
The ‘Westminster bubble’ is the phenomenon of editors, reporters, pundits – and most politicians – assuming that the whole country reflects a small area around Parliament and that what applies or is perceived in that small area is valid across the country.
And, as any of us know who don’t live in that one, small area, it’s nonsense.
Saying it is one thing, but a picture paints a thousand words.
Jeremy Corbyn has an impeccable track record of being on the right side of major issues, whether that’s military action in Syria, Libya or Iraq, the fact that austerity is a political choice, talking to ‘terrorists’ in Northern Ireland before a peace deal ever looked likely or a host of things in between.
And a simple graphic – lovingly prepared with blood, sweat and tears by this writer (with a little help!) – shows that, once again and in spite of the sneers of the blinkered, he has his approach to this week’s votes/debates on the triggering of ‘Article 50’ to formally start the UK’s exit from the European Union exactly right.
That ‘simple graphic’ is the last in this article, but to best understand it I need to show you two other, equally simple, graphics first.
The first graphic shows Labour’s seats in England and Wales in dark red and the party’s target seats for the next General Election – the seats Labour can realistically aim to win in order to beat the Tories – in light red:
Because the UK’s population is concentrated in urban areas, the red areas don’t look large but they do cover a large part of the UK’s population.
The next graphic shows the areas that voted leave and remain in the referendum. Leave is in blue, remain in orange:
Again, the blue area is huge, but because densely-populated urban areas tended to vote remain, the result was quite close at 52%-48%.
And now the key graphic – which is just the above two maps superimposed, to create a new set of colours:
And it’s here that the wisdom – in fact, not just the wisdom but the absolute necessity – of Corbyn’s decision to impose a 3-line whip on his MPs is seen.
The dark purple areas are current Labour seats that voted leave. The mid purple are target areas for Labour that voted leave.
The dark orange areas are current Labour areas that voted remain; the mid-orange areas are Labour target areas that voted remain.
Pale orange and pale purple are areas that Labour would not realistically look to win.
A quick glance shows that dark purple and mid purple ‘leave’ areas hugely predominate over dark/mid orange ‘remain’.
The stark fact is that, while 75% of Tory-held constituencies voted leave, 70% of Labour-held constituencies also did.
Strong Labour areas that voted remain are still likely to stay Labour, because they’re extremely unlikely to give the time of day to Tories, let alone UKIP. Labour target seats that voted leave will not listen to a Labour party they think sneered at their referendum choice. Target seats that voted remain might not turn to Labour given Corbyn’s position on Article 50 – but there are hardly any of them compared to target/leave seats.
In other words, if Corbyn wants to retain current Labour seats and win enough of Labour’s target seats to dislodge the Tories, he cannot afford to follow the ‘Westminster bubble’ line or the ‘rebel’ Labour line of a pointless protest vote against triggering Article 50 and he must (as he genuinely does) respect the democratic outcome of the referendum. If he were perceived as disrespecting the wishes and feelings of the vast majority of those who vote – or might vote – Labour, it would sink Labour’s electoral prospects beyond trace.
And, that being the case, all he can do is play the hand he has been dealt in order to try to get the best possible Brexit for both leavers and remainers. Those who claim otherwise and cling to forlorn hopes of somehow preventing Brexit altogether are living in well-meaning but deluded electoral cloud-cuckoo land at best, and at worst, arrogant anti-democrats who hold working class people in contempt.
Voting against the Bill – especially at this early stage when nobody knows what amendments can be achieved – is not a noble, principle, moral stand, a heroic defeat.
On the contrary, to do so would be reckless, short-sighted and unthinkably irresponsible – because it would be to impose the calamity of Conservative government for years, even decades, on the UK’s 99% who are already groaning, crushed, under the burdens of Tory greed, stupidity and malevolence.
Remind me: just who is it again that’s meant to be serious about power and who’s meant to be the hopeless idealist?
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