The real story of EU(W) vote is Labour’s unity – and a few craven abstainers

The right-wing media are, predictably, making much of supposed Labour division over the government’s EU withdrawal bill last night, as a number of MPs broke the whip to support the bill, which Keir Starmer and others have rightly identified as dangerously facilitating a power-grab by an unscrupulous government – which of course the current one is.

Left-wing Labour members have been particularly troubled by the decision of veteran Dennis Skinner, joined by long-serving socialist Ronnie Campbell, to cast his vote in favour.

This consternation is understandable, but so are those votes – both men have a long history of opposition to the EU and would be likely to vote on principle for anything against it. Even the likes of the right-wing and disliked Frank Field can be respected for consistency, having campaigned to leave the EU.

However, the MPs who seem abstained last night are a different matter – and the list includes some of the most entrenched and unlikeable ‘Usual Suspects’.

usual suspects.png

Six Labour MPs abstained last night, apparently not considering the damaging ‘Henry VIII clause’, which allows the government unilateral power to change laws, important enough to vote against – but without the courage of conviction to vote for it:

Ian Austin
John Spellar
Caroline Flint
Kevan Jones
Helen Jones
Kevin Barron

Or simply wishing, in spite – or because – of Labour’s polling lead, to undermine Corbyn without being willing to actually take a stand.

Seen from a commonsense perspective the stand-out story of last night was, in fact, Labour’s unity, with only a handful of MPs voting for the bill and a craven half-dozen abstaining. That the vast majority of previous rebels got in line shows Corbyn’s strength drawn from the massive support of the membership and the ‘Corbyn surge’ at the ballot box.

Those who voted for the bill last night have a number of mitigating circumstances, including long-held principles and – especially – the fact that last night was an unwinnable vote: no Tories were going to rebel against the government at this stage, when they still hope to achieve amendments. Even the deeply pro-EU Conservative Ken Clarke could only bring himself to abstain on the main vote.

Those Labour MPs who abstained showed only a willingness or even eagerness to provide the Tories with a propaganda victory without even the mitigation of deeply-held principle.

But the vast majority of MPs, including previously implacable opponents, got in line behind Jeremy Corbyn even in an unwinnable vote – however much the mainstream media tries to divert our attention away from it.

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  2. As someone on the left, I was one of those who originally disagreed with joining the EEC because of our dishonest intention to compete and undercut Europe with our low wage economy. As the EU became a more socially orientated group with standards being raised all around, particularly because of freedom of movement, I became convinced that, even though it can be improved, in general we all benefit.

    The obsession with leaving the EU was mainly driven by the ‘Little Englanders’ and the far right such as Farage. Could anyone therefore please explain to me a convincing ‘left’ case for leaving?

    1. Due you know how many EU states have above the median EU average salary?

      Just 5. including of course the UK, France and Germany.

      The rest of the EU member states have considerably less average salaries and considerably less GDPs. Poorer states are haemorraging literally millions of their best workers to richer EU states.

      Our gain comes at the loss of the poorest states in Europe. This damages their economies and prevents the economic growth of poorer EU states.

      You are presenting an essentially nationalist “Little Englander” argument.

      Freedom of movement under current conditions is arguably not freedom at all, it is economic coercion of movement.

      I am in favour of the freedom of movement policy in principle, but it will only be sustainable and non-damaging to poorer states if there is an approximate parity of average wages across the EU.

      1. I remember when our workers went to places like Germany to earn better wages, there was no coercion at all, nor is there now. EU workers come here and many of them send money back to their families to help raise their standards at home. It helps to even up standards across the EU which in turn creates a larger market, It’s a win win but it will not happen overnight.

        Why on earth would poorer counties want richer ones, which help to sustain and increase standards, to leave the community, it makes no sense?

        As standards rise, parity of wages will follow then there is no advantage for workers to travel abroad and migration for purely economic reasons will be reduced, in the same way that British workers are not tempted abroad as they once were.

      2. I spent most of last year in Poland, and I saw how their country is flourishing with its lost population. Wages have risen by 23% in the same period we lost 10%. Their infrastructure is undergoing a huge shift forward and they are generally optimistic in a way that we haven’t been for a long time. The EU is of massive benefit to them and returning workers are bringing back language skills and new ways of running an economy and a state. I didn’t meet a single person who thought otherwise (though some of the farmers preferred the old Communist days.)

    2. It’s always ‘little Englanders’ eh Jack !! What about the little Europeans like yourself wanting to live in a protectionist Europe closed to the world, the Brexit group are actually the ‘big worlders’ while your own bias precludes you from the realisation you are the ‘little Europers’, something which when raised by my self several times, your crew seems not to have any sensible answer to !!

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