Analysis comment

Video: 2016 Corbyn v Smith clip shows anti-Corbyn ‘centrists’ have learned nothing on EU debate in years

Smith’s attempt to attack Corbyn’s effort in EU referendum campaign ended in embarrassment – but so-called ‘centrists’ appear to have learned no lessons

A video of a debate from the Labour leadership campaign almost exactly three years ago has demonstrated that the tactics of so-called ‘centrists’ to attack Jeremy Corbyn over Brexit haven’t changed since the immediate aftermath of the ‘leave’ vote in the EU referendum.

The clip, from one of the broadcast leadership debates between Corbyn and challenger Owen Smith, shows Smith attempting to attack Corbyn’s effort and commitment in the referendum campaign – and failing humiliatingly:

Smith’s repeated question whether Corbyn voted ‘in’, when he knew the answer all along, was embarrassing enough – but when he accused Corbyn of ‘only’ arguing for protecting workers’ rights he merely exposed his own right-wing, insular, hypocritical outlook.

And the laughter of the audience at his comeuppance demonstrated what they thought of it.

A map illustrating the extent and intensity of Corbyn’s 2016 referendum campaign

Switch to the present and we see LibDem leader Jo Swinson attempting exactly the same tactic of attacking Corbyn’s efforts in the referendum campaign – yet suffering a humiliating pratfall when her own near-complete lack of activity was revealed along with that of her party.

Swinson was also exposed as a hypocrite when she immediately contradicted her own claim she would do ‘whatever it takes’ to stop a no-deal Brexit, yet said she wouldn’t work with Corbyn to do just that. The sense of hypocrisy was deepened by reports that she has been holding a ‘series’ of talks with no-deal enthusiast Boris Johnson.

Swinson’s fall, however, hasn’t prevented other so-called ‘centrists’ repeating the same nonsense.

Three long years have passed since the debate in which Corbyn politely humiliated Owen Smith, yet it’s clear that ‘centrists’ have learned nothing – and not just in their attacks on the only politician actually fighting for the best for ‘the many’, whether they voted leave or remain.

Poll: Would Jo Swinson and the LibDems prop up the Tories again? Have your say here.

The SKWAWKBOX needs your support. This blog is provided free of charge but depends on the generosity of its readers to be viable. If you can afford to, please click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal or here for a monthly donation via GoCardless. Thanks for your solidarity so this blog can keep bringing you information the Establishment would prefer you not to know about.

If you wish to reblog this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.


  1. The video won’t play for me on either Chrome or Firefox. Broken link or incorrect format?

    1. Kevin, SB’s videos stopped playing in Chrome for me after it last updated a few months ago so I switched back to Firefox (updated to version 68.0.2 for x64) and they play fine. It comes with OpenH264 Video Codec auto-enabled – maybe check your settings?
      If it helps I can check whether disabling it causes video to fail. Let me know? Restart after such a change might be required and I’m a bit lazy.

  2. Well…We all know what the membership wants with our own backstabbing mps…..Get rid!

  3. God Owen was a poor bit of a thing wasn’t he. Obviously he was only a stalking horse anyway, but still… you’d think Progress et al could’ve come up with a better one than that.

    1. Like who ffs? Not saying he’s better than any of the other tossers – there’s not one I’d hire as a part time lollipop man – but a challenger to JC? Pffft.

    2. The one behind…..smify is the one to be wary of…..pretend socialist Lisa Nandy mp for Wigan…..watched this corrosive mp and will be difficult to get rid of…..very deceitful and works the abandoned by Labour Westminster theme at every chance…….its going to be a difficult whilst she plays Im just an ordinary mill town girl,and continually plots to get rid of Corbyn……..poison!for the Labour party,and one on my list of dangerous traitors who has a lot of supporters!.

  4. This fanboy twaddle from Skwarkbox treats the EU as if it were an organisation strangely detached from the class struggle (“fighting for the best of the ‘many’ whether they voted leave or remain”). This now appears to be the settled line of some Corbynistas. The EU is treated as an endlessly irritating distraction from the battle for the interests of “the many”.

    The “analysis” touchingly treats the EU as neutral when it is nothing of the sort. It came into being – as the EEC – not merely to prevent Soviet domination but also in order to defeat European socialism. This is precisely what the Four Freedoms do. They are set above politics and set above national law for the benefit of European capitalists. Even the free movement of (overwhelmingly white) persons – so beloved of middle class left-liberals – is in essence an unlimited labour supply for the benefit of capitalism. But the unlimited labour supply afflicts the working class wholly disproportionately and no doubt the overwhelmingly middle class Labour Party members won’t really give a toss.

    There is also the widely-ignored fifth freedom – the freedom of European corporations to establish branches and subsidiaries in every Member State. This creates an ECONOMY-WIDE presumption against nationalisation IN ANY SECTOR, since public monopoly frustrates the free movement of private corporations. It is essentially a law against socialism. Again, not something that will cause the overwhelmingly left-liberal, non-socialist Labour Party “left-wingers” to lose much sleep.

    Since – like EU membership – membership of the European Economic Area and a Canada style agreement both limit public ownership in very drastic ways, the only democratic socialist solution is actually – horror of horror – the No Deal Brexit which the Left says should be taken off the table. At a deeper level what the contemporary Labour Left wants taken off the table is any radical reform of our economy and society.

    1. Not being the righteous socialist that you are I remeber the time before the EU, it wasn’t good, the rise in standards was marked, the time it started going backwards was the big bang created by Thatcher and Reagan, the fact our own governments of all hues have reversed those early gains, at least there are protections and yes they need tightened but I am terrifyed that those workers of the future will have to bear the dreadful conditions after Brexit that was part of my early working life.

      1. True TC, Danny’s full of it, professor or not.
        Deregulation of finance and autotrading caused the fast rise of neoliberalism that caused the ‘free’ markets that caused the gambling that caused the bubble that Thatch built that burst in the crash.
        The EU just jumped on the bandwagon of staggeringly huge and quick profits ‘earned’ by moving money around – instead of bothering with all that vulgar, sweaty effort it takes to make useful stuff.

        Lawyers and beancounters joined the feast too, servicing the new 1%, so they’ll defend the fuckers all day long…

        The day after the big bang it was too late for a single nation or market to turn back – business is competitive and anyone not running fast enough gets trampled – and free money is surprisingly addictive.
        Brown was a fucking idiot not to see the bubble for what it was and a criminal idiot to let the Tories get away with the “Labour overspending” nonsense.
        Now the pretentious, hubris-filled balloon who believed he’d “cured boom and bust” thinks himself an elder statesman ffs.
        Oh – and in general terms those who can’t do … profess.

    2. Wow, the EU really had Corbyn’s trousers down then, didn’t they, Professor Danny?
      One little thing … why do the hard right Tories want out so much when being in the EU guarantees them no socialism for ever and ever?
      Doing my poor head in to think that brexit suits the hard right and the only real, genuine lefties – you and pinkpinny – that you’re partners in brexit.
      Explain this apparent contradiction for us poor ineddicated dolts please?

      1. OK, Let’s treat the buffoonish, David McNiven’s, no doubt purely rhetorical “question” as a serious enquiry, ie, ” why do the hard right Tories want out so much when being in the EU guarantees them no socialism for ever and ever?” . Well, not ALL Right Wing Tories by any means – much of UK non financial Big Business, and that VERY long-view, leading ideologue of the entire post 1979 Thatcherite neoliberal “revolution” against postwar “welfare mixed economy capitalism”, Oliver Letwin MP, DO grasp that the EU is indeed the perfect vehicle for UK and European, and global neoliberal advance. Hence his soid support for staying IN.

        The Tory Brexiter enthusiasts however are a very mixed bunch indeed, with very different, in some cases, mutually contradictory, objectives and motivations .

        To explain. A large group of Tory Brexiters, most of the rank and file members, are lower middle class people seeking a return to some sort of 1920’s la la land, in which Great Britain was a major power, traded with its empire on highly favourable terms, and a UK in which the overwhelming majority of the population where white. Then there is the mass of traditional working class Tories – ever increasingly crushed in their wages and conditions by unlimited labour supply, alienated by multicultural Britain, afraid that the Daily Mail image of a powerful , law abiding, Britain as a major power , is now collapsing, and partly correctly, partly wrongly , seeing the EU as an alien dominating force over UK national sovereignty. This working class grouping share many of the same pressures from neoliberalism, and similar worries as much of the Labour voter Leaver supporting cohort – but with Labour voters less entranced by xenophobia and racism.

        Then we have the Tory Parliamentary globalist neoliberal Brexiter fanatics – feeding off the power mistakenly given them by the pro Brexit Tory rank and file in the constituencies – but actually pursuing a completely different, short termist set of objectives to their gullible rank and file supporters. Crudely put, most of the Tory MP Brexiter fanatics, from international financial speculator, Rees Mogg, to those many MP creatures of the US Big Business Health and food and interests, and the billionaire-funded US Right Wing “Think Tanks” funded by the likes of the Koch Brothers, to the generality of Tory MPs in a party utterly dependent individually and as a Party machine, on huge donations from speculative hedge funds , are simply entirely corrupt, bought , creatures of these globalist, US-led, capitalist interests. They want a offshore tx haven UK, with an unregulated financial spiv economy, and a shift in UK trading policy to benefit the chlorinated chicken , GM food, NHS privatising, objectives , and currency speculating quick returns, of their US backers – with no interest in the long term future of the UK. They just want a rapid personal pay-back from their backers for “services rendered” in delivering the UK into a US-led globalist neoliberal hell-hole.

        The EU would, in time, deliver the whole of Europe into a similar neoliberal hell-hole in a much longer timescale – but the speculator backers of the Tory MPs are men and women in a hurry . Unlike a much longer term strategist like Oliver Letwin and his section of the UK capitalist class – who have thrown in their lot with the EU’s neoliberal programme, and the European, as opposed to the US, trading bloc. The Tory rank and file members are of course being totally betrayed by their current “hero”, Boris Johnson, and his merry band of spiv, “Ayn Randist” psycho neoliberals, in his Cabinet.

        I know this is all very complicated for someone as intellectually limited as yourself, McNiven, but then politics and the many different aspects of Brexit, are very complex . That the Labour PLP and most of its Party membership seem to be completely onside with Oliver Letwin , the CBI, and UK Big Business generally (the TUC certainly is) in totally uncritical fandom for the EU as unreformed in any way, just demonstrates the intellectual poverty of the Left Liberal dominated modern Labour Party.

        Go on then, simpleton McNiven, you can now refute this entire argument with your usual, highly informative, fact-full, riposte of , “that’s bollocks” !

      2. Dearie me, timfrom, the entirely polite, fact based, comments of Danny, are obviously too much for your tiny, immature brain to handle . So you fall back on purile abuse. Sad that so many Left Liberals, who think they are just soooooo Left Wing, get so upset when they are forced to face real socialist arguments backed by real facts, beyond their sloganized limited “Corbynista fanboy” mindset. No wonder you fear Danny’s regular comments on Skwawkbox, and wish he would just “go away”.

      3. You’ve described the idiocy, corruption and self-interest of the variously-motivated Tory brexiteers almost adequately and you’ve accurately described the consequence of brexit as “delivering the UK into a US-led globalist neoliberal hell-hole.”

        None of which is news to anyone here, ‘professor’.
        What you haven’t explained is how brexit closely followed by a neoliberal hell-hole benefits the many.
        Or why eejits like you favour such a ridiculously suicidal course of action.

        The remain alternative you describe as “deliver[ing] the whole of Europe into a similar neoliberal hell-hole in a much longer timescale.”

        Advocating hell-hole today over hell-hole deferred is the logic of somebody with only one oar in the water.

    3. I never thought of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ as a campaign song for ‘true’ ‘socialism’.

    4. I didn’t manage to get past the first paragraph of Danny’s childish into.

    5. jpenney it was like your unnecessary diatribe towards members of this board, it reminded me of some know all turning-up at a busy party all stroppy and gobby ending up in the corner wondering why everyone was blanking them.

  5. The only thing he got across was he was well hung, don’t know who supplied the gallows

  6. Yes the Tories seem divided between the majority Neo-Liberal Nationalst and minority Tory Neo-Liberal Globalists.
    And Johnson is just an opportunist
    Read a great piece in the latest July/August New Left Review by Daniel Finn on ‘Cross Currents:. Labour and the Brexit Crisis.’
    Recommend this and seems to sum up many of my thoughts.

      1. … and as with the previous NLR articles referenced by Bazza, a brilliant and concise summary of events.

  7. Yawn …no his and your comments just aren’t relevant in the circumstances we find ourselves. Save them for the Utopian theorising. In reality, we are where we are and the expectation we can achieve your ideals in a single bound are wholly unrealistic.

    Your contributions remain negative and non-constructive.

    1. Unbelievable that a person who can’t spell “puerile” would attack someone else’s “reading.” (An actual educated person would have used the word “comprehension.”
      Somewhere there’s a village missing its idiot.

  8. I was riveted by jpenney’ eloquent analysis, albeit I couldn’t fully concentrate because I was already anticipating the additional and disconcerting dose of insults with which it concluded. What struck me most though, as David subsequently pointed out, was how much common ground it shared with the viewpoint it was supposedly opposing.

    I assume that those who indulge in it here, enjoy all the sledging (a cricket term David) and the trading of insults and so I take it all with a pinch of salt and have no wish to be humourless or censorious in my view. However, as Maria pointed out earlier, I just worry that it may be quite off putting for others, who might otherwise join in with their own contributions.

    1. Oh, dear, little sensitive, paulo. Try just a little bit to actually engaging with the ARGUMENTS and FACTS in our socialist analysis, Paulo, rather than hiding behind your “sensitive maiden aunt” whining routine about tone. But then you have demonstrated that you have no actual fact-based riposte to our considered socialist analysis of the neoliberal EU. So whining about “sledging” is al you can fall back on. Not thatte regular pro EU trolls on here day after day, hour after paid hour, are ever insulting, oh no. Amusing that you pretend to support the poster. Maria, when in fact , as a socialist, she agrees with us radical socialists on the EU, and has been denounced in rude terms by the Right Wing trolls always on here.

      Today’s Guardian report of Kier Starmer’s latest statement on Labour and Brexit couldn’t be clearer:

      “The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, has said Labour is the party of remain and called for unity ahead of a cross-party meeting to discuss tactics to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

      Starmer said Labour’s position on Brexit had been clear for many months: the party would put any outcome to a referendum and in that referendum Labour would campaign for remain.

      “Jeremy Corbyn has very clearly said any outcome now must be subject to a referendum and we would campaign for remain,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.”

      So there you have it – the clear Labour position, now shorn of the endless logic-twisting obfuscation, that the MSM will endlessly trumpet now up to, and during the Autumn General Election. So Labour can now wave goodbye to both a huge portion of our traditional Labour heartland seats , plus those vital Leave Supporting Tory marginals we could have won. The unholy alliance of the pro EU Labour Right and the equally slavishly uncritical Left Liberal “Corbynista” supposed Labour “Left”, have together totally buggered up our chances of a Left-leaning Labour government to save our NHS and the remains of our Welfare state from the globalist , neoliberals on steroids, Johnson-led government now doomed to come.

      1. Just for the record JP, I wasn’t being sarcastic in my first sentence about your analysis, though I can see now why it comes across that way. I thought it was very good, but as David suggests it lends itself to alternative interpretations, ones that I would have thought were worth discussing – evidently i was wrong about that.

      2. ” our socialist analysis,”

        Note the elevation of sundry political meanderings to the status of coherent and authoritative Holy Writ. The Pope speaks to the peasant.


      3. In addition to the Brexit fiasco, how could we be optimistic about the outcome of a GE given the Party’s lack of action on mobilising the membership? JP, you’ve called Corbyn a Bennite but on one crucial issue – mobilising the membership – how can that be so?

        My understanding (I was around then but not a member) is that the crucial issue of the role of the membership in campaigning was usefully staged by Foot and Benn in the early 1980s. Foot being for Tribune, parliamentarians are sovereign and members are mere foot-soldiers. Benn’s position being that for socialism to actually come about, societal change had to occur with mass membership and a grassroots movement essential for that change.

        Fast forward to 2015-2019 and how has Corbyn and LOTO attempted to organise the now mass membership? Where I am, one Community Organiser shared among 6 CLPS – the result, at our latest CLP AGM not a single member out of around 1200 put themselves forward for the vacant CLP Chair and Sec roles. The PPC is hardly active, there’s been no campaigning comms from the CLP in months. And we’re a ‘target’ seat. Rubbish but we continue to try to move forward but not in the hope this time round – maybe at the next GE in Autumn 2024.

      4. John 27/08/2019 at 4:35 pm
        “at our latest CLP AGM not a single member out of around 1200 put themselves forward for the vacant CLP Chair and Sec roles.”

        Given your obvious concerns I’m surprised you didn’t start the ball rolling by putting yourself forward.

      5. Ok, think I’m getting the hang of this – somebody tries to make a point, ‘clever’ respondent ignores the point and instead attempts to undermine the commenter. Brilliant – what a genius way of furthering debate. How can we lose?

      6. John 27/08/2019 at 5:27 pm

        I had hoped that you would take the discussion forward by outlining why you and others didn’t feel able to put their names forward and perhaps suggesting changes that would remove the obstacles you have identified.

      7. Thanks for your Pope-like offer, but I’ll pass on a confessional on the fine details of local CLP politics below-the-fold on skwawkbox. Please, though, your wiseness, any views on the wider issue of Corbyn’s (lack of) attempts to mobilise the membership?

      8. John 27/08/2019 at 6:11 pm

        I linked to the SB article because it illustrates that JC is taking Labour’s message around the country and that he is enthusiastically received wherever he goes.

        You complain about the grassroots being underutilised but you decry and belittle attempts to rectify this. Do you have any suggestions yourself or are you just one of life’s passive moaners?

        Instead of moaning about the apathy you perceive in the grassroots I suggest you do something positive and work to sort your own backyard (CLP) first and build on that.

      9. Oops, that was intended as a reply to your 7:03pm comment.

      10. Selfies with Corbyn – could this be the magic solution to organising the grassroots movement required in order to bring about a socialist government? I guess Foot would say yes. For Benn, though, would that be exactly the kind of meaningless activity which simply massages the MP’s ego?

        Maybe another example – the Party’s new “how we knock on doors” training offering – again, exactly the kind of foot-soldier fodder which isn’t going to enable the mass membership to outweigh the Tories shiny new election machine. It’s anachronistic rubbish which completely fails to recognise the resource the 500k offer.

      11. Jeeez (not Jez) there’s a readily available panoply of methods and techniques for supporting the growth of a grassroots movement. Crucially, though, that would depend on an ’empowerment’ mindset, the opposite of the regular it’s-all-about-me organisation of local members.

        One starting point would be reading US ‘big organising’ principles e.g. “Rules for Revolutionaries” (Bond and Exley). Too late for me now (physical work on hot days) – more to come as and when …

  9. A GE may come this autumn but it’s far from certain and, short of a successful vonc, the timing is in the gift of the Tories – if they see us in battle formation and rising in the polls they’ll hang on until May ’22.
    It’s generally considered bad tactics to keep an army at full readiness for that long.

    There’s the issue of reselection to consider too – should members be asked to begin canvassing for incumbents they want to deselect just in case there’s no time to replace them with a PPC of our choosing – and later have to explain why we canvassed for X one week and Y the next?

    How do canvassers answer the inevitable blizzard of brexit questions on the doorstep when even the issues are in flux and Conference is imminent?

  10. Oh yes – I actually read the training literature and there’s more promised for Sepember 7th.
    What exactly was wrong with it? How is emailing the 500k with training materials failing to recognise them as a resource?

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: