Working-class towns have long memories and the media and Tories will be helping them remember. Hoping that ‘Brexit won’t be a factor’ by 2024 is wilful delusion
Keir Starmer and Jess Phillips have both launched their leadership bids with slick videos that attempt to put a working-class sheen on their campaigns.
Starmer’s, bizarrely, features narration with a strong northern accent talking about striking print workers in London’s Wapping and striking dockers in Dover.
London-based northerner Lewis Cox summed up his opinion of the impression it creates:
Starmer’s video majors on his legal career and is light on his political activities as an MP – his participation in the ‘chicken coup’ series of resignations aimed at driving Corbyn out of his elected post as leader wouldn’t play too well.
But even his pitch to lead can’t resist a tribute to his efforts to stop Brexit. And there lies its fatal weakness.
Jess Phillips’ launch effort manages to avoid the topic of Brexit – but her own recent history puts her firmly in the ‘stop Brexit’ camp, too:
There is no path back to power for Labour that does not involve re-taking the seats in ‘leave’ towns that the party lost last month by abandoning its 2017 commitment to enact the referendum result.
Some try to argue that by 2024 Brexit ‘won’t be a factor’, as if ex-Labour leave voters will simply forget their sense of betrayal and abandonment by Labour MPs who pushed and pushed for another referendum and for Labour to campaign for remain.
MPs like Keir Starmer, who said at last September’s annual party conference, that:
If you want a referendum – vote Labour. If you want a final say on Brexit – vote Labour. If you want to fight for Remain – vote Labour.
Millions of Labour’s ‘heartland’ voters wanted no such thing – and that push to remain cost the party their support last month. But even if Brexit is ‘done’ by 2024, the memory of Labour MPs trying to trample on their vote – their winning vote – to leave the EU will not simply evaporate from the minds of those voters.
Even if it might on its own, it will not be allowed to. The media and the Tories will have a field day if Labour goes back to those voters to ask for their support under a leader who did everything to negate the value of the votes they cast in 2016.
A Labour Party led by an MP who helped push the party into its disastrous abandonment of its 2017 manifesto commitment to leave the EU will be a Tory wet dream.
If Labour wants to be back in power, it must show the leave towns it lost that it has learned its lesson and will respect their voice and vote. Electing a leader who did the opposite will look like doubling down on the disrespect instead.
No MP – from left or right – who participated in the push to make Labour adopt a remain stance and throw out its 2017 promise to leave voters can lead Labour.
Not if the party and its members care about getting into office for the sake of the many millions who will continue in misery under the Tories.
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