Labour & Brexit: A platform for unity
The Labour Party is in a period of useless stasis.
Corbyn & McDonnell lead, but continue to face routine sabotage & rebellion at Westminster. They have the support of the membership, but do not control the party’s central, regional or parliamentary bureaucracy.
The left trade unions & Momentum are not yet in a position to exert sufficient pressure to change the situation. Some deselections are necessary at a later point, but will not help the left’s position at this distance (we think) from a general election.
The polls are dreadful, the party does not have the public’s respect & there is a disappointing lack of energy & action from the leader, at least in the public eye.
The gigantic, improbable opportunity presented by Corbyn’s leadership cannot be squandered. A Labour Party controlled by the radical left faces almost intractable obstacles, near-impossible odds. We cannot connive in its failure with a lack of seriousness & an absence of real application.
We are also, of course, entering a time of extreme constitutional & economic flux, under an incompetent & radically reactionary government. Labour’s positions on the terms of Brexit are not clear & not known.
A flimsy, divided, introspective Labour will give this vile government unprecedented sway to re-draw the rights of citizens, doom thousands of migrants & refugees & reconstitute the economy on its favoured terms.
A unity platform
The party’s leadership must take the initiative in building maximal unity around a clear Brexit platform.
The parliamentary party should caucus away from Westminster, working to build a PLP Unity Platform that respects Jeremy’s mandate & right to lead, while also acknowledging the PLP’s power in determining party coherence.
The platform should read as a call to arms for the party’s supporters, & be legible to the country as a genuine “fresh start”.
While concessions to the PLP will be necessary, the platform should still offer a radical redistribution of power & wealth within the country, & a foreign policy based around the promotion of peace abroad.
The platform should offer a departure from violent borders & genuine solidarity to the current victims of those borders.
The platform should address the fears & insecurities of those who voted for Brexit with seriousness & vigour, while also capturing the imagination of those who want a cosmopolitan, outward-looking Britain.
To focus the detail of the platform, the caucus should begin with speeches from economic experts willing to attend, hopefully attracting again the likes of Stiglitz, Mazzucato, Pettifor & Piketty.
Progressive legal experts conversant with the detail of constitutional & European law should also speak & be present throughout.
On contested matters, there should be some sort of weighted vote giving casting power to the leadership & Shadow Cabinet. There should also be ground rules establishing penalties for caucusing MPs leaking in bad faith.
If a unity platform is successfully agreed, drafted & publicised, dissenting MPs should lose the whip & automatically face deselection.
The membership should be clear that concessions to the PLP will not be permanent. Decent, consistent organisation of the left’s numerical advantage should lead to a lasting leftwards shift in policy & in personnel.
A PLP Unity Platform at this stage of the Brexit process is simply a necessity to avoid irrelevance & collapse in a time of crisis.