Thursday, July 27, 2017

Feet of Clay?

A brief return to politics.  I've lately noticed a fair number of erstwhile Corbyn supporters expressing concern and dismay with regard to the stance he's committing Labour to with regard to Brexit.  In particular, they don't like his decision to rule out staying in the single market and customs union and his attitude on immigration, which seems to pander to the anti-immigration lobby.  "Corbyn's Brexit would be no different to May's" wailed one social media post I've seen.  All of a sudden, lots of those faux socialists on Twitter are condemning their own man for being anti-immigration.  Now, I could use this as an opportunity to accuse Corbyn of hypocrisy and his supporters finally realising that he has feet of clay.  But I won't.  The reality here is that these supporters are finally having it brought home to them that real life politics involves a lot of compromise.  While Corbyn was seen as an electoral no hoper, he could get away with promising anything, but after the general election result, he is seen as a potential prime minister.  Suddenly finding himself so close to power, he and his advisers realise that if they are to make that final push for power at the next election, then Corbyn has to widen his appeal, which means putting up policies that might find favour with those who didn't vote for him this time.

What these casual supporters have also conveniently forgotten is Corbyn's woeful performance during the EU referendum and his long standing opposition to the EU.  But that's their problem - they have no grasp of history.  If they did, they would understand that the left in the UK has a long history of opposition to membership of the EU, seeing it as a pro-business organisation dedicated to rolling back public ownership.  (They aren't entirely wrong, to be fair),  Trade unions' love of the EU is a relatively recent phenomena, born of the workers' rights and health and safety protections it guarantees.  Historically, there has also been a strong thread of opposition to immigration within the British labour movement, with immigrants being seen as competition for British workers, taking their jobs and driving wages down.  As recently as the 1070s you could still find a fair amount of blatant racism on the part of trade unionists.  So, arguably Corbyn is merely tapping into traditional labour 'values' which is vital if he is to win the traditional working class vote back for Labour.  So I'm neither going to condemn Corbyn or make snide comments about his policy stances at this juncture (although I think he is wrong on his approach to Brexit).  I'll leave that to his fair weather supporters on social media.

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