Where has the Brexit vote left Britain, Labour, and the Conservative Party?

by richardhutton

The Labour party may be finished-off by the results of the EU referendum: whether wholesale, or just in its current form, is open to question. It’s now clear how Tony Blair has managed to control the Parliamentary Party during the last 11 years. He is currently in Downfall mode – only, instead of ordering servile generals to send imaginary armies into battle, he’s tasking mediocre careerists with mobilising support that they do not have.

If Jeremy Corbyn is deposed, Labour is finished. The attempt to remove him from the leadership is obviously anti-democratic; and there is no justification for it. It is a cynical and disingenuous exercise; planned in advance, irrespective of which outcome the EU referendum bore. It is in defiance of Labour’s membership, supporters, and the unions; while the national circumstances of it make it unforgiveable. The only difference between this coup, and one occurring in a third-world dictatorship, is that the latter tend to have had some thought and organisation put into them beforehand.

Alternatively, Corbyn is kept in his position, and the Blairites will be finished. Which they are anyway – the referendum has just shot the final nail into the coffin lid of New Labour; at maximum velocity. There isn’t a political centre in Britain anymore. Blairism consisted of nailing your political colours to the weathervane; and repositioning yourself accordingly. This is an impossibility: most of Scotland voted to remain in the EU. Most of Wales didn’t. The major English cities did; but most of England didn’t.

The country is deeply divided; and in large part, that is due to the policies of Blair/Brown. The answer Blair’s henchmen are proposing is for Labour to commit itself to free-market economics, while stoking petty nationalism against immigrants. In other words, to make exactly the same mistake that the Conservatives have done, for years – the error which has just blown up in their faces. And this is merely a fortnight after one of Labour’s own MPs was killed by a fascist.

So how will Labour trying to out-Ukip Ukip work, exactly? It won’t – the left will desert it. Oxbridge Spads and the scions of nepotism gurning away about patriotism isn’t going attract the people who’ve just voted to take their own country into an abyss, precisely as a rejection of the economic system that such politicians are intrinsically wed to. New Labour was always destined to lead to no Labour – and that’s a strong likelihood, now.

Whatever happens to Labour, however, the Tories have now had their last escape route closed. It’s pretty clear that they want to have a general election this Autumn, and hope to lose it; because this is the only way they can evade having to invoke article 50: that is, Britain’s formal withdrawal from the European Union. Well, Labour jumping collectively onto a landmine means that they wouldn’t win such a general election. So now the Conservative party is stuck in government – meaning that they have to either reject the decision which the majority of their supporters, members, and voters have made; or press the national self-destruct button – which destroys them as a party of government in the process.

Nobody really wants to lead the Tory party. Which party really wants to be in government, and faced with the political fallout of voiding a national referendum; or else destroying the country? Neither of the two major parties are currently fit to govern Britain, as it stands, anyway. Brexit campaigners have a result which they can’t use; and for the most part, evidently didn’t really want. Politicians who have built their entire careers on ‘Euroscepticism’ will now have to admit that this was only an act. So will the tabloids, at the forefront of advocating Brexit; whose business model consists of advocating free-market fundamentalism, and petty, xenophobic nationalism – which are mutually incompatible; and now the foremost advocates of Brexit have to decide which matters most to them.

At some point Parliament is going to have to annul the referendum result; or else cause a level of economic and political damage to Britain, which is unprecedented – and it will fall to the Tories to now pursue one of these options. Will those who voted for Brexit still support the party if it overrides the referendum result? It doesn’t seem very likely; and they constitute the vote-base of the Conservative Party.

Britain is now facing the prospect of a period without party-political government; in an angry and divided country, with a recession looming – and fascism currently emboldened. People who supported Brexit, spent the last few years snidely disparaging the ‘left’ for being ‘the real fascists’, or devoted the last 9 months to doing everything they possibly could to undermine the one person who could rescue the country from this scenario, are now going to suffer a painful reality check.

The entire world-view of ‘the centre’ has come crashing down. The status quo is not a choice any more. And none of us now know what will replace it.