Jeremy Corbyn may turn out to be the best friend Brexit ever had.
That is because the general election on Dec. 12, which was decided on this week with Labour support, has created a situation in which anyone wanting to reverse Brexit must also in effect tolerate his becoming prime minister. That, as Jewish readers will generally agree, is less than fully plausible. In the minds of many who are not even nationalists or nostalgists, it may actually make Brexit the less bad option.
The 2016 Brexit referendum was theoretical and now there is a deal on offer that cuts off Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom in a way, has reawakened Scotland’s movement to secede, and will cost what remains of Britain a fortune. There is nothing more reasonable than to put this deal to a binary vote: leave on terms that are now clear, or remain.
But this idea is being presented as a “second referendum.” That has failed to truly take off because the British are so enamored with fair play that the idea of a “redo” is seen as unsporting even by many supporters of staying in the European Union.
This, even though the original Brexit vote is widely understood to have been based on false assumptions and viciously mendacious propaganda, and the youth who disproportionately didn’t bother to vote and will be stuck with the outcome overwhelmingly hate it. Brexit is an oldster’s last gasp, a frisson of nostalgia for something that barely was and cannot be.
Since the tragicomedy was authored by the Tories under the aristocratically miscalculating David Cameron, it is logical that they should be punished. But the opposition has probably made itself unelectable, so the Tories are likely to unjustly get away with it.
That’s because Labour is led by Corbyn, crony of Chavismo and Hezbollah, who seeks to overhaul the economy with nationalizations, regulation and redistribution. That has appeal to many youth and party members, but overall is unpopular. Polls consistently show Johnson far more popular than Corbyn despite his own vulnerabilities.
It doesn’t help that Corbyn has presided over a party scandal involving alleged anti-Semitism in its ranks, which has seen several high-profile stalwarts resign and drawn lawsuits that threaten its financial future.
It also doesn’t help that Corbyn has only reluctantly supported a second referendum and doesn’t like the EU himself on account of his socialism – against the wishes of most Labour voters. Consequently, many of these voters will be pushed toward the Liberal Democratic party which has unequivocally opposed Brexit.
Johnson potentially faces his own danger from the Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage, the populist visionary of the movement to leave the EU. Its reason for running is to push for a more determined position on leaving without a deal, in the face of warnings from almost every economist that this would be an even bigger calamity than leaving with a deal.
But the Brexit Party could be undermined by the logic of the situation: a deal has been reached with the EU, and a Conservative majority would pass it instantly. Few people actually prefer to leave with no deal. Many of them probably do understand that in Britain’s electoral system a vote for the Brexit Party will weaken Johnson and therefore harm the Brexit cause. It is reasonable to expect that the large minority of perhaps 47% of people who still want Brexit (according to most polls), some of them traditional Labour voters, will unite behind Johnson in order to, as they say, “get on with it.”
In Britain’s first-past-the-post district system, if the Leave (and mostly Tory) vote is less divided than the Remain (and mostly Labour) vote, the result could well be a landslide for Johnson. He will then be able to pass his deal with the EU without the fuss we have come to expect from the current contrarian parliament.
This outcome may also relate to a basic law of politics: it’s advantageous to have a message, almost regardless of what that message is. Johnson’s will be clear and Corbyn’s will be muddled, with firebrand socialism most of his voters hardly want and a history of flim-flam on Brexit.
Absurdly, opponents of Brexit are reduced to hoping the Brexit party does well enough to split the nationalist vote.
Does anybody think Corbyn will suddenly become electable? With no chance now to replace him before the next election, that will be their hope. He did perform much better in the 2017 election than expected, not winning but at least denying the Tories the outright majority which historically results from British elections. But that was against the politically inastute Theresa May, who generated the electricity of a British Bob Dole.
Under these dire circumstances why did Labour agree to hold an early election, with many of its parliament members supporting this week’s parliament motion? Partly it is because it had little choice once small parties decided to support the early vote, and it probably would have passed even without Labour acquiescence.
But there is also the dream of changing the conversation away from Brexit and towards Labour’s precious social issues. That’s about as reasonable as changing the conversation away from Trump or away from Netanyahu.
Far more promising for Labour (and Remain) would be the opposite of that: for Corbyn to drop all further monkey business and campaign convincingly and unequivocally for a second referendum. It would also help to find some way to temporarily unite with the Lib Dems, because by splitting the Remain vote they risk handing seats to the Tories (and hence to Leave).
All of that runs counter to Corbyn’s evident desires, to a host of personal animosities, and to British political tradition.
But anything else looks like wishful thinking of the sort that leads to ruin.