Masha Slonim: Brexit messed all cards up in a British political casino
Nowadays not a single topic related to British politics can do without a heated debate on Brexit.
If Brexit didn’t exist, it should have been invented to mess all cards up in a British political casino and totally confuse the voters.
Prime Minister David Cameron, trying to solve problems in his own party, launched a Brexit process, as though fulfilling a promise in the Conservative manifesto. But, after setting the date for a referendum, right after a general election, he disappeared from the political scene. It’s reported that now he’s writing a memoir, while his country is in the third year of trying to get to grips with what happened and what’s about to happen next.
There was just 4 per cent of the difference between the amount of those who voted for Leave and the amount of those who voted for Remain, but this gap transformed the whole political landscape in the country. Referendum not just divided Britain, but created confusion in both main parties.
It wasn’t the left-right divide, the dividing lines turned out to be crooked and blurry. To this day, there’s no consensus on Brexit among both Conservatives and Labour.
Leaders of both parties didn’t seem to steer their voters in any particular direction before the referendum vote.
Theresa May who headed the Conservative party after Cameron’s resignation, as is known, was against Brexit, but then tried not to speak for or against, although there were die-hard Brexiteers among the senior members of her party. But there were ardent opponents of Brexit as well. Now as a Prime Minister May thinks that she must carry out the will of the majority and she has thrown herself into making Brexit a reality.
There were seemingly more supporters of Europe among Labour party members, but Corbyn who has always been a Eurosceptic, was afraid to come forward in support of a particular side, in order not to scare off the voters who backed Remain. After a Brexit vote it has become clear that the majority of Labour supporters voted for Remain.
Now, understanding this, Corbyn continues to make ambiguous statements, but it’s absolutely clear that in some way confusion around Brexit talks plays into the hands of him and his party.
«The worse, the better» seems to be an unspoken motto of the Opposition. And strange as it might seem, it really brings the Labour party strongly leaning to the left after Corbyn became its leader (one of his advisors, Andrew Murray, has recently left the Communist party) together with Trump and even Putin. Alt-right, as well as Trump, are anti-globalists and it’s something that new Right and old Left have in common. At least they have common interests. Putin just doesn’t want Europe to be strong and united, Brexit was in Russia’s interest, and it tried to interfere with the referendum.
The Labour leader is playing his own game of course. The worse the situation, the more likely is an early general election. He openly talked about this at the recent party conference in his final speech that sounded like a Prime Ministerial candidate’s.
He cunningly linked the inevitability of general election with the inability of May and her government to work out a viable Brexit plan. Corbyn promised to push for an early general election if Parliament doesn’t approve a Brexit deal and it doesn’t include certain provisions he and his party insist on (hardly feasible in my opinion) or if all ends up with Britain leaving with no deal at all. So, judging by what’s happening to the negotiations with Brussels right now, if Corbyn’s right, general election is inevitable. He also didn’t rule out the possibility of the so-called second referendum – the idea popular among both Labour and those who are not happy with the outcome of the first referendum and are concerned about the repercussions of Brexit.
Corbyn declared at the conference: «Labour is ready to govern». But is a country ready?
Yes, all cards are messed up, Theresa May is in an unenviable position, that’s true, but it’s doubtful that Labour will manage to capitalize on this moment.
For now, weeks old polls conducted before the Labour party conference show that Labour hold a two-point lead over Conservatives, although 3 per cent more respondents prefer Theresa May to Corbyn as a leader of the country.
I wonder how generous promises Corbyn as socialist and a populist made in his speech at the conference would influence voters’ preferences. Will they buy into his milk and honey promises to radically reorganize the economy, develop the green industry and provide additional social benefits?
The uncertainty around Britain’s leave from the EU will inevitably change the political landscape. Possibly, as a result, the Conservatives will elect another leader, and the name of the Prime Minister will change, but it’s still too soon to talk about an early election.
There will be a Conservative party conference next week. Guess what will be the main topic of the conference? One doesn’t have to be a serious political analyst to predict that the word Brexit will be the most frequently mentioned.