We need a fully functioning Labour opposition to help the country unite and work on the major challenges that Brexit now presents us with, says Mike Molloy.
Wow, what a week we have seen in the history of the United Kingdom and the European Union. Last Thursday as the UK and the Continent stood on the brink of the most momentous decision since the Second World War, no one in their darkest nightmares could have imagined the chaos that would ensue. Whether remainer or leaver the events of the last week must cause everyone a heavy heart. Minute by minute, hour by hour, the worlds most seasoned journalists and commentators have been left as flummoxed as everyone else as events have at times seemed to veer out of control. The departure of a fine public servant and in the opinion of many a great statesman and Prime Minister David Cameron; the Leader of the opposition standing on the brink; the extraordinary realisation that there was no plan to deal with the possibility of a Brexit vote; the nasty bigoted racism which has been unleashed not only on Polish people but on a Spanish school, an American travelling on a tram and anyone else who happens to have a foreign accent. What saddens me most is that for many around the world the country that has always stood for stability, fair play and tolerance is viewed at this hour as a country of instability, chaos and bigotry. However fair or otherwise this view may be, I hate to think what Queen Elizabeth is thinking of her realm tonight and the extraordinary chaos that has been unleashed.
However, beyond all of this are the economic consequences that one can see developing. The downgrade of Britain’s Sovereign rating from the Premier League of countries to Division 1; the pound dropping like a stone; and the as yet fully unknown consequences for the City of London and the many European and multinational companies headquartered here. The French President was clear that passporting rights would not be available signalling a massive body blow to London as the world’s financial capital, it seems inevitable that New York and Frankfurt will now vie for this crown with Dublin and Paris also being the winners at London’s expense. It is clear that the steady leadership of Mayor Sadiq Khan is going to be needed to salvage as much as possible for London.
Which brings me to the current travails of the Labour party. All wings and shades of opinion within the party appear to have decided that the Jeremy Corbyn experiment needs to come to an end. Whatever people may say, this is no Blairite or Brownite coup, this is about a simple failure of leadership. The party is utterly disconnected from its voters in Labour heartlands and only a person with better leadership skills who can put forward a vision for the future of the country stands a chance against a talented Tory leadership line up. Theresa May, one of the finest Home Secretary’s the country has seen, Michael Gove, a man of principle and intellect, both provide an enormous electoral challenge for Labour, one that can only be dealt with by someone other than Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour party has a wealth of talent available and it would be a travesty for the party and the country if they weren’t displayed fully now. To echo the Prime Ministers words, it might be good for the Conservative party but for the sake of the country, he needs to go now!
The country and I would argue both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats actually need a fully functioning Labour opposition to help the country unite and work on the major challenges that Brexit now presents us with. The questions the new Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition will face are ones that will define life for a generation of Britons. They are too numerous to mention all of them but they include (1) How can the need for economic growth through the European single market be in any way aligned with the freedom of movement that the rest of the EU insists must be part of any deal, but which many Leavers clearly voted against? (2) How does the new peace and security infrastructure of Europe rebuild itself to ensure the UK remains a close partner of the EU, so that it can adequately tackle the multiple dangers we face such as ISIS, Al Qaeda, the resurgence of a belligerent Russia, North Korean instability, and the Iran nuclear deal? (3) How can issues which require multilateral cooperation such as climate change and organised crime continue to be fought on a pan-European level and what role does the UK have in this new architecture? (4) Finally, over 16 million people voted to remain in the EU, how on earth can politicians reconcile them to life outside the EU when they feel their life chances and freedom to travel, work and even form relationships in another member state are now dashed?
Whoever inherits the keys to No 10 Downing Street or the Leader of the Opposition’s Office faces the greatest challenges of any UK politician since Churchill. History calls for greatness at this hour, let’s hope both the Conservative Party and the Labour party can deliver a fresh vision, and dynamic strong leadership to guide the UK through what the departing Prime Minister has described as ‘choppy waters’. Sailing the ship of state has never been more perilous; and for the sake our children and grandchildren, let’s hope both the UK and the EU can chart a course that ensures peace, prosperity, security and a bright common future for all of us.