Corbyn’s decision to seek a customs union shows he is part of the establishment, says Neil M Jopson. It will also destroy the potency of Labour’s northern vote base.
It’s not hard to get it. It really isn’t. This country voted to leave the EU, and those who voted to Leave thought carefully before they made their decision. I stood in the voting booth, and despite all my years of detesting the smug and elitist EU, I considered voting to Remain. After all, was it worth the risk? Was the democratic deficit of the EU as bad as I thought? The EU meant well, didn’t it? Maybe I should give it another chance? But I took a deep breath and stuck with my principles and (I believe) my integrity. I suspect this little drama was played out at least a million more times throughout the UK on that wonderful day. People had thought about their decision, weighed the consequences, and opted for the choice they considered right.
This simple truth, that people thought carefully about their vote, has not permeated through to the chattering classes who dominate our Establishment. Those intellectuals, politicians, and journalists who sneer at the unenlightened Leave voter show nothing but their own ignorance. Whilst Corbyn’s confirmation that the Labour party will seek to remain in ‘a’ customs union is indeed blatant and shameless political manoeuvring, it also proves he has been listening to the wrong advice. In one move he has lost the core vote he needs to win a majority at the General Election.
For the north still stands by its decision to vote Leave. A lot of those voters will never vote for the Tories. Ever. That is why many went to UKIP, but then returned to the Labour fold in the 2017 election. They also liked Corbyn’s socialism, especially his plans to nationalise anything nailed (or not nailed) down. But those voters will put independence over government-run railways and subservience to Brussels every time. As incredible as the Establishment may find it, there are many in this country who still believe it is better to be poor and free than live in a gilded cage, whatever form that gilding takes.
Corbyn’s decision shows he has never really been in touch with the working class outside of London. His ideology is influenced by the metropolitan socialism which is happy to hold up the miners’ strike as an example of the class struggle, whilst at the same time doing little to help those at the sharp end. His advisers think he can bring down the government, and force an election. He may do that. But he will be unable to win. He has just lost those votes that kept the Conservatives from sweeping the north in 2017. They may not vote Tory, but they won’t vote Labour. Not now.
By making the decision to seek ‘a’ customs union, Corbyn has demonstrated his fully paid-up membership of the Establishment. This evidence of membership does not come from his decision to seek some form of a customs union. It comes from the attitude it expresses. It expresses a belief that the voters of the north will not notice Corbyn’s change of policy, or if they do, that they will be too thick to realise the danger it brings to Brexit. It is this belief, shared among many in the Establishment, that shows Corbyn to be a full member. Unfortunately for him, the voters aren’t thick, and they will notice.
After the Referendum, a number of people quoted a GK Chesterton poem ‘The Secret People.’ In it, Chesterton describes the quiet and long-suffering English, ignored by their rulers. The English ‘have not spoken yet,’ is the refrain often cited, with an addition by observers since the Referendum that ‘they have now.’ As I have often experienced, once someone finds their voice they are hard to shut up. This is a truth that I suspect Jeremy Corbyn is about to discover.