In the closing speech at the Another Europe Is Possible conference on 8 December, Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle recommended Best for Britain as the group with which AEIP should combine to form a joint campaign in a new public vote on Brexit. Because the speech was right at the end of the conference, no one had a chance to point out that an amendment passed earlier in the day, moved by Ben Towse and insisting that AEIP must above all voice an independent left-wing line, contradicted this proposal. But it did.
Events the next day (9 December) dramatised the argument. AEIP, rightly, was on the streets in central London, in the counter-protest against the march called by UKIP and Tommy Robinson on “Brexit betrayal”. Best for Britain was holding a joint rally with the People’s Vote group (extremely well-funded, 60 full-time workers, headed by Tory MP Anna Soubry and right-wing Labour MP Chuka Umunna). The top-billed speaker at the rally was former Thatcher minister Michael Heseltine.
Best for Britain is a solidly bourgeois outfit. Its CEO, Eloise Todd, is well-informed and astute. Her background is in leftish NGOs, and before that as a “political adviser” to the Social Democrat group in the European Parliament. The other members of the BfB board are all, pretty much, actual capitalists.
The chair of the board, Lord Malloch-Brown, is the link-man with the George Soros empire, which provided the initial funds for BfB. Malloch-Brown been a top manager for Soros’s hedge funds and other financial vehicles. He is also a former UN deputy secretary-general. He was briefly a minister under Gordon Brown, in the period when Brown brought in non-Labour people as ministers. Clive Cowdery is an insurance millionaire with a social conscience (he funded the Resolution Foundation). Shaks Ghosh is the chief executive of Clore Social Leadership, a manager-training outfit for the “third sector” originating from the fortune of Charles Clore, a retail and property magnate who died in 1979. Anatole Kaletsky is a Keynesian economist who was economics editor for the Murdoch Times, and more recently has been a freelance consultant. Peter Norris is chair of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, and before that was chair of Barings Banks. Stephen Peel is a private equity boss.
To express a working-class or socialist argument about Brexit requires full independence from the Europlutocrats.
Workers’ Liberty joined with Another Europe Is Possible in a pro-free-movement, anti-Brexit bloc against the “Brexit betrayal” march called by Ukip and Tommy Robinson in London on 9 December. This time there was, in the end, a united anti-racist counter-protest: it was vivid and noisy, and heavily outnumbered the far right mobilisation. The previous day, 8 December, AEIP held its first conference since allowing supporters to join as members. About 130 attended.
The conference passed an amendment moved by Workers’ Liberty people to sponsor independent organising for a Labour voice against Brexit (particularly in view of the chance of an early general election). We lost our amendment calling for democratic public ownership of high finance, with AEIP convenor Luke Cooper arguing for a focus instead on smaller-scale local policies like cooperatives. But the mood of the conference was mostly left-wing, Labour-oriented, and supportive of a turn by AEIP to on-the-streets activity.