Brexit and unreason

Submitted by AWL on 6 February, 2019 - 10:57 Author: Colin Foster

Steve Richards is a routine political pundit, probably (in his 2017 book The Rise of the Outsiders, for example) a bit less hostile to Jeremy Corbyn than most of his type. In the Financial Times on 1 February, however, he was acid about Corbyn, and with some justice.

“Like Mrs May, [Jeremy Corbyn] asserts rather than explains, repeatedly declaring that he supports ‘a customs union’, ‘a close alignment with the single market’ and ‘workers’ rights’. Why is this his position? What does he mean by these terms?”

In some media interviews Corbyn may have no choice but to limit himself to summary phrases. Yet he, or his office, could arrange longer printed-up speech texts, op-eds, or such as back-up — and they don’t. Reasoned argument is missing just because the position asserted does not come from reasoned argument. It comes from “triangulation”, the desire to find a formula acceptable to a wide range of lobbies and groups.

In principled politics, the procedure is to work out what’s right, then seek to convince people of it; in triangulation politics, the procedure is to guess what people would like to hear, and then find something blurred enough to fit both what they want to hear and what you reckon acceptable and workable.

Another new twist is Jeremy Corbyn echoing some of the criticism from the Tory right and the DUP of the “backstop”. After his talks with Theresa May on 30 January he said it was unacceptable that the UK could not quit the “backstop” unilaterally. Does he really think it wrong that Britain should agree an open-ended guarantee against a new “hard border” in Ireland?

Condescending, manipulative, splitting-the-difference politics can never build a socialist movement capable of enabling the working class to mobilise for its own emancipation.

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