Labour should tell the truth on Brexit

Submitted by martin on 29 November, 2019 - 9:37 Author: Martin Thomas
truth

If you want to convince people, you have to argue what you believe to be true, and be seen to be convinced yourself.

If your message is: "Tell us what you want to hear, and we'll play it back to you", you will be seen to be shifty and unreliable. And rightly so.

Labour-aligned people who have back Leave should be treated with respect, and given honest arguments. They know that Labour has been pushed, bit by bit - by steady rank-and-file pressure on the reluctant leadership - into a de facto Remain position. Labour opposes the actual deals negotiated with the EU and supports a referendum which will test those deals against Remain.

It can only bring Labour into contempt if now, in heavily-Leave constituencies, we start saying: "But for you, we can sing a different song".

It is true that many long-time Labour people who back Leave have become alienated and angry. No wonder. They have heard very little of Labour arguing the issues honestly with them. They have only seen Labour edging towards Remain, while suggesting we still half-support Leave.

Arguing the issues honestly is not a magic answer. But it is the only answer compatible with serious politics. The only answer compatible with building a movement that wins trust and the right to a hearing.

Yet on 28 November BBC News reported: "In the next two weeks, if you live in a Leave area, you are likely to see a very different style of campaign.

"Labour will give a higher profile to shadow cabinet members who back a Leave deal rather than Remain...

"The message will be that Labour's Leave deal would offer voters a genuine choice - and that a new referendum will not be an attempt to remain in the EU by the back door...

"In other words, the party leadership is not opposing Brexit by opposing Boris Johnson's deal - it simply wants to find what it regards as a better one".

Since that "better one", if it can be got at all, includes sticking to EU customs-union and Single-Market rules while giving up access to making and changing those rules, it is not likely to convince Leavers.

The new tilt, also flagged up in the Guardian of 29 November, will brand Labour as unreliable and shifty to Remain voters.

Labour should tell the truth: Labour backed Remain in 2016, nothing has happened since then to make Brexit look better, we oppose the actual deals that have proved possible to negotiate, and we want a referendum with a Remain option.

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