How can Labour MPs baulk at a no-deal Brexit yet merrily want to install a Marxist Government?

How can Labour MPs baulk at a no-deal Brexit yet merrily want to install a Marxist Government?

There are still, unfortunately, too many people who want to give Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party the benefit of the doubt in a number of policy areas. This is probably most true when it comes to the economy: Corbyn’s own interests – and most of his hostages to fortune – lie in the area of foreign policy. If you’re able to persuade yourself that Corbyn didn’t, in fact, befriend Hamas terrorists, excuse the Kremlin from trying to kill UK residents or describe Venezuela as a template for the UK, then you will find it even easier to believe in the party’s economic platform. Also, I have a bridge to sell you.

Conservatives often make the mistake of claiming that a Corbyn government would take us back to the Wilson/Callaghan governments of the 1970s, and the winter of discontent, etc. This is a false reading of history and of the British left, which disowned those governments at the time as being too right wing, and who have never stopped criticising them for their “betrayal” of socialism. In other words: you think the 1970s were bad? Just wait until Jeremy Corbyn becomes prime minister.

The party’s most recent general election manifesto was moderation itself: fairness everywhere, new taxes only on those who can afford it, limited renationalisation, investment (not “spending”) in vital services, lots of mentions of the word “community”. And it worked: 40 per cent of voters fell for it. 

Those of us who have observed the hard left for decades know better. A Labour prime minister who never had a good word to say about the Thatcher governments is not going to tolerate having its trade union legislation on the statute books. So we get a return to mass picketing and secondary action. The 2017 manifesto, as “moderate” as it tried to present itself, still contained half a trillion pounds of new “investment”. If that’s what they’ll admit to in public, what will the actual figure be? And how much of that will be funded by more borrowing?

Nationalisation is only part of a natural Labour bias towards the public sector: the more publicly owned companies there are, the greater the size of the public sector, the more control the government has over the economy and over people’s lives.

Coupled with the Shadow Chancellor’s commitment to fund the Cuban revolution (seriously), the economic prospects for the UK under a Marxist Labour government are beyond bleak. However much economists fear the impact of our leaving the European Union without a deal, it is surely clear that the economic damage that would result from a Corbyn government would be far more devastating.

This is widely acknowledged by Labour MPs, at least in private. The Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) remains overwhelmingly hostile to Corbyn (80 per cent, remember, voted against him in a vote of confidence back in June 2016). It’s just that they’re more reluctant than ever before to say so on the record.

Consequently we have “big beasts” like Hilary Benn, the man who defied his own leader by declaring ISIS to be fascists and who supported UK military action against them in December 2015, explaining to a Sunday political show last week that he is prepared to go to any lengths to prevent a “no-deal” Brexit. Benn believes strongly – and genuinely, as far as I know – that leaving the EU without a deal will impact negatively on the economy and on jobs. If that’s what he believes then he is absolutely right to seek to prevent it.

But I would go further: he should be seeking to prevent any scenario where British jobs, economic growth, inflation and productivity fall victim to a damaging economic and political ideology. And, given his record in government and in the party (“I’m a Benn, not a Bennite,” he told an interviewer when he was first elected in his Leeds seat), Benn is far more of a Blairite than a Corbynista. 

So he will defend the UK against the damaging impact of a no-deal Brexit: what will he do to protect it against his own party leader and his warmed up Marxism? 


In fact, he will do less than nothing: Benn, alongside all his parliamentary colleagues who claim (privately) to oppose Corbyn as much as he does, will be out on the doorstep every weekend between now and the general election, whenever it comes, persuading people to vote Labour. To vote for Jeremy Corbyn. To vote to put John McDonnell into the Treasury. Yes, they declared publicly they had no confidence in Corbyn’s leadership, but that was then and this is now. 

I do not ask that those who sincerely oppose Brexit in whatever form betray their principles: on the contrary, I want them to stick to their principles, to oppose any threat to our economy and to the fabric of our society. As things stand, opposition to a no-deal Brexit is the comfortable, cosy option for Labour MPs, one that will make you no enemies within the party. But if you’re willing to stand by and allow a far greater threat to be elected to Number 10 through your own efforts, then that simply isn’t good enough.