Tories 10 points ahead of Labour - Corbyn now a real liability in Brexit war

Tories 10 points ahead of Labour - Corbyn now a real liability in Brexit war

The everyday language used to colour political discourse hardly seems equal to keeping pace with the convention-shattering chaos of trying to deliver on the 2016 52/48 Brexit vote. 

Analogies are pointless because, like the people of the Bahamas battered by Hurricane Dorian, we are dealing with something far, far beyond our experience. Ever since Boris Johnson became Britain’s prime minister comparisons that served political analysts well for generations have lost their potency. Just like sterling, their currency has fallen.

Despite that it’s easy to see precedent in some of the fringe moments — even if that precedent is beyond chilling. One of those came on Saturday when remain campaigner and former Conservative MP, Anna Soubry, said she was “too frightened” to speak at a rally in London’s Parliament Square due to hostile Brexit activists. Ms Soubry was to speak at the March for Change rally but was intimidated by “Democratic Football Lads Alliance” counter-protests. For people of a certain age, that name must evoke memories of Winnie Mandela’s murderous Soweto enforcers, the Mandela United Football Club. That such a comparison can even be made must, or at least it should, give pause for thought.

It must be assumed Amber Rudd took pause for thought when Mr Johnson sacked 21 no-deal rebels last week, including several venerables of the party he leads. She concluded she could no longer serve in the Johnson/Cummings administration and announced her resignation on Saturday night.

If vocabulary is stretched then the norms, trying to match meaning and action, chaos and cause seem utterly out of kilter, at least when taken though a pro-EU lens. A weekend poll for The Observer recorded that Johnson’s Conservatives have extended their lead over Labour to 10 points. More than half (53%) of leave voters say they would vote Tory. Almost half (46%) believe the Conservative party has in effect become the Brexit party. Those figures may embolden Mr Johnson, if he retains a capacity to be emboldened further, when he meets Taoiseach Leo Varadkar today. 

Mr Varadkar will insist that Ireland’s priorities are to protect the rights of people in Northern Ireland and the peace process — issues treated with indifference and ignorance by many of Mr Johnson’s colleagues. It is hard therefore not to think today’s meeting is a box-ticking exercise to allow Mr Johnson to claim, as he has done about ghost negotiations with the EU, that he tried everything he could to resolve the impasse. That he will be widely believed is doubly disheartening.

In this flux little enough is certain, no-one knows with any certainty how things will stand even at this time tomorrow. There is one certainty, however. As long as Jeremy Corbyn remains Labour leader his party is irrelevant. Rightly or wrongly the British electorate has decided that a Cummings-shaped Brexit is more attractive than a Corbyn-led government. For those in Labour who wish to block or even manage Brexit there are few options — but there remains one game changer. If weekend polls are accurate it will happen anyway so why not now when it might make a real difference? Sadly, Corbyn is more useful to Cummings than Johnson.

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