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No way Norway

I am bewildered. 

The mood and tone of the Remain Twittersphere is becoming more and more febrile - possibly even hysterical - as Labour stick resolutely to their strategy over Brexit, and more importantly how that inconveniences the government.  Now, I accept I may be wrong but with every utterance of Corbyn, McDonnell and recently Barry Gardiner who commented on the Norway model, I see a party turning the screw on the government, allowing them no relief or sticks with which to beat them. I can't be the only person - surely - who finds the whole strategy ringing with winks, nods and fingers crossed behind backs.

People appear to want Labour to say they want to pursue the Norway model, the Swiss model, the bloody Airfix model. But Corbyn et al won't; they simply say we want 'tariff free access'. Which could of course mean anything. They also couple this with references to immigration and UK worker rights which evokes shrill accusations that they are UKIP, or in coalition with the hard right or any number if ridiculous caricatures. We can't ignore what people are concerned about, regardless of what we think of it. Shouting at them - and I have done a lot of shouting on this issue - has got us nowhere.

I couldn't be more pleased that Labour are being so brief with their explanations of what they want. And when they are challenged to address, say, the Norway model, Gardiner bats it back by saying it would be a disaster because Britain would have the obligations and none of the influence. Good. Hold out for 'tariff free access', don't set out a desire or a preference for how that is achieved. Don't allow the Tories to ride the immigration camel again by saying "look, Labour are planning to have Freedom of Movement" etc. and to raise all those old demons that got us here in the first place. Labour are addressing an electorate; I wrote about this in the previous two blogs. 
So whilst the data still suggests the country is not wildly swinging away from Brexit yet, and that the Labour vote in the election was not anywhere near all Brexit related (8% of Labour voters had Brexit as their primary reason for voting as they did)  Corbyn has one aim, which is to get into government and to see the incumbents fall apart. 

By having no declared model preference, and by maintaining a position of 'respecting the referendum' Labour stand a chance, should they ever take office, of being able to articulate the reasons why Brexit, despite their desire to respect the Brexiter position, is not possible without severe consequences. They have options, influenced and driven by public opinion. Despite what we as Remainers think, millions do want Brexit and most of them still refuse to see the facts of it. Corbyn cannot afford to rubbish them in the way we would like him to. And only a Labour government, with a heavily Remain PLP and electorate stands a chance of either reversing Brexit - or even just offering a chance to reverse it to the country or to parliament via their manifesto pledge. By declaring firm positions on models, Labour will neither have any effect on the government's course nor maintain pressure on the foolhardy behaviour of Davis et al. And crucially, it will irreparably damage their chances in any election that may come from Tory division and chaos. Consequently, screaming and shouting about hard-Right/hard-Left coalitions is both silly and without any sense of reason or analysis. 

Owen Jones, who is prone to a flip-flop I agree, has been writing about respecting the referendum and how not doing so would be very damaging to our democracy. I partially agree with him inasmuch as to just say 'fuck Brexit and Brexiters' would be extraordinarily counter-productive. We still have Farage spouting his nasty nonsense about betrayal and violence. As much as we would all actually LIKE to say 'fuck Brexit and Brexiters' it really won't get us anywhere. It sticks in my craw to have to accept that these people need to be taken along with us, but I am afraid they do, and Corbyn is playing that game assiduously in the face of much vituperation and impatience from the Remain side. If Corbyn is to win an election and ditch (or seriously water down Brexit), and not cause huge upset in the country, he HAS to play this particular game. The mood among Brexiters, including Labour Brexiters is always liable to tip back into blind faith in the promises of Farage; a year of scorn and facts have done little to change them. We have to persuade them that despite everybody's best intentions to deliver Brexit, it just isn't possible, and the only way that outcome will arrive is with a Labour government in my opinion, untainted by the process, who have not set firm positions on the toxic issues and who have been faithfully 'respecting' the referendum. 

Yes, I may be wrong, but first comes government, and it seems inconceivable to me that Corbyn would resist his party and a large part of his electorate should he ever take the reins of power. Without that power though, we are heading for a Tory Brexit. I will say it again: it is time for patience, thought and cold-eyed politicking.



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