I must confess for a moment last night I thought Jeremy Corbyn had offered a clear path to stopping, at least, a No Deal Brexit.
The Labour leader proposed that all opposition parties and rebel Tories back a no confidence vote early next month. If carried they should then support a Corbyn led government whose sole purpose would be to hold a General Election. In the campaign Labour would be committed to a public vote on leaving the EU with an option to remain on the ballot paper.
This seemed to me a more effective way to block Johnson than the route preferred by Tory rebels to seize control of the Commons order paper and legislate to stop a No Deal Brexit.
Reaction from the opposition parties has been lukewarm, without being dismissive. The exception has been the Liberal Democrats, now 14 strong with the arrival of Sarah Wollaston. Their new leader, Jo Swinson, has pointed to the major problem in the Corbyn proposal, Corbyn himself.
She points out that his journey to a public vote with an option to remain has been painfully slow. We should not be surprised as Corbyn has regarded the EU as a capitalist club since the 1970s. It is also worth reminding ourselves what Labour’s current convoluted policy is on Brexit. It is to oppose any deal put forward by Boris Johnson BUT if a Labour government came to power, it would negotiate a soft Brexit and put that to the people, presumably with an option on the ballot paper to remain. This is why Labour MPs continue to choke when they are asked the simple question “is Labour a remain or leave party?”
What would Labour do if Corbyn was Prime Minister after a General Election about Brexit? Presumably another extension would be needed while he negotiated a soft Brexit with us close to the single market and customs union. Although Corbyn is likely to allow a remain option on the ballot paper, he would surely campaign for his deal to leave. It would be his deal, he would be respecting the 2016 referendum vote, and he’s wanted out all along.
This is why the Liberal Democrats are taking such a tough stand. They believe in the purity of their unqualified opposition to Brexit and fear it would be tainted by supporting Corbyn’s proposition. However, it is a gamble by Jo Swinson, who is being tested in her first month in office. This is because, without Lib Dem support, the Corbyn strategy is almost impossible to achieve.
For instance, how many Tories, apart from Dominic Grieve and Guto Bebb, are actually going to vote to put Corbyn in power? Bebb argues that even a Marxist Labour government is only in office for a few years whereas the damage caused by us being outside the EU will last for decades. He’s right of course, but how many Tories will buy that?
The option of Ken Clarke or Tom Watson heading an emergency government is sensible, but you cannot expect Jeremy Corbyn and his hard-line handlers to concede the toxicity of the Labour leader.
So, at the moment, it looks as if nothing can stop a No Deal Brexit. Corbyn will then be out of the EU and when the economic mayhem follows he will be able to say he did his best to stop it, but hope to come to power profiting from the far left doctrine that people need to suffer a full blown capitalist crisis before they turn to radical socialist answers.