Is this thing still on? Apparently so
Anyway, i'm making a flying visit to talk Corbyn and Euroscepticism. Was he really a Brexiteer all along? There seem to be some shall we say hyper-extended theories based loosely on his voting record but mainly on the desire of those who dislike him to indulge in supervillain fantasies.
Between 1998 and 2002 I worked part time as a media aide for Mick Hindley a Labour MEP affiliated with the Campaign Group, Corbyn's parliamentary faction. So while I never had the pleasure of hearing Corbyn's views firsthand I did get a grounding how that group within Labour thought.
So were they Brexiters? No. The thing is, up until very recently support for Brexit generally and Lexit in particular was an absolutely bonkers position, such was the political consensus around membership. It would have been like campaigning against the weather.
In fact, it would have been like campaigning against the weather full time, because Brexit is a classic single issue position. Brexit itself is supposed to solve all our problems, with a little tidying up. Hence the abject failure of the post Brexit government to come up with any kind of serious negotiating position. They're just dicking around waiting for the magic beans to fertilise.
This is also why the handful of actual pro-Brexit Labour MP's don't represent any particular tradition within the PLP; they're just eccentrics. From the nineties onwards Labour as a whole embraced the EU, with greater or lesser degrees of enthusiasm or reluctance.
To paraphrase Lenin, to the Labour left Brexit was 'to the Left of common sense'. This isn't to claim them as Euro-enthusiasts. There was a great deal they dislike about the institutional architecture, most notably it's pro-market bias and its tendency to expand beyond it's democratic remit. At the same time, there was a lot that people liked about it - its ability to provide embedded international co-operation for instance. Oh, and also, the whole Freedom of movement thing.
So it's a mixed bag. Taken together I think it demonstrates that the Corbyn was secret Brexiteer all along stuff is nonsense. But there's no way the things the old Campaign Group did like about the EU would induce one of its members to overturn the result of a referendum. He and they have this in common with the vast majority of MPs from both parties. Talk of 'respecting the will of the people' is so much flatulence, but it is a basic expectation that elected politicians will go along with a popular vote. It's kind of basic to the whole political contract in fact.
So we are where we are not because Corbyn is some secret Brexity mastermind but because bog standard politicians in a bog standard democracy are hardwired to behave in particular ways in response to electoral stimuli, even when this is inadequate to cope with a massive shock to the whole political economy of the country.
And what we've seen over the past few days is Corbyn behaving in a pretty bog-standard politician way. He goes on a bog-standard Sunday morning politics gabfest. In response to a bog standard gotcha question over FoM he does the bog standard thing of replying to a different question about the Posted Workers Directive. It's the bog standard gold standard way of dodging the question of a bog standard underbriefed star interviewer.
And Corbyn abandoned Freedom of Movement – which he explicitly campaigned for during the referendum - for the completely bog standard political motive of keeping his party together. Having said that, answering a question from an interviewer about X with an answer about Y normally means that you don't want to talk about X. As for why, my personal guess – and it is just that – is the Corbyn would accept the single market and its strictures if he could have FoM back. But try getting that through the PLP right now.
Since I think we have to assume that most MPs will go along with a referendum result more or less automatically, this leaves the remain campaign with two alternatives: the first was to place sufficient external pressure on MPs of all parties to change their assumptions. There has been a campaign of sorts but this objective had clearly not been reached.
The second objective is to force a governance crisis of such magnitude that Brexit simply becomes impossible to deliver. This is still possible in large part because Corbyn and Labour stopped May's original triumphal progress towards nationalist consolidation around Brexit dead in its tracks. We now have a weak government with a discredited leader presiding over MPs unsure whether they hate her more than they hate each other. Viewed in this light, the tactical role of the Opposition is not so much to take any particular stance on Brexit, but to make it impossible for the Conservative Party to take any coherent approach to the issue. Labour's success or failure in doing this is the initial benchmark by which to judge them.