Summary: There is a big potential danger in the levels of confidence exuded by the Labour Party these days. Labour must be very careful making statements that might alienate their core supporters and particularly the young activists who were so key to the recent electoral success. Jeremy Corbyn’s inflexible statements to Andrew Marr yesterday that we WILL leave the European Union and WILL NOT stay in the single market appeared to set out Labour’s red lines on Brexit. Labour has done well in being ambiguous and nuanced about its position on Brexit and it really must maintain that.
There is a great deal of optimism and confidence in the Labour Party following their near-win at the last election. The danger is over-confidence. We must remember that the Tories will regroup, they will come up with policies that are much more moderate particularly when they change their leader. That change is likely to come relatively soon.
We can be confident that the right-wing media will continue their overt and intentional distortion of reality to support the Tories as well as an extreme form of Brexit. Only today (24 July 2017) the Daily Mail and others castigated Jeremy Corbyn for reneging on his promise to cancel all current student debt. That is something he never did. But he did say he would sort it out.
We should be under no illusions that the next election battle will be tough. Labour made very effective use of the burgeoning younger membership of the party who understood social media so much better than the Tories. Next time round the Tories will no doubt make a better fist of things given the resources they have. In the meantime it is critical that Labour does nothing to alienate their young activists. The younger generations are generally very pro-Europe, pro-Remain.
This means that Labour and Jeremy Corbyn really must avoid unnecessarily rigid, inflexible statements about Labour’s policy on Europe and Brexit. Yesterday, in interview with Andrew Marr, Jeremy Corbyn restated that we would definitely be leaving the European Union, and definitely leaving the single market. He wanted close relationships with both but he seemed to exclude completely some of the much closer relationships that will be examined increasingly as the current Brexit negotiations unscramble.
Once Labour leads a government it will become responsible for the Brexit negotiations. There will be a great deal of goodwill from the European side given the extraordinarily incompetent way that the Tories have managed the business of negotiating Brexit so far. Many European countries would welcome changes within the EU and a pragmatic and thoughtful Labour-driven Brexit discussions may well be able to help articulating changes that would be more popular than simply providing for an adequate Brexit. Keeping that flexibility alive now will be very important in the future.
Maintaining that flexibility will also undoubtedly improve Labour’s appeal to its many young activists. These activists must be kept energised and enthusiastic right up to beyond the next election. They must not be taken for granted or be marginalised because of the overconfidence that seems to be rampant within the Labour Party today. It seems unlikely that Jeremy Corbyn can, in fact, walk upon the water.