Jonathan Edwards, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr
The great American philosopher Noam Chomsky has a theory that in modern liberal democracies, opposing sides disagree only on superficial issues despite fundamentally ending up holding the same positions.
This was certainly the case during the New Labour years when Tony Blair and Gordon Brown pursued policies embraced by the Tories: liberalisation, privatisation and light-touch regulation. It is no wonder they were known as the sons of Thatcher.
Since being elected, Labour and Tories have queued up to vote together on countless occasions – be it welfare reform, austerity, Trident or foreign intervention.
Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader promising “straight-talking honest politics”, taking principled positions against the neoliberal Westminster consensus. It is therefore very interesting to consider the Labour Party’s Brexit strategy in this context.
Semantics aside, Labour has exactly the same policy as the Tories on the most important question facing us. The superficial disagreement is whether the British State’s trade policy with the most powerful, lucrative trading bloc in the world – the European Union – will be based on a customs partnership or ‘a’ customs union.
Their disagreement on Brexit is about superficial political positioning as opposed to the substantial policy.
The fundamental point that a new bespoke customs arrangement – whether it is called a partnership (Tory) or a union (Labour) – is vastly inferior to our current membership of ‘the’ Customs Union is lost on both sides.
Nigel Farage and those on the extreme wing of the Tory Party are calling for ‘no deal’ in the full knowledge that Welsh manufacturers would be severely hit with all the entailing consequences for Welsh jobs and living standards.
The British Government’s own assessments indicate an economic hit like the Great Financial Crash in 2008 and a further decade of cuts to public investment.
Their extreme doctrine really is for the birds. It is dangerous and should be challenged at every turn.
However, Labour’s Brexit position, far from challenging the fascism on our doorstep, has opened a door for the rebirth of Nigel Farage, with more power than ever before.
As leader of UKIP, Farage was constrained by the party’s elected national executive committee, whereas the Brexit Party gives him the power to appoint its governing board, with no membership to keep him in check.
The Brexit Party is nothing but a fan club for a politician who led a populist revolt, then ran from the scene of the crime, only to return as the master of darkness when opportunity knocks.
If the polls are to be believed the Brexit Party are likely to do well in the upcoming European election at the end of this month. Westminster polls now indicate that the Brexit Party would eviscerate the Tory vote, leading to a hung Parliament, with Labour as the largest party.
Labour strategists probably look with glee at Tory poll ratings that put them in the low teens and are happy to use the creative ambiguity of their political position to allow Farage to flourish and steal votes from the right of the Tory party.
Of course, most of the blame lies at the door of the Tory party, who have spent the last three years flirting with and legitimising the far right.
However, Labour are playing a very dangerous game by leaving the door open to Farage and his band of right-wing henchmen in order to allow them to steal votes from their old enemies, the Conservatives.
Most observers agree that the new Tory Leader will inevitably be from the right of their party advocating the most extreme form of Brexit. For arguments sake, let’s say Boris Johnson comes out on top. In such a scenario, Johnson would face a hostile Commons overwhelmingly opposed to a completely reckless approach to Brexit.
An election would be needed to change the composition of Parliament, in the hope of making the most of the new Leader’s honeymoon period. The only route to power would be a pact – be it formal or informal – between Johnson and Farage.
Based on current polls, a winning alliance of 40% of the vote could potentially be secured. Labour would be dead in the water.
The extreme Brexiteers throughout this process have shown no appetite to compromise, and if anything, their demands have become more unreasonable. In a situation of total political war, appeasers and facilitators like Labour become a part of the problem.
The great Welshman Aneurin Bevan would have recognised the situation for what it is: “we know what happens to those that stand in the middle of the road – they get run down.”
The simple reality facing the people of Wales therefore over the coming weeks and months, is the only way to challenge the dystopian future offered by Farage and Johnson is to throw our weight behind the antidote. That means supporting Plaid Cymru – The Party of Wales.
It’s time to pick sides. For an insular, intolerant and unequal British State, choose the Brexit parties. For a modern, tolerant, social democratic European nation, choose Plaid Cymru.
I know which future I choose for my own children.
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