WHAT’S Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit policy? Is he for or against it? It’s not really clear – and that’s his problem. The Labour leader set out the latest version of his approach this week.
He said a Labour government would seek to negotiate a different deal with the EU then put that and Remain to the country in a second referendum.
And which side would Corbyn be on? Well, he’ll get back to you on that. Corbyn hasn’t committed to either side. In an interview yesterday, he refused to answer the question EIGHT TIMES.
So, we are in the absurd position of a man running to be Prime Minister not being able to say where he would stand on the biggest issue facing the country in decades.
Little wonder that more than three quarters of voters are dissatisfied with his performance.
Corbyn is betting that he can quarantine the issue of Brexit. His strategy is to offer a second referendum then fight a general election on classic Left/Right lines.
The problem with this plan is that British politics is so dominated by Brexit that you HAVE to have an answer on that before you can talk about anything else.
Is Jeremy Corbyn really intending to spend the entire election campaign refusing to say how he would vote in the referendum he is calling for?
Corbyn’s equivocation is a particular problem, given the clarity in the other parties’ positions.
The Lib Dem conference agreed this week that if the party won a majority in a general election — stop sniggering at the back — they would simply revoke Article 50.
This clear policy is helping them scoop up more and more Remainer votes. One poll this week had them overtaking Labour and pulling in support from more than 40 per cent of those who backed Remain in 2016.
If the Lib Dems get anywhere near this level of support in a general election, then Labour will lose seats to BOTH the Lib Dems and the Tories.
As one gleeful Cabinet minister points out, the Lib Dem position “shines a spot-light on Labour’s ambiguity”.
Many in the Shadow Cabinet are worried about Corbyn’s refusal to say where he stands. Many of them want Labour to state clearly that it is the party of Remain.
Expect an effort at next week’s Labour conference to change the party’s position to make it clear that as a party Labour WILL IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES campaign for Remain in a second referendum.
The other problem with Corbyn’s position is that it means this whole debate will just drag on. Another negotiation with Brussels followed by another referendum would take at least six months, and maybe more.
This isn’t going to be popular with an electorate that wants this issue resolved so the country can move on and start addressing the domestic issues voters care about most.
At the last election, Corbyn managed to skilfully straddle the Brexit divide.
He hoovered up the votes of Remainers but with a manifesto that promised to respect the referendum result, held on to heavily Leave-supporting seats too.
It will be far harder, if not impossible, for Corbyn to pull off that trick again. The danger for him is that his fence-sitting ends up alienating both groups.
CAM'S OFF THE CUFF HUMOUR
AT his book launch, David Cameron told the assembled guests that he had tried to avoid writing too much about scandals in the memoir.
But he did remember when a Tory peer got caught up in an S&M sting early in his leadership.
It was put to him that he should remove the whip, to which Cameron replied: “Shouldn’t we take the handcuffs off too?”
Her Maj unamused at indepen-dunce
“WHAT was he thinking?’ one loyal, long-time supporter of David Cameron declared to me after the former PM revealed how he had worked behind the scenes to get the Queen to make an intervention in the Scottish independence referendum.
The Palace is understandably cross about the revelation, which undermines the Queen’s political neutrality.
One Whitehall source tells me the Palace are “apoplectic” about it and can’t understand why a former Prime Minister would break such an important confidence in such a pre-meditated way.
Belatedly, Cameron seems to have realised the trouble he’s caused – refusing to answer further questions on it for TV.
But as someone who has worked for three Tory leaders tells me: “It is one of the weirdest unforced errors I have ever seen.”
Human trafficking of growing concern
PEOPLE being trafficked across the English Channel in boats to try to enter the country illegally is a small but growing problem.
It needs dealing with, not least because of how dangerous the crossing is to those who undertake it. There has, tragically, already been one death.
As part of efforts to deal with this problem, Operation Anson has been launched. This week, the team involved arrested 17 people on suspicion of involvement in this activity after targeting 371 marinas and harbours.
The test of this surge in enforcement activity will be whether it stamps out this vile trade before more people perish in the Channel.
- James Forsyth is political editor of The Spectator.
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