Friday 25 January 2019


On 31 December 2018, Bernard Porter published a piece on the London Review of Books Blog (LRB Blog) with this title: What is Corbyn thinking?  Bernard Porter is an academic historian. I think his own thinking about Jeremy's thinking is worth sharing. Here is my summary of his article, using his words for the most part:

Here is how Bernard Porter begins:
'Jeremy Corbyn is getting a lot of stick just now ... for not coming out clearly in favour of a second referendum, and for Remain. The Guardian is especially critical: but when hasn’t it been, of this untidy bearded radical? I’d have liked Labour to have taken more of a pro-European lead. But then I think again.'
Second thoughts are always worth considering. Why should Labour necessarily take a more pro-European lead - whatever that means? In any case, to insist that No Deal can not be countenanced is markedly more pro-European than PM May's position.

Jeremy Corbyn - 2017 General Election

BP continues:
'There are three reasons for suspending judgment on Corbyn until the whole sorry affair has worked itself out. First, he is at least being consistent in his career-long Euroscepticism, which is

 more than you can say for Theresa May: pro-Europe one day, leading the anti-Europe charge the next. What would the press have made of a similar volte-face by the famously principled Corbyn?

Second, he has always been a Eurosceptic, not an anti-European; and for totally different reasons from the right-wing antis: he sees the EU as having been taken over by global capitalism and so an obstacle to the democratic socialism he wants for Britain. That’s why he must be against a form of Brexit that releases Britain from the hands of Brussels only to send it into the claws of Trump, and America’s lower product and labour standards. The emphasis in Corbyn’s speeches has always been on jobs and workers’ rights; which could be secured either within a reformed EU ... or by a ‘soft’ Brexit arrangement that kept Britain within the single market. In the present chaos it isn’t clear which is more likely. So Corbyn is – sensibly and intelligently – holding his fire. Of course the Manichaean tabloids are too thick to see this; or else assume their readers are.'

Authors feel good when people buy their books. This one is well worth reading. It provides a telling analysis of the misgovernment of this country by the Tories between 2010 and 2015 - and it does so with some style and in a very readable way. Please press this link to buy a copy for less than a tenner. 

More from me:

The commentariat of the chattering classes likes dissing the 'redtop' media, not least with words that may well need a dictionary to understand - but it is true that the tabloids reduce the world to simplistic black and white, good and evil: 'Manicheanism'. However, those who decide on editorial direction for the likes of the Sun and the Daily Mail are far from 'thick'. Their agenda is to avert at all costs a victory for a socialist Labour Party, led by a man of integrity, at the next General Election. They fear a redistribution of wealth in the interests of the many. As do many in the commentariat. That's what it boils down to. 
And now back to BP:
'The third reason for giving Corbyn the benefit of the doubt is that he has his Northern working-class and other ‘left-behind’ voters to think of. Insofar as they and others voted against Europe (and they may not have been as solidly Brexit as the popular press makes out), it was largely for all the wrong reasons; but they don’t like being told this, especially by ‘elitists’ and ‘experts’, and so are building powerful and expert-resistant barricades – ‘You lost, accept it’; ‘What part of democracy don’t you understand?’; ‘We’re not idiots, we knew what we were voting for’; ‘Brexit means Brexit’ – against any sign that they might be about to be ‘betrayed’ by the ‘Establishment’. At the very least it may be wise for Corbyn not to come out as a Remainer until the practical flaws in the Brexit enterprise have been clearly revealed to everyone, as well as the cheating on the Brexit side.

Much of the working-class Brexit vote was a blind expression of anger, or a desperate cry for help. Only the elitist leaders of the movement cared much about Europe. Any solution to the problem that doesn’t address this, or even exacerbates it, could intensify the dangerous divisions that the debate has opened up in Britain. This is an important consideration, which only Corbyn’s more subtle approach takes proper account of.

Jeremy Corbyn - the natural leader; our present PM - a leader in name only

In the meantime we should try to see the problem from Corbyn’s – and Labour’s – point of view. The party’s priority must be to make radical changes to Britain’s economy and society. The relationship with Europe is secondary to this. A social democratic Britain could be reconciled either with membership of a reformed EU or with a soft Brexit. But it isn’t compatible with any Tory policy towards Europe, either out or in. So: an election must come first; followed either by a renegotiation on Labour’s terms, or another referendum, with Remain as an option, which should give us a more accurate picture of the ‘people’s will’ – a more informed will this time. It might even allow us to crawl back, tail between our legs, into the EU. (That would be my preference; but then I live there.)'

Shades of 'Dad's Army' 

Bernard Porter has his own agenda but his academic objectivity is impressive. He does understand that JC's Labour Party intends to change the face of our economy and society for the better - to create a more humane and civilised country. That is the absolute priority.

BP concludes:
'Last, but by no means least, this just might undo some of the domestic harm done by this wretched contest, smoothing out the political divisions between Brexiters and Remainers, and enabling the British to live at least moderately happily together again. Johnson and Rees-Mogg, and the rest of the public school crowd, would be pushed back to the margins where they belong. On this view, Corbyn’s way could even be seen as ‘patriotic’.'

On a subject that attracts so many words and so much feeling, I hope you have found these thoughts of Bernard Porter and my comments helpful.   

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