Jeremy Corbyn promised a glimmer of hope to a (spiritually) bereft nation last week following years of insecurity and uncertainty over downtrodden Britons’ futures. No, this wasn’t a grandiose, Momentum-esque policy reveal, but a promising olive branch to break the Brexit impasse. A People’s Vote-inspired second referendum is now on the cards as official opposition policy as and when Theresa May’s botched deal flops once and for all on Tuesday 12 March.
Let’s be clear: Corbyn has not had a change of heart. For a hard-line left-wing eurosceptic who gave the EU a noncommittal 7/10, his manoeuvre is nothing short of political cunning. Corbs has butchered a flock of birds with one stone here: first of all, the fledgling, pro-remain Independent Group’s PR machine lies dead in the water. A week of shabby do-gooder flexing against the backdrop of Labour’s adoption of a second referendum clause has left them even more lost for words on their raison d’être. The Liberal parties (TIG and Lib Dems) have immediately lost their bravado in pointing out their People’s Vote unique selling point, and the TIG MPs are now solemnly confined to an informal Lib Dem faction reminiscing on Blairism. But they’ll get over it. Beyond them propping up the ‘Bluekip’ government, Labour can count on some 22 Liberals to support its second referendum amendment in the weeks ahead — let alone the SNP’s.
Speak of the devil. Yes, the SNP. The faux-liberal, nationalist party is unequivocally the reason for which we pain over Westminster arithmetic for every Brexit amendment. Since the SNP’s major Westminster début in 2010, the United Kingdom has been ruled under coalitions or confidence and supply-deals, bar the Conservatives stint from 2015-2017. The SNP carries a considerable amount of the blame for the fact that our governments can no longer command majorities and that every vote is so consequential in the process of Brexit. In anticipation of a Labour government and in order to win over SNP voters, Corbyn is taking a calculated risk in giving Scotland, which voted 62% remain, another say in remaining in the EU. The potential backlash of this is the alienation of leave-voting Labour voters and their flight to ‘Bluekip’ in the event of the next election, however. In any case, the SNP will be blindly signing their death wish in voting with Labour on its amendment and the inevitable vote on a second referendum later this month. According to a recent YouGov poll, 45% of Scottish respondents think Labour is right to back a new referendum, compared to 36% against. Labour’s electability seems somewhat more considerable now, doesn’t it?
Thirdly, and lastly, the prospect of Labour electability has often rested in its ability to appeal to the business community. But with the second referendum amendment, Labour suddenly appears in businesses’ good books. In contrast to ‘Bluekip’ and its no-deal, economically illiterate psychosis, Labour appears practical by ostensibly putting the economy first. This, coupled with John McDonnell’s more conciliatory tone, where he received a round of applause from the British Chamber for Commerce last March for his comments on supplying small businesses with start-up risk capital, looks like the recipe for success to reach out to more British demographics.
Nevertheless, if the polls are anything to go by — sorry, when were they? — Labour has a way to go yet. It remains to be seen whether Labour will be able to keep its momentum in public opinion. Labour needs to be more reactive and ahead of the game given that a snap election could always be around the corner. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that public opinion which was drifting away from Corbyn has reversed. That “Oh, I knew he was gonna pull it out the bag! I’m glad I hung in there!”-feeling cannot be ignored.