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Boris Johnson, the “Trumpification of British Politics” and the Left.

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Our Ruling Class.

Talleyrand – Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754  – 1838) – was the most famous European statesman of his day.

His house. the Hôtel de Talleyrand, was celebrated,

Into this palace, as a spider into its web, he enticed and captured, one by one, heroes, thinkers, conquerors, princes, emperors, Bonaparte, Sieyès, Mme de Stael, Chateaubriand, Benjamin Constant, Alexandre de Russie, Guillaume de Prusse, François d’Autriche, Louis XVIII, Louis Philippe, and all the gilded glittering flies which buzz through the history of these past forty years. All this glittering swarm, fascinated by the penetrating eye of this man, passed in turn under this gloomy entrance bearing on it the inscription: Hôtel Talleyrand.

In the collection of writings from which this comes Victor Hugo described the death of the man who became a by-word by cynical diplomacy.

In Choses Vues the author of Les Misérables  describes his embalming, in the ancient Egyptian style.

The corpse lay in an empty chamber when a valet walked in.

He found that they had left the brain on the side-table.

The servant picked it up, and finding no other way of disposing of it, threw it into the outside sewer.

It is said that people have been looking for someone with Tallyrand’s cerebrum ever since.

Many would say that dealing Boris Johnson would be hard even for the most experienced politician.

El Pais says that “La única persona capaz de derrotar a Boris Johnson —y ya hay precedentes— sería el propio Boris Johnson.” (“the only person capable of defeating Boris Johnson – and there are precedents – is Boris Johnson himself”)

The European Press is full of such scorn for the man Le Monde calls a “buffoon” (while politely asking him to stop being one):

Le Monde, in an excoriating editorial, said Johnson had shown himself to be “a stranger to logic and convictions” in a career rich in “deceits, blunders and failures”. In the run-up to the 2016 referendum he “told lies on the side of a bus, promised the UK could have its cake and eat it, and compared the EU to the Third Reich,” it said.

As foreign secretary he “made his country an object of ridicule around the world with his amateurism, flippancy and ignorance”, France’s newspaper of record continued. Rivalling Nigel Farage for populism, Johnson’s “jingoistic rhetoric” promised Britons an unrealistic “glorious global future”.

His threat to withhold the €39bn Brexit divorce settlement would have “incalculable consequences”, damaging the international credibility of a country priding itself on being a champion of the rule of law, Le Monde said. And for the EU a Johnson premiership would mean “a mini-Trump across the Channel, dedicated to its sabotage”. Britain would become “a hostile principality, built on social, fiscal and environmental deregulation.”

Amongst the articles cited by the Guardian this stands out (Corriere della Sera)

Lord Chris Pattern says that Johnson is part of the ” una “trumpificazione” della nostra politica., the Trumpification of our politics.

He is equally,

Trump’s poodle: a liar who does not pay attention to the detail of reality, tells people what they want to hear and relies on their ignorance”.

Patten said Johnson exemplified the “collapse of rationality, of the relationship between the facts and what we believe” in present-day politics. “What he is offering is impossible.

All this looks as if it implies some serious thinking about changing Labour’s strategy.

A bounder in his own bailiwick is going to be hard to dislodge.

The Trumpification of British politics has begun; it does not look if a hasty declaration of an “insurgency” against Johnson is going to thwart it.

To begin with there is the impact of start-up political business, The Brexit Party. Helped by the ‘red-brown’ front, not to mention the support of former leftists, it has become a political player, and how to fight it. The Brexit Party is part of a broader trend towards national populism, which has helped dislodge the left from its historic bases of support in Italy and France. Left-wing populisms – in France and Spain – have been unable to counter the nationalist call to fight ‘oligarchies’ and ‘elites’ on behalf of the Nation.

The Brexit Party is not about to vanish:

Is an appeal to our own ‘identity politics’ of the people, the left-behind, the self-identifying native working class better than trying to build alliances on universal, internationalist,  fights for rights and interests?

Then there Johnson’s strategy: will Farage assist the disintegration of the Tory party, or will the Brexit Party pave the way for his victory as part of a new “great moving right show” that can resonate  deeply into the country’s electorate and culture ? Johnson hopes to rebuild the electoral support that got May- just –  elected and to extent it. How can an alternative be created from shards from the same ideology, which, the experience of European left populism indicates, is a sure way to strengthen the carnival of reaction, not to challenge it?

All these issues boil down to one: the Brexit project. Will Labour let Johnson pursue the goal – however much he twists and turns over the details – of a Hard Right Brexit, the only actually existing Brexit.

Apparently the Lexit left has the answer: it needs to back their version of Brexit.

The Morning Star editorialises.

..the trade union movement and the left has to make a decisions it to remain stuck in an increasingly sterile and immobilising debate for and against the EU? Or is it to shift the ground to the kind of withdrawal from the EU that must be secured to protect working people and to advance a progressive agenda that can beat the Tories?

Only class politics can defeat Johnson in Labour’s working-class heartlands. The dangers of not preparing are too serious to be contemplated.

The beginnings of a different approach are there, and have strong support on the left.

This is an excellent reply to such views:

Labour must re-energise the Corbyn project by opposing Brexit

witnessing the party’s continued ambiguity and evasion, many of the members who resolutely defended Corbyn as leader in the face of an establishment onslaught are asking themselves whether the values of straight-talking honest politics only apply if you agree with the leader. Going into a general election with the current policy on Brexit would be disastrous. By bringing its policy back into line with the democratic will of its members, and anchoring its support for Remain in a programme of cross-border resistance, Labour can clearly differentiate itself from the pro-business globalism of the Lib Dems and the utopian optimism of the Greens to win back disillusioned supporters.

With a vision aimed at defending the interests of all workers, British or not, Labour can win here and lead a Europe-wide offensive against capitalist exploitation. Co-ordinating this cross-border coalition will require conferences and organising events attracting activists with shared goals from across Europe. Labour can be the force to convene such events on a mass scale, to begin the fight for a democratic, socialist Europe.


Brexit and Trump are “two sides of the same coin” which no protest can ignore.

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Protest Against Trump’s Vision of a Brexit Britain.


Viewers of Channel Four last night know that apart from the free entry of US  business chancers into the NHS Trump is also demanding that this should be in the supermarkets.


The Truth About Chlorinated Chicken review – an instant appetite-ruiner

Just in time for Trump’s UK visit, Channel 4’s Dispatches looked at the food standard implications of a post-Brexit trade deal with the US. It wasn’t a pretty sight

Chlorine washing may prevent the detection of contaminants through ordinary testing, because it partially masks the problem. Quilton had no trouble finding a Texas restaurant owner who will swear there is nothing wrong with American chicken – “Not a thing. Superior quality and flavour”. But the numbers speak for themselves: US rates of campylobacter infection are 10 times higher than in the UK. The US records hundreds of salmonella deaths a year; the UK has in recent years recorded none.

Central to the programme was footage shot inside a giant processing plant by an undercover employee. Looking at it, a former EU meat inspector was able to identify several flagrant violations of good hygiene practice and even the plant’s own policies, but there was more sickening stuff on display: a supervisor is overheard talking about “a trend of adulterated product”, by which she means glass in the chicken, and also making reference to a recent “amputation”. To me, the word amputation brings to mind an operation performed by a professional for the good of a patient, and not, as in this instance, some poultry worker losing three fingers in a machine.

One study found 95 such “amputations” over a single year in American poultry processing, making it one of the most dangerous occupations in the US. Debbie Berkowitz, a former chief of staff at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), who now campaigns for employment rights, maintains that the industry is also exploitative: employees, her office found, were routinely denied basic rights, including toilet breaks. “Workers did not want to have to soil themselves,” she said. “So they wore diapers (nappies)  on the line.

Who we are: Stop Trump Coalition.


We will make it clear to the British government that it’s not OK to normalise Trump’s agenda and the hate and fear it has sparked.

Trumpism directly threatens steps towards tackling:
Peace and disarmament
Climate change
Fighting discrimination, particularly against already marginalised groups like migrants and Muslims
Corporate greed

And – this is not mentioned – Brexit!

It was not mentioned, at least I did not hear it, in the interviews with the Stop Trump demo on the telly this morning.

Yet this is the core of Trump’s agenda, as his support for Farage and Boris Johnson and present touting of “trade deals”  makes clear.

One can only imagine the squirming that’s going on amongst the Brexit  left who cannot bring themselves to admit that there is a link, a tight bond, between the carnival of reaction that is the Brexit Party and the Tory No Deal Right and Trump’s agenda.

Will they see that the demand for a Sovereign nation battling it out with Trade Deals with Trump, and  – who knows since he’s iffy about it, the WTO, would be a burden for a  left government.

Will they continue to indulge that section of the left, as yet only a section,  that by its talk of the “real” people who back Brexit, and loathing of “rootless cosmopolitans”  has become the the fellow travellers of National Populism?

Like this chap, who’s something of hero o the red-brown front?

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Another Europe certainly does not think so.

Even the Liberals are getting in on the act.


Trump’s response so far.





National Populist Farage’s “Real target is Britain’s ‘failed’ democracy, not Brexit.”

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National Populist Egocrat. 

Sky reporter Lewis Goodall has been one of the most perceptive writers about Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party.

His article in the Observer today is a must-read.

Nigel Farage’s real target is Britain’s ‘failed’ democracy, not Brexit

Ukip was deeply and recognisably British. The half-colonels; the angry golf-playing uncles; the rankling over “elf and safety” and political correctness. Its pound-sign logo was almost quaint: It was a Britain Orwell would have recognised. Ideologically, too, its Euroscepticism mined a deep vein in British politics, tracing back to our entry in 1973, if not before.


Politics has moved on – and so has Farage.

Brexit now isn’t even his principal concern, its failure the mere embodiment of a wider malaise. Instead, the collapse of the Brexit process is proof of his new analysis: that British democracy does not work and does not even exist. Worse, that every organ of the state and political life, be it the parties, the media, the courts – parliamentary democracy itself – are malign and work against the interests of “the people”. Never before have we had a major political force that operates with that basic reflex.

Goodhall concludes,

For Brexit party success will surely change the alchemy of the Tory makeup. Indeed, it already has, setting the seal on the end of Theresa May’s premiership and ensuring the all-but-certain election of a no-dealer in her stead. Far from a Conservative turn to the kind of broad, centrist Christian democracy to which Theresa May once aspired, her party may follow the Republicans in becoming a hard-edged populist movement. In an age where “one-nation” seems impossible and where we are at least two, Farage and his success will force them to choose. Out of fear, they will choose him


Goodhall clearly has his finger on one essential aspect of National Populism.

With a belief that the “elite” is working against the “people” it splits the world into the camp of implacable  enemies and the real “folks” (as Farage, speaking American says).

This is anti-pluralism.

The Sky journalist notes,

Being at those rallies, it struck me how many of my friends would listen to what they heard on the stage and the sentiment of those in the crowd and feel complete loathing and fear, at the same time as those around me cheered with joy and expectation. We no longer just disagree with each other, we don’t even begin to understand how our fellow citizens think.

This chimes with the analysis offered by Jan-Werner Müller in What Is Populism? (2016).

He argued that “only some of the people are really the people” and at populism’s core is a rejection of pluralism. Populists will always claim that they and they alone represent the people and their true interests. 

Not only liberals should be concerned.

Democratic socialism is the expression of a plurality of interests, against different forms of oppression and exploitation, brought together in a common purpose for socialist objectives.

Its origins lie in institutions, like the labour movement, which were built by people themselves. In this century left wing and radical campaigns and trade unions are also the created  and runby the membership democratically. The political parties of the democratic socialist left, unlike Stalinist parties, and despite a tendency to their own “oligarchical” structures, are in principle based on member-wide democracy. A wide spectrum of views, social democratic, ‘revisionism’, types of democratic socialism, various forms of democratic Marxism, are part of this movement.

The democratic basis of politics lies on different versions of this belief, put forward his later writings by the Socialisme ou Barbarie  thinker, Claude Lefort,

For Lefort democracy is the system characterized by the institutionalization of conflict within society, the division of social body; it recognizes and even considers legitimate the existence of divergent interests, conflicting opinions, visions of the world that are opposed and even incompatible. Lefort’s vision makes the disappearance of the leader as a political body – the putting to death of the king, as Kantorowicz calls it – the founding moment of democracy because it makes the seat of power, hitherto occupied by an eternal substance transcending the mere physical existence of monarchs, into an “empty space” where groups with shared interests and opinions can succeed each other, but only for a time and at the will of elections. Power is no longer tied to any specific programme, goal, or proposal; it is nothing but a collection of instruments put temporarily at the disposal of those who win a majority. “In Lefort’s invented and inventive democracy,” writes Dominique Colas, “power comes from the people and belongs to no one.

Farage and the National Populists  wish to monopolise the political space and make this “power” belong to their “people”.

They, the embodiment of the ‘real’ people, that is those who voted for Brexit, the “somewhere” people, the genuine salt of the earth types with roots, in the land and memory of the country and the ancestors of the nation.

Above all the National Populists equally deny the ” uncertainty” of politics and wish to impose their, ‘real’ majority views on the state and the inhabitants of a country.

Many of the present day populist parties, using as David Runciman (How Democracy Ends. 2018)  and many others note, new communication technology, have formed ‘parties’ and movements as business start-ups, run by the leadership, and typically one ‘charismatic’ figure.

They claim to stand for the real People against the Oligarchy –  the elites – and “globalism”.

In some respects Farage resembles what Lefort called an “egocrat” in the totalitarian mould (Un Homme en trop. Essai sur l’archipel du goulag de Soljénitsyne. New Edition. 2015).

His wishes run through the party organs.

Clearly the age of Stalinist, Fascist and Nazi “total” terror is ended and it would be seriously wrong to compare the Brexit Party to these “conspiracies in broad daylight” with their Gulag, Camps and mass murder.

Müller predicted that “..with their basic commitment to the idea that only they represented the people”. Once installed in office, “they will engage in occupying the state mass clientelism and corruption, and the suppression of anything like a critical civil society. (What Is Populism? Page 102)

The Brexit Party is, above all, a vehicle for the demand to end the complexity of politics and to impose the figure of its leader in the “empty space”, the seat of power than anybody and nobody can occupy in democratic institutions – the Sovereign. It wishes to make social life ‘transparent’ contest between itself and its targets, the EU and the non-people.

Nothing can be gained by ‘listening’ to the demands of the political forces of the Brexit Party.

The attempt by ‘left populists’ to speak to this audience in the hope that they can give a voice to some of the ‘democratic’ aspects of their demands in unable to grapple with the way that the thrust of National Populism is against democratic pluralism.

In many respects they are more of a danger than the ‘dark enlightenment‘  of the far right that seeks a new form of openly anti-democratic politics.

National Populists are, to cite Chantal Mouffe in her use of Carl Schmitt , “the enemy” (The Return of the Political. Chantal Mouffe. 2005). 

This has already been Farage’s impact in the UK this month.

Brexit Party’s rise forced dithering Tory MPs to ditch Theresa May.

One expects more when the European election results are announced this evening.

News from the Red-Brown Front, Galloway Withdraws from Peterborough Contest,

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 He used to be George Galloway you know.


Mr Galloway this evening confirmed he was pulling out of the race after missing out on the Brexit Party nomination which has gone to Secret Millionaire Mike Greene.

Mr Galloway tweeted: “I tried to persuade @Nigel_Farage to support my candidacy in #Peterborough to emphasise the broad democratic alliance the campaign must be and balance the candidatures of Ms Widdecombe and Ms Rees-Mogg. Now that the #Brexit Party have named their candidate I have withdrawn my own.”

Mr Galloway had never confirmed if he was standing as an independent or with a party, although he had been rumoured to be seeking the Brexit Party nomination.

Annunziata Rees-Mogg, a former Conservative parliamentary candidate who is standing for the Brexit Party in the upcoming European elections, denied rumours earlier this week she wanted to be her new party’s candidate in Peterborough.

Ms Widdecombe, a former Tory MP who is also standing to be a Brexit Party MEP, had joined party leader Nigel Farage at a Brexit Party rally on Tuesday at the KingsGate Conference Centre in Peterborough.

Mr Greene’s candidacy was confirmed earlier this evening.

The Brexit Party is contesting its first ever parliamentary election but is currently the 10/11 odds on favourite to win according to Ladbrokes, just ahead of Labour which is evens.

There was a time, a happy time for Galloway, when he was the leader of the Respect Party, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, venerated by his close allies in the Stop the War Coalition, led by Counterfire’s Lindsey German, and his close friends, Seumas Milne and Andrew Murray, an alliance that brought together the Socialist Workers Party and (euphemistically named) ‘conservative’ Muslim Association of Britain.

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Then there was a schism, yet Galloway still pulled ’em in, with his comrades in Respect Renewal,  Ken Loach (now a sponsor of Labour Against the Witch-hunt),  Victoria Brittain, Salma Yaqoob and Nick Wrack.

Then, the divine surprise of the ‘Bradford Spring” when he was elected as MP again in the 2012 Bradford West by-election.

More rows followed after Galloway showed an understanding of sexual etiquette and excused his old mucker Julian Assange.

One of the last faithful, Yvonne Ridley, who had sought to keep Respect “zionist free” (Respect is a Zionist free party … if there was any Zionism in the Respect Party they would be hunted down and kicked out. We have no time for Zionists,”, stood in Rotherham in 2012 and gained 8% of the vote.

Since those happy days – he was defeated in Bradford in 2015 by Labour’s Naz Shah) Galloway has made a living on RT and other media outlets.

He has become something of a poet,

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This year things seemed to be looking up as Galloway contemplated becoming a modern version of Jacques Doriot, who was expelled from the French Communist Party in 1934 and founded the far-right Parti Populaire Français. Doriot culminated this distinguished career by supporting the Vichey regime, and then fighting for Hitler on the Eastern Front.

Now in a pensive mood the great man reflects after this snub:

In the meantime, he might find this interesting reading.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 9, 2019 at 10:28 am

After his ‘red’ mates, Farage’s ‘brown’ allies make headlines in the ‘confusionist’ Brexit Party.

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Ipswich Brexit Campaign Car.

There is the claim that the working class, the “popular” vote, is for Brexit.

This is contested claim (ignoring the strong popular anti-Brexit vote in major cities to begin with), and, odd, since many of the people advancing the claim say they are Leninists.

To Lenin, on a generous interpretation, socialism is the fusion, by persuasion,  between Marxist ideas and the labour movement, it is not the “spontaneous” product of opinion polls.

On a less generous view Leninism claims to be a scientific standpoint celebrated by the various, not to say, teeming, micro-parties of that section of the left leading the working class by these “tribunes of the people” by a variety of stunts and tactics.

The major reason they refer to the social basis of the Brexit vote is not because they have become psephologists but because it’s the view they support.

Take this from the revolutionary socialists (self-proclaimed Leninists) of Counterfire.

Lindsey German says today (A general election with a People’s Brexit is our escape route from this Westminster quagmire), after the local elections that,

Labour is winded by these results, not least because they weren’t expected, but it has to fight back in the Euros. Firstly against Farage, the fascist ‘Tommy Robinson’, UKIP and all the rest of the racist right. But as importantly, by putting an agenda which argues for a People’s Brexit (something Labour seems to have abandoned in the face of its own Remainers), and for a completely altered set of priorities on domestic issues ..

Labour, they say, must, ” Demand that general election and a People’s Brexit, and redouble efforts to campaign around other issues – climate emergency, austerity deaths, housing.”

Now one can agree with one of German’s points, that Corbyn should not do a “deal” with May on Brexit.

But this?

That we can “break through the Brexit cloud which hangs over British politics at present, and can hopefully unite those on different sides of the divide”?

By campaigning for a People’s Brexit  that few have heard of and those that have have most have already forgotten the phrase.

No chance.

We can agree that fighting austerity policies is Labour’s Number one priority.

But nobody, nobody, can imagine however “hopefully” that there is unity when she calls for the very issue, Brexit, and her group’s support for it, can be thought away by other campaigns.

How exactly are they going to “fight” Farage, one might ask, if all they can say is, “we want a better Brexit than you do!”

Brexit was, is, and will be, the key issue, and Counterfire stands with the Brexit side.

Many would consider that Counterfire, and the Lexiters more widely, underestimate not the potential electoral support for Farage, but the political basis for the ‘red-brown’ alliance. This includes people in the ‘left’ Full Brexit, as well as the media promoted (from the BBC to Sky) Spiked (ex-Revolutionary Communist Party).

National populism has its ‘left’ wing with these links, and it also has its brown wing, clearly on the far-right.

This mixture, is known in France, where there are plenty of examples of such a bloc, is “confusionism”.

Yesterday brought news from the ‘brown’ side of this alliance.

Nigel Farage is facing strong criticism from Jewish organisations and a series of other groups after it emerged he repeatedly took part in interviews with a far-right US talkshow host, during which the Brexit party leader openly discussed conspiracy theories, some of which have been linked to antisemitism.

A Guardian investigation has found Farage has appeared at least six times on the show of Alex Jones, who was sued by bereaved parentsafter claiming a US school shooting was faked, and was banned permanently from Facebook last week.

In his various appearances on Jones’s show, Farage discussed themes commonly associated with an antisemitic conspiracy theory that Jewish financiers are behind a plot to replace nation states with a global government.

In the six identified interviews, which date from 2009 to last year, Farage, whose Brexit party is leading polls for the upcoming European elections, repeatedly uses words and phrases such as “globalists” and “new world order”, which regularly feature in antisemitic ideas.

In the interviews, Farage also says:

  • Members of the annual Bilderberg gathering of political and business leaders are plotting a global government.
  • The banking and political systems are working “hand in glove” in an attempt to disband nation states.
  • “Globalists” are trying to engineer a world war as a means to introduce a worldwide government.
  • Climate change is a “scam” intended to push forward this transnational government.

One minute it’s former leftist Claire Fox citing Shelly’s Rise like Lions in the service of National Populism. The next it’s full conspi Bilderberg stuff.

The nutter pictured above is probably a lot saner than this lot.

Corbyn Says Brexit Deal “Has to be Done”.

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Most people will not rush to pontificate on implications of the local election results least of all for Labour’s Brexit strategy.

John McDonnell is reported to have responded earlier today ,

“So far message from local elections: Brexit – sort it. Message received.”

Responding to suggestions that his comments signalled he was keen to strike a deal with the government in the coming days, with both main parties at risk of a drubbing in next month’s European elections, McDonnell said: “We need to get on with sorting this out, one way or the other.”


This can be interpreted in many different ways, calling for a People’s Vote, a Soft Brexit, opposing Brexit in the new conditions that have emerged, and who knows what else – all in line with different angles on a Labour resolution passed in different days.

But just now Politics Home carries this report which, following the previous remarks, will cause a deep sigh of annoyance for the majority of Labour members who are opposed to actually existing Brexit .

Jeremy Corbyn says election results show Brexit deal with Tories ‘has to be done’

The Labour leader said voters had sent a clear message that Parliament must get on with approving the UK’s departure from the European Union.

His comments added to the confusion surrounding Labour’s position after Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the issue had to be dealt with “whichever way”, suggesting the party could end up opposing Brexit altogether.


It is hard to see which audience Corbyn is talking to.

Perhaps it is the “real” people that the national populist left thinks are the only people that count, that is those who back Brexit.

Clearly he is not talking to his own party and the internationalist left.

Labour for a Socialist Europe carries this further report:

Responding to Tory Brexit minister James Cleverly on the BBC, Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner said:

“You as a Brexit Minister should understand that we are in there [in the Labour-Tory talks on Brexit] trying to bail you guys out.”

(Watch the clip here.)

Whether or not this is how the entire leadership and negotiating team views the talks, it must certainly reflect a strong strand of opinion – and in any case it reflects the unfortunate political dynamic. Whatever the risks for the Tories, the risks for Labour if it agrees a deal are greater – as explained here. It would amount precisely to bailing the Tories out.

These talks, to the degree they are “successful”, mean Labour accepting most of the Tories’ Brexit agenda, including for instance its Immigration Bill. The political logic of this is shown by Rebecca Long-Bailey referring to discussions in these negotiations about workers’ rights as “fantastic” (!)

Concerningly, John McDonnell tweeted “message from local elections – ‘Brexit – sort it.’ Message received.” This ambiguous statement is being widely interpreted as leaning further towards making a deal.

The talks are effectively counterposed to Labour taking the fight to the Tories, as the local government election results show. Similarly they are now a risk to Labour’s campaign in the European elections, as Paul Mason explains here.

Labour members should protest about Gardiner’s comments and, more importantly, demand the party withdraws from the talks. Sign the statement calling for that here.

Comrade Owen Jones makes many points in his guarded and thoughtful analysis today, but perhaps this is the most relevant one.

There will be many siren voices arguing that there are simple answers for Labour. As long as Brexit dominates, there aren’t. The party’s left-populist message is sidelined, and it risks alienating the remain and leave voters it needs to win an election. Sometimes the honest answer is there are no easy solutions, and anyone arguing otherwise is kidding themselves.

Left populism, which Owen has admired in Podemos, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s “rallying point”,  La France insoumise, is on the decline.

In last month’s Spanish election Podemos lost twenty-nine MPs and 7 percent of its votes.

La France insoumise stands at a possible  8 to 9 % (in highly unstable opinion polls) for the coming European elections – and has no prospect of governing France whatsoever.

Left populism, the idea that “the” people, including the working class and oppressed groups, can be moblised against the “elites” and the “oligarchy” has been overshadowed by national populism.

That form of populism, in the UK overwhelmingly focused against the EU, has so far only drawn fringe parts of the left into its orbit in red-brown alliances like Farage’s Brexit Party.

It puts nation, national sovereignty, above everything else, and opposes it to the ‘anti-nation’ the rootless cosmopolitans, the ‘liberals’, which to them includes the internationalist left, the ‘anywhere’ people.

But the danger that more mainstream forces will try for a simple answer which is to appeal to the ‘real people’ who are anti-Brexit and ignore Labour’s broader constituencies, and the ties that bind the labour movement to Europe.

It would be better if we “sidelined” populism, left or right, and talked about serious left-wing policies.

The left cannot build a winning political bloc without the people who are opposed to Brexit for the simple reason that many of their principles define what a ‘left’ is.

The economic and poltiical programme of a Labour government needs to be based on alliances with our other European lefts to begin with, inside the structures of the European Union.

The European elections are still going ahead and the present un-constructive ambiguity will not help Labour campaign.



Labour’s Position on Europe and National Populism.

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Not Everybody likes National Populism.

The prospect of European Elections in the UK has enabled national populism, both right and left, a public platform.

National populism can be seen as a collection of movements and parties which pit the ‘nation’ against the ‘globalised elites’ and put politics in the service of this. Sometimes this is the the ‘people’, the British people, the ‘real’ people, the ‘real’ working class, against the cosmopolitan left.

There is Farage’s Brexit Party, an alliance of the far-right, economic liberals, and former ‘revolutionary communists’ of Spiked, and the harder right UKIP. It is backed by the one-time favourite of the ‘left’, and Stop the War Coalition campaigner, George Galloway.

The Brexit Party illustrates another feature of national populism, confusionism, between right-wing and left-wing ideas.

The Full Brexit group, which involves Labour Peer Lord Glasman, critic of ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ Paul Embery of the ‘trade unionists’ against the EU, with close links to Arron Banks, the theorists of the ‘somewhere’ versus ‘nowhere’ people, David Goodhart, other academics and members of the Labour Party, Communist Party of Britain (Morning Star), Counterfire sympathisers and ‘left’ sovereigntists.

The Full Brexit claims that it aims, “to revive a genuine left internationalism”. But its politics are equally based on the priority to the ‘national.

They include those close to Spiked, such as this supporter and signer of the Full Brexit founding statement, now standing for Farage’s party.

The pro-Brexit German academic Wolfgang Streeck, who writes for New Left Review and the Farage backing site Spiked, writes in the same vein as the Full Brexit.

Wolfgang Streeck on why the EU is a deplorable institution that we must leave.

Here are some more of his views:

It is suspected that these currents, have had some influence on Labour’s decision to remain ambiguous on policy for the European elections.

The CPB and Counterfire, for example, have campaigned for a ‘People’s Brexit’, a populist appeal which fell dead in the water.

But they continue to advance their cause.

On the one hand there is the argument that Labour needs to respect the Referendum result – the principal argument of the sovereigntists. These are the voices of the ‘real’ nation, not the liberal cosmopolitans (on this see on Shiraz: Stop stereotyping the north as Brexitland’ say four Labour MPs.)

On the other there is the potential, which by a combination of threats and exaggerations, these anti-EU groups are attempting to manoeuvre Labour into accepting Brexit in the belief that they could mould it to their wishes.

This is the position put forward in today’s Morning Star:

A Labour source told the Star: “The NEC agreed to keep the party’s policy the same as it ever was, which is to carry on fighting for a general election and to support an alternative Brexit deal which puts workers’ rights first.”

What this ‘deal’ could possibly be is buried in clouds of rhetoric.

The Tories have been unable to make a ‘deal’.

What on earth is the basis that anybody can be confident that Labour can make an agreement, one that satisfies the ‘Brexit on WTO rules’ supporting ‘left’ and ensure – please –  that it, “Puts workers’ rights first?”

The shifting sands, or rather quicksands, of British politics are not a stable basic on which to advance Labour’s policy in the changed circumstances.

There is a need to clarify policy, not to deal with a conference composite, which was the result of many different motions on the issue of Brexit. Not only the failure of the Tories to reach a deal but the mass demonstrations for a People’s Vote, that is a new Referendum, have changed the political landscape.

Yesterday’s NEC decision can be seen in this light.

It is said that “after weeks of debate, they are simply reiterating their plan to hold open the “option” of a public vote if they can’t get their own deal or a general election.”

Labour List writer Sienna Rodgers says,

Why? There is the fundamental fact that they simply don’t like the idea of holding another referendum, seeing it as disrespectful to voters and unhelpful electorally to Labour. A majority of NEC members, like the leadership, would prefer to push through a soft Brexit and get the divorce deal part of the process over and done with.

This does not explain the possible influence of the national populists in moulding the idea of ‘soft’ national Brexit.

The view, put forward by a number of ‘left’ populists (both genuinely left, such as Chantal Mouffe) and the highly suspect Wolfgang Streeck) is that the left has to appeal to the ‘left behinds’ in the present ‘populist revolts’ against ‘elites’.

This includes supporters of groups like the Brexit Party and others on the far-right, and therefore people’s ‘concerns’ on migrant workers must be ‘listened to’.

Weak on economics, they believe that a fully sovereign Parliament can break free of the capitalist world and make its own road to socialism. at which point ……

Without bothering about ‘Europe’, that is the left and the labour movement in the rest of our continent.

Next there is  the issue of Labour Party democracy.

As Michael Chessum says, why did these individuals vote as they did?

Finally, this is perhaps the most telling critical point for the coming election:

Labour’s manifesto decision is another cynical act of ‘constructive ambiguity’ Chris Allnutt

So now we know. Labour’s manifesto for the European election will be just as garbled and meaningless as its existing policy. After weeks of debate, they are simply reiterating their plan to hold open the “option” of a public vote if they can’t get their own deal or a general election.

This is evasive to the point of dishonesty. They’re now aggravating the uncertainty of their conference policy by committing it to their election manifesto.


What kind of Brexit did people want? We never asked. Leave was all things to all people. So we spent three years tearing ourselves apart over it. And now we risk letting ambiguity embolden a Brexit that nobody voted for three years ago and nobody wants now.

The European elections raise European issues.

Being ambiguous during them is not a good strategy.


Update from John and B, Red-Brown confusionism today.

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