Brexit – The Opposition Splinters

Baskar Sundaram
Baskar Sundaram

The Labour Party would have to make bold decisions to overcome dissent within its ranks 

Delegates of the Labour party gathered in Brighton, England for its annual conference 2019. The proceedings at the conference were nothing short of dramatic as Brexit discussions took the centerpiece. Jeremy Corbyn closed the conference, a day earlier than planned, putting an end to a series of raucous few days, marred with party infighting and an unsuccessful coup against Corbyn’s deputy – Tom Watson. In the background played Supreme Court’s verdict that ruled PM Boris Johnson’s suspension of the Parliament as illegal. Some of the key observations from the proceedings at the conference include:

Brexit is proving to be an anathema for the party – Discontent on Brexit is growing and tearing the Labour Party in separate directions. Mr. Corbyn faced open criticism for insisting that the party maintain a neutral stance on the outcome of a possible second Brexit referendum. He got the vote through in his favour, but not without upsetting many pro-Europeans within the party.

Corbyn on his way out – Jeremy Corbyn has outlasted two conservative PMs and with Boris Johnson’s popularity on the wane, it cannot be ruled out that he might well be on his way to three. However, recent opinion polls indicate Corbyn might have finally fallen out of favour at home, registering historic lows for the party and for his own leadership. Senior party leaders are rallying up to criticise his Brexit policies which includes some of his closest allies such as Jon Lansman, who manages the pro-Corbyn Momentum Group. The party obviously also has its sight on winning the general election.

Next leader likely to be a ‘remain’ advocate – Majority of the Labour Party members including most of its MPs are in favour of ‘remaining’ with the EU, making it highly likely that Corbyn’s replacement would be chosen on the basis of a more benign attitude towards the bloc. Sir Keir Starmer (Shadow Brexit Secretary) and Emily Thornberry (Shadow Foreign Secretary) have both presented strong candidature for leadership through their unequivocal support to stay with the EU. This is in contrast with Corbyn’s policy of delaying the decision to take a stand until after the general election.

Failure to make enough noise – Despite the reproach Boris Johnson received at the hands of the Supreme Court for illegally suspending the parliament and misleading the Queen, support for the Conservative Party has not faded. Experts believe that this also in part due to Labour Party’s apparent failure to exploit Johnson’s mistakes since he has taken office. The Tories have so far lost six consecutive votes in the House of Commons, failing repeatedly to secure a Brexit deal.

Brexit has fostered opposition within the opposition. The Labour Party would expect its leaders to come in unison and present a strong common front.

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