Giles Fraser writes:
The problem wasn’t that Jeremy Corbyn gave lacklustre support to the remain campaign.
The problem was that he gave it any support at all.
Imagine how different things could have been if he had come out full-throttle for Brexit – like he did in the 1975 referendum.
Indeed, Corbyn may have been one of the few people in a position both to acknowledge the righteous anger of forgotten working-class communities and also to steer that anger away from the unrighteous scapegoating of EU migrants.
He could have had a crucial role in stopping the far right from capturing that anger and making it their own.
But he flunked it.
I only half blame him for that. We now see that his colleagues in parliament were itching to get rid of him.
And if he had more openly expressed his natural Brexit sympathies, the Blairites would have been handed another stick to beat him with.
But the problem is that this current crisis is a much bigger issue than the treachery of his fellow Labour MPs.
In fact, it’s a much bigger issue than the huge support he has within the party.
The thing to focus on is the millions of erstwhile Labour voters who voted leave.
Will they really want to come back to a party that still seems to have no idea why they voted as they did and, since the vote, has continued to mock them as stupid or bigoted?
The Labour party exists to be on the side of working people, yet many of its elected officials have stopped listening to their concerns.
It’s not squabbling in Westminster that will sign the death certificate of the Labour party.
It is the alienation of the party from its base.
This referendum was a battle over globalisation and its discontents, between those who have become the beneficiaries of a boundary-busting neoliberal economy and those who have been left behind by it.
A few years back, I was in Stoke-on-Trent trying to understand the appeal of the BNP in that area.
One of their leaders told me about the pottery factory in which he used to work.
One day some Chinese guys in suits came into the factory shaking everybody’s hand.
Then, the next he heard, they had bought the company.
And a few months after that the kilns were loaded on to the back of a series of flatbed lorries and driven away.
The factory was closed and he was out of a job.
He joined the BNP.
Some people will only hear the racism in this story. And yes, I think it is there.
And yes, it absolutely must be challenged, ripped out and destroyed.
But there is something else that needs to be carefully attended to – a cry of rage at the alien forces of a vampire capitalism that sucked his community dry.
This was the rage that Brexit tapped into.
And the far right were able to turn this against poor immigrants precisely because those who should have been listening were too busy worrying about their children’s next trip to Paris or what their friends at Glastonbury would think if they challenged the liberal consensus.
Precisely the same people who are now saying, incredulously, “but I have never met a leave person”, as if that were a good thing.
There is indeed a mighty task disentangling anger at advanced capitalism from anger redirected towards Poles and Romanians.
And it is a dangerous undertaking – because to affirm the former can feel uncomfortably close to affirming the latter, especially now that the right have been given the freedom to secure that connection in people’s minds.
But distinguish the two we must.
The villains are not those who have come here for a better life, breaking their backs picking strawberries in East Anglia.
The villains sit behind their computer screens in the City of London and move money around the world without a care as to how it effects local communities.
Had there been a stronger Labour Brexit voice, this referendum and its meaning would not have been so easily captured by the racists.
And Corbyn would now look like a prime minister in waiting.
I know, spilt milk and all that.
But there is still all to play for.
Outside the Westminster bubble, the very existence of the Labour party is now at stake.