Tuesday 24 November 2020

Yellow Round The Edges?

What was once Mo Mowlam's seat has been represented by all three parties in the last 10 years. In 2010, when the Labour Government failed to do anything for the Redcar steelworks while the Conservatives also shrugged their shoulders on the grounds that "You can't buck the market", then Redcar elected a Liberal Democrat MP with a 21.8 per cent swing. That remains the largest swing in England at a General Election, rather than at a by-election, since the Second World War.

Today, Keir Starmer has hinted that Labour might vote in favour of the Government's Brexit deal, a deal that he has not seen because it is still being negotiated. Starmer has form here. He promised to implement the EHRC report in full while that was still being written, too. And this time, I expect him to conform to type again, by whipping an abstention. But Labour will not appear to vote against Getting Brexit Done.

That brings us back to Redcar, which is now a Red Wall seat. The Lib Dems were fully in favour of the EU State Aid rules that precluded any Labour bailout of the steelworks as if it had been a bank, and the 2010 Election at which they took the seat took them into government with George Osborne. They are going to vote against any Brexit deal, out of implacable opposition to Brexit itself. Or are they?

I have worked with the Lib Dems on matters of shared principle. But as a party, they survive by picking up support based, not on who or what they are, but on who and what they are not. Normally, that is against one of the Big Two, with a sideline against the other one. But occasionally, as at Redcar, it is against both of them with full force.

Now that Labour and the Conservatives have both decided to revert to being neoliberal and neoconservative, woke and Green, upper-middle-class and Southern, then the Lib Dems plan on hitting both of them equally hard all along the Red Wall, and in the neighbouring seats that stayed Labour last time by much narrower margins than hitherto.

Starmer is not prepared to give them a helping hand by having voted against Brexit. He knows that their answer to "So did you" would be "But that was the wrong Brexit", followed by lots of local detail. Or that in fact they had not done so. But he is never going to be able to cajole most of his own MPs into voting in favour of it, either. I am an Independent candidate for the parliamentary seat of North West Durham at the next General Election. What are you doing?

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