Tag Archives: Nigel Farage

George Galloway and Claire Fox: Left cover for Farage’s Brexit Party

Nigel Farage is back. Again. And it looks like his fourth (or is it his fifth?) incarnation might be his most successful one yet. A YouGov poll for the May 23 European Union elections has his Brexit Party on 27% (sharply up from 15% the week before), followed by Labour on 22%, the Tories on 15% and the UK Independence Party on 7%. The Greens are on 10%, the Liberal Democrats on 9% and the saboteurs of the snappily titled ‘Change UK’ – formerly known as The Independent Group – are languishing at 6%. There was an expectation that Change UK and the Lib Dems would get it together in some kind of ‘remain’ alliance – perhaps with the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the Scottish Nationalist Party. After all, fighting for a second referendum was officially one of the key reasons for TIG’s split from the Labour Party (along with Labour’s alleged widespread anti-Semitism, of course).

But, somewhat surprisingly, it is not to be, as Chuka Ummuna explains:

Change UK-TIG has not been formally approached by any of the other pro-EU parties with a view to running one list of candidates. That is because it is impossible to run one list of candidates unless you merge to form one party, which, not unreasonably, none of us are prepared to do.

Various disappointed bourgeois commentators have already pointed out that there were other methods with which pro-‘remain’ parties could have presented a more effective challenge: for example, by dividing up regions between them.

Overconfident public schoolboy that he is, Ummuna tries to assure them that “there is already a grassroots, ‘remain’ alliance – Change UK-TIG is it.” But, as they have also buggered up their application to stand in the local elections, these anti-Corbyn rightwingers continue to make headlines only for their ineptness: in the first 24 hours after the launch of its EU election campaign, two of Change UK’s European candidates have already been forced to step down for posting racist tweets. The only real ‘success’ they can claim is the fact that they got the Corbyn leadership to take yet another step back: in the hope of stopping other MPs from splitting because they fear being deselected by the local membership, Labour HQ has still not published a timetable to implement the reformed trigger ballot system – the only realistic way local Labour members can get rid of their sitting MP.

The undemocratic selection method for Labour’s EU candidates underlines the problem: ordinary members had zero input. In a brief email they have been informed – after the fact – that, “sitting MEPs who wished to stand again have been re-selected. Candidates for remaining places on the list have been appointed by joint NEC and regional selections boards following interviews earlier this week.” That means 16 out of Labour’s 20 sitting MEPs have automatically been reselected. The newcomers include Jeremy Corbyn’s right-hand woman, Katy Clarke, and Momentum organiser Laura Parker, who has been heavily promoted by her boss, national executive member Jon Lansman. But overall the selection process has demonstrated yet again that the Corbyn leadership is continuing to try and appease the right in the party – even though this demonstratively does not work.

It seems unlikely that those elected on May 23 will remain MEPs only until October 31; we expect there will be more ‘deadlines’ and more extensions of Britain’s EU membership. And the fact that we are the middle of a huge constitutional crisis clearly makes this an important election. When have candidates for MEP positions ever received so much coverage in the national press?

Only one thing seems clear: unless the Tories get shot of Theresa May pronto – replacing her with somebody who looks like he/she could make Brexit work (a miracle) – they will receive an absolute trashing on May 23. A questionnaire of Tory members for the Conservative Home website found 62% were planning to vote for the Brexit Party, and only 23% intended to vote for their own. And a poll of Conservative councillors for the Mail on Sunday found that 40% of them were planning to vote for Nigel Farage’s party, and only 52% for the Tories. Sure, a lot can happen in six weeks and these polls are clearly biased – but undoubtedly they are telling a certain truth.

Nigel Farage’s latest organisation certainly has a lot of forward momentum. Former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe is the latest ‘celebrity’ to join the former Ukip leader. All things being equal, it looks as if the party will do as well as – if not better than – Ukip did at the last European elections in 2014, when it came first with 27.5 % of the vote. The Brexit Party already has a sizeable fraction in the European parliament – 14 of the 24 MEPs elected as Ukip members have already switched allegiance since it was launched in January.

Nigel’s former party, Ukip, meanwhile, has Tommy Robinson, Carl Benjamin (he who “wouldn’t even rape” Jess Phillips MP) and Mark Meechan, also known as Count Dankula – the man who was fined £800 for teaching his dog to perform a Nazi salute when he shouted things like “Sieg Heil”. They seem to be aiming to win the votes of – how to put this? – a particularly narrow and alienated section of the working class, which tends to be male and very white.

Compared to those clowns, the Brexit Party really does look rather sane. Farage is, of course, a Tory at heart, albeit a very rightwing one. He has assured people that he is “sorry to be taking votes from the Conservatives” and that his main target are “disappointed Labour voters in the northern heartlands”.

And a certain Claire Fox is supposed to be covering his left flank. Fox was a leading member in the Revolutionary Communist Party and all its transformations since: Living Marxism, Spiked and the Institute of Ideas, which is now the Academy (!) of Ideas. Her sharp move to the right has been characterised by the belief that capitalism is a really good thing and that the world needs more of it (for example, to end hunger in Africa). For the last decade or so, the output of Fox and other co-thinkers like Frank Furedi and Mick Hume could at best be described as rightwing libertarian.

Another candidate on Farage’s list is Spiked contributor Alka Sehgal Cuthbert. She unconvincingly explains how she, “as an Indian”, can support a party committed to keeping out refugees and foreigners:

The EU is not a haven of social justice – it is a thoroughly racist institution. In order to maintain EU free movement, it has to ensure its borders are kept tightly sealed against non-EU people.

She is obviously aware that Farage happens to be the guy who during the 2016 referendum campaign unveiled his ‘Breaking Point’ poster, which depicted threatening masses of Syrian refugees bound for the UK. So she quickly and unconvincingly points out: “That poster, or anything else Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage may have said, pales into insignificance compared with the egregious racism of the EU.” So Farage is not quite as bad as the EU then. Not much of an endorsement.

Claire Fox, on the other hand, overplays her leftie credentials just a little bit when she assures us in an article for the Daily Mail that she has been a “leftwing campaigner for 35 years. I’ve been arrested on picket lines, led anti-imperialist demonstrations and spoken at anti-deportation protests outside police stations.”It’s been a while though, hasn’t it, Claire?

She leaves out the fact that Spiked has been arguing for years that the labels ‘left’ and ‘right’ are oh so wrong and old-fashioned, because, don’t you know, “We live in a world beyond left and right politics”. In her article, she briefly references this position by claiming that, “the left-right divide has been replaced by democrats vs anti-democrats”, before describing herself as a “lefty” a few more times. To top it all, she claims to be acting in the tradition of the “Levellers during the Civil War, the Chartists in the 19th century or the suffragettes in early 20th”.

For Claire Fox and her ilk, “sovereignty” is the key, because we “remain shackled to Brussels”. She cannot see any problem with standing alongside Farage, because this is a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to save “our democracy” from those evil foes in the EU. Fox has a problem only with the EU version of capitalism, because it is too regulated and Spiked very much believes in the free market – free for the capitalists, not for immigrants, obviously. Some “lefty”.

Slightly more sad – though not entirely surprising – is George Galloway’s support for Farage. On April 17, he declared on Twitter:

Given the nature of Labour’s Euro-fanatic candidates list and the crucial juncture we have reached in the fight for the full implementation of the Brexit referendum result and for one time only, I will be supporting Nigel Farage in next month’s elections.”

Clearly, he has given up hope of ever getting back into the Labour Party. Galloway seems to agree with Farage on the need for tougher immigration controls: “Being opposed to mass immigration is not (necessarily) racist,” he writes – “only Trotskyites and globalised capitalists really believe in ‘open borders’.”

This is nothing new, of course. He already outlined his reactionary beliefs in 2005 when he was still allied with the Socialist Workers Party in Respect. The SWP kept schtum when he wrote an infamous article in the Morning Star, where he called for “an economic-social-demographic plan for population growth based on a points system and our own needs” (ie, the needs of British capital). He claimed that the scrapping of immigration controls would mean “urging all the most accomplished and determined people to leave the poor countries of the world and come to the richest, [making] the poor countries even poorer and the rich countries richer”. 1)Morning Star February 12 2005

No doubt, Farage will have some success in appealing to Brexit-supporting members of the working class who usually vote Labour and would probably do so in a general election – in fact, we have been rather disturbed to see evidence of that in Corbyn-supporting Facebook groups. Not because of Claire Fox posing unconvincingly as a leftwinger, but because the Labour Party will have to continue to ‘sit on the fence’ for as long as possible, if it does not want to seriously alienate large sections of its electoral base on either side of the Brexit divide.

In the EU poll (as well as the local elections), we urge our supporters to vote Labour – despite the many, many shortcomings of the Corbyn leadership. There remains a window of opportunity to radically transform the Labour Party into a united front of a special kind.

Carla Roberts

References

1 Morning Star February 12 2005

The in-out Kabuki dance

James Marshall of Labour Party Marxists says a passive boycott is not as good as an active boycott. But it is far better than participating in Britain Stronger in Europe.

Even before it officially begins, a floodtide of hyperbole has been generated by the stay-leave Euro referendum campaign.

HM government’s £9 million pamphlet ominously warns that an ‘out’ vote will “create years of uncertainty”.1 Building upon the doomsday scenario, the cross-party Britain Stronger in Europe implies that three million jobs could be lost.2 For its part, Another Europe is Possible, a typical soft-left lash-up, is convinced that “walking away from the EU would boost rightwing movements and parties like Ukip and hurt ordinary people in Britain”.3 Similarly, Mark Carney, Bank of England governor, maintains that a Brexit will put the country’s vital financial sector at “risk”.4 As for Maurice Obstfeld, the International Monetary Fund’s chief economist, his widely reported claim is that a leave vote will do “severe regional and global damage by disrupting established trading relationships.”5

For its part, Vote Leave trades on the politics of a backward-looking hope. It wants Britain to “regain control over things like trade, tax, economic regulation, energy and food bills, migration, crime and civil liberties”.6 Same with the other ‘leave’ campaigns. Recommending the UK Independence Party’s Grassroots Go campaign, Nigel Farage says that voters have a “once-in-a-lifetime chance to break free from the European Union”.7 In exactly the same spirit Get Britain Out seeks to “bring back UK democracy”.8 Not to be left out the Morning Star patriotically rejects the “EU superstate project” and likewise seeks the restoration of Britain’s “democracy”.9

Hence both sides claim that some existential choice is about to be made. Yet, frankly, unlike crucial questions such as Trident renewal, climate change, Syrian refugees and Labour Party rule changes, the whole referendum debate lacks any real substance.

It is not just the likes of me who think it is all smoke and mirrors. Writing an opinion piece in the Financial Times, Andrew Moravcsik, professor of politics at Princeton, convincingly argues that, regardless of the result on June 23, “under no circumstances will Britain leave Europe”.10

The learned professor equates the whole referendum exercise with a “long kabuki drama”. Kabuki – the classical Japanese dance-drama known for its illusions, masks and striking make-up – nowadays serves as a synonym used by American journalists for elaborate, but essentially empty posturing. Despite the appearance of fundamental conflict or an uncertain outcome, with kabuki politics the end result is, in fact, already known. Eg, surely, no intelligent US citizen can really believe that a president Donald Trump would actually build his 2,000-mile border wall, let alone succeed in getting the Mexican government to cover the estimated $8 billion price tag.11

With Vote Leave, kabuki politics has surely been taken to a new level of cynicism. Formally headed by Labour’s useful idiot, Gisela Stuart, and incorporating mavericks such as David Owen, Frank Field and Douglass Carswell, Vote Leave crucially unites Tory heavyweights, such as Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Iain Duncan Smith, Liam Fox, Andrea Leadsom, Priti Patel and Dominic Raab. Yet, needless to say, their ringing declarations calling for British independence, an end to mass European migration and freedom from EU bureaucracy have no chance whatsoever of ever being implemented.

Illusory

Britain’s second Europe referendum, in point of fact, closely maps the first. Harold Wilson’s June 1975 referendum was staged not because he was unhappy with the European Economic Community. No, it was a “ploy” dictated largely by “domestic politics”.12 Ted Heath oversaw Britain’s EEC entry in 1973, having won a clear parliamentary majority. Nevertheless, Labour could gain additional general election votes by promising a “fundamental renegotiation” of Britain’s terms of membership … to be followed by a popular referendum.

Wilson also wanted to show Labour’s Europhobes – ie, Tony Benn, Barbara Castle and Michael Foot – who was boss (he did so thanks to the Mirror, the BBC and big business finance). On June 5 1975, 67% voted ‘yes’ and a mere 33% voted ‘no’ to Britain’s continued membership. Despite that overwhelming mandate, given the abundant promises that joining the EEC would bring substantial material benefits, it is hardly surprising that Europe became a “scapegoat for economic malaise”: the 1974-79 Labour government could do nothing to reverse Britain’s relative economic decline.13

The illusory nature of Britain’s second Euro referendum is no less obvious. The European Union Referendum Act (2015) had nothing to do with David Cameron having some grand plan for a British geopolitical reorientation. By calculation, if not conviction, Cameron is a soft Europhile. And, despite tough talk of negotiating “fundamental, far-reaching change” and gaining a “special status” for Britain, just like Harold Wilson, he came back from Brussels with precious little. Apart from two minor adjustments – a reduction in non-resident child benefits, which Germany too favoured, and a temporary cut in tax credits – what Cameron secured was purely symbolic (ie, the agreement that Britain did not necessarily favour “ever closer union”).

Transparently Cameron never had any intention of Britain leaving the EU. His commitment to holding a referendum was dictated solely by domestic considerations – above all, him remaining as prime minister. By holding out the promise of a referendum, Cameron – together with his close advisors – figured he could harness popular dissatisfaction with the EU – not least as generated by the rightwing press. Moreover, in terms of party politics, Ed Miliband could be wrong-footed, Tory Europhobes conciliated and Ukip checked.

However, Cameron’s expectation was that he would never have to deliver. Most pundits predicted a continuation of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition after the 2015 general election. With Nick Clegg, Vince Cable and Danny Alexander still sitting around the cabinet table, there would be no referendum. They would have blocked such a proposal with threats of resignation. Yet, as we all know, despite the opinion polls, the Tories secured a narrow House of Commons majority. So Cameron was lumbered with his referendum.

At this moment in time, the two camps are running neck and neck: a recent Telegraph poll of polls has 51% for ‘stay’ and 49% for ‘leave’.14 Despite that, probably, the status quo will ultimately triumph. Backing from big business, international institutions, celebrity endorsements … and fear of the unknown will swing popular opinion. Nevertheless, establishment critics are undoubtedly right: Cameron is gambling on an often fickle electorate. Referendums can go horribly awry for those who stage them, especially when issues such as austerity, tax avoidance, mass migration and international terrorism are included in the mix.

Yet, as Andrew Moravcsik stresses, the danger of losing would be a genuine worry for the ruling class “if the referendum really mattered”. But it is highly “unlikely” that there will be a Brexit, even if a majority votes to leave on June 23. Sure, David Cameron would step down – but not to be replaced by Nigel Farage. There will still be a Tory government. It could be headed by Boris Johnson, Teresa May, George Osborne or some less likely contender. The chances are, therefore, that a reshuffled cabinet would do just what other EU members – Denmark, France, Ireland and Holland – have done after a referendum has gone the wrong way. It would negotiate “a new agreement, nearly identical to the old one, disguise it in opaque language and ratify it”.15 Amid the post-referendum shock and awe, the people would be scared, fooled or bribed into acquiescence.

Boris Johnson has already given the game away. He is now using the standard ‘leave’ rhetoric: eg, the sunlight of freedom, breaking out of the EU jail, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to “take back control over our borders and control over our democracy”.16 But he readily admits that his support for Brexit only came after Cameron’s final EU deal failed to include his proposed wording enshrining British “parliamentary sovereignty”. Just the kind of meaningless drivel that could easily be conceded in future negotiations and be successfully put to a second referendum – an idea originally mooted by former Tory leader Michael Howard. Naturally, Cameron dismisses the second referendum option. He is in no position to do otherwise. But if Johnson were to become prime minister we know exactly what to expect. He would seek an EU agreement to a highfalutin phrase that he could sell to the British electorate.

So what the referendum boils down to is an internal power struggle in the Conservative Party. Eg, Teresa May decided, eventually, to stay loyal because she reckoned that this was the best way to fulfil her ambition of replacing Cameron; and Boris Johnson went rebel, at the last minute, in an attempt to achieve exactly the same objective.

Under these circumstances Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell appear to have adopted tactics that amount to a passive boycott. An active boycott that exposes the whole referendum charade would be far better. But even a passive boycott is far better than campaigning alongside Tories, Lib Dems, the Greens, Scottish National Party, etc, under the Britain Stronger in Europe umbrella. In Scotland the Better Together led to electoral disaster for Labour and there is every reason not to repeat such a popular-front exercise today. Understandably, Corbyn and McDonnell have no wish to rescue Cameron from the hole that he has dug himself into.

Hence the urgent call from the Blairite right – former shadow Europe minister Emma Reynolds, along with Chris Leslie, Ben Bradshaw and Adrian Bailey – for Corbyn to play a “bigger role” in the ‘stay’ campaign. They berate him for failing to recognise that the “fate of the country” lies not only in the hands of the prime minister, but the leader of the Labour Party too.17

Obviously, utter nonsense. True, in the event of a ‘leave’ vote, the remaining 27 EU members might prove unwilling to go along with the new Tory PM. Frustrated by perfidious Albion, maybe they will insist on immediate exit negotiations. Not further rounds of renegotiation. Even then Britain will not really leave the EU though. It is surely too important a country to shut out – in terms of gross domestic product Britain still ranks as the world’s fifth largest economy. Yes, it might have to settle for the status of an oversized Switzerland. To access the single market the Swiss have no choice but to accept the Schengen agreement, contribute to EU development funds and abide by the whole panoply of rules and regulations. The 2014 “popular initiative” against “mass immigration” into Switzerland is bound to be overturned.

However, a Britain-into-Switzerland outcome is extremely unlikely. The whole architecture of the US-dominated world order dictates that in terms of the immediate future Britain will continue to play its allotted role: blocking Franco-German aspirations of an “ever closer union” that eventually results in a United States of Europe. Washington will quietly bend both Brussels and Westminster to its will. Britain is therefore surely ordained to stay in the EU because of the hard realities of global politics.

Notes

1. HM government, ‘Why the government believes that voting to remain in the European Union is the best decision for the UK’. 2. www.strongerin.co.uk/get_the_facts#iQAmHJOlGfmYbztJ.97.

3. www.anothereurope.org.

4. The Daily Telegraph March 8 2016.

5. The Guardian April 12 2016.

6. https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/voteleave/pages/98/attachments/original/
1457545797/website-brochure-hq-mar16-2.pdf.

7. www.ukip.org/ukip_supports_grassroots_out.

8. http://getbritainout.org.

9. Editorial Morning Star March 4 2016.

10. Financial Times April 9-10 2016.

11. http://edition.cnn.com/2016/02/17/politics/donald-trump-mexico-wall.

12. D Reynolds Britannia overruled London 1991, p249.

13. Ibid p250.

14. The Daily Telegraph April 12 2016.

15. Financial Times April 9-10 2016.

16. The Independent March 6 2016.

17. http://labourlist.org/2016/04/labour-mps-call-on-corbyn-to-step-up-campaign-to-stay-in-eu/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LabourListLatest
Posts+(LabourList).