Interesting reflection from John Denham, late of the House of Commons, now an academic at the University of Winchester (see this for a flavour of his thinking on identity) on how Labour should seek to oppose throughout the Brexit process:
Instead of critiquing the government’s strategy, the opposition should be holding it to account for the promises made. One of the clearest was Boris Johnson’s on the single market and ending free movement: “I’m in favour of cake; and I’m in favour of eating it”. Boris Johnson is now the Foreign Secretary, one of the three ministers charged with negotiating Brexit.
Labour should be demanding the whole of the cake. If senior ministers in the current government promised that migration could be controlled and market access maintained it is their job now to deliver, and the opposition’s to demand that they do. (The promise was far more important that £350m for the NHS).
While we don’t know exactly what voters were thinking on 23rd June, there is enough polling data to know that only small minorities favour either an end to all migration or total free movement. Effective opposition would speak for that centre ground majority.
It would set out how a combination of limits to free movement (perhaps through an emergency brake) could combine with domestic measures around skills, labour rights, the enforcement of legislation and real shift of resources to the areas facing most social disruption from migration could actually give that sense of control sought by voters.
Is the Labour party ready to do this? Mr Denham doesn’t think so. By this reading, Labour’s abiding problem is its rootlessness. Something that, in a way, was its very strength in the globalising 90s, is now a dragging anchor.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty