Instead of guessing the outcome of secret negotiations Labour should demand the whole Brexit cake.

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

  • Kevin Breslin

    Reminds me of that famous meme from Portal.

    “There is no cake, the cake is a lie.”

  • anon

    Absolutely. Hold them accountable for their promises to the UK electorate. As Donald Tusk said: “To all who believe in it, I propose a simple experiment. Buy a cake, eat it, and see if it is still there on the plate”

  • terence patrick hewett

    Strangely enough not many English people struggle with their identity.

  • chrisjones2

    The problem for Donald Tusk is that the EU has been buying bulk supplies of cake which has been eaten by Greece, Italy etc and paid for mainly by Germany and the UK. We are now moving out of the cake business

  • mickfealty

    Maybe not, but their politicians are struggling with its late expressionistic splurge…

  • terence patrick hewett

    Ah well Mick: politicians are quare people.

  • chrisjones2

    The people have spoken …..the Bastards

  • terence patrick hewett

    There’s a long way to go Chris: it is going to have to be the silver bullet, the wooden stake and 300 feet of re-inforced concrete. There may be troubles ahead, lets face the music and dance:

    Or we can keep it in the family:

    And Alf on Jimmy Saville:

  • terence patrick hewett

    Identity in terms of three fictional characters:

    Alf Garnett

    Archie Bunker

    Colonel Blimp

    Now Johnny Speight’s character Alf: his alter ego Archie and the cartoonist Low’s creation of Colonel Blimp have this much in common: that they started out as objects of contempt: and ended as hero. It was Powell and Pressburger in their film The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp that underlined that it was for people like Alf, Archie and the very honourable Colonel: and Da: the fight for freedom and liberty was all about.

  • Kevin Breslin

    UK’s loans to Greece were unilateral and still apply Brexit or no Brexit.

    I don’t see any reason why the blunderblast rational must come in that the UK must burn Greece its NATO allies to make the Germans, their NATO allies, feel bad. It’s bad enough what the UK and Germany have already done to their NATO allies Greece already, it’s bad what elites within Greece has done to Greece to need to take this credit route.

    Long term maturing loans to keep a country afloat that both nations need to keep refugees off their shores, seems like enough “selfish generosity” for both of them.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The people have spoken here too … ain’t the Union a Bastard?

  • terence patrick hewett

    No it was a legitimate union of consenting adults: trouble is it is dead.

  • ted hagan

    I was sorry to have witnessed the embarrassingly rude and ignorant display by the DUP’s Gavin Robinson while discussing Brexit with Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes on BBC’s The View on Thursday night. What a charmless bunch of critters the DUP are and what a poor advertisement for Northern Ireland. The Republic increasingly comes across as a mature, balanced and fair country with an impressively eloquent and intelligent population.
    We, on the other hand, often come across as a bunch of bigoted galoots.

  • chrisjones2

    Greece has 2 problems

    1 refugees

    2 being Greece

  • chrisjones2

    …and have fun

  • Kevin Breslin

    As I said before NATO ally, is this a way to treat it?

    I think we may see some debt relief even debt forgiveness to deal with the refugee issue, which at the end of the day the UK, the Americans and Germany are more responsible for causing than the Hellenics are through their involvement in the Syrian/Iraqi war.

  • MalcolmRedfellow

    “Labour’s abiding problem is its rootlessness”

    You lost me there.

    Are you arguing for more ideological approaches?

    If it’s specifically #Brexit, the dilemma is:
    — With the rarer exceptions, Labour MPs are viscerally agin it;
    — Still, they have to recognise it was scare tactics of the Leave campaign that amplified the xenophobia latent in the “working class” (note the precise usage) Labour base. The b-i-g issue outside the M25 is “immigration” (another term deserving analysis).
    — The impact of Momentum on the committed long-term activist party membership is still working out. All the indications are the membership before 2015 were pro-Owen Jones, which implies no more, nor less, than disenchantment with the Corbyn-McDonnell, ex-“Socialist Campaign Group” huddle. Any wise MP (or MP wannabe) keeps a close eye on CLP tends.

    Beyond that, there’s the long, long divide between “socialism” and “Labourism”. In the last ditch, I’d stand by the Morgan Phillips thesis that the Labour Party owes more to Methodism than Marxism.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Denham’s spot on there. We haven’t had enough of this yet, the quoting back *and repeating until it’s a mantra* of some of the key pro-single-market statements from leading Leavers in the referendum campaign. And the opinion polls since, which I quoted on another thread, which suggest the public prefers some form of free trade / single market arrangement to the “hard Brexit” position of say Liam Fox:

    His other good insight is to posit some kind of “emergency brake” arrangement as the way to square the circle on free movement of people. That seems to me to offer enough to those who want some kind of ultimate “control” on immigration numbers, while allowing us to be in the single market.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    correction, the big issue outside the M25 is falling/stagnating living standards – immigration is the main thing people point to for an explanation and solution. The distinction is important. The test is this – if people were doing better and had job security, weren’t having benefits cut and could get their kids into their local school, would they be bothered about immigration? Maybe a little but it wouldn’t be the defining issue for our international relations.

    The immigration issue is where it is now – big, I concede – not because immigrants are a drain on the economy, but because the government has failed to protect and grow public services in line with numbers. The money is there – immigrants are net contributors to the economy, they bring a dividend with them – but the government for ideological reasons chose to let the bottom 50 per cent disproportionately suffer the pain of the 2008 Crash by cuts to working benefits and to public services they rely on.

    Now the immigration genie is out of the bottle, it will be hard to put back in. What is needed is clear political leadership on the issue and honesty with the voters about what is possible and in the national interest on immigration. Unfortunately, only Tim Farron seems prepared to do that at the moment. The PLP of Labour does too, but they are so undermined by the ludicrous leadership cadre, their messaging won’t cut through. This is why trying to get rid of Corbyn in the summer was a public duty for the PLP and losing it was no shame on them. The Labour membership has made our prospects of getting anything good out of Brexit much worse by insisting on keeping a broken and dysfunctional HM Opposition in place. The country’s fate very largely lies now in the hands of Theresa May. She has all the cards.

  • Jams O’Donnell

    Your breathtakingly intellectual analysis has me stunned. Is there no end to your talents? (Emphasis optional).

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Is that why most people still support the Union? You’re on 22 per cent …

  • Kevin Breslin

    I was merely using the term to indicate the fact that regardless of the result, dealing with the differing results in the Union family was a nuisance to Brexiteer British nationalists. but a part of there actually being a Union in the first place.

    Using “Bastard” to mean a concept that is getting abandoned in this pursuit of power, the Union being the connections between the 4 states as opposed to the nation state as a whole.

    No insult intended … given how Chris used the term.

    Yes both Scotland and Northern Ireland are pro-EU and pro-UK, so it’s questionable why being extremely anti-EU at central government is going to help these people feel like an equal part of the union.

    Perhaps it is worth considering how many families are held together on a tyranny of the majority basis, even if the majority of said family want it?