Fellow Europhiles, I have a sinking feeling that we have learnt SFA from our failure to stop the Brexit juggernaut in its tracks. My take on the failure: the effort was fragmented from the start, and we never managed to fix that during the 2 – 3 years when we still had a realistic chance of achieving at least a second EU referendum. From what I’ve seen, the Rejoin impetus is at risk of falling into the same black hole. On top of that we’ve effectively lost a year, since Brexit became an inevitability, to get Rejoin off to a flying start. Too many extremely intelligent and committed and talented people wasted that year blinded by the delusion that Brexit could somehow be stopped or reversed.
I admit to having mixed feelings on all of this. I’ve been an SNP supporter since I was at school, and have never voted for any other party – though I am not currently a party member. I want to see Scotland enjoy a high degree of self-determination (as should have happened with devolution; the same applies to N Ireland and Wales). But successive Tory administrations have ridden roughshod over the dream of a truly federal UK, made up of equal partners. I believe Brexit has made the break-up of the UK almost inevitable – but I’d like to think that a successful and vibrant Rejoin movement still has a very, very narrow window of opportunity to take a genuinely federal UK back into the EU.
And if there’s to be any chance of a successful UK-wide Rejoin movement, what’s needed is a single and single-minded political base, with a truly inspirational figurehead. And, to paraphrase the late, great Jimmy Reid: ‘There should be no grifting, no grandstanding, no promoting of Z-list showbiz careers, no infighting, no trolling, no petty Hitlers – because the world is watching us.’
In any true democracy, there should have been an established political party ready and waiting (and able!) to hit the ground running with the impetus to rejoin the EU. Unfortunately, the most obvious candidate, Labour, has lost all credibility for this role. Firstly because of the pig-headed dogmatism of the passionately Europhobic Corbyn, now because Starmer whipped the party to vote with the Tories earlier this week (and don’t tell me they had to, to prevent a no-deal outcome; I’ll merely recommend that you read a very basic book on arithmetic. There was never any realistic risk of that, and to vote with the far right was nothing more than an illustration of Labour’s terminal weakness and a betrayal of its principles). The one Labour MP in whom I’d placed my greatest hope of finding a truly inspiring leader (and he could have been such an inspiring leader) for the long march back into the EU – David Lammy – also voted with the far right this week. I don’t think I can ever forgive him for that.
The LibDems may tout themselves as the natural locus for Rejoin. But the LibDems are, sadly, a busted flush. I was, briefly, a member of the Scottish LibDems immediately after the 2016 referendum. Very briefly, because it didn’t take me long to realise that their primary ambition wasn’t to fight Brexit but to fight the Scottish people’s right to a second independence referendum, even though the first one was won under false pretences, and thus morally invalid. More recently, I’ve been the target (along with others) of singularly unpleasant and unprovoked Twitter & blog attacks by prominent LibDem supporters – including a party official. Seems to me that their central organisation is losing its grip to infiltration by some rather sinister people. So forgive me if my view of that party is the same as their official colour: distinctly jaundiced.
That leaves the SNP and the Greens (and, debatably, Plaid Cymru) as the only established parties with a strong pro-EU track record. None fits the bill – the SNP and Plaid because they’re restricted to a single geographic base, the Greens because, however estimable their politics, however attractive the personal qualities of their most prominent spokespeople, they have never approached critical mass in the UK.
Which brings me back to my original question: where do we find a leader who has sufficient charisma and oratorical skills (and don’t tell me these don’t matter – they bloody well do; in the age of mass communications, sound-bites and social media, they matter a hell of a lot), experience, prominence, integrity, honesty and stamina? One who isn’t in it to promote his/her crowd-funding exploits, or his/her career as a performer, or his/her self-centred political aspirations. I have no answers. I saw not one single such person within the chaotic mess that Remain became. I can see not one single such person on the current political scene. Maybe the only hope is that someone suddenly emerges from the wings to take centre stage – as indeed Jimmy Reid did in 1971, because I think very few people had heard of him before that famous speech. And it needs to be someone with better luck than Jimmy Reid – because at the end of the day, the cause he espoused in 1971 failed.
Suggestions, please, on a plain postcard……