I’ve found it incredibly hard to motivate myself to campaign in the EU referendum. Watching two equally repugnant wings of the Tory Party hack lumps out of each other is extremely unedifying and I don’t blame Jeremy Corbyn and many in the Labour Party for their palpable lack of enthusiasm.
It hasn’t even been entertaining watching the Tories fight amongst themselves. It has been truly dismal. Project House Price Fear vs Project Immigration Fear, fought on each side by intellectual pygmies. If Boris Johnson goes on to be PM after the last couple of months, when he has been exposed as a blustering, xenophobic amateur, I will be in despair.
The difficulty though is that there is an issue of real importance at stake. And in my view if the Leave campaign win it will usher in a period of reaction; emboldening the extreme right of the Tories and the racists of UKIP to pursue their Thatcherism-on-steroids agenda even more vociferously.
I simply don’t see a positive window of opportunity opening up for the left in the event of a vote to leave. Cameron and Osborne will go but they won’t be replaced by Corbyn. To me it’s perfectly evident who the political forces are who will benefit from Brexit. And it isn’t us.
All that said, I do still fully sympathise with those on the left who are in favour of a leave vote and they aren’t “objectively on the same side as UKIP” any more than I am objectively on the side of Cameron. The EU is a horrendously undemocratic organisation institutionally committed to a neoliberal agenda, as we’ve seen with the disgraceful treatment of the Syriza government in Greece.
But there is nothing whatsoever progressive or positive about the official Vote Leave campaign. It is a vicious, nasty, dishonest ragtag of assorted free-market fanatics and racists putting out lies and disinformation. And that’s just the nicer ones.
I literally cannot begin to comprehend what she was thinking when she chose to head up a campaign organisationally and ideologically dominated by the political right. Surely she knew who she would be working for with and what their agenda was. Surely she knew that there was no way she could control them. And surely she knew the sort of things they’d say and do and the lows to which they would plumb.
And surely she knew that she would be permanently tainted by association with them. I don’t agree with Gisela on much but I know she is a committed, hard-working MP who cares passionately about doing the best for her constituency. But I will never forget this foolish decision.
The Labour Party has to start learning from its mistakes. In Scotland we lined up with the Tories during the independence referendum and ended up parroting their propaganda, becoming part (and a junior, subservient part at that) of the unionist establishment in the process. And vast numbers of former Labour voters deserted us; we may have lost them for a generation to an SNP who aren’t nearly as social democratic as they like to claim.
Gisela’s decision is equally foolish, and in the service of an even worse cause.
On the other side of the debate Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to keep the Labour Party away from the Tory remain campaign has been principled but also sensible. Thank goodness we have a leader who understands that the Labour Party needs to be making its own positive, socialist case for remaining rather than joining hands with the CBI and the Cameron/Osborne chumocracy.
I hope that when the dust has settled, and we have hopefully voted to stay, that Gisela has a long hard look at the decisions she made and the people she has joined hands with. Her party leader put aside his objections to the EU and realised what the bigger picture was – that ordinary working people in the UK would be better served by us staying in and fighting for change.
Hopefully in time she’ll realise this too.
If she was determined to make a left-wing, democratic case to leave she has chosen a singularly abysmal way of doing so.