But can Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party capitalise on the incompetence of both Labour and the Conservatives?
Journalist Marcus Stead thinks that Labour is betraying its voters, noting that there are signs that old party loyalties are breaking down.
Sputnik: Will the Brexit Party see a surge in support following Corbyn’s backing of a second referendum? Could they win a general election?
Marcus Stead: The Labour Party has a very different problem to the Conservative Party. In the period immediately before and after Jeremy Corbyn became leader, the membership levels increased substantially, and although they are a little bit coy about how many members they actually have; it’s likely to be around five hundred and forty thousand.
That’s more than double the number the Labour Party had around ten years ago, but most of those new members of the Labour Party are overwhelmingly middle class and pro-EU, and that has created a massive gulf between the Labour membership and the Labour voters, in the heartlands of northern England and the South Wales valleys.
The Labour membership consists to a very large extent of what I call the intellectual left; namely the university students from middle-class backgrounds, along with lecturers, and those working in white-collar public sector jobs, and they seem to be preoccupied with trying to stop Brexit, but they are also big on identity politics, environmental issues, sexual politics; and there’s a big contrast there with the voters in the Labour heartlands, who are much more likely to be in favour of Brexit.
These are areas that have seen their standards of living stagnate, or even retract over many decades, globalism and internationalism have not worked out well for them, and this matters because this great political statistician Professor Chris Hanretty estimated that over those seats that Labour held at the time of the 2016 referendum, one hundred and forty-eight voted to leave, and eighty-four voted remain, and in the 2017 general elections, every single Labour candidate stood on a manifesto of pledging to implement the referendum result to leave.
We now have this bizarre situation where Jeremy Corbyn is calling on whoever wins the Conservative leadership contest to give another referendum, in which Labour will campaign for remain. Jeremy Corbyn had a strong track record as a Eurosceptic, going back more than forty years; he was a Eurosceptic to his very core, and at the moment he seems to have the demeanour of someone being held hostage by his MPs, his shadow cabinet, his advisors.
By taking this stance, Labour is betraying its heartland voters, and Labour could even have signed its own death warrant, there are signs that the old party loyalties are breaking down.
Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party did very well indeed in the Labour heartlands in the recent European Parliamentary elections, and they appear to be ready to contest every single seat if there is a general election; and one hundred years ago in the period immediately after the First World War, the Labour Party grew massively, using the first past the post system, it did very well in a very short space of time, and it’s not inconceivable that we could be on the verge of another seismic shift in British politics.
Sputnik: Would Boris Johnson be able to deliver Brexit should he win the Conservative leadership race?
Marcus Stead: I think it’s worth remembering that Boris Johnson does not have a long track record as a Eurosceptic. As recently as a few months leading up to the Brexit referendum in 2016, he wrote two articles for the Daily Mail; one for remain and the other for leave, and he only chose which one was to be published, and which one was to be spiked in the very last moment, so it was a decision he made based on political expediency, rather than principle.
For two or three decades before when he was active as a student at Oxford, and then as a journalist as editor of the Spectator, he was not a known Eurosceptic, so with that in mind; he’s committing at the moment to a no-deal Brexit, but he could just as easily change his mind back again.
I’m not the only person saying this in the Eurosceptic movement; a lot of people who are known Eurosceptics do not trust him, and indeed Nigel Farage, the leader of the Brexit Party has said the same thing.
Sputnik: How do you think US-UK relations will develop following the recent diplomatic incident involving the British ambassador in Washington, and American President Donald Trump?
Marcus Stead: We’ve seen today that the diplomat involved has resigned, but I do think that in the grand scheme of things this will turn into something of a storm in a teacup.
These are not normal circumstances in relation to the way international diplomacy is being handled in a rather haphazard way, in how Donald Trump behaves in the White House, we seem to have government by social media with Donald Trump, he seems to be up in the early hours of the morning tweeting all sorts of things most days.
On a personal level; Boris Johnson and Donald Trump seem to get on very well indeed, and they’ve known each other for a long time, so we need to look beyond the present, regarding the relationship between the USA and the UK, Presidents and Prime Ministers come and go, and I think that this will seem like a minor episode in the grand scheme of things before too long.
I’ve always taken the so-called special relationship with a pinch of salt, because it’s something that’s used for political purposes, and it gets us involved in conflicts that are frankly none of our business in this country, but on the subject of trade which is far more important; I think back to just before the 2016 referendum when Barack Obama on the advice of David Cameron came to the UK, and we remember that remark he made about Britain being at the back of the queue in terms of a trade relationship, so that tells you that the special relationship comes and goes depending on who’s in the White House, and who’s in Downing Street.
Compare what Obama said about the back of the queue, to what Donald Trump is saying now, that he’s ready to do a wonderful trade deal; so whatever you may think of Donald Trump as a person, there’s a very big contrast between Obama’s threat, to what Donald Trump is now saying- that the US is ready to do a trade deal.
Trump is ready to do a trade deal, and on top of that; the Prime Minister of Singapore has stated that there is a trade deal waiting to be done and that they have already produced a draft document several thousand pages long.
These trade deals are ready to be done; but we must free ourselves from the customs union, because if we are inside the customs union, we will not have the freedom we need, particularly on goods, less so on services, to do these trade deals that will free us from the shackles of the EU.
Views and opinions, expressed in the article are those of Marcus Stead and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.