The Progressive Alliance and Hard Brexit

Leo Aylen

Monday, 20 February 2017

I was for a time a serious competitive middle distance runner, nurtured on the mantra of the great Franz Stampfl who coached Bannister to the four minute mile: “Go on until you want to die .. and then .. sprint.” Success coming out of despair.

Does the current political situation drive us all to despair? It certainly drives me.

Forget Trump for the moment. We have enough to worry us here.

I was an enthusiastic supporter of Jeremy Corbyn. But he made a disastrous error of judgement, first in supporting Mrs May’s Hard Brexit policy, and then, even worse, in ordering Labour MPs who were mostly Remainers to vote against their consciences, and sometimes against their constituencies as well. As a result, I predict the dissolution of the Labour Party, which is a disaster for the country

Shall we be foolish optimists and say the Left now has a new leader — Caroline Lucas, the only politician who seems to be talking sense. I heard her on television commenting on the fact that the opposition to globalisation is coming from the Right, Farage, Trump, Marine Le Pen. It is the Left which should be resisting globalisation, working for new jobs in new green industries, financed by local banks. And once we applaud Caroline Lucas as “our new leader” we know we must argue and argue and argue for a new electoral system, because we now live very obviously under an elective oligarchy, and that oligarchy has now acquired virtual dictatorial powers because the Labour Party has given up being the opposition.Mrs May is going for Hard Brexit, appeasing the Faragists. Her speech proudly talked of getting bits of the Single Market, while not allowing the freedom of movement. This approach was roundly reproved by the EU powers, who said “No cherry-picking.” While May pretends she can cherry-pick, although expressly warned by the EU she cannot do so, Farage and his followers in the Tory Party openly say they want us out of the single market, out of the EU altogether. What is their plan once we are out of the Union? Cut corporation taxes heavily, and make Britain a tax haven with little money for public services.

Why did Corbyn react as he did? Madness. Why has Labour tamely allowed May to get away with her bullying? Read the sensible joint paper from Plaid Cymru and Welsh Labour. Sensible, yes. But the Tory government aims to exclude Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, from discussing her negotiation stance. Her rancid repetition of “The will of the people” is the bully’s weapon to browbeat everyone who disagrees with her. “The will of what people?” Why is the will of Scots, Welsh, Northern Irish, the 48% Remainers, not to be considered. I hope to offer you a new blog on The Will Of The People, which, as anyone who has started a course of philosophy will know is a concept devoid of all meaning.

I am in political despair. Britain is a divided country, heading for huge losses. However much we may disapprove of bankers’ greed, the news that 7000 bankers are already planning to leave London for Frankfurt is bound to mean less cash for the British people. There is now a possibility of a huge European amalgamated car business run by Peugeot and including Vauxhall and Opel. Clearly there will be factory closures. Vince Cable was heard on the Today Programme to say that the Brexit confusion means that if a factory is to be closed it will be in Brexit-land not Germany, where Mrs Merkel and her cabinet, facing election, will be arguing furiously against any closures in her territory. If Vauxhall is shut down, Cable reminded us, it will not only be a loss of thousands of jobs, but of hundreds of thousands in the supporting industries. And the only politician we have whom we can trust to argue for the British people is a lone MP, whose Parliamentary support is negligible because of a totally unrepresentative electoral system. I am in political despair.

Let us remember Franz Stampfl, dream the impossible, and come up with our Progressive Alliance

Manifesto. Let us think of policies which can unite us all, or rather let us publicise these policies which seem basic common sense. Here are a few ideas.

Nationalise our Railways. Disallow that corrupt slogan “Invest in roads; subsidise railways.”

Seriously consider reform of the tax system. Somehow or other, make the multi-nationals, and the rich individual tax-avoiders, pay the same proportion of their income as the ordinary person does.

Return house-building to Councils. Our countryside is being ravaged, bio-diversity destroyed, farmland concreted, because developers know they make much easier profit by building on greenfield, and authorities ignore the fact there is enough brownfield in Britain for at least 1 million, and probably 2 million, houses. Hackney has started an experiment: a developer has been granted a site for really posh homes for the super-rich; but the deal includes a great number of affordable homes, where the developer works for the Council who end up owing both the posh and the affordables.

Invest in renewable energy. Why has France had tidal-powered electricity from the Rance estuary for thirty years, while Britain still has nothing? Invest in the new British technologies which could lead to the production of non-polluting electricity, which could provide many job opportunities, and which no politician seems to have heard of.

I cannot understand how anyone could argue against such policies; they seem straightforward common sense.

But now, as the Left is for the moment powerless, why can’t we, as loose members of a Progressive Alliance, dream a bit, and come up with more extreme ideas as well.

On the tax system: a huge proportion of world-wide tax avoidance involves the British Virgin Islands, who maintain a total secrecy different to the British tax system. Why do we not take back the British Virgin Islands, make them again part of Britain, and so stop them from hiding the tax avoidance?

On house-building:

1. ban foreign ownership of British real estate. For some years, Guernsey did not allow outsiders to own Guernsey houses. Why not spread that custom wider?

2.Take house-building out of the hands of private companies altogether; or at any rate make developers work under contract to Councils.

3. Bring in a law which rules that all tower blocks should contain at least 25%? 50%? of their space as domestic dwellings.

And, of course, there are many other policies to propose. Let us think sensibly, but let us think outrageously as well.

If I am asked how are these things to be paid for, I will answer that there will be much more money available if we do not invest in the Trident replacement. Whichever way we would vote on the Trident question, it surely needs much more argument than there has been so far. That is for another discussion.

Meanwhile, to me there is an immediate task — to work for a second referendum on Brexit once we know the terms Mrs May manages to win from the EU leaders.

The second task is to strengthen alliances on the Left. It is most encouraging that Labour and Plaid Cymru have formed an alliance. Please, Scots Labour Party, form an alliance with the SNP. Please, Labour Party members, forgive the Liberals for their coalition with the Tories.

Coached by Stampfl, Bannister collapsed at the end of his mile race. But he did break the four minute barrier. What a world there is for us, if we win.

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  1. Posted by John Wright

    No policy on immigration control? No mention of immigration? Want to pretend that this is a non-issue? Doom for the progressive alliance.

    Reply