Open Letter to Jeremy Corbyn MP
Leader of the Labour Party
15th January 2019
In the 1980s we fought side by side in the same party. When I returned to Scotland I became convinced that a better route to the social and economic reforms we both advocated then was to secure the political autonomy of the people who live here and allow them to decide how Scotland would be governed. So now, like many others who used to be Labour, I am a member of the Scottish National Party. And in Scotland your party and mine are opponents and competitors for the allegiance of the electorate.
But we are not enemies. In Scotland I am determined to build progressive alliances for change across and beyond the boundaries of either of our parties. Moreover, Scotland has nothing to gain and much to lose from Tory government in the U.K., so I wish your party well in its campaign to oust the Conservatives in England.
That is why I am writing. I fear that if you continue to advocate that the result of the flawed Brexit referendum of 2016 must be implemented at all costs, then Labour will lose, and lose heavily in any general election that might take place in the coming months.
Of course the result cannot be dismissed, but it can be reviewed and in a democracy people have the right to change their minds. Indeed, in a situation where poll after poll shows that people do not now want Brexit, to refuse to allow them to vote again would be to force through this policy against the will of the people.
You know that this desire to think again is even more pronounced amongst Labour supporters and members. No wonder. Every single analysis shows that people will become more impoverished as a result of Brexit, and as you well know this will be visited upon the working class disproportionately.
Are you seriously saying that an early general election should be called because of Brexit and then not give people a chance to stop it? I appreciate that you would do Brexit differently but a choice between a Tory Brexit and a Labour Brexit is no choice at all. I fear if you continue on this path many of those who have supported you so far, especially younger voters, will desert you. They won't vote Tory, they'll just stay at home, convinced now that the new politics you promised has gone. Many of us know well the disillusionment that has been caused by Labour governments in the past. But you are in danger of achieving a situation where people on the left and centre left become disillusioned by a Labour opposition.
In one sense none of this matters in Scotland where Labour is in a minority and voters have the option of a mass social democratic alternative in the SNP. But it does matter in England and I do not want to see Scotland's largest neighbour become a land barren of socialist ideas and representation.
It is not too late to change. There is time still to offer a real alternative to Brexit. To posit a new future for Europe with left and centre left parties working together to put jobs and equality at the heart of the continent's political agenda. We could work on that together but we cannot begin that task unless we stop Brexit - and to do that we need to go back to the people who started it. That’s why I urge you to make it clear that Labour will allow people to reconsider Brexit whether or not there is a general election.
Please don't throw away the chance to change direction and defeat the forces of reaction.
Member of Parliament for Edinburgh East
Four weeks ago I was worried about writing this column on the eve of the last major parliamentary debate on Brexit. Anything could have happened, rendering my speculation obsolete by the time you read it. I shouldn’t have fretted. Anything could have happened but nothing did.
Here I am again. Groundhog day. It’s Tuesday. There’s a big debate tomorrow.
Tuesday. Another day spent discussing Brexit. Another day of my life I’m not getting back.
We are no further forward. As the clock ticks down to exit it’s only fair to ask: What the hell is Theresa May playing at?