Where is Corbyn’s leadership amid the havoc of Brexit?
The laughing stock that British politics has become could have been sobered by Labour
When assessing the latest episode in the series of lunacy that is Brexit, I sometimes think about the Irish company Havok. Havok developed software that advanced realism in video games. When it was acquired by Microsoft in 2015, having previously been acquired by Intel, the software’s brilliance was emphasised. Havok’s ingenuity was in its rendering of physics. What happens when things explode or collide in a video game? How do bodies react? Where does shrapnel go? Havok excelled at “ragdoll” physics, a type of physics engine in animation that allows for greater realism, particularly in the increasingly creative ways characters and other figures could be depicted dying, in games such as Medal of Honor and Call of Duty. What it gave to games was a visualised consequence and effect that allowed for a brutal realism on screen. There is something poetic about spending large amounts of time figuring out where things fall after explosions, how things collapse, how bodies crumble.
Surveying the ongoing wreckage of Brexit, the perpetually crashing train, we start to consider ways out, scenario building. What if the DUP – probably the worst £1 billion Theresa May ever spent – finally said no, and withdrew their support of government, triggering an election? What if Boris Johnson became the British prime minister? What if Theresa “The Terminator” May (“I’ll be back(stop)”) finally quit? What if a “people’s vote” happens? What is a people’s vote? A democratic input on “the deal”? What deal? Sure she can’t even get her own deal through? What about a second referendum? A do-over? What about all the reporting Carole Cadwalladr is doing on the fact that Brexit was a giant robbery, the hijacking of democracy, the lies, the role of Cambridge Analytica, the dark ads and darker money, the manipulative social media platforms and the shrugs from unaccountable tech firms, the Trump connection, the Russia connection, the Steve Bannon connection, and all the rest? How can a referendum result that was so obviously compromised still stand in a democratic country?
What about the hedge funds that hired YouGov and other polling companies to sell them information, therefore putting them in the position to short sell sterling, which when it looked like the Brexit referendum was going to Remain, rose to over $1.50? That earned some hedge funds hundreds of millions of dollars. This may or may not have been of interest to Nigel Farage, considering he’s a former commodities broker who also worked for a currency trading company.
If the Brexiteers are to the Conservatives what the Tea Party was to the Republicans, then be careful what you wish for
But there is another “what about” or “what if”, and that’s what if, from the get go, the British Labour Party took Brexit on? What if Jeremy Corbyn led people towards something hopeful, and led Britain away from the ledge it’s currently cowering on. The only way for Brexit to be solved is for it not to happen. On the ground, activists and campaigners have been marching and meeting and begging for the brakes to be put on, but the fact that there has been no leadership from Corbyn on Brexit will be something the party and country may rue for decades.
There is not much room for unpacking the nuances of Euroscepticism at the moment, whether Corbyn’s disdain for, and suspicion of, the EU comes from a “good” place, as opposed to the other side’s disdain and suspicion for the EU. Britain is in the middle of an emergency and Labour has remarkably missed an opportunity to build a movement that sought to reverse Brexit, something which could have achieved its goal by now. It’s more than 900 days since the Brexit referendum and just 102 days until March 29th when Brexit “happens”, whatever that looks like.
Leaving aside the Tories, who at this stage are just eating each other (in fact, maybe the only decent thing to come out of all of this will be that the party will fracture further, although if the Brexiteers are to the Conservatives what the Tea Party was to the Republicans, then be careful what you wish for), the laughing stock that British politics has become could have been sobered by Labour. Corbyn could have at least tried to save Britain, and there will need to be a fair bit of soul-searching – not that that’s worth anything – about why he chose not to lead. A political vacuum opened up post-referendum and the people were ready. They were on the streets. They were fuming, and rightly so. How sad that political leadership was lacking. Will there be a second referendum? Who knows. Scenarios, there’s plenty of them.
Which brings us to the broader issue that Britain needs to tackle and that’s one of civics and political education. The ignorance and stupidity that has won in Britain needs to be tackled. There needs to be Havok software for political education. People need to consider consequences. What happens if you lean on the DUP to prop up your government? What happens if you lack the leadership to bring ill-meaning, radical factions within your own party into line and instead of giving them a good talking to, throw them the red meat of a referendum? What happens when racists are given airtime and not adequately challenged? What happens when you consistently slag off an entity – the EU – that is helpful in many ways? What happens when you keep voting for conservatives against your own interests? Havoc. That’s what.