Following the election, the prospects for a clear and united approach to Brexit have become even more difficult. Although in the short term May’s failed gamble will make it harder to push through vicious government policies on health, education and social care, the overwhelming priority must still be to ensure that Britain manages a clean break with the EU.
The European Union, the champion and enforcer of unencumbered free market capitalism, remains the main enemy of the working class. No real progress can be achieved without leaving.
The Brexit battle was always going to have to be fought right down to the time we actually leave. That fundamental reality hasn’t changed. Workers are, though, going to have to demand a bit more steel from those negotiating with Brussels. The general election showed too many self-styled strong leaders ready to go into hiding at the first whiff of gunpowder. We should now be forewarned, and hence fore-armed.
There are positive signs. The breaking of SNP dominance in Scotland significantly weakens the forces against British unity. And the party standing on a platform calling for a re-run of the EU referendum – the LibDems – suffered a diminished share of the vote.
Instead voters returned to two-party politics, with both parties accepting the decision to leave the EU (however untrustworthy these commitments may be). “Labour accepts the referendum result,” said the Labour manifesto, also acknowledging, “Freedom of movement will end when we leave the European Union. Labour must be held to this.
And when it comes to health, education and indeed all policies, another fundamental remains the same: that putting a cross on a ballot paper with a stubby pencil won’t change anything in itself. Politics must become the possession of the many, not the occupation of a handful of parliamentarians.
We should not and cannot have any confidence in the ability of politicians to represent our wishes. We have to gain confidence in our own ability to take responsibility for the direction of our own country.
The EU referendum campaign saw the beginnings of a national conversation, real discussion about the future of the country. Those discussions have been taken forward in some areas, most notably by the fishermen, whose demands for a 200-mile exclusive economic zone forced the government to take notice.
What’s needed now is for other sections – from health to construction, from engineering to education – to rise to the same challenge and say what they want for Britain. We must track the Brexit negotiations every step of the way.