i’m sorry i haven’t a clue

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I have a couple of new-year confessions to make. Firstly, I’ve never understood the rules to ‘Mornington Crescent’ and secondly, I’ve no idea where the labour party stand on Brexit. And, perhaps more to the point, I don’t think they do either. That’s to the latter not necessarily the former although, in the true spirit of Brexit, I rule nothing in and nothing out. Labour MPs have been silent and inconspicuous at best and ambiguous and contradictory at worst. Hard, soft, light or none, who knows? Humprey Lyttelton will be spinning in his grave.

For the record, I think their current position is that they want to retain the ‘benefits’ of the EU’s single market but without full membership, and they want to be in the customs union but with ‘easy movement’ as opposed to freedom of movement. Place these words into a well-known phrase or saying: cake, eating and having. I appreciate Napoleon once cautioned his generals to ‘never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake’ (which is obviously what he’s doing wrt to Mrs May’s feeble negotiations), but it would be good to know where Jezza, and his party, do stand.

If 2017 has shown us anything it’s that our decision to leave the EU was an extraordinary one to take, and one, with hindsight, that was taken without either the full, or even honest, disclosure of information. It’s akin to a Premiership team deciding to relegate itself to the Championship, or even Division One. With ‘Phase 1’ now complete we’re now being told that we can move towards a Norwegian option, a Canadian option or a Canada+++. The former means we accept all the EU rules, pay a fortune and have no say. The latter equates to economic suicide as it does not cover any of the services our economy blossoms with.

The Labour leader’s long-standing disdain for Europe is well-documented but what he needs to do is show the country a degree of realistic pragmatism and, God forbid, a little ‘small c’ conservatism. The electorate’s concerns are legitimately for their jobs, public services, social mobility, future tax regimes and medium-long term opportunities for development, and they need to be told that Brexit is not the answer to these worries. I genuinely believe JC’s continued resurrection could only gain momentum if he were to say something along the lines of “Yes, I’ve always been sceptical about the EU and never really trusted them but I now realise that the alternative would be far, far worse for everyone concerned, including Europe. So, let’s stay-put and influence/change it from within.” Labour needs to decisively re-position itself as the party of remain.

To do this there also needs to be an acceptance of the views of the 51%. Heavyweight remainers, from numerous ex-PMs (Cameron, Blair, Major) down, need to acknowledge that for over 25 years they followed a path of increased unification and open-door immigration and presided over an era where good jobs disappeared, social mobility declined and inequality of incomes and assets grew unimaginably. Let’s hear “Individually and collectively we understand your anger and the reason for your vote, but we all now know we’re better-off in than out.”

Yes, I realise it’s a bit of a pipe dream but if you can’t be optimistic and idealistic at the start of a new year, when can you be. This is such a serious moment for the country that we need an approach that is neither nostalgic ‘blue-passport-waiving’ nationalism nor the dogmatic, overtly left-leaning interventionism of the ‘60s & 70s. At present, it appears we have ideology taking us out and pragmatism keeping us in. If I try really, really hard I can almost accept the viewpoints of everyone involved and we need to get it sorted pretty sharpish and start to live in relative harmony with one another once again. I have a new year’s dream…