IF Britain votes for Brexit, Blairites will dash to the nearest TV and radio studios to blame Jeremy Corbyn.
That’s not to say the Blairites are secretly hoping for a Brexit. The majority are pro-European. It’s more a case of turning a tragedy into a triumph, or looking for a dark cloud’s silver lining.
Their dreams of a leadership bid were scuppered by better than expected local election results.
Champagne put on ice to celebrate a 300-seat loss was abandoned in favour of stiffer drinks to drown Blairite sorrows.
But a Brexit vote would provide them with the chance to turn on Corbyn. “He was half-hearted in his campaigning,” they will claim. “He didn’t sell the case for staying in,” “We are going to stand a ‘moderate’ candidate against him.”
Those of us who support Corbyn must be prepared for this scenario. This is not my attempt to scare people into voting Remain.
Like so many others, I have yet to make up my own mind on how to vote. And that has nothing to do with Corbyn being “half-hearted.”
If anything, Corbyn, along with other prominent figures on the left, such as Yannis Varoufakis and Owen Jones, may be the only people on the planet who could persuade me to vote In.
Their well-known history of Euroscepticism and scathing critiques of some of the worst aspects of the EU gives added weight to their calls for an In vote. They are the only voices I heed.
If the In campaign was left to the likes of pro-TTIP Blairites and neoliberal Tories, that would be me voting Out.
The irony of the Labour right blaming Corbyn for a Brexit, should it happen, will not be lost on most Labour Party members.
We only have to remember those hideous “control immigration” mugs to know who to blame.
“Shameful,” Diane Abbott called them. Owen Jones was equally scathing, advising Labour to “scrap your Farage-wannabe mugs and give people some bloody hope.”
Those mugs came to symbolise something to the Labour left even more disturbing than a pathetic attempt by Labour to out-Ukip Ukip.
Those mugs came to represent a lack of will to stand up for our own beliefs and values.
Take Labour’s stance on austerity and migration. When people are given a smaller and smaller share of the pie, they grow increasingly resentful over sharing the little they have.
If the tabloid press and popular right blame migrants for that shrinking pie, it’s not Labour’s job to agree with them. It’s Labour’s role to tell people the truth.
There is absolutely no need for the pie to shrink. We live in the fifth-richest economy in the world. The only reason the pie is shrinking is because right-wing policies are sending more and more of the wealth to the top table, leaving less and less of it for the rest of us.
It’s Labour’s job to put the blame for the shrinking pie where it belongs — on austerity, not give tacit approval to right-wing propaganda.
But in the run-up to the general election Labour gave the nod to austerity and played the migration blame game.
This is why the membership grew sick and tired of the Blairite obsession with polls and focus groups, and it’s why we voted for Corbyn for leader — someone we hoped would act as a signpost rather than a vote-chasing weathercock.
If you base your policies on truth and the socialist values of fairness and justice, they will win out eventually.
If you base them on whatever’s most agreeable to the tabloid press, or on winning over voters who usually favour parties you fundamentally disagree with, you will trip yourself up eventually.
And that’s what happened to the right of the Labour Party in last year’s general election. Their attempts to woo Ukip voters with hideous tacky mugs only served to compound concerns over immigration, which boosted support for Ukip. And their attempts to woo Tory voters confused and upset Labour voters, which led millions of them to stay at home. If Labour had been a signpost party on May 7 2015 instead of a weathercock party, we might have won the general election, which means there would be no referendum on June 23.
Or am I being too kind here? Did they trip themselves up? Or did they get the result they were hoping for?
The Blairites might not have been poised to strike at Ed Miliband with the transparent zeal they have with Corbyn, but they never supported his leadership.
The day Labour lost the election, Blairites could barely conceal their glee as they appeared on our TV screens to share their blinkered, wrong-headed analysis on the causes of the loss.
They clearly saw this as their opportunity to take the reigns of the party. Not once did they reflect on the real reasons for that loss, which was the right of the party’s decisions to support austerity, campaign alongside the Tories in the Scottish independence referendum, and make pathetic attempts at dog-whistle politics over migration.
Self-awareness is not one of the Blairites’ strong suits. And it will be that complete lack of awareness that will be on show yet again if Britain votes for Brexit.
The Labour right will blame a Brexit on Corbyn. But it won’t be Corbyn’s straight-talking honest campaign that will turn voters off an In vote.
We are not children. We know the EU is flawed and undemocratic, and many of us have not forgiven the EU for its shoddy treatment of Greece.
Corbyn is making the case for a reformed social Europe, and for many on the left, that’s the only case that could persuade us to vote In.
And it wasn’t the left of the party that came up with electioneering mugs bearing the slogan “controls on immigration” — a slogan that single-handedly validates the Boris Johnson case for Brexit. And it wasn’t the Labour left that nodded along with Ukip and the Tories as they blamed strained public services on migration, instead of on ideologically driven austerity and politically motivated underfunding.
That’s why the instant the Blairites leap in to blame a Brexit on Corbyn, we must be ready to turn the finger of blame back on them — where it belongs.
By Chelley Ryan
(First published in The Morning Star 6/6/16)