Here Cometh Twenty Seventeen
2016 was the worst year ever! – Was a certain hyperbolic statement a variation on which you’ve probably heard/read somewhere over the past few months. Seems a bit odd really. I mean, let’s be honest here, anyone who says that is probably only doing so because they ended up on the wrong side of Trump and Brexit, and it’s hard to see how 2017 will fare much better in that case. That is, this year Trump will actually get to be President and the Brexit process will actually begin.
Anyway, even if one is so utterly horrified by the prospect of an orange manchild becoming the leader of the free world and by Britain leaving the European Union, I’m still not convinced that that, plus a number of high profile celebrity deaths that will inevitably continue happening in 2017, makes 2016 the worst year in human existence. It seems a bit of a pointless and arbitrary exercise, but surely if we had to pick something then one might be inclined to consider 1939 (when we entered into World War 2) or perhaps 1347 (when about half of Europe started dying from the bubonic plague). Obviously, such nonsense is merely the by-product of an increasingly interconnected world living in the age of outrage.
Brexit Means Brexit
Speaking of Brexit, why is everyone still so confused about the single market? We’re leaving. End of story. In a world where politics still trumps economics, Theresa May has made it her mission to reduce immigration “to acceptable levels” – whatever that means. By refusing to exclude students from the annual migration quota, she’s already shown that reducing numbers is more important to her than potential economic benefit, and unless the EU is prepared to give Britain a “best of both worlds” deal (hint hint: it’s not), then remaining in the single market while rejecting freedom of movement is completely impossible.
Why is this such a hard concept to grasp? The Remain campaign had been saying for months that single market membership is incompatible with greater immigration controls, and Theresa May’s stupid “Brexit means Brexit” slogan should have left everyone without a doubt that a “Hard Brexit” is precisely what we’re heading for. If May actually supported single market membership at the cost of freedom of movement, guess what, she would have said so by now. She’s the Prime Minister of Great Britain, not a former Hobbit trying to beat Bilbo at a game of riddles in a dark tunnel under a mountain.
Meanwhile, the embattled leadership of the British Labour Party has decided that the best way to improve its terrible approval ratings must be to reinvent Jeremy Corbyn as some kind of Trotskyist Trump: An anti-establishment firebrand with a strategy consisting of slagging off the hostile media and appealing to an apparent surge in populist sentiment.
A few problems with that. One: I’m not terribly convinced that the best electoral strategy consists of mimicking a man who lost by nearly three million votes. Two: what demographic is Corbyn’s team actually trying to target here? You might be forgiven for assuming its working class Brexit voters, but that’s rather hopeless as long as Corbyn remains dedicated to the free movement of people (which is still seemingly the case).
Otherwise, a left-populist approach is almost certain to further alienate those defecting to the Conservatives and Lib Dems, a group which (contrary to what some seem to believe) is much bigger than those leaving Labour for UKIP. Trump managed to win the electoral college by taking traditional Democratic voters in the Rust Belt. What is Labour’s equivalent to this? They can’t take the UKIP vote while supporting freedom of movement and neither can they make any inroads into the Tory/Lib Dem vote while acting like a left-wing Donald Trump. About that…
Just like with Agent Orange across the pond, the idea is seemingly to “let Corbyn be Corbyn”, and if today’s supposed re-branding exercise is anything to go by, that apparently translates to “forget whatever you were meant to do and say something incredibly stupid in order to derail the entire media operation”. In a series of morning interviews, he floated the idea of a maximum wage cap. Why? God only knows. According to Labour sources, it was never on the agenda, and Corbyn couldn’t come up with any details when inevitably pressed upon the subject.
Therefore, something that isn’t even official Labour Party policy (although, frankly, nothing these days seems to be) essentially dominated the news agenda, as opposed to the things Corbyn was actually told by his handlers to discuss. By the time of his big speech later in the day, the idea was partially discarded in favour of merely capping excessive pay to government contractors, while previous suggestions that Labour might abandon its stance on freedom of movement were also contradicted. Great message discipline guys. Just fucking brilliant.
Honestly, I’m still a bit baffled thinking about what the whole point of all this was? It was meant to be a re-branding exercise, but Corbyn didn’t change his policy on practically anything. Not on freedom of movement, not on the single market. Meanwhile, media attention was taken away from the current crisis in the NHS, which happened to dominate newspaper headlines this morning. If you haven’t heard by now, people are dying on trollies in British hospitals… In a National Health Service which the Labour Party created, and at a time when Health is one of the only issues with which it still leads in the polls.
Presented with such an opportunity, the Labour leadership should be talking about nothing but health. Every minute of every hour they should be thinking, “Ok, how can we keep screwing the Tories on the NHS”, but no, apparently making contradictory statements on immigration and a moronic maximum wage policy is far more important.