With a general election in Britain to take place in just over a month, many people’s eyes will be on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Corbyn was to be the man who would once and for all purge the Blairite, globalist, neo-liberal factions from the Labour party and return it to traditional working class socialism.
Along the way, he has encountered stiff resistance from the Labour party machine and the British mainstream media, a phenomenon not unlike the ‘Never Trump’ movement within the Republican party and its media cohorts during the US election.
Corbyn is about as far from a Machiavellian political mover and shaker as one can get. He looks like an old British communist on an urban collective farm who would happily sell you some organic magic beans and if you can’t afford them, he’d probably give them to you along with some spare change. Nice guy, but not necessarily a tough guy.
However, if he wants to win the election and some believe he may actually want to, he’s got to get Machiavellian and the best part for Corbyn is that he needn’t even sacrifice his principles to do so.
One of the big debates in the ongoing Brexit saga is whether Britain is to remain in the European Single Market. Non-EU states Norway, Iceland and Switzerland have total access to the Single Market just as EU members do. As a kind of trade off, they also have to accept the free movement of people throughout Europe.
Britain still cannot decide whether it is willing to sacrifice free trade on the altar of free movement. This will certainly be one of the biggest debates in the UK and EU over the next few years.
If Corbyn wants to win, he should emphasise that he is willing to let the people to decide on what kind of Brexit they are going to have.
He should pledge in his Labour party manifesto that he will conduct a referendum on membership of the European Single Market.
If he does so, something terribly ironic will happen. The bearded socialist on a bicycle may will win votes from the business community. Small, medium and big businesses are hell bent on remaining in the single market and most also encourage the maintenance of freedom of movement.
Meanwhile Theresa May’s Conservatives, while divided, are increasingly keen on saying no to the Single Market and all that goes with it. The party of business is not popular in parts of the business community for this reason alone.
Although the tax policies of Conservatives will almost always been more popular for businessmen and women than that of a left-wing Labour party, a straight forward referendum on the Single Market will be a more important long term issue for business than short term tax increases; something that depending on the make up of the new Parliament, Corbyn may not have too easy a time of getting anyway. Some even venture to say that his tax policy will not be as ‘punitive’ as that of prior left-wing Labour leaders.
Corbyn has said that he accepts Brexit and will not reverse course in this respect. Because of this voting Labour will not mean going back to Brussels the way that voting Liberal Democrat would be. But voting for a Labour party that would give people the option of trying to remain in the Single Market (ultimately the decision would be make through negotiations with the EU) would gain Labour some votes that would otherwise go to Conservatives or even the ultra-pro EU Liberal Democrats.
Holding a Single Market referendum would be both pragmatic and democratic.
Rather than have the elites endlessly argue over yet another European apparatus to be ‘in or out’ of, the people would get to decide and Corbyn could then exercise a democratic mandate on which ever way people voted without appearing personally compromised.
He can also pledge to ‘make the best of either situation’ which has more or less been his view on Brexit which he campained against, though in a rather lacklustre way. Many say his heart was not in the campaign as the Labour left have traditionally been anti-EU.
By holding a referendum on the Single Market, Corbyn would gain votes from the business community he would other wise never get, he would increase his democratic ‘man of the people’ standing among his hard-left base and he would also get many on the centre-left and even centre-right who might otherswise vote Liberal Democrat. He may even get some of his enemies in the Blairite mainstream media to go easy on him by taking a position that is outwardly moderate, democratic and conciliatory.
The bonus for those who care little about Brexit is that Corbyn for all his faults if more anti-war than any front-line party leader in Britain. He has expressed scepticism about NATO, the war in Donbass and intervention in Syria. He has a life long record of opposing western led wars, which is more than his rivals can say.
If Corbyn holds a Single Market referendum, he stands a chance at winning. If he does not, he will almost certainly lose.