As the Tory Party conference gets into full swing in Birmingham, we need no reminder of where Her Majesty’s Government is: it is right there, on stage, a procession of stage managed tableaux in which supposedly intelligent and rational human beings troop on, deliver the accepted wisdom as passed down by the party machine, pause to bask in the momentary glory of contrived applause, and return to well-deserved obscurity.
With the Blue Team now speaking as one about Britain no longer being a participant in the European Union, and the markets pricing the value of our currency accordingly - for which read lower - the thought has occurred that this is an occasion where it would reassure all those who did not vote Leave in June, and those who have had second thoughts about that Leave vote since then, to hear from Her Majesty’s Opposition.
Yet hearing from Her Majesty’s Opposition does not appear to be happening much right now. True, after Theresa May’s claim yesterday on The Andy Marr Show (tm) that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty would be triggered by next March, Emily Thornberry did say something. But that something did not challenge the status quo.
“A commitment on the timing of Article 50 is meaningless unless Theresa May can answer all the prior and more fundamental questions about what deal Britain is going to propose for our future relationship with the EU, what the plan is to secure that deal, and what we will do if it fails … This is exactly the same mistake David Cameron made with his proposed renegotiation last year: working to an artificial, self-imposed timetable; with a flawed Plan A of what he wanted to achieve; and no Plan B whatsoever”.
And, so what? Yes, Young Dave worked to an “artificial, self-imposed timetable”, but that didn’t stop him doing the deed and calling the vote which he then went and lost, dropping his country in the brown sticky stuff and then running off. We need more from Labour.
As Glen O’Hara of Oxford Brookes University observed earlier today, “Still nothing on Labour Party or Labour Press feeds re: hard-as-possible #Brexit. Nothing on web front page”. Nothing about the benefits of being a member of the European Single Market. Nothing on the customs union that enables goods and services to move around that Single Market area seamlessly. Nothing on a second referendum to ratify Brexit.
Nothing on our borders already being controlled. Nothing about those millions of Brits who have chosen to live elsewhere in the EU. Nothing about clean beaches, lower roaming charges, open skies policy, the European Arrest Warrant, energy efficiency, world leading standards for car safety and vehicle emissions, and all those tens of thousands of jobs at risk if we leave that Single Market. Nothing. Nothing at all.
Whether it’s Jeremy Corbyn or any one of his shadow cabinet, or indeed anyone else, we need to hear from Labour about Brexit. We need an opposition to oppose: to ask the Tories the kinds of questions they would rather not answer, and which their press cheerleaders will not ask. We need to hear from Labour. And we need to hear from them now.