After Keir Starmer very clearly signalled a change in tack from Labour on Brexit, the Single Market and Customs Union, and also kept the door open to remaining in both if this could be reconciled with changes to free movement rules, the pressure was back on the Tories. The decision to thoroughly brief the Observer, at the start of a week when negotiations on Britain’s departure from the EU will resume, was not an accident.
And if there was to be a policy shift, even a mere clarification or re-definition, then there had to be punditry. Sadly, the politics shows are still off the air as today is part of the England and Wales August Bank Holiday weekend, so pundits were reduced to sounding off on social media. Some made careful and thoughtful observations, while others confirmed Dirty Harry’s observation that “A man’s got to know his limitations”.
The Sensible Party offerings were typified by BBC host and author Andrew Marr, who was brief and to the point: “This is a big moment in the politics of Brexit”. Indeed it is. Also on the Sensible side was Rupert Myers of GQ and the Telegraph, telling “All those people who made excuses for Labour's position on Brexit - this is a very sensible move by the party”. There were also Sensible contributions from left-leaning pundits.
One of those was Owen Jones, able to state unequivocally “No-one can now argue there's no difference between Labour and the Tories on Brexit”. But assembled against these figures were many dissenting voices, starting with the Slightly Silly representative Iain Dale, who mused “I'd almost bet money on Corbyn or McDonnell undermining Starmer's latest Brexit policy within the next few says. Wonder if they agreed it”.
But he just hadn’t read the Observer article. Further into the Silly Party universe, the loathsome Toby Young declined to lower himself to pass direct comment, not that he wanted to avoid being ridiculed even more, you understand. So he merely RTd a sniping Tweet claiming “If you are still unclear about Labour's position on #Brexit, here's a simple explanation”. Laugh? I thought I’d never start.
Also going in to bat for the Silly faction was the Mail on Sunday’s not even slightly celebrated blues artiste Whinging Dan Hodges, who knew more than Keir Starmer about his own policy: “Tory position is they will completely leave SM within two years. Labour's is they will completely leave SM within four years”. He ignored the option to stay in both the Single Market and Customs Union, but minor details, eh?
Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham had decided Labour wanted Remain by the back door, telling of Stephen Bush’s thought that a transition period might become rather open-ended “This has been the key Remain strategy since late last year. Hence why Leavers insist transition is strictly limited to as short as possible”. That’s next week’s Guido Fawkes line, then.
And representing the Very Silly Party - looks like Tarquin FinTimLimBinWhimBinLim Bus Stop F’tang F’tang Olé Biscuit Barrel had the day off - was Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, ranting “Corbyn promised he would leave the single market. He has now betrayed every Labour voter at the General Election. Liar!” Nigel Farage just called “Liar” on someone else.
Will the Silly Party up its game when the politics shows return? Don’t bet on it.