Lexit is (was) the idea of withdrawing from the neoliberalist strait-jacket of the EU without selling ourselves to the USA.
Why did this idea gain no traction in the Labour Party in this election? Of all the easy-to-sell ideas buzzing around, this one can be explained in one sentence – Shake off the yoke of the destructive financiers and renationalise essential services. Yes, it calls for more questions but it is easily digested. Why were election conversations full of the claim that “there is no argument for Lexit”?
Was it because John McDonnell, our lead speaker and thinker on all things financial, was a Remainer? Was it because the real voice of the left was drowned with such efficiency by the mainstream media that we couldn’t even hear ourselves, let alone anyone leftier than us?
The mythical left
Those things certainly didn’t help, but perhaps it was substantially because we really bought into the mainstreamers’ idea that Jeremy Corbyn and the new membership he brought with him were the far left, so no-one thought to ask anyone further to the left what Lexit was all about.
It’s interesting to see the Corbyn-following “left” so dismayed that none of the potential replacements for Corbyn are “lefty” enough for them. Did we really think we had a whole cabinet of radical socialists? Is the light dawning yet?
Why we couldn’t see “Lexit”
1. “I have never heard a credible Lexit plan.”
The answer to that is probably try listening to actual socialists instead of Labour MPs.
2. “But the Leave campaign was just a confidence trick based on simplistic, populist ideas and manipulative propaganda.”
Yes, and other political campaigns are what, exactly? We have been telling each other ever since the horrible 13th of December that our campaign lacked a simple, efficiently sold offer “that people can understand”, and “that people will vote for”.
Don’t all campaigns run on a saleable idea, well sold?
Why couldn’t we see it?
It all depends on which stories you attend to. If, for example, you hold to the idea that bankers and financiers destroyed us in the 00s, you might say “look who’s dictating to the EU. Let’s get away from them.” If you also remember what the EU did to Greece and Spain, you might look to the global socialists and join the effort to break the “bankers’ EU”, from within, as in “Remain and rebel”… (which is pretty much what Corbyn was discussing during the referendum campaign, although he’s very polite, so pronounced it “reform”) …or from without (as in “if we leave, others will, and the EU will have to change or die”).
But if you listen to the Remainers’ stories, that we can somehow be successful (but oh, so ethical and oh, so green) capitalists in a successful, green (but oh, so capitalist) EU, then like most of our MPs, you have already blinded yourself to the Lexit argument.
A real live Lexiteer
I have just read an article by Laura Smith (formerly MP for Crewe and Nantwich), which is probably the first published piece I’ve seen that stands any chance of explaining to the Labour Party how badly we were conned by our own people over Brexit. The centre of her argument is that we allowed Mr Johnson to take over Jeremy Corbyn’s heroic role as the leader of “people v Parliament”, and that whilst Johnson led the charge, waving his glorious “get Brexit done” banner, Kier Starmer beheaded our movement with his “six tests”, which convinced Lexiteers that Labour’s version of Brexit was not a real “leave” at all.
Where Labour Party members stop thinking
I wonder, even if they see Smith’s article, whether many Labour Party members or MPs would manage to believe it. She says “vision” and “paint a picture” rather too often, which would allow reluctant readers to see her as a Brexit-fantasiser. She also describes the enemy as “the rich and the educationally qualified”. Now I know what she means, but I know who will stop believing her when they see that, and I – and they – know why they’ll shove the article down behind the sofa and hope no-one else reads it.
What we do now
Now, if you survived that last sentence, please heed Smith’s message about what we do now. If we follow the example of our not-very-lefty-at-all MPs, we will, as she warns, “sit on the sidelines waiting to say ‘told you so’” over Brexit. No-one ever wins friends by saying “told you so”.
We need to be pushing the socialist view of Brexit, and pushing it hard – because we are about to leave, and a Tory dominated Brexit is still the worst possible result.
Your country needs you.
Your country needs some socialist voices in the Brexit process.
Please read Smith’s article in full ( here’s another link ) and start work on the ideas we need to sell now, and in the coming months, about how Brexit should work and could work.
That is the only way we can save the situation and start a new chapter when the gravity of Mr Johnson’s clueless mess of a Brexit comes home to roost.