SO now, the end is near, and 2018 faces its final curtain. Good riddance to bad rubbish as the saying goes.
There had been wishful thinking at the end of 2017 that this year couldn’t be as awful as the last – yet that didn’t last long. Overall, it’s been another depressing year, beginning and ending with the impending doom of Brexit and the constant disappointment of our political class.
The desire for the new year to offer us all some ray of hope has never been greater, especially for those of us who would like to see our exit from the EU stopped in its tracks. Yet, it was all but extinguished by Jeremy Corbyn’s pronouncement last week that even a Labour government would carry on regardless. That’s regardless of the damage Brexit will inflict on our economy and jobs, our young people’s choices and prospects, and our ability, as a nation, to tackle the deep-rooted problems of poverty and inequality: the very issues the Labour Party was established to resolve.
Just today the Scottish Labour Party said it believes that 150,000 Scottish children are living in poverty, in out-of-work households, including 4320 kids in Aberdeen, because of the Tory benefit cap. It goes on to call this situation “immoral and unnecessary”, and rightly states that the UK government has systematically undermined the social security safety net.
And yesterday Labour said that the opportunities for thousands of young Scots had been lost because of a severe lack of investment in Scotland’s college sector by the Scottish Government. Last weekend it pointed to the thousands of children going hungry this Christmas period, again because of poverty – in families where parents do work, as well as those where parents are out of work.
There is no real arguing with these pronouncements – though there will be those who quibble about the numbers, and where blame lies. None of us have to look too far to know of family and friends who’ve lost jobs this year, or who are in insecure employment, who struggle to get by on reduced benefits, who have to use foodbanks.
For those struggling to put food on the table and looking to another year of financial stress and worry about keeping a roof over their heads, they don’t really care who or what is to blame, they just want a resolution which puts their families and their lives back on track.
Brexit will ensure that doesn’t happen. Every single economic indicator has shown that leaving the EU will have a detrimental impact on the UK – it in no way puts people’s jobs first. As always, it will be the poorest and the most vulnerable who will suffer the most. And while Labour claims to be desperate for a general election in 2019 tell me what the point would be in voting for just another party determined to forge ahead with a policy which will make people’s lives worse, by wrenching the UK out of its most important economic and political alliance.
Why oust a Tory government and not stop Brexit? Why campaign on ending poverty and inequality, but blow a hole right through those plans by doing the work of Nigel Farage and his ilk for him? God forbid the Labour leadership should gird its loins and take a stance which actually protects the people it claims to want to help. Because it undermines democracy? Well there’s a cracker joke if ever I heard one.
Democracy doesn’t lie in one vote. It’s a moving feast. People can vote again and again. That’s the point. It’s a point so many within the membership of the Party understand all too well and they have been left horrified by their leaders’ unwillingness to grasp the opportunity to offer all of us a real way out of the Brexit morass.
Former Scottish leader Kezia Dugdale has been extremely vocal in her demand for Labour to change its stance on Brexit – a view backed by many of the membership – yet she can do no more than carp from the side as she gave up her position of leadership.
Undoubtedly Europe was at the heart of her reasons to resign, so she could be public about her own views, which are so opposite to those of Corbyn. But surely those views would have held more sway – certainly in Scotland – had she stayed in position and done the same, no matter the internal division it may have caused. For Corbyn’s stance cannot hold; he has no Brexit masterplan, there is no Christmas miracle from him. We cannot leave the EU and remain the same country.
My new year wish then is that the Labour leadership finally shows some resolve and calls for a second referendum, a people’s vote, if you will. There is no shame in changing your mind – which so many who originally voted to Leave would attest.
And if there is to be another general election (there’s democracy in action again) let us see a Labour manifesto committing the UK to remaining in the EU. More than that, committing the UK to remaining a leading member of the EU, a party determined to see off the right wing threat across Europe; and a party that truly wants to tackle the twin scourges of poverty and inequality by increasing prosperity in our society. That would make 2019 a truly good new year.