So, the final reading – before it’s passed up to the Lords for review – of the government’s bill to trigger Article 50 takes place today, with a vote expected around 8pm.
So far, indications are that Labour MPs will still be under a ‘3-line whip’, but the issue is being wildly misrepresented by Corbyn’s opponents in the Labour party – and by the media, in particular BBC News.
Jeremy Corbyn told this writer last weekend that he was not going to ‘approve the bill no matter what’ but would take a view on the bill’s final form and act accordingly. Labour First’s ‘National Organiser’, Matt Pound, has already been trying to taunt the SKWAWKBOX over Corbyn’s statement, even though the bill is still being debated and its ‘final form’ is unknown:
The assumptions Pound is leaping to are huge. As Shadow Brexit Minister Matthew Pennycook told the BBC’s Ben Brown today, Labour has achieved not one, but two huge concessions from the government, so there are no grounds to suggest that Corbyn is simply waving through May’s bill.
Labour played it very cleverly in Parliament yesterday by letting backbencher Chris Leslie’s amendment lead, calling for a binding Parliamentary vote on any deal. Because it wasn’t the official Labour amendment, it was easier for Tories to rebel – and seven did, even after the government’s concessions.
The amendment was defeated – it would have take a major Tory rebellion to get it through – but because of Labour’s intelligent manoeuvres the government was sufficiently afraid that enough might rebel for them to offer two concessions.
Parliament will be given a vote on the final deal negotiated with the EU – but also a vote on the draft agreement before it goes to the final discussions with the EU. The fact that the government later tried to claim these were not concessions was the line pushed by the BBC and other media, but even Tory MPs found this jarring:
while some of the more honest journalists were frank about it being, indeed, a definite concession by the government:
So it’s all still to play for today and this evening and Corbyn can still change his mind about the whip if he doesn’t like how the bill looks – or, if he decides it’s the best that can be done at the moment, he may decide not to lift the whip, so that Labour does not appear to be disdaining those who voted to leave, knowing that there are still two more battlegrounds to fight on.
Thanks to the concessions, the onus is now on the Tories to craft a deal that will win the approval of Parliament, because their ‘take it or leave it’ approach means they will be held responsible for Britain leaving the EU with no deal if they don’t.
But you’d never guess this if you listen to the BBC or read the bleatings or crowings in the press. They are determined to make this Labour’s problem – and, of course, specifically Corbyn’s problem. Just as the worst of the Labour right is, such as Labour First and their Mr Pound.
So, as you watch today’s events unfold and listen to the commentariat pontificate, the real question in your mind shouldn’t be whether Corbyn should be imposing the Labour whip. It should be which billionaires and Tory/red Tory editors are whipping the media into spinning such a misleading narrative – AKA ‘fake news’.
And whether they should be whipped for doing it.
Whatever happens this evening, Corbyn has never said he won’t whip support for the bill – just that he’ll take a view on its final form.
Given that he can’t overturn it anyway – without a large number of Tory rebels at least – his first responsibility is still to position Labour for least harm and best way forward after the vote, so the people of this country can get rid of a parasitic Tory government and start to recover its economic justice and its humanity.