The left is now leading the anti-Brexit movement

6 September 2019

Originally published on Labour List

Author: Clive Lewis MP

Every week has its drama, but seriously: what a huge week this has been for our politics. In opting for the prorogation of parliament, Boris Johnson has done more to marry the left and the Remain and transform movement than anyone else – including us in Love Socialism. With outraged members of the public up and down the country, and the #StopTheCoup movement galvanising activists, the PM has put rocket boosters on the campaign to end his government and stop Brexit.

What he thought would be a smart move, leaving his opponents with little room to manoeuvre, has widely been condemned as a straight-forwardly anti-democratic move. What’s more, he has lost both his majority in the Commons and control of the parliamentary agenda. He has put himself in the box he thought he was pushing us into.

These seismic events have seen a complete, basically overnight transformation of the politics on the streets. While the left has held significant interventions in previous anti-Brexit demonstrations, limited mobilisations have often left it sidelined and confined – a sideshow on the Lib Dem-dominated People’s Vote marches. On Saturday, though, reports from across the country suggested there were far more labour movement banners on the streets, raising radical slogans alongside the usual anti-Brexit demands.

And on Tuesday night, when news of the crucial vote came through, protesters outside parliament waving EU flags chanted Jeremy Corbyn’s name. It couldn’t have been further from the “where’s Jeremy Corbyn” chants of centrist Remainers at PV rallies earlier on in the year. Labour is now leading the fight against this damaging hard-right Brexit, both inside and outside of parliament. Given the overwhelming majority of Labour members and supporters are against Brexit, it is surprising this has taken so long – but doesn’t it feel great?

By taking the ground we had previously abandoned to the liberals, Labour is now leading the fightback it needs in order to win. The marriage of the left and the Remain movement is not only a natural and logical conclusion to this sorry saga – Lexit was never, of course, on the cards, while a hard-right Brexit very much is. It also offers a wonderful chance to transform our party’s fortunes in the country. Labour has struggled in recent polls, but we know the formula we need to win at a general election, which might be right around the corner.

In 1945 and 1997, when Labour won in landslide elections, our party offered an optimistic and energetic vision of change and hope for the future. It didn’t deliver anywhere near enough after 1997 (and some would argue after 1945 too, despite the NHS), but vision matters at election time just as much as the hard politics.

It was also a radical, optimistic vision that won Jeremy Corbyn the leadership in 2015. That vision gave us our impressive 2017 general election result, when we surprised everyone with our late surge in support. In 2015 and 2017, bold ideas that had previously been dismissed as too radical, couched in a broader vision of change, won people over.

But even the most ultra-loyalist of party members would have to admit that our party’s dithering over Brexit has cost us some of that energy. With our movement now leading the way on the streets and in parliament in opposition to Boris Johnson’s Brexit, we have a golden chance to relaunch our bold offer and present a renewed, radical vision of change. One that puts climate, ecology and democracy at its core. A manifesto that can inspire people again.

In the context of 2019, with Brexit posing the gravest immediate threat to workers’ rights, migrants’ rights, environmental standards and even to Labour’s public ownership plans, creating a politics of hope that can win a general election against the populist-right menace of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage obviously means a clear remain and transform policy. We are heading in the right direction, but our manifesto should explicitly commit us to this, and we should start campaigning on it now.

For many of us, this week has been the launch-pad for that renewed vision and campaigning. And on Saturday, activists will be doing it all over again – right outside Boris Johnson’s home. If you too want to demand democracy, say no to the coup and Brexit, and kick-start the campaign for a socialist victory in an upcoming election, join Momentum, Another Europe is Possible and others at a noisy rally on Saturday at 2.30pm outside Downing Street at or any of the events mapped out here. The PM is on the back foot – let’s come together to finish him off, and change both our country and Europe for the better.

Love Socialism is a group of socialist Labour MPs fighting to stop Brexit. We will be writing a column for LabourList every week until the Brexit crisis is over. You can find out more about us here, and follow us on Twitter @LoveSocialism.