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Theresa May

Theresa May speaking outside Downing Street, November 2018. Photo: Flickr/Number 10

The Brexit deadlock can only be broken with a general election, writes David McAllister

After weeks of Parliamentary deadlock, which has seen May’s government stumble from defeat, to desperation, to handwringing (‘it’s all Parliament’s fault!’), and back again, Parliament took control of the agenda. The result on Wednesday has been a wholly unappetising alphabet soup of motions in which every camp has continued to repeat exactly the same positions they had before. Predictably, nothing has a majority. Not May’s deal. Not a second referendum… also predictably.

Notwithstanding the silly triumphalism over Parliament ‘taking back control’, what many of these MPs fail to realise is the fact that they, in their majority, are held in just as much contempt as Theresa May. Although the crisis of the British state has been expressed through the Brexit deadlock, this is not its root cause. The referendum happened in a context of 6 years of austerity, deepening poverty, and a general sense that democratic accountability is being eroded. 

Everything which has happened since then has done little, if anything, to change that. This is also why a second referendum is no way out of the crisis and, if anything, will throw a lifeline to May’s illegitimate government by giving them a chance to realign with the Remain policy preferred by the vast majority of big business interests. The most right-wing elements within Labour will no doubt continue to try and resolve the crisis in favour of British capital.

This is exactly why this continuity Remain operation has mainly targeted Corbyn and not May, the result being that May’s deal could actually become more likely. This has also been possibly bolstered by the prospect of May offering her own premiership as the sacrifice, inviting a feeding frenzy of equally contemptible figures to replace her. If this happens, who will negotiate? From where will they get the mandate to do so? In short, a general election is needed.

The Brexit deadlock is hardly the main reason why, because here’s the thing: it’s very difficult to remain fixated on all this guff when you’ve spent the best part of the decade struggling to meet basic living costs. According to latest statistics from the Trussell Trust, annual handouts of emergency food supplies by food banks now stand at 1.3 million.

To anyone watching the debate in Parliament yesterday, whether they support Remain or Leave, it must have been particularly nauseating to see a superficial battle over who has the 'will of the people' between MPs who have repeatedly voted for welfare cuts and wars overseas.

But we’re in a unique situation here. We have a Tory government in meltdown, led by the most incompetent leader anyone can remember, and paralysed from acting in its traditional role as the representatives of the British capital. Meanwhile, we have the most radical leader the Labour Party has ever had waiting in the wings with a real alternative, while there is an insubordinate mood in the country which can propel him to number 10 and start to make that alternative a reality. Opportunities like this don’t happen that often.

It’s pretty obvious what we should be fighting for.

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