BY JAMIE FOSTER
Alastair Campbell can’t help himself. He has to go and say that Honda’s Swindon factory closure is about Brexit. The only problem is that it’s not. Twitter, as usual, saw through the remarks he made to Mishal Hussain on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. As he was blaming Brexit, Honda’s top executives were confirming that the move had to do with electrification of models that required bringing them back into Japan. Japan’s new trade deal with the EU means Japan is now in the free trade zone so is able to close factories in the UK and Turkey.
What Alistair Campbell and his ilk can’t come to terms with is that there are many things that happen in the world that have nothing whatsoever to do with Brexit. They are simply to do with global economics. The Honda move has come about because the world is turning away from diesel cars and the models built in Swindon are diesel. There is a move towards electric cars and the models that are electric in the Honda range are built in Japan. With Japan’s new trade deal with the EU there is no need to build cars outside of Japan. This would have been the same had the UK stayed in the EU. It is a problem related to having foreign car manufacturers building their cars in Britain instead of British manufacturers. They can decide to move no matter how long they have been here.
The elephant in the room that Alastair Campbell was trying to obscure in his remarks is the split in the Labour Party led by Luciana Berger and Chuka Umunna over Brexit. Campbell did not want to speak up for those leaving the Labour Party and starting a new party. It is unsurprising that the Blairites who left the Labour Party did so. They have been unwelcome in the Corbyn Labour Party since Corbyn came to power. As far as Luciana Berger is concerned it can’t be easy to be associated with a party that is so mired in antisemitism. The new movement are centrists and might appeal to the likes of Anna Soubry or Sarah Wollaston. Time will tell whether they are a serious political movement or merely moving out of the Labour Party. They will have to show that they are different to the Lib Dems, who are hardly a political force anymore. It is also worth noting that a political movement based on Brexit is likely to become an anachronism once we have left the EU.
What Campbell finds it so hard to face up to, apart from the truth, is that Labour is as split on the EU as any other party. He wants the Labour Party to take the position that the new independent group are taking on the EU. He wants a world in which he can remain a member of the Labour Party and hold the views of the new independent group. He is, of course, living in cloud cuckoo land. The Labour Party has been sold to the Left. Deep down they are Euro sceptics at heart and are perfectly happy to enjoy the chaos surrounding Brexit because chaos ferments revolution to a dyed in the wool Marxist.
The days of the Blairite Labour Party are well and truly over, and Campbell would do well to get behind the independent group as soon as possible. They represent everything that he believes in. As they form a Remainer Party we can all get on with the business of leaving the EU and leaving them irrelevant. They may well let his involvements in the build up to the Iraq war remain a sleeping dog. Alastair Campbell would make a good spin doctor for the group, blaming everything, as he does, on Brexit. With chunks breaking off the Labour Party the Tories can deal with healing the rifts that have grown up over Brexit and ensuring they are ready for the grown-up business of government.
Honda’s decision to close the Swindon plant won’t be the last bit of bad economic news that we have to deal with. It is part of the cut and thrust of life. We must resist the Campbell approach of putting it all down to Brexit. The world is not as single issue as all that. As Brexit comes and goes, we must make ready for the economic challenges ahead. There will be many, and we can be as big as they are. We just need, unlike Alastair Campbell, to be able to see the truth behind the challenges and take them head on.