The day before Jeremy Corbyn delivered his major pronouncement on Europe, the North Norfolk Labour Party met to discuss our attitude to the referendum. I went to the meeting with some trepidation. As a consequence of the Labour leadership campaign we have acquired a vocal group who have defected from the Greens and, judging by some comments on our Party Facebook site, are mainly motivated by a nostalgia for the Labour party of the 1980s. I was expecting the ‘EU as a capitalist conspiracy’ arguments to resurface.
In fact I was pleasantly surprised. Our former Chairman made an extremely good job of presenting the case for remaining in the community, emphasising the peaceful transition that had taken place across the continent. He was followed by a member who had agreed to make the case for Brexit. In a curious address the individual concerned announced that he had now changed his mind. One of the former Greens rambled on about protecting the working class from the ravages of global capitalism, but no-one actually spoke for withdrawal.
There has been much newspaper discussion on whether Jeremy Corbyn’s espousal of the European cause is genuine or opportunistic. One suggestion is that he has been persuaded that he should not step too far out of line with his younger supporters, but he should not appear too enthusiastic for what his entourage regard as an institution of the established order. I don’t think that it matters. Politicians often say things that they don’t believe, but if they say it often enough they start to believe it – ask the LibDems. True, Jeremy is unlikely to participate much in the campaign. However he has never been able to persuade anyone of anything unless they agreed with him in the first place.
The referendum will not be won by persuasion through reasoned argument. It will be won by ensuring that our side (LabourIn for Britain) goes out and votes; this is especially true of the young voter. The fact that Jeremy Corbyn has come out in favour has removed one important barrier to making that happen. North Norfolk for once seems to be ahead of the game.