What a difference half a year can make!
Back in September 2015, just after it had been revealed that Jeremy Corbyn voted for Britain to leave Europe in the 1975 referendum, The Telegraph printed the following:
“The admission from the hard-left MP who is expected to be named Labour leader tomorrow, raises questions over whether or not he will campaign to leave the EU in the upcoming referendum.”
The Daily Express clarified:
“Again in 1993, Mr Corbyn voted against ratifying the Maastricht Treaty, which laid the groundwork for the modern EU.”
Then Reuters pointed out that:
“The fear among pro-European campaigners is that Corbyn's scepticism about the EU - if not outright opposition - could confuse Labour voters, who make up about a third of the electorate, when the referendum due by the end of 2017 is held.”
Of course, as they all later found out they had nothing to worry about.
In late February of 2016, cementing his pro-EU stance, Corbyn said:
“I want to see a Europe that is about protecting our environment and ensuring we have sustainable industries across Europe, such as the steel industry, and high levels of jobs and social protection across Europe.”
We would all like to see a Europe that protects the environment and our industries. We just don’t think we’ll get that under the European Union. After all, the EU project is predicated on the free movement of capital, not on social protection.
In fact, social protections - despite feelings to the contrary - aren’t even an afterthought of the European Union.
If ‘Social Europe’ was anything more than a PR-led illusion, then more protections would have been forthcoming for communities impacted by one million lost British manufacturing jobs since 1997.
Looking beyond our borders, just look at Greece. Greek unemployment stood at 9% in 2009, but then along with the introduction of harsh austerity measures settled and imposed by the European Union unemployment rose to 27% in 2015.
When the Greeks voted against bailout conditions offered them, they were ignored.
Where were the social protections for them?
One particular journalist understood this very well. Stationed in Greece, he was in a very good place to see how meaningless the words “social protection” were when used by EU leaders.
Writing in his foreword of a book about the Greek economic crisis, this particular journalist wrote:
“Europe’s survival as a project to deliver social justice, sustainable and equitable development and democratic values is now under severe threat. The neoliberal elites of Europe are clustered in the modern Versailles – Davos, the yachting ports and the guarded mansions – oblivious.
Those who want a Europe of fiscal expansion, courageous and unorthodox monetary policy, and aggressive competition with the rest of the world for growth, for people, for high-tech capacity need to be able to answer: what if it does not happen? The authors here spell out the logic: exit, breakup and the reconstitution of social justice projects within nation states, or smaller alliances of nation states”.
The journalist rightly recognises the argument that says social justice will only come after EU exit. Those words should follow us all the way to the referendum polling booth.
As a side note, it is worth saying that the journalist who said all the words above is Paul Mason. It’s equally noteworthy that he has recently quit his job at Channel 4 News in order to, among other things, advise the Labour party.