• 06 Oct - 12 Oct, 2018
  • Shahed Sadullah
  • London Eye

Late September-early October are heady times in Britain. The major political parties hold their conferences around this time where most people have their say and with Brexit now about to come to fruition, tempers are running high and voices are being raised.

The Labour Party has just had its conference and the pressure on the leadership to accept the idea of a second referendum re-opening the Brexit question, with a clear option to call Brexit off and remain in the EU, came up loud and strong. Just before the party conference, a poll revealed that as many of 86 per cent of Labour Party members – well over half a million at the moment – would like a second referendum where one of the options given would be to remain in the EU and forget Brexit. But that is the membership. The Labour Party leadership gets cold feet whenever the issue comes up and feels that reopening the issue would give a huge boost to extreme right wing forces in the country.

Thus Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn came out with a total hotch potch when he said in an interview during the conference that what he wanted was for whatever deal the government made with the EU to be presented before Parliament and if Labour felt that it did not meet its six stated requirements – which can never be met as they require ensuring no jobs are lost and the continuation of all the privileges now enjoyed – then Labour would not vote to pass the deal but would ask the government to go back and renegotiate with the EU.

In terms of complete nonsense, it would be hard to beat that. What magic wand would enable the government – or, indeed, anyone, for that matter – to conjure up a deal in a month or so that had eluded everyone for the past two and a half years? And if no fresh deal were to come up, as is bound to be the case, then the UK would be crashing out of the EU with no deal at all, or the much dreaded Hard Brexit about which nothing good can be said.

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, muddied the waters still further when he said that any second referendum would only be on the terms of the deal and not whether we should ditch Brexit. But then Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Kier Starmer came on stage and said clearly that there was no way that a Remain option would not be on the voting card of a second referendum and that drew some of the most rapturous applause ever seen at any party conference. The strength and spontaneity of that applause unnerved many, including perhaps Messers Corbyn and McDonnell, so in the end we had a policy coming out that if the deal arrived at with Brussels was not good enough, all possible alternatives would be on the table and that nothing would be ruled out.

The Conservative Party conference is about to come up and the prognosis there on Brexit is not good. The Prime Minister Theresa May is stuck on her ‘Chequers’ plan - so named because it was initiated at her Buckinghamshire country retreat called Chequers - which has no grass root support because die hard Tories – and that is almost the only kind of Tories there are – feel that it gives the Europeans far too much and that it is they, the EU, who should be making concessions because after all it is we, the Brits, who saved them all from Nazi Germany in the Second World War. The feeling against Europe has hardened after last week when Mrs May went to Salzburg to address the EU leaders in a last ditch effort to get support for her Chequers plan. As far as the EU is concerned, they have said repeatedly that there can be no cherry-picking, or getting the good bits of the EU and leaving the not-so-good bits out, which is what Chequers tries to do. They gave her nothing at Salzburg, and even dismissed her with some rudeness which could best be excused as humour. In any case, she felt she was ridiculed and she came back and gave an angry speech about the need for respect. Which is all very good, but as the clock ticks on, we get no closer to a deal and the horrible prospect of leaving the EU without a deal, once in the distant horizon, looms menacingly closer.

In these stormy political times the country was hit by a real storm as well, with winds of over 80 mph battering the coastal areas, felling trees and cutting power supply for many areas for days on end. Storms are not unusual at this time of the year, but the uplifting thing about this one for British Muslims was that it was given the name of Storm Ali. It happens that Ali was the first on the storm names for the 2018-19 year announced by the Met Office in Britain and the Irish Met Office Eireann, which have run a scheme for years called the ‘Name our Storms’ scheme. The public submits names to them, including the most popular names reflecting the multicultural diversity of UK and Ireland, and Ali topped the list!
We’re getting there! •