Labour’s Brexit torch runs out of batteries…

Ah, is this at last a shining shaft from the Labour torch to illuminate its Brexit policy? Nope – someone clearly forgot to buy any new batteries. That torch is casting the same meagre light as before.

Jeremy Corbyn got his way at yesterday’s meeting of the national executive council (NEC). Labour policy on a second referendum is the same as before and can be summed up as, er, erm, it depends. Meet the new policy, same as the old one.

Sitting on that Brexit fence suits Jeremy Corbyn and he has no intention of shifting. His team said party policy for the forthcoming European election campaign was “fully in line” with its longstanding policy.

At which point a bleary-eyed cynic might feel moved to interject: your mealy-mouthed same-old policy is fully aligned to staying on that fence, muttering about a general election every now and then, conjuring a Labour Brexit spell that magics away the Evil Tory Brexit, and refusing to say what you really think – or taking any notice of what many Labour supporters/voters want. Oh, and trying to pretend that Brexit doesn’t really matter anyway.

Does Labour now still favour a soft Brexit – or is it just planning on making life easier for that opportunistic slime-ball Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party? A hopelessly divided Tory Party and a bumbling-in-the-dark Labour Party seem intent between them on making life easier for Farage and his curious crew, including that unfunny old pantomime dame of British politics, Ann Widdicombe.

For reasons which escape my comprehension – and should escape the comprehension of every equally vaguely sane person – Nigel Farage is box office, and people still flock to be sold the same old right-wing tat from his free-market stall of crowd-stirring rotten bargains.

Let’s step away from this depressing farrago and hear from a man who does seem to keep batteries in his torch.

That man is Philip Alston, the United Nations global poverty expert. Today he warns that Britain’s preoccupation with Brexit will leave the country severely diminished whatever happens, as too little is being done to help people who are being pushed deeper into poverty.

Alston is a human-rights lawyer from New York who is in his final year as the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty. He said yesterday: “You are really screwing yourselves royally for the future by producing a substandard workforce and children that are malnourished.”

It’s easy to forget the power of a plain-talking American, especially when we are bombarded daily and nightly by the increasingly insane inanities of a Twitter-mad president. Alston is one such plain-speaking American and he has delivered an 11,000-word report to the government about poverty in Britain, following his investigations last November.

His gloomy thoughts should be listened to, if anyone can stop arguing about Brexit. Although, to be honest, that seemingly undying squabble seems to have run out of steam, with all participants too exhausted or disillusioned to continue shouting at each other.

Leave or remain, Britain has blown it – that seems to be Alston’s take on the mess we are in. Hard not to agree. As for Labour, perhaps Alston can pass on some inside information about where torch batteries are sold.

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