Why Corbyn needs to be a positive defender of Britain in the EU

There are plenty of papers covering the "he said, she said" of the EU referendum. I want to take a step back and look at the campaign as a whole. As well the referendum being an important decision for the future of the country, it is an important political opportunity for Labour. As such, it is important that Labour shows a united front and that they take advantage of Tory divisions over Britain’s EU membership.

So far the Tories have kept their disagreements over the EU private because the Labour poll ratings have been so dire. Parties facing defeat show much less unity, for example the Tories in early 90s. There is currently a strong incentive for Tory MPs to stay in the good books of the leadership, i.e. being rewarded with government jobs in the 2020s.

However the mask of Tory unity is slipping. Boris Johnson is dividing the party by giving some credibility and popularity to the No campaign. This a careerist move from Boris, who views this as his last chance to become Tory leader and thus Prime Minister. Barbed words have already been exchanged between Boris and David Cameron, and the rift will only grow as Boris and George Osborn battle it out to be the heir apparent when Cameron steps down.

Labour's own divisions make it difficult to take advantage of the Tory split. This is why it is important for Labour to show a united front in the EU referendum. However, this is made harder by the fact that Labour's leader is not convinced of the benefit of EU membership. There are a lot of problems with the EU from a left wing perspective (TTIP is the tip of the iceberg) but the only way that the Labour Party can achieve socialist goals is through working with other left wing parties in a united Europe. Labour need to get behind the EU.

The left wing vote is needed for Britain to stay in the EU. This is why Alan Johnson is leading the passionately pro EU Labour In campaign. It is this positive approach to Europe that the country needs, not a scare campaign based on jobs and security that Britain Stronger in Europe will offer. Labour In is needed because if the left stay home on referendum day, the leave vote will win. Labour In is a great chance for the party to be the decisive element in British politics.

Corbyn and the Labour left need to take the upper hand if they want to stay in control of the party. There have been too many headlines about in-fighting and arguments between the Labour leadership and the PLP. The Tories are trying to maximise the divisions in Labour by moving forward the vote on renewing Trident. Labour need to do likewise, by making Tory divisions over Europe as big as possible, while putting on a well organised and united campaign to stay. If Corbyn can organise a united Labour Party, on the side of what most people want, against a divided and unpopular mid-term government, then he can turn the tide of bad headlines around.

This is a huge opportunity for Labour and Corbyn. A passionate, positive defence of the EU against a divided Tory party will show the public that Labour under Corbyn can be an effective opposition. People will believe Corbyn if he campaigns to stay in the EU. It plays to his strengths, namely that people think he is honest and believe what he has to say, which is unlike most politicians or his PLP rivals. He can even present his earlier wavering to his advantage - he considered both options sensibly, like the rest of us, before making an informed, balanced decision. Corbyn needs to take this opportunity to do what only he can do, show the county how Labour are different from the Tories.

Labour must be well disciplined, on the side of the voters and against a divided government. Above all, they must be positive, avoiding a mirror image of Farage’s knee-jerk rhetoric or the scare tactics of Cameron's stay in campaign. This will not only win the EU referendum for remain, but will also win back control of the headlines. Corbyn needs to seize this opportunity to start winning.