Holidays can be dangerous in politics. Everyone was so relieved to have a break that everything shut down – apart from Nigel Farage and the Brexit party, who made hay while their political opponents lay in the sun, writes Ayesha Hazarika.
The return to Westminster was a shock to the system. Especially those polls. The mood is dazed and confused. And that’s just poor Andrew Adonis.
The European elections are suddenly upon us even though they were never meant to happen – which describes so much of our recent political history.
The Tories are in denial and hoping they will magically disappear, which is ironic as they may erase the party.
But Labour are also in a bind. The next few days will see a huge battle take place at the highest level between those who want a People’s Vote and Seumas Milne, Jeremy Corbyn’s senior adviser and the de facto leader of the Labour party, according to MPs and party staff.
Tuesday’s showdown at the Shadow Cabinet and NEC will be historic.
There is genuine panic in the Labour party. This week I attended the launch of David Kogan’s excellent book with the evergreen title Protest and Power – the Battle for the Labour Party.
There were leading figures of every wing of the party and no one could agree any position on Brexit.
There was talk about using the local elections – on 2 May, ahead of the Euros on 23 May – as a chance to talk about austerity and our values until some pointed out that Brexit was coming up on the doorstep – particularly in Labour leave seats where council elections are happening.
Some felt that we needed to carry on riding two horses and give different signals to leave and remain seats just to shore up the Labour vote, but we are well past that point – it’s disingenuous, and people aren’t that stupid.
They want clarity about Labour stands for. Whether we like it or not, the Euro and local elections are a de facto Brexit referendum.
The great fear from the majority of Labour and union figures I’ve spoken to across different parts of the country is that if Labour is not crystal clear about offering the people a final say on any Brexit deal with Remain on the ballot paper, then it will be seen as a pro-Brexit party and not only pay a heavy price come the next general election, but will fuel a dangerous narrative which will push for a harder Brexit.
But the expectations are low. People recognise that Tom Watson, Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry and many union leaders are fighting but as someone quipped, negotiating with the EU would be a walk in the park compared to that lot.
There are also suspicions that Milne and senior figures are quite relaxed about the Brexit party doing well as it would justify their pro-Brexit stance and kill off the Remain awkward squad.
That would possibly explain why, for a party so famed for its ground operation, there has been so little planning and we are wasting precious time rowing while other parties crack on.
Many predict a repeat of the lacklustre Labour effort in the 2016 referendum because the leadership wasn’t bothered.
Labour needs to get its act together. These elections matter and could have profound consequences not just for Labour but progressive politics.