“We’re waiting for Godot.”
Flipping through some of the most famous lines from Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot often feels like a sneak preview of the fallout from the European referendum. Especially if you pitch Jeremy Corbyn in the role of Godot and pro-Europeans as Vladimir and Estragon.
Just as Corbyn absented himself from a key part of the European referendum campaigning by going on holiday instead, now the People’s Vote campaign wants us all to hang around waiting for Corbyn to turn up and back a referendum on the Brexit deal.
Hence the objections of some of the Labour figures in the People’s Vote campaign to the Lib Dems taking a prominent campaigning role on the issue – preferring there to be no vote in the Commons for the moment on a People’s Vote in the Commons and preferring to do photos without the Lib Dems present.
Rather, we are all meant to hang around politely and out of sight, waiting for Corbyn-Godot finally to appear as our saviour.
This is not a new dynamic. Hanging around, making concessions and waiting patiently for Labour to lumber up and support electoral reform in the House of Commons has never worked. There’s always been an excuse in the end from Labour to back away. Same too for an elected House of Lords – again, despite nominal Labour support, whenever it comes to the crunch no matter how long Lib Dems have waited before the vote, no matter how many concession to make it easier for Labour to back reform the Lib Dems have supported, in the end, Labour’s not been willing to follow through.
And that’s been when Labour leaders have had varying degrees of actual support for reforms in the Commons or Lords. This time around, Labour has a leader with a life-long record of Euroscepticism, frequently voting with right-wing Tory Eurosceptics.
The People’s Vote campaign has done many great things. But in expecting everyone else to play the role of Vladimir and Estragon, waiting for Godot to appear before pushing the case in the Commons, they’ve got it wrong.