Chris Grayling is MP for Epsom and Ewell, and Secretary of State for Transport.
Last week was the week in which many people I spoke to said that Brexit became real. The Prime Minister took a major step on the way towards securing the right future for Britain outside the EU. It’s a sensible deal that should work for all sides, and which paves the way for a trade agreement that will do the same.
There is much to do, but the progress vindicated the approach that she and David Davis have been taking.
That progress was reflected in the tone of the debate in the Commons on Monday afternoon. Conservatives from both sides of the Brexit argument rowed in behind her, and welcomed the deal enthusiastically. There are principled views on the issue in the Party, but above all, there is more that unites us than divides us, and the Commons saw that clearly.
A lot of progress has been made and there is still much work to do before we get to a final agreement on Europe, but it is now time to turn the spotlight on Labour. They have got away with too much this year, and we cannot let them carry on doing so.
Their position on Brexit has been downright dishonest. We know that Jeremy Corbyn is and has always been a Brexiteer. But he now leads a Party that won’t even rule out a second referendum.
A few months ago, we saw Labour frontbenchers forced from office for supporting Britain remaining in the Single Market, and in June John McDonnell said on the Andrew Marr show that: “I think people will interpret membership of the single market as not respecting that referendum”.
Yet now it appears to be Labour policy to stay. Certainly Emily Thornberry wants to stay. She told Marr in October that “we will be out the single market and the customs union, it makes no sense”. And last week John McDonnell said that “we want to keep all the options on the table”.
There’s nothing new in this policy slipperiness. We saw it during and after the election with Corbyn’s broken promises on student loans. We’ve seen it in the past week with the Labour leader attacking the City of London, only for McDonnell to try to woo it a few days later.
This Labour Party is completely untrustworthy and you have to treat what they say with extreme caution. Their top team is unqualified, divided, and frequently go back on their promises. But why does this matter? Don’t oppositions always do this?
It matters because of who this Opposition are. Behind the veneer, the Labour leadership is now a front for all of the Socialist Worker/Trotskyite organisations that have sat on the fringes of British politics for decades. What was once the Militant Tendency is now mainstream.
In London there are widespread reports of long-standing, moderate Labour councillors being deselected in favour of Momentum activists. The same is true in Manchester and elsewhere.
At the same time it’s clear that the Momentum takeover of local Labour parties is also gathering pace. Before long the issue of re-selection will move from council candidate selections to the candidates for the next General Election. Momentum is already demanding that parliamentary candidates sign up to a pledge of loyalty to the leadership. The spectre of a genuinely hard left opposition is already taking shape.
We have to work hard to make sure that the public understand that reality. Yes, we have to push a positive message about Brexit and about our domestic agenda. We have to offer a compelling vision of a high-tech, dynamic, entrepreneurial and compassionate Britain. We have to make Britain fit for the future.
But we also have to expose Labour for what they really now are. In Corbyn’s model nation, Venezuela, the President has just banned opposition parties from taking part in the next election. In this country the hard left are already vilifying Labour moderates, mounting false smear campaigns against Conservatives, and are pursuing a vicious campaign of anti-Semitism.
In power that would just be the start.
We have a whole range of things we have to do as we prepare for the next election. But exposing them for what they really are must be at the top of the list.