By Daniel J. McLaughlin
Usually it is the job of a party's political rivals to pick apart their policies. The opposition is supposed to attack the government and argue that they are incapable to run the country - and paint themselves as a government-in-waiting. The government's job, on the other hand, is to prove that the opposition would be a danger for voters, and it should be business as usual. The Labour Party, however, do not need the Tories to undermine them - their own frontbenchers are causing self-inflicted wounds.
Keir Starmer outlined Labour's six Brexit tests last year. If they are not met, he argued, Labour will not back the final deal in parliament. Strong words indeed from the shadow Brexit secretary. The ultimatum seemed clear. Well, that was until Mr Starmer was undermined by his fellow frontbench colleagues.
Last month, Emily Thornberry suggested that Labour would back a “blah blah blah” Brexit deal. The shadow foreign secretary said: "If past evidence of the last few months is anything to go on, it’s going to be a 'blah, blah, blah divorce, it’s not going to actually make any decisions, it's going to continue to kick things down the road. The difficulty with a meaningful vote in October - which we have secured - is: What is it that we are going to be agreeing on?"
She added: "We have our six tests. If you hold up ‘blah, blah, blah’ to the six tests, it will probably pass it."
John McDonnell was quick to defend his colleague, arguing she was responding with "a level of good old-fashioned British sarcasm". The shadow chancellor added: "At the moment those tests are nowhere near being met."
From a nonchalant "blah blah blah Brexit" to more colourful language, Barry Gardiner made his feelings known about Labour's six tests when the shadow international trade secretary deemed them "bollocks". He argues that Labour should have instead said they would hold the Tories to account, rubbishing the party's pledge to secure the exact same benefits as the single market post-Brexit.
The New Statesman's Stephen Bush agrees with Mr Gardiner's assertion. The six tests are "bollocks", but they were "clever bollocks" previously. They kept the party vaguely united on Brexit with their ambiguity. Everyone in the Labour party can "broadly agree on the words even while disagreeing over their actual meaning". However, since Mr Starmer announced the six tests last year, Theresa May has lost her parliamentary majority and Labour's position on Brexit now matters. The government will also almost certainly pass the six tests, because it will not have agreed everything by the time of the vote - a broad outline will pass a broad questionnaire.
Labour's six tests for the Brexit deal are:
Does it ensure a strong and collaborative future relationship with the EU?
Does it deliver the “exact same benefits” as we currently have as members of the Single Market and Customs Union?
Does it ensure the fair management of migration in the interests of the economy and communities?
Does it defend rights and protections and prevent a race to the bottom?
Does it protect national security and our capacity to tackle cross-border crime?
Does it deliver for all regions and nations of the UK?