Labour will keep getting thwacked – and rightly so

by Hugo Dixon | 20.06.2019

There was a time when backing a referendum would have been enough to shore up Labour’s sliding support with voters. Now Jeremy Corbyn needs to go the whole hog and back staying in the EU.

But, as ever, the Labour leader is too timid. Yesterday he took a few more baby steps in a pro-European direction – telling his shadow cabinet that Labour would support a referendum on any deal.

If Corbyn had taken that line going into last month’s European Parliament elections, pro-European voters would have given him the benefit of the doubt. But he didn’t – and lots of them rightly deserted the party, switching to the Lib Dems and Green Party instead. Labour was reduced to third place, well below the Lib Dems and only a bit ahead of the Greens.

One can’t always read across from the European elections to a general election. But the latest YouGov opinion poll has the LibDems on 21%, ahead of Labour on just 19%. As Peter Kellner, the distinguished pollster wrote in the Guardian: “Of those who voted Labour in 2017, just 51 per cent would vote Labour today. Thirty-six per cent would vote Lib Dem, Green or SNP; just 11 per cent would vote for the Brexit Party or (in a very few cases) Conservative.”

Tom Watson, the party’s deputy leader, told ITV yesterday that Labour could be “electoral history” unless it campaigns to stop Brexit.

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But what chance is there of Corbyn being brave and bold? He is not a strong leader and he has surrounded himself with a coterie of hardline Brexiters notably Seumas Milne, his director of strategy and communications.

Much more likely Labour will continue to take three baby steps forward and two baby steps backwards. This is a dereliction of duty at a time of national crisis – just when Boris Johnson is about to enter Downing Street and try to rip us out of the EU in the most destructive way.

Johnson will probably fail and be forced into either a referendum or an election. Pro-Europeans will then need to win the argument that we should be in the EU. That’s why it’s so important that people rally behind the March for Change on July 20 which aims to put the case for Europe firmly on the map.

If Labour fails to pick up the cudgel, others will have to do so instead. And though there are many excellent Labour MPs, the party will continue to get clobbered – and rightly so.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

5 Responses to “Labour will keep getting thwacked – and rightly so”

  • Labour; the big, highly disappointing bunch of political squanderers who, like brexiteers in general, have failed to pick up that their plans, like those of May, may pass scrutiny in their own offices but will run aground in those of the EU. They are just as guilty of the mountain of rubble that was the British political standing in the world, as were the conservatives and jokers like the Brexit party.

  • Is it the case that the folk at the centre of the Labour Party confuse the principles of European Union with neoliberalism (market fundamentalism) or the orthodoxies of neoclassical economics, by reason of the fact that these ideologies have been overly influential in European counsels and indeed everywhere else in recent years?
    Is this not mistaking the garment for the man?
    The European Union is one thing and the climate of opinion in which it operates is another.
    The European Union will abide long after partial self-serving ideologies have vanished like the snows of yesteryear.

  • The Labour Party, and the Conservative Party for that matter, recognise the result of the 2016 referendum. The Greens, Lib Dems, etc, do not, so how they can call themselves democratic institutions only they know?

    I am a remainer but the inability of what are popularly known as ‘Remaniacs’ to not recognise the result of the 2016 referendum is a cause for concern. The ‘Remaniacs’ are the other side of the Brexit Party coin and are as bad as people that they claim to despise, such as Farage.

    Just to remind people, the referendum was lost by 48% to 52%. It was close but we lost. What we must look for now is something that acknowledges that we lost but also acknowledges that the result was close. We need to leave but still have as as close a relationship with the EU as possible. Labour are probably the closest to this position at the moment. Let’s see how it pans out.

  • It is more than abysmal that Labour haven’t been able to capitalise on the unprecedented shambles in Government and Conservative party. For that one man has to take full responsibility. Jeremy Corbyn. He continues to dither, avoid decisions and kick the can down the road. What is stopping the Labour grass roots and members doing the only sensible and logical thing, and just get rid?