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Analysis

Back Labour if it comes off fence. Don’t if it won’t.

by Hugo Dixon | 27.04.2019

There is a furious battle inside Labour over whether its manifesto for the European elections should make clear it will back a referendum on any Brexit deal – or on just Theresa May’s deal – or perhaps comes up with something wishy-washy that different factions can interpret in different ways. A row has broken out over what should go in the party’s leaflets. The policy is likely to be decided on Tuesday.

Many pro-Europeans, of course, don’t like Labour – or, perhaps, don’t like Corbyn himself. These people will have to hold their noses if they put their crosses by Labour on May 23.

Others voters will care deeply about issues such as saving the environment, Scottish or Welsh independence, creating a new party in the centre ground or building an enterprise economy. It will stick in their caw to back Corbyn.

But if they agree that the urgent priority is to stop Brexit – and Labour comes unequivocally off the fence in favour of a new referendum – supporting the party will be the best choice. This is because it is the only party with a serious chance of defeating Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

Now coming first next month is not the be-all-and-end-all. The most important yardstick of success will be whether pro-European (or pro-referendum) parties get more than half the overall vote.

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Of course, there will be Leave voters who back pro-European parties – and vice-versa – so the total tally of votes for pro-referendum parties won’t reveal the “will” of the people precisely. But it will give a goodish indication of whether the electorate still wants to quit the EU. And votes for the Greens, Liberal Democrats, Change UK, SNP and Plaid Cymru will all contribute to that total.

But the media will also fixate on who comes first – and that may filter through to MPs and public opinion. If the Brexit Party wins, Farage’s anti-European narrative will be harder to ignore, even if pro-Europeans get more than half the vote.

On the other hand, if Labour stays on fence or gives only “mealy-mouthed” support for a People’s Vote – the word used by Tom Watson, the party’s deputy leader last weekend – anybody who thinks stopping Brexit is the top priority should not vote for it. That’s even if they like Labour’s other policies and excellent pro-European candidates are standing in their region.

At the 2017 general election, Corbyn lulled a lot of pro-Europeans into voting for him with an ambiguous Brexit policy. Labour might have adopted a clearer pro-referendum policy by now if it had done worse at the ballot box two years ago. As it was, the party was able to pat itself on the back for managing to straddle both its pro and anti-Brexit wings. Pro-Europeans shouldn’t make the mistake of rewarding it again if it’s vague.

Back in 2017, there was a case for supporting individual Labour candidates who were pro-European. The same went for some Tories. This was in the hope that, if they became MPs, they would ultimately influence what Parliament decided.

But this argument doesn’t apply for the European elections. MEPs, however good they are, will have no influence on what the House of Commons decides because they will not sit in Westminster.

If Labour isn’t crystal clear in its support for a People’s Vote when it publishes in manifesto, pro-Europeans should back one of the smaller pro-referendum parties – the SNP, Lib Dems, Change UK, Plaid Cymru or the Greens.

Some will worry that this will virtually guarantee Farage victory in the elections – and well it might.

But consider the following. If Corbyn beats Farage without pinning his colours to the mast, he will have little incentive to make a decisive push to get Parliament to put Brexit to the people. He’ll think that umming and ahhing does the trick, just as he did after the 2017 election. On the other hand, if Corbyn is vague on a People’s Vote and Farage beats him because voters back smaller parties, the heat will be on Labour to take a firm pro-referendum stand in the coming Parliamentary battles.

Tell Corbyn that you want him to get off the fence by signing this petition

Published and promoted by Hugo Dixon on behalf of Referendum Facts Ltd., Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, London SW1P 4QP

12 Responses to “Back Labour if it comes off fence. Don’t if it won’t.”

  • Labour stood on a manifesto to accept the referendum result failure to do this now will see labour reduced to little more than the liberal antidemocratic party. Labour voters here will vote with to ensure the seats Corbyn needs to win a GE will be lost and he knows it. Even a local LABOUR MP is telling voters to support the Brexit party not labour.

  • Sorry Phil, but here’s one LP member who won’t be voting Labour in the EU elections without an unequivocal commitment to a second referendum. JC does have a hugely difficult job to do managing the party in this atmosphere but he has to come down now on one side or the other. I, for one, am sick of all the nods and winks.
    The LDs an antidemocratic party? You might as well call the LP an antidemocratic party because the majority of members support a second referendum. In the end it’s about who you want to stand along side. On the Brexit side there is Trump, Putin, the Tory press and a few demagogues who whipped up the working class in the North ,who had been suffering years of austerity and under funding, with a lying, cheating campaign and with the leading Brexiteer (to use that ridiculously flamboyant term) declaring in advance that he would not accept a close result that went against him.
    Last night I watched Vince Cables on the BBC open the Liberal Democrat EU election campaign, and I watched it with a growing lump in my throat. I heard an honest man hesitantly but clearly, rationally and intelligently set out his case. You may not agree with him but, if you were to watch it, you might think that he is the kind of person that you want in politics and, possibly, you might feel guilty about calling his party antidemocratic.

  • For those who at a pinch can stomach Labour, the advice may be ight. But as one who can’t, I am not persuaded. A Lib-Dem vote will also be seen as unequivocally anti-Brexit, and count just as much in the EU election post mortem. Moreover I want to see more than one Lib-Dem MEP this time round, especially as, if Brexit is stopped, all MEPs will be iin place for the full term.

    The EU elections are not on the FPTP ‘winner takes all’ system and this advice fails to take account of the PR system that applies.

  • I have been a Labour voter for 50 years but I won’t vote for them again unless they categorically state it is their policy to deliver a second vote. I am still in a state of shock with regard to Adonis caving in so easily to the party line. I have never taken to Corbyn and don’t think he has the charisma to be PM. I support some of his policies but would much prefer Tom Watson as the leader. If Labour do not change then the Green Party will get my vote. Labour have been a shambles in all of this and almost bad as the Tories.

  • @ Phil Wimwood.

    Seriously, Phil. You sound a little bit worked up. First consider this. Labour voters supporting Nigel’s Brexit party are essentially voting for Tory economic and social policies. Since when did you see ol’Nige campaigning for Northern interests, other than Brexit? No, didn’t think so. You are being played. Once we are out of the EU, and his ilk will have their way with you.

    Wake up and alert your brain cells. Brexit is not, and never was a good idea. You will be following more European Laws and paying more bills and taxes from outside the EU than you ever were in it, and the Americans will be controlling most of your assets. Instead of being thinking you are being patriotic by voting Brexit and isolating Britain and abrogating our treaty obligations, like the Good Friday Agreement, try to understand that you are really putting our country on its knees. In fact it has already happened. Theresa May waits OUTSIDE while members of the European club decide what’s going to happen to Britain. Quitting the club that we built is, was, and always will be, a very, very imbecillic idea. Put the coffee on and have a serious think.

  • Wait for Labour to come off the fence ?? I’m holding my breath.

    The present “negotiations” in No 10 are a sham. May daren’t budge, and Labour are adamant that they want a customs union and some sort of guarantee that it won’t be revoked by a future Tory leader. Therefore, impasse. This will drag on until October 31 when we will have to beg the EU for even more time. However, by that time it will be a nonsense to continue with a 3-1/2 year old referendum result. So, either a new vote or no Brexit.
    And :
    Labour needs to be rid of Corbyn. Tom Watson would be infinitely preferable but it’s not going to happen any time soon. I think there is a very good chance that, one way or another, Brexit or no Brexit, we will have a Corbyn government by the end of the year. Watch the £ nosedive.

  • In a thriving Democracy it is essential to represent the Will of the People – the Electorate. It is the views of the People as held NOW and not nearly three years ago, which was based on lies, falsehoods and promises which clearly cannot be kept, which matters.

    So Labour should unequivocally support a People’s Vote, be truthful to the people and work to stop the lies, deceit and self-interest which is currently prevalent within Parliament

  • It’s not quite 50 years for me but I could have written the exact same words. It’s getting to the point I can’t see this turning out in anyone’s favour except Farage et al. There needs to be coordinated unity amongst the pro-Europe groups and parties,

  • When Conservatives tell us that their and Labour’s 2017 manifestos on Brexit were ‘very similar’, they fail to tell the truth.
    Labour said “A Labour government will put the national interest first. We will prioritise jobs and living standards, build a close new relationship with the EU, protect workers’ rights and environmental standards, provide certainty to EU nationals and give a meaningful role to Parliament throughout negotiations.” Thus Labour MPs who have voted against approving May’s Deal have acted consistently with their policy. And they are the Opposition after all.
    Of course there are Tory MPs who have also voted against approving May’s Deal. These now are people who represent that only they knew what Brexit actually meant. So they will insist that we should all think that, despite Labour’s manifesto envisaging a very different Brexit, ‘Leave the EU’ could really mean only one thing — something defended by Johnson, Rees Mogg and nearly a hundred other Tory MPs.
    But we’ve discovered that the Brexit they purport to have promised cannot be delivered. And we’ve also learnt that (as yet) no other version of Brexit can get through Parliament. The certain thing is that if we leave the EU it cannot be on such terms as anyone at all could think they were promised in 2016. If Labour is a democratic Party, it will recognize the need for a new public vote.

  • From the current polls it is clear that the new Change UK party is not going to get far in this European election although one hopes it will have an important part to play in the future. It is a pity that they have seen fit not to work together with the Lib Dems at this stage but this leaves the Lib Dems as the strongest clearly anti brexit option and the more so if they fulfil the expectations for them to advance strongly in the council elections next Thursday.

  • @ Denis
    You can’t at all be certain Change UK won’t get far in the Euro election.
    According to You Gov’s poll yesterday they were on target for 10% of the vote, the same as the Greens compared to 7% for the Lib Dems. It is still early days and alot can change, but you have to bear in mind that Change UK was only launched last week. so they haven’t had much time to create a strong profile.
    https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2019/04/28/european-parliament-voting-intention-brex-28-lab-2

    Of course the % voting intention has to be translated into actual seats. You need to look closely at the regional voting figures, as where there are less populated regions, there are less seats up for grabs, making it more difficult for smaller parties to get over the threshold.

    The other important factor is which voters will be most bothered about getting off their backsides to go down to the polling station.