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Don’t worry about Corbyn’s neutrality! It’s good news

by Hugo Dixon | 23.11.2019

Pro-Europeans should be thrilled that the Labour leader won’t take sides in a referendum. It’s not as if he would be an asset if he was on our side.

Jeremy Corbyn finally came off the fence last night about what he’d do in a referendum. He’ll sit firmly on the fence. He told a BBC Question Time audience: “I will adopt a neutral stance so that I can credibly carry out the results.”

Other party leaders have predictably lambasted Corbyn. Jo Swinson accused him of an “abdication of leadership”.

But for pro-Europeans, the key point is that Labour is committed to holding a referendum. That’s far more important than the position that Corbyn himself might have taken in such a vote.

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Indeed, his decision to sit on the fence is a blessing in disguise. In the 2016 referendum, he campaigned for Remain. But he was so lacklustre that he was a liability.

If Corbyn said he was enthusiastic to stay in the EU in a future referendum, few would believe him. It’s much better that he won’t be hogging the limelight by taking part in debates or key interviews. Labour figures who passionately care about our EU membership – such as Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry – will get air time instead.

An added benefit of Corbyn’s neutrality is that there’s no need for Labour to hold another conference to figure out what it thinks. At their September conference, the party decided to have such a “special conference” after they had negotiated a new deal with the EU –  assuming, that is, they win the election. But there is no mention of such a conference in its manifesto.

This is good because Labour has rightly set itself a tight timetable of negotiating a new deal with the EU and holding a referendum within six months of the election. Holding a special conference in the midst of the process would make it harder to hit the deadline. 

Labour politicians will now presumably be free to campaign as they wish in a referendum – and the vast majority will back staying in the EU.

Some pro-Europeans will say this isn’t good enough – and advocate backing the Lib Dems everywhere in the coming election. But this is misguided. The best we can hope for is a hung parliament leading to a referendum. We must focus unemotionally on that goal. 

That means voting tactically. Back the candidate with the best chance of defeating the Tories wherever you live, so long as they support a referendum.

Edited by James Earley

Categories: Brexit, UK Politics

16 Responses to “Don’t worry about Corbyn’s neutrality! It’s good news”

  • Re Corbyn’s neutrality

    Sorry I have to disagree that this is a positive. It is a smoke screen.

    Who thinks that Jeremy Corbyn is the leader of the Labour Party? The Labour Party is. in fact, led by Seamus Milne with contribution from Len McCluskey. What is their position on Brexit?
    Their contributions so far only seem to be aimed at destabilising the U.K.

    The only party that is clear about Remain is the LibDems and all Remainers had better hope they get a large number of seats to weigh against Tory and Labour Brexiteers.

  • Keeping Johnson out of No10 and allowing a Labour government, or minority government , to get into power depends crucially on Labour winning marginal seats where there were Leave majorities in the2016 referendum. So it makes sense for Labour to offer a compromise rather than straight Remain option to appeal to the soft Leave vote. As you say, once we have a referendum the vast majority of Labour MP’s and members will campaign for remain. Important that we remain United and vote tactically to keep Jonson out and not attack other remain parties leaders and positions.

  • For the first time in over 50 years I am going to vote Labour. I have voted Liberal since my mid-twenties, but their plan to revoke Article 50 and scrap Brexit, though initially very attractive, utterly ignores the fact that half the population did vote, however misguidedly, to leave. It would cause immense unrest to take such a course of action. I have an excellent Labour MP who is a staunch Remainer, as I am myself, and I do believe now that the best way forward is to get a better deal negotiated and then have the choice between that and Remain. Either option would be better than Johnson’s disastrous plans.

  • I’ve been saying similarly today to my husband: leaders’ fixed positions in this 3 year Brexit fiasco have often turned out to be limiting , self-imposed barriers to rational progress. Corbyn’s declaration will not deter pro or anti Brexit supporters either way. He clears the way for arguments to be heard beyond the name-calling.

  • BJ is a man hellbent on achieving his own objectives and disregarding everything and everyone else. He is a proven liar, not just to the public and parliament but to the head of state. He simply cannot be trusted and as the EU generally regard him both untrustworthy and a fool, do we as a nation want him to run our country? Only another fool would say yes.

  • Janet …… Corbyn’s party is clearly against the Jews its track record on this form of racism is terrible, his links with terrorists are shocking, he wants to leave the EU, his treatment of 100 MPs by de-selecting them is changing the face of the labour part, (this includes Frank Fields who nominated him) , this is not the labour party you used to know. Corbyn and McDonald are very hard left wing individuals. How can you event think about voting for men like this? I suspect that they are no where near your values which by voting for them you would be moving away from.

  • Never mind what Corbyn thinks or how left wing the party has become. Hold your nose and vote tactically to stop Boris Johnson disastrous government taking us out of Europe. Labour is committed to having a final say on Brexit and that is what we need at the moment. Labour can’t get a majority in parliament and the other centrist parties in a coalition would prevent Corbyn introducing extreme left wing policies. We can oust labour at the following general election if necessary. The worst outcome would be for the neo-fascist Tories currently in government to get a free rein to continue ruining the country for the benefit of their wealthy friends because we don’t like Corbyn.

  • Outrageous comments about the whole Labour party being anti-Semitic. I’ve not meet one member that holds such views and I certainly don’t.

    It would be so clearly wrong to tar the whole movement with the same brush that it questions the motives of anyone doing so.

  • Janet/JL, do not believe everything you read in the (predominately) right-wing papers. The British press is almost entirely hostile towards the Labour party and has been for decades. This is because most of our daily papers are owned by millionaires, many of whom do not live in the UK. The Daily Mail is probably the worst – this is the same paper which, pre-war, advocated an alliance with Hitler – ’nuff said. The Sun has been rabidly anti-EU since we joined because it is owned by Rupert Murdoch who does not like that the EU doesn’t give him the same fawning respect that successive PM’s do. Both papers are utter rags – in fact in the nineties there was a campaign to reclassify the Sun as a comic. Labour is NOT an antisemitic party, despite the lurid headlines. There are people who are actively pushing this into the public eye to achieve the sort of response in your posting. You are doing their job for them. Give Labour a chance – their manifesto is ground-breaking and will transform this country very much for the better. For far too long it has been the happy hunting grounds of the rich and powerful. ENOUGH !

  • Interesting stuff.
    I personally do not think JC is an antisemite or the majority of Labour supporters. I do however think that many Labour members and supporters (particularly of the hard left) have a problem separating their views of Israel from Jewish people and end up insulting individuals because they are Jewish and therefore straying into the territory of antisemitism.

  • Reading the reactions, still a surprising amount of readers who don’t seem to get this thing about not splitting votes. The necessity of blocking the Boris bunch in order to save the country. That this is an emergency! Oh well, perhaps they enjoy gardening and love planting spuds and beans for dinner, because imported food can no longer be paid for due to the amount of jobless and gig workers. Never mind delays in ports etc.