We must show Labour rebels People’s Vote means change

by Luke Lythgoe | 30.01.2019

To get the 30 MPs who defied Jeremy Corbyn’s whip to support a new referendum, we must convince them it’s the best way to fix the country’s real problems.

It was great to see the Labour leader backing amendments to wrest control of the Brexit process from the government and opposing Theresa May’s latest fantasy last night. But 30 of his MPs broke ranks on at least one of the four key votes.

A People’s Vote was not put to the vote last night. But most of these rebels will need to be won over if a new referendum is to ever become a reality. But who are they?

Some are write-offs, like the two dyed-in-the-wool Brexiters Kate Hoey and Graham Stringer. Both voted with the government on everything last night – including Graham Brady’s amendment calling for the prime minister to reopen her deal with the EU. There are also anomalies like Lindsay Hoyle who did not vote as he is deputy speaker.

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But the rest are from Northern or Midlands constituencies with strong Leave votes in 2016 – with the exception of London’s Jim Fitzpatrick. These MPs seem to be predominantly motivated by two conflicting objectives: respecting their constituents’ referendum vote and preventing Brexit damage.

How else to explain the 21 MPs who voted for Caroline Spelman’s amendment against a chaotic “no deal” exit but not for Yvette Cooper’s amendment to delay Brexit? Of this group, six were also happy to vote for Dominic Grieve’s amendment (letting MPs take control of the parliamentary timetable) but not Cooper’s extra time. This pattern shows a balancing act between seeking to minimise Brexit damage and upholding the 2016 result.

* “No Vote Recorded” (NVR) is not the same as abstaining, though many will have done.

The heart of any campaign to get these stragglers to support a People’s Vote must be to set out a positive vision for the country. We must show that if the public decides to stay in the EU, this will not mean we want the status quo.

Rather, it will end the Brexit turmoil and allow us to tackle the problems that brought about the Brexit vote in the first place: for example, our ailing NHS, housing shortage, left-behind communities and failure to integrate migrants properly. CommonGround has set out some interesting ideas about how to do this.

If we decide to stay in the EU, we will have the healthy economy we need to solve these problems. Our MPs will also have the time to focus on them rather than squabbling endlessly about Brexit.

Provided we can convey this message credibly to the Labour rebels, we have a chance to win them over. We will also be on the way to healing our divided country.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

6 Responses to “We must show Labour rebels People’s Vote means change”

  • The Labour Mp’s who voted last night did so out of respect for the referendum result which clear you have no respect for!. What has surprised me is the number who now say a second referendum gives them the opportunity to give the establishment another kicking by voting to leave NO DEAL! Surprisingly that was said by someone who voted remain!

  • Phil, if you have faith that the British electorate will be just as keen for whatever comes out of the negotiations as they were for ‘not the status quo’ in 2016, then what are you afraid of? Let them say so, and in doing so settle the matter!
    Or if you think there is the slightest bit of doubt, perhaps due to so many mutually incompatible promises made that no scenario could ever meet all of them, then why would you refuse the electorate the chance to have their say on what is presented?
    I have respect for the 2016 result. I respect it as showing an appetite for change, but I do not therefore assume that any particular change will be universally regarded as an improvement. I believe that the electorate should be allowed their say on whether the ‘change’ on offer is in fact a change for the worse.

  • At the time of the referendum there was no real understanding on what the implications would be for the UK. All that was known was the existing situation and an unknown future which by definition could only be speculative.
    People across different parts of the country were understandably unhappy about their own economic and financial situation probably made much worse than it might have been by the drastic austerity policy of the government and the Leave Vote reflected this situation. In fact what the electorate was being asked was whether they wished to reverse the government policy ( of either party) which had been followed for the last 60 or so years; also whether they wished to reverse all the basic assumptions which have underpinned the economic and commercial life of the country over the same period.

    Little wonder that Brexit has been so hard to deliver and explains the extraordinary difficulties of Parliament to reconcile the ” will of the people ” with what most MP’s would have wished to happen.

  • The main problem is the fixed idea about respecting a corrupt referendum which broke the law, which even commentators above are repeating. You might as well say that you respect Ronnie Biggs for “winning” the Great Train Robbery. Britain has turned into a country that respects crime.

  • I am surprised by your lack of research, Hugo, although Polly Toynbee and others in the Guardian have done the same: The Labour MPs who have voted for Brexit do not all have the excuse that this is what their constituents want.

    Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar & Limehouse), Roger Godsiff (Birmingham Hall
    Green) and Kate Hoey (Vauxall) have very strongly pro-European

    Besides these, the polling for Best for Britain shows that many constituencies have switched sides, although their MPs have not:

    Rosie Cooper (W Lancs)
    Paul Flynn (Newport W)
    Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow)
    Mike Kane (Wythenshaw)
    Jim McMalton (Oldham W)
    John Spellar (Warley)
    Graham Stringer (Blackley & Broughton)
    Derek Twigg (Halton)

    I would suggest a vigorous public campaign to make sure that the constituents of these 11 MPs know that their “representatives” are nothing of the kind and to make them change their minds.