Dear Corbyn: If you fail to challenge Brexit, you will throw away your support

The Labour NEC's decision to only back a fresh referendum in certain circumstances will alienate huge numbers of supporters.


The Labour NEC’s decision on Tuesday afternoon – to only back a referendum under certain circumstances – is a staggering disappointment to Labour members like me.

The feeling is one of not having been heard. Not having been heard when socialists from across Europe make the argument that continued membership enables the Corbyn project.

Not having been heard when a million people marched in the streets just weeks ago. Not having been heard by a leadership that promised that policy would be made by us, the membership.

Jeremy Corbyn swept into his office on promises of democratising the party. I voted for him, twice; I campaigned for him in Plymouth last year in the local elections. I want the same Britain that he wants; a democratic socialist country governed for the many, not the few.

Yet the decision on the basis of which my party is campaigning in the EU elections is not being taken by the membership; it is taken by those who claim to represent us. They actually don’t.

Take Lara McNeill, the NEC representative for Young Labour: in a blog post yesterday – posted just after she had retweeted a meme which claimed that the Communications Union’s rejection of a second referendum was “quality socialism” – how, exactly? – she made claimed that “it is clear that the electorate’s desire to honour the 2016 referendum result is hardening rather than dissipating.”

In fact, the number of those who thought the UK was wrong to vote to leave, rather than right, at close to an all time high. Remain now has a consistent lead in the polls, with the lead among those who think the decision to leave the EU being wrong having grown to as much as eight points in recent months.

And the overwhelming majority of young Labour members, voters, and activists backing a fresh referendum. Yet McNeill supplies no positive evidence for her claim. It’s not what the statistics say – and not what I hear from local party, Momentum and activist meetings.

She also claims that it is the role of the NEC to decide which parts of established policy to include in the manifesto, not “turn existing policy on its head.” Fine – but a public vote on any deal was voted for by Jeremy Corbyn and the vast majority of the front bench on April 1st. Were they making up policy then?

If we are to be a party whose policy is decided by its members – remembering that our conference motion states that the government shouldn’t be afraid to put its deal to the public – we should be holding the Labour party to the same standard.

If we can get a deal with the government that satisfies our red lines – then why should we be afraid to put that to the people?

My party must remember that any deal agreed in the talks with the government will be looked at by Boris Johnson or Dominic Raab as worth less than the paper it’s written on.

Rule number one of Labour party politics – don’t trust the Tories. They have done everything they can to hurt, undermine and punish us. Whatever deal May strikes will be ripped up by the next leader in line to the Tory throne. The Tories don’t care about workers rights, the environment or the labour values that we fight for at the ballot box, at hustings or on the doorstep.

If you forget what it’s like to lose the support of your young and active base because you believed in a broken Tory promise, I suggest you ask Nick Clegg how he felt on election night in 2015.

Backing a Kyle-Wilson amendment again in Parliament is now the best option for us.

Young people could create and make a Corbyn government – but they can also become politically homeless at the drop of a hat.

Out are the old ties of lifelong party loyalty; in is the new comparative politics, with young people fluttering every election. In order to see the inside of Number 10, Corbyn will depend on pro-referendum activists. He mustn’t forget that.

Cathleen Clarke is Mobilisation Officer at Our Future, Our Choice and is a member of Momentum.

9 Responses to “Dear Corbyn: If you fail to challenge Brexit, you will throw away your support”

  1. jane Buckley

    Well done Cathleen Clarke for writing just the letter Labour party supporters should be writing to Jeremy Corbyn for fudging a clear remit
    to opt for a referendum. I hope he reads it and is aware that it expresses exactly what so many of us think, not only about a Brexit referendum, but about his abandonment of Labour members’ rights to formulate
    policy. I shall not vote Labour in the EU elections and I have resigned from the Labour Party over Labour’s failure to get off the fence and promote a clear Remain and Peoples’s Vote policy.

  2. richard

    This whole push for a second referendum, mostly from with in Labour, is a strange position to take up. To me it does not make sense. Is it the only tactic Remainers think is left to them to try and keep the country in the EU?. Or do advocates of a 2nd vote actually believe that is the right thing to? Or is it both?
    It was (if I recall correctly) the reason the TIGs gave for leaving and setting up on their own. I know that it was not the only reason, they wanted out and were looking for an acceptable excuse But it appears already to have been a big mistake. Even sympathetic media sources cannot put a positive spin on the shambles that is Change UK. The end of the runway is fast approaching.
    I kind of can see why Tom Watson has picked up the baton (of the 2nd vote); for no other reason than to hit Jeremy Corbyn over the head with it. His antics recently, to undermine Corbyn are seen as desperate. And this 2nd vote crusade is a perfect example. (can’t see him putting up with much more humiliation).
    What ever you think of Watson or Umunnna they aren’t daft. So why are they jumping on this train with only one destination: far away over the horizon?
    They must know that a 2nd referendum will never happen. First, the question to be put on the ballot paper will never be agreed but the second reason, the big one is that Farage and the Leavers will never take part. What point is there in arguing for a second vote when the turnout at best will be 40%? It would make the result meaningless.
    All those advocating a second vote Blair, Adonis, Watson, Chukka know this. Is that their game demanding something that they know can never be delivered. Am I missing something here? Is that the game? Or is it possible that they are that stupid? Please help.

  3. Patrick Newman

    Good riddance, Jane. Your fragile ego is more important than ending Tory austerity or dealing with climate change! Is it inconceivable to those clamouring for a second referendum that the outcome might be the same – or even worse – a bigger majority. Corbyn is right to consider the votes of the 17.4m but not to be transfixed by them. To get out of Brexit requires a free vote of the HoC and/or an independent investigation of the many improprieties of the Leave campaign to annul the result (barely 35% of adult British citizens supported Leave.

  4. Carol Stanfield

    ‘If’? Corbyn has consistently failed to challenge Brexit, and more importantly, the lies on which it is based, for 3 years.

  5. Tom Sacold

    Great to see Jeremy Corbyn stand up against the the pro-EU neoliberal Blairites in the NEC yesterday.

    Well done Jeremy !!!

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