A Labour member says the party should get off the fence
If Labour wants to regain the country’s confidence, it has a choice to make.
Either back a deal with the Prime Minister, or come all-out for a People’s Vote. Failure to do so will only lead to a repeat of Thursday’s punishment at the ballot box.
Granted, Labour has had some excellent results, not least in Trafford and Calderdale. And there is no doubt that the Conservatives have taken a drubbing in these local elections.
But in reality, the vote was appalling for a party nine years into opposition. While Tory results are bad, they are rendered almost inconsequential in the overall picture, chiefly because of Labour’s poor performance.
A failure to defend dyed in the wool Labour seats or to win substantial victories over the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats speaks volumes.
Labour should not be losing Bolsover and Burnley, or be going backwards in Sunderland, Stoke-on-Trent and Walsall.
Votes were lost in traditionally Labour, Leave voting regions while the Tories lost ground in its own heartlands to the Liberal Democrats.
It is blindingly obvious that Brexit is to blame for these poor results. And we’re still yet to hold the Euro elections.
Now, I campaigned day in, day out in Greater Manchester for Labour during the EU referendum, persuading no-nonsense Mancunians, Salfordians and Lancastrians to follow Labour’s lead and back Remain.
Only, where was the leadership? At best, the party habitually sent out mixed messages and apathy, fearing even then to fully get behind its own policy.
It is no secret that Jeremy Corbyn is a lifelong Eurosceptic. Like his good friend and socialist the late Tony Benn, he has spent a great deal of his political life laying into the European Union.
During the referendum, his inability to passionately defend UK membership was palatable. From the outset, he unenthusiastically read from notes at the launch of Labour IN for Britain, even finding time to go on holiday in the middle of the campaign.
And so, since June 2016 the leadership has tried to keep the bonds that tie Labour’s Leavers and Remainers together. But therein lies the problem. The rope is fraying. It’s time to cut it lose.
Yes, Labour’s refusal to decide a clear Brexit policy served it well in 2017.
But it is finally coming undone, having now lost votes in Leave voting Northern and Midland regions and failing to pick up votes in Remain voting seats across the UK.
Labour’s Brexit acquiescent will want to push for a deal with Government to get it over the line, while Remainers will look towards Liberal Democrat victories to push their party to unequivocally back a second referendum.
The results are bad but ironically, they will be used to vindicate the position of Labour’s Remainers and soft Brexiters all the same.
But obfuscation doesn’t get votes. That is the painful truth that Labour has been desperate to avoid. It can’t postpone decision making indefinitely. The please-all strategy is failing and no wonder. After a while, too much fudge gets stuck in the teeth.
Labour must grow up and take seriously its responsibility to the country. Back the Prime Minister’s deal and get Brexit over the line, or else be honest with its heartland voters and unequivocally back a People’s Vote.
There will be costs one way or another but fence-sitting is not an option. In the words of Aneurin Bevan, we know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run down.
Tyler Hanley is a Labour Party member in Hackney South and former organiser in Salford during the EU referendum.
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