Labour needs to pick a side on Brexit

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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4 Responses to “Labour needs to pick a side on Brexit”

  1. Dave Roberts

    A good article which sums up very well the situation that Labour finds itself in. Corbyn has spent his entire political life demonizing the EU and urging a withdrawal. His mass support in the party and country is the mirror image wanting to remain. The other conundrum that he and Labour face is that while much of the membership want to remain in the EU it would also want to withdraw from NATO which he wants as well.

  2. Alison

    Can only guess that the article author missed JC’s hard work (as praised by Angela Eagle) before, during and after the referendum campaign. I’d like to blame the MSM lack of reporting for that but people do have to take personal responsibility & check their facts.
    As for picking a side? In what way? Always good to have a go without providing a positive solution isn’t it?
    That aside – Barnsley eh?!?

  3. Dave Roberts

    Alison.
    Could you run that past us again this time in English? Many thanks.

  4. Blissex

    «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.»

    That’s the usual malevolent fantasy part of whig/LibDem propaganda against Corbyn and Labour, and it is the more ridiculous not just because J Corbyn has campaigned vigorously for “Remain” (despite being ignored by the media), having voted “Remain”, and having stated even after june 2016 that he would vote “Remain” again, but because his long standing (since the 1990s) pro-EU opinion caused Tony Benn some disappointment:

    https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n08/david-runciman/short-cuts
    «One of the causes that Benn consistently believed should trump the siren call of high office was Europe. Here he sometimes found himself out of step with his comrades on the left, including Corbyn. In 1992 he was passionately committed to a referendum on the Maastricht Treaty, on the grounds that Parliament was abrogating the sovereignty of the people. Not only was the entire Labour shadow cabinet under John Smith opposed to such a view, so too was a group that included Corbyn, Dennis Skinner and Bernie Grant. ‘It disoriented me a bit,’ Benn writes, ‘because you don’t like to go against your own people.’ Still, Benn felt he had no choice but to press on, and was shot down in flames at a meeting of the PLP.»

    Why is “LeftFootForward” being used as a platform for whig/LibDem propaganda?

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